22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - 1 have ascertained that His Excellency the Governor-General will be pleased to receive the Address-in-Reply 10 his Opening Speech at Government House at 4.20 p.m. on Wednesday next, 10th April. I invite honorable senators to accompany me on the occasion of its presentation.
– Has the Minister tor National Development seen a report in the “ Daily Telegraph “ to the effect that the Federal Parliamentary Labour party intends to move for the adjournment of one of the Houses of the Parliament to discuss unemployment in the coal industry? Can he tell us whether the motion will be proposed in the Senate or in another place, and would he care to make any statement on the matter?
– I regret that 1 am not sufficiently in the confidence of the Australian Labour party to be able to say whether it proposes to move for the adjournment of the Senate or of another place. I sincerely hope that the motion will be submitted in this chamber, where I. us the responsible Minister, will be able to answer any exaggerated statements that arc made by members of the Australian Labour party.
– 1 rise to order. 1 urn sorry that the Minister developed this line of argument, as I had intended to let the matter go without comment. I refer you, Sir, to the rules which govern honorable senators in the asking of questions. Questions based on hypothetical matter are banned, and I submit that this question comes within that description. The Minister is making a seconds-reading speech on a question which has obviously been put to him on an hypothesis.
– The point of order is not upheld.
– I conclude by issuing a challenge to the Australian Labour parly to move for the adjournment of the Senate.
– Order! The Minister is answering a question, and should not be challenging people.
– I had better conclude by saying that if the Opposition does not submit the motion in this chamber it will be indicative of insincerity and lack of courage on the part of the Australian Labour party.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral obtain and make available to the Senate a statement showing the extent to which the Commonwealth Government has power, whether by direct legislation or through the Commonwealth Bank, to control the operations of hire purchase companies, with particular reference to - (a) limitation of their demands on the capital market; (b) limitation of their interest rates; and (c) compulsory diversion of a proportion of their capital to home building loans?
– It is not customary to make legal opinions the subject matter of question and answer in either House of the Parliament, but I can assure the honorable senator that all the matters to which he has referred have received the serious consideration of the Government, and are still being studied.
– I wish to direct a question to you, Mr. President. I believe that, at your instigation, an admirable little booklet entitled “The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia “ has been produced, and is on sale in the foyer of King’s Hall. This booklet sets out in clear and concise form the basic principles of Australian parliamentary government and of this Parliament in particular, and is suitably illustrated. Will you, Mr. President, ask the Government to consider forwarding copies of this booklet to Australian embassies and consulates overseas, to recognized Australian travel agencies, such as the Australian National Travel Association, and to State Directors of Education in the hope that the last named may elect to use the booklets as a basis for primary education on the Australian parliamentary system? Will you ask the Department of Immigration to provide immigrants with a copy of this booklet upon the occasion of their naturalization so that all immigrants, at the point when they embark upon citizenship, will have a guide towards a better understanding of parliamentary government in their new country?
– I appreciate the honorable senator’s interest in the booklet and his kind reference to its quality. I shall be pleased to confer with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and to make representations to the appropriate authority to ascertain whether it is possible to accede to the honorable senator’s requests.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence outline to the Senate before the adjournment for the Easter recess what is being done in the United States and Great Britain in the way of civil defence against modern weapons? Will the Minister also inform the Senate what has been done in Australia in this connexion?
– I doubt whether I shall be in a position to comply with the honorable senator’s request to make a statement before the Easter recess. However, I shall consult with my colleagues and, if material is available for publication, I shall be happy to make a statement.
– Can the Minister for National Development tell me what amount of money was made available to Tasmania under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, and what amount of that grant was taken up by housing cooperatives in that State?
– I am sorry to say that I am not able to remember the exact amount of money made available to Tasmania. I shall have to ask the honorable senator to put his question on notice so that I can obtain the information for him. I can say that no proportion of the housing moneys for Tasmania is diverted from the control of the State Government. Arrangements were made whereunder they would be used in Tasmania for a home building programme carried out by the Rural Bank. I have stated previously that when 1 discussed this matter with the building societies in Tasmania they showed a very commendable independent spirit. They said that they could do the job, as they have been doing it for a very long period now, that they did not propose to run any risk of impairing their independence by accepting Government money, and that they were capable of raising moneys themselves in their own way. They asked the Tasmanian Government, instead of making the moneys available to them, to enter into some guarantees, or to make some arrangements which would facilitate their borrowing programme. The Tasmanian Government was willing to do that, and that is the foundation upon which the agreement operates in that State. Having given that answer, I still ask the honorable senator to put the question on notice so that 1 may make quite certain that the information I have given is correct.
– Is the Minister for National Development aware that the Minister for Primary Industry stated in another place that £1,250,000 of the money allocated to building societies in New South Wales was lying unspent in the Rural Bank? How does he reconcile that with his statement yesterday that all the money has been allocated?
– I reconcile it in this way: I think, from memory, thai £2,000,000-
– The sum of £2,000,000, in round figures, was to be appropriated for building societies. The New South Wales Government set up a committee of officers of various departments to make recommendations to it as to which building societies should participate in that £2,000,000. That committee made its recommendations to the State Government which, I should think, accepted i he committee’s recommendations and decided that the administrative arrangements should rest with the Rural Bank. The money was put into the Rural Bank, and the building societies which were in the allocation were told to get in touch with the bank. They have done so, but the scheme has taken time to work it out. My colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, is quite correct in saying that certain of the money is not spent. I am also quite correct in saying that the money has been allocated. 1 read, I think it was in this morning’s press, a statement by the Building Societies Association in which it expressed confidence that the whole of the allocation would be spent by 30th June this year.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade whether it is a fact that a trade delegation of 33 persons recently left Australia for India in an endeavour to obtain more Australian trade with India under that country’s five-year plan, ls it also a fact that a large backlag of Australian cargo awaiting export - for example, 30,000 tons of sheet steel, representing three ship loads - has accumulated? Are there any prospects of this backlag being lifted in the near future? How can we ensure a speedy delivery of future orders? Has any action been taken by a government authority to charter a ship for this purpose in the event of the shipping combines being unable or unwilling to increase the cargo-carrying capacity of their vessels plying to India?
– The action that has been taken by my colleague, Mr. McEwen, in arranging this trade delegation is in furtherance of the policy of the Department of Trade to seek out and obtain additional export markets for Australian goods. 1 think it will be generally agreed that the best way. in which to do that is to arrange for persons who are actually engaged in the buying and selling of merchandise to go abroad and enter into detailed transactions. T am sorry that 1 am unable to furnish the honorable senator with any information about the prospects of arranging transport by sea for the backlag of Australian cargo that is awaiting export.
– 1 preface a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer by stating that a recent conference of State Housing Ministers in Melbourne decided that, in order to overcome the backlag in housing, the credit restrictions at present operating should be eased. Will the Minister inform me whether the Cabinet has considered releasing credit for housing, particularly in view of the fact that ample labour and materials are available to the building industry?
– I commend to the honorable senator the remarks that were made by the Prime Minister and other responsible Ministers during the recent parliamentary debates on housing.
– In view of the fact that the Postal Department will derive increased revenue this year, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General consider reducing the charge for telephone installations in remote country areas? I am sure that he realizes that people living in those areas need telephones, especially in the event of sickness, but many of them cannot afford to pay the present high installation charges. I remind the Minister that, according to the tables appended to the 1956-57 budget, the Postal Department expended about £29,000,000 on telephone and telegraph services in 1955-56, and derived revenue of about £49,000,000. There was, therefore, a trading profit on telegraph and telephone services of about £20,000,000. Despite this fact, the last budget increased telegram and telephone charges. Does the Minister believe that it is necessary to charge prospective telephone subscribers in country areas an amount varying from £300 to £400 for telephone installations?
– At the present time, considerable concession are made to telephone subscribers in country areas. I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of my colleague, the PostmasterGeneral, and obtain a considered reply for him.
– Will the Minister for National Development inform me whether, after the recent incisive and critical debates on housing in the Parliament, this subject has been considered by the Government, and did the proposed loan of £278,000 to the Queensland Government come up for discussion? If it was discussed, was any decision made in the matter? Can the Minister say whether that amount of money will be made available to the Queensland Government to enable it to provide employment for unemployed building workers in that State?
– I thought we discussed that matter in the housing debate ad nauseam, that the tenor of that debate clearly expressed the confidence of the Parliament in the Government, and that I made it quite clear during the course of it that the Queensland Government, if it desired to do so, had the wherewithal to provide the necessary moneys for- housing.
– Apropos of the Government’s recent amelioration of import controls, can the Minister for Customs and Excise indicate whether officers of his department stationed in South Australia will have more power and greater discretion than hitherto. If so, can he give details of how this will assist the South Australian business community?
– Customs officials have certain functions under the Import Licensing Regulations to issue licences on quotas. As a result of this last amendment they will now also have the power to issue licences in connexion with certain categories on an administrative basis. The categories, I understand, represent small amounts which are allocated on a yearly basis. The department will advise the customs officials of that allocation and they will in future issue such licences at each port.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade inform me whether ;he Tariff Board has yet completed its inquiries into a matter which was to be referred to it by the Minister for Trade relating to the importation of timber into this country, which imports are having an adverse effect unon the timber industry in Australia? Mills are still closing down for lack of sales of timber. The Minister promised to have this inquiry made and I was wondering whether he has received word of the result of the inquiry, or when he is likely to do so.
– From my recollection the reference to the Tariff Board was made only comparatively recently, and as yet the Tariff Board has not made a report.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior whether he has any knowledge of a proposal by the New South Wales Railways Commissioner to withdraw the existing sleeping-car facilities for passengers travelling from Melbourne to Canberra. The proposal is to terminate this service at Goulburn instead of at Canberra. If that is a fact, will the Minister bring to the notice of the New South Wales Railways Commissioner that this arrangement will involve passengers having to change trains at Goulburn at an early hour of the morning, and that the inevitable result will be a further loss of rail passenger traffic to airways? Will he point out also that for those who cannot travel by air, the arrangement will cause great inconvenience?
– I think the question should be directed to the Minister for Transport rather than to the Minister for the Interior. However, I will refer the honorable senator’s question to the appropriate department, and obtain an answer for him as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade whether, in view of the serious harm caused to Australian industry and business interests as well as to Australian business relations overseas by the Government’s interfering policy regarding imports, will the Government give the Senate an assurance that in future it will rely on its tariff and excise policy in regard to overseas trade?
– Obviously, the honorable senator fails to appreciate the difference between the trade and manufacturing policy of the Governnent on the one hand, and national.ncial and economic circumstances on t’. other hand. “I he Government’s policy has been stated over and1 over again. It is; using import /restrictions only for the purpose of correctting deficiencies in the overseas balance of payments. Import restrictions are not to <be used in substitution for tariff protection, which is decided by this Government, in accordance with’ the policy of governments for many years past, on the recommendations of the Tariff Board.
– On 20th March, Senator Scott asked’ me the following question: -
Wilt the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral inform me whether it is a fact that the towns of. Derby and. Broome in Western Australia are to be. connected by radio-telephone to <he Australian telephone network?’ If it is a fact, when is. it expected that this; facility will be provided to these towns?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:-
The installation of a radio-telephone service between Derby and Perth has been approved and die project should be completed by September, 1958. Telephone communication is already available between Derby and Broome and residents at both centres may then obtain, calls over the radio Jink to the Australian telephone network.
– On 20th March, Senator Sheehan asked me the following question: -
Would the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral advise the Senate what are the possibilities of television repeating stations being erected at vantage points at an early date to enable residents of country districts to participate in television -reception? Is the Commonwealth Government, or are those companies which are licensed to telecast, responsible for the future development of -television?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply: -
It is the Government’s desire that television -services should be made available to people outside the Sydney and Melbourne areas as soon as practicable. The extension of the service, however, involves many problems from the financial, techmeal and operational viewpoints. These are at present being closely investigated but at this stage it is not possible to say when additional stations >«l be authorized.
– On 20th March. Senator Buttfield asked me the following question: -
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. In view of the fact that many users of public telephones, installed for the masses and not for the few, carry on extremely lengthy conversations during local calls, while others queue up outside waiting possibly te make emergency calls, could the Minister have investigations made as to whether any mechanism could be installed to govern the length of time of the call, after which another threepence would have to be paid? I respectfully suggest that any such installation would pay for itself rapidly.
The Postmaster-General has investigated the position and has now furnished me with the following, information in reply: -
The matter raised by the honorable senator ha> been investigated by the Post Office and special studies of the duration of calls from automatic public telephones from which calls are permitted to continue unrestricted has shown that 75 per cent, of calls are completed within three minutes and 18 per cent, between three and six minutes Although it would be technically practicable to limit the duration of conversations from these public telephones, extensive plant alterations would be necessary and in view of the small percentage of excessively long calls it would be difficult to justify this expenditure at a time when many more urgent developmental works are outstanding. Advances in the automatic recording of trunk line calls in Australia may result in equipment for the timing of local calls from automatic public telephones becoming available but this is unlikely on any large scale for some years.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the borrowing of 27.000.000 dollars by the Commonwealth from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and from a group of institution-.il lenders in accordance with loan agreenents signed in New York on 15th November last.
This borrowing has been made to furnish part of the dollar funds required by Qantas Empire Airways Limited over the next three years for seven Boeing jet aircraft, four propeller-driven Super Constellations, and other ancillary equipment and spare parts. Arrangements are being made for an agreement between the Commonwealth and Qantas under which payments will be made to the Commonwealth by Qantas equivalent to the principal and interest and all other costs of the borrowing due to be paid to the lenders by the Commonwealth. In the long run, there will thus be no net call on Commonwealth cash resources because of this borrowing. All funds received under the borrowing will be immediately transferred to Qantas and all payments due to the lenders will be made in the first place by Qantas to the Commonwealth.
