22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Iiic PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister M cMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the following resolution in connexion with the Foreign Affairs Committee -
That Mr. Downer, Mr. Drummond, Mr. Joske, Sir Wilfrid (Cent Hughes, Mr. Lucock, Mr. Mackinnon, Mr. Timson and Mr. Wentworth be members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
That, until such time as the five remaining vacancies for members of the House of Representatives on this committee are filled by members of the Opposition, Mr. Chaney, Mr. Failes, Mr. Turner, Mr. Wheeler and Mr. Wight be members of the committee.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 38, I hereby appoint the following senators to be the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications - Senator Anderson, Senator Hannaford, Senator Hendrickson, Senator Kennelly, Senator Nicholls, Senator Robertson and Senator Wordsworth.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, is supplementary to my question last week concerning the deletion and suppression of certain broadcasts given - or contemplated - by dietitian Fred L. Thomson of Brisbane. Will the Minister obtain the fullest information concerning medical broadcasts generally? Will he ascertain their number during the five years ended 31st December, 1957, and intimate the number that have been completely suppressed and the number that have suffered deletions?
– I shall be very pleased to obtain the information which the honorable senator seeks from my colleague, the Minister for Health, and pass it to him as early as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and relates to the almond industry, which is concentrated principally in South Australia. Does the Minister know that the plight of the almond industry has recently become much more serious as a result of importations from Mediterranean countries and the arrival of the new season’s crop? Is he aware that not only was there a heavy carry-over from Hast season’s crop, but also that South
I Australian almonds are now virtually unsaleable, the price in the shell having fallen !as low as ls. 9d. per lb.? In view of the serious condition of the industry will the Minister expedite the hearing of the case submitted to the Tariff Board for protection against the indiscriminate dumping of foreign supplies, which the old rates of protection, fixed 30 years ago, allow? Also, does the Minister propose taking any interim action to help the industry pending the decision of the Tariff Board?
– Beyond knowing that a Tariff Board inquiry is pending, I have no information regarding the almondgrowing industry. Therefore I ask the honorable senator to put his question on notice.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Has his attention been drawn to a statement made by a leading Melbourne specialist drawing attention to the extraordinary value of cortisone in the treatment of dermatitis and arthritis, and the fact that in cases where a long course of treatment is needed the cost to patients is all but prohibitive? A correspondent, referring to the statement, draws attention to the fact that the price of cortisone in Adelaide is slightly more than onehalf the price in Melbourne and, further, that the same quantity of a brand of cortisone costing 25s. in Melbourne can be purchased for 8s. in Sarawak. Will the Minister investigate the accuracy of the statement as to prices charged and submit a report to the Senate? Will he advise whether the Minister for Health will consider granting a Commonwealth subsidy on cortisone?
– I have seen the press article on cortisone, but I was not aware that the prices varied so much between Adelaide and Melbourne. I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Health and ask him to give me a considered reply.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. In view of the serious fall in Australian farm income over the past year, what are the prospects of a successful approach to overseas shipping interests for a reduction in the freights which at present press so hard on Australian primary producers?
– I shall convey the honorable senator’s views on this matter to my colleague, Mr. McEwen.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General by referring to a part of the annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which has just been released. Dealing with television the report discloses that the new medium of television holds possibilities of a much greater advance in human welfare than the difficulties of its assimilation might indicate. It goes on to say that in spite of its limitation and pitfalls, television was opening up a much wider audience to services, current affairs and political issues. In view of the significance of television and the outstanding success that it has achieved in the capital cities of Melbourne and Sydney, and having regard to the fact that tenders have been called for the installation of television in Brisbane and Adelaide, will the Minister say what steps are being taken to plan for the provision of repeater stations for country areas, bearing in mind the invaluable educational advantages that television could provide for students in country areas, as well as the entertainment for country people as indicated in the A.B.C. report?
– I realize the great advantage of television to those citizens who have the benefit of it. I understand that Brisbane and Adelaide are to have television, and that later it will be extended to other capital cities. I understand that a programme is in existence for extending television to country areas. However, I think it would be advisable if I were to obtain a full, up-to-date report from the PostmasterGeneral and let the Senate have that report as soon as possible.
– Some time ago, the Canadian Prime Minister made a proposal for a conference of leading world scientists to consider the dangers and benefits of nuclear energy. Will the Minister for National Development inform me whether the Australian Government made any move to support that proposal? If it did not do so, what was the reason?
– Speaking offhand, I think the answer to the question falls under two headings: First, the United Nations has what I think from memory is called a radiation committee, which makes constant inquiries and research into what might be the bad effects of atomic energy upon human beings. Secondly, there is an international statute on atomic energy, establishing another organization under the United Nations. This- organization is doing systematic work into the advancement of the peaceful uses of atomic energy. Australia is represented on both organizations and takes a part in all proceedings. I believe that Australia makes quite a useful contribution in this connexion.
– I desire to direct a question to the Minister for National Development. Is he aware that a conference attended by 200 delegates of the Murray Valley Development League, at Shepparton, in Victoria, last month carried unanimously a resolution in relation to the provision of special Commonwealth Bank finance for rural development? The resolution reads: -
That special Commonwealth Bank finance should be made available to aid new country enterprise, assist experienced sons of farmers to establish themselves on lines of proposed Development Bank which contemplates a basic fund of £12,000,000 to be advanced on integrity, character and enterprise of individuals.
Can the Minister give the Senate an assurance that he will examine the tremendous potential of the Murray Valley, which is capable of further rapid expansion, when the Development Bank legislation becomes law?
– I know the Murray Valley Development League very well, and I know of its good works. Indeed, I have had the pleasure of attending some of its meetings.
– And of partaking of its hospitality?
– Yes, I have had the pleasure of accepting its hospitality. The league, of course, is interested particularly in the development of the Snowy Mountains scheme in relation to the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys. I do not know of the particular resolution to which the honorable senator has referred, but it seems to me to be quite in keeping with the aims and objectives of the Murray Valley Development League. I assure Senator Wade that all resolutions that emanate from that league will always receive careful consideration by me insofar as they relate to my ministerial responsibility. I strongly agree with the honorable senator that when the proposed Development Bank does become operative, the sphere of activities mentioned in the resolution would be a good one to which the bank could direct its attention.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Repatriation. By way of preface, I should like to point out that, over a period of years, persistent representations have been made to the Minister relating to the great need for extensions to the repatriation hospital at Hobart. Is it a fact that the Minister has frequently assured bodies representing exservicemen in Tasmania that extensions to the hospital would be carried out but that, despite the strong case that the Minister has submitted to the Cabinet, in this connexion he has been repeatedly frustrated? Is the Minister aware that war neurosis cases are farmed out to the mental asylum, and that the environment of the asylum is not conducive to the steady recovery of these war sufferers? Is the Minister further aware that Mr. Maxwell, the delegate to the current federal congress in Tasmania, representing totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, described the Hobart repatriation hospital as a shambles and stated that urgent attention should be directed to correcting the situation? In view of the need for public works to meet the lag in the building and allied trades in Tasmania, will the Minister again make strong representations to the Cabinet with a view to having provision made for this urgent work on the repatriation hospital to be commenced at the earliest practicable opportunity?
– Plans are already being prepared for the extension of the repatriation hospital at Hobart. Certain wards at that hospital have been in use for a considerable time, and it is proposed that they be taken down and a new block of wards built. I have not yet seen the plans, but I can . assure the honorable senator, and also the people of Tasmania, that the proposal is going ahead. In the Estimates for this year, a sufficient sum has been allocated for the drawing and the completion of the plans, so I expect that, in the following year, we shall see this much-needed improvement to the hospital at Hobart, or at least a start being made on the work.
In regard to the position of mental patients, the honorable senator may not, perhaps, be aware that the Repatriation Department has no certifying power. The States have that power. In all the States, cases of severe mental illness are looked after in the State mental institutions. The Repatriation Department pays the institution concerned for the care of ex-service mental patients. In addition, in the majority of States, the department has built, in the grounds of mental hospitals, separate repatriation pavilions, which are, however, staffed by the State mental authorities and are under their control. In Tasmania, speaking from memory, there is only a State mental institution for the accommodation of all mental cases, whether repatriation or otherwise, but I shall check that and let the honorable senator know the position.
– I submit to the Minister for National Development a question relating to the lead mining industry in
Australia. I have no doubt that the Minister knows of the position of that industry and is aware of the fact that, in Western Australia, the industry has collapsed, and that the lead mines at Northampton have closed because of the progressively deteriorating price of lead. In view of the strategic importance of lead to this nation, and having regard to the fact that the Government has already taken steps to have a look at the problem of base metal mining, in relation to copper, will the Minister consider affording some assistance to the lead mining industry? If so, will he also have regard to the importance of giving assistance to the mines, so that they may re-open and thus preserve a most valuable industry?
– The question asked by the honorable member raises tremendously important matters of policy which I am not prepared to answer offhand and without due consideration. Of course, I know that the base metal industries are having a difficult time, but the history of those industries, and the history of other mining as well, show that there are often extraordinarily prosperous times followed by difficult times. We are now, admittedly, in the throes of a difficult situation. I do not think that it is possible to have regard to what is being done in relation to the copper-mining industry, because what we are doing about that industry is traditional in that we have referred the matter to the Tariff Board. There have been requests from the coppermining companies for governmental assistance within the terms of the tariff, and those requests have been referred to the Tariff Board. There has been no such request for similar assistance for lead and zinc mining, and I do not think it would be competent for the Government to make a request of the Tariff Board without the industry itself initiating such a request. All I can say to the honorable senator is that, knowing his very great interest in mining matters, I shall keep in mind the views he has expressed and shall give consideration to them.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development. In view of the fact that the New South Wales
Government has an expert committee examining the question of the manufacture of by-products from coal, and in view of the fact that an optimistic report has already flowed from this committee’s investigations, can the Minister say whether his department has this matter under review? If it has, is he in a position to make a statement on the position? If he is not, will he make a statement as early as possible for the information of the Senate?
– I should like to preface my reply by saying how pleased everybody in the Senate is to hear Jim Arnold again ask a question.
The committee to which the honorable senator refers was created by the Joint Coal Board. Its members are representatives of the University of Technology, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the Department of National Development and the New South Wales Department of Mines. The State Minister for Mines and I are on that committee. We have formed technical sub-committees and refer technical questions to those who know something about them.
The latest information I have is that one of the sub-committees has completed its report and has made some specific proposals concerning further work that is to be done. I am sorry I cannot tell the honorable senator what is proposed because I saw the report yesterday for the first time. I think my copy came to me from the Joint Coal Board yesterday, and I have not yet had an opportunity to study it, but if the honorable senator will repeat the question this time next week I hope to give him uptodate information.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation whether it is a fact that a revision of insurances for officers and crew of aircraft, and passengers, is being discussed by the Department of Civil Aviation and airline companies. If the matter is being discussed, will the Minister give attention, under any new plan, to the position of air hostesses who were at one time classed, for insurance purposes, at lower rates than either passengers, officers or crew?
– I understand that discussions are taking place at the moment. I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Civil Aviation and ask him to bear in mind the points she has put to us.
– I ask the Minister for National Development to amplify the answer he has given to Senator Arnold’s question relating to by-products from coal. In the event of the report to which he has referred being acted upon and companies formed for the manufacture of by-products from coal, will such companies be given the same taxation concessions as have been given to coal-mining companies? I suppose it can be said with truth that the concessions granted to coal-mining companies amount to many hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not a million pounds. I refer in particular to the 12i per cent, rebate on the purchase of machinery for the mechanization of the coal-mining industry. Under this rebate system, the machinery becomes the property of the company, without cost, within eight or nine years.
– I do not know that I can add much more to what I have already stated to Senator Arnold because this is indeed a matter of very great importance. Although I have not yet read the report, it would be rather technical and I think it would be an error of judgment on my part to express a view without having read the report. However, I should like to correct the honorable senator’s observation with regard to taxation. First, the coal-mining industry does not receive consideration or treatment different from that received by any other mining industry. Nothing was done other than to put coal mining on the same basis as other mining industries. Secondly, it seems to me those taxation arrangements would be a very good thing for the further development of the process of turning of coal into chemicals, if that is practicable. I think that most of the plant to do this work would have to be purchased by the colliery proprietors and any taxation concession would be an incentive and an advantage to them when contemplating the practicabilities and the economics of this development of the industry.
– I direct my question to the acting Leader of the Government in the Senate and ask him whether he has seen the statement in the “ Daily Telegraph “ attributed to Mr. Kelly, Chief Secretary in the New South Wales Government, which reads -
Spend More to put Australia over in the United States.
Mr. Kelly says America is spending large amounts of money to encourage tourism in America, and that private travel organizations and governments in Australia should combine in publicizing Australia and promoting tourist travel.
Does the Minister believe that if the organizations concerned in Australia united to encourage tourists from abroad this would bring additional overseas capital to Australia?
– I did not see the article to which Senator Scott refers. 1 am familiar, of course, with the theme that the way to attract a greater number of tourists to Australia is to spend more money in advertising overseas. Undoubtedly, I would think, there is force in that argument. However, I doubt whether that would be the most effective method of attracting additional tourists to Australia. I do not propose to impinge on Senator Buttfield’s field of argument to discuss that proposition other than to say that it is important that we should do everything we can to attract a greater number of tourists and a greater volume of overseas currency to Australia.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Health a question which is supplementary to that asked by Senator Wardlaw. Will the Minister ascertain whether there is any possibility of the drug cortisone, which I understand was originally on the free list, being restored to the list and whether, if it cannot be completely restored to the list, it will be issued free in necessitous cases?
– I shall be only too pleased to bring the question to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Health, and ask him to inform me what is being done in this direction.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration the following questions: At the time of interview and screening of prospective migrants in Europe, what assurances, if any, are Australian migration officers permitted to give in relation to the ability of migrants’ parents and families to join them in Australia at a later date? If any such assurances are given, are they given orally or by letter? Has the Minister received any complaints from European migrants who have claimed to have acted upon such assurances to their detriment?
– I understand that the act is being overhauled by my colleague, and I shall bring this matter to his notice at the earliest possible moment. I ask the honorable senator to place his question on the notice-paper.
– I preface my questions to the Minister representing the Treasurer by saying that I welcome an announcement that was made in the House of Representatives by the Treasurer that careful study will be made of the reasons for the judgment of the High Court in the recent case in which it denied to the taxpayer the right to claim as deductions for income tax purposes fares and costs incurred in getting to and from work. Will the Minister suggest to the Treasurer that at the same time study be made of all recent taxation decisions, especially those which have been adverse to the taxpayer and in which their Honours have expressed the view that modern business practices and natural justice demand changes in the income tax law? After examination, will appropriate action be taken in the forthcoming Budget?
– I shall ensure that the views expressed by the honorable senator are conveyed to the Treasurer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. I refer to a question that was asked yesterday in regard to a circular that was forwarded by a member of the Tariff Board to all members of the Parliament in which he alleged certain omissions from the authenticated copy of the annual report of the Tariff Board and the usurpation of its authority by two members of the Public Service. Has the Minister had time to direct his attention to the matter and can he furnish the Senate with any further information on it?
– I welcome the question. I notice that on the noticepaper there is a question in the name of Senator O’Flaherty.
– That is a question which I directed to you.
– I thought that probably the honorable senator had placed it on the notice-paper after the Senate rose last night. I give Senator O’Flaherty an assurance that I shall have the question replied to as quickly as possible. I had hoped to have a reply ready for to-day’s proceedings, but it was not practicable to do so. I have obtained further information from my colleague, the Minister for Trade, and, if the Senate will bear with me, I shall read from a few notes that have been prepared, because I think all will appreciate the gravity or importance of the insinuations that are contained in the note from Mr. Date.
– I hope the Minister is not going to go “ crook “ on me again.
– I think the honorable senator will be rather pleased when he hears the background of this matter. The notes that I have before me show, first, that Mr. Date has had grievances for a long period and has directed protests to a number of people. First, when he was appointed to the board, which operates in Melbourne, he wanted to live in Sydney. He then wanted special allowances for living in Melbourne. There have been arguments about the payment of his telephone account, and the payment of other allowances. As late as yesterday the Minister for Trade received a letter from him claiming a special allowance of £1,000 for travelling, rent and what he calls “ capital losses “. The basis of the arguments seems to have been that he has wanted Tariff Board matters organized to suit his convenience. Unfortunately, these arguments, and discussions, began immediately after his appointment and have continued ever since.
– When was he appointed?
– Two or three years ago, by this Government.
– Was he appointed from the Public Service?
– At the time of his appointment he was economic adviser to the Rural Bank of New South Wales. The Minister for Trade gave in another place earlier this week, and has since repeated, an assurance that no Tariff Board report has ever been altered subsequently to its being sent to him. What has happened has been that Mr. Date has continually challenged the board’s procedures - within the board itself - though these procedures have been operative over a great many years. He has also made observations, directed to his chairman and co-members, on various reports.
– Is he still a member of the board?
