25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for Customs and Excise inform me whether it will be necessary to amend the Tariff Act to consummate the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement? Has the Minister read the policy of the Australian Labour Party relating to tariffs and protection? That policy states -
Effective tariff protection of Australian industries and import embargoes in favour of Australian industries capable of supplying the home market - in each case subject to control of prices, to protection of Australian working conditions and to due efficiency in production.
No tariff preference to another country except upon equitable reciprocal bases.
Will the Minister obtain for me information showing the weight of cheese and other dairy products imported from New Zealand during the year ended 31st December 1964, and the weight of pig meats, fresh peas and beans and dehydrated peas imported from New Zealand during the same period? Will the Minister also obtain for me information showing the weight of similar commodities exported to New Zealand from the Commonwealth during the same year?
– The honorable senator has asked a very comprehensive question. I noticed that part of it referred to the policy of the Australian Labour Party. 1 cannot give him any advice on that matter. But I have a very real interest in the policies of the parties that make up the Government. They are very good policies. I suggest that the honorable senator place the balance of the question on the notice paper. If he does so, I will see that a comprehensive answer is supplied to him. I believe that the recently and successfully negotiated trade agreement between New Zealand and Australia augurs well for both countries.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware of Press reports to the effect that superphosphate prices are to be increased by 14s. a ton to cover increased landed costs of sulphur? Has the landed cost of sulphur increased by £5 a ton or more? Will this increase bring sulphur produced from pyrites into a competitive position with imported sulphur?
– I am aware of the Press reports to which the honorable senator has referred, but I cannot give him the other information for which he has asked. I will obtain the information for him from the Minister for Primary Industry.
– My question is directed to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. I ask the Minister whether he was correctly reported as having said last night that because a student matriculated it was no reason for him to assume the right to enter a university. If the report is correct, was the honorable gentleman merely being humorous, or was it a serious, statement by him in his capacity as Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research? Does the Minister accept that there is a crisis in education in Australia?
– In the course of an address last night, I indicated that I believed that universities do not now consider and are unlikely in the future to consider that a low pass - just getting through matriculation - automatically entitles students to admission to a university. I think that the universities are correct in adopting that attitude. I do not accept that there is a crisis in education in Australia at the moment. Indeed, I believe it is quite demonstrable that there is not. There are, of course, many things still to be done in education, but to call the present situation a crisis is, in my belief, sheer nonsense.
– In addressing my question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry I remind him that it is a provision of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement that it shall be subject to ratification by member States. I ask the Minister whether it is the intention to submit the Agreement to Parliament for ratification.
– In Australia the negotiation, signature and ratification of treaties are all Executive acts. Consequently, ratification of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement is a matter for the Government and not for the Parliament. However, parliamentary action is required if legislation is needed in order to give effect locally to provisions of a treaty. In the case of the Free Trade Agreement, it is not proposed to seek ratification by Parliament. Nevertheless, the Minister for Trade and Industry has indicated in another place that the Government will arrange for discussion of the Agreement in Parliament, if members desire to debate the subject. It is proposed that the Agreement will enter into force on 1st .January 1966. The arrangement in respect to frozen peas and beans does not provide for any reduction in duty until 1st January 1967. The Bill to change the tariff on frozen peas and beans will not be introduced before 1966.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, refers to the statement made last week by the honorable gentleman that the names of a large number of persons with criminal records had been submitted by the Waterside Workers Federation for employment on the Australian waterfronts. Would the. Minister table a list, omitting the names of the persons concerned, of the offences, dates on which they were committed and the respective penalties imposed by the courts?
- Mr. President, I think the best thing the honorable senator can do is to put his question on the notice paper to see whether the Minister will do as he requests.
– I ask the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade and Industry: In view of the fact that New Zealand dehydrated peas known as “Surprise “ peas are underselling the Australian product on the local market and the machinery used in processing “Surprise” peas is patented, I understand, what are the prospects of Australian processors devising a similar method of processing? Will the Minister make inquiries in this direction?
– In a statement I made recently, which was reported in the Tasmanian Press, I said that I believe that, just as the Tasmanian industry kept pace with the change when frozen peas superseded to an extent canned peas, so will the Tasmanian industry keep pace with any other , development which improves the processing and marketing of Tasmanian. products by the most up to date methods. I shall certainly see whether the Department of Trade and Industry can . supply any further information on the lines sought by the honorable senator.
