22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that the Government has formulated a CommonwealthState .dairy farm improvement scheme for Western Australia? Is it -a. fact that the scheme envisages an expenditure of £2,500,000? If the answers to .these questions are “ Yes “, will ,the Minister : use his best endeavours to have :the Senate informed of the details of -the -scheme at an early date? Further, has “the Minister any proposals to improve the economic position of farmers who are at present engaged in dairying .and who, as a result of rising costs, brought about by .inflation, and the uncertainty of the market for butter and butter fat, are experiencing deep concern for the future of the industry?
– I understand that some time ago my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, did make a fairly comprehensive statement in connexion with a proposed dairy farming scheme for Western Australia. I, myself, am not aware of the details of it. If the honorable senator will put “his question on the notice-paper, I shall ask my colleague to supply me with a detailed statement, as requested, at the earliest possible moment.
– My .question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Because of the importance of the matter to Tasmania, information as to the -progress ‘being made with the construction of the new Bass Strait vehicular ferry is eagerly sought by the people of that State. I therefore ask the Minister whether he can make a statement on the progress being made with construction of this ferry. Is he still confident that the vessel will be ready for service in 1959, as .previously estimated?
– A considerable amount of preliminary prefabrication work has already been done on this vessel. I, in company with Senator Henty, had the opportunity of seeing it at the Newcastle yard some weeks ago. At the end of this month, the first double bottom section of the vessel will be laid. There is no indication at all that the vessel will not be finished on time. Indeed, it will be, and I am happy to report to the Senate that at =the yard itself there is considerable enthusiasm for the project, every one realizing that it is the first ship of its type to be built in Australia.
– In addressing a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, I point out that it appears that following the current visit of the “President of the Bank of Indonesia to Australia there might be opportunities for. .expanding. Australia’s export trade with that country. Will the Minister discuss with his colleague’ the question of expanding Australia’s export trade with Indonesia, with particular reference to a possible increase in our flour exports? I point out that this is important, not only because of its effect on our overall balance of trade position but also because of the parlous conditions of the flour-milling industry of Australia.
– I shall be very pleased to bring to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, the important matter raised by Senator Pearson.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions: - 1 and” 2. “There, are four methods now operating whereby persons resident in the United Kingdom can be considered for assisted passages to Australia - -(a) ‘by personal -nomination; (b) by State group nomination; (c) by Commonwealth group nomi- nation; n(d) by” the “Bring. Out a Briton” method.
Under the personal nomination scheme persons resident in Australia nominate their friends or relations on the basis that the nominator shall provide the necessary accommodation for his nominees. About 70 per cent, of our intake from the United Kingdom receive assisted passages by this method and during the present financial year it is expected that no fewer than 20,000 personal nominees from that country will reach Australia.
Under the State group nomination scheme any State government department, instrumentality or private employer may nominate any number of workers together with their dependants from the United Kingdom on the basis that the nominating authority undertakes to provide employment and accommodation for their nominees. No limits are imposed on the number of persons who may be nominated from the United Kingdom under the personal or State group methods.
The Commonwealth group nomination scheme provides for the granting of assisted passages from the United Kingdom to workers, mostly skilled tradesmen, and their dependants, on the basis that they are placed in employment by the Commonwealth Employment Service and temporarily accommodated in Commonwealth hostels for a maximum period of two years. The numbers who may be accepted as Commonwealth nominees in any one year are governed largely by the amount of Commonwealth hostels accommodation available.
For this financial year it is expected to bring from the United Kingdom about 7,500 migrants under the Commonwealth nomination scheme, comprising 1,800 workers and 5,700 dependants.
With a view to increasing the flow of British migrants, the “ Bring Out a Briton “ campaign was launched in the early part of this year. The object of this campaign is to enlist the support of citizens throughout Australia, through “Bring Out a Briton “ committees, in revealing accommodation and employment opportunities into which British families can be placed. To date 120 families, involving 434 people, have sailed under these arrangements.
If that part of the question relating to the number of prospective migrants in the United Kingdom awaiting nomination refers to persons who have applied to Australia House, the answer is that the number of applicants currently recorded is approximately 14,000, which figure excludes dependants. These applicants would be without relatives or friends in Australia in a position to personally nominate them but if they had the appropriate qualifications for the other types of nominations already described, they would be eligible for selection under those nominations.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s question: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The Minister for Territories has supplied the following answers: -
In that year the additional capital expenditure was £97,783.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has advised me as follows: -
In May this year the Minister for Customs and Excise, in collaboration with the Minister for Primary Industry, considered the 1957 production estimates and determined that the percentage rates to apply from 1st July, 1958, should be increased from 12½ per cent, and 21 per cent, to 14½ per cent, and 22½ per cent, for cigarettes and tobacco respectively. The actual production fell short of the production estimate by some 500 tons and this, on the face of things, might appear to call for some reduction in the percentages now presented rather than an increase. However, there are many aspects to be considered, and the Minister for Customs and Excise, who determines the percentages, has intimated that he proposes to call for a comprehensive joint review of the position by officers of the Department of Customs and Excise and the Department of Primary Industry.
– On 3rd October,
asked a question, without notice, relating to a report on the Japanese meat trade in the publication, “ Muster “.
The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied me with the following answer: -
I have seen the report referred to by the honorable senator. I am informed that the report was actually written by an interested party. There is substantial evidence that Japanese consumers prefer Australian beef to New Zealand beef. This is borne out by the comments of a number of different Australian meat exporters who have recently visited Japan to examine the market prospects. Recently, the Australian Government Trade Commissioner, Tokyo, reported as follows: -
Just at present the meal market in Japan is glutted through heavy shipments from New Zealand. Most of this meat consists of Jersey cow beef which has been received with a great deal of disfavour in Japan. The wholesalers are, generally speaking, only able to dispose of this meat at a loss because the butchers and their customers do not like it. Because of the delay in achieving sales, traders are incurring heavy charges for refrigerated storage and, in any case, the available storage is reported to be “ full “.
Australian exports of beef to Japan in 1956-57 totalled nearly 8,000 tons. This represented the biggest Australian beef export market outside the United. Kingdom for the year; Exporters arc in a position to maintain this trade which they have established with Japan-. The global “ free quota “ of meat which Australian exporters may ship to countries other than the United Kingdom and colonies during 1957-58 under, the fifteen-year meat agreement is 15,000 tons. Exporters are at liberty to send, the full “ free, quota “ to Japan if they choose to do so.
– On 10th October, Senator Laught asked a question, without notice, relating to the report of the Inter-departmental Committee on the Flax Industry.
The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following information:: -
The Inter-departmental Committee that inquired into all aspects of the flax fibre industry furnished to me very recently a comprehensive report which is now receiving my attention. I hope to bo in- the position to make a submission regarding the future of the flax industry to the Government in the very near future.
I will examine the question of releasing the report to- the- Senate at the appropriate time. However, it does contain some confidential passages which may create difficulties in the matter of release.
It is a fact that the normal 1957 planting season has now passed.
– On 2nd October, Senator Aylett asked the following question: -
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health state whether it is a fact that the United States Government has suspended the. importation of all Japanese toys into the United States of America for the time being because of a report that injurious ingredients have been found in the paint on the toys which may be harmful to American children, particularly if they put the toys to their mouths? Is the Minister considering similar action in Australia to protect Australian children?
The - Minister for Health has now supplied the following answer: -
No official confirmation has been received of the press report that the United States Government has suspended the importation of all Japanese toys on account of hazards associated with the paint used in their decoration.
The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia at its fortieth session in November, 1955, recommended to State governments that legislation should be introduced to prohibit the use on toys of paint containing more than 1 per cent, of lead. The council expressed its approval of Queensland legislation regulating the use of lead paint and recommended other States to study it with a view to its adoption throughout the Commonwealth.
Inquiries- are being made into any action taken by the United States Government and the Australian Stale governments.
It is intended to discuss this matter again at the forthcoming meeting of the National Health and Medical Research Council next month.
– (New South, Wales - Minister for National Development). - by leave - In view of reports in to-day’s press and yesterday’s “ Hansard.” which mention my name in connexion with the building of the St. Mary’s filling factory, I wish to inform the Senate in the following terms: -
The foregoing facts establish that at no stage did the possibility arise of there being: a conflict between my responsibility as a Minister of the Crown and my association with Hungerford, Spooner and Company.
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Erection and additions to Customs House in Flinders-street, Melbourne, Victoria.
The Public Works Committee was allotted the task, at the instigation of the Minister for Works (Mr. Fairhall), of investigating and making a recommendation on the proposal the subject of this report, namely, to use part of the existing Flindersstreet site for the erection of a customs house under conditions which allowed’ the old Customs House to remain. The committee heard evidence and examined the proposal, but was not in favour of. it. The committee was completely sympathetic to the. suggestion that the old Customs House should remain in existence, because it was erected’ in 1841, has.- been standing on its present site for’ 116; years, and -is a very fine specimen of the architecture of that period of the progress and development of the city off Melbourne. The committee was loth to make any recommendation involving its demolition.
The evidence clearly indicated that the scheme, which was suggested by the Department of Works - the designs and plans were before us - would involve the eventual demolition of the old. building. The committee investigated other sites and thought of using the new Commonwealth centre in Spring-street to house the Department of Customs and Excise; but. the attitude of the. shipping, and commercial interests of Melbourne, which over the. years had established themselves in close proximity to the. existing Customs House and regarded the Spring-street centre as being, too far removed,, was so hostile that the committee eventually rejected the proposal. After considering quite a number of other proposals, and because demolition of. the existing Customs House would eventually be involved, the committee decided to faa up to the. issue and, regretfully decided that- it was necessary to proceed with the demolition. The report I have tabled outlines the reasons for that recommendation and for rejecting, the proposal that was referred, to us by the Minister, and why we suggest that the Department of Works should submit fresh plans and designs for a Customs House building- that will be worthy of the city of Melbourne, which will utilize the whole of the Flinders-street frontage, and which will involve the demolition of the existing building.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) - by leave - agreed to -
That in accordance with the- provisions of section eleven of the Australian National University Ac! 1946-1947 the Senate elects Senators McCallum and Tangney to be members of the Council of the- Australian National University for a period of two years from: 1st July, 1957.
Debate resumed from 10th October (vide page 540), on motion by Senator O’sullivan-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill has been introduced for the purpose of implementing the proposal referred to in the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to increase the subsidy that is paid to Australian gold producers from £2 to £2 15s. in the case of large producers, who are people producing more than 500 ounces of gold a year, and from £1 10s. to £2 in the case of small producers, who are the people producing less than 500 ounces and who, because of the very nature of their mining operations, do not keep the records and books that are kept by the large mines.
As the Opposition is not opposing the measure, I hope to be commendably brief. I desire to project into the debate in this chamber a very admirable suggestion that has been made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H! V. Johnson). While he has welcomed the increase in the subsidy, he has suggested that there should be an investigation by gold-producers and others engaged in the industry with the object of recommending action to put the industry on a more stable basis. Those engaged in the industry want to know where they stand. This is important to the future of the goldmining industry in Australia, and particularly in Western Australia, where 80 per cent, of Australia’s gold is produced.
The honorable member for Kalgoorlie has- been interested in the gold-mining industry in Western Australia for half a century. In recent years, those engaged in the industry have been in a state of suspense continually wondering about their future as inflation has overtaken them. Interesting, debates on the subject have been held in this Senate. All honorable senators know how vulnerable the industry has- been to economic trends and pressures over the. past few years. Just as the mining, industry was getting over the effects of- the. depression, it was denuded of man-power by. World War II, At the end of the. war, it was caught up in . the terrific rise in costs and, in fact, .the cost of production in the gold-mining industry has increased by about 90 per cent, since 1950. At the same time, the price of gold has been pegged.
In connexion with the suggestion that has been made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, 1 wish to direct the attention of honorable senators, first, to the present state of the gold-mining industry in Australia and, secondly, to the justification for Government support of the industry because of its value in earning dollars for Australia. In that connexion, gold won in Australia helps us to avoid dollar loans.
The gold-mining industry has many peculiar disadvantages. That is true of all mining, but it is particularly so of goldmining. The all-important question for those, who are engaged in the industry is its future prosperity. A person who is engaged in gold-mining and settles in a gold-mining centre is completely dependent upon the industry for everything that he has. That does not apply to those engaged in other industries. If a shoe factory in a city goes out of production, those who work in it are not seriously affected. They can take employment in other industries near by. Their homes retain their value. They do not have to move elsewhere, but merely change from one job to another.
The ghost mining towns of Australia tell a different story. Those who have been employed in the mines that have closed down cannot stay in the locality. Therefore, the prosperity of a gold mine is most vital to those who are engaged in it. I hope that the Government will undertake the inquiry that has been suggested by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie so that those who are engaged in gold-mining will know, for a long period of years, where they stand. Gold-mining is not a fly-by-night industry. Nobody can invest a few pounds in a gold mine, and then suddenly disappear. When a company opens a gold mine, it usually plans to work for a long period, and that involves heavy expenditure.
The gold produced in Australia is not chicken feed. Current production is worth between £16,000,000 and £17,000,000 a year and totals about 1,000,000 ounces. That represents about 35,000,000 American dollars. Production in Western Australia amounts to about 80 per cent, of Australian production, and is valued at £12,500,000 a year. That represents a considerable proportion of the State’s income. I shudder to think what the effect would be on Western Australia if the big gold-mining centres such as Kalgoorlie and Norseman became ghost towns.
In recent years, Australia has been struggling to earn dollars. Our imports and our immigration programme for the development of Australia depend largely upon our dollar-earning capacity. Therefore, the Government is completely justified in subsidizing the gold-mining industry. That is just another way of buying dollars. I was interested to read the results of a survey which pointed out that if the Commonwealth Government allowed production to fall to, say, 100,000 ounces, which would be worth about 1,500,000 dollars, it would mean that in the following year, certainly in the near future, the Government would have to borrow that amount of dollars because it is necessary to have dollars in order to purchase overseas those things which cannot be bought with sterling and other currencies. Interest on that borrowing would be £120,000 a year compared with a subsidy of £500,000 to the goldmining industry. Sometimes people are apt to look at these questions without giving them mature consideration, and it is because of this that I emphasize that it was a solid investment for the Government when it increased the subsidy to the gold-mining industry. After all, £500,000 is not a great amount in these times of modern budgets especially when it means not only maintaining an industry but also the saving of dollars in the payment of interest. Although the price of gold is pegged, we have an assured market for it and that is important when we are considering exports. We all know how jittery we become each year about what the demand from other parts of the world for wool and wheat is going to be. That is why people are so interested when the wool sales open in Australia each year.
We shall always find it necessary to face up to the peculiarities of mining. I hope to deal more fully with the question so far as it relates to general mining when I speak on the Estimates and Budget Papers, for I believe that golden opportunities await this Government for the development of the outback parts of Australia if it will only give more sympathetic treatment to mining generally. One of the great peculiarities of all mining is that a mine is a wasting asset. A farmer who grows one bushel of wheat can be fairly certain that he will be able to grow another in the near future, or perhaps even more with the application of modern scientific methods. But once a ton of ore is taken from a mine it is lost for all time. A mine is one of the most rapidly wasting assets that one can imagine.
– But you can go and look for another ton.
– That is so, and if the suggestion of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is not adopted, we shall be looking for another ton. I think Senator Vincent will agree that one of the sad things about gold-mining to-day is that sufficient prospecting is not being done and too little surveying is being carried out. If, however, the Government rejects what I am putting to the Minister then, despite the assistance given by successive governments over a long period we shall not have stability in the industy. It is only natural that people should not look with favour upon prospecting, and that they should feel that if the Government is unwilling to help, any expenditure on prospecting is so much money lost. Unless we go looking for the other ton of ore, unless we carry out proper prospecting and surveying work, it is inevitable that at some point the production of this very important mineral will be reduced.
Another peculiarity of the gold-mining industry is that gold is an indestructible metal. A good illustration of this is to be found in the fact that when the Louisiana purchase took place America sent to France gold bars in payment, and sent them’ in the Original wrappings in which they were when France sent them to America some 100 years before. I mention that merely to point out the importance of gold on the overseas market. As a general rule, when a market for a commodity is being developed, when people begin to consume it, the demand must rise because people become accustomed to using it. They often build industries round it. But that is not the position with gold, because gold is not being destroyed, nor is it being consumed. For that reason, and especially because it is being sold to the one area, the important question is the bargaining for a fair price.
The price of gold, of course, is a hardy annual with South Africa and Australia at all monetary conventions. It is a permanent question with all Western Australians. The price of 35 dollars was established in 1934. The only upward trend since took place when the Chifley Government was in office. The price went up to over £15 an ounce following the devaluation of sterling in relation to the United States dollar, and it stands at that figure to-day.
The increased subsidy naturally, is welcome but I thought it appropriate to raise the question at this time because this is Budget time, the time when we look back over what has happened in the past twelve months. It has not been an altogether doleful period, despite what one might be led to believe from perusing the Government’s Budget; it has been a period of fair prosperity. The Budget indicates that the Government does not propose to do any lavish spending, but I do suggest that this is a most appropriate time for it to carry out a review as suggested by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. In carrying out that review, the Government should seek the help of local workers in the industry and the gold producers with a view to stabilizing the industry in the future. So long as the Government neglects this industry until such time as inflation becomes a little worse and then gives it an increase of perhaps 15s. or £1, those engaged in the industry will not be encouraged either to develop or to carry out any prospecting work. This must inevitably lead to a reduction rather than an increase in gold-mining.
The Australian States, including Tasmania, have been most fortunate in respect of their minerals. The important question to-day is the provision of finance to discover ore deposits and to encourage people to develop important mining industries. As I have pointed out, the gold-mining industry is being disadvantaged and I earnestly suggest that the Government would be well advised to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. I look forward with interest to the Minister’s reply. 1 repeat that I hope that the Government will be able to see its way clear to carry out the investigation suggested by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
The Opposition, welcomes the increase of subsidy but, as is the case with most things, we could have made out a case for giving more to the industry particularly because of the precarious balance in which it is at the moment. Whilst welcoming the increase, we press as strongly as we can for the adoption of the suggestion of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, not only for the good of the industry and the State of Western Australia, but also in the interests of building up a dollar reserve which, I think, would be welcomed by any Federal Treasurer.
