25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I address the following questions to the Minister for Health: First, has the Minister received any communication from Mr. H. C. Ashton concerning his claims that science institutes, of which 14 have been established in England and Scotland alone, are curing heart disease within six or eight weeks without the use of drugs or operations? Secondly, has he any information about the work of the National Heart Foundation? Thirdly, has there been any improvement in combating heart disease since the establishment of the Foundation?
– I recently answered a question similar to the first one asked by the honorable senator. I can only amplify what I said then by informing him that up to this point of time I have received no representations from Mr. Ashton. I repeat my earlier statement that officers of my Department are always available for consultation with people who have something to contribute. That holds good for Mr. Ashton. The honorable senator will know that the National Heart Foundation has a board of very distinguished governing directors, the chairman being Sir Warren McDonald. The headquarters of the foundation is located in Canberra. lt will be recalled that in 1961, I think, as the result of a nationwide campaign, about £2i million was subscribed towards the work of the Foundation. The Foundation endows overseas fellowship research, and it makes grants available to individuals, organisations, hospitals and universities engaged in research. Perhaps the most interesting fact that I can recall is that up to 1963, as a result of the activities of the Foundation, approximately 1,000 patients had been treated, almost 700 of whom returned to employment. That indicates that the Foundation is performing a very useful service for the health of the community.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Works. I refer to a statement of the Minister for Housing, which he appears to have made recently when addressing a meeting of the Real Estate Development Institute in Sydney, to the effect that he hoped effective moves would be made to standardise building regulations. Can the Minister for Works indicate whether he has taken any part in moves towards such standardisation and, if so, with what results so far? Can he estimate to what extent the total of Australia’s building costs would be cut if standardisation of State building regulations were achieved?
– I think that all the State Ministers for Local Government, as well as the Commonwealth Minister for Housing and myself as Minister for Works, are very interested indeed in the possibilities of getting the greatest possible standard of uniformity in building regulations operating throughout Australia. I am certain that the need for this is well understood in all quarters, though there are some difficulties in relation to climatic conditions and other matters of that kind. I know that State Ministers for Local Government are interested in it. The Minister for Housing is interested in it, and so am I. No-one can give an accurate estimate of the saving in Australia should standardisation come into effect, but I should think that the minimum estimate would be something like £35 million a year, and that would leave out of consideration savings in convenience to owners who were constructing buildings, and monetary savings to them from having buildings constructed more quickly.
I have taken some part in endeavouring to bring this about. At the present moment the situation is this: There was a meeting in Sydney a month or so ago - I have forgotten exactly when - which was attended by many of us and many architects, engineers and other people engaged in the building industry generally. Subsequent to that meeting, there was a meeting of officers of State departments connected with local government and a representative of the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station. I understand that meeting decided to recommend to all of the State Ministers that a standing committee consisting of representatives of the States who .have responsibility in this matter be established. Such a standing committee has not existed before. It is recommended that the committee meet regularly to endeavour to bring about the uniformity in building regulations which we all want. Should this come about, the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station which is a section of the Department of Works, would be glad to provide a continuing secretariat for the standing committee should it be asked. My Department and the Commonwealth Department of Housing would give every possible assistance and co-operation to such a committee.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service direct the attention of his colleague to the recent publication of the first report of the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Labour Manpower Research Unit, which forecast the British work force position for the next ten years? Will he ask the Minister, in the interests of Australian industry, to cause a similar forecast to be published in relation to the Australian work force?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– I was able to consult the Minister for Labour and National Service as to the answer he would wish to give to this question. It is along these lines: It has always been the policy of the Depart ment to encourage the greater use of the older worker. The Department, in its work, has sought to encourage employers not to impose restrictions which preclude the employment of older workers. Clearly, some jobs call for younger workers, but for a great range of jobs age has no significance and sometimes the experience which age brings may be a decided advantage. The Department has not been unsuccessful in its efforts in this respect. Under conditions of labour shortage, there are generally greater opportunities for older workers. The Government, from time to time, has relaxed the income limits on persons eligible for age pensions. This, no doubt, has encouraged retired people to continue longer at work. I do not see any need for any particular survey of retired persons. The Department will certainly not relax its efforts to replace the older worker and, as well, there are several private organisations in Australia which put a lot of effort into aiding and finding employment for the older worker.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. Did not his predecessor frequently declare that the Government has a two-airline policy and that its continuing objective is to build an industry comprised of one Government airline and one privately-owned airline? If this policy is carried into the intrastate field, is it not clear that it can be achieved only if East West Airlines Ltd. is taken over or squeezed out?
– What the honorable senator says is quite correct. The Commonwealth Government has always pursued the policy of having two airlines in competition on trunk routes. That is quite correct. It has also pursued the policy of subsidising intrastate airlines and, without that subsidy, a number of the present intrastate airlines would not be running. It is because of this subsidy which keeps intrastate airlines going that the Government has felt that there is no room for competition on an intrastate airline when it is subsidised. The honorable senator mentioned one airline in New South Wales. As I understand it, what is happening in New South Wales is that there are two private enterprise monopolies, both licensed by the New South Wales Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Has he read a report that Japan has discovered a commercial process for the desalination of water and, if so, has his Department any knowledge of the process? Further, has research within Australia yet produced any commercial process?
– I am, indeed, aware that Japan, among a number of nations, is now pursuing scientific inquiries as to the desalination of water. It may be of interest to the honorable senator to know that there is in Western Australia one pilot plant, which I think came from West Germany, at a place called Rottnest Island. I mention this to indicate that there are authorities in Australia - as elsewhere - that are vitally interested in this problem and I have no doubt that it will also be a subject to which the newly created Australian Water Resources Council will devote its attention. I think the question is of such importance that I should ask my colleague,. Mr. Fairbairn, to prepare something in the nature of a statement so that I can let the honorable senator have it. I will do that and will produce the statement as soon as possible.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen a report that all tickets for the Victorian Football League grand final have been sold and that the entire match is to be videotaped for re-showing on television? Will the Minister endeavour to have the video tape of the grand final televised in Canberra for the edification of senators and members from States other than Victoria and of others who may be in the same category in that they usually follow Rugby or, should I say, mobile wrestling?
– I think the question is one for the Postmaster-General rather than for me. I will certainly draw his attention to it.
– If Perth were playing, it would be all right.
– It is rather parochial of you to say that. I do not know how the Postmaster-General decides just what should be shown on television and to which audiences. The present PostmasterGeneral, coming from Queensland, may take a view entirely different from that expressed by Senator Sandford.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Did the Minister see a statement in last night’s Sydney “ Daily Mirror “, under the caption “ Town Talk “ and purporting to be written by Jim Macdougall, that travellers have had the best years so far as customs duties are concerned because in future people coming into this country may have to pay duty on transistor radios? Would the Minister care, to comment on the statement?
– I thank Senator Scott for the question. It is no secret that for a long time manufacturers in the electrical trade have been making, representations in relation to the concessional entry of transistor radios. I say there is no secret about that because these people have made Press statements about it. To ascertain the extent to which importations are being made under the concession, the Department of Customs and Excise has conducted a survey which,, very properly, spread across the face of the Commonwealth and covered all points of entry. The survey has now been completed and the results are being closely examined. I do not propose to make any statement beyond that.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. Is it a condition under the national health scheme that before a patient can be reimbursed by the Commonwealth and a medical benefits fund in respect of a specialist’s fee, that patient must have been referred to the specialist by a general practitioner? Can the Minister give any information as to the amount that is paid annually in respect of specialists’ fees from Government funds? Will he consider the proposition that, for the purpose of protecting Government funds in this field, some authority should prescribe the qualifications that must be possessed by specialists and that, for the protection of patients, there should be a requirement that a patient should have it made known to him that the practitioner he is consulting claims to be a specialist?
– I would like the opportunity to give some consideration to the points raised by the honorable senator. They are very wide and sweeping and somewhat novel in this country. Therefore I suggest that he put his question on the notice-paper.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Will the Minister give consideration to a review of any regulations that prohibit the employment in the Commonwealth Public Service of disabled persons who have the required qualifications, other than physical fitness, for the positions sought?
– I believe that the matter raised by the honorable senator should be referred, not to the Department of Labour and National Service, but to the Public Service Board, which lays down the conditions under which Public Servants are recruited. I will bring the honorable senator’s opinion to the notice of the Board, which is under the administration of the Prime Minister’s Department, but I think the honorable senator should realise that a reason for not recruiting people who are not physically well is that on recruitment they are entitled to many benefits, including sickness benefits, which are worked out on the basis that the people who are recruited are physically well. This enables a higher general level of recompenses to be available for various things than would be the case if people who were recruited had, say, tuberculosis, or some other disease which might take them necessarily off the public pay roll after one or two years. However, I will bring the senator’s opinion to the notice of the Public Service Board.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs by referring to a report in this morning’s press which details the overseas itinerary of the head of the Department of External Affairs. It states that visits were paid to newly established or hitherto unvisited posts in Europe and elsewhere. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the Status of our representation in Belgrade and Vienna, two cities in which there is an ever increasing interest in Australia and its potentialities? Is the visit of the head of the
Department to Dublin an indication of an early appointment of an Australian Ambassador to that very important post?
– I will find out from the Department for the honorable senator the present status of our representation in Belgrade and Vienna. I think the visit to Dublin of Sir Arthur Tange, head of the Department of External Affairs, was the natural outcome of the agreements which have so happily been reached between this country and the Government of Ireland for mutual diplomatic recognition.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Could the Minister advise me whether the new ore carriers which are being built in Australia to a maximum tonnage of 47,000 tons will be used to transport ore from Western Australia to Australian ports? Is it envisaged that the ore carrier which will be built for the Australian National Line will be able to compete with overseas vessels carrying bauxite and/or iron ore to overseas ports?
– As far as the
Australian National Line is concerned, it is true that it has from time to time operated in the foreign trade, but this has occurred only on occasions when shipping other than the National Line shipping was not available. As a matter of policy, it is not the practice for National Line ships to compete in overseas trade. My understanding is that the shipping of iron ore from Western Australia has always been undertaken by ships of the fleet of the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. and that the vessels of the National Line have not as a general rule operated to Western Australia. I will ask my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, to have a look at the question asked by the honorable senator and provide other information if that is necessary.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Are Australian motor car manufacturers seeking protection against the importation of Japanese motor cars? If so, can the Minister give the Senate details of the representations that have been made?
– I understand representations have been made to the Tariff Board for a hearing in respect of fully imported motor cars. I have not the text of the request, but it is before the Board. While it is being considered by the Board I think I should not comment.
-I have a question which I would like to submit to the Minister for Health.I am afraid it concerns you also, Mr. President. Before asking my question, I state the fact that I have not suffered from a cold for the past ten or twelve years. Will you, Mr. President, consider affixing movable glass or plastic screens to the backs of seats in the Senate chamber so that senators who have colds may be segregated as much as possible from other senators?
– Mr. President, I enter your domain with fear and trepidation. The honorable senator suggests segregation in the Senate. I am fearful lest that suggestion be misinterpreted in international spheres. Therefore I conclude by saying to the honorable senator that I shall bring his submissions to your notice.
(Question No. 204.)
asked the Minister repre senting the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers -
(Question No. 206.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answers -
(Question No. 216.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer: -
In considering this question, it is assumed that the honorable senator refers to the Hamilton’s Building site as well as the Tregear’s Building site on the corner of Collins and Argyle Streets, Hobart. The answer to the question then, is - 1 and 2. There is no proposal to dispose of or transfer to another department the Hamilton’sTregear’s Building site. The Hamilton’s Building site in Collins Street abuts the General Post Office area and was transferred to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in 1956 for use and development by that Department. At present this property is used by the Postmaster-General’s Department for garage and storage accommodation, but I understand that the ultimate intention of that Department is to develop it to provide additional office accommodation. There is no indication when this development will take place. Tregear’s Building, since it was acquired on 22nd April 1948, has been renovated and is being used as office accommodation for the War Service Homes Division of the Department of Housing.
It is apparent that the site requirements for a Commonwealth Offices block in Hobart will be greatly affected by the policy decisions to be taken as a result of a recent survey of office accommodation requirements for Commonwealth departments in all State capitals. I propose, therefore, to defer consideration of a site for Commonweatlh Offices in Hobart until this policy has been decided.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to -
That the Senate at its rising, adjourn till Wednesday 2nd September at 3 p.m.
Debate resumed from 26th August (vide page 285).
– When the Senate adjourned last nightI was about to say that this Budget has been approached by the Government in a sensible and businesslike way. I say that because governments are always confronted by certain problems. One of the problems this Government must watch is that we continue to have full employment and the high production rate that has existed throughout Australia over the past few years. This could lead to excessive demands on goods, labour and materials. If these demands became too great they could force up prices because of over strong competition, leading to the tragedy of inflation which benefits nobody other than the speculator. Everybody suffers, particularly the people on fixed incomes. The Government has approached the Budget bearing these factors in mind. We must ensure that our overseas reserves do not run down and that we continue to have the stability that we have enjoyed over the last few years.
We will have an opportunity to go into the details of the defence estimates at a later date, but during the Budget debate I would like to make a reference to school cadets. I hope that school cadets will receive some benefit from the extra £36,300,000 that is being provided for defence this year. Last Sunday I witnessed at Northam Camp in Western Australia the marching out parade of some 2,000 young men from the various colleges and schools. Having been in the Army for some six years, and having participated in the training of troops during the war, I was most impressed with the standard of these young men. It was an excellent parade. These young men are keen, and we will have to look to them as leaders in time of national emergency in the future. I hope that the Government will give further encouragement to school cadets.
