8 March 1960

23rd Parliament · 2nd Session

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The SENATE met at 3 p.m., pursuant to the proclamation of His Excellency the Governor-General.

THE PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair.

The Clerk read the proclamation.

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GENERAL entered the chamber, and, being seated, with the President on his right hand, commanded that a message be sent to the House of Representatives, intimating that he desired the attendance of honorable members in the Senate chamber forthwith, who, being come with their Speaker,

HIS EXCELLENCY was pleased to deliver the following Speech: -

Members of the Senate and Members of the House of Representatives:

You have been called together to deal with matters affecting the well-being and advancement of the Australian nation. I welcome this opportunity, my first, to address the Senators and Members of the Parliament. I am particularly glad to be doing so at a time when we are all rejoicing at the birth of a second son to Her Majesty the Queen, to whom our loyal affection goes out; and we have recently received the news, which has greatly pleased us all, of Princess Margaret’s engagement.

Since my distinguished predecessor last addressed you Australia has been honoured and delighted by a visit from another member of the Royal Family - Princess Alexandra of Kent.

There will be held this year in London another meeting of the Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth.

There will also be held, beginning on the 1.6th May, a Summit Conference. My Government welcomes all means of relaxation of the tension between the Soviet Union on the one hand and the democratic powers on the other. My Government confidently hopes that the Summit Conference will prepare the ground for other similar meetings working for a progressive growth of confidence and the settlement of outstanding differences.

During the year my Government has sought a growing understanding of the problems of the people of Asia and to cooperate with them in appropriate ways in their constitutional and economic development. The Colombo Plan has been extended for a further period of five years, and Australia’s contribution will do much to raise the standard of living throughout the area. My Government is willing to participate in the World Bank scheme for settlement of the Indus Waters question.

Progress towards international disarmament has been disappointingly slow. Nevertheless my Government welcomes the forthcoming meeting of the ten-Power Disarmament Committee and hopes that it will lead to some progress on general measures of disarmament. Before any satisfactory system can be devised, however, all the great military powers would need to be associated with any agreement.

Australia has again been elected to the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Australian activities including scientific research will continue in the Antarctic. My Government welcomes the signing of the Antarctic Treaty during the year and in due course Parliament will be asked to approve its ratification.

Last year, following a comprehensive review of defence policy by my Government, my Minister for Defence announced a new three year defence programme, involving important changes in the organization and equipment policies of the Services. That programme is now being put into operation.

My Government, in co-operation with the Government of the United States of America, is setting up and operating in Australia stations for observing and recording space satellites.

The short range anti-tank weapon Malkara, designed and built in Australia, has been adopted as standard equipment by the British Army and a substantial order has been placed with my Government.

My Government has decided that more active civil defence preparations should be undertaken and following discussions with the States, detailed plans are now being prepared to ensure co-ordination between the Commonwealth and the States.

My advisers have informed me that, whilst employment and production are high and increasing and all branches of trade are active, there are trends in the economy which have been causing them concern. In particular, costs and prices have been rising at an increasing rate. My advisers believe that if these were allowed to continue it would bring needless hardship to a great many people and it would imperil the stability upon which the further growth of Australia depends.

They have therefore decided upon certain courses of policy of which the broad aim is to counter these untoward tendencies, restore balance between demand and supply and bring the rise in costs and prices to an er.d.

The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is at present hearing claims for substantial increases in the federal basic wage. My Government will, in the course of these proceedings, inform the Commission of its view that our economy needs time to absorb the two large and widespread wage increases which have already occurred within recent months.

It has also announced that, in its Budget for next financial year, it will do all in its power to avoid deficit finance and it has made known that it agrees with, and will support, the policy of restraining the growth of excessive monetary liquidity.

Furthermore, as part of its general scheme of measures, my Government has removed import controls from the great majority of goods coming to Australia. This means that, apart from certain items which will remain temporarily subject to licensing, the flow of imports to this country will be unrestricted except by the Customs Tariff. This important step has been made possible by the relatively strong position of the Australian balance of payments and overseas reserves and my advisers believe that it will produce substantial benefits for the economy.

An independent committee has been appointed to carry out a public investigation of the taxation laws and has begun its work. The decimal currency inquiry is proceeding.

My advisers will bring down legislation to avoid double taxation between the income tax laws of Australia and the Territories of Papua and New Guinea. My advisers are also reviewing the legislation relating to general insurance with the aim of bringing it up to date.

My Government is concerned that the world wide movement towards freer trade has largely excluded primary products. In a number of important markets, restrictive devices of many kinds continue to inhibit free access on commercial terms. My Government will accordingly continue to press for removal of these restrictions, as well as for international measures to ensure greater stability of prices for primary products.

The emergence of two rival trading areas in Europe and the developments flowing from the recent Paris Economic Conference, are being closely watched by my Government, which is alert to Australia’s trading interests in these matters.

My Government has continued to promote the sale of Australian products overseas through its enlarged Trade Commissioner Service, through trade missions, and in co-operation with the Export Development Council and industry and commerce organizations. The increase in many manufacturing exports has been gratifying. A National Export Convention will be held in Canberra in May of this year.

I am advised that there has been a continued growth of manufacturing industry during the past year and that many new projects are being undertaken, a number in association with overseas capital. Protection for efficient and economic Australian industry has always ‘been my Government’s policy.

The prospects for 1959-60 favour a continued high level of production for most of our primary industries, and wool production is estimated at a new record level of 1,690,000,000 pounds. My advisers recognize that an important factor in these achievements is the continued support for research activities from governments and industries and the ability of Australian primary producers to put the results of research to good practical use. In this session legislation will be introduced to permit the establishment of a research scheme in cooperation with the beef industry.

My Government is determined to maintain the impetus to national development and business expansion which immigration provides. In this World Refugee Year my Government will extend Australia’s already liberal contribution to the solution of the residual refugee problem. There are already a quarter of a million former refugees who have taken up residence here.

In Papua and New Guinea my Government continues to foster the development of agriculture and industry by both Europeans and natives and is extending welfare services, particularly in education and health. Steady progress in educating the native people towards greater participation in the administration of the Territory through native local government councils and Public Service training schools is being maintained.

In the Northern Territory the Legislative Council has been reconstituted to provide for a non-official majority, and an Ad,ministrator’s Council with non-official representation is being established. Amendments will be made to the land ordinances to permit subdivision of land within the township areas.