The Qantas decision to buy jet-engined aircraft was due mainly to its need to maintain a competitive position in international air transport. Although various airlines are now operating, as an interim measure, turbo-prop and improved pistonengined types, the undoubted trend is towards the so-called “ big jets “ which have much more to offer in speed and comfort on long-range international routes. After a most intensive study of all types on offer, Qantas has chosen the Boeing 707/138 as being most suited to its needs, particularly as the scheduled delivery dates in 1959 fit in very well with the inevitable replacement of its present fleet of Super Constellations.
The loan agreements with each of the lenders were signed in New York last November. As this was a borrowing in the name of the Commonwealth under the authority of the Commonwealth loan programme for 1956-57, it required the approval of the Australian Loan Council. Before the loan agreements were signed, the proposed terms and conditions of the borrowing were submitted to the council and received its full concurrence.
The amount to be borrowed from the International Bank will be 9,230,000 dollars, the remaining 17,770,000 dollars being provided by a small group of institutional lenders. This is the first loan received by Australia from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development for purposes other than general development.
Including 50,000,000 dollars to be received from the International Bank under the agreement entered into last December, the International Bank has either lent or agreed to lend 308,500,000 dollars to Australia for general development purposes and this Qantas loan will increase to nearly 318,000,000 dollars our total borrowings from the bank.
The agreement signed with the International Bank is reproduced as the first schedule to the bill. Honorable senators will note that the principal conditions of the borrowing are that the interest rate will be 4$ per cent., including the bank’s usual commission charge of 1 per cent, required under its articles of agreement, and that the loan will be repayable over a period between June, 1964, and December, 1966. It is expected that the first instalment of these funds will be received from the International Bank next May, and that the final proceeds will be received about the middle of next year. As is usual with loans from the International Bank, there will be a commitment charge of i of 1 per cent, per annum on the principal amount of the loan remaining to be withdrawn. Interest payments of 4$ per cent, will, of course, be payable only on amounts actually received from the International Bank from time to time.
The loan agreement with the International Bank is similar to the agreements for previous general development loans which have each received the approval of the Senate. We were fortunate in being able to borrow from the International Bank at the rate of 4f per cent., because interest rates have risen since, and the bank is now charging 5i per cent, on similar loans to member countries.
The remaining 17,770,000 dollars was borrowed, from a small group of institutional lenders, with the New York underwriting firm of Morgan Stanley and Company acting as agent for the Commonwealth. Separate but similar agreements were signed with each lender and the form of the agreement is set out in the second schedule to the bill. The interest rate under each of these agreements will also be 4i per cent, and repayment will commence in December, 1960, continuing until June, 1964, when repayments to the International Bank will begin. 7,770,000 dollars has already been received under these arrangements and is -at present credited to the Commonwealth Loan Fund. The final 10,000,000 dollars will be received towards the end of 1958. A commitment charge of one-half of 1 per cent, is being made on the principal amount mot yet withdrawn, but the interest of 4$ per cent, per annum is payable only on such instalments as have been received from the lenders. The timing of these instalments has been arranged to fit in as closely as possible with the schedule of prepayments to which Qantas is committed before the delivery of the jet aircraft commences in 1959.
The immediate purpose of the bill will be to appropriate the amount of 7,770,000 -dollars from the Loan Fund for the purpose of lending this amount to Qantas. As the remainder of the loan money is received in due course the bill will also authorize the tending of each instalment to Qantas on the terms and conditions to be agreed with the Commonwealth. lt may assist honorable senators if I summarize the overall terms and conditions of the borrowing. The total amount to be borrowed is 27,000,000 dollars and the interest rate is 4i per cent. The funds will be received over a period between late 1956 and late 1958, and will be repayable between December, 1960, and December, 1966. The full cost of the borrowing will be met by Qantas, with the Commonwealth, in effect, acting as agent for Qantas for the receipt of funds and for the payment of interest, principal and other charges to the lenders. As repayment of the loans from the Consolidated Revenue Fund will be made from funds to be provided by Qantas, it is not accessary to make other special sinking fund arrangements and clause 1 1 of the bill accordingly exempts the borrowings from the application of (he National Debt Sinking Fund Act.
I may add that, before these terms and conditions were submitted to the Australian Loan Council for its consideration, a thorough examination of all other’ possible forms of finance was arranged, but no other method which offered more satisfactory terms could be found. Since the agreements for this borrowing were signed, reports have been received of other similar overseas loans being arranged for the purchase of aircraft by foreign airlines, but none of these loans has had more favorable terms and conditions than those negotiated on behalf of Qantas.
I have pleasure in commending the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 3rd April (vide page 288), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is a small bill, and the effect of it is to grant a further amount of £20,000 to the trustees of the civilian internees and others who suffered in the hands of the Japanese during World War II. This is the fourth of the bills of this nature that has been submitted to the Parliament since the outbreak of World War II. Each has had a similar title. The original bill was submitted in 1939 by the late Mr. W. M. Hughes, and it referred particularly to our enemy at that time - Germany. It made no reference to funds, but merely laid down that no citizen of Australia could trade with the enemy. The second bill was introduced by Senator Courtice in 1947. It merely validated the regulations under the National Security Act during the war.
In 1952, an amending bill was introduced by the present Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’sullivan). Its purpose was to transfer all assets of our former enemies, which were then held by the High Court of Australia, to the Controller of Enemy Property. At that time, the total value of the assets was estimated at £770,000. It was provided specifically that an allocation of £25,000 would be paid to the trustees of civilians who suffered severely during the war. If my memory serves me correctly, that money was to be paid to the trustees for those who lost their lives, and to persons who suffered the loss of limbs.
I wish to thank the Leader of the Government and the Department of the Treasury for answering some questions that I submitted at very short notice so that I might have some knowledge of the relevant funds. In reply to my first question, I was informed thai the total amount derived, or expected to be derived, from the sale of Japanese assets in Australia, was estimated at £834,000. Perhaps I might deviate here to remind the Minister that because of inflation, more money will be received from the assets now than was expected previously. The amount expected in 1952 was £770,000. I have been informed that the amount received to date from the sale of the assets is £775,000, and that the amount distributed among former prisoners of war totals £1,800,000. Perhaps the Minister will be able to explain why that amount exceeds the totals given in reply to my first two questions. 1 have also been informed that £86 has been allocated to each former prisoner of war, including £32 in December, 1952, and £54 in December, 1956. An amount of £25,000 has been distributed among Australian civilians who were internees during World War II., and £20,000 more is to be distributed under the terms of this bill which I support.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 3rd April (vide page 228), on motion by Senator Cooper -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition offers no objection to the passage of this measure. Section 3 of the principal act, the Removal of Prisoners (Territories) Act, provides that if the Administrator of a Territory recommends the removal of a prisoner to a State or to another Territory, the Governor-General may then, with the concurrence of the Government of the State or Territory, order the removal. AH that this bill proposes is that, where there is no Administrator, the Governor-General may specify an officer for the purpose of the act in lieu of the Administrator. We have no objection to that provision.
If the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) is able to say anything regarding the establishment of prisons in the Terri tories, the Opposition would be interested to hear what he can tell us. It would be very good if the demand for prison accommodation were so small that it would not justify the erection of prisons in the Territories. 1 was interested to discover that the act has no application to a prisoner who isan aborigine. If honorable senators refer to section 3 of the principal act, they will see set out there a number of circumstances that are in contemplation to justify the removal of a prisoner. One of these is that it might be detrimental to the good health of a prisoner that he should continue to be detained in the Territory. That is. a very humane provision. The point I make is that, under the terms of the act, that provision cannot be extended in favour of an aborigine because aborigines are excluded. If anybody, apart from an aborigine, is in prison, and his health would be in jeopardy through remaining in the Territory, he may be removed under the processes of the act. If an aboriginal prisoner, however, is in the plight that his health will deteriorate unless he is removed, there is and has been no power under the act to remove him. I can well understand that an aboriginal would prefer to remain in the territory where he is used to functioning. It is true to say, too, that there are adequate health provisions in the Northern Territory. There is a main hospital at Darwin, and subsidiary hospitals elsewhere. There is no difficulty about that matter in Canberra, but I point out that a rare case might arise where the health demands of an aboriginal prisoner might require his removal interstate. I simply point out to the Minister that the principal act forbids that removal and makes no facilities available for such a case.
I direct his attention to the fact that this arises from the definition of “ prisoner “ under section 2 of the principal act, which reads -
Prisoner means any person sentenced to imprisonment in a Territory but does not include an aboriginal native of a Territory.
I agree that if there were a case in which an aboriginal prisoner’s health required that he be removed from the State it would be a very rare one indeed. I direct the attention of the Senate to that, more as a matter of interest than anything else.
– in reply - I understand that in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea there are what are called corrective institutions. They are more or less what we call prisons here, but the term “ corrective institution “ is used because it is considered to be more appropriate in the circumstances. These institutions are being proceeded with in Papua and New Guinea.
– Are they being built there?
– Yes, and improvements are being effected to the institution in the Northern Territory. There, of course, these prisoners are at the gaol. This bill is introduced to cover such places as the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and the other Territories, where there is no officer with the title of Administrator. I am informed that the principal act prevents the removal of aborigines as prisoners, but they could and -would be removed if, for health reasons, it was thought necessary that they be removed. At present, in such circumstances, they would not be removed as prisoners; they would be released and -removed as individuals.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 3rd April (vide page 289), on motion by Senator O’sullivan-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this bill is to amend the Apple and Pear Export Charges Act 1938-1947 in order to increase to 2d. a -case the maximum charge which may be -imposed under the act on each case of apples or pears exported after the end of the 1957 season. It was pointed out by the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) that the previous maximum was Id. a case and that the additional revenue that will result from the increase to 2d. a case is -estimated at approximately £20.000. which will be only just sufficient to meet the administrative costs of the Australian Apple and Pear Board.
I understand that the board is engaged in a trade publicity drive which it is hoped will expand the market for Australian apples and pears. This bill gives us an opportunity of examining this very important export industry. In the first place, “ apple “ and “ Tasmania “ are virtually synonomous. Of a total of 4,600,000 cases of apples exported last year from Australia to overseas markets, 3,400,000 went from Tasmania, and of a total of over 1.000.000 cases of pears exported, 400,000 went from Tasmania whilst over 500,000 cases were exported from Victoria.
I should like here to pay tribute to the splendid job the orchardists are doing in producing high-grade fruit for export. This industry is of tremendous value to Australia, as it has been over the years, and the quality of fruit produced is improving continually. It is a pleasure to visit a modern, mechanized orchard these days and see the methods of production now in use. Scientific soil improvement, mechanical cultivation, spraying, weed control and improved techniques in picking and packing, are in contrast with the primitive methods which, as I remember so well, were used when I was engaged in this industry over 25 years ago. The advancement in the use of fruit disease sprays has been really outstanding. It may be likened to the advantages that have accrued to the pastoral industry from the introduction of myxomatosis. lt can be truly said .that there has been great improvement in the technique of fruit growing.
The Government has a big task before it, and a bill such as this brings to light its responsibilities to this industry. I do not think that the anticipated additional revenue of £20.000 will be sufficient. It is not nearly enough to promote a sales drive of the nature and extent necessary to expand our markets throughout the world.
– Does the honorable senator think the levy is not high enough?
– 1 do not think it is. I think the Government should make some other provision, such as assistance on a £l-for-£l basis, for that purpose. To support that. I quote our nearest neighbour. which has been a small importer of Australian apples and pears. I refer to Indonesia, which has a vast population and a rising standard of living. Only 13,000 cases of Australian apples were exported to Indonesia last year.
– ls that an increase or decrease?
– It is a considerable decrease on the figure for the previous year when, I understand, 26,000 cases were exported to Indonesia.
– What is the reason for the decrease?
– I want to find out the reason, if that is possible, but I ask the honorable senator to allow me to develop this theme at the moment. Perhaps, I shall be able to answer his questions later. Malaya is our fifth best customer, yet her figures for last year were lower than those for any year since the war. The same applies to the West Indies, the Philippines, Burma, India, Pakistan and Ceylon; in fact, our export’s have declined in all cases other than the United Kingdom and Germany.
My purpose, in mentioning this matter is to emphasize the burden imposed upon Australian producers by the incidence of freight. The overseas shipping combines, as we all know, virtually have Australia by the throat. For generations now, we have been the milch cow for certain people who have been able to direct our marketing along particular channels. I am very pleased to see that ‘the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) is attacking this problem strenuously and is breaking many of the old practices that haye kept our fruit going along in the one old rut for many years.When I point out that it costs 10s. 9d. a case to send our fruit to the United Kingdom and Continental markets, honorable senators will appreciate the intolerable burJen and responsibility placed upon our orchardists who are faced with the necessity of first paying that charge before they can expect one penny return from their work. The figures I. have cited show that our markets close to home are declining. I believe that the shipping companies and possibly some of the agents in the United Kingdom and Germany are partly responsible for that trend. It is possible that the representatives of our Department of Tradein those countries are helping these agentsto kill the goose that lays the golden egg. just as they killed the Tasmanian berry fruits industry. Freight costs and theabsolutely ruinous inflation that has been, allowed to run rife in this country over the last seven years have costed the berry fruits industry out of overseas markets, and we must be very careful to ensure that the extremely profitable and well-run apple and pear industry does not suffer the same fate.
We should endeavour to develop market* closer to Australia, in order to reduce the incidence of freight charges. I am sure that, if Australian fruit were available tothe people of India, Indonesia, Ceylon. Burma, the Philippines and other countries, that I have mentioned, they would be prepared to buy it at prices that would enable the Australian growers to receive a satisfactory return. Therefore, I hope that the Government will endeavour to develop these closer markets. During question time to-day, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said that a trade delegation of 33 persons, including those who want to buy and sell on the Indian market, had recently gone to India. I hope that the delegation’s endeavours will be successful.