As a Western Australian I was delighted to see in the Budget three factors which will help to achieve decentralisation, which we all want. I mention briefly the equalisation of petrol prices, the Government’s Housing Loan Insurance Corporation which is to be introduced, and, of course, extension of the Comprehensive Water Scheme in Western Australia. I think I would do well at this stage to say that there is some misunderstanding about the flat rate for petrol or the suggestion that in remote areas the price will be no greater than 4d. above capital city prices. I am sure the public is not. aware that the Commonwealth cannot just go in and fix this price and that the State Governments must confer with the oil industry before the Commonwealth can make the necessary moneys available to the States. I hope that, as was stated in the Budget Speech, this matter is well in hand and that the necessary legislation will be introduced during the current sessional period.
With regard to housing, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) stated that legislation to establish the Housing Loan Insurance Corporation will be introduced during this session. 1 hope I am not wrong in believing that this scheme will cover houses on farms and houses for people who are living in rural areas. When dealing with the loan for the extension of the Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme in Western Australia, the Treasurer said -
Subject to the Government of Western Australia matching our contribution on a £1 for £1 basis, we will make advances to that Government up to a maximum of £5,250,000. Our contributions, however, will not begin until the financial year 1965-66.
That was just a bald statement. It was followed by a statement in the document dealing with payments to or for the States to the effect that the assistance would take the form of interest bearing loans and that the first advances were not expected to be made until 1965-66. I ask the appropriate Minister to indicate when these amounts are to be repaid by the State, over what period, and at what rate of interest.
In 1.960 a submission was made by Mr. Wild, the Minister for Works in Western Australia, to the Commonwealth Government, but it was rejected. In 1963 another submission was made. It was accepted, with the exception that the State asked for the money to be made available as a straightout grant but the Commonwealth in its wisdom saw fit to make it a loan. The scheme which was rejected in 1960 was much more ambitious than the present scheme. It was designed to cover approximately 7,600,000 acres whereas the scheme which has been accepted will cover about one-half of that area, or 3,700,000 acres. The 1960 proposal was designed to encompass 19,000 people whereas the present one will encompass 12,000 people. Fourteen towns were included in the former scheme whereas only 13 are included in the present scheme, four of which have no organised water supply. The others depend on local schemes which are of rather indifferent quality and reliability.
The State Government asked that the money bc made available not all at once but that it be spread over a period of seven years. In each of the years 1965-66 and 1966-67 the Commonwealth will be providing £625,000 and the State will be providing the same. Then the expenditure will start to rise slightly. In each of the years 1967-68, 1968-69 and 1969-70 the amount of the loan will be £750,000, and in the years 1970-71 and 1971-72 it will rise to £875,000. The area to be covered is one of comparatively low rainfall. Three-quarters of the annual rainfall occurs during the period from May to October, but it is light rain with very little run-off. The idea of the scheme is to take the water from the coast and reticulate it - as is the practice in Western Australia - so as to provide a water supply service at the boundary of each holding. The project is to provide from these reliable storage sources in the Darling Ranges an assured reticulated water supply to farms and towns in this area.
It is interesting to note that the scheme itself over the seven years will provide a pool of employment totalling 114,000 man weeks. Perhaps it is easier to say that if it were completed in one year it would provide employment for 2,280 men. Criticism has been voiced by some of my colleagues from other States - I do not think seriously - of Western Australia’s own effort. I do not think this is completely fair, looking at what this State has done with a comparatively small population and the colossal area involved in its farming districts.
– “ Comparatively small population “ is an understatement.
– The honorable senator may use his own expression. I think the population is comparatively small. To 28th February 1963 Western Australia had provided from its own resources £24 million for water supplies. This is not a mean effort. Perhaps it is interesting to note that the Goldfields Water Supply cost £10,440,000, the first stage of the Comprehensive Water Scheme cost £5,270,000, the Mundaring Weir wall cost £770,000, and the small evacuated tanks, wells, bores, etc., which provide for local water supplies cost £6,7.30,000. I shall not bore the Senate with the rest of the figures. The benefits to be derived from this scheme could perhaps be summarised briefly by saying that it will definitely increase production, improve the living standards of the people in these areas, and provide employment in both the government and private sectors of the economy. Of course, there are many indirect benefits which will flow from it.
The scheme is divided into two areas, the northern zone of approximately 2,300,000 acres, and the southern zone of approximately 1,400,000 acres. The northern zone will be fed from the Mundaring Weir, and the southern zone from the Wellington Weir. The State Government in its submission stated that since settlement had commenced in Western Australia the State had expended the very considerable amounts of money which I have mentioned, totalling some £24 million. By this means the State has met, as well as it could be expected to do, the requirements of the secondary stage of development, but it now has to provide for the third stage of development, which really amounts to development and consolidation of those areas that are already capable of cultivation and closer settlement. Careful estimates were made before this submission was sent to the Commonwealth, because the authorities had to be convinced that this was a sensible proposal. The Department of Agriculture indicated that during the first 10 years the sheep population in the scheme area would be increased from approximately 1,500,000 to approximately 2,800,000 an increase of more than 1,200,000 or 76 per cent. The Department states that it is estimated that within the first ten year period from the inception of the scheme - it will be seven years hence before it is in full production - additional income, with the benefit of the scheme, will be £36.4 million. But if the scheme had never been introduce/d the income would still have been £32.8 million, which means that in the first ten years there would be a direct flow of an extra £3.6 million.
The scheme will build up to the extent that, in 21 years’ time, the increase in income will be £10.7 million. In other words, it would take 21 years, in theory, for the money to be repaid, but I feel that this is a very worthwhile effort and that it should be made. Generally, there are other benefits of an indirect nature which will accrue from the scheme. For example, there will be increased revenue from the railways because of the increased production. There will be freight, taxation and local authority rates, and although some of these revenues are purely of a State nature, others are of a Federal nature. It is quite certain that the scheme will add to the stability and prosperity of the scheme area and therefore the stability and prosperity of the State and of the Commonwealth as a whole. Finally, of course, the Increased production will result in a substantial rise in export income.
Another matter on which I want to touch is the whaling industry in. Australia. This industry has reached a very parlous state in the Commonwealth and in the world generally. The International Whaling Commission, of which Australia is a member, met in July 1963 and, among other matters, considered the conservation of the baleen whale which we have exploited in the southern hemisphere. This is the whale that produces an edible oil, unlike the sperm whale which produces an inedible oil. The Commission had before it for consideration a report on the condition of the various whale stocks, prepared by a select body of scientists. It finally agreed that three species of baleen whale, the blue, the fin and the humpback, should be further protected, because supplies were being sadly depleted. It therefore agreed to prohibit for an indefinite period the capture of these whales in all waters south of the equator. So, as far as the industry is concerned, humpback whales are out, south of the equator, and the industry has had to turn to the capture of sperm whales.
Before dealing with the sperm whale I should point out that the prohibition of the capture of the baleen whale has been accepted by Australia and the shore stations have had to cease the capture and processing of these whales. The humpback whales exploited off the east and west coasts of Australia have been reduced in number to such a level that the scientists studying the population - incidentally, among them is one of our own men, Dr. Chittleborough of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation - estimated that group five of the whale population, which is caught off the east coast of Australia - the whales being placed in groups according to type - does not appear to have any relationship with group four which is caught off the west coast of Australia. The humpbacks have been so depleted in numbers that if we are to get back to even a small yearly quota of 100 it will take 16 years for them to recover sufficiently to permit that quota and it will take 32 years to reach a quota of 300 whales a year. Moving to the north west coast of Australia, to group four, we find that the position there is still worse. It will take between 50 and 80 years before we can catch 250 humpback whales a year, which is a very small quota, oil the west coast.
That is the position so far as humpback whales are concerned. I wanted to give those details to show that this phase of the industry is now ended and will be for many years. However, the industry has turned to the catching of sperm whales as a part of its activities. This year the sixteenth meeting of the International Whaling Commission failed to agree on an Arctic quota for sperm whales. It was stated at the meeting that this failure could sound the deathknell of the world’s whaling industry. New Zealand and Australia were well aware of this, and they put up a proposition designed to protect the sources of supply of sperm whales by prohibiting the operation of factory ships within 500 miles of any land station, but unfortunately that proposition failed to get the three-fourths majority that was required and was defeated. We now have the position that factory ships can so operate, and the Russians have been doing this in our southern waters. I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether there were any restrictions on whaling and he said that there were. He stated -
Foreign whaling fleets will be able to operate for sperm whales on the high seas off the Australian coast without limit on numbers although a limit of an eight months season and a size limit of 38 feet will apply under the Convention.
That is all very well. However, the Russians and, I believe, the Japanese and Norwegians are using factory ships off our coast, but they refuse to allow us to have inspectors on them. Once a whale has been caught and put through the digestive process on a factory ship, you cannot estimate the size of the whale or say whether it met the requirements. The whole thing has fallen down because there is no efficient control.
It is evident that for the management of this industry to be successful every country participating in whaling must be prepared to co-operate on an international level to protect whale sources. The 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling aimed at establishing an international programme which would conserve the world’s whale population. However, one can only conclude that the Convention has failed in this field of responsibility. The fact that the International Whaling Commission has no powers by which it can enforce its regulations is another reason why the Convention cannot achieve what it set out to achieve. As I said earlier, the Commission has not the power to police controls. To summarise, let me say that humpback whales are out for the reasons I have mentioned - on the west coast probably for periods of up to 80 years and on the east coast for periods of up to 32 years - and the industry has turned to sperm whales, which are caught outside the waters of the continental shelf. This means that no-one has control over them. We have endeavoured to get some control by applying restrictions, but we have no power of policing them, so the industry has reached a parlous state. Two companies are operating in Western Australia.
– Has not this Government limited our own catch of whales?
– I was just coming to that point. In Western Australia we have the Nor’ West Whaling Company Ltd. and the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company Ltd. at Albany. They were suffering under the inhibition of being under a quota when the rest of the world could whale without a quota, because we could not police the quota. Our companies were suffering under an extreme disability. It was that fact which prompted my question of 1 1 th August, which the Minister answered on 20th August. I asked whether the restrictions should be lifted. In his reply, the Minister stated that as a result of the failure of the Convention to limit the catch of sperm whales he was going to release the two Western Australian companies from the quota. So there is no quota system operating in Western Australia now. I had discussions last night with some members of the industry and I said: “ Tell me the solution. What is the solution of this problem? “. They said: “We will not see a solution until we can enforce the regulations and we do not know how we can enforce the regulations when whaling is conducted on an international basis and the masters will not permit inspectors on the ships to see whether they are working within the framework of the restrictions.”
I shall turn now to television, particularly television in country areas, not only in Western Australia but in the isolated areas of Australia. Of course, I shall place emphasis on my home State. Two or three weeks ago I asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, Senator Wade, whether two separate groups in Western Australia had applied to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board seeking a television licence to serve the Geraldton area. I asked the question because I wanted to find out whether the Minister was aware of the applications. I know that the applications have been lodged and are now before the Board. Two further groups in Western Australia are interested in applying for a licence, making four applicants in all. When private enterprise is prepared to put in a service, I cannot see why it should be precluded from participating until phase 4 is completed. It has nothing to do with phase 4, which will run on for a period. I have heard different dates mentioned, but I gather that it will be about three years before phase 4 is completed. For the areas surrounding Geraldton, Kalgoorlie and also Mount Isa where there are fairly dense pockets of population within a small area, package type stations have been suggested. I think this expression creates a wrong impression and for want of a better term we could call them special area type stations. Such stations do not have the power capacity to send their signals as far as do the ordinary stations to which we are accustomed, but they have the power capacity to cover areas within a radius of about 25 miles. The immediate areas of Kalgoorlie and Geraldton could be thus covered. With the addition of translators of the smaller type, which cost between £2,500 and £7,000, the signals could be pushed on to Northampton, Mingenew and Mullewa.
One of the applicants for a licence went to England specifically to study this type of station, as no such station has been set up in Australia. He saw the English station in operation serving an area containing about 35,000 people at a cost of between £45,000 and £50,000. It is the ideal solution to the problem. The station can produce its own outside video tape programmes of news and local events and can also produce live shows within the studio. For the life of me I cannot understand why this type of station should not be considered. Why must we wait until phase 4 is completed before the Broadcasting Control Board will consider the applications? I am awaiting with great interest replies to the questions I have asked.
I wish to associate myself with everything said last night by Senator Scott in respect of the Ord River scheme. By way of interjection I said that I found myself for once in my life in complete agreement with Senator Cant. I will not recite the details of the speeches of both honorable gentlemen other than to say that the Ord River scheme must go on. If we stop now it will be fatal. Of all the developmental schemes I have read about, the Ord River scheme is the only one which in ils first year of operation has shown farmers a profit.
I refer the Senate to the remarks of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) when he visited the area -
We must go on and on if these great areas in Australia are to grow and become effective contributors to Australian life … If this were just a matter of opening a dam of this particular size -
It is a big dam. Perhaps a lot of people are not aware of its size. It will be commensurate with the Eucumbene Dam which, by any standards, is a very big dam. The Prime Minister went on to say -
If this were just a matter of opening something that deals with a relatively few thousand acres of land - somebody might say that intrinsically that is a matter of no great moment. That kind of thing must be duplicated in many places in the world. But it is more than that. This is a most symbolic occasion. Man has here conquered nature in the most spectacular fashion and has done it in a part of Australia in which it was needed and needed desperately for the future of our country.