My Government is continuing negotiations with a number of overseas countries on air traffic agreements. One purpose is, of course, to secure necessary facilities so that our international airline Qantas can maintain and expand its operations, particularly in view of the acquisition of its new jet fleet and the commencement of round the world flights. These negotiations have demonstrated the growing interest by overseas operators in the air traffic potential of Australia and its importance on world routes.

My Government is continuing to provide a substantial subsidy to the Australian shipbuilding industry and the number of vessels under construction and orders on hand suggest good prospects for the merchant shipbuilding yards. Work is proceeding to link Sydney and Melbourne by standard gauge railway and the Commonwealth continues to provide increasing sums to the States for expenditure on roads. Legislation will be introduced in conjunction with the States to provide safeguards against the pollution of the sea by oil from ships.

Projects are in hand to provide more adequate accommodation for mail exchanges and in May the Post Office will expand local telephone service facilities over wider areas and include many more subscribers in them.

This will be the first step towards a fully automatic working and nation-wide subscriber dialling system. Telegraph services are being improved and their operating costs are being reduced.

Following a conference of interested Commonwealth countries in Sydney last September, my Government has expressed its willingness to participate in a Commonwealth trans-Pacific large-capacity submarine telephone cable.

Both national and commercial television services are increasing and by the middle of this year national and commercial stations will be operating in all State capital cities. Applications are being heard for commercial television licences in certain country areas.

In addition to the activities already described, my Government has continued to give special encouragement to the development and strengthening of the Australian economy in many other ways. The executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which continues to give magnificent service to Australian industries, has been enlarged and my advisers welcome the practical recognition of the importance of research that has prompted many industries to provide funds for investigations.

My Government proposes to introduce legislation authorizing the advance of up to £20,000,000 to the Queensland Government in accordance with an agreement for the rehabilitation of the railway to Mount Isa, Townsville and Collinsville. Completion of this great project will do much to hasten the development of the immensely rich mineral and other resources of North Western Queensland.

My Government has continued to assist the Western Australian Government in the development of the area of Western Australia north of the 20th parallel of latitude. Under this arrangement the prime responsibility for the selection, planning and execution of developmental projects within the area rests with the Western Australian Government and in response to its request, my Government has agreed to the construction of a diversion dam on the Ord River as a project to be covered by a contribution of up to £2,500,000 from the Commonwealth’s grant.

My Government continues to give active financial support to the search for oil in Australia and its territories and in addition to other assistance, subsidies involving an expenditure of £1,000,000 have been approved for this financial year. Further sums of this order will be made available during the two succeeding financial years. The subsidy to the gold mining industry has been extended at an increased rate for a further three years. In recognition of the importance of discovering new underground supplies of water and the development of known ones, my Government is cooperating with the States to establish a permanent conference to consider these problems.

Work on the Snowy Mountains scheme is now concentrated on the second phase of the Upper Tumut works and contractors continue to make spectacular progress.

The Australian Atomic Energy Commission’s research reactor is now in full operation and it is proceeding with its research programme. Radio-active isotopes are being produced for use in industry, medicine and scientific research.

The year 1958-59 saw the completion of a record number of more than 84,000 new houses and flats, which made a substantial contribution towards reducing the remaining housing shortage. This financial year my Government is again providing approximately £80,000,000 for housing.

The National Capital Development Commission, with increasing assistance from private enterprise, is providing accommodation, schools, other institutions and engineering services for the rapidly growing population of Canberra. During 1960 the commission expects to complete the first of the defence offices at Russell Hill, the new Civic offices, the first of the new university buildings and to proceed with the lake scheme.

My Government is continuing to consolidate and develop the national health services. Arrangements for a considerable extension of the field of pharmaceutical benefits have recently been put into operation.

My Government will continue its policy of extending wherever possible measures to promote the welfare of ex-servicemen and their dependants. In the general field of social services my Government, consistent with its policy over the past ten years, is keeping all benefits under review, and prior to the preparation of the next Budget will consider particular problems associated with the application of the means test and the general pensions system. With the co-operation of the States, my Government has recently put into effect the legislation passed last year to extend the complete range of social services to Australian aboriginal natives.

My advisers are considering the report of the Boyer Committee into Public Service Recruitment and legislation will be introduced to provide greater flexibility in meeting the present and future recruitment needs of the Commonwealth Public Service. Legislation will also be brought down to authorize increases in salaries for certain statutory officers in general conformity with recent adjustments in Public Service salaries.

Arising from a conference at Oxford last year, arrangements are now being made to promote and expand Commonwealth co-operation in education. My Government has agreed to provide some 100 scholarships for students from other Commonwealth countries to study in Australia, and together with the Australian universities and State Education Departments, will participate in measures to assist the less developed members of the British Commonwealth.

The Australian Universities Commission is well established in its task of assisting the development of our universities. The Commission is preparing a programme for the period 1961 to 1963 and has appointed its first committee to inquire into the costs associated with the clinical teaching of medical students in hospitals. My advisers have decided to associate the Australian National University and the Canberra University College as one institution from the beginning of 1961 and detailed arrangements for this are being worked out.

My Attorney-General is proceeding with the preliminary steps required to bring into operation the Matrimonial Causes Act. Discussions are taking place with the State judges and administrations and with marriage guidance organizations and it is expected that the Act will be proclaimed by 1st July next. A Marriage Bill will be introduced to deal, for the first time on a uniform basis throughout Australia, with the celebration of marriage and associated questions. My Government is engaged in the substantial task of considering the lengthy and carefully prepared report presented to this Parliament by the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review.

The Crimes Act has been little amended since the First World War and a Bill will be introduced to extend and bring its provisions up to date, particularly with regard to breaches of official secrecy. The Committee appointed by my Government to review the law of copyright has presented a valuable report recommending changes to bring the law into line with contemporary needs. The report will receive early consideration. Legislation will also be brought down to establish the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory by statute rather than by ordinance.

Amendments to the Electoral Act will be brought forward.

My Government proposes to introduce amendments to the Public Works Committee Act which will permit this Parliament, subject to certain exceptions, to examine closely all proposals for public works which are estimated to cost over £250,000.

The development of tendencies to monopoly and restrictive practices in commerce and industry has engaged the attention of the Government which will give consideration to legislation to protect and strengthen free enterprise against such a development.

In the earnest hope that Divine Providence may guide your deliberations and further the welfare of the people of the Commonwealth, I now leave you to the discharge of your high and important duties. [His Excellency the Governor-General withdrew, and members of the House of Representatives retired.]

