27th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (lion. Sir William Aston) took the chair at 2 p.m., and read prayers.
Interest Rates Mr BERINSON presented from certain citizens of Western Australia a petition showing that the recent increase in the interest rate on Government bonds has caused hardship to the thousands of home buyers throughout the State due to the subsequent increase in interest rales on mortgage contracts by home lending institutions.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives will give earnest consideration to this most vital matter.
Petition received and read.
Mr GARLAND presented from certain citizens of Western Australia a petition showing that the recent increase in the interest rate on Government bonds has caused hardship to the thousands of home buyers throughout the State due to the subsequent increase in interest rates on mortgage contracts by home lending institutions.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives will give earnest consideration to this most vital matter.
Mr WEBB presented from certain citizens of Western Australia a petition showing that the recent increase in the interest rate on Government bonds has caused hardship to the thousands of home buyers throughout the State due to the subsequent increase in interest rates on mortgage contracts by home lending institutions.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives will give earnest consideration to this most vital matter.
Mr LUCHETTI presented from certain citizens of New South Wales a petition showing that’ due to higher living cost. persons on social service pensions are finding it extremely difficult to lie in even the most frugal way. The petitioners call upon the Commonwealth Government to increase the base pension rate to 30% of average weekly male earnings, plus supplementary assignee in accordance with Australian Council of Trade Unions policy and by so doing give a reasonably moderate pension. The average weekly earnings for adult male unit wage and salary earner means the figures issued from time to time by the Commonwealth Statistician and published quarterly.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives will take immediate steps to bring about the wishes expressed in their petition; so that citizens receiving the social service pensions may live their lives in dignity.
Petition received and read.
Mr LES JOHNSON presented from certain citizens of New South Wales a petition showing that due to higher living costs persons on social service pensions are finding it extremely difficult to live in even the most frugal way. The petitioners therefore call upon the Commonwealth Government to increase the base pension rate to 30% of average weekly male earnings, plus supplementary assistance in accordance with Australian Council of Trade Unions policy and by so doing give a reasonably moderate pension.
The average weekly earnings for adult male unit wage and salary earner means the figures issued from time to time by the Commonwealth Statistician and published quarterly.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives will take immediate steps to bring about the wishes expressed in their petition so that citizens receiving the social service pensions may live their lives in dignity.
Mr GRIFFITHS presented from certain citizens of the Commonwealth a petition showing that the Commonwealth Parliament has acted to remove some inadequacies in the Australian education system;, a major inadequacy at present in Australian education is the lack of equal education opportunity for all; more than 500,000 children’ suffer from serious lack of equal opportunity; Australia cannot afford to waste the talents of one-sixth of its school children; only the Commonwealth has the financial resources for special programmes to remove inadequacies; and nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States have shown that the chief impetus for change and the finance for improvement come from the national Government.
The petitioners pray that the House of Representatives make legal provision for a joint Commonwealth-State inquiry into inequalities in Australian education to obtain evidence on which 10 base long term national programmes for the elimination of inequalities; the immediate financing of special programmes for low income earners, migrants, Aboriginals, rural and inner suburban dwellers and handicapped children; and the provision of pre-school opportunities for all children from culturally different or socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Petition received and read.
Mr SNEDDEN presented from certain residents of Victoria a petition showing that the red kangaroo and many other marsupials, through shooting for commercial purposes have been reduced to , a numerical level where their survival is in jeopardy; none of the Australian States has sufficient wardens to detect and apprehend people breaking the laws in existence in each State, and in such a vast country only uniform laws and a complete cessation of commercialisation can ensure the survival of our national emblem; and it is an indisputable fact that no natural resource can withstand hunting on such a concentrated scale unless some provision is made for its future.
The petitioners pray that the export of all kangaroo products be banned immediately, and the Commonwealth Government make a serious appraisal of its responsibility in the matter to ensure the survival of the kangaroo.
– I refer the Minister for External Affairs to the nuclear tests being held in French Polynesia and ask: Have French ships and aircraft carrying supplies for the- tests used Australian ports or facilities? If so, will the Minister ensure that this practice ceases immediately? Further, has .the National Radiation Advisory Committee reported to the Government on fallout from the tests held in May? If so, will the Minister table the Committee’s report in this House?
– As lo the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question. I did inform the House that so far as . overflight facilities were concerned the Australian Government had informed the French Government that it would not permit its territory or space over its territory to be used by aircraft that might be proceeding on these nuclear test activities. As to port facilities, I do not think that - at the moment in any event - any of our ports have been used by ships that are carrying out any activities in connection wilh these tests but I will find out and let the honourable gentleman know. As to the last part of the honourable gentleman’s question, I have not seen any report of the Committee but again I will find out and let him know the results of my efforts.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral tell the House why an old tape of a broadcast by the Premier of Victoria was substituted by the Australian Broadcasting Commission for one which was made specifically for the final programme before the Victorian State elections? Can he explain why the error was not immediately apparent to the monitor when Sir Henry Bolte referred to his ‘policy speech last night’ when in fact the policy speech had been made several weeks previously?
– J have not had a report from the Australian Broadcasting Commission in relation to this matter nor indeed did F seek one in view of the explanation made by the Victorian manager of the ABC in the daily news media. Whether there was actual monitoring at the point of time when this tape was played I could not say.
I think this was probably a case of human error rather than an intention on the part of any pe-son to create sabotage, and I am pleased nevertheless that the result of the election showed confidence in the Premier without the most current television tape.
– 1 ask the Minis:er for External Territories: Did the Administration of Papua and New Guinea finance the fares, travel and accommodation of an organisation known as Warmaram to play an active part in conciliation among Tolai people? Did it include in its objectives the intention “to reduce an J destroy Kaputin’s standing’ with the Tolai people? Was the express on “to reduce and destroy Kaputin’s standing’ correctly attributed to the Administrator in a letter of the Director of Infomation and Extension Services, Mr L. R. Newey? If so,’ why does the Government finance th? reduction of Mr Kaputin’s standing among Tolai people and is this an objective of the Administrator?
– This question concerns a matter of very great importance and I believe it would be more fitting should I seek leave to make a statement on some future occasion. I would be very happy to do this. In the meantime let me say in relation to this subject that these charges mentioned by the honourable member appeared in a 3-column article on the front page of the ‘Australian’ on Saturday. I issued a written Press statement relating to these charges and I thought that at least this could be reported in that paper in view of its seriousness. I might add that only 1 newspaper I saw took up these charges. Much to my surprise on Monday morning, there was a contribution by the same columnist on page 2. It made no mention of one word of my Press statement but he gave an interpretation of it. This indicates a sort of Press censorship. This columnist was not prepared to make my Press statement available to the readers of this paper but he served, to interpret this statement. We have seen quite a lot of this sort of thing in the Press lately - a sort of Press censorship. I made a remark on one previous occasion in this House to the effect that the great privilege of freedom of the Press is treated by the Press very lightly and I made the point that in authoritarian countries the difficulty is to suppress the truth but in our democratic countries the difficulty is to have the truth reported.
– 1 ask the Min.ster for Primary Industry a question. Is it a fact that the dried vine fruits stabilisation plan ceased at the end of the 1969 season and that growers did not vote in sufficient numbers lor a new plan? in these circumstances what is the position regarding the winding up of the three funds? Do credits exist in those funds? What action docs the Government intend to take to distribute the funds to growers?
– It is true that there is now no dried vine fruits stabilisation scheme, the growers having failed to vote in sufficient numbers to support the scheme. However, there are in existence funds under the old stabilisation scheme relating to currants, sultanas and raisins. The credits in those funds will be returned to producers. Under the old scheme there was a guaranteed price. If the price went more than S20 above the guaranteed price, additional money was put’ into the fund. At present there :s $216,000 in the f-nd relating to currants, about $100,000 in the raisins fund and abo u S500.000 in the sultanas fund. With regard to the currants fund, action is being taken to determine who is entitled to a refund. The refund will be paid as soon as possible. As for the other funds, action is being taken to final se the accounts. When this has been clone the amounts remaining in the funds will be returned to the appropriate producers.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question about his Press statement of 27th May last. Does he agree with the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Sir Robert Madwick. who most emphatically denied that the ABC spent money carelessly in current affairs programmes? Does he support the Chairman’s expressed view that he could not recall a previous occasion when a PostmasterGeneral had made such a charge? ls not a charge of this nature a grave reflection on the Commission’s integrity?
– A very intelligent remark. Will the Postmaster-General define what he means when he says that the ABC should have almost complete autonomy in programming?
– 1 think it inappropriate at question time to endeavour to develop a controversy between me and the Cha rman of the Austraiian Broadcasting Commission. 1 think I should say to the House and to the public that the document which I received came to me as a result of a statutory requirement that the ABC make its estimates available’ to the PostmasterGeneral and that I. as the responsible Minister, should then communicate, if necessary with the Treasurer, that Cabinet would consider the estimates as it does the estimates of every department of government, that ‘ it would come to a decision and that when the Budget is presented in August the estimates would bc made available to the Pari anient. Following that there is a debate on the Budget, and a debate on the estimates. I would have thought that would be the appropriate time for me to offer any comments which I desired to make about the contents of the estimates, which must be regarded as preliminary in the state in which they are sent to mc and subject to the discussion which will be held in Cabinet and their availability in a public way through the Parliament. So that is the reason why F have no intention of entering into a discussion at this point of time in regard to this controversial matter. Would the honourable gentleman just remind me of the second part of his question?
– Yes. lt is related to a reflection on the integrity of the Commission’s officers.
– I do not think there has been a reflection made by me on the integrity of officers of the ABC. There is no doubt that confidential information was leaked. I say (hat quite emphatically, and I am prepared to go further and say that this is a breach of integrity. It is a breach of the oath taken by members of the Public Service. Honourable members should remember that most officers of the ABC are permanent public servants under the Public Service Act. I have no intention - I say ‘.his quite deliberately - of participating in a discussion in relation to lack of integrity merely because somebody gives some information to the news media of this country.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. What are the most recent developments in the consideration of the provision of a north-south inland highway linking Berrigen on the Queensland-New South Wales border with Victoria and passing through the Mumimbidgee and Murray irrigation areas? Does the Minister agree that such an inland highway would be of great defence value? Does he also agree that such a route would be of inestimable value as a drought relief road which would enable stock from Queensland and New South Wales to bc quickly and economically transported from areas which are subject to prolonged drought to lush irrigated and natural pastures in New South Wales and Victoria? Finally, does he agree that such a highway would compare more than favourably in economic terms with the very successful beef roads of northern Australia?
– There have been a great number of proposals put forward to the Federal Government and the Stale governments concerning the development of inland highways to move stock more rapidly than is presently possible. The Federal Inland Development Organisation, called FIDO, has put forward on several occasions propositions which would involve the construction of highways to provide a new internal link running somewhere west of the main highway systems. There is no doubt that in the drought, which affected so much of eastern Australia and which regrettably still continues in much of Queensland, the availability of road transport and of improved roads has made an enormous difference to the quick movement of livestock from drought-affected areas and has substantially improved the opportunity for pastoralists to realise on their livestock, which would have died through malnutrition and lack of water, or alternatively to bring in fodder as supplementary feed .and so sustain their breeding stock.
At the same time there are 2 aspects of the proposal which the Honourable gentleman mentioned that are really right outside my control. He mentioned the defence aspect. This, of course, is within the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Defence. He also referred to the beef road programme. There have been, of course, very substantial cost benefit analyses made of the beef road programme. This programme was introduced to help the development of the northern parts of Australia and without doubt it has done a remarkable job in that sense. It, of course, is under the ministerial responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for National Development. I would be unaware of any comparison of the economic benefits of this proposal and the beef roads. I might add that the Commonwealth aid roads programme has introduced for the first time a contribution from the Commonwealth to each of the principal sectors of the roads that are seen to be worthy of Commonwealth assistance. I refer, of course, to urban roads, rural roads and national highways. This Commonwealth aid roads programme represents only about one-third of the amount of money that is expected to be spent on roads oyer the next 5 years, and within the allocation of the funds to each State covered by the Commonwealth aid roads programme grant and within the other two-thirds of the money to be spent, the substantial responsibility rests with the State governments. J would think that probably the particular responsibility for allocating priority to the road to which the honourable gentleman has referred might well lie with the State of New South Wales within whose boundaries the road lies, I think, for the whole of the distance.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education and Science. On countless occasions over the last 12 months the honourable gentleman and his predecessor have told honourable members who have asked questions about government and non-government schools that the answers would appear from the nation-wide survey of educational needs which was being prepared by the States for the Education Council. As the Council has met, with the honourable gentleman in attendance, since the House last sat I ask him: When can honourable members see the survey?
– A meeting was held last Monday week and the survey was considered. A Press statement was issued indicating the course that would be followed. A printed report will be prepared after the Ministers have referred the matter to their respective Cabinets, lt is hoped that this will be available generally in about a month from the date of that meeting.
– I ask the
Prime Minister: Is he aware that the Queensland Bar Association has offered to provide 35 barristers to appear before the Barrier Reef royal commission on a voluntary basis for 1 week each on behalf of the conservationists? Will the Prime Minister give consideration to approaching the Queensland State Government to ascertain whether or not a scheme can be devised whereby the Commonwealth and State Governments jointly can give financial assistance and thus enable people from conservation bodies to have effective continuous legal representation by persons closely acquainted with the case?
– I had not seen the offer from the Queensland Bar Association to make barristers available on a rationed basis of 1 per week for 35 weeks. I can see considerable difficulty in endeavouring to present a case before a royal commission if the advocate were to change week by week. But I think it is of importance to Australia that all matters concerning this very significant inquiry should be fully argued and made known before the commission. The commission itself, as I understand it, is able to decide what witnesses would be able to assist it and to provide travelling expenses and fees for such witnesses as come before it. That, as T understand, is within the purview of the commission itself. Should there be organisations or a group of organisations which the commission feels could be assisted by the provision of an advocate before that commission then I would certainly consider approaching the Queensland Government to see whether any action could be taken jointly along those lines.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Has the Commonwealth
Government ever made ex-gratia payments of council rates on Commonwealth owned property in any local council area in South Australia? If so, to which councils have such payments been made and what Commonwealth department or departments are involved?
– The question is clearly one which ought to be put on the notice paper in view of the information it seeks.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Industry seen a recent announcement concerning the clearance of South African citrus “fruit for import into Japan? Is his department intending to examine the procedures by which approval was given, with a view to promoting the import into Japan of Australian citrus fruits and, eventually perhaps, pome fruits from Tasmanian and other Australian producers?
– I have seen the report of the Japanese decision. Elements of the report have been published. The decision relates to the admission into Japan of citrus fruits from South Africa provided that they have been through a certain cold temperature sterilisation procedure which satisfies the Japanese from the quarantine aspect. The Government has been in fairly constant contact for about 8 years with the Japanese authorities on the matter of the admission into Japan of Australian citrus fruits and pome fruits. The Japanese during this period have made it clear to us that a procedure of sterilisation which they decide is suitable for the fruit from one country is not necessarily acceptable to them for fruit from another area. In terms of our understanding with the Japanese we are continuing to study what processes we may initiate or innovate which would have the effect of sterilising both our citrus and pome fruits in a manner acceptable to the Japanese authorities. I understand that there is a modest degree of hope in this regard but no earlybreak through is expected.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Are the independence and autonomy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission impaired by the fact that all staff appointments are controlled by the Public Service Board, over which he exercises ministerial authority? Further, are the Commission’s current affairs programmes affected through an insidious form of political direction through the determinations of the Overseas Visits Committee, over which he again exercises ministerial authority?
– The answer to the first question is no, and the answer to the second question is no.
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport is probably aware of the widespread reaction in Darwin and other Northern Territory areas to Press reports that the Australian National Line shipping freight rales to Darwin are to increase by’ 100%. In view of the disastrous effect such an increase would have on industry, development and people’s livelihood in the Territory can he advise the House of the true position?
– I know that the honourable member has on many occasions expressed to me his concern at the high level of transport costs to the Northern Territory, lt was with that in mind that the Government accepted the proposed plan for port modifications in Darwin and that the Australian National Line programmed for the construction of the “Darwin Trader’, which is a new combination ship with 5 hatches that will carry containers and 3 hatches that will carry bulk commodities. The ship is at present undergoing sea trials off Newcastle. When it comes into operation it will enable some backloading to be achieved.
The Australian National Line has operated now for some 1 1 years without any adjustment in ils tariffs. Indeed, over that time concessions have been given in the Tasmanian trades and in the Darwin trades for different forms of unitised cargo handling. For example, some years ago on the Darwin trade a concession of 121% on the scheduled rate was given for goods (hat were handled in pallets. The proposition now is that the Australian National Line will, with the introduction of the container service, provide an all through service in the sense that it will provide transport from depot to depot. In the past the freight rate has been levied only on the cost of moving goods from wharf to wharf. The impost in future will relate to a total all through movement of cargo rather than to only the movement of cargo from wharf to wharf.
There is to be in the sea freight sector a 12i% increase to cover some of the enormous losses that have been incurred in the provision of services to Darwin in the last few years. At the same time I add that, by comparison with other forms of transport to Darwin, sea freight - which of course covers wharfage, transport from wharf to depot and stevedoring costs - will be onethird lower than the all through road freight rate from Melbourne to Darwin. It will be less than half the rail-road co-ordinated rate from Melbourne to Darwin. The use of the ‘Darwin Trader’, 1 am, hoping, will provide both an expedited service and a more efficient service for the residents of Darwin and of the Northern Territory. It will provide also a service which, I believe, will be at a more than competitive rate with other alternative forms of transport.
– Can the MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs assure this House that there was complete agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government in the decision to approve the purchase by OPAL -that is, the One People for Australia League - of the Brisbane Motel at Eight Mile Plains, in the Bowman electorate for use as a hostel for Aboriginal mothers and children? As Commonwealth money was involved, will he ensure that, in the future, such decisions are the subject of a comprehensive Government statement covering al! aspects of the intended use of the building and assurances of adequate Government guidance and supervision of the managing organisation - in this instance, OPAL - before biased - and incomplete half truths and rumours have the opportunity to create ill founded but legitimate fears among the residents of the area in regard to their future living conditions and property values? Furthermore, if at the . moment in matters affecting Aboriginals harmony reigns supreme between the 2 governments, will he taken advantage-
-Order! The honourable member now is asking a hypothetical question in the second part of his question. I would suggest that he-
– I am coming to the point of the question, Mr Speaker-
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member that he complete his question. If I adhered to the Standing Orders strictly, the second part of his question would be ruled out of order. The second part of the honourable member’s question is a hypothetical question. I suggest that the honourable member has enjoyed the leniency of the Chair and he should come to the crux of his question.
– Will the Minister take advantage of this unusual opportunity to request the Queensland Government to repeal the 28 iniquitous sections of its laws’ and regulations which discriminate unfavourably against Aboriginals,. when the Queensland Parliament meets in July?
– I can assure the honourable member and the House that the transaction of which he speaks was discussed fully with the authorities of the Queensland Government and that this Government and the Queensland authorities were acting together in regard to it. I want to make it clear also that the actual application of these moneys is, and I hope will continue to be, decided very largely by the Aboriginal people themselves. We would hope as far as possible not to interfere with the autonomy of these organisations any more than we interfere with the autonomy of sheltered workshops or aged persons homes. Although the Aboriginal people themselves at this moment may not be entirely capable of taking charge of all their affairs, nevertheless as soon as possible and to the greatest extent we want them to have the decisions about their own affairs in their own hands. We shall work towards that objective.
In regard to the second part of the question asked by the honourable member, he may recall that the Prime Minister in his policy speech said that, in the lifetime of this Parliament, we propose to see that discriminatory legislation adverse to Aboriginals is brought to an end - and I think that I can quote his exact words - on both the Federal and State levels’. Recently, at a meeting of State Ministers in charge of Aboriginal affairs with the Commonwealth, which occurred in Sydney towards the end of March, this matter was brought up. It was agreed at that meeting that bilateral conversations should take place between the Commonwealth and each one of the States concerned. I have little doubt that within the lifetime of this Parliament and in exact accordance with the promise made by the Prime Minister in his policy speech the end which we ali want to see achieved will be achieved. I hope that honourable members and those people outside this House who are concerned in this matter will see the desirability from the Aboriginal’s point of view of bringing these things, about, without what I might call any kind of confrontation and by means of co-operation and consultation with the utmost goodwill between the 2 governments concerned.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs. To what extent has the recent conference in Djakarta helped to close the ranks of the Asian people? Will they present a common front in future concerning their problems? ls it correct that already South Korea and Cambodia have’ restored official relations between each other? Does the Minister envisage an extension of this form of co-operation? Is it the Minister’s intention to make a statement regarding the recent conference held in Djakarta?
– When looking at the Cambodian situation 1 think we have to remember 2 different events or sets of events. The first one is the Djakarta conference and the second is the United SlatesSouth Vietnamese operations in the Fish Hook area, Prey Veng and other provinces in south-east Cambodia. As to the Djakarta conference, when I departed for Djakarta I did not think that we would get all countries to agree to the proposals which were made and finally’ agreed upon. In fact. I went with great misgivings because I felt that there would be a division of opinion. But eventually all countries recognised the need to support Cambodia in its desire for independence and neutrality. I wish that various honourable members of this House had been present to hear not only the goodwill expressed by many countries towards Cambodia but also the desire of those countries to do what they could, within their capacities, to ensure the objectives I have just mentioned. As to the outcome of the conference, although we did not achieve all the purposes which we originally set out to achieve, I am sure that we did ever so much better. It has been agreed that a 3-man mission, consisting of one member each from the Malaysians, inc Japanese and the Indonesians, should go to various capitals throughout the world in an attempt to mobilise world opinion in support of the proposal for the neutrality of Cambodia. As yet I have not all the names of the countries to be visited by this mission but when the persons who will represent the conference and the countries’ involved are made known 1 think the degree of importance which those countries place on the objectives we have set will be demonstrated.
I am particularly glad to know that Japan with all its influence in world affairs is playing an important part in mobilising world opinion. As an illustration of what is happening, the Prime Minister of Thailand today announced that his Government will provide troops for the defence of Cambodia and we already have intimations from other governments that they now wish that they had attended the conference instead of declining invitations. As to the other implications in the question asked I am sure that the recent operations in South Cambodia have been extraordinarily successful. Not only have Communist activities been disrupted: the equivalent of I division of North Vietnamese has been put out of action; their signal centres and communications have .been disrupted; their training ‘ centres have been disorganised; many, caches of large quantities of their equipment and foodstuffs have been captured; and I believe their operations have been set back for a period of at least 8 months. All told 1 believe that this has been a successful operation. As to the third part of the honourable members question, concerning recognition at least 3 countries. Thailand. South Korea and South Vietnam are now in the process of re-establishing relations with the
Cambodian Government. As to the last part of the question, I shall have a statement that I would like to deliver to the Mouse. I have not yet completed it but if 1 do so during the course of this week I hope to be able to present it to the House.
– 1 ask the Prime Minister: What action does the Government propose to take to prevent a situation where Australia is the only country in the Commonwealth or in our region to receive racially selected sporting teams from South Africa?
– lt has been the Government’s quite consistent policy to allow arrangements for, and the administration and planning of, sporting fixtures to be left in the hands of non-governmental private organisations. I think it would be a retrograde step if governments - this Government or any government in Australia - were to intervene in this matter and to say that they would not permit sporting fixtures to take place because they did not like the colour of some particular government abroad or because they did not like the policies that some particular governments followed.’
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether he will give urgent consideration to convening a meeting of representatives of the New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian and Commonwealth Governments to discuss the .need to establish a Murray Valley authority with full power to develop the Murray Valley and control the distribution of the waters of the Murray River, preferably through pipelines, and so banish State jealousy and allow this fertile valley to be developed and populated to the advantage of Australia?
– Since 1915 there has been a River Murray Commission, lt was established by the Commonwealth and the 3 State governments concerned to control the flow of the waters of the River Murray and the tributaries above and certain waters below Albury. The Commission has been consistently and very strongly supported over the years by all governments concerned. In other words, to my knowledge there has not been a degree of interstate jealousy, as suggested, over the control of these waters. The Commission has managed the situation on a satisfactory basis. The proposal for an authority is something quite different. If an authority were established, as proposed by the honourable member, I assume it would be an authority with autonomy in relation to the expenditure of funds. I am afraid that such expenditure could not be taken out of the control of the various constituent governments in this field. I know what is behind the honourable member’s question. He is concerned about some recent events. We hope that what is feared by the honourable member will not eventuate. It is hoped that the policy subscribed to. in the past by the 4 governments concerned will be continued in the future. If it is, and if it is administered through the Commission as in the past, with legislative control of finance in the hands of the various’ governments. I am sure that the situation will be resolved in the best interests of all the states concerned.
– i address my question to the Minister for National Development. What investigations have been made by his Department or any other appropriate authority into the effects on’ the environmental ecology of the proposed nuclear reactor at Jervis Bay? During what period were the investigations made? Will the Minister table details of them for the information of the House? What precautions have been considered to counter the catastrophic effects of the destruction of such a reactor either by enemy submarine attack or by internal explosion? What would be the radius of fallout of such a catastrophe?
– I can assure the House categorically that every precaution is naturally taken in relation to the installation of nuclear plants. This is not the first nuclear reactor for the provision of power that has been or will be installed throughout the world. In fact Australia, as a developed country, is one of the last to move into the field of power generation by the use of nuclear reactors. Therefore, there is vast experience in other countries and we,- of course, can benefit from this. But every precaution is taken and . will be taken in relation to the installation and operation of this reactor.
In addition to this, Mr Speaker, we have had for quite some years now a research reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney and this has given us vast experience in respect of the safety precautions that arc necessary with nuclear reactors. So I can assure the honourable member that the standards which are adopted here not only Will conform to our rigid standards, to which we subscribe through the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, but will be in accordance with the world standards which are laid down by the world agency, the chair-, man of which at the moment is the chairman of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission.
The honourable member also ‘mentioned studies in relation to the ecology. Studies are at present being carried out and will continue to be carried out in this region for quite some time. A considerable amount of work has been done by the Commission, assisted by outside bodies, in this field and it is my intention, Mr Speaker, to seek leave at a later stage to make a statement when the contract is being let in relation to the establishment of the nuclear power station at Jervis Bay. When this statement is made - I hope this will be before, the end of this year or at the latest early in 1971 - it will cover, all aspects, not only of the type of power plant that will be .installedthe type of nuclear reactor that will be installed - but the policy governing operation and all other technical matters which would include the results of the studies in relation to the ecology in the district.
– I direct my question to the Minister for National Development. 1 ask: Is Australia at present exporting huge quantities of ‘ base metals to overseas countries? Can the Minister indicate the Government’s future policy for the processing of base metals and minerals such as bauxite here in Australia at secondary and tertiary levels? Would such policy, if implemented, bring great financial benefits to this country?
– The policy of the Government in regard to the export of raw materials and -its relationship to processing within -Australia has been made quite clear on a number of occasions. There is a policy which has been established by the Commonwealth and State governments, and which is subscribed to, that there should be an increasing degree of processing carried out in Australia for very obvious reasons, some of which were mentioned by the honourable member. But I should draw the attention of the House to the fact that in the field of mineral development most of the work-the exploration and production - is carried out by private enterprise and where there are contractual arrangements with countries overseas these are generally made direct by the private companies with their opposite numbers in other countries and are also on a bilateral arrangement with the State government concerned.
Where there are export controls the Commonwealth Government does lay down certain conditions which apply to the issue of export licences. There are no export controls on bauxite at the moment but there are in the case. of iron ore, for example, and these conditions have been made known to the States and the companies concerned. In the case of bauxite we know, of course, that it is the policy of the State governments, which have discussed this matter with the Commonwealth through the Australian Minerals Council and in other fields, to proceed as far as possible and to the greatest extent practicable - because there must always be in this field some substantial export of raw material - with the processing of raw material in Australia. My impression is that this policy will continue.
Statement by Mr Speaker
– As the House will recall, the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) on 15th May moved that the House take note of a ministerial statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) with reference to Commonwealth-State talks on off-shore legislation. To this motion the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) moved an amendment and’ to this amendment an amendment was moved by the honourable member for Casey (Mr Howson). A point of order was raised that the latter amendment was a direct negative. I did not uphold the point of order and a motion of dissent from my ruling was moved. The motion of dissent was negatived.
Subsequent comment both inside and outside the House showed some misunderstanding of the parliamentary practice in regard to the nature and scope of amendments and some lack of knowledge of the precedents and parliamentary procedures on which the ruling was based.
As the moving of. amendments is a fundamental parliamentary proceeding and is therefore of great importance, I have prepared a statement dealing wilh the precedents and the practice in this House and in the United Kingdom House of Commons which I feel will be of considerable interest and which I think shows that the proceedings that day and the procedure followed were consistent with established parliamentary practice. This practice allows an amendment intended to evade an expression of opinion upon the main question by entirely altering its meaning and objects and which effects this by first moving for the omission of words with a view, if this is agreed, to the substitution of an alternative proposition.
The statement makes clear the meaning of ‘direct negative’ and ‘expanded negative’ in the parliamentary context and will, I hope, do much lo clear up the confusion which exists in this matter. As the statement is somewhat lengthy, I propose to have it incorporated in Hansard. It is as follows:
On 15th May 1970 Mr Snedden, the Leader of the House, moved that the House take note of a paper relating to off-shore legislation. To this motion, Or Patterson moved an amendment which expressed lack of confidence in the Prime Minister and his Cabinet because they failed to honour a commitment. To this amendment, an amendment was moved by Mr Howson declaring that the House did not believe there had been any failure on the part of the Government to honour any commitment, etc.
