23rd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– -I preface my question to the Minister for National Development by pointing out that some years ago a decision was made to set up a fund for the purpose of investigating stowage in certain coal pits. I understand that something like £2,000,000 was in that fund, but I can find no evidence of where it has been spent. Can the Minister inform me how the money has been applied? What is the Government’s intention concerning stowage in pits? Does it intend to continue with this fund, which was set up for the purpose of investigating stowage?
– The matter which Senator Arnold has raised has a fairly long history. I doubt whether I can do it justice by way of answer to a question, but I shall do my best. The fund is maintained by a levy on coal. It is administered by a committee consisting of the State Minister for Mines, the chairman of the Joint Coal Board and representatives of the Colliery Proprietors Association and the Miners Federation. An active programme of experimentation has been carried out. I think that stowage plant and equipment have been installed, and operated, in two or three collieries. A substantial amount - about £1,000,000 - remains in the fund after meeting the high cost of those experiments. The stowage committee is very active and meets regularly. Proposals thai stowage experiments be conducted in other collieries are examined by the committee on a technical and scientific basis, and are dealt with upon their merits. The great question is, of course, whether stowage can be implemented at a cost that is not so high as to make the product unsaleable. Experiments to that end are proceeding.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, arises from a statement in which the Minister has intimated that a documentary film produced by the News and Information Bureau is at present running in a leading theatre in New York; that it will have a season of approximately a month; and that it was preceded by a colour film of Sydney’s northern beaches which delighted American audiences and film critics. Is it a fact that the News and Information Bureau can produce only approximately ten such documentary films per annum? Will he consider enlarging the film unit of the bureau so that more such documentaries can be produced and shown in the United States and in other countries which might be interested in sending us tourists?
– I am sure the Minister for the Interior will be very pleased to hear that the documentary film taken in Australia has been such a success in America. I shall put the honorable senator’s question relating to an increase in the number of documentary films produced before the Minister for the Interior, and I am sure that he will give consideration to increasing the number of such films if that is at all possible.
– I preface a question to the Leader of the Government by stating that recently I attended a meeting of the Australian Labour Party in the Riverina area at which drought conditions in the area were discussed.
– Order! The honorable senator should ask his question.
– I am coming to the question.
– I should like the honorable senator to come directly to his question.
– I am sorry; I am just a learner. My question is: Having in mind the drought conditions now existing in the Balranald and Corowa districts, will the Minister alert the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to the position and request that a rainmaking plane be sent there immediately?
– As I understand the position, the C.S.I.R.O. is unwilling to go into particular areas in order to endeavour to relieve dry conditions there as its policy on rain-making at the present time is to endeavour to establish whether rain can be effectively produced by the process under investigation. There are claims and counter-claims about the process. I point out that the C.S.I.R.O. is a research establishment; it is not a field organization charged with the responsibility of carrying through a particular -programme. Its duty is to carry out ‘research work, and its policy is not to accede to the many requests that come in from all parts of Australia when a dry patch is experienced in a particular area. Its policy is to concentrate on scientific research work in particular areas to endeavour to prove or establish the worth of a process.
– I address a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise relating to a recent press statement to the effect that the price of petrol will be reduced by a halfpenny a gallon. Is it a fact that the Government announced recently in its Budget that the customs duty on fuel oil would be reduced by a halfpenny a gallon? As the customs duty on this item applies to only approximately 10 per cent, of the fuel oil consumed in Australia, how is it that a reduction of a halfpenny a gallon on the customs duty levied on 10 per cent, of the fuel imported makes possible a reduction of a halfpenny a gallon on all fuel consumed in Australia, whether it be refined here or imported in a refined state?
– The reduction of a halfpenny a gallon on the duty levied on imported petrol followed a recommendation by the Tariff Board that it be reduced by that figure. The duty is imposed as a protection to the Australian industry and the Australian price is based on what it costs to import and sell fuel in Australia after duty has been paid. That is the basis upon which the Australian selling price is worked out. The refineries find that a reduction of one halfpenny a gallon in the duty means, of course, that petrol can be imported .for one halfpenny a gallon less. The competition so engendered is met by the local refineries.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the
Minister for Primary Industry. -Last week, I directed to the Minister a question relating to shoal spotting of fish off the Australian coast, -and I asked whether the Department of Primary Industry would investigate this matter to see whether it could assist the Tasmanian fishing industry. Since then I have had communications from people who are privately developing the technique of fish spotting, and they have spoken of the excellent results that they have achieved. I believe that if there is a co-ordinated approach to this matter, great value can be obtained, not only for the fishing industry, but also for the nation as a whole. I now ask the Minister whether he has any further information to convey regarding this important matter.
– Consequent on Senator O’Byrne’s recent question, I approached the Minister for Primary Industry. He has provided me with an answer in somewhat more detail than the one I gave previously. That answer is -
I understand that the use of aircraft for spotting surface shoals of fish has proved a practical proposition in areas where the fish are known to be at certain periods of the year. This aid to fishermen has been in operation at Albany, in Western Australia, and at Lakes Entrance, in Victoria, for many years. I am informed that in both instances the aircraft are operated by private enterprise, without government assistance. The .aeroplane at Albany is owned and operated by the local fish cannery, and at Lakes Entrance the spotting operations are financed by the local fishermen and the cannery which receives the fish.
I suggest that the Tasmanian fishermen of whom Senator O’Byrne spoke, in consultation with the State fisheries authorities, should first explore the possibility of implementing some similar private industry arrangement as has proved satisfactory in other parts of Australia.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate read or heard of an utterance by a gentleman in another place advocating the abolition of the Senate on the alleged grounds that it is similar to a body known as a legislative council, and that it is obsolete and not elected democratically? Will the Minister assure the Senate that this chamber is not obsolete, that it is elected democratically, that it is not to be equated with a legislative council or any other institution, and that it is, in fact, in its structure and functions, unique and unparalleled i
– Of course, I unhesitatingly give the answer, “ Yes “, to all those questions. I did see the newspaper report. I have not had a chance to look at “Hansard”, but I shall do so. I feel like tilting a lance in reply, because I do not like these accusations to remain unchallenged. I believe that it is a good thing always to stand up for your own side. I do not think that this is an appropriate occasion to go into all the arguments in favour of the bicameral system of government, but I shall put the case shortly by saying that in the world of party politics in which we live, a parliamentary system with only one house of parliament would necessitate power being deposited in a comparatively small group of people. That, to me, is a complete negation of democracy.
I believe that the need for a house of review, a second chamber, will continue to exist. May I point out to Senator McCallum that great upheavals have occurred during the post-war years; a considerable number of boundaries have been drawn for new countries which have arisen as a result of peace treaties; great changes have taken place within the Commonwealth of nations, and new parliaments have been created in India, Ceylon and other Commonwealth countries; yet invariably, in the changes of constitution and the reconstructions that have taken place, a bicameral system of government has been adopted. There has been a second House of Parliament in, I think, almost every one of those countries, whether it be West Germany, Japan, India or Ceylon. I support the sentiments that Senator McCallum has expressed.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer anything to report to the Senate on the appointment of a taxation law review committee promised both in the Governor-General’s Speech at the opening of this session and in the Treasurer’s Budget speech? Does the absence from Australia at present of the Treasurer mean that the committee will not be appointed until he returns?
– I am not in a position at the moment to report anything definite to the Senate as requested by
Senator Laught, but I am able to tell him that this important matter is under active consideration by the Government. I would not attempt to commit the Treasurer, but my own view is that the appointment of this committee would not necessarily have to await his return to Australia.
– I wish to ask the Leader of the Government a question without notice. Is it proposed to suspend the sittings of the Senate for two weeks as from next Tuesday?
– I am advised that the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry has an answer to a question I asked without notice yesterday relative to losses of sheep and cattle being exported from Australia, particularly iri the case of the steamship “ Delfino “,
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following reply: -
The export trade in live cattle for slaughter purposes has been proceeding satisfactorily for a number of years - the average loss per voyage being approximately 2.4 per cent. The last heavy loss occurred in June, 1958, and was not due to the conditions of carriage, but was caused by an outbreak of tick fever during the voyage.
As to the recent lamb shipment on the “Delfino “, the reports received from America indicate that the lambs travelled reasonably well. There were some losses, but they were not regarded by the trade in the United States as being abnormally high. United States quarantine, veterinary and humane officials have indicated they were satisfied with all aspects of the shipment.
The Department of Shipping and Transport is responsible for administering the regulations and specifications concerning the loading of livestock in all ships in Australia. These regulations and specifications include details of the construction of pens and stalls, the maximum number of livestock to “be carried to a pen, the minimum permissible area per beast and requirements regarding ventilation, feeding and watering arrangements, &c. They were compiled and promulgated after consultation with, and approval of, the Australian Council of Animal Protection Societies.
The regulations would apply to the “Delfino” and all other vessels carrying livestock from Australian ports.
– Having regard to that reply, I ask the Minister to request the Minister for Primary Industry to examine a statement made at Suva by the captain of the “ Delfino “ that appeared in yesterday’s press and in which he does not indicate, as the Minister suggests, that the loss was of a reasonable character. On the contrary, the captain states that 30,000 sheep were on board the ship, and in his opinion not more than 25,000 should be carried. He also states that the loss was 5 per cent.
– Yes, I shall ask the Minister for Primary Industry to make inquiries to ascertain (a) whether the captain made the statement as reported, and (b), if he did, whether the statement was true.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. As a result of Senator Maher’s excellent speech yesterday, doubts have arisen concerning the reasons for the World Bank’s refusal to make a loan of £22,000,000 for the purpose of rebuilding the Townsville to Mount Isa railway line. Can the Leader of the Government give us the facts concerning this matter? Does he know why the World Bank will not lend this money to Australia?
– I think that the facts have been made public. The World Bank asked Mount Isa Mines Limited to undertake to provide that level of freight on the railway which the bank considered to be adequate to make the line an economic proposition, and the company was not prepared to meet that request.
asked the Leader ot the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– I have made inquiries, and as a result regret to advise that the information is not available.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General upon notice -
The Postmaster-General has furnished the following replies: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has furnished the following replies: -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Postmaster-General advises as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister tor Primary Industry has supplied the following answers: -
A development of the production of line apparel wool in Australia has been the exclusion by culling of the “ off-type “ inferior sheep which might otherwise have produced wool more suitable for the carpet trade. The small quantity of lower count, very strong wools now grown in Australia is said to be not particularly suitable in the main for the carpet industry. I understand that the carpet industry actually requires and imports three main classes of wool. These are firstly New Zealand crutchings and pieces of about 46’s count and 4-inch staple length with good spinning qualities; secondly, so called “ bulk wools “ from the United Kingdom, which contain true wool and coarse hair-like fibres; thirdly, the industry imports carpet wools from India and Pakistan.
In the past, other countries for various reasons, have produced an abundance of these carpet-type wools. It seems there has been, insufficient incentive, financial or otherwise, to grow them in Australia. Development of the production of the various classes of carpet wools would involve either an extended breeding programme or the introduction of sheep from the United Kingdom and Asian countries. For sound quarantine reasons the introduction of sheep from other countries is prohibited.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister tor Primary Industry has furnished the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The question is addressed to the Minister for Trade, but the Minister for Primary Industry has supplied, the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following replies: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following replies: -
– On 18th August, Senator Tangney asked me as the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration the following question without notice -
I find it necessary to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration a question that I have asked previously. In view of the very low standard of life-saving equipment and other safety devices on some migrant ships reaching Fremantle from Europe, will the Minister see that all such vessels under charter to the intergovernmental migration agency, before leaving Europe, shall be certified as seaworthy by the same high standards that apply to vessels registered on the Australian coast?
My colleague, the Minister for Immigration, has now supplied the following answer: -
As the honorable senator is aware, the ships in question are neither Australian-owned nor are they chartered by the Commonwealth Government. Under these circumstances, it is not pos sible for the Australian Government to inspect these vessels until they actually enter Australian waters.
This does not mean that the Commonwealth is not concerned with the welfare of its new settlers and, in fact, the honorable senator will be aware that, following discoveries of defects in life-saving equipment aboard migrant-carrying vessels in 1956, strong representations were made by the Department of Immigration to the Intergovernmental Committee .for European Migration (I.C.E.M.) and the charterers to remedy these defects.
As a result of these representations, no further occurrences of defective life-saving equipment were brought to the notice of the Department of Immigration by the Marine Branch of the Department of Shipping and Transport until the Spanish vessel “ Montserrat “ berthed in Fremantle in June last. This vessel was under a one-voyage charter to I.C.E.M. and was visiting Australia for the first lime since changing ownership in 1957.
The Department of Immigration immediately lodged an official protest to I.C.E.M. on the condition of life-saving equipment aboard the “ Montserrat “, and that organization is now examining further means of ensuring that all vessels under its charter are thoroughly and independently surveyed prior to leaving Europe. This, of course, involves negotiations with the National Maritime Authorities of its member governments who are, in fact, finally responsible for the certification of vessels. This question will undoubtedly be discussed at the November meeting of the Council of I.C.E.M., at which Australia will be represented.
The ‘honorable senator will appreciate from these remarks the concern which the Australian Government has for the welfare of migrants not only after their arrival here but also during the voyage from Europe.
– I lay on the table the following report: -
Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act - Report by the Commonwealth Actuary on the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund as at 28th February, 1959. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wright) adjourned.
– by leave - I desire to inform honorable senators that changes in customs and excise controls affecting the petroleum industry will be introduced over the next few months. I have approved recommendations by the Comptroller-General of Customs which will streamline departmental administration over this industry and at the same time provide substantial staffing economies. The main features of these changes are -
Customs and Excise controls over petroleum products will be administered by specialist sections to be set up under the Collector of Customs in each State.
Oil companies will be required to keep records in an approved manner covering all operations concerning dutiable products and will submit returns of stocks and movements each week to the Collector of Customs. Records now maintained by Customs Lockers and Excise Officers at installations will be abolished.
Crown locks on storage tank outlets and at other points in refineries and warehouses will be replaced by company locks.
Departmental documentation covering movements of dutiable goods will be reduced.
The above changes will allow for the withdrawal of Customs Lockers and Excise Officers now stationed continuously at oil warehouses and refineries.
Officers from the central unit in each State will regularly inspect refineries and oil warehouses to ensure that the oil companies fully carry out their responsibilities. These officers will also attend to other official matters concerning petroleum products such as imports, exports, drawbacks and diesel fuel duty.
The new system will provide improved efficiency in an important area of customs and excise administration. Revenue from the petroleum industry for the year 1958-59 amounted to £58,000,000. Collectors of customs will have at their disposal specialist units organized and trained to meet the growing volume and complexity of oil industry operations.
Departmental salary savings amounting to £50,000 per annum are expected as a result of the new system, which would require about 64 officers less than the present organization. It is anticipated that most of the officers affected will be absorbed in other sections of the department where the Comptroller-General has refrained from filling positions on a permanent basis pend ing this changeover. The oil industry will benefit by reductions in overtime payments and general expenses.
These changes arose out of a departmental work simplification survey which was commenced early in 1957. A committee of senior officers examined the existing system and formulated a series of proposals. These proposals were subjected to critical analysis by various interested parties including representatives of the oil industry and of the Customs Officers Association of Australia.
I have taken a keen interest in this move to improve departmental administration and cut costs. I am confident that the changes now approved will mean more efficient service to the petroleum industry whilst providing adequate safeguards for the protection of the revenue in this important field.
– The Minister has just made an extraordinary statement. I desire to move that it be printed.
– The honorable senator is out of order. The paper has not been tabled. The Minister has merely made a statement.
SenatorO’Flaherty. - In the circumstances, I move -
That the paper be tabled and printed.
I think that we should discuss it.
– The motion is out of order. It is for the Minister to decide whether or not he wishes to table the paper. The honorable senator may ask for leave to make a further statement.
– I ask for leave of the Senate to make a statement concerning the statement that has just been read by the Minister.
– There being no dissentient voice, leave is granted.
– I believe that such a statement should be discussed. It indicates that extraordinary changes are to be made in the Department of Customs and Excise. Apparently there is to be a curtailment of the employment of certain officers. The statement discloses a wonderful optimism - an assumption that, despite the absence of the usual supervision, the oil companies will do just what the department requires of them. Because of that, and other factors, I believe that the Minister’s statement should have been tabled so that we could discuss it thoroughly. I object to the procedure whereby a Minister makes a statement and the Senate is not given a chance to discuss it.
– Every opportunity will be given to the Senate to discuss the matter, either on the adjournment or on the Estimates. Honorable senators will have full opportunity to discuss it if they wish to do so.
– We have not got it now.
– Order! Honorable senators will have it later.
– by leave - I desire to inform the Senate that the Treasurer left Australia yesterday on an official visit abroad. The principal purposes of the Treasurer’s visit are to attend the Commonwealth Finance Ministers’ meeting in London and the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, in Washington. He expects to return to Australia about the middle of October. During the Treasurer’s absence, the Prime Minister will act as Treasurer.
Motion (by Senator Sir Walter Cooper) - agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Repatriation Act 1920-1958.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act 1940-1958.
– I wish to inform the Senate that I have received a letter from Senator Aylett tendering his resignation as a member of the Senate, Select Committee on Road Safety.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Aylett be discharged from attendance on the Senate Select Committee on Road Safety and that Senator Drury be appointed to fill the vacancy.
Debate resumed from 1st September (vide page 420), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the following papers: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending 30th June,1960.
The Budget, 1959-60 - Papers presented by the Right Hon. Harold Holt in connexion with the Budget for 1959-60, and
National Income and Expenditure 1958-59 - be printed.
Upon which Senator McKenna had moved by way of an amendment -
At the end of motion add the following words - “ but that the Senate is of the opinion that their provisions and omissions inflict grave injustice on recipients of social service benefits (such as child endowment, age, invalid and widows’ pensions, repatriation benefits, maternity benefits, funeral benefits, amelioration of means test), on taxpayers, on the family unit and other sections of the Australian people and that they make no effective contribution to correcting seriously adverse trends in the Australian economy including unemployment and rising living costs “.
.- When the Senate adjourned last night, I was addressing myself to the motion that the Budget Papers be printed, but, since that time, I have noticed certain references in another place to the functions of the Senate. They went so far as to suggest blithely that the Senate be abolished. It seems to me that it is prudent to state that this advocacy, of course, is in line with the policy of the Australian Labour Party. When the honorable member who voiced that criticism said that this chamber was not democratically elected, I suppose he had in mind the most unfortunate electoral system that prevailed since the first election of this chamber until 1949 under which senators were voted for in blocs. That system led, of course, to the complete captivity of the majority in the Senate by the Labour caucus when it had a majority, and an imbalance in the Senate when the opposing political parties had a majority. It is only, therefore, since 1949 that proportional representation has given the Senate, despite the great impact and potential of the political parties, an opportunity for minor political parties, and indeed, independents, to be represented in this chamber. That should give us an opportunity of rescuing control of the Senate from the Labour caucus.
Here I remind honorable senators opposite that in their caucus they sit with one vote each in secret party meetings with their party colleagues who are members of the House of Representatives. By that means, the members of the Labour Party entirely obliterate the constitutional value that was intended to be given to a senatorial vote. This chamber will exercise its functions of review and revision only when those who constitute it as representatives of the people show a degree of independent thinking and a capacity to put a point of view not in echo of the Executive Government nor yet dictated by their respective party caucuses. I believe that the last ten years have shown that this chamber may yet become in the influences and agencies of real democracy the dominant chamber of the Federal Parliament, or at least a chamber which, on the basis of bicameral principles, will develop stature that will command respect.
Yesterday I referred to something which I thought should be viewed with apprehension and anxiety - the continuation of the inflationary trend and the increase of costs in this country. During the debate, figures relating to savings bank balances have been quoted, and I cannot allow my mind to pass them with complacence as a register of prosperity. The figures I have show that in 1949 savings bank balances amounted to £714,000,000. They also show that in 1954 savings bank balances had increased to £1,010,000,000 and that by 1959 they had risen to £1,391,000,000. If other honorable senators apply to the Statistician, as I did, they will obtain figures relating to the waning value of money and will be able to relate the proper figure to the value of those savings bank deposits. For brevity, let me say that apparently the only index we have of purchasing power is the C series retail prices index. But I want to make it quite clear that the dispersion of prices and charges outside that index makes it impossible to compile a general measure that will represent in all circumstances the changes in the value of money from one date to another.
But treating that index as being of some significance, it is to be recorded that taking the value of the base quarter ended June, 1945, at 20s. the purchasing power of that 20s. had declined to 16s. Id. by 1949, to 9s. 8d. by 1954, and to 8s. 5d. by 1959. It will be seen that the downward trend between 1949 and 1954 has a relation to what I shall say later as to arbitral mechanisms in Australia when the economy was developing a degree of inflation at’ a great rate. I feel disturbed because, although the economy was maintained with but a slight reduction from 9s. 8d. to 8s. 5d. between 1954 and 1959, we are now faced with the possibility of an accelerated decrease to the value of our £1. Take the figures for 1949 and 1959. No comfort is to be derived from the fact that the people who depend on savings bank balances, which in 1949 aggregated £714,000,000 and which have now almost doubled to £1,391,000,000, have deposits only of the same value as in 1949, because the £1 is now worth about 8s. 5d., compared with 16s. in 1949. The total amount of savings bank deposits has doubled, but the value of the deposits has remained static.