I hope that soon we will hear an announcement from the Government that it is prepared further to assist the Western Australian Government to complete the Ord River scheme.
– How much money is Western Australia contributing?
– I could not tell you in exact detail because there are side factors - for instance, the port at Wyndham where the Commonwealth is assisting the Western Australian Government, which has put in a contribution. I do not know how much the Victorian Government and the New South Wales Government put into the Snowy Mountains scheme, for instance. Have you any idea, Senator? I do not know. This is a developmental scheme in an area of great resources. I know that my friend is trying to make me irate, but the issue is bigger than silly little State jealousies. I am fully behind this scheme and I do not see why the knockers should expect it to show a profit overnight. From what developmental schemes in Australia have we immediately looked for a return of profits? The Ord River scheme will be there forever and it it does not show a profit for the next 15 years I shall not mind. I support the motion for the printing of the Budget Papers and oppose the proposed amendment.
– I have listened with interest to Senator Branson and I agree with him about the limitations placed on Western Australian whaling companies. His was an excellent dissertation on behalf of Western Australia and should be carefully considered by the Government. No limitations at all should be placed upon Western Australian whaling companies.
Turning to the Budget, I feel that in all the circumstances it could be regarded as one of the meanest Budgets that we have ever had. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said early in his Speech -
Admittedly we had a fair share of good fortune. At home, the seasons stood to us again. Abroad, the prices of a number of our main exports rose and some commodities, like wheat and sugar, found wider markets than we would normally have expected. Conceding that, however,
I think it fair to say that the economy put up a good performance in terms of enterprise and effort and output. 1 do not think that anybody in the Parliament disagrees with that point of view, but I believe that some of the benefits should be obtained by people who are desperately in need of some form of assistance.
I think it fair to say that the people of Australia who have rejected Labour at a number of elections from 1949 to as late as 1963 have done a great disservice to themselves and to their families by the way they have voted. I refer to the fields of defence, foreign affairs, housing, social services, health, repatriation and development. I believe that the voters will rue the day that they returned the Government, and even are rueing it today.
The 1964-65 Budget provides for the record expenditure of £2,511.1 million, which is an increase of £224 million over the expenditure for last financial year. The people of Australia should be interested to find out how this amount is to be spent and how it affects them in particular. When I looked at the headlines and the articles in the newspapers which came out on the day following the presentation of the Budget and read the stories of dearer television and radio licences, dearer telephones, increased sales tax on motor cars, a rise in the price of cigarettes, and a miserable increase in pensions, I wondered what the people generally thought of the situation. The position has been effectively analysed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna). He said that two years ago, in 1962-63, the Treasurer announced he would have a budget deficit of £118.3 million, to be financed by temporary borrowings, and finished the year with a surplus of £16 million, so that there was an overall error in his calculations of £134.3 million. Last year, 1963-64, the Treasurer budgeted for a deficit of £58.25 million, again to be financed by temporary borrowings. In fact there was a surplus of £27 million. Therefore, the Treasurer last year miscalculated by more than £85 million. Putting the two years together, we see that the Treasurer has been out in his calculations to no less an extent than £219.4 million.
The expenditure this year is to total £2,511.1 million, and the Treasurer has budgeted for a surplus of £18.5 million. Senator McKenna in his analysis of the situation also said that if the Treasurer in this Budget had introduced no increases whatsoever in taxation the Government would have collected for the financial year 1964-65 an additional £180.9 million in revenue. So, this fact alone justifies the action of Senator McKenna, on behalf of the Australian Labour Party, in moving this amendment to the motion that the Budget Papers be printed -
At the end of the motion add the following words - “but the Senate is of opinion that the Budget does not adequately grapple with the problems of striking a realistic and tilting balance between the claims on national resources arising from defence, development and social welfare”.
Honorable senators on the Opposition side support and endorse the amendment. I again repeat that the people of Australia did themselves and their families a great injustice when they voted against Australian Labour Party candidates at the last general election. They accepted false and lying propaganda by the Government parties and their paid offsiders, the members of the Democratic Labour Party.
We are told, of course, that the additional revenue that will come from the increased taxation is to be used in the field of defence. During the last election campaign, a great deal of propaganda appeared on television in regard to Australia’s defence. Ships, aircraft and tanks were seen on television during the weeks preceding election day. This had a great influence on the minds of the Australian people during that period. Then came the “ Voyager “-“ Melbourne “ disaster. Almost overnight, the people of Australia were told, half of the defence forces of Australia had been destroyed. That is the actual position in which we find ourselves today. We have since learned, from answers to questions and statements by the Minister concerned, that delivery of replacements for the Canberra bomber will not be completed until 1970. The Navy will obtain four submarines in six years’ time. The third Charles F. Adams destroyer will be available in 1967. This is the situation as far as our defence forces are concerned. Unfortunately, the people of Australia were duped, by advertisements and all manner of Government’ propaganda during the weeks preceding election day last year into believing that they were well protected and well catered for in the matter of defence. I come to the question of our great Centurion tanks. We all know we have no bridges or .roads which can carry these huge and valuable machines. The Australian Labour Party has stated that the first responsibility of any government, including this Government, is to provide adequate defence and safeguards for the people of this country. The Government should apologise to the Australian people for our defence position at the present time.
Many injustices will be imposed on the Australian people by the increases in telephone charges and television and radio licence fees. This applies also to the increased tobacco charges. The small increase in social service benefits is unjust. The Government should apologise to the people of Australia for trying to justify these increases by saying they are necessary to meet our increased defence expenditure. This is not true. The expenditure on defence this year will be £36.3 million more than it was last year. A great deal of that £36.3 million will go towards the cost of providing amenities and housing for the present defence personnel. It will not provide armaments, ships, submarines and fighter and bomber aircraft. As was pointed out by an honorable senator in an interjection when Senator McKenna was speaking, it will not provide men. This is Australia’s actual defence position at the present moment. These necessities will not bc provided and, apparently, the Government is satisfied with the situation. The expenditure on defence this year represents 3 per cent, of our gross national product, or 7d. in the £1. Ten years ago, we were spending 3.75 per cent, of the gross national product on defence. Then followed a period when, up to two years ago, we were spending 2.5 per cent, of our gross national product on defence, or two-thirds of the amount wc were spending eight years earlier. Twelve years ago, in 1952-53, Australia spent 4.8 per cent, of its gross national product on defence. We have been falling back in our spending ever since that time. Yet, Government supporters had the audacity to question the policy of the Australian Labour Party on defence and matters of great national issues during the election campaign. They forgot the marvellous job (hat Labour Governments did on behalf of the people of Australia during World War I and World War II.
I would like to put on record, to keep this matter straight, a statement by the Leader of the Australian Labour Parly, Mr. Calwell, on defence and Australia’s place in the free world. In his policy speech. Mr. Calwell said -
The Australian Labour Party stands for the maintenance of Australia as an integral part of the Commonwealth of Nations, with complete co-operation with other units of the Commonwealth of Nations, in order to ensure joint action against aggression. We wish to strengthen Australia and the Commonwealth and the United Nations.
The Chifley Labour Government helped to set up the United Nations, and Labour gives it, as always, unwavering support. We believe in extending and widening the agencies of the United Nations Organisation, such as U.N.E.S.C.O., so as to provide more assistance for the peoples of the under-privileged countries of Asia and Africa, where hundreds of millions of human beings go hungry every day, and where disease and misery still abound, in spite of all man’s vaunted progress and the increased scientific knowledge at man’* command. We will extend the Colombo Plan. We believe that all nations should be members of the United Nations.
Speaking about the dangers which might face the free world in the event of war, Mr. Calwell said -
If, however, war should be forced upon the free world, Australia, whether we wish it or not, will be involved. In those circumstances we who belong to the free world will stand with the free world and will give whole-hearted support to its cause. There could be no other course for those who cherish freedom and believe in democracy. We of the Labour Party have always been found on the side of liberty because we hate tyranny and abhor oppression. lt is our proud boast that we have always stood for freedom for all mankind, and have always opposed every form of totalitarianism. When Nazism plunged the world into war in 1939 it was a Labour Government that led Australia to victory. If Communism should plunge the world into war in 1962 or any later year, it will be necessary to have an Australian Labour Government in office to save this country from invasion and defeat. An anti-Labour Government would fall to pieces in a future war as the Menzies and Fadden Governments did in 1941.
Again I repeat that this is the policy of the Australian Labour Party. This is where we stand on Australian defence today. Had it not been for the Curtin Government and also for the fact that Dr. Evatt stepped down from the bench of the High Court of Australia - which made it possible for Labour to govern in 1941 - this country would not have been saved from the ravages of war. Despite the great valour of our fighting men, no white woman in Australia would have been saved from the terror of being molested by infuriated Japanese soldiers, and every Australian white man would no doubt have been enslaved or had his head cut off by the invading Japanese Army. I pay tribute to the men who were the leaders of the Labour movement then. Too much derision and ridicule has been poured not only upon their memories but also upon their records in this Parliament.
Government supporters tried to score off the Labour Party in relation to the North West Cape naval communication station, although they knew in their hearts that the policy of the Labour Party was right. Labour’s policy was that in that matter the Australian Government should be consulted when any action was contemplated by the United States. That policy was applauded, as a gallup poll showed, by all people who were concerned about the future welfare of Australia.
What will be the position of Australia if Senator Barry Goldwater becomes President of the United States? The Government parties seem to back the Republican Party in America. I have some reservations in saying that, because all members of the Government parties do not fall into that category. However, the policies of the American Republican Party are very close to those of the Liberal Party in this country. Some members of the Government parties have assisted the Republican Party in America. Mr. Wentworth, in particular, during the last presidential election campaign went out with his wife, organising vigorously on behalf of Mr. Nixon against the late President Kennedy. The Government parties even attempted to score from the death of the late President Kennedy. The Government parties used the press, television and other forms of publicity which they control in an attempt to score an advantage as a result of the murder of the young President, who was supported by the trade union movement of America and also by the Australian Labour Party. I think that the people who took part in such a move should hang their heads in shame. I think that the recent remarks of the United States Ambassador to Australia, when he paid a tribute to the Labour Government which co-operated with the United States during World War II, should affect the consciences of honorable senators opposite.
Honorable senators opposite glory in the fact that they represent big business organisations and monopolists - millionaires in fact. The Labour Party, however, represents the people in their millions. It is true that our people are not impoverished today, and for this they can thank the Labour Party, the organised trade unions and the Labour Government of New South Wales. It is this latter Government which spearheads labour legislation that is copied later in the Commonwealth Parliament. The Labour Party is vitally interested in social services - age, invalid and widows pensions, maternity allowances, funeral benefits and aged persons homes. It advocates that the pensions means test should be abolished, together with the means test on the pensioner medical scheme. Why is the Government so miserable as to debar a pensioner from medical service benefits if he has an income qf £2 per week? The Government has received a huge increase in revenue from taxation, yet it is miserable enough to debar unfortunate people from the benefits they deserve.
I have here a communication from the Retired Road Transport and Tramway Employees’ Association in which the Association asks for certain concessions. It refers to the means test, about which the Labour Party would do something. The communication reads - . . the time is opportune now for the total abolition of the means test applicable to age pensions. Age alone should” be the deciding factor . . .
Permissible Income: We suggest the present amount of £3 10s. per week be increased to £S 5s. per week permissible income. It will be noted that the amount of £3 10s. per week was introduced in 1954 and has been static ever since that date. £3 10s. per week was then- the amount of pension and permissible income.
Medical Entitlement: That the amount of £4 per week (married couple) and £2 per week (single person) be removed and a. medical entitlement card be issued to all pensioners irrespective of their excess income.
Funeral Benefit: We desire to ask that the funeral benefit be brought into line with the N.Z. Act which provides that the age benefit of the deceased is continued for three months after death and paid to the surviving spouse or for the benefit of dependent children.
The sum of £10 maximum funeral benefit is out of all proportion to the cost involved when this service is required. Funeral expenses are an allowable deduction on income, the maximum is £50 for any dependent taxpayer, yet £10 is all that is granted by the Federal Government towards the cost of this service for pensioners.
Finally the Association says -
My association submits the foregoing for your earnest consideration in the belief that the present state of the economy as reflected in every direction should enable the Government to grant these submissions without prejudicing the future prosperity of the nation.
Of course, the Association has received no response to those requests.
I have a tremendous amount of material that has been forwarded to me by people who have objected to the policy of the Government. In this age, when great benefits are flowing to many people, the submission of the Labour Party is that the aged and infirm should also receive some benefits. It submits that the aged, the sick and the retired people are entitled to a share in Australia’s rising prosperity. As I have stated, last year an additional £181 million was collected by the Government. The Labour Party acknowledges the growth of the nation - and does so with all the sincerity at its disposal - and it says that, in view of the fact that over the last few years £219,500,000 was received over and above what the Treasurer budgeted for, we should assist fellow Australians who are in need.
The trade union movement of Australia, as a result of its great fight, by virtue of the material it circularised, and because of the case put to the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission by its advocate, Mr. Hawke, obtained an increase in the basic wage. A pamphlet was produced showing that Australian industry and commerce had never made greater profits, and it was said that we should now look for more money in each Australian’s pay envelope. The pamphlet stated -
Many large employers - B.H.P., G.M.H., I.C.I., Ford, Mr lsa, I.H.C. - made average profits on each of their employees of £800 to £1,800 in 1963.
Increased mechanisation and automation of office and factory work, with fewer employees to each job or process, means productivity and profitability will rise even higher.