Sitting suspended from 3.35 to 4.20 p.m.

The PRESIDENT again took the chair, and read prayers.

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Joint Address of Congratulation to Her Majesty

Senator SPOONER:
Vice-President of the Executive Council and Minister for National Development · New South Wales · LP

– by leave - I move -

That the following Joint Address be presented to Her Majesty the Queen: - “To the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty: Most Gracious Sovereign:

We, the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, tender to Your Majesty and to His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, our ‘warmest congratulations on the occasion of the birth of a son and express the great joy felt by the people of Australia at this event.

We take this opportunity of expressing our continued loyalty to the Throne and Person of Your Majesty.”

Speaking briefly to the motion, I should like to say that I am quite sure that the sentiment which is so simply expressed in this message to Her Majesty and to His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, will receive the unanimous support of all senators. This is one of those occasions upon which all political parties in this Senate speak with the one voice. There are wide differences of opinion between us upon many matters, but the link that binds us together is our common loyalty to the Crown. It is therefore a matter of the greatest importance to us all on each side of this chamber that another son has been born to Her Majesty. We take great pleasure from the fact that Her Majesty is well. We hope that in the years to come she will experience all the joy and all the satisfaction from the love and affection of her children that she so richly deserves.

This is an occasion, Mr. President, on which we might respectfully say that we have noticed with great pride the devotion with which Her Majesty, her husband and, indeed, all the members of the Royal Family have served their subjects in their journeys throughout the Commonwealth and in discharging their heavy responsibilities. The Queen and her husband have commanded both our affection and our respect. We wish them well, and we wish the new prince a long and a happy life.

Senator McKENNA:
Leader of the Opposition · Tasmania

– I speak for every member of the Opposition in saying that we support very warmly the motion and the sentiments expressed by the Leader of the Government (Senator Spooner) in proposing it to the Senate. The people of Australia amply demonstrated their loyalty to and their affection for the Queen when we had the privilege of having her in this country some few years ago. We rejoice with Her Majesty and with His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, in the glory and privilege of her motherhood. We rejoice that the line of succession is now so firmly established.

The Royal Family is a splendid example, not only to the nations of the Commonwealth but to the world, of all that is best in family life. Our earnest hope is that it will always remain as devoted and as united as it now is. There is not one of us who is not edified and moved by the example of the Queen as a wife and mother. There is not one of us who does not watch with keen and sympathetic interest the progress of her three children to a happy and glorious adulthood. On behalf of the Opposition, I have the utmost pleasure in seconding the motion.

Senator COLE:
Leader of the Australian Democratic Labour Party · Tasmania

– I desire to associate the Australian Democratic Labour Party with the sentiments expressed in the motion moved by the Leader of the Government (Senator Spooner) and to wish the Queen and her family health, long life and happiness.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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Assent to the following bills reported: -

National Health Bill 1959.

Therapeutic Substances Bill 1959.

Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1959.

Loan (Housing) Bill 1959.

States Grams (Special Assistance) Bill 1959.

States Grants Bill 1959.

Science and Industry Research Bill 1959.

Nationality and Citizenship Bill 1959.

Rayon Yarn Bounty Bill (No. 2) 1959.

Canning-Fruit Charge Bill 1959.

Canning-Fruit Charge Administration Bill 1959.

Canned Fruit (Sales Promotion) Bill 1959.

Canned Fruits Export Control Bill 1959.

Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill (No. 3) 1959.

Income Tax and Social Services Contribution (Non-resident Dividends) Bill 1959.

Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Bill (No. 2) 1959.

Income Tax (International Agreements) Bill 1959.

Airports (Business Concessions) Bill 1959.

Seat of Government (Administration) Bill 1959.

Australian Capital Territory Representation Bill (No. 2) 1959.

Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill (No. 2) 1959.

Life Insurance Bill 1959.

Commonwealth Motor Vehicles (Liability) Bill 1959.

Taxation Administration Bill 1959.

Customs Tariff Validation Bill 1959.

Excise Tariff Validation Bill 1959.

Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1959.

Seamen’s Compensation Bill 1959.

Loan Bill 1959.

Export Payments Insurance Corporation Bill (No. 2) 1959.

Superannuation Bill 1959.

Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill 1959.

Matrimonial Causes Bill 1959.

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Senator SPOONER:
New South WalesVicePresident of the Executive Council and Minister for National Development · LP

– by leave - I move -

That the Senate expresses its deep regret at the death of the Hon. Herbert Hays, O.B.E., a former Senator for the State of Tasmania, places on record its appreciation ot his long and meritorious public service, and tenders its sincere sympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement.

It is with deep regret that I inform the Senate that Herbert Hays, O.B.E., a former member of this chamber, died in Devonport on 16th February, at the age of 90 years. Those who knew the late Mr. Hays will know that he spent 36 years serving Tasmania, first in the House of Assembly and, later, in the Senate. T think it is fitting that we pay tribute to him for his long record of distinguished public service.

The late Mr. Hays was elected to the House of Assembly in Tasmania at a byelection in June, 1911, and represented Wilmot until June, 1922, when he was defeated at a general election. He was Honorary Minister from 1916 until 1922. He represented Tasmania in the Senate from 1922 until he was defeated at the general election of 1946, but under the Constitution he held his seat until June, 1947. As a member of the Senate, the late Mr. Hays served on numerous select and standing committees. From 1932 to 1935, he was Chairman of Committees and, from 1941 to 1947, Temporary Chairman of Committees. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1951.

Mr. Hays was a farmer, and the welfare of the man on the land was always one of his main considerations. He took a particular interest in the problems of farmers and did all in his power to help overcome them. He was a great friend of Senator Lillico. The late Mr. Hays will be remembered, not only for his contribution as a senator, but also for his upright and friendly personality, which made him popular with all members of both Houses of the Parliament.

Senator McKENNA:
Leader of the Opposition · Tasmania

– On behalf of the

Opposition, I second the motion. The death of Herbert Hays brought to a close a lengthy record of useful public service. Not only did the former senator serve in the Tasmanian Parliament for eleven years, but he also represented that State for 25 years in this chamber. For 28 years he was a very energetic member of the Devonport Marine Board, and he is remembered gratefully in Tasmania for the excellent work he did in that capacity. His very full life has now run its useful course. I had the privilege of knowing him well. I served with him in this Senate from 1944 until 1947, and I have had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Hays from time to time since his retirement in that year. On every personal ground, I deeply regretted his departure from this chamber.