– I preface my own remarks on this measure by making some reference to Senator Willesee’s suggestion that we adopt the proposal of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie for an investigation of the industry. I must pay great respect to the experience and knowledge of a member of the other place who happens to represent Kalgoorlie, but at the same time, whilst being conscious of the fact that the suggestion is put forward genuinely and in the hope of assisting the industry, I cannot see eye to eye with the proposal. As I understand the position, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie suggests that a committee of experts be set up to investigate the industry with a view to ascertaining the problems besetting it, and to ensuring its prosperity in the future. All I need say is that the only experts on gold-mining happen to be the people who are working in gold-mines and perhaps some of the very able officers of the Department of National Development. Therefore, a body of experts would comprise men who are already devoting the whole of their lives to the problems of the industry and are endeavouring to solve them. Everybody knows what is wrong with this industry, and I suggest that we do not need a committee of experts to go into the question. The problems are well known, and the matter is simple. Gold, as a world commodity, is being sold - “ forcibly acquired “, perhaps, would be a better expression - at a fixed price. That .price, as Senator Willesee has mentioned, has not actually been altered, in terms of dollars, for some twenty-odd years, .and in that period costs of production have kept mounting and mounting. That is the problem. I suggest that a committee of experts is not needed to come to that conclusion. Whilst T appreciate the suggestion made by Senator Willesee, I do not see any real need for an investigation, as the problems of the industry are already well known.
– You would not be opposed to long-term stabilization of the industry?
-No, but I do not think that matter needs a committee of experts to examine it. All I am discussing is the honorable senator’s suggestion that we have a committee of experts to examine the difficulties being encountered. I suggest that we do not need such a committee.
– I did not use the word “ experts “.
– It happens that “ Hansard “ records that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie did use it. I do not want to enter into a controversy with my friend about this. I do not think it is as important as that. Both Senator Willesee and I speak to-day. at the same political level, shall I say, from different sides of the chamber, in support of a measure which, I suggest, is much appreciated by every section of the mining industry. I think it should be placed on record that every man, management, and other person concerned with the goldmining industry is deeply appreciative of the efforts ‘ that this Government has made on behalf of the industry and of the assistance it has granted. We have heard from some quarters that the subsidy is not enough. In some respects it could be argued that it is not enough, and I shall so argue in a moment. But one must .not overlook the fact - those who live on the gold-fields of Western Australia are well aware of it - that without this subsidy the gold-mining industry in that State would have collapsed long since, and some thousands of men would have been thrown out of work. They have a special knowledge of gold-mining, and it would be very difficult to place them anywhere else. They would have to find new homes, perhaps in the city. In addition, there would be a consequential loss of millions of dollars. So, on -the credit side of the ledger, never let us overlook the fact that this Government is the first government to come out in the open with a policy which recognizes the national and international importance of gold and has quite positively stated that it is prepared to maintain this industry. I think that those facts outweigh, to a very large extent, any criticism that -can be directed at this measure.
It is in that context that I wish to make a critical analysis of the present subsidy, be- cause the matter is somewhat complicated and requires expounding in a little detail. Before doing so, I wish to give credit also to Senator Spooner, who has accepted ‘a great deal of responsibility, as Minister .for National Development, in connexion with this bill. I should like to place on record my own appreciation of the great work that he is doing in that capacity. This is the first government to have created the portfolio of National Development, which very substantially - not altogether - relates to mining, the basis of all industry. I have noticed in this Parliament a growing con.sciousnes of the importance of mining, due entirely to the very fine work of Senator Spooner and his very able permanent head, Dr. Raggatt, to whom, also, I should like to give credit, because I regard him as one of the outstanding men in the mining world today. We are very fortunate to have a man of Dr. Raggatt’s calibre, who can worthily maintain and give effect to the policies of this Government in relation to our national development.
Having said that, I wish to make some reference to the current measure. This subsidy is intended, and was always intended, to do one thing and one thing only, namely, to keep the marginal mines working. With one important exception, it has done so. That mine, I suggest, was not affected greatly because of the subsidy, but closed down for other reasons. It is quite true to say that this subsidy was intended to maintain the marginal mines, in the face of ever-rising costs of production.
– What is the definition of “ marginal mine “?
– It is a mine which is working low-grade .©re. “Low-grade ore “, of course, is a relative,term, depending on many factors, such as the distance of the mine from sources of supply, and its difficulties in. relation to transport and other working costs. For instance, a - marginal mine in Kalgoorlie would be a mine working on about- 4 or -4i dwt. to the ton. That figure would increase if you went further afield. For example, a mine 200 miles north of Kalgoorlie would be regarded as a marginal mine- if it was returning 8 dwt. to the ton. I put it to the Minister for his due consideration that “whilst this subsidy was intended to maintain marginal mines, it is now time that we did some more thinking about the purposes of the subsidy. In due course, this Government should give consideration .to a policy designed to increase the production of ‘gold. 1 do not nee3 to .develop ..that proposition at any length. I think the case for increasing gold production, .as distinct from maintaining it at a. caretaker or current level, is very strong. Briefly, that would facilitate trade, improve our overseas exchange, particulary in hard currency, and particularly, it would pay off our dollar loans which are about to fall due. We have been borrowing millions of dollars, and those loans have to be repaid in either gold or dollars. The International Bank will not accept our paper money, of course. I .suggest, for the consideration of the “Government, that the time has now arrived when it might accept .as a policy the proposition that gold production should increase proportionately with our trade. As every one knows, our trade is going up by leaps and bounds from year to year. I suggest that there -should be a proportional increase in gold production. That is my proposition in brief, and I do not intend to develop it in this debate, because I think the case for it is overpoweringly strong. Perhaps I - can put it in .another way by saying that if our gold production had been maintained at .a much higher level over the last .ten years than that at which it has been maintained we would not now have this -.modern horror known as the import licensing .system on our hands. That is another illustration of how important a little more gold is in terms of international finance.
There are two ways of obtaining this increased production, ‘and two ways only. One is to increase the price of gold; the other, if that cannot be done, is to pay a larger subsidy on gold production. It is >as -simple ‘as that. ‘I want to say a few words -about ‘both those suggestions because they are not, -on the face of them, «s easy of implementation as one would imagine. An increase in the fixed price of gold is most difficult to achieve. Every year over the last six -years to my knowledge this Government has submitted -a very -strong case to the International Monetary ‘Fund for an increase in the .fixed price. That case has been supported -very ably by South Africa and, at times, Great Britain. On the last occasion it was supported by both Canada ‘and Great Britain. The Americans, unfortunately, have the last word, ‘and they violently oppose any increase in the fixed price. Therefore, implementation of my first suggestion would be dependent entirely on the International Monetary Fund. This Government has done all it can do in relation to increasing the world price of gold, and I am quite confident that it will continue its efforts in that direction.
My other suggestion, namely the payment of a bigger and better subsidy, which would have an effect in increasing our annual gold production, is a little more complicated. As an illustration of that fact I remind the Senate that in the 1930’s our gold production dropped to a level of about 427,000 ounces a year. I think that was our lowest annual production. The industry received a great stimulus following the currency inflation at the time so that in the short space of seven years our annual gold production, because of a relative increase in price, rose from some 400,000-odd ounces a year to 1,600,000 ounces.
– What would that represent, approximately, in money value?
– The gold price was then 35 dollars an ounce, so it is merely an exercise in arithmetic to get the total value. It is perfectly obvious that if enough money is paid for gold we will find more gold. Let me hasten to assure the Senate that Western Australia and other parts of Australia have plenty of gold ore left. It is not a question of the amount of gold ore we have, but a question of the price in relation to the cost of production. But it is not only a matter of paying a bigger subsidy because, again, we are bound by restrictions under our international agreements with the other nations in the International Monetary Fund. We as a nation have agreed not to increase the price of gold to our own gold producers above a certain level without first obtaining the consent of the International Monetary Fund. Therefore, when I am advocating a new policy in relation to productivity I am fully conscious of the difficulty that might be encountered in regard to the subsidy aspect. It is not only a matter of the Government’s saying, in effect, “ Yes, we shall increase the subsidy to permit of a greater gold production “. It is also a matter of tying it up with our obligations overseas under the International Monetary Fund.
– Are we restricted as to quantities?
– No, we can produce as much gold as we can at our price. The bill does three things. It increases the maximum subsidy payable to large producers from £2 to £2 15s. an ounce. It increases the subsidy payable to small producers by 10s. an ounce - a flat rate. The third, and very important thing, is the provision for a very substantial increase in the allowance for development. I shall explain what I mean by that in due course. These three things, in short, are the substance of the present measure.
Now I have a few things to say about the increase of 15s. an ounce in the maximum subsidy payable to large producers. The case put up by the chambers of mines in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia was for an increase of from £2 to £2 10s. an ounce, and some concern was expressed by the industry when an increase of only 15s. was decided upon. I might explain, for the purposes of this discussion, that the subsidy is not paid to every producer. Its payment depends upon the cost of production in each case. For example, a mine whose costs of production are £16 3s. 4d. an ounce qualifies for the whole maximum subsidy of, at present, £2. A mine whose costs of production are less than £1 6 3s. 4d. an ounce receives a correspondingly smaller subsidy. When the costs of production of a mine are £13 10s. an ounce or lower the subsidy is not paid, as it cuts out when the cost of production is down to £13 10s. an ounce.
The bill, therefore, of necessity contains a cost of production formula, or a method of computation of the cost of production. In the bill there is a provision in relation to the establishment of the formula. The formula - and this is the important part of the discussion to me - at present provides for an allowance of £3 10s. an ounce for developmental work. I will explain very briefly what I mean by development. That term in this connexion means merely the exploration for and the exposure of new ore bodies, but it does not mean the discovery of new deposits. Development work is, of course, of the essence of sound mining practice. As Senator Willesee said, a mine is a wasting asset, and as soon as you remove a ton of ore you must find another ton to take its place, otherwise the mine will close. The Govern- ment has recognized this important principle of development in that it has very properly substantially increased the allowance of £3 10s. an ounce for development to £5 5s. To-day a mine would be entitled to take into consideration a total of £5 5s. an ounce in computing the cost of production figure. Unfortunately, the Government did not similarly increase the subsidy. The enlargement of the subsidy represents an increase of only approximately 6 per cent, on working costs. In effect, although there has been a substantial improvement in the cost of development formula, it has not been translated into real terms by way of a similar addition to the actual subsidy. This will have the effect of excluding virtually all mines from taking advantage of the increased allowance for development. I do not know why the subsidy was not related to that increase. Perhaps the case was not properly presented to the Government in the first place. This is a highly technical bill and the significance of the development allowance, and the increase in that allowance, may have been lost sight of. In any event, I earnestly ask the Government to have another look at this aspect, and to consider relating the subsidy to the increased development allowance. This would have the effect of increasing the existing subsidy from £2 15s. to about £3 15s., or even £4.
I have one further suggestion to make. The Government might also consider granting a subsidy on gold won in the re-treatment of tailings. Throughout Western Australia there are, at the site of old workings, large tailings dumps. Millions of tons of tailings are available for treatment, and their actual gold content can be fairly reliably estimated. The bill, as at present constituted, does not permit a subsidy to be paid to the owner of a tailings dump who is interested in the retreatment and recovery of gold. I have never been quite satisfied with the attitude of the Treasury officers to this matter. They apparently feel that the subsidy should be paid to producers of new gold only. They regard gold won from a tailings dump as not being new gold. I cannot understand that attitude. The gold in question has never previously seen the light of day. It has adhering to it, still, particles of sand and slime.
– But its extent is limited. The extent of new deposits is unknown.
– The whole purpose of the subsidy is to foster gold production. This year a very large company in Western Australia had to close down although it had produced, from its tailings dumps - which it had worked out - a very large quantity of gold, a national asset. The mine manager told me that if a subsidy of about £50,000 had been paid over the last four years the nation would now have been £1,000,000 better off in terms of gold production. I remind honorable senators that gold is worth 35 dollars an ounce, and that this lost production could have been used, in perpetuity, to improve the trade of this country.
I ask the Government to give a little consideration to my suggestion because it will, in consonance with my other suggestion, have the effect of increasing gold production. I do not pose as the only believer of the proposition that Australia will again want gold very badly if and when we feel the pinch as we did in the ‘thirties of this century. I conclude by reminding the Senate that, within our lifetime, gold has saved the national honour and integrity, and has kept us financially stable during a period of desperate economic stress. The transference of some 5,000,000 oz. of gold to Britain saved Australia’s name and preserved the stability of our economy. I do not suggest that such a time will ever come again, but I do suggest that there will be times when this country will be able to use a greater amount of gold than it is producing to-day.
– I agree with previous speakers on the proposed amendment to the GoldMining Industry Assistance Act that the subsidy envisaged therein is not sufficient. Senator Vincent went a long way round in trying to say, delicately, the very same thing. Of course, he first told the Minister how commendable was the bill, and then tried to tell honorable senators that before his party had come to office there had been no national development. In fact, he made, in a mild way, the very submission that we made when we sought the adjournment of the Senate on this subject some months ago. The Government then said that it would give quick attention to the matter, but it did not do so.
We made it quite clear that a much greater subsidy was necessary if the industry were ‘ to. be saved, if gold’ production! were not. to. drop1,., and: it mines were not to gradually close in. Western Australia; .and: in other1 places: where.- recovery was just’ as expensive.: A’, strong, moral, claim for this subsidy, exists. If the- Government had carried; out-its pledge, to stop.’ inflation, lower production costs and put value- back into the £t,. the. gold-mining industry would not have, been in its1 present plight. It was, of course, quite, impossible for the Government to honour its promises. When Labour left office gold was being produced and everywhere: rnining was being extended. Large deposits- of” Vow-grade- ore were being treated, and payable results were being obtained, because the cost of production was well within the. bounds imposed by the world parity price. Most other industries have been able, to increase the. price which they have earned, for their product, and. have thus kept pace with the upsurge, of. inflation. They have been able to point out that costs of production had risen enormously, and that therefore the price of their product must be raised. The gold industry is one of the rare, cases in respect of which the Government has not been able to let inflation get off the hook - the price of gold is not within, its control. Inflation has forced up costs of production so greatly that we have lost the position which we. once enjoyed in world markets. Formerly our economy was- such as to make the world parity price seem good, but now the world parity price is really an embarrassment. The subsidy proposed in the bill in no way removes that embarrassment, and certainly does not spell the development and extension of the. gold-raining industry.
The Minister has said that gold valued at £16,000,000 or £17,000,000 is produced in Australia and its territories annually. That is a very tidy sum and, as other honorable senators have said, is very useful in helping us to preserve the balance of trade. However it is small in relation to what is possible. We have the same old system; there is nothing new. The Government has shown no imagination. It has no idea of how the industry should be developed. This bill represents just another verse of the same old song, although perhaps a tone higher.
The large producers are those whose output is 500 ounces: or more per annum. They may claim the subsidy if their” aver age cost of production exceeds £13 10s. an’ ounce. The- present maximum rate o£ subsidy is £2 an ounce. I suggest that,, if the subsidy, is to be of any real benefitto the industry, it should be at least double that amount-. It is payable when the average cost of production is £16 3s. 4d. an ounce. The proposed new maximum subsidy of £2 15s. an ounce will be payable if a mine’s cost of production is £17 13s. 4d. an ounce- or more. One can safely say that the maximum subsidy will apply to most mines. This will mean- that a mine can still operate without loss if its cost of production does not exceed £18 7s. 6d. an ounce. When the cost of production reaches that level the mine will be making a trading loss of £2 15s. an ounce on the official price of £15 12s. 6d. The Minister stated that this loss will be compensated for by the new maximum rate’ of’ subsidy of £2 15s. an ounce.
Honorable senators’ can see. the. position that. is arising, As the mines, are at present operating at very nearly the maximum cost of production, not much- margin: will be left for them. That has been the. case ever since the Government introduced the gold-mining assistance- legislation in 1954, out of sheer necessity. The industry would, not otherwise have - been able to carry on. The industry was suffering from anaemia, and it. was fed just enough blood to keep it alive. But it is gradually becoming more and more anaemic. If the industry does not soon receive a blood, transfusion it will, figuratively speaking, die from loss of blood. There is certainly no chance of the cost of production being lowered. It will become higher and higher,, and. the world parity price of gold will remain unchanged.
Senator Vincent suggested that a higher price could be obtained on the open market. As long as Australia is pledged to the International Bank the price we will receive for our gold will not be more than £15 12s. 6d. an ounce. The little- extra that might be obtained on the open market would not be enough to affect the goldmining industry. We have also been told that each time the International Monetary Fund has met, the Government has made vigorous efforts to get a better price for gold, only to be told that we have got into the present unfortunate position through inflation. If the matter went to a vote, I am sure that the world parity, price of gold would not be increased to ‘keep pace with inflation in Australia.
Let us analyse what is happening in Australia. Since 1954, the various companies have been able to keep alive and continue- in production only because of the subsidy. They have striven to keep their costs within certain bounds. As far as the future is concerned, they must receive a return which, with the subsidy, will enable them to keep going. -Big mining companies that were winning a lot of gold from the ground are now curtailing their operations. Their administrative staffs have been combined with those of other companies in order to reduce costs. Many trained men have left the industry. The result has been that .production has declined. This is having .a serious effect on the industry. .Senator .Vincent said that he could see no merit, in the suggestion of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that experts should examine the position in Western Australia. That is a short-sighted approach to the matter. -I admit that the men engaged in the mining industry are competent, but nevertheless the position is serious. Not so many decades ago, a big company in the town of Wiluna was thriving by treating low-grade ore, but it has had to close down.
– The gold has been worked out.
– The honorable senator said during his speech that there is plenty of gold there. I say that there .are plenty of places which have ore as good as that at Wiluna. When Wiluna started to wind up the position was so bad that a big American company announced “ We are not interested in mining gold in this country “. That was not because there is no gold there. It is there.
– In Wiluna?
– No, in the gold-fields area. There is plenty of it there. Then there was the Ravensthorpe field. Mr. Charlsley examined the position and found that the cost of production was so high that, even after taking into consideration the subsidy, the company could not carry on, and it folded up. That is the history of gold-mining. The industry is dying from loss of blood. No. new. mines are being opened because the capital costs are too high .and the structure established by this Government to keep the industry going is: too .shaky. The. economic assistance that it is. providing will not encourage any one to start a new venture. The subsidy is parsimonious and insufficient.
Trained miners .are leaving the industry, and the places of those reaching pensionable age are not being filled. The rate of recruitment of new men is very low. The whole story is .a most unhappy one. The Government will have to adopt a different approach to this problem if it is to revitalize the once mighty gold-mining industry. Western Australian senators who have visited the gold-fields know that once flourishing towns with large populations are now idle. There is not a skerrick of wealth evident, although there is still plenty of gold in the ground. Money needs to be poured into the industry in order to revitalize it. The boys at Kalgoorlie, who know all there is to be known about gold-mining, are leaving the industry. That is admitted, and nobody knows it better than does the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, because he knows intimately most of the people employed in the .industry and has the greatest respect and admiration for their capacity.
What we want are experts in the economy of the industry, not in the results that will accrue to the mining companies, although ultimately they will be helped. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie wants experts to examine the potential of wealth and where it can be obtained, and to get the treatment companies interested in restoring the economy of the industry to what it was before this present horrible condition of inflation strangled it. We need experts in geology to mark out the potential areas of development, we need to encourage the investment of capital, and we need to ascertain how the economy of the industry can be brought into balance.