It is expected that the present charge of one penny a case will yield about £20,000 this year. The amount remaining after meeting administrative expenses will be totally inadequate for a dynamic and concerted drive to establish new export markets for our apples and pears. If refrigerated space for the carrying of fruit could be made available on the ships that take our wheat to Ceylon and Burma, a greater incentive would be given to our skilled orchardists to increase production, and so increase our export income.
The Opposition supports this measure, and it wishes the Apple and Pear Board every success in its drive for export markets. I regret that more money cannot be made available to the board to assist it to establish bigger and better markets for the delicious and historical fruit, the apple. 1 am sure that, if additional overseas markets for our fruit can be developed, there will follow a great expansion of apple and pear production, not only in my own State of Tasmania, but also in other States where excellent land is available for the purpose.
– I rise to support the measure before the chamber, and to offer a few suggestions. I ask honorable senators to disabuse their minds of any thought that, because this bill imposes a charge of only one penny per case of apples or pears exported, and the greater part of the industry is situated in Tasmania, it is only a machinery measure and, therefore, relatively unimportant. This bill highlights a problem that confronts our primary industries. It does not deal with a small and relatively useless industry, but with one that is earning £20,000,000 a year. More than 50 per cent, of the apple and pear crop is produced in Tasmania. The export income earned by fruit has an important bearing on the balance of payments position, it provides employment in Australia, and benefits the revenue of the Commonwealth. The Tasmanian growers want more overseas markets to be developed, and more apples sold overseas.
In addition to the high cost of production, the Australian growers are meeting with active competition from the growers of other countries. For instance, South Africa produced 15,100 tons of apples in 1955, compared with 6,900 tons in 1952. Coming nearer to home, Australian apples are meeting competition from apples produced in Korea and Japan.
In order to maintain the apple industry in a flourishing condition, we must strive constantly to improve the quality of the product. Although less acreage in Tasmania is now devoted to apples, production has increased, and the standard of fruit exported is very high. I urge the Government to pay more attention to the advertising of Australian fruit in the countries where we have export markets. That, of course, is the ultimate purpose of the bill before the chamber. At present, the Apple and Pear. Board spends about £3,600 a year on advertising - an absurdly small amount. By slightly increasing the export charge on apples and pears, the board hopes to be able to spend £8,000 a year for this purpose. The Commonwealth Government, through its Trade Commissioner Service, helps the industry to obtain overseas markets. If the Trade Commissioner Service in the United Kingdom is as keen and efficient as its counterparts in San Francisco, Washington, and New York I am sure that new markets for Australian fruit will be obtained in Europe. The Government assists the Apple and Pear Board in its sales promotion activities on a £l-for-£l basis. As the Government is . doing its bit in this connexion, I am sure that the growers would agree with my contention that private enterprise, also, should assist the publicity drive for more export markets. Assistance should be rendered by the shipping companies, who now charge the Tasmanian growers extra freight of ls. Id. sterling per case to take their fruit to the European markets. Furthermore, both the merchants and the retailers make a profit out of the sale of apples. All who benefit from the fruiindustry should contribute to the cost of the sales promotion drive. Money so spent could be claimed as a deduction for taxation purposes. I am sure that, if private enterprise connected with this industry was approached diplomatically, considerable financial assistance for the sales promotion drive overseas would be forthcoming. As Senator O’Byrne has said, this bill permits an export charge, by regulation, oup to 2d. a case. Since 1947, the maximum has been Id. a case, but it was only this year that advantage has been taken of the full Id. a case. It is possible that lid. will be required next year.
The Government wants more primary production, and Australia needs it. Noi just the Menzies Government, but any Commonwealth government wants more primary production in Australia. Primary production is the basis of our economic strength because it earns most of our overseas income. Manufacturers and those engaged in secondary industry will benefit by an increase in primary production because they will thus avoid import restrictions. If the primary producers answer the call for more production, then all hands will have to man the pumps to find markets to sell the growers’ produce.
During recent weeks I have had the pleasure of visiting some orchards in Tasmania. The growers are doing their best to combat the problem of rising costs by streamlining work in the orchards. Instead of the apples being picked, put into a case, loaded on to a trailer and taken to the apple sheds, in many cases they are now being picked straight into a trailer carrier, taken into the apple sheds and put into the graders. When they come out of the graders they are put into a case for the first time. That is helping the growers with their labour problems and also helping to reduce their costs of production. Tasmania is now following the lead given by the Canadian apple growers of packing apples in cardboard cartons. These cartons are easily handled. ‘ Experiments have proved that the apples carry in refrigeration just as well in them as they did in the past in limber dump cases. The cartons certainly look more attractive and are also much cheaper. I understand that when the Canadians introduced this system last year their first supply of apples to the United Kingdom market in these cartons brought a premium of 14s. a case; and that is big money when one is speaking about a case of apples. The growers in Tasmania are doing their part in this respect. The system of loading the cartons on to pallets and fork-lifting them on to trucks that carry them to the wharfs is also saving handling costs. Moreover, when costs are reduced, the selling price can be reduced, and under the new method there is less bruising, so that the fruit keeps in better condition.
I think loyalty, too, is needed in disposing of the production of our primary producers and fruit-growers. I understand, for instance, that our famous and efficient Qantas air line has been known to provide Japanese-grown apples on its aircraft. If the rumour is correct 1 hope that action will be taken to stop that sort of thing, because surely an Australian company, be it government-owned or private enterprise, which obtains its main income from the Australian people, should use Australian products. I desire to make only two pleas in respect to this matter. The first is in regard to publicity. I do not think I am being parochial; I think it is plain common sense, to say that wherever Tasmania is widely known - and it is widely known in England - it is known as the “ Apple Isle “. There is no getting away from that. Therefore, in publicizing our apples, the largest percentage of which comes from the “ Apple Isle “, why are we forced to sell them as Australian apples rather than as
Tasmanian apples? If South Australia could make better wine than Tasmania - it could not make any worse because Tasmania does not produce any - I would not mind it being advertised throughout the world as South Australian wine. The same applies to the products of New South Wales. Let us obtain our overseas markets and expand them by publicizing our apples as coming from Tasmania, the “ Apple Isle “. That is a serious, sensible, and practical suggestion, and I intend to put it to the Australian Apple and Pear Board: personally.
The other matter is in regard to freightI am not one to say, just because the shipping companies have increased their freight charges, that they are robbing any one. We did not think we were robbing the taxpayers when we increased our salaries; nor does the Government think it is doing so whenit increases the costs of fares and services. I do not say that the shipping companies are robbing any one, but I believe that as the pennies count in this industry, the shipping companies could make a minute examination of their costs, and could probably reduce the cost of freight by Id. a case. The industry is contributing Id. in an effort to sell more apples and that will mean that the shipping companies will get more freight. I make a plea to those companies to reduce freights and, in effect, contribute Id. a case towards the publicity campaign. I believe that if those two pleas were heeded they would help a very important industry not only in Tasmania, but also in Victoria and Western Australia, t support the bill.
– This bill gives an opportunity to discuss the costs of the fruit-growing industry. This increase of Id. will add to the costs of that industry, but the increase will benefit the industry. Therefore, the party which 1 represent has much pleasure in supporting the bill now before the Senate. As has been said by other speakers, the industry itself is doing what it can to reduce costs by streamlining the methods of production and preparation of the fruit; but there is one aspect over which the industry has no control but which the Commonwealth Government should at least try to control. I refer to the increase in freights.
As far as the apple industry is concerned the latest increase in freights has been disastrous. When I consider the cost of shipping apples from Australia to England I wonder how the people in England can afford, to pay for the apples. In a bill of lading, 12s. 6d. is shown as the cost of transporting apples from Australia to the United Kingdom. Of that 12s. 6d., ls. a case is refunded as a rebate if the apples are up to the requisite standard; and, if the complete order for the ship is filled, a further rebate of 9d. a case is allowed. In effect, it is costing about 10s. 9d. a case to ship apples from Australia to England. The latest rise of 14 per cent, in shipping rates has increased that cost by ls. 8d. a case. That is a terrific increase in costs which the industry has to pay on the world’s markets. I do not know what the Government can do about that, but some help should be given to the industry, particularly in Tasmania, because, as Senator Marriott pointed out, that State is more directly concerned in the export trade. We do not want to lose the export markets. I am glad to say that we are now holding them. All Tasmanian export apples and pears have been purchased and more could be sold on overseas markets than are now offering. In regard to markets in other countries it would be a good thing to develop them so long as the freight rates were within reason. lt has been suggested that freight rates to the East would bc less than to Europe, but that is doubtful in view of the fact that the freight on export apples from Hobart to Sydney is about 8s. a case. The cost of sending them to Singapore or Malaya would be about the same as the freight to the United Kingdom.
– What is the freight from Hobart to the United Kingdom as compared with the freight from Hobart to Sydney?
– The freight from Australia to the United Kingdom is 10s. 9d. sterling a case, and from Hobart to Sydney. 8s. Australian. We are developing markets in places such as Sweden and Hamburg, but the transportation costs are much greater than to the United Kingdom. The proposed increase of Id. would add a little to the export cost, but I am confident it will be fully recovered if the extra revenue gained is used to advertise our products. We have other agencies to advertise them,, and it has been suggested that private enterprise such as the shipping companies could be used. That is a good. idea, because the more trade these companies get with other countries the better it is for themselves. An increase of trade might bring about a reduction of freight, although that seems to be a forlorn hope.
We are in agreement with the bill because it is an attempt to do something for the apple industry. The administration by the board over the years has been satisfactory. We want to see the industry progress, and if money is needed to bring that about it is up to the Parliament to pass the legislation necessary to raise the money.
– I support the bill. Honorable senators who have spoken on this measure so far all represent Tasmania.
– Western Australia does not grow any apples.
– I should not like to think that no apples are grown on the mainland. The people of Western Australia pride themselves that the fruit they produce is as good as, or better than, that grown in any other part of Australia. That is proved by the prices paid for it. The idea of an increase in the amount of levy is to. raise more money for advertising purposes. If we look at the increased costs of exports, of which freight is one. and compare them with the prices being paid for our fruit overseas, it will be found that although costs are rising the price received for apples and pears is more or less static. Consequently, as a community of growers we are in accord with the Government’s proposal to evolve means of obtaining better prices for our fruit in order that we may stay in the overseas markets.
Advertising, both overseas and in Australia, can play a big part in increasing returns to Australian growers. If one travels throughout the British Isles almost everyone from whom an inquiry is made will reply that there is practically no advertising of Australian fruits or other products there. The same can be said of Australian products in other countries. If we want our fruit to be known throughout the world we should see that it is more widely advertised. The extra money raised as a result of this legislation will assist only to a small degree in increasing the advertising of apples and pears. lt has been said that the method of handling apples and pears has improved since the system was adopted of sending the fruit in bulk to central packing sheds, without the use of cases. It is questionable, however, whether the introduction of central packing sheds, as they are known throughout the industry, has’ been of benefit to the industry as a whole. In Western Australia, there are large sheds that pack up to 150,000 cases a year. The fruit, grown in many orchards, is sold under the One brand at a uniform price, and the only condition that has to be fulfilled is that the inspector is satisfied that the quality of the fruit is up to export standard.
– Does not a large proportion of that fruit go to the local markets?
– At least 50 per cent, of the fruit grown in Western Australia is exported. As a result of this system the growers are quite happy to send their fruit to the packing sheds. In the old days in Western Australia, before this industry was controlled by a board, each individual grower took a pride in the presentation of his product. Consequently, the names of some growers became known throughout the world for fruit of good or inferior quality. In Western Australia, a particular grower’s- name was so widely known that the fruit he produced always brought 2s. or 3s. a case more on the local market than any other fruit offered for sale on any day. That was a reward for the care taken by that grower from the time he started his orchard until his fruit was packed and sold. I doubt very much whether the introduction of central packing sheds, particularly in Western Australia, has been of any advantage to the apple industry in that State.
– Are they completely voluntary?
– They are completely voluntary in Western Australia. One must remember that an apple and pear grower is interested in delivering his fruit to the packing sheds only if he gets the standard price throughout the State. My point is that fruit which is handled by the private grower in his own shed is of a much higher standard than fruit which is packed in the central packing sheds.
Since the last war, the industry has become much more mechanized, and new and effective types of sprays have been produced to combat the various diseases. There has been an outbreak of codlin moth in Western Australia within the last twelve months, and effective measures have been taken by the responsible department to control it. The introduction of a spray called Dieldrin has largely made it possible to overcome the outbreak. I should say that because of the introduction of new sprays the industry is in a healthier state than it has been for many years.
From the commencement of the apple industry in 1900, or even earlier, to 1912, apple-growers grew their fruit on seedling stock. Most of the older orchards in Tasmania were planted with seedling stock, which produced much larger quantities pf fruit than does the northern spy stock. Speaking from memory, it was in 1912, following an outbreak of woolly aphis, which destroyed many of the trees grown from seedling stock, that the northern spy stock, which was more or less immune to the disease, was introduced. From 1912 to the I930’s the northern spy stock was used throughout Australia as being the most suitable stock for grafting purposes. But the northern spy stock is a dwarf variety, and will produce a good crop of apples only on very rich .and fertile soil. All the orchards in Australia which, since 1912, have been planted with this stock have not produced large quantities of fruit from each tree. Consequently, experiments have been carried out recently by the various Departments of Agriculture in an. effort to provide better types of stock. For 30-odd years, trees grown on northern spy stock have produced an average of one and a half bushels a year, but the new varieties which have been introduced will raise the production by more than 100 per cent.
New growing and pruning techniques are being used by orchardists, and no doubt costs will decline as production increases. But when establishing an orchard, one does not dream about it to-day and start picking fruit to-morrow. I should say that it takes ten years for an apple tree to come into real commercial production. It is possible to get a case of apples from a vigorous tree within seven or eight years, but as a general rule it takes ten years to bring an apple tree into anything like full production. Of course, pear trees take longer. 1 repeat that the introduction of new varieties of trees and the overcoming of woolly aphis will no doubt help to increase Australia’s production of apples and pears.