When we look at savings bank deposits and then see the use that is made of them in the Commonwealth Savings Bank - as a reservoir from which a great volume of money is supplied to Commonwealth loans - it is quite apparent that unless inflation can be arrested the man who is saving to-day is being misled. I believe that it is our duty first of all to interpret the inflationary tendencies and then quite steadfastly to apply the requisite correctives. I want to say at once that I do not find a corrective in high taxation. To my mind, taxing a motor car to the extent of 30 per cent, aggravates inflation instead of diminishing it. I also want to say that I regard the maintenance of high rates of income taxation as inflationary’ in the extreme. Anybody whose earnings are to be subjected to the rates of taxation prevailing in this country will make every endeavour, even if some waste occurs in the expenditure of his money, to place his money where it will not be incident to that taxation. That kind of thing is leading to terrific speculation in capital increments, both of land and shares, and those two factors “in the economy are potent ones which are generating figure values of no real significance. In the cities to-day, especially, we find real estate values soaring increasingly. City rates have gone up since the last basic wage increase. Consequently, the whole economy is becoming geared to those unreal values.
The misfortune of the man. who trusts in the promises of governments in relation to investment on the bond market is all too apparent. People are being asked, in this year 1959, to invest in a security that will be repaid in 1979. That is an approach that appeals to the saving section of the community, consisting of those who think in the old terms of work and of trust in the constituted authorities of the country. They are asked to invest in government bonds. But, having worked and saved, in twenty years’ time, as was graphically stated in a speech by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) recently, those who invested good money in the bond market will be repaid in bad money, or, as the history books that I used to read in relation to the Tudors expressed it, “ debased currency “.
– There is no bad money.
– That interjection comes from one of my colleagues of the Australian Country Party. I want to stand them up on one or two matters in a moment.
In view of my limited time, Mr. Deputy President, I want to pass now to two factors which, beyond all others, are making for inflation in this country. I cannot understand why there seems to be a resolute intention to ignore them. First, I think we must remind ourselves that we are living within a closed economy. It is an economy that is circumscribed by Government edict - not by parliamentary control, except insofar as Ministers are responsible in a general sense. The mechanism whereby import licensing is established in Australia is that of issuing simple regulations, and then departmental letters or edicts by the Minister, interpreted by various officers. That limits the capacity to import to the full. Until we have the full and unfettered impact on our economy of imports at world values we are going to have great undertakings!, like Cox Brothers (Australia) Limited and Myers, able to control the internal market. Flinders-lane is sheltering behind the import policy and is selling to Hobart merchants and other provincial merchants at what, in the days of the war, we would have called black market prices - at a mark-up which is completely unjustified, having regard to the special position of an import licensee in relation to other traders. It is behind this wall of protection of import licensing that you get all these terrific take-over bids which are developing a psychology of inflation.
Furthermore, there is engendered resentment on the part of the trader who wants to begin in the business - the new man who wants to establish himself by his skill in importing. There is also intense resentment on the. part of the old trader whose quota is scarcely sufficient to warrant his continuance of his trade contracts abroad. There is increasing dependence on Flinders-lane. I, of the Liberal Party, find control of the entire import trade of the nation no more acceptable to my philosophy of politics than control of retail trading by means of rationing during war-time, when the effect was felt by the individual because the. individual was rationed.
– The circumstances were entirely different then.
– I agree that circumstances were different then. A Liberal government,, in war-time, would, of course, impose retail rationing controls, and I would support it, but what I am saying is that I would no more think of supporting retail rationing or petrol rationing at the present time than I would think of supporting this import licensing on a governmentcontrol basis. There has to be found a base for it on which the men of commerce are willing to exchange their values of money or goods according to import and export parity. Only in that way will we get a sense of justice in commercial dealing in imports.
That is the first factor that is generating inflation in this country. The second, and a much more potent factor, is the arbitration mechanism to which we adhere. This is not the first time that I have spoken on this matter, but I am not going to despair. I shall repeat my views, because this is a theme of terrific pregnancy for Australian development. We have created an internal agency, a commission, constituted by three judges whose names I shall recite. They are the Chief Judge,, Mr. Justice
Kirby; Mr. Justice Foster and Mr. Justice Gallagher. The decision of the commission in 1959 to make an economic adjustment in the greatest factor in the economy - wages - will have a terrific impact upon the cost of labour in every section of industry. We experienced that in October, 1950, when the basic wage was increased by about one-seventh from 142s. to 162s. per week. I have quoted figures to-day which show the rapidity of the inflation that took place between that date and when the commission then constituted had the good sense to suspend automatic statistical adjustments and to substitute the judgments of the judges themselves for making the corrections. I recognize that the recent increase of 15s. per week in the basic wage was scarcely referred to by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in his Budget speech; there seems to be a real timidity on his part to refer to it. I myself forcefully put a view here back in April that certain things that the Parliament was then giving expression to, namely, undue increases of not only Ministerial salaries but also members’ salaries would create a bad example for the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. And I myself believe that that is represented in the 15s. by at least 50 per cent, or probably up to 66i per cent, of it - 10s.
But whatever be the factor it is certainly not discoverable in a definable sense from the papers put out as the reasons for the judgment. You get there an increase of 15s. on a wage that stood at 261s., which is an increased factor of something like about one-seventeenth. The impact that that is going to make on the economy in the next eighteen months will be vital indeed. It all goes to show that the authority entrusted to that sort of tribunal is not capable of bearing proper relativity with the other economic factors - I have pleaded before, and I plead again, that the basis of that tribunal should be broadened, and that it should consist of three - possibly five - government-appointed commissioners and three representatives from each section of industry on each side of them, so that out of a tribunal of eleven, with one-tenth argumentation and pseudo evidence, you would get a collective judgment of responsible men from both sides of industry who would not be fascinated by the false illu sion of figures but would keep their eyes rigidly upon real values. Then you would have a body that would have the appearance of bearing real responsibility for the economic adjustments that it is called upon to make.
The Premiers in their wisdom in June last, at the instance of this Government adopted a new formula for the adjustment of financial assistance which this Parliament will, year by year, be bound to give to the States in lieu of what used to be called the reimbursement grants to the States. The fact that all the governments adopted in that formula the real wages being paid at the time as the adjusting factor illustrates the enormously significant power that is going to rest in the industrial tribunal, because it will be registering minimum figures. Real values will range either above or below those figures - usually above - and the governments in distributing the figure, which as from June of this year will begin at £244,000,000 and rise progressively as the economy expands, are going to adjust according to values of wages. Therefore, wage adjustment in this country must be taken responsibly in hand or else the processes of inflation will undo all that a Liberal or a Country Party man ever came into Parliament to achieve.
The last thing about inflation is, that whilst we profess liberalism and go on financing capital works out of revenue-
– I am in favour of that.
– Yes, and Senator McKenna on the other side is not. It is a very good subject for debate. Instead of the tax rebate of £21,000,000 going back to individual taxpayers next year the Government should credit them with Mount Isa bonds and Snowy Mountains bonds. Then the man who is now resenting a grasping government’s high taxation rates would have the satisfaction of having investments credited to him instead of being taxed to provide revenue in this financial year of £144,000,000 for Commonwealth works alone. Anybody who says that he is in favour of that has forgotten the idea of thrift and of providing for his family after payment of death duties. He has forgotten, also, that the thing that a man values is the individual ownership of his earnings. The thing that that man resents is high taxation engendered by capital works, especially when those capital works are promoted by a government in a parliament where the parliament itself has no adequate powers of supervision or control, where the Public Works Committee Act requires parliamentary scrutiny only of capital works projects that the Minister refers to the committee for investigation.
These things bear with injustice upon three sections of the community, the fixed income earner - I have said what I wanted to say with regard to his savings - the family man, and the farmer. I am amazed when I look at the deductions in respect of children for income tax purposes, particularly if real relief from taxation is the purpose of budgetary relief. We find that in 1941, £75 was allowed as a deduction for the first child and in 1949-50 that figure was increased to £100. That was a rebatable amount. If there is any difference between a deduction and a rebatable amount somebody will call my attention to it. Then it went to £78, and we corrected it at £91 a couple of years ago. This is altogether insufficient to enable a family man to maintain his first child. In 1949, the allowance for a second child was £50, and we maintained it at £52 until two years ago and then put it up to £65 on the basis of real values. The deductions for children should be doubled. The reason why they are not being doubled is because it would cost so much. When we gave an increase of £13 a year two years ago I noticed that the then Minister estimated that that increase would cost some £8,000,000. The fact that it would cost so much is evidence only of the basis for relief. I ask that serious consideration be given to this most proper form of taxation relief.
I am obliged for the inclusion in the White Paper of the graph depicting farm income. It is an improvement upon the notice that has been taken in previous papers of the situation of farmers, but in my view the graph is distorted. By the courtesy of the Treasurer I had prepared another graph from which one can see that in the decade ending 1959 salaries and wages increased from £1,100,000,000 to £3,000,000,000, almost precisely 300 per cent. But in the same period farmers’ incomes rose from about £360,000,000 to only about £400,000,000. This was despite the fact that, as the Treasurer told us, there was a notable increase in rural production. The White Paper shows that the value of wool production in 1958-59 was 14 per cent, less than that of the previous year, despite an increase of 10 per cent, in the quantity of wool produced.
Turning to page 16 of the White Paper, let us take an average of farm incomes for the two years 1948-49 and 1949-50. This works out at £384,000,000, but the average of farm incomes for the two years 1957-58 and 1958-59 is only £371,000,000. This is a matter in which the Australian Country Party might well display a special interest. Farm income is static, or worse, despite increased production, whereas wages and salaries have increased 300 per cent, in a decade. This was illustrated most forcefully by Senator Lillico’s reference to the analysis made of typical sheep properties in Tasmania. On the sampling made by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, sheep farmers there are getting a return of only .9 per cent, on their capital. Our potato industry is in a parlous state, with plantings this year being smaller than in any year since, I think, 1889. The apple industry is beset with rising costs and threatened with an increase in overseas freights.
It is obvious that if primary industries are to be the mainspring for the maintenance and expansion of those exports which are essential if there is to be increased importation, we must do several things. I hope that there will be an early consideration of export bounties and an early implementation of legislation to stamp out restrictive trade practices, which are developing in the metropolitan areas of this country a type of economy that is wholly inimical to the agricultural community. I hope that there will be a vigorous expansion of cheap finance, especially available for farms through the Development Bank, and that there will be a most vigorous presentation of the farmers’ position in the economy to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission before it again plants on this country a wage cost that is not in the best interests of the nation.
– You are an optimist.
– Yes, but while I am here I shall have the satisfaction of expressing my purpose. If I fail I shall not be in the disappointing position of going back to the bush, having had the opportunity to speak but having remained silent. My old classical professor used to tell me, in the words of one of the ancient authors, that it is shameful to be silent while barbarians speak. I want to register my view that the position of the family man, the fixed income earner and the farmer, cannot be looked on with complacency, and I trust that immediate consideration will be given to the matters that I have mentioned. If it is, there will be injected into our economy a reality that will stabilize values and enable the hugely constructive work that is going on - do not imagine that I deny it - to expand.
– I rise to support the motion for the printing of the Budget papers and to oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). First, I should like to compliment the senators who have ‘made their maiden speeches during this debate. I would say that without exception they were , excellent. I was particularly interested, of course, in the speech of my Tasmanian colleague, Senator Lillico, which was impressive and well informed and left no doubt at all about his views on State rights. I agreed wholeheartedly with his observations on the .position of Tasmanian primary producers. They are having a very worrying and difficult time because of falling returns, drought, and high wages and other expenses. That was referred to also by Senator Wright, and J heartily endorse all that he said on that matter. In my opinion the farmer to-day has to be a man-and-a-half and work a week-and-a-half in a week in order to survive.
Before proceeding further, I should like to make some observations on the statement made yesterday in another place by Mr. Costa. It has been referred to already by Senator Wright, but I think we should take further umbrage at it. According to a report published this morning in a leading newspaper, Mr. Costa said that he supported the New South Wales Government in its attempt to dispose of the New South Wales Upper House, and he went on to say -
I think we should do the same with the Senate, because it is just as obsolete.
It was also reported that Mr. Costa said that senators were not democratically elected. I certainly take exception to the last statement. I say in reply that the method of electing the Senate is more democratic than is the method of electing the House of Representatives. Both Houses are, of course, elected on an adult suffrage basis. The same people who elect members of the House of Representatives elect senators, as a safeguard, I take it against errors of judgment of the House of Representatives or to review the work of the Lower House so as to prevent the Parliament from arriving at hasty conclusions. The work of the Senate is, in effect, to supervise and improve the work of the other House, and it has done that on many notable occasions. It also has the power to initiate legislation. Let me say further that Mr. Costa belongs to a party which claims - there may be some doubt about it in certain places - to be the most democratic party in the world. I understand that in the election of the Labour executive, the supreme Labour body, each State elects two members, making a total membership of twelve. I point out that each State elects ten representatives to the Senate on much the same basis. That will suffice in reply to Mr. Costa’s remarks as to whether or not the Senate -should remain in existence.
– But he had in mind the fact that our salaries would continue.
– If a vote were taken on that, I am sure the result would be 60 to nil in favour of the proposition.
– It would not.
– I think it would. J do not think any honorable senator would vote against such a proposal.
I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) upon the presentation of his first Budget. It is impossible, of course, to present a budget that will meet with every one’s approval or meet every one’s needs. On this occasion our thoughts go back to the previous Treasurer who had so much to do with Australia’s financial and economic situation for a decade. I am referring, of course, to Sir Arthur Fadden - that very friendly, fearless and dynamic personality who gave outstanding service to this country for quite a long period. The present Budget is really a continuation of the policy of. this. Government set out in. the previous ten budgets that it has presented since assuming office in 1949. It has the same objective - the continued expansion and development of the country, and the preservation of. economic stability. During the past decade, Australia has attained a remarkable level of prosperity and development. The Government is determined to maintain, that desirable state of affairs, which is so important to the stability of our economy and the maintenance of our financial status.
Opposition to the Budget, from honorable senators opposite has been very weak indeed and has shown a lack of appreciation of our financial position. Evidence, of economic stability is provided by the manner in which Australia handled the recent international recession or economic upset, which was the outcome of a minor, recession originally in the United States of America. I think we will all agree that internal difficulties were created by a year of drought and declining markets overseas for primary products. America has improved her position, immensely during the last few months and Great Britain’s recovery has been remarkable. Australia> is bound to benefit from this improvement in the overseas situation.
The Opposition’s view that benefits should be’ increased, but that pay-roll, tax and sales tax. should be reduced would, if adopted, mean a loss of revenue which we would not be able to replace. It is difficult to understand how such a step could be taken In the face of the Treasurer’s having provided for a cash deficit of £61,000,000. The Labour Opposition has criticized the Treasurer’s, proposals without offering any solution to the difficulty. Honorable senators opposite are critical also of the proposed 5 per cent, reduction of income tax, which, will amount to £21,000,000 in a full year. They contend that those who pay- a large amount of taxation will receive an undue advantage. As the tax is to be reduced on a 5 per cent, basis, it is only natural that those people who pay most will receive the greatest rebate. That is in line with Liberal policy, which contends that those who are in a better position to pay. should contribute more to the exchequer by way of taxation. Therefore, I take it that it is equitable for them to receive more by way, of rebate. One honorable, senator pointed out that, a taxpayer- who was- paying £10,000 a year tax would, receive a reduction of. £500. But let us. not. forget, as Senator Henty said, that that taxpayer will still, have to pay £9,500; So he is not relieved of the major portion of his tax payment.
As I said earlier, the Budget has been designed to maintain stability and to provide a solid basis for continued development. During the past two decades Australia has been transformed into a highly industrialized country, although it is still dependent upon primary products for the greater, part of its export income. Expansion of production in. both primary and secondary industries has been phenomenal, and Australia is proving to be an attractive field for overseas, investment. The increase in population is steady and the discovery and exploitation of a wealth of raw materials is consolidating our economic position. In the circumstances, increased migration, is fully justified. I hope the Government, will continue with its migration policy and if possible raise the annual quota of migrants beyond the present level of 125,000. The substantial- increase of capital from overseas has been boosted by the investment of capital from local savings. The increase in the work force to 4,000,’000 during 1958, too; has been a factor in improved production. I think we can pay tribute to the migrants who. have provided 480j000! of the increase of 540,000 in. the work force during- the period under review. The. degree of their participation in production: and the advancement of Australia has been both phenomenal and vital.
Australia’s, financial: position has improved tremendously during the last decade. That provides a firm basis for continued expansion of the. economy. To my mind, a significant, feature of our economy is the fact that recessions which affect us quite often are of short duration and hardly disturb, the continued expansion of Australia or her international trade. The improvement in secondary industry not only will help to supplement our export incomes but will also result in lower prices for goods. That, in turn will lower the cost of living and will make possible lower costs of production in primary industry. I think- it is time there was a reduction of costs to enable the primary producer to. meet the very heavy burden to which he is subjected in competing with prices overseas. Our continued prosperity, of course, depends upon full co-operation and full understanding between governments, industry and commerce.
The previous Budget provided for a deficit of £110,000,000. The final figures at the end of the last financial year showed that the deficit was in fact about £30,000,000. That happy result flowed primarily from a stepping up of capital investment from overseas and increased support from Australian investors to loans launched in this country to the tune of approximately £50,000,000. The Opposition criticized the Government for what it described as its duplicity in overstating the anticipated deficit. As I have just indicated, the final deficit was £30,000,000 - an improvement of £80,000,000. The Government should have been congratulated on the happy turn of events, not criticized or taken to task about it. The criticism that has been offered completely ignores the obvious fact that the over-subscription of Australian loans and the increase in overseas investment were the direct result of investors’ appreciation of the Government’s sound financial policy. They are an indication of the investors’ complete confidence in the Australian Government. A substantial improvement in the final budgetary figures for last year might warrant the Government bringing down a supplementary budget early in the new year.
The presentation of the Budget, as we know, is the most important happening of the political year, because the Budget reflects the financial position of the country and endeavours to forecast the revenue for the year ahead, as well as to give a carefully considered view of future prospects and conditions. I think all honorable senators will agree that conditions in Australia are better than those in any other nation at the present time. Improved prospects are predicted for 1960-61, giving us every promise of a boom year. Stock and share markets are firm and public balance sheets show - almost without exception - increased figures over last year.
At a dinner recently tendered to an Australian mission abroad, headed by the
Victorian Premier, Mr. Bolte, the following statement was made, and I quote from a record of the proceedings: -
Australia received yet another boost to her potential as a field for investment when a leading American authority on international trade commended this country in this respect. The authority was the Director of the Bureau of Foreign Commerce at the U.S.A. Commerce Department (Mr. Lehring Macy) who was speaking before the most influential gathering of American businessmen and industrialists ever to meet an Australian mission.
Mr. Macy was also supported in his comments by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr. J. Graham Parsons, who recently visited Australia.
Mr. Macy spoke after the Victorian Premier had outlined what Victoria had to offer the U.S. investor, and what part Australia played as a stepping-stone to the markets of the SouthEast Asia.
United States companies contemplating investment in Australia were urged to seek local capital participation.
Mr. Macy said that sentiment was growing In Australia that more emphasis should be placed on joint ventures between domestic and foreign capital.
He hailed Australia’s vigorous economic growth, and added that the recent statement by the Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, calling for a partnership where possible between foreign investors and Australians, merited “ careful consideration “ by every firm considering investing in Australia “in the light of its own special circumstances”.
The report continues -
He said Australia could be classed as a developing country that was only just starting to exploit its natural resources. To maintain and increase its current rate of development it needed “large amounts” of foreign capital.
I think that comment is justified by Australia’s present position. Just recently, that view was confirmed in a broadcast made by Mr. J. K. Vaughan-Morgan, United Kingdom Minister of State for the Board of Trade. Speaking last Sunday week, Mr. Vaughan-Morgan said -
I reckon that the British Commonwealth is the most important political factor in the world to-day, and our partnership in it is the strongest of the ties between us.
He went on to say -
The United Kingdom is your biggest market We take well over a quarter of all your exports: well over twice as much as your next biggest customers. We buy nearly a quarter of your wool, nearly three-quarters of your beef, half your sugar, and almost all of your canned fruit and cheese.
On the other side, you are our second largest market, taking 7 per cent of our exports.
Later he said -
And we are very proud that two-thirds of all the investment capital which you draw from abroad is British. . . The outflow of capital from Britain for British Commonwealth development runs at about £250,000,000 a year and more of that capital is flowing to Australia than to any other country in the British Commonwealth or in the world.
It comes to Australia because it is sure of a good welcome here and because the enterprise of your people and your sound policies offer the right conditions and rewards to attract capital - a wonderful sign of mutual trust and interdependence.
Those remarks, coming from America and the United Kingdom, confirm the good opinion in which the economy of Australia is held in overseas countries.
I should like to compliment the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) on his decision to increase Australia’s trade representation overseas, and also on the outstanding success of his comprehensive trade policy. Recently he reviewed the trade commissioner service and decided to expand it. New posts were established in Nairobi, Accra, West Africa, Chicago and Ottawa. Those new posts will materially assist Australia’s overseas commercial representation, and their establishment demonstrates the Government’s willingness to provide an adequate service to assist Australian firms seeking new markets abroad.