– I ask my question of the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the present Attorney-General was a permanent officer of the Attorney-General’s Department prior to his standing on behalf of the Australian Liberal Party at the Federal elections of 1954? If so, how- many months prior to the election did he give notice to the Secretary of ‘ his Department of his intention to become a candidate, and did the Government take any action to transfer him to another position so that he would not see any of the Government’s secrets?
– I am not aware of the matters that the honorable -senator has put to the Senate. One thing of which I am certain is that the present Attorney-General was not the head of a section of the Department which gave confidential advice directly to the Cabinet. Consequently, I feel that there is - no comparison between the positions to which the honorable senator refers.
– Two weeks ago I asked the Minister for Civil Aviation whether the Commonwealth Government would sponsor a training scheme to ensure that a sufficient number of highly trained pilots would be available for the needs of commercial aviation, and as a contribution to Australian defence. Also, I asked the Minister to consider the appointment of a committee to inquire into and make recommendations on the recruitment and selection of professional pilots for civil aviation and on the facilities and standards of training. The Minister said that he would inquire into that matter. I understand from some other source that a statement regarding this matter was broadcast bv a Sydney radio station yesterday. Is the Minister in a position to advise the Senate of exactly what has taken place?
– I do not think that any statement was made on this particular matter. If it was, I do not think it emanated from me. It may have emanated from the Department, but I am pretty certain it did not. This year the Government has provided £25,000 towards the scholarships available through aero clubs for training in this field. That is one positive step that the Government has taken. I thought the honorable senator was referring to the training of Austraiian pilots for Army requirements which may have been undertaken by a firm, the original parent of which was an English firm, but I understand that this is not so. The Department of the Army is undertaking this training through Australian sources.
– Is. the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior aware of the fact that within the last fortnight two fatal accidents have taken place at the same spot, a dangerous point on the road from Canberra to the Cotter Dam reserve? ls it a fact that the proprietor of the kiosk at the reserve has on many occasions over a period of more than 10 years brought to the notice of the Department the danger at this particular spot and requested that a safety fence be erected there? Can the Minister inform me how many more young lives must be wantonly sacrificed before this elementary safety measure is taken?
– I am not aware of the facts as the honorable senator has related them. I shall convey to the Minister the rest of the question she has’ asked and see whether I can obtain a reply.
– I preface a question which I direct to the Acting Leader of the. Government in the. Senate by referring to a previous question, asked by me on 25th August 1965, regarding the film record of current Australian activities and participation in the Vietnam area. The Leader of the Government said at that time that the Army maintained a permanent cameraman and that the Royal Australian Air Force had a cameraman who visited periodically. Does the Minister not think that it would be of service to this country, that it would greatly assist public information, and that it would be of service to members of both Houses of this Parliament, if a current and factual film record of Australian activities in Vietnam and other areas of Australian participation were shown in Parliament House?
– I will refer this matter to the Minister for Defence and see whether the films that are shown in the House on Wednesday and Thursday nights could include some of the films to which the honorable senator has referred.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories. In the light of the strike at Port Moresby yesterday of Administration drivers and claims by them that earlier representations to senior officers of the Administration had been abortive, will the Minister consider an immediate visit to Port Moresby to ensure that a more effective and speedy system of arbitration and conciliation operates?
– I shall refer the matter to the Minister for Territories and ask him to make a reply to the honorable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Will the Minister give the Senate the most recent information as to the extent to which the cease fire between Pakistan and India is being observed? Will he inform the Senate also as to the United Nations forces if any which are policing the cease fire?
– 1 think the best answer could be given if the honorable senator would put his question on the notice paper. All I know of the cease fire is contained in the statement attributed to U Thant. If the honorable senator will put his question on notice, all the information available will be given to him but if he would prefer, I will get the information for him.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise by stating that last Wednesday the Minister announced that country people would benefit from the Commonwealth’s petroleum products subsidy scheme forthwith. He said that subsidized products had been distributed to service stations, garages and other resellers throughout Australia a week earlier. At the weekend, 1 received inquiries from many country sellers who said they had not received any official news of the change and that customers had demanded cheaper petrol. Further, the General Secretary of the Australian Automobile Chamber of Commerce confirmed these complaints and said the situation was highly confusing. After reading the statement attributed to Mr. Armstrong in the Melbourne “Age” this morning, I think it appears that either the Department or the Minister has given further assurance to this gentleman. The question I ask is: Will the Minister give a detailed. explanation of why this confused situation exists and will he tell the Senate just how and when the scheme will be in full operation?