That brings us back to the idea behind the bill, which is to make available additional finance for advertising. We know that the Tasmanians are experimenting with different kinds of boxes. In the past they have used pine boxes from Canada; but now they are experimenting with cardboard boxes, and we are told that apples packed in cardboard boxes are sold at a premium of 14s. a box. We in Western Australia have always insisted upon bushel redwood cases, because it is well known that on the English market apples packed in those cases bring a premium on the prices that the Tasmanians usually receive. Therefore, we will continue to use redwood cases until we rind something better. Of course, the use of cardboard boxes might well give us a premium.
– We get the premium on i he apples, not on the case.
– Yes, but it is necessary to have a good brand to support them. I disagree with my colleague from Tasmania who said that we should ensure that apples grown in Tasmania are sold on the overseas market as a Tasmanian product. I think it is true to say that the various States are not known outside Australia. I am not saying anything about Tasmania, but I believe that, if one went to Europe and said that one came from Queensland, for example, people would want to know where it was. If one said that he came from Western Australia, at least people would know that it was somewhere in Australia; but they would not have a clue if one said he came from Queensland or from one of the other States. We should concentrate upon presenting apples and pears as Australian products and upon retaining an Australian identity for them, whether they are produced in Tasmania, Western Australia or any other State. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill.
.- I have no objection to the provision of money to advertise the product of this industry; but F point out that this will be the second increase within a very short space of time. Only a year or two ago at the most, the charge was three-farthings a case, but it was increased by 33i per cent, to Id. a case. Now, we are being asked to approve an increase of 100 per cent, to bring the charge to 2d. a case. Many of the growers are very worried about rising costs, and not without good reason.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Immediately prior to the suspension, I was pointing out that, while the ceiling amount to be levied on apples and pears to meet advertising costs may appear to be very small, it is disturbing that the proposed increase will be in addition to a number of increased charges imposed upon the apple and pear industry in recent months. Not so long ago the ceiling was id. It was then increased by 33-) per cent, to Id., and now it is to rise to 2d. We know that the full amount will not necessarily be taken, but experience indicates that once we become involved in advertising campaigns - I have had a little to do with them - it is very difficult indeed to keep costs within the amount of money that is in hand.
I am not opposed to spending money on the advertising of these products - I have no doubt that it is very necessary - but 1 should not like a situation to arise in which we would be spending money on advertising them, while allowing the prices to rise to such an extent that people cannot buy the fruit. There has to be some kind of balance. I would not be so concerned if the proposal for the imposition of the increased charge was accompanied by an announcement that we would be doing something to keep costs down and that some action could be taken particularly in regard to overseas freights.
Senator Cole has already mentioned the serious extent to which these freights have risen. We have had no indication that anything is to be done to counteract the action that has been taken by the steamship companies to increase their freights at a time when their profits are overflowing from their coffers. Other factors also have to be considered. For instance, there is the Suez situation. If, as appears likely. Colonel Nasser is able to obtain for Egypt full control of the canal, it would be a very optimistic person indeed who, having in mind past events, would suggest that Nasser would not regard control of the canal as an opportunity for realizing very considerable profits from it for the benefit of his own country. When it is realized that he will have control of something that is essentia! to the trade of so many countries, we cannot help coming to the conclusion that it is most likely that there will in the very near future be an increase in dues for passage through the canal. I doubt very much whether those increased receipts will be spent on the development of the canal, as Egypt is now suggesting in order to sugar the pill. So, if we are wise, we will not overlook the possibility that, in addition to other increases in costs, we shall have to pay more for the passage of our fruit through the canal to Europe.
Senator O’Byrne suggested that we might be able to obviate some of these difficulties by developing our trade’ with nearer countries, such as Indonesia. That would be a very good thing, but we are up against the difficulty that those countries have their own tropical fruits, and there would be a danger that apples and pears would spoil very quickly in tropical climates, unless there was plenty of cool storage space available for the fruit prior to sale. It will not be easy to develop a trade in fresh apples and pears in cases, although I suggest that there are strong possibilities of developing a trade in canned fruits.
I mention these matters, because in my opinion they must be considered. We have an industry which is of considerable value to this country. Its costs are steadily rising and we have a bill before us to provide for a further increase in costs. There is no suggestion, so far as I know, of any action to reduce costs, particularly the increased freights that we are all condemning. Finally, T believe - and I think most people will confirm my view - that there has been a decrease in the quantity of apples and pears eaten by the average Australian in recent years. That decrease has been due to one reason; the average father and mother cannot afford to buy the quantities of fruit which they were able to buy years ago. I can remember that, when I was a boy, my father did not have a very large salary, but I was provided with plenty of fruit. I do know many instances to-day of Australian children not getting the quantities of fruit that they should have. If we are to provide subsidies and all sorts of other opportunities to develop overseas trade in fruit, 1 suggest that we try subsidizing or helping the home market in some way. We would then not be involved, perhaps, in the tremendous costs occasioned by sending our fruit abroad. We could then expand the home market and consume more fruit in this country. Personally, I should like to see something seriously done on the home front to decrease the price of fruit and to make it available more freely to our own children. Fruit is essential to health, and, from the stand-point of our own economy, this might be the wiser plan in the Iona run.
– 1 rise to support this bill. In doing so, I should like, first, to answer one or two comments made by Senator McManus. 1 do not agree that the average person cannot afford to buy fruit. 1 go on the principle that one can sell coal in Newcastle if he is really determined to do so, and it is up to the primary producer and the Government, together, to ensure that these goods are sold and that people become aware of the fact that fruit is of great advantage to health. 1 do not believe that we could not sell apples in tropical countries which have their own fruits, because I have always believed that people like a change. 1 believe that apples and other fruits could be sold in neighbouring tropical countries.
I am very much in favour of this bill, which provides that the maximum charge may be increased. After all, £20,000 is not a great deal to spend on sales promotion. I am delighted that the Government is doing what it can to assist private industry by subsidizing, on a £l-for-£l basis, the promotion of trade wherever and whenever possible. But we must sell our goods as Australian goods. The main part of our trade drive has been in the United Kingdom, and I was surprised to hear Senator Marriott say that he thinks that Tasmania, for instance, is well known in the United Kingdom. I do not know whether he has been in the United Kingdom since I was there, but I certainly found that the individual States of Australia are very little known in England and that, in fact, the whole of Australia is very little known. The exception to that may be found in business and trade circles, which are now increasingly aware of the potential in Australia for both buying and selling. However, the average person, who will buy apples and pears, still needs to be educated about what we can produce and sell. Quite obviously, if we are to try to educate these persons, wc must concentrate our efforts and sell as Australia, lt would be quite useless to conduct small campaigns for the sale of Tasmanian, Victorian or Queensland goods. Western Australia and South Australia definitely have an advantage because they carry the name “ Australia “. 1 repeat that it is most essential that we concentrate and sell as Australia. Recently, 1 was in Tasmania, where I made a point of studying the apple industry. 1 hasten to say that Tasmania is a delightful State with delightful people, and I hope that any criticism I may make will be taken as constructive criticism.
– Can the honorable senator tell us something about the apples?
– I think that the apples are very good, too. f. took particular notice of the labels under which some of the fruit-growers were selling their fruit on markets overseas. One packer had a label which, admittedly, bore the picture of an apple, but its main feature was a peacock. I asked the orchardist whether he was selling peacock feathers or flesh. Another label had a delightful picture of the Huon Valley, but I do not think that it would sell any apples in England. The lettering on the labels carried the name of Australia and Tasmania in small letters of equal size. I commented that, if they wanted a picture of the Huon Valley or of a peacock on the label, it was a pity that it was not incorporated in a map of Australia. I believe the map of Australia is important in selling our goods.
– That is a new one - leaving Australia off the map.
– Perhaps we could put Tasmania inside the map of Australia as well, but I believe that the map of Australia should be placed on all our goods that are sent overseas. Senator O’Byrne blamed various factors for the failure of the berry fruits crop in Tasmania. That, I think, is a negative way to approach the problem. I suggest that the industry should look at its marketing methods to ascertain whether it is doing everything possible to sell its products on world markets. Obviously, a- -Il 51 productivity is improving in the industry because of new methods and better sprays, but productivity is increasing in other countries, too, particularly in South Africa and the Argentine. We must make a better effort to sell in competition with those countries. Small campaigns such as those advocated by Senator Marriott would be useless. We must think in a national sense. 1 believe that we are promoting State interests in too many ways, and that will defeat us unless we change our methods.
In supporting this bill, I suggest that we put to the people - in this case, of Tasmania - that they ought to sink their identity and become Australian in the selling of their goods.
I believe Tasmania has a tremendous potential in its tourist industry. Admittedly, that is one of my hobby horses. I noticed in Tasmania, however, that it was impossible to buy an apple, f admit that it was the picking season, and that may have caused difficulties, but if the Tasmanians want to promote the tourist industry, they should have apples available throughout the year. l t was impossible, also, to buy cider, which is another by-product of the apple industry that should be promoted. It would find a market abroad as well as at home, lt is a delicious beverage, and is sought eagerly in Europe and in the United Kingdom. It is a pity that Tasmania is not doing more to promote the production of cider. I believe that a company was set up in Tasmania to produce cider, and it had the assistance of the State Government, but the factory was placed in a most inaccessible part of the country where no apples were grown. I hope that the Apple and Pear Board will try to persuade Tasmanians to encourage the production of cider, and to examine .their methods of marketing fresh apples and byproducts.
– I wish to .speak on this bill as an Australian, and I shall not go into details of the sites selected for factories, a matter to which Senator Buttfield referred. I do not wish to approach this matter from a parochial point of view. I remind the Senate that if the Government had made a national approach to the apple and pear industry, and had not allowed inflation to get out of hand, there would not have been any need for this bill. The levy of Id. a case, which the Apple and Pear Board has required for its administration and for publicity, is no longer adequate because of inflation. Higher costs have hit the board, and a bigger subsidy has become necessary. That is not due to the inefficiency of the Apple and Pear Board, but to the faulty administration of this Government.
We do not know definitely what amount will be required next year, but Senator McManus apparently has overlooked the fact that if a levy of 2d. a case is too much, it is open to him, or to any other honorable senator, to move for the disallowance of the enabling regulations when they are introduced. The Apple and Pear Board is not free to collect Id. a case and spend the money as it likes. It must account for its expenditure. A levy of Id. will return £20,000, but it might not be necessary to increase the amount to 2d., as only £10,000 or £5,000 extra might be required next year.
I protest against the Government’s administration and its effect upon the economy which has made this bill and many others necessary. They merely place further burdens on the people and, in this case, the load will fall on the fruit-growers who will lose up to Id. a case on their fruit. That would not have been necessary if the economy had been kept stable.
– T enter this debate only to refer to one or two matters that have been raised. I have been interested in the suggestions that have been made by honorable senators in connexion with marketing because I have been interested in marketing and sales promotion throughout my business life. I regret that I am in complete disagreement with those who believe that we should abandon special brands on the goods we send to markets overseas. I know that it is good to have national thinking on many problems. Let me give an instance of what happens when everything is marketed under the block mark ‘Australian “. I had an example only recently. A Victorian firm had been canning and exporting an Australian primary product consisting of 95 per cent, meat and 5 per cent, gravy. Because it was all good food, it passed the departmental inspection. That product is branded “Australian “. But there are other products of similar name on the’ market, and they contain only 65 per cent, meat, the balance being gravy. They, too, pass the departmental inspection. The point I emphasize is that both products are branded “Australian “. Honorable senators can imagine what might happen in England when both products are on that market at the one time. An Englishman who buy first the product containing 95 per cent, meat and 5 per cent, gravy will probably return to the shopkeeper and say, “ I like that beef and gravy branded ‘ Australian ‘. I will have another tin “. The second time he may get the product containing only 65 per cent. meat. Honorable senators can appreciate that his reaction upon opening up the inferior quality product will be to say, “ I have been swindled. These Australians are not consistent in their packing”.
– But that cannot happen with apples.
– Of course, it can. That is just the point. I remind the honorable senator of the old saying about horses for courses. She may be very good on tourism, but when it comes to sales promotion work I think that is my course. We all know that Western Australia enjoys a tremendous advantage in the apple export trade in that Western Australian apples are the last to go into the boat taking apples to England, and they are first out of the boat on arrival in England, with the result that the Western Australian apples have a tremendous advantage. Should the Western Australian producer be denied the advantage gained from producing and placing on the market a good quality product by having his good quality fruit mixed with the others and sold under a blanket Australian brand, or should he be allowed to enjoy the premium to which he is justly entitled because of the quality of his product and the condition in which he lands it on the English market?
– They already get a premium on wheat.
– Marketing is a particular feature of commerce. It is a feature about which we need to be very careful, indeed. I once read a book called, “ Four Hundred Million Customers “. It referred to marketing in China. It explained how. merely by making one tiny alteration in the wording on the labelling of a product, an English firm ruined the whole of its market in China. The people who have marketed successfully and who have reaped the rewards of their marketing throughout the world are those who have established their product and kept quality at top level. They have benefited from repeat business which they have enjoyed without the necessity of going to all the trouble of advertising. They have enjoyed that business because the customer, the person who pays, has come to know the product and, therefore, walks into a shop and says, “ That is the article I have always bought. It is the one 1 know and I am prepared to pay 2d. or 3d. a tin more for it because I know it is a quality product “.