My time is drawing to a close, but 1 should like to say something about the wool position, particularly as it affects my own State of Tasmania. Australia’s immediate economic outlook is particularly bright. The recent improvement in the price of wool is welcome news for primary producers. The rise of 12i per cent, to 15 per cent, has brought the average price to somewhere about 66d. In my opinion, the price will need to rise by a further ls. to ls. 6d. per lb. to give the small producer a reasonably adequate return on his cost of production. This small rise will make all the difference to the producer but, in my opinion it will not make a very great difference to the price of the finished article to the consumer.
I congratulate the Australian Wool Bureau on adding to its members a Tasmanian in the person of Mr. Donald von Bibra. Mr. von Bibra is an experienced and very successful woolgrower who has great ability and a very sound business knowledge. Business men returning from overseas agree that there is a need to step up the promotion of publicity for wool overseas. I am glad to see that this is the policy of the Australian Wool Bureau and that it is at long last awakening to the fact that it is time for something to be done to alter the course of our losing battle over many years with synthetics and cottons. I hope that the representation on the Australian Wool Bureau will be widened to include members of the retail trade and manufacturers, and also representatives of the Country Women’s Association. I think that there is room, too, for representations of the other woolgrowers’ organization, the Australian Primary Producers Union. I hope that the claims of that organization will be satisfied in the near future. If it is given representation on the bureau, it will be able to give the support to the policy of the bureau which is so necessary to put wool where it should be in our economy.
Tasmania experienced dry conditions over most of the State last year. Despite this, our wool production reached record levels. We produced 98,000 bales, which were worth £7,700,000 to the State. This was made up of 30,000,000 lb. of wool from 3,750,000 sheep - an average clip of between 91b. and 101b. a head. It is expected that this year new production figures will be set. This will, I feel sure, be matched by an improvement in quality.
The apple and pear industry is not so happily placed this year. Early forecasts as to prices in the United Kingdom are not very promising.
Dairying production was expanded last year. Prices in the United Kingdom are better now than they have been for some years and give promise of further improvement in the future. Dairying is, of course, one of Tasmania’s most important industries. The bulk of our butter production, which amounts to 11,000 tons, is, as honorable senators are aware, exported.
My colleague, Senator Wright, referred to the difficult position of Tasmanian potato growers. This year’s sowing, comprising 16,000 acres, is the smallest for many years.
It is only one-fifth of the record area, 83,000 acres sown in 1889. The high cost of production, coupled with transport costs, marketing problems in Sydney., Newcastle and Brisbane - our traditional markets - low returns and increased competition, have almost priced Tasmanian potatoes off the market. At present the return to the grower is about £20 a ton at shipside. lt is reliably estimated that a return of £25 a ton, for a crop yielding five tons to the acre, will cover the cost of production and allow a small margin of profit.
Tasmanians look forward with great interest to the inauguration of the regular sailings of the “Princess of Tasmania”, Which are due to begin on 4th October. We confidently expect that our tourist industry will grow in importance in the succeeding years. Last year it brought £5,500,000 to our small island, and if we can double this figure in future years the industry will be a great asset to the State. I should like to thank the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) for the very special attention, and service, that he has given our small island during the last two years or so in this matter of shipping. I hope that he will continue with the good work and provide us with a further ship of the “ Princess of Tasmania “ class, plying between Melbourne and Launceston, as well as a slightly large. ship - perhaps of a faster type - for the Hobart-Sydney run. Such a ship could handle both passenger and goods traffic. I hope that the Minister will continue in the same fashion until he has solved our transport problems beyond all doubt.
During the last few months the Tasmanian mining industry has had a shot in the arm. Prospecting on a large scale is being undertaken by three companies - Rio Tinto, Mount Lyall and Electrolytic Zinc. They are all acting with the full co-operation and accord of the State Government. Exploratory activity will doubtless proceed for some time but wc are hopeful that, with the aid of modern detection and drilling instruments, important new mines will be brought into production at no very distant date. The iron ore deposits on the Savage River have been referred to on previous occasions. I hope that they will warrant the establishment of a steel industry on the north west coast of Tasmania.
Finally, I support the printing of the Budget papers, and express my opposition to the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. -Senator McMANUS (Victoria) [4.52].- I should like to begin by congratulating those honorable senators who have offered their .maiden speeches during the present debate. Whether or not one agrees with the opinions that they have expressed, one must admit that they have all shown that they are likely to prove worthy members of the parties that they have been chosen to represent.
I am opposed to the present Budget and intend, therefore, to vote for the amendment moved, on behalf of the Opposition, by Senator McKenna. Before proceeding to the reasons for the view that I have taken, I want to devote some time to expressing my pleasure at the fact that the presentation of this Budget has not been marred by the totally indefensible leakages of information with which previous Budgets have been associated. I was one of those who protested at the entirely unparliamentary practice by which details of the Budget appeared in sections of the press before it was -presented to the Parliament. I am pleased .that that has not happened on this occasion. Perhaps the only two Budget .leakages were the leakage that the increase in old age pensions would be 7s. 6d. a week and the suggestion from the Treasury that this would be a Budget which would please all sections. The first leakage proved to toe well founded. The second, in my estimate, is totally unfounded. This much-heralded Budget, which was supposed to please us all, has proved a severe disappointment. Naturally, one expects the Opposition to oppose it, and in this debate the Opposition has had plenty of ammunition at its disposal. What has impressed me most of all has been the amazing party loyalty shown on the Government side. A great many Government supporters must have been far from happy about the Budget. They doubtless looked forward to seeing something better and more dynamic, and I gained the impression from many of their .speeches that they were damning the Budget with faint praise. As I listened to some of them I was reminded of. the American negro who, 30 years ago, was asked by his boss what he thought of prohibition. He said, “ Well boss, prohibition is a terrible thing, but it is better than not being able to get a drink at all”. I think that the members of the Government have not been terribly happy over this Budget. They had hopes of something immeasurably better, something in keeping with the present state of this country; but they have been disappointed, and it is a tribute to their party loyalty that they have attempted to show that they are enthusiastic about a budget over which nobody can feel any great enthusiasm at all.
This Government, of course, has had a wonderful opportunity over the past ten years. It has been in office during a period when it has had almost amazing good fortune, and it would not be human if the Government did not claim that it owes what it describes as the success of its administration to its own efforts. But any one who looks dispassionately at the situation must admit that in the first five years the Government was assisted to win elections, first of ,all by the carry-over of opposition by a big section of the community to the banking legislation propounded by Mr. Chifley; and secondly, by the very disadvantageous redistribution which the Labour Party permitted to take place in 1949. I was on a labour executive at that time, and I heard Labour members of Parliament say that the redistribution would put Labour in power for twenty years. It certainly has not had that effect.
One feature of that redistribution which caused the loss of elections by Labour in the first half of this decade was the fact that prima donnas in the party who had won elections by 18,000 votes in a House of 75 felt that it was necessary for their ego that they should continue to win elections by 18,000 votes in a House of 120. Too many Labour majorities were locked up in seats that were dedicated to the prima donnas of the party. The Government cannot be blamed for that. It was one of the wounds from which Labour suffered, one of the wounds that were self-inflicted, like many of the wounds that came later on. I want to say, however, that in that period the Government had a wonderful opportunity for constructive thinking and action. Revenue was booming; except, for slight depression periods, employment was full; wool prices went up, and everything went amazingly well for the Government. In those circumstances, when there was very little political opposition to worry the Government, because it had the opportunities in an overflowing .degree, and because .it had booming revenues, we might have expected from it some big, broad, constructive thinking in keeping .with the future that lies ahead of Australia. But, instead of that, having examined the past ten years, my view is that the Government to a big extent has plugged the holes and coasted.
Let me put these questions: What has this Government done to be remembered for in the past ten years? What big Australian thing has it done? What big project has it launched? What will it be remembered for when it goes out of office? When one examines the record of the preceding Administration, the Chifley Government, one finds the Snowy Mountains scheme. One also finds the laying of the foundation of the magnificent conception of our immigration programme. From the .defence point of view, which is so much neglected under the present Government, one finds under the preceding Administration the development of the rocket range project. Remembering all these things, one wonders what the Government will be remembered for when it goes out of office, as I suppose it will.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) issued a challenge to honorable senators. He asked us to be constructive in our consideration of this Budget, and I propose to be constructive. I say to the Government that in a period of ten years when it had everything in its favour, and when it had the opportunity for constructive thinking and decisions on big, vital Australian issues, it could first of all have taken social services out of party politics. It could have done that in two ways. It could have done it in the way it promised in 1949 - by setting up a national superannuation scheme. Or it could have done it in the way that my party suggests it should be done - by setting up a commission of experts to determine just rates of social service payments and dien applying the decisions of those experts. But the Government has done neither of those things and, after ten years, we are still subjected to the humiliating spectacle of bands of elderly people who have done a good job for Australia being compelled to come here year after year to beg for some slight increase in their pittances. Any government worthy of the name, in a period When it had everything in its favour, could have set up such a scheme. It could have taken pensions out of party politics and could have given the old pioneers, who have done a job in this country, what they really deserve.
The second thing that the Government could have done was to implement some constructive thinking in connexion with taxation. Year after year, we have gone on under the burden of sales tax and payroll tax, two forms of taxation which, of their very nature, are grossly inflationary, and each of which is causing everincreasing resentment in the community. Sales tax in particular is an increasing threat to the standards of living of the lower paid members of the community. The Government has simply said, “ We can raise so much by sales tax and so much by pay-roll tax, and we propose to keep on collecting those taxes “. Surely there was some opportunity for the Government to look for other methods by which that revenue might have been collected, methods which would not be inflationary in the way that pay-roll tax and sales tax in particular are inflationary. Instead, we have gone on under the same old burden of indirect taxation which, of its nature, is unjust to the lower paid sections of the community.
There has been no attempt at constructive thinking on this particular issue, and now apparently we have reached the stage when Dr. Coombs, one of the Government’s advisers, has become so desperate himself, that, at a conference in Perth, he suggested there should be modifications of the taxation system to improve public savings and to establish a general contributory superannuation scheme. I have not the time to read all his statements, but he suggested that surely we have been too long in endeavouring to deal with this particular matter, and when a servant of the Government says that so emphatically, it would appear to me to be an indictment of the Government that has been in office for ten years.
The same thing happens with regard to import licensing. Surely the Government has had time to have a look at import licensing and to try to determine some form of regulation which would be more in keeping at least with the liberal principles that it professes to follow. Import licensing in this community has been used to benefit the enriched in a way that it is not entitled to do. When the Government does little or nothing to deal with that very vexed and important question, I say that it has let the country down after being entrusted with a period of office in which it had everything in its favour.
I have always supported the allocation of the maximum amount possible for defence, even when people on this side of the Senate have opposed that, because I believe in defence and I realize that we face a serious situation abroad. Although I have endeavoured to obtain information, I must confess that I am completely mystified as to whether we have a defence programme in this country. I have listened throughout this debate for one of the spokesmen of the Government to tell us exactly what decisions it has made regarding defence and what it proposes to do, and I have yet to be informed. In a period such as this, when we face the gravest of dangers from abroad, it is amazing to me that the people of this country are so supine in the absence of evidence of proper action being taken for the future defence of Australia.
On the matter of migration, I should have expected the Government to stand firm. I was present at the 1958 Australian Citizenship Convention when matters of migration were discussed and when Dr. Evatt, on behalf of his party, demanded a decrease in the migration intake. I heard supporters of the Government virtuously declare that in no circumstances would the Government do that. They quoted the words of Mr. Albert Monk, to the effect that you could not turn migration on and off like a tap. Yet, when we examine the Budget we find a clear indication that the Government has turned migration off like a tap. For the first time, after continual inquiries and probing of the Government, we have an admission in the Budget that, although the Government determined three years ago that it would aim at an annual average net migration intake equal to about 1 per cent, of the population, it has failed to achieve that percentage. The Budget shows that for three years now the migration programme has fallen appreciably below 1 per cent., and it declares that this year the Government proposes to keep it below the net 1 per cent, increase.
– The Budget speech of the Treasurer states - “ Accordingly, this year it has been decided to adopt the target for gross intake of 125,000 people “, or 10,000 more than the 1958-59 target. Allow me to point out that the net intake in the last three years was supposed to be 115,000. If I am any judge - and 1 am open to be convinced to the contrary; indeed, I hope I am wrong - the only conclusion any one can draw from those figures is that this Government is budgeting openly, for the first time for three years, for a cut in the migration programme. Dr. Evatt is justified in claiming that the Government has accepted his migration programme.
As one who was opposed to what Dr. Evatt suggested, because I believe that we cannot fill this country with people quickly enough to face what is north of us, I regret that the Government, after repeated protestations that it was not going to accept the suggested cut in the migration programme, on its own figures has accepted it.
– The honorable senator’s figures are wrong.
– I have quoted the figures of the Government. As I have said, Government supporters are quite free to disprove what I have said, and I will welcome proof to the contrary.
Finally, I want to say that I think the Government could have done more constructive things in regard to some items covered by the Budget. I believe there are many people in this community who would gladly have given up the few shillings they are going to obtain from the 5 per cent, cut in their income tax if they had felt that the £20,000,000 that the reduction will mean was going to be applied to the people in need of social services. I have sufficient confidence in the ordinary working men. and women of this country to say that they would welcome the opportunity to retain taxation as it is and give that £20,000,000 for increases of pensions and other forms of social service. But if the Government did not think that that should be done, why not accept a suggestion, such as that of Senator Wright, that the money be devoted to reconditioning the Mount Isa-Townsville railway? If something like that were done we could at least claim that there was something constructive in view. Unfortunately, we have a few holes plugged here and there, a few things done here and there, but no sign of that Budget of broad vision that we are entitled to expect at a time such as this.
We see in this Budget no plan for the next ten years to cushion our economy against dangers external and internal that eventually will come, particularly now that there is a boom in progress that to some extent frightens me. I wonder how far we can go with an economic system in which take-overs are occurring every day, and when people offer fantastic sums to take over run-down businesses. I do not understand how those sums can ever be recouped. In my estimation, they are being applied to purposes which can only lead to inflation. As the Government has suggested that we have a stable economy and no inflation, perhaps I can do no better than to quote what the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank had to say at a recent science congress, when he made a call for a changed attitude by industrialists, traders, wageearners and consumers towards creeping inflation. He said -
Inflation is serious and a growing threat to the health of our economy.
If Dr. Coombs thinks that that is so, I am amazed that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) should tell us that everything in the garden is lovely. Who is right - the man who has been chosen as the head of our banking system, or the Treasurer? There are most disturbing trends in our economy at the present time, and for the life of me I cannot see anything in this Budget that is designed to arrest those trends.
One thing that might arrest them is a proper system of priorities for public works and capital expenditure, but there is no sign of that in this Budget, nor has there been any sign of it in the last ten years. There are no measures to encourage primary production. I was interested to hear a supporter of the Liberal Party point out where primary production stands today. I hope that supporters of the Australian Country Party will support him in the attack that he has made on the indifference of the Government to the plight of the primary producers. Decentralization, which is one of the most vital needs in this country, is forgotten so far as the Budget is concerned. In fact, there are proposals in the Budget that will cause country industries to close down. Therefore, I say that this is not a dynamic budget, a budget for progress, but merely a budget which coasts along. I hope that next year, when this Government is given the opportunity to present another budget, something will be done in the direction of dynamic and constructive thinking to prepare Australia for what is to come.
Some rather remarkable admissions have been made in regard to this Budget. First of all, the Budget had hardly hit the deck when it was announced that it was to be altered. Everybody can make a mistake, but. it is a strange thing that when a Cabinet devotes three months to the preparation of a budget, it should alter it a week later and then, another week later, alter it again. The Prime Minister, in explaining the necessity for the alterations, has said that, on the matters concerned,” to a big extent we werein the dark “., In the words that axe used in the suburb where I was born, he can say that again. After all, anybody who knew something of the situation from the point of view of the postage of newspapers, would have realized that the Budget proposals were going to have a very serious effect on the dissemination of information in this country. I say that in modem times, when we are all so anxious that there should be the utmost freedom, it is amazing to find the Government seeking as it does in its legislation on newspapers and books to put a prohibitive tax on the dissemination of knowledge. I feel that the Government was wrong in the attitude it adopted. I am glad it has altered its attitude twice already, and I hope that it will alter it a third time.
Then again, I understand that certain features of the Budget may not remain entirely as they now are, because in the Budget: one finds a reference to the fact that there still have to be consultations with pharmacists who are to implement certain features of the chemists’ reforms that are proposed. If there are discussions, I hope that the Government will devote some attention to the prices that are being charged for certain chemical goods that are brought into this country from abroad. We have been told that the doctors and the patients have been pushing up the prices so high that the Government had to do something. But instead of looking at the patients and the doctors we might have a look at instances such as those that are referred to in a letter I have received from a chemist, which I shall quote. In it, he states -
One aspect which should bear examination is the landed cost of many of the broad spectrum antibiotics which are mainly manufactured in the United States or United Kingdom. These drugs - quite truly referred to as “ life-saving “ drugs - are either subject directlyto a world Patent by the manufacturers or made under licence, and royalty paid to the owner ofthe patent.
The writer goes on to point out that -
Achromycinis identical with Panmycin - the former being made by Lederle Division of the Cyanamid Co. of New York. Panmycin is made by the Upjohn Co.
He goes on to state that it is an amazing thing that when the Government comes to buy these particular drugs, although they are prepared under different circumstances and by different companies, by an odd coincidence they happen to be the same price-66s.8d. for sixteen capsules. The letter is a long one and quite remarkable. As I have not time in which to. read out all of it, with the leave of the Senate I shall incorporate in “ Hansard “ two particular paragraphs, so that the Government may give consideration to the matter. They are as follows -
Terramycin and Synermycin, made by the Chas. Pfizer Company of New York, also cost] the same figure. Synermycin is identical almost with Achromycin V of Lederle, and Panmycin M of Upjohn. Once again the three companies, who are not related to my knowledge, charge the same price, and the drugs cost again 66s. 8d. per sixteen capsules.
Naturally the higher the landed cost,, the greater the dispensed cost, as everyone works on a cost plus basis. I do not know what margin the importer enjoys but the wholesalers get a discount of 20. per cent., which works out at 25 per cent. on cost. The chemist, by agreement with the Government, gets 33 per cent. on cost. I do not consider these margins excessive as there is some wastage occurring throughout. Not only aTe many things superseded, and the dealer left with “ dead stock “, but many of the preparations carry expiry dates, and with so much duplication of the same preparation, it is inevitable that with changing prescribing habits, stock deteriorates and expires -on the shelf.
Leaving that theme, Mr. President, .1 want to say this: The Government has two more years of office. At the completion of those two years it will have established a record since federation for the holding of office by a government of any political colour. However, although some members of the Government have suggested that they regard themselves as permanent, it would be very foolish of them to regard themselves as being permanently in office unless they can do a better job for the people of this country than is disclosed in the Budget. In saying that, 1 do not want to suggest that there is a rapprochement close at hand from this side of the chamber. No approaches have been made from either side.
– You can say that again.
– I do say, however, that whether there is ever going to be Labour unity will not be decided by people in Parliament or people on State executives. It will be decided by the rank and file voter who will make up his mind one day and give his decision in a way that will bring about some form’ of unity.
– There is no disunity in the Labour Party.
– When I look at what is happening in the Commonwealth Industrial Court between the Australian Workers Union and Mr. Cameron, when I see the Queensland president Bukowski outside the party and the A.W.U. disaffiliated in various States, and when I read the reports of some of the conferences - I am told by one of your colleagues that his impression of the last Victorian State conference was one of demijohns talking through demagogues - I wonder what has happened.
I conclude with this observation: It will not be very long before we will not be able to afford the luxury of divisions on this side or the other side of the chamber, because the pressure of world events is going to force all sections of this community into a form of unity whether they like it or not. This country faces the most terrible danger in its history. You can look at India and
Pakistan and see people in those countries who have far more cause to disagree than, we have getting together for one reason - self-preservation. My impression about all that is happening in this country to-day is that in many ways budgets do not matter so much and the ordinary humdrum affairs of politics do not matter so much. What is going to matter in the next ten years or fifteen years is our survival. I repeat that we are not going to be able to afford the luxury of division and disunity in this country.
– Mr. President, it was my intention in entering this debate merely to make some comments on remarks which have already been made in this chamber on the hydrographic and oceanography work at present being carried out by the Royal Australian Navy. But having just listened to Senator McManus who has made a fighting opposition speech such as we have grown unaccustomed to hearing from the Opposition itself in manner, but in form containing just as much inaccuracy and wrong thinking as we have become used to, I want to preface my remarks on oceanography by commenting on some of the things that he has raised, and which we have heard raised here before from the other side. I begin, Sir, by commenting on what Senator McManus said, as he finished, that the question before Australia may well be one of survival. If this is so - and I do not dispute it - then I ask: On what does survival depend? I suggest, Sir, that it depends clearly on having a country of high industrial capacity working without interruption. I suggest, also, that it depends on having a country which is expanding in all the forms which can make it strong when translated into a defence effort and make it grow during times of peace.
– Are you deceiving yourself by thinking we are secure now?