A point of order was raised that the latter amendment was a direct negative of the first amendment. The Chair ruled against the point of order and this was upheld by the House when it negatived a motion of dissent from the Ruling of the Chair. A fuller statement of the proceedings is given in the Appendix to these notes.
Subsequent events show that there is a considerable misunderstanding of the parliamentary practice in regard to the nature and scope of amendments, and a lack of knowledge of the precedents and parliamentary procedures on which the ruling of the Chair was based. lt is necessary to say at the start that the only requirement of the Standing Orders of the House is that an amendment must be relevant to the question which it is proposed to amend. There is no reference to direct’ or ‘expanded’ negative and, in accordance wilh standing order I , resort, in this context, is had to the practice of the House of Representatives or to the practice of the United Kingdom House of Commons as declared in Mays ‘Parliamentary Practice’. Although there are a few exceptions, the overwhelming evidence is that amendments intended to evade an expression of opinion upon a question by entirely altering its meaning and object are allowed and that an amendment which puts forward an alternative proposition, even though it be a fundamental alteration, is in order.
The 17th edition of May at pages 406-7 refers to amendments intended to evade an expression of opinion upon the main question by entirely altering its meaning and object, and says that this is effected by moving the omission of all or most of the words of the question after the word ‘That’ at the beginning, and by the substitution of an alternative proposition (-which must, however, be relevant to the subject of the question).
May goes on to say that in the case of amendments of this type the proposal of the question That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question’ places before the House two alternative propositions, contained in the motion and in the amendment respectively, between which, the House has to make a preliminary choice before deciding finally to agree to either of them. Consequently, if the words proposed to be left out are ordered not te stand part of the question, this vote does not by itself express a decision against the motion, but only a preference for taking a decision upon the alternative proposition contained in the amendment. If, however, the words of the amendment are added, and the main question, so amended, is agreed to, the original motion may be regarded as having been negatived by implication. This depends both upon the fact that the amendment has been agreed to and upon the fact that its terms are such as to imply disagreement with the motion.
A motion, from which all or most of the words after ‘That’ have been left out without other words having been added, has not in strictness been decided and may be submitted again in substance to the decision of the House. So also can a motion which has been superseded by a temporising or noncommittal amendment, or by a conditional prohibition, as soon as that condition has ceased to operate.
But a motion which has been superseded by a ‘hostile’ amendment, i.e., one which contains a conflicting or incompatible proposition, cannot be repeated in the same session. Even when such an amendment has not been fully agreed to by the House, the fact that the words which it proposed to leave out have been omitted has been treated in practice as equivalent to a decision against the original, motion. It is important to observe that the question whether the proposition contained in a superseded motion has been decided depends, not upon the fact that its words have been omitted, but rather upon the nature of the amendment by which the motion has been superseded.
There are many precedents of this mode of dealing with a question, which is a recognised parliamentary form. The proposed amendment should not be confined to a mere negation of the terms of the motion, as the proper mode of expressing a contrary opinion is by voting against a motion without seeking to amend it.
An earlier edition of May (10th edition at pages 270-1), when dealing with amendments intended to evade an expression of opinion upon the main question by entirely altering its meaning and object says that there are many precedents of this mode of dealing with a question, and that the best known in parliamentary history are those relating to Mr Pitt’s administration, and the Peace of Amiens, in 1802.
On 7th May 1802 a motion was made in the Commons for an address, ‘expressing the thanks of this house to His Majesty for having been pleased to remove the Right Hon. W. Pitt from his councils;’ upon which an amendment was proposed and carried, which left out all the words after the first, and substituted others in direct opposition to them, by which the whole policy of Mr Pitt was commended. Immediately afterwards an address was moved in both Houses of Parliament, condemning the Treaty of Amiens, in a long statement of facts and arguments; and in each House an amendment was substituted, whereby an address was resolved upon which justified the treaty.
This edition of May went on to say that the practice had often been objected to as unfair, but that the objection was unfounded as the weaker party must always anticipate defeat in one form or another. If no amendment is moved, the majority can negative the question itself and affirm another in opposition to the opinions of the minority. Other interesting cases in the House of Commons are: 24/11/1902- -Journals, p. 492.
Motion - That this House approves the policy embodied in the convention relating to sugar signed at Brussels on the 5th day of March 1902. . . .
The amendment, which proposed to leave out all the words after ‘House’, with a view to the- insertion of the words ‘declines to approve of the convention relating to sugar signed at Brussels on the 5th day of March, 1902’, was held to be in order. 1/11/1956- Journals, pp. 428-9. Motion - ‘That this House deplores the action of Her Majesty’s Government in resorting to armed force against Egypt in clear violation of the United Nations Charter. . . .
The Prime Minister moved the following amendment which was agreed to - Omit all words after ‘House’, insert ‘approves of the prompt action taken by Her Majesty’s Government designed to bring hostilities between Israel and Egypt to an end. . . .
The 17th edition of May, p. 418, states that the Speaker has ruled that an amendment that was merely an expanded negative could not be proposed. The meaning of the words expanded negative’ in the parliamentary context and the fact that this ruling is not inconsistent with the practice dealt with in these notes can be shown by reference to one of the instances cited by May, as follows:
Commons Parliamentary Debates 1938- 39, Vol. 343, columns 856, 904, 906.
Motion (Minister of Transport) - ‘that the Contract … for the maintenance of transport services in the Western Highlands . and for the conveyance of mails … be approved’.
Amendment (Mr Weir) to omit approved’ and insert ‘disapproved’ with a view to Article 2 (which empowers the Minister to nominate a person to serve on the Board of Directors of the contractors) being altered so as to empower him to nominate two persons’.
The Minister staled that this amendment would have the effect of cancelling the whole ‘of the recommendations that had been put in regard to the contract and would involve ils ceasing and that the whole of the financial arrangements would come to an end.
Mr Speaker said he had ruled out another amendment as il was a wrecking amendment which would negative the motion but put nothing in its place. The amendment now proposed would, of course, negative the motion but it suggests that the Government should bring in an altered contract. This amendment was perfectly in order.
In the House of Representatives, relevant precedents are: 22/10/1920- Voles and Proceedings 391:
Motion - That the Government bc censured for their failure to make provision for the payment of 5s per bushel cash at railway sidings for this season’s wheat.
Amendment agreed to - Omit all words after ‘Government’, insert ‘, having guaranteed the producer 5s per bushel at sidings for this season’s wheat, should arrange for payment of same on delivery by cash and certificates, such certificates to be repayable in such’ instalments and at such periods as recommended by the Central Wheat Board. . . .’ 6/5/1936 - Votes and Proceedings p. 590-
Motion - That this House censures the Commonwealth Government for its failure to promote the adoption of the 40-hour week in Australia. . . .
Proposed amendment - That the words ‘censures the Commonwealth Government for its failure’ be omitted with a view to inserting in place thereof the words ‘approves the action of the Commonwealth Government’ - Ruled out of order as it was a direct negative of the motion.
Another amendment agreed to - Omit all words after ‘House’, insert notes the action taken by the Commonwealth Government to promote the adoption of the 40-hour week in Australia . . .’ 8/9/ 1949- Votes and Proceedings p. 381 -
Motion - Thai this House has no further confidence in Mr Deputy Speaker on the grounds
Amendment agreed to after ruling that it was not a direct negative - Omit ill words after ‘That’, insert ‘this House declares its determination to uphold the dignity and authority of the Chair, an.l deplores the fact thai the Deputy Speaker while carrying out his duties with ability and impartiality, has not at all times received the support from all Members which he is entitled to expect in maintaining that dignity and authority’. 9.’ Al 1970 - Vo:cA and Proceedings p. SI -
Motion - That the Leader of the House should be censured for his mishandling of (he business of the House and his repeated failure to honour agreement” made between the Government and the Opposition.
Amendment proposed - Omit all words after ‘That’, insert ‘the Leader of the Opposition should be censured for hi-, failure to respond to Mr Speaker’s request that he use his influence wilh the honourable member for Wills to obey the decision of the House directed to him by Mr Speaker . . .’
Point of order raised that the amendment was not relevant to the motion which it proposed to amend.
Ruling - That the amendment was relevant to the circumstances of the case and to the substance of the matter.
Dissent from ruling negatived.
Amendment agreed to; motion as amended agreed to. 17/11/1 964 - Votes and Proceedings p. 235.
Consideration of Senate’s request for amendment - Motion - That the requested amendment be not made.
Proposed amendment - That the word ‘not’ be omitted from the motion.
Ruling - that the proposed amendment was out of order as it was a direct negative of the motion. 13/8’ 1903 - Votes and Proceedings p. 93.
Electoral distribution motion - That this House approves of the proposed distribution of the State of South Australia . . .
Amendment moved - That the word approves’ be omitted with a view to the insertion of the word ‘disapproves’ in place thereof. (References to other electoral distribution motions where . amendments moved expressing ‘disapproval’ and calling for’ a fresh- redistribution or expressing other views were moved to approval’ motions -
1912/165-6; 1922/45; 1932-34/901, 903-4; 1934-37/607; 1962-63/ 340-1; 1968-69/216-9; 322-3.)
lt will be seen that the amendment moved by Mr Howson to the amendment moved to the motion by Dr Patterson, the procedure followed, and the proceedings as a whole were consistent with established parliamentary practice which allows an amendment intended ‘to evade an expression of opinion upon the main question by entirely altering its meaning and object’ and which effects this by first moving for the omission of words with a view, it th,s is agreed, to the substitution of an alternative proposition.
Appendix 15 May 1970 - Motion re off-shore legislation - Want of confidence amendment - Amendment to amendment.
Motion (Mr Snedden) - That the House take note of the paper.
Amendment (Mr Patterson) - That the following words be added to the motion: and that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet lack the confidence of the House because they failed to honour a commitment made to the States by the previous Minister for National Development, acting for and on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, that there would be further consultation with the States before the Commonwealth government introduced any legislation on the territorial sea and continental shelf.’
Amendment to amendment (Mr Howson) -
That all words after “and’ be deleted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: that this House does nol believe that there has been any failure on the part of the Government to honour any commitments.
The House acknowledges that when the Government decided to change its policy on Off-Shore authority by legislating to take control from the lowwater mark to Continental Shelf, the Government did not, at that time, inform the States of this change in the policy which had been the subject of consultations between the Minister for National Development and State Ministers.
It is of the opinion that it is this fact which has led to the honourable member for Farrer feeling justified in believing that an undertaking that there would be further consultations, which he gave to the Stales, has been dishonoured’.
Point of order raised (Mr Whitlam) that Mr Howson’s amendment was a direct negative of the amendment moved by Dr Patterson.
Ruling - Speaker Aston ruled that Mr Howson ‘s amendment was not a direct negative and was not materially different in form from amendments which have been moved, and accepted, in previous years.
Dissent from ruling moved (Mr Barnard) - negatived on division.
– Mr Speaker, will it be possible, at some stage, to debate your statement?
– I would not think so at this stage. The House has made a decision on the matter, by vote of the House. This is a statement thai I have made for the information of honourable members to clarify the situation. The House voted on the motion to dissent from my ruling.
– ls it possible 10 move that the statement be noted?
– I present the report by the honourable Mr Justice R. M. Eggleston following his inquiry into academic salaries in universities. J seek leave of the House to make a short statement relating to the report.
– There being no objection leave is granted.
– This is a report by Justice Eggleston who, with 2 assessors, Professor D. P. Derham, C.M.G., M.B.E., and Mr M.. C. Timbs, was appointed in March 1970 to advise the Government on the levels of academic salaries that might now be used by the Australian Universities Commission for the purpose of recommending grants for the recurrent expenditure of the universities. The academic salaries that are paid in each university are the responsibility of the governing body of that university and the Stale Government concerned. The Government’s position has always been confined lo its willingness to provide financial support for academic salaries up to certain prescribed levels. Those levels were last reviewed in 1967 when the Commonwealth decided to sup port new rates with effect from 1st July 1967. Mr Justice Eggleston submitted his report on 7th May 1970 and his main recommendations are that the salaries for professors should be increased from S 1 2.000 per annum to Si 4.400 per annum, an increase of 20%, and that salaries for readers and associate professors should be increased by a like percentage from $9,900 per annum to $11,880 per annum. The report proposes an increase from S8.750 per annum to $10,500 per annum in the top of the range of salaries for senior lecturers, an increase of 20%. and an increase from $5,400 per annum to $6,318 per annum for the minimum of the salary range for lecturers, an increase of 17%. He recommends that the commencing date for the new rates should be 1st January 1970.
Mr Justice Eggleston also recommends that in future there should be automatic adjustments in academic salaries following national wage case decisions, and stales that the percentage increases recommended in the report are calculated on the assumption that automatic adjustments will be approved. The recommendations are in keeping wilh recent changes in salary rates payable to other categories of workers with which it is appropriate to compare academic salaries in universities. The Government has decided that it will contribute its normal share of any increases approved bv the State governments up to the limits proposed by Mr Justice Eggleston, with effect from 1st January 1970. The Government will also in future support automatic adjustments to academic salaries in universities following national wage case decisions until the next periodic review. These decisions will involve contributions by the Commonwealth of SI for each SI. 8.5 contributed by a State. All Premiers and State Ministers for Education have received copies of Mr Justice Eggleston’s report and have been informed of the Government’s intentions, lt is for each Stale Government to decide whether it will support the recommendations of Mr Justice Eggleston. In addition, Mr Justice Eggleston makes certain suggestions about the manner in which future inquiries should be conducted. These suggestions need further consideration and further consultation with the Slates’ and the Government has made no decision on those proposals at present.
I present the following paper:
Inquiry Into Academic Salaries - Ministerial Statement, 2nd June 1970.
Motion (by Mr Snedden) proposed:
That the House take nole of the paper.
– The Opposition welcomes the statement that has been made by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr N. H. Bowen) concerning academic salaries. Mr Justice Eggleston made his fundamental survey for this report in 1964 and what he is doing now, apart from making suggestions about colleges of advanced education and one or two other matters, is updating the actual salary level. The new principle involved is sst out on pages 11 and 12 of his report and I would like to refer briefly to that section. Mr Justice Eggleston said:
If time nad not been an important factor in the situation I would have preferred to obtain appropriate insurances from the governments of the Slates and of the Commonwealth that increases awarded by national wage decisions would be automatically applied and provided for. To do so would, however, have meant a considerable delay in the presentation of this report, which 1 was assured was urgently desired. I have therefore concluded that my best course is to recommend salary levels which can be adopted without delay, on the assumptions I have mentioned and, if those assumptions prove to be unfounded, to submit a further report at a later date recommending the increased amount which I would think proper to be added to the levels now recommended, to compensate for the absence of such adjustments. I should add, also, that in reaching this conclusion 1 am fortified by the submission of the Government of New South Wales, which is by far the greatest employer oi academic staff in Australia, in which it has said:
As the academic staff of universities represents one of the few major groups to whom adjustments do not apply automatically, it is considered that this situation should not be continued and that in future the principles of national wage case increases should apply throughout the whole range of academic salaries.
This is quite clearly the main consideration which has activitated Mr Justice Eggleston in his decision. I do not think there are any reasons to assume that the- State governments will not co-operate now that the Commonwealth Government has made so clear its intention to follow the procedures in this respect recommended by Mr Justice Eggleston. There is, however, one other problem and this is referred to in the report at page 16 where Mr Justice Eggleston says:
Reference was made in the State submissions to the fact that any determination of academic salaries as a result of this report would have repercussive effects on the salaries paid to teachers in colleges of advanced education, as a consequence of the recommendations made by my colleague Mr Justice Sweeney. This point was made as part of a wider submission drawing attention to the grave financial burdens which the Stales have to bear. Insofar as any of my recommendations may have the consequence of raising the salaries of other persons who have similar claims based on comparative wage or salary justice, I cannot feel that this is a factor which should cause me to hold my hand. As 1 understand it, the relationship between university salaries and those of the colleges has been accepted by the Governments who raise this point, and any repercussive effects in this field will be the consequence of that acceptance. The point made would only be valid if I were templed to be generous on the basis that only a small class of salary earners was involved. Apart from the fact that university teachers themselves are by no means an insignificant class, 1 trust that no-one would suspect me of irresponsible generosity of this kind.
I think that the decision of the Government to accept the automatic adjustments to academic salaries in universities following national wage case decisions after each periodic review is a wise and just decision. I think it will have an important effect in the universities. Perhaps less time and energy will be spent on the question of salaries if it is known that the adjustments are automatic and the Government, having accepted this principle themselves, does make things simpler for university councils and finance committees in the preparation of submissions to the Government concerning their expenditure over the trienniums This is a step in the direction of simplification. I would only add that 1 hope we find some means of arresting the process of inflation so that the constant upward automatic adjustments will not be necessary.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave - Honourable members may recall that . on 6th May last, in reply to a question without notice,
I informed the House that arrangements for distributing the surplus assets of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund to eligible contributors were near completion and that the bulk of the payments should be made some time this months. 1 have now been informed by the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board that payments will commence next week. The surplus assets now being distributed were disclosed by an investigation of the Fund carried out by the Commonwealth Actuary in respect of the 5-year period from 1st July 1959 to 30th June 1964. An amount approximating Sim has already been distributed to over 5,600 eligible pensioners. The amount now to be distributed to some 20,000 eligible contributors is in excess of S5m. Payment will be made to those eligible contributors who are still members by cheque through their pay stations or through Sub-Treasuries, unless they are serving in Malaysia or Vietnam, in which case payment will be either in cash or by paybook credit. For those who are no longer serving, payment will be by cheque through the Department of Social Services, if the person is now a pensioner, or otherwise by cheque through the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board. I should again mention that not all contributors to the Fund are entitled to participate in the distribution. The persons who will benefit are being notified through their Service department or directly by the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the Bill as amended by the House of Representatives at the request of the Senate.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1969-70. Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1969-70. Supply Bill (No. 1) 1970-71. Supply Bill (No. 2) 1970-71.
– I have received a letter from the Leader df the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The need for the Parliament to develop a system of standing committees which, on reference by either House, could consider any Bill or other matter which has come before that House or any other matter which is within Commonwealth responsibility.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– Representative institutions throughout the world are undergoing a crisis of confidence. In the democratic communities there is deep questioning about the relevance and responsiveness of these institutions. In Australia any unease outside this Parliament is matched, and I would say exceeded, by the very general dissatisfaction inside, on both sides. Yet in this very fact lies the best hope for this Parliament as a modern institution. It means that within this Parliament resides the capacity for that self-examination, self-criticism and self-reform which time and time again has saved and strengthened the parliamentary institution. No nation in the world has a greater need for a strong, healthy, relevant and responsive national parliament than Australia. This Parliament is our most important, perhaps our only important, focus for the national identity and the national idea.
This is a new Parliament. There is a new spirit in this Parliament and there are new pressures on it. It would be an immeasurable and perhaps fatal loss if this spirit were to be repressed and these pressures suppressed. The difference between this Parliament and its predecessors is quantitative and qualitative. Thirty-six of the members of this House were not here a year ago. On this side alone, 48% of members are new. In terms of qualifications, I point out that half the members on this side have tertiary qualifications, but the real significance of this is that the vast majority of new members have achieved private success and secure private standing before entering public office. None of the new members on either side can be said to have retired into Parliament. If they have more lo offer in public life, they are entitled to expect that public life should have more to offer.
Failure to recognise this lay behind the farce of 25th November and the fiasco of 8th and 9th April. The Executive attempted to make the new members fit into old patterns and timetables. The effect was traumatic and dramatic; the consequences have been considerable and beneficial. Additional sitting days and reasonable sitting hours were established for the rest of this session. We have to ensure that such arrangements become the accepted standards of this Parliament, so that this House no longer suffers the odious comparisons with comparable legislatures that could have been drawn last year. In 1969 the House of Representatives at Washington sat on 186 days; the House of Commons at Westminster 164 days; the House of Commons at Ottawa 161 days, and the House of Representatives in Wellington 85 days. We sat 51 days. However, reform of sitting days and hours is only a beginning. It does not reach the root of the matter, which is to provide proper procedures for the most productive performance of this Parliament and the persons in it. Indeed,, the marginal utility of longer sitting hours alone can bc seen from the fate of the most important Bills of this session. This House guillotined the National Health Bill and proposed circulated amendments were never debated. We will postpone the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Bill. We did not meaningfully debate the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill; we declared only our general attitudes on it. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) has revealed the fragmentary and rudimentary nature of information given to the Government parties themselves on this legislation. The point of the debate on off-shore mining was that we should not yet debate it.
The fact is that this Parliament and its machinery is geared to debate generalities on the second reading of a Bill, rather than to examine its specifics in the Committee of the whole. We see this every session when the most and the best speeches tend to be made to the Budget or the AddressinReply, rather than to clauses of Bills or items in the Estimates. This is inherent in the nature of Parliament in a 2-party system. The Parliament is, properly and necessarily, the forum of the parties as much as the instrument of the Executive Government. The problem is to provide machinery so that both these functions can be carried out effectively and simultaneously. Honourable members should be able to fulfil both their exhortatory and exploratory roles. Overseas examples and our own experiences point the way clearly to an expansion of the Committee system, for which my. colleagues and I readily acknowledge, Mr Speaker, you have been a foremost protagonist throughout your period of service to the House in the chair. The question is: which kind of committee? We can appoint select or standing Committees of either House or both Houses. Each type has done valuable work. There will be many circumstances in which one or other type of committee is most suitable or acceptable; but as a basic way of reforming the machinery of this Parliament, to secure the best use of our best men, I am convinced that we should increasingly turn to joint standing committees. They should be joint to avoid buck-passing and confrontation between the Houses and duplication of witnesses and work; they should be standing to secure prior and continuing information on relevant subjects and follow-up on recommendations and reports. Only joint standing committees can become a regular part of the work of the whole Parliament, rather than an ad hoc addition to the work of part of it. lt is much easier to carry a vote to refer a matter to a standing committee than to carry one to establish a select committee on that matter. The only sure way to secure a vote on the establishment of a select committee is to move an amendment to a Bill; in that event the mover is accused of delaying the Bill. It has been a considerable disappointment to me that Labor efforts to secure Senate select committees since 1967 have succeeded in only one case - on health costs - and that committee led to the Nimmo Committee. Two others I proposed at the 1967 Senate elections, on education and natural disasters, were rejected; another on overseas control of resources was partly debated, and the 2 on poverty and housing have never even been debated. Some Senate select committees - for example, those on road accidents and television production in Australia - have had cavalier treatment from Governments. My disillusion even with joint select committees stems from the Committee on Constitutional Review to whose work I and others devoted over 100 full sitting days and subsequent Ministers have paid scant regard. At the next Senate election, and at the House of Representatives elections, I shall propose joint standing committees - for example, on Aboriginals, science and technology, health, education and welfare and technical change as my Party’s platform ordains, and, as I have often advocated, on such matters as law reform, Commonwealth-State agreements and New Guinea. lt is a great mistake to believe that standing committees interfere with the proper powers of the Executive or the effective solidarity of the parties. The fundamental purpose of committees is to secure more and better information for members and to ensure more and greater participation by members. We would show scant confidence in ourselves, and the parties we belong to if we appeared to believe that better information and more participation would not lead to better government, and better parties, as well as a better Parliament.
Committees do not set themselves up to oppose or thwart the Executive: nor should they be an appendage to it. This is the House where the government is determined. But even in the other place, where the government is not determined, and where the present government does not have a majority, the government parties have always appointed a majority on statutory and standing committees and half the members of select comittees, including the chairman in all cases.
Committees can, and usually do, reflect the great degree of unanimity which the Parliament itself reaches on matters- very important matters - which are not subject to party philosophy or policy. The fact is thai the deep and - abiding differences in philosophy and policy, which separate the great parties represented in this Parliament - now deeper, wider, more meaningful differences than - have existed, in living memory - are not reflected in the bulk of the legislation which has to come to the Parliament. Last year was an election year. The Government introduced 111 Bills into this House. Five -were opposed outright by the Opposition. We moved amendments to 9 others on the second reading: after those amendments were defeated we did not vote against the second reading. On one of those Bills and on 7 others we moved amendments at the Committee stage; in only 1 case did we vote against the third reading when the amendments were defeated. The fact is, of course, that the great and historic measures of a Parliament - those bitterly contested by an Opposition through all stages - are also great party measures, and are precisely the measures with which committees do not and cannot deal. Committees must deal not’ only with the realities of the Parliament, but with the realities of the Constitution.
Just as committees cannot subvert the parties, they cannot circumvent the Constitution. The American Constitution in particular prescribes and proscribes in a way ours does not. or reverses. The American Constitution prescribes that the Senate shall advise and consent on a great range of matters, from the treaty making powers of the President to his powers of appointment. lt is on the basis of this power that the great committees of the American Senate function and have attained such extraordinary prestige and eminence. The American Constitution proscribes a member of the Cabinet from being a member of the Congress; ours of course prescribes what the American proscribes. It is that difference which makes this House the seat and source of the Executive and financial power of this nation.
The Senate Committee on Standing Orders asked the Clerk of the Senate to prepare a report on standing committees. In March he suggested committees on external affairs and defence; transport and communications; trade, industry and labour; legal, constitutional and home affairs; health, welfare, education and science; and national finance and development. A criticism of this division of activities is that it matches too exactly the divisions and definitions of the existing departments, so that there would be a built-in tendency for the committees to continue and define their role according to established departments. Therefore; the Leader of my party in the other place has suggested dividing these functions among 8 committees, to make more specific provision for statutory authorities and local government, housing and urban facilities, and the arts. lt is not only a question of making the Federal Parliament work better; it is also a question of making the federal system work at all. In international relations, for which the Federal Government alone bears responsibility - for example the International Labour Organisation, maritime and human rights conventions - the States stagnate and obstruct. In Federal-State relations’ where we each have a role the 7 parliaments are now excluded and only the 7 executives are involved. The . parliaments have to regard any agreement between the executives as if it were an international treaty. If we seek to amend part of an agreement we imperil the whole. We cannot even receive information, even by way of questions on notice, about the deliberations of Federal and State Ministers. On the dozen or score of occasions each year when Federal Ministers confer with their State counterparts the most information that we or our colleagues in any of the State parliaments can obtain are the Press releases, if any, from these meetings. I do not find it reassuring to know that the Water Resources Council does not even debate the Ord River Scheme, the Burdekin River Scheme, the River Murray Commission or the Snowy Mountains Authority. 1 do not find it reassuring that the Health Ministers conference does not choose to release any news about its deliberations on hospital treatment tot pensioners, the planning of hospitals or mental hospitals. When through some fortuitous circumstances we can examine the proceedings, as with the offshore minerals legislation, we do indeed get some insight into the way in which the affairs of this nation are carried on when mere parliaments can be bypassed.
Members of committees can be less inhibited than parties or their Ministers or leaders on a whole range of social and economic matters. Dare a party leader volunteer his views on the laws of censorship, sexual crimes and divorce, the shibboleths of subsidies and protection? My Bills on adulthood and capital punishment would be supported by a joint committee. Intellectual distemper would subside inside the House and within the parties. Contemporary laws would result. We are at the head of this nation: we should strive to be ahead of it. We wish to see the people of this nation enriched in their lives by being unleashed in their talents and opportunities. Let us make a beginning in enriching this Parliament by unleashing the abundant talent among us. Trie plea everywhere is for more participation in the democratic process; let participation begin at home, right here, in the national Parliament.
– I approach this topic, this matter of public importance, completely without the intention that there should be any political advantage to be won one way or the other. For that reason 1 do not propose to answer in any detail, or indeed at all, what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitiam) has said. My approach, it will be seen, is markedly different from his. There is around this Parliament - by that I mean both Houses - a mood for change. That mood for change has been expressed in terms of motions that have been moved and put on the notice paper in the Senate. The mood for change in this chamber was initiated by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) and others sharing his views, such as the honourable member for Ryan (M.’r Drury) and, on the other side of the House, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). That mood for change has become very apparent to all of us in this House. The reason for it is perhaps that each member of the House wants to feel that he is fully discharging his duties as a member of Parliament. Within the broad spectrum of members of this Parliament there is a great array of talent and experience. We have a long way to go before we know what the changes are that wc should adopt for the conduct of our business in the House.
The mailer under discussion proposes first of ali the setting up of joint committees. The 3 areas mentioned are Bills, other matters before the House and any matter of Commonwealth responsibility. Wc should draw a very clear distinction between the Bill processes and what I might term the general topics process. Any honourable member can give notice of motion or present a pettition. Therefore there is no limit on the range of matters that can be raised, lt can go directly to policy. The third matter relates to Commonwealth responsibility. This would appear to me to mean thai there can- be a move to refer a matter to a standing committee without prior consideration, lt may very well be that the matter can emanate from the standing committee itself. I have difficulty in accepting the concept of a standing committee which, by its terms, is at all times ready to receive a subject on which it is required to enter into an examination and which puts itself in a virtual executive position to consider policy.
So far as the Bill process is concerned, 1 believe that the policy must first be determined. A committee can then be asked by the House to consider the Bill. Such a committee need not look at policy but can look at the Bill in a technical sense. The policy has first to be decided by the House and then a committee can look at the technical side of a Bill. A committee operating in this way would not need to call for persons and papers in the general sense as a committee might otherwise do, because the policy would have been decided. A committee looking at a Bill during the Committee stage would have before it a Minister, expert officials and probably the Parliamentary Draftsman.
Mr Speaker, as you know, 80% of the Bills that come before this chamber go directly from the second reading to the third reading stage. Only 20% go into the Committee stage. Many Bills that come before this House are of a non-political nature. I instance the Copyright Bill. I do not think anybody would believe that any great political issue arose out of that Bill. A committee could do a very fine job. The House could have standing committees to examine Bills referred to them when the policy has been decided. Mr Speaker, you have circulated a proposal which is before all honourable members today. In that you suggest some committees. I think you have suggested 7 functionally distributed committees. I have no doubt that the House would want to look at the particular functions, but I know that you intend the proposal for consideration only. I believe there is room for an Estimates committee, which would look at the Estimates prospectively just as we now have a Public Accounts Committee which looks at the Estimates in a restrospective sense.