Senator Buttfield mentioned cider. At one time we had five cider factories in Tasmania situated close to the orchards, and the Government had one which was placed in the middle of Tasmania. It was placed there because it was thought - quite erroneously, in my opinion - that if the apple crop failed in the south it could draw supplies from the north, or, if the crop failed in the north, it could draw from the south. It was equidistant between the two areas. I am sorry to say that there is no sale for cider; nobody drinks it, and that is all there is about it. Hotel proprietor after hotel proprietor who has tried to promote the sale of cider will say that it just cannot be done, that it was never called for.
– There is a call for it in other countries.
– But there is no sale for it in Australia.
– It was not real cider, anyhow.
– That may be so, but it was certainly fermented apple juice. Only to-day I received a report from London which stresses the premium we obtained on the Smithfield market this week for Tasmanian lamb, and it remarked on the quality of the Tasmanian lamb. Tasmania was the first Australian State ever to market eggs in Great Britain. They were marketed under a particular brand and in a particular packing. That T.E.F. brand - I can see it now - worked up a tremendous sale in England. The organization was most strict about quality and testing, and it worked up a particularly good market. Then came the regulation requiring the brand “ Australia “ to be put on those eggs. After that, the Tasmanian egg gradually, lost that market. We never see a Tasmanian egg there now. We have lost the whole of that market which it took some years to build, a market in which people had grown into the habit of saying, “ That is the brand I have always bought. I can rely on it. I am prepared to pay for it because I know it has the quality
It is quite easy to say that we should be big Australians, but the competition between States in building up specialist brands for their own products engenders salesmanship and marketing skill. It also leads to better quality products. It enables the people of Great Britain to enjoy the benefit of additional quality which in turn brings its own reward.
– Would the Minister prefer to see the Commonwealth Government out of marketing? Would he prefer to allow the States to do that?
– No. I think the Commonwealth Government has a job to do in providing funds, but I honestly believe that the less it enters into advertising schemes, as government schemes, the better it will be. Private enterprise has always been able to develop the markets in the first place. Private enterprise has always been successful in establishing particular brands. I do not know what Senator Buttfield thinks about it, but I remind her of our great cars that are being exported all over the world now. I do not know whether they would command the same sales if we were required to wipe the name off them and call them Australian cars.
– We do.
– We call them Holdens. They do not know them in Singapore, for instance, as Australian cars; they know them as Holdens, and that is why they sell. As one who has had a great deal to do with sales promotion and marketing all my life, I think it is most dangerous for us to get down to this blanket covering of our products with the word “ Australian “ and to do away with the keen competition that it engendered when the same products are marketed under different State brands. This type of marketing also deprives any State of the benefit of any extra quality in its product. For instance, the very soil in some
States is conducive to better quality in certain products. Tasmania, for example, has a soil particularly suited to the growing of apples with the result that Tasmanian apples have been well-known for years and years. If a premium is to be gained from production of a quality article, why cut down that quality? That is what happened under the f.a.q. system of payment for wheat. Some day the Australian producer will be enabled to enjoy a premium for the quality of his own product. Some day, the producer will not have to suffer through having his quality product mixed into a hotch-potch lot so that good and bad producer alike may be paid the one f.a.q. price. That is one of the worst features of Australia’s marketing. As one who has always been in this field of commerce, 1 say we should pay a premium to the man who produces good quality. His brand should enjoy some recognition. That is the only way to get rewards for the man who produces quality.
– in reply - 1 appreciate very much the cordial reception that has been given to this measure, which is designed to assist a very important Australian industry. Nearly 50 per cent, of its production comes from Tasmania. Last year, the production of apples was worth £12,000,000 to the country, and the production of pears about £5,000,000. This industry adds quite a considerable amount to our foreign exchange, since about 40 per cent, of the production is exported. Great Britain, which is our best market, takes about 65 per cent, of what we export. We also have very substantial export markets in Germany, Sweden and other European countries, as well as in the Asian countries. Senator O’Byrne was under a misapprehension when he indicated that there was a tendency for our sales to Indonesia to be slipping. The honorable senator probably thought that the figures before him related to the full twelve months, whereas, in fact, they related to only six months. In 1955, we exported more than 19,000 cases of apples, to Indonesia, and, in 1956, almost 24,000 - an increase of about 25 per cent. It is unfortunately true that, in the immediate postwar years, this industry lagged quite sadly, but in the more recent years it has taken on new life, and the trend is towards a quite healthy increase in production.
– I cited figures from the report of the Apple and Pear Board.
– On checking the position. I found that the figures mentioned by the honorable senator related to a period of six months. The actual figures were: For 1955, 19,117 cases, and for 1956, 23,868 cases.
As some honorable senators have indicated, this industry, in common with many of our other primary industries, is meeting serious challenges. The chief challenging countries are South Africa and the Argentine - the latter by reason of its recently depreciated exchange rate - and both countries because of their closer range and, therefore, shorter haul to the markets of the United Kingdom and Europe. By reason of their cost structure, also, they enjoy a quite considerable advantage over Australia. The following figures will show how the South Africans are gaining a hold on the European markets: In 1952, South Africa sent to Britain 6,900 cases of apples, and in 1955, 15,100 cases.
– They will send that many millions of cases in four or five years’ time.
– That is a challenge that we will have to meet. In a military sense, when our way of life was challenged by a threatening aggressor, we fought - and fought successfully - to preserve our standards. So, in the economic field, when the sale of our products is challenged on the world’s markets, we shall have to meet that challenge. I do not mean that we will try to meet it by reducing our standard of living. Far from it! We must fight and work in order to maintain our standard of living. After due inquiry, the Tariff Board recommends protection to efficiently and economically conducted Australian secondary industries. The Government is not unmindful of the importance and the necessity of assisting some of the primary industries that are valuable to our economy, and are worth preserving. Pursuant to that policy, a system of bounties and subsidies has been applied. In addition, the Government assists these industries by finding -and developing markets overseas.
In Germany alone, more than £500,000 a year is spent - not all, of course, in advertising our apples and pears - in fostering and developing markets for our primary commodities. A similar campaign has been waged in Sweden and other European countries, and also in Asiatic countries.
In meeting the challenge of South Africa and the Argentine, we must ensure that we maintain our standard of living. We must ensure that costs will not get out of hand, and we must maintain the fundamental relationship between what we produce and what it costs us to produce it. No government can keep virile and sound for more than a very short time, an industry which is basically uneconomic. So we shall have to make an attack on our cost structure.
Before concluding, I should like to make some comment on Senator McM anus’s statement that he deplored the necessity for the proposed increased charge. There has been no increase of the levy since 1947. That is quite a considerable while ago, and a lot of water has run under the bridge, and a lot of elements have come into the picture to add to our cost structure, during the intervening ten years Although the board will have authority to levy 2d., it is not expected that it will do so forthwith; indeed, the board will not levy that amount at all unless the circumstances warrant it. In 1953, when the permissible legal, maximum charge was Id., the rate was increased from id. to id., and in 1955 it was further increased to id. Only last year, after ten years of operation, was the maximum charge of Id. imposed. I do not know what the charge will be next year. It will not be less than Id., but it cannot be more than 2d. I am inclined to think that it will be considerably less than 2d. The actual amount will be determined from time to time, in the light of the expenditure incurred.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from 3rd April (vide page 290), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The measure under consideration is designed to facilitate the payment of a bounty to the cotton-growing industry. I have a fairly good knowledge of the industry, and I cannot recall a time when it was in a nourishing condition. As a matter of fact,’ I would say that over the years it has remained constantly at poverty point.
– It is going up now.
– I would not say that. As I proceed, I shall give the honorable senator some idea of the bug-bears of the industry. I approve wholeheartedly the payment of a bounty, but I intend to suggest something else which may be of great assistance to the industry.
Very few cotton-growers in Queensland - perhaps the whole of the industry is concentrated in that State - devote the whole of their activities to cotton-growing. In the great majority of cases, cotton-growing is a secondary consideration and a secondary activity, the principal activity being dairying. When they try their fortunes at cotton-growing they do so more in the nature of an experiment in a haphazard way. Production over the years has fluctuated according to the experiences of growers. If a dry year has been experienced, the grower will not go into cotton the following year. If he gets a run of two or three good seasons with fairly good crops, he will continue producing. Nothing has been done to stabilize the industry. The payment of a bounty has not done so.
In order to maintain a certain output every year it is necessary to have the cotton processed, that is, treated at a ginnery. It so happens that the yield of cotton has not been sufficient to enable the cotton to be processed economically. In the past, growers have told me that they could not go in for cotton-growing because of labour problems. They have not been able to recruit labour to do the picking because cotton-picking is by no means a remunerative calling. Two picks are necessary to harvest the crop. During the first pick the best bolls are taken, and in the following pick all that remains on the plant is taken. Over the years the industry has been struggling and, as I have said, has been at poverty point.
A startling situation exists in regard to last year’s crop. It was a moderate crop of about only 3,000 bales, and of that number about 700 or 800 were unsaleable. It is in respect of that unsaleable quantity of cotton that I have a suggestion to make.’ The bounty is quite all right and is acceptable to the growers. They understand it because it has been paid over the last few years, but the cotton-growing industry is not an organized industry. It is not organized in the same way as are the apple and pear, wool, sugar, dairying and tobacco industries. If we were to examine the history of those industries it would be found that over the years they have received advice and technical assistance from competent authorities. This assistance has been given, sometimes by organizations established by the industry, and in other instances by organizations maintained jointly by government subsidy and the industry itself. These organizations have been of great benefit to these industries. Might I say in passing that the tobacco-growers in Australia have always made it their aim to produce a leaf equal in quality to that produced in America. If they have not attained that standard to-day, they are not very far from it. They are producing a satisfactory leaf with the result that consumption is very satisfactory.
The sugar industry also has experimental stations. Widespread experiments are being carried out constantly with the result that to-day Australia produces, I would say, the best sugar in the world. The cotton industry has no such experimental farms devoted to the growing of cotton in dry and wet seasons. Growers should make it their objective to produce a product equal to Egyptian cotton. With technical assistance they could proceed towards that goal. If they could do that they would achieve something for the industry. I mention these things now because I can see the day when the cotton industry in Australia will become one of our principal industries. As I have said, it is now of little consequence - something for secondary consideration only. However, with our increasing population we may be compelled in the future to make the very best use of all our land. If that situation should arise, we should have knowledge which will allow the growers to produce best-quality cotton.
It is remarkable what has been done in the cotton-growing industry in countries where they have had to concentrate upon a single crop and where they know how to grow cotton. At present, 18,000,000 bales of cotton remain unsold in the United States of America. Those bales are not unsaleable because of their quality, but because there is no demand from consumers. There has been a carry-over during the last few years. Cotton is one of the biggest bugbears at the present time of the primary products of the United States. That huge carry-over is also having its effect in Australia; the price in Australia has been affected, and that again, has been a blow to the cottongrowers.
It is not the intention of the Opposition to oppose the measure. For that reason, I shall conclude my remarks having made a suggestion for the improvement of the industry. 1 believe, first of all, that the bounty should be continued; but, secondly, that some fund should be created to establish experimental cotton farms at several centres so that in the future knowledge can be acquired and used to great advantage.
.- It can safely be said that there is hardly any industry one could name that has had so many fluctuations in its development as the cotton industry. Even at the turn of the century a considerable volume of cotton was grown in Queensland, and it seemed at that time that cotton-growing might become quite important in this country. However, over the years it declined until cotton was grown on only a few acres in Queensland. There was a revival in the industry some years ago, and it was then felt that cotton-growing was on the upsurge and would become the industry many had hoped years before it would become. Eventually, a guaranteed price was given for cotton and when this Government took office that guaranteed price was Sid. per lb. That price was regarded as not commensurate with the requirements of the industry, but the Tariff Board reported, in effect, that it felt it was an industry not worth worrying about and that it should not receive any further assistance. It was rather a strange conclusion for the Tariff Board to come to, that the industry was not worth saving, but the Chifley Labour Government accepted its decision.
At various times, the cotton-growers have asked for an increase of the guaranteed price. At that time, an approach was made to the Queensland Premier, but no action was taken by him to approach the Commonwealth Government. When the Menzies Government came into office, the guaranteed price was 5id. per lb., but, in 1957, the Minister for Trade and Customs at that time (Senator O’sullivan) brought down legislation which increased it to 9±d. per lb. Growers felt that with this increase the industry was on the up-grade, and there were better prospects of real development. However, costs continued to rise, and, in 1953, the guaranteed price was lifted to (4d. per lb. Unfortunately, since that Increase was given, the industry has suffered many fluctuations as a result of adverse seasonal conditions. These have ranged from one extreme to the other, excessive rain and floods, then periods of drought. The. result has been a considerable retarding of development in the industry.
It was not until 1953 that the first payments under the guaranteed price scheme were received by the industry. These amounted to £17,651. The bounty payment for the 1956 season is estimated to be about £120,000. During the 1956 season, the industry has been affected by adverse weather conditions and other factors not entirely within Australia. Honorable senators may be interested to know that the amount of cotton produced in 1953 was 5,423,051 lb., in 1955 it was 5,650,785 lb., but in 1956, owing to the bad conditions to which 1 have referred, the production fell to 3,915,986 lb.
But the industry is not affected by seasonal conditions alone. It has suffered, also, because of a heavy drop in the price of cotton and the unsaleable quality of some of the cotton harvested owing to the weather conditions I have mentioned and the lateness of picking. Another strong influence has been the action of the United States of America in dumping on the world’s market approximately 10,000,000 bales of cotton. I understand that more than half of this has been sold and the remainder is waiting to be sold.’ The ‘effect of that has been to depress the world market price of cotton from 36 cents per lb. to 25 cents per lb.
The net return on the Australian cotton crop after paying ginning and all other expenses was £234,040, which with the bounty of £67,000, made a total of £301,040. I agree with Senator Benn that the cotton industry can become most important to Australia. The place of cotton in the life of this nation is so important that it has merited the continued interest and assistance of the Commonwealth Government. Honorable senators will recall how valuable colton was in war-time, and how difficult it was to obtain cotton products in Australia during that period. Apart from the employment provided by the industry, the production of sufficient cotton to meet the requirements of Australia in time of war or peace is a matter of great importance. It has been said that the present production of cotton in Australia meets only 5 per cent, of our total requirements.