We need a wider vision than Senator Vincent has suggested. Senator Vincent has quite a wrong idea about what the honorable member for Kalgoorlie thinks if he thinks that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie wants experts to tell the engineers and managers of the mines what they should do. That was not the idea at all. Those men know what is needed. They are working in the interests of their companies .and are doing an economic job for these companies within the framework that the Government has set for them. The Government has set the goldmining economy; the producers cannot increase their price.
The mines are doing a good job, even though, as has been suggested, they might be locking up in the earth a lot of gold that may never be recovered. We have heard some story about £1,000,000 worth of gold that will never see the light of day because of the manner in which we have set the economy of the gold-mining industry. That is the kind of thing that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie wants the experts to examine.
The solution of the problem is not as simple as Senator Vincent has suggested. I suggest that the producers should be paid for the gold produced irrespective of whether it is produced by mining operations or recovered by the treatment of sands or tailings. Recovery at that latter stage is called sluicing, and there can be set aside in tailings a bank which might be as rich as could be obtained from one good seam. The Government would be giving the producers a fair run if it said to them, “ Every bit of gold you produce, whether it is mined or comes from tailings or sands, will attract the subsidy “. I suggest that we need a much more expert view than that which has been suggested by Senator Vincent.
The two members of the Western Australian Parliament who represent the goldfields areas, Mr. Jim Garrigan, M.L.C., and Mr. Bennetts, M.L.C., have visited them since the introduction of this measure, and they say that there is considerable concern because of the fact that the subsidy is not generous enough and because the Federal Government does not consider the industry when introducing other legislation. I refer to the proposed tax of ls. a gallon on diesel fuel. If honorable senators have been to the gold-mining areas of Western Australia, they will know that many of the mines are miles from Kalgoorlie and that they have a fairly long haulage to the batteries. Transport costs constitute a great part of their production costs. Some marginal mines have found that they cannot stand the cost of petrol and have converted their equipment to use diesel fuel. Although they might be transporting over some made roads, they are using bush tracks to a large degree. The terrific hit that they have suffered in the imposition of a tax on diesel fuel will offset this little increase in the subsidy that they are to be granted.
The Government should investigate this aspect of the industry quickly. To do so would be in ‘the interests, not only of the industry, but also of the Government itself. In some of these country areas water has to be carted, and the ore has to be transported for miles to be crushed and treated. When subsidizing an industry, the Government should not penalize it by placing a heavy charge on an important component of its production costs. Although, despite our strong arguments, we cannot hope at this stage to alter the Government’s decision to impose ls. a gallon on diesel fuel, the Minister might be able to obtain quick relief for the mining companies by having them exempted from the payment of that impost.
A lot could be said in relation to the industry and the development of it. The Chamber of Mines, the mining companies, and honorable senators can justly be disappointed at the fact that, although, at a stage when money was not involved, Government supporters put up an excellent case for double the existing subsidy, the increase proposed is so small. I suggest, as has the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, that the Department of National Development and the Treasury should examine the economics of this industry, which has not a chance of extricating itself from the effects of the inflationary condition that has been brought about during this Government’s period of office. The industry cannot pass on the effects of inflation, which is perhaps just as well. In relation to foodstuffs, the Government says that it will not fix prices, that the worker has to pay, that it does not matter to what degree the cost of production is inflated, that the inflation will be passed on. We have before us now a clear example of the tragedy of inflation during this Government’s period in office. Inflation is eating up a great national industry, and prices cannot be pushed up because they are outside the control of the industry. The only way of overcoming the difficulty is to bring back the cost of production, or to pay the penalty of losing the industry or of the Government having to subsidize it.
– This bill has been introduced for the purpose of amending the
Gold-mining Industry Assistance Act 1954-1956 to liberalize the subsidy. Before discussing specific parts of the measure, 1 should like to associate myself with the meed of praise that was extended by ‘Senator Vincent to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and his right-hand man, Dr. Raggatt, for the work they have done during the last few years for the mining industry of Australia. They have done very valuable work indeed. I am eager for the Minister to get lost up in the Kimberley district of Western Australia or in the north-west of that State so that he might extend to that vital and vulnerable area the work that he has done in other parts of Australia.
I do not agree with the suggestion of Senator Willesee, who is not in the chamber at the moment, that it is necessary to appoint a committee to investigate the facts and figures of the gold-mining industry. The honorable senator knows as well as I do that every one on the gold-fields of Western Australia knows from A to Z exactly what is wrong with the industry. It needs help to enable it to develop and expand. I have learned more about the gold-mining industry of Western Australia from the men who work underground than I have from the management tops. The man who works underground feels that it is his livelihood, that he cannot move to any other part of the State or the Commonwealth to enter a different kind of life, that if he is brought up in the gold-mining industry he will be a gold-miner all his life. Therefore, he adopts a long-term view of his working life.
Everybody in a gold-fields town, from the workers underground to the management and the townspeople, can say what the industry needs. We are grateful for the subsidies that have been given in 1954 and 1956. They have been of great assistance to the industry, but they have not been nearly sufficient. Even the proposed increase will go only half way towards the assistance that is required to keep the mines functioning successfully. Some provision must be made for development and expansion.
I agree with Senator Vincent that the gold-fields of Western Australia saved Australia years ago when it was in the trough of a dreadful financial depression. I am sure that the time will come, maybe nol in our lifetime, when Western Australian gold will again save our economy. Some provision must be made for the development of the industry. At present the price of gold and the subsidy together are not sufficient to meet the costs of essential expansion. I hope that the Government will understand the needs of the industry and will provide additional assistance.
The smaller gold producers have not benefited so much from the subsidy. They have benefited more from the flat rate. The larger producers have gained most benefit from the subsidy. I am glad that the limit for the production subsidy is to be made more liberal, and that discretionary power is to be given to the Treasurer to provide for unexpected developments. That will assist mines which are working on small margins when the management sees an opportunity for essential development. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill and hope that the Government will see that further expansion of the industry is necessary and that an additional subsidy will be provided, if required, to assist in that expansion.
.- The gold-mining industry is one which would give any government a headache, because the price of gold has been kept static while prices of other metals have risen to meet increased costs and inflation.
– Is not copper produced in Tasmania?
– The price of copper has risen with inflation. If the price of gold had risen in the same proportion, there would be no need for a subsidy for the gold-mining industry. Had the price of gold risen in consonance with the increase in wages, gold would be bringing £30 an ounce now, and that is far above the current price. If gold were £30 an ounce, it is doubtful whether we would have to approach the United States of America for dollars because the output of gold would rise considerably. Wages have risen by 150 per cent, over a period while the price of gold has risen by only 25 per cent.
Some people wonder why the production of gold has fallen. We could not expect anything else. Other mines have not been closed because the price of metals, other than gold, has kept pace with inflation. The price of gold has. remained static because one country - the United States of America - has accumulated so much gold that it can control all the gold in the world and all hard currencies.. The United States has benefited by keeping down, the price of gold.
Senator Vincent has referred to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. When that bank was, established, we knew that it would be controlled by those who controlled the world’s gold and hard currencies. That fact was stated in the Senate at the time, but that does not overcome the difficulties associated with the price of gold.
I accept the figures that have, been cited by Senator Vincent because he has been closely interested in the industry for many years. He said that the production of gold had risen from 400,000 ounces, when the Australian currency was deflated and the price rose from £12 to £15 an ounce, to 1,600,000 ounces. If the price of gold were increased by another £3 an ounce and production rose proportionately, it would be more than worth while because of the dollars we would save. Every £1,000,000 worth of gold we can produce in Australia is equivalent to approximately 2,250,000 American dollars. We have to pay interest on dollar loans, and goodness knows how many times we have to convert those loans. We might pay interest on borrowed dollars for 50 or 100 years. I suggest, therefore, that it would be well worth while to increase the subsidy on gold. If we could eliminate dollar loans in that way, we would benefit considerably.
There are ghost towns all over Western Australia because the price of gold has not kept pace with higher costs and increases in other prices. If production costs rise 100 per cent, and an industry is working on a margin of 25 per cent., it must fall behind by 75 per cent. If the price of gold does not keep pace with the cost of production, mines must close down.
– What is the honorable senator^ solution?
– I will reiterate it. I do not suggest that it would be a complete solution, but it would be worth trying. At least I believe it will be successful in keeping, in operation those mines that are working to-day whereas if it is rejected some of them probably will close down. I suggest that the. present subsidy be doubled. It is my belief that to double the subsidy could, lead to a doubling of production which, in turn, would mean a tremendous saving in dollars now needed to pay interest on other, dollars borrowed from America.
– But we sell gold to America.
– Gold is the equivalent of hard currency. The honorable senator knows that if we borrow dollars from America to pay for goods we import from that country, we must pay interest on that borrowing and this, in turn, means more dollars. I admit that if we send gold to America we lose that gold, but at the same time we are conserving dollars and reducing our liability to pay interest on borrowed dollars for many years to come. I feel that if my suggestion were adopted it would result in increased production just as the last increase of £3 an. ounce increased production from 400,000 to 1,600,000 ounces.
Another important point to remember is that there are other products in this country that are just as vital to our economy as is gold. I admit that gold is extremely important when we are operating under the present capitalistic system - almost the whole of the world is working under it to-day - but there are other commodities just as important as gold, and there are other sections of the community just as important as those who have their money invested in gold-mining. I refer to the primary producers. They are just as entitled to consideration as are the producers of gold. It is significant that while we are now considering a bill which seeks to increase the subsidy payable to the goldmining industry in the hope of preventing that industry from going out of production, we find one Commonwealth Minister prosecuting and persecuting out of production a returned soldier primary producer.
– That is not a parallel.
– It is a hard cold fact and I shall be quite happy to debate the point anywhere outside this Parliament, in any public place, with the honorable senator. I do not want the protection of parliamentary! privilege before I make statements. I do not blame the Government for what has been done to. this returned soldier, because I do not think the Government agrees with the Minister concerned, but 1 contend that we should be fair and treat all sections of the. community equitably. 1 am certain that if the Minister in charge of mining were to do something similar to what was done in the case of the returned soldier primary producer to whom 1 have referred there would be an outcry from both sides of the Senate against him during the discussion of this bill.
I ask the Government to treat all producers, whether they be producers of gold, primary products or secondary products, on an equitable basis. Do not let us make fish of one and flesh of another by granting a subsidy to the gold-mining industry whilst at the same time prosecuting primary producers off their land as was done in the case of O’Shea, the returned soldier on King Island.
– I rise to support the bill which is designed to help the gold-mining industry of Australia. The Government is to be congratulated upon .the help it’ is giving to this industry in the form of the proposed subsidy.
Since 1935, the gold-mining industry has received from 35 to 36 dollars an ounce for its gold. Although there have been terrific increases in the cost of production since that year, the price has remained stable, the only increase being that which took place when sterling was devalued in 1949. The present cost of producing an ounce of gold is so high that many mines would go under’ unless some help was given by the Government. That is the reason for this bill, which seeks to increase the subsidy that was granted two or three years ago.
This measure will have a threefold effect. It wilL increase the subsidy payable to large producers from £2 to £2 15s. an ounce and that payable to the smaller producers, those who produce less than 500 ounces a year, from £1 10s. to £2 an ounce. It will also help the larger mines to qualify for a subsidy for development purposes in that it seeks to increase the amount which may be taken into consideration in calculating cost of production from £3 10s. to £5 10s. an ounce.- lt is quite true to say that the goldmining industry of Australia has been of considerable help in providing employment in bad times. Back in the depression years from 1929 onwards, when people could not find employment in the cities and rural areas, they flocked to the gold-mining districts of Australia and were able to get a living out of the gold-mining industry, either by working in mines or prospecting and winning a certain amount of gold of their own.
I believe that this is an industry that is well worth supporting. In Western Australia, the largest town outside Perth, Kalgoorlie, supports a population of over 20,000 people on gold and gold-mining alone. It has supported that population, and more, since the turn of the century. If some subsidy were not forthcoming from the Government, many mines on the Golden Mile would find.it rather difficult to carry on. In fact, we have seen large towns in Western Australia go under because they have run out of gold and because the price of winning gold has become so high that they could not continue. Just prior to the introduction of the initial legislation, “ Big Bell “ went under, but at the present time no mines which have adequate ore bodies available are in danger of closing.
Senator Cooke said that, because of the Government’s policy, no new gold mines are now being, developed. I do not think that that is quite correct. In the Northern Territory the “ New Hercules “ mine started two years, ago. When a new company known as Bamboo Springs Goldmining Company was recently floated in Western Australia, within a few minutes many thousands of applicants had oversubscribed the share, capital. People, who are interested in the industry are evidently prepared to invest money when companies can produce prospectuses showing , that the gold is readily available.
– Why have you to separate the dirt from it?
– You always have to separate, the dirt from it. In fact, you do not do that all the. time; you separate the gold from the dirt, which is a much more difficult process. The people are still interested in gold. This subsidy does not apply to many of the large producers. It applies only to those large companies which are producing gold from marginal mines. In Kalgoorlie a marginal mine is a mine producing four or five dwts, or even Jess, a ton, but in the outback areas, where labour and transport costs are high, a mine producing 8 or 10 dwt, or even more, a ton, would be a marginal mine. In the Northern Territory, and in the Kimberleys and other parts of the north-west of Western Australia, a mine would need to produce - I would say off the cuff - more than 10 dwts a ton to be able to continue successfully.
This legislation is not designed to help rich mines to continue. To qualify for a subsidy, one has to be a marginal producer. The bill is designed to help those mines whose costs have risen so greatly that they need a little extra money to enable them to keep in production. Many mines are taking advantage of this legislation. I remember reading that since the introduction of the initial legislation some two or three years ago, the Government has paid each year about £500,000 in subsidies. I have no doubt that the increase from £2 to £2 15s. an ounce to the large producer, and from £1 10s. to £2 an ounce to the small producer, will enlarge the Government’s commitment by a further £300,000 or £400,000 a year. I believe that the Government is fully conscious of the need to keep our goldmines in production, and the payment of a subsidy is the only means of keeping marginal mines producing. Senator Cooke said that Australia was the only country that is suffering from inflation and that we were rejected by the International Monetary Fund because our costs were too high. I remind the Senate that in the debate on Australia’s application to the International Monetary Fund, Canada, England, and South Africa, supported Australia’s application. Of course we have had inflation, but would some honorable senator opposite tell me of any country that has not suffered increases in its costs over the last ten years? Ours are probably as high as, or higher than most, but other countries are catching up with us.
I should not like to resume my seat without paying some tribute to the Bureau of Mineral Resources for the part that it has played in our gold-mining industry. I understand that at present the bureau has a geochemical party at Tennant Creek in an endeavour to locate further ore bodies that may or may not contain gold. It is a recognized fact that in the Tennant Creek field gold is associated with deposits of hematite. Looking over the field, one finds that where the hematite is at the surface, invariably shafts have been sunk. The Bureau of Mineral Resources sends officers with magnetometers to find ore bodies of hematite beneath the surface. Companies will proceed to drill in areas recommended by the bureau and, no doubt, in many cases will locate gold. To-day science is playing a very large part in locating additional ore bodies. In the old days we had to rely on prospectors, and we still have them looking for ore bodies which show above the surface of the soil, but it is very difficult to find new ore bodies. I believe that with the help of State Departments of Mines and of the Commonwealth Bureau of Mineral Resources, additional ore bodies containing rich deposits of gold will be found, and we can confidently look forward to an increase in Australia’s gold production. There is no doubt in my mind that many marginal mines throughout Australia would be closed to-day were it not for this assistance provided by the Government. I believe that this continued assistance, and the increase in the subsidy, which has been announced in the measure, will help to keep these marginal producers in production. It is interesting to note that the increase of the subsidy proposed is commensurate with the increase of costs over the last few years. The result is that people who could produce gold two years ago under the cost structure then in existence will be able to produce the same amount of gold, with the aid of the subsidy at the new level, in the same marginal fields as before. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill.
.- It is with mixed feeling that I rise to support the measure, because Senator Scott has suggested that the gold-mining industry has provided a good deal of employment for people. I agree - especially, in its early history, for undertakers! I suppose that this industry has been responsible for a larger percentage of deaths of employees engaged than any other industry. One has only to go through former mining towns in Victoria which to-day are abandoned and without population, to realize that fact, because there is always in each a cemetery containing hundreds, if not thousands, of the graves of those who went there in hope of winning this precious metal from the bowels of the earth.
However, 1 am pleased that in recent years, as a result of the efforts made by various organizations representing the workers in this industry, slowly and surely better methods of mining for gold have been evolved. I am also pleased that governments from time to time have listened to the representations made by those who speak for the employees, and have forced upon unwilling gold-mining companies, by law, the observance of certain conditions for the benefit of the workers in the industry. Be that as it may, we find that gold still has a great value. Despite all the things that have happened in trade and commerce over the years, despite the introduction of other means of exchange, gold remains the final commodity which is accepted by all in payment for goods or services. Gold is still the yardstick of the value of all commodities.
The Leader of the Government (Senator O’sullivan) began his second-reading speech very well by paying a tribute to the Australian gold-mining industry. He said that the value of gold produced in Australia and its territories is between £16,000,000 and £17,000,000 per annum. He indicated that, apart from a minor amount that was used in this country, our output was exported and consequently was adding, at the present, 35,000,000 dollars annually to Australia’s overseas balances. That is no mean sum. Much has been said about the value of the gold-mining industry to Australia. Now, if this industry is of such value to Australia in helping to augment our overseas funds in providing employment under the improved conditions which are now in existence, one would think that the Government would go all out to offer some inducement for the development of the industry. My quarrel with the bill is that it is doing nothing to extend the gold-mining industry. First, somebody has to do the pioneering work - somebody who is prepared to put up with great inconvenience in going outback and prospecting for gold. There are a few intrepid people who have a few pounds to spare and who may invest them in a company which, after a good deal of pioneering work has been done, and if it is fortunate, may strike a lode and be eligible for some subsidy. Why does not the Government subsidize the pioneering and exploration of the various fields that are known to exist in this country, if this industry is of such great value to us? Why wait until gold is obtained before any inducement is given to the prospectors and producers? We have many fields throughout Australia which in their earlier years were good gold producers but which, for various reasons such as the inadequacy of the machinery available at the time and the undeveloped methods of extracting the gold from the quartz that were then used, have closed down. It would be almost impossible for the ordinary company or the ordinary prospector to do anything about re-opening them.
It would appear from remarks made during the course of this debate that Western Australia is the only State that has produced gold or is still producing gold. I am not unmindful of the part that the discovery of gold in Western Australia played during the depression years of the 1890’s and in the early years of this century. I know that many people went from the eastern States to Western Australia, especially when mines cut out in Victoria; but in Victoria there are innumerable places that could be developed or prospected if the necessary assistance was given by the government of the day. What the Government should be doing in order to develop this industry is not to wait until a mine is just petering out and then come along with a subsidy, but to subsidize the prospecting and development of new fields.