– I will study the statement to which the honorable senator has referred and will give him a. prompt reply. Last Wednesday week I made it perfectly clear that the scheme would come into operation the following day. Honorable senators will recall that at all times I have said the scheme would come into operation by 1st October and the word “ by “, was the operative word. For reasons that will be appreciated, it was not wise to set a day ahead and to say it definitely would be the day when the arrangement came into effect. It came into effect the day after my announcement was made and a tremendous publicity effort was made by my Department to ensure that this would be known right across the Commonwealth in the areas where the subsidy would be operative. This was done through Press and radio. I will examine the matter to which the honorable senator has referred and try to ascertain where the arrangements fell down. Australia is a vast continent and the scheme applies in country areas, some of them remote. The lines of communication are such that sometimes the message does not get across. We did everything humanly possible to ensure that the. position was made known. However, I shall examine the complaint and hope to furnish a reply to the honorable senator tomorrow.
– Shall I put the question on notice?
– There is no need to do so.
– My question to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research is supplementary to the question asked by Senator Murphy on the Minister’s views expressed at the Monash University last night suggesting a qualification on ‘ a matriculated student’s right to enter a university or faculty of his choice. In view of the Commonwealth’s heavy financial commitment in the field of university education, I ask: Was the Minister expressing Government policy on this matter, which is critically important to students and to parents, who often make great sacrifices to bring their children up to matriculation standard?
– The honorable senator ought to know that each university is a self-governing academic body with its own standards and that inside a university the faculties exercise control over who shall and shall not be admitted to the faculties and to the university. I hope the honorable senator is not in favour of intervention by governments in those functions of universities. I understand that in the past he has adopted that view, with which I agree. What I believe to be clear is that some faculties in universities and some universities do not now accept low matriculation passes as automatically, entitling students to go into those faculties or into those universities. My own view is that that is a sensible thing for them to do.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, relates to the continuing high rate of accidents involving crop dusting aircraft. In view of the most recent fatal accident, which occurred near Shepparton, and the fact that the highest rate of aviation accidents occur in aerial agricultural operations-there were five fatal accidents in 1963-64 and six in 1964-65 - is the Minister satisfied that the existing safety and operational regulations are satisfactory? If not, does he intend to propose some special alterations to the regulations?
– The Department and the aviation industry itself will never be satisfied until there are no fatal accidents, whether in crop dusting or in any other kind of aviation activity. If the honorable senator had gone back a little further in time he would have noticed that the regulations we have put into effect within the last few years have resulted in almost a halving of the fatality rate in crop dusting, which is a difficult and dangerous pursuit. If I remember correctly, in the year prior to the new regulations there were 10 fatalities.
– According to the latest report, there were 31 aviation fatalities last year.
– I had in mind that the number of accidents, particularly in relation to crop dusting,’ was one-half of what it had been. However, after every accident we will continue to make a competent examination of what is left of the plane so as to learn, if we can, the cause of the accident. We will continue to make every effort to ensure that the industry is made safer for those engaged in it.
– I direct my question also to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Although I have pursued the question of overdue improvements and extensions to Adelaide airport passenger terminal the Minister has not given me a definite reply as to the Government’s plans. He has said that the matter is in the hands of an interdepartmental committee for inquiry. Has the committee met? Has it reported? If so, what is the nature of the report? When will something be done to benefit the users of the Adelaide airport?
– The committee, has met a number of times. It is not dealing with only one problem; it is dealing with a number of proposals that were contained in the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation for the year. Some pf the proposals which are in the Estimates have been cleared by the inter-Departmental Com mittee. A report has not been received on the matter to which the honorable senator has referred.
– My question is addressed to the Acting Leader of [he Government in the Senate as the representative in this chamber of the Prime Minister. Has a survey been made by the Cabinet or officers of the security service of the political views held by heads of departments and senior public servants? Is the Government consciously creating a precedent relating to the continuity of office of public servants if they declare their political views? Can it be taken that a system of patronage is to be practised in this country whereby public servants who do not hold political views similar to those of the Government will be displaced from their seniority and status in the Public Service on a change of government?
– I thought that all disappeared in December 1949.
– I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General whether or not the entitlement of litigants to trial by jury in a civil case in the Australian Capital Territory is in any way dependent upon the application of New South Wales law to this Territory. Will the Minister ask the Attorney-General to give us an assurance that if New South Wales is so ill advised as to make a precipitate abnegation of jury trials in civil actions, that change will not be automatically operative in this Territory?