– Yes. He was appointed for a specified number of years. The stage was finally reached when the board declined to accept some of his endorsements on reports relating to particular industries and matters of great importance. They took the form of comments and reservations relating to his own personal affairs, on such matters as travelling allowances. The Minister for Trade tells me that this week he made a specific inquiry about the matter and was assured by the Tariff Board that no dissentient or minority report relating to a particular product or industry under examination has ever been deleted from the report before its despatch to the Minister. Mr. Date has expressed reservations which have not related to Tariff Board inquiries at all, and has subsequently declined to sign reports because the board has not agreed to those comments, which were simply extraneous to the inquiry, accompanying them. 1 might give an example. Mr. Date added to an annual report of the board, dated 28th August, 1956, and tabled in the Parliament, this comment -
Signed at Kew, Victoria, subject to observance of the provisions of the Act and reply to letter dated 15th December, 1955, to the GovernorGeneral.
Most Ministers have, of course, received correspondence from Mr. Date relating to his personal affairs. The comment whichI have read indicates that he has directed his correspondence even higher than the ministerial level.
– Will the Minister for National Development extend to the Murrumbidgee Water Users Association the consideration that he has promised to extend to the Murray Valley Development League, and examine carefully the suggestion that eligibility for financial assistance to secure farms in the irrigation areas should be limited to farmers’ sons, so that class distinction may be avoided? I point out that the granting of assistance to farmers’ sons alone would deprive of their rights share farmers and many others who are entitled to equal if not greater consideration.
– I am sure that when the Development Bank commences operations it will look after those things to the complete satisfaction of the honorable senator.
– I ask the Minister for
National Development whether, in view of the fact that Mr. Date seems to have a chip perpetually on his shoulder, it would not be better to compensate him in respect of the balance of his contractual term and remove him from the Tariff Board. Obviously, he is only hampering the board’s work, and it would be better to get rid of him.
– I can only say that that is a problem which is on the plate of my colleague, the Minister for Trade. It is not one that I have any desire to acquire from him.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Atomic Energy Act 1953.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
Senator SPOONER (New South Wales-
Minister for National Development) [11.45].-I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short measure for the amendment of some of the machinery provisions of the Atomic Energy Act 1953, and does not contain any proposals for modifying the general structure of that act or the purposes for which it was enacted. The principal act has proved to be a well-conceived measure, and it has enabled the initial stages of the development of the peaceful uses of atomic energy to be carried forward effectively in this country. It has also enabled Australia to establish advantageous arrangements with other countries for co-operation in the general endeavour to place atomic energy and all its beneficent potentialities at the service of industry and social progress.
Since the principal act was enacted in 1953 Australia has inaugurated and is now carrying forward an advanced programme of atomic energy research, for the purposes of which a large specialized research establishment has been constructed at Lucas Heights in New South Wales. Australia has also emerged as an important producer of uranium, and at present has four production plants in operation or under construction, representing a capital outlay of some £26,000,000. In addition, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission is conducting research in and encouraging the industrial and other uses of radio-isotopes. It has established arrangements under which research complementary to its own programme is being carried on in all the Australian universities. It has established training schemes at the under-graduate and post-graduate levels to ensure a supply of scientists for future needs in the atomic energy field, and it has established information services through which the Australian community is being kept informed of progress in atomic energy within Australia and overseas. In all these matters our policy has been practical and progressive. Our research programme I may add, is already producing results which are expected to have important bearings on the way in which atomic energy is ultimately developed in this country.
In these activities, moreover, we are receiving valuable assistance from the international arrangements for co-operation which I mentioned earlier. These arrangements have been established with the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. In addition Australia is now a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, through which co-operation over the whole field of atomic energy research and development is being organized on the widest international basis. As a producer of raw materials and a nation with an advanced atomic energy programme of its own, Australia has been accorded a seat on the Board of Governors of this important body.
Against this background some enlargement of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission is desirable, and the primary purpose of this bill is to secure legislative authority for this action. As it is now constituted under the principal act, the commission consists of a chairman, a deputy chairman, and a third member, all of whom hold office on a part-time basis. These members will continue with the commission in their present capacities. It is proposed, however, that in addition a full-time member should be appointed as executive member, to be the executive of the commission and, within the policy laid down by the commision, generally to administer its affairs. The Government is satisfied also that provision should be made for the appointment of a fifth member, who will not necessarily be a full-time member. This will give the commission within its own membership a wider basis for consultation on the problems which it is called upon to consider. These problems are increasingly numerous and complex, and the addition of a fifth point of view will strengthen the commission in dealing with them. The necessary changes to the principal act are proposed in the bill now before honorable senators, principally in clause 3. They are straightforward and simple. Clause 5, amending the quorum provision, is consequential.
In introducing these proposals, the Government has thought it desirable to seek the amendment of some of the other machinery of the principal act, partly to remove provisions which are now obsolete, and partly to bring in changes which have been made in acts relating to other statutory bodies. For the first mentioned of these reasons, the principal act is proposed to be amended by taking out the provisions establishing and referring to the Atomic Energy Trust Account- This account was established for purposes connected with the Rum Jungle uranium project, and is now no longer required. Clause 7 of the bill proposes the substitution of simpler machinery. Clauses 4, 6 and 8 of the bill are included on the second of the grounds mentioned above, viz., to bring in changes made in acts relating to other statutory bodies. Corresponding provisions have all been examined in this chamber in relation to other acts, and there is nothing new in principle or substance in the proposals now put forward. They will place the provisions of the principal act in relation to the vacation of membership of the commission on a more up-to-date basis, and will modify some of the existing financial provisions. These latter changes, while giving the commission more flexibility in regard to the form of its accounts - as has already been given to other statutory bodies - will increase the powers of the Auditor-General and will specify in greater detail the matters which he is to deal with in his reports on the accounts to the Minister administernig the act.
As I have remarked in relation to the membership provisions of the bill, this is a simple and straightforward measure, and I hope can be dealt with as such. Its passage will assist the work of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. We have made an energetic and successful beginning, and I am confident that in the development of atomic energy as in other directions, Australian science, industry and workers will maintain Australia’s status as an advanced and progressive industrial nation. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Service and Execution of Process Act 1901-1953.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this very short bill is to enable a subpoena or summons of a coroner to be served interstate, under the provisions of the Service and Execution of Process Act. Section 16 of that act at present provides for the interstate service of a subpoena or other summons to a witness to appear and give evidence “ in any civil or criminal trial or proceeding “. Some magistrates have taken the view that this does not permit the interstate service of a subpoena or summons to a witness issued by a coroner. The difficulty arises because a coroner’s inquiry is not a “ civil or criminal trial or proceeding “, within the meaning of section 16.
It may be that subpoenas and summonses issued by coroners are in fact sometimes served interstate as, until recently, no criticism of this apparent deficiency in the act has come to notice. Recently, however, Senator Vincent wrote to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator O’sullivan) saying that the absence of this power in coroners gave rise to difficulties in conducting coronial inquiries in Western Australia. If it creates difficulties in Western Australia, it must create greater difficulties in the eastern States, where there is a more extensive movement of people. It is certainly desirable that a coroner should have power to summon witnesses from outside his own State to give evidence before him, and so be placed in the same position as judges and magistrates. - The bill is intended to achieve this result.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945-1957, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
Senator SPOONER (New South Wales-
Minister for National Development) [11.58].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to repeal the war service moratorium provisions of the Reestablishment and Employment Act, subject to certain necessary savings. Those provisions, which are contained in Part X. of the act, had their origin in the National Security (War Service Moratorium) Regulations. These regulations were passed at a time of emergency for the benefit of members of the forces who had little, if any, opportunity on enlistment to deal with their private affairs in a proper manner. To-day, very different considerations apply, and it is generally agreed that, in peacetime, members of the forces should shoulder their civil obligations in the same way as civilians.
In point of fact, very few of the war service moratorium provisions are still effective, and those that remain in force benefit a very small number of servicemen or ex-servicemen. Indeed, the only servicemen who are still on “ war service “ within the meaning of Part X. of the act are those who enlisted for full-time service in the Defence Force before the technical end of the 1939-45 war, namely, 28th April, 1952, when the peace treaty with Japan came into operation. Members of the forces in Korea and Malaya who did not come within the category first mentioned ceased to be engaged on “ war service “ as from 20th April, 1956, and 1st September, 1957, respectively. Honorable senators will recall that the latter date was the date of commencement of the Repatriation (Far East Strategic Reserve) Act 1956, which was passed following the change of status of our forces in Malaya from an operational force to that of a strategic reserve.
Any benefits to which the persons who had served in Korea or Malaya might, by reason of that service, still be entitled will, with one exception, cease in the ordinary way under the existing legislation on 1st September, 1958, the proposed date of commencement of this amending legislation. That one exception is a continuing protection, conferred by sections 118 and 120 of the act, for a maximum period of five years against compulsory acquisition of land owned by a member or former member of the forces. Even this protection is a qualified one, as section 118 enables the land to be acquired notwithstanding objections by the owner, if the Attorney-General consents to the acquisition. It is significant that only one application for the Attorney-
General’s consent has been received in the last five or six years - and in that case consent to acquire was given. So it will be seen that in any case the provision appears to be a dead letter. Its repeal will relieve resuming bodies from the necessity of inquiring in each case whether the owner is a serviceman or ex-serviceman and, if so, whether he claims protection under section 118, an administrative process which in the aggregate must impose quite an additional expense. I must add that it is probable that there are very few, if any, servicemen or ex-servicemen of the Korea or Malaya forces, other than the permanent men to whom I shall refer in a moment, who are still entitled to any protection under section 118.
I referred earlier to a group of servicemen who enlisted for service before 28th April, 1952, who are still on “ war service “ within the meaning of Part X. As the legislation stands, these persons will continue to be engaged on war service, and the benefits of Part X. will run on for them indefinitely. It was, of course, not intended that these persons should continue to enjoy the benefits indefinitely, and they will lose these benefits upon the act coming into operation. I do not think that any person will suffer any hardship by the repeal of these provisions.
The bill may appear a somewhat complicated one to achieve what is apparently a simple purpose. The majority of its provisions, however, are necessary to save any injustice being done to any person by the repeal of the provisions. In this connexion, I draw the attention of honorable senators particularly to clause 5, which deals with postponement of mortgage payments and is designed to prevent a member suddenly becoming liable to pay a number of instalments at once when the act comes into operation. The relevant provisions of section 109 are continued in force by this clause to avoid this happening. Again I point out that it is highly probable that there are very few, if any, persons who are still enjoying any protection under section 109. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 12th March (vide page 162), on motion by Senator Kendall -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Senator VINCENT (Western Australia) 112.51. - When the debate was interrupted last night, I was about to commence discussion of the actual subject of my speech, the position of the base metal mining industry in Australia. I had referred to the rather terrible and depressing announcements by the mine managements at Broken Hill and Mount Isa, that it was proposed to curtail partially activities in the base metals mining industry. I think that the Mount Isa announcement was the more serious, because it stated that that very important mining area would be suspending the developmental programme which had been discussed for some time and practically decided upon, and which would have made Mount Isa one of the biggest base metal mining areas in the southern hemisphere.
The situation in regard to base metals, as I have said, is depressed because the world price of base metals has now collapsed. That knowledge, of course, is not of much consolation to mine-owners. Wherever one goes one finds mining companies faced with the possible closure of their mines, with all the evil consequences that such a closure would bring. I mentioned last night that recently I had visited a mine at Ravensthorpe and that the management had stated quite frankly that this very promising mine is now losing money every week and is facing a cessation of work.
So far as the copper-mining industry is concerned, the Government has already taken action and we await with great interest the report of the Tariff Board on copper mining. I understand that the Government will give the fullest consideration to the report of the board. Whether the Government adopts that report, or whether it varies the board’s recommendations, is perhaps not so important as is the consideration that the copper-mining industry must be preserved for the future prosperity of the Australian economy. Having regard to the present situation of the base metals industry, and within that context, I am prompted to-day to make some observations, first, concerning the problem itself, and, secondly, about how I personally think that the problem can be solved.
The first thing I want to say is that I hope that the Government will not confine itself to the situation of copper alone. All base metals are in trouble, not only copper. Lead, zinc, tin, wolfram, tungsten and rutile - all are now facing a cyclical period of low world prices. It may well be that, only because the price of copper has dropped perhaps more than that of any other base metal, and because there is so much private investment wrapped up in copper, the Government has decided to move so far as the copper mining industry is concerned; but I believe that the Government should now look at the position of all the base metals - a belief which prompted me to ask a question in regard to lead in the Senate earlier to-day. I hope that the Government will not restrict its consideration of this question to copper mining, because it will not be long before all base metal mines are facing a similar tragic set of con sequences and, perhaps, closing down. In fact, as I stated in my question earlier to-day, the lead mines of Northampton already have closed.
I think that the first thing to do is to have a look at the factors that affect base metal mining in this country and to consider those factors in the context of governmental assistance. I should think that, collectively, there are four or five factors which are not present in any other great primary industry, and which must be faced. They are four or five difficult factors. When one takes them collectively, they present a most formidable task, not only for the industry, but for any government that is endeavouring to resolve this dilemma of the cyclical depression of the base metals industry. The first factor that I think we must always remember - I shall take the factors in sequence - is that modern exploration for minerals is a most expensive undertaking, as well as being a most hazardous one. Gone are the days, in short, of the pick and shovel and of the individual prospector going out in search of minerals. Gone are the days when it was possible to go to an area and actually discover a mineral on the surface, or outcropping from the surface. Exploration for minerals is now a much more expensive operation, lt must be conducted over larger areas than heretofore, and it must, of necessity, be undertaken by highly skilled technicians, with expensive plant and machinery. In other words, we have to seek under the surface for our minerals, because those that exist on the surface have already been discovered. Therefore, the first factor that we must always remember is that, henceforth, exploration for new ore bodies will become a most expensive and hazardous undertaking, and that it has already become almost the sole province of highly skilled companies, employing experienced geologists and equipped with expensive plant and machinery.
The second factor that we should never forget arises from the geographical location of our mines. All our mineralized areas lie at great distances from the centres of population. They are in our arid areas and that, of course, leads to certain very difficult consequences. We have problems of water supply, of housing for employees and of transport; the ever-increasing problem of high freights; and the scarcity of labour in remote areas. All those problems flow from the fact that our mines are situated in the wide open spaces of Australia. Of course, that factor has beneficial results, too, in that the mining industry is the only industry that can ever hope to populate our arid areas to any degree. That is the second factor that we must face, and it is a factor unique to the mining industry. In addition, it is a difficult factor. In planning long-term assistance for this industry we must never overlook it.
There is a third factor to which 1 want to refer. One often hears the expression that a mine is a wasting asset. Of course it is. Its capital is represented by the ore in the ground, and every ton of ore that is mined is in fact a ton of ore lost. That is a well-known platitude and it is repeated frequently. But the matter does not end there, and I mention it because of the two consequences that flow from it. The first is that the expected profits from a mine must be sufficiently large to cater for that loss of capital. The second is that the returns from the ore must be sufficiently remunerative to enable a mining company to keep on exploring for new ore bodies. Unless the return from the minerals won is adequate to cover both aspects, the mining industry will collapse because of its wasting nature.
The fourth factor is well known, particularly in relation to mining for base metals. It is the fact that prices we receive for our base metals are subject to world fluctuations. The history of base metal mining emphasizes that the prosperity of this type of mining is cyclical. We have periods of ups and downs. The Minister referred to that factor to-day when answering a question by me relating to the leadmining industry of Western Australia. We have periods of depression and periods of comparative prosperity. We all know that to be so, but the consequences of that factor are not generally well known. The most serious consequence is that in periods of depression this nation cannot allow mines to close because mines are not re-opened, closed and reopened to conform to that economic cycle. The closing and opening of mines is much more difficult than, say, turning a tap on and off. If our large mines close they will never reopen, because it will become economically hopeless to reopen them. When smaller mines close, it becomes a most expensive operation to reopen them. Therefore, I do suggest that the consequences of these cyclical periods of prosperity for mines must be given much more serious consideration by this Government than heretofore.
A most important feature of this condition of mining is that the investors do not like it, and they are the people who keep the mining industry going. When a person who has a few hundred pounds invested in a mine finds that mine closed, he becomes somewhat chary of further investment in a mine; he becomes a bit suspicious, he prefers to invest his money in brewery shares, because breweries do not have the habit of closing, or perhaps in chain stores, which do not close, either. But breweries or chain stores are not as important as the mining industry. We must never forget that the most important man in the mining industry of this country is the little man who invests £200 or £300 in a mining company. He must not be frightened away. If mines are to be closed in times of depression, he will be frightened away. That is what is happening in the industry to-day.
I come now to the fifth and perhaps most important factor connected with mining. A man who buys shares in a mining company is engaging in a highly speculative form of investment. I feel that we are always in grave danger of losing sight of that aspect. Further, the industry must always be regarded as a whole when we are considering this factor- I have heard wellknown economists argue that because the Broken Hill mines are paying large dividends they should not receive any incentive by way of taxation assistance. That is a fallacious argument. If I were the Commissioner of Taxation, I should believe in it; but if I were endeavouring to establish a permanent mining industry here, I should make the richest mines just as eligible for tax relief as the poorer mines because we need to have regard to the fact that the investors can be attracted to invest in mining only if they receive profits commensurate with the risk involved. If we permit only the risky mines to have the opportunity of earning large profit and if we tax the rich mines, we shall never get from the investor the response we need.
For those reasons, I submit that the fifth factor is perhaps the most important of all. The profits from mines must be commensurate at all times with the high element of risk involved. If they are not, the mining industry will collapse because we depend entirely upon the investor for its maintenance.