As to the general topics process, as 1 understand the matter for discussion here today it proposes that the standing com mittees will receive what the House sends to them and that in that sense the House will determine the issues that are to be referred to the standing committees. No doubt the House would execute their decisions in a foreseeable manner, depending on the attitudes of the Government and depending on who had the majority in the House. I question whether we need to have a standing committee as a potential recipient of a potential subject which the House may choose to refer to a committee. It may not receive any subject from the House. If it did not, it would in that sense be a mere husk. But human beings, and especially members of Parliament, being what they are, the members would be unwilling for it to remain a husk, and I believe there would be a temptation for it to enter a policy area which it ought not properly to enter. It should not enter into any matter unless and until the House refers it. So it seems to me that there is no necessity for standing committees for the potential receipt of these topics. It would be better for the membership of the committee to be determined when the topic to be looked at by a committee is decided. That, of course, would be the same system as we have now in the select committee process. I can well understand that people might argue: How does a private member or, indeed, the Opposition get the establishment of a select committee on a topic? I can understand that that argument could be put.
We have not had a great number of select committees in this House over recent years, but those we have had have fulfilled their job very well. I do not see why we cannot have more select committees to inquire into matters which are determined. The argument may be put in response to mine: How does a private member or the Opposition get a topic considered for the formation of a select committee? If that argument is put, we ought to look at it and we ought to consider ways of allowing private members and the Opposition to get the establishment of a committee to consider a certain topic. I am at the present time doing my own think;ng on how such a method could be evolved. I see advantages in select committees. There have been good select committees from this House and there have been more select committees from the Senate which have fulfilled a very valuable function. One only has to think of the
Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures and the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions in Television, known as the Vincent Committee. There have been a number of them. The argument for select committees therefore is better, and I believe that they should be frequently used. They should ‘ be used essentially to investigate situations, to expose problems and to reveal all the facets of situations. Policy decisions could then be taken- on the committee’s recommendations to operate in the area which the select committee has inquired into.
Mr Speaker, you will have gathered from what I say that I accept the strength of the argument for a Bills process standing committee, but I have difficulty in accepting the arguments for a general topics standing committee. The Leader of the Opposition said quite unequivocally that these committees should be joint committees. I do nor question the reason for the proposal that they be joint committees, but I do raise some difficulties which would make joint committees a problem. For instance, I think the basis of the proposition that they should be joint is the view that the standing committees will essentially be dealing with general topics. A general topic could be dealt with by a select committee of both Houses without any difficulty, but T fail to see how we could have a joint committee tei deal with the Bills process. This House would refer a Bill to a committee. The Bill would be before this House but not yet before the Senate. How could Senators sit on a joint committee to consider something that was not yet before the Senate? So the chronological position is important. This also adds point to what I said about drawing a distinction between the Bills process and the general topics process.
The House of Representatives is the forum in which major political confrontation occurs. That major confrontation occurs between the ministerial parties and the Opposition party. That is what this forum is all about. It is a very different forum from the Senate. We have been having political confrontation in this House since this session commenced. Any change of forms of procedure for dealing with legislation must take account of this reality and must not in any way inhibit the political confrontation which is part of our democratic and constitutional process. The prize for the confrontation winner is government. Therefore changes adopted by this House cannot be a mere mirror of changes which are adopted in the Senate, which is, as 1 said, a very different forum. There is a mood for change but the change must be the right change.
Three things come to my mind as things which must be objectives to be achieved in any change. The first is involvement of members with their array of experience and talent. The second is to achieve efficiency pf the procedures of Parliament with that involvement of all members of the House. Thirdly, and most importantly, there is the preservation of the constitutional and traditional role of the House. It is for all these reasons that I draw a very clear distinction between committees dealing with the Bills process and committees concerned wilh At general topics process.
Id this House, the Committee stage has tended to atrophy. When I first came here, very frequently very good Committee debates took place. Debates of that . same standard do not seem to occur now. When we go into Committee now, what happens usually is that the Committee stage is just a continuation of the policy stage which the second reading debate is supposed to accommodate. After the second reading debate determines the policy, the Committee has the time to look at the technical aspects of the Bill under discussion and to make sure that it is a good Bill.
The Leader of the Opposition told us, when speaking to this matter, that in his next policy speech he will propose that joint standing committees be established on a whole host of matters. He no doubt will be unimpressed with what I am about to say, but I would like him to consider very much whether or not this is a proper process for the Parliament. In our constitutional system, the Executive must sit in this chamber. As the Leader of the Opposition says, the Executive is charged with developing, evolving, supporting and standing up to policy. It is not appropriate that that responsibility for policy should be abdicated by the Executive and put in the hands of committees. Equally, it is not appropriate that the political confrontation which is the essence of our constitutional and political system should happen anywhere but in this forum.
– The Leader of the House, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden), has offered one or two suggestions about how the present parliamentary situation could be improved. ] am referring now to the point of view that has been expressed by a number of members in this chamber concerning the need for a more active participation by members in the affairs of the Parliament. There was nothing in the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) that would suggest that there is any move on the part of the Opposition here or anywhere else to take the business of the Parliament out of the hands of the Executive.
I appreciate that the Leader of the House approached this subject in a way which clearly indicated that he wanted to be constructive, and I think he was. I think that the only difference in opinion that would exist between what the Leader of the House had to say on this occasion and the point of view that has been expressed by honourable members on this side of the House, particularly by the Leader of the Opposition today, is that in proposing for discussion this matter of public importance on behalf of the Opposition the Leader of the Opposition said that we favoured joint committees. This appears to be the difference of opinion that exists between the point of view expressed by the Leader of the House and that put by the Leader of the Opposition.
The discussion of this matter of public importance is designed to pave the way for substantial innovations in the functioning of this Parliament. In essence, it is intended to soften the rigidity of the present system by the creation of a number of standing committees in the form of joint committees drawn from both Houses of this Parliament. It is undoubtedly true that the Australian parliamentary system has lagged far behind the social and .economic evolution of this country. Our parliamentary institutions are still geared to the atmosphere of the early years of federation. The growth of the economy and the Public Service, the multiplication of interest groups, the new pattern of industrial, agricultural and social relations have been attended by a petrified parliamentary structure.
The political parties and individual members, with some notable exceptions, have neglected the need for making the Parliament more flexible and evolving contemporary institutions. The events of this parliamentary session have jolted all members of this Parliament into a realisation that more is required and that individual members must be given a much greater part in the legislative and policy-making processes. With this new awareness of the need for revitalising the parliamentary process, it seems that we are destined to travel a long way in a very short time. The lead has been taken in the Senate where my colleague, the Leader of the Opposition in that place (Senator Murphy), has moved for the appointment of a series of standing committees. This will augment in very substantial form the important role of Senate select committees in recent years.
It is a matter for regret that this House has not set up more select committees in recent years. The only select committee in existence at the moment is the Select Committee on Aircraft Noise. The only other select committee of this House that I can recall in recent years was the one that inquired into names for electorates. The honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) has moved successfully for the appointment of a committee on conservation of animal life. This adds up to a rather depressing and uninspiring record on the use of the committee system by this House; and we all must share the blame for it.
The Standing Orders Committee of this House has considered the question of committees. It has had before it an excellent report from the Clerk of the House. I hope that this report will be tabled in this House in the same way as the report of the Clerk of the Senate, Mr Odgers, was tabled in that House. The report by Mr Odgers formed the basis for the motion moved by the Opposition in the Senate for the setting up of a system of standing committees. Because the Standing Orders Committee of this House has not finalised its discussion on the subject of committees and because the report of our Clerk, Mr Turner, has not been tabled here, I will not canvass these matters in this debate, except to say that, as that report has been made available now to all honourable members in this House, it can be said that the report is well documented evidence relating to the appointment of standing committees and I think that the Clerk of the House and Mr Speaker arc to be congratulated on their initiative in this respect.
That report is still a matter for consideration by the Standing Orders Committee. A number of varying attitudes to committees were reflected in the discussion in the Standing Orders Committee. I am sure that these attitudes are reflected in this House. They have been reflected already this afternoon. Some members want standing committees of the House of Representatives. Some want more select committees of this House. Some want joint committees with the Senate. Some want the committee role to bc left to the Senate. Others do not want any committees at all. Unfortunately, this is the view of some senior members of the Government.
A huge volume of material is available on the functioning of committees in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, New Zealand and Canada. Much of this is relevant to the Australian Parliament. A lot of it is relevant to other systems of government only. It is ironical to note that Canada adopted a system of standing committees to cut down the sitting times of its Parliament. The purpose of setting up a committee system in this Parliament is to increase parliamentary activity and the participation in government of members of the Parliament. For such reasons, it is wise to absorb the lessons df the committee experience in other countries. But that experience cannot be translated directly into the Australian parliamentary experience. What we must try to create is a committee system responsible for the particular needs of the Australian Parliament.
One suggestion has been .the setting up of a standing committee system in both Houses. This would mean a parallel organisation of 7 or 8 standing committees in each House covering the broad areas of the Executive and the bureaucracy. Such a system would have many virtues. I feel, however, that it would be much too elaborate for the requirements of this Parliament. Separate committee systems for each House may be appropriate to a country such as the United States where each House has substantially different functions. It is diffi cult to see how a parallel system could be justified in the Australian Parliament. Inevitably, there would be duplication of effort and bickering and rivalries between the two committee systems about the functions and prerogatives of each. This could bring a power struggle between the 2 systems and the 2 Houses for the lion’s share of the committee work and the limelight associated with a committee system. I think honourable members will agree that this is not the climate for effective conduct of a bicameral system of government.
The other argument against a parallel committee system would be its cost. Any system of standing committees would cost a lot of extra money. Extra research stait, Hansard staff and Parliamentary attendants would be needed. There would also be the added burden of travelling and accommodation costs for members of committees. Such a substantial extra cost on the annual running of the Parliament would be justified for one set of standing committees. If this cost were multiplied by 2, 1 do not believe it would be justified. One alternative would be confining the standing committee system to one House. This would not be fair to the aspirations of all honourable members of this Parliament to participate in a committee system. It would also raise questions of inter-House prestige and rivalries which I referred to earlier. The best solution to the problem of setting- up a standing committee system would be the creation of joint committees. This would assure a balanced representation from the 2 Houses, lt would keep the cost of a committee system within acceptable limits. It would fulfil the objectives which all members of the Parliament expect from a committee system.
There is ample precedent for the operation of joint committees in the Australian parliamentary system. The war-time Joint Committee on Social Security is a notable example. The work of this Committee pointed the way for advances in social welfare policy. I. want to add at this stage that I do not believe that this Committee in any way at all usurped the functions of the Executive of the Parliament at that time. If I may interpret what the Leader of the House had to say en the question of joint committees and standing committees, he felt thai this would be one of the problems with committees of this type. Another notable joint committee was the Constitutional Review Committee of the late 1950s. It is true that the report has had little impact on subsequent constitutional reform, but this is no reflection on the Committee or the seminal document it produced, lt served also to give invaluable experience in the whole basis of Australian government to a generation of parliamentarians, including the present Leader o! the Opposition. The Joint Committee on Public Accounts and the Joint Committee on Public Works are institutions of many years standing whose value is beyond question. The success o: joint committees is well prawn. They represent the most appropriate and most practical vehicle for the introduction of a system of parliamentary committees in this country.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Dr MACKAY (Evans) [3.57- When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) introduced this subject I was one who rose in my place to support it because I look forward to the continuation of this kind of consideration and this dicussion which has been introduced in such a way that we can give only scant attention to the importance and the content of it today. I believe that there is need for a much deeper and thoroughgoing examination of this question and I congratulate Mr Speaker on the paper which he has circulated to honourable members, through the Standing Orders Committee, and also the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) and other honourable members who in times past have sought assiduously to direct our attention in this direction. 1 approach the subject from a somewhat different viewpoint to begin with but I believe the conclusions are the same, lt is obvious to one who looks through the daily Press and listens to discussions taking place throughout the nation thai there is concern about government in ils broadest sense. This concern relates to law and order in (he community, to discipline and to leadership.
There are increasing signs that Australia may need ‘to find a new level of discipline - either accepted in the form of voluntary self-restraint and willingness to abide by the rules, or, if this fails from within, then imposed from without. But before talking about insistence on law and order, it surely is desirable, and indeed essential, to look at the institutions that such a move would seek to uphold. Just how adequate are the safeguards of democracy in our present parliamentary system, for instance? Change is everywhere. Unless people, especially young people, are confident that they can achieve change by lawful means, they are under tremendous pressure and tension to adopt unlawful means. Theoretically our system of elections and Parliamentary government gives everyone the opportunity to influence and indeed to lead and assist movements for radical change in our laws and concept of government. Yet, to be honest, how true or valid is such an assumption? First of all, we must examine the possibilities for radical change within the parly system as we know it. Especially we must look at the opportunities for a meaningful existence for Opposition members of Parliament if we are to avoid explosions such as the one we saw in Canberra recently. How much can an opposition or its members affect positively the course of government today? Are they destined to a life of criticising what is apparently inevitable until the Government is either gradually enlightened or deposed? ls there no adequate vehicle for their constructive thinking and action? 1 am afraid my answer to that, broadly speaking, is no.
Our present parliamentary system has, in my book, broken down, or it has lost its usefulness duc to antiquated concepts. Debate in this House is actually a final sham process, like a school debate where 2 sides confront each other, rightly or wrongly clinging to party lines. All too often, but not always, the real debate in Parliament, or rather in government, takes place today inside the government organisation. The party room is the final area of confrontation which brings together the differences of private opinion, committee and cabinet deliberations in a decisive way. The best debates by far usually occur in the Government Party’s meetings. By the time measures are taken into the Parliament there is no longer much room for debate or amendment, and the long, repetitious and often recriminatory harangues which follow have a foregone conclusion, almost inevitably. For an Opposition, and especially for individual opposition members with real and constructive ability, this must be frustrating in the extreme. Must it continue in that way? I am bound to say not only that it can be changed but also that it must be changed if the Parliament as we know it is to survive. Even the amount of real debate and opportunity for amendment that I have described has begun to diminish seriously in recent years, often under the extreme pressure of legislative programmes.
Even Government Party members are finding that ex cathedra pronouncements are made , on matters of great moment concerning which they have had little say at all, and, having been made they are insisted upon without any willingness for debate or amendment again because of the pressure of events. Therefore a radical change is overdue. My first proposal, which would be even prior to the Committee proposals of which I am a complete supporter, is that there ought to be a more radical look at the process of Parliament itself, because I believe that the present first, second and third readings of Bills are well-nigh meaningless. I personally would keep the form but drastically alter the content. For example, I would make it mandatory in a large number of types of Bills for the first reading to be a presentation, not of a codified and detailed piece of legislation already determined but a broad presentation to the Parliament and the people of Australia of the intent:ons of the Executive, of the content of the legislation - if you like, a broad conspectus pf the proposed Bill. This would not be a Party business at all at the first reading stage, but it would be a presentation to the Parliament as a whole by the Executive or by the person initiating the measure of the new issues being proposed.
Debate, after a suitable period, would then follow in depth, with no vote taken except when the matter had been sufficiently discussed. Every member of Parliament would thus, regardless of party, be able to make constructive criticism or proposals without being polarised into party positions because a vote was due. Humbug would be exposed as such and real merit would emerge. Following the first reading discussion the Executive and the Government parties would prepare the actual presentation of the drafted legislation before the second reading debate. This would be a briefer process, possibly restricted to no more than 3 speakers to a side, with a defence by the Government of the position it finally adopts, and either agreement or final criticism and disagreement by the Opposition. Committee debate would follow but be absolutely restricted to a scrutiny of the drafting of the Bill. The final or third reading stage would be much as at present.
This may not sound a very revolutionary proposal but I believe it would lead to a fundamental change in the processes of the’ Parliament. It would open up opportunities for these committee discussions following that first general stage. The nation would hear real and constructive debate. The Government would be given a wider and more valuable collation of viewpoints on proposed measures and new qualities of leadership would be encouraged. When this had been accomplished the effect inside the existing parties could be tremendous. Freed from the tensions in the first instance of party loyalty versus personal conviction, most members and perhaps even Ministers would be encouraged to a new dynamism in their parliamentary performance. The Press, radio and television would be able to direct attention to the most meritorious ideas regardless of their party background and so would be in a better position to avoid being labelled as supporting one party or another.
There is no future for a non-party system in parliamentary democracy and it would be a vast mistake if we thought that introducing a committee type of arrangement could do away with the confrontation of political parties with different philosophies. No Government could work efficiently, if at all, under such circumstances. But there is no reason at all why a non-partisan discussion of the type I have outlined should not proceed. First there would be the committee deliberation in depth and then the inevitable party polarisation prior to legislation in Parliament. A new responsibility- could emerge in representational government.- The emergence of a committee system would thus be a natural development. I look forward to studying the paper presented by Mr Speaker and the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. 1 trust that before very long adequate time and attention will be directed in this place to this vitally important subject.
Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) 4.2] - I join with the honourable member for Evans (Dr Mackay) in expressing gratitude to the Speaker for his paper on the committee system. The ineffectiveness of institutions such as Parliament and arbitration is sending more and more issues to the streets. Sometimes the defect is in the parliamentary electoral system, characterised by malapportionment: sometimes it is in an undemocratic upper House. But mostly it is in the unsatisfactory relationship of the Executive and the legislature. Yet Parliament is an institution which ought to have rights and powers quite apart from the rights and powers of the Executive Government. Apropos of what has been said by the honourable member for Evans, may 1 say that 1 have experienced 3 greater frustration sitting behind a government than sitting in opposition to a government.
Method1! of parliamentary debate are becoming more and more shallow. Amendments submitted often are rejected in the House of Representatives then moved by :he Government in the Senate 10 similar purport. I have seen this happen irrespective of the party in power, lt would be better for the investigation of suggested amendments to take place in Committee. Debate in the House would be far better informed as a result of this prior detailed examination. Outside interests affected by legislation should have a chance to explain their position to such a committee and be cross-examined by members of the committee This would take away the sort of irresponsibility of the mere assertion by professional bodies that legislation is contrary to their interests. I mav say apropos of legislation now before the House, that when some representatives of the optometrical association would have preferred that there was no amendment in favour of ophthalmologists if there could not be one for optometrists, it seemed to me’ that their professional interest was overriding the interests of the public outside who probably have an interest in some extension of the benefits. I merely say that if a committee could cross-examine the bodies concerned there would be a higher level of thinking on their part about what’ they submit to the Parliament. The committee system would develop a connection between the legislature and the administration. Administrative considerations would benefit Parliament and some political problems might become apparent- to civil servants, the benefit then being mutual.
The need for Parliament to have representatives who may regularly hear the detailed submissions of experts concerning legislation and administration, and to have the opportunity to question these experts is, I think, becoming more and more apparent. We would then not have a situation in which everything is filtered to the House through the mind of the Minister.
A vast amount of legislation does not involve party political philosophy but is technical and needs committee examination. Issues discussed and recommendations arrived at away from an atmosphere of partisan attitudes and controversy may lead to a bet er quality of legislation. The complexity of Parliament seems to me to call increasingly for the committee system, lt would lead to more care in the drafting of legislation if it were known that the legislation must run the committee gauntlet. It could provide a forum before which could come people with a genuine grievance about the operation of existing legislation. It could be a source of fruitful suggestions for amendments to improve legislation and. not merely the legislation before the House. lt might lead to an understanding of the sources of different points of view on the part of members themselves which cannot rationally be considered in the atmosphere of public clash in the House. In committees issues are treated on their merits in a way that they are not so treated in public.
Committees can use the abilities ot all members and consider the ideas of all members and nol confine this utilisation of skill to Ministers and the occupants of Opposition front benches. Committees are absolutely vital lo any real examination by Parliament of the Budget, the Estimates, and the operation of th; tax system and the equity of taxation. Parliament’s financial control is now its greatest weakness. Committees may well be adapted to special inquiries which the Parliament may wish to initiate. We do need more select committees but they arc rarely appointed. A greater respect for the committee system may give us the advantage and the effectiveness of more frequent use of select committees.
The ability of a committee to question a Minister may be important. We have too great a tendency for legislation to be introduced and put through as a matter of loyalty, or opposed as a matter of partisanship, without rational examination in depth. The existence of committees would enable joint sittings with Senate committees where necessary and would result in more minds in the Parliament contributing to thinking, and in discussion new convictions emerge. Committees of the Parliament accessible to the public and to outside witnesses, appointed from time to time, may well tend to allay grievances in the community and, I believe, increase respect for Parliament and intelligent use of Parliament.
We need a committee to go into the petitions presented to the Parliament, or subject committees might consider petitions which come within their subject matter. Our present approach to petitions is offhand and utterly disrespectful to the electorate. Interrogation by such committees may improve the standards of administration. The Leader of the House, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) may take a different view of the role of the legislature should he go into Opposition. Consider the appalling blunders by cabinets of the 20th century - I leave out those in this country - especially those blunders which led to wars. I do not refer merely to the Australian Cabinet The idea of the accountability of the Executive to a really informed Parliament is an immense safeguard. If honourable members read the memoirs of Sir Edward Grey, Viscount Grey of Fallodon, entitled Twenty-five Years, 1892-1916’, they would see how he deceived the British Parliament on the arrangements he had made with France, arrangements which I think ultimately were disastrous in 1914. I believe that most disasters perpetrated by cabinets were arranged behind the backs of parliament and away from public opinion.
The tabling of detailed parliamentary reports by committees will lift the level of parliamentary, public and Press information. The people do not have a vested interest in good fronts presented by govern ments but they do have a vested interest in good administration. The committee system, in my view, tends to both good legislation and good administration. Question time is jammed hopelessly - so is the notice paper with questions on notice. This illustrates the drought of information in the legislature. The committee system could go a long way towards rectifying this paucity of information. I am sure the system is the next step forward in parliamentary practice.
– The speeches that have been made in this House this afternoon have revealed one thing, and that is the complexity of this problem. One of the dangers into which we may be falling in regard to this is to feel sometimes that the mere appointment of committees will solve all the problems that this Parliament has been confronted with over a period of time. I would think that what we have to look at perhaps more than anything else is not only the matter of the appointment of committees - and I think there is some merit in this - but how within the framework of parliament as we know it we can make this Parliament work.
There are many factors in regard to this question that have not been stressed in this discussion of a matter of public importance. When I speak of government and opposition I am not speaking in terms of the Parliament as it is at the moment but of government and opposition as such in a parliamentary system. Both government and opposition have a particular role in parliament. To my mind the one section cannot assume the role of the other. The opposition’s role is certainly a very important one. It is one that is necessary to present a point of view that keeps a government on its mettle in introducing legislation.
It may be said that because one party has been in power for so long the element of opposition and government has been lost. This is the factor relating to our Parliament at the moment The other factor, I believe, is ‘ that in speaking about committees some people’ have not given sufficient thought to the position of cabinet and the executive in our parliamentary system. A great deal has been said about backbenchers not having enough authority, not having enough influence and not having enough weight in debates on matters that are brought before the House and that they are merely rubber stamps to set the seal on executive policy. This is not correct because at party meetings a backbencher has the opportunity to present to cabinet and the executive his thoughts. This has been done on a number of occasions with a degree of strength and determination. As a report appeared in one of our daily newspapers in relation to this, I am not betraying any secret in saying that a subcommittee of the Standing Orders Committee was formed of which 1 had the privilege of being Chairman and that sub-committee comprised the honourable members for Wills (Mr Bryant) and Ryan (Mr Drury). The sub-committee gave some thought to the alteration of the present system of arranging sitting days. I feel that if the Parliament were to sit for a longer period much of what has been mentioned today as committee work could be carried out on the floor of the House which is perhaps the most important place to which attention should be given to various subjects.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) said that there was a unanimity displayed in our committees when the members were reaching their conclusions. This is true. I wonder if committee work became an established fact, whether a degree of this unanimity would be lost because political influence could then come into committee deliberations which is not there at the moment. I appreciate that this is conjecture but I just wonder whether the political atmosphere of the Parliament might be transferred to the committees if they were greater in number than they are at this stage, lt is not wise to compare the committee system which is in operation in the United States of America with our parliamentary system. In the United Stales Cabinet members can be appointed from among people outside Congress and not from members who are elected by the public. The system in the United States is completely different in the sense that there is not the division between the parties as there is in our own Australian Parliament.
One other factor which I think has been overlooked is that we are nol only members of Parliament but we represent electorates and must give our time to our electorates. I believe that many people appreciate that the importance of (his place must in many instances override electoral considerations. But we cannot get away from the fact that we are representatives of electorates. One of the greatest factors in our democratic system is that people can approach their member and that member is their voice on the Moor of this House in Canberra. I do not think that we should ever forget that. Of course, there is a difference between electorates. Some members of Parliament represent small areas - I will not say that they are the size of a pocket handkerchief - but some areas are small compared with other areas, which cover many, many square miles. One personal feeling 1 have is that unfortunately we have too many elections. I accept the fact that honourable members who are supporters of a government perhaps do not look forward to an election with the same degree of optimism in certain circumstances as do Opposition members whose position cannot be worsened whilst the position of government members can be. But, quire seriously, I believe that because Senate and House of Representatives elections are held at different times, unfortunately, there are too many elections and we do not get the continuity of government that is really necessary to valuable government.
I am not speaking in this way because the coalition parties are the Government. In this instance I am referring to the government in the general sense. I believe it would be of advantage - and- I have said so in this House before - for the Parliament to give some thought to either a 4-year or a 5-year term. In the long run, I believe, this would not make a great deal of difference to any one of the parties in respect of holding office. But. because of the short life of a parliament our legislative programme is frequently crammed into a limited period. This position arises because we are constantly facing an election of either the Senate or the House of Representatives. [ do not think this is conducive to good government.
I now come back to the point that I made in the first place. I believe there is a deal of merit in the committee system. However 1 feel we should also look at the ability to make parliamentary committees work to a far more beneficial degree. Some comment was made about the Committee stage of a Bill in this House. May 1 point out, having had some experience i , 1’iis regard, that the Chairman of Committees who points out to an honourable member that he is wandering a’ little from the particular clause under discussion is not the most popular person in Australia. In exactly the same way, if the Chair points out, in a second reading debate, that an honourable member is wandering a little from the subject matter of a Bill, his ruling is not very popular. I believe that this state of affairs can be met by extended hours of sitting and additional sitting days to enable more time to be given in this House to the consideration of legislation. While I believe that there is merit and that there are many advantages in the committee system, I think we should be careful to realise that this is not the complete answer to the problem. One of the answers is that we work together to make this Parliament a more effective instrument in government.
– In recent weeks a rare measure of agreement appears to have developed on the desirability of a comprehensive committee system to assist the better functioning of the Parliament, and one can only hope and urge that the current enthusiasm will persist until something practical is achieved. Certainly something along these lines seems to be needed. 1 should have thought that members and observers of the Parliament could hardly have doubted that, and those who do oppose such a development have to acknowledge, I believe, that what they are in fact arguing for is not only a monopoly of power for the Executive but a monopoly for the Executive of the benefit of available information and expertise as well.
Having said that, . I suggest the need for some caution. We will not be well served by rushing into a system of committees without first considering exactly how the committees will operate and exactly what powers we intend them to have. It is too easy in this area to fall into misconceptions. I believe that has been well illustrated in recent days by the way in which the current Senate committee proposals have been widely but impractically compared with the functions of the United States Senate committees. The two are not really comparable, simply because the parliamentary frameworks in which they operate” are not comparable. Indeed, this leads me in turn to suggest that we cannot sensibly discuss what role committees might play within our political system without determining first what role the Parliament itself should perform. In that context I think we have to start at the point that it is no longer practical, if indeed it ever was, which 1 doubt, to speak of Parliament govern ng the country. The Government must govern. On every matter on which the Government has a declared or determined policy, that policy must prevail. And that applies equally to all cabinet system parliaments, whether with or without committees. Conceding that, however, is very far from conceding that the Parliament can have nothing worthwhile le left to do. In fact, it should have a useful role both in the area already covered by established government policy and in the area not so covered. I propose to look at these areas briefly in turn.
With regard to the former, 1 have already suggested that where the government has a policy, that will, and indeed, that should prevail. That, after all, was why the Government was elected. In this area then the discussion in Parliament cannot reasonably be directed to changing the Government’s policy, and yet at least 3 potentially important functions can still be served by proper parliamentary consideration of government proposals. In the first place, Parliament is the main, perhaps the last, political forum in the country which can attract regular attention, so that our discussion is one of the few ways in which the public can be informed of the current range of views on important political matters. Secondly, the Parliament provides important experience for future members of the Executive. Thirdly, the Parliament should be able to persuade the Government to accept, or at least consider, changes which go not to policy but to details. Each of these functions is better served by a well informed Parliament than by a poorly informed Parliament; and we are poorly informed. In particular, we are divorced from the knowledge, the advice and the experience of the civil service. We seem, in fact, to have little contact with the bureaucracy at all, which is itself a factor which must limit pur understanding of how the country really runs. We are also precluded in practice from assembling other expert views which should be available and which ought to be taken into account. Both of these sources of advice and information are out of our reach as individual members, but within the scope of parliamentary committees. That alone, in my view, is a sufficient reason to develop a committee system here.