The case that was put on behalf of the trade union movement generally won for the workers of Australia an increase of £1 a week in the basic wage, and we say that a similar benefit should be secured for aged people generally. The amending social services legislation has yet to be introduced into this Parliament, and even at this late hour I ask that something be done to assist these people.
The plight of widows with children and the plight of deserted wives is tragic and should be given special consideration. I do not know how these women would get on were it not for the assistance they receive from the Government of New South Wales and associations like the Family Welfare Bureau and the Australian Women’s Charter, which have done a marvellous job on their behalf. I repeat that this is a matter about which this Government should do something.
I pass to the subject of telephones. Most people believe that’ a telephone is a necessity, not merely a luxury. The connection fee has been increased from £10 to £15. The annual rental of telephones has been increased to £20. There has been an increase of £5 7s. 6d. for private telephone subscribers and an increase of £2 2s. 6d. for business telephone subscribers.
Recently I received a letter from the Honorable Abram Landa, the State member for Bondi in New South Wales, enclosing a letter from one of his constituents. It is a most appealing letter concerning the writer’s aunt and uncle who are both in receipt of the invalid pension. The letter states -
In respect to my aunt, she had a very severe internal operation for a growth and has also had ~ a leg amputated. As a result she is very much handicapped and does not go out of the flat in which she resides. Re my uncle - he has suffered a series of cerebral haemorrhages and is practically bedridden.
Other than the invalid pension they have no source of income of any description and because of the nature of their disabilities it is impossible for either of them to leave their flat and impossible for them to purchase food or clothing, except by the use of the telephone. Further because of their disabilities they cannot look after themselves properly and have to employ a woman part-time at £1 per week to carry out certain cleaning duties in the flat. The rent of the flat is over £3 per week, so you will fully appreciate their financial position and the fact that they are practically destitute. However they have managed to exist, but you will appreciate because of their physical inability to leave the flat and the fact they are in need of constant medical attention a telephone is a vital necessity.
They are now extremely worried as to whether or not, in view of the increase in the rental of the phone from £14 to £20 per year, they will be able to retain it, and if they were to give up the phone, they would be at a complete loss in respect to obtaining medical attention and in respect to obtaining the necessities of life. If this position arose then it would be an extreme hardship on them.
Do you know of any manner in which representations could be made to the PostmasterGeneral, taking into account all the circumstances, whether or not in special cases the PostmasterGeneral may see his way clear not to increase the rental in this particular case. Perhaps you may know of someone you could make representations to in the -Federal Parliament and there may be some way in which special cases such as the one mentioned could be considered and the telephone rental not increased.
This is a most human story and one to which the Government should give some attention.
I come now to Labour’s policy on health, housing, repatriation and development. The total and permanent incapacity pension is to be increased by 10s. a week, the war widows’ pension is to be increased by 5s. a week, and the full general rate pension - the 100 per cent, pension - is to be increased by 5s. a week. Of a total estimated expenditure of £2,51 1.1 million, which is an increase of £224 million on the previous year, the Government has provided an increase of £2.9 million for repatriation this year. I have raised in the Senate the question of the married T.P.I pensioners who have received no benefit from the increases granted in T.P.I, pensions over the past two years because the increases have been taken from the benefit paid to the wife. The ceiling limit for service pensions must be increased by at least £1 a week.
I have here an article by Mr. Kevin Starr, a distinguished airman, who is a great fighter for the rights of ex-servicemen. It appears in the publication “ Reveille “ under the heading “ The War Pensions Entitlement Tribunals - And You “. This publication represents the voice of 100,000 ex-service men and women and is in its 38th year. Kevin Starr goes into great detail in pointing out that, despite the arguments that have been used by honorable senators in the Senate and by honorable members in another place in regard to the onus of proof provisions of the Repatriation Act, exservicemen are still being badly treated.
I dealt with the question of eviction from war service homes last year, and a change has been made in the system since then. War service homes authorities in States have the right to deal with individual applications, whereas previously they were dealt with willy-nilly in Canberra. Eviction notices were sent out and action was taken on them, in spite of the representations made by honorable senators in this chamber and by honorable members in the House of Representatives. As a result of the change in the system, a certain degree of equity now exists. The Returned Servicemen’s League sent along its 1964 pension plan to all members of Parliament. The R.S.L. made representations to the Government on repatriation pensions and slight increases were granted in the Budget. I believe that the plan put forward by the R.S.L. was reasonable and just and that greater assistance could have been given by the Government.
I come now to the question of health. I see that the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) is in the chamber. I say that this is a mean and miserable Government. I have the greatest respect for the Minister, but the imposition of the means test on the pensioner medical scheme is something for which he should hang his head in shame. It is disgraceful that people are penalised because they receive an income of more than £2 a week. I have received a letter from a friend of mine in Inverell enclosing a newspaper article which states, under the heading “Get Rid of £104; Pension Goes Up “-
All 75 year old Mrs. Anna Mathewson has to do to gain 10 shillings a week on her social services pension is to rush out and spend £104. But she said yesterday:’ “ 1 refuse to do it. All my life 1 have been thrifty. Why should I throw my money away on things I don’t need?”
Mrs. Mathewson went on to say that it was a disgrace that people were being told to get rid of a certain’ amount of money so that they could quality under the pensioner medical scheme. This is an anomaly that should be corrected- by the Government. 1 come now to the matter of mentally retarded children. I suggest that a committee of inquiry on a Federal level should be appointed to look into all the problems associated with” mentally retarded children. This matter was debated approximately four months ago in the Senate. We advocated the appointment of such a committee, but the Leader of the Government in the Senate at that time completely ignored the pleas made by honorable senators from both sides of the House. I turn to the question of doctors attending pensioners. During the recession some years ago doctors in the industrial suburbs of Sydney were penalised for giving medical ‘ service to pensioners. The question was raised in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, and certain adjustments were made. Doctors, hospitals and chemists do not want to take advantage of pensioners. We believe that there ought to be some sort of balance in these matters and that people should not be penalised because of their desire to assist pensioners generally.
In regard to the pensioner medical service, the Minister for Health, in answer to a question in the Senate, said that the Commonwealth is doing a good job. Recently I put a number of questions on the notice paper regarding the average cost of beds in public wards .of public hospitals in New South Wales. I wished to know the Commonwealth’s contribution to such costs. The Minister has said that he will not refer to the matter because he refrains as much as possible from discussing State matters. I suggest that the reason he declined to answer was that the statements made in the questions I had placed on the notice paper were correct. People are paying £5 17s. 2d. per day for beds in public wards of public hospitals in New South Wales, and tha Commonwealth’s contribution is only 36s. per day. A sum of £21 million is paid by New South Wales as against a sum of £3 million paid by the Commonwealth. Despite all the statements that have been made by the Minister for Health in the booklet he has issued - on numerous occasions attention has been drawn to the false statements he has made, particularly at page 15 - not one penny is paid for mental patients in New South Wales or in any other State. I repeat that this Government has been miserable and paltry in its approach to these matters. No doubt, although this year it will probably have a large surplus of £100 million, it”-* will be cheeseparing in any scheme of assistance it formulates to help the unfortunate in the community.
On the housing problem the Australian Labour Party believes that every person in Australia should have an interest and a stake in his own country. We believe that that is the answer to all the “ isms “ - Communism and Fascism. In November last the Labour leader advocated the provision of housing on low deposits and at low rates of interest. It will be disgraceful if the people of Australia are obliged to suffer as a result of the Government’s failure to provide housing on those terms. I support Senator Scott and Senator Branson and Western Australian Labour senators in their comments about the Ord River scheme. Certain members from New South Wales seem to be gloating over the bad deal that New South Wales has received from the Australian Loan Council. Circulars have been distributed by the Government members of the State Parliament in which they state that New South Wales has been robbed of £26 million this year. Every New South Wales senator should be ashamed of the treatment that this Government has given to that State. Let me say with all due respect that when Senator Sir William Spooner was a member of the Government he tried to fight for his State. Unfortunately Government senators from New South Wales do not seem to be putting up a similar fight, but I hope they will do so in the future, just as members of the Parliament who come from Tasmania, Western Australia, South Australia and other States are trying to advance the cause of their States. I compliment them upon their fight on behalf of their own States. 1 repeat that
I hope that Government members and senators from New South Wales will do the same on behalf of their State.
I am grateful to honorable senators for having listened to me for so long. This is the final day on which the Budget will be discussed. I hope some adjustments will be made. I hope that supporters of the Government will recognise the injustices that have been perpetrated in the Budget and that they will do the right thing by those who arc in need. This Government has made a great mistake in not giving justice to the aged, the infirm and others throughout the length and breadth of Australia who are in need and on whose behalf I have tried to make an appeal.
Sitting suspended from 12.44 to 2.15 p.m.
– Having narrowly missed the role that has so frequently fallen upon my friend Senator Cormack of taking the last over before lunch, 1 have great pleasure now in supporting the motion before the Senate and opposing the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) with his usual skill. This amendment failed, I think, to convince honorable senators, at least those on this side of the chamber, that it has any particular merit. One has the feeling that the wording of the amendment added to the very difficult task that Senator McKenna must have had. I can only attribute to the difficulty of his task the somewhat unusually intemperate language that was used by him. I direct the attention of the Senate to these words -
His task of sustaining the case that the Budget does not adequately grapple with the problems of striking a realistic and fitting balance between the claims on national resources arising from defence, development and social welfare is one that is very difficult to discharge. Many honorable senators, in looking at one section or another section of the Budget, could perhaps press for greater consideration for defence. I think that there are senators on both sides who would agree that we could press for greater measures in regard to defence. Others - I perhaps would be among that number - would press for more money and more attention to the need for developing this continent of ours. Others again, perhaps on both sides of the Senate, would be more keen to see greater attention given to the social welfare aspects of the Budget. But to attack the Budget proposals on the ground that they do not provide a fitting balance between these important aspects of national needs seems to mc to be criticising the Budget for what it really does achieve, to be aiming in fact at its greatest virtue, a balanced regard for our national needs.
Senator McKenna invited honorable senators to have a look at page 4 of the statements annexed to the Budget. Accepting his invitation, I found that he had applied some little juggling feats to the figures presented by adding the minus figures to the plus figures to justify a claim that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) erred by £68.8 million rather than the actual figure of £67.467 million. He having, as I believe, quite wrongly, quite illegitimately, altered the Budget figures, one wonders what sort of a Budget the Leader of the Opposition would give to us if he had the opportunity of presenting a Budget.
He then criticised the Treasurer for the enormous error of 4i per cent, in estimating income tax on individuals, compared with an error of less than one-half per cent, in payroll tax estimates. Again, I think, he used some rather intemperate words, but I shall allow the Minister to deal with this as Senator McKenna invited the Minister’s attention to it. His criticism of these errors and under-estimations in budgeting aroused my curiosity as to just how accurate Treasurers have been in the past. I turned up the Budget of 1946-47, presented by the late Mr. J. B. Chifley who, by general acclaim, was an able Treasurer. I found there an error in budgeting in the item “ income tax on individuals “ not of 4i per cent, but of 12 per cent., and an error in payroll tax not of one-half per cent, but of 4.7 per cent.
I suppose the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate is very well aware of the difficulty of budgeting accurately when some 80 per cent, of the export income of the country comes from primary products, which are very largely dependent upon seasonal conditions as to volume and on conditions overseas which are beyond our control as to price, and in relation to which a combination - an unpredictable combination at that - of good prices and good yields occurring together results in a big increase in export income - such a big increase as we did in fact experience only last year. This results in consequential increases in imports, revenue from customs and excise, sales tax and income tax, from more liberal spending which lifts income levels throughout the whole range of the economy.
I doubt whether anybody with any experience of budgeting at all is not aware of these circumstances, which must have a bearing on the accuracy or inaccuracy of any estimates. Farmers, of course, are very well aware of the difficulty in their own personal budgets of trying to manage these unpredictable equations in assessing budgetary requirements. So we have to realise that the difficulty that the Leader of the Opposition had in finding some substantial measure of criticism of the Budget led him into this sort of unwarranted criticism. The experience of last year does’ show very clearly the extent to which Australian prosperity is allied to conditions in the primary industries, and demonstrates the wisdom of the decision last year to give impetus to primary industry by the introduction of a superphosphate subsidy.
This subsidy, while having a very beneficial effect on production, is not without its problems. The encouragement to use more superphosphate, allied with increased resources with which to pay for it, especially in New South Wales and Victoria, has given rise to a rapid increase in demand, which in turn gives rise to problems in the State transport system, to problems of supply, and to increasing cost of rock from sources other than those from which we have obtained most of our supply. I have referred previously in the Senate, I think on two occasions, to this growing danger in regard to the supply of this essential commodity upon which the greatest proportion of our export income is based.
The most careful consideration must be given to maintaining the fertility level of our soils, for upon it depends the whole welfare of this nation’s economy. If we are to derive the maximum benefit and production from our expenditure on superphosphate, it is necessary that we examine closely the future location of production and distribution centres, so that superphosphate is available to farmers when and where it is required. I would like now to return to consideration of some of the documents accompanying the Budget papers. One of them is entitled: “ Commonwealth Payments to or for the States “. It sets out, very impressively, the various payments made under several headings and arising from various State and Federal financial agreements. It is very much the responsibility of the Senate to examine the financial results of such agreements. However, the publication that proved most revealing in this respect was not that to which I have just referred, but one entitled “ Commonwealth Finance Bulletin No. 2 “, issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. I refer to page 18 of that publication, where Government securities on issue, both Commonwealth and State, are tabled.