I do not know whether any of the honorable senators who are listening to me have mining shares or would care to float a mining company at the present time, but I am confident that if they reflect upon whether they would be prepared to invest their few pounds in a mining venture they would appreciate the highly significant fact that the expected profits from mining have to be commensurate with the risk involved. It is a truism that most mining ventures fail; only a few succeed, and those few, in effect, have to pay for the large proportion of failures.
– That is quite true. Unless we can attract investors with the possibility of high profits, the mining industry of Australia will fail. I am not attempting to paint an alarming picture; I am stating the facts as I know them, and the situation in Australia at the moment is such that there is no attraction to investors. Having said that, I think I have completed what I might call the five important factors that should govern any consideration of Government policy of assistance to this important industry.
The next important question is how these factors can be translated into policy and action. In short, how can this Government, with the assistance of the respective State governments - it is a joint problem and obligation - translate those factors into policy and action? There are many ways by which it can be done, and I propose to spend a few minutes discussing how . it can be done. Let us take, first, the exploration for new ore bodies- Let us examine the manner in which this Government could assist the prospector and the exploration companies. One might say that because the industry is depressed at the moment this is a bad time to start looking for new ore bodies. That is not so. Now is the time to go looking for new ore bodies. Now is the time to plan for the expansion of the industry so that when this depression cycle is over and the industry is again healthy, we shall have ore bodies ready for development and exploitation so as to take advantage of high prices when they occur. Exploration for new ore bodies is of vital significance to the mining industry at the moment. The question arises as to how this Government can assist the prospector. There are several ways. A very strong case exists, of course, for direct assistance by way of subsidy to the bona fide prospector and the experienced exploration companies. Asistance is particularly desirable where great hazards are being undertaken in difficult exploration projects in which success would be of special public significance.
It is of special public significance that we should continue exploring for new iron ore deposits of high grade because we have a reserve of only 35 years’ supply in Australia. It is a matter of national importance that prospecting and exploration for new iron ore bodies should be fostered. The same remarks apply to gold, which is also a matter of national importance. Assistance must be provided to continue gold exploration. I could also mention other strategic minerals.
Assistance may be given in a variety of ways. First, it could be given by direct subsidy to exploration companies for specific undertakings, each case being treated on its merits or, secondly, a subsidy could be paid on diamond drilling by such companies. Indeed both kinds of assistance could be provided. I am merely indicating lines of policy without being specific about the actual nature of the assistance, because time does not permit me to go into detail. The third method of assistance is the good old-fashioned method of rewards for significant discoveries which was favoured 100 years ago and produced results. Hargreaves in 1851 received £10,000 as a reward for discovering gold at Bathurst, New South Wales, and £10,000 was a lot of money in 1851. I wonder whether a second Hargreaves who made an equally important discovery to-day would receive £10,000. I doubt it.
– What about the reward for the discovery of uranium?
– I am talking about gold. .
– I thought the honorable member was referring to minerals.
– Uranium is the only mineral for which a reward is given, but I suggest that uranium is not nearly as important at the moment as gold or iron. We are desperately short of both, but not so short of uranium. When Hargreaves was paid the reward of £10,000 the Victorian Government offered a reward of £20,000 for the discovery of gold in Victoria. In those days £20,000 was a lot of money. When Patrick Hannon discovered gold in Kalgoorlie in 1892 the Western Australian Government gave him a substantial life pension. It represented a lot of money in those days.
Recently Mr. Jock Wall discovered in Western Australia the fourth largest highgrade iron ore deposit in Australia, consisting of many millions of tons; but he did not receive even a letter of thanks. That is the attitude of governments to-day to exploration.
– Where was the discovery made?
– About 65 miles north of Southern Cross. How can we hope to encourage exploration when we do not follow tried and tested methods of encouragement? Really serious consideration must be given to these methods of attracting exploration for new mineral ore bodies because when a deposit is ready for exploitation we will miss out if it it not ready for development.
– Would the honorable senator suggest that it would pay Australia better to hold the gold we win rather than to sell it on the world market?
– It would, if we had enough. If we had enough gold in Australia the first thing we should do would be to establish a gold reserve. Such a reserve saved this country from national bankruptcy in 1932-33 and it will save us again should the tragedy of another international depression ever overtake the world. If we do not have a gold reserve we will have little hope of surviving.
– Could we not steadily build up a gold reserve?
– We do not have enough gold. It is too valuable overseas. However, I agree with the honorable senator’s suggestion that it would be very handy to have a gold reserve in Australia. I have mentioned briefly how governments can assist in exploration which, in my opinion, is the most important field for assistance. Irrespective of the assistance given later by way of taxation concessions - and we have heard a lot about that method and others - provision for such aid is futile unless adequate assistance is given to exploration to allow development to proceed at a healthy rate.
I turn now to the methods of assistance available to governments in relation to mining. The equipment, plant and machinery, used in mining, are the most expensive items in establishing a mine. I make a suggestion that has not often been made on behalf of the mining industry, namely, that the cost of opening up a deposit is always increased when the private company has to provide services which in more settled areas are available through the Government or government instrumentalities. The kind of services to which I refer are proper allweather roads, railway lines, suitable housing facilities for employees, power and water supplies, ports, air strips and the like. No other private undertakings in Australia have to provide those services. Why should the mining industry always be saddled with the burden of providing them? Capital for mining ventures has to be sought on the speculative market at risk rates. With its capital a mining company has to provide housing and the other services I have mentioned. How far would the town of Kalgoorlie have developed had not John Forrest provided water for it in 1895? It would not have survived. I wonder whether the Government would be prepared to-day to pipe water 350 miles if a find similar to Kalgoorlie were discovered in some other part of Australia? I very much doubt it. We have lost our capacity for thinking ahead in the matter of assistance to mining exploration. Serious consideration should be given to this matter because mining companies should not be expected to bear alone the cost of the services I have mentioned when other more fortunate industries are afforded them.
– They are of a more permanent nature.
– They are not more permanent at all; in fact, some are less permanent.
– That would not be known in the early stages.
– No, it would not be known. The honorable senator would not have provided the water supply to Kalgoorlie. He would have been one of the men who killed Mr. C. Y. O’Connor.
– The honorable senator himself killed him by slandering Western Australia.
– If one has a faint heart one can always hide behind the excuse that an industry is not permanent. It is a very good excuse, but it does not answer the question. I remember very clearly the establishment of the great oil refinery at Kwinana. At the same time, the Great Western mining corporation was establishing a very large mining project at Bullfinch. Each project required the establishment of a town for the employees, a water supply, electric power, roads and a rail service.
The State Government supplied all those services for nothing at Kwinana, but the Great Western mining corporation had to find every penny for the provision of similar services at Bullfinch. One of these days, the mine at Bullfinch will provide far more wealth to this country than will the Kwinana oil refinery.
– What metal is being mined at Bullfinch?
– Gold. The facts I have outlined illustrate the thinking of of governments towards the mining industry. No question was raised about the Kwinana company receiving all those services for nothing. I say that it should have got them, but I say, too, that the Bullfinch project should have received the same consideration.
– Did not the State build too many houses at Kwinana?
– They all will be occupied one of these days. It is a very healthy area. We must do some new thinking about the provision of assistance to mining companies, and supply these services where it is appropriate to do so. I admit, of course, that not every mining camp should have permanent services, but there are many old-established mining settlements, even in my own State of Western Australia, that have not received one penny from governments while new industries that have been established close to Perth have been spoonfed. That is not fair.
– The Mount Isa mining company has just completed a great dam in the Leichhardt River at its own cost, and the water is available to the citizens of Mount Isa.
– Norseman, with a population of more than 3,000 people, is supplied with electricity by the mine at the expense of the mine.
I have dealt with ways and means of assisting mines that are in the process of being established. I now go a stage further to discuss methods of giving assistance to mines that have been established and are producing wealth. The first method, which I shall refer to only briefly, is the well advocated one of assistance in the taxation field. I merely mention that to complete the picture I am painting, because it has been mentioned very often in this chamber on other occasions. It involves a slight alteration of the income tax law of this country. 1 merely place on record the fact that I strongly advocate an amendment of section 23a of the Income Tax Act and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act in three particular fields. First, the section should be made permanent; it is now impermanent. Secondly, the section should be applied to silver lead and zinc; it does not apply to those minerals now. Thirdly, the percentage exemption for metals should be increased substantially above 20 per cent. I am not dogmatic about the amount of the increase, but the rate should be above the figure that I have mentioned.
I suggest, too, that mining companies should be tax free for the first three years of operation so that the investor may have some opportunity to get some of his capital back before it is taxed. I could quote instances of mining companies having been taxed before the investor received back any of his capital. In fact, the mines had closed before 1 per cent, of the capital had been returned, but large taxation cheques had been paid to the Treasury in the meantime.
A second and important method of assistance to established mines is direct assistance by way of subsidy, and I assume that the present investigation into the copper-mining industry will involve some recommendations in this field. There are different methods of subsidizing a mine. There is either the flat rate based upon the quantity of mineral produced or payment upon a sliding scale, in each case based upon a cost-of-production formula. I think that both forms of assistance by way of subsidy have advantages, but on balance I prefer the former method because in that case both the investor and the miner know where they stand in relation to the final price of the product that they will mine. I do not wish to dwell on this method of assistance because I expect, although I do not know, that the Tariff Board will have something to say about it at an early date.
I do not know whether the Tariff Board will go so far as to recommend a stabilization scheme for the copper-mining industry, but 1 throw into the ring a suggestion for the adoption of such a scheme. When all is said and done, mining is a primary industry: indeed, it is the basic primary industry. We have a stabilization schemefor wheat which is backed by the Treasury and supported by the industry. That schemehas put the wheat industry on the economic: map of Australia and has made it look healthier. For the life of me, I cannot see why we cannot have a similar schemefor the mining of base metals which are subject to much more violent fluctuations, of price. I suggest that, if the arguments, that have been advanced in favour of the stabilization of wheat were sound, similararguments in relation to base metal mining must be sound. I suggest, too, that the industry, in consultation with the Government, should examine the possibility of a stabilization scheme, because now, with depression conditions operating, is the timewhen such a scheme can be introduced. It would give some hope to the future investor.
– Is it not better to introduce such schemes in prosperous times?
– I suggest that the better time is a time of depression. How we are to establish mining industries in times of depression I really do not know, because no one is then prepared to invest money in them. If some hope could be held out by way of a stabilization scheme so that the mining investor, who is the important man, could be told quite frankly that he would have a good and not a remote chance of getting his money back, we might find more money flowing into mining investment.
– But he would not get the fantastically high price that he would get at various other times.
– He would much prefer to get his capital back, for a start.
– In other words, you would remove the speculator from the mining industry?
– I am trying to remove the “ s “ from “ speculator “. People laughed at the wheat stabilization scheme for the same reasons. Although I am quite well aware that in the mining industry a stabilization scheme is perhaps not regarded as being very popular, I think we will get around to it eventually, as we did in the wheat industry.
Before I conclude, I wish to make a brief reference to another form of assistance. I
Slave dealt with assistance to the explorer or the exploration company, to the operators of mines that are being established, and to the operators of established mines; now I wish to refer briefly to means of assisting the operators of old-established mines. In Australia, there are companies that have been operating the same mines for as many -as twenty, 40 or 60 years. Those companies are now in a dilemma.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I have only a few remarks to make before I conclude.
– Hear, hear!
– The encouragement I am receiving from honorable senators opposite may provoke me into saying One or two other things as well. Earlier, I referred to the need to assist longestablished mines to obtain modern plant and machinery. Many of our mines have a long life, calculated in terms of ore reserves, but their plant is so old and inefficient that their activities are now being curtailed. If they close down, vast mineral wealth will be lost to the nation, but in the present depressed money market capital is not available for investment in mining. This makes it difficult to obtain new equipment. In these circumstances - and in these circumstances alone - the Government could well lend money free of interest for the provision of new plant and equipment, each mine being treated on its merits. To that, I add the important proviso that it must be demonstrated that, as a result, the life of the mine would be prolonged. A typical example of what I mean is provided by the Sons of Gwalia mine at Leonora, in Western Australia. It has been worked for 60 years or more and has produced millions of pounds worth of gold for the nation- It is one of the finest gold mines in Australia and has tremendous ore reserves, but its plant would be regarded by modern experts as old-fashioned. No capital is available for re-equipment along modern lines, though the expenditure of a comparatively small sum of money would prolong the life of the mine indefinitely and result in much wealth being won for the nation. I have given that illustration to emphasize the difficulties confronting long-established mines which represent a permanent investment for this nation.
I have endeavoured to show that there are various stages at which assistance can be granted to the mining industry: - at the exploratory stage, at the equipment stage, at the production stage, and at the stage where a mine, long-established, badly needs new plant and equipment. Different considerations apply at each of those stages, but Government assistance can nevertheless be profitably given. I am not unmindful of the assistance that has already been given to the industry by the Government. We should be very conscious of the fact that this is the first Commonwealth Government which has really attempted to do something for the mining industry. I am conscious of the fact that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) is well acquainted with the problems of the industry. I believe that he, in particular, has done a great deal for it and will do even more in days to come. He has established and built up the Bureau of Mineral Resources which, in its way, is unique in the mining research fields. Under the capable direction of Dr. H. G. Raggatt it has done a wonderful job and will, I am sure, continue to render great service to the research side of the mining industry.
The real difficulties facing the base metal mining industry, and the disturbing news which comes from Broken Hill, Mount Isa and various parts of Western Australia, make it necessary that this subject be now tackled as a whole and not piecemeal. We have been prone to consider mining problems in watertight compartments. I suggest that, instead, we should look at them now as part of one great problem. There is really very little difference between the difficulties facing the gold-mining industry and those facing gold, zinc or coppermining. Instead of considering the problems of the copper-mining industry, we should be considering the granting of assistance to all the industries concerned with the mining of base metals.
I wish to refer now to the attempt of the Government of my own State of Western Australia to obtain a permit to export one million tons of iron ore. A few months ago that Government, wishing to expand the pig iron industry and perhaps, in the long term, establish a steel industry, put its case to the Commonwealth Government. The application was refused on two broad grounds. First, the Commonwealth Government pointed out the obvious fact that our iron ore reserves would last only some 35 years. Secondly, it refused the application on economic grounds. I accepted the Commonwealth’s decision and agreed with its reasons for making it.
The Western Australian Government has now advanced further reasons in support of its application to export iron ore. However, I see no reason why the Government should alter its earlier decision. We are still desperately short of iron ore. I wish to be completely fair in this matter and can only say that if Mr. Hawke obtains a permit, Sir Thomas Playford and Mr. Cahill may want one also. 1 do not think that any one, even a State Premier, should be allowed to export a ton of iron ore while it is in such desperately short supply. The solution of the problem lies very largely in the hands of the Premier of Western Australia, but this Government must bear its share of the responsibility also. 1 believe that there are large quantities of iron ore as yet undiscovered. Indeed, a new source has been reported only recently. The Commonwealth Government might well inform Mr. Hawke, and any one else who wishes to export iron ore, that if he is prepared to find additional iron ore reserves consideration will be given to the granting of a permit. That policy was adopted some years ago when manganese was in desperately short supply - only a few years’ reserve being available. Bell Brothers of Western Australia wanted to export it -and were told that if they could find additional reserves consideration would be given to the granting of an export licence. They went out and found more manganese. They did it the hard way. They found large reserves of manganese in addition to those that were well known. They were successful in obtaining a permit to export manganese, which is now being done.
That policy can be followed with iron. One of the reasons why we are short of iron ore is that the Western Australian Government has frozen all iron ore reserves, either known or yet to be discovered. In other words, if I were to discover a new deposit of iron ore in Western Australia, I would not be given a mining title to it by the State Government. I would not be allowed to mine the ore or sell it. In effect, it is frozen. Under those circumstances, how can the Western Australian Government expect to advance the cause of the iron ore industry in that State? Is there any incentive to a prospector to go out when he knows that he will be refused a title to any discovery he may make? The position is absurd. I think Mr. Hawke should be told by this Government that until he lifts his embargo on iron ore reserves, he will be given no consideration as far as a permit to export is concerned. Why should his Government be the only body in Western Australia entitled to mine and export iron ore? The ore does not belong to the Government; it belongs to the people of Western Australia. They should be able to share in that wealth.
– Does not Mr. Hawke represent the people?
– Yes, but that does not make him the owner of the iron ore. He is the representative of the people, not the owner of the ore. If he wants to run the State in that way, we shall finish by having no iron ore in Western Australia.
I have made these remarks because I feel that a great deal of interest in Western Australia has been created by Mr. Hawke’s request. I feel that Western Australians in the Senate should be prepared to express their views on the matter. If the State Government did something to give an incentive to prospectors and exploration companies so that we could build up our iron ore reserves, it would have no trouble in obtaining permits to export large quantities of iron ore. In Canada the problem is being handled along the lines I have suggested. If we in Western Australia had the will to take the same action, we could solve our problem, too.
.- At the outset of my remarks, I desire to associate myself with what other honorable senators have said about the graciousness of the Queen Mother during her recent visit to this country. Also, whilst I disagree politically with some of the remarks made by the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply, I congratulate them on the manner in which they carried out their task.
As this is a discussion of the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech, I make no apology for reiterating what I said on a previous occasion, namely, that, in my opinion, in all our discussions in this chamber we should hold paramount in our minds the security of this country. At times I have felt there has been an air of unreality about some of our discussions. When some honorable senators have discussed a matter such as immigration, they have attempted to do so without regard to the bearing which that very important subject has on the security of Australia.