The sort of committee work 1 have been referring to - that is, related to matters on which a government policy exists - is often associated with so-called standing committees. By contrast, consideration of matters on which no government policy exists is normally associated with so-called select committees. The scope for the latter type of committee work is. of course, almost limitless and could certainly include such matters as Commonwealth-Stale relationships, migration, tariff policy, law reform, censorship, industrial relations, constitutional review, poverty, pollution, urban renewal, education policies and so on. These areas are still largely non-political. That is not to suggest that the aim of committees should necessarily be to produce bipartisan policies. It should mean, though, that investigation at this early stage would be less inhibited than could be the case once party positions become fixed. 1 am pleased to see that the Leader of the Opposition, in sponsoring the present discussion, has envisaged that both types of consideration - that is. of the standing and select committee type - should be undertaken by the same body. 1 support that approach as tending ro greater efficiency and to the better use of the expertise which committee members should be able to acquire. With due respect to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden), 1 cannot appreciate the difficulties he sees in such a combination. If a specific matter arises which does not readily fall within the scope of such a committee there can be no objection to a further select committee for that specific purpose. I am also pleased to note that the Leader of the Opposition referred to the need for committees of the Parliament rather than committees of the House of Representatives or of the Senate. His suggestion is directed to the desirability of joint committees rather than separate committees of the 2 Houses. I support this as well, not only for important practical reasons, which are largely self-evident, but also on the basis of my view as to the powers and position which this House should hold relative to those held by the Senate. I will not elaborate at this stage on my reasons for believing that the Senate should be abolished. That is not relevant te this discussion and it is, in any case, a proposition which does not appear to be constitutionally feasible. But I do say this much: Firstly, the method of election of the Senate is apt to leave half of that body well behind current community views which this House alone can accurately reflect; and, secondly, the Senate already has too much power as opposed ro responsibility. This power is all the more objectionable when one realises how far the theoretical justification for it has departed from the reality. The Senate, which was supposed to be the States House and not a House of party politics, has. in fact, become the House of party politics par excellence. First or second position on the ticket of u major party ensures election and Stales’ rights must come a poor second to that sort of logic.
I believe that I am not simply expressing a party view on this matter and not even a House view, but a parliamentary view. I believe it may not be very long before every parry in this House has reason to regret and to object to the powers which the Senate already has without adding to them. Finally, I believe that such an addition to the power and standing of the Senate would almost certainly accrue if this House fa Med to assert its own position in a matter as potentially important as the current committee system propositions. I have already suggested twice in recent weeks that the establishment of a parliamentary commitee system itself warrants the consideration of a short term select committee. This 11 :u area of activity proposed for the Parliament is one in which the formalities and the mechanics cannot sensibly be considered in isolation from the principle itself. For example, just what matters should the com.mitteees consider? What call should they have on the attendance of senior civil servants? Should their reports on Bills he subject to debate? Should their proceedings be recorded in Hansard? Should their meetings be open to the non-voting participation of other members of the Parliament? These are just some of a host of questions raised by the prospect of a developing committee system. To sort them out comprehensively calls for some concentrated attention. 1 commend to the House the need for a select committee for this purpose.
– I think at the outset I should say 1 believe that this has been a most useful debate and one well suited to this Parliament and I speak of this House of Parliament as a whole. That is not to say that one agrees with all the matters put forward on either side of the debate but it is one which could well and properly occupy the attention of members. I think the objectives behind not just the suggestion made today by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) but the general attention which is being paid to this matter by private matters, by front bench members of the Opposition, by the Government itself, are held very largely - not entirely - in common. The objectives as I see them are to enable a much greater feeling of participation by private members on both sides of the House, a feeling of actual accomplishment and achievement and, if the work is prepared to be put in of getting more information; and that this information having been gathered by the committees to which we have, made reference should then be able to be brought out with some advantage in the debates in this House itself. So as to the general objectives I doubt if there is very much argument or discussion between us, particularly if the information sought by such committees were to be factual information and not turn into information to be used for the purposes of advocating a particular policy or rejecting a particular policy. I think if that were done the objectives of setting up committees would be lost and the committees themselves would find that they were ultimately doomed.
– It would be hard to control that point that you have just raised.
– That would depend on developments, I think. So I start off, Mr Deputy Speaker, in that way. It has been suggested here that these objectives could best be met by the setting up of a group of standing committees. That, I think, is subject to question. I do not accept at this stage that this would be the best way in which to approach the problem or to attain the objectives which we have. Certainly, if there were to be standing committees set up then it would be better for reasons which have been advanced in this debate for such standing committees to be joint committees rather than duplicated committees. But that does not mean that one accepts standing committees at all. Of course, when one is considering this question of whether they should be joint or whether they should be standing if they are to be brought in, we need also to remember that there are 2 Houses which make up this Parliament, that this House is unable to say that there will be joint standing committees. Both Houses would have to agree. Either House would have the right, as things are at the moment, to set up its own standing committee quite separately if it wishes to do so. This is a practical matter which we ought to have in mind when considering this problem generally. But I do say that the concept at the present of having standing committees does not seem to me to have been shown to be the best way in which to approach this problem, the problem of getting participation, the probem of getting information and the problem as far as possible of avoiding intrusion into matters of policy which, I think, are not so much in the minds of thos’; who advocate these committees at this stage.
There have been over the years instances of great service done to the Parliament by select committees as distinct from standing committees now suggested. I think there have not been many such committees set up by this House but there have been over the years a number of such committees set up by the Senate. One which comes to one’s mind is the Senate select committee into metric conversion which was of great value and assistance to the final adoption of the metric system in Australia. There is the Vincent Committee report which is still useful.
– That is a quite unfair comment and the sort of comment one would hope the committee system we are talking about might prevent from being made in this House, because it has not been pigeon-holed in fact. It has been a test against which to consider Australian content of television and film shows and some of the actions taken by this Government along those lines have had the backing of the Vincent Committee report. It has been of advantage, I would have hoped to honourable members on both sides, to be able to study that report when these questions came before us. So it is not quite right to say it has been pigeon-holed. There are numerous other reports from select committees set up to examine and make factual reports and general recommendations which I think have been shown to be of great advantage. I think myself that a greater use of this kind of committee in this House would be better than setting up the standing committees of the kind suggested. As I understand it. the suggestion is to set up a group of standing committees each of which is in effect to act as a select committee because only those matters which the Parliament decides should be referred to i! should be referred to it and such matters could just as easily be referred to a select committee set up to examine into and report upon a particular matter. I think the Parliament and both sides of the Parliament should devote more attention to not just the general question of standing committees but to whether there are some kinds of standing committees which could advantageously operate side by side with th. select committees of the kind that I have discussed. For example, an estimates committee or estimates committees to which the estimates of a department or a group of departments could be referred would, I think, greatly help to inform members and to bring about a better Estimates debate. As I understand it, an Estimates debate really ought to be that when a department’s estimates are brought before the Parliament members of Parliament should be able to say: Why is this particular vote greater in this year than it was last year? What are the reasons for the increase in that vote? Why was that vote dropped?
– You want to look at them before they get that far.
– The point I am seeking to make is that at the moment I do not see that kind of examination going on at all. There is opportunity for it in the Committee stage of Estimates debates here. If it does not go on at all perhaps it is a reflection on members of Parliament here generally, but what I was suggesting was that in that field there could be outside of this place committees sitting with the benefit of a Minister before them, with the benefit of public servants before them - not to disclose departmental matters but to give the factual reasons why this vote was smaller than it was last year, why that vote was larger and why a new vote was there. Then when it does come to the Committee stage in this House, as it ultimately would, there would at least be a group of members who would have this information to contribute to a debate in this place. I can see too, Mr Deputy Speaker, advantages in a committee which was set up to enable Committee stages which would normally only lake place in this House, to take p;ace before coming back to this House. This is nothing very radical. This is in operation now, as I understand it, in the House of Commons but there is there outside of the chamber a committee to which not all Bills but a particular Bill can be referred. (Extension of time granted.) 1 thank the House for its indulgence. I will not take very long. It is these committees to which Bills in draft could be presented, and it is the function of those committees, as I understand it, not to question the policy which the Bill is brought in to implement. This is to bc done politically in this House. Their function is to question the actual drafting of the Bill to sec whether it does in fact properly carry out the policy which is presented to the Parliament, whether the drafting can be improved, whether without affecting the policy some other matter could be introduced into the Bill or some other matter left out.
– What about listening to experts?
– As J understand it, the House of Commons procedure is that the Minister concerned or the public servants concerned appear before a committee, but not to be asked about policy-
– To explain the abstract details that often are beyond most people.
– I am expressing that these kinds of committees could well have great advantage to them, and that I think it would be better for this Parliament generally not suddenly now to say: ‘Let us have a whole vast system of standing committees on everything’, but rather let us look at those areas in which these-
– Complex Bills.
– Complex Bills, if you like, lt depends entirely on this House. I would myself think, for a start, should such a course be adopted that the sorts of Bills which should go to them are, as I think somebody said, Bills which tend to be complex and also Bills which tend to have very little political content. And there are Bills which tend to have very little political content. There are copyright Bills: there are patent Bills; there are a number of Bills of that kind such as law reform Bills.
– Bills on bankruptcy and bills of exchange.
– There are a great number of Bills, on which there being no political confrontation, there could be an advantage to private members on both sides. That, together with the greater use of select committees, would be what I would see as a better approach to the problem recognised. 1 think, by most honourable members in this House. There is one problem which we would be silly to ignore, and that is the practical working of systems as distinct from the theoretical working of systems. It would be wrong for me to say that 1 did not think it possible for an Opposition to use advantages of this kind to obstruct for the sake of obstruction. I am not directing these remarks at this present Opposition or at the Leader of it or at the members of it.
– You know the Government always has a majority.
– The Government has a majority on a committee, but this does not really affect what I am saying, that an Opposition would have in practice the opportunity to delay, if they wanted to, for the sake of delaying, or to obstruct for the sake of obstruction. If this were to happen then the advantages that we can see flowing from such a system would go because the system itself would go. This desire we all have for a greater participation, I think, can be achieved only by gradual steps and by gradual experience to see that this does not happen. There would always be an opportunity and there woul’d always be a temptation for committees to enter into the field, for example, of Government expendi ture and to make recommendations that more should be spent on some project. A Bill would be brought in dealing with some particular matter and there would be a temptation to say: ‘There should be more spent on this.’ Then another Bill would be brought in on another matter, and there would be a temptation to say: There should be more spent on that.’ This would of course, be quite insupportable and would take control of the Budget and of the country’s economy out of the hands of the Government, should it occur. As 1 said before, there would also be a temptation to use these opportunities for purposes of obstruction.
But 1 still think, having these difficulties in mind, as wc all should, that we should strive for greater participation of private members on both sides, for greater factual information and more factual reports from honourable members on both sides to the House. I do not think we have given enough consideration to it or nearly enough consideration to it to say that this will’ be met by setting up a system of standing committees in the way in which the Senate is setting up a system of standing committees. I think that is probably liable to be selfdestructive. But i think that it has been of service to this Parliament that the matter itself has been ventilated, and 1 believe that there will be as the Parliament pursues ils course an opportunity for better utilisation of select committees and reports from select committees, and for further and greater in depth discussion on the beginnings of a kind of system such as I have suggested might be possible in the way of an Estimates committee or in the way of committees to which Bills with no political content can be referred.
– Order! The right honourable gentleman’s time has expired. The discussion on this matter of public importance is concluded.
Debate resumed from 17 March (vide page 483), on motion by Mr Swartz: That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill is concerned with the development of water conservation in the Bundaberg district. It is the first project to be financed under what is called the new national water resources development programme. Under this new development programme $100m will be made available over the next 5 years for water conservation projects which are approved by the Commonwealth. Previous to this there was the first or the old national water resources development programme in which $50m was allocated for a period of years. This Bill is concerned with the provision of a grant of up to $12. 8m for the construction of conservation works in the Kolan-Burnett district. In 1967 proposals were submitted by Queensland for irrigation development to serve the Kolan-Burnett area on the northern side of the Burnett River. The Kolan-Burnett scheme was allegedly analysed by the Commonwealth when the so-called short l:st of priorities was being determined under the old national water resources development programme, and apparently it was rejected.
The question which I have asked in this Parliament many times is: Why was it rejected? I have never yet received any satisfactory answer, except that perhaps it was not in a progressive form sufficiently advanced for the Commonwealth to give a priority rating to it. But perhaps the correct reason was that it was not recognised as the No. 1 priority of the Queensland Government at that particular time. At that time the Nogoa River project had first priority. In March 1969 new proposals were submitted for the irrigation project to cover the Bundaberg cane growing areas served principally by the 3 mills of Fairymead, Bingera and Gin Gin, or the Wallaville mill. This proposal was in essence a refinement of the original wider scheme. In 1969 the Queensland Government provided S8.3m for this project which consisted principally of the tidal barrages on the Kolan and the Burnett Rivers, pumping stations and reticulation works to send water from the barrages to areas adjacent to the coast where there have been serious problems with water conservation, particularly with underground water supplies
After the State government had announced that it would go ahead with the project because of the desperate situation regarding water conservation in the Bundaberg region, the Commonwealth Government announced that it would provide a figure of up to $12.8m in the form of a grant principally for the construction of the Monduran Dam on the Kolan River and a channel to convey the water from the Kolan River to the Burnett River which would pass close to Gin Gin. This would allow the sugar cane area north of the Burnett River to receive reticulated water supplies and also would allow for recharging of the aquifers which were being depleted by the constant drawing of water for irrigation. The $12.8m will go towards the cost of the Monduran Dam, the pumping station and the inter-river connecting channels. A storage capacity will be provided for the Dam of approximately 475,000 acre feet with an annual supply and a safe draw of 175,000 acre feet.
Water conservation is one of the perennial problems aired in this Parliament. Some people believe that no funds should be made available for irrigation or water conservation. They have opposed practically every water conservation scheme that has been put up by this Parliament. An irrigation programme such as the Bundaberg scheme can be justified by its 2 broad objectives, firstly, to stabilise or to maintain the existing production, and secondly, to expand production. There are two basic types of irrigation development projects. The first, such as the Ord River and Nogoa River schemes, is located in a non-developed area or an unproven area. The second type, like the Bundaberg scheme, is located in a proven or established area where there is an infrastructure such as towns, port facilities and railways and where very large losses of production occur because of rainfall or moisture deficiency. We are not talking today about the economics of a scheme such as the Ord River or the Nogoa River scheme. We are talking about an area which is proven and which has been established for over 100 years. Here tremendous losses occur simply because the seasons consistently fail. I shall detail the extent of those losses later. lt is significant that in this case no benefit-cost analysis has been made available to the Parliament. I shall move an amendment in the second reading stage that the benefit-cost analysis or technical evaluation should be made available to the Parliament in support of projects such as this, lt is most difficult to argue on the technical analysis simply on the cost side when one cannot see the benefit side. If one does see the benefits one realises that they cannot be measured because all the assumptions that underlie the data put forward by the Government are not available. This applies not only to the Bundaberg scheme. 1 have said before that this Parliament should have available for debate the technical reports on which these decisions are taken. We had a complete benefit-cost analysis justifying the beef roads scheme, but that was withdrawn from the Parliament. Other such reports should have been available concerning the Ord River project, the Nogoa River project, the money spent on coal ports, loans made for port facilities in connection with the bauxite development, and the present scheme.
Several weeks ago we had a great discussion here on the Dartmouth and Chowilla Dams. We argued as to which was the better of the two. Not one word was spoken about the value of benefits. Only the costs were dealt with. The whole basis of that discussion was: Which would be the best scheme, from the point of v ew of the minimum cost criteria, to provide so much water? No benefit-cost analysis was provided. The Bill before the House seeks to provide SI 2.8m for irrigation. To debate the scheme intelligently we should have access to quantitative analyses which are available. When we were debating the Dartmouth Dam versus the Chowilla Dam issue 1 argued that we should have access to the computer analyses which were made for both Dartmouth and Chowilla. They will be made available to me. but there are still no benefit-cost analyses available to the Parliament for this project.
The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) have been talking about setting up parliamentary committees. Perhaps if we did have such committees they might go into such details as public investment a little more thoroughly. The problem does not lie only with primary industry. Some honourable members opposite are very critical of irrigation projects. 1 can see no difference in principle between a subsidy for a particular project and a tariff. No Bills go through this House more quickly than do Customs Tariff Bills and yet the amount of money involved in them is frequently tremendous. We should know a little bit more about them. I support the Bundaberg scheme. I. supported the Ord River scheme and the Nogoa scheme.
– Still unashamedly?
– Yes. I have great faith in water conservation. I should be glad if the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) could tell me of one major irrigation scheme in Australia or, for that matter, in the world, which is a failure-
– The Ord is one. lt is a white elephant.
– Or which has failed after operating for a period of 15 or 20 years. The basic problem is that there is not enough water. I would like to know of one such scheme. The honourable member for Bradfield mentions the Ord River project. That project has nol even been fully constructed yet. Let it be completed. The same arguments were put forward by the Liberal Party wilh respect to the Snowy Mountains scheme. The same argument was put forward often with respect to the Mumimbidgee irrigation area and the Hume reservoir. Look at the areas served by these projects now. Can anybody say that the areas around Renmark, Griffith, Leeton and Mildura are broke and do not have thriving economies.
– The honourable member is getting excited.
– lt is the honourable member for Bradfield who is getting excited. He can have his say on this project in a minute. Let us look at the project. I mentioned before the 2 types of projects. The honourable member for Bradfield is leaving the chamber. I wish he would stay here. The project in this area is important because of the losses the area has suffered. lt is quite a different proposition from the evaluation made on the Ord and the Nogoa. The losses alone, which can bc evaluated on facts, are considerable. They can bc calculated by going along to the sugar mills and finding out the losses in mill peaks in every drought year. In the last 35 years thi value of the losses of the Gin Gin and
Bingera mills alone have been estimated at $90m. If one took into account the cumulative losses of the Fairymead, Qunaba, Millaquin and Isis mills one would find that the direct loss in the Bundaberg district, an established area, from the lack of water alone is not much less than $200m over that 35 year period for which records are available. This is the point which I hope that the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) will take some notice of, because he has been one of the most critical members in the House - he is a member of the Liberal Party - of irrigation in Australia.
We are dealing with a proven area where the losses are real. They can be evaluated and measured. The cumulative costs of the losses in the Bundaberg district justify tho construction of the head works and the reticulation system without taking into account any need for expansion, which after all has usually been the basis for irrigation in Australia. This is a type of project which I have always said should have the highest priority in irrigation works. Priority should be given to proven and established areas because the infrastructure and the economy are there. Because of one factor, the variability of rainfall, there are violent fluctuations in the level of production. In the 1964-65 drought the shortfalls of mill peaks at Bingera and Gin Gin were 22% and 45%. The total value of the losses of those 2 mills in that year was $19m. If water had been available $19m would have been saved, taking into account the extra cost for reticulation, interest, pumping and so forth. These 2 mills alone over the past 35 years had an official loss of something like $90m. But if we take the cumulative figure for the 6 sugar mills in the area - and the records are there for everyone to see - the loss would be about $200m over that period.
On top of that loss, of course, are the indirect costs of drought. We are talking of only the direct losses which have been occasioned by drought. If we take into account indirect losses such as loss of wages and the loss of the spending power of the cane cutter, mill worker or farmer, and apply the multiplier theory, the loss for the Bundaberg area is a very large one. I can see no reason why the Government cannot make available a technical evaluation of this project. The project should have top priority based on the losses I have outlined without taking into account expanded production that will occur later on. The 2 objectives are underground water replenishment and the provision of reticulated water. We have to deal with the question o! priorities in this House. It is high time that the Government’s ad hoc approach to water conservation was overhauled and reviewed.
What is the method involved? The method involved is that the Commonwealth invites the States to put up proposals. As we are dealing with Queensland, let me mention some of the proposals that have been put up in recent years. I refer to the extension of the Mareeba-Dimbula area. We have the giant Burdekin basin, which encompasses the Burdekin River project at the falls, the Broken River, Urannah and Eungella. Then we come south to the Fitzroy Basin, the Nogoa and the giant Dawson scheme. We have further south on the Burnett the present Bundaberg scheme and the Border rivers scheme, which has been cited in the House and which the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), who is now in the Chair, has referred to often in this House. These are types of proposals that are put up.
When the previous Minister for National Development was in office I repeatedly tried to get from him the reason why the Nogoa was the No. 1 priority for Queensland. Anybody versed in cost benefit analysis would know that the present Bundaberg scheme is superior economically to the Nogoa scheme. I supported the Nogoa scheme just as I supported the Ord Scheme because it was the only project being considered. We had to either support it or oppose it. There were no alternatives. It is not good enough to accept the proposition that because the Queensland Government or any other State government says a project is its No. 1 priority we should therefore consider only that project. I accept that the Queensland Government can develop with its own funds any project that it likes, but where Commonwealth funds are involved surely the correct approach is to consider a number of alternative projects and to apply the accepted principles of marginal analysis or cost benefit analysis to the evaluation of them. A decision could then be made on the economics of the projects or, if a government wants to, it can bring politics into it.
But wc should at least have alternatives on which to make those decisions.
The Bundaberg irrigation project should have been built years ago because of the staggering losses alone which have been occasioned to this nation in terms of national income and export income, lt is just not good’ enough for a State Government to say: This is the No. 1 priority and this is the only project to consider as was the case with the Nogoa scheme. The Ord River project in Western Australia was considered not as an alternative to any other scheme in Western Australia, Queensland or any other area, but was considered in isolation. I supported it and will continue to support it. I have always said in this Parliament that the correct procedure from the Commonwealth viewpoint was to consider a number of alternatives. This applies not only to water conservation but to other projects so that the best use can be made of the Federal funds. We could consider water conservation as against some other priority projects. This Parliament should be utilising the resources of this nation in the best possible way. If it has money: to spend it should spend it so that it will give the greatest return to the nation in terms of export income.
What will be the next water project? As we are talking about the project in Queensland, we find that the Queensland Government has rated the Urannah project as its No. 1 project now. I refer to the Broken River project. Here we return to the same argument as before. How did the Queensland Government make the Urannah project its No. 1 priority now? Or did it make its first priority the Nogoa project, its second priority the Bundaberg project and its third priority the Urannah project? How did it make this decision? This is what we want to know. Surely if any State government puts a No. 1 priority on a project it has carried out alternative or comparative economic analyses. But this has not been done in Queensland. I submit to the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) that we put an end to this ad hoc approach. I suggest that we look at what is happening.
I am talking now about the Urannah scheme which is part of the Burdekin River. We should consider the entire Burdekin basin because a large number of proposals have been made concerning it. There is the giant Burdekin project which is based on the falls. Then there is the Broken River project in conjunction with the Eungella. Then there is the diversion of the Herbert River into the Burdekin River itself. All of these are important projects. But when one asks the Government any questions about them, one can gel no answers. What this Parliament must know is the evaluation of the entire Burdekin basin, taking into account the various proposals put up by the State Government but. al the same time, providing that any money that is to be spent will be spent on the best possible project from the point of view of the Commonwealth.
How does a State determine its No. 1 priority without economic analyses? Such a decision is affected by politics, policies and the likes and dislikes of individuals, lt is not. based on economic analyses: therefore, it can be based only on something that is quantitative or a judgment. I find it difficult - perhaps the Minister for National Development will reply to me on this point - to understand why the Federal Government has not honoured its promise to Queensland to carry out a reappraisal of the Burdekin River project. This is just one more of the promises that have been made and have not been honoured by the Commonwealth, lt is all right to say that it is under consideration or that some basic homework is being done behind the scenes. This is not the way to carry out an evaluation study.
Some 2 years ago, as the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) well knows, the then Premier of Queensland, the late Mr Pizzey, announced that the Commonwealth Government had commenced an evaluation of the Burdekin project early in 1969. This announcement was reinforced by repeated statements made by the present Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen. Since that time, all sorts of excuses have been advanced as to why that evaluation has not proceeded. One thing that concerns me is the false information that is being bandied around in Queensland about the cost of the Burdekin Dam. It has been stated consistently that the capital cost of the Burdekin Dam will be $300m or $400m. The truth of the matter is that it will cost at the most approximately S70m and will be one of the cheapest dams in terms of acre feet of assured yield. Either in total capacity or in the safe draw it will be one of the cheapest dams in Australia. I will quote some of the figures available in a minute to substantiate that claim.
The huge catchment area of this Burdekin project relative to the excellent major dam site allows for low cost construction. What I am trying to show here is that it is no good just accepting that one project has No. 1 priority without comparative analyses. Let us have a look at the whole of this basin to see which of the projects in fact is the best proposition from the point of view of the expenditure of Commonwealth funds. The relationship of the Burdekin Dam to the large areas commandable from Bowen to Townsville provides outstanding opportunities for a multi-purpose city power-water supply and drought mitigation project. One of the great sins of the Burdekin River project is that, although its national importance was recognised by a Commonwealth Labor government 20 years ago and this was backed by the Queensland Labor Government, nothing has been done since then.
The best estimates available show that the construction cost of a completed Burdekin Dam at the falls site would be approximately $26 per acre foot of assured yield pei annum. That is assured yield per annum as distinct from capacity. The comparable figures for other schemes show that the cost of the Fairbairn Dam was $150 par acre foot for the safe draw - we are getting up into a pretty high figure bracket - while the cost of the Eungella project was $70 an acre foot and the cost of tha proposed Urannah scheme is $130 per acre foot. That is the capital cost of the dam divided by the assured annual supply as distinct from the total capacity. As an example, I mention that the Ord River project had a capacity of just under 5 million acre feet but has a safe draw in excess of 1 million acre feet per annum. The safe draw comparison is really, I would submit, the on’:y correct measurement that we can look at. It is what can actually be obtained each year that counts lt is no use building a great wall to impound water if no water will be available.
– Would you include the Chowilla project? Would it be in that category?
– No. In terms of the cost of gross storage per acre foot, the Burdekin is an outstanding proposition. The point that I am making is that, before the Government proceeds after this project with what is then the No. 1 priority in Queensland - that today is the Urannah project, which I support, if it is the only project - it should look at the alternatives available in the Burdekin basin. We should look at the Burdekin Dam falls. We should consider the Burdekin River project in conjunction with the Urannah. We should consider also the diversion of the Herbert River into the Burdekin for flood mitigation purposes. Let us look at these projects and let the Commonwealth spend it! money, if it wants to spend it, on the best project. Honourable members may ask what the Burdekin Dam project is for. One of the principal beneficiaries of this project will be the city of Townsville. It is a growing city-
– Does the honourable member mean Bundaberg?
– No. The Burnett River project is concerned with Bundaberg. I am speaking about the next priority after Bundaberg. Townsville is the most important city in north Queensland. I had better not say that it is the most important city in northern Australia because my friends in Darwin probably would reject that statement. Nevertheless, it is the most important city in northern Queeensland in terms of population, but not necessarily from a qualitative point of view because there are other cities which are very important too, such as my own city of Mackay as well as the Home Hill and Burdekin areas themselves. Nevertheless, from the point of view of Townsville, the development of the Burdekin River is f fundamental in the same way as Dartmouth and Chowilla were to South Australia. The point which does not please me very much is that decisions are being made without any technical evaluation of the cost and benefits of those decisions.
– The honourable member would not give the Burdekin River first priority just because it is in the electorate of Dawson, would he?
– No, 1 am not saying that. What 1 am saying is that before a decision is made about the next priority - this is in the Burdekin in my own area at Urannah - the question to be answered is this, based purely on economic analysis-
– This is a family argument.
– Yes. What should be done is that (he Government should look at the alternatives in the Burdekin River basin in the same way as the alternatives in the Fitzroy basin should have been considered. This area is represented by the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham). Before the Nogoa was decided upon, the Government should have looked also al the Dawson in the Theodore area. The opinion of many is that this was a superior economic scheme. But the po’nt is this: The Opposition supported the Nogoa scheme, lt supports to the full this project because, as I have said before, on the information that we have the Burnett scheme is the best irrigation development project based on economic analyses that has been proposed in Queensland for a long tine. I cannot compare it with the MareebaDimbulah scheme because I have not the figures. But. certainly from the point of view of the Commonwealth, what 1 have said about the Burnett scheme is true. The other point that 1 have made is that in this Parliament we must have more information to debate these matters intelligently. The right honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann) asked me whether I would rate the Burdeken project as No. I priority. The Labor Party certainly 20 years ago rated the Burdekin basin project as the No. 2 priority in Australia, behind the great Snowy Mountains scheme. In fact legislation was passed by the State Government for the setting up of the Burdekin River Valley Authority and if ii had not been for the fall of the Labor Government :n 1949 the
Burdekin River project would now have been completed.
In summing up my remarks on the Bundaberg scheme, there is only one important point which should he considered by those who. if they run true 10 form, will no doubt criticise irrigation. 1 am sorry that the honourable member for Bradfield is not here because the point I wanted to impress upon him was that all of the arguments which he has put in the past in this Parliament have been concerned with new areas such as the Ord River scheme and the question marks about cotton and about sorghum marketing. Similar queries were passed about the Nogoa River scheme. When dealing with the Bundaberg scheme we are nol speaking of expanded production or a new area. The project is simply to provide water for an area which is dependent for its whole economic viability upon the provision of consistently safe water supplies. Experience has shown over the last 50 years, and particularly over the last 35 years for which the records are available, that the Bundaberg district is one area in Australia which desperately needs water.