– I am at the moment laying down the basis on which strength for survival depends. It depends on these two things, I suggest, and it depends on having allies upon whom, should we ever need assistance, we can depend to help us tq survive. If those are the bases on which depends the attainment of that which Senator McManus wants, let us see how the way those things are now compares with the way they were when this Government came into office. Let us take the last matter first - having friends on whom we can depend for help in case of peril. Thanks to this Government, we have the Anzus pact, which will bring to our help and to the help of New Zealand the forces of the United States of America. We did not have it in 1949. When we got it, we were attacked by the Opposition for getting it. We have now in the Seato pact alliances with those Asian countries which wish, of their own free will, to enter into alliances with us for their and our protection. We did not have that pact in 1949. We were attacked bv the present Opposition when we got it, and we have been constantly and consistently attacked ever since for having it, and we are now under attack by the Opposition, which says that we have forgotten that need for the survival that Senator McManus wants. If these things are true, and every one here knows that they are true, that ir. what the Government has done to ensure our survival.
How do we fare in regard to that other guarantee of survival, a strong and expanding country? Is it not true that the development throughout Australia is greater now than it has ever been before? Do honorable senators think that they can go to someone in Gippsland, Victoria, which Senator McManus knows so well, and say that that area has not been transformed since 1949? Can we look at the power plants, the new irrigation projects, the electricity extensions, the Snowy dams, and all the other projects that are being pushed on and that, in their turn, are leading to immense private expansion of industrial capacity, and say that the face of Australia has not been transformed since 1949? Everybody knows that it has been transformed.
– You would not have expected all of those things to be done between 1941 and 1945.
– Whether or not I would have expected them to be done between 1941 and 1945 as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition asks by way of apology - agreeing by inference that what I said was true - they have been done since, and that is something to the credit of this country and it makes for the survival that Senator McManus said he wanted.
– What did we have in 1939?
– We had a war, but I do not go back to 1939. I am dealing with Senator McManus’s claim that this Government had done nothing since 1949 and with his subsequent claim that a struggle for survival is what faces this country. I have shown what has been done since 1949, what was not done before, and what is being attacked by the Opposition while it is being done. I speak not only of development, but also of continuous and uninterrupted production from that development. We have now, and have had for some time, the greatest record of industrial peace that has been known. Some of the credit for that is due to this Government, even if we put it at its worst and say that the only credit this Government can claim is that it introduced court-controlled ballots that enabled the unions to throw out of office those who were interrupting production - not for Australian purposes. We did not have that provision in 1949. We have it now. We were attacked when we brought it in, and it is still being attacked by the Opposition. All of those things are vital to survival, and all of those things have been done. Senator McManus asked what of significance this Government had done since 1949. There are three significant things.
Let us go on to another point. He asked what this Government had done, for which it would be remembered. He asked what great public works it had initiated, and he implied that there was none. I point out that rail standardization has been entered upon by the Government, after having been talked about for generations by the governments which preceded it in this place. When we see rail freight flowing uninterrupted between Sydney and Melbourne - work on that section is now well advanced - and then a link through to Western Australia, that will be something of great significance to Australia and one of the great public works that this Government has done.
All the self-evident development that has occurred, all the new projects upon which we have embarked, and all the new undertakings started by Labour which we have pushed on with increased energy and emphasis during our term of office give the lie to any suggestion that we have been supine during the last ten years, and that nothing has happened. Over and over again, we have been told that these things have been easy because there have been no problems to contend with, that these achievements have just come out of the abby some magic formula which no other government had, and that we are just lucky it happened that way.
There were problems to overcome during this decade, and we should not forget it. There was a period of war in Korea in which Australian forces - taking into account the size of Australia - were massively engaged. Our forces have been and are in Malaya, with all the waste, expense and difficulty that is involved, engaged on helping towards the survival of which Senator McManus speaks. Violent fluctuations in the price of our basic commodity, wool, faced the Government, and would have faced any government, with economic difficulties and problems of the greatest magnitude. These difficulties have not been overcome easily or lightly, but that they have been overcome the results quite definitely show.
One, and only one, of the ways in which they have been overcome has been by the exhibition on more than one occasion of courage on the part of this Government. It has not been frightened to take the most unpopular action if it felt that the economic good of Australia required it. I throw the minds of honorable senators back to the special wool tax that was imposed when the price of wool soared to a point which, because of the sudden impact on our economy, could have lead to financial disaster. That wool tax was violently opposed by the wool growers and by the people generally, but these are the very people who now come along and say, “Thank goodness that tax was imposed, because in the succeeding years it helped us to overcome difficulties that would otherwise have overwhelmed us “. It was unpopular at the time, but it has been since proved to have been right.
On another occasion, when difficulties of this kind and character - though not so spectacularly self-evident - faced the Government, it was not afraid to bring in a “ horror “ budget which was most unpopular, as this Government knew it would be, but which did the job for which it was designed. I say that a government which has that record on promoting the survival of Australia, on the development of Australia, on overcoming problems, and that record of courage - although it can be criticized, as it should be, in this place - cannot have levelled against it the charge that nothing has been done, and that everything that has happened has been perfectly easy.
Let us examine some of the methods by which those ends have been reached and see what would have happened if this Government had not been in office. One of the ways by which Australia has expanded so rapidly, with consequent advantage to every employee in the country, has been the attraction of overseas capital for both public and private development. That cannot be argued against.
– Of course it can.
– You may disagree with the principle, but there is no arguing against the fact that overseas capital has been attracted to Australia and that it has helped development. They are the two points I make. That would not have happened if a Labour government had been in office. That is self-evident from the way in which honorable senators opposite are now interjecting. Rightly or wrongly, they would have set their faces against the attraction of overseas capital to Australia. Many hampering controls have been lifted since 1949. Ever since that time, even during this Budget debate, the Opposition has been hankering after the re-imposition of those controls. Opposition senators have said that that is what we need, and that they would re-impose controls if they were returned to office. So, if the lifting of controls helped the expansion of this country - I believe it did - such expansion would not have occurred if this Government had not been in office.
Senator McManus has told us that at one stage the Labour Party, through its leader and some of the senior members of the Labour executive, attacked the rate at which the immigration intake was running some two or three years ago. I have forgotten the exact date when that change of policy on the part of the Labour Party was forecast. I point out that this Government has not reduced the intake of immigrants. Indeed, this year it has increased the intake. I believe that the target of 115,000 migrants to which Senator McManus referred was a gross figure, just as the target of 125,000 at which we are aiming this year also is a gross figure. So a comparison of the current migrant target of 125,000 with the previous target of 115,000, both figures being gross, does not indicate a cutting of the intake. 1 Senator Kennelly. - The intake will end up at 70,000 or 80,000, even though the gross figure is 125,000.
– I point out, in reply to Senator Kennelly, that it is now more difficult to get migrants than it was earlier. Proof of the desire of the Government to get more migrants is to be found in the recent highly successful visit overseas of the present Minister for Immigration, Mr. Downer, who tried to fill the enlarged quota for the current year. If Dr. Evatt’s forecast of some couple of years ago had become Labour policy - I do not know what Labour’s policy on this matter is–
– They do not, either.
– Perhaps they do not. Dr. Evatt was and still is Leader of the Labour Opposition. If his forecast had become Labour policy, we would not be witnessing the effort that is being exerted by this Government to attain the immigration target which has been set for this year.
To what specific works other than rail standardization can we look to see what this Government has done to bring our economy to the comparatively successful state in which it is now to be found? I suggest that from the initiation of an atomic research programme at Lucas Heights will grow things that will be of great benefit to Australia. I suggest that the immense impetus which has been given to the search for oil - the finding of which would transform- our economy - during this Government’s term of office is something which can well be remembered to our credit. It seems to me, Mr. President, that every reference to anything that has been done by this Government is greeted with the suggestion from the Opposition that what has been done conforms to Labour’s policy. If that be so, all I can say is that
Labour has not carried out its policy. But we have done, those things, and we are entitled to claim credit for them. I have been incited to say what I have said by the remarks of my friend,. Senator McManus.
Before I move to a subject that was raised by Senator Kendall, there are one or two complementary remarks that I wish to make. We have heard a lot during this debate about the perilous state in which the farmers of Australia find themselves. I have not been able to study in detail the figures which have been quoted and therefore have been unable to come to a final decision on them. But things have been done to help the farmers. Great taxation concessions have been given by this Government in former budgets - if I remember rightly, they have been attacked by the Opposition - to enable the private farmer to put some of his profits into developing his farm for the benefit of Australia generally.
– They have never been attacked.
– I may be wrong in saying they were attacked, and I withdraw that statement. I point out that I only said I thought they were attacked. So we can take it that it is agreed that we have given that stimulus to the farmers and that that action on our part meets with the full approbation of the Opposition.
– But it was not sufficient.
– But it is unanimously agreed that what we did was good. The degree of assistance that has been given to the dairy farmer, the sugar grower and various other sections of primary industry has been no worse - I believe it has been much better - than that which was given to them before this Government assumed office. I am quite certain that it has been much better than it would have been if this Government had not been in office. If we had not been in office, we might well’ have found the produce of the farmer taken from him, as it was when the present Opposition was in office, and sold below the cost of production to some of the Opposition’s socialist friends in another country.
– One would expect you to do a little better than that.
– Be that as it may, it is fairly clear, if you go to many parts of this country to which I have been, that the prices which people are prepared to pay for land and at which the owners are prepared to- sell-
– They are scandalous.
– Why are they scandalous? I shall’ finish that statement. The suggestion is that the land is selling for too high a price. This is the very point I was about to make. Those prices do not indicate that the owners of that land or those who are prepared to buy it are on the breadline. It is undeniable, Mr. President, that the standard of living in Australia has risen very much since 1930, when I first went onto the land.
Another point about which we have heard a good deal during this debate is the need for the abolition of uniform taxation. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Senator Sir Walter Cooper; and: Bead, at first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
[8.1]. - 1 move -
That, the, bill be now read a second time.
The Budget which the Government has recently brought down makes provision for substantial increases in repatriation benefits, not only in the matter of higher pension rates, but also in other benefits including increased allowances and the provision of additional facilities for medical treatment in certain cases. The main purpose of the bill which is now before the Senate is to amend the Repatriation Act, where it is necessary to do so, to give effect to those provisions. At the same time some other minor amendments are being made to the act and’ these I will explain more fully later.
Firstly, I should like’ to outline1 in some greater detail than it was possible for the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to do in his Budget speech, the additional benefits to which I have referred. Substantial increases are’ being made in the main rates of pension payable in respect of death or incapacity due to war service. The bill amends the Second Schedule to increase the special rate pension by 15s. a week. This is the rate commonly referred to as the T.P.I, pension and paid to ex-servicemen who are totally and permanently incapacitated, or who have been blinded as the result of war service, and’ to certain- war’ pensioners suffering from tuberculosis. The new T.P.I. pension payable to an unmarried person will therefore become £12” 5s. a week.
A married totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner and his wife will now receive war pensions of £12 5s. for the husband, and £1 15s. 6d. for the wife, a total of £14 0s. 6d. a week between them free of means test. They may also qualify for an age, invalid or service pension which is payable in addition to their war pension. Following the increases provided in the Budget the maximum amount which a married couple’ will be able to receive from both kinds of pension will rise by 15s. a week to £16 10s. a week. This amount is, of course, free of income tax.
As the position regarding the additional means test pension which a married totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner may receive is not always clearly understood I should like at this stage to say a few words about it. When the Government, in 1955, removed the special ceiling limits, a married totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner and his wife, both of whom had previously been debarred from receiving a service or social service pension, then became qualified to receive one subject to their being able to satisfy the conditions of the means test which takes war pension into account as income. Between them they may now receive an additional means- test pension not exceeding the difference between the total of their war pensions and the maximum amount of income plus pension permitted to a married couple under the means test applicable to social service pensioners and which has been adopted for service pension purposes. When the new rates are in operation they may receive between them a means test pension of up to £2 9s. 6d. a week which added to their war pension of £14 Os. 6d. reaches the means test limit of £16 10s. a week. These amounts are not affected by any pension or education allowance payable to a child as these are not taken into account when assessing the parents’ pensions. Other allowances, such as the attendant’s allowance and the recreation and transport allowance, are not taken into account. I might add that a married couple in receipt of combined war pensions of £14 0s. 6d. and the £2 9s. 6d. additional means test pension who are also eligible to receive an attendant’s allowance and a recreation and transport allowance, would be in receipt of £21 Ils. a week, tax free.
The second schedule to the Repatriation Act also enables the commission to determine a rate of pension for sufferers from tuberculosis who, while not being totally and permanently incapacitated, are only capable of performing work of a light to medium nature. This rate, known as the “ Class B rate for tuberculosis “, will be adjusted following the passage of this bill, to grant an increase of 10s. a week, making the new rate £8 12s. 6d. a week.
War widows are also to receive a pension increase of 7s. 6d. a week bringing the amount up to £5 5s. a week, while those who are entitled to a domestic allowance will receive a further 7s. 6d. a week, the new rate of domestic allowance being £2 15s. a week, making a total for war pension and domestic allowance of £8 a week. Domestic allowance is. paid to a war widow who is over the age of 50 years, or is permanently unemployable, or who has a child or children under the age of sixteen years. The allowance is also paid to a widow with a child over the age of sixteen years so long as that child is continuing with its education or training. As over 90 per cent, of war widows receive domestic allowance the majority of the widows will receive a total increase of 15s. a week.
Where there are children, the family income of a war widow or a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman is augmented by the pension paid in respect of each child and an education allowance which commences when the child reaches the age of twelve years. At the age of sixteen years, when the child’s pension ceases, the education allowance is increased and other appropriate assistance is provided which enables the child to proceed to higher education or training including a technical or professional qualification.
The general rate - that is the 100 per cent, rate, as we call it - war pension forincapacity is to be increased by 7s. 6d. a week, making the new rate £5 10s. a week. General rate pensioners may also qualify for an age, invalid or service pension subject to the means test provisions which I have mentioned above in relation to t.p.i. pensioners and those in receipt of this benefit will also receive an increase in age, invalid or service pension of up to 7s. 6d. a week in addition to the increase in war pension. Their children also receive pensions to add to the family income.
Under the fifth schedule to the Repatriation Act amounts are payable, in addition to war pension, to those who have suffered an amputation or partial loss of vision due to their war service. These amounts are all being increased. Increases range from 5s. to 15s. a week, according to the nature of the disability. The new weekly rates will range from 13s. 6d. to £6 15s. a week-
Although, as it is to be granted by way of regulation, it does not form part of the bill now before the Senate, this would be an appropriate stage to mention a new benefit which is to be introduced. A special scale of allowances to be known as a clothing allowance is to be provided towards meeting the cost of repair or replacement of clothing, where deterioration has been caused by the use of oils, ointments or other substances used in the necessary treatment of an accepted war disability, or by the use of an artificial limb or surgical appliance consequent upon such a disability.
This allowance will be paid in two different ways. An amount ranging from 3s. 9d. to 7s. 6d. a week according to the nature of the disability will be paid to all eligible amputees. In other cases where the damage is caused by the nature of the treatment, for example, the use of oils or ointments in treating a disease of the skin or the wearing of a surgical appliance, compensation up to a maximum of £9 15s. a year may be paid by way of either a lump sum or an allowance according to the nature and extent of the damage caused.
The increase of 7s- 6d. a week in the rates of age and invalid pension will also apply to the service pension of an exserviceman. The new rate will be £4 15s. a week. The maximum amount which a service pensioner may have by way of income and pension before his service pension is reduced below that maximum rate will accordingly rise from £7 17s. 6d. a week to £8 5s. a week, and, as I have pointed out, to twice that amount in the case of married couples.
Substantial increases are also being provided in the amount payable under the regulations to persons travelling in connexion with medical treatment or for pension purposes, or in order to attend at hearings before an entitlement appeal or assessment appeal tribunal. The maximum rate of £1 10s. a day will rise to £2 14s. a day, and proportionate increases are to be made in respect of broken periods of less than one day.
Also, the allowances paid as compensation for loss of salary or wages incurred because of attendances for medical treatment, or for pension purposes, are to be increased by 25 per cent. Both of these allowances are paid under the regulationsand accordingly do not require any amendment of the act by this bill.
Additional facilities for medical treatment have been provided for war widows, children of deceased ex-servicemen, and those widowed mothers of deceased exservicemen who are entitled to free medical treatment from the Repatriation Department. In addition to the facilities which have previously been available to them, they will now be able to receive treatment at the Repatriation Department’s out-patient clinics, and in certain circumstances, where the necessities of treatment require it, at non-departmental institutions, including country hospitals. Treatment in country hospitals will also be available where transfer of the patient to a Repatriation General Hospital in a capital city would cause unreasonable domestic hardship. This concession will be welcomed by war widows who may not wish to be separated by too great a distance from young children. Finally, the range of specialist treatment available to them is to be extended.
I pass now to the other amendments to the Repatriation Act to which I referred earlier in my speech. An amendment is to be made to section 83 of the Repatriation Act to ensure that the new clothing allowance, which 1 have mentioned, will not be taken into account as income when a service pension is being assessed.
Section 54 of the act is also to be amended. An ex-serviceman who served in the forces of a part of the Queen’3 Dominions other than the Commonwealth, in an operational area, and who at the time of his enlistment was domiciled in Australia, and the dependants of such a person, are eligible for a war pension if the claimant for pension satisfies a further condition as to residence in Australia.
In the case of service in the 1939 war and the Korea and Malaya operations, the residential requirement is that the claimant for pension is resident in Australia at the time of the grant of the pension.
In the case of the 1914 war the pension is payable only while the person remains a bona fide resident in Australia. Not only must he, therefore, be resident in Australia at the time of the grant, but his pension ceases if he leaves Australia to reside elsewhere. 1 propose that this anomaly, which imposes a hardship on the ex-servicemen of the 1914 war and their dependants, be removed by amending section 54 to provide that the requirements in regard to residence be residence at the date of grant of a pension.
The third amendment deals with dual pensions. It relates to the circumstances under which a war pension or similar payment payable under the law of another part of Her Majesty’s dominions is to be taken into account when assessing a war pension under the Repatriation Act. These payments arise where an ex-serviceman has served in the forces of another dominion as well as in the Australian forces, or has served in the forces of another dominion and he or his dependants are eligible for a pension under the Repatriation Act as well as under the law of that dominion.
Until recently it had been thought that all payments of this nature were to be taken into account. However, legal opinion has now been expressed that this provision does not. apply to any war -pension or similar payment made by another dominion government where ‘there is a discretion in the appropriate government authority of that other dominion to cancel or withhold payment, but that it applies only where payment of the amount could be enforced by the pensioner -as a legal right under the law of that dominion. lt seems equitable that any such discretionary payment, in the nature of a war pension, .should be taken into account, if it is in fact being paid, although there may be some possibility of this being cancelled or suspended at a future date. The amendment proposes that this be done.
Before concluding I should like to take this opportunity of paying tribute to the trustees and executive officers associated with the Sir Samuel Mccaughey bequest. The magnificent bequest of the late Sir Samuel Mccaughey yielded an amount in the vicinity of £800,000 for the education of children of deceased and disabled exservicemen of the 1-914-18 war.
The trustees have now almost completed their task, and the thanks of all who have the welfare of the children of ex-servicemen at heart are due to them and the executive officers. As Minister for Repatriation I should just like to add my own thanks especially for the manner in which they have at all times co-operated with my predecessors and the Repatriation Commission in ensuring that the maximum benefit was obtained for children who received assistance both from the trust and under the soldier’s children education scheme, which the commission administers.
The increases in pensions and allowances provided in this bill will apply from the first pension pay day after the amending act comes into force and the increases in other allowances from the same date. The additional medical benefits for war widows and others to which I have referred are already in operation.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill presented by Senator Paltridge, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Seamens War ‘Pensions and Allowances Act, which it is proposed to amend, first came into operation in 1940 and has since been amended nine times. Since 1952, the act has been amended each year, except 1956, to authorize increases in certain pensions paid to Australian mariners incapacitated by war injury, and dependants of Australian mariners, which had been approved by the Government and for which provision had been made in the respective Budgets. It is the practice to maintain pensions payable under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act at the same level as the pensions payable to the corresponding classes- of pensioners under the Repatriation Act. The latter act is being amended to implement the Government’s decision to increase pensions of incapacitated exmembers of the forces and war widows and provision has been made in the bill to grant similar increases under the Seamens War Pensions and Allowances Act.
A pensioner under that act who is totally and permanently incapacitated, or who suffers .from a special disability, receives a special pension at the same rate as is specified under the Repatriation Act. Widows, and Australian mariners who are totally but not .permanently incapacitated, .are granted pensions at the rates specified for general pensions in the first schedule to the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, and a partially incapacitated pensioner receives a pension at .a rate equivalent to such percentage rate as corresponds to the percentage of his incapacity. Provision is made in the repatriation bill for the amendment of the second schedule of the Repatriation Act to increase the special rate by 15s. a week from £11 10s. to £12 5s. a week, and also for increases ranging from 5s. to 15s. a week in the rate of pensions payable for amputations or partial loss of vision as referred to in the fifth schedule to the Repatriation Act. In accordance with section 22a of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, these increased rates will be automatically applied to Australian mariners suffering similar incapacity or disability, and it is therefore unnecessary to include provision for these increases in the bill now under consideration.