The former Senator Hays was a man - and perhaps I should pause there - but I might add that above all else he was a man of human quality and, as the Minister has indicated, a very nice man. At all times and in all circumstances Senator Hays was courteous, tolerant and kindly. Those very great qualities that he possessed only served to embellish the force, the ability and the persistence with which he pursued his viewpoints in this chamber. His complete personal integrity was as clearly visible as were the clothes that he wore. He earned and held the highest respect of all who had the privilege of knowing him.

I like to think of his long and happy retirement of thirteen years in the company of his family in Tasmania. I know that he was a regular listener to the broadcasts of Senate debates from the time he retired. He commented only recently upon the great increase in the tempo of events in this chamber since his retirement and upon the improved quality of the debates. I am sure honorable senators will be glad to hear that comment from so good a judge and so highly respected a source. I say without hesitation that Senator Hays served Tasmania and the Australian nation with great ability and very great distinction.

On behalf of Opposition senators I express to his widow, his son and daughter our deepest sympathy in their loss. We trust that they will be given the strength to bear their grief.

Minister for Repatriation · Queensland · CP

– The members of the Australian Country Party wish to associate themselves with the motion and to express regret at the death of the Honorable Herbert Hays, a former member of the Senate. I had the pleasure, Mr. President, of having a long association with Senator Hays. I can well remember the advice and counsel that he offered me when I first came to the Senate. We served here together for sixteen or seventeen years. 1 always found him to be a clear thinker and a man of the highest integrity and very high principles. He always aimed at achieving the best; the second best was of no good to Herbert Hays. I noted that he would always study a problem very carefully before coming to a decision, and a very good argument or a very good reason would then need to be advanced to make him change his mind. I have no doubt that these qualities made him a very valuable member of the many important parliamentary committees on which he served. His work as a member of those committees was of great worth to the Commonwealth, which he served for a period of 24 years.

Members of the Australian Country Party extend their deepest sympathy to his widow and family.

Senator COLE:
Leader of the Australian Democratic Labour Party · Tasmania

Mr. President, members of the Australian Democratic Labour Party would like to be associated with the remarks of the honorable senators who have already spoken and to support them in their expressions of condolence upon the death of ex-Senator Herbert Hays. I knew him all my life. We came from the same district. There must be something in the Don soil, because it has produced three Senators, Senator Lillico being the latest to be elected to the Senate.

I always found Senator Hays to be one of nature’s gentlemen. He led a very full life both in and outside the Parliament. He retained his mental faculties to a wonderful degree right to the age of 90 years. In fact, when considerably over the age of 80 years, he was still Treasurer of the Devonport and Mersey Marine Board. That authority passed through a very trying time, and his was the guiding hand that put matters right. I should like to associate my party with the motion of condolence to his wife, son and daughter on their very sad loss. It is a sad loss also to my own district, and, I think, to Australia as a whole.

Senator LILLICO:

– Because I knew the late Senator Herbert Hays so very well - I was reared on a neighbouring farm - I should like to speak on the motion of condolence that has been moved. Senator Spooner referred to the late senator’s very long parliamentary life, and Senator McKenna mentioned that he had been associated for a long time with the Devonport Marine Board. I think that association must have lasted for almost 50 years.

As one who knew him very well, I can say that his greatest attribute was that he was a kindly man. No matter what the circumstances, no matter what the injury he suffered, he bore no ill will towards any of his fellow men. I noticed that attribute during all the years that I knew him. He reached the ripe age of 90 years and five months. I feel that with his passing Tasmania and the Commonwealth generally are the poorer. I am glad to be associated with the motion that has been moved by Senator Spooner.

Senator TANGNEY:
Western Australia

– I feel that I cannot let this opportunity pass without paying a deep and sincere personal tribute to the late Senator Hays. He was one of the kindliest of men. With his very gracious wife, he helped to make my early years in the Senate very pleasant.

I feel that all people engaged in Australian public life can learn a lot from the examples set by men such as the late Senator Hays. During the four years that I was associated with him in the Senate, I never heard him say an unkind word, or, for that matter, say anything in the heat of anger. Although he was a stern upholder of his political views, he was just and honorable towards those who held different views. I received a shock when I read of his passing. I should like to join in this motion of condolence to his wife, who was such a gracious personality and such a wonderful helpmate to him.

Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in their places.

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– I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General a commission to administer to honorable senators the oath or affirmation of allegiance.

Commission laid on the table and read by the Clerk.

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Senator SPOONER:
New South WalesVicePresident of the Executive Council and Minister for National Development · LP

– by leave - I have to inform the Senate that, as a result of the. resignation of Mr. Casey, consequent upon his elevation to the peerage, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has been sworn in as Minister for External Affairs. The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) has been appointed Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. In this chamber, I shall represent the Minister for External Affairs and Senator Henty will represent the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Following the resignation by Senator Paltridge of the portfolio, Mr. Opperman has been sworn in as Minister for Shipping and Transport. He will be represented in this chamber by Senator Paltridge. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) has been elevated to Cabinet rank.

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Appointment of Leaders

Senator McKENNA:
Leader of the Opposition · Tasmania

– by leave - I desire to inform the Senate that the Honorable A. A. Calwell has been appointed Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party in the place of the Right Honorable Dr. H. V. Evatt, who has resigned. Mr. E. G. Whitlam, the. honorable member for Werriwa, has been appointed Deputy Leader. Mr. E. James Harrison, the honorable member for Blaxland, has been appointed to the executive of the Australian Labour Party. Mr. Calwell will be the Leader of the Opposition, and Mr. Whitlam the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives.

Senator SPOONER:
New South WalesVicePresident of the Executive Council and Minister for National Development · LP

– by leave - I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his courtesy in informing the Senate of the appointment of his Colleagues Mr. Calwell and Mr. Whitlam as Leader and Deputy Leader respectively of the Australian Labour Party and Mr. E. James Harrison to the executive of that party.

The offices of Leader and Deputy Leader of the Australian Labour Party are great and honorable offices for men to hold. We on the Government side of the Senate would like to extend our congratulations to both Mr. Calwell and Mr. Whitlam upon their election to those high offices. Although political feeling runs deep and there is a great divergence of views between us, I ask the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) to convey to Mr. Calwell and Mr. Whitlam our desire, as members of the Government parties, to assist them in carrying out the high offices they hold in the Australian Parliament to the great benefit of the Australian Parliament.