If water can be supplied at a reasonable cost per acre foot, then taking into account losses incurred in past years, superficially one can say, even without having technical information available, that this is an excellent project. Anybody associated with the sugar industry in the Burnett area knows full well of the tragedies of sugar farmers over the years, particularly in the Wallaville and Gin Gin areas where men in some years have not received one cent by way of income because sugar crops - one of the toughest crops of all - have failed to produce sufficient on some farms to harvest a stick. These tragedies have occurred despite the the fact that the soils in terms of cane growing are good soils and that the farms are in close proximity to export ports and railways. The infrastructure is there but he 1 missing link is water. 1 will be very interested to hear any arguments put forward against this proposal. The only thing I. have against this scheme, and it is not an argument, is thai in terms of priorities we should be considering this project with other projects, but at the moment this is the only scheme under consideration. In terms of an economic viability we know that given an assured water supply each year the mill peaks will be reached. Under this scheme the 3 mills directly concerned are located at Gin Gin, Fairymead and Bingera. The fact that the mill peaks would be consistently reached each year is sufficient justification for the construction of the headworks, the reticulation and the pumping system for this project. ] said earlier in my remarks that I would refer to some figures to substantiate my claims of the losses suffered by farmers in these areas. These are official figures taken out after a study of rainfall patterns in these areas, after obtaining the quantitative figures from the sugar mills, taking the shortfalls due to drought and then multiplying them by the value of sugar at that time. In 1964 and 1965 the regional shortfalls in the Bundaberg district were 22% and 45% of mill peaks. That was the loss in production caused by insufficient moisture. That loss was valued at $19m. It can be argued, at least superficially, that those lasses alone would justify the construction of the headworks.
The years 1964 and 1965 represented the first occurrence of 2 consecutive years of below average rainfall since 1952. Since 1900 there have been 10 periods of two or more successive years in the Bundaberg district of below average rainfall and five periods of more than 2 years, and one period of 5 successive years. Should Bundaberg ever again have even 3 consecutive years of this type of devastation caused by poor rainfall the whole district would be financially bankrupt. Nol only would the sugar farmers suffer: Bundaberg, being dependent on a monoculture, would suffer in terms of the district as a whole. The business houses, the workforce and every person in the district, would be placed in a very serious financial position. One may argue that although there has consistently been a below average rainfall for a period of 35 years in that area this is not likely to occur again. I suppose such an argument could be put forward but what sort of an argument is it? From a scientific point of view one must take some notice of the available records. Surely the correct way to judge the economics of a particular project in terms of potential justification is to make a study of the records over the last 50 years and work out on a graph the correlation coefficients to predict with some degree of probability what the future holds. In other words, we have to argue that there will be droughts in this area as there have been in the last 50 years, but let us hope that future droughts will not be as severe as those which have occurred in the past. This small project will not slop all the devastation in sugar cane losses, in beef cattle production and in other indirect costs which will be associated with a major drought.
The average shortfalls for Bingera and Gin Gin mills for a 35 year period give an annual average value of approximately SI. 3m for 66 years. This would give a total of S90m. Those figures were arrived at based on the best available scientific estimates of the losses occasioned in this district. There has been a direct loss of S90m. As 1 have already said, if one applies a normal multiplier coefficient of between 2 and 3 the figure reached is between SI 80m and 5270m as the direct and the indirect loss. The Bundaberg project is one which can be justified. When discussing this matter we are nol talking about expansion. Those associated with the sugar industry are aware that under the International Sugar Agreement, which is working satisfactorily, supply is being overtaken by demand. But it will be only a matter of several more years before there will be another expansion in this field. Expansion is controlled. If more industries in Australia look lime out to study the efficiency of the sugar industry in terms of controlled production a lot of them would not be in the position they are in today. The sugar industry, in terms of production anyhow is ranked as the most efficient in Australia. The only occasion when there has been a serious breakdown in overseas prices was after the political repercussions when Cuba fell out with the United States of Amenca lt has taken some time to get over this marketing problem but Cuba has now come to the party under the International Sugar Agreement and the Agreement is new working satisfactorily. It will be only a matter of 5 or 6 years before serious consideration is given to another expansion. That is another reason why a project such as this will bc of tremendous importance
Before concluding I want to move an amendment I will circulate it later. The essence of the amendment is that the Commonwealth technical evaluation of this project, including any benefit cost analysis made, should he available to the Parliament. We cannot argue sensibly about this project, or any o her project, unless this type of information is available. I have asked for it before but we have not obtained it.
– Order! I ask the honourable member to write out his amendment before I call on the next speaker.
– Yes, I will do that. If we had this information we could intelligently debate this and other projects. Such information in respect of all projects - beef roads, irrigation projects and power houses, whether coal fired or nuclear powered - should be made available. Surely the Parliament is entitled to know the technical evaluation. The Opposition accepts the fact that political judgments are necessary but we want to know details of the technical evaluations. I move:
The Opposition wholeheartedly supports the irrigation project at Bundaberg. We hope that many more such projects as good as this one will be backed by. the Government.
– Order! Is the amendment seconded?
– 1 second the amendment.
– As one who was associated with the earlier assessment of this project I am delighted to have the opportunity of congratulating the Government on its decision and to support that decision. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) said that he had great faith in water conservation. I also have great faith in it. It is extraordinary that water, although most inert in its natural form, immediately becomes a very fiery topic the moment you start putting it into a dam. Our nation seems to be split into 2 widely divergent groups. There are those people who say that Australia is the driest continent in the world and that therefore we cannot afford to allow one drop of water to run out to sea. On the other hand there are those who say that all irrigation is uneconomic; that there is only one thing worse than allowing water to run into the sea and that is to store it in uneconomic dams.
Obviously, between these 2 extremes, which are poles apart, there is opportunity for ordinary mortals to determine where they stand. I find myself standing perhaps not as far out as someone like Sir William Hudson who advocates water storage to the greatest possible extent: but nevertheless I support him, the honourable member for Dawson and the others who advocate, increasingly, conservation of water. On the other end of the scale we have people like Dr Davidson and our colleague, the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) who walked out earlier, who I think believes that under no circumstances should any dam be built. However, perhaps I am doing the honourable member an injustice. It may be all very well to go ahead with projects such as the Eastern Suburbs Railway and the Opera House, but some people say: ‘For heaven’s sake, do not build something that is going to be of great advantage to the nation because it will develop remote areas and produce more exportable surpluses’. This seems to me to be the view that some honourable members take.
I have had the opportunity of being responsible in the Commonwealth sphere for Australia’s water development for some. 5 years or more and I am proud of what has been achieved in that time. This latest decision will go even further towards showing that the Commonwealth is anxious to do the most that it can in this feld. lt is all very well for an economist sitting in an ivory tower to question the wisdom of a decision like this and to say: ‘Do not build a dam because you might grow a bit more sugar and you may have difficulty in getting rid of it’, lt is quite, a different matter for politicians because we do not sit in ivory towers. We have to deal with people and we have to make decisions. It is no good telling a cane grower at Bundaberg that it does not matter that he cannot achieve his full mill peak this year because someone else in northern Queensland will be able to lake up the amount that he does not produce. This does not do the chap at Bundaberg much good. It does not do the people of the city of Bundaberg much good after a disastrous season to be told that we can produce somewhere else. Therefore this project is what I would call a risk operation.
Bundaberg, one of the largest areas of coastal northern Queensland, suffers from drought. It is very prone to drought, lt is subject to wide variability in seasons. Because of this farmers in the area have attempted to irrigate from underground water supplies. As more and more people are doing this we find that the supply is likely to fail. Even in spite of a relatively good fall of rain recently I understand that the water levels have dropped dangerously. As the water level drops the salinity is likely to increase. As the water level near the sea drops naturally sea water flows in underground and the salinity level increases. We cannot just sit back and say: ‘Bad luck old chap. We fed details of this project into a computer and found that the cost benefit analysis is not. as good as it should be. You have had it. Someone else can grow more sugar cane elsewhere.’ ft is very easy to say these sorts of things but let us face up to the fact that Bundaberg is a very highly developed community. If these people had to move off their farms, as they would eventually if nothing were done to improve their water facilities, then it would mean moving a large number of farmers and resettling them elsewhere. In the long run the cost probably would be far greater than the cost of providing them with additional water, as is proposed in this legislation.
The Queensland Government - and after all, the States are responsible for the development of the water resources within their boundaries - has shown its faith in this project. The project is now the Queensland Government’s No. 1 priority because it will increase the security and efficiency of the farmers in this area. The Queensland Government, out of quite meagre resources, has made available an amount of $8. 3m for weirs in this area. That shows that the Queensland Government is backing its faith and judgment by expenditure - expenditure which it can ill afford because Queensland, although it has probably the greatest water resources in Australia, has only a relatively small annual amount, over and above its annual maintenance costs for irrigation projects, to develop now projects such as this.
In the Bundaberg area sugar represents about 90% of the gross value of the. products of the district. In fact about 16% of Queensland’s total sugar production comes from that area. One does not know what the future holds in respect of world markets for sugar. I think it is not unreasonable to predict that there will be some increase in world sales over a period of years. But it is certainly true to say that there is a gradual increase of sales in Australia and this is based mainly on the increase in population.
Much has been said about systems of cost benefit analyses. We have had quite a long talk tonight from the honourable member for Dawson about these cost benefit analyses. I am a little bit afraid that we tend to make cost benefit analysis a new type of god. Figures are fed into a computer, something comes out the other end and if it is I or belter we say: ‘Righto, go ahead’ and if it is less we say: ‘Sorry, we cannot proceed’. Things are not as easy as that. I have had experience of looking at cost benefit analyses. 1 know the difficulties. Just take sugar as an example. How can we make an accurate analysis of whether it is economic to develop a new area or stabilise an existing area when over a period of about 4 to 5 years the price of sugar on the world market has fluctuated between £Stg 105 and £Stgl3? These are the sorts of problems that we run up against in every aspect of primary production.
Goodness knows, wool has been much more stable over a period, 1 suppose, than any other commodity. Yet, as I have said before, the fluctuations of prices on my own place have varied over a 7-year period from a wool cheque of £2,400 up to a wool cheque of £51,000. Today it is down to $20,000. Had a cost benefit analysis been carried out, which figure would one have accepted? Of course, if I had carried out a cost benefit analysis before I went on to my property I would have worked it out and based it on wool production. However, because wool production has become less economic I, as so many other people have done, have swung away from this product. Today I find that only about one-third of the gross returns on my property come from wool. So had I carried out a cost benefit analysis on the cost of production of wool I would have found that today I was getting an income from something completely different. This applies to every form of primary production. A person can do his best to decide what he thinks he will grow, but the farmer, of course, knows better. If there is a sudden improvement in the price of one commodity and a drop in the price of another, he will make a switch. It does not matter who decides whether it is economic or not - the farmer is the one who makes the final decision. Therefore, let us not get carried away with cost benefit analyses.
One thing 1 could not understand in the speech given by the honourable member for Dawson was when he talked about the recent decision in this House on whether we should have the Dartmouth Dam or the Chowilla Dam. He said that members did not receive a cost benefit analysis and that the Parliament had to make its decision without being told what the benefits were. 1 cannot understand this because there were circulated to all honourable members cost analyses of the cost of finalising the Chowilla Dam, which was about $57m, and the cost of building Dartmouth which was almost exactly the same - $57m. So, there was a cost analysis. On the benefit side we told everyone quite clearly that by building Dartmouth we would get about 5 times as much water as we would get by building a dam at Chowilla. Surely this gives the wherewithal for a cost benefit analysis because after all, the water goes into the same river and is used for producing the same crops. So, I just could not understand what the honourable member was saying. Surely the benefits can be assessed.
The honourable member for Dawson wants the technical evaluation to be made available. There is quite a bit to be said for making a technical evaluation available but we always come up against the problem of: Do we make available confidential figures on which government decisions are based? If we started doing that we would get a resistance on the part of technical officers and departmental officers to make available full details, knowing that the figures were to be subjected to scrutiny. Immediately someone would say: Oh, but this is not right. There ought to be something added on or taken off. This matter would proceed to debate on something which was technical information made to the Minister himself and on which the Minister and the Government must make their decision. Therefore, I think we should hesitate before we call for reports of every sort by technical and departmental officers. This has always been the approach of governments, not only this Government but previous governments.
The honourable member also mentioned the ad hoc approach. 1 do not know what has happened in this case but I do know that in the original decision - when we made our decision on the national water resources development programme - we asked the various States to give the Commonwealth their lists of projects. Some of them gave their projects in an order of priorities, as they saw them, but the States did give a list of various projects. 1 do not remember how many there were, but I think the number was between 25 or 30. The Commonwealth then proceeded tq try to assess the benefits compared with the costs of those projects. We made a list and selected the top half dozen or so for a very much closer look. Then we made our final selection of those which fitted w thin the $50m project. As a matter of fact, the amount went over $50m - we finished up at about S55m. But, certainly there was no ad hoc approach on this occasion. We selected those projects which we believed would give the greatest benefit.
The reason the Kolan scheme as such was not accepted was firstly because it was not stated by Queensland to be its No. 1 priority, although that did not necessarily mean that we would not have selected another one; but a lot of the work which has now been done on this project was not then done. In actual fact, the present scheme is a different scheme from the one which was then put up and costed in this cost benefit analysis.
I just want to say briefly that I believe there are enormous benefits to be obtained from irrigation. Like the honourable member for Dawson, I am sorry that the honourable member for Bradfield is not in the chamber because he is a person who seems to see no benefit at all. But let us look at what we are getting out of irrigation. In Victoria, for example, 3% of the area which is devoted to agriculture is irrigated and it is responsible for 20% of the entire agricultural production of Victoria. Let us consider the Mumimbidgee Irrigation Area. As the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) knows, this area produces annually crops that have a gross value of over $30m. Until recently this production was based on only one relatively small dam. the Burrinjuck Dam. In Queensland less than 1% of its producing areas - just over % actually - is irrigated, but production from irrigation areas contributes over 1 1 % of the estimated gross value of Queensland’s primary production. In the Namoi Valley is the Keepit Dam which we are told is an expensive dam. So it was expensive. It was built in fits and starts by the Labor Party when it was in office and it was much more expensive than it need have been. I am sorry to introduce this political note into the debate. The annual production on the Namoi is of the order of $4.7m and this would be sufficient to pay for the Keepit Dam in about 8 years. From that time on the production would be showing a profit.
The same sort of thing is true of the Ord River scheme. The honourable member for Bradfield suggests that the Ord project is a white elephant and that a dam should not have been built there. How many people stop to think that although the diversion dam cost about SI 8m of Commonwealth and Stale money - and it is, of course, fairly expensive when compared with the cost of the main dam - at present the small number of farmers there are producing about $2. 2m worth of goods annually and these are either import replacement goods or are goods earning export income for Australia. These farmers are not in full production yet. Within about 8 years production from that area would be sufficient to pay for the capital that was expended by the State and Commonwealth governments in developing the Ord project. Of course, as time passes other crops, such as sorghum, will emerge, and there also will be beef production. There are vast resources in the Ord area.
The honourable member for Dawson spoke about the yield of various dams. lt is interesting to note that the main dam being built on the Ord al a cost of S20m will have a yield of over 1 million acre feet per annum. The Chowilla Dam, about which there has been so much dispute in South Australia, would have cost 3 times as much as the Ord Dam and would have had a yield of about 200.000 acre feet per annum. If 15% of Australia’s water resources is harnessed in the Ord - more than everything that comes out of the Snowy Mountains scheme - I cannot believe that we will not in time be able to produce there soundly and economically the various products that we require. We must realise that we will require them. I see my friend from Wakefield (Mr Kelly) smiling, but let us consider beef production, for example, lt is all very well to say that we are dependent on export markets for our beef production, but we consume about two-thirds of what we produce and export the remaining one-third. These are rough figures, of course. If our population is going to increase from 12 million today to between 25 million and 28 million at the end of the century surely we must increase our beef production considerably even to cater for home consumption quite apart from the increased exports which the world will probably need by then. Let us not talk of the Ord being a white elephant. Of course it has ils problems. I do not know of any primary producing area in the world that sooner or later does not have some problems, because there are problems caused by overproduction and by restrictions imposed by the European Common Market, by the United Slates of America and other countries.
All I can say is that I am proud of the contribution that the Government has made over the years to water conservation, lt will be 6 years next week since 1 became Minister for National Development and during the lime that I and my successor have handled that portfolio the Commonwealth Government has done an enormous amount to increase the conservation of water. When all the works now under construction are completed there will be about 7 times more water stored for irrigation in Australia than there was 20 years ago. We have set up the accelerated measurement programme of surface and underground waters under the Water Resources Council. We have instituted the national water resources development programme wilh its initial $50m programme, and now it has a $100m programme for the next 5 years. We have found money for the Ord River project, for the Blowering Dam. for the Snowy Mountains scheme, for flood mitigation works in northern New South
Wales, for hydro-electric schemes in Tasmania and for the Western Australian Comprehensive Water Scheme. We have retained sections of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority to assist in developing projects throughout Australia, throughout South East Asia and in other parts of the world. We have introduced water scholarships. I think we can be proud of the development that has occurred.
The proposed grant will be a section 96 grant to Queensland, the State with the greatest water resources in Australia. I do not want to enter into the argument - because it would be a long one - as to whether we should give section 96 grants or whether we should give the States greater tax reimbursements and enable them to make their own decisions as to where additional money should be spent, but when we give section 96 grants T believe that it is urgently necessary to exercise supervision to ensure that Commonwealth money is correctly spent, I do not believe that in respect of water conservation there has been any undue interference by the Commonwealth. Wc have had the best of relations with the Queensland Government. Our water authorities, through, the Department of National Development and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, have worked closely with Queensland authorities on the Fairbairn Dam and I am sure they will continue to do so in this instance. I support the Government’s decision. T am afraid that I cannot support the amendment moved by the Opposition because I have grave reservations about making available secret and confidential reports from the Government’s advisers. I believe we should look very closely at the proposal because it could lead a lot further than anyone realises.
Sitting suspended from S.58 to 8 p.m.
– The measure before the House which was announced by the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) on 15th February 1970 is to ratify the Commonwealth’s allocation of a grant of $ 12.8m to the Queensland Government for what is known as the Bundaberg Irrigation Works. The case for this scheme was carefully prepared and strongly supported by the Bundaberg and
District Irrigation Committee which comprised 6 local authorities in the area, 6 sugar mill areas which were represented by both the millers and suppliers and other interested organisations. Besides a substantial initial contribution of $20,000 to the cost of preparation of this case the local canegrowers have also been prominent in the promotion of the Bundaberg irrigation scheme. If there is any cause for disappointment it is that in agreeing to make a contribution to the scheme the Commonwealth has rejected the initial request for a scheme totalling $47m which would also include the Isis and Bingera areas which are, perhaps, the areas most devastated by drought and which even today, despite the good early season, look like facing a crushing in which the mills will not reach their peaks.
These 2 areas are not included in the scheme for which the Commonwealth has made a contribution of $ 12.8m which, with the State’s contribution, will ensure that the Bundaberg-Kolan regional scheme will finance, first of all, a barrage on the Burnett River, a barrage on the Kolan River, the Woongarra distribution system, the Gooburrum distribution system, the Abbotsford system, the Giveloa system and the Monduran Dam with a pipeline to the Monduran Dam for which the Commonwealth will make a contribution of $8m as part of the $12.8m. This figure will also include a 19-mile pipeline from the Monduran Dam to Gin Gin with a feed line to the Burnett River via Sheep Station Creek near Gin Gin. I am pleased to follow 2 prominent men who have made a substantial contribution towards development in Australia in recent times. I refer to the previous Minister for National Development, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) and his chief and most able adviser, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). Both these men have very forcibly put forward the case on the economics of this scheme. The honourable member for Dawson has moved the following amendment:
Thai all words after ‘That’ be omitted wilh a view to inserting the following words in place thereof:
The technical evaluation and any cost benefit analyses earned out by the Commonwealth for the project near Bundaberg be made available to this House’.
I do not think that the amendment is an unreasonable one. There has been some opposition, particularly from honourable members of the Liberal Party, to the proposition which was defended so ably by not only the honourable member for Dawson but also the honourable member for Farrer. I believe it is right that when J similar schemes are put forward such ini formation should be available to the House I whether it be on irrigation schemes or other national projects, lt is essential. 1 do not think it is beyond The capability or capacity of the Commonwealth Government departments to produce such information and make it available to honourable members.
The Queensland Government, through the Irrigation and Water Supply Commission and the Department of Primary Industries, has already put forward a comprehensive report on the cost analysis of this scheme as compared with other schemes. One of the points which they have made - I say this without any malice at all even though the city of Bundaberg is within my electorate - is that both the departments and the Queensland Government have indicated that the economics of this scheme are far superior to those of the Nogoa, now the Fairbairn Dam scheme. They have agreed on this point. If it is within the capacity of the Queensland Government to put forward a case such as this and make it available to members of the public who are interested and to members of Parliament, I see no reason whatsoever why the Commonwealth should not make available this report. I am quite convinced in my own mind of the economics of this scheme which will bring stability to an existing industry in an already established area. I disagree with the view of the honourable member for Farrer that this might lead to all sorts of arguments to the effect that this point should be taken, this evaluation should or should not have been made, and so on.
The Queensland Government has seen fit to put forward this case, lt has made recommendations to the Commonwealth. The initial recommendation was in favour of the Nogoa scheme in preference to the Kolan scheme as it was then known. In doing this the Queensland Government may have had its own reasons but the point is that the Commonwealth acted on the advice of the
Queensland Government in this measure. The advice could quite easily have been given on political grounds. Whether or not this action is taken on political grounds 1 welcome it. My only regret is thai it does nol incorporate the entire scheme; it means only a partial contribution by the Commonwealth at this stage to the scheme, lt is expected thai the work on the Monduran Dam will commence in 1972-73 and will lake some 3 years to complete. The channelling works will entail quite a considerable amount of work and it is quite feasible that the money that has been allocated by the Commonwealth and the Slate of Queensland in this instance will not be spent within the 5-year period. Within the next quinquennium perhaps we can expect to see further assistance to the complete scheme which has as its purpose the stabilisation of an existing industry in an established area.
The mills and the facilities are there and the people are experienced in the production of sugar. I point out that the Bundaberg area is the third largest sugar producing area in Queensland producing some 16% of the entire harvest and servicing 6 mill areas. This scheme will provide additional irrigation from surface water to existing assignments from which a number of farms are now irrigating, and will release a number of farms which are now irrigating from an overloaded underground supply. Ii has been clearly staled - and investigations have proved it to be correct - that retention of surface water increases the underground supplies which have been used to such great advantage in the Bundaberg area in recent times. 1. refer to an early manual put out in 1965 by the Committee which points out that in the Fairymead mill area in 1953 there were only 12 bores irrigating cane. In 1965 the number was 312. The Qunaba mill area irrigates 95% of its farms from underground, particularly in the plantation area. This irrigation system was established many years ago. In the Millaquin area some 69% of the farms are irrigated. I would point out that Millaquin is the only sugar mill area in Queensland where the cane is grown, where it is milled, where it is refined for distribution and sale through retailers in Queensland and where the important by-product, the famous Bundaberg rum, is also distilled.
So we have had over the years, because of the recurring dry spells, an extension to these areas of the irrigation system from the underground supplies The city of Bundaberg itself draws from these supplies. But in recent years, because these supplies have not been built up and because there have been extensive demands placed on the water within that basin, there has been a drop in the water level of some bores by as much as 30 feet. This means an additional cost in the lifting of the water by pumping, particularly in the coastal areas. There have been cases on some coastal farms where the level of the water within the basin has been be:ow sea level. There have been some cases of slight salt water intrusion. Experts repeatedly advised placing a restriction on the use of the water. They feared that, if there was a salt water intrusion into this basin, as could quite easily happen, because the fresh water level within the basin dropped below sea level, it would take many years for it to be excluded. What has been regarded up till now as a bounteous supply of fresh water will be no more. By the provision of water storage this underground system will be built up. It will be built up for 2 reasons. Not only will the surface water accumulation build up the underground system, but it will also mean that a number of farms which are at present irrigated from bores will be able to draw from surface water if it is circulated through the various channels. It will reserve the use of these underground supplies to some 277 farms which have a gross area of 25,000 acres of cane. Th;s will raise the efficiency of sugar production, harvesting and processing through the elimination of shortfalls.
For honourable members to really appreciate this point, it should be pointed out that the production and the rates of payment in the sugar industry - some people might call it a socialised industry - are within Government control. The Queensland Government acquires the whole sugar crop, not only in Queensland but also in the cane growing areas of the northern rivers district of New South Wales. Each farmer is required to plant a certain acreage and produce a certain amount of sugar. In a good season in these areas he has an ovc; supply of cane. He has to plant an area which he would believe would produce a certain amount of cane which would contribute towards the mill’s peak. He is obliged to produce this amount. If he does not produce it or if he does not continue to produce it, he is in danger of losing his assignment. The assignments are based in many cases on what was at that time a living area.
There is no doubt at all that the sugar industry in Queensland has contributed considerably to closer settlement. People are able to make a living from smaller areas than they do elsewhere. In recent years, because of poor prices on the overseas market and because of the expansion which the industry underwent within a few short years, the position has been that many of these living areas have had to be increased. Farmers have had to purchase neighbouring farms to continue in the industry. But the point 1 wish to make is that the provision of this water will bring about stability in the industry, if a farmer has contracted or has undertaken to produce a certain amount of cane he knows that he can do it with irrigation with some certainty. With irrigation he can produce a certain amount of cane in a certain area. Without irrigation, in a poor season he might not be able to produce enough cane. In other times he might have cane left standing in the field. That means that he is obliged to undertake additional work and pant an area which is somewhere in between and which he believes will produce :e somewhere near what is required of him by the Sugar Board. Irrigation would a!so reduce e the annual production area required, as I said before, to produce existing peaks to an average of 52% of the assigned area as against an average of 65% at pres-‘nt. It will also eliminate industry losses which have exceeded S50m. This is more than the S47m which the Commonwealth was asked to provide. This loss could occur with a recurrence of a prolonged drought cycle such as that from 1899 to 1910.
Much investigation and tabulation of figures has gone into the calculation of rainfall. Although we talk of average rainfalls,’ this is not always an indication. I wouk point out that in the year 1968 the average rainfall was good but most of that rain fell in the month of January :n the latter part of the year when (he cane needed rain for increased production the rain was not there. The average rainfall, even though it is a guide, is not always an infallible guide. So we have a range from underproduction to overproduction. We have shortfalls in the mill peaks, which have amounted to considerable sums. It is estimated that in the 6 mill areas the annual mill peak of 341,000 tons of sugar, which is 16% of the State peak, would be valued at $30,350,000. This was based on the 1969 predictable price of $89 a ton. Only last Friday it was indicated that the average price of the No. 1 pool sugar was $101.59 a ton. The total value of sugar from the 6 mill areas of Bundaberg was $2 1.31m. This was a drop of $11. 6m on the 1968 season and it was brought about by the continuing drought conditions.
This measure will further assist in sugar production. It will further ass st other sugar producing centres in Australia, because the northern rivers district of New South Wales is included with Queensland, by the elimination of drastic shortfalls in exports which could provide opportunities for other countries to take over our established contracts with overseas countries. We have the International Sugar Agreement which guarantees a certain price, but we also have fixed contracts for the sale of sugar to the United Kingdom, to the United States of America, and even to some extent at the world price to Japan. If we are unable to fulfil those orders we will lose the contracts to other countries. This is not in the best interests of the industry. The scheme will also assist by ensuring that plantings in flush years do not produce sugar substantially in excess of the requirements for the home and overseas markets and leave the farmer with cane standing in the field at the end of the crush ;ng. The scheme will bring stability to an industry which is worth about $50m a year to the city of Bundaberg, an area that has been established for many years as a sugar growing centre.
The scheme will bring about a guaranteed production. That does not mean that more sugar will be produced. The farmer, knowing that the water is there, can produce a certain amount of sugar. He will not plant more cane than is necessary because the cost of planting is considerable and is increasing all the time. I make that point to illustrate the difference between irrigation and dry land farming. For an assigned area of 49 acres under dry land farming the return from the cane less the harvesting costs amounts to $7,000. Under irrigation, for 56 acres under the same management, the value of the cane less harvesting costs amounts to $12,900. After deducting the additional annual cost of irrigation of $2,400 there is a net margin in favour of irrigation of over $3,000. The honourable member for Farrer, the previous Minister for National Development, quite rightly pointed out that the Commonwealth could, possibly by grants, make money available to the States and allow the States to decide what they wanted to do with it. On the other hand the money could be made available for certain projects. By making money available for projects such as this the Commonwealth is also a beneficiary. Without this scheme there will be a loss of income not only to the farmers but also to the millers and the people who work in the mills. The Commonwealth would lose the income tax that would be paid by those people and the sales tax on motor vehicles, fuel and other items necessary for the work involved in the mills. Sugar mills have to be modernised and repairs have to be carried out. The sugar industry as a whole has kept abreast of technological advances in regard to the types of cane to be grown in certain areas. One or two mills have not been able to do this but gradually they are realising that this is what they have to do.
The sugar industry is one in which all sections play their part in ensuring that the maximum economy is maintained in the production of sugar. The Commonwealth Government is making these funds available although the amount is only part of the Queensland Government’s request for the scheme which would cost $47m altogether. The Queensland Government has already made available $8m towards this project. The people involved were prepared to spend considerable amounts of money ‘o promote the scheme and put forward its economics. If the scheme is not implemented it will be a sorry day not only for the city of Bundaberg but also for the sugar industry in Queensland. I regret that the scheme as a whole is not being supported. ] understand that the Queensland Government put forward the proposal for the complete scheme which incorporated not only the proposal that is to be carried out by the Commonwealth and the State but also the irrigation of the fsis and Bingera areas. I am only guessing in this respect, but increased costs may be involved in the pumping and raising of the water for the irrigation of the Isis area.