Subsidies to industries that are deemed to be of value to this country are nothing new. During war-time the Commonwealth has subsidized various primary industries in order to keep them going, because their products were needed for the benefit of the people. If it is good enough to subsidize industries in war - such as the potatogrowing industry, the pea-growing industry, the onion-growing industry and goodness knows what else - in order to keep them in production because the country needed the commodities, surely, if we need gold, we should set about encouraging that industry in a proper and methodical way.
The suggestion brought forward this afternoon by Senator Willesee, which, I understand, originated in another place from the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson), that a proper investigation be made into the possibilities of the industry, is a good one. Why cannot the Bureau of Mineral Resources, which is -efficiently run, which is playing an important part in the development of our mineral resources, and which played an important part in the discovery of uranium and the development of uranium fields and so on, turn its energies to encouraging increased gold production? That is the point at issue, but it is not acknowledged in the bill before us, which merely ‘helps to prop up companies operating mines where gold -has already been discovered. Why not look for new mines? Who will say that properly-controlled prospecting in Western Australia would not produce another Kalgoorlie? We have seen what ‘has happened at Tennant’s Creek, where a wildcat company was- floated. The mine there has turned out to be a great producer of copper and other minerals. Who can -say that scores of similar mines would not soon be operating, if full-scale prospecting were carried out? I have been told that at Ballarat and Bendigo there is still as much -gold in the ground as ever came out of it, but, of course, before that gold could ; be won -much exploration and expenditure would be necessary.
The Government is painting a very, glowing picture of the value of the gold, industry to Australia, so it should set about the task of finding new fields in a proper manner. At Wattle Gully, in my own electorate, there is one of the best goldproducing mines in Victoria. The company operating it has developed a fine tract of country. Instead of offering extravagant dividends in the manner adopted by some other companies - which have picked out only the rich ore and distributed the proceeds to a few fortunate shareholders - Wattle Gully has ploughed a good proportion of its earnings into developmental work. The company is now endeavouring to explore adjacent ‘mines abandoned in earlier years. I -do -not ‘ know whether that work is regarded as “ development “ for the purposes of bounty payments. From my reading of the bill, the Minister’s secondreading speech and the original legislation, I am left in some doubt on this matter. However, it is the kind of activity that we should support. As has been truthfully said, once gold is taken from the bowels of the earth it is gone forever, and we must continually look for fresh sources. We must explore known reef lines, and look for others where gold is likely to be found.
This measure will be appreciated by the companies that are struggling to overcome increased .costs at a time when the International Monetary Fund refuses to increase the price of gold. The bill will undoubtedly help such companies going, but if the Government is earnest in its expressed wish to develop this industry it should subsidize prospecting parties so that new fields may be found. As,I see it, that must be done if the industry is to regain the stability which obtained a few years ago.
. -J have listened to the debate with a great deal of interest. To begin with it might be . a good thing to restate the principle inherent , in the legislation before us. Expressed > in - precise terms it is designed to assist the - marginal mine “, not to subsidize gold production so as to increase its volume.
– We -would like to see gold production . expanded .
– I shall deal with that in a moment. The bill is designed to assist the. marginal mine, and to keep the volume of production at about the present level. The subsidy amounts to three-fourths of that portion of the cost of gold-mining which exceeds £1’3 10s. an ounce - if the mine in question produces in excess of 500 ounces per annum. The maximum subsidy has, in effect, been increased by 15s. - from £2 to £2 15s. The bill also permits development costs to be included in general costs for the purpose of the subsidy. However, there is to be a limit of £5 5s. an ounce, the previous figure having been £3 10s. an ounce.
This has been a .good debate. Every honorable senator who has participated in it has given the bill a good mark in some respect or other. Of course, some honorable senators have, asked for more generous provision for . the industry and so on, but all have been unanimous in commending the t bill as. far as. it. .goes. I remind honorable senators that this legislation has .now stood. the test of experience. It was introduced in 1954, for. an initial period of two years. That term was renewed in 1956 for a further three years. Although the legislation is intended to maintain the marginal mine, it is well to remember the importance of the gold-mining industry as a whole. It yields Australia annually an export income of some £15,000,000. It is also well to remember the importance of the industry to Western Australia in particular. The work force there is approximately 6,000, and the industry sustains a population of about 35,000. It would not be possible to develop alternative employment opportunities for those 35,000 people because of the geographical isolation of many gold mines. It is not to be wondered at that Senator Vincent, Senator Scott and Senator Robertson, from this side of the chamber, and Senator Willesee and Senator Cooke from the other side, have taken part in the debate. All of them come from Western Australia, and are greatly interested in the whole problem of the gold-mining industry there.
The subsidy now costs the Government some £500,000 per annum. Like all other such arrangements, the cost increases as time goes by. In its first year it amounted to £99,000, in its second to £401,000, and in its third to £500,000.
– -It is money well spent.
– I am saying that in passing. It is money well spent, otherwise the Government would not be renewing the legislation and increasing the subsidy. The Government anticipates a higher bill next year.
The inherent difficulty of the gold-mining industry is the fact that the price of gold is in truth determined by international arrangements under the International Monetary Fund. The International Monetary Fund is a world-wide organization designed to do what is right in order to stabilize national currencies. One of the regulations or arrangements of the International Monetary Fund is that the price of gold will not be increased unless each of those nations which hold 10 per cent, of what might be loosely called the capital of the International Monetary Fund is agreeable to such an increase. The United States of America holds 27 per cent, of the capital of the International Monetary Fund and, in practice, is the only final buyer of gold. It is not to be wondered that it is difficult to increase the price of gold, and that the price has remained stationary for many years. That is the background in the light of which one has to consider a proposal for a subsidy aimed at developing the goldmining industry.
Gold-mining, with all the rewards that it offers from time to time, is in truth a risky business. Those who invest their money in mining quite rightly anticipate, and hope, for a higher return than they would obtain if they had invested in some other way. It is not the type of transaction upon which the Government should embark. An increased subsidy means, of course, increased governmental participation in the industry. As, under conditions as they exist at present, .there is little prospect of an increase in the price of gold, a subsidy to increase gold production is, under the present circumstances, almost a subsidy to attract more subsidies in the future upon increased gold production that has not attracted an increased price. I put it to honorable senators, whether they come from Western Australia or Victoria, that the Government and the Senate are carrying out their responsibility if they maintain the present volume of production and keep in operation the marginal mines that are in danger of going out of existence because of increased costs and a fixed price. I think we do well if we carry that responsibility because I feel honorable senators from all States agree unanimously that if we are to provide additional money for mining, whether in Victoria or Western Australia, we would perhaps do better if we provided that additional money for oil, uranium or lead mining, which provide nationally the same amount of employment and the same amount of export income, but which are not subject to the limitations to which gold-mining is unfortunately subject.
Two proposals have been made during the debate. The first was a proposal - I think it has been made before in the Senate - that the subsidy should apply to gold recovered from tailings. The subsidy does apply to gold recovered from tailings provided that type of mining is carried out as part of the operation of a gold-mining company. If a gold-mining company is selling gold recovered from tailings it is entitled to obtain the subsidy. However, the subsidy does not apply where people are merely working a dump. The subsidy is aimed at maintaining the volume of mining operations. Many of these dumps are relics of the past.
– Those people are putting gold into circulation.
– That is not the purpose of the subsidy. The primary purpose of the subsidy is to maintain a level of employment and a level of mining operations in the industry. I am told that some of the dumps or tailings for which applications have been made for subsidy are dumps or tailings that go back to the early days of gold mining, even as far back as the 1850’s.
– New gold mined from quartz has been there for generations.
– That might be a very good argument, but it is fallacious because the Government is aiming primarily at the maintenance of mining operations and not the recovery of gold from old dumps.
The second proposal, which emanated in the other House, was that a committee of investigation should be appointed. I am not prepared to sponsor that proposal. I have a great deal of confidence in my own department. I think that all the technical information required is readily available from the department. In addition, there is no dearth of applications and of information brought before me by the chambers of mines in the various States, particularly Western Australia. I feel that we have all the technical knowledge we need. On the other hand, the financial aspect is so closely tied to international financial arrangements that no benefit would accrue from an investigation such as has been suggested.
I think J have covered most of the arguments adduced during the course of this debate. I thank the Senate for the good reception it has accorded the bill, for the support it has promised to it, and for the interesting debate that has taken place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), in his reply, dealt with the non-payment of the subsidy to people who treat sand, or tailings as he called it. The Minister stated that the subsidy was being paid for the purpose of keeping some mines in production. If he does not know, the department knows that some mines are producing about six grains to the ton, some a pennyweight, and others a little more. The Minister says that, if they dig a hole in the ground and if they form themselves into a producers’ association or something of that kind, they would be entitled to get the subsidy for treating sands or tailings. I do not know whether he is aware that trees are growing out of some of the tailings that were dumped some years ago, and that from those tailings men are recovering six grains or half a pennyweight of gold to the ton, and some even as much as 6 dwt.; but apparently those men are not allowed to claim the subsidy because they are not digging a hole in the ground. I have yet to learn that any person who treats any kind of earth, whether it has been dumped on the surface of the ground by somebody else or whether it is ground that needs to be dug in order to reach a body of ore, is not mining.
The subsidy is payable for the production of gold. It means that a miner may receive, instead of £15 10s. an ounce, £17 10s. or £18 an ounce for the gold he produces. A small producer producing less than 500 ounces need not dig a hole, but may use a manually operated plant and receive up to £2 an ounce more than he would get in the ordinary course of events.
I should like the Minister to have another look at the matter so that, instead of giving the narrow interpretation that he has given us this afternoon, he may be able to indicate that the subsidy will be paid for the production of all gold.
– The Attorney-General (Senator O’SuIlivan) said, in his second-reading speech, that the increased subsidy might assist in the development of the industry, and reference was made to section 10 of the principal act. I should like the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to enlighten me as to whether a producer who extends his lease so that he may develop another area because his mine is likely to cut out within a year or two is entitled under the act to assistance in the development of that new area.
– I should like to have had notice of the question that has been raised by Senator Sheehan. I shall answer, in general terms, that question and the question that was raised by Senator O’Flaherty. Of course, legislation must be interpreted as it applies in practice. Senator Sheehan will recall that are are two limitations. First, the maximum subsidy is £2 15s. per ounce, and the costs of development are not to exceed £5 5s. per ounce. Under the formula arrangement, the subsidy payable in a year on each ounce of fine gold produced is three-quarters of the excess of the cost of production per ounce over £13 10s., provided that there is not charged for development more than £5 5s. per ounce. I think that is quite clear.
Secondly, I suggest that the operations would need to be conducted on the same mining property. For the purposes of this legislation, I doubt very much whether one could develop a new mine elsewhere. But if the operations were carried out on the same lines and on the same property, they would be regarded as being carried out on the one mine.
As to the question of tailings, I cannot say much more than I said earlier. The act is designed to encourage the development of marginal mines, and the recovery of tailings is not regarded technically as being mining, because no open-cut operation, no shafting, and no drilling are done.
– It depends on the size of the tailings dump.
– The honorable senator now raises a further issue. If it is suggested that there might be an old tailings dump of sufficient size to justify treatment by excavating equipment, that is a circumstance which I do not envisage. I am sure that although most acts are administered with technical exactitude, they are administered with understanding, andI can only suggest to both honorable senators that they might make representations in specific cases.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– The chairman of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory has advised that Senator Nicholls has resigned his place as a member of that committee on account of ill health. I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate appointing Senator Poke to fill the vacancy on that committee.
Sitting suspended from 5.44 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 15th October (vide page 590), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the following papers: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending 30th June, 1958;
The Budget 1957-58 - Papers presented by the Right Hon. Sir Arthur Fadden in connexion with the Budget of 1957-58; and
National Income and Expenditure 1956-57, be printed.
Upon which Senator Benn had moved by way of amendment -
Leave out all words after “ That “, insert “ the Estimates and Budget Papers 1957-58 tabled in the Senate should be rejected because they are an integral part of the Government’s implementation of policies detrimental in their effects on the defences and development of Australia, on the living standards and employment of the Australian people and wasteful of national revenues “.
– When the debate was adjourned, I was referring to the ills that were flowing from import controls. I had reminded the Senate that the Liberal-Australian Country party government had adopted a policy of import controls and was implementing them by by-passing the Parliament and putting the administration of import licensing into the hands of the Public Service. I pointed out also that, over the years, we had had the extraordinary spectacle of a section of the community being granted a privilege or a right to import a certain quantity of goods. Whether they were essential to Australia or not was beside the point. The basis of the regulations was this: Certain importers had established, in a particular base year, that they were importers. Because they had happened to import a certain quantity of goods in a selected year, they became entitled to import that quantity of goods into Australia year after year. Because those persons and concerns had been granted that privilege, without debate in this Parliament but by way of regulation by the executive Government, some of them advertised openly in the press that they were prepared to sell their rights for a stated amount of money. It became apparent that they were using the close preserve which was open to them to secure for themselves considerable sums of money without any effort on their part. From 15 per cent, to 20 per cent, of the value of the goods covered by a licence was paid for the use of that licence.
This was pointed out to the Parliament and, from time to time, honorable senators on the Opposition side have emphasized how unfair this practice was to the remainder of the business community. We did not know from time to time whether a person who was the holder of an import quota would be allowed to bring into Australia goods to that value, or whether the Minister for Trade would alter the amount of a quota without reference to the Parliament, deny a licence to one individual and grant it to others. In fact, a practice had developed to which members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee had directed the attention of honorable senators some months ago. We believed that the practice was wrong. It denied an advantage to one section of the business community and gave it to another. We believed also that legislation which affected so seriously the private enterprise section of the community ought hot to be governed by a few regulations that could be altered from time to time at the direction of a Minister.
The only concession that was granted by the Minister in recent months was the setting up of a board in each State to consider appeals against the Minister’s decisions. ‘ In practice, however, the Department of Trade will continue to exercise almost the same total authority over the granting or denial of import licences. I suggest that that situation, which affects so seriously such a large section of our community, ought not to be allowed to continue.
Senator Wright pointed out in his speech that controls which are so important to the business life of the community ought to be discussed openly in the Parliament, and that those who are affected by them ought to know, through acts of Parliament, how they can obtain redress. The business community should have more protection and should be treated more fairly. If import licensing is to continue, I hope that the Government will take some action to ensure that it is put on a reasonable footing.
I direct my attention now to another problem which gives me much concern. I refer to education, lt has been said in this Parliament that education is solely a matter for the States. I believe that the state of education is now too dangerous for us to continue to maintain that attitude. We are not maintaining a standard of education throughout Australia that is suited to the requirements of a modern community. Every State Minister for Education is faced with, the problem of providing proper educational facilities for growing numbers of children who are seeking entrance into our schools. Because the State Ministers are denied sufficient money to provide those facilities, they are lagging behind the educational requirements of a modern society. Schools throughout the States are overcrowded and class rooms are inadequate. Educational aids that should be supplied are not available except where there are active parents and citizens’ organizations.
It is obvious that the position must become acute because of the flow of immigrants into Australia and the natural increase of population. In the past seven years, the number of children entering State schools has increased by 60 per cent. The numbers of school children rose from 810,000 in 1949 to 1,275,000 in 1957. The cost has increased from £35,000,000 to £70,000,000 a year. The more frightening feature of this problem of education is the fact that while we are able only to provide overcrowded conditions without proper facilities for educating our children, fewer and fewer are passing on to take the technical training that is so urgently needed in this community. Over the last seven years, there has been an increase of only 9 per cent, in the numbers of children going on to take technical training after completing their primary education. In 1950, 161,000 students were taking technical training, but by 1957 this number had increased to only 178,000. That is an alarming position.
Let me now quote- to the Senate the opinions of one or two. people who also see this position in the same way as 1 see it. The first 1 mention is the. Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) who, when the Russian, satellite passed over. Canberra a week ago; pointed out that this represented a tremendous advance in education which, offered, a challenge to us-.. He urged us to concentrate on the- training, of the maximum number of students in engineering and science. “ If we do- not “, he said, “ we. must fall behind in the race foc technical efficiency “. For years, Professor Messel has. been: drawing attention to the alarmingly small number of. students who are entering our university science and engineering schools by comparison with the swarms who want to become doctors and lawyers. We know that doctors are doing, extraordinarily well to-day. From time to time in this Parliament, I have criticized the particular health scheme upon which the Government has set its mind and which I feel fails to cope with the problem. One thing it does do, of course, is provide a source of revenue, for the doctors and, because of that, doctors and lawyers are flowing from the universities; but not nearly enough students are seeking, technical training.
– I do not know that we are getting hundreds of lawyers-
Senator- ARNOLD. - I would” expect a lawyer to contest that statement. Yesterday, Professor Oliphant declared that a far smaller proportion of Australian university students are taking scientific and technical courses than, is the case in almost any other country in the world.
That brings me to another matter I should like’ to put before the Senate. Recently, I had the opportunity of visiting the Republic of- China: Upon- inquiring into education in. China-, I was informed by the professors at various- universities that there was an unlimited amount 06 money available- for education,, and that their main problem was the* obtaining of tutors to teach the number of. children who- were- applying- for education. They told me that they believed they were training- four times; as many- technicians per thousand as the Americans. Whew we remember that there are 600,000,000’ people: in- China, I put it to the Senate that- it is” possible that within- a very few years’ that cOunty’ will be turning out a tremendous number of technicians and skilled men. who must advance it industrially.
China, as I saw it, was one of the most poverty-stricken nations in the world; The people were working very long hours. I believe their standard food was rice and vegetables. The- slums in- the- big cities were appalling: Their transport systems were completely inadequate. They needed’ roads bridges and’ all forms of transport. We found that although it was in that condition; that country was prepared to provide unlimited sums of money for education. I believe it is very wise. I believe that rather than raise its standard of living at the moment it is building for the future. By- pouring money into education, China will be able to turn out a tremendous number of technicians and trained people to assist in its development. At Peking alone there were 3<7 technical universities.
What I am trying to point out to the Senate is that we in Australia, with 10,000,000 people enjoying, a reasonably comfortable, standard of living, with all the things that the people in China have not, are denying our children the opportunity for education. We are neglecting to provide proper facilities for training highly skilled technicians in order that we may keep in the. race which might prove to be one for survival. I feel that it is imperative that at this stage we, who have so much, look at the Budget with a view to seeing whether if is possible for us to do more for the education of Australian children, and with a view to seeing whether we can provide facilities for greater technical training in order to prevent our dropping so far behind in our educational standards that we shall be compelled to fall out of the race within a few years’ time. This is an urgent problem, and I do put it to the Government that we cannot afford to wait very much longer, that we cannot afford to allow our children not to be trained to the standards to which other countries are training their children. Indeed, I urge the Government to pour more and more money into the development of the brains of our coming generation, in order that we may preserve even the conditions which we have.