I should have liked in this discussion to have said a good deal about defence, which is very closely related to our future security. It is well known that the party of which I am a member strongly supports all measures for the defence of this country, and on occasions we have disagreed with other members on this side when they have suggested that the amount of money allocated for defence be reduced. It is true that honorable senators who have made that suggestion have, in quite a number of instances, said that they felt there was some waste. We have been prepared to trust the Government when it has asserted that it was necessary for the defence of the country that the full amount allocated for defence in the Estimates should be appropriated. We have trusted the Government, but I must confess that we have had an increasing feeling of doubt in recent months, because ex-servicemen on the other side of the Senate have criticized the Government strongly for what they have claimed to be its vacillation, its hesitation and its failure to make up its mind on defence policies.
I do not want to be unfair. I admit that these are times when it is more difficult than it has been for years to determine the correct defence policy to adopt. It is difficult to decide what types of equipment should be brought into use. It must be realized that nuclear weapons have completely changed the old conceptions of defence. However, there appears to be great vacillation in determining the future method of control of our defence administration. A committee was appointed to determine what should be done, but statements appeared in the press, before any information was given to this Parliament, about the decisions of the committee and the Government’s action on them. I think we can be pardoned for being uncertain as to the extent to which we can continue to support the Government in its attitude to defence.
The Government has stated that it intends to present a statement to the Parliament in the near future, telling us clearly and distinctly its policy for the future. I therefore propose to leave that subject now. As the Government intends to make its decisions and place those decisions before the Parliament, it is obviously advisable to wait until then before we say anything about them. However, I think I am justified, as a member of a party in the Parliament whose caucus discussions do not get into the press, in “saying that it is astonishing to find Cabinet decisions reported in the press before they are announced to the Parliament. After all, defence questions are often questions of security, and it must cause a great uneasiness among members of the Parliament to know that defence decisions become known, in some way that we do not understand, to members of the press who are not authorized to receive them before they are reported to this Parliament.
I come now to the subject of unemployment, which has been discussed a good deal during the last two or three days. A good deal of the discussion has centred around conditions in Australia, but I think it is advisable to realize that the trend towards unemployment is not confined to this country. It appears to be a world-wide trend. In the United States, in January there were 5,000,000 unemployed, the highest number for six years. In the United Kingdom, there were 60,000 more unemployed people on 13th January, 1958, than on 9th December, 1957. Canada has a post-war record for unemployment, a recent announcement stating that 520,000 people were unemployed - an increase of 33 per cent, in one month. We have unemployment in Australia. I agree with Mr. Monk and other union officials who say that at present unemployment is a 100 per cent, serious problem for the people who are unemployed, but that at the present stage there is not extreme unemployment. However, we must take con.nizance of it, because there is a trend which, if it became worse, would lead to a very serious position indeed. I believe that we are now at a stage when the Government must take action. It must admit that greater unemployment exists now than some months ago. It can claim that unemployment has not yet reached a serious or a catastrophic extent, but it must as a government take action to nip in the bud any trend which could snowball, as it were, into a very serious problem. Therefore, I say that all of us will look to the Government to do something in this matter, and to do it quickly and drastically. It is said that the unemployment figures for February, will be better than before, and I have no doubt that that will be so because there have been available the temporary jobs of fruit picking, harvesting and that sort of thing in the last month or two. However, those jobs will not be available in the next couple of months. We should not be too optimistic, because the winter months are coming when, notoriously, there is a greater scarcity of jobs. I would not be so disturbed regarding the unemployment situation if it were not for the figures that have come to us in regard to primary production and the prices that are being received for our primary products. Let us be honest about it. The prosperity of this country in recent years has been due very largely to the prices that we have got for our primary products, particularly wool. All of us have looked with some apprehension to any tendency for the prices of those products to decline, because we felt that once they did there would be a danger of unemployment, a danger of the sort of thing that has disturbed so many members of this chamber.
– There is a slight recovery at the moment.
– I do not know about that, because the most recent figures I have been able to get are figures attributed to the Australian Agricultural Council at its recent meeting. According to those figures - if they are correct - the farm income for the past year was £370,000,000,, which was declared by the council to be the lowest for some years.
– When did that year end?
– I would say that it ended within the last month or two, but I am not sure. The council simply said “ last year “.
The council says that there has been a 6i per cent, fall in the wool yield and that prices for the first six months when sales took place have been down by 11 per cent. Referring to wheat, the council says that, due to drought and other factors, there has been a considerable fall in production, and our exports this year will be half the normal quantity which, of course, will affect considerably our overseas balances. With regard to meat, carcass exports are down by 17 per cent., while exports of canned meat are down by 9 per cent. The production of milk for the year under review is 1,270,000,000 gallons while last year it was 1,362,000,000 gallons. Butter prices overseas have shown a considerable drop. Anybody in this chamber, looking at those figures, would be most optimistic if he did not anticipate a period of some difficulty in this country and if he did not anticipate that that fall in income could very well lead to a difficult situation with some unemployment. Because there would be less money for people to spend, particularly the farmers, less goods would be purchased and there would be less need for certain types of production. When this situation is reinforced by the fact that the prices of our basic metals have also fallen, there is even greater need for apprehension. Obviously, then, the Government has to take action to remedy adverse conditions resulting from those falls. I hope the Government will take into very serious consideration the report of the Australian Agricultural Council, will also look at the metal problem, and decide that something must be done at a very early stage to remedy what could become serious if it were left unremedied.
I come now to another matter which is very vitally affecting the situation. I refer to hire purchase. I have nothing against hire purchase as such. At present, I do not know how many young men and women getting married could possibly set up a home if there were no hire purchase. I have no opposition to hire purchase if it is properly regulated and if non-usurious interest rates are charged. I think that, at the present time, it is almost inevitable, but I do say that when we have unreasonable interest rates and a growth of hire purchase to an extent that threatens the economy of the country, we have to take notice. If honorable senators look at the main newspapers of this country they will see large advertisements each day, which cost tremendous sums of money, seeking money for hire-purchase companies to lend. These companies will offer to the people interest at the rate of 10 per cent. In some cases in Victoria, the rate of 12 per cent, applies. Does anybody tell me that this kind of thing happening does not inevitably force up the interest rates for money for home-building and other necessary works. In September, 1957, the balance of amounts owed to hire-purchase companies was £243,000,000, or £24,800,000 greater than twelve months previously. There has been an increase of 11.4 per cent, in the amount owing on hire purchase. To the end of December last, the public debt to hire-purchase concerns totalled £263,000,000. The increase was attributed by persons associated with hire purchase to two things: First, a tremendous spurt of new business, and, secondly, to the fact that a number of Australians who had bought things on hire purchase were finding difficulty in paying the instalments, because they were out of work or because they had lost the overtime payments that previously had assisted them to make repayments. Therefore, they are in the position of having to hold over the instalments they should have paid. While hire purchase could be developed in a healthy way and no one could object, I say that there is an unhealthy development of hire purchase to which everybody with the interest of this country at heart should object.
Why is it that the banking institutions of this country, which are designed for a certain purpose, are, to a degree, deserting their functions to-day and engaging in hire purchase? It is because of the large profits to be made. As the result of their going into hire purchase, money is not available for housing and development, which should be the normal purposes for which the banks should lend money. There is an effect on housing also. I was in a big Victorian provincial city recently and I was speaking to a man who knows the circumstances relating to hire purchase. He told me that only with great difficulty can money for housing be obtained on first mortgage at 8 per cent., and that there is no second mortgage money available even at 10 per cent. The situation, therefore, is that the banks are going into hire purchase because, obviously, it is more profitable to lend money at the hire purchase rate of 16 per cent., 18 per cent, or 20 per cent., than to lend it at the bank rate. Only recently, the head of the State Electricity Commission in Victoria complained that, for the first time in years, one of the S.E.C. loans, which normally are regarded as good investments, had fallen short of fulfilment by £1,000,000.
– At what rate?
– I am not sure of the rate, but it was a reasonable rate in normal circumstances. To-day, however, with hire purchase rampant, that rate is regarded as unacceptable by many people.
Then we have the dangerous situation that people are being encouraged, by firms which are prepared to sell goods without deposit, to enter into hire purchase agreements. That is a most dangerous method of selling goods, and one which threatens the future not only of the people concerned, but also that of this country. In Melbourne, salesmen are going from door to door offering to leave television sets with families for a couple of days, telling them that there will be no deposit if they decide to buy, with the sure knowledge that if they are able to get a set into a home, Mum and the children will never permit Dad to put it out again. Honorable senators know that that is true. People are being encouraged to enter into agreements of that kind. They are undertaking the payment of instalments without realizing that, if unemployment comes, or if, as happens in many instances, a period of stringency results in overtime being cut out, they will not be able to meet the payments. Thus, circumstances are being provoked which could be very bad indeed for this country. After all, if £3 8s. of the family wage of £16 or £17 a week is to be taken out to pay for a television set over a period of two years, there will be so much less spent in that household on food, clothing and essentials for the family. If less money is spent on food and clothing, less food and clothing will be bought in the retail shops, with a consequent decreased demand for food and clothing from the factories that produce those things. The result will be that men and women will be thrown out of work.
I say, therefore, that governments - both State and Federal - have an obligation to do something immediately to see that hire purchase is put on a proper basis, and that the present unhealthy development is stopped at once. The Commonwealth Government says that it has no power to do anything about hire purchase. I do not accept that. The Commonwealth says, “ We realize that it is a serious problem, but we have examined the situation and we can do nothing about it”. Having said that, the Commonwealth says, “ We are now going to extend television services to all the capital cities, and probably to the country areas as well “. The Commonwealth claims that it can do nothing about hire purchase, but at the same time, it takes steps to give hire purchase one of the biggest fillips that possibly could be given, at a time when hire purchase already has attained proportions that threaten the economy of the country.
The Commonwealth has power to compel the banks to stay out of hire purchase. It has power to license institutions to participate in banking activities, and it could withdraw their charters if they did not keep out of the hire purchase field. Another thing that the Commonwealth could do would be to instruct the Commonwealth Bank - or to permit it, because I think that the bank would like to do this - to enter into competition with the hire purchase companies, at reasonable rates of interest instead of the extortionate rates that now apply.In addition, at meetings of the Australian Loan Council the Commonwealth could raise the question of the threat to State loans which is coming from the extension of hire purchase and could seek, in collaboration with the States - which would have to appreciate the danger of their own financial future - to co-ordinate the measures to deal with hire purchase. If the worst came to the worst, the Commonwealth could decide to seek from the people constitutional power to deal with the matter. I look forward to the Government indicating to us what it proposes to do.
I pass now to the question of immigration. I have said that I think there is a very unrealistic attitude towards this problem on the part of many people. They appear to assume that it is entirely for us to say who shall come into this country over the next 100 years. I am in very grave doubt whether we are the people who will be deciding who shall come here even over the next twenty years. After all, is it not true that we owe even the breathing space that we now enjoy to the fact that we are under the implied protection of the United States of America, which populated its country without applying bans or restrictions on immigration? I say, therefore, that we must look at this matter from a realistic point of view. We must have regard to Asia. There is no need to be fanatical or gloomy in this respect. We are an Asiatic country. We are involved with Asia. We are so close to the events that are taking place in Asia that we cannot avoid being involved in them in the near future. I say that that is a logical conclusion to reach. The one safeguard that we have is to populate this country as soon as we reasonably can. Of course, I realize the difficulties. I do not support the opening of the doors completely, because that would not remedy the situation, but I oppose any attempt to water down the immigration policy as it stands at present, although I think that it could be improved in some ways.
I believe it is time that the Government did something to consult with governments and churches in Europe, with a view to bringing out, under supervision, more single women, because however we look at this matter, we must admit that thousands of young men who have been brought here from European countries, and who are doing a good job, are being doomed to perpetual celibacy because there is no prospect of marriage for them. I foresee great evils in the future unless opportunities are provided for those men to marry and to enjoy family life. I think that this is a serious matter, and one that should not be looked at in any other way. It is certainly serious for the people concerned. Many of them come from countries where there are high standards of family life, and they feel deeply the deprivation of opportunities for family life in this country. I sympathize with many of them, also, because of the difficulties that they experience after they come here, work here, build a home, and then make up their minds to bring out mothers, fathers, sisters or brothers. I sympathize with them deeply because of the difficulties that often are met in this respect.
At the present time, of course, we in this country face many problems. I do not want to be classed as one of the Hanrahans, Jeremiahs, or others who are supposed to indulge in dismal statements. I do not think that the Opposition can be criticized justly for having brought forward the question of unemployment, because if it did not bring up such matters and discuss them, I do not think that it could claim to be regarded as an Opposition. It must bring such matters forward, but having brought them forward I think we should try to be constructive and to suggest remedies. 1 propose to try to do so.
In the 1930’s, when we had a depression, we were told, years afterwards, that we would never have another depression of that kind because governments had learned how to deal with depressions. We were told that a depression would be dealt with by a wise extension of public works, and by such things as the release of credit. We have been told, for 25 years, that that would be done, and we now look forward to the Government putting into effect those very remedies. We urge, therefore, that the Government should extend credit and engage in a greater programme of public works, such as road construction. President Eisenhower has chosen roads as ideal public works to provide employment and avoid a possible depression. I suggest that we now have an excellent opportunity for the Government to provide additional money for roads to relieve the existing unemployment. I think that something ought to be done in connexion with import licensing. The system is becoming too tied down by restrictions, especially when it reaches the stage when young men with vision and ideas who want to launch new industries which would provide employment are finding, to an increasing degree, that they cannot start up. They cannot be guaranteed the importation of certain raw materials which are basic for the establishment of those new industries. That is happening in more than one instance to-day.
I think also that more could be done for decentralization, a subject which, I suppose, is talked about as much as any other in State and Federal parliaments and about which very little is done by anybody. What Senator Cole said last night is certainly true. There are jobs available for many people in the country areas, but the people have become so accustomed to city life that they do not want to go to the country. If we had a wise and sound policy on decentralization, these people could be induced to leave the cities and so improve the present situation greatly.
The final point I want to make is that I think it is essential for the future of this country that something be done to break the stranglehold upon our overseas imports and exports at present exercised by the overseas shipping companies. I have examined overseas shipping freights. I have compared the freights charged from Australia with those charged from other dominions and I am in no doubt at all that Australia is getting a very raw deal.
Recently, I received a letter - I suppose most honorable senators did - from the chairman of a shipping company. That letter contained what he would call, I suppose, an intimation, but I look upon it as a threat. The letter is signed by the chairman of the P. & O. Company and contains this paragraph -
Australia must continue to have a first-class overseas shipping service if it is to trade efficiently and economically with the world.
No one disputes the need for that. The letter goes on -
Overseas shipowners - British and Continental - have opened their books to chartered accountants nominated by Australian trading interests and have shown them that the ships engaged in the Australian liner trades have not been making enough profit to reward the capital they are employing at the moment, let alone enough on which to raise new capital.
I should think that most people would say when we are told the ships are not making enough profit “ to reward the capital they are employing at the moment, let alone enough on which to raise new capital “, that that was a not very gentle hint that we are to be asked to pay higher freights in the near future. I do not know that in a time of falling income our Australian primary industries are in a position to pay higher freights.
I am not an expert on these economic matters, but I submitted the information supplied in that letter from the P. & O. Company to a friend of mine who is recognized as an expert, and this is the point he makes -
The fundamental point at issue is the rate of profit earned by P. & O. On the figures they supply, this is difficult to assess. Informed observers claim that dividends amount to less than one per cent, on real capital employed. Presumably “ real capital employed “ means total shareholders’ funds; that is, paid capital and reserves including bonus issues. Latest profit as disclosed at 27th February, 1958, shows an increase from £6,300,000 to £10,400,000.
That is a fairly substantial increase for a company that is not able to pay its way.
The authority to whom I have referred states further -
The dividend is increased from 8 per cent, to 11 per cent., taking £1,800,000 and leaving £8,600,000 for reserves. An 11 per cent, dividend on shareholders’ funds, watered since 1949 by six for one bonus issues, equals 66 per cent, on pre-bonus shareholders’ funds.
Sixty-six per cent., yet the shipping man says the company cannot go on, and must have an increase!
– Is that on all the capital employed or only on the capital employed on the Australian-British lines?
– I am simply making a statement of the figures supplied to me.
– But is that on all the capital the company has employed, or only the capital employed on the AustralianBritish lines?
– I am not concerned with that. At the present time, Australia pays shipping charges on all her imports. This amounts to more than £100,000,000 a year. She also pays a substantial part of the freight on her exports because overseas buyers reduce their price to compensate them for the freight paid by them. The point that interests me is that it has been estimated that Australia pays no less than £150,000,000 a year in overseas freights or from one-sixth to onefifth of the net export income. When shipping companies suggest that they will have to increase the amount they are taking from our exports in the near future, we are faced with a serious problem, and I think the Government has got to stand these people up.
I know it has been suggested that we should start our own shipping company, but I am told by those who know that this will not be easy especially when it comes to building into our steamers facilities for refrigeration. I am told that this is very difficult, but I do believe, if the Government is not prepared to go that far, that there is still room for the Government to give a little backing to the people who have to negotiate with the overseas interests in an endeavour to obtain a reduction in these charges. If we can get a reduction in these charges - my opinion is that we could reasonably ask for it - it will mean a great deal to the primary producers, and the economy of this country. In a time when we are worried about the future, the Government ought to look at this matter and do something about it.