Totally incapacitated mariners in receipt of pensions at the general pension rate specified in the first schedule to the act at present receive pensions ranging from £5 2s. 6d. to £6 0s. 6d. a week. This class df pensioner will receive an all-round increase of 7s. 6d. a week, the weekly rates thus being increased to amounts ranging from £5 10s. to £6 8s. a week. The existing scale of pensions payable to widows of Australian-mariners ranges from £4 17s. 6d. to £5 15s. 6d. a week. These pensioners will also receive an all-round increase of 7s. 6d. a week, and the rates will then range from £5 5s. to £6 3s. per week. The bill includes provision for the amending act to. come into operation on the day on which it receives Royal Assent and for the increased pensions to become payable on the first pension pay day thereafter. The increases .proposed will, I feel sure, have the support of all “honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 447).
– In the five minutes remaining to me to complete my interrupted remarks on hydrography and oceanography, a matter raised by Senator Kendall, I should like to say that I have taken particular notice of what the honorable senator has said on not only this, but also other occasions for, as we all know, the honorable senator has taken a great interest in marine surveying and indeed marine aspects in general since he has been a member of this Senate. I should like, however, to take issue gently on some of the specific suggestions contained in his Budget speech. In my opinion, those suggestions indicated a mistaken belief that the Royal Australian Navy was not spending sufficient time or effort on hydrographic and oceanographic research and that such research as was done was not being done with what he regarded as the proper equipment.
One of the reasons why I have taken particular notice of this is mat, as he has said, our knowledge of what goes on under the -sea is indeed less than our knowledge of .what goes on in space. Further, what goes on- under’.the sea is of not only immense military importance, but also immense scientific importance for it. is important that we have a complete knowledge of the way ocean currents .flow and why they flow in certain directions. It is also .of importance that we. have a full understanding of what lives at certain depths in the ocean, of how what lives there is able to sustain the immense pressures to which it is subjected, and on what it lives. It is important to know what sort of country it lives over, whether there are mountain ranges at the bottom of ‘the sea, whether there are ravines or grassy plots. AH these things are of interest not only militarily but also scientifically.
Because they are of interest, the Royal Australian Navy has ‘been for some time and is now expending. a; great deal of effort in trying to find out more about them. We do have now in commission and in operation a number of ships employed on this specific work. Among them are H.M.A.S. “Warrego” a sloop of 1,500 tons, H.MAS. “Barcoo” a sloop of 2,217 tons, which is shortly to come into commission,
I, 489 tons, H:M.A.S. “ Kimbla “ a vessel of 900 tons, H1M.A.S. “ Swan “ a sloop of 1,523 tons, and a small auxiliary tender. ILM.A.S. “Swan” is only intermittently engaged on this work, but the others are very largely engaged on it.
We of the Navy thought that while we were carrying out this scientific work we would endeavour at the same time to provide an opportunity for training our recruits as seamen, engine-room mechanicians and so on, and for that reason commissioned HJVI.A.S. “ Diamentina “, H.M.A.S “Gascoyne” and H.M.A.S. “Warrego”, which I gather Senator Kendall thought were improper ships for the performance of this scientific research work, while at the same time giving the recruits who were manning them an opportunity of learning their ship and an opportunity of learning their job for a specific purpose which would be of use to Australia and the world.
These rather large ships were, therefore, selected for that joint purpose. The ships themselves are not of as much significance as is the equipment that is provided for a specific purpose of this kind, with the one proviso that the ships should be - and indeed are - sufficiently large to undertake long ocean voyages, not to be restricted as to range, and large enough to contain the necessary scientific laboratories and other equipment which ought to be in ships of this kind carrying out this sort of work.
The type of equipment which is installed in H.M.A.S. “Warrego”, for instance, is one of the most modern, accurate navigation radars to enable the vessel to determine its position exactly for the purpose of carrying out surveys. The present radar is good. It will be superseded by the most modern radar available, which is already on order and will be put in the ship next year. It has fitted in it a deep echo sounder which only came into production this year, and which is immensely accurate, to enable the height of the bottom of the ocean, in deep water, to be measured accurately and properly. This is United States equipment, because there is no United Kingdom equipment which is as good as this particular production. The ship has shallow water echo sounders in it. These are made to Admiralty design of 1958, which, as honorable senators will see is not very out-of-date equipment or in any way obsolete. It is believed to be the best design offering. The ship also has in it an asdic search receiver, which has been modified for hydrographic work. There is also an electronic device, again to enable it to assess exactly the position in which it is when it is taking the soundings that are required. There are also chart reproduction sets, a gyro compass, and a helicopter platform, which is a new fitting for these ships. There is a bathy-winch fitted on these three new frigates in order to enable Nansen bottles of Australian design to bring up from 2i miles below the surface of the water samples of the ocean bottom, so that they can be analysed by scientists, quarters for whom are provided in the ships, while they are on patrol, in a laboratory built to Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization specifica tions in the most modern way, which is also on the ship. In this way the scientists can see that the work is done as soon as the samples of ocean bottom, or whatever it may be, are brought to the ship.
These installations are on “ Diamentina “, “ Gascoyne “, “ Barcoo “, and “ Warrego “. It is, I think, difficult to envisage more comprehensive hydrographic and oceanographic equipment than there is on these ships. As a result of that equipment, and of a survey carried out on the Sarhool Banks by the Royal Australian Navy, both the Admiralty, in 1958, and the International Hydrographic Bureau at Monaco, remarked most favorably on the Royal Australian Navy’s activities in this field, in their review on worldwide hydrography.
I therefore feel that the strictures, if they are strictures, or the quite proper requests for information, if they are requests for information, made by Senator Kendall have been shown by the facts not to be justified.
– But they were not there when I started talking about the matter.
– If the honorable senator means, when he started talking about it yesterday, they were there. Since this is an important matter, and one to which I think we should turn our minds, I have given the Senate the picture as it is at the present moment. Perhaps I may add just one more fact. Having regard to its size, the Royal Australian Navy is putting forth more effort in the scientific field than is any other navy in the world. There is nothing spectacular about this. The guns do not boom and the torpedoes do not run, but the nation as a whole is better for the work being done in this field. I think that Senator Kendall is to be commended for having brought it to the attention of the Senate.
.- I must say that the last five minutes of the speech of the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) were much more informative than were his remarks before the suspension of the sitting for dinner. On behalf of the Australian Labour Party, I find it necessary to correct two misstatements that the Minister made. They would not matter so much if it were not for the fact that they have gone over the air to the people of Australia. The Minister claimed that a Liberal government first introduced court-controlled ballots in order to overcome foul or crooked work in trade union elections. I point out that it was a Labour government which first introduced court-controlled ballots for the protection of the unions and unionists from other unionists who might try to do unscrupulous acts.
Secondly, the Minister claimed that when the present Government took over from the previous Labour Government in 1949 it was necessary to issue £15,000,000 worth of credit through the Commonwealth Bank in order to carry on. That was a gross misstatement. I would not have been surprised had it been made by certain supporters of the Government, but it was surprising coming from a responsible Minister. The fact is that at that time the Liberal Government redeemed £15,000,000 worth of credit through the Commonwealth Bank. I will deal with this matter later in my remarks, because it has some connexion with statements made by Senator Wade when he was working the parish pump during a general election campaign. The honorable senator stated that the Australian Labour Party had rolled out an issue of credit. The facts show that Liberal-Country Party Governments, during the last couple of decades, have been rolling out an unlimited issue of credit through the Commonwealth Bank. I have figures to substantiate what I have said, and I shall give them to the honorable senator later.
Another statement that I wish to correct was that made by Senator McManus in referring to Dr. Evatt and the attitude of the Australian Labour Party to migration. I think it is well known to the public of Australia that it was a Labour Government that inaugurated one of the most vigorous migration policies ever undertaken. In fact, every available ship was commandeered for the purpose of bringing migrants to this country. Hundreds of thousands of migrants were brought here and placed in productive work by the Labour Government. What Dr. Evatt did was to say, as all Labour supporters said, when unemployment was snowballing, that if the Government could not find employment for the new Australians already in Australia, and for Australians who were unemployed, it should curtail migration until such time as employment could be found for them. I think that that was a sensible outlook. It was ludicrous to bring migrants into the country and have them sitting about in hostels all over Australia, at the expense of the taxpayers, because jobs could not be found for them. We had that position at one time, and I think there is a bit of it going on to-day.
– That was during your regime.
– There was none of it during our period of government. Every man had a job. In fact, as I said earlier, we could not find sufficient transport to bring to this country all the men that were needed to fill the jobs available.
That position changed completely when the Liberal-Country Party Government came to office. If Labour were in office tomorrow, it would not curtail the immigration programme, but it would find work for all the Australians and New Australians who are now unemployed. Labour would bring more migrants to the country and have jobs waiting for them when they came. That is the Labour Party’s policy, which is completely different from the picture that Senator McManus tried to paint.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the Government should find employment for the immigrants?
– I do. I give Senator McManus full marks in that connexion, but he should concentrate his attack on this Government, not the gentleman who was the responsible Minister in the previous Labour Government.
– I thought that the honorable senator was defending the Government.
– I am not defending the Government. I say that this Government would not now be in office but for the great assistance that Senator McManus and his fellow travellers gave to the antiLabour parties at the last general election. But for that assistance, the picture to-day would have been completely different from what it is.
Senator Wright stated that the Labour Party is governed by a caucus. Of course, we have caucus meetings, but so also has the Liberal Party. But judging from the manner in which Senator Wright to-day castigated the Government - I have never heard greater castigation from the Opposition side - it would seem that there is greater harmony and more unity in OU] caucus than in the Liberal caucus. The Liberal caucus must be a bunch of rebels if it allowed Senator Wright to deliver 10 it a speech similar to the one that he made in this chamber to-day. However, I am not disagreeing with Senator Wright’s speech any more than I would disagree with the speech on the Budget that was made by Senator McKenna. To-day, Senator Wright repeated in no uncertain manner all the things we have been telling the Government about for years. For instance, he pointed out that the money deposited in various banks in 1949 would then buy twice as many commodities as it would to-day. Senator Wright devoted about twenty minutes of his speech, not to the subject of putting value back into the £1 but in pointing out how this Government has taken value out of the £1 - which is what we have been saying for the last ten years. The Government might take more notice of this criticism now that it has been made by one of its own supporters. It is pleasing to us to know that we have converted at least one member of the Government ranks to the right way of thinking about this matter. Of course, Senator Wright does not fool me. On previous occasions, when legislation has been before this chamber, I have heard him oppose a bill and say what he was going to do when the vote was taken; but as that time approached his heels were seen disappearing through the doorway into the lobby. Senator Wright will have an opportunity, when the vote is taken on Senator McKenna’s amendment, to prove the sincerity of his remarks.
– The honorable senator should not misquote -him.
– He will show by his vote whether or not he has been preaching. At this stage, I should like to make a constructive suggestion, because nothing constructive has been advanced from the Government side or from some honorable senators on my left. Senator Wright issued a warning about the instability of our economy and emphasized that inflation is continuing year after year. Whenever honorable senators on this side have stated that ‘inflation is increasing, supporters of the Government have replied that we were preaching a policy of doom.
On the one hand, the Government proposes to .reduce direct taxation by 5 per cent., but on the other hand it is going to increase postage and telephone charges. Such increases will aggravate inflation. According to the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), the total additional revenue expected to accrue from increases in postal, telephone and telegraph charges is £17,800,000 a year. Needless to say, the business community will pass on to the public the increased charges. If the Government desired genuinely to grant some relief to the community, it could have left the postal charges as they are and refrained from granting the small direct income tax reduction. By so doing, inflation would not have been accentuated. But having decided to increase postal charges, it would have been preferable for the Government to reduce sales tax, rather than income tax, by 5 per cent., so that the saving to the community on sales tax would offset the increased postal charges.
I submit this constructive suggestion for the Government’s consideration. By reducing sales tax the Government would give assistance to the people in the community most in need of it, because sales tax hits a number of commodities. I point out that a married man having six or eight persons in his family has to pay sales tax on -six or eight times as many commodities as are purchased by a single man. A single wealthy person pays sales tax only on his own requirements. Therefore, as I have said, a reduction of sales tax would give the greatest benefit to those who most need assistance. On the other hand, the proposed 5 per cent, reduction of income tax will confer greater benefits on the wealthy sections of the community. The wealthier a man is, the more benefit - running into hundreds of pounds - he will receive; the working man will gain practically nothing.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the wealthy people at Surfers Paradise?
– You might have something there, because, judging from the ^hundreds of millions of pounds that are being spent there, some of those people must be giving the Government the slip on taxation. There is a way in which the Government could have assisted the people who are justly entitled to assistance without causing further inflation. It was referred to by Senator Wright. The Government is not satisfied with snipping a little bit off the small man; it goes further than that. Again citing the case of a family of eight persons, I point out that the taxpayer would be likely to have to pay eight times as much as a single man or woman on account of sickness. On this basis, the family man will be required to pay £2 extra for prescriptions, compared with only 5s. extra that will be payable for a prescription by .a single person. Once again, an additional burden is being imposed on the people who are most entitled to taxation relief. Apparently, this charge is being introduced in order to offset the proposed taxation rebate of £20,000,000 a year. The effect of the imposition of a charge of 5s. per prescription will be to negative the tax rebate. It is significant to note that the proposed charge for prescriptions will bear most heavily on persons in receipt of low incomes, not on the wealthy section of the community. Nobody can deny that. There is nothing along those lines in this Budget for the Government to be proud of. Senator Wright has pointed time and again to the inflationary .trend.
Several honorable senators have referred to the Townsville to Mount Isa railway. I do not agree with ‘Senator Wright’s proposal for the issue of bonds and the giving of taxation concessions. If the Government were in ‘earnest in desiring to open up the country with the aid of a modern railway, it could have got the money within two hours. If the Government told the Australian public that it wanted a loan of £22,000^000, .under the same conditions as it is offering Americans for a dollar loan, the amount would be over-subscribed within two hours. The Government would not make that effort in the interests of Australian development. If the Government is dinkum, and if it believes that an improved railway should be there - I do not believe that it does - it could get the money from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. All that the
Government need do is to give the backing of the Australian Commonwealth. If the national Government guaranteed repayment, we would see how quickly the loan could be provided. I do not believe that the Government wants it.
Now there is talk about getting a loan for the purpose from West Germany, our former enemy that was supposed to be down and out when we were on top of the world. Did honorable senators ever before hear of such a .thing? Fancy going outside our own country <to borrow money when we have here nearly all the materials required and when we can, without much effort, manufacture the rest! We have surplus labour with which to build the railway. All that is needed is somebody in government with sufficient brains to know how to finance the project. What a perilous position this country would have been in with financiers such as that during the war! Did we stop the progress of our war effort for the sake of £22,000,000? Of course, we did not. Is any government justified in stopping the development of this country for the sake of a measly £22,000,000?
The Government knows that it could proceed to rebuild the railway, if it so desired, in .the same way as it is proceeding with the .Snowy Mountains scheme, financing the bulk of .the work from revenue. Does the Government think so little of the people that it would .not offer them sufficiently attractive terms to persuade them to lend £22,000,000 for the development of this country? If the Government wanted to rebuild this railway, it could start on it to-morrow, without going outside Australia to borrow £22,000,000. There are plenty of good, loyal Australians. We can see signs of hundreds -of millions of pounds being spent privately on development. The Government would not need to offer as attractive terms as it is offering America for a dollar loan. It is not to the Government’s credit that it would not guarantee a loan for the Queensland Government. The Government is less interested in the development of that part of Australia than in the development of Victoria and New South Wales. It thinks that it has the votes of Queensland tied up, and can put Queenslanders to one side to await their turn. The remedy is in the hands of the Queensland people themselves. 1 strongly oppose hawking the prestige of this country around the world. I read in the press a statement that the Treasurer left yesterday in an effort to beg or borrow - i nearly said “ or steal “, but 1 have a higher regard for him than to say that - 25,000,000 dollars. He said that it would assist considerably in budgeting for the stability of this country. First he will go to America and offer such terms as, if offered in Australia, would result in Australians over-subscribing that amount in two hours. He is even going to little Switzerland, if he cannot borrow the money in the United States of America or Canada. An amount of 5,000,000 dollars was obtained previously from Switzerland.
As long ago as 1956, we owed 411,000,000 dollars to America. If the Treasurer raises 25,000,000 dollars there, we can be sure that a decent slice of it - say, 18,000,000 or 19,000,000 dollarswill go back in the first year as interest on that 411,000,000 dollars. That would not leave much to help balance the Budget. Fancy a Treasurer so devoid of brains as to hawk Australia’s credit all round the world. He and his fellow Ministers pride themselves on the fact that we have one of the highest standards of living in the world, and that we are one of the most prosperous countries. After interest is paid on the dollars already borrowed, the bulk of the balance of the new loan will go in the profits taken out by American firms operating in this country. Those profits are sent to America, and we must have dollars there to meet them. Subtracting these two items from the total amount to be borrowed, how much will be left for anything useful? The balance would not be sufficient to enable a start to be made on the Mount Isa railway. The confidence of the Australian people will be lost if they are not given the opportunity to finance such projects.
Senator Wade has conveniently disappeared from the chamber. I cannot let him get away with a false statement that he made in his speech during this debate, when he referred to credit. Nor can 1 overlook a similarly false statement mads by the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton). Senator Wade said that if we were in office we would cause unlimited credit to be given by the Commonwealth
Bank, but what is the true picture? In 1942, when the Japanese were advancing towards us, the Labour Government issued £78,000,000 in treasury-bills. In 1943r when the war position was desperate, we issued £178,000,000 and in 1948, £84,000,000. That was a total issue of £343,000,00 for the prosecution of the war and to save our skins. In 1945 and in 1946, we were beginning to settle on an even keel with the rehabilitation of returned servicemen, and no issues were made. In 1947, we had become rehabilitated to the extent of being able to redeem £65,000,000 of those treasury-bills. In 1948, redemptions totalled £70,000,000, and in 1949, £85,000,000. Those redemptions were made by the Labour Government. The government changed hands in 1949. Senator Gorton said that we issued £15,000,000 in credit in our final year of office, but that was not so. An amount of £.15,000,000 was devoted to redemption. The present Government came into office and made no issues or redemptions during 1951, but in the following year it issued £45,000,000 in credit. In 1952^53, it issued £71,000,000 to balance its budget, rolling it out of the Commonwealth Bank in the manner of sausages being rolled from a sausage machine. Then there was a break for a couple of years, but in 1955-56 they called on that source of finance again - in a time of high prosperity, mind you- for another £5,000,000. When Labour left office, it had the amount of the debt down to £108,280,000, but by 1952-53 this Government had increased its debt to the Commonwealth Bank to £225,000,000. Do not let honorable senators talk about the Australian Labour Party using the Commonwealth Bank indiscriminately. The Commonwealth Bank has been used indiscriminately only by the Liberal Government, and that in a time of high prosperity.
– Tell us about the National Welfare Fund.
– Yes. I could tell you a little about the National Welfare Fund, but I want to touch upon another subject. We left this Government with a fair swag in the National Welfare Fund. Even though this Government continues to collect taxation, it requires beneficiaries to join an approved society. That means, in effect, the imposition of another tax. But not satisfied with that, the Government now proposes to impose a charge of five shillings for all medical prescriptions. I advise the honorable senator who interjected to pay some attention to what is going on in his own State.
I could not resume my seat, Sir, without referring to a press report which is headed “ Color bar imposed in Queensland “. I have read a lot about Little Rock in America, but I did not think we would ever see a “ Little Rock “ in Australia. The press report I have before me states that a municipal council or shire council, or whatever they are called in Queensland, has imposed a colour ban. I hope and pray that the press report is not correct, but I have not yet seen any correction of it published. The council’s ban means that aborigines are not allowed to go to picture shows or attend concerts in the shire hall, which is the only premises available, to mix with whites at any official function, or have their children christened in the usual place of church assembly. Fancy anybody in a civilized country, in a democracy, barring Australians from being christened in a church.
– What are you reading from?
– I am reading from the “Sunday Mirror” of 16th August, 1959. They are not allowed to attend religious services at the shire hall with whites.
– Who are not allowed?
– The aborigines - the coloured people. The report is headed “ Color bar imposed in Queensland “. Did you not see it?
– Well, I am glad T raised this matter. I thought a Minister taking such a prominent part in the welfare of the democracy of Australia could not have missed this one. This is a slur on Australia, not only within her own borders but throughout the world. This inhuman, barbaric practice is going on at Burketown in Queensland. We know also that in South Australia a royal commission is investigating the case of another coloured person. Reports of that are flying all round the world too.
– You keep quiet about South Australia.
– Did you tell me to let it alone?
– I might as well do so, because that man has got as much chance of being cleared as has the man in the moon. Three men constitute that commission. One of them has presided at one of the trials and another has heard the appeal. I have never met them in my life, but I say that the aboriginal in question has no chance of getting off. Let us couple that with the black ban in Queensland. Just where are we getting?
I suggest that, if this press report as to what is going on in Queensland is correct, this Government should act in some way to save the prestige of this country instead of letting it be dragged to the very depths of degradation, as it will be in other parts of the world if this inhuman policy is allowed to continue. I have been in other parts of the world where there are coloured people, but those people have never been prevented from having their children christened in a church or been prevented from going to a place of worship. I should like to ask, Sir, what this country will come to if such a state of affairs is allowed to continue.