– I do not know the answer to the first part of the question asked by the honorable senator as to the specific state of the law at the present moment. If the honorable senator puts his question on the notice paper, the AttorneyGeneral will be able to answer that part and also the second part as to his views on these matters.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs whether he has any information regarding the political crisis in Aden. Does the withdrawal of Great Britain in any way embarrass or endanger Australia or Australians?
– I have not been supplied with any information by the Department of External Affairs on that point. I will get the information for the honorable senator if he likes, or he can put his question on the notice paper, whichever he prefers.
– Mr. President, I regret that, at approximately. 21 minutes past one on Friday morning of last week, I gave a wrong answer to a question addressed to me by Senator Kennelly in relation to the Wool Reserve Prices Plan Referendum Bill 1965. Senator Kennelly asked me a question concerning the ballot papers being forwarded to wool growers. I told him that they would be forwarded by registered mail. I found out subsequently that the letters will not be registered. I regret I made the mistake, and I take this, the first, opportunity to correct it.
(Question No. 520.)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
(Question No. 547.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The Minister for Territories has now supplied the following answers -
Every person crossing the border into the Territory of Papua and New Guinea (other than cases of people living astride the border who may continue their normal local movement) is to be interviewed and if he can give no reasonable grounds on which he could claim special consideration for the granting of permissive residence in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, he is to be fed, well looked after, and returned across the border as expeditiously as practicable. Any with an apparent case for considerationas political refugees are to be closely questioned and reported on, and held for the time being at a nearby border station pending decision.
(Question No. 559.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answersto the honorable senator’s question -
(Question No. 566.)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions-
The honorable senator is referred to the footnotes to the Constitutional Table contained in the Commonwealth Acts 1963, Volume 1, pages 873- 916, by reference to which all the information he seeks can be obtained.
(Question No. 570.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers -
(Question No. 571.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
Will the Minister supply details of the number of Yugoslavs of Croatian origin who have been refused Australian citizenship on security grounds?
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answer -
From 1st January 1949 to 30th June 1965 a total of forty persons of Yugoslav nationality were refused naturalisation on security grounds. However, statistics maintained do not show what proportion of these persons were of Croatian origin.
(Question No. 581.)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following reply -
Question No. 602
– On 22nd September 1965 Senator Turnbull asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
The Minister for Immigration has now furnished the following answer -
Categories admitted to Australia with permanent residence status are the spouses, minor children, aged parents and fiancees of Australian citizens and British subjects resident in Australia.
Categories admitted with temporary residence Status are of considerable variety, including tourist and business visitors, students, representatives, buyers and other staffs of overseas companies, and assistants for local firms having a proved special need for Asian staff. Particular conditions are attached to the entry of persons in each of these categories and these conditions are subject to review from time to time.
In addition, distinguished and highly qualified Asians are admitted on long term permits.
Debate resumed from 23rd September (vide page 565), on motion by Senator McKellar-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of the Bill, is to increase the tax that is payable . in respect of wheat receivals at depots. At the present time the rate of tax is fixed at one-fourth of a penny per bushel, lt is proposed to increase it to three-tenths of a penny per bushel. It has been stated that the reason for the increase is because it has been found necessary to extend research. Of course, the services are becoming more costly and the personnel engaged in the. actual research require further payments. Consequently it has been found necessary to introduce this measure. It is a well known fact that in every branch of primary industry it is, most essential to have a research organisation functioning constantly. This is because of the changes taking place throughout the world in the items which constitute the food supply of the various countries. We know the importance of wheat to the food supply of the people of the Commonwealth. Perhaps no other product is more important to the food supply.
The quality of wheat varies as between district and district and State and State. I have been told on many occasions- that Queensland produces a high quality wheat, due to the nature of the soil. The rich, black soil does not require any superficial manures. The climate also is an important factor. Bakers in the Australian Capital Territory have told me that Queensland- produces the best flour wheat in the Commonwealth. I know that honorable senators from other States will be very anxious to dispute that statement.
– Queensland produces the best bread in the Commonwealth.
– That situation is due to good fortune. There are other States that are not so fortunate, and research is of greater importance to those States than it is to Queensland. Nevertheless. Queensland has voluntarily paid the tax in order to broaden research.