I conclude by saying that this is a great country, and that I have every confidence in its future. But, as we have been endowed with a great country, we must be worthy of it. We must work, we must think and we must ensure that it reaches the destiny we all hope it will have in the years to come.
– I rise to support the motion moved by Senator Kendall and seconded by Senator Pearson -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
May rr Please Your Excellency -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
The debate on this motion gives us an opportunity to discuss many subjects, some of which are very dear to the hearts of certain honorable senators, but I think it safe to say that, despite what the Opposition may say, the one theme running through the whole debate has been the relatively sound condition of the economy of Australia, despite two years of perhaps the worst drought Australia has ever experienced. I am certain that had this drought occurred some years -ago the economic situation of Australia would not have been nearly so sound as it is to-day. I should say, too, that thanks are due to our secondary industries for the wonderful part they have played in this country during the last fifteen or twenty years.
I only hope that within the near future Australia will be blessed with bountiful rains, that there will be a good opening season to give the agriculturists an impetus to proceed with seeding so that we may have a bountiful harvest. I hope also that because of a good opening season the effect on sheep will be such that a particularly good wool clip will result for Australia.
I suppose it is the Opposition’s function to criticize, and the Opposition has launched its attack against the Government under two headings. The first relates to the number of people in Australia who are unemployed. The second is the alleged shortage of houses in Australia. I assure honorable senators opposite that we on this side of the chamber do not want to see any man unemployed if it is at all possible to employ him. That has been our policy ever since we have been in office. We have taken various steps by way of national and private development, the encouragement of industries and so on, to ensure that the work force of Australia shall be profitably employed.
I thought Opposition senators when speaking about the shortage of houses would have made some mention of the enormous development that has occurred in Australia in the last few years. It has been a phenomenal growth as evidenced by the industrial buildings, office accommodation and factory premises that have soared skywards during the last few years, but not a word has been said about that by the Opposition. However, in spite of all the Jeremiahs and their wails, this Government has made more capital available than ever before to enable the home-builder to erect his own home.
It is now up to the Labour party, if it criticizes the Government, to give us some idea of the corrective action it proposes to adopt to remedy these alleged evils provided, of course, it ever comes into office. I have listened carefully to the debate and all I have heard from Opposition senators is their old stock-in-trade retort, “The Government must do it In other words - and I think this is fair comment - they say, “ Socialize the country; exercise control “, and that control is to be centred in one government authority.
Senator Hendrickson advocated that agriculturists should adopt the Russian collective farming system. If honorable senators read his speech they will arrive at no other conclusion. He said the people should do what they are told to do. The government should pay the farmers its price and the goods then belong to the government. If that is not collective farming, tell me what is. At the conclusion of his address Senator Hendrickson made a most interesting and illuminating remark that ought to be blazoned throughout the length and breadth of Australia. He warned the people that if
Labour came into office there would be a tremendous industrial upheaval on account of communistic activities.
With regard to the matter of child endowment for the first child, I remind Senator McKenna and his followers that when this Government sought legislative power to give child endowment to the first child the proposal was hotly contested by the members of the Labour party. What were the grounds of their disapproval? They were chiefly that if the 5s. were granted for the first child the basic wage would be correspondingly reduced by 5s. I heard that said repeatedly. Senator McKenna did not say that in so many words - I shall read later what he said. Labour adopted a peculiar attitude in requesting the Government to instruct the Arbitration Court, when reviewing the basic wage, not to take into account the payment of 5s. for the first child. Honorable senators have agreed that that was the stand they adopted in this chamber and elsewhere. In the debate on the Address-in-Reply at that time nearly every Labour speaker aired that view. A reference to the speeches of Senators Aylett, Sandford, Amour and various other senators as reported in “ Hansard “ will bear out what I have said. I shall read some of the remarks made. Senator Sandford said -
Payment of child endowment for the first child is another subterfuge by the anti-Labour party. That proposal is definitely and unmistakably a concealed attack on the basic wage because the basic wage is computed on the needs of the family unit of a man, wife and one child.
In May, 1950, the Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Labour party, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) stated -
Members of the Labour party always opposed endowment of the first child even up to the date of the last general election.
When Labour was in power and Senator George McLeay was in Opposition we heard much about the golden age. The golden age of Mr. Chifley was somewhat different from the golden age in the days of Moses.
– The period to which the honorable senator refers was early after the war, was it not?
– Yes, but Moses had been engaged in something of a war, too. Moses said to his followers, “ Pick up your tools, get on your asses and seek out the promised land “. What the Labour party said in the golden age was, “ Lay down your tools, sit on your asses; this is the promised land! “ During the golden age when Labour had control in both Houses of Parliament Senator McLeay moved an amendment, as a test of Labour’s sincerity, designed to ensure that endowment of 7s. 6d. per week be paid to the first child. Every member of the Labour party in both Houses voted against it.
I mentioned earlier that I intended to refer to Senator McKenna’s attitude to this proposal. I give him full credit because in 1950, this most wily man wanted an assurance that the Government would instruct the Arbitration Court not to take into account the endowment of 5s. for the first child when reviewing the basic wage. He said that if such an instruction were issued not only would he vote for the proposal but he would agree to increase the amount to 10s. I think we have established those facts and that my remarks are fair comment. I do not think even. Senator McKenna would suggest that I have in any way misconstrued his remarks. I even went to the trouble of reading the speech that he made on the subject in 1950, but I shall not bore honorable senators by repeating it because it bored me too much.
Labour members still wailed and groaned. At times when one walked into this chamber so many tears were being shed that it looked as though the roof leaked. They said that terrific hardship would be imposed on the people. What happened? The central executive of the Labour party, which is in no way connected with the membership of this Parliament, met in Canberra and instructed party members to press for an endowment of 10s. for the first child, and not 5s. as proposed. If an endowment of 5s. would have imposed a hardship on the workers, surely an endowment of 10s. would have doubled the hardship, because the Labour party did not stipulate that it should not be taken into consideration by the Arbitration Court. Senator McKenna immediately took his cue and came into this chamber and asked that an endowment of 10s. be granted.
Earlier in my speech I said that socialism as advocated by honorable senators opposite would not give the people the houses nor the employment they so urgently need. Why do I say that? I say it because over the past fifteen years in every free country in which socialism or Marxism, or whatever other “ ism “ we wish to call it, has been tried, it has been found wanting and has been discarded. After World War II., there was a great resurgence of thought towards the idea that the State should control everything, that it was the only medium that should engage in big business. We had evidence of that here in Australia when Labour was in office from 1941 to 1949. In fact, from 1945 onwards, in almost every land we saw the rise of socialism, whether it was the hard, unfeeling Russian or Moscow brand or the socialism of the British, Australian or European variety.
Perhaps one of the things that awakened the people of the world to the danger of socialism was the red intervention in Hungary, where the Communist elite were slaughtered by Russian guns and tanks. Is it any wonder that the people of the free world now prefer the opportunity for the individual to earn his own living or to be employed under the capitalistic system? Those people prefer the capitalistic system, because socialistic planning leads only to rationing. It is strangely true that the only people who to-day are breathing war and threats of war are the socialists. Indeed, they were responsible for the last war.
Let us consider what happens with the nationalization of industry - an ideal that is still so dear to the hearts of our Opposition friends. They say, “ If industry is nationalized, the workers will have pride of ownership and will work a little better. If profits are made, the workers will share in those profits”. Of course, if private business makes profit, it is described as unearned profit! Let us consider what happened in England when the coal mines and the railways were nationalized. There were still strikes and complaints, and the service did not improve. In fact, the travelling public and the people who were dependent upon coal said that they were worse off under the socialists than under the capitalists.
– What about the postal service?
– I am glad the honorable senator has mentioned the postal service, because even in that service in Australia there are strikes. I do not suppose the employees are striking against the capitalists. Is not the postal service a socialist enterprise? As good as the service might be, deficits are mounting to an alarming degree. Honorable senators opposite admit that they are not very happy about socialism, because lately they have watered down that aspect of their policy. When they advocate the socialization of industries, they look up to heaven and say, “ But, oh Lord, not in my time! “ In spite of the fact that they had eight years in which to give this fancy of theirs a little work out on the course, in spite of the golden age, people remember Labour’s lust for power. And I put my finger on it when I say, “ Labour’s lust for power”.
– But we never evicted people, as the Government did.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood). - Order!
– Labour desires to ration people and to control them just for the sake of control. Australia has provided a classic example of that. Socialism failed in Australia because Labour wanted to substitute control for profit. Labour wanted rent control and the abolition of profits. It wanted the abolition of the free market in relation to both goods and labour. I repeat that Labour wanted the abolition of the free market in relation to both goods and labour. Moreover, it wanted to introduce a centrally planned economy where the commissars, whether they be John Brown-
– Or Gordon Brown.
– Yes, or even Senator Kennelly, Senator Aylett, Evatt or Monk, would be in control. The prosperity of Canada and the United States of America annoys the socialists. But what has really proved that socialism cannot deliver the goods has been the recovery of West Germany since the last war. In the main, Germany was the home of the doctrines of Karl Marx and Engels. We have been told in this chamber that misery produces ideal conditions for the spread of communism. If that is true, then Germany was ripe for communism after the last war. Her cities were in ruins, her industries were non-existent, and the country was partitioned by an unnatural and unhistoric line, with a serious effect on its economic life. As a means of exchange in West Germany, cigarettes were much preferred to any other form of currency. Moreover, millions of refugees were streaming into the country. If it is true that misery produces ideal conditions for the spread of communism, would not those conditions in West Germany have been ideal for the spread of that philosophy? But what happened? Prices control and wages control, which were introduced by Hitler and retained by the occupation authorities, were swept aside. Reference has been made in this chamber recently to import controls. In West Germany, they have been practically nonexistent, and sometimes I wonder whether it would not be better if we in Australia were to wipe them out. The very fact that imports were entering West Germany spurred on the nation to produce the goods that the people wanted. We must realize that the exchange of goods between countries is the greatest impetus to efficiency that we can have.
I say to our socialist friends opposite that a free economy is the deathknell to socialism. We even see that incentive payments are now being accepted in this country. If socialism is such a wonderful thing, surely people would flee from free enterprise countries to socialist countries. But what is the position? Even as late as 1957, more than 1,000 refugees were streaming into West Germany every day. Following the armistice in Korea, 116,000 North Koreans and Chinese refused to go back to North Korea, the glorious land of socialism I On the other side of the ledger we find that only 325 South Koreans, 22 Americans and 1 British prisoner elected to stay in North Korea. Refugees are daily streaming into Hong Kong from red China. I think it is safe to say that socialistic enterprise lines the pockets of the hijackers and that under such a system the State swells up while the people shrink. When the State is the sole investor of capital, the sole controller of all economic, political and social organizations, and the sole maker of economic decisions, the worker cannot but be defenceless. I should like to quote a certain passage for the benefit of honorable senators which describes the situation in socialist countries. It reads -
The land is lost.
The sun has ceased to shine.
The Nile is empty - thou canst cross it on foot.
The wild beasts of the desert drink from the Nile.
Enemies advance from the east and see the land in mourning and in pain. Every man murders his neighbour.
Hate rules in ‘ the party.
Every mouth that speaks is struck dumb.
The words of others turn to fire in one’s own heart 1 did not write that. It was written by a priest of Heliopolis between 2350 and 2150 B.C. I have done my best to dispel the idea that Labour, with its socialistic views, can provide houses or take up the present unfortunate lag in employment.
For a few moments I should like to speak on another subject that is very close to my heart. I refer to the future of our universities, and the part that they should play in our national life. As honorable senators are aware, a commission recently reviewed the work of the Australian universities. I think that it would be fair to say that ever since the inception of university education in Australia those institutions have been more or less self-supporting as a result, not only of State aid, but also of lecture fees and the munificent bequests of certain public-spirited well-wishers. Therefore, whatever their method of management or mode of education, their internal policy was a matter for them themselves to decide. I suppose that national feeling is more favorable to the universities to-day than it has ever been. I am very happy that, in the very near future, our universities are to be regarded as great national institutions. I commend the Government for its outright offer of financial support for Australian universities.
The States have an excellent record in the educational field, but the present Financial Agreement can only mean that increasing sums v/ill have to be found to assist State primary, secondary and tertiary educationthough this in no way transfers legislative power over education to the Commonwealth. High intellectual ability is in mighty short supply. The university aims primarily at producing doctors, dentists, lawyers, teachers, scientists, engineers, agriculturalists, veterinarians, technologists and administrators. However, it has also the higher task of providing a full and true education. I think it was Bacon who said, “ Reading maketh a full man . . . writing an exact man “. I think he laid down seven precepts, but the two that I have mentioned are the main ones. I will not refer to mathematics because they involve computations and permutations and these are sometimes apt to be confusing.
The stability of our national economy depends largely upon the success of our primary and secondary industries. In each field there is a pressing need for trained operative and graduates, but there is a far greater need for graduates in our primary and secondary schools. We need, especially, graduates in mathematics, chemistry, science, botany, zoology, physics and the arts. At present the secondary schools need 450 more mathematics and science graduates. The figures for 1956 showed that even if all the undergraduates in those faculties passed we would have only another 524 for all purposes. Those figures are for ordinary graduates, as distinct from honours graduates. I hope that honorable senators will not misunderstand my reference to ordinary graduates, but an honours degree is very valuable and, in the fields of mathematics and physics especially, is becoming almost essential to the preservation of our way of life. Unfortunately, it is also a little more costly in terms of both time and money.
We are now feeling the real effect of the low birth rate between 1929 and 1940. It is giving us the minimum number of trained teachers, though these must contend with the maximum number of scholars because of the higher birth rate in more recent years, and the added effect of immigration. That is the situation in our primary and secondary schools, which are the nurseries for the universities. Strangely enough, the universities also are just beginning to experience increased enrolment and are being forced to consider what they must do to meet some of the problems that this brings in its train - for instance, a large number of students in the early years of courses. The other day I asked a lecturer whether he knew a person who was an undergraduate in the science faculty of a certain university. I was staggered when he told me that he knew his name, but had 300 students and could not possibly know them all personally. The report of the commission revealed than an even worse state of affairs exists in the physics and chemistry departments. Not only is staff in short supply but there is a lack of equipment and lecture rooms. I would stress especially the inadequate accommodation offered to the country student who goes to a city university. This matter is of the utmost importance. The student who goes to a university should have some place in which he can study - what I would call “ sheltered quarters “. There is a lack of equipment, particularly in the science and engineering faculties.
For a few moments I wish to speak on the high failure rate of undergraduates. If we are to spend this money, we should have a mighty good look at this aspect. If some of the failures are due to inadequate training in the primary and secondary schools, then I suggest that we improve our primary and secondary schools, but I do not say that the failures are due to the education received in the primary and secondary schools. After all, the universities set their own matriculation standards. So I come back to the accommodation and the poor surroundings in which students, particularly first-year students, have to study. Those factors have a great effect on whether students pass or fail. There were 36,465 undergraduates studying in 1957. The size of some first-year classes is simply appalling - 700 in an arts class and 825 in .a chemistry class. In South Australia we have what we call the Leaving and the Leaving Honours examinations. I think that before a boy or a girl goes to a university he or she should at least do the Leaving Honours course or its equivalent. That would mean they would be about eighteen or nineteen years of age when they entered the university.
If we intend to pour money into the universities, we must see that adequate provision is made to instruct the students, particularly those in the first years. That will cost money, but we cannot afford to have inadequate accommodation and instruction for young people in a transitional period of their lives. It is very unsettling to go from the classrooms of a high school to the lecture rooms of a university. I suppose it is not so bad for arts and law students, but it is a different matter for those entering the faculties of science, chemistry or engineering. In any one of those faculties, the professor stands up, gives his lecture and then walks out of the lecture room, not caring two hoots whether the students have understood him or not. I could relate some classic examples of that by some dear old professors whom I know very well. What do some of the students do in these circumstances? They come back at nights to listen to the lecturer addressing another class, and it is he whogets them through.
I do not think that 16 per cent, of undergraduates get through their courses without failing in one subject in one year and having to take a supplementary examination. If that is happening, something is. wrong with the system. I am only a poor, struggling cockie, but if, year after year, I were to have a 40 per cent, or 60 per cent, failure of my crop, people would tell me to get off the land and give somebody else a chance. If we are going to pour £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 into the coffers of the universities, we cannot tolerate the present rate of failures.
The old idea that a university course was an introduction to social life has gone forever. Boys and girls who go to a university now go with the object of training for a job, so their university years are important to them. Sometimes I wonder whether the first year is merely a selection year. If that is so, we may assume that universities are not greatly interested in what happens to undergraduates the first year. But I hope that is not so, because we cannot afford not to use latent intellectual talent and ability. The demand for graduates is so great that the universities should be put into a position in which they can not only accept all young people qualified and’ desirous of entering a faculty, but also be able to provide the facilities and the teaching necessary to ensure that each undergraduate will have at least a reasonable chance to graduate. When we look at published figures, we find that of 3,024 students, 1,744 passed in the first year. If we had been able to reduce the failures of 50 per cent., we should have had 2,380 passes.
– That same ratio applies to the second and third years.