I now come to the question of the coal resources of Australia. I believe that the greatest natural resource we have is our coal seams, particularly those in the northern fields of New South Wales. Over the years, we have been most wasteful of both coal and the men who work in the coal-mining Industry. We have been wasteful of coal because we have left something like 70 per cent, of it in the ground. Having been left there, it will never be recovered. We cannot afford to waste such a natural resource in the manner in which we have been wasting it to date. I recall that when we were very short of coal during the war years the government of the day made many promises to the coal-mining industry. It promised to modernize the industry, to mechanize it, to plan for its development, and it promised that in that planning the employees would not be forgotten. The Joint Coal Board was set up, and over the years some pits have been modernized, and some have been mechanized, but the social side has been allowed to drop behind. We have been able to improve production per man shift from 2.5 tons to 3.75 tons. We have now many very efficient coal mines, but in the process of getting them we have already lost 4,000 men from the industry. To-day, in Cessnock alone, 275 men are registered for unemployment relief. I believe that over 400 are out of work, without any prospect of again obtaining work in a coal mine. Coal-field towns are one-industry towns, and if the coal mines are allowed to decay, the towns which are near them decay too. Over the years we have seen towns decay .when neighbouring gold mines were worked out. Everybody walked out, leaving a ghost town. Around Cessnock the coal has not been worked out. and there is no need for Cessnock to become a ghost town. It has a technical college which cost £1,000,000 and an enrolment now of about 800 students. But week after week retrenchments are taking place in the mines. Men are leaving the district because there is no other employment there. I suggest that Cessnock will be on the way to becoming a ghost town unless something is done to rehabilitate the industry.
Quite a lot can be done. When I went through coal mines in China, I found that the management was not leaving 70 per cent, of the coal in the ground as we do here. The mines had adopted hydraulic stowage, which we have sought for years in Australia, and they were taking out all of the coal. In addition, although China is a country with oil resources, oil was being made from coal. In Australia we have no known oil resources, but we are turning more to the use of oil. Residual oil is now being used to make gas in Sydney. We are converting transport to the use of oil. Our trains are using diesel fuel. If ever an emergency came again in Australia, in a very short time the whole of our transport and all of our armed services could be immobilized, and a considerable amount of industry could come to a standstill, because of lack of fuel. We did have a plant for the production of oil from shale at Glen Davis, but it was completely obsolete and has been shut down. In other parts of the world, particularly in South Africa, there is modern plant for the extraction of oil from coal.
– Is it a different process from that which was used at Glen Davis?
– It is a different and more modern process. In South Africa at present 55,000,000 gallons of petrol are being produced from coal each year. 1 suggest that in Australia it would be possible to’ improve on the plant being used in South Africa, which was itself an improvement on the plant used in Germany. With our great natural resources of coal, we could have at least some independence of shipments of oil from overseas. I feel that any government which has in mind, if nothing else, the defence of this country, and its dependence on shipments of oil from overseas, should investigate the possibilities of the production of oil from coal in Australia. We know that both our coal and shale deposits are rich in oil. We know that during the war years Germany was able to keep going substantially on oil produced from coal. Since then we have seen the plant developed in South Africa, which each year makes available to the South Africans 55,000,000 gallons of petrol, besides by-products. In Australia, where we have tremendous coal resources, we are wasteful, we are dependent on supplies of oil from overseas, and we are taking a risk in the hope that everything is going to be all right. Honorable senators recall that when there was a crisis in the Middle East about a year ago there was talk of petrol rationing and of our not being able to get enough petrol for our transport requirements. That was because one oil-producing region of the world was affected. If we had again to join in a conflict, which could be a global conflict, we might find within a matter of days that all our industry, our transport, and our defence services were completely immobilized because we had nothing to keep them going, owing to our dependence on oil from overseas.
In the process of getting oil from coal, we could obtain a number of by-products. I understand that it would be possible for us to save £40,000,000 or £50,000,000 worth of imports a year, if we used the processes which are now available to get chemicals and other products from Australian coal. Some time ago 1 mentioned to the Minister that there were in Sydney three scientists who said it was quite possible for us now to establish a drug industry from the byproducts of coal and to achieve quite a deal of independence in petrol supplies.
It was promised that the coal industry would be put on a stable basis, so that the men who were engaged in it would know that they had a reasonable chance of working out their lives in their chosen calling. All that is required is the determination and effort of this Government and the Minister in charge of these resources. I ask that the Minister apply the resources of the Government to examining the position in order to see what can be done before the next Budget is presented to the Parliament. The Minister should report to us on what can be done, in the interests of the men, the coal industry itself, and the protection of Australia.
– I support the motion for the printing of the papers and I reject the amendment moved by Senator Benn. As you will appreciate, sir, the amendment is, in effect, a motion of no confidence in the Government. 1 feel that no man on the Labour side at this juncture would wish this Government to be defeated. It would be like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire if the Labour party were to face an election at this time.
This debate is taking place a considerable period after the presentation of the Budget papers. The Budget has been discussed throughout the land - over the air and in the newspapers. Almost four months have passed since the beginning of the financial year, and the Senate could very well discuss the early effect of the changes brought about in the Budget. lt was very interesting recently to hear that the bank rate had been raised in the United Kingdom and that in that country, and even in the United States of America, the value of shares on the stock exchanges had tumbled. It is even more interesting to realize that no such movement occurred in Australia. Commonwealth bonds remained remarkably firm, and have become even firmer. That shows that our economy is in fine fettle. No other conclusion can be reached when one considers our ability to withstand an event of such magnitude in the United Kingdom.
I read in this morning’s press that American investment in Australia now totalled almost £300,000,000, and that 30 per cent, of our capital inflow originates in the United States. That money does not come here by chance. It comes because Australia offers a reliable field of investment. Australia can offer security, a right to trade, and a right to repatriate dividends and, if need be, capital. There has been in the last three or four years a remarkable increase in the amount of business transacted between our two countries. It may well be that the treaty with relation to double taxation which was before this Senate for approval about four years ago had a good deal to do with that. It followed the pattern of a similar treaty between the United Kingdom and Australia which was negotiated by the Labour government in 1949. I hope that the treaty recently negotiated between Canada and this country will also “result in increased trade, and greater Canadian investment here. All these things have been possible because the great trading nations such as the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada know that Australia is a grand place in which to invest capital or trade.
Unfortunately, the recent report of the Tariff Board has not been debated in the Senate. Indeed, it passed almost unnoticed. Possibly there is greater need for the Senate to select such a document for debate than to continue a debate on the Estimates and Budget Papers six or seven weeks after the presentation of the Budget in another place. The Tariff Board’s report highlighted certain very important matters, and summarized the the circumstances unfavorable to Australian industry in the matter of competition with other countries. Those factors include two rises, each of 10s., in the basic wage - in May, 1956, and April, 1957 - recent increases in the freight on raw materials, transport costs, long service leave privileges and so on. This list was accompanied by another giving the circumstances favorable to Australian production in competition with that of other countries. It included the reduction in the incidence of strikes, the lessening of movement from job to job, more peaceful conditions on the waterfront, and greater general efficiency in industry. 1 wish to direct the attention of the Senate to something that I consider to be most unfavorable to industrial efficiency and orderly living. It has an important bearing on industry in my own State especially. I refer to the rather unnecessary difference in standard times which exists in Australia. Why should it at this moment be 8.’37 p.m. in Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory and only 8.07 p.m. ,in South Australia and the Northern Territory - a few miles to the west? These differences are having a deleterious effect on industrial costs, and upon communication between South Australia and Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales, and so on. 1 have done some research into this matter and 1 find that, before 1895, the mean solar time of each capital city was adopted as the time for the several colonies. In 1 892, just eight years before federation, an important conference, of surveyors was held on this subject in Melbourne. They realized that something should be done with regard to the times operating in the various colonial capitals, and in 1895 the respective parliaments passed legislation creating three different time zones on the Australian continent. That in ‘Western Australia was eight hours ahead of Greenwich; that in South Australia and the Northern Territory -nine .hours ahead, and that in the eastern States ten hours ahead. However, in 1898, the South Australian legislature saw economic difficulties in being an hour behind Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, -and reduced the difference to ha’lf an “hour. I have read the debates that took place in the South Australian House of Assembly on that occasion and, for the life cif me, I cannot see why half-measures were indulged in. Why was the South Australian time not brought in line with the time in the eastern States’? South Australia and the Northern Territory have been bedevilled and haunted .ever -since .by the ha’lf hour difference in time.
It is interesting to realize that .the town pf Broken .Hill has been commercially linked to South Australia for about 70 years. For the first 40 years of its existence its only transport link was that to Adelaide. It has always observed - mainly for commercial purposes - South Australian time. The people pf Broken Hill considered that it was commercially advantageous to have as their standard time the time adopted in places such as Port “Pirie and Adelaide, with which they did most of their business. That seems to me to be an example of how commercial prudence has dictated a course of action. I understand that at Broken “Hill the Department of Railways preserves New South Wales time and that there is at the ‘station a clock with two faces, one showing the South Australian time and the other the New South Wales time.
This matter of .the difference in times (could -be well .considered -by the Commonwealth. From my .investigations, it would seem that in the United States of America the National Parliament has power to deal with the question of time, as it comes under the placitum relating to weights and -measures. I submit that in our own Constitution there .is possibly power -under section 51, placitum (xv.), to deal with this rather difficult question.
At -this stage, 1 am making no reference to the ‘time system in Western Australia. Because of the number of degrees of longitude ‘between the east and the west of the continent, I do not think it is practicable to !have one time for the whole continent. It is well known -that every 15 degrees of longitude require a time difference of one hour. So I suggest that it -would be wise to retain -the -western standard time based on the meridian of 120 degrees, which runs roughly through Coolgardie. It is eight hours ahead of Greenwich .time. I submit .that ,there should be an eastern standard time based -on the meridian of 150 degrees, which runs more or less through Canberra. It would be ten hours -ahead of .Greenwich time.
It might ‘be interesting to note in passing that the great Sir Charles Todd, who was, as it were, the progenitor of the northsouth telegraph line, suggested at a convention in the 1890’s that it would be practicable to have one time for the whole of Australia. I believe that he had in mind a longitude of about 135 degrees, just west of Port Lincoln, in South Australia. 1 submit to the Senate that there are very good economic and administrative reasons why there should be only one time for the 90 per cent, of the Australian population that lives in the States of Australia other than- Western Australia, and in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. It is most desirable for postal, military and governmental administrative reasons that there should be one time. It is also desirable from the stand-point of the number of ships, trains, aircraft, private cars or road transports and their passengers that, pass between South Australia and the Northern. Territory and the eastern States. The need, to alter the time on a watch every time a person proceeds across the border would be completely obviated if there was one time.
Let us. consider the situation in relation to communication by telephone and telegram. At. the present time, as between South Australia and. the eastern States there is always one dead hour a day. By that, I mean that between 9 a.m. and- 9..30 a.m. in Victoria it is not usual for there to be business communication with South Australia because of the half-hour difference in time, and the same thing happens between, 4.30 p’.m. and 5 p.m. That is. on the assumption that offices open at. 9 a-.m. and close at 5 p.m. in both. States. That one hour dead time commercially as between business, houses and business people would be saved if there were one time system.
I direct attention, too, to what happens in the cultural field. Because of the difference in times between the eastern States and South Australia, educational broadcasts that are suitable for schools are not easily arranged. Broadcasts of orchestral concerts which normally commence at 8 p.m. in. the eastern States must be received at 7.30 p-.m. in South Australia, which is a rather awkward time. Church broadcasts, sporting broadcasts, broadcasts of the running of Melbourne Cup races and even parliamentary broadcasts present a problem.
Let us think, too, of the trouble to which the Australian Broadcasting Commission is put in using, landlines and making recordings so that programmes that are broadcast at 1 p.m., 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., as the case may be, in the eastern States may be heard in South Australia at the same named hours but at ai different point of time.
Having looked at it from every angle, I believe that confusion could be avoided if there could be evolved one time for the five States- and the two federal territories to which I- have referred1. In South Australia, something akin to daylight saving to the extent of half an hour could be effected. Whereas- at the present time industry ire South Australia finds it necessary in the autumn, the winter, and the spring, to light up at 4 p.m., it would not be necessary to light up until 4.30 p.m..
My research has led. me into the Parliamentary Library, and I have discovered that this, very problem that I am propounding to the Senate now has been dealt with by important committees of the United States Congress. In 1948, there were two committee inquiries. Those committees had to consider a bill that was designed to provide that all interstate commerce should operate at a standard time. I was interested to read some of the evidence that was given; witness after witness testified to the great economic loss than was being experienced by transport and broadcasting services in particular, because of numerous different time standards. Of course, there were mild protests from people engaged in agricultural pursuits; they thought that they would be put out a good deal if there were to be a change of time. But by and large, the consensus of opinion- seemed to be that considerable economic savings would be effected by bringing more of the various time standards into line.
I put this to the Senate and to the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan): Has not the time arrived to put an end to the inconvenience and loss that result from the existence of an eastern standard time and a central standard time in this great continent? Should what was good enough in the insular colonial days be good enough for us now? We have come a long way since the 1890’s. We are becoming a great trading nation, and” I believe that all. the lets and hindrances’ to the free flow of trade should be- done away with.
Could this not be the subject matter of discussion at the level of a Premiers conference? 1 should like to see the Commonwealth raise it for discussion at the next meeting of the Premiers. Could not the Chambers of Commerce or the Chambers of Manufactures of Australia confer on this important matter? The business people of Broken Hill, as I have already pointed out to the Senate, have in their wisdom adopted South Australian time. The practical men of that inland city saw the importance of doing that. Could not this question be reported on by the Tariff Board? We have from time to time read most interesting things in Tariff Board reports. Last year sine Tariff Board reported on pay-roll tax and depreciation allowances and this year 4t reported on accidents in industry. I think the Tariff Board could be invited to make a report on this question of uniform time standards.
– On the economic aspect.
– As Senator Wright has said, it would need to be on the economic aspect. Of course, the main points of my speech apply to the economic aspect. I suggest that the question could be considered at a higher level. Could not a committee of honorable senators from both sides be appointed to take evidence and report to the Senate with a view to legislation being originated in the National Parliament to give effect to its findings? Committees of the United States Senate and House of Representatives saw fit to undertake such a task.
I submit that this is a matter that should evoke the interest and attention of honorable senators, no matter on which side of the Senate they may be. It should interest senators from South Australia in particular. I have very great pleasure in supporting the motion for the printing of the papers and in suggesting that the amendment moved by Senator Benn be rejected.
– I believe that this is a no-confidence Budget, because the Government is not showing confidence in the latent, potential power of Australia as a nation, especially in the economic field. The Government may be aware of this power, but its. proposed expenditure for 1957-58 does not give the necessary inspiration for the development of this country. The plans for expansion are too conservative. The Government still has the narrow outlook of paying its daily debts. That may be a very worthy outlook. It would be a practical one if Australia were a fully developed country with a large population, but Australia is a large, undeveloped country with a very small population. We must think big and act accordingly. We must not be intimidated by the magnitude of the task of developing Australia and expanding our economy. If there is to be a continued restriction of developmental expenditure to the confines of the present revenue, future generations will justly condemn this Government for its want of confidence in their ability to meet debts incurred in developing the country for the sake of its future prosperity, just as we in Tasmania condemn the lack of foresight of conservative governments which failed to harness the hydro-electric resources of that State. Planning and foresight during the depression years, with faith in Tasmania’s future, would have paid off a hundred-fold. The present Tasmanian Government, in spite of increasing costs, has confidence in the future of Tasmania and is going ahead with works costing about £8,000,000 per annum. That is being done in a small State with about 330,000 people. The Commonwealth Government could well emulate the action of the Tasmanian Government, so that Australia’s expansion will be rapid.
The development of Australia’s national resources should be given first priority and the Government should not act in a hesitant or miserly manner. It has nothing to fear, because the development of the assets df Australia would pay off a hundred-fold. We have to forget about hesitancy and develop our national assets. We have to plan for the near future, not the far distant future, because, to my way of thinking, time is short. The Government should not be like the man who was given one talent and, for the sake of security, buried it in the ground, so that when his master returned, all he had to show was one talent. It should be like the man who was given ten talents and who, through wise investment, could give his master 100 talents when he returned. The Government should c invest in the future of Australia, but in the present Budget it is not doing that. At the end of this financial year, it will be able to show only one talent, so to speak.
Conditions are ideal at present for investment in the expansion of Australia. Our overseas balances are in a very healthy condition. The surplus of exports over imports last September amounted to £21,500,000. Materials are in abundant supply, and during the last twelve months there has been a surplus of labour. All that is needed to make Australia a land of opportunity is a lead from the national Government. A burst of national activity would bring in its wake the needed capital from overseas, if we have faith in Australia’s future the investors, also, will have faith in it. Encouragement of private enterprise, supplemented by discerning Government development of basic resources, will guarantee to every Australian willing to work a job paying a wage sufficient to enable him to meet the needs of his family, and satisfactory conditions. This objective is fundamental; any government that fails to assist in its attainment will forfeit the confidence of the people. I dealt with this aspect of the Budget during the recent debate on the social services legislation, and 1 shall not reiterate what I said on that occasion. I merely want to say that the Government’s attitude to the pensioners is such that we are still of the firm opinion that we will defeat the Government on the Budget issue unless it reconsiders its decision in relation to the pensioners.
During the debate on the Social Services Bill 1957 I was disgusted with Labour’s attitude to the amendments that were moved on behalf of my party. Apparently, Labour still desires to treat the pensioners as a political football. Deplorably few members of the Labour party voted in this chamber last week on that bill. If the Labour Opposition really believes in what it said about the matter, more of its members should attend in this chamber at vital times. If they do so. we may be able to improve the position of the pensioners. While Labour senators continue to absent themselves from the chamber at such times, very little can be done in that connexion.
When speaking on the Social Services Bill 1957, I referred to child endowment, and T suggested the adoption of a scheme to improve the family wage, which is a very important part of our policy. As 1 said on that occasion, we desire to see a family wage introduced. The question of an improved family wage by means of increased child endowment leads me to a consideration of what might be the result of the introduction of automation into our industrial life. This is a very important aspect of the matter. I believe that automation will bring about the next great change in the economic structure of society. It has been welcomed in America. Russia has determined to make full use of automation in order to accelerate productivity. Great Britain has already felt the impact of this modern development. Australia must act now to ensure that her industrial workers will obtain a fair share of the benefits that may be derived from automation.
– Does the honorable senator support the Japanese trade agreement?
– Certainly, because the only way we can maintain full employment in this country is by the sale of our primary products overseas.