I was led to look at back issues of the tabulation referred to and found the following interesting situation revealed: In 1954 the amount attributed to Commonwealth securities on issue was, in round figures, £1,917 million, while the State indebtedness in the same period was £1,688 million. The figures then showed a progressive change, the Commonwealth indebtedness declining and the State indebtedness increasing, until the figures given in the present Budget reveal a situation where the Commonwealth indebtedness stands at about £1,586 million, while the State indebtedness is shown at £3,345 million odd. If we express this decline of Commonwealth indebtedness as against the increase in State indebtedness, we have a 17.3 per cent, decline in Commonwealth securities on issue and a 98 per cent, increase - virtually double - in the State indebtedness over a period of 10 years. A song that I heard sung when I was considerably younger said something about the rich getting richer and the poor getting children. But the situation seems to be that the Commonwealth gets the revenue and the States get the loans. This position is aggravated by the fact that, on the average, the States pay about threequarters per cent, more for their liabilities than does the Commonwealth. Formerly - at least in 1939 - the indebtedness of the States was carrying the lower interest rate of £3 14s. lid. as against the Commonwealth rate of £3 18s. lid.
The position has now changed and, on the average, the States are paying three-quarters per cent, more for their indebtedness than is the Commonwealth. Surely, if this process continues, a situation will arise where the Commonwealth has no indebtedness and the States will have all the national debt, plus a crushing burden of interest. It often appears, from the large amounts of money made available from Commonwealth sources, that the States are doing fine, but if I were in a partnership which resulted in my partner getting the income while my liabilities increased, I would be a lot more worried than the State Premiers appear to be at present.
– They are worried.
– I am glad to know that they are worried, because I still have the old fashioned idea that the Senate has some responsibility towards the welfare of the States in their partnership with the Commonwealth. I still believe there is a future in the Federal situation and that unification is not a desirable thing within the Australian Commonwealth. I would like to refer now to a statement made by my friend from Western Australia, Senator Cant, who alleged that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) spoke with his tongue in his cheek with regard to decentralisation. Last night Senator DrakeBrockman challenged this statement and I add my protest to his, for never was an allegation so unwarranted. If there is any one man who has attempted to put into feasible and workable propositions measures designed to stimulate decentralisation, surely John McEwan is that man. One recalls his advocacy, in season and out of season, of some alleviation of the great disparity of fuel prices within Australia. The Government has gone along with his idea and is working on and I hope will soon announce details of its proposition to reduce the disparity in petrol prices in Australia to 4d. instead of some 2s. a gallon as obtains at present.
I know that to some people “ decentralisation “ is a blessed word like “ Mesopotamia “ used to be in the olden days. It is frequently trotted out by members of various parties to tickle the ears of susceptible audiences. But many of us believe that measures must be found to bring about some check to the tendencies, so long evident in Australia’s economic and social life, that have produced a tremendous and increasing concentration of population and industry around the capital cities. Of course, there are powerful interests which benefit by some features the centralisation of our people and resources. There are many others who see that measures for decentralisation may result in a reduction of the privileges of the big cities. But thoughtful people, not only in Australia but also throughout the world, are convinced that unless positive steps are taken to counter the magnetic pull of the big cities the ultimate result will be disastrous not only to the cities but also to the economy of the country as a whole.
Many matters of fundamental importance in our economy bear upon this matter of decentralisation. Can we develop the resources of our hinterland without tackling the incidence of freight costs? For the city largely escapes its share of internal freight costs while the whole is loaded onto rural communities. It is pleasing to me to see that a committee is being set up to investigate transport costs in northern Australia. I express my emphatic endorsement of a statement contained in evidence submitted to that committee by the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia (Inc.), which said: “ Transport is the lifeblood of industry.” I concur with that statement and I subscribe also whole-heartedly to another statement contained in that organisation’s claim, to the effect that no single developmental work will give more immediate results than will road building. I am happy to see the Government tackling these problems of transport and road building. I think the beef roads scheme and the amount of money being devoted to road building are substantial contributions towards the solution of this problem.
The present situation of an almost complete absence of finance for rural housing on long terms is having a crippling effect not only upon the development of industries in small country towns but on the growth of country communities and also on the labour situation in rural areas. Several references have been made recently, and during this debate, to this problem, to which I will refer again more fully when the appropriate measures are before the
Senate. Surely there must be a fairer allocation of housing finance than at present. 1 intend to speak further upon the subject of rates when the appropriate legislation is before the House.
Many problems are involved in the overall problem of effectively carrying out a programme of decentralisation. The need for communications - for telephones and for television - has already been mentioned in this debate. Many other matters are moro appropriately State responsibilities. I should like to refer particularly to the urgent need for more research. We are well aware of the splendid work that is being done by our scientists - those employed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and Government departments, including Departments of Agriculture. This is an enormous field in which there is so much to achieve and to discover. I do not think we have ever had better dividends from money expended than the dividends we have received from research into agricultural problems, particularly rabbit control. At one time rabbit control was the biggest problem that our agricultural industries had to face, but this expensive problem has been virtually solved by the achievements of people engaged in scientific research, particularly those in the C.S.I.R.O. We need further research work because we have not solved all our problems by any means. We have a tremendous problem in Western’ Australia, and in the other States, regarding the stocking of newly developed areas. We need more sheep and we cannot buy them or breed them fast enough. Research into fertility problems in Australia’s sheep industry will pay magnificent dividends. These are but a few of the matters that we need to pay more attention to in the ensuing years. I have great pleasure in supporting the motion for the printing of the papers.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Labour Party in this chamber. I think the average Australian would draw two main conclusions from this Budget. Whilst it is true that during the debate here and in another place much has been said about many issues, it seems to me that the two real issues are, first, that the burdens of maintaining so-called economic stability are again placed on the backs of people who cannot afford to have extra burdens - the pensioners and the workers - and secondly, that the Government takes undue credit for the economic situation which exists. The so-called prosperity of the welfare state is not the work of the present Government. It is largely the result of a very good trade position. The people remember - and my party particularly remembers - the sort of economic juggling which was adopted by the present Government in other serious situations. As I see it - I have in mind what is written in a little brochure called “ The Australian Economy, 1964” - Australia’s good trading position has not been occasioned by the so-called good management of this Government. At page 13 of this document, the following appears -
In this respect we have shared in a world-wide change for the better. After several years of decline, or stagnation at low levels, world prices of primary products made a good recovery.
Later it states -
Australia has been amongst the fortunate ones - particularly in respect of wool, sugar and minerals.
On the same page it refers to the very good export record and states that exports in 1963-64 were up £300 million on those of 1962-63, while imports had jumped by less than £100 million. On page 8, the following appears -
Thanks to the strengthening of our external position over the past three years there is no immediate need to fear balance of payment difficulties.
This situation is certainly not the result of this wonderful Government’s efforts, as has been suggested to the people of Australia, but is, in fact, due to an economic change arising from a very good trading position, largely influenced by post-war reconstruction and the events of the last World War. The economic situation is satisfactory, but the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) warns us of the need to check rising demands. It seems to me that the people who can least afford to struggle against inflation have to be protected against it. However, in the Budget the real burdens have been thrust upon pensioners and other people who should have added incomes because of rising costs. The workers have had a £1 increase in the basic wage, but that increase has been almost completely eaten up by rising costs. There should have been some real appreciation of the position of the mass of the Australian people. That is the view of the Australian Labour Party. We believe that the Budget fails to recognize the genuine claims of pensioners. It is true that as a result of the debate in this chamber and in the other place, we have obtained an admission that the Government intends to change its mind about telephone charges to pensioners. That is probably a good thing. This admission has been obtained because of the criticism which has been made by this Opposition.
We believe that if people criticise the workers for getting an increase of £1 a week because the increase tends to increase costs, the Government ought to accept the responsibility for maintaining some form of prices control. However, every time the question of prices control is put forward, the Government shirks its responsibilities. Recently the great trade union movement of Australia suggested that the Government should institute some form of price freezing to allow improvements in wage standards to be maintained, but this Government does not intend to consider that suggestion. Unless that is done, we will have the situation that the great body of Australian workers, having got from the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission an amount which the Commission considers appropriate after an assessment of the economic situation and after conferring with employers and agreeing upon the indicators of the economy, find that the increase is eaten away by the Government’s own actions. The Government applies added taxation and imposes new duties on tobacco as well as extra charges for television and wireless licences. The Government also intends to increase the sales tax on motor cars. In South Australia additional costs have been applied to workers since the basic wage increase. Milk has increased in price. Air fares have been increased as have the taxing charges in the States. The increase of £1 gained by workers has been partly eaten up by the results of the actions of the Government which says: “ You have to stop prices rising “.
Even if the Government accepts the position where wages have to rise, and if the unions can through the arbitration machinery prove that wages should be increased, it should recognise that a moderating influence should be applied to costs and prices to allow the people to retain at least some of the gain they have made. When some of the factors I have mentioned, including taxation, are taken into account, almost half of the £1 basic wage increase is eaten up by the actions of the Government. I have not touched upon increased costs applied by people outside the Government such as manufacturers, retailers and all sorts of agents for various commodities who think that this is a very good situation for price rises.
Recently a metal tradesman told me that just after the basic wage had been increased he went to buy a tool for use in his trade. He found that he had to pay an extra amount for it. A hacksaw is a necessary item for metal tradesmen. Hacksaws are now made in Australia but a component of the frame and the blade receive tariff protection. My informant told me that following the basic wage rise the price of one type of hacksaw on sale was increased by ls. 6d. and the price of another type was increased by 3s. I do not understand how this can happen but it has led me to believe that some sort of malpractice is occurring. If an article such as a tradesman’s tool is protected by a tariff duty, a form of control should be exercised over the manufacturer and retailer to ensure that prices are maintained at a proper level. Of course, from now onwards this trend will continue and tradesmen, whether metal tradesmen or builders, will find extra charges tacked on to the tools of trade they use to earn their wages. The responsibility for the situation clearly lies with the Government.
I remind honorable senators opposite of the existence of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It has recommended, I believe to the Government, that -
It is rather unusual for me to say this, but I have noticed that in South Australia, because of discussions initiated in the House of Assembly by members of the
Australian Labour Party, the State Government recognises that more extensive price controls should be applied. The Premier of South Australia has announced that a new measure will be adopted. I recognise that in the past price controls in South Australia have been fairly moderate and have been kept to a minimum, but at least there has been an organisation in the State working to maintain price levels. We believe this has been occasioned by the local trade unions whose criticisms have been recognised by the South Australian Premier as valid. Either this week or next week he will be introducing regulations to prescribe that price tickets shall be placed on every commodity, including motor cars, for sale in shops or in saleyards. Each article must be properly marked so that there cannot be any confusion or misrepresentation of the deposit amount as the sale price. The full sale price must be shown and if an article is sold on hire purchase the complete and final selling price which has to be paid should be shown on the price ticket.
There has been some token resistance to these proposals in South Australia, but it seems to me that overall they have been accepted as a very useful device. The procedure is not very complicated, nor is it expensive, lt probably will not disturb the commercial community, as did the proposal to introduce restrictive trade practices legislation. It is time to do something within the community and I believe that the Government ought to say: “At least we might tread on this road towards recognised prices control and protect many families from the hazards and involvement of expensive hire purchase transactions”.
It seems to me that, comparatively speaking, we are in a very satisfactory economic position. This is so largely because of the recognition that the Government’s horror Budgets were the results of bad policies. They prevented an increase in the wealth of the nation by making people poorer and brought acknowledgment that in the sort of capitalist society we have today people must bc completely and continuously employed. We have learnt the benefits of having very few people unemployed. We know that if there are 100,000 unemployed persons, not only does it cost the Government millions of pounds to sustain them, but what is more important, their skills are lost to industry. Some of them are not being trained.
The Government should reconsider its attitude, particularly in respect of the amounts it intends to award to the pensioners, who are in the most hard hit section. It is true, as has been pointed out by honorable senators opposite, that when you consider the workers’ demands for basic wage or marginal increases, even if they are eaten up by inflation and price rises, it is possible for employees to re-win some of the money they have lost. But this is not possible for pensioners who must suffer in the great struggles caused by rising costs in a society. As it accepts its responsibility in defence matters, the Government should accept its responsibilities to allow pensioners a proper livelihood and better standards. It should recognise that it does not do justice to our people.
Another important Budget item which should be closely watched is the intention to again increase the sales tax on motor vehicles. The move stems, I suppose, from the argument that, while there is a great demand for motor vehicles, labour and money can be diverted into the sections of the community which are not wealthproducing. I believe this to be a complete fallacy, and we have to watch that we do not have the down-turn that we had during the early 1960’s when the Government used the same device. The result then was that important factory units, not only producers of motor cars, but associated factories producing metal goods, were stopped from working. Those factories were helping to train large numbers of Australian workers.
This is where a great mistake was made in relation to adult training. Labour is in short supply at the present time in South Australia and will be in short supply in the future. Government supporters and speakers from the Liberal Party throw the responsibility on to the trade unions to overcome the shortage under less restrictive provisions than have been applied over the years. This is completely wrong, because the Australian system of training tradesmen has been a very satisfactory one. Our reputation as producers and as expert artisans is beyond reproach throughout the industrial world. The responsibility for the present situation obviously should be accepted by the Government.
There has been some concern amongst the motor interests at the imposition of the extra 1 per cent, sales tax. I hope that it will not be continued. The “ Commonwealth Automotive Review “, in the edition of 31st August, states -
In the opinion of the C.A.R., however, any increase in sales tax on motor vehicles, be it ever so small, is particularly ill-timed in a period when the Government has imposed a new set of rules on the Industry to force manufacturers to put more locally made parts and components into the vehicles they build. Not only will tin’s policy involve higher manufacturing costs, but it will also put greater pressure on available skilled labour, of which there is already a serious shortage.