I travelled through the Isis canefields yesterday and 1 know that unless some such scheme is forthcoming - it cannot be financed from State funds - there will be a complete failure of the sugar industry in the Isis district, an area noted for its sugar production. The area is wholly and solely dependent upon sugar and has in the past proved that it is capable of producing sugar in reasonable years. These are unreasonable years, but the availability of water will mean that there is not an overproduction of sugar. By not over-producing the industry will be able to contain the cost of the scheme. The various farmers will guarantee that there will be no overproduction. A number of failures of the sugar crop have occurred in the Isis area. 1 see the only solution to that as the acceptance of the main scheme.
I do not know why the Government rejected the scheme. Discussions took place between representatives of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and the Irrigation and Water Supply Commission, the Commissioner, Mr Haigh, who is we’ll respected, and the various Commonwealth departments. I understand that the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industry undertook a survey of the situation. I do not know the reasons for the rejection of the Isis section of the scheme and why the Commonwealth did not agree to contribute with the State towards that scheme. I must support the amendment put forward by my colleague, the honourable member for Dawson.
– When the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) said in his second reading speech that this legislation relating to the Bundaberg irrigation scheme in Queensland represented a significant move towards closer collaboration between the States and
Commonwealth governments in the development of Australia’s water resources, I believe he should have gone on to say that th s Bill represented a significant move towards maintaining the sovereign rights of the States and the Commonwealth. In practising the principle of federation insofar as it leaves the right of establishing priorities to the States, this Bill leaves the Queensland Government responsible to the Queensland electorate as to whether the Bundaberg scheme should have been at the top of the water development projects in that State” required for Queensland’s economic development. Whether this factor will be appreciated by those in other parts of Queensland who claim to have equal or stronger cla:ms for such a priority from their State Government, remains to be seen. lt should be emphasised that the Federal Government is concerned only with examining the economic feasibility of such schemes as are put forward by the State governments before providing finance. It is not concerned with the priorities within a State. 1 can only hope that the residents of the less privileged regions are not encouraged to think otherwise. As for the Bundaberg scheme, it has one important factor as far as 1 am concerned. The scheme is concerned with the rehabilitation, protection and development of an already established region. It is concerned with the protection of a vast capital investment that has been built up by individual Australians, whether they be country or towns folk, over a period of 100 years. The Commonwealth Government is not concerned with forging new rural areas of doubtful economic utility. The Bundaberg scheme, I am pleased to note, is concerned with the maintenance of a provincial city of some 28,000 souls and a district of some 17,000 more, as a viable economic proposition. It is concerned with decentralisation, and from the many statistics which I have read on this district, a district which I have known for many years, it would seem that there is justification in the Commonwealth and Queensland governments spending SI 2.8m and $8. 3m respectively on stage 1 of the scheme.
The Queensland Government has claimed that the objectives and effects of this scheme will mean the recovery and development of sugar production in the Bundaberg district, which is at present Queensland’s third largest sugar producing region, with some 128,000. acres of assigned sugar lands held on 1,567 assignments serving 6 mills with an annual mill peak of 341,000 tons of sugar valued at something like $30m. I would like to quote from information provided by the Queensland Government regarding the scheme. The Queensland Government said:
The scheme is planned for provision of works in 2 stages and development of sugar production in 3 stages in which the objectives and effects are as follows:
To eliminate the effects of drought on sugar production by -
providing irrigation from surface water to 1,181 existing assignments -
And honourable members will recall that total’ assignments are 1,567 only - wilh a gross area of 93,433 acres in the 6 mill areas which include a number of assignments now irrigated from overused underground supplies;
The scheme is also concerned:
To raise the efficiency of sugar production harvesting and processing by -
eliminating past chronic shortfalls thus raising average annual production within current peaks by some 46,070 tons of sugar valued at $4,100,000;
reducing the annual production area required to produce existing peaks to an average of 52% of assigned areas as against an average of 65% at present.
The scheme is also concerned with eliminating the possibility of catastrophic industry losses exceeding S50m that could occur with recurrence of prolonged drought such as that experienced at the turn of the century. Finally, the Queensland Government believed that the scheme was concerned with raising the efficiency of sugar production by eliminating drastic shortfalls in exports which could provide opportunities for other countries to take over established contracts.
The scheme before the House is concerned only with this stage of the total development, and it will be seen that its prime purpose is to protect a vast capital investment which has been achieved only after a century of effort and, when drought has struck this fertile district of the lower Burnett, heartbreak. Other speakers will no doubt go into details of the benefit cost analysis which has been conducted by the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, the Queensland Irrigation and Water Supply Commission and the Snowy Mountains Authority. For my part, I accept the assurance I received from Mr Ben Anderson, Chairman of the Bundaberg and District Irrigation Committee, when he wrote saying that following intensive investigations by these authorities the Bundaberg scheme was shown to have a most favourable benefit cost ratio when compared with other schemes in Queensland either completed or contemplated. I also accept the assurance from the Minister for National Development, who is sitting at the table, and his predecessor, the honourabe member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), that this Bundaberg scheme has passed the Commonwealth’s test of feasibility. 1 also accept the proposal that not only the farmers but the tertiary and secondary industries in the lower Burnett are equally dependent on the continuing viability of the sugar industry in this region. I am firmly convinced that without this irrigation scheme of recovery and protection, the sugar industry in the Bundaberg district will not remain a viable economic undertaking and that the district will slide into an area of confused economic worth. Much has been said about the increased income that will eventuate from this scheme. I would remind those who are suggesting that the scheme represents an unnecessary item of expenditure for the Commonwealth, that the Commonwealth Government still enjoys the power of taxing incomes and in time, perhaps not too far hence, we shall be reaping a considerable benefit from increased taxation from the greater and more reliable income that this scheme will bring to the Commonwealth. But it is not my intention to go through the benefit cost analyses that have been undertaken.
I would, however, repeat my firm economic conviction that as far as irrigation schemes are planned for Australia then both Federal and State governments should be far more concerned with endorsing such schemes when they are related to improving and recovering established districts and regions rather than forging new frontiers of agricultural endeavour with unproved, untried and extremely doubtful economic advantage. 1 would also hope that the several governments do not overlook the need for sufficient water resources for our existing industrial development. There ;s little to support such a fear, but I know thai, on a continent which is the driest of all. water supply will always be a continuing problem, and 1 am happy that the area of establishing priorities under this scheme will remain with the States, which are, or should be. closer to this problem than any Commonwealth Government could be. Such a form of establishing priorities will ensure that no particular area of Australia will be favoured merely because it has greater representation in Canberra. I believe that the Bundaberg scheme must be supported, and this 1 do.
Before concluding I would like to touch upon the form of parliamentary control we may anticipate over the $12.8m being granted towards the scheme by this Bill. As has already been mentioned during another debate today, the Parliament can lose the right to control expenditure when grants are made under section 96, as will be the case under this Bill. 1 agree with the honourable member for Farrer that it is urgent that this Parliament, not merely the Executive, supervise the spending of Commonwealth raised money. 1 do not know what form this control should take. Perhaps the Public Accounts Committee is in a position to examine expenditure once it has been undertaken on the Bundaberg scheme. I know I would feel a lot happier if there were a similar committee operating within the Queensland Government. At least we would know that that Government was examining large expenditures critically. ) do not say that the establishment of a Public Accounts Committee in the Queensland Parliament would be the answer to controlling section 96 grants to that State; however, I do believe that it would be a step in the right direction. The problems of parliamentary control of such large amount? of money must surely exercise the minds of all members of this Parliament. I believe this is not the Bill to work out this complex problem. I mention it now merely to warn that sooner or later we will have to wake up to the fact that the Federal Parliament is losing control over its own money and its own expenditure. Despite my concern at this lack of financial control in this Parliament 1 support the Bill.
– I want to, first, support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). This Bill is an example of a broken down fire brigade approach to what should be long range planning. Here we have an emergency effort, which is still a dismal one, which does not give the priority to the full scheme as recommended by the State of Queensland and which, as the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) has said, shows no concern by the Commonwealth for priorities within the State. The Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) has admitted as much. He has said that he is not concerned with State priorities in a State, but only as between States. The scheme does not correlate or integrate with any other department of government or long range policy.
The honourable member for Dawson has told us that what we need first of all is a cost benefit analysis. 1 want to suggest to this House that benefits are not just the sorts of things which economists only place in their economic analyses, whether it be this rather thick document put out by the State of Queensland on the Bundaberg region, whether it be the costing done and the cost benefit analysis done by the Snowy Mountains Authority, or any others. These people are restricted to fairly immediate considerations. They are not concerned with the development of this country as a nation. 1 wish to protest first of all at the ad hoc nature of this approach. The Government, as it usually does, has waited until a public outcry has occurred and people have been walking up and down the streets of Bundaberg selling buttons which read: ‘We want water. Voluntary organisations have more get up and go and more initiative in broad national planning than this Government which ought to be giving the lead and which ought to be educating the grass roots people so that they can use their vote intelligently and can assist the Government instead of having to buck it all the time to get the slightest minimum of action.
This is an emergency grant. That is what it is. lt is not the scheme which ought to be contemplated as the proper way of handling this urgent need of the sugar producing areas not only in this Kolan-Burnet 1 area of the Bundaberg sugar producing region but also, as the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) has said, in the areas south of the river including the Isis region and the Childers region. All these areas ought to be tackled as a unit. The full proposals in logical order as put out by the Queensland Government Irrigation and Water Supply Commission should have been backed to the hilt by this Government. This Government is the only one which can finance such development and da- it with the fullest resources and with the best priorities not only to relieve the urgent needs of those growers who most desperately need water now - they will not get it for another 3 years at least - but also to deal with long range planning needs which should have been accepted many years ago.
Why should it be left to the States all the time to come up with the detailed planning1 Why should the States b; left with the laborious effort of compiling this data, negotiating it, revising it. renegotiating it and putting it up for Commonwealth experts to pull apart and to say: ‘Do it again; you have not done your homework”/ Why should the States be required to take the initiative in these matters? It is the Commonwealth which comes along and claims the credit by grandly handing out a bit of a grant or more often. I might say, a loan for development works in these States and demanding in return its pound of flesh in interest. Why should this be the position in a country where only I government holds the purse strings and where only I government can decide priorities on a national scale? We have the vision not of Cabinet co-ordination in planning but of Cabinet disintegration.
We saw it, as some preceding speakers such as the honourable member for Dawson mentioned, in the Chowilla-Dartmouth debate. We are given a cut and dried decision. We are given an overall sketchy argument as to why a certain plan should be put up. But we are given no real alternatives. We are given no reasoned approach whereby we can say: ‘Yes, step by step, this is the logical scheme to adopt*. The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) answered this criticism by saying: ‘But, of course, you did have the costing of the Chowilla project. You did have the cost of the Dartmouth project. So. I fail to see what the honourable member for Dawson is referring to’.
The honourable member for Farrer was mystified about it.
What the honourable member for Dawson was referring to was the fact that we were given again this cut and dried alternative - either we’ have this or we have that. No attempt was made to correlate what would happen if we had both, if we had stages of both or if wc had both in stages of one with stages of the other. I believe that I stand closer to the honourable member for Farrer and the honourable member for Dawson in my approach to water conservation than I stand to, say, the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) and to Dr Davidson who wrote his book knocking all sorts of water projects. My reason is not just that we have a dry continent but that this continent has very little water left that we can use for the people whom we are bringing here.
I think that we must have a very firm look at our immigration policy. I think that we will need to reverse it in some areas. We are succeeding in piling more and more bodies into the great overgrown cities of Melbourne and Sydney. We are not getting centres fit for people to live in, located in areas where a reserve of water is available. Again, I will quote the honourable e member for Farrer - a former Minister for National Development - who said that Queensland has probably the greatest water resources in Australia but only a little money to develop them. Now, what is the position? Where is the Government to put its development? Where will it put its people? Where are these new centres to be established? The Government cannot put these people in Melbourne. Melbourne is fighting already with New South Wales and the Riverina as to which will have the water for Melbourne. The Government cannot put these people in Sydney because Sydney is having difficulties not only in getting water into the city but also in getting it out again. The headaches caused by pollution and traffic are choking the development of Sydney.
If the Government is to accommodate these people, it will need to build big new centres in areas where the resources are available for these people to live. Plenty of water will be needed to do this particularly if these people are to have a diversity of interests nearby so that they will have reasonable chances of full employment and diversity for their families to get jobs and so to stay in these centres. What the honourable member for Farrer said is exactly right. The only place where we have big water resources is Queensland. But this is undeveloped water. The snag is that it is so irregularly arranged in time. The average annual rainfall in the area referred to in the Bill - that is the Kolan-Burnett region - according to the explanatory memorandum which the Minister for National Development has circulated wilh the Bill, is stated to be between 44 inches in the eastern section - that is the catchment for the Kolan River - and 38 inches in the western section, which is the Burnett catchment. The Burnett catchment is a much bigger area but provides not a great deal more water because of the lower rainfall west of the coastal range which separates the 2 catchments.
As this memorandum points out, the rainfall is terribly variable not only during the year, because most of the rain falls in the one wet season in the summer, but also from year to year because this area has about 3 drought years in every 10 years. This type of situation is much more marked in coastal Queensland than in any other part of Australia with a comparable rainfall. That is quite a respectably high rainfall. This is the sort of rainfall that is received in other closely settled parts of the coastal fringe of this country. There is nothing wrong with an annual rainfall varying from 44 inches to 38 inches if that rainfall is spread reasonably as it is in other places in Australia. But this is not the case in the Kolan-Burnett area.
This is where hardship, inhumanity and injustice are being suffered by these farmers who have suffered 8 drought years in the last 9 years. They are very lucky to have a crop this year because the rainfall is still subnormal’. Last year was really the worst year on record. 1 suppose that it could be said that most of the dry farming sugar areas in this region received approximately 10% of their crop, if that. This tragedy has not been stopped. As the Minister and others have pointed out, the problem is not just that the rainfall has not recovered properly. The problem is that the reserve water under the ground is still decreasing.
Until we have two or three Hood years, or years of above average rainfall, the slow spreading gangrene and the tragedy that is affecting this industry will not be slopped. This project will be too late for many farmers unless we have a Hood very soon; even next year will be too late for some of them.
What should be done? More to the point, what should have been done? As the honourable member for Dawson has said, there should have been national priorities - not State priorities, not State begging, not State agitation and nol public protest. National priorities should have been set when the Snowy Mountains scheme was launched and those priorities should have been stuck to instead of the Snowy scheme being tapered off. This is the pity and the tragedy of having a Government which insists on an ad hoc approach instead of planning. The Government is not planning because it is frightened that it will be labelled politically as too far left, as having a discredited philosophy or a foreign philosophy. The only philosophy which the Government has is the tattered remnants of an outworn one that went out with Queen Victoria.
I want to refer briefly to the sorts of things that ought to be exercising the minds of those in government when the Government decides these priorities. They should not concentrate only on water priorities. I have put forward an argument for giving Queensland the No. 1 priority. Queensland has this variable rainfall. Any school child with an atlas detailing the monthly variations of rainfalls in the different rainfall regions of Australia can demonstrate that there is no annual variation elsewhere in Australia like that which occurs in coastal Queensland. As the honourable member for Dawson said, records over the last 50 years show that there is no other region in Australia which has such a rainfall variation from year to year. There is no other region where one can expect 3 drought years in every 10 years. But there are other things that can influence priorities besides water, and one of those is politics. This is what we are here for but unfortunately sometimes this does not mean politics in any enlightened way of serving Australians. It means a short range or shortsighted policy - what will serve until the next election.
This is the pity of what I have called politics in deciding priorities.
Even from this narrow and shortsighted point of view there is no need to search for things like the Ord River project or the Nogoa scheme, which are not as urgent or as beneficial from the economists’ point of view as other schemes, in order to show that we are being impartial and helping all the States equally. Western Australia might have been better off to undertake other schemes before the Ord scheme. That State might have done better to have had a steel works. Of course everybody knows this now, but we should have known it when the Ord scheme was being considered; then even the short range protest that we must not carry out the Burnett and Burdekin proposals before giving something to Western Australia would have been without foundation. In that situation Western Australia would have been given something which it needed and Australia woUld have been better off. There would have been no basis for protesting that we have to balance the water grants to the States. I am not saying that we should not have the Ord scheme, but I am saying that it is a far more controversial project than a steel works for Western Australia or the Burnett or Burdekin schemes for Queensland. These are the broader visions which are not apparent in this Government’s Cabinet because it does not correlate what one department does with what another department does. It seems that even the Department of National Development has nol the imagination to balance other kinds of projects against water projects.
Tasmania, for example, might be quite contented if it had an expanded aluminium industry rather than more money for water. One may say: Well, what about Victoria? What about New South Wales? What about South Australia? They are all crying out for water. Of course they are, and they need it, but they need it for different reasons. South Australia needs it for settlement, for people and for industry, and at this stage probably more than for irrigation. Wherever one goes the two objectives will have their claims. Irrigation will have its claim and population centres will have their claim, ft is very difficult to say, when a cost benefit analysis is undertaken, what the value of a water scheme will be, because primary production based on irrigation brings about population centres and population centres have a value that is very rarely costed in irrigation costing and cost benefit analyses. Therefore it is necessary to have a slightly broader view instead of merely saying: Where can we use water for irrigation? We have to say: Where can we build centres and cities to establish people to improve the quality of life? We should have a look at our migration policy and see if we should not be giving more attention to encouraging people to migrate from our own cities into new centres than to encouraging them to migrate from other countries to Australia and creating more urban problems for ourselves.
Mr Speaker, I commend the step, such as it is and as late as it is, outlined in the Bill. I commend the adoption of the Queensland plan, such as it is. I deplore the need for it to have developed so painfully over so many years without the help of the Snowy Mountains scheme. I deplore the lack of information that is given to this Parliament, and, it seems, the lack of discussion of it by the Cabinet. I therefore support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Dawson. I think it is high time that we had put before us rationally and plainly this kind of information so that we can make practical decisions here and so that the public can see that we have made the right decisions. The honourable member for Farrer objected to the amendment because he said he had grave reservations about making confidential reports generally available. Has he grave reservations about the Queensland Government making this p’an available? Has he grave reservations about the cost benefit analyses which he said were made freely available on the Chowilla and Dartmouth projects? Where are these secret documents about which he has such reservations? Are they stamped ‘top secret’ in the Minister’s filing cabinet? If not, why are they not here? Why are they not condensed and put before us. The ‘Readers Digest’ could do it. Half a dozen good journalists could do it. I feel that it would be far better for this Cabinet to employ half a dozen people to prepare these summaries, if necessary, rather than using all sorts of public relations officers, trade experts and other propaganda devices to pull the wool over the people’s eyes instead of giving them the facts and letting them gain confidence from the facts.
– Do you not think this project should be undertaken.
– Of course it should, lt should have been done a long time ago. That is the theme of my speech. The only point I am making is that if we had the proper information placed before us as to the priorities we would bc convinced, as Mr Haigh of the Queensland Irrigation and Water Supply Commission is convinced, that this is not the most economic way to spend the money. There are some things we have to pay for whether we provide the money or not and one of them is the full Kolan-Burnett-Isis scheme. We will have to pay through the nose every year that we do not have that full scheme. 1 am not objecting to this scheme: I am objecting to the deficiencies and the failure of the Government to give us more than half a loaf as a good investment for Australia’s future. Queensland has convinced the Commonwealth that this scheme is going to pay for itself because of stability in the sugar industry and because of the guaranteed returns. Why then is the Commonwealth not convinced that the entire scheme will pay for itself? The Government is not convinced because it has not done enough homework on this project. That is why it cannot present us with a case that has been fully argued. The Government did not want to go into too much detail because this would show up the fact that the full scheme ought to be implemented as a coherent plan, lt will cost more if it is done piecemeal, by doing it in the way proposed and leaving it to the Queensland Government to concentrate on the Monduran Dam scheme and the linkages instead of coordinating all the works. I do not want to delay this dam: I want the other works to proceed at the same time in order to make it more efficient and to get a better return for the money in the long run. Eventually that money will have to be spent and this entire project will cost more.
– Before I make a few comments on this Bill I would like to refer to one or two of the statements or impressions put forward by previous speakers. My good friend the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) said that the Government had adopted a broken-down fire brigade approach to this matter. 1 have some documents with me which indicate that the approach was very thoroughly prepared, organised and presented and it has been brought to a very favourable conclusion. 1 think there are some people in the Bundaberg area who would not be terribly happy to hear this described as a broken-down fire brigade approach. The honourable member then went on to give the impression that he was nol terribly happy about this project in any case. He threw some doubt on whether the priorities for recent water conservation projects should have been arranged as they have been arranged. As a Queenslander, I feel very strongly about water conservation. Anyone who has made the most elementary study of the water resources of the eastern side of this continent is aware that about 80% of the water resources south of a line running approximately from Dubbo to Sydney have been harnessed and developed, lt is little wonder that we in the north scream a good deal about water resources. In comparison, above that line we find that about 20% of the water resources have been harnessed. The importance of water conservation cannot bc brought home strongly enough not only to honourable members but also to the nation if we are to adopt a responsible approach to the development of remote areas and other areas not quite so remote, such as that dealt with in th s Bill.
I can quite understand the approach of the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). I do not say this maliciously, but he is an academic. He is one of our most brilliant academics. He has moved an amendment to the motion for the second read ng which states that: ‘the technical evaluation and any cost benefit analyses carried out by the Commonwealth for the project near Bundaberg be made available to this House’. He feels that that information should bc made available, studied and examined. These documents have been referred to as being great secret documents. 1 have a particular attitude towards this business of pressing buttons on computers and reducing the final summing up as to whether a dam should or should not be built to a matter of the evaluation by the back room boys and our economists and so on. I do not think a dam would be built in Australia if projects were subject to this sort of treatment. However, 1 believe that my colleague, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), has dealt with that matter so I will say no more about it. lt was good to hear the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) speak in this debate. He is one urban dweller - perhaps there are many more - who is prepared to speak in support of this project although he represents a densely populated city area which has ample water supplies. He commended the Government for introducing this scheme and so he darned well should. So should anyone who is interested in the development of this nation.
Now I want to refer to what was said by the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen). There is a funny thing about the development of these large schemes. Before they are approved you find people arguing for them and criticising the Government for not taking action but the moment approval is given they throw their hands in the air and cry ‘Polities’. The honourable members for Wide Bay and Capricornia suggested that the approval of this scheme is a matter of politics. But it is rather strange - and 1 draw the attention of honourable members to this fact - that the areas covered by these schemes are represented almost entirely by members of the Australian Labor Party. I do not see how politics come into it. Let us be honest and realistic. The Queensland Government created the priorities and its first priority was the dam on the Nogoa River which was represented in that Queensland Parliament by the honourable member for Barcoo, an Australian Labor Party member. This project was given its priority by a Country Parly-Liberal Party Government. Therefore I cannot see any political prejudice involved. This approach is completely illogical, lt is. indeed, playing politics.
I would like to pay tribute to the manner in which this project was handled and particularly to those involved in it. I have in mind the people who are very well known in Queensland, such as Ben Anderson,
Gordon Chenery, and the team of fellows who got together, organised their community and showed the Government that they really meant business. What is more, they had a case. People can get determined and quite emotional’ and present a very determined front but if they do not have a case to present to the Government then their actions are pretty futile. Not only did these men have a case but they prepared it magnificently and most constructively. I well remember when this scheme began to gel into gear. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), myself, the local State ALP member and others were involved. There was nothing political about the meeting held in Bundaberg when this project got moving. I cannot remember whether the honourable member for Wide Bay was present but he was greatly interested in the scheme and very much behind it. 1 pay full tribute to him. 1 was involved because part of the scheme takes in the Lower Burnett which is in the Kennedy electorate. We worked then as a team to gain approval for this scheme.
Some excellent reports were prepared and presented to the Government. These fellows did not go around screaming that the Government was doing nothing. They made no fewer than 3 trips here to Canberra. I had the privilege of introducing the deputation to the then Minister for National Development. They presented a very aggressive and very determined show of strength to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). The entire community was involved. A large petition, constructively worded and not destructively worded, was presented. Finally, with the advent of this Government, approval was gained for a grant of $l2.Sm. The State Government not only gave this scheme its priority and approval; it provided over S8m for part of the construction.
Let us look for a moment at the situation which existed before the agitation for the building of this dam reached its climax - the situation before this irrigation scheme was suggested for the Bundaberg area. I think that if there were any people who had any doubts about the case claiming the dire necessity for something to be done, and done with great urgency, for this area in the matter of water conservation they would be convinced entirely that it was not only necessary but urgently necessary if they read the short preamble to a report that was prepared for presentation to the Federal Government. It reads:
The clear justification for the Bundaberg Scheme lies iii its humanitarian aspects. Water is urgently needed to protect the future of a district of 45,000 people against severe financial hardship or worse. The Bundaberg-Childers region cannot survive a prolonged drought period similar to 1899-1910 without irrigation and remain economically viable. The unregulated water resources of the area are already seriously overdrawn and the Bundaberg scheme represents an urgent rescue operation.
This brings me to the comment of the honourable member for Wide Bay who compared the Nogoa scheme and the Bundaberg scheme and suggested that the economics of both schemes indicated that there should have been greater priority for the Bundaberg scheme. I do not think that one can make a comparison. The Bundaberg scheme was, as is shown by the passage 1 have just quoted, a rescue operation. The survival of the BungabergIsisKolan area as a sugar producing area in Queensland was dependent on the provision of some form of conservation and irrigation. What is probably a more critical point in the whole argument is that the water supplies for the city of Bundaberg were very much endangered. Let me make it perfectly clear that the other scheme was strictly a scheme of development, a scheme which would lead to the establishment of small farms, small grazing and eventually. 1 would hope, to block feeding and - which is much more important to the inland areas that I represent - would allow the area it served to become the feed bowl in future droughts. This would mean that people living in inland areas would not have to face up to exploitation and the insecurity of fodder supplies that they have endured over many years of drought, which have not yet ended.
Let us take a closer look at the situation in the Bundaberg area. There are approximately 1,570 individual assignments for cane growing in the area. There are 6 raw sugar mills and associated with one of these mills is an alcohol distillery run as an adjunct to the mill’s raw milling operations. In drought years production shortfalls related to peaks reach as high as 45% - this is a pretty staggering percentage; - which at a sugar value of $100 per ton is equal to Si 5m. This is a severe loss to any area.
Average annual production shortfall percentages over the past 40-year period, related to present peaks and $100 per ton sugar value, yield an annual loss of sugar revenue of approximately S5m. We can see just how critically important it is for this area to have approval for such a scheme.
Over this period of drought the Queensland Government - let us be honest about this - came to the rescue of these drought stricken cane farmers with long term low interest loans. But this is a palliative. If this scheme had not been introduced there would be constant insecurity in this area which would lead eventually to a complete drop in morale, and another rural area would begin to fold up. So this was a pretty critical situation. I have heard Mr Haig, the chief of the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission in Queensland referred to in this place tonight. This man has a reputation second to none in the whole of this nation. He has a splendid record and I am sure that there is not a State in the Commonwealth that would not be delighted indeed to secure his services. He, with the co-operation of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries, went thoroughly into this matter. They examined every aspect of it. I would suggest that they had a far more accurate knowledge of the position than anybody else could have, because they worked in cooperation with the people who were actually involved - the local authorities, the sugar producers, the millers and so on. They would have a far more realistic approach and a better ability to evaluate the necessity for this scheme than would people far removed in Canberra - and 1 say that with all due respect to the Commonwealth Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Mr Haigh and the Department said:
The outstanding feature of the investigation is the need for irrigation to raise the whole efficiency and security of the Bundaberg region sugar industry. This is essential to remove the threat of catastrophic loss wilh recurrence of prolonged drought periods. . . .
Again they referred to the period 1899- 1910. They went on to state:
If repeated under present conditions of peaks, prices and overdeveloped underground supplies, production losses exceeding S50m over the period could result, which could destroy-
And here is the crunch - the Bundaberg sugar industry.
Finally. I noticed in the second reading speech of the Minister for National Development, who is at the table, the statement that this is the first of the grants made under the new national water resources development programme, which means that this is indeed an historic event, lt is good to think that a fair city like Bundaberg and the most productive sugar producing areas around this fair city are involved in an historic occasion.
I would like to make one point. I would most sincerely hope that the Federal Government, in addition to planning for these major projects, will look closely and evaluate the virtue of, and the necessity for, small irrigation schemes. We have a great inland part of Queensland which is known as the arid urea where one is not supposed to be able to grow anything. I am sure that if we consulted a computer it would regard any person who attempted to grow crops in that area as being at least partially insane. J know a fellow out there at a place called Richmond who set out to disprove the theories, which had stood for so long, that nothing of any consequence could be grown out in that area of Queensland. He has produced, and is still producing, some of the finest cotton in Queensland. He has done that with a rainfall of about 3 inches a year. Perhaps honourable members think I am a little crazy, but he has produced excellent cotton. Let us come a little further south to the town of Winton which is appallingly affected by drought. If one rode round the paddocks there and found a few blades of grass one would be doing pretty well. As a matter of fact, most of the area looks like pebbly ridges. In the most drought affected area in that part of the State a fellow named Charles Foi lot t decided to experiment with the keyline irrigation scheme. A lot of people threw up their hands when one mentions keyline. Because it was not government sponsored or government produced they think it cannot possibly be practical. If you have a little time hop in your car and slip down to Albury and have a look at some of the experimental farms that are operating there. If you are not convinced that this is the answer where it is applicable - and that is to most properties! - let me tell you what be did. He had a place which was devastated by drought. People on all the surrounding properties said: ‘Charles Foi lot t has gone mad. How could he possibly introduce an irrigation scheme into this area?’ With an old broken down grader he graded the contours of his property. He directed the water into one major channel and ran it into a dam for what he calls his feed pens. I am not going to go into great detail on this but people can get out graphs and use computers and argue for ever and a day that something cannot be done and whilst they are doing this some fellow in the backblocks is doing it. lt would do well for Federal and State government authorities to look closely at the keyline system of irrigation, lt is a very simple process in which natural landscaping and runoff are used. A person uses trees, runoff - the whole blasted lot. I beg your pardon. Mr Deputy Speaker, but a person may have to blast. I was not being rude. This system could bc the answer to drought mitigation. However, 1 did not relate the last part of the story about this property near Winton. While others are going broke around him and are in extreme trouble - and no people are in more trouble than the third generation graziers in that area: people who pioneered the area now look as though they may have to pack their swags and walk off the land - he is buying sheep for next to nothing and fattening them in his feed pens, simply because he has used the natural resources on his land. It would do the Federal and State governments good to look at this property and to examine the possibility of providing some sort of subsidy to assist people to construct these small irrigation schemes. 1 conclude by commending the Government for accepting the Queensland Government’s priority and the splendidly prepared arguments in the case put by those people most concerned. This was a wonderful example of rural and urban co-operation. The people of Bundaberg and the farmers in the area got together and persuaded the Government to grant them the best part of Si 3m. I commend the Government for doing so.