Undoubtedly, the introduction of automation was the underlying reason why the Australian Council of Trade Unions decided recently to advocate a 30-hour working week. Its decision was ridiculed by the employers. Therefore, the seeds of conflict have already been sown. We must protect the rights of the workers to full employment and a just living wage. If certain of our industries are to survive the threat of competition from abroad, modern techniques must be introduced. I call on the Government to take the initiative in effecting a smooth transition from our present industrial methods to automation, in order to prevent an industrial crisis from occurring in the very near future. The Government should at once convene a conference between its officers and representatives of employers and employees to consider all matters relevant to the introduction of automatic processes in industry and recommend measures to be taken to preserve industrial security. Already there are signs of the advance of automation.
It is worth repeating what I said at the beginning of my speech in relation to the employment situation. The present position can be overcome only by government agencies taking up the ‘slack <by employing on national works men whose services private enterprise is not at present using. It seems to be fashionable to couple unemployment with immigration. According to the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), the immigration target this year will be slightly -lower than that of last year. I believe that this is a wrong approach to the problem. I stress the truth of the assertion that unless we populate Australia we will perish. A rate of immigrant intake of 1 per cent, of the population is too low, having regard to the state of affairs ‘to the north of Australia. The Government’s decision to -reduce our immigrant intake quota is one of the reasons why I say that this is a no-confidence-in-Australia Budget. A great deal of national development is required, and there is too little time in ‘which to do it. Immigrants and rural workers could be employed fully on national developmental works if the Government decided to give such a lead to relieve the present unemployment situation. Of what use is it to preserve a stable economy unless we take steps to ensure that we shall not suffer a foreign invasion in a few years’ time? Our immigration -programme must be stepped up, and willing workers brought to this country to help in its development. -It is the job of the Government so to plan our economy that this can be done.
At this stage, I should like to sound a note of warning. Immigrants should be encouraged, irrespective of their politics or creed. .If the Evatt Labour party were to gain the reins of office, I am sure that immigrants with Liberal sympathies would not be allowed into this .country. Our economic life-blood flows from our rural production. We need more and more immigrants to engage in rural pursuits. It is in that direction that their value to Australia can best ‘be manifest.
I direct my attention now to .a matter that is,01 -concern to our rural workers. The long-.term interests of the country require a .much .more .active approach to the conservation of our .fundamental resources of water .and .soil. At .this moment, the .threat of drought is hanging over the land. We are entering the spring season, but the farming experts have already warned us that we can expect crop failures and stock losses. The Government should assist ‘financially how ‘to avert these recurring disasters.
Experiments overseas :have shown that when money is lent to the farmers, the loan is only temporary because the increased production that results from the loans Ls returned to the Treasury through higher income tax yields. Much of our land is occupied by persons on fairly low incomes. I suggest that the Government should assist them to develop and conserve the land by .a direct subsidy. In that way we could achieve more than we shall do by tax concessions. Such concessions benefit the wealthy farmers most. Let us consider a small farmer A and a big farmer Z. Both have an identical problem of erosion and each needs a dam the same size. Each must move 800 yards of earth at 3s. a yard. Such a dam would cost £120. That would be the actual cost to A except for 11 or £2. But the net cost to Z would be about £40. The other £80 would be saved by ‘him in tax concessions because of his greater wealth. Under the subsidy principle, both would pay full taxes and the Government would subsidize both of them equally at, say, ls. a yard. Farmer A would -receive £40 by way of inducement and the net cost to him would be £80. Farmer Z would also get a £40 inducement and the country would get two dams for the cost of £80, which one dam would cost under the tax concession system. England has followed that principle successfully. There the Government subsidizes on a fixed schedule basis the erection of permanent -silos. That is much more just-than the provisional system that we have which assists the wealthy farmers. The Government could .assist in the promotion of soil, water and fodder conservation. That assistance could be .given most fairly on a per -capita or unit .basis.
The inevitable destiny of Australia is to be the granary of the Pacific, budgetary proposals, therefore, should be designed to arrest -the flight of rural workers from the land and to encourage the decentralization of suitable ‘industries. The imbalance of our population should be brought home to the Government, lt must realize also that it should make the way open economically for firms engaged in competitive industries to set themselves <up ‘in -country areas.
The Government should adopt a system of what are “termed “’ financial low loaders “ to ‘foster rural industries. It should reduce income and company taxes on non-urban earnings. ‘It should levy land tax on all property at a flat rate to make up for lost revenue. As city values are high and provincial values are low, country industries would still have a tax advantage to compensate for transport costs and other disabilities. Under this scheme, the Government would approve long-term loans at nominal rates of interest from the Commonwealth Bank to finance the movement of existing industrial equipment. It would arrange for the development and supply of cheap power in rural areas by financing hydro-electric schemes or atomic power plants. It .would assist housing, health and education facilities. It would plan to maintain a proper balance of industries in rural areas. That is a practical programme, and it is both urgent and imperative. 1 hope that, even now, the Government will vary the method of collecting taxes as I have suggested, and will encourage native and immigrant workers to settle happily in our neglected country towns. 1 turn my attention now to foreign affairs and defence. All plans for the economy could come to -nothing if, in this unsettled world, we, as the people of a small nation, are not prepared to defend Australia physically, and if we are not prepared to provide adequate safeguards through treaties with friendly countries against the advance of the ruthless Communist dictatorship. That is why the Australian Democratic Labour party was formed. It was designed to stop subversion within Australia and to enlighten the people on the dangers of aggression from outside. I believe that the aims of this party are being achieved. Politically, we are ensuring that no government favorable to the ideology of communism and its agents who seek world domination will ever hold office in Australia.
I believe that very soon the wolves will be separated from the lambs. They are ungodly bedfellows at any time. Then Australia can look -forward to a united effort both in defence and in foreign relationships. Whatever government is then in power, Australia will not be sacrificed as an offering on the Communist altar.
– The electors will soon sacrifice Senator Cole.
– I am not very afraid of the electors in Tasmania for the simple reason that the only competition I have there comes from O’Bryne, Aylett and Gaha.
I am pleased that the Government proposes to continue the development of conventional weapons, and that they are still to be our main arm of defence. If there should be a global war, I do not think there is much that Australia could do about it. We could have an atomic war, but I feel that the hydrogen bomb would be such a deterrent to this that the next war, if there is to be a next war, will still be fought with what we call conventional weapons, which I presume will be more deadly as improvements take place in the conventional weapon field.
What I am worried about more than anything else is the possibility that Australia will be isolated.
– You are worried about your seat after the next election.
– Senator Aylett himself might not be here then. To support my suggestion that Australia could be isolated, I point out that a hostile movement from the north towards Australia could be fought as a separate war. America, upon which we depend for a great deal of our support, could not enter such a localized war. The movement could come from Indonesia, if that country becomes Communistcontrolled, and we could be fighting on our own. For those reasons, I feel that it is very important that we should continue for the present to develop the conventional side of our defence.
Many object to the Government’s defence expenditure. I do not; indeed I should be quite happy to make it more so long as the Government was making best use of available resources. I am sorry that the national service training scheme has been virtually abandoned, for it must be remembered that a trained or even partially trained man has more chance of survival than an untrained man.
I believe that the Government must concentrate on building up our Air Force. With all respect to Senator Kendall, I think the Navy has had its day so far as the defence of Australia is concerned.
– Not a bit of it.
– What about submarines?
– I believe that Australia itself will be its own aircraft carrier if there is another war. Our Army is a must, and its efficiency, fire power and mobility must be kept to the highest peak to guard against all eventualities.
– Do you propose using air mobility?
– Air mobility is what we will need in Australia.
– Hot air!
– That will come mainly from Senator O’Byrne.
Our foreign relations under the present Government have been of the highest order. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) is performing a most creditable task in cementing good relations with friendly nations. It was pleasing to see the reports of the recent Anzus meeting in the United States at which the most frank discussions, mainly concerning our own welfare, took place. The support of Seato by the Government is most welcome. Seato at the moment is our one and only safeguard against projected Communist aggression, and any person who decries, or any party that decries the Seato treaty is guilty of attempting to sell Australia to the Communists.
I suggest that some of our defence funds could well be used to foster, under Australian sponsorship, an economic and cultural committee of all those South-East Asian nations which are now antiCommunist. This would help to spread our influence to those countries which are not parties to the Seato agreement. Through it we could help them materially in exposing Communist infiltration in various countries, and cultivate friends in this Asian bloc. As I said before, this is what my party is doing in Australia. I am appalled at the Evatt party’s attitude to this Government’s secret ballot legislation, just as I am appalled at the Evatt party’s use of unity tickets by which it links itself directly with the Communist party. I have noticed the Evatt party’s inspired campaign against those provisions of the Commonwealth arbitration act which enable ah organization, either through its committee of management or by the decision of a prescribed number of members, to request that elections be conducted by an independent returning officer in order to ensure that no irregularity shall take place. I believe that this provision is indispensable if we are to ensure rank and file control in the trade union movement. I therefore warn the
Government that the present attacks on that legislation, if effective, would be a major element in destroying rank and file control in industrial unions and exposing them to infiltration by the Communists.
Again, it is deplorable when men say one moment that they are fighting the Communists and then next moment join with the Communists on unity tickets at elections for union positions. That happened lately in the Waterside Workers Federation and in the Australian Railways Union in Victoria. In other words, for their own personal advancement, certain men - we have some of this type in this Parliament - would sell Australia.
Finally, I should like to deal with the question of taxation. Senator Wright’s discourse, especially his suggestion that certain fields of taxation should be returned to the States so that the States might have those responsibilities which make for good government, was worth listening to with great attention. 1 want to mention two forms of taxation that, I believe, need Government attention. Sales tax, especially on household goods, should be abolished, and the pay-roll tax should no longer be imposed. They are a danger, a drag on industry, and an injustice to the family man.
This Budget, to my way of thinking, fails because of its lack of justice for the pensioners and the too little expansion of the national assets, especially as the building of Australia into a strong nation is urgently needed now so that we will be prepared to defend our right to say, “ Australia morally belongs to us, because we have developed it to the full “, and so that our population will be economically self-sufficient.
.- The Budget which we are debating is the tenth presented to this Parliament by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and I congratulate him warmly upon this remarkable record. I support the Budget and oppose the amendment. It is pleasing to note that the Budget reflects a sound and sane fiscal policy, a fiscal policy which, as pointed out in the current report of the Commonwealth Bank, has caused a remarkable and dramatic improvement in national economic stability.
As we look at the Australian economic scene, we find that we have a predominantly free enterprise structure, which has yielded and is still yielding a high standard of living to the Australian people. I remind the Senate that it is private enterprise which makes it possible for a worker in a motor car factory to buy a motor car, for the worker in a refrigerator factory to buy a refrigerator, for the working man in any industry to benefit personally from the result of his own labour. The free enterprise economy in Australia, in my view, is under attack from two different sources, first from the socialists - who are humorously called “ democratic socialists “ - the central economic planners, and secondly from the great monopolies and cartels which have concentrated and are concentrating the control of industry into alarmingly restricted channels.
Over the past few years the Australian Labour party has, with a display of synthetic concern, been pleading for the Government to put value back into the £1. Labour claimed that we were suffering - to quote Senator McKenna - from “ raging inflation “. Nobody would deny that inflation is a serious problem, not only here but in most countries throughout the world. Costs here have undoubtedly risen. The fortyhour week, inefficient management, to quote Sir John Allison, high wages, and associated factors, have all played their part in raising the costs of goods and services. But these factors could only obtain because of a decline in real competition in the commercial world.
I do not say that the position is catastrophic. 1 do not accept the Labour proposition that all prices are too high, and that the wage earner can buy virtually nothing because of high prices. I merely mention it as a reminder of the Labour allegations on prices, or what Labour was alleging here until recently, when the Japanese Trade Agreement came into force. Suddenly Labour discovered that Australian prices were not too high, that they were only what was necessary to pay a fair wage, and so on ad lib, ad nauseam. When the first gentle breeze of competition, more proleptic than present, was felt. Labour discovered that our prices were reasonable and could not compete with the prices of Japanese goods, only because those goods were made by what Labour was pleased to call “ slave labour “. This, oddly enough, did not prevent Labour supporters from recommending the conclusion of a trade treaty with red China, where there are no real trade unions, and where wage rates are approximately 40 per cent, of the so-called Japanese slave rates.
– There was never any recommendation of a trade treaty with red China.
– The honorable senator should look at “ Hansard “. All the honorable senators opposite who oppose this Budget and the Government’s financial policy should make up their minds where they stand. One minute they complain that prices are too high, and the next they say that we must keep our prices up to avoid unemployment. It seems to me that Labour has a vested interest in inflation. Queen Victoria once said that Lord Russell would be a better man if he knew a third subject. Lord Russell was interested only in the old constitution of 1688 and in himself. I feel that the Labour party would be a better party if it knew a third subject. I have heard Labour supporters speak only of depression and unemployment. In this chamber recently, we had the spectacle of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) denouncing the importation of goods from Japan because, he said, they were manufactured by slave labour. Presumably the honorable senator is unaware of the success of Japanese trade unions in protecting their members, and he is unaware of the general Japanese wage structure, except for a few textile figures which were fed to him, doubtless, by some of his wealthy manufacturing friends. He claimed that Japanese goods would produce unemployment in this country because of Japanese wage rates. I do not suggest that there are no difficulties in trading with Japan, but what are we to think of the suggestions made by the colleagues of the honorable senator, in and out of this Parliament, that we should have comprehensive trade relations with red China? Ignoring the fact that the Chinese Reds have no goods available in suitable quantity for export to this country, at what wage rate would they have been produced? It is very difficult to obtain precise figures but, as T have said before, it is approximately 40 per cent, of the Japanese rate.
In China large numbers of workers are genuine slaves in the ordinary, and not in the theatrical meaning of the term. I am indebted to recent correspondence in the Melbourne “ Age “ for pointing out that on 24th September, 1951, the Peking Government introduced what it was pleased to call “ Regulations governing Labour Service for the Reform of the. People “. Translated into our language, this simply means that people who fail to become as ecstatic over the regime of Mao-Tse Tung as that gentleman might think desirable are imprisoned with hard labour. When Mr. Monk and his trade union colleagues returned from their recent visit to China, they told us nothing of slave labour. I do not think that Mr. Monk was suppressing the fact of its existence. I simply do not think that he was shown any by his hosts.
On 4th August of this year, Peking, went further and published a State Council decree relating to labour custody. Apparently, this supplementary decree was necessary to ginger-up the local authorities. It provides, among other things, in its first clause, that the unemployed, shall be taken into custody for forced labour. Is it any wonder that there are. no unemployed in the workers’ paradise? The decree says that “ vagrants, the lawless, the ruffians, and the unemployed “ shall be taken into custody by the State for the purpose of labour. If we apply the ejusdem generis doctrine of interpretation, this certainly shows the contempt which the red Chinese have for their unemployed’. This remarkable decree also provides for the same treatment for “ reactionary elements “, who have not been prosecuted because their offences were of a minor nature. In other words, although legally guilty of no offence - if I may quote my friend Senator Kendall’s “ Goon Show “, nor even a “ cardboard replica “ of an offence - they become slave labourers. I cannot deal with the whole decree, but it relates to those who have refused to take up work assigned to them, or to abide by arrangements made for their employment and transfer, who have refused to take part in production according to advice, or who are in the habit of making trouble for no reason and injuring the transaction of official business; and those who have refused “ to repent notwithstanding repeated education “. That is a lovely phrase. It is estimated by sober authorities that, on Peking’s own admission, approximately 20,000,000 Chinese - roughly seven times the total work force of Australia - are engaged in actual slave labour. How could we compete with such a wage structure, or rather with such alack of it? Do honorable senators opposite recommend that we engage in close traderelations with an economy operated in that way? If they do, for Heaven’s sake let us have no more humbug about Japanese slave labour.
The second great danger to our free economy comes from, the monopolies and cartels. I have mentioned this subject frequently, and at the risk of wearying honorable senators I will make a further passing reference to it. I am hopeful that the old Australian Industries Preservation Act will some day be revived by the Government, and that the Australian people will benefit as a result. The act is designed to ensure the operation of competitive trade practices in commerce. For the last few years the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority has found that whenever it calls for tenders for the supply of petroleum products it receives an identical tender from each of six allegedly separate oil companies. The prices are identical to the penny. Last week, in the Melbourne suburb of Moorabbin, Mr. D. H. Clark, a councillor who is also a member of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, complained that his council had received five identical tenders for the supply of concrete pipes. I am informed that there has been monopoly trouble in Sydney’s cement industry also. I hope that the Government will inquire whether the community can be afforded any relief under the act to which I have referred. Only the reality of competition in economic life will guarantee reasonable purchase prices for the consumer.
Monopoly of labour is just as repugnant to the liberal mind as is monopoly of capital. One has only to consider the struggles in Victoria between the Building Workers Industrial Union and the Australian Society of Carpenters and Joiners to realize the truth of that. Senator Byrne referred to the dilemma facing the Opposition. He at least recognized the incongruity of complaining about high prices on the one hand and the importation of cheap Japanese goods on the other. However, he rather spoilt the overall picture by advocating national price control. As this has been put up as a serious economic weapon;, I think that I should say a few words about its unfortunate history. The first recorded attempt to fix prices was made under the old Celtic Brehon laws. The Celts attempted to set a value which was calculated in relation to the then standard commodity, the Cumhal or female slave. We are not told what effect the use of this standard currency had on ancient Celtic inflation.
Later, in 301 A.D., the Roman Emperor Diocletian issued an edict aimed at controlling prices of everything from pork and butter to boots and senators’ tunics or togas. Incidentally, and merely as an item of interest, if Diocletian’s charges were converted to our currency by comparing the weight of gold in a denarius with that in a sovereign, we should find that in ancient Rome boots and sandals cost between ls. lOd. and 3s. 8d. and togas between ls. lOd. and £9 0s. Id. However, according to the historian, Lactanius. the edict failed completely. He wrote -
The results of this edict showed the Emperor that no human will could prevail in matters like these against the force of circumstances. The dealers required to sell at a lower price than they bad paid concealed their commodities, scarcity increased, street brawls followed in which blood was shed and it became necessary to let the law drop into disuse.
Sixty years later, the Emperor Julian tried, without success, to revive this law.
Tn 740-741 A.D., an attempt to fix the price of corn in Frankfort met the same fate. It was tried again during the French Revolution, and even the liberal use of Madame Guillotine could not make it function successfully.
Perhaps a final reference to the history of the subject will be sufficient to indicate that in modern economic thought the use of artificial price fixing is a discredited manoeuvre. Carl Goerdeler, who was Commissioner of Price Controls in Germany during World War I., had ample opportunity to study the matter at first hand because of the efficacy of the allied blockade. He said -
It is not sufficient to establish maximum prices. Whenever possible a country should not resort to price regulation when it can prevent it; high prices will immediately stimulate more production and at the same time will reduce consumption. Whoever attempts to set a maximum price must also be prepared to pin wages and public contributions (taxes, social, security, unemployment insurance, etc.) at a fixed level. And this would mean nothing less than creating a planned’ economy.