– That is only a fleabite.
– As my colleague, Senator Hannaford, suggests, that is only a flea-bite. Our object should be to build up this industry until it is able to supply the requirements of Australia, which are estimated to be 80,000 bales annually. If that were done, it would mean that another important primary industry would have been developed, and it would not then be necessary to spend money overseas on cotton products. I have not the figures, but I know that Australia imports a considerable quantity of cotton goods. We are aware of the importance of primary industries in this country, and when the prices of primary products go down the Government places import restrictions on similar goods coming into the country. The more we can prevent external spending on goods that can be produced locally, the more we will strengthen our internal and external economy.
The cotton industry has suffered so many ups and downs that the time has come when an intensive investigation should be made into ways and means of placing it on a proper economic and developmental basis. As one who comes from a sugarproducing area I cannot think of a better way to assist this industry than to establish cotton-growing experimental stations, such as have been established to experiment with the growing of sugar-cane. As a result of the work of those stations, new varieties of sugar-cane are now being grown, and methods of combating pests have been discovered, as well as better ways of fertilizing the soil so as to obtain a higher yield. This work has made our sugar industry the most efficient in the world. That is a lead that could well be followed in the cotton industry. In Queensland, the sugar industry meets the cost of the experimental stations by contributions from the growers and a small subsidy from the State Government.
A similar pattern could be followed in the cotton industry. If experimental stations were established a survey could be made of soils to find whether they were rich enough or of the right type to grow cotton. It has generally been thought that cotton does not require a very rich soil, but experimentation on a scientific basis might disclose that other soils in Queensland, and probably in other States, might well grow better cotton than the soils which are being used at the present time. Cotton experimental stations might also be able to evolve the right type of fertilizer to use to obtain a better response from the soils which are at present being used for cotton-growing. They could also ascertain the best varieties of cotton to grow in particular districts. We Queenslanders know that the sugar cane that is grown in the Mackay district to great perfection is not necessarily the best type of cane to grow in the Cairns or Mossman districts. Similarly, the kind of cane that is grown in the Bundaberg area may not be suitable for the Ayr district.
– Are we not dealing with cotton?
– Yes, but seemingly honorable senators from other States do not appreciate the relationship. The same thing might apply to cotton, because there are many different varieties of cotton. So I believe that through proper experimentation, we might discover that one kind of cotton might be suitable for a certain area and another kind suitable for another area. As has been done in the sugar industry in relation to sugar cane, the cotton experimental stations might be able to breed better types of cotton. I believe that the varieties of cotton which could be evolved in this country might well be much better than the cotton we are importing.I think, too, that the question of whether cotton requires better rainfall areas in which to grow, or whether we should engage in more extensive irrigation, should be considered.
These are aspects of experimentation which might well prove to be of very great benefit to the cotton industry.
– Can cotton be grown under irrigation?
– Yes, and a much better result can be obtained. If the various governments and the growers were to investigate these matters properly, I fee) confident that the cotton industry could be made very great and one of value not only to Queensland but to the Commonwealth in general. I realize that many difficulties are involved, particularly in the combating of pests; but that is the kind of thing that a research station could investigate.
The cotton industry has peculiar characteristics. The picking of cotton requires a lot of labour. We know that, with the help of the Commonwealth Government and the initiative of the growers, mechanical pickers have been introduced; but associated with mechanical picking there are certain difficulties including a loss of quality. We should investigate, not only improved methods of cultivation, but also the economic size of a cotton farm and the proper placement of ginneries to clean the seed from the cotton. There are lots of problems, but they are a challenge to us to set our minds to place the industry on a really good basis and thus help to develop it. to a state where it will be of very real value to Australia in times of peace and war.
– in reply - I wish to reply to one or two points that have been raised during the debate. The survey that Senator Wood has proposed is now being undertaken by the Department of Customs and Excise. There are certain features of the industry, particularly the growing of lower grades of cotton, which have been giving some concern, and they are being investigated. I believe that only good can come from such an investigation. Departmental officials have noted one or two points that were raised by Senator Benn in his suggestions for assisting the industry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I should like to have an explanation of the proposed section 8 (2.) for which provision is made in clause 4 of the bill. AsI understand the bill, it seems to suggest that the Minister may say to a processor, in effect, “You have paid the grower a fair price, but you have paid some of it from profits made on things other than cotton. So, although the grower has received a fair price, I shall assume that you have not paid a fair price and shall refuse the bounty that is payable to you “. I should like to know whether, in effect, that is what the proposed sub-section means, and if it does, what is the reason for it.
I thought that the bounty had to be distributed by the processor among the growers and it seemed to me that, this provision first, would give to the Minister a great deal of power over any processor who had some other form of business out of which he was making a profit; and, secondly, would punish the grower as much as the processor. I realize that I may be misreading the clause, but as far as I am able to judge it that is what it seems to mean.
– During the off-season, the Cotton Marketing Board in Queensland processes cotton seed oil and sometimes peanut oil, and also lets part of its premises. In that way, it earns income from other than the sale of cotton. The act precludes that income from being taken into account in paying the bounty. That income is earned outside the normal activities of the cotton industry and can be paid in addition to the actual price of the seed and the bounty. At one time that interpretation was under challenge, but this measure makes it quite clear that the income earned from rents and other forms of processing can be paid in addition to the price of cotton seed and the bounty.
The other point made by the honorable senator related to the fact that the Cotton Marketing Board has to pay to the growers the whole of its proceeds from the sale of cotton. Before the bounty is paid, the department investigates the position and makes sure that the whole of the proceeds have been paid. In other words, it seeks to protect the growers, and, at the same time, government revenues, by ensuring that the whole of the proceeds are paid to the grower.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 3rd April (vide page 290), on motion by Senator Henry-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This measure is concerned with what are, relatively, machinery alterations to the Lands Acquisition Act. There is provision for allowing the Attorney-General and the Minister for the Interior to delegate powers in relation not to the acquisition of land but to the disposal of land. There are certain other provisions which enable signatures required by the titles offices for the purpose of recording ownership and transactions in land to be executed by officials who are more readily available than the Crown Solicitor. The rest of the provisions are such as not to excite any objection from the Opposition, and I record the fact that we do not oppose the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 3rd April (vide page 328), on motion by Senator O’Sullivan -
That the following paper be printed: -
International Affairs - Ministerial Statement, dated 2nd April, 1957.
– When I was interrupted by the adjournment of the Senate last night, I had endeavoured to make the point that there was to-day a new climate in international affairs throughout the whole world, and I was about to develop the point that there was a particular climate throughout most of the Asian countries. I was saying, as I am sure you will remember, sir, that this is revealed, particularly, from an examination of the Bandung papers. At Bandung, in Indonesia, there met for the first time the nations of Asia and Africa which have become known as the Afro-Asian conference.
Undoubtedly, the beacon light, as it were, that guided the people who met there, the item that was mentioned most frequently and by the greatest number of delegates, was the subject of colonialism. Undoubtedly, there would be no stronger driving force to any patriot in any country than throwing off the yoke of colonialism and attempting to build and govern his own country. I have always been one to say that, whatever’ the rights or wrongs of the case might be, when people want to run their own country, they should be given the opportunity, whether for better or worse. Many of those countries have proceeded through that phase. We have seen many of them - there is no need for me to enumerate them - gain their independence and take over their own government and affairs and come among the nations of the world.
But those countries are now faced with new problems. We know well the struggles of India and Pakistan to gain their independence. The word that we heard most prior to the granting of their independence by the British Labour government was “ colonialism “, but. I suggest that if we went to those countries to-day, or spoke to any Indian or Pakistani, the word that would be used most. would be “Kashmir”. Those people are therefore confronted with new problems. In Malaya problems are beginning to erupt between the Malayans and the Chinese.. In Indonesia - with the one exception of West Irian, with which I want to deal in a moment- the people have got away from the Dutch and have to face their own problems. Japan is an outstanding example of a country where that has hot taken place. Japan is not bedevilled with colonial problems. On the contrary, we see the Japanese building a firm and lasting alliance on all levels of government with the United States of America. They are making such rapid progress as we never thought possible when they lay, a defeated nation, just a few years ago. 1 feel that there exists an opportunity that is not being appreciated sufficiently by the Australian Government and the Australian people, because these Asian peoples, after having fought for and achieved the defeat, of colonialism, and having those scales drop from their eyes, are looking round for friends and -neighbours and for the establishment, at all levels of govern ment, of the contacts that are forced upon them the moment that they start to govern themselves. The approaches to those problems have been largely taken up by Australia with the countries of South-East Asia on two. levels. We have done it through the pacts, such as Anzus and Seato, and by establishing good relations through such agencies as the Colombo plan in Australia and the Point Four plan in America.
I was one - probably the only one - who criticized the making of the Anzus pact. I did so because I felt - this is shown more clearly to-day - that we had to strike some sort of a balance between the two agencies which we have employed. I was afraid, at the time of the signing of the Anzus pact, that there was a danger, that in the Asian mind - which, as I said last night, is understood by so few of us - the impression would be that three big, white nations were saying that they would establish peace in the Pacific, but that they would do it by military force. I felt that that was not a line that should be adopted with Asian people. I dropped some of those objections in relation to the Seato pact, because at least in that pact, for the first time, Asian and Western nations combined.
At the same time we must face the fad that there are nations in the world to-day, under the leadership of India, which are saying that it is unwise to join in any of the power blocs. Notable amongst these countries are India, Burma and Indonesia. Those countries are suspicious of pacts of this kind, and therefore we must face up to the fact that, whatever positive benefits we may be getting from Anzus, Seato, and the South Pacific Commission, we are at the same time running the risk of bedevilling our relationships with those countries. Therefore it has to be in the field of diplomacy - very delicate diplomacy - that a balance between the two points of view must be struck; I am whole-heartedly in favour of Colombo plan aid, but it has to be used with a great deal of caution. Although the United States of America has poured millions of dollars into other countries, it is a popular pastime in those countries to abuse the Americans. I remarked on that fact in Pakistan when I expressed my astonishment at an article that was pub*lished there. A. friend of mine said in reply, “Perhaps, you are right, but the newspaper correspondent knew that he was on fairly popular ground when he abused the Americans”.
I believe that in the early days of Point Four and the Colombo plan, there was too much controversy and not enough endeavour to make a success of the projects. I believe that the Australian Government acted wisely when it supplied buses to Indonesia recently. Those 50 buses are providing a regular and efficient service, and are properly serviced. The Australian Government rightly did not try to give the impression that it was handing out charity to the Indonesians as that might have been resented. The buses carry a small plate stating their origin, and that is all.
The Minister for External Affairs stated that £2,000,000 had been expended by the Australian Government on Seato. I believe that that is the only contribution on that level that has been made by the member nations. If that is so, it is a complete waste of money,. because insufficient money is being spread over too big an area. If in addition to Australia’s expenditure of £2,000,000 every other nation had contributed in proportion to its size, an adequate pool would have been provided.
Australian diplomats will have the task ahead of them for a long time of explaining Australia’s attitude towards these -countries while concentrating aid on them. Again, it is a question of publicity, and the Americans, good propagandists though they are, have not handled this publicity as well as they might have done. They have left themselves open to the charge that they are pouring dollars into various countries for ulterior reasons.
The publicity on relations between Australia and Indonesia is deplorably bad. I had to give a lecture recently, and I studied the articles published in the “ West Australian “ over the past twelve months. The tenor of all of them was unfavorable to Indonesia in the headings, although there was not much in the articles that appeared below them. Most of the headings did nothing to promote good relations between the two countries.
The only outstanding difference between Australia and Indonesia relates to western New Guinea. I believe that this Government has handled the matter badly on the diplomatic side, although probably not as badly as. the Indonesians have done. After all, the problem does, not lie between Australia and Indonesia. It is the one outstanding problem between the. Netherlands and Indonesia. We should not try to brush the Netherlands Government aside and take its place in this controversy. There is nothing wrong with our declaring where we stand on the matter, but we are wrong to over-emphasize it as our representatives have done at the last two meetings of the United Nations Assembly.
We should explain to the Indonesians that the solution of this problem will take time. At the last conference of the Majumi party in Bandoeng, the warning voice of such a prominent person as Dr. Harahap was raised declaring that it was time the Indonesians settled down to the immediate problems that face them. The Indonesians should remember that it was actually as a result of Australian action that the so-called police action by the Dutch was stopped, and Indonesia obtained its independence. The problem of West New Guinea will resolve itself in years to come. We should tell the Indonesians that we, as neighbours, would like to see them make a success of their administration, and that if they leave the problem of West New Guinea for the time being, a solution will ultimately present itself. 1 believe this Government has taken the right stand, but it has done so in the wrong way. We have a big diplomatic service and it should handle these matters properly.
– I thought that the Government had been quite tactful over this question.
– I believe that the Government has over-emphasized the problem. It has been correct in its diagnosis, but it has forgotten that the problem primarily is one between the Netherlands and Indonesia, and not between Australia and Indonesia. This is the only issue between us and our nearest neighbours. It has been blown up far more than its importance merits.
– Will the honorable senator give a specific instance in which this matter has been over-emphasized?
– If the honorable senator examines the speech that was made by the Minister for External Affairs at the last two meetings of the United Nations
Assembly, this year and last year, he will agree that there has been undue emphasis of this problem.
– The matter was raised by other nations.
– I know that. I have said that I believe Australia’s diagnosis of the position has been correct, but I believe that we have not impressed upon other nations the fact that it is a problem that could be put into cold storage, lt will be solved finally by the Netherlands and Indonesia. We have not been as helpful as we might have been in assisting Indonesia to take this question out of the political field. I simply offer that as my opinion, and I hope that this position does not continue in the future. I do not think it is possible to-day to discuss the question of South-East Asia without having to deal with that matter, because it is thrown at one from every possible level, particularly if one happens to be in Indonesia.