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Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in this bill.

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– I have to inform the Senate that I have received a copy of the Opening Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General to both Houses of Parliament this day.

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Senator LILLICO:

.- I move -

That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -

May rr Please Your Excellency -

We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.

I deeply appreciate the honour of initiating this debate and the opportunity of expressing loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen and our feelings of rejoicing in the birth of her second son. 1 pay tribute to the sterling work for Australia and the British Commonwealth performed by the former Governor-General, Field-Marshal Sir William Slim. We are fortunate indeed to have as his successor such a distinguished and experienced representative of Her Majesty as Viscount Dunrossil.

As a representative of the State of Tasmania I feel that I should pay to the Government and to Senator Paltridge in particular a well-deserved tribute upon the inauguration of the vehicular and passenger service by sea to that State. Although at first thought this may be regarded as a parochial matter, the service does confer a benefit upon other States as well as upon Tasmania because it does mainland residents the world of good to go to Tasmania and view the unsurpassed scenic attractions of that State. The service has been in operation for five months. Sufficient time has elapsed to indicate clearly that it is a most outstanding success and is giving a terrific boost to tourist traffic to Tasmania. lt is fairly common to see on Tasmanian roads to-day not only motor cars from other States but also interstate freightcarrying vehicles that have been brought over on the “ Princess of Tasmania “. In some instances they are able to deliver the goods that they carry and go back to the mainland on the return voyage. This is indicative of the success that has attended the service established by the Government and it augurs well for the success of the service to be established when the “ Bass Trader “ goes into operation. According to information supplied to me by the Australian National Line, during the past five months 37,152 passengers and 13,666 vehicles have been taken to the island State by “ Princess of Tasmania “. I believe that accommodation on this vessel is fully booked until some time in May. A great advantage of this mode of transport, Mr. President, is that it is possible in one hour to clear 90 cars and twelve trailers. Over the years, a very great disability of Tasmania was its isolation and the fact that, at times, the Tasmanian shipping service was most indifferent. I believe that over the last year or two, apart from the success that has attended the inauguration of “ Princess of Tasmania “, the shipping service to Tasmania has been improved.

Senator O’Byrne:

– By public enterprise.

Senator LILLICO:

– I believe that, through the agency of the Australian National Line and other shipping companies which are not public enterprises, much has been done to remove Tasmania’s feeling of isolation.

The means of transport provided by “ Princess of Tasmania “ is a great advantage to Tasmania. Speed of delivery is increased, the need for costly packaging is eliminated, and the loss due to breakages is greatly reduced. Tasmania is well served by this method of sea transport, and if the same degree of success attends the inauguration of “ Bass Trader “ as has characterized the activities of “ Princess of Tasmania “, T believe that the State will enter a new era in its relations with the mainland States.

As a Tasmanian myself. 1 say that tribute should be paid to Senator Paltridge for his drive and initiative, as the then Minister for Shipping and Transport, in introducing “’ Princess of Tasmania “, because, without a doubt, that vessel has brought, and is bringing, a lasting benefit to the State

T turn now to another passage in His Excellency’s Speech to which a lot of prominence has already been given, and to which a great deal more prominence will be given as time goes by, and that is the reference to the threat to our economy of continually increasing costs and prices. I should like to say at the outset that, in the eyes of some people, any remedial action taken by the Government will be wrong, and even sinister. Of course, in party politics it is necessary to have a talking point and, regrettable though this may be, the success that a political party achieves in some respects, depends very largely on what it is able to induce the people to believe. I was very interested in a speech that was delivered by Mr. Calwell, the new Leader of the Australian Labour Party, when opening his campaign in the La Trobe by-election, in which he said that the Government was committed to a policy of creeping inflation and that the measures it proposed to take were merely further aids to big business to enable it to continue despoiling the people through price increases; and that the Government’s opposition before the Arbitration Commission to further increases in wages was a device to give big business time to push its price increases into the cost structure. Mr. Calwell went on to list as his number one cause of inflation the refusal of big business to accept the judgment of the Arbitration Commission that it had the capacity to pay. It seems to me to be perfectly obvious that any costs that are incurred in production must be passed on in some way, either in part or wholly, to the consumers.

Senator Ormonde:

– Irrespective of profits.

Senator LILLICO:

– I have always noticed that a lot of people agree with the profit motive when they are on the receiving end, but as soon as profits accrue to any one else profit becomes the most reprehensible thing in the whole wide world. I do not believe in excessive profits, but Mr. Calwell, in the speech he delivered in the La Trobe by-election, laid all the blame for increased costs in this Commonwealth at the door of big business. I should say, at a guess, that big business employs only a fraction of the work force of this country. Many people throughout the Commonwealth of Australia who are in a small way of business, employing only two or three people, find it difficult to make ends meet. These small business people, not big business, employ the great majority of members of our work force. It is perfectly obvious to me that increased costs must be passed on to somebody.

When I was a member of the State Parliament, little Tasmania continued almost singlehanded to impose prices control. At the time, I believe it was costing that State thousands of pounds to control a few items. When prices control in Tasmania was thrown out, many people thought that we were entering a period of inflation when prices would increase tremendously; they had pinned their faith in the implementation of prices control.

Mr. Calwell, in the speech to which I have referred, cast aspersions upon the Government for not having proceeded to implement the report of the Constitutional Review Committee and secure increased powers to enable it to deal with the problem of continually rising costs. The report of that committee is most comprehensive. According to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), its implementation would necessitate 20 or 30 amendments to the Constitu tion. As a layman, I should say that the report requires many months’ consideration before a decision can be taken as to the proposals that should be placed before the Australian people. This is not a matter that can be decided in a month or two. But it is true that just as in the Tasmanian Parliament prices control was regarded as the cure-all, many federally minded people believe that the cure-all for inflation is a greater aggregation of power in the Federal Parliament. I think that there is very little force in what Mr. Calwell has said. It seems to me to be perfectly obvious that if the wage bill of this country increases at the rate of £160,000,000 a year, as it has over the past few months, there must be repercussions in the Australian economy. Any man who thinks that there will not be repercussions and that big business, or any other kind of business, can absorb those increased costs without undue harm to the economy of the country, probably accepts as gospel truth the story of Alice in Wonderland.

Senator Ormonde:

– The judges did not think so. They thought it could be done.