Therefore; I think it can be said that in 1957 any proposal for national price control will win the support of very few.
In my view, one of the outstanding features of the Budget is the proposal to pay £2 for every £1 raised by church and charitable organizations towards the building of homes for the aged. Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin and Senator Wedgwood have already referred to the science of geriatrics. The very substantial assistance now proposed makes the Commonwealth a real partner with the churches and charitable organizations in this magnificent work. I have had the opportunity to visit a number of these homes - built with the aid of the Government’s £l-for-£l subsidy - and disagree very strongly with Senator Cameron, who said that the old people in them “ wither and die in a pauper’s hell “. In fact, they live in modern comfort in decency and in dignity.
In the field of national development, the Government promises to assist deep stratigraphic drilling for oil. This assistance will be substantial, as it will amount in some cases to half the cost of each hole drilled at approved sites. One does not have to think very hard: to realize how important to our economy would be a genuine discovery of oil. We would be in possession of sudden and vast mineral wealth. We would be able to close the dollar gap and solve our balance of payments problem. We would, be able to raise our already high standard of living. Accordingly, the Government is to be commended upon its action in encouraging the search for oil. Fourteen hundred dry holes were bored in one of the most successful oil fields in Canada- before the drilling rig’ struck oil.
Senator Arnold made a very, prudent suggestion when he referred to the need for an inquiry into the possibility of obtaining oil from coal.
I shall not deny that I was disappointed at the sales tax remissions. A small reduction of 4d. in the £1 can scarcely be regarded as of any real assistance to the housewife. I was genuinely disappointed at the inability of the Treasurer - doubtless it was? because, of the many calls upon his clemency - to see his way clear to grant sales tax remissions, to- the radio amateur fraternity.
I have mentioned this matter before, but, because of the present and increasing necessity to stimulate technical and electronic education, research, and experiment, I do so again. I thing that the presence in the sky of Russia’s new satellite is a sufficient warning of the need to do all we can to stimulate technical education. I feel that the abolition, or at least a reduction, of the sales tax on electronic goods sold to licensed amateurs for experimental work would help to bring this about. The actual amount involved to the Commonwealth would probably be less than £20,000 a year.
I feel that it is unnecessary to recapitulate what has already been said about the value of these people to the Navy, the Army, the Air Force and the merchant marine in time of war. Prior to the last war, they rendered great assistance in the air race of 1935. In the great bush fires in Victoria in 1939, the numerous floods in northern New South Wales since the war and many other disasters of that kind, we witnessed examples of the great public service that has been rendered by these voluntary workers. Now, by arrangement with Commonwealth authorities, Australian radio amateurs are doing even more work. They are forming what are called civil defence emergency networks. I am informed that no radio receiver that is suitable for amateur use in emergency defence is manufactured in Australia. Despite that fact, an imported receiver carries very heavy imposts. I am informed that a popular suitable imported receiver is, sold in Australia for approximately £130. Included in that price is the sum of £13 10s. for customs duty and £20-odd for sales tax. It seems strange to me that, if this type of relief is afforded to country fire brigades, rifle clubs, surf clubs, and life-saving clubs, similar relief cannot be extended to people who perform this public service.
The amateur has played a great part, too, in the technical development of radio communications. Five years after the first world war, the Commonwealth was busy planning huge radio transmitting stations to link us with the United Kingdom. Those stations were to function on what were called medium and long-wave bands, and the power requirements were sufficient to light a small village. Imagine the consternation of the experts when radio amateurs working on the despised short wave were able to establish efficient communication although they were using less power in their aerials than was required for a decent electric light bulb. In the light of these experiments, the government of the day recast its plans, with enormous improvement in efficiency and an enormous saving of cost.
It is not possible in the time available to me to canvass further the amateurs’ contribution to technical education, but I hope that in the near future the Government will see its way clear to grant the relief that I have suggested. Surely, in 1957, it is a grave anomaly that works dealing with rape, murder, mayhem, incest, arson and matricide by ancient Greeks are admitted duty free under our customs legislation on the ground that they are educational but that equipment which is necessary for the technical training and operation of civil defence and emergency networks carries a heavy impost.
I have already complimented the Government upon its homes for the aged legislation and its proposed subsidy of £2 for every £1 provided by the various organizations. The War Service Homes Division will benefit from the increase of its financial provision to £35,000,000. Cooperative housing societies have been helping those who have been lucky enough to be able to join those organizations. But I think that something is still lacking in the housing field. Something ought to be done to encourage a return to lending for housing purposes by the private lender.
The private lender and the general mortgage institution which financed so many homes prior to the last war have almost vacated the field. Their money is finding other investment outlets, and I believe that much good would be done if they returned to the field. The most obvious way to coax them back would be to provide for a reduction of income tax or a partial exemption from income tax in respect of all interest paid on housing loans. That would have two effects. It would bring private people back into the lending market and would make housing finance more readily available to people without increasing the interest rate.
I support the Budget. As it is the mainspring of government activity, I see reflected in it some part of the spirit of the great American jurist, philosopher and statesman, David Webster, who wrote a century ago -
Let us develop the resources of our land, call forth its power, build up its institutions, promote all its great interests and see whether we also in our day and generation may not perform something worthy to be remembered.
– When one speaks on the Budget, there are necessarily many things to which one should like to refer. However, in the limited time available, each of us must choose a few of what he thinks are the more important matters. We can dismiss Senator Hannan’s contribution to the debate, because, when he was not in red China, he was back in ancient Rome and telling us about prices in the year 300.
– It was price-fixing. The Emperor Diocletian dismissed it as useless.
– I do not want to interrupt Senator Maher, but I was about to say that it was only towards the latter end of his speech that Senator Hannan came up to modern times, mentioned the launching of the Russian satellite, and said that that should make us think. He immediately proceeded to speak about a reduction of sales tax. I thought he was about to advocate a reduction of sales tax on earth satellites, but he did not go that far.
I wish to concentrate on the grave responsibility of the Government in relation to growing unemployment in Australia. It is a matter that the Government should consider very seriously.
– In to-day’s bulletin, the Minister for Labour and National Service said that unemployment was declining.
– Will you tell me when you are finished? Even on the Government’s own admission, there are 53,000 registered unemployed. If there were added to that number those who are not registered for employment and immigrants who are in holding centres and who do not register in the normal sense of the term, the figure obviously would be in the vicinity of 100,000.
I shall deal now with the infamous Japanese Trade Agreement and its effect on Australian- industry and employment. Its effects are already being felt, particularly in the textile industry. There appeared in the Sydney press only recently a report that within the previous four months 1,000 textile workers in New South Wales alone had lost their positions and that a further 1,000 were working on short time.
It is rather amazing and amusing to note that the Australian Democratic Labour party, or D.L.P. - the de facto Liberal party - has alined itself with the recognized Liberal party in its approach to the Japanese Trade Agreement. The D.L.P. has announced its approval of the agreement. I can quote what the members of that party have said in this chamber. They have implied that, even if we had to sacrifice a certain amount of Australian secondary industry, which would lead to further unemployment, trade with Japan would be justified. Unfortunately everything they mention is made to .have some bearing on the Communist question. Even in the present debate the Leader of the Democratic Labour party (Senator Cole) fell into the red trap again. In everything, from the launching of the earth satellite to the selling of peanuts and lollies, there is always the little red rabbit. That is one rabbit that myxomatosis has not been able to destroy. The red element is introduced into everything that is mentioned, no matter what it is. Incidentally, 1 would remind the Senate in regard to the Japanese Trade Agreement that we had the ridiculous spectacle of debating the agreement after it had already been negotiated and signed. How ridiculous such a state of affairs must have appeared to every right-thinking person.
Senator Cole, when speaking in this debate, quoted the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. He read from an article on the Canadian-Japanese trade agreement and indicated that it was recognized by the Canadians that some secondary industries must be sacrificed in order to foster trade with Japan. The perfectly obvious implication was that Australia must adopt the same attitude. In order to trade with Japan we must be prepared to sacrifice a certain amount of our secondary industries, and thereby create further unemployment. He further said that there was room for at least £50,000,000 worth of imports into Australia from Japan without serious damage to Australian industry. Then he said that we must have safeguards against communism. That is the whole crux of the position as far as he is concerned. In everything he mentions we find the red bait. The members of his party are entitled 10 their own opinion. I am not denying them that right, but I claim the right to express my own opinion in opposition. Certain sections of the community, and certain honorable senators as well, are so obsessed with the red fever and everything connected with communism that they seem to lose all sense of proportion. They insist on introducing the red element when they should be arguing on matters more pertinent to our domestic affairs.
– How does the honorable senator account for four Communists on the Australian Council of Trade Unions?
– I shall have something to say about the honorable senator later on. He should just wait and listen. Senator McManus said that if we refuse to. trade with Japan its standards will be lowered. Are we to consider the standards of the Japanese people in preference to our own, having regard to the fact that unemployment is already being experienced in Australia? What about putting our own people first? Senators Cole and McManus and some Government senators as well have said that we must endeavour to do all we can to keep Japan away from the sphere of red influence. If we desire to combat communism, let us develop conditions in Australia in which communism will not breed. Our first and only consideration should be to maintain full employment in this country. Government senators, and even the Minister who opened the debate on the Japanese Trade Agreement, admitted that there were serious dangers in the agreement. As a matter of fact, it is common knowledge now that the Government has climbed down in one respect inasmuch as it has appointed what it calls an arbitrator to adjudicate on matters that may threaten Australian industry.
We must adopt a realistic attitude to this matter. No honorable senator from this side of the .chamber has suggested that we should not trade with Japan on a proper basis. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who negotiated this agreement, both said that there are factors other than trade wrapped up in the agreement. .Honorable senators on this side of the chamber would like to know at whose instigation this agreement was initiated. Did it emanate from Australia or Japan? The Prime Minister has said that there are factors other than trade wrapped up in the signing of the agreement. As a matter of fact the Prime Minister made a statement that it was feared that Japan might turn red. lt appears that the red fever is everywhere. How far are we to go? The Democratic Labour party and the Liberal party refuse to recognize red China, but I would remind the Senate that Great Britain, for which most people here profess such loyalty, has recognized red China and has been trading with it for many years. Australia needs to be realistic and must realize ‘that it has to devise some method by which it can live in peaceful co-existence with other nations. No matter what the Democratic Labour party, the Liberal party or the Australian Country party in Australia may do, China will not deviate from any system of government it has chosen to adopt. What have we done in the past to keep China or any other Asiatic country in the democratic sphere? All we have done in any part of Asia has been to exploit these people ruthlessly and mercilessly. ‘Nobody can deny that fact.
The Minister and other honorable senators who have supported this agreement have said that we must make concessions to Japan in order to keep it out of the sphere of red influence. As I have said before, the Australian Labour party is not opposed to trading with Japan on a proper and secure basis, but if we are to trade with Japan, .why should we .refuse to trade with other countries that offer such attractive markets? Potential markets are available, not only in red China but also in other parts of Asia. I reiterate and emphasize that these countries ;ha,ve chosen their own method of government and we have to face up to that fact. No matter what we may do. these people will not -deviate from the system of government they have chosen. After all, is it not their inherent right to chose their own -form of government? Did we not subscribe to the United Nations’ Charter, which gives all people the right of self-determination? Are we, particularly after the launching of the earth satellite, prepared to deny the advance .that Russia had .made, no matter how much we may dislike its form of government? As a matter of fact, the launching of the satellite has caused concern throughout the whole of the Western world, particularly in the United States. They find that people living under .the despised Communist system have been able to steal a march on the so-called Western democracies in the race to launch an earth satellite. All these things have -to be considered. Nations throughout the world are showing a tendency towards nationalism.
Not very long ago, I had the privilege of listening .to a number of speakers in Hyde Park, London. It was very ‘ interesting and very educational for me to hear most of them advocating self-determination for their own countries. Many of the speakers were coloured people. It is .pertinent to state that most of the countries to which they referred have attained their national aspirations during the last few years. Countries such as India and Egypt and those on the west coast of Africa - Malaya gained her independence only recently - are all striving towards nationalism. In view of the charter of the United Nations, how can that right be denied to them? If China or any other Asiatic country - or, for that matter, any country in any other part of the world - chooses to .embrace communism as its philosophy, what right have we to deny it that privilege? Of course I, and all other members of the Australian Labour party, do not subscribe to communism, but we have as much hostility to, and as much opposition for, a dictatorship from the Right as for a dictatorship from the Left. Unfortunately, some sections of the Australian people at the present time, in their violent opposition to a dictatorship from the Left appear to be veering towards something bordering on a dictatorship from :the Right.
– Who are, they?
– Certain sections of the community; there are certain sections veering to that attitude.
– I did not think you would name them. You are not game enough to do so.
– We were told by Senator McCallum - he has since left the chamber - that Japan promised not to flood out markets with cheap Japanese goods. I should like to direct the attention of honorable senators to the following report from London that appeared in the “ Sydney Sun “ of 1st October, under big black headlines reading “ Charge on Jap Trade Piracy “ -
If the personal experiences of a number of British manufacturers are any guide, Australians have good reason to be wary of the Japanese trade treaty. .For the Japs are up to their old tricks again - pirating British goods in Africa and the Near East. Already some have copied one British hosiery firm’s distinctive boxes and are using them to peddle inferior stocks. The firm is D. Byford & Company, of Leicester, and its founder, Donald Byford, says, “ This is .serious for us. We have a .world export trade “.
But the important point to be considered is this: They are very cunning in their approach to these matters. The Japanese have even copied the wrappings of goods produced by English firms. One of these firms is named Pollard. The Japanese produced an exact replica of that firm’s wrapping, with the exception that the name Bollard was substituted for Pollard. The only variation was that the letter “ B “ was substituted for the letter “ P “. That is the kind of trickery for which the Japanese have become famous, or infamous, depending on the point of view. They will do the same in relation to goods produced in Australia.
Senator Maher who was very vociferous a few minutes ago, but has since left the chamber, supports the Japanese Trade Agreement. The honorable senator claimed that the agreement will result in increased sales of our wool, and that we will get higher prices for that commodity. He was concerned mainly with the prospect of increased sales of wool. I understand that he grows it - in addition to trying to pull it over our eyes. Senator Maher also stated that the agreement would ensure increased sa’les of soft wheat and sugar. But the main consideration of Senator Maher and those who support him is to obtain .the highest :possible prices for their wool. They are not worried whether Japan, Soviet Russia or any other country buys their wool, so Jong as they receive top prices. I believe that Senator Maher would be .prepared -to sell .his wool to .the Martians, to be carted ,away .in ^flying saucers, if they were prepared to pay the highest price for it. ‘He is .not concerned about the threat that the Japanese Trade Agreement undoubtedly -offers to Australian secondary industry and employment in this country. We .nave .had experience of this in the past This .country was flooded with . goods .produced by cheap labour in Japan and, other countries, to the detriment of our textile industry. Before the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) negotiated and signed this agreement, he did not consult any of the industries likely to be affected by it, or the trade unions controlling the employees of those industries. He simply went away, and negotiated and signed the agreement, and brought it back to us as a fait accompli. As 1 have said previously, the agreement was brought before this chamber for discussion only after it had been negotiated and signed.
I mentioned earlier that 53,000 persons, in round figures, are at present registered as unemployed in Australia. In addition, many more thousands of unemployed persons are not registered. Whenever the Opposition raises this subject, it is accused by supporters of the Government of creating a scare for political purposes. Honorable senators opposite also assert that only a very small percentage of the workers of this country is unemployed. I suggest, in all seriousness, that to the persons who are unemployed this is a very serious matter indeed. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), spoke on this subject during the debate on the Budget in another place. He is the person to whom the people of this country look for advice and information on what is to be done to relieve the unemployment situation. The only newspaper, as far as I am aware, that had the temerity to take the right honorable gentleman to task on what he said in that debate was the Melbourne “ Age “, which, on 19th September, had this to say, among other things - rf taxpayers expected that the Budget issues in dispute would be clarified in debate, they have been disappointed. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) did not take matters very far - except for an eloquent but irrelevant vocal excursion to Siberia and Mongolia.
What a tragic state of affairs! In all seriousness, I say that the Prime Minister is the person to whom the people look for a guide as to the Government’s intentions in relation to the welfare of the country, and particularly to inform them what it proposes to do to relieve unemployment. Here is another article which emphasizes the point. In its issue of 18th September, the Melbourne “ Age “ said this -
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) accused the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the Labour party of exploiting unemployment for political purposes. He also challenged Dr. Evatt to define his attitude towards Western disarmament proposals.
Apparently all that can be said in defence of the Prime Minister is that he does not visit Australia often enough. The right honorable gentleman is in Australia now. On the occasion I have mentioned, he challenged the Leader of the Opposition to define his attitude to Western disarmament and he made this farcical statement -
The one guarantee for mass unemployment throughout Australia would be for Dr. Evatt to form a Labour government with all soberminded Australians purged away to Mongolia or Siberia.
That is a stupid statement to come from the Prime Minister of Australia. The Government has admitted, and so also have its supporters, that there are dangers inherent in the Japanese Trade Agreement. They have claimed, however, that there are safeguards. In that connexion, this statement appeared in the Melbourne “ Age “ of 6th September under the banner headline, “ Tariff Board warns of Government interference “ -
The Tariff Board to-day warned manufacturers that the Government might overrule its findings in cases arising from the Japanese Trade Agreement.
Evidently even the safeguards that the Government claims are ineffectual.
I should now like to refer briefly to the urgent need for a national road building authority in Australia. Everybody knows that the national highways of Australia are in very bad condition. Small countries overseas such as Holland, as well as the larger countries, have made great progress in building roads and transport facilities generally. It is time that we set up a national authority for a national system of road construction and road maintenance. That is necessary both for the economic expansion of Australia and from the point of view of defence because it is imperative that we have a first-class road system throughout Australia. We cannot do that with the present divided control. I recognize the difficulties of getting agreement between the States and the Commonwealth, but that has been achieved with the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, the greatest undertaking that Australia has launched. Incidentally, it was the product of a Labour government.
The difficulties in the way of implementation of a national roads scheme controlled by a national roads and transport authority are not insuperable. At present we leave road making to the States. The Victorian Country Roads Board, for example, has done excellent work within its limitations, particularly of finance. The Commonwealth Government holds the purse-strings and it is essential that if we are to get anywhere with a proper national roads and transport scheme, the authority which holds the purse-strings must be in control.
There is no reason to believe that we cannot achieve some form of agreement between the States and the Commonwealth in setting up a road construction and maintenance authority. We have at present an Australian Transport Advisory Council and we need a road construction and maintenance authority, working under an agreement with the States. Such an authority should go ahead with a properly integrated national roads scheme. That is vital, not only from the economic point of view, but also for defence purposes. Other means of transport would be linked with the road system.