– It goes right through. That is the terrible thing. It is a national extravagance that we cannot afford. The efficiency of the universities is affected by students taking longer to do their courses. It swells the classes, interferes with the education of the students and reduces the number of graduates. It robs some students of several years’ remuneration. It discourages many from doing an honours course. In the large classes, there seems to be no contact between students and professors or lecturers. Let me give honorable senators an instance of what happened to returned soldiers from World War I. Many of them, on their return, did courses at a university. On one occasion I was discussing with members of a university staff the difficulty that these men faced in settling down after coming back from the war. I pointed out that on returning from overseas these lads were wandering in the wilderness, as it were. I said that they had to be taught. One of the lecturers was good enough to agree with me. At the close of his lecture, he said to these lads, “ If you have not understood me, come to my room later and I will try to explain “. All of these young ex-servicemen went to his room and he explained the subject to them. While they were there, the professor walked in and asked what it was all about, suggesting that what was being done was not in accord with university tradition. The lecturer told the professor that he thought he was doing the right thing, and the professor replied, “ Very well, go ahead “. Every one of those lads passed his examination, simply because he had had a little bit of coaching. What applies to returned service personnel applies also to other undergraduates.
Much could be said about residential colleges. I should like to say something about costs, but I have probably said too much already. A general distribution of the money we intend to grant to the universities should be made to all universities, but if the Commonwealth Government desires special courses, it should be prepared to pay for them. Economies are needed in the building programmes of universities. Salaries, superannuation and pensions for the staff are all matters for cooperation between the committee proposed to be set up and the Chancellors. I think a well-chosen committee to run our universities would induce citizens to endow universities by making gifts to them. In the past, magnificent gifts have been made to universities, and I believe that in the future universities would attract even greater gifts because of the overall appeal of a progressive, live and efficient Commonwealth advisory committee.
The choice of the personnel of the advisory committee will be an exacting task. The appointment of a full-time chairman will require delicate handling. I hope that the position will be filled by a relatively young man, preferably one who graduated from a science faculty and then ventured out into the business world, achieving success by means of vision and just dealing - a person able to hold the scales of justice and balance the needs of the arts, law, science and medical faculties. I suggest the inclusion of a first-class architect as a member of the committee. The proposed amount of money to be allocated, and the manner of its allocation to the universities, could be adjusted by trial and error. Strangely enough, it is a mighty queer paradox about our universities that we can aid the roots only if the top of the tree will produce the graduates to give the future undergraduates a sound and suitable education to enable them to matriculate and be well fitted to take a course at the university. Before we can improve our university system very much we must turn out graduates in science, physics and chemistry. Adequate teaching facilities must be provided in the primary and high schools so that students who matriculate may go to the university and have a fair chance of graduating. Australia urgently needs graduates, particularly honours graduates, in these faculties. I support the motion before the chamber.
– I associate myself with the expressions of loyalty to the Throne that were voiced by both the mover and the seconder of the motion. Although we were graced with the presence of His Excellency the Governor-General at the beginning of this session, I feel that the Speech that he delivered was an insult to us. It contained nothing of importance. I do not think the Speech was an honest expression of what the Government intends to do. Certainly, the Speech did not contain a complete statement of what the Government intends to do. It is customary in a democracy such as ours for the Speech prepared for and delivered by the Queen’s representative to present a comprehensive survey of what the electorate may expect the Government to do. If, in fact, the shoddy document that was presented to us contained full details of what the national Government proposes to do during this session, all I can say is that the Government has a responsibility to take more positive action to remedy the present state of affairs.
I agree with what Senator Mattner has said concerning education, which is a very important aspect of our national life. However, the honorable senator talked at great length without offering any constructive suggestions. This Government has not taken advantage of opportunities that have been presented for consultation with the States in relation to the subject of education. Not a great deal of progress has been made in this matter since the Chifley Government introduced the Commonwealth scholarship scheme. The Government has been requested repeatedly to encourage university education in a practical manner but little has been done in this direction. Tt is all very well for supporters of the Government to stand in their places and disseminate propaganda about these things, but it is time that practical assistance was forthcoming from the Commonwealth.
I come now to the unemployment situation, which is most serious. Honorable senators will recall that on 19th September last I raised this vital matter on a motion for the adjournment of the Senate. The official figures in relation to unemployment, as well as the unofficial figures supplied by the trade unions, showed that at that time many skilled and unskilled men were out of work. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said, in reply to me, that only a small percentage of the work force was unemployed. I think, from memory, that he said there were 35,000 or 36,000 persons registered for employment. The unemployment figure has since increased by 300 per cent., yet we now hear from the Minister all the jargon that he used on the former occasion. The same old story, the same argument is used, but no positive action is taken to correct the situation.
It is not right for supporters of the Government to say that the fact that 100,000 people are unemployed or are affected by unemployment is not serious. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) did not discuss this matter from the Government’s point of view; he merely quoted the opinions of certain people who have no responsibility in relation to the matter. I believe that the present state of affairs has developed through the maladministration of this Government. Although its attention has been repeatedly drawn to the trend of unemployment and palliatives to ease the pressure have been suggested, the Government has done nothing to relieve unemployment. From the official figures that the Government now freely acknowledges, one can gain a mental picture of skilled men being given the dole because work is not available for them. To the official figure of 75,000 unemployed must be added the numbers of persons who get a day’s work here and there. By reason of the application of the means test, these people are ineligible to receive the dole.
A most serious aspect of the present situation is that jobs are not available for young people leaving school upon attaining the junior or senior standard. There is another factor that must be apparent to every honorable senator who regularly meets his constituents, as I have done. I refer to persons who have been struck off the books at the employment service bureaux because it is considered they are unemployable. In normal times, these persons are able to kick along by getting some work to do. This social problem will not be overcome by the Department of Labour and National Service saying to these unfortunate people, “ You have been here too long. We must strike you off our register “.
The Government continues to assert that the unemployment situation is not serious and that the indications are that unemployment will not assume large proportions. However, it has assumed large proportions in both America and Great Britain. It is not right for Government supporters to compare the unemployment situation in Australia, a country which needs developing, with the position in other countries that have reached the ceiling, as it were, of their industrial expansion. We in this country have no reason for a pool of 100,000 unemployed. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) says that that is not a great pool. Yet if every elector in his electorate were out of work, that is what it would amount to. But to him it is not great! I think that it is a most serious and damning thing.
I turn to other matters that are dealt with in the Speech of the GovernorGeneral. For years, this Government has been saying that it intends to remove controls. It has been apologizing to one section of the community after another in relation to imports and import restrictions. It has decided on a base year, to which we have been tied, and as a result, the introduction of new business has suffered. There are, of course, big combines which occupy a place of privilege due to the Government’s import policy. The big man, under that policy, is getting more and more, but the small man is struggling to keep going and to acquire import quotas so that he may be able to bring goods into the country and continue to live. The young man cannot establish himself in business at all. He has no base year and no quota.
The Government has lied continually in relation to this subject by saying that import restrictions would cease. During each election campaign the Government has come along with some story or other, and in between elections it has made excuses and said that import restrictions would be removed. I admit that quotas have been extended in some cases, but the policy remains on the same basic pattern, a policy which represents control as severe as any that this nation has suffered, either in war or in peace. I think that the position should be corrected. The Government, however, seems to have no method of correcting it. It has failed in this respect. If it is honest in relation to the policies that it submits to the people, it must at some stage give to those who are entitled to come into industry the opportunity to import and export, and to run businesses, instead of giving that opportunity only to those who were privileged to be in business during a base year.
The Government must consider the introduction of a system that would allow this state of affairs to be changed, and also to allow a freer movement of imports, with quotas more equitably distributed throughout the community. In this respect, Western Australia suffers seriously. We have never recovered from the introduction of import restrictions. We have fought continually for the appointment to Western Australia of a representative to hear representations regarding imports, and to look into such matters, but we are in a very little better position now. An official comes to Western Australia now and again, hears a few cases and then goes back to Sydney. He is in a position to say “No”, but he is not in a position to say “ Yes “ to anything. Western Australia does not fit into the pattern of import policy and has not been given the slightest help.
It is true that there has been a great movement in relation to trade in Australia. The Government has made trade agreements with other countries and has extended our trade. We are advancing along the natural road that Australian trade with other countries should take. However, as I have stated in this Parliament on numerous occasions, there is in Western Australia no representative of the Department of Trade. In each of the other States there is a director of trade, with an office. I contend that Western Australia is entitled to the services of a permanent representative, and I ask the Government to consider this matter.
Aspects of our trade with other countries that are disappointing include the attitude of the Government to the Japanese Trade Agreement. That agreement was criticized severely in this chamber, but of course, at the stage that the criticism was made the agreement was a fait accompli. As a matter of fact, I think that many back-benchers on the Government side regard the agreement in the same way that members of the Opposition regard it. We do not object to trading with Japan. I say that we should trade directly with every country of the world with which we are capable of trading. After all, we know what we are doing; but to enter into an agreement of this nature; to make no preparations whatever to protect Australian industry; to give no prior warning of the agreement except to those people who were in a position to exploit it; to reach the stage that we have now reached, where the only protection that we have lies in the provision- that, if Australian industries are embarrassed or hurt considerably, Japan will look at the position and decide what it will do; is, I think, disastrous. It is matters of that kind that are making our unemployment position worse.
On the subject of unemployment, the Government has accused the Opposition of calamity howling. There has been no calamity howling. We have great confidence in Australia. We know very well that this country can provide opportunities for the whole of our work force, with advantage to Australia. With proper government, adequate release of credit, a suitable outlook on development, proper defence expenditure, and public works such as standardization of railway gauges, we would have much more work than the men available could cope with. We have the capital with which to do such things, and the nation requires development. It is a matter not of calamity howling, but of a direct challenge to the Government regarding the policies that it is attempting to carry out, policies which are damaging to this nation, for which the Government seems to have no thought at all.
There is a backlog of 100,000 people wanting homes, and that number is increasing. Yet, the Government says that the housing position is satisfactory. Perhaps it thinks that the position will resolve itself because the number of people awaiting homes equals the number of people out of work. The ambition of the unemployed man is not to get a home, but to get food for his family. Does the Government propose to correct the housing position by so impoverishing the people that they will not want houses? In our time, we helped people out of the slums and provided economic conditions in which they could attain decent standards of living. Nowadays, many people have no ambition to own a home because they know they cannot get one. Of course, as far as the young people are concerned, inflation has made it very hard for them to get homes.
We have experienced a depression in this country. There is no need to make political capital of that fact, because we were all in it. I say, however, that if we were to experience a depression now it would be much more serious because of the high level of inflation that exists. A depression would be much more vicious now than it was when costs where low, because although in those days people had little, living was cheap. Now, however, those who are unemployed suffer severe privations because prices and costs are so high. They are really in a desperate position. I implore the Government to do something about this matter.
Age pensioners are in a similar position to that of the unemployed. While the Government has done some good things in the field of social services, a real challenge to the problems involved has not been made. Seventy-five per cent, of pensioners have nothing but their pension on which to live, a pension which is sub-standard, having regard to costs in our community. The Governor-General’s Speech contains no mention of relief for such people. From time to time, the Government has promised to help them and has given them hope that something would be done. Yet it seems from the Speech that nothing will be done. I hope that the Government, before the Budget is presented, will do something to alleviate the plight of pensioners.
Senator Mattner, turning tragedy into comedy, had a good deal to say in relation to child endowment and endowment for the first child. Undoubtedly, the Labour party took every precaution that it could to see that the payment of child endowment for a first child at the rate of 5s. a week would not mean that 10s. a week would be taken from the basic wage. We know that in arriving at a basic wage determination the Arbitration Court considers all factors, including the C series index, although it is not obliged to accept any particular set of figures. At one stage the Commonwealth Government endeavoured to freeze the basic wage throughout Australia and asked the States to adopt that policy. Some States refused to do so. But the Commonweath basic wage applied to many workers throughout Australia, and many a family man lost more than five times the 5s. endowment which he was paid for his first child. The fact cannot be denied that the Government cheated the most valuable member of the community, the family man. Senator Mattner has shown clearly, by his remarks, how little he knows about arbitration matters or industrial conditions in Australia.
I noticed from the Governor-General’s Speech that there has been a review of the Defence Department. I should say that this is one direction in which the Government has failed most miserably. Had it done the right thing, it would have appointed a royal commission to inquire into defence expenditure instead of conducting a departmental inquiry and sacking a few junior clerks who have done good work over the years. There can be no substantial pruning of expenditure by putting off a few public servants here and there. We must get to the real cause of the matter.
– What do you suggest is the cause?
– I suggest that the ineffective expenditure on St. Mary’s filling factory and other places would not stand investigation by a royal commission. The saving effected by putting off a few public servants after a departmental inquiry would not represent one-half of 1 per cent, of the Government’s total defence expenditure.
If the defence vote had been spent properly, something would have been done to improve our roads and railways because it cannot be denied that our transport system was an embarrassment to not only the government which walked out on the war effort but also the Labour government which succeeded it. I was closely associated with transport in those days and I know just how desperate the position was. I know only too well that had we suffered invasion - by the grace of God we did not - we would have been simply walked over.
The Government has had reports about uniform rail gauges, roads, and decentralization of industry, but although both the Government and the Opposition have agreed with those reports, nothing has been done. The people of Australia must be bitterly disappointed with the Government’s inaction. The Opposition certainly is disappointed, and I have no doubt that many of the back benchers on the Government side are equally disappointed. If the Government could truly argue that its finances have been in a depressed condition, one might be able to understand its lack of action; but that has not been the true position. The Government’s revenues have been buoyant. The Treasurer himself admits that to be so when he budgets for a surplus of £9,000,000. Again, it has to be remembered that in one year the sum of £1,326,000,000 was raised by way of taxation, the greatest amount ever to be extracted from the Australian community during times of peace. Very little has been, done with that money.
It was very interesting to hear what Senator McManus had to say about overseas shipping freights. We have been handicapped by continual increases in these charges, but whenever criticism is levelled at them, and whenever it is pointed out that overseas shipping freights are crippling Australia, the Government seeks to blame the waterside worker. Junior clerks in the Defence Department were sacked when the Government found its balances out by some hundreds of millions of pounds, and when we criticize overseas freight rates, the waterside workers are blamed. Why, this Government is bowing and scraping before the overseas shipping companies. It is encouraging them to continue the imposition of these crippling charges, as is proved by the fact that the freight charges from Australia to England are three times higher than those from Canada to Great Britain.
I am not adopting the role of a calamity howler in making this criticism; I am simply emphasizing that we must have a marvellous country when it is able to stand up in the way it does to the effects of the inefficiency of the Government. If it was not such a glorious country, if it did not have such great potential wealth, if its production per man-hour were not higher than that of any other country, Australians would be suffering dire poverty under the present administration.
By the standardization of rail gauges and the construction of adequate roads, the transport system of Australia could be made efficient, costs would be reduced thereby and the economy as a whole advantaged greatly. But the Government fears that we may become too prosperous. That argument was actually put forward by the Government not so long ago. The Government argued that we had become too prosperous, and money was taken from private enterprise by way of excessive taxation, the Government claiming that it and it alone could be trusted to spend that money wisely. Despite its extravagant claim in that direction, there has been no improvement in the position. The inflationary spiral is increasing as rapidly and viciously as ever.
In addition to taking this huge amount of revenue from industry in Australia, in addition to preventing development to that extent here, the Government is entering into contracts overseas without any consideration for the welfare of the Australian economy. These contracts can only embarrass industries which are trying to develop within Australia and which, if given proper encouragement, would represent something of real worth to this country.
No doubt we shall have other opportunities of discussing all these matters in great detail; indeed, they have been discussed in detail on other occasions, but, despite the fact that the Government has sometimes gone so far as to say it might do something, nothing has been done. On looking through “ Hansard “, I find that on one occasion I moved the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing the development of the north-west of Western Australia. Certainly since that time this Government allotted £2,500,000 for carrying out one project in the area, and there is no doubt that the State Government is grateful for that grant, but that is not the complete answer to our problems. Other projects should be carried out if that part of Australia is to develop properly and the Government has the funds available now for such works. These things are economically possible at the moment.
It is disgraceful and disappointing that child endowment and the maternity allowance have not been increased for many years. Those payments should be at least double or three times greater than they are. The old age pensioner is living on what is probably the lowest basic strata since the depression; there is a lag of 100,000 homes to meet the needs of the people, and the Government generally says that unemployment is at a satisfactory figure and constitutes no challenge to Australia at the present time. That is a bad outlook. When the Government submits itself to the people at the end of this year let us hope it has nothing better than the Speech of the Governor-General which evoked this Address-in-Reply to place before them because it is weak, innocuous and contains really not one suggestion that would give hope to the Australian people.
– I support the proposer and seconder of the motion now before the chamber and compliment them on the excellent way in which they have carried out their task. I should like also to express the great pleasure I experienced during the visit of the Queen Mother to our country, but I was sorry that it was not of longer duration. To indicate how hurried the visit was I shall list the engagements arranged for the day the Queen Mother spent in Canberra. She attended a parade at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, in the morning, an official luncheon, a garden party in the afternoon and a ball at night.