So, we have to watch the trend in thinking which might lead to a repetition of the mistakes of 1960 when a great section of the Australian work force was put out of work, including skilled tradesmen and men holding semi-skilled positions as operators of machines able to produce important items which could have been earning money on the export market. Their loss of work caused great concern. It is true that, to some extent, the Government has reflected on the wisdom of such measures. We do not want a situation similar to that which existed at that time.
There are some people who consider that the large number of motor vehicles on the road is a bad thing, and that this eats up wealth. This is quite wrong. The fact is, as I have pointed out, that the people who make motor vehicles have great skills which “ we may have to rely upon in the future for use in other industries. But, in addition, motor vehicles transport workers to building sites and areas of new development. The motor car is a necessary part of the community in which we live. It plays an important part in our economy. We should not impose any great restrictions on the use of motor cars because they are helping us in many ways, and of course they provide a means of quick transport from one place to another.
I come now to the question of adult training. I speak about this subject because Government senators have asked why trade unions should not relax their old system of apprenticeship standards to allow the poolof labour to be increased. I put it to the Government, as I said a few moments ago, that the real responsibility for the shortage of tradesmen and apprentices lies with the Government because of its policy and also because of its inability to influence employers in past and recent years to take on apprentices and train them. It is true that some consideration has been given to this problem since 1961; but after two or three years discussion we now have a situation in this country which must be overcome. The basic situation could have been met some years ago by the Government employing young men and applying the lessons which it should have learned from the inquiry it instituted. In 1954, there was a Common. wealth and State inquiry into apprenticeship. The recommendations which resulted from that inquiry are well known. They were soundly based. They have been accepted by the great trade unions and by employers as being sound, but nothing was done about them. For the most part it has been left to management and unions to devise a system. Because of an emergency that exists, certain concessions have been made to employers too induce them to train apprentices.
The Government may say: “ Let us start a new method. Let us forget about the old standards of apprenticeship training. Let us train people who want to be trained.” I want to know where the Government or management is to find this pool of labour. Adults who are to be trained for skilled jobs, probably already possesss some experience in factory work or in production. Are they to be taken from the ranks of the welders and fitters assistants who are already fairly skilled? Are they to be taken from all the skilled jobs which are necessary and important? Instead of the Government talking of the need for unions to change their policy on training, it should revise its views on the matter. The Government should tell management of its revised views. Although the Commonwealth, in this little brochure to which I have referred, speaks about plant and equipment being satisfactory, it is evident today that the kind of production we are to employ in the future will be built around productive techniques. We will have to invest in, and produce ourselves, new and improved machines to obtain greater production. This is the action that must be taken, rather than thinking about pools of labour and the number of skilled and semi-skilled groups which will be required. To give a very good example of this, I refer to the building industry. People in the building industry know that you cannot replace a good builder’s labourer. He is as important to the industry as are the bricklayers and other building tradesmen. The Government must change its thinking in regard to this matter.
In relation to this problem, I think that the Government itself is carrying out the wrong policy. I mention what is going on in the Postmaster-General’s Department today in relation to the general situation of employment. I have spoken of the way in which the Government and unions have been able to cut certain corners by giving credit to boys who have certain technical qualifications and thus shorten their apprenticeship. The Government has also been subsidising employers who have taken on apprentices who, normally, they would not have taken on. The Postmaster-General’s Department proposes to increase charges for its services to the community, which will have the effect of taking away from the worker a great part of the £1 wage increase he received recently. The department has revised its training scheme for linemen in New South Wales. There is a very thorough system of training linemen in N.S.W., and I understand that the same scheme has been mooted in other States. This scheme amounts to a form of apprenticeship training. After receiving proper basic training the lads are placed at various locations for extensive training in what is called aerial work and cable jointing. The Postal Department has decided to change its methods and to review the amount of technical training it gives. In fact, it is interrupting the whole process of training, which is very bad. The department has made a comparison between Australian technical training methods and those of a private company in America, and other enterprises. It is said that it costs 2 per cent, or 3 per cent, more to train Australian boys as linemen than it does to train persons for similar positions in overseas countries.
In this situation, I return to the comment I made previously. The Government must train more skilled people. We need more skilled people to meet the demands of automatic and mechanised devices. The Government is introducing certain methods because of costs involved in training. This is not the proper basis on which to consider the matter. The Government is resisting pressure to maintain the system which has been proved satisfactory. So far, the unions have not been able to induce the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to retain the old sys tem of training. There cannot be any substitute for this very thorough system of training tradesmen. The Government should not try to replace it with another scheme because it will cost a little less in the long run. When the Government accepts a boy into its service there are certain educational qualifications which he must have. When he is accepted, he should be trained not only for the job which he will occupy but also in the basic details of the trade which he will adopt in later life. This should be done so that a boy may achieve a certain status in his job which will give him a degree of prestige. It is important to any young man to have a job which is satisfactory to him. Young men should have employment which is both satisfying and creative. If a job is not satisfying, it will not atrract the best employee. This is the position in the Postmaster-General’s Department today.
I hope that, in effect, this Government will instruct or advise the PostmasterGeneral to listen very closely to the views being put forward by the unions. A matter of importance in this regard is that while these boys will not be trained in cable jointing, the Department has admitted that in the days to come there will be less aerial work and less wire work but a greater amount of cable work which will require that the lads should have wide experience in this field. So, we have the situation in an important Government department that attempts are being made to reduce the value of this training which Australia will need.
I come to the final point I want to make. It seems apparent to me and, I think, to the whole of the Australian community. In a situation of so-called prosperity, if there are burdens arising from inflation and increased charges, those burdens should be borne by the sections of the community which can afford to bear them. In the same way, the burdens arising from a depression or a recession should not be placed on the backs of of the people who cannot afford to bear them. However, the Government is simply doing what it has always done; it is placing the greatest burdens on the backs of the pensioners and workers. The workers are, perhaps, more able to bear the burdens than are the pensioners.
It is sometimes argued that, with the sort of means test that we have, some pensioners are able to live fairly satisfactory lives but this is not so in all cases. In the world in which we are living today, before a young man gets married he often makes an arrangement with his young lady for her to keep on working in order that they may buy the modern gadgets and other things that are necessary, which have greatly increased in price. Despite this, however, many husbands are in debt for almost the whole of their lives. It is almost impossible in these days for people to put aside money which they can use in their later years. The worker is in the position that he is up to his neck in hire purchase debts. He has to incur those debts because of the sort of community in which he lives. In the long run, such people will be in the position that they will have to rely entirely upon social services provided by the Government. These social services, should enable them to provide for themselves in a reasonable manner. I hope that, as a result of the criticism by the Opposition, the Government will at least make sure that, in relation to telephones at any rate, pensioners are given some consideration.
– In saying a few words in support of the Budget I wish to give the Government all due credit for the economic stability and prosperity which we have in Australia, and which the Government is determined shall continue. I do not intend to canvass all the points that have been raised, because I think they have been dealt with very thoroughly. However, I do wish to deal with one subject upon which a great deal of stress has been placed by members of the Opposition. I was appalled to hear Senator Bishop say that the burden of responsibiltiy for economic stability should not be placed on those who cannot afford to carry that responsibility. I think that is almost an incredible view in a democracy in which we take great pains to say that every individual has a responsibility. I was amazed to hear Mr. Calwell, the Leader of the Opposition in another place; trying to build up a case for those he called “ the little people “. I think that was insulting and derogatory, because everybody in a democracy is equally important. No-one can be described as little unless he thinks that he is, and I do not think that anybody in Australia need think that he is little.
The subject about which I wish to say something now is defence. I was stimulated to rise particularly because Senator McClelland said that nobody on the Government side had risen to praise the Government for its defence efforts. I believe that the Government is doing an adequate job with limited resources. Resources are limited in a country such as this, with a small population and a very large area. However, I believe that the civilian effort in defence is inadequate, and it is on that aspect that I should like to say a few words. A great deal more can be done by th’e civilian population, or the private sector of the population, to assist in retaining peace and security in our country, and I should like to put forward a plan for this to be done.
There is more than one way of ensuring peace and security, lt is not only the Government’s responsibility to see that this is done. I believe that every man and woman has to play a part. One thing we should set out to do is to form a national foundation to enlist the support of every person in the community for ideas which might increase international good will and minimise, shall I say, :he need for increasing defence efforts. In saying that, I do not mean that defence is not essential; it is. But it is the private sector about which I am talking. If we had a national foundation in which every individual, every business, every political party and the Government itself co-operated, I think we would go a long way towards achieving what is needed.
I am very conscious of the motto of the Returned Servicemen’s League, which is that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. I am not sure that we are stimulating a sense of vigilance amongst our own people. There is a growing move to re-institute national service training. I believe in national service training, but I believe also that if our Service chiefs tell us that we have not sufficient leaders to enable them to underake such a scheme, we must accept that advice, even if only temporarily. However, I think we can do something about this lack of leaders. If we need leaders, we must try to produce them. I was interested recently to hear that the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) had announced a scheme for some sort of training for leaders, but I think that this is only scratching the surface. I understand he envisages a four weeks’ course, and I think he is rather idealistic in that he expects people to give their time almost on a voluntary basis.
I think we need to consider why we are not getting people to undertake what I might call a leadership career. This is something that the foundation I have suggested could consider. I believe that there should be at least a two-year course in a leadership school. Leadership is not something that you can learn in four weeks, or in four months for that matter. You need to study psychology. You must know how to lead young people. You have to study the use of leisure, which means how to promote hobbies and the various way in which young people can occupy themselves. You have to study a certain amount of religious ethics. All of these things will take at least two years to learn. Then I think it is quite reasonable that we should give the people who give up their time to leadership a reasonable expectation of promotion, with increasing income. Why should they be expected to dedicate their lives to doing this work, sacrificing themselves and their families to an ideal, and then not be able to obtain the material things which everyone has a right to expect?
I believe that a foundation could tackle this job, not only by stimulating or promoting schools of leadership which could give at least a two-year course, but also by guaranteeing that those who were trained would be able to expect promotion. The foundation probably could subsidise organisations which wanted to employ leaders but could not afford to pay them and to promote them in the way they had a right to expect. This is something which I think would go a long way towards correcting the lack of leaders. We are told that a number of Army officers come out of the Army each year. It may be that we could attract some of these men into such a scheme by offering them a career in it.
This is something we can do at home, but I believe that there is a lot more that we can do overseas. We must try to remove the cause of the need for increased defence. We must try to remove the seed bed of Communism, which at the moment seems to me to be the main source of aggression. We need to remove poverty, disease and perhaps illiteracy from the people who are tending to be influenced by the ideals offered them by Communism. Everyone has a right to live in peace and happiness. I believe that everyone wants friendliness as well.
I think that perhaps the first need is education. We have to ask ourselves: What are the countries which are nearest to Australia getting in the way of education? Are they getting it quickly enough? In Indonesia, Sarawak, Sabah and even in Malaya, I have visited villages where I found that the people have not been able to get education quickly enough because the countries have not the resources to provide funds for the building of schools, nor do they have the personnel to teach in those schools. I think that Australia can play a part in this direction.
There is a need for educational television which would benefit our own people as well. We have hardly touched the surface of educational television at home. At the same time, we could bring educationists and technicians from these various countries and teach them about educational television. Even under our Colombo Plan assistance we could offer them the means by which to get educational television into their villages. This is not impracticable in these days because there are such things as transistor television sets. One of these sets in a village would go a long way, towards raising the standard of social education and health education, and would begin to teach them how to overcome disease, illiteracy and even poverty.
At this stage I want to praise the assistance that we are giving under the Colombo Plan. I think we are giving wonderful materia] aid according to our own resources. I hope it will continue and I hope that it will increase. I believe that a foundation, such as the one about which I have been speaking, could help to fill the gaps in this direction. When we bring students to Australia, perhaps we do not know before they come whether they are going to fit into our way of life. We should help to prepare them for our way of life before they leave their own countries. We also need to meet them to see that they get proper accommodation and to give them the kind of social standing and introduction that they require in this country.
This is better done on a private basis than by a Government department, and it could be handled by a foundation. In addition, we need to see that when they go back to their own countries their skills are properly utilised. These are some of the things that we can do to see that the aid given to the privileged sector is being properly used. But there is a very much bigger sector both in our own country and in the countries of which I speak, which could go a long way towards increasing international goodwill and understanding. I think a scheme could be devised and run by a foundation whereby we could get from the people of these countries an undertaking that they would entertain in their homes for a day, a weekend or a week, visitors from other countries. This is something which travellers would, like to see happening, but which is not happening. It would be of great advantage to our country if we could welcome into our homes people from other countries, and if our people could be welcomed into their homes. This is something that I would like to see handled by a foundation on a private basis. It is not something which a government could or should undertake.
I think that our young people want to give a great deal or help and assistance in the form of peace corps and voluntary organisations. The problem is being tackled on a small basis by a number of organisations, but I think it needs co-ordination and assistance. Again, I think a foundation could probably give this sort of coordinating help to the organisations and see that when our young people go overseas they are helped wherever they go.