– This is a vital debate because the Bill before the House deals with the first grant to be made under the new national water resources development programme. In his second reading speech the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) told us that this grandiosely named programme will involve about S20m a year for 5 years. Ad>’ announcement, however modest, concerning the development of our national water resources seems to bring forth a protest, perhaps exemplified earlier in this debate by the interjections of the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) who I am delighted to see has returned to the chamber. He described, in a very fervent interjection, one of the major conservation projects of the nation as a white elephant. He also described this debate as a farce because of lack of supporting data. This I will deal with, but the water protestants, as I term them, are usually victims of one of our national myths, and that is that we as a nation have spent a great deal of money in the country generally on water conservation. This is just not true. Until the advent of the Snowy scheme we had, in the 70 years since Federation, spent on all of the water projects in this nation less than we have spent on so-called defence projects in 1 year. So, in fact, as a nation we have spent very little relatively on water conservation. Yet even this proposed modest outlay will call forth - and I am sure that this Bill will, in some quarters, cell forth - some of the harshest criticism from what 1 term the suburban lobby which, of course, is to be found not only in the Parliament but among academics and many writers.
The suburban lobby adopts 2 standards, and members of it practise economic apartheid. They will spend their powers of intellect and debate to question and probe under this Bill the S 12.8m for water conservation, yet they will accept without question expenditure of 10 times that magnitude on a wide range of unproven purchases abroad for doubtful purposes at home. They will accept without question tariff protection which will not add significantly to the employment of the nation and will not cause any great saving in our export earnings or our import buying, whichever term we like to apply to them. They will accept that without great debate and with no great heat, yet the expenditure of $12. 8m on water conservation will call forth from many quarters the harshest scrutiny and the harshest criticism. I am not saying that we should run away from the demands in the House this evening or in any other section for the fullest possible examination of all the possibilities and of all the data. But I think that in relation to water confusion - Mr Deputy Speaker, I 9 id ‘confusion’ by mistake, but I might say that the confusion about water conservation in Australia has never been greater. 1 think that sums it up rather well. I said water confusion in error, but I will stand by it.
– You should know.
– 1 think 1 should know. The confusion about water conservation in Australia has never been greater. Casual critics have been calling for what they have termed a moratorium on dam construction. They have called for this without even knowing what they were saying. They fail to realise that water is a multi-purpose commodity and their narrow vision of it, in their own minds, is that it is exclusively for irrigation farmers. This is hopelessly in error. The total water projects under construction in the nation at the last date available amount to $729m. Of this amount, $432m is primarily for urban water supply. Of the $297m remaining the projects span flood control, salinity control and some existing town water supplies outside metropolitan areas. A minority portion only could be described as being purely for irrigation purposes. I might say that the men who have called for a stop to water conservation - a moratorium on dam construction as they have called it - would be the first to howl if they got up in the morning, went to their bathrooms and turned on taps which did not produce some water.
– Like the honourable member for Mallee?
– 1 am not aware what tap he turns on. Let me be quite blunt. The state of confusion of the critics of water conservation and of irrigation is perhaps best illustrated by the recent correction issued by Dr Bruce Davidson. His recent book has been hailed as a devastating attack on irrigation. It referred to the fact that existing schemes have hindered rather than helped economic development with a net national loss of at least S5,000m. This was the statement by Dr Davidson. In his correction he dramatically changed the figure of $5,000m to $748m - a minor correction. But this was the devastating attack. His book was hailed as the most trenchant criticism of irrigation, the most pertinent criticism that has been published for a whole generation, but an analysis of this work indicates that he failed to take into account vital considerations which would change entirely his figures and therefore his conclusions. I might just mention two of them without going into detail in this debate. I invite honourable members who might be interested to apply themselves to the 2 considerations that 1 intend to mention. One was in relation to some of the industries, the thermal industries for example, that he compared with the Snowy scheme. ] refer to 2 considerations, one of pollution and the other of the time factor in relation to the replacement of plant and equipment. He ignored both of these vital considerations. Of course, his conclusions are there to be examined. I suggest an academic and careful examination of these particular factors, but when this examination is undertaken it will be found that the attack on irrigation from that source failed miserably through its confusion and its inadequacy. The support for this measure must lie in the fact that it is needed to improve the efficiency and stability of a major export industry and surely this is where again the critics of irrigation fall down. They overlook the fact that Australia is export dependent. One third of Australia’s agricultural output is drawn from irrigation.
– That is not so.
– The honourable member opposite says it is not so. 1 invite him, and I understand he will follow me in this debate, to quote–
– Order! The House will come to order.
– I do not mind the tribal rock music on my left but would they please perform in another house. If I may address myself to the interjection - and I am delighted to hear it - I said that onethird of Australia’s output is drawn from and originates in irrigation. If the honourable member who interjected has any other figures I would be delighted to hear them. He has the opportunity to quote them and their source in this debate. I would be particularly pleased to have them quoted so that they can be properly exam nec
– Will you give mc your source?
– Of course I will. I will be delighted to do that. I think it will be to the benefit of all of us.
– Why do you not challenge his sources?
– The honourable member for Mallee is issuing another challenge. He has been dealt with once. I do not want you to do it again, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– I rise to order. Th s is completely untrue, like a lot of other things that have been said by the honourable member for Riverina. I said: Why does he not challenge the honourable member who interjected like he challenged me.
– 1 accept the withdrawal of the honourable member for Mallee. As I was saying in a serious vein, the export content of our agricultural and pastoral industries is 47%. This compares with 3% in the United States of America and 1 1 % in Western Europe. So we are talking about export industries to a very large degree. We are talking about the very basis of our economy. The irrigation industries of this nation happen to be the most efficient and most competitive. Yet this is the driest continent in the world. Surely we have heard that ad nauseam, like a Greek chorus of tragedy. This is the driest continent in the world, ls it not terrible, but by all means let us not do nothing about it. This great continent, of course, only irrigates a little over 3 million acres. The potential could be as high as 20 million acres depending on how we use the water and the techniques that are applied. So after 70 years of nationhood what have wo done? We have in fact irrigated a bit over 3 million acres. We have spent less than 1 year’s defence vote. Wc have no national legislation that would lead to any national water policy. We have ad hoc legislation such as that which is before the House at the present time. In this lack of national legislation wc arc 70 years behind the United States of America. Following on this, we have no national water plan, no national water authority. We have been proceeding for many years in Canberra on the cost benefit -of a vote and elections have in fact determined the desirability of development. 1 say this s not good enough for our future as a nation. 1 also refuse to apply the present criteria of economic apartheid to this or any other project. I refuse to regard water as a single purpose commodity. It should be assessed and dealt with on the basis that it is in fact a multi-purpose commodity. It should be planned as such. A project at Bundaberg should be assessed on the same basis as a project in the Riverina. The dam, the water storage should be planned, of course, for security of existing development as has been mentioned by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) when he led for the Opposition on this Bill. Certainly there should be security for existing development. But if it is a major development it should also be regarded as the basis for the creation of a new development complex, which should embrace not only primary but also secondary, tertiary and service industries. The creation of new cities is generally supported. The creation of decentralised development is generally supported. But the concepts are very rarely married together. We proceed on the basis that that is agriculture and that must be an urban development but we have not in fact in our national planning or our State planning up to the present time envisaged a bringing together of these basic ingredients for decentralisation. What an absurd thing it is to plan a national project and to have national money poured into simply one aspect alone of development.
– Are you against it?
– If the honourable member waits he will hear the answer. I wait patiently for his delivery. I suggest he wait for mine. The new concepts have to be married together. The new cities, the new towns, the new industries and the new farms should be planned and implemented together. We must look to the day when every new major water conservation project will proceed to the creation of new agri-urban complexes which will play not a part but the major part, in fact the key role, in decentralisation in our nation in the future. The properly planned exploitation of resources can mean that Bundaberg - and, after all, I can speak with some basic emotion as a Queenslander - has every right in the future to grow as far as Brisbane has with the proper utilisation of the resources of the area as the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) said earlier and to which he has pledged himself. What is wrong with that? If one is against it one joins the suburban lobby. The critics of irrigation talk exclusively about public expenditure on water conservation. The farmer enterprise in investment following the completion of a dam is immeasurably greater. Let me quote the example of a grower who has to invest $1,000 an acre to produce a 20-ton crop of onions. He bears the continuing burden of investment and all the risks. The Government through the tax collector takes the cream and the community reaps the benefit. Let me deal with the criticisms which have been made of this measure currently before the House. Surely few measures that have come before us for rural development have been more trenchantly criticised. A report which was made recently states:
The latest example of this attitude-
This is the attitude of pork barrel politics. That is not my phrase but it was the phrase used by the writer, who said:
The latest example of this attitude is the decision of the Government to gram $12.8m to Queensland for irrigation works in the Bundaberg region. The Government ignored an unfavourable report on the Queensland Government’s submission for funds by an interdepartmental committee of experts from National Development, the Treasury, Primary Industry and the Prime Minister’s Department. Other blatant examples have been the Commonwealth’s grant to the Emerald Dam and the Ord.
Then the criticism goes on to say:
As the Bundaberg quota shortfalls -
This is referring to sugar production. The article says:
As the Bundaberg quota shortfalls are easily offset by the ability of other regions to exceed their peaks the net benefit of the first stage for the nation is virtually nil. If there is a need for assisting an established area like Bundaberg then the case may rest on social service provisions.
What an extraordinary criticism in 1970 of a national development. Here you have an export industry; here you have an industry which has been encouraged by the national Government and by the State Government as the subject of considerable investment, by the farmers themselves and by the local people at a secondary level. Then when there is an obvious need to make it effective and efficient, and you do this by irrigation, surely no-one will cavil or quarrel with efficiency and effectiveness in primary production. When this comes about someone says: ‘You should not do it. The benefit1’ are virtually nil. In any case we do not wan! the production. Social services are the answer’. What a shocking approach to national development that is. Where money is needed to support a group of people who have followed a national and State lead and contributed mightily to export income for a long time, the answer to a request for supporting expenditure is: ‘No, we should not do this. We should give them social services’. What an absurd approach! They condemn people to inefficiency until they strangle themselves.
What is the purpose of this? lt is for the sake of the small sum of money which is in fact provided for in this piece of legislation. lt is a relatively small sum of money, if there is a condemnation to be made of the growing of sugar in Queensland, or the growing of any crop in any part of the nation, the condemnation lies in the lack of guidelines which should have originated in this Parliament or in the State concerned. But the people in that area have responded, as have the people in my area, to the challenges that have been posed to them by the Government that has presided over the destiny of this nation for 20 years. These people have responded very well. In fact, as was indicated in the figures which I gave earlier, they have carried the burden o! earning export income to buy the raw material that keeps the factories going and in fact makes the whole of the economy tick. This is the economics of it. If it isaid that the primary sphere is expendable. I would again invite any of the honourable members who feel that they have the dat.i to explain in a little detail how this gap which would be left if we lost our rural earnings is to be filled. The Prime Minister assessed it at 50%, and we do not always necessarily agree with him. I would like the information to be precise. If honourable members opposite say: ‘We will accept what our Prime Minister has said’, then surely to goodness let us approve of any measure which comes before us which is designed to improve efficiency or effectiveness of what is relied upon.
Of course, there is a thought that we have been concerned about. The honourable member for Dawson, who has led the Opposition on this occasion, summed it up particularly well when he moved the amendment which says that we should add the following words: the technical evaluation and any cost benefit analyses carried out by the Commonwealth for the project near Bundaberg be made available to this House.
I think this is a most desirable thing to do.
– Where does the amendment come in? After which word?
– I did not quite hear that long interjection. If the honourable member makes it a little louder, I will be delighted to deal with it.
– He does not even hear challenges.
– We can always meet. What I was about to say was that, when a demand is presented to this Parliament that a proper cost benefit analysis should be made of a project, it should not only be made, but it should be made available generally for study by members of Parliament and by members of the public. We should all stand by this proposition and we should not run away from it. I want to say now that economic reports unfavourable to Government concepts have been suppressed as a matter of course. I know myself of such reports that have been suppressed. What has been the drill? A report is called for. lt is a cost benefit analysis, lt is an assessment. It is looked at. If it does not happen to fall in with what has been decided, the idea is to call for another report. Of course, this one contains all the necessary material for the decision that the Government has already reached. What I am suggesting is that instead of suppressing or ignoring a report the various methods of approaching cost benefit analyses should he utilised and the whole of the data should be made available. This data should be regarded simply as the raw materials of decisions.
– They must have something to hide.
– That could well be. I am suggesting, of course, that if a report is suppressed or ignored support is being given to the doubts which have been cast on the developments which many of us feel are desirable in the interest of the .nation. Timid Ministers and indecisive governments tend to shy away from taking responsibility for decisions. They prefer instead to shift the blame to some unknown and unnamed economist who has been entrusted with a very simple task of analysis, which is very often based on arbitrary input data which is not his own. So what is done? The Government has a report. If it does not like it, it suppresses it and calls for another one. What in fact should be done? There should be honesty in relation to all of these projects. They should be open to the closest public scrutiny and examination. There is no magic, as my colleagues have pointed out, in cost benefit analysis. There is not just the one single approach. There are several. I know of 4 approaches which are generally acceptable. I say let us have all 4 of them. Let us examine the reports. Let us have them made. Let us have them examined in the Parliament and publicly debated.
Of course, the decision will not be made on the economic reports alone. Those reports are simply the raw material of decisions. Decisions must be made in courage by the Ministers and the Government concerned, because they are arbitrary decisions at best. There is no magic formula that can be applied. In fact, we have to get the best raw materials of decision. We examine them and say: ‘This is our decision based on an analysis of these reports’. This is the common sense approach and this is the approach which is in fact embodied in the motion here. It is a very mild motion. I am taking it a little further because I think in projects such as this we should have examined all the data. There is no need to run away from it. There is no need to suppress it. If the Minister has the courage of his convictions he should say: I have had these 4 reports. I will publish them. I have made the decision.’ I will tell the House right now that the reports will not often agree.
– Go and tell that to Wide Bay and Bundaberg and see what they will say.
– An interjector in the Country Party has said to tell it to Wide Bay. If the reports are published they will not support a ministerial decision. I would challenge him and say this: It is only one report. How many reports were made on this matter? How many methods of cost benefit studies were used? I suggest again to the musical chorus from my left that I have confidence that any major irrigation development which is soundly based will stand up following a firm ministerial decision after the fullest public examination. 1 have confidence in that proposition.
– Are you against water for Australians?
– The social benefits are matters for ministerial and government determination, ls the honourable member suggesting that we have to tamper with an economist’s report lo get a favourable decision from this Parliament and from the nation? That is what the honourable member is suggesting. I think it is ridiculous. I think it is an abdication of his responsibility. I am saying that we should call for the fullest data. We should publish it and we should examine it.
– lt is already here. Why can you not read it?
– J have read some of the conflicting reports. I might say that there is conflicting evidence among the economists themselves, ls the honourable member suggesting that they are unanimous? Of course they are not. They have not even made up their minds whether we should apply a rate of discount or whether we should apply an interest rate to any national project, as that decision is a government decision. I might say that the people of Bundaberg are getting something which we have supported and which my colleagues from Queensland have spoken for and agitated for. If honourable members are trying to suggest that the people of Bundaberg, with the scheme that is before the Parliament tonight, would not be able to progress except by the suppression of reports, I say that they are wrong.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! I ask that all interjections cease and that the honourable member for Riverina stop provoking the Country Party.
– Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. I always enjoy the interjections from my left although sometimes I feel that they are on my right. In summation I want to say that the need for irrigation for Australia has been demonstrated by the facts that I presented to the
Parliament. If the honourable members in the corner are unable to understand the figures which I have quoted then I commend them to Hansard. I say very sincerely that from now until the year 2000 - I will not undertake projections beyond that date - our rural exports will be half our national export income. To make them viable - or, to use a popular term, economic - means that we have to base them on irrigation as far as possible. Water will be the limiting factor in national development. To use it properly national planning is needed. If we proceed further from this point without national water planning, without national legislation, and if the cost benefit of a vote is to be the only guiding factor, then we are not going to make the progress as a nation that we should make if we are to hand it on in a reasonable condition to the children who will follow us.
The implications of this measure go far beyond the people of Bundaberg. I hope that the debate tonight and the amendment, modest as it is, will mark a turning point in our approach to water conservation. We do not have to apologise for it. We have to deal with it in a rational and integrated way. We are not doing that at the moment. Our failure to do so does a grave disservice to the nation, to projects such as this and to industries for which we have a responsibility at this time.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
Mr TURNER (Bradfield) (9.52]- This debate seems to revolve around the exclamation: ‘Water be dammed!’ I seem to have been mentioned in the course of the debate on several occasions and that is the reason and the only reason why I am speaking tonight. T find myself once again in the role of the devil’s advocate. The devil has no friends here except me. It is right that in a debate of this kind the other side should at least be put. I find myself once again in that lonely role. May I say at once that I am not unaccustomed to loneliness. I was the only member of this House on either side who voted against the Ord River scheme. I believe that my judgment has been amply and absolutely justified, as anybody who has studied the economics of that scheme and its history will know. On the other hand, my colleagues on this side of the House are all on the side of the angels and, like angels, they have taken to their wings and most of them have departed. Nevertheless the Country Party is here and I shall have a word or two to say about its attitude in due course.
The former Minister for National Development, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn), made some sneering references to me. It is this that has brought me to my feet tonight. He said that the only two people who took the view that I am taking tonight are Dr B. R. Davidson and myself. T find myself in exceedingly good company, despite the futile and unsuccessful attempt by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) to refute Dr Davidson. I find myself in the best of company with him. The honourable member for Farrer thought fit to sneer at niland talk about my support for spending money on the Eastern Suburbs Railway and the Sydney Opera House. Let us look at this for a moment. I suggest that the Opera House will give as much pleasure and more to far more people than a water supply at Bundaberg, if we are thinking about the quality of life. My friends of the Country Party laugh. Their feet are firmly in the dung of the farmyard; they are really right on the ground. If one is looking at the quality of life and the pleasure that can be given to many people then the Opera House may well stand with a water supply in Bundaberg. But let that pass.
My friend the honourable member for Farrer referred to the Eastern Suburbs Railway. Let me draw a distinction between that particular public work and, say, the Bundaberg irrigation scheme or any irrigation scheme in Australia. The Eastern Suburbs Railway will have many passengers who will pay fares. It will be an economic proposition. It will pay interest on the capital expenditure. Let us be quite clear that this is a paying capital work. I ask: What happens in regard to irrigation schemes? We all know that the head works of irrigation schemes are provided free of charge to the farmers who benefit from them. They are provided free of charge by hundreds of thousands of taxpayers in Australia. That is a fairly clear distinction between the Eastern Suburbs Railway, an economic proposition, and the Bundaberg or other schemes where the taxpayers provide the head works free of charge for the farmers who benefit from them.
J will not go beyond that except to say that the honourable member for Farrer has convinced me from his speech tonight and his sneers at me that his resignation from the portfolio of National Development was an excellent thing for this country. The Bundaberg scheme which concerns us tonight was promised in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton).
– It was not. He refused to say that the Government would do it until after the election. Get your facts straight.
– I was under the impression that it was promised in connection with the election.
– Mr McEwen promised it.
– It was the Leader of the Country Party. That is a distinction without a very great: difference, lt was promised by the Leader of the Country Party. Let us pass over that slight difference. It was promised at the time of the election by the Leader of the Country Party, who certainly spoke for the Government on that occasion as on many other occasions. I ask: What is the attitude of the Australian Labor Party to the Bill that has been promised by the Leader of the Country Party for the Government, and what is the attitude of the Australian Country Party? They are equivocal and rather interesting. The amendment which I have in my hand states:
That all the words after That* be omitted wilh a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: the technical evaluation and any cost benefit analyses carried out by the Commonwealth for the project near Bundaberg be made available to this House.’
The motion before the House is that this Bill be read a second time. So the Opposition is saying that the Bill should not be read a second time; all it wants to do is to look at the cost benefit analyses. Is the Opposition for the Bill or is it not? In any case, what is the real meaning of the amendment? I suggest that this is a piece of political jiggery-pokery and nothing else.
– Hear, hear.
– The honourable member who has just interjected is nothing if not a realist. I am glad to have his support for the statement I have just made. The Labor altitude, as I was saying, is equivocal, and it is based on sheer politics. What it is trying to say is this: ‘If anybody wants a dam anywhere, we are their friends. We will have a look at the Bundaberg scheme. We may be for it; we may be against it. But, friends everywhere throughout Australia who want a dam, we may turn down the Bundaberg one and select yours instead.’ I have no intention of voting for an amendment that is completely phony, and I believe I have exposed that precisely.
We have had great advocacy by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), who comes from the coast of Queensland in the vicinity of Bundaberg. Of course he had support from the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) and from the honourable member for Riverina. I do not know what (he honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), who interjected, thinks about this. He should be a member of the suburban lobby. What he thinks of his friends in (he country lobby - there is more than one lobby in this place - I do nol know. I hope he will tell us. The honourable member for Riverina, in a speech that was replete wilh every kind of generalisation and every kind of demagogic appeal, was completely lacking in substance. He referred to urban water supplies. What a terrible thing it would be if a suburban member woke up and found there was no water coming from the tap. Let me draw the distinction I have already drawn, because repetition is necessary to drive an idea into the minds of honourable members opposite. The suburban water supply I get in Sydney I pay for. lt is an economic scheme. There is no gift to me from the taxpayer in the water 1 get. But as I have already pointed out - and I repeat - the water supply for irrigation purposes is not paid for by the people using it. The honourable member for Riverina can quibble that they pay some small fee for the reticulation of it but the headworks, the major expenditure, the enormously high proportion of the cost of these schemes, is provided free of charge by the taxpayers for the people in the irrigation areas. Urban supplies are paid- for in full by the consumers. I draw that fairly simple distinction. I hope I have driven it into some thick heads here.
The honourable member for Riverina poured scorn on Dr Davidson. He is the honourable member representing the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. We may test his bona fides by this circumstance. He represents the people of that area. Of course he is an advocate for them, but nobody believes that he is impartial or objective. Dr Davidson, on the other hand, is a lecturer at the University of Sydney and has no reason to support the people of the Murhumbidgee Irrigation Area or any other irrigation area.
– I rise to order. The honourable member constantly refers to the honourable member for Riverina opposing Dr Davidson. He supported Dr Davidson.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order! There is no valid point of order.
– As I said earlier, it is difficult to drive a few simple ideas into thick heads, and I repeat it. Let us pass on and have a brief look at the Bundaberg scheme. 1 am mainly concerned with the general principles involved in this matter. What is it really all about? The Commonwealth is to provide SI 2.8m and the Queensland Government $8. 3m. That is a total of about $20m. But this figure is not the true cost. This is for only some of the works. The cost of .the total works when completed will amount not to a mere $ 12.8m provided by the Commonwealth nor even to the $20m supplied by the Commonwealth and the State. In the long run the scheme is estimated to cost S47m. Nearly $50m is going into this scheme. The honourable member for Riverina said th:s is a bagatelle. I dare say that when we consider what has been spent in the Mumimbidgee Irrigation Area it is a bagatelle - but not to the taxpayers of this country, who are clamouring for many other things besides water conservation and irrigation. What is this expenditure to do? Tt is to provide irrigation for about 1,450 farms and some augmentation of the water supply to the town of Bundaberg. Irrigation for. 1,450 farmers to cost $47m! This is a fair round sum per farm when the total of $50m is divided by the 1,450 farms affected.
Originally the farmers were given dry farms, not irrigated, and they were given larger areas because it was not irrigated. It was realised that to grow a quota of sugar they needed an extra area because the land was not irrigated. What is the posit;on of the sugar markets round the world?
– Very good at present.
– The honourable member says they are very good at present. I will say a few words about the past and future as well as the present. Nobody, not even the honourable member for Riverina, the honourable member for Dawson or any member of the Australian Country Party, has suggested that this land is to be used for anything but sugar. So what is the position of the sugar market? There has been a trend towards self-sufficiency in sugar by importing countries in recent years. The British Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, under which we sell at a very satisfactory price, ends in about two or three years. If Britain by that time is in the European Common Market and buying sugar made from beet on the continent of Europe, the highly desirable British market will disappear or will be enormously reduced. Then there is the United States Sugar Act. The United States had a quarrel with a gentleman called Castro of Cuba some time ago. At that time Queensland vastly increased the production of sugar presumably either in the belief that the new market would last indefinitely into the future or in the equally likely belief that the Australian taxpayer would pay the losses of the sugar industry, forever. After all, it had some reason to think so. As to the International Sugar Agreement, the countries of the European Economic Community did not sign it.
The costs of sugar to the Australian consumer, because of what we might call a tax upon the consumer, is enormous. The more we grow, the more it costs the Australian consumer as a kind of taxpayer, if you like. We have been told that unless we implement this scheme we will lose so much sugar production. Yes, and look at the extra price for sugar that the Australian consumer will pay. It is true, as the honourable member for Riverina said, that we need export income. We need the foreign exchange we earn from exports. He nods his head. He nearly nodded it off. We may pay a high or low price for the foreign exchange we earn from our exports. For $1 of foreign exchange we may have to pay $2 if we earn it by means of sugar exports. We may have to pay only $1.20 if we get it by some other more economic means. So we have to look at the cost of gaining $1 of export income. Sugar represents the least economic of all ways df gaining exchange through exports. I have here a table that was supplied to me by the Parliamentary Library, lt sets out the type of arrangement under which Australia sells sugar, the percentage of production of that type and the average price per long ton of raw sugar. Domestic sales represent 23% of production. Only 25%! The average price per long ton of sugar for domestic consumption is $140. The sales at a negotiated price - that would be with the United Kingdom and the United States - are 25% of production, and the average price per long lon is $100. Free world sales represent 50% of production - and increasing with the Bundaberg scheme - and the price is $60 per long ton. So the prospects for the sale of this additional sugar that is to be produced are. to say the least, pretty dismal.
Now I come to the information supplied to this House in regard to a cost benefit study of this scheme. None has been supplied to this House. Some weeks ago I tried to get a cost benefit study from the Parliamentary Library. I was told that it had none. The best that it could do was to give me some sugar producers journal in which there was said to be some kind of summary of a report that had been made by the Queensland Government. This summary set out only matters that were of interest to the producers, such as how much water they were going to get, how much it would cost them, how many acres would be irrigated, and things of that kind. There was nothing there to enable members of this House to see how many farms would be irrigated: what that would cost: and what was the value of production from the farmers.
– I will lend the honourable member this document afterwards.
– My friend had something here. Oh, yes. later I got one. But this is the trouble-
– We have not.
– That is quite true. The honourable member would not have a copy. Honourable members would not have copies. Copies were made available to members of the Queensland Parliament, no doubt Country Party colleagues of our friends in the corner. Not only that, but I believe that there were 2 reports. One was provided to the Commonwealth. I understand that the proposition was then turned down. A subsequent report was made which no doubt was more encouraging. 1 do not know which was the report that 1 finally got. But let us pass over that. 1 have quoted before, and I quote again, a paragraph from the report of the Committee of Economic Inquiry, known as the Vernon Committee. In paragraph 17.73, the Vernon Committee said:
We think . . . that there would he merit in the establishment of a Special Projects Commission, or some such body, willi the power lo investigate proposals for major development projects, wherever they are located, to advise governments on them, and to publish its findings.
I wish to emphasise those words. I want to underline them; put them in italics; and write them in big letters: . . and to publish its findings.
– What is wrong with that?
– There is everything right with it. The Vernon Committee continues:
Such a body, if given sufficient powers and adequately .staffed, could do much both lo enlighten the public and to assist governments in arriving at the most informed decisions possible.
Al this point, we can roll out the pork barrel that the honourable member for Riverina brought in. As I understood his long winded explanation of the criteria that would be applied, it was that we should not take loo much notice of boffins. We can read what they said but, in the end, a person should form his own judgment. 1 read that as meaning: ‘Then we roll out the pork barrel’. That is the final criterion. Away with the boffins; roll out the pork barrel. That is as I understood the honourable gentleman.
Now, if I may, I wish to make some brief comments on one or two speeches that I have heard. The honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) referred to the benefit from taxation derived from the growing of more sugar in Bundaberg. He said that this was a great asset. If the honourable gentleman had read Dr Davidson’s book - this, of course, would be highly subversive as far as members of the Country Party were concerned - he would have appreciated the point that was therein made that if a similar amount of money was expended in another and more economic industry, as much, or more, will be derived from more taxation from that more economic investment of capital than would be derived by investing that capital in something like more sugar in Bundaberg. So, that argument falls flat on its face.