Senator LILLICO:

– I may have something to say about those judges later on. What interests me is that just the opposite view was taken by Mr. Reece, the Labour Premier of Tasmania. Mr. Reece is a man of considerable standing in that State. In addition to being the Premier of Tasmania, he also has been Federal President of the Australian Labour Party. In the press of about a fortnight ago, under the heading “ Pay Rises Cause Inflation “, Mr. Reece is reported to have said - “Tradesmen and semi-skilled workers had received pay increases ranging from a few pence to 21s. per week. Highly paid groups on the other hand had been awarded salary increases of hundreds of pounds a year. There is no sense of reality “, he went on, “ in decisions that produce such fantastic differences, nor is there sound appreciation of the effect of these large increases on our economy as a whole.”

The inference may be drawn from Mr. Reece’s statement that the increases must have a profound effect on our economy as a whole. The article went on - “The position seems to have got out of proportion because a generally arbitrary method is creating some false standards in the top salary brackets. The inevitable result will be strong efforts by groups on lower salaries to get their range lilted closer to the top. As these efforts bear fruit the cost of goods and services will rise and the great majority of wage earners will end up wilh reduced buying power.” Mr. Reece concluded with a warning that we could easily price ourselves out of many world markets.

That was Mr. Reece’s version. He said definitely that we could not expect to have these increases granted by the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission without some repercussions in the economy. He went on to say that the action of the commission had no sense of reality. His statement was entirely critical of the decisions that had been made and the procedure adopted. i say again, Mr. President, that when we have such substantial increases in our costs of production, somebody has to pay the extra charges. It is fantastic to say that additional costs amounting to £160,000,000 a year can be met out of profits. I repeat that I do noi believe in excessive profits, but while we have this free enterprise system, which is the only system that guarantees the freedom of the individual, increased” costs of production must certainly be passed on to somebody. There is only one section of the community that cannot pass on increased costs, and that consists of the primary producers. The primary producer is always at the bottom’ of the ladder, and he simply has to take what comes.

Senator Courtice:

– The Government has helped to keep him there during the last ten years.

Senator LILLICO:

– Ever since the inception of the policy of protection, the primary producers have subsidized the secondary industries of this country to the tune of many millions of pounds.

There seems to be a tremendous amount of common sense in the contention that we have heard advanced previously in this chamber, I think by Senator Wright, that it is high time that stock was taken of the Arbitration Commission with a view to having it more broadly based, by appointing to it men with industrial and economic experience. It does not seem to me to be the proper thing that the great attribute of those qualified for admission to the commission should be ability in interpretation of the law. I believe that there is a great deal to be said for the contention that we should have a broader based Arbitration Commission and that it should, in part at least, be composed of men with industrial experience and some knowledge of the economics of the whole community.

Before I conclude, I wish to say a word or two about primary production. I think it was the President of the Australian Primary Producers’ Union who said, some days ago, that if costs continued to rise our primary products will be in danger of being priced out of their markets and that, in fact, the primary producers will be faced with economic disaster. I think particularly of the dairying industry. If anything detrimental happened to that industry, the repercussions would be felt throughout the Commonwealth, not only by the farmers themselves, but also by business people in. many country towns, who depend in large measure for their prosperity upon the primary producer having the wherewithal to deal with them. In light of the fact that criticism has so often been levelled regarding the price that the consumer must pay for butter, it is interesting to refer to some figures which I took out some time ago. Whereas the basic wage in Hobart has risen since 1939 from £3 17s. per week to £14 2s., or an increase of 366 per cent., during the same period the price of butter, ex factory in Tasmania, has risen by only 307 per cent. I know that, by comparison with the position in New Zealand, where the government heavily subsidizes the cost of butter to the consumer, the price of butter in this country is fairly dear. But when you compare the rise that has taken place since 1939 in the prices of butter and other commodities, it is clear that the proportionate rise in the price of butter is no more, and in many cases less, than the increase in other commodity prices. We appreciate the great help that has been given by the Commonwealth Government to the dairying industry, but I remind honorable senators that that assistance is meagre in the light of the extent to which primary industries have subsidized the secondary industries of Australia since protection was introduced. Those subsidies have been paid virtually through the higher prices that farmers have had to pay for the things they need.

Senator Benn:

– Can the honorable senator cite any statistics in that connexion?

Senator LILLICO:

– It would be almost impossible to estimate the amount of subsidy that has been paid over the years, but nearly 50 years ago, when I was a young nian, one authority estimated that the price a farmer would have to pay for a reaper and binder if it had free entry into Australia would be about half the price that was paid at that time, and the higher price was brought about by tariff protection. I do not know that I disagree entirely with tariffs but when people single out primary industries and say that this assistance should be removed or that assistance is not fair, I say that we are entitled to direct attention to what has been done by the farmers for other industries over the years. I view with concern the position of primary industries in Australia. I concede that the Government, by its policy, has created confidence in Australia and has attracted secondary industries and overseas investments to this country. That is a good thing.

Senator Ormonde:

– The people who work in the industries eat the butter.

Senator LILLICO:

– Yes, they do create a local market, but a tremendous price has to be paid to get the butter on to the local market. The Governor-General referred to the fact that, unlike the markets for other commodities, the market for primary products overseas seems to be becoming more restricted. It is not expanding as we require it to expand if we are to develop Australia as it should be developed. I am one of those who believe that if we are to develop Australia and to hold it, primary production as well as secondary industries must be encouraged. I concede that the difficulties confronting us are outside the realm of Government control; they have been brought about by world conditions. Nevertheless, I believe that the Government should not, in any circumstances, entertain any suggestion that the props and aids that are now given to primary industry should be singled out for elimination. I place little credence on the statements that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition in another place about inflation. If everybody in all walks of life - and I am not referring only to trade unionists - were to give a reasonable return for the money he receives, the effects of continually increasing costs would not be nearly as severe as we are led to expect them to be.

Western Australia

– I second the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. In doing so may I say that I am deeply conscious of the honour and grateful for the privilege that has been accorded me. In the Governor-General’s Speech, reference was made to the legislation that the Government proposes to bring down during this session of the Parliament. This is the first sessional period in the new decade beginning with 1960. Perhaps we shall see during this decade the beginning of a chapter in the development of Australia even greater than we have seen in the past decade. During the ten years that this Government has been in office we have seen not only many new and mighty developments but also the achievement of a standard of living comparable with the best in the world and higher than the standard reached in many countries. The employment situation, compared with world standards, is good. Our industrial production is still rising. Rural output is still high despite the drought in South Australia and in some other parts of the Commonwealth. Immigrants are still coming to Australia at a very satisfactory rate. Only a month or two ago, the number of immigrants who have come here since the inauguration of the immigration scheme passed the 1,500,000 mark.