Another instance is afforded by the Queen Mother’s visit to my own State of Tasmania. To fly from Melbourne to Hobart, attend a civic reception, drive through the streets, board a plane to Launceston, repeat the procedure there, return to Melbourne and attend another function at night is a programme too heavy for any one to undertake. When we are visited by members of the Royal Family in the future more thought should be given to the personal fatigue of the visitors and a greater opportunity should be given to the people to see them.
I was extremely sorry that I,’ with every other member of this Parliament, was not presented in what I term a proper manner to the Queen Mother. Considering that Her Majesty met practically every State politician and a very large number of aldermen in Australia, the members of the Federal Parliament should have had the honour of being presented to her in a proper manner. When all is said and done, we are members of the Federal Parliament which has the duty of caring for the welfare of the people of Australia. We are their chosen representatives and as such deserve a certain amount of consideration.
I wish to speak about the state of affairs in the world to-day, an extremely important matter. I am surprised that more attention has not been devoted to this subject during this debate, in which an excessive amount of time has been given to a subject which, to use the words of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), does not affect more than 1 per cent, of the working force of Australia. I refer to unemployment which is a most important subject and I am sure the Government recognizes its importance. The matter about which I desire to speak affects 100 per cent, of the population. I am speaking now as a backbencher without any Government information, and as an ordinary thinking person, a trained man who has been taught to appreciate the situation. I refer to our defence and our chances of a free life. I was very pleased to note that the Governor-General in his Speech stated -
My Government will maintain this nation’s contributions to the security of the democracies.
I shall speak a platitude when I refer to the threat of Communist domination facing the world and this life of ours. I hope honorable senators opposite will not suddenly rise and say, “ Here is a member of the Liberal party trying to bring something out of the bag because it is election year “. We are now facing one of the greatest dangers in our history and I assure honorable senators I am not bringing this very serious matter out of the bag because this is election year. 1 refer to the situation in Indonesia, but first I shall deal with the world position.
The threat of Communist domination takes two forms, first, the threat of war. With the weapons at the disposal of the great powers of the world, war threatens our very physical existence. The second threat to our very existence lies in the adoption of peaceful mehods. Life would not be worth living if we came under the domination of the Soviet Union.
Let us consider first the threat of war. Our continued existence depends on the success of disarmament. That brings us to the question of the summit talks. I say quite frankly that I favour summit talks, but I ‘believe that certain conditions must be fulfilled before they have any hope of success. A large amount of preparatory work must be done. Whether it is done through diplomatic channels or the foreign ministers is a matter of complete indifference to me and to everyone so long as the work is done. If these talks fail, we will be in a far worse position than we are in at the present time. I think every one recognizes that we cannot afford to let them fail. Preparatory work and the drawing up of an agenda are prerequisite to a summit conference. There has been a lot of talk and propaganda, but I think we are getting closer to the holding of a summit conference. Indeed, I have great hope that such a conference will be held. While people are talking. there is less chance of war. If we look back over history, we see that it is only when nations cease talking that they start to fight. Therefore, I am all in favour of talking.
There must be a tremendous lot of giveandtake by both sides before there can be the slightest hope of success at a summit conference. Suspicion between nations is the biggest factor to be overcome - suspicion of what the other will achieve or try to achieve, suspicion of Russia by the West because of her desire to achieve world domination, and suspicion of what the other side will do and what its capabilities will be if armaments are reduced. How can suspicion be overcome? I think that the onus is on the three great Powers, and when I refer to the three great Powers I mean the three Powers that have atomic weapons. One gesture that could be made by all three would be to agree to the banning of atomic weapons tests. Why could not that be done? Each of those three nations has in its hands weapons that could destroy the world. What is the good of carrying out experiments to make weapons that will destroy the world more scientifically or more expeditiously?
Another gesture that could be made would be the reduction by all those Powers of their stock of conventional weapons. It is true that, after the last war, the democracies very considerably reduced their stock of conventional weapons. Great Britain is now in the act of reducing hers and, if Russia followed suit, it would go a long way towards making a summit conference successful. Furthermore, these nations could open their countries for inspection. In other words, they could carry out the Eisenhower suggestion of having open skies. To do that would not be such a great thing really, because we have almost reached that stage, if one believes what the various scientists say now that Sputniks have been launched into space.
An additional gesture, which would be of the greatest help, would be for these three Powers to declare that they would not sell weapons of war of any kind to the smaller nations. I shall refer to that matter again when I speak about the position to the north of Australia. Just let us think of all the suspicion and trouble that have been caused during the last year because of the supplying of arms to, shall I call them, junior nations.
Until all those measures are taken and until a summit conference achieves some positive result, if it ever does, I am in favour of pursuing the policy that we and Great Britain are now pursuing of keeping a small mobile force which could be used in an emergency to stop small wars and of relying on atomic weapons so placed that we could land them with ease in Russia, which is the only force nowadays that could be an aggressor. I say unhesitatingly that our security depends upon the pursuit of that policy. I am glad that Britain is pursuing it. I think such a policy must be pursued and that we must do our bit until success is achieved at these talks.
I refer now to a second threat - that of Communist domination by so-called peaceful means. I see that as the greatest source of danger. I do not think Russia wants an atomic war; I think she is just as fearful of it as we are. But I am quite certain that Russia still has for her objective world domination; and she is achieving it very quickly by peaceful means. In my humble opinion, it is coming closer to us every day. I stress the fact that, when speaking about the situation in Indonesia, I speak as a back-bencher who has no knowledge of Government secrets and no special knowledge of what is happening in that country. I wish that to be clearly understood.
I agree that the situation in Indonesia is a domestic affair. The Government of Indonesia, which we recognize, is trying to put down an insurrection by a certain section of the population. As I see it, it is our policy not to interfere. In fact, I can see no ground whatever for interfering at the present moment, and I am quite certain that that is the policy of the Government. We have no wish or no right to interfere. Indeed, President Soekarno has warned the world that he does not want any interference in his country. But there are signs of open interference. It is not coming from Russia, because it is not her policy to interfere openly. It would be extremely foolish for her to do so - and our enemies are no fools! I repeat that there are signs of indirect interference in Indonesia’s domestic affairs. As I see the position, that interference could quite easily lead to a situation similar to that which we saw before World War II. in Spain, and similar to those which we have since seen in
Korea and Indo-China. I emphasize that all my conclusions on this matter have been based on press information. I should like now to read from the Brisbane “ CourierMail “ of 12th March, 1958, because it expresses concisely the various information that has been published in other papers. I refer in particular to an article by Denis Warner, who is well known to many honorable senators as an extremely reliable correspondent. His despatch is from Singapore and dated 11th March. He says - and I shall only read extracts -
The showdown between the Indonesian Government in Djakarta and the Central Sumatran Rebel Government is at hand. . . .
The Communist Party has thrown the full weight of its million members firmly behind the Djakarta government.
There will be no clear-cut military victory. . . The chances are that Communism soon will have its biggest political success in South-east Asia since Ho Chi-Minh and his Vietminh forces drove the French from Tonking
I moved today through all official source groups in Singapore - Britain, American, Djakarta Government, and Darul Islam - furtively talking over drinks, and finally, among the rebels, who are defiant and honest.
Serious attention is now given here
This is the point that I want to emphasize - to reports that the Indonesian Government has negotiated for and will receive military aid originating-
I invite honorable senators to mark the word “ originating “ - in the Soviet Union.
The correspondent does not say “ Russia “ but the “ Soviet Union “ - “All the indications are that Java will become another Syria “, one official said today when asked to comment on reports that arms, pilots and jet planes were going to the Djakarta Government, via Egypt.
On the same page one reads another despatch from London, dated 11th March, as follows -
Reports of Russian support for the Djakarta Government have raised fears that “ volunteers “ from Korea may soon appear on the Indonesian scene.
Manchester Guardian correspondent, Vernon Bartlett. reports from Kuala Lumpur that Russia is stated to be sending to President Soekarno jet aircraft via Egypt and that the Soviet Embassy staff in Djakarta is being greatly strengthened. It is thought some of these officials are Soviet pilots.
Bartlett says the situation is causing alarm in Malaya.
Again I say that we have every excuse for believing that grave danger exists on our northern frontier. The Communists have a foolproof excuse to interfere in this part of the world. They need only say that they have come to help an established government put down an insurrection. No one - not even the United Nations - could stop them from’ doing that. Does any one believe for a moment that Indonesians can be trained to fly jet planes in Egypt and get them back to their own country within a few weeks. Every one knows that that is an absolute impossibility. Nor does any one believe that the Indonesians are sufficiently skilful to maintain such planes without help. The Russians have a wonderful opportunity to stir up trouble and put agents and propagandists into Indonesia. The whole thing is just too simple for words. Moreover, if Russia is doing that, it will see that Communist China helps the infiltration and sends volunteers into Indonesia. Honorable senators need only look at a map of that part of the world to see how easy it would be for Chinese to do this. Modern submarines could also play their part in achieving that end.
One does not need a great imagination to realize the threat to Australia that is building up in the north. Of course, I am only guided by press reports, and do not know whether these things are actually happening. Very often the press puts its own slant on news in order to provide headlines, but if I were in Russian shoes and wanted to promote Soviet domination of the world I would do exactly what this article suggests is happening. I invite honorable senators to look at the strategic position enjoyed by Indonesia. If it can be turned into a Communist-dominated country, the Communists will have complete control over South-East Asia, which will be cut off and surrounded. That, of itself, is a very grave threat to Australia.
The first speech that I made after my election to this Parliament in 1949 was on this very subject. Any one who has devoted his life to military pursuits has only to consider this situation to see how dangerous it is, and how easily the Chinese Communists could work their way down through IndoChina and Malaya. The danger had been there for years and now, in my humble opinion, it has become reality. We are now being threatened by Russian communism. I cannot over-emphasize the danger, for few people realize its presence. We are, of course, a nation that does not readily think about such things, but the threat is undeniable and tremendous. Honorable senators will see from the map how close the nearest Indonesian islands are to Darwin. In fact, they are closer than is the nearest portion of Dutch “New Guinea - and the situation in that country is worrying enough. What would happen to Dutch New Guinea if Indonesia fell under Russian domination? I think that one could very quickly kiss it goodbye. I repeat that the danger is right on our doorstep. I feel certain that the situation is being watched by the Government. It must be. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) is in Manila at a Seato conference, and I believe - I do not know - that this threat is being discussed there at present. I am sure that we cannot take any action in our present position. It is not our right to do so, and we do not wish to do so. The trouble in Indonesia is an internal matter, but in examining it and putting ourselves in Russia’s place, we can see the threat and the great danger that is forming. The threat is at our doorstep. I am certain the Government will watch it.
I have spoken on this subject for the purpose of bringing the danger home to every honorable senator. It is a subject which, in my humble opinion, is far and away beyond party politics. It is something we all have to think about. It is our duty to let the people of Australia know of this threat. It may not develop - let us hope it does not - but one cannot help but wonder whether it will.
I leave that subject and get on to another, which also is connected with defence. I wish to speak about the Russian Sputnik and how it might affect us. It certainly created a great stir in the world. I was in Great Britain when the first Sputnik was launched and I was most interested to learn the reaction of the British people. From a defence point of view, they treated it as almost a joke. They pointed out that they had been within range of selfpropelled missiles from Russian-dominated countries for a long time. That was nothing new to them. They had realized for some years that it was possible for them to be at the business end of an atomic bomb delivered by aeroplane or rocket, and they thought it a great joke that America was now within range. They thought that anight help to awaken in America a little more sympathy for them. It affects us, too. We are in the same category as America. We were comparatively safe before, but the launching of the Sputnik has proved that the Russians are capable of delivering an atomic rocket over very long distances and that we are within striking distance now.
I turn now to the subject of civil defence. I say straight out that I think the Commonwealth Government should do more about it. although it has already done quite a lot. For instance, it has opened a school of civil defence in Victoria, which is turning out people instructed in civil defence. It has taught some people what to do in certain circumstances. Many honorable senators, along with certain members of ; he House of Representatives, have been to that school. We have reached the position where we are turning out instructors who know all about the subject, but they have no one to instruct. The whole thing ends at the school. To me it is just a waste of money to turn out instructors and not follow the matter up by giving them some people to instruct. That is something that should be rectified. The Commonwealth Government says that civil defence is a State responsibility, and the States say that they can do nothing about it because they have not got the money. Even the small sum of £500,000 would do a lot to helD us establish an organization to minimize the effects of attack with hydrogen bombs. That is all we could do; we cannot make ourselves secure against hydrogen “bombs. In addition, such an organization would be very useful in cases of national calamity such as bushfires and floods. It need not be an organization only to be used in time of war.
I now wish to deal with immigration. During this debate a lot has been said on that subject. As far as I could gather from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and other speakers from the other side, they object to the Government’s immigration policy on two grounds. Uley say, first, that the proportion of British immigrants should be higher, and secondly, that the number of immigrants should be reduced at this time because of unemployment here. The majority of people know what the Government has done in regard to the British immigrants. They know that the Government has reserved virtually all available berths in ships to bring out British people; they know there are no limits to the number of British immigrants we will take; they know that we have launched a campaign for the personal nomination of people in Britain; and they know of the “ Bring Out a Briton “ campaign. They know also that we have spent £4,500,000 to transport British immigrants, compared with £1,500,000 for other nationalities. They know, too, that over a period 88.6 per cent, of our immigrants have been British or Northern European, whereas only 11.4 per cent, have been Southern Europeans.
But I wish to talk about another aspect of this subject. It is one I learned while in England only a short time ago. There is this other side to immigration. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. You can try to get British immigrants but if they do not want to come, you cannot bring them. That is very evident these days in Britain. Despite what the British Prime Minister said when he was out here, I do not believe that the British Government is in favour of immigration to Australia - at any rate, to a large extent. It is in favour of immigration to a smaller degree than we are achieving at present. I had conversations with several members of Parliament in Britain from both sides of politics - Tory and Labour - and I had strips torn off me because I belonged to a country which they said was trying to deprive them of their young people. They said, “You come from a country which is trying to take from us our young people and young workers.”
– Would that position exist if family units and older people were brought out?
– One of their objections is that we are trying to take their young people. I was tackled by the wife of a Labour member of Parliament who said, “You are taking our children from us.” I belong to a society known as the Fairbridge Society, which is trying to bring out young people to this country. The society is fully financed by British capital; there is no Australian money in it. The society is trying to bring out to Australia children from the slums of London, because it is considered that there are more opportunities for them in Australia and that they will have a better life in this country.
On Saturday next, we will be opening in Tasmania a home that has been built to accommodate seventeen children. At the moment, we have only five children to go into the home and there are no prospects of any more coming out because the British Government is against the emigration of children; it will allow children to come out only when accompanied by one parent. I can see the British Government’s point; I am not running that government down. But I think it is silly to blame the Australian Government for the fact that only a small proportion of immigrants are British. I think that we have done mighty well considering the attitude in England. I also think that the British attitude is completely wrong. I expressed this opinion when I was in England recently.
Before 1939, Great Britain was considered the No. 1 nation of the world. We fought a war and we lost considerably in man-power and woman-power and in treasure; as a result, we were No. 3 nation at the end of the conflict. Now I think we are No. 4, because Germany has recovered to a most remarkable extent, as T saw when I visited that country. I am sorry to have to say this, but, in my humble opinion, Germany is now ahead of Great Britain.
I, personally, think that the British Empire could again become the No. 1 nation of the world in, say, 50 years’ time if Britain would only concentrate on her Empire - the loyal parts of the Empire. When I say loyal, I mean the ones of her own blood. However, I am sorry to say that a tremendous proportion of the British population has its eyes only on the immediate future. They are looking at tomorrow and saying, “ We must keep our population. We must keep our people here in order to increase our exports. We have to manufacture goods and get them out.” But surely the answer is for the centre of the Empire to be removed from London to Australia or to Canada. Think of the potential markets that exist to the north of this country. How much easier it would be to manufacture goods here and send! them to those markets’ instead of sending raw materials to England to be manufactured and brought out here again.
– Do you think the agreement with Japan will help Britain, very much?
– I shall not. comment on that matter; I am talking, about the British Empire and the British outlook. There is another matter that surprises me. I have been to England on several occasions, the last time being just after the war when I was sent home on military duty. But even before the war, I knew England well. I realized even in those days that the British people did not know a terrific amount about us, but we have since grown up and advertised ourselves. We have made a name for ourselves in two world wars, but despite this fact I was surprised by the ignorance of the British people in relation to Australia. I shall quote one illustration to prove my point.
As honorable senators know, it was my privilege to lead an Australian parliamentary delegation to England to attend the conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. I do not think that a better delegation has ever left Australia. I received wonderful support from my colleagues, and I am sure that we did not disgrace Australia. The speeches at that conference were reported and the transcripts were furnished in both English and French. Copies of the speeches in those two languages were available in . a hall, where girls were posted to hand them out as required. We all had big white placards on our lapels showing the name of the country we represented. In our case, “ Australia “ was printed in large letters which could be identified from a distance of 10 yards. When I went to the desk in the hall to obtain a copy of a certain speech, the young lady said, “ Oh, Australia. What language do you speak, Sir? “ Of course, this story is, perhaps, slightly exaggerated, but I think I have made my point. The matter is quite serious. There is extremely little evidence in England of Australia’s products and attractions. I know that it is a tremendous task to educate and inform 50,000,000 people, but I am going to make a suggestion, which can be gone into fully during the appropriate debate. My colleague referred a short while ago to various Australian products that are being sold in England. I have a great interest in this matter, because I grow fat lambs, which I export to England. Some of them are now being sold there, and I have heard that the bottom has dropped out of the market. One never sees lamb labelled “ Australian lamb “ in England, although this commodity is getting free advertisement to a certain extent. Canterbury lamb, from New Zealand, is advertised as such and the English housewife knows about it. Most Australian lamb is sold to the English housewife as Canterbury lamb. It is true that our produce is being sold, but not under the Australian banner, and I do not think that will occur for a long time to come.