– Mr. Acting Deputy President, if I am to answer the question that was asked by Senator Aylett - that is, “ What is this country coming to? “ - in. all honesty I must tell him that it is coming to a state of prosperity to which the Australian Labour Party was never able to bring it. From time to time I have listened to the honorable senator making speeches and there have been many occasions on which he has left me quite confused; but to-night he has gone further. Never before ‘have I listened to a speaker in this chamber so expose his own confusion of thought.
A good deal of the honorable senator’s speech was directed to a criticism of the American investor in that he may be given a chance to subscribe to an Australian loan. The honorable senator linked that prospective loan with a very splendid project in
Queensland which is in the main financed with American capital. On the one hand, Senator Aylett criticized prospective American investment in this country, and on the other hand he .criticized the Government for not doing something which might assist to enlarge American investment. It was the most amazing speech that I have ever heard fall from the lips of Senator Aylett.
– It confused you all right.
– It certainly did. You succeeded in confusing not only yourself but every one else in the chamber. I should like, Sir, to add my congratulations to those which have already been extended to those ‘honorable senators who, during this debate, :have made their maiden speeches. It is an ordeal which we all have to pass through. But all those honorable senators, I think, acquitted themselves well. I believe that in their turn they will make a very significant contribution to the deliberations of this chamber. While I am congratulating them, it may not be out of place if 1 were to take advantage of this opportunity to extend my congratulations to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) on the production of his first Budget.
– Send him a telegram.
– I do not know if it will be necessary to do that. I shall take advantage of the opportunity on some suitable occasion to congratulate him personally. The concept of this Budget is one of development and stability. Those two terms can, in an economic sense, provide something of a conflict. Indeed, in recent years one of Australia’s better known economists, Sir Douglas Copland, in collaboration with another economist, has produced a book entitled, strangely enough, “The Conflict of Expansion and Stability “. They are the very words which the Treasurer used as the theme for his Budget speech. But the conflict of those two factors need not cause chaos. Indeed, in a properly ordered economy each becomes the hand maiden of the other, and expansion with stability provides the kind of economy that we in this country have enjoyed during -the last decade.
As I think of .expansion and development, my mind goes back over that decade and
I ‘think of the progress which the citizens of this country have made. I refer to the citizens as distinct from She Government, because the most -any government can do in a democracy is not ‘to create prosperity but to -create the climate, the economic conditions, in which the people -may progress and achieve material expansion, which is very much for their own good and for the good of the country.
When I think of that development, my first thought goes naturally to the vast increase in population which .has occurred. Because of .the .soundness of the economic policies pursued by the Government it has been possible for us to maintain a policy of migration under which we have seen our population grow from something under 8,000,000 .to something just over i0i000,000. That has been done without any .economic .disruption or upset. .Senator Aylett .referred .to the .possibility of unemployment occurring as the result .of a vast migration programme. I, put it to him, and to the Senate, that that has not been the experience in Australia. We have taken these people into our midst and they have become integrated, socially and economically, without any upset to the economy.
I pass from population growth to material growth - -to growth in building activity. The value of completions of all classes of building rose from £97,000,000 in 1948^9 to no less than £425,139,000 for the year ending in June, 1958. Vehicle registrations have more than doubled during that period. With 2,536,000 vehicles registered, we have one of the highest vehicle populations per capita in the world. When talking of vehicles one thinks of petrol. Petrol consumption has increased from 461,000,000 gallons to 1,097,000,000 gallons, and I remind the Senate that not less than 90 per cent, of that petrol is now refined in this country.
Let me deal with secondary manufacturing industries. The figures here are quite startling, but I do not want to quote too many figures. Let me refer to the investment which has taken place in factory building and compare the year 1948-49 with the year 1957-58. Investment in land, buildings and plant increased from £54,000,000 in 1948-49 ‘to the staggering total of £il87;000,000 in 1957-58. A corollary to that increase, is the development, for the first time in Australia’s history, of a significant export trade. We are advancing as a trading; nation. By virtue of our valuable primary production, we have always been a trading nation of significance, but our secondary production is now playing an increasing part, and indicates a maturity and a growth within the Commonwealth.
I could go on quoting figures to show this remarkable growth, but I want to say something about stability. Senator Aylett, who preceded me, had a good deal to say about the fall in- the value of money. It is true that in any expanding community many things are inflationary. Many of the things we undertake for our own national good are inflationary. A migration programme has an inflationary effect because the Government must provide for each migrant a house and the services that go with it. If the Government undertakes a vast programme of development, that, too. at least in its early years, is inflationary. It is not unnatural that money tends to lose its value. That is something that has occurred in every country in the world where development is taking place.
The test of the real value of money lies not in cold figures, but in the fact that this country to-day is attracting investment from older countries- in a volume never ‘ before approached. We see - and I regret that my friend Senator Aylett gets no comfort from it - a willingness on the pact of other countries to lend money to Australia. We see a willingness, indeed an eagerness, of private capital to invest in Australian enterprises. I suggest, Sir, that that is a development that should be encouraged to the maximum. I am happy to say that while this Government remains in office, these tendencies will bc encouraged to the continuing good of Australia and its greater advancement and development.
In effect, what does this Budget seek to do? It seeks to do nothing, I suppose, but to continue the trends which have appeared during the last decade. It seeks to continue to develop the country, to provide it with adequate finance, to see that the level of employment is kept high - that there are jobs for those who are willing and able to take them - and to carry out sound and practical policies- of social justice.
– Good Labour policy.
– Well, you say so. I would feel much more convinced if Labour had given some concrete evidence of it when it had the opportunity. We are aiming to do the things I have just mentioned, and at the same time to maintain an immigration programme and to hold costs and prices so that this magnificent inflow of money to which I have referred shall continue.
Having said that, I come to the point where I must ask: What criticism has been levelled at this Budget by the official Opposition? I come to the melancholy conclusion that although, as an Opposition, it has sought to criticize some elements of the Budget, the fundamentals on which the Budget rests have remained unchallenged and unchallengable.
– What about the Post Office charges?
– The Post Office charges! My friend, Senator O’Byrne from Tasmania, picks out an item which amounts to a mere trifle in a budget of £1,649;000,0001 and says, “Well, what about that “? If I had1 wanted an example of the sniping to which I have referred, Senator O’Byrne has most certainly provided it by his interjection. The criticism which” has been made by the official Opposition only repeats the sad’, sorry story that” I have heard in this chamber in successive Budget debates since I came here in 1951. What is the Labour Party going to do? It says that the Government’s policy is inflationary. In the same breath these people suggest that we should grant increased taxation concessions, substantially increase social service benefits and underfake public works by way of treasury-bill finance. If we are to be regarded as inflationists they are surely to be regarded as believers in galloping inflation. That is the kind of criticism of the Budget which passes, one imagines, as economic criticism. There is also the political type of criticism with which we have become equally familiar.
– Is that the kind that Senator Wright was using?
– It is the’ kind df criticism*, in which prophets’ of gloom : tell us< that depression; is- just around the corner; that there will soon be rampant unemployment; that no good can come of it all. Year after year, at budget time, and at election after election, we hear the same old story. It is now so familiar that we almost know what is going to be said before the words are uttered.
I wanted, because of the paucity of criticism that has come from the other side, to say a few words on the more thoughtful comments that have come from this side of the chamber.
– Such as those which came from Senator Wright?
– The honorable senator from Tasmania made a characteristically thoughtful contribution to the debate. That is more than I can say of the speeches of honorable senators opposite. First, I should like to refer to the interesting speech that was made by Senator Anderson, who questioned the wisdom of budgeting for a deficit in the present economic circumstances. He put the very valid question: Why should we, in these circumstances, budget for a deficit at all? To answer the question, one must recall what has happened since the beginning of this year, when the Commonwealth entered into what was virtually a new agreement with the States in regard to tax reimbursements. Honorable senators will recall that the Commonwealth also accepted greatly increased commitments in the field of road finance.
When these changes were announced, financial commentators were quick to point out that they would absorb any Commonwealth funds that seemed likely to be available; also, that they might result in a deficit this year. At about the same time, the basic wage was substantially increased, and the Government had to decide whether it would budget for a deficit or square the ledger - a course which would have meant that no tax concessions could be granted; that there could be no increases in social services or repatriation payments. The Government, having in mind especially the increase in the basic wage and the effect that that would have on consumer expenditure, felt - and felt rightly - that a case had been made out for increased social services and repatriation benefits. Quite modest taxation concessions were extended to individuals. The Government considered that there was a case for the giving of a certain measure of relief. Particularly did it consider this to be so in respect of the small private companies whose retention allowances it increased.
– The little people!
– That is so. I am very pleased that at least one member of the Opposition realizes that the Government looks after the little people. We had also in mind the fact that a deficit of £61,000,000 in a budget of £1,640,000,000 was really quite small. In the circumstances, we believed that deficit budgeting was justified this year. In saying that, I must add immediately that it is not the intention or desire of the Government that deficit financing should continue. We believe that the progressive improvement evident in the economy will enable us shortly to return to the position where we can balance the budget and, at the same time, continue to give effect to the policies that have been so successful in this country.
I wanted to say something about Senator Wright’s remarks.
– He is listening outside the chamber.
– I hope that he is. I know that if he were not, either inside or outside the chamber, he would pay me the compliment of reading what I had had to say - even if subsequently he criticized it trenchantly. I wanted to refer to the closed economy - the wall of protection - that he said had been built up through the import licensing system. My mind goes back - and I ask honorable senators to recall this also - to the time when import licensing was established. Senator Wright’s criticism of this aspect of Government administration overlooked the circumstances which made licensing necessary. Honorable senators will recall that early in 1950-51-
– It is a case of Kathleen Mavourneen now. You are going on forever and ever. All we want to know is when you are going to stop.
– If the honorable senator will bear with me for a little while I think that he will be obliged to acknowledge that considerable progress has been made in this matter. Incidentally, he reminds me that the Opposition apparently got some comfort from this part of Senator Wright’s speech and that, like him, it appeared to criticize the Government’s import policy.
– I did exactly that.
– That is amazing. It is evidence of another schism in the Australian Labour Party. If Senator Cooke will look at the White Paper on unemployment, which was produced in 1947, at the direction of Mr. Dedman, he will find that import licensing is there advocated, not for the purpose of protecting overseas funds but as an instrument of Labour policy designed to maintain employment.
I wanted to say something about import licensing and to remind the Senate of the sort of circumstances that existed when the Government introduced it about 1950 or 1951. There had been a vast drain on our overseas funds. Members of the Labour Party in particular should remember this because, at that time, they were most vocal about the type of imports being admitted into the country. They were complaining about the importation of luxury goods manufactured in continental countries. Toffies, sweets, crockery, women’s hats and shoes at the most fabulous prices and of rarest design were coming in. Indeed, such was the buying spree that a pressure was developing upon our exchange rate. That was the circumstance that led the Government to introduce import licensing with all its imperfections and all its faults.
Having introduced it, with regret, as we then said, we have pursued a policy which no one will deny has resulted in the expenditure of our overseas funds being directed into those industries which can make some contribution to the country, rather than to uneconomic milk bars. No one will deny that our policy has led to our being able to develop export markets and, as a result of the development of those export markets, we have progressively lifted the incidence of import licensing. Why, only a few months ago, we were able to announce a further easement to the tune of £50,000,000 in import licensing. If we continue, as it is confidently expected we will, with this sound policy, then it is not too much to hope that within a measurable time we shall be able to drop this control which was introduced under economic compulsion for the benefit of the country and which, in the main, has operated to the benefit and advancement of the country.
I come now to the interesting suggestion made by Senator Wright that rather than pay taxation rebates in cash we pay them in the form of bonds. That idea is not completely new. It has about it the ring of the post-war credits which were used in the United Kingdom and other countries in finding war-time finance. But I must sa> that I heard with considerable surprise this suggestion coming from my friend and colleague, Senator Wright, implying as it does if not a forced loan then indeed a forced investment; and, mind you, a forced investment in not private enterprise but Government enterprise. For that reason. I must say at once that I do not look too kindly upon the proposal, and indeed 1 feel that if Senator Wright thinks further about the proposal he will not pursue its advocacy.
Much as I should like to do so, I do not propose to say anything about social services. That subject has been well canvassed during the debate, and I am extremely grateful to Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin and others who have gone to so much trouble to show just what the social policy of the Government has achieved. But one thing does deserve mention from me because it constitutes another first in the field of social welfare to a Government which is accused by its political opponents of having no ideas at all. I refer to social service payments to aborigines. This, I repeat, constitutes another first to this Government.
I have devoted a little time to looking back at what has occurred in the last decade. I have spoken a little about the immediate future. The rather longer future offers something more. The work force of Australia is now increasing by something like 70,000 a year. Within the next few years, with a continuance of our immigration rate, the work force of Australia will be increasing by no less than 100,000 people a year. There will be 100,000 more people coming out to their first jobs, to earn their first money, to make their first contribution to the Australian nation. We look upon that as an obligation of substance. We look upon it as demanding that this economy shall be preserved so that this 100,000 each year can be catered for in jobs, in developing the community, increasing the nation’s wealth and lifting our individual standards of living. Looking at this Budget as part of the economic plans developed by this Government over the last ten years, I submit that we can confidently leave it to this Government to cater for these 100,000 additions to the work force each year. Having said that, it is just a matter of formality for me to inform the Senate, Senator Brown in particular, that the Government rejects with emphasis the amendment proposed by the Opposition.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be. added (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be so added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Second Annual Report
Debate resumed from 19th August (vide page 152), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the following paper: -
Second Annual Report to the Prime Minister by the National Radiation Advisory Committee - be printed.
– Recently, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) tabled the second annual report of the National Radiation Advisory Committee, and in doing so he repeated remarks made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in another place when the same report was being tabled there. The Senate at the moment is debating the formal motion that the report be printed. I say at once that it is very fitting that the Parliament should be considering this vast question of atomic radiation. In other words, we are facing the question of the charging of members of the human race with electricity, through radiation, particularly from the viewpoint of man-created nuclear activity and ionizing radiation.
I believe that every thinking person in the world has been concerned with this problem of ionizing radiation ever since the world was startled by the first great demonstration of atomic power when the first atomic bomb was dropped at Hiroshima back in August, 1945. Apart from the colossal power that that bomb exhibited, the vast area of land that was laid waste, the mass killings and the casualties in untold numbers, there emerged the knowledge from that happening that an undue dose of radiation had adverse effects upon the human reproductive processes and could result in aberrations in births to take place in the future. 1 say at once that it is a very deep-seated fundamental human instinct to seek the propagation and perpetuation of our race, or for that matter, of any race in the world, at normal standards. The bomb, and its after effects on survivors and their offspring, has alerted this instinct and is, in my view, the basic cause of the world’s keen interest in ionizing radiation.
An example of the fear in the minds of men appeared only recently in this country. In New South Wales, the Port Kembla, waterside workers decided as recently as the end of last month to send a telegram to the Prime Minister demanding that a check be made for atomic radiation of all overseas, ships entering the port. It was pointed out that mysterious illnesses had developed, particularly amongst the families of waterside workers at Wollongong, and Port Kembla. Officers of the Waterside Workers Federation indicated that a ship could become radio active, although it had never gone near a bombtesting area, by passing through a channel in the ocean. At first sight, that suggestion might seem rather far-fetched. It. is a very good, illustration, however, of the fear that dominates the minds of people in this matter. I have no doubt that the waterside workers at Wollongong and Port Kembla had in mind what happened in the vicinity of the Bikini Islands in 1954, when Japanese fishermen encountered some of the immediate fall-out from a test bomb discharged in that area, and one of them died. As Senator 0’Flaherty reminds me, those Japanese fishermen were on ships some hundreds of miles away from the test area.
Secondly, I have no doubt that the waterside’ workers had read of what happened quite recently when two Japanese survey ships were ordered away from the Eniwetok Atoll by the United States naval high command to avoid their coming within the area of an explosion. The ships sailed a long way away from the area. They were 500 miles from the test area in July, when unexpected high winds blew from the testing ground. A counter on the Japanese ships jumped to 70 counts a minute. The minimum danger count is 60. The captains of the two ships immediately had the whole of the vessels scrubbed down and, by direction, sailed to Rabaul via Port Moresby for a check. Quarantine precautions were taken there and it was found that the count had gone down to 29. One might think that ships out in clear ocean would be completely free from any effects of the blast, but those ships were 500 miles from the blast and yet were involved in this serious trouble. The Senate may remember that that was only in July of last year.
I go back now to 1957 when, following the bombs that were exploded in the
Pacific about. April or March of that year, the French anthropologist Paul Berthold at. an interview in Sydney subsequently said that the islanders in the French east Pacific islands were suffering from a mysterious skin disease which did not affect white people. The trouble was traced. Doctors found that fish caught locally had been contaminated by atomic radiation. He said -
Doctors treated the lumps and open cracks in the natives’ skin with antibiotics, ‘but the diseased natives did not respond to- this or any other treatment. Ute- natives aren’t put into hospital. Children are the main sufferers. Some of their wound’s are horrible to look at. I haven’t seen any white people with it. White people don’t eat the local fish, but it is’ the staple diet of the native- islanders.
Berthold said that the natives had to eat the fish in spite of the risk of radio-active poisoning. They were terrified but they had to live.
– Who is the authority?
– He was a French anthropologist, Paul Berthold. At the time he spoke he was a research scientist in Sydney. That was reported in 1957. These are the type of things which I have no doubt were in the minds: of waterside workers in making what might appear at first glance an odd request at Port Kembla.
One other conditioning factor is that about three-quarters of the fall-out from the blast of atomic tests goes into the ocean which represents about 71 per cent, of the world’s surface. While the fall-out that takes place on earth penetrates only to the extent of about two inches, in the water of the ocean it proceeds to a depth of hundreds of feet. The radiation will extend actively to very considerable depths, and it is quite conceivable that a concentrated fall-out taking place may be encountered by a ship which may become radio active and pass on radiation to the people on board the ship. I mention that, not to record those items in particular, but as an illustration of the type of fear that is in the minds of people in the world as a result of atomic radiation coming into the picture. I feel myself at a loss due to the fact that I can claim no scientific training or knowledge - I have no particular knowledge of physics - but at least that fact gives me an opportunity perhaps of understanding and appreciating the viewpoint of the ordinary man in the street in relation to this vital matter of ionized radiation of our population.
I would like at the outset to state my understanding of radiation and its hazards from that viewpoint and in the light of such reading as I have been able myself to do. I understand that mankind from the beginning of time has been subjected to radiation of some kind or another, and has obviously survived it. The first source of radiation is cosmic radiation where particles come into the atmosphere radio-active and eventually are washed onto the earth’s surface by snow, rain, dew and that type of thing. The second form of radiation proceeds from what is called terrestrial radiation. Minerals in the earth like radium, uranium, and thorium that are radio-active are all the time giving off rays. The peoples of the earth are affected by those rays differently according to where they are located. You get a variation from areas where there is no radio activity in the earth to places like Travancore in India where hundreds of thousands of people live on the richest thorium-bearing land in the world. They suffer a radiation perhaps ten times greater than that suffered by the ordinary individual.
Those two types of radiation have been affecting mankind from the beginning, and through the various food channels we have a third source of radiation within the human body itself. We have potassium 40, carbon 14, and radium, all assimilated into our bodies sometimes through food and sometimes through gases. As radium and thorium decay, they give off gases and we can actually assimilate them through mere breathing. By and large, each one of us has quite a degree of radio activity. Sometimes it is concentrated in one place, and sometimes it is diffused throughout the body according to the nature of the active radio isotopes. It is rather interesting to note also that the degree of radio activity to which one is subjected depends to an extent, but only in a mild degree, to the type of house in which one lives. There is more radiation in concrete and brick houses than in a timber house. Radio-active materials find their way into sand and cement and various materials.
I am not for a moment suggesting that this is significant; it is just one of the facts I gleaned to be comprised in the whole situation.
– You are not threatening us that it is lying on the pillow?
– No, I am not doing that at all. What I am saying - and I will develop this point ultimately - is that I am not scared by what has happened up to the present time but also I am not complacent or carefree about it. The note I hope to strike in the remarks I have to make to-night is just one of caution. I want to balance one view against another and to invite the Senate to take a particular interest - as I know it will - in this subject matter.
The other two sources of radiation are man-made - the use of X-rays in medical science, that is more for diagnostic purposes than for therapeutic and treatment purposes; and again the one that has attracted all the attention, the fall-out from atomic and thermo-nuclear bombs. As everybody knows, when a bomb is exploded there is an enormous mushroom cloud, and usually, according to the method of detonation, a vast quantity of debris is lifted from the earth. In any event, there is a tremendous fall-out immediately of radio-active material, which is generally short-lived. I understand that the most intense and powerful particles - those right at the centre of the explosion - probably remain radioactive for only ten seconds, but they kill and blast everything that gets in their way while they are extant. This type of fall-out does the most immediate and intense damage. It will actually dissolve the eyes in the head of a person who is looking directly at it. That happened in the case of the mildest atomic bomb, the one that was dropped on Hiroshima. The eyes of persons who happened to be looking at the blast in direct contact with the rays were melted in their sockets.