Before leaving the subject of Indonesia, I should like to deal with one other matter, and what I have to say applies equally to the whole of South-East Asia. We have been bringing all sorts of students to Australia, but, as is the case with most countries, we have never placed enough emphasis on the industrial field. Those countries have rather well-developed trade union movements, but they have not the traditions or background of the Australian trade union movement. They have not the industrial set-up that we, the English or the Americans have; they have merely a. potpourri of all three, and we probably could do a great deal by bringing some of the enlightened trade union leaders of those countries to Australia for the purpose of studying such things as the preparation of arbitration cases and the organizing of shop and factory meetings.
Asiatic students coming here are probably superior to many, on the academic level, of the Australian trade union leaders, but, on the organizational side, which is so necessary before one can ever hope to get to the other levels, they are sadly lacking. This is borne out by the fact that whenever a strike gets under way in Asiatic countries it seems to be nobody’s job to endeavour to bring it to a conclusion. Any one who has had experience of industrial matters knows that strikes have to be brought to an end, and brought to an end on some basis of justice that will avoid a recurrence of the problem. Otherwise, the second position could be worse than the first. Australia has set a splendid example in the industrial field and I hope that the Minister will keep my suggestion in mind when considering the introduction of students into Australia under the Colombo plan.
– Does the honorable senator say that the Australian industrial movement should be taken as an example in those countries?
– I do. I know that Senator Wright has not a great deal of sympathy with some sections of our industrial movement; but I believe that the Australian industrial set-up has much that it could export to those countries to their benefit. If the arbitration system were amended to allow lawyers to take part in proceedings, we might even see Senator Wright appearing in his well-known role in courts, and even that, in- spite of everything, might be all right.
One of the pities of not presenting more frequently papers of the kind I mentioned last evening is that we are inclined to miss such items as the riots which took place in Singapore and Hong Kong only a few months ago. Those matters should be reported upon from the posts we have in South-East Asia, because they are of tremendous importance to Australia. The reasons given by the British people for the Hong Kong riots were quite fatuous, indeed, quite untrue. I think it is well known now that they broke out because of the fact that Chinese on their national day were not allowed to fly their flag because Britain does not recognize the Formosan Government. When they tried to celebrate their day, as the Communists had done a few weeks before, somebody pulled the flag down, and that caused the riots. That might not be tremendously important in itself, except that the riots, after a couple of days, were turned by well-organized groups into anti-white riots. Wherever * white person was seen, he was attacked. We all remember that the wife of the Swiss Ambassador was killed during those riots. Arising out of that, the Chinese Communist Government said it was watching with interest the position in the colony of Hong Kong to see whether the. Government was able to control the position there. Any one who has studied ‘ the map, or has been to Hong Kong, will recognize its bad strategic position. It is fantastic that only 25 miles away from one of the gayest cities of the world one sees patrols armed with machine guns. lt is easy to stir up riots in a place like that; such circumstances can always be the little tinder-box of which we are so afraid. I was in Singapore during the recent strikes; picket lines were armed like arsenals. It was perfectly obvious that the whole trouble had been taken completely out of the industrial field and was moving into the political field, again making it difficult for Lim Yew Hock, who had just taken office as the Chief Minister of Singapore; but, fortunately, he has won through and is carrying on successfully.
I have dwelt on South-East Asia. We in Australia, in particular, should study that part of the world. I have tried to point out that we have come to another one of those climaxes, another one of those shifts in foreign policy. I believe that in South-East Asia there will be a great lessening of American and English influences, a change in outlook. Having got rid of colonialism, the people of South-East Asia are going to look around for friends, and I believe that Australian governments of the future will have an ideal opportunity not only to build for ourselves trade and political friendship but also to exercise some of that. influence which, in my opinion, undoubtedly is on the wane. The Australian people and the. Australian Government have a glorious opportunity to make their contribution not only to the advancement of Australia but also to the welfare of those peoples near us and to lasting peace not only in the Pacific but also throughout the world.
Senator VINCENT (Western Australia) 13.52]. - I take the opportunity afforded by this debate to make some general reference to the Suez situation. Later, 1 wish to make some observations about the lessons I think can be learnt from the Suez crisis and the consequences of that unfortunate happening.’ Irrespective of the merits of the Suez incident, I think we are all agreed that ithas provoked one of the most serious crises of recent years, not only within the British Commonwealth but also outside it. It is the consequences of the Suez incident to the
Commonwealth in which I am most interested and which I shall discuss. Again, 1 think we are all agreed that those consequences are equally as serious to Australia and other nations as they are to Great Britain.
Before taking stock, as it were, of the situation, I wish to place on record one or two views of my own in relation to this most unfortunate affair. Let me say at the outset that I whole-heartedly support the actions of Britain and France in invading the Suez area last year. One cannot be dubious about one’s attitude; one must be quite clear about it. I have always supported the actions of the British and the French, and I still support them. I still believe that they were correct. 1 think that there has been far too much loose talk to the effect that Great Britain was an aggressor nation. I believe that Britain’s aims in this issue last year were, and still are, identical with the aims of the United Nations and of America. The famous six principles that were referred to by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Casey) are certainly, I suggest, the aims of Britain. Several of them are worthy of comment. The first provides for free and open transit through the canal without discrimination. Surely no one would suggest that that was not the aim of the British Government. The second principle provides for the insulation of the canal from national politics. I suggest that that is, and always has been, the aim of the British and French Governments. The third principle that is worth mentioning is the one relating to canal charges and tolls. There again, British policy synchronises with the principle that tolls and charge* should be fixed by agreement between Egypt and the canal users.
That brings us to this proposition: lt it is contended that Britain was an aggressor, surely the United Nations also is an aggressor, because the United Nations force followed the British force into Egypt. The only difference, I suggest, between the British attitude and the French attitude on the one hand and the American attitude and the aims of the United Nations on the other hand, is that whereas the British and French were prepared to enforce their aims., the United Nations was unable, and- the
American Government was not prepared, to do so. That is the point of cleavage between the two points pf view.
Let me put this question of British aims and British action in Suez in another light. The British were endeavouring to protect what was, probably, the most vital of their overseas interests - their very lifeblood, oil. Nasser, the dictator of Egypt, was trying to take it away from them. Does anybody suggest that Britain was wrong in trying to protect its interests?
I shall put it another way: Would anybody say that Britain, by invading Egypt, was trying to take anything from Egypt that rightfully belonged to that country. I think, in discussing whether Britain and France were aggressors, we are sometimes apt to overlook the distinction, between aggression and invasion. I do not think for a moment that Britain was an aggressor nation, arid I am convinced that a big majority of the Australian people hold a similar view. I do not think that last year Britain was any more an aggressor nation than she was during World War II., when she invaded France and destroyed the puppet Vichy French Government; or any more than she was an aggressor nation when she invaded Korea, with the consent of the United Nations, and participated in a war with another member of the United Nations - Russia - which country, 1 think, was substantially behind the Chinese.
Perhaps I may state the position in yet another way. Does anybody suggest that a majority decision of the United Nations in relation to the British action, in itself, made Britain an aggressor nation? Does anybody think that a majority decision of the United Nations could convert something that was morally right, internationally, into something that was morally wrong, or vice versa? 1 think that the proposition becomes ridiculous when looked at in that way.
Let us bring the matter nearer to home. Would we, in Australia, regard a majority decision of the United Nations that we had no further right to New Guinea as being correct and proper, and one that should be obeyed? Would anybody now suggest that the Greeks are not doing their very best to take Cyprus from Britain? Would anybody suggest, if the Greeks were successful in- obtaining a majority vote of the
United Nations on the subject, that Britain bad no right to Cyprus? Have we got to the position of accepting, for the time being, a vote of the. United Nations as being automatically and morally sound?
I do hot think that, in Egypt, it was a question of aggression at all. The tragedy, as far as we were concerned, was not that Britain was an aggressor, but that she failed to complete what she set out to do. Let me add this, here and now: I believe that, if the United States of America had ‘ helped Britain and France, or had refrained from hindering, there would not now be any problem in the Middle East. Furthermore, if the Americans had not come in on the other side within 48 hours of the time that the British and French decided to withdraw, I believe that Nasser would no longer exist, that the Israel question would have been solved permanently, and that the Suez Canal would be again operating as it was intended to operate under the convention of the ‘seventies - permanently free to the whole world.
But let me add this: By intervening, and putting pressure on Britain at that stage, America accepted a responsibility that it must now shoulder. America forced Britain and France to withdraw from the Suez area. Having done that, it has done little else. It is true that, at the moment, shipping can pass through the canal. But the economic and political structure within which the canal can work has not yet been thought about by America. If the Americans do not try to solve the problems, not necessarily by the use of armed force, but certainly by the use of moral and diplomatic force, they will be guilty of an ignominious renunciation of their very deep responsibilities. I can only hope that the Americans are prepared to carry on and finish the job that they refused to allow Britain and France to complete. One cannot, with certainty, predict the future, but I do not think that it looks very bright at the moment. I only hope that the great American nation will carry on with the job that it elected to do.
As far as the consequences of Suez are concerned, I feel that there are three important lessons that we - I include Britain - can learn from that unfortunate affair. While I am quite prepared to admit that the conclusion- of the Suez operation was calamitous, I am certainly not one of those who regard the situation as something which cannot be remedied. As I say, I think there are three very important lessons that flow from the Suez incident, and I want. to speak about each of them in turn.
The first proposition I put is this: I believe that the United Nations has, owing to the Suez affair, failed as a protector of international justice. Secondly, we can no longer rely on the United States of America always to give Britain and Australia support in a time of crisis. The third lesson that I think we must learn is that we must turn and look at our own house, and put it in order. I believe that we must reconsider the aims, structure and the future of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I wish to make a few observations about the three lessons which, I think, we must learn from Suez.
I have said that the United Nations has failed as a dispenser of international justice. I repeat that. It has become clearly demonstrated over the years, and finally with the Suez event, that the United Nations is not a united nations organization at all. It is, in fact, a disunited organization, a political organization through which the great powers and small powers are all taking action to gain selfish ends, being entirely governed by motives of self-interest completely opposed to the principles enunciated in the charter. In other words, the United Nations organization has developed into a modern conception of ‘the old-fashioned power politics and pressure groups. I repeat that as a dispenser of international justice it has failed every time it has endeavoured to assist; and it is not guided by the edifying principles contained in the preamble to its charter.
Let me cite a few facts in support of that proposition. If honorable senators follow the Suez incident, as I think all of us have done, they will come to the extraordinary conclusion that the United Nations was actually protecting Nasser the gangster and endeavouring to punish Eden, Mollet and Ben-Gurion. That, in a nutshell, is the effect of the United’ Nations intervention in Suez. Again, it has shown that it is completely incapable of enforcing a plebiscite in Kashmir. It does not want to enforce it; probably it is impotent to do so. Coming nearer in point of time to the Suez incident, the United Nations has,/to all. intents and purposes, completely avoided the agony of Hungary, so much so that it proved incapable of enforcing the appointment pf observers when it was suggested that those people should study the dreadful carnage that was taking place in that unfortunate country. It has failed during the last seven years to do anything to endeavour to settle the dispute between Israel and Egypt. It has winked its eye, as it were, at the guerrilla warfare being conducted by Egypt
As a matter of fact it has done nothing in seven years to settle one international dispute. All it has done is to gloss over those disputes without settling them. One of these days the world might blow up with a terrible war due to the conglomeration of suppressed injustices that have been mishandled by the United Nations organization. Having said that, I suppose some will say I am advocating the abolition of the United Nations. I am not. I am conscious at all times of the tremendous work that it has done in many fields, cultural and economic, and in various other ways. Let it go on and do such things. It can handle them with competence and has done a wonderful job in that respect; but when I look at what the United Nations has done in the field of international affairs on the political level I find that Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand - there may be other exceptions - are the ‘ few nations in the whole of the organization that have taken it seriously. I do not think we should take it seriously in future. I do not think we should ever again take this body seriously until the great American nation and Russia, and even Egypt and a host of other nations are prepared to observe the spirit as well as the letter of the United Nations Charter. We have been the “ mugs “, to use a coarse expression, and I think it is time we stopped.
I turn to the second consequence of Suez and the lesson that can be learned in regard to the United States of America. I do not think any one can deny that we must be careful in again accepting American aid and support in the crises that will develop hereafter, as they will, of course. We in Australia particularly, and perhaps the British nation, have been living in a sort of international stupor in regard to what we can expect at all times from the American nation. We have grown up to accept the state of mind that the United
States can be relied upon at all times to come in and do the dirty work, the fighting for us. That is a calamitous philosophy because the United States will not do that. We are always inclined to forget the lessons of history in this respect. For example, we forget that in World War I. it took a long while for the United States to make up its mind and come in and fight. We should not forget that there are more Australian than American soldiers buried in France as the result of World War I. But, perhaps, we need not go back so far in history. During World War II. it took a violent act on the part of Japan to force the Americans to fight in that conflict.
We now find America lined up with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics against -Great Britain and Australia in a crisis that affects the very life of Great Britain. I am not accusing or blaming the American nation at all. The Americans always are looking after Uncle Sam, first, second and last; and I do not blame them for that. I say that the fault, if any - if we want to -discuss it in terms of right and wrong - lies with ourselves. We have developed a state of mind in which we believe that in all circumstances the great American nation will turn out and fight for us. I suggest that Suez and other incidents in history have proved that that is not true. American principles - and America is a nation of great principles at times - always seem to dovetail in well with America’s practical interests. I think we should leave the American attitude at that. Otherwise, the United States might have taken a great deal more drastic action in relation to Hungary than it did. We must accept the fact that we must do a good deal more thinking in terms of global defence so far as the British Commonwealth is concerned, vis-a-vis the American nation. In a nutshell, we must be prepared at times to stand alone. I suggest that that has not been the thinking of Great Britain and Australia is regard to defence for a long time.