In addition to all these factors that have contributed to our prosperity, Australia still offers untold and unexplored opportunities for development and expansion. Great rewards of wealth and stability are open to all those who are industrious and enterprising enough to work for them. Surely this must be regarded as a most encouraging start for this new decade. However, as the Governor-General has said, there are perturbing tendencies in our economy. The most serious is the rise in costs and prices. I was pleased by the action of this Government in lifting nearly all remaining import restrictions. This was a courageous move and I congratulate the Government for having made it. I believe this action will be supported by the large majority of the people. I would like to see the Government go further and peg back some of the tariff duties as a means of creating competition between Australian manufacturers.

I believe that the rise in prices that has occurred, but which has not been by any means as sudden as some people would like us to believe, has been caused principally by forces within our own economy. I was very pleased to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) suggest to the States that they should play their part at arbitration court hearings. But I would have gone further, Sir, and have suggested to some of the employers who have appeared at hearings in the past that in many cases their opposition to an increase in wages was only a token one. T believe it has become the general practice among employers to pass on to the public as quickly as possible increases in wages and other costs. If we hark back to the days before the last war, we find that businessmen and employers always looked around for ways and means by which they themselves could absorb increased wages or costs and only in the last resort would pass them on to the consumer. I believe they looked for ways and means of absorbing costs because competition compelled them to do so.

To-day the picture is different, and I think one could go so far as to claim that the whole cost structure has gone by the board. Nowadays an employer, when making out a programme for the year’s work, has to provide for increased costs which in turn are just passed on. That happens in every case except, as was mentioned by Senator Lillico, that of the primary producer, who is at the bottom of the ladder. The primary producer cannot pass on his costs.

Senator Kennelly:

– The wheat grower passes them on.


– He cannot pass them on.

Senator Kennelly:

– The producer of wheat gets his cost of production. Get down to facts and do not make loud speeches that mean nothing.


– I repeat that the primary producer cannot pass on his costs, because most of his products are sold on world markets. Let us examine the matter of wheat. The wheatgrower will have to pay increases in wages and increases in the cost of every article he uses in the production of his crop.

Senator Kennelly:

– But he gets his cost of production for home consumption wheat and for 100,000,000 bushels of export wheat.


– Naturally he will get the increase for home consumption wheat, but what price will he get for wheat sold overseas? His crop is sold within the limits of the International Wheat Agreement and on a market which is supplied by producing countries that have large surpluses.

Senator Benn:

– Do the producers not get a guaranteed price for up to 100,000,000 bushels?


– Yes, but what is the total output of the Australian wheat-growers?

Senator Benn:

– It is more than 100,000,000 bushels.


– Now let us examine the position of the wool producers. This year the price of wool has risen by more than ls. per lb. on last season’s average price. But wages and the cost of every article used in the production of wool have risen, so any benefit gained by the increased price will be offset. If the wool-growers are to be any better off this year than they were last year, wool must sell at the prices that were paid at the opening of this season or even higher. But how is that to happen? In Australia wool is sold under the auction system. Buyers from all over the world come here ar.d pay a price only as high as that forced on them by opposition buyers.

I suggest, Mr. President, that primary producers are restricted also by two sets of local costs which are sheltered by a protective system. I refer, first, to the inflated prices of locally-produced secondary goods that are specifically protected by the customs tariff. Secondly, there is a set of costs based on a device which has been established to determine wages and working conditions. What is the remedy for the situation in which we find ourselves? In recent weeks many people have suggested ways and means by which the problem may be solved. They have said that the Government should do this or that. Reasons for the solutions suggested have been advanced by laymen, political people, and some of the top economists in this country, but so far none of those people has come forward with a solution that is acceptable to the majority of the Australian people. I, as a primary producer, believe that the solution lies, partly, in pegging back some of the tariff duties behind which I feel a number of our local industries are sheltering.

Senator Courtice:

– What was the position of the farmer before the introduction of protection or tariffs’.’


– I was not alive then. Secondly, I think representatives of employers and employees should be called into conference in the hope of their agreeing to a wage and prices structure that would enable lower costs, achieved through higher productivity, to be passed on to the consumer, thus fostering a policy of price reduction that would eliminate the need for wage increases.

Now 1 should like to turn to a matter that I brought before the Senate last year. 1 refer to the shortages of fencing and baling wire and galvanized piping in Western Australia. Those shortages are still with us, and are even more acute. I am led to believe that, if orders were not accepted from today onwards, it would take from four to six months to catch up with outstanding orders on the books of distributors in Western Australia. I am further informed that the position is likely to deteriorate very much further, because only recently a large part of Western Australia has experienced some of the worst floods within the memory of the residents of the areas affected. So, when orders for materials for fences and watering points begin to come to hand, the position will be more acute than it is at the present time. So far the damage to fences and watering points has not been fully determined, but it is expected that when all the information comes to hand that damage will be found to be considerable. However, the damage suffered by these people will be balanced out to some extent by the hope that once again they will be able to get their properties back into good heart after years of dryseasons and, in some cases, drought. Those were years during which they had seen their flocks and herds dwindle as a result of starvation and thirst and their fences and watering points deteriorate because of lack of finance to provide for their upkeep. After the welcome rains, these people hoped that they would be able to increase their flocks and herds to their original size. They hoped also that they would be able to carry out repairs to fences and watering points, and perhaps to carry out improvements of which they had dreamt for years. What was the position? When they went to Perth to lodge their orders for the necessary material, they found that none was available and that there was a waiting list of at least six months.

I believe that representations have been made to Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited for increased quotas of iron rod, but so far the manufacturers in Western Australia have been turned down. Many people in that State are very bitter about this situation, particularly as this is not the first time in recent years that Western Australia has suffered because of a steel shortage. They believe that Western Australia should receive better treatment than it is receiving at the present time, because of the generous terms on which B.H.P. obtains its raw materials from Western Australia. The people of Western Australia consider that B.H.P. has a moral obligation to their State to see that its requirements are fully met. I believe that the Commonwealth Government, because of its refusal to lift the ban on the export of iron ore from Western Australia, also has a moral obligation to that State to see that its iron and steel requirements can be met without the necessity to import from overseas at considerably greater costs. I make an appeal to the Government and the Minister concerned. There is a big back-log of orders for fencing wire and galvanized piping in Western Australia at the present time. The damage caused over a wide area by floods has increased the demand for these materials. Therefore, I ask that manufacturers in Western Australia be granted a special allocation over their normal quotas.