I understand that there are many types of radio-active fall-out. I want to say a few words at this stage about three or four of them. Strontium 90, the one that is most publicized at the moment and is present in large quantities in the atomic cloud and fall-out, has a very long life. It has a half-life of 28 years and will remain radio-active in the body, once it gets there, for up to ten years. The particular quality of strontium is that it is allied to calcium and naturally finds its way to the calcium of the bones and has an effect upon the bone marrow which is responsible for the condition and production of corpuscles in the blood. As a result of interference with this marrow we may get leukemia, and it may lead to cancer. Strontium accumulates in and affects areas of bone in particular, and it is present and may be found in children in relatively greater quantity than in the bones of adults. The bones of children are growing while these strontium particles are floating about, and their collection and assimilation is infinitely quicker in bones that are in the process of formation, as in the child at the embryonic stage and during its very early years, than in the bones of adults that are formed and settled before the strontium proceeds to enter the body, and therefore cannot assimilate it so easily. Although strontium is effective in its radiation and of long life, its penetration is not deep.
Then we come to caesium 137, which emits gamma rays. It has a short life but very deep penetration in tissue, and does affect the whole of the body. Accordingly, it is one of the particles that poses a real threat on the genetics side. In other words, it might produce vital changes in the reproductive processes, which will be transmitted to future generations and might conceivably have a serious effect upon the development of the human race. Carbon 14 is another type about which, I understand, little research has been done. It, too, is diffused and has a half-life of 5,600 years. It is a very long-standing radio-active isotope. Then there are varieties of iodine, such as iodine 131, that lives for sixteen days, and iodine 129, that lives for 200,000,000 years.
These are only some of the main radioactive elements that come into the picture. I should like to pass now to the report that is before us. Sir Macfarlane Burnet, the chairman of the committee that made the report, is well-known to everybody in Australia as a most eminent scientist and a man of the most complete integrity. I read the committee’s report with very great interest. I joint with the Minister in de ploring the fact that Sir Macfarlane is unable to continue with this body. I can well understand that he has heavy burdens in other important directions to keep him fully occupied. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister have both said that the report is enormously reassuring. I do not agree with that. I refuse to be scared or to help raise a scare in the matter, but I think that that statement shows too great a lack of care and a little too much complacency regarding the report that, on the face of the report itself, is not, I think, justified.
The report deals with a number of elements of radiation. First are X-rays in medical practice. The report points out that this is the most potent element in radiation affecting mankind to-day, and can have very deleterious effects if it is not under the most carefully regulated control. Certain areas of the body need protection against radiation. The National Health an& Medical Research Council of Australia, through one of its committees, has, after conference with the committee whose report we are now considering, recommended that all X-ray equipment for use on man be registered. I say at once that the most severe action should be taken by all State Governments to legislate accordingly, and that there should be a licensing of equipment of this type. Having regard to the damage that can be inflicted through the unwise use of X-ray, there should be the most rigid control of its use. That is a conclusion with which I completely agree. I also agree with the Committee’s view that nobody who is really in need of X-rays for diagnostic or treatment purposes should avoid them. The benefits to be derived from submitting to them in appropriate cases of serious illness are so great that whatever risk is involved can very well be undertaken without hesitation.
The report praises the mass radiography that is taking place in connexion with the campaign to wipe out tuberculosis. I hope that that campaign now proceeding is very successful and will not be interrupted by any unwarranted fears of radiation. The committee recommends that leukemia, the blood disease that has come into prominence in recent years, be made a notifiable disease so that the exact effects of radiation in producing that condition may be known and tested and the. information used for the advancement of scientific, knowledge and the betterment of the sick people of the world.
The report proceeds to deal with global fall-out in Australia. It deals with, the various types of radio-active fall-out to which I have already made reference, and states in rather a comforting way the margin of safety that does exist in Australia according to the standards stated by the United Nations Committee: for Radiological Protection. It states that not only are we a long way below minimum levels fixed by that body but also that, in relation to strontium only, we have in Australia onethird of that which is present in the United Kingdom. We have only one-quarter of that in the United States, and one*seventh of that in the mid-western region of the United States, where most of the activity is taking place: One can draw some consolation from the fact that we are better off than most countries in the northern hemisphere, but that does not entitle us to be complacent, as- I shall show from United Nations reports and other material in a moment.
The committee referred in paragraph 45 to the possible major genetic consequences of > radiation, stating that. for. the purposes, of estimating the. genetic consequences, of fallout the United Nations scientific committee has made a number of assumptions, the first of which is that, even the smallest dose of radiation to the gonads can, cause mutations, most of which are. deleterious.. In other, words, it may seriously - interfere with reproductive processes- and cause changes that may be transmitted to future generations. I have tried to. guard against the danger of taking a mere sentence like that out of. the whole report and creating a wrong impression, but there is that assumption, upon which the committee bases its viewpoint, that even the smallest dose of radiation in those circumstances can cause mutations, most of which are deleterious. I hope to show to the Senate presently that that is emphasized in the report of the United Nations committee.
Later in this written, report of our own Australian committee there is a very strong request for further and competent research in Australia into the. presence and the effects of radioactive material in our country. It is quite, certain that we have: not had . enough research into; low levels- of radiation constantly applied to people, and its effects. The committee draws attention to the absence of data, and it has asked that, in addition to the work being done by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission on re. search into strontium 90, the X-ray and radium laboratory of the Department of Health at Melbourne be specially commissioned to undertake research work in that, and allied fields. The committee suggests that, research might be extended to carbon 14, strontium 90, iodine 131 and caesium 137. I very cordially support the committee’s recommendation on that matter, because statements like this appear in the. report that has been submitted to us -
It has still to be determined however what part, if- any, carbon. 14 plays in the production of biological effects,, and especially of mutations or other genetic effects.
L hope to direct the attention of the Senate presently to what, the United Nations has said in relation to. the need, for research, how tentative are all their findings,, and how they have to be accepted with caution until proved.
Like the. Prime* Minister, I might have felt, more reassured about the- committee’s report were it. not that almost immediately after, it. was. tabled, in this place we received news from. Washington of. a. report, of the Congressional Atomic. Energy Committee. That, news was reported in the Australian press, on. 26th August last. The. press report, reads -
Nuclear, weapon testing,, if resumed and. continued at the rate of the last five years, will endanger the world’s next two generations, says- the Congressional Atomic Energy Committee.
The ‘“New York Times “ describes- the committee’s report as. one of the most exhaustive studies yet presented on atomic radiation.
The committee’s report urges the Administration to make greater efforts to assess radiation hazards arising from nuclear testing.
This is. important -
It says that it could: not get, and might never get, a direct, answer to the question: Is there a safe minimum level of radiation below which there is no increase in cancer or leukemia for those living, and- no- shortening of life or reproductive capability for future generations
The report continues -
A scientific survey of atomic tests showed a total fission: yield, equivalent to the explosion of 90 to; 92 million tons of TNT
So, the tests conducted to date amount to the explosion of 90,000,000-odd tons of TNT, the dust from which is floating to every corner of the world. Nothing escapes from the global fall-out. It does become global with the major bombs - that is, the fission bombs and the fissionfusionfission bombs. Apparently the Congressional committee’s report was based on the evidence of about 30 expert scientific Witnesses, each specializing in a particular field of fall-out research. The news item concerning the committee’s report continues -
It draws attention to the problem of “hot spots “ where the radio-activity levels are abnormally high, and focusses attention on the potential long-term genetic damage that could be caused by radio-active Carbon-14 created by atomic and hydrogen ‘bomb explosions.
The report says that Carbon-14, which has a radio-active half-life of 5,600 years, could be expected to produce genetic damage comparable to or exceeding that from other fall-out .materials.
It is that particular radio-active isotope into which we have had no research in Australia at all, as the report of the Australian committee admits. The American report proceeded to ‘deal with caesium’ .137 and the rest.
The newspapers of Australia drew attention to this American report soon after the report of our own National Radiation Advisory Committee was submitted. A leading article in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, which I have in my hand, draws attention, first, to the unanswered question which the American Congressional Committee had posed .and -concludes with these words -
Meanwhile, however remote and dangerous .it may appear, and however small the cause for alarm, there are clearly no .grounds for complacency here or anywhere else. We still know far too little about the most important questions.
I agree broadly with the Australian committee and support all it says about the care required in relation to radiological examinations, the need to pursue them still in medical treatment and diagnosis, the need to proceed with X-ray and mass tuberculosis campaigns and, above all, the need to have further information and research in .this country.
Now I should like .to spend a minute or two on viewpoints expressed by various scientific gentlemen for whom I have respect. ‘Sir Macfarlane Bur-net, away back in August, 1957, wrote an article entitled “ Radiation Hazards in Perspective “. He has not varied in his outlook since he wrote that article. Without seeking to cause any undue alarm, I should like to read to the Senate a few of his expressions. I shall .quote from a report in the Melbourne “ Age “, of 22nd August, 1957. He said -
A heavy dose of X-rays or exposure to nuclear radiation will produce acute illness or death. Small doses produce no immediate effect and may do .no harm at all.
The only danger is that one :of the tiny explosions -
That is of atomic power or electric power - will by pure chance occur at a vital point in the nucleus of a cell and produce subtle damage that will be transmitted to the descendants of that cell.
This is a very, very rare happening, but when time and place are right it requires only one burst from a passing ray ‘to do it.
He went .on to say, in counter-balance to that -
Fall-out from distant tests -
That is, of nuclear weapons - is of negligible importance. Atomic war is another matter, but opposition to nuclear tests must be -based on ethical, social and .political considerations - not on medical ones.
I shall now quote a report in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 16th December last of an address given by Sir Macfarlane Burnet at the Second Australasian Conference on Radiation and Biology at the .Melbourne University. The report .reads -
Sir Macfarlane said the conference must deal with questions which had to be answered if the current practical perplexities about radiation were ever to .he resolved.
These .questions .were concerned with such matters .as .genetic ‘effects .of radiation and some effects, the relative susceptibility to genetic damage of the foetus, the child and the -adult, and the reasons for .carcinogenic and leukaemogenic effects of -radiation.
Only .when science gave valid recommendations on these matters was the world “ likely to escape from the emotionally charged atmosphere of suspicion, controversy and misunderstanding that seemed to rise in a stifling cloud “ whenever radiation hazards became a topic of political discussion.
He goes on to say that war, apart from atomic .tests, would be an unimaginable calamity resulting in the complete destruction of Western civilization, and the death, directly .or indirectly, of probably more than half of the population of ‘the world.
Apart from that, dealing with the existing levels of radiation from atomic fall-out in the world, ‘he says - and I accept what he says - that the hazards from that are far less than the ordinary hazards an individual runs in his daily life of dying or being seriously injured. He points out that there are a lot of unresolved matters in the situation, and that a great deal more inquiry has to be made into the genetic effects of radiation in small doses.
It did not console me either to read in the press of 23rd March, 1959, a statement emanating from the United States Joint Congressional Atomic Energy Committee that southern Australia, from , a line drawn from Adelaide to Jervis Bay in New South Wales, and the whole of New Zealand are in the latitudes most affected by strontium 90 fall-out. That was a statement made by the Congressional Atomic Energy Committee after it had heard evidence. One would prefer not to be in an area where there is a strontium fall-out, because the effect on bones - particularly on the bones of children - is immediate and serious.
One more comment that I should like to quote from America is contained in a statement released by a House of Representatives sub-committee on 12th August last year. The committee in its report - which until then was secret - stated that it estimated that nearly 160,000,000 persons - almost the entire population of the United States - would be killed in a hydrogen bomb raid on 150 American cities. They would be killed by 150 bombs. The type of bomb in stock in the armouries of the nations that have atomic bombs to-day has an explosive power equal to that of at least 20,000,000 tons of T.N.T. We can begin to imagine the colossal power of a bomb of that type when we remember that the first atomic bomb, which did so much damage in Japan in the city of Hiroshima, had a power equivalent to that of only 20,000 tons of T.N.T. Now there is the power of 20,000,000 tons of T.N.T. in a single bomb. One bomb to wipe out a whole city.
– A depth charge holds only 500 lb. of T.N.T.
– It is simply beyond the capacity of man’s mind to conceive what would happen if such an explosion did take place. I had the opportunity last night to read a little book that was recommended to me. It is written by John Hersey, and the title is “ Hiroshima “. It describes what happened to six people who escaped the worst effects of the blast there and survived. It is not written from a horror viewpoint, but the stark, unbelievable tragedy of the event shines out on every page. It is a most touching, accurate record of what happened. I commend the little book to honorable senators who might like to read through it. I think it can be read in about an hour.
I propose now to refer to another very eminent scientist, here in Australia. Sir Marcus Oliphant, in a lecture delivered on 14th July last year, entitled “ Science and the Future of Humanity “, had a good deal to say on this subject. One of the reasons for the conflict between some physicists and scientists about the effects of radiation was stated by Sir Marcus Oliphant at one stage of his talk, when he pointed out the need for absolute honesty and truthfulness in every scientific approach. He said -
Now, however, this insistence upon complete honesty and openness is challenged and the challenge comes primarily from Government establishments and especially from those activities which are associated with defence or with national prestige. It has long been an axiom that government policy is always good, and that the actions of government servants in promoting that policy are always right. Like bank clerks, bureaucrats must never be wrong, and if a mistake is made the institution concerned must never admit it. This concept is invading the field of science, particularly in those branches where secrecy plays a part. I want to give illustrations of this perversion of the integrity of science by half truths and downright lies.
The controversy which rages about the question of the effects of fall-out of radioactive substances, following tests of nuclear weapons, has brought to light the difference between scientifictruth and scientific facts coloured or distorted to accord with some particular political or emotional belief. Those who believe that atomic bomb tests should cease are apt to exaggerate the effects of radiation due to fall-out from tests, thereby destroying the very solid reasons which exist for a halt to tests. Such emotional scientific dishonesty is deplorable, but it is less reprehensible than is the distortion of facts by some of those most intimately concerned with the development and testing of nuclear weapons. These scientists, who have vested interests in bomb manufacture, or who wish for the approval of a particular section of political opinion, claim that radioactive fall-out causes no ill-effects whatsoever. Recently, evidence was given in a television programme in the United States that testing of atomic weapons must continue because, while the United States would respect any bar. on testing, Russia was bound to cheat. The statement went on to say that underground explosions could not be detected with certainty, at almost the same time that it became known that detection was practicable and the President’s special adviser on scientific matters was declaring that a ban on tests could be policed. The full facts have never been revealed, but those who oppose the official view are told that they cannot speak with any authority because they are not familiar with secret information. There is a growing tendency for both government officials and scientists to make ex cathedra statements, often in glaring contradiction with the facts, and when criticized to hide behind the cloak of “ security “.
There is evidence that publication of experimental results, or conclusions drawn from known facts, which are at variance with an officially proclaimed opinion, has been deliberately prevented when the scientists carrying out the work are public servants. Such muzzling of criticism is a new and disturbing ingredient in science. Strangely enough, it is apt to be practised most extensively by those who are most vocal in their opposition to the undoubted lack of democratic freedom in the Soviet countries.
I will proceed with the reading of this lecture, because it is something that ought to be put on record. I shall read one more page in order to give the Senate Sir Marcus Oliphant’s view. He continued -
A further disturbing feature of present-day science is the growing tendency to boast blatantly of alleged achievements in science or technology. This is done sometimes by, or with the full connivance of, governments, in order to impress other nations with their technical supremacy. On both sides of the iron curtain this type of boasting has surrounded the whole programme of satellite launchings. The pretence that these were scientific projects carried out at great expense in order to contribute to the work of the International Geophysical Year, has largely disappeared. The satellite programmes are now admitted to be off-shoots of the development of long-range missiles, capable of carrying nuclear weapons. The very excellent scientific work carried out at Harwell in an endeavour to achieve controlled thermonuclear reactions, was exploited by the British press in a campaign of national jubilation that Britain had been successful in this great international competition.
The claims made by the scientists concerned, and published in “ Nature “, were tentative and in accord with the traditions of science. The highly exaggerated statements made by government spokesmen and by the press created an atmosphere in which the subsequent discovery that the neutrons observed were not thermonuclear in origin received either very little notice or created an exaggerated depression.
Sir Brian Matthews, Professor of Physiology in the University of Cambridge, has written trenchantly of this trend towards exaggeration of national achievement in science and technology, but unfortunately he is critical of only Soviet offences. He believes that it is a disease of the mind in the present social order, and that it needs study and treatment now that it has been recognized. The surprising feature of this blatant national advertising of exaggerated achievement is that it is so successful.
Australians may feci that in these things they are but spectators, somewhat amused by the gymnastics of the colossi in the fields of defence and offence. However, a little thought will reveal that in our own way we subscribe to these new doctrines. “ Public relations “ in scientific matters has sometimes become “ public exaggeration “. Many of us have been tempted into emulation of the antics which are so foreign to the search for truth.
I have risked boring the Senate by reading the whole of that passage, because it goes to the root of things. Moreover, it is vital that the people of the world should know the truth.
I should like to say a word about developments in the international field. At the end of 1953, President Eisenhower made his famous “ Atoms for Peace “ statement during his State of the Union message and, in the course of so doing, made practical proposals for the establishment of an international agency to control all fissionable material and oversee and regulate its use for peaceful and industrial purposes. He concluded that speech with this sentence -
To the making of these fateful decisions, the United States pledges before you - and, therefore, before the world - its determination to help solve the fearful atomic dilemma - to devote its entire heart and mind to find the way by which the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life.
Following upon that, the United Nations set up a body which had a steering committee representative of fifteen nations. Australia was one of these. In August, 1958, a report on the subject came from some 83 scientists of those nations. It is very comprehensive, running into many pages and some seven chapters, and contains a vast amount of statistics. A summary of its conclusions appears in chapter three, which I find reproduced completely in the September issue of “ Atomic Energy “, the publication of our own Atomic Energy Commission. It contains all the words of caution that one would expect a truly scientific body to utter. It warns us that their knowledge is inadequate, that the figures that they are quoting, and the predictions that they are making, are not intended as. predictions but as calculations, based on assumptions which are discussed in another chapter; that the values and ranges are subject to all the uncertainties outlined. Throughout, they point out the uncertainties of scientific knowledge concerning long-term effects of small doses of irradiation especially. Time will not permit me to read anything like all of the very interesting sections of the report. Accordingly,. I will choose’ perhaps two of them. Under the heading “ General Conclusions “, the following appears -
Radio active contamination of the environment resulting from explosions of nuclear weapons constitute a growing increment to world-wide radiation levels. This involves new and largely unknown hazards to present and future populations; these hazards, by their very nature, are beyond the control of the exposed persons. The committee concludes that all steps designed to minimize irradiation, of human populations will act to the benefit of human health. Such steps include the avoidance of unnecessary exposure resulting from medical, industrial and other procedures for peaceful uses on the one hand and the cessation of contamination of the environment by explosions of nuclear weapons on the other. The committee is aware that considerations involving effective control of all these sources of radiation involve national and international decisions which lie outside the scope of its work.
Earlier I undertook to confirm, from; the United Nations report, what the United Nations committee had said about the longterm effects of low dosages of radiation such- as the world has been subjected- to from atomic blasts.. In. paragraph 56 of the report, the following appears: -
Present knowledge concerning long-term effects and their correlations with the amounts of radiation does not permit us to evaluate with any precision the possible consequence to man of exposure to low radiation level’s. Many effects of irradiation are delayed; often they cannot be distinguished from: effects of other agents; many will only develop once a threshhold dose has been exceeded; some- may be cumulative and others not; and individuals in large populations, or particular groups such as children- and foetuse mayhave special sensitivity-. These facts render it very difficult to accumulate reliable information about the correlation between small doses and their effects either in individuals or’ in largepopulations. Even, a slow- rise in- the environmental radio activity in the. world, whether from weapon tests or any other sources, might eventually cause’ appreciable damage to large populations’ before it could, be’ definitely identified as’ due to irradiation.
The report concludes with a plea for much more research and investigation into all aspects of atomic fall-out. I must leave it to the Senate to refer to that.
I turn now to the “ United Nations Review “ of July, 1957, in which an editorial article refers to a report by a study group’ of the World Health Organization. The report was made to the third meeting of the United Nations Scientific. Committee on this subject. One extract bears out exactly what the later United Nations, report said. It is as follows: -
There are strong grounds for believing that, most genetic effects are very closely additive, so that a small amount of radiation received by each of a large number of individuals can do- an appreciable amount of damage to the population as a whole.
Radiation has been demonstrated to be oneof the agents which produces mutation in a wide range, of organisms from bacteria to mammals. The group is- agreed that additional mutation produced in man will’ be harmful to individuals and. to their descendants. While there may be inherent and environmental mechanisms which modify the impact of these mutations over periodsof many generations, the effectiveness of such’ mechanisms in man is not known. In essence, then, all man-made radiation must be regarded’ as harmful from the genetic point of view.