It is pleasing to note that plans for the standardization of the railway gauge between Sydney and Melbourne are reaching fruition. In 1948 the Labour government arranged a conference on the standardization of all railway gauges in Australia under the chairmanship of the present honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). Not much progress has been made with that proposal since then, but something is to be done now about the railway line linking Sydney and Melbourne.
Throughout Australia, we find narrow ribbon strips of bitumen allowing hardly sufficient room for two vehicles to pass. The statistics for 1954, the latest available, show that 71 people were killed, and more than 3,000 were injured, in that year in accidents due to faulty roads. We see narrow roads serrated on the edges, without proper ‘ foundations and full of potholes. Often on country roads the culverts are left narrower than the roads in order to save expense, lt is time that we did something effective to overcome these faults. I have no doubt that we could do that if we showed sufficient energy and enthusiasm. It is time we approached this problem on a national basis. I have no doubt that the
States would agree to the establishment of a national road and transport authority to supervise, not only road construction and maintenance, but also the urgently needed standardization of railway gauges.
I have made a few observations on the Budget that is before us. There are many other matters to which I should like to refer, and I hope to have an opportunity to do so when we are discussing the Appropriation Bill.
– In rising to take part in this debate, I wish to make it clear that I support the motion for the printing of the papers and oppose the amendment of the Opposition which is virtually a censure of the Government. I have pleasure in congratulating the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on the Budget because while he has been in office and during this Government’s occupation of the treasury bench, great difficulties have confronted us. Probably if the reins of government had been in other hands, we would again have experienced conditions such as those which existed in 1930-31. That its policy was sound was borne out by the inflow of money that took place in 1951, an inflow which was unparalleled in our history and which honorable senators opposite seem conveniently to forget when they chide the Government with not having honoured some of the promises it made before being elected. Long before that inflow of money took place, indeed long before anybody had any indication that there would be such an inflow into our economy, the Government found it necessary to take strong and unpopular steps. The Government realized that the action it proposed to take would be unpopular. Nevertheless, it had no hesitation in putting the policy into effect, with the result that to-day our economy is more stable than it has been since 1951. This Government is to be congratulated upon having taken those steps.
In saying that, I do not suggest for a moment that a position has been reached at which the Government can sit down and take no further action. No government could afford to adopt that attitude, and I am perfectly certain this Government will not do so, for there are other matters requiring urgent consideration. For instance, prices and costs of production are too high , to-day; but i it isi interesting;.’ and: pleasing, to note; that prices, are. tending, to fall: T. hope: they willi continue, to ‘falk It: seems; to. me: that: this fall is* due. largely to: the fact that, buyers; are using: more, discretion, that they are becoming more selective, and that they are becoming more inclined to see. they get. better value for the money they spend. In- the. days when we had a. great inflow of. money, people spent without worrying very much about, whether they got value for what they spent. Their attitude seemed* to- be. simply that they wanted’ an. article^ and therefore; were prepared to spend money to get it. Nowadays, according to banking terms, they take more to- the savings- bank- than to Tattersalls. This, T believe; is a very good sign- and- in my opinion-‘ should’ lead to s better’ state of affairs than we have experienced’ in the past’.
There, are,, however-, certain- measures that must be given.- effect and certain steps that must- be. taken, by- the Government. I have believed for some time that we are too heavily taxed, and I feel that, the Government will- have: to. give serious consideration to this- matter.. I . reffer in particular to taxation’, as iti affects the: primary producer. Itis obvious-, that if he: is: not given .some incentive;, he will., not increase his production’.. At the moment’ he has- no incentive: to- increase production’. He knows that’ if he clears- more land iti order to grow more cereals or graze more stock his income will be increased; but he also knows that his! rate of tax and consequently the- amount of tax’ for which he- will be assessed will fee increased. He- knows that the increase in his1 income- will’ not be in proportion to mr increase in his taxation, that the increase iti- his net income will not be sufficient to compensate him for the extra work and worry entailed’ in increasing production.
That the present rate of taxation is retarding production is evidenced by the fact that wherever one travels in the country one sees lying idle land that could, be brought into production. If the primary producer were given the. incentive, I. am perfectly certain he would put that land, under production. At. the present time he will, not do so. and one cannot blame1 him- for that. !. do hope the. Government will, give serious, consider.ation to that matter. ti do <take this opportunity, however, , of paying, tribute- to. the Government for the: assistance it. has. given, primary producers-., b admit that the primary producer has; derived: some benefit from, the various concessions, but it is only, right that he should; be encouraged; in. fact, not only the primary producer but also, the: man. engaged in. secondary industry should be given every incentive: to: increase, production. The only really effective: incentive to a person to increase production is the hope of greater profit so that, he may be assured, of the reward- to. which his initiative. and: work entitle him. I am, afraid, however, that under present- circumstances- he will not. bother to produce those extra products- which we need. so. urgently to1 improve our export of- both primary, and1 secondary, goods; but particularly- primary’ products: because- this is> essentially a primary, producing country I; sincerely hope- that the Government will give:- very serious consideration- to this matter..
I realize, that any suggestion that taxation be reduced will’ be countered immediately by the argument that, in view of the many demands made upon the Treasury for public works, and: especially for- the requirements of the States, the Government is hardly in a’ position to reduce it. That being so, it- may be necessary to take such steps as will enable the Government to do so. I suggest that one way by which this could be done would be to re-establish the confidence of the small investor in Commonwealth bonds. It is well known that small investors will’ not invest money in Commonwealth bonds because they have been caught, as it were. Prior to World War IT., the small investor had’ confidence in Commonwealth bonds. He looked upon them as a- safe investment for he knew that if, through unforeseen circumstances, he needed his money before the term of the loan expired he could get it by going to the stock exchange or perhaps to his banker for an advance against the bonds. During the last two or three years, he has lost that confidence. He found that if he wanted his money he would have to suffer a loss of from £10 to £11 on every £100 invested before anybody would consider giving him anything.
I realize that the investor, when he bought the bonds, entered into a contract under which <he agreed to lend -the <money for a stipulated term - ‘ten, :il teen or perhaps twenty years - -and ‘that -he did so .knowing that ‘he would ‘be paid a higher rate of interest than if he -invested his money for a shorter-term. -But -we all know that sickness or accident can ‘befall us with the result that the money invested may >be needed urgently. If the small investor could get back all his money in unforeseen circumstances of that kind, 1 am certain he would be quite willing to .invest in Commonwealth bonds. I know perfectly ‘well, from speaking to people who have come -to me trying to .get their money back, ;that -under present conditions the small investor will not consider investing in Commonwealth ‘bonds. -I -leave it to the Government -to decide what steps may be necessary, tout I suggest that one way pf helping to restore confidence in Commonwealth bonds would be to accept . them at their face value for the payment of probate duty. Although I am -perfectly certain that the Government ,has given the matter considerable thought, I sincerely hope it will continue to do so and that in time the confidence of the small investor will be restored ‘to the extent ‘that he will feel safe in investing ‘his money in Commonwealth ‘bonds and by so doing make available to the ‘Government extra money needed to offset any revenue it may lose by granting remissions in taxation.
I should like now .to take the opportunity of congratulating the Government upon the action it .took recently in connexion with the comprehensive water scheme being undertaken in Western Australia. As honorable senators no doubt know, the Western Australian Government had an agreement with the Commonwealth Government under which the Commonwealth was to provide £4,000,000 towards the cost of a comprehensive water scheme for Western Australia. The State government was also to contribute a similar amount. This agreement was renewed recently. ‘Last year the Western Australian Government found that it was able to provide a little more money for this work and asked the Commonwealth Government to increase its contribution to match the extra payment by the State. I think this would have meant an increase from £462;000 to £572,000 a year, making the total liability £5,000,000 instead of £4,000,000. I am pleased to say that the Commonwealth found i the . extra .money., and this willi enable the scheme ito be .completed earlier ‘than would ‘have been possible otherwise.
– It should have been completed years ago.
– It is .all very well to sit here and say that it should have been completed years /ago, but I .happen to have had something ‘to do with .the scheme. I know that:in the early .part of that contract, it was absolutely -.impossible :to get steel. We tried every [possible -means of getting .extra steel from (Broken ‘Hill, but it could not possibly be .provided from there. There were, of course, other demands .for it. We were offered steel from Japan, but, if 1 remember rightly, its cost was over £100 a ton, as against £20 a ton for Australian steel, and .1 think the total amount that the Japanese -were .able to let us have then was 1,000 :tons. The war kept this project back, and as it was kept back ;the price .of everything rose. That was really why the project was delayed, but I pay a tribute to the present -Government of Western Australia. It has pushed on well, the project is proceeding, and it will be completed at a much earlier time than would have been the case otherwise.
There are aspects of the Budget which greatly disappoint me. I was very disappointed that there was no mention of the Commonwealth Government’s intentions in relation to a request that was put to the Government by the Premier of Western Australia, and the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Country party, and the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of that State. They came to Canberra and put before the Government certain proposals for the development of the north-west part of Western Australia. To the best of my knowledge, no reply has been received to that request, although it is nearly two years since it was made. It is not very complimentary .to .a State government to have to wait two years for a reply. Even a reply in the negative would be better than nothing, but I certainly .hope that the reply would not be in the negative. In addition, there was a deputation from residents of the north-west part of Western Australia. They put propositions to the Government, also, but .they, too, have not had a reply.
If I -remember rightly, the -proposals of both deputations were much the same. I know that one request was for a taxation exemption for employees who go to the north-west. We have to remember that people who go to the north-west go to a place where the amenities of life are very different from those in the southern part of the State. They have to suffer privations and a very hot climate, although I must say that old residents of that region would not leave the north-west for anything, because they have come to like it. To get members of the rising generation to go there, some incentive must be offered. One suggested incentive is to offer them exemption from taxation. I sincerely hope that the Government will give consideration to this matter, because the north-west of Western Australia is going back, and it will continue to go back until some active measures are taken to stimulate its population, production, and development generally. One might say that the State should do it. It is absolutely impossible for the State of Western Australia to undertake a task like that.
To those honorable senators who do not know Western Australia, let me say that transport is principally by ship. The western coast is, I suppose, one of the most exposed coasts in the world. The harbours are few and far between, and the sea is open. There is a rise and fall of 25 feet in tides, and cyclones hit the coast almost every year. They do not always hit a port, thank goodness, but when they do probably half the jetty, if not the whole of it, is destroyed, depending on whether the tide is high or low. An expenditure of £500,000 or £600,000 by the State Government is required to repair the jetty, and four or five jetties have to be taken into consideration. Only Derby and Wyndham have anything in the way of a closed port. That is one of the difficulties.
In addition, pastoralists have to contend with very great difficulties. A case came to my notice the year before last. The boats which serve the coast are subject to the tides, and they can come in and go out only when the tide is high. They are also subject to storms, and delays occur. Sometimes they are as much as a month behind in their schedules. In the instance I have in mind, a pastoralist had engaged a contractor to send 400-odd head of cattle down to the Perth market by one of these boats. The boat was delayed a week. Word was sent to the station, but unfortunately the drover had left the station. He had to go 100 miles to collect the cattle from’ the fattening paddock and bring them in 200 miles to Derby. They could not stop him. Near Derby he came to tick-infested country. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has been trying to eradicate the tick, but it has not been successful. When cattle enter that country, about a fortnight elapses before the effects of the tick are felt. In this instance, of over 400 cattle, 93 died and had to be thrown over the side of the boat. Had that boat been on time, the cattle would have reached Perth within a fortnight. None would have died, and all could have been sold, as the tick fever does not affect the meat. Ninety-three head of cattle were lost, and that is by no means the heaviest loss that has occurred. That is a very serious disability. The provision of a deep water harbour for Derby has been suggested. It will cost a lot of money, but it should be done.
Another facility which would be of great service to the north-west would be the construction of an all-weather road from Fitzroy Crossing to Meekatharra, which is the head of the 600 miles of railway from Perth. If that road were built, the pastoralists would have an alternative route for transporting their cattle. If the boat were late or the present roads were impassable in wet weather, they could bring stock by road to Meekatharra and by rail to Perth. It would provide easier access to the northwest for people who desired to go there to take up pastoral land or search for minerals, in which the country abounds. Generally speaking, it would lead to progress and the opening up of the north-west to a greater degree. Unfortunately, the owners of many inner stations, nearer to the centre of Australia, are abandoning their properties on account of the inroads made by the wild dog or dingo. They cannot look after their stock, and they have to give up their properties. An alternative road would provide access for ingoing and outgoing people and generally would assist the development of that part of Australia. The State Government, with its limited finances, simply cannot provide this facility. It is urgent that the Commonwealth should take the matter in hand and give some assistance to the development of that part of the State.
I have heard a suggestion made that the Commonwealth should take over the northwest of Western Australia. God forbid that that should ever happen! We have before us the tragic example of Darwin. I know that nobody in Western Australia would ever sanction such a proposition. What I should like to see would be the appointment of a commission, or some similar body, which could ensure that money provided was properly spent. Policy could be laid down by the residents of the northwest, who know that part of the country so well and know how it could be best developed.
Passing from the north-west, I want to voice my great disappointment in respect of another matter. I refer to the postponement of, or reluctance to commence, the building of new Australian broadcasting premises in Perth. This new building was recommended, I understand, by the Public Works Committee. The present building is an intolerable one for anybody to work in. I referred to it about twenty years ago in the Legislative Assembly, when I said that the only thing to do with it was to put a fire stick into it. Obviously, painting the outside has not improved it to any great extent. Apart from that, it is holding up the Perth City Council in its desire to build a new town hall on that site. I am particularly disappointed that a new building has not been commenced. I do not want to refer in any way adversely to the two representatives of Western Australia in the Cabinet. Indeed, I should like to congratulate the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) upon his good work since he has been a member of the Cabinet, but of course the gentlemen from Western Australia are only two of the 21 members of the Cabinet and have apparently not been able to influence their colleagues in this matter so far. I hope that they will not relax their efforts, and that eventually they will have some effect.
A short time ago the Western Australian Government applied for a licence to export iron ore to Japan. The Commonwealth Government, in its wisdom, decided that it should not be granted. I do not criticize that decision. It pointed out that there are only three known and proved deposits of high-grade iron ore in Australia - at Yampi Sound and Kulin Rock in Western Australia, and Middleback Range in South Australia. The Commonwealth Government said that those deposits would last no longer than 35 years. 1 suggested to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) that an active survey should be made of the five or six deposits in Western Australia, whose quality and extent are not accurately known. Unfortunately, the Department of National Development had a full programme and could not undertake the work. 1 then asked the Minister for Mines in Western Australia what could” be done about it. He suggested that his department had the personnel required, if the Commonwealth Government would supply the finance. This, the Commonwealth was unable to do. However, it is imperative that these deposits be thoroughly surveyed. Only a few years ago the U.S.A. discovered suddenly that she had only seven years’ reserves of sulphur. Exports of sulphur were cut, and Australia was obliged to rely on pyrites and any other suitable substitute material that it could find. The same kind of action might have to be taken in this country in regard to iron - if we have supplies for only 35 years available. Every effort should be made to ascertain whether other reliable deposits exist.
– Has Senator Seward any other areas in mind?
– I have furnished a report about them. Mount Stuart is one and there are several others. The Mines Department of Western Australia knows of their existence, but they are all in the remote north-west corner of the State, and have not been thoroughly surveyed. A proper survey would enable us to gauge, the usefulness and extent of these resources.
A few days ago an interesting article appeared in the press on the subject of television. Honorable senators will recall that in 1956 the Australian Broadcasting Control Board made a report on television programme standards under the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act. I thought that it would be a good idea to keep that report to see how the good intentions expressed therein were put into effect. In the report the following appeared: -
The primary obligation of licensees of commercial television stations, in accordance with the general conditions of licences conveyed to them by the Postmaster-General on behalf of the Government and accepted by them, is to provide programmes, and to supervise the televising of programmes from their stations so as to comply in all respects: with such standards as the Austtalian Broadcasting Control Board determines. This document has therefore been prepared, after consultation with licensees and other interested bodies, for the purpose of setting out in a convenient form a statement of general programme standards to be observed by licensees.
One would think; from the report, that the highest possible standards were to be aimed at. By contrast, we learned the other day froma press report that in the course of a total transmission time of ten hours, 65 major crimes and brutalities were televised by Sydney’s three stations. The other night Senator Willesee referred to the very matters that are dealt with in this press report. One learns that on the national station during that period there were nine stabbings; three stranglings, one attempted murder, one wounding, one suicide, three murders discussed, and one murder- demonstrated. On one commercial station during the same period there were six bashings, one maiming, eight brawls, one blinding, one armed robbery, eleven murders, two woundings, two killings, the display of eighteen corpses; and one scene in which, a child described how both his parents were murdered. Expressions of this kind were used -
Shoot ‘em in the stomach. They take longer to die that way.
A dirty double-crosser.
I’ll get that mug.
Let’s go find a sucker.
I’ll blow your brains out:
This is the kind of programme that is being televised. It is a disgrace to the Government. We complain about the number of delinquent children, yet the television stations put this kind of stuff over! The Government ought to hang its head in shame that a national station is broadcasting that kind of thing after bribing us - I use the phrase deliberately - with assurances that high programme standards would be observed.
– Is the national station broadcasting that kind of thing on television?
– Yes. Apparently something of the sort happens every eight minutes - much of it before 9.30 p.m. so that young children may hear it.
– It. has been going over the radio for the last twenty years.
– Unfortunately, that is true, but a picture is much more vivid than a broadcast, especially to the child mind. In common with many other adults, I like to read a detective yarn, but I do not know whether I would care to witness brutality of that kind over an extended period. I hope that the Government will take action to clean up the national programmes in this respect - even if it cannot do. anything about the commercial stations. In any event, it should have power to bring into line any station that puts over this kind of thing.
I conclude by again congratulating the Government upon the success of its efforts to stabilize the economy. I hope that it will do as I have suggested, especially in the matter of taxation, and of winning the confidence of the small investor in Commonwealth bonds. Also, I hope that the Government will continue the good work that it has been: doing since it came to office.
– At this late hour one cannot discuss fully this most extraordinary Budget, in which the Government advises the people to watch their spending, and at the same time takes from them far more by way of taxes than it did in time of war, and 250 per cent more than it took under the 1949-50 Budget: The Government proposes this year to extract from the people £1,321,700,000: The. Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) boasts that this is £107,000,000 more than was extracted last year. In his Budget speech he advised thrift on the part of every one except the Government. The Budget occupies a central position in the. economy and its range of influence is wide.. Eighteen months ago, when the economy had become unbalanced, and a restraining hand had to be placed upon excessive business and public spending, the measures taken were of a budgetary nature.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
That the. Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate’ adjourned at 11 p.m:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 October 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1957/19571016_senate_22_s11/>.