We must reconsider this question of defence in terms of what happened at Suez. Of course, some people will say that that means we should renounce, perhaps, some degree of friendship with America and that we should not still pursue our close association with the great republic across the Pacific. Nothing is further from the truth so far as I am concerned. There is no reason at all why we should not still maintain the closest possible friendship with the great American people or continue to participate in these very valuable treaties, the Anzus pact and Seato, and, so far as Great Britain is concerned, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Baghdad pact. I am merely suggesting that we have to realine our thinking on defence so that, if necessary, in a crisis such as Suez, we can stand alone.
That brings me to the third lesson that Suez has taught us: We must examine again the functions and the future of the British Commonwealth of Nations as we now know it. There was a time when being a member of the British Empire, or for that matter of the British Commonwealth, meant something to all its members. For example, when the Motherland, as we used to call Great Britain, was in trouble, there was no question about every member of the Empire automatically rallying to her aid. Now, some members of the British Commonwealth consider themselves not obliged or bound to do that. On the contrary, they consider that they are entitled to hinder the actions of Great Britain. I refer to the tragic example of India during the Suez affair. We must face the facts, and to me the fact is that if that sort of attitude continues on the part of member nations it will not be long before the British Commonwealth of Nations ceases to exist. It will be whittled away and finally disappear. When the very existence of the British Commonwealth is at stake there can be no question as to the action that every unit member of it should take.
Some may say that it is all very fine to talk like that, but there are grave weaknesses in the British Commonwealth. If that is so, what is the remedy? Before I deal with that I wish to refer to where the strength of the British Commonwealth has Iain in the past. For 100 years, we have always regarded the symbol of the Crown as the uniting force in the Empire. That has never been disputed, but there has been something more which has proved to be a very important element in the matter of mutual support and security. That element, which is now lacking in the British Commonwealth, has, for 100 or more yean, been one of the integrating forces in our Empire and Commonwealth. Now it seems to be disappearing.
I am not suggesting that every sovereign member of the British Commonwealth has not the right to have its own foreign policy, but I cannot understand why those foreign policies cannot be co-ordinated into one unanimous policy. So far as the future of Australia and of the British Commonwealth is concerned, we must act now. There must be a definite understanding among all member nations that the collective defence of units of the British Commonwealth is more important than anything else. Our security is paramount. Our watchword should be, “ What we have we’ll hold”. If New Guinea is attacked, there should be no question of other unit nations of the Commonwealth - Canada, the new federation of the West Indies and all others - being prepared to say to Australia, “We are behind you, do you want any support? “. That proposition should be elaborated throughout the British Commonwealth; otherwise any attempt to obtain a more solid union will break down. If a West Indian island is attacked we should be prepared to help our new member nation. If a part of Malaya is attacked, as once it was, every member nation of the British Commonwealth should be prepared to go in and do its share to defend it. There should be no hiding behind the United Nations Organization as a blind, as happened in the case of Suez, with one or two of our British Commonwealth nations.
The important question arises whether all member nations of the British Commonwealth are prepared to accept a closely knit union in relation to defence. That depends on whether all these nations are prepared to accept this burden of responsibility. To those elements of the British Commonwealth who are not prepared to participate in a close union, I say that it is better that they should get out. They cannot have it both ways - accepting security and protection from the British Commonwealth, and at the same time having two bob on the other side. That situation cannot be tolerated. We have to make up our minds now, because soon many young nations will be joining the British Commonwealth and we must give them some sort of lead. Pakistan is already a member and recently the Rhodesias joined. The State of Ghana was recently admitted and Malaya and the West Indies federation will soon become members. If we want to keep these units in the British Commonwealth we cannot afford to let them go the way that India has gone, and perhaps Ceylon and South Africa also. One day these nations might realize that it is mighty cold outside the Commonwealth.
I realize that the formation of a closer union among sovereign States poses difficulties, but we can overcome them. During World War II., a dozen nations participated in the Empire Air Training Scheme, and the result was the formation- of one of the finest fighting forces in the world. That can be done again, and can be extended to embrace the Navy and the Army. 1 see no reason against a closer co-operation on the question of defence, but that should not be the only ground for unity. As one of the older members of the British Commonwealth, we have a responsibility towards these younger nations whom I have mentioned - Ghana, the Rhodesias, Malaya, the West Indies and Nigeria - to assist them industrially, commercially and culturally. All young nations need help, and we have recognized that in South-East Asia by the formulation and implementation of the Colombo plan. Surely what we have done to help nations outside the British Commonwealth, through the Colombo plan, could be copied in regard to young nations within the British Commonwealth.
A second similar plan could be established, and a good name for it would be the “ Canberra plan “. Let us invite teachers, businessmen and leaders from these new nations that are either within, or will soon become members of. the British Commonwealth to discuss with us what material help we can give them so that they may prosper and develop. Let us show them by our example that they may expect great benefits from participating in a close union within the British Commonwealth; but at the same time let us teach them - I am certain that they will appreciate it and that they will learn, because they are so young - that important and grave responsibilities are also involved. The most important responsibility to which I refer is that of participating in a closely knit defence union which is prepared to defend what we have. Let us refrain from adopting the attitude, which I think we are dangerously approaching, of allowing any tinpot dictator to come in and, by employing some catchword, to take something which belong to us or to make some claim of right to it through the organization of the United Nations or otherwise. We have the spectacle of Greece attempting to grab Cyprus from us. Cyprus has never belonged to Greece; it belongs to Britain, and there is no reason why Britain should not hold it. She has much more right to it than has Greece.
I suppose there will be some criticism of my advocacy of this closely-knit union and that it will be suggested that it will involve complications with other nations or even within the framework of the United Nations. Let me repeat that there is no need to get out of step either with the United Nations or any other nation. As a matter of fact, the United Nations includes and envisages closely knit unions of nations. We can still persevere and preserve Seato, Anzus, Nato, the Baghdad pact, and the like. But I insist that we must have three things before we can get anywhere. First, there must be a co-ordinated foreign policy between the members of the British Commonwealth. We must also have a workable co-ordinated defence programme and a plan of development for the younger members of the British Commonwealth. Finally, we must at all times be prepared to consult each other and to collaborate closely on these matters.
I am led to understand that there was not sufficient consultation and collaboration between Britain and other nations in regard to the Suez Canal. I can understand that, because Britain did not know who were her friends, lt is a terrible stage to have reached in the history of this Commonwealth when Britain is unable to consult her partners because she does not trust them; but I suggest that that is the only reason why other member nations were not consulted. Having reached the stage where we can say that we will stand behind one another, that solidarity is our watchword in defence and development, we can afford to consult each other and to collaborate at all administrative levels without there being any excuse for anyone to say, “I am not going to do this or that, because I was not consulted “. 1 suggest that we should again consider the British Commonwealth of Nations along the lines I have mentioned.
I have suggested to the Senate that the Suez episode has set us certain problems. I do not think that they are insoluble by any means, but I do not think that we can now sit back and pursue our old policies and retain our old relationships within the British Commonwealth and expect to get anywhere. If we do, there is nothing surer than that Britain will perish and that in time we will perish with her; but if we unite and stick together, I think that the British Commonwealth will have a greater potential of wealth and strength than any other body of nations, and that we must prosper. We must be prepared to fight for what we own. A great Englishman, Oliver Cromwell, is reported as having said, “ Trust in the Lord, but keep your powder dry “. We might well remember those words when we are trying to unite and to prove to the world* that what we have we will hold.
.- I think that Senator Vincent spoke with great sincerity. However, I am fully aware that in a discussion of this kind one can touch upon occurrences, serious or otherwise, deal with certain attitudes, go back over the years, and lead up to certain points which collectively do not mean very much. It is necessary for us, when discussing foreign affairs, to speak objectively. 1 was astonished at Senator Vincent’s statements about the United Nations. He was not satisfied with what the United Nations organization was doing to counter threats of war and to prevent war, but said that it had failed to dispense international justice. His statement requires some clarification.
When referring to the attack made by France and the United Kingdom on Egypt last year, he said that we could deduce that we could no longer depend upon certain countries to give us the assistance that we received in the past. He illustrated his statement by saying that no longer could we rely implicitly upon the United States of America to come to our aid. I should like him to inform me at a later date whether, at the time of the Suez trouble, France consulted the countries with which, perhaps, it was affiliated under the Nato treaty or some other pact. I should also like him to say whether the United Kingdom consulted the Australian Government before Britain attacked Egypt. Those things should be cleared up. If we want to rely upon the assistance of our friends, we must be forthright and tell them about our proposed actions. ‘ I am almost ‘certain that neither France nor the United Kingdom consulted fellow-nations, shall 1 say, before they made that attack.
It is possible to deal with certain things in an objective way, and to state what actually has happened only for the purpose of having those things discussed and of perhaps opening the way for the future. But I cannot see that anything can be gained from going back over the Suez trouble or the Israeli disturbance. Such conflicts occur on the spur of the moment, and very few lessons can be learned from them.
In speaking of the United Nations, Senator Vincent is quite out of step with President Eisenhower. It may be recalled that only two or three years ago. President Eisenhower had the following to say upon the operations of the United Nations -
With all its defects, with all the failures that we can check up against it, it still represents man’s best organized hope to substitute the conference table for the battlefield, lt has had its failures, but it has had its successes. Who knows what could have happened in these past years of strain and struggle if we hadn’t had the United Nations. I think it is far more than merely a desirable organization in these days. Where every new invention of the scientist seems to make it more nearly possible for man to ensure his own elimination from this globe, I think the United Nations has become sheer necessity.
I support the message contained in the words of President Eisenhower. The United Nations cannot deal with war or a threat of war by using an army. It cannot engage in war to settle a war or to stifle the threat of war.
Speaking on the action of the French and British against Egypt, Senator Vincent said that he regretted somewhat the intervention of the United Nations. He implied, of course, that he wished that the United Kingdom and France had proceeded and actually declared a victory over Egypt. Let us have a look at that situation for a moment. Suppose that Britain and France had won the conflict and had taken possession of Egypt; what would be the situation to-day and in the future? What is to be gained to-day by conquering a country, notwithstanding that on its fringe is one of the main waterways of the world, and that not very far distant, in Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, are the principal oil-fields of the world? If the United Kingdom and
France had defeated outright and taken possession of Egypt, that situation would have had to be corrected in the future. It could not have remained indefinitely, because countries that have been conquered or colonized in the past have to-day achieved independent self-government. Sooner or later the United Kingdom and France would have been compelled to hand Egypt back to the Egyptians and nothing whatever would have been gained.
To engage in war to-day is a very serious matter. There is, on the one hand, the precipitation of the war, and, on the other, the thought of what could actually happen in a modern war. Some of the comments that have been made in this discussion would have been quite justified if the hydrogen bomb had not been developed, but to-day when we speak about meeting war with war the situation is altogether different. I shall not rely upon my own knowledge of the hydrogen bomb. Instead, I shall quote the following words of General MacArthur -
It has destroyed the possibility of war being a medium of practical settlement of international differences. No longer does it possess the chance of the winner of a duel; rather it contains the germs of double suicide.
He is supported in this contention by no less a personage than Sir Winston Churchill, who said -
It may well be that we shall by a process of sublime irony reach a stage in this story where safety will be the sturdy child of terror, and survival the twin brother of annihilation.
I ask leave “to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan)’ proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I shall not delay the Senate for more than a few minutes. This is a matter which is important to Queensland and Queenslanders, in view of the series of murders, bashings, sex crimes and other offences by prowlers which have taken place in the last two years in Queensland and which are frightening people, particularly young girls going home at night. In a question which 1 directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-
General, Imade the suggestion that in each of the capital cities it should be possible to have one telephone number to be rung in emergency. I suggested1111, because it would be easy to dial and easy to remember. In the same way, everybody in England knows that 999 is the telephone number of Scotland Yard; in fact, everybody in the world probably knows that.I suggested that there should be one number through which any emergency call, whether for the police, the fire brigade, a doctor or a hospital could be channelled. Somebody could be available at this number for 24 hours each day to channel the call to the appropriate number.I suggested that this easily remembered number should be publicized. At present, in Brisbane, one cannot communicate with a local police station by telephone between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. The number which is given for ringing the Criminal Investigation Branch is either B 101 1 or B 1101.I am not sure which it is, and if I, speaking now, cannot remember, how could somebody in an emergency remember a number like that? I wanted a simple number. I received from the PostmasterGeneral a reply which said, in the first instance, that it was impossible to set aside one number for all the capital cities. I do not think that the department could have understood whatI meant. The reply went on to state -
In all capital cities calls can be made from public telephones without the insertion of coins, to police, fire and ambulance authorities, by dialling the special emergency number shown on public telephone notices, for example, B 079 in Sydney and Brisbane, M 079 in Melbourne.
I took the trouble to go through the emergency notices in the telephone books for Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and there is no mention whatever of this. If there is any mention of it anywhere, it must be in the public telephone boxes and that is not of much help to a householder.
I ask the Postmaster-General’s Department to go thoroughly into this matter. If such a number exists it should be a simple number capable of being used by a private subscriber, working perhaps in the dark, or under stress of emotion. It should not be a number such as B 079 or M 079. If the department must have 079 in the number, let the number be publicized in the press, on the front of telephone books in big black type, and in any other way that we can publicize it, so that people who are acting in an emergency - it might be anybody at all living in Australia at any time - will know precisely what number to call If it is a simple number, people will be able to dial it in the dark.
– I shall be only too pleased to bring the honorable senator’s remarks to the notice of my colleague the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson).
– On 20th March, Senator Arnold asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I now furnish the following answers: -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 April 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1957/19570404_senate_22_s10/>.