Another matter which is causing concern, particularly in the Great Southern part of the State, is the proposal for the provision of television in country areas. Some sections of the community there claim that the Government had ignored them completely. They have reached this conclusion after reading a report that appeared in a daily newspaper recently, wherein it was stated specifically that the Government was going to place television stations at certain places around the coast. I have done some research into this matter, and I have found that the places referred to in the press article are not stated specifically in the plan as locations for transmitters. They appear under the heading “ Areas “. I have also found that the exact locations of the transmitters cannot be pinpointed until the evidence given in applications for licences has been heard and studied by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. The (frequency allocation plan provides for the ultimate extension of this medium to all areas with a population exceeding 5,000 people, but naturally the whole plan cannot be implemented at once. The task can be tackled only stage by stage. I feel that the policy of the Government to make this medium available to the people in various stages or phases is sound and conforms with the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Television, upon which Western Australia was represented.

His Excellency referred also to the continued high level of production in most of our primary industries, placing special emphasis on the estimated new record level of wool production. I feel that we owe a debt of gratitude to primary producers for the way in which they have continued to increase production year by year, despite the heartbreaks and frustrations that can arise from year to year from circumstances completely beyond their control. We all know that a year’s work can be destroyed by fire, flood or drought. The efforts of these men are the more praiseworthy when we consider that the producer population has not increased over the years. In fact, it has decreased. We should be proud of the way in which the producers have at all times shown their willingness to put the results of research to good practical use, and of the way in which, over the years, they have co-operated with the Government in contributing to meet the cost of research.

I was very pleased to hear that the Government will introduce legislation during this sessional period to permit the establishment of yet another research scheme - this time in co-operation with the beef industry. Growers in many industries have over the years financed and carried out promotion campaigns in an endeavour to popularize their products and so increase their sales. One very good example of this is to be found in the wool industry. At the present time, there is a suggestion from a number of quarters that the wool-growers should increase their contributions to research very considerably. However, it is obvious to many wool-growers that, unfortunately, promotion is only one factor involved in the sale of their product. Over the years, they have seen the sale of their wool adversely affected by factors such as reports of over-production and overstockpiling, bear raids on the future’s market and the economic situation in buyer countries. Those are only some of the influences which create nervousness in a market that has no stable basis.

Many wool-growers in my State have claimed over the years that the only way to overcome some of their marketing difficulties is to introduce a reserve price system into the auction system. This seems to them to be the only businesslike way in which to obtain protection against the great fluctuations of prices that take place from season to season, and in many cases from sale to sale. The growers claim that, once having obtained that protection, they can afford to promote with all the vigour that characterizes other business concerns. Although prices for wool have increased by more than one shilling per lb. on last season’s average, a curious situation has arisen in the wool market in Western Australia. We had a similar situation in that State four or five years ago when a large number of growers sold their wool outside the auction rooms. The wool sold by private treaty has been estimated in some quarters to represent as much as 25 per cent, of the total clip of Western Australia. A closer examination of the situation discloses that the wool sold in this way has come from the agricultural areas where in the main the producers are small and where, over recent years, production has been almost, or little more than, 80 per cent, of the total clip for the State. That being so, it can be claimed that a closer analysis of the situation will disclose that more than 25 per cent, of the wool produced in the agricultural areas is sold by private treaty.

In an endeavour to recapture the sales that have been lost to the auction system, the wool brokers of Western Australia have decided to conduct sales weekly as from the beginning of July. They claim that this will enable the grower, if he wishes to do so, to sell his wool within two weeks after its arrival in the broker’s store. The brokers hope that the new system will attract back to the auction floor those producers who sold their wool by private treaty in years gone by.

In my opinion, this is merely wishful thinking on the part of the wool brokers because most of the growers in Western Australia who sold their wool outside the auction system did so because they were offered prices which they considered to be more in line with what their wool was worth, and prices which would enable them to budget for the next season’s working of their properties. Except at the very beginning of their operations, the producers have not been worried about the availability of returns from their products because in most instances in the past the private buyer has bought as soon as the weights of the wool were known. What has worried the producers mainly about the auction system has been the uncertainty of the price they would receive.

Perhaps it can be claimed that the brokers themselves have been responsible for the failure of many growers to continue supporting the auction system. Many reasons can be offered for this. Perhaps the chief of them has been the unwillingness of brokers in the past to make changes desired by the growers. Now, however, the brokers are only too willing to make changes desired by the growers provided the growers do not seek the introduction of the reserve price system.

As a producer, I have always believed that this country has suffered in the past through rushing wool on to the market in predetermined quantities and at predetermined dates irrespective of the demand existing at the time for that product. Only too often have we heard the words, “Keen demand “ at sale after sale, year after year, irrespective of the prices obtained for the wool. So the position in Western Australia now is that the growers, being unable to market under a system that appeals to them, are prepared to by-pass the existing system in an effort to achieve some sort of stability.

From time to time, the growers have approached the Government in an endeavour to obtain a change from the present methods of selling wool, and the Government has always replied that when the majority of the growers in the Commonwealth decide they want a change and are agreed upon the nature of the change, and only then, it will give them a sympathetic hearing. This Government has always considered that the product belongs to the man who produces it. Believing that to be true, the Government says that the grower should have the right to say how the product is to be sold. While appreciating that this is a very sound answer for any government to give, I cannot accept it as a decision which can be looked upon as favorable to the growers because, while the Government is waiting for the growers to make up their minds that they want a change and to agree on what that change should be, people other than producers are working behind the scenes to ensure that the growers never reach agreement on how they will sell their wool and gain control over the sale of their product.

Finally, I suggest that the situation in Western Australia must be carefully watched and the evidence submitted to the Goulburn inquiry last year must be studied closely by the Government if the future of this great industry is to be saved from becoming chaotic. No country which depends so much as Australia does upon the sale of wool for its income can afford to let the position become chaotic and no government should stand by and let chaos develop without taking some action to help the smaller growers achieve some sort of security. I second the motion.

Debate (on motion by Senator O’Flaherty) adjourned.

page 22


Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -

That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till to-morrow at 3 p.m.

Senate adjourned at 5.54 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 March 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.