There is one other matter to which I wish to refer, and that is that even at the school level we could create a consciousness among our school children of the need to build up international goodwill. We could do this by means of competitions, essays, prizes and public lectures. Even the arts could play a part. I do not want to take any further time in dealing with the matter, but I want to put this proposal forward as a positive way of suggesting that the private sector of the people of Australia could do a lot more towards relieving the tensions which exist. There is criticism that the Government is not doing enough towards building up our defences. In a country of our size we cannot expect to have an enormous defence force. We want an efficient force, and I believe that we have an efficient one. I urge the Government to sponsor a scheme, such as the one I have suggested, to try to stimulate interest in the private sector of our people.
– It is refreshing to hear suggestions from the Government side in relation to the public’s responsibility in national welfare, training, peace and co-ordination. While it is very interesting to hear such suggestions, we must be realistic about them. The defence of our country and our relations with other countries rest largely with the Government. I enter the debate to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) to the motion that the Budget Papers be printed. It reads -
At the end of the motion add the following words - “but the Seriate is of opinion that the Budget does not adequately grapple with the problems of striking a realistic and fitting balance between the claims on national resources arising from defence, development and social welfare”.
The Budget has followed the pattern of the three previous Budgets. There is no imagination about it. It is a matter of the Government saying to the people that the economy is buoyant, our revenues are good, our overseas trading is excellent, and our per capita output is increasing. In point of fact, the Australian worker, the Australian producer, the Australian manufacturer and the Australian exporter have done everything that the Government has asked and demanded of them to keep the economy stable and progressive. The Government’s answer is to apply the same old techniques. It says that it must take spending power away from the community and that the people who have helped to keep the economy stable should not be allowed to enjoy the benefits of stability. The Government can spend the money without creating inflation, but the individual may not spend it because that would be prejudicial to our economy.
The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) who represents the Treasurer, said in his Budget Speech -
On preliminary figures put out by the Commonwealth Statistician, wages and salaries increased last year by 9 per cent., company income by 10 per cent., farm income by 26 per cent., and our gross national product by 9 per cent. The big rise in exports had, of course, a lot to do with this.
It is natural to assume that we are going to maintain similar progress and that even if taxation were not increased, the Government’s income would rise considerably. Why docs not the Government adopt the attitude of other countries, which have the welfare of their citizens at heart? If it wants to draw off the surplus spending power of the community, it should let the people buy an asset in Australia, or let them contribute to a loan. In this way we would get some benefit from the buoyancy which exists. The Government has not at any time endeavoured to do this. I say that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate was justified in his criticism of the hit or miss manner in which the Budget has been presented for the last three years. Before an election the Government argues that it is not possible to put into effect the proposals regarding social services, education, development and all the other matters propounded by the Labour Party, but as soon as the Government is elected to office it finds sufficient revenue to put the proposals into effect. The Leader of the Opposition was quite justified in saying that the Government has displayed either great incompetence or, at the worst, sheer dishonesty.
Let us get down to tin tacks and see how severely the Government has taxed the community. It is estimated that this year the Government will raise an additional £17.1 million in custom duties, £27 million in excise duty, £15.5 million in sales tax, £109.5 million in personal income tax, £53 million in company tax, and £7 million in pay-roll tax. It is worth our while to see what is happening in relation to business undertakings, in particular the Post Office. Last year the revenue of the Post Office was £165.4 million. It is estimated that this year the revenue will be £185.5 million, a rise of £20 million. Last year the expenditure of the Post Office amounted to £115.9 million, and this year it is estimated it will be £126 million, a rise of £11 million. So an extra £9 million raised by the Post Office will be floating around. The cost of the facilities provided by the Post Office is an essential part of the costs of all our industries. The proposed increase in telephone charges will force prices up. If that is not inflation, I do not know what is. The Government is to be criticised for the inordinately big rise in the charges for telephone rentals and the connection of telephones.
Like some supporters of the Government and other Opposition senators, I make a special plea for consideration to be extended to pensioners who have to use telephones. The consideration should not stop there. I have in mind people who have retired on superannuation and who have always been regarded by the Government as being admirable citizens. Most of these people are married. They do riot enjoy the concessions that are normally allowed to pensioners but are living under severe strain because of inflation and the imposts that have been introduced by this Government. Many of these people retired years ago and are now aged. A telephone is as much a necessity to them as it would be to a person who draws a social service pension. I ask the Government not to disregard these people. Probably they are experiencing a lower standard of living than are the social service pensioners, whose circumstances come under public notice. The superannuated person has to pay for his own hospitalisation and medicine, and he has either to maintain a home or rent premises at a fairly high figure. He is living on a fixed income which at one time was adequate but which is no longer adequate. He should be shown consideration by the Government.
The Government has been very lax in its estimating. One has only to read the newspapers to learn of greater collections of revenue than were budgeted for. It is of no use saying what Mr. Chifley or anybody else did. There is such a wide disparity between the estimates and the results that the position needs to be checked. I have known the time when government expenditure was watched very closely. When tenders were invited, the estimates were worked out so finely that there was no room for political patronage in the letting of contracts. It is astonishing that during the last financial year Australia should have been cheated in the prices it had to pay for drugs and other commodities which were supplied by overseas organisations. The same sort of thing is happening under the cost-plus system that is adopted by some government departments when purchasing plant and equipment and materials. They say: “ Buy on a cost-plus basis. Put it in the Budget and take the money from the public. The public be damned”. I know quite well that in the Postmaster-General’s
Department a direction has been given that certain kinds of transport must be used in certain circumstances. In certain places government transport cannot be utilised, but that which is used is not always the most inexpensive. The attitude seems to be that while things are buoyant the Government may take money from the public and spend it without affecting the economy, but if the money is spent by the public inflation will follow.
Although the Australian citizen produces goods and earns a good income, it is not possible for him to invest in Australia’s assets. Governments might well consider having a good look at our budgeting procedures instead of offering the excuse that wages cause any imbalance that appears in the economy. The average Australian is so pinned down by taxation and has so much money taken from him by the Government that he has very little left to invest. On the other hand, overseas organisations which arc dodging taxation in their own countries arc buying up our assets and businesses. The result is that we are being captured by overseas capital. While our assets are being taken over, the Australian is up against hire purchase commitments and heavy taxation. He is doing an admirable job but is not getting a fair stake in the country, even in the ownership of his own home.
The removal of the 5 per cent, rebate of income tax means that that much more is being taken from the citizen. It is being spent on capital works. In any decent society finance for such projects would be raised by way of loans. The sales tax on motor cars has been increased. The Government has displayed a little more sanity on this occasion than it did when it last hit the motor industry. The Government’s action on that occasion caused an upheaval in industry from which we have not yet quite recovered. On this occasion the Government has been much more moderate. The duty on tobacco and cigarettes has been increased. All this money comes out of the pockets of the workers. No sooner is there a rise in the basic wage than it is whittled away as a result of an increase of radio licence fees or of the duty on cigarettes. The Government’s attitude can be summed up in this way: “ We get our revenue. The public be damned “.
It is appropriate that there should bc an increase in repatriation benefits, which will be the subject of a bill before the Senate, but there is a very real need for us to consider the ceiling of permissible income in relation to pensions. A lot of juggling is going on. Increases in pensions are to some extent a mirage. I think it will be agreed that permissible income should have been increased long ago. The amount of £3 10s. a week was fixed a considerable time ago, when it probably represented the value of a day’s work. At present a man cannot do a day’s work at a decent rate of remuneration without earning the permissible income, so he cannot proceed to improve his position further. Many men who leave trades at 65 years of age and become pensionable are quite able to undertake work and earn additional income. It is better for them and for the nation if they do this. There is a demand for skilled labour and the Government should regard as urgent the need for increasing permissible income so as to allow married persons living together to enjoy an income not less than the basic wage. Application of the ceiling of £3 10s. a week produces all sorts of anomalies. People are trying to dodge the payment of award rates and some are receiving income that they do not reveal. The nation and the individual would benefit from an increase in permissible income.
The Government proposes to do something about petrol prices, as promised during the last election campaign. It is apparently moving slowly and sluggishly towards this end. I understand that there will be a sort of cost-plus arrangement with the petrol companies. The differential in prices in the metropolitan and outback areas of Western Australia is from 91d. to 2s. 6d. a gallon. While the Government has been making up its mind, or trying to sort the matter out and get legislation before the Parliament, the cost of petrol has risen in the State, so to that extent there will be a Government subsidy for petrol companies We have learned quite enough to justify an investigation of petrol prices fixed by big petrol combines and companies. This country has been offered petrol at a price very much lower than the price that we have been paying. The Government should fix a standard price for petrol. The people of the outback should not be penalised at all.
A more generous plan than has been promised by the Government was proposed by the Opposition. Whatever is done, let it be done quickly and let the Government watch carefully to ensure that Commonwealth revenue is not wasted to boost an artifically high price for petrol. The time has come when something must be done about transport charges generally. It is quite obvious that in relation to transport there has been a lot of political patronage. Transport has become most expensive. In comparisons with transport costs in other countries, we show up very badly. Cheap, quick and efficient transport would be of very great advantage. These considerations seem to have been missed by the Government.
The Opposition believes that its amendment is quite justified. I ask the Government to consider providing relief in respect of telephone charges for superannuated persons and other pensioners who, as a result of rising costs, have lost much of the value of their incomes. I ask the Government to consider increasing the ceiling of permissible income for repatriation pensioners and other pensioners. It is necessary to have another look at hospitalisation. Illness is almost as expensive as it would be if no benefit scheme existed. I do not say that the benefits paid are not welcome, but family men and others on the basic wage find the expense of sickness and hospitalisation very hard to meet.
I have received from an organisation of pensioners in Sydney a letter asking that something be done in relation to the housing of aged persons. We in the Commonwealth Parliament are justly proud of the scheme which provides a subsidy of £2 for each £1 contributed for the purpose of housing aged persons, but the scheme should be extended to apply to local government authorities. The letter reads -
Under the Aged Persons Homes Act it stated distinctly that money must be raised by donations. Every £1 raised this way would be subsidised by the Federal Government by another £1. The Act distinctly prohibited borrowing or government or local government participation in the scheme.
That refers to the original subsidy provision in the 1954 legislation. The letter goes on to deal with the amendment in 1957 -
Because of lack of response to the appeals for donations for the building of aged persons homes, the Federal Government raised the subsidy to £2 for every £1 raised by organisations for this worthy cause.
The letter then refers to a number of organisations which have participated in the scheme.
I know from my own experience that some organisations operate on the basis that an aged person must pay a deposit of £600, £1,000 or £2,000, upon which they collect from the Commonwealth Government a subsidy of twice the amount paid. In cases’ where a person pays £2,000, the organisation receives a total of £6,000. Accommodation is provided under pretty rigid rules. The participants in the scheme receive no equity whatsoever in the properties. If they leave the homes, the value of their accommodation is assessed at about £3 or £3 5s. a week. It is a pretty keen, real estate type of transaction. A home should provide an aged person fairly promptly with accommodation. The Government should regulate the scheme by ensuring that there are properly registered rules and that an aged person’s money is protected.
Another aspect to bear in mind is that this deals with only one side of the problem of providing houses for aged persons. A person who has £800, £1,000 or £2,000 for accommodation is fortunate. The Government should investigate what can be done for the person who is in dire need of accommodation but has not that amount of money. If a local government or government instrumentality is prepared to provide accommodation for the aged on the basis of a Commonwealth subsidy of £2 for £1, it should be allowed to do the job. The Government should not let it become a matter of private enterprise, with the contractor, the builder and the supplier of furniture taking from the aged person whatever he can pay and giving him no equity with which to build up an asset in our society. I feel that those are some of the most important points with which we are dealing. Once again, the Budget shows a lack of imagination. The same policy still exists. The Government can spend with impunity but if the citizen is allowed to spend, that damages our economy.
– At this late stage in the debate, with most of the matters to be discussed having been adequately covered, I think this side of the House is so far ahead on points that I am not terribly worried about the outcome. But there are one or two things upon which I feel compelled to speak. The variety of subjects covered by the Budget debate has been extended to the organisation throughout Australia of the Liberal Party and Australian Country Party by my friend, Senator Dittmer, from Queensland. I feel that I should say a word on this in the light of something he said. There is no brawl between the Liberal and Country Parties in Queensland, as Senator Dittmer alleged. As a matter of fact, we have not met the Country Party since May.
– No - But you snarled through the Press.
– No- you snarled through the Press. You are promoting this. This is the sort of argument we find at election time. 1 think the honorable senator referred to me as one of the fellows smoking tobacco. I was not smoking, but laughing, to think that he was so far off the beam. He is not always off the beam, but on this occasion he was, and it amused me. When you come down to allocating positions, not only in Queenshind but also in South Australia, I would point out that in South Australia there is a Liberal and Country League. The Liberal and Country Parties are not separate parties there.
– It is the same in Western Australia
– I do not profess to have that knowledge. 1 speak only of my own State. If there were no differences of opinion, there would be no healthy organisation, but the differences of opinion between our two parties are confined to this fact and to this fact only - that we are looking for the most effective means of getting the greatest cooperation between the two parties. Unless I miss my guess, when the numbers are up and the chips are down, we will be shoulder to shoulder and will know whom we have to fight. I promise Senator Dittmer one thing only, and that is to keep him from laughing while he is making us cry. 1 do this with no sense of chargin, but out of kindness. I know tha honorable senator cannot afford to go on being wrong all the time and so someone must help him. I have always been interested in national development, no matter where it takes place. Last night, Senator Dittmer said something about the Ord River project. I know he has been over there and I have been there, too. That project is suc cessful, but this is the type of success that honorable senators opposite do not like to talk about in this place. It is a Government success.
– I do not deny that it is a success and J hope it is extended.