One other great service that I suggest our own local committee has rendered has been to recommend that there should be complete power in the Commonwealth to control atomic radiation and the matters incidental to it. The uses of atomic power, whether they be directed to private purposes, peaceful industrial purposes- or war,, are intimately interconnected and can beswung from one to the other very rapidly. There are all’ kinds of problems connected; with health, hazards against radiation, dis<posal of effluents from reactors, whether damage caused in one State may flow over into another, whether the- geographical, situation of a reactor might require that radio-active waste in one State be deposited’ in a place of safety in another and so on. Presently, we shall be entering into an> international agreement with other countries.’ about the non-pollution of the ocean. We in this Federal1 Parliament will need to be in a constitutional position to make binding, arrangements, on behalf of Australia. There is- also need to regulate the production of uranium and fissionable materials, their storage and their use in this country. The
States have been asked to pass a. radioactive substances act. They have not all done, that, yet although- one was presented t0> them in 1954.
– Three States have done so:
– Some have. I am- simply saying they have not all done it yet; and that was presented- to them back in; 1-954. I. should, think, that the people of Australia, would not hesitate- to vest in the one parliament which is charged with the. responsibility for. defence,, and with power over overseas, trade- to prevent traffic in. fissionable, materials, the required authority. Even in the industrial field, we could get into a stupid position. If six States decided upon- six different types of reactors we should need as many reconditioning plants as reactors, because it appears that atomic fuel-can be used again and again after reconditioning. If we had different types of reactors operating on different types of atomic fuel, then we could be sending fuel abroad for reconditioning, instead of keeping that work in our own country. There are one hundred and one practical problems which, in the view that I put to the Senate, can be solved only if there is one authority with power to function in that particular field. I welcome indeed what the committee has recommended in connexion, with that matter.
One thought that strikes me in all this is the readiness with which people in a country which is conducting atomic tests watch the atmospheric conditions to make sure that their country is clear and that the blast, the dust and- the fall-out go somewhere else. There may be recourse in international law somewhere for that, and one of these days it will be tried. One can imagine the kind, of reaction one would get if one went along the street tipping all the rubbish from one’s own house into the back yards of all the other people. Yet that is exactly what we did. at Monte Bello with the explosion we conducted for the United Kingdom. We waited, until we were sure that the wind would take it away from Australia - anywhere, as long as it was not here.
– We had to take precautions.
– I am. not arguing about that; I am pointing; to the fact From the point ofl view of Australia, that was the proper, thing, to do. But I- wonder how long the- world will tolerate that. It is. quite’ certain that, every nation will have atomic power before long. Are they all to have the privilege of conducting, atomic tests on any scale they desire? It is inevitable, that they will all have the power sooner or later.
There is another horrible thought that was developed by Bertrand Russell only the other day. When he was attending a conference; he pointed out just how cheap death has become-. He pointed out that in the last war it cost thousands of pounds to kill one soldier whereas to-day it is possible to kill people off in hundreds of thousands at a few pence each, even with atomic energy, because so many of them are killed with the one blow. He points to the possibility that the development of atomic power might force the little nations into waging biological and bacteriological war. (Extension of time granted.) I am grateful to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and the Senate for the courtesy extended to me. I had hoped to conclude long before my time ran out, and I shall take only a few more minutes. One wonders where the world is heading, and becomes a bit philosophic about what is happening when one sees atomic explosions going on in complete disregard to the fact that the atmosphere of the- earth is being polluted and imposing dangers, the exact nature of which cannot be predicted with any certainty - merely hoping for the best.
The great knowledge that man has been permitted to investigate has been abused, not used in the first instance. It cannot be right that the vast reservoir of knowledge that Providence has allowed to be opened up for the good of mankind should be abused in that way. Instead of being put’ to the grandest use, this atomic power is being used in a. cold war. When beneficial use should be made of this enormous new power, this enormous knowledge that is. placed! in mankind’s hands, it is being used as. a. threat, of complete annihilation: There are philosophers and scientific men who- have said it. is completely possible that.. with the armouries of bombs now stored in the- few countries, that, have them>, there, would not be a living, person on. the earth at the end of the century. That is a complete physical possibility, and, from one angle, it is a most depressing thought that mankind should use such a gift to build up a potential for his own destruction and the complete destruction of civilization. I think it was Robert Burns who said something about man’s inhumanity to man making countless thousands mourn. In effect, that is what we are doing.
Behind it all, of course, is the cold war, and I almost come to a conclusion by quoting what President Eisenhower said in 1954 after he had made his peace move before the United Nations. Reviewing the cold v:ir and what was implicit in it, he had this to say -
It is of the utmost importance that each of us understand the true nature of the struggle now taking place in the world.
It is not a struggle merely of economic theories, or of forms of Government, or of military power. At issue is the true nature of man. Either man is the creature whom the psalmist described as “ a little lower than the angels” crowned with glory and honour, holding “ dominion over the works “ of his Creator; or man is a soulless, animated machine to be enslaved, used and consumed by the State for its own glorification.
It is, therefore, a struggle which goes to the roots of the human spirit, and its shadow falls across the long sweep of man’s destiny. This prize, so precious, so fraught with ultimate meaning, is the true object of the contending forces of the world.
We of the Labour Party are on the side of peace in international affairs. At our Hobart conference in 1955, we advocated summit talks in order to halt atomic tests. We still advocate that kind of thing, and world opinion is coming round to the view that we have expressed.
So far as I know, there is no great danger from fall-out at the moment. There is potential danger, but I am not prepared to argue that it is immediate and real. But we have to recognize that each particle of ionized radiation is harmful. That is the one point that comes out of the whole problem, on my view of it. We differ about the facts. A great deal of research is required. It is certain that all nations will have nuclear power at their disposal before many years are out, and it is therefore urgent, in the view that the Australian Labour Party puts, to ban nuclear tests, because tests on the present scale and under the conditions that they have been held obviously have been conducted, not for the purpose of developing enormous power for industrial purposes, but for warlike purposes and for warlike threats. We of the Labour Party have all the time raised our voices against such tests. We were right when we began to raise our voices, and we believe we are right to-day.
I conclude with the earnest hope that, in the light of the greater knowledge that is coming about and of the semi-summit talks that are about to take place, in the interests of the whole of humanity we will use this great gift of atomic power for peaceful purposes, for the development of countries, to increase production and to feed the countless starving millions of the world, thus giving every nation the opportunity for vast and rapid development. I hope that we will use this power for good and not to destroy our kind.
– I think that the Senate is indebted to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) for presenting to it this report by the National Radiation Advisory Committee and initiating a debate in this chamber on the matters discussed by the committee. The National Radiation Advisory Committee, I think in some ways in complete contradiction to the quoted views of Sir Mark Oliphant, as put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), is a body which has never concealed any of the findings that it has made. Since its inception, it has followed a policy of stating publicly what it believes are the facts concerning ionized radiation and why it believes those are the facts.
The report before us, Sir - ‘and this may perhaps be some indication of the truth of the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition that emotionalism very strongly enters into a discussion of this kind - is concerned with the possible effects of ionized particles which arise from medical X-rays, from the use of atomic fissionable material for peaceful purposes, such as in the manufacture of isotopes for all the commercial purposes for which they can be used, and from the various ingredients of paints and other commodities which find a use in scientific and other experiments. It is concerned also with the matter, on which we have heard the Leader of the Opposition speak, of the fall-out of the same particles from atomic tests.
I think it should be brought to the attention of the Senate, Sir, that the committee has clearly shown that the natural background radiation of ionized particles is, from the point of view of those particles which are genetically significant, 100; that the medical uses and other uses to which I have referred create a man-made aura of ionized particles which is 160; and that the ionized particles resulting from the fall-out from atomic tests are not 100, which is the natural background, nor 160, which is the man-made non-military background, but . 3 for the world and . 1 for Australia. As I have said, Sir, I think it is some measure of the emotionalism which surrounds this subject that nearly all the arguments - I do not at this point join issue with those arguments - which we have heard, and nearly all the fears that we have heard expressed, have been concerned not with the 100, the natural background, or with the 160, the man-made background, but with the . 1 which may result from the fall-out from atomic tests.
I should think, Sir, that if this problem is likely to be serious - and it has not been shown by any means that it is - a great deal of attention, in a discussion of this kind, would be devoted to what could be done about ensuring that medical X-rays were used only when absolutely necessary, and to what could be done to make quite sure that radio-active waste from reactors was disposed of so as to provide conditions of safety for the people of the world, because those things will go on whatever happens. Those things are creating, if my mathematics are correct, 1,600 times the effects of the things about which we have heard practically exclusively to-night, namely the possible fall-out from atomic bombs. I think it is necessary, at the beginning, to put into perspective the results of the various production processes of ionized particles that are going on in the world to-day.
The report is significant, I think, in that it is at pains to say throughout, as the Leader of the Opposition has indicated, that it is not proved that any of these feared particles are in fact of any danger whatever. That appears time and again as you read through the report. I do not wish to say categorically the opposite, but I do wish to say that time and again these scientists, whose integrity nobody can question, say, “ It may be that carbon 14 does damage, but it is not proved that it does any. It may be that there is some relation between strontium 90 and caesium 137, but it is not known for sure that there is.” If any dose at all causes damage, although that has not been shown, according to the scientists there may well be a threshold below which no damage is caused at all.
If those findings ‘are true, then there may be a result which, in the case of the relationship between strontium 90 and bone cancer, the scientists put as a maximum of . 6 to . 1 in children’s bones, when the safe factor is 66. That does not mean a factor above which danger occurs, but a factor of at least one-tenth that above which danger may occur. These things, I think, should be brought into relief, because too often a carefully balanced, scientific statement that something might happen is quoted as saying that something will happen.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I crave the indulgence of the Senate to refer again to a very important matter that I raised yesterday by way of a question without notice directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. It concerns the resignation of a young scientist from the Commonwealth Public Service and his acceptance of a position with the State University of Iowa in America. I mentioned in my question that an article on this matter was published in the Melbourne “Herald” of 31st August. As honorable senators know, this newspaper has a very wide circulation in Victoria. The article, headed “More money, less red tape, in U.S. - We lose a brilliant scientist “, reads as follows -
Australia has lost another of her brilliant young scientists -to America.
I appreciate very much Mr. President, that under the Standing Orders I would have had great difficulty yesterday, without your indulgence, in placing this matter before the Minister, and I also realize that the Minister was not in a very good position to make a satisfactory reply on this important matter, especially in view of the fact that at the moment the question of the employment and the training df scientists in Australia is very much to the forefront. I point out that on the same page of the Melbourne “ Herald “ on which this article appeared, there is another article headed “Woomera is well in line - station to space here? “ As this headline is in -bold print, attention would be drawn to it and likewise to the article about the scientist to which I have referred. If what is stated in this article is true, I ‘feel that it will -retard young men in Australia ‘from becoming scientists, and it will dampen the /enthusiasm of parents to induce their sons or daughters ito accept positions of this kind. The article goes on -
The latest to migrate across the .Pacific is Dr. Brian J. O’Brien, deputy chief physicist of -the Commonwealth Antarctic Division -.in Melbourne.
He’s an expert on cosmic rays, auroras -and :refrigeration. He will be .an assistant ;professor of physics at the ‘State University of Iowa in Iowa City.
Although, only 25, he ^already a ‘senior scientist with mush -valuable .’research :to his. credit.
His reasons for leaving? In America, ‘he says, he will get more money and better opportunities for research, and there will be less ‘red ‘tape ‘and fewer frustrations than in Australia. 1 shall leave the cash part .of it out, because .he was .getting a salary of ‘over £1,000 a year, which is, much greater than young .men received when I was 25 years of .age. But I suggest that his statement that there will .be Jess red tape and fewer frustrations in America than here must be looked at. The article continues -
Scientists .in ‘the Commonwealth public service, he >says, are treated unfairly compared with their colleagues in .the C.S.I.R.O. and at Australian universities. “.Dr. O’Brien is outspoken in criticizing the system which made ‘him look for another job. “ Scientists cannot ‘be treated as if ‘they were clerks’”, he said. “ I felt so strongly about it that -earlier this year il .asked a professor ‘I’d been writing to whether he knew of any openings for physicists.”
The American professor gave -Dr. O’Brien an 8,000 dollars (£3,564) a year job almost immediately.
If he ‘had been working for the C.S.I.R:0., Australia .might not have .lost him.
This is a remarkable statement. It is an amazing thing that if Dr. O’Brien had been working for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization instead of the .Commonwealth Antarctic Division, we might not have lost him. The article proceeds -
He said the Antarctic Division was doing “ a grand job “ with the means at its disposal.
What he objected to was too much control from Canberra. “We realize we .must have some red tape,” he said. “ But too often red tape is used to block .research planning through delay.”
His salary here was £1,450 a year, and it took him nearly 6 months to get a rise of less than £1 a week as .a reward for gaining his doctorate, he said. -The U.S. ‘Government in less than a week arranged .by .cable for .a 1,000 .dollars travel grant for ‘himself and h’is -wife. “The Commonwealth public service is far too rigid :about ‘recruitment,” .Dr. O’Brien ;said. “ Your -salary virtually depends on the number of -years -that .have passed since ..you’ve left school. But in the C.S.I.R.O. ability is rewarded, .and people are paid on their worth rather than their age’.”
At this .stage -.of the article there is ,a cross heading “Poor Pay “ .in .bold type, and the article goes on - “ In -the ^public ‘service *you -can’t -get a good man because :the Public .Service .’Board (won’t let you -pay him -.enough.”
Dr. .O’Brien will be ,one of a »team working under Professor James A. Van Allen, an American physicist, who .gained international recognition last -year for discovering the Van Allen belt of .cosmic .radiation about :600 miles above the earth.
He .has worked ,under ,Professor Harry ‘Messel at Sydney University .and in Antarctica.
He .got his doctorate for a thesis on cosmic radiation.
His papers on magnetic and thermo-electric refrigeration ‘have gained ‘him international recognition.
With .the help .of the -U.S. -Air Force, he sent nuclear emulsions 100,000 ft. above the earth to learn more about cosmic -rays.
He -will continue his -research into auroral physics and cosmic rays in America. 1 feel, Mr. President,, that this matter should receive the attention of the Government. I do not know whether all of the statements in the article I have quoted are correct, but the matter is serious enough to demand our attention if conditions in the Public Service are such that scientists are unwilling to remain with us or discourage others from accepting scientific positions in Australia. If the facts are as have been stated by the newspaper, the Minister should let the Senate know the reason for this state of affairs. Let us be able to tell our young men that there is an opportunity in Australia. The subject that has been under discussion in the last hour or so is one that is of great scientific moment. We need, scientists and we need to encourage our people. It is of no use to talk about Russian scientific discoveries if we deny to our young men the opportunity of gaining knowledge that will be of such benefit to this country and to the world generally. I bring this matter forward in order to give the Minister an opportunity of going thoroughly into it. 1 do not expect him to give a quick reply. I think the matter warrants investigation so that we shall know exactly what the position is.
– This afternoon the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) gave us a most interesting outline of what is being done by the Royal Australian Navy in hydrographic and oceanography work. I should like to thank him very much for it, for this is a matter in which I am very interested, as most honorable senators know. I should also like to congratulate the senior officers of the Navy upon bringing their survey vessels and survey work up to the pitch which it is obvious from the Minister’s remarks they have reached.
In fairness to myself, I point out that it is now some years since I first mentioned these matters in the Senate and this is the first time on which I have been given any satisfactory reply. Most of the things now being done have been done only in the last twelve or eighteen months. Indeed, some necessary fittings for the ships have not yet arrived. I hope to pursue my hydrogr.aphical course in connexion with New Guinea, as time, and opportunity allow, because these vessels are dealing primarily with Australia, and the same type of work is.- being, done in. New. Guinea by civilians who are engaged, by the Administration there. I thank the Minister for the courtesy of his very comprehensive reply to my frequent statements on. this subject.
– Some honorable, senators, at. least, will recall that, when I first entered the Senate I. said I thought it was a place where discussion should be on a higher plane than the mere faction fights of the party of which T had been a member. I said that unless any member of the’ party, of which I1 had been a member threw garbage cans at me, I would not throw any. I regret that yesterday in another place where,, due to the accident of the- system- of representation, my party is not represented, the honorable member for Scullin, Mr. E. Wl Peters, took it upon himself to throw a garbage can in my direction by accusing me of personal dishonesty.
I am not unacquainted with the honorable member. In the words of a great American, writer, “ I knew him when:’”. 1 do not want to be hard on. him. He was once a friend and associate of mine and he is trying hard in his present’ party to live down the fact that he was once an industrial group leader. With the approach of selection ballots, it no doubt becomes necessary for the member for Scullin to commend himself to his new friends by hurling garbage at his old friends. I understand his situation. I sympathize with him in his present association with people, including the members of the State executive of his party whom, he frequently told me in the old days, he regarded with contempt and despised. If he feels it necessary to-day to truckle to them in this way, I sympathize with his position and I do not want to be hard on him.
The burden of his complaint, apparently, is that some privileges, he says, are given by the Government to the party to which I belong. Ours is not the only party that gets privileges. I am prepared to have any privileges that we get set alongside the privileges that members of the party on my right get, and I am prepared to have the amount, of government money that is spent on us put alongside the amount of government money that is spent on them. I should welcome details of the mileage that they cover in government cars, as compared with the mileage that we cover. When Senator Cole and 1, as leader and deputy leader, go interstate to cover the work of the party which exists in every State and which, despite the statement of the member for Scullin that it has only two members and no following, has a following of at least 400,000 voters, we pay our own hotel expenses.
The Government confers on the Leader of the Opposition in the other place £12 12s. a day, and on the Deputy Leader £10 10s. a day. We pay our own expenses. Senator Cole has the use of a government car while he is on the mainland. There are no government cars at Devonport and in his work in Tasmania he has to use his own car. He receives no car allowance and he pays in full for its use. The member foi Scullin said that I received privileges from the Government. All that 1 get is to have my name placed on a list with the names of a number of other people on my right as being entitled to have the use of a car from my h’ome to a station or aircraft when 1 am travelling. There is nothing else. I have a car of my own, which I use in my work throughout Victoria. I do not get a penny for it. I am unlike the member for Scullin, who has not a car and relies upon his friends and government cars.
I would have taken without reply what is reported to have been said, were it not for this statement, “ It is dishonest for these persons to accept the additional advantages 1 have indicated “. I do not mind the honorable member for Scullin attacking dishonesty if he thinks it is necessary to do so, but his indignation is somewhat belated. He is a close associate of a member of another place who, from 1949 to 1959, used a government car continually, night and day, on the specious pretext that on every occasion he was representing Dr. Evatt I should like to see Dr. Evatt’s face if he were told of the places at which he was represented! The honorable member for Scullin frequently travelled in the same car, because the honorable member who used the car is a close associate of his. The honorable member for Scullin did not feel it necessary to mention the dishonesty involved in that transaction. On the contrary, he enjoyed the fruits of what he - not 1 - described as dishonesty.
All these things are within the gift of the Government, lt can give them or keep them. It would not matter to Senator Cole or me if the use of government cars, except by Ministers, was wiped out entirely. I should welcome it provided - I hope the honorable member for Scullin moves for this in another place - the rule applied to all members of the Opposition. I do not want to be going, as I do, round Victoria and paying for the use of my own car, while seeing my political opponents using government cars to defeat me in the coming election. I shall have no objection at all if all these privileges are wiped out. On the contrary, I think it might be a good idea.
I should have no objection if the free trips abroad which the Government gives to members of the Opposition here and from which Senator Cole and I are excluded, were wiped out, too. We have nothing to lose. If Mr. Peters is so anxious to conserve government money, why did he accept a free trip to the United States of America as a representative of the United Nations organization? Senator Cole and I, as Leader and Deputy Leader, respectively, of the Democratic Labour Party, do not get twelve guineas and ten guineas a day when we are travelling. We do not get cars full time for ourselves and our wives, we do not get free trips abroad, and we concede the monopoly of the paid positions on parliamentary committees to the Opposition. They cop the lot. But what I object to is that, when they have copped the lot, one of their members should rise in another place, say that on one occasion he saw me get into a government car and go from the station to my home and then add, “ This dishonesty must be cut out of political life “.
– Mr. President, I feel that what I have to say will fall a little flat after what we have heard from Senator McManus. Since Senator Sheehan mentioned the matter of Dr. O’Brien to me I have been able to get a little information. The record runs something like this: O’Brien went to the Antarctic Division of the Department of External Affairs after gaining an honours degree in physics at the University of Sydney. He is a young man, approximately 25 years of age. He has gained his doctor of philosophy degree since leaving the University of Sydney. Obviously he did work while he was engaged with the Antarctic Division and, as I think I said in my reply yesterday, officers who have that opportunity are under some debt of gratitude to their employer for the granting of certain facilities. He was a Physicist, Grade 3, on a salary in the range from £1,443 to £1,623 per annum. He was given an increase in salary by the Public Service Board after obtaining his doctorate.
Dr. O’Brien has been given the same classification as that which applies to other graduates in the Public Service, in accordance with standards applied by the Public Service Board. The Public Service is not able to match either the salaries or the facilities offered by the major Amercan universities to the most able graduates, but its rates are considered to be reasonable when compared with the rates usually paid elsewhere to university graduates. I think it might be fair to say, after reading the record, that Dr. O’Brien has dramatized the present circumstances. I am sure we would all wish this young man the best of luck in going to America. I think it will be a good thing for him to go overseas and see the conditions which obtain there. I think, too, that like most others he will be glad to come back to Australia and that he will be a better man for the experience he gains overseas.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 September 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1959/19590902_senate_23_s15/>.