Then, I think the honourable member for Riverina referred to droughts. Once again, anybody who has read Dr Davidson’s book - and I commend it to honourable members-
– Yes, I think the honourable member should.
– Yes. Anybody who has read that book will realise that where water storages have been installed, as on the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area - I think he instanced it - the incidence of drought has been greater than elsewhere because people who run cattle are inclined to fatten them or to use the produce of the irrigation area to fatten them so that more cattle are there to be looked after and, when the drought comes, they die from thirst.
– But that did not happen.
– Oh, well, this is merely the honourable member’s assertion. I prefer the academic. No matter how much scorn is poured . upon academics, they are impartial to the partisan argument of the honourable member for Riverina who represents an irrigation area. But this is just a matter of preference.
I wish to make a few positive comments here. Who does the Opposition think it is helping, and who do members on this side of the House think they are helping, by supporting the investment of taxpayers’ money in non-economic industries? If this money were invested in economic industries - if it were invested for example in restructuring some of the primary industries like dairying which badly need it - I would agree wholeheartedly with this move. But no good is being done by simply wasting money by bolstering up declining industries, whether it be the sugar industry, the dairy industry, or whatever it may be. I support wholeheartedly - 1 have no objection; none whatever - the expenditure of public money on making industries viable by restructuring and by a variety of other means.
I would be wholeheartedly behind a study, for instance, of the economics of transport and handling as they affect the wool industry. I would be wholeheartedly behind helping people who are in uneconomic industries on the land to get out of them or to use their land for some other purpose that is likely to be more economic. T would be glad to help them with regard to housing if they must move from their present holdings somewhere else. I would be glad to help them in retraining for some other job. I would be glad to help with social services where necessary to tide them over the interim period when they are becoming established in some other form of production. These are good things’. But the more money is wasted by putting it into declining industry the less money is available to spend on the real things that ought to bc being done in rural industries.
This is the positive approach that we have failed to make on either side of this Parliament to the rural industries. This is positive. It might indeed mean spending more money; but the results would be worthwhile. If we continue to bolster declining industries’ and not to develop economic industries, the economy must to that extent be weakened. I am not one-eyed about this matter. I am not saying that this ought to be done only in the primary industries. I have attacked also the policy of bolstering up uneconomic secondary industries.
– This is the first time we have heard that.
– If it is, the honourable member was not listening or maybe he was not here. I had a few words to say a little while ago about hot water bags, for example.
– That is true.
– That is the truth. I am quite even handed about this. I believe that this country cannot survive unless our industries, primary and secondary, are made more efficient. At present, we are sailing along gaily because it happens that countries like Japan are happy to use Australia as a quarry.
– That is right; true again.
– Yes. that is right. But if we are to develop the industries based on metals, we have to do a lot more than dishing out money to bolster declining industries without changing those industries or making them economic. If we waste money in this way, we shall not be able to build a strong economy. We shall not be able to develop and defend this country. Indeed, I. believe that our very survival depends upon our looking at our primary and secondary industries with a very cold and critical eye and making them efficient. I believe that anybody who fails in this task is failing not only his party and his electorate but also Australia. This is a serious charge to make. I am sorry that it has to be made by the advocate of the Devil, because there are so many on the side of the angels on both sides of this House; we should find some more Devils.
Just by way of conclusion, I state that 1 listened, as I always do, with great interest and enjoyment to the speech of the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter). He told us how this Bundaberg scheme was the result of petitions - in other words, pressure groups. He referred to humanitarian aspects.
– That is right.
-1- Wei I. he says that that is right, lt is quite right. He could not refer to economic aspects. He was very wise’ to steer clear of any attempt to justify this scheme on economic grounds. He spoke of the humanitarian aspect. 1 wish to say this: I do not deny the humanitarian aspect. I do not deny this. Having got ourselves into the fix that we are in at Bundaberg we will probably now have to go ahead with the scheme. I speak tonight not with a view to voting against the Bundaberg scheme; I speak on a matter of principle. I said at the beginning of my speech that I was not unduly concerned about the scheme, but in the future, for heaven’s sake let us not continue to foster uneconomic production. Let us hear no more about expanding sugar production. Let us hear no more about expanding dairying production as we have heard from that successful warrior in Victoria who has a scheme for developing more dairies in his State.
May I say something in conclusion about the role of the State in this matter, lt has been said that the principle that the States come up with the proposals . that they consider have first priority, and who are we in this Parliament to question the recommendations that a State may make? Let me say this: If something is done well let it still be done by those who do it: but if it is. done badly I think we must look at it with a critical eye and say: Is this the best way to do this thing? If the State has come up, as Western Australia did with the Ord scheme - a patent white elephant and a failure if ever there was one, 8 1 00m down the drain because there was an election in Western Australia - with the Bundaberg scheme just because some member is in trouble in the Bundaberg area, and if we continue always to apply the old pork barrel politics in this way then I think the question must arise in any unbiased mind - and I: am afraid there are not many here - is this the best way to decide upon projects, that is to accept the recommendations of the States. Before we accept the recommendations of States we should have cost benefit studies and the studies should be publicised, so that if the projects are phony or if they are for political purposes only, then because of the publicity the whole world will see that they are phoney, that they are political, that they are a waste of public money which is needed for a score of other things with infinitely higher priority, whether in regard to rural industries, education or whatever it may be. If we are to establish a firm economy it must be done on the basis of secondary industries, and education and science have an enormous part to play in this. That is national development. That, is the kind of national development that will make this country strong. We will not become strong by sponsoring schemes to bolster uneconomic primary industries.
Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) [10.231-1 have very much pleasure indeed in supporting the Bill and in opposing the amendment that has been moved by the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). Before I proceed with a summary of my view of this scheme I would like to make some comments about some of the remarks made in the course of this debate. Firstly I would like to say that although this does not happen very often I do on this occasion agree with some of the comments of the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner). I agree with him when he said that the amendment would defeat the Bill. He put this very clearly and I was surprised to hear him receive some support from the other side of the House.
– The amendment does not defeat the Bill.
– ft does defeat the Bill. It reads:
That all words after That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof:
All you have left is the amendment in these words: the technical evaluation and any cost benefit analyses carried out by the Commonwealth for the project near Bundaberg be made available to this House’.
The Bill therefore goes, and that amendment will be in lieu of the Bill. This is the amendment proposed and supported by the Australian Labor Party. It is quite obvious that it will defeat the Bill. I agree with the honourable member for Bradfield who summed up very well indeed. There are one or two other comments about which I agree with him. I agree with his desire to see primary industries made efficient. I think that this is a good objective. But where the honourable member for Bradfield got off the line was in his assessment of what was going lo be achieved by this project. In point of fact this scheme is designed for the very purpose of making the growing of sugar in the Bundaberg district efficient and profitable. This scheme will stand up to an economic investigation despite what the honourable member said. In a very kindly way I want to draw his attention to the fact that this scheme docs not increase the production of sugar because the level of production is already set out in assignments and by the whole system of sugar production. What this scheme will do is to secure the production of the sugar that is already allocated to that area.
– The full quota.
– It allows the full quota to be produced.
– What about the increase in sugar production?
– It increases it only to the amount that Australia is expected or is allowed to produce. In point of fact the sugar industry is quite profitable. It is necessary to have a sugar industry in the whole area of the north of Queensland to enable the full utilisation of the land and to support the population in that area and cater for all the extra benefits that go with intensive agricultural .production. I want to refer to some of the remarks made by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). His speech was one of the strongest condemnations made tonight of the amendment although in fact he said he supported it. In some of his comments nc said that one could get a cost benefit analysis and if one did not like it simply scrap it and get another to suit the occasion. If he gets the cost benefit analysis that is asked for in this amendment he can scrap it and get another one that he likes. Furthermore, he said that decisions should not be made on these analyses alone. I agree with the assessment of the honourable member for Bradfield on this matter. He assessed it quite well. He said there is no magic formula. That was another one of his statements. The honourable member for Riverina went on with great flights of fancy about the development of irrigation and- what it will achieve but he was well away from this project and although I would hope some of those things might in time come true they have very little relationship to the Bill now before the House.
I now want to deal with the Summary of a Report on Water Conservation. Underground Water Supplies and Irrigation. The actual report was handed out to members of the Government Members National Development Committee.
– What about the Parliament?
– People from the Bundaberg and District Irrigation Committee came down and put their case to the members of the National Development Committee. If anyone in this House wanted to inquire into what was’ going on I am quite sure the Committee would have been very happy to have supplied the information.
Copies of the report were given to members of the Committee.
– You were privileged people.
– It was not that we were privileged people at all. Those people presented this to us in furtherance of their case. However, if there is to be a cost benefit analysis I am not against this at all; I would go along with the idea of having it. But 1 point out that this scheme was given No. 1 priority by the Queensland Government. If there are people in this House who want to disparage the Queensland Government then I am not one of them. 1 believe the Queensland Government has made a very good assessment of the projects in that State. There is no reason why it should not have done so. It has the whole State to consider and there still remain to be completed the Burdekin and Border Rivers projects which were mentioned by the honourable member for Dawson. But in their order of priority they were given an assessment by the Queensland Government and I believe that there was a very careful and comprehensive cost benefit analysis made of all the projects. If 1 am wrong then we have not had any evidence of it here in this place. Anyone interested in it could have obtained the information from the Queensland Government or they could have got it from someone in the Bundaberg area. I want to quote from this report about which I have been speaking. The foreword was written by Mr Ben Anderson who is the Chairman of this organisation. He is a great Queenslander. I commend him and his committee for the work they did in producing this document. It states:
This joint report compiled by the Department of Primary Industries-
Honourable members should listen to this ; and the Irrigation and Water Supply Commission and presented to the Ministers of the respective departments supersedes a previous report that was released in December 1966.
Can anyone suggest that attempts were made to hide this report when it was presented to the Ministers in the State House? Surely the report had to go there in order for the project to receive a priority for consideration bv the Commonwealth Government. Even if there was need of further information for the House this scheme should not be condemned. The foreword continues:
The thoroughness of the survey covering the Bundaberg Region must satisfy the Lower Burnett Community as it realises upon examination how well all phases of the major irrigation scheme have been investigated and the conclusion whereby the report declares “That there is a significant degree of urgency for provision of the Stage 1 of the Bundaberg Irrigation Scheme.
I repeat that the Queensland Government has approved the scheme and has given it No. I priority and has approached this Government for finance to implement it. The attitude of the Commonwealth to Queensland’s approach to the scheme is allimportant. These people did their very best. That is why they came to Canberra and presented this document to the members of the Government Members National Development Committee.
– The select few.
– They could hardly go round to every honourable member. I am supporting the scheme and I congratulate the people who went so far as to provide the members of that Committee with this report. There may be some criticism about the information available. Honourable members opposite say they have not got all the information they would like. We have been dealing with these schemes for quite a long time. People really - interested in the scheme could have obtained the information they wanted if they had made a reasonable effort to get it.
– I rise to a point of order. For the last 5 minutes the honourable member for Maranoa has been criticising the Opposition for the amendment it has moved. The amendment quite clearly uses the word Commonwealth’, not ‘State’.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! There is no point of order involved.
– In the foreword the Committee slates:
Water, in great quantities is absolutely essentia! for this otherwise well developed area.
This point was conceded by the honourable member for Dawson. He said that the area needed only a supply of water and that it had everything else. Therefore this project is much more economic than it would be otherwise. Again, he made the point - to give him credit where it is due - that this would he a much more economic proposition than embarking on something entirely new. The foreword continued: lt is the one commodity needed to guarantee constant production and without it a rising population cannot enjoy the natural desire to develop a wonderful piece of a great Continent to the full.
I now want to refer to a publication called the ‘Australian’. Some honourable members who are not always in favour of irrigation schemes might think that this is a reasonably good newspaper to read. An article in the ‘Australian’ stated:
The sugar industry provides the basis of prosperity for the Bundaberg district - and water is the basis of prosperity for the sugar industry.
Without sugar, Bundaberg could not remain one of Queensland’s major provincial citied and support a district population of 45,000-
Is this not a worthwhile aim? I am sure it is. I would like to know who thinks that this is not a worthwhile aim. The article continues: and without water the sugar industry cannot remain economically secure.
It’s a simple equation, but it sums up the situation in the Bundaberg district which last year was hit by its third severe drought in 6 years.
Yet honourable members talk about years in which we can dry farm. The report continues:
In a normal year - if: there is such a thing in the Bundaberg sugar industry - the district can earn about $34 million from a peak nf 341,000 tons. But sugar production last year was well below peak and the return from 212,000 tons was only $21 million.
Simple arithmetic shows that there was a loss there alone of some $13m. That would be the cost of th:s scheme, as pointed out by my colleague the right honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann). I would like to read a little more of this article. It continues:
In the three severe droughts .since 1964, it is estimated that the Bundaberg sugar industry lost $32 million because of below peak production.
These figures are not from some biased source, as people like lo suggest sometimes. They were published in the ‘Australian’ of 21st May, which is not so long ago. They are fairly recent figures. I could quote a great deal more from th s fairly full article. While this irrigation scheme is designed primarily for sugar I want to take up the argument about whether anything else is involved. Critics said that nothing else was involved but I interjected and said that something else was involved. This article states:
While the irrigation scheme is designed primarily for sugar it will also help other agriculture. A substantial tobacco industry, worth $1 million a year, and bean growing should gain greater stability.
For a start about 30,000 acres of irrigated land could be used to grow additional small crops, but sugar industry leaders expect all available land to be growing sugar by the end of the century.
This statement just goes to show the necessity for schemes such as this. Anyone who argues against them in the light of those figures and other figures I could quote is not trying to promote the essential decentralisation that this country so sorely needs. We in Queensland are very proud of what has been achieved in this direction, lt could be claimed (hat what I now propose to quote is biased. I used the ‘Australian’ article particularly because that claim could not be made about it. I want to refer to remarks made by the Secretary of the Bundaberg District Cane Growers Executive. He said:
The scheme is economically justified. The number of 1,458 assignments given security, increased efficiency and volume of production makes it unique in the State lo dale in the ratio of farms served lo capital cost. 1 believe that the evidence is irrefutable. The need for this scheme, its economic, soundness and its potential for keeping a district such as Bundaberg viable and prosperous is undoubted. We heard honourable members speak about the. need for railways and other things. I want to refer now to the value of this scheme. apart from sugar production and (he production of other agricultural products. Bundaberg needs this water. Bundaberg at present obtains its water from underground sources mainly on the south side of the Burnett River. The report states:
During 1964 and 1965 there was considerable difficulty in maintaining a satisfactory supply from this source due lo the fall in the water table level. This fall was a result of the high demand for irrigation water in the area east of the North Coast railway and (he lack of replenishment lo withstand this demand.
Il is estimated that the present safe yield from me area supplying the city may only be 4,000 acre feet per annum, but even this would he in jeopardy should the continued high rale of pumping result in further lowering of the ground water table.
With the increasing demand for’ domestic and industrial supplies to the city, it is imperative that the present supply be supplemented from surface water sources.
So there are many aspects of this scheme conveniently overlooked or disregarded by its opponents. Because this project has been condemned oh the ground of economics, I want again to quote from this publication. I do not propose to refer to ali pf the many figures supplied in support of the scheme but will select a few. The value of the shortfalls in the 2 successive years 1964 and 196S at the respective overall prices received reached the staggering total of $18,776,000, about 40% of the capital cost of the stage 1 development of the proposed irrigation project. I am indebted to the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) for arranging a trip to this area. The people were anxious to show the capacity of the district. They certainly were not hiding it. The honourable member for Kennedy arranged the trip that he talked about in the course of his speech, and I was very much impressed by the need for the scheme. I was happy to see, as he was, some members of the Australian Labor Party taking part in the trip.
Turning to direct losses, I think’ the honourable member for Kennedy quoted some $5m. There are perhaps a few other items in the figure that I will quote. The average annual drought loss is $5im. This figure is made up by a region sugar production loss of $4,432,000, increased milling costs of $1,033,000, loss of road transport fees of $31,300 and loss of harbour dues of $64,700. This makes a total o $5,561,000. When we look at the annual loss than can be saved by this project it stands beyond any doubt as being very well worth while. I repeat that this scheme is being carried out in an area that is already well developed. In addition to that there are secondary effects. Here again, I think mention has been made that loss of production on farms has a very direct effect on other activities in or directly related to th: sugar industry throughout the district. Ir terms of gross value of production the sugar industry requires a higher labour force for harvesting and processing at area level than do most other primary industries. The sugar industry is a very valuable source of employment. Consequently, any decline i:i productivity as a result of drought can have severe social and economic consequences for the region. As my friend the honourable member for Kennedy said, there is a humanitarian aspect to this. The honourable member for Bradfield was good enough to go along with ‘ that. He was prepared to agree that this was a worthwhile attitude to take.
While losses .in the field cannot be evaluated precisely in economic terms, the local average annual production loss was $4,432,000 - this was the figure I quoted before. The loss of $8,776,000 during the 1964-65 drought is obviously high.. It was estimated by the ANZ Bank that direct losses in wages by some 3,200 employees on farms and in mills during the 1965 harvest season amounted to some $3m. Arguments will be used to show that these people could have been employed somewhere else. But we have to promote development. We have the responsibility and the duty to promote the development of every part of this Commonwealth that we can. It is very easy to see the expansion of our capital cities. We know that they are selfgenerating. But we have the responsibility to promote the development of other areas. This is one way in which development can be carried out. I must say - that it is a surprise to me to find there would be anyone with a full knowledge and understanding of the great value of this scheme who would be in opposition to it.
I would like to. make one or two other points from the document I have referred to. I want to refer to the comparative returns from dry land and irrigated farms with total gross assignments of 75 acres. In the first instance I want to refer to the situation where the area irrigated from that 75 acres was only 39 acres as against 49 acres in dryland areas. With crops grown under dryland farm conditions - and 49 acres, I understand, is the maximum that can be continuously used from the area - the difference amounted to a benefit of some $949 in favour of the irrigated area after allowing for all of the costs of production - the extra cost of production that would have to be included. I will not quote all of the figures in this report. However, when we go on further to a greater degree of irrigation - and this is what we hope to achieve - when some 56 acres out of 75 can be irrigated, the advantage then shows up as no less than $3,130. This is a typical case of a farm that grows an assignment of 75 acres. Therefore, when we see the figures of production that can be achieved - and I have quoted only the benefit that can be obtained by irrigation - the tremendous value of the scheme to the sugar industry can be appreciated! I have figures on the value of the sugar industry generally which I probably will not have time to quote tonight. In debating this Bill I want to try to keep to the Bundaberg area. I wish to refer briefly to a few of the benefits that will be derived from this scheme, with security of production as a result of irrigation. They are set out in the report as follows:
If that is what the honourable member for Bradfield was referring to, he would be right. There will be an increase in production up to the quota, but it is soundly an- ticipated that there will bc a market for this production. We will not be producing something that cannot be marketed. The report goes on to refer to the benefits as follows:
Who was talking about efficiency? This is the way it should be done. The report continues:
The more consistent and increased produclion would ensure more efficient use of land, plant, mills,’ transport and other facilities, all ‘geared’ for peak production.
There would be full utilisation of everything concerned with the industry. The third benefit is set out in the report as follows:
I think my colleague the honourable member for Kennedy referred to that period of drought. Other benefits would be:
I emphasise the words ‘when market conditions permit*. Here I agree with the honourable member for Dawson that there will be an increase in the amount allowed for Australian production under the International Sugar Agreement. Let me add that if we let our production fall we will not have the same claim for a continued increase in our production. Other benefits set out in the report are:
A high degree of economy inherent in expansion of production above existing neales since it would result from: more intensive use of existing lands: . (b) in the second stage from intensive use of mainly undeveloped lands within the general area required to be served by the works;
Elimination of frequent shortfalls which by reducing supplies available for export could, in the long term, provide opportunities for other countries to take over established contracts.
I mentioned that earlier, and it is true -
Do we want any more than that to justify the scheme? I am sure that we do not. Let me refer to the efforts that have been made by the people concerned to provide the relevant information. If some people did not receive it I can say that the people concerned did their utmost to provide it. They submitted it to the Queensland Government. They did not want to hide it. They stand on it, and they are justified in standing on it. I have very much pleasure in supporting the Bill.
– I desire to take up only a small amount of the time of the House tonight. It will not take me very long to disprove the arguments that have been put forward by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), who has just resumed his seat.
– How modest can you bc?
– The modest member of Parliament who writes in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ is not on this side of the House. I rise to support the amendment which reads:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted wilh a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: ‘the technical evaluation and any cost benefit analyses carried out by the Commonwealth for the project near Bundaberg be made available to this House’.
The honourable member who has just resumed his seat and who is about to leave the chamber quoted extensively from a document which, I understand he admitted to the House, in fact was made available only to members of the Government parties. This is . the very point on which we members on this side of the House were critical during another debate that took place here this afternoon. We are expected to vote in this chamber on matters involving the expenditure of many millions of dollars with our heads completely in the sand, as far as the Government is concerned.’ The Government has had some studies made of this project and of other projects. Indeed, on some other projects it has changed its mind from1 time’ to time. I instance, of course, the Chowilla arid Dartmouth Dams. When we asked for reports oh those projects to be made available we were told that we were attempting to defeat the legislation. The whole approach of the Government is quite dishonest. The whole approach of the Government to water conservation is quite dishonest.
– Mr Speaker, I rise to order. I object to the phrase used by the honourable member for Sturt when he said that the Government’s attitude was dishonest.
Mi SPEAKER-Order! There is no point of order.
– I say dishonest because honourable members opposite look at these matters from the , viewpoint of party quorums and party politics.
– We have not got faceless men.
– Seeing that the honourable member for Angas-
-Order! I would suggest that the honourable member for Angas cease interjecting. He has just come into the chamber. I suggest that the honourable member for Sturt apply himself to the Bill and not to the honourable member for Angas.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. 1 say dishonest because of the fact that members opposite do not look upon a water conservation programme for any purpose other than to see how it may benefit them by returning members of their parties to the Treasury bench. Let me digress a little and pursue the matter of the Chowilla Dam. If time permitted 1 would be happy to read the 14 points and facts about Chowilla that were put out by the Liberal Party some years ago and which were supported by honourable members opposite and relate them to what has happened to that project. If I did this it would be clear that my description of the Government a few minutes ago is apt. If members of the Opposition were wrong in respect of Chowilla and Dartmouth how in the name of goodness can we be wrong tonight? If honourable members cast their minds back to the debate on the Dartmouth Dam they will recall that the Government said that it had changed its mind about the Chowilla Dam because of differences in analyses of costs and other technical matters’ which we had demanded to see and were refused. We will be consistent now by continuing to demand any analyses that have been made of any projects.
During the debate this afternoon and this evening almost every possible aspect of Government policy, from education to, occasionally, water conservation, has intruded. There has been no approach by members of the Government on a nat onal basis to the problem of water conservation - no approach whereby State boundaries have been disregarded and consideration has been given to watersheds anywhere in the Commonwealth that could benefit the citizens of the Commonwealth. I would imagine that there is just as much water racing to the sea from the Moonbi Ranges area adjacent to Coffs Harbour as raced to the sea from the Snowy River before that project was initiated. The Commonwealth Government must be aware of this fact but nothing has been said about any study being made of that particular area although there is a continual flood problem between that area of the Great Dividing Range and the coast, lt could well be that a study of this area would reveal that quite a considerable head of water could be diverted to the Darling River and into the Murray River complex, lt ought to be the policy of the Government and an undertaking of the Government to look at regions such as this. Honourable members may say as much as they like about the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, but South Australia was an absolute loser in regard to the whole project. It cannot be denied that South Australia was an absolute loser. 1 wish to say something else about the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, which is about lo be bombed out of existence. A Bill lo this effect will be introduced in the House shortly. Some honourable members opposite who took part in the debate today have had the effrontery to stand up and say what the Commonwealth Government should do in regard to water conservation. They have also had the hide to mention what the Authority may be able to do. They have ignored completely the fact that a Bill is to be introduced very shortly for ils disbandment. Only the other week when the House was debating the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill honourable members opposite had to think for a few moments about what they could say in support of that proposal. They will also have to think about what they can say in support of a B il which will result in the breaking up of an Authority which has been responsible for building-
-Order! The honourable member should not anticipate the provisions of another Bill.
– Yes, Mr Speaker. 1 was about to say thai this Bill will result in the breaking up of an Authority which has been able to do so much for water conservation in general. What areas are available for water conservation? What watersheds do we have in Australia? What underground supplies are known and available? These questions have to be answered. Of course, there is also the fact that we should be looking at what benefit we will obtain from this measure in terms of water, which is a commodity that is in very short supply. This provision should be measured in terms of the benefit that will be derived. In this regard I wish to refer to another project which has yet to come before this House for approval. 1 refer to the building of a nuclear power station in an area that the Government will no doubt select. Numerous questions have been directed to the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) in regard to the cost of the project but the House has not received a proper answer. Once again we will be expected to debate a Bill which will approve the expenditure of millions of dollars, but we will nol be in a position to study the numerous reports which will have to be prepared before such a project is undertaken. The Government has gone along in a headstrong manner in regard to this particular project, lt has probably sealed a deal in regard to the project before anything has been put before the House for debate.
Members of the Australian Country Party have tonight seen fit to read from a document which might term a closed shop document, ft has been made available on a limited basis to certain honourable members in this House. If this is the way democratic Parliament works then I have been in error for a number of years in believing that there is democracy in this chamber. But this is the type of treatment that the House is given. The Government is going to set out on the basis of the programme which is embodied in the Bill. In fact, the Bill seeks to put into effect certain proposals upon which studies have been carried out by the Stale Government. Surely the Commonwealth has the right to demand the reports on these studies, apart from its own investigation. The Bill which is before the House tonight authorises the payment of certain moneys to the State by way of assistance but we dare not for one moment ask for the reports which justify the expenditure of this amount of money. I wish to quote from a document entitled ‘National Planning of Water Resources Development:’. I shall quote it only briefly. It states:
Since /he early post-war years there has existed in Australia a steadily growing body of professional and public opinion which feels that our national planning of water resources development has been haphazard and based on intuition instead of on comprehensive investigation of the engineeringeconomic bases for various projects. Such studies as have been made have been the responsibility at a variety of Slate authorities., often with inadequate facilities and with little co-ordination between them. No attempt has been made to provide Commonwealth wide overall appraisal of Australia’s needs, without regard to artificial State boundaries and political jealousies.
This is exactly the position in Australia at present, Mr Speaker, I- see that you are going to ask me to resume my seat. Therefore, I will do so and regard my time as having expired.
-It being. 1 1 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 16th April, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Mr Speaker-
– I require that the question be put forthwith.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated
Bureau of Mineral Resources: and Establishment (Question No. 78) Mr Whitlam asked the Minister, for National Development the following question, upon notice:
Did the inter-departmental committee on the Bureau of Mineral Resources submit a proposed set of functions for the Bureau; if so, when.
What were the functions proposed.
Have they been approved by Cabinet.
If not, has an amended set been approved.
– The Ministers have provided the following information:
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
How many soldiers in Vietnam have in each month since his predecessor’s answer to me on 10th September 1969 (Hansard, page 1139), incurred disabilities described in successive lines of the first column of the Fourth and Fifth Schedules of the Repatriation Act.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question. is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
In the. case of a magistrate in the Australian Capital Territory who resigns from his position to stand as a candidate in a by-election for the House of Representatives, is he, if unsuccessful, entitled to be re-appointed in accordance with section 47c of the Public Service Act.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Public Service Board has informed me that where a magistrate in the Australian Capital Territory holding an appointment under the Public Service Act 1922-1968 resigns that appointment to contest a by-election for the House of Representatives, the provisions of section 47c of the Public Service Act are applicable.
Commonwealth Games: Contribution by Commonwealth Government (Question No. 1081)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In the light of the information provided by the Association on this occasion, and in previous years in relation to the Games held in Cardiff in 1958 and Jamaica in 1966, we estimated that the amount the Association needed to raise to send the Austraiian team to Edinburgh would be substantially the same as in 1958 and 1966.
With all of these considerations in mind, I thought it would be appropriate for the Commonwealth to again provide an amount of $16,000 towards Australia’s participation in this year’s Games. I have, however, received a further letter from the Association which is currently being considered.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Insurance Commissioner has advised that the number of life insurance policies containing restrictions relating to active service as a member of the armed forces is not known. The position is thai most life insurance companies will issue policies, which are free of restrictive clauses limiting the benefit payable on death due to war, lo servicemen who are not under notice of posting to a battle zone or combat area and who are not subject lo any other form of special or extra risk. There is, however., no uniformity of practice as regards the lyne of policy which may be obtained or the maximum sum which may be insured with each company. .
asked the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Carriage of Goods by Australian and Overseas-owned Shipping Lines (Question No. 618) Mr Les Johnson asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
What was the (a) tonnage and value of Australian exports and imports, (b) tonnage, value and proportion of exports and imports transported by overseas-owned shipping lines and (c) tonnage, value and proportion of exports and imports transported by Australian-owned shipping lines, during each of the last 10 years.
– The answer to the honour able member’s question is as follows: (a), (b) and (c) The Acting Commonwealth Statistician has supplied the attached’ table setting out the value of overseas imports and exports and the weight ot measurement of overseas cargo loaded and discharged at Australian ports for each of the financial years 1959-60 to 1968-69.
The Statistician has advised that while Overseas Trade Statistics and Overseas Shipping Cargo Statistics represent complementary aspects of Australia’s trade relations with foreign countries, the two statistical series are derived from separate sources and’ have differences in basic concepts and coverage. As a consequence the two sets of figures supplied are not strictly comparable and- they should be used with these qualifications in mind.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 June 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1970/19700602_reps_27_hor68/>.