– I hope it is extended, too. I want to say only one thing in regard to development. It is related to sugar. I was very sceptical - probably like a lot of other honorable senators - when the Ord River scheme was first proposed. It is true that there has been research in progress since 1941 and it has been said that the Government has planned development through research in northern Australia. This is one of the first projects started as a result of research.
– Who initiated the research?
– It started in 1941. lt is a strange thing that everything except sugar has been the subject of thorough research. It was said that, because there was no prospect of a market for sugar at that lime, there was no need for that type of research. However, I would not have been too easy about the spending of this amount of money had it not been for the opportunity to grow sugar. I am very much afraid of some of these things, but I feel that sugar will be a stabiliser, and 1 do not mean this in terms of putting money down the drain. There is a human factor involved. If you are to attract people to this area I do not think it is a fair go unless there is a degree of permanence about it and, lacking that, it does not help us nationally, at all. I admit that insufficient research has been done on sugar but it comes into a different bracket to other crops. It definitely is a tropical crop. We have a parallel to the Ord River area in the lower Burdekin district of Queensland, where I spent 27 years. That is the best sugar country, not only in Australia, but in the world. I am not getting any medals for saying this. I believe that the Ord River area will be comparable with the Burdekin district. Out of the research came something else. I would like to quote one or two figures and then I will be satisfied to go quietly and let honorable senators go home. The Ord River is well located in northern
Australia - practically as far north as one can get. The cost of that dam, per acre foot of water stored, will, I think, prove to be the lowest in Australia. The cost per acre foot of the Ord River storage will be £2 4s. In New South Wales, where there are some big dams, the Warragamba Dam cost £23 per acre foot and the Wyangala Dam cost £40 per acre foot. The Blowering Dam is to cost £21 per acre foot and the Keepit Dam £33 4s. In Queensland the cost per acre foot of the Tinaroo Dam is £19 5s. The cost of the Serpentine Dam in Western Australia is £15 par acre foat and the cost of the Maroondah Dam in Victoria is £50 per acre foot. The cost of the Great Eilden Dam on the Goulburn River is £4 per acre foot and that of Lake Eucumbene is £5 per acre foot. I think that the Ord River is one place where we have a chance of proving something once and for a’ll in northern Australia. During this debate there have been lots of attacks on the Government for its failure to come out with a programme of planned development. This is plain nonsense. I believe there is now enough information available, gathered from research which was started mare than a decade ago, to guide us properly and fruitfully in the expenditure of the large amounts of money we are called upon to invest in northern Australia.
– Has the Commonwealth Government provided for an extension of the Ord River scheme?
– Is has not done so yet, but I would support its extension.
– Do you think that some day the Government might have sufficient vision to extend it?
– All you have to worry about is that it does not do so before the Senate election. We have consistently advocated, from this side of the chamber, full exploitation of natural resources. I have previously said in this chamber that Australia is now leading the world in research in regard to tropical legumes, and we have two million acres of land in northern Australia that we can develop without irrigation. I believe that, parallel with our normal development, we can can-N a scheme like the Ord project.
I saw a Press report recently that the beef industry in the next five years is expected to increase its output by 40 per cent. Irrigation is not involved in this; different breeds of cattle are being used.
– The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has helped.
– Yes, C.S.l.R.O. is responsible. In the main, the job is being done by controlling nutrition. This is good planning by any Government. We are using what has been neglected for so many years. I said that, because of the shortness of time -available, I would take up only a few minutes, but I should like to refer to the charge levelled against the Government of failing to develop north Australia. When I was speaking to the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) he informed me that the money committed for expenditure on development in Australia at present is slightly in excess of £400 million. No doubt we will get further details during the debate on the Estimates.
I want now to put Senator Dittmer right. He referred to the aluminium industry in Queensland. He did not appear to know that there are three stages to this development. The first stage is the mining at Weipa and the export of the bauxite, the second is the alumina stage, and the third is the aluminium production stage. Senator Scott and Senator Morris know about this.
– So does Senator Dittmer. He made it very clear last night.
– The only thing he made clear was that we finished with a white powder.
– I said that alumina was going to be shipped overseas.
– I think Senator Sherrington misunderstood that point.
– I do not think I misunderstood^ it. Senator Dittmer was criticising the Government for not carrying out a full aluminium production. In reply to an interjection he said: “It is a white powder called alumina “.
– His criticism was that we were not going to the aluminium stage.
– I say that in the plan we will go to the aluminium stage. If I am wrong, I will stand corrected. The Budget has been well and truly debated, and I feel ineffectually criticised. I support the motion, but not the amendment.
– During the course of this debate honorable senators have ranged over many subjects which are covered directly by the Government’s proposals in the Budget. I think that the Opposition was hard pressed to find any criticism of real substance. It is easy to say, when in opposition and without much responsibility, that we should have further increases in this and that. By and large, the purpose of the Budget is to continue the stability which has been a factor of this Government’s Budgets during the last few years - to continue the pattern of stability within Australia and to enable the nation to develop and progress. Stability is necessary for progressive growth.
I turn now to some of the comments that were made. Our economy is producing full employment. I do not think anyone can deny that we have reached full employment and, in the fields of skill, overfull employment. We are still maintaining a rapid rate of growth - a rate of growth which is significant in a country as large as Australia with a population of only 1 1 million. With a small population such as ours, it is a tremendous problem to develop all of Australia at the rate we would wish to do it. Other countries with larger populations have a great tax potential to call upon, and because of their age they have established wealth which can be used for capital works. Australia is a young country with a small population and a large area to develop. We can well be proud of what has been done in the last 14 or 15 years. We are facing a year when our overseas reserves have never been greater. We have increased our exports, not only from primary industries. We have managed to accumulate our overseas reserves largely from our primary exports, but the export of our manufactured goods has steadily climbed past the £100 million mark and is now reaching £150 million. This is a healthy sign. All the evidence is that we have a good standard of living, spread widely amongst our people. I should think that prosperity is shared more widely in Australia than in any other country in the world. Areas of great wealth and of great poverty are fewer in Australia than elsewhere. This is a healthy sign for our economy.
With all these factors present, it was a difficult task for the Opposition to find any real criticism, apart from the normal criticism we find levelled every year at the Budget - that this should have been a greater increase, that this should not have been done, and that this tax should have been a little less. By and large, the purpose of the Budget is to spread throughout the community the amount of cash that the Government has taken from its people. In the judgment of the Government, this has been done wisely.
I was interested to read and to listen to the comments of some senators. I thought Senator Cormack, in his interesting and informative speech, referred to something which is often overlooked, namely, that there is no solution to the constant problem of retaining the stability of the economy. There is no one pathway. You never reach the stage when you can say: “ This is it “. You always encounter some new condition which starts a new tendency to inflation. So the country, its Government and its Parliament must be constantly on the alert, taking new measures to maintain stability and to see that the economy is not affected by inflation. As Senator Cormack pointed out, to do this one has to take risks. It can be done only by innovations, by trial and error. Over the last 15 years the Government has done many things by trial and error in this quest to maintain stability. At times some of the measures undertaken by the Government go bad, as we say. At those times, having taken risks, the Government faces the criticism which flows from the turn of events.
We have a duty to attempt to maintain stability, to reduce the heights of the waves and to lessen the troughs of the economy as the rises and falls occur. In other words, we have constantly to be on the alert to take measures to prevent a stop-go policy, as it has been called. There is no regular pathway. We must take steps as the need arises.
I notice that one of the pressures has its origin in the overdraft system which is in vogue in Australia today. In this morning’s Press there is a reference to the fact that higher overdraft limits are being drawn upon to a greater extent in recent times. I prefer the type of overdraft situation whereby a trader can get his current amount of overdraft and then, if he wants a rainy day limit, instead of the banking institutions being called upon to have that standby, he should be called upon to pay interest on the unused amount of the overdraft up to the limit. This system has been used in America, I think quite effectively. It means that when a business wishes to have a rainy day overdraft limit in reserve, a certain amount of funds has to be kept idle in case the limit is reached, and it is reached only in time of stress. It is a contingent liability of the banking system. I know that I may be ahead of Senatr Dittmer, who is attempting to interject, but I forgive him for not understanding. This contingent liability of the banking system should be freed from the economy of the country as a whole and the rainy day portion of the overdraft when not needed could be made available, perhaps to smaller people and others who are requiring assistance.
– Is that Government policy you are announcing?
– I know that the honorable senator would not want to incriminate anybody other than myself through my remarks. I said that this is my own view of a system which operates in America.
– It would not be a very popular idea, I should mention to you.
– There aTe occasionally some of us, Senator, who will advocate a measure irrespective of whether it is popular. The Government has demonstrated that if it believes in a measure it is not frightened to introduce it because it is unpopular. I am not frightened to rise and say that I believe this system is something which would be of benefit to the country.
– What about restrictive trade practices?
– I have noticed that the honorable senator takes great interest in restrictive trade practices. I do not know why he is so interested but no doubt if he restrains himself and exercises patience he will have an opportunity to see what he wishes to see. I hope that it does not affect him too much.
The system to which I was referring also has the advantage of removing from the country the substantial speculative element because the upper overdraft limit is used largely at a time of necessity and not for speculative purposes. It would help to iron out the economic rises and falls which occur from time to time and thus would help to maintain stability.
I want now to refer to the comments of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna). I have compared with interest his speeches on Budgets during the the last few years. I think this aspect already has been commented upon. The honorable senator’s comments on the 5 per cent, income tax rebate have been very interesting. When the rebate was introduced he said that it was completely unfair to grant it as a flat rate because it would help the high income people who would receive a far greater benefit than the low income people. Now that we have wiped out the rebate he has said that the decision is completely unfair because it is not giving enough to the low income group and is giving too much to the high income group. He cannot have it both ways. The rebate is being taken off or put on - one way or the other. One way must be right, but the honorable senator has had a couple of bob both ways over the last few Budgets. This type of illogical criticism was spread throughout the honorable senator’s comments. He mentioned that revenue would have risen this year by £161 million.
– I said £181 million.
– Thank you, Senator. That makes my argument a little stronger. Revenue would have risen by £181 million without any additional taxation. Then he said that over the last three years revenue has risen by £441 million. He said: “This is what our Leader said. This is how we would finance our astronomical social services programme and election promises programme - by the normal increase in taxation of £300 million.” Yet over three years here is increased revenue of £441 million. If he would use this normal increase in taxation to finance the Labour Party’s election promises, what would he use to finance the normal and unavoidable increases in expenditure in those years? Some increases in expenditure are unavoidable, because not even the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) can stop the numbers of pensioners increasing. As the numbers increase the new ones are entitled to the pension, even if it is not raised. Government expenditure is thus unavoidably increased. How would the honorable senator finance the increased payments to the States under the formula, unless he wishes to wreck the formula upon which the States and the Commonwealth have agreed? I am sure that the wrecking would not be very favorable to Tasmania, from which he and I come, as it works in favour of that State.
How then would the honorable senator finance the increases in expenditure if he were to use the normal increases in taxation to finance the astronomical costs of Labour’s election promises? He failed to deal with this aspect. I do not think he can fairly enter this field of criticism and at the same time fail to account to the Senate for the normal increases which would have occurred in expenditure. I think this is an additional instance and example of the limits to which the honorable senator was pushed in trying to find some real criticism of the Budget and the economy of this country.
When I moved that the Budget Papers bc printed I explained that the paper “ Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for other than the Ordinary Annual Services of the Government “ contains those appropriations for which, in the opinion of the Government and its legal advisers, a good case cannot be made out for the view that they are for the ordinary annual services of the Government. I said also that discussions on the question of the classification of appropriations were continuing and that, pending the completion of those discussions, no alternative provision had been made to the form of the measures which was adopted in May. I would like those honorable senators who spoke on this aspect during the course of the debate to know that the Treasury officials have noted the comments that have been made by them. Those comments will be available when further discussions take place shortly on this matter.
There is one further aspect of the debate on which I would like to comment. This is in connection with the accuracy of the estimates, a matter which was raised by several speakers on the Opposition side. They used such terms as “ incompetence “, “ deception “, and “ grievous underestimating “ in regard to the estimates of revenue. If one studies the Budgets not only of the Commonwealth Government but also of the State Governments, it will be found that there has been in the last year or two underestimation of the receipts from certain fields of taxation and. from other fields also. This is because of the increased prosperity which has come to this country from a sudden increase in exports - the export field has been of tremendous importance to the prosperity of this country - and a rise in the general income. This has been beyond the capacity of any Treasurer, either State or Commonwealth, to estimate. It is one of the results of the stability of the country and the increased prosperity we are enjoying. It also results from the development of the country, and the great benefits which have come to Australia and its people through 15 years of the Menzies Liberal-Country Party Government. This prosperity is so vast that it has never been equalled in the history of this country or any other country. I believe that Australia will have many more years of this Government and that the present rate of growth and prosperity will continue.
– Are you serious when you say that?
– I know you are getting somewhat impatient in Opposition because you have been there so long. But cheer up. If you are not a member of this Parliament when your Party becomes the Government, your successor may be. Your Party may be elected to office at some time in the future. Keep hoping. I know it must be very frustrating for you, but that is no reason why you should interject in that way. I would like honorable senators who have raised many important matters during the course of this debate to know that their remarks have been noted by the Treasury and by the Government and will be considered when the next Budget is being prepared.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that if had agreed to the following resolution in connection with the Foreign Affairs Committee -
That Mr. J. M. . Fraser be a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs in place of Mr. Howson, discharged from attendance.
Senate adjourned at 4.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 August 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1964/19640827_senate_25_s26/>.