I was amazed that Australian products were not more widely known. Australian wines are practically unknown in England. Indeed, the only place where I saw Australian wines advertised was on the menu in the dining cars of British trains. The Emu brand was advertised. I do not even know where the Emu brand comes from.
– Western Australia.
– South Australia.
– I know that very good wine comes from South Australia, but I can honestly say that I have never tasted Emu wine in Australia.
There is one other matter with which I should like to deal before I conclude my speech. In this respect, Senator Hendrickson and I seem to have something in common, and, again, I am astounded that this subject has not yet been mentioned during this debate. I refer to the common market for Europe, which is now an established fact. It is a combination of West Germany, Belgium, Holland, Italy, France and Luxembourg. It is a common market which operates on the same lines as trade between the Australian States.
– Without section 92 of the Constitution?
– Yes, without section 92. The common market comprises a large part of the continent of Europe. The fact that an area of that size had a common policy could have a very big effect on the economics of the world. It could have a very considerable effect on
Great Britain which, in my humble opinion, will be forced into joining the common market arrangement very shortly. I believe, too, that the common market will be a tremendous threat to our economy.
I know that Great Britain and Australia are having talks on the subject at present, but in common with Senator Hendrickson, I should like to know a little more about what is going on, although I admit that much of the subject-matter of the discussions must, of its nature, be secret. I feel that we as Australians are not taking sufficient interest in the matter. We do no> speak about it often enough. If one talks to people in the street about it, in nine cases out of ten the people to whom one speaks have never heard of the common market and do not appreciate what is going on. I think it is a matter which must affect our primary products substantially and that the members of this Parliament would be well advised to try to awaken the people to the effect that it might have on our economy. I conclude by saying that I support wholeheartedly the motion before the Senate.
– In common with all other honorable senators who have spoken in this debate, I concur in the sentiments of loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen, and to the Throne and the Royal Family, expressed by His Excellency in the Speech which is the fulcrum of the debate. The Royal Family, and the very existence of the British Commonwealth, are becoming of increasing importance in the modern world, if we assess the contribution that the British Commonwealth can make to the preservation of the things we regard as most important in life, and to the stability and progress of the world in general. For that reason, our loyalty to the Throne to-day, however it might spring from emotion or tradition, has, in my opinion, a sound practical reason behind it, as well as all the other traditional and historic reasons which have always led us to be loyal to the British Throne. Can we conceive of any other institution that is surrounded by sufficient esteem to attract to it nations of such divergent cultural, historical, economic and racial characteristics as those which are in the British Commonwealth and which are related ultimately only by the slender and intangible threads which bind the Commonwealth together under the Crown? If the British Commonwealth survives for 1,000 years and if, in that time, it makes a worthwhile contribution to the peace and security of the world, I think that, in all that time, it will have depended on these extraordinarily slender threads. It is for us to strengthen them and to ensure their continued existence.
The Speech delivered by His Excellency was presented in an atmosphere of growing world anxiety, with problems both at home and abroad. I should have expected and welcomed, in those circumstances, a speech which showed much more vitality, much more of a positive and firm approach, and a much more acute awareness and appreciation of the situation than was in fact displayed. No doubt, the Speech was prepared by His Excellency’s advisers, but in my opinion it emerged as a rather disturbing and anaemic document. As Senator Wordsworth has said, in the international sphere we face tremendous problems and dangers which every day are coming closer to our shores. Naturally, I suppose, prudence dictates a policy of watch and wait in relation to those circumstances and the international situation generally, but I do not think that a similar policy is justified in relation to the national problems which to-day obviously are becoming greater. The Government appears to be pursuing a policy of watch and wait, in that respect, in only slightly less degree than it is pursuing such a policy, with some justification, in the international field.
My speech will be directed, as I think speeches on this occasion should in the main be directed, to the problems that confront the nation as we approach the beginning of a new parliamentary session and the legislation that will be presented. Therefore, in the brief period for which I propose to occupy the Senate, I intend to direct some remarks to the question of unemployment. I say, in criticism of the Government, that the one thing that this nation appears to lack in the presentation of the unemployment problem, and the one thing that it has lacked right through, is that degree of frankness which I think is inseparable from good government and which is inescapable in the proper handling of such a problem - that frankness which alone can attract the co-operation of the Australian nation in helping the Government to solve the problem.
For years, we have seen in economic statements, Budget speeches and secondreading speeches on supply bills, terms such as “ dis-employment “ and “ marginal unemployment “, all relating to the existence of a situation in which people actually are out of work. The problem has never been completely acknowledged as being one of unemployment, in essence and in fact. Of course, at some stage, we proceed from “ marginal unemployment “ and “ dis-employment “ to a position where the use of the word “unemployment “ in its starkest form is quite inescapable. That is the position to-day. Because of the lack of frankness on the part of the Government, nobody on either side of the Parliament, and perhaps nobody in Australia, feels that he is completely informed of the position and able to say that the economic conditions of the country is of such and such an order. As was mentioned during the course of a speech here this week, the frankness that we see displayed in Great Britain and America, when statements are made about economic problems that occur from time to time, is in direct contrast. Such frankness is salutary and very often results in a rapid, and sometimes immediate, solution of the problems.
Have not we heard the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), year after year, say in the course of Budget speeches, “There is the economic position of this country “? Governments can do only a certain amount to alleviate unemployment. We leave it to the business community, to private enterprise in the main, to help us to solve the general national problems as they present themselves to us. But such an approach can be made only in an atmosphere of the most complete and frank disclosures. To-day, both the business community and the public generally feel that they are not being informed. As a result, we are getting all kinds of exaggerations. Inferences are being drawn which, I think, are exaggerated and, in some senses, unwise and perhaps unfair, stemming from the fact that the
Government, for party political purposes, is not talcing the nation into its confidence and has not done so for a long time.
If this human and extremely important national problem of unemployment is to be considered in a political atmosphere, is it any wonder that the members of the Opposition take political advantage of it and, perhaps in the absence of an accurate statement of the facts, draw their own inferences, even though those inferences may be unfair, exaggerated, or unwise? A Government that is prepared to play politics on this issue can expect a political approach by the other side. When a statement such as that attributed to Mr. Monk, accurately or inaccurately, is made, I feel that the person who makes it is, in effect, stating what he believes to be the true situation; but that kind of statement is likely to be controverted because the problem of unemployment has moved into the realm of politics. While it remains there it is going to be extremely difficult to solve it. I appeal to the Government, even at this stage, to make the fullest disclosure of the position, not only as to the extent of unemployment, but as to is causes. I suppose I would read the speeches that are made and the statements that are issued as often and as carefully as most other honorable senators, and I am still trying to find out what is the real cause of the prevailing condition of unemployment. I am still trying to find out to what extent it is attributable to purely local causes. I am trying to find out to what extent it is in any way related to seasonal conditions over the whole of Australia, or in aggravated forms in particular parts of Australia. More importantly still, I am trying to find out to what extent it is a reflection mostly of what is obviously a fairly general recession in other countries - the United States of America and Great Britain - whose economic welfare so very, very closely infringes on our own.
Until we know and are able to diagnose the cause of this immediate disease which threatens to become more severe, and if we propose to rely on the people to help the Government out in providing a remedy for the disease, the full facts must be displayed to us.. It is a most unfortunate situation when a government is keeping that information from us, not perhaps by distortion of facts, but by a lack of frank ness which alone in these circumstances can make an immediate contribution to the problem.
What we need is complete frankness from the Leader of the Government, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in making a complete analysis of the origins, causes and extent of the prevailing unemployment or disemployment in the community. Further, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) should take the nation completely into his confidence in connexion with the unemployment figures. Finally, I submit there should be a dynamic financial approach by the Commonwealth Government in co-operation and conjunction with private industry. Such an approach should be much greater, much more extensive and much more dynamic than that sp far made which, in my opinion, has been rather inadequate.
With that thought on unemployment, I pass to the question of immigration. Here again, we have a problem which, I am afraid, has moved into the field of political controversy. It is a problem of such great national importance that it, too, cannot be allowed to rest there. The other day 1 asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration to inform me what periodic and what continuous scientific assessment is being made or has been made of the impact of the immigration programme on Australia since 1945 or 1946. In the absence of accurate information, there is confusion. We are now finding the same type of allegation and counter allegation, reply and counter-reply in this field as we find in respect of unemployment. Surely, where a programme of this kind has such fast repercussions on the nation, on sections of the nation, on individuals, on the comfort, welfare and standard of living of the people, it is vital that the most accurate information be available. The most accurate assessments should be made available to the people always at all times. If such a survey is not being made, I urge the Government to put it in hand immediately, so that we can, if necessary, re-orient ourselves on the direction in which the immigration programme should take.
Suggestions are made that a large influx of new Australians bringing their cultures and traditions from other lands might have the effect of swamping our own culture and traditions. I find such suggestions) very difficult to accept when I examine the proportion of the numbers that have come here in the period to the numbers who were already here. The stream of British tradition, British culture and British ideals has been flowing in this country for 200 years, with sufficient strength that nothing but a tidal wave to-day could swamp it or in any major way affect its’ character or composition. For that reason, I think immigration at the present rate could only have the effect of enriching that stream of British tradition and broadening it out into wider concepts. Therefore, I should find the argument that the immigration programme at the present rate, could have the effect, in the absence of a fair proportion of British migrants, of disturbing the stream of British culture and traditions hard to substantiate and even harder to accept.
– It would be a poor compliment to us> if it were true.
– Yes. British ideals, the British way of life, and the British rule of law are probably much stronger concepts in the world than similar things in any other country. Those who would seek to affect them or damage their character, much less to destroy them, would be against one of the strongest obstacles that could be presented to them.
Of course, we have to be realistic about all these things. Senator Wordsworth made a very thoughtful contribution to the debate, but he suggested that we should consider scaling down our programme if the British Government is unable or unwilling to allow us to take the proportion of British immigrants we should like to have, or if the young people whom we want cannot be lost to Great Britain. I cannot agree with that view. I entirely disagree with any suggestion that we should make the British contribution the basis of the whole of our programme and that if we cannot get the number of British immigrants we want, we have to make up our minds whether we shall scale the whole programme down. I think we should do our best to get as many British immigrants as we can, but that can only be asked for with a due regard for Britain’s own condition and circumstances, and her own future.
While I realize what was behind Senator Wordsworth’s suggestion for the dispersion, perhaps, of the British Crown throughout the British Commonwealth as a means of greater security and of creating greater internal strength within the British Commonwealth, I still think that the presence of the centre of the British Commonwealth in Great Britain, with its 2,000 years of history, has a tremendously important effect in the British Commonwealth.
– You know we take every British immigrant for whom a berth is available?
– Yes. Senator Wordsworth, during the absence of the honorable senator, mentioned that fact. I realize we are trying to get as many British migrants as we can, but if, because of the policy or attitude of the British Government, or disinclination, or something else, we cannot get the numbers we should like, I do not think that our general immigration programme should be scaled down. I think that on this question it would be a poor conclusion for any one to reach, whether he be on the Government side or the Opposition side. We should not believe that, in this tremendously important matter, which offers us ultimately a wealthy population and security, and which would enrich the life of this country, we should bow before the immediate economic storm and cut back our immigration programme instead of so organizing the economy that the enriched economy would still be able to absorb the present immigration intake without interruption.
If we are to pursue any other policy, where will it finish? Once we meet a problem and retreat from it, we shall keep on retreating and must, therefore, retreat from the next problem. This is a challenge to the Government. Nobody ever thought that, with an immigration programme of that dimension, things would go through uninterruptedly over a period of years. We knew that immigration would create economic difficulty, but the solution is to handle the problem at the capital level, at the credit level and at other levels rather than retreating and immediately thinking of cutting back the immigration programme.
– That is where the Government fails.
– Exactly. I am saying that it is bad that the Government should even contemplate a reduction of the intake as a solution, although it might be unwilling to put such a plan into operation. It is a reflection on the Government that it has not anticipated this position. The Government should have had a dynamic economic, credit and fiscal policy that would give substantially full employment and at the same time enable the immigration programme to continue, instead of now being brought under attack by those who, according to their way of thinking, -see this cut, this dissection, as the only solution of the general national economic problem. I am not prepared to place my feet upon the road to retreat which in 1932 led -to the position where the economy could not maintain the rate of wages, which were reduced, nor the rate of pensions which were reduced by 22i per cent., and we finished up in the darkest depression. That iis why I am grievously disappointed at the anaemic approach presented in the Speech read by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, which was no doubt prepared by his advisers. We are facing a tremendous challenge and somebody should take up the -challenge. The prime responsibility is on the Government, which can expect the full co-operation of all good, thinking citizens. I should be prepared to co-operate in the -fullest sense in continuing the immigration programme and holding employment at the level of virtual full employment to which we are all pledged.
I come now to another matter of considerable controversy which has been previously in this arena and will return next week or the following week. We are in a period of acute economic and financial difficulty, if not crisis. Obviously, the solution will lie within the political thinking on matters of credit and finance according to the views of those who propound them. Therefore, if the banking structure is the central feature of the economic thinking of all political parties and its alteration and re-orientation in a particular direction is to -solve a national problem, then legislation designed for that purpose must be regarded with the greatest seriousness. It should represent action taken, not in pursuance of a general political idea, but action which, in the current situation, becomes vital to the solution of the problems that present themselves to the nation.
I take it that it was in that atmosphere that the banking legislation was introduced and is now being re-introduced in the> House of Representatives, and was sought to be introduced into this place. If the Government regards it as of such significance and importance that it can be considered a vital weapon in the Government’s handling of the economic situation in the realms of unemployment, immigration and housing - and the Government apparently has considered it in that light-
– The Government has considered it in that light.
– I was speaking only on facts within my own knowledge, but now I have the assurance of the honorable senator that the Government so regarded it. If the Government re-presents the legislation to this chamber in the same circumstances as existed during the last session, I assume that the legislation must now be pushed to the furthest constitutional and political point. Apart from any announcements or suggestions that have been made, the Government will then have a responsibility to force the issue immediately to the people, if necessary, by asking them to vote for the election of members to both Houses of Parliament consequent upon a double dissolution. The Government now has no alternative.
I know that honorable senators with some cynicism will say that it is very easy for me to advance that as a suggestion because a double dissolution might in some way benefit certain individuals in this chamber more than others. I think it can be fairly said that in any attitude I have adopted in the Senate I have not always had complete regard for what might be to my own political advantage. I assure honorable senators that I make the suggestion now in the same spirit and in the same atmosphere of personal disinterest.
Naturally, we studied the banking legislation very carefully prior to the Government’s attempt to place it before this chamber on the last occasion. Although technically not before the Senate its provisions were more or less public property. Provision is made in it for a development bank. The attitude of the Government to a double dissolution should be made known to the Parliament at the first opportunity. I should like to know whether the provision for the establishment of a development bank is, in any drafting or legal sense, inseparable from the other provisions of the banking legislation. If the development bank is such a valuable institution in its concept and is separable from the other provisions, its establishment could receive particular consideration I think that the Government should make the position clear. If the Government is approaching the Parliament in the spirit that the development bank would be extremely valuable to the community and not dependent in the drafting or legal sense on the other institutions which are sought to be created or changed in form, or upon their economic structure, but that its acceptance is contingent upon the acceptance of all the other institutions, I think that would be a completely unfair presentation of a dilemma to Parliament.
– It would be like separating Siamese twins.
– That is the very question I wanted to ask. The exact question the development bank will occupy in the general projected structure of the other sections of the Commonwealth Bank and the Reserve Bank should be stated to this Parliament at the earliest opportunity. If the development bank is separate in nature and could be completely separated, that is one proposition, but if the Government is merely seeking to establish the development bank and asking the Parliament to accept it contingent upon the acceptance of the other proposals, although not by its nature integrated with them, it is unfairly presenting its dilemma to Parliament.
On the general question of the attitude I adopted to the banking legislation on the last occasion, having regard to the particular circumstances which then arose I think the legislation was stopped at the first reading with complete justification. Obviously, the same circumstances do not apply on this occasion and therefore, whatever may be done elsewhere, I propose to support the bill for the establishment of the development bank so that it may be read a second time, whatever the ultimate result may be. My attitude generally to the bills will remain unchanged.
I urge the Government in its approach tothe central banking structure and, in the absence of any alteration to the legislation, in its approach to unemployment and immigration, to take the nation into its confidence. We can solve this problem quickly by a vital and dynamic approach.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Presentation of Address-in-Reply..
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) agreed to -
That the Address-in-Reply be presented to His; Excellency the Governor-General by the President and such honorable senators as may desire to> accompany him.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin). - I have ascertained that His Excellency the Governor-General will be pleased to receive the Address-in-Reply to his Opening Speech at Government House to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m. I invite all honorable senators to accompany me on the occasion of its presentation.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) agreed! to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till! Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
Senate adjourned at 5.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 March 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1958/19580313_senate_22_s12/>.