I believe that every honorable senator understands clearly what 1 am speaking about when I refer to research in respect of rural industries. There are sugar experimental stations in the sugar growing areas of Queensland. Senator Sherrington is an authority on this matter. I have been told that the sugar industry taxes itself in order to provide the funds to carry out experimental work. I can remember the days when one travelled around north Queensland and saw Black Badilla cane growing in the fields. That may not have been the botanical name, but that was the name given to it by the people. The stalk was as thick as your leg, but it did not have the sugar content of the cane that is grown today, as you, Mr. Acting Deputy President, know. Actually, I should not be talking like this when you are in the Chair, because you are an authority on cane. The cane that is grown today is no thicker than the pipes on which the microphones in this chamber are mounted. As a matter of fact, it could be used in the schools for disciplinary purposes.
As has been explained, a good deal of research work in the wheat industry will be covered by this tax. As I said a while ago, soils vary from district to district and from State to State. I remember that at one time in a certain area of the Darling Downs wheat could not be grown very successfully until a man came there who had been growing wheat successfully in a part of Victoria which is described as the Mallee. He went to the Darling Downs and took up an area of land. He ploughed his fields and had a first class crop. The other farmers went to his farm to see why he had been so successful and they found that instead of ploughing his land to a depth of three or four inches he had skim ploughed. In other words, he only skimmed the top of the soil, with the result that he left the moisture in the ground. He succeeded in producing very good crops by that method and he set all the other farmers on the same path.
Soil is one factor. Climate is another. Nothing much can be done about changing the climate. We can assist the soil, but we cannot change the climate. No matter what research is undertaken, we cannot say when it should rain, when it should be fine and so on. Wheat breeding is important because if we were not constantly breeding new varieties of wheat we would be left with the old varieties and would not be producing wheat and flour of the quality that is being produced today. It is necessary to have the whole scheme within the vision of the experts in the industry. In order to do that, money must be provided by someone.
The wheat industry is now extensively mechanised. I can remember that some time ago when we went for a drive on a Sunday afternoon into various wheat growing areas we would see an old machine stuck in the corner of a field. If we asked what it was, we were told that it was a winnower. The machine winnowed the wheat after the ears had been knocked off or cut off in some way. That was not done then by a reaper and binder. It was done by a winnower. But those machines have gone. I have been told that now horses are not used at all in the wheat growing industry. Wheat growers have tractors and other machines to draw headers, and all operations are done by machines. They head the wheat, they bag it, and they unload it. Everything is done mechanically. The wheat is taken away to the silos, it is graded and then it is drawn by suction on to the trucks. Bulk handling is in operation now; everything has been mechanised. The amount of labour used in wheat production has diminished considerably.
I propose to outline how the money for research is provided. This tax is only one of the ways in which it is provided. Under the Commonwealth Constitution an appropriation bill has to be passed for this purpose. The Government has to have authority to levy a tax. Then the revenue from that tax goes into a certain fund, which is used for a certain purpose. The money collected from this tax is used by the Wheat Industry Research Council. It is all done quite clearly and no one has any fault to find with it. The finances of the industry provided during 1964-65 through the Consolidated Revenue Fund were as follows: Special Appropriations - Wheat Prices Stabilisation Fund, £946,279; Wheat Research Trust Account, £359,914. An annual appropriation of £250,000 was made for the Wheat Research Trust Account, making a total of £1,556,193. No one will say that a penny of that expenditure was wasted or was not required for the purpose for which it was appropriated. In addition, other expenditure incurred for investigations affecting the wheat industry was charged to Division No. 150 - Administrative, in the estimates of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. It should be well known that it is necessary to call in the assistance now and again of the C.S.I.R.O., so that its officers can advise the research bodies and, as it were, put them on the right path to achieve certain goals.
I do not wish to speak about the Wheat Prices Stabilisation Fund. It is an important Fund. The wheat industry is fortunate because there is a guaranteed price for exports up to 150 million bushels annually. Wheat growers are assured of a guaranteed price for production up to 150 million bushels annually. The guaranteed price is really an economic price and for this reason wheat growers are in a much better position than some primary producers who cannot see success in front of them, no matter how they view the future.
The Wheat Research Trust Account was established by the Wheat Research Act 1957 for the purpose of section 62a of the Audit Act. The Act also established and defined the functions of the. Wheat Industry Research Council, and the Wheat Industry Research Committee for each State except Tasmania. Evidently, the Tasmanian primary producers are satisfied to grow hops, a commodity still in use in some breweries. During 1964-65, receipts of the Trust Fund included a special appropriation under the Act of amounts equal to the amounts received under the Wheat Tax Act 1957; an annual appropriation under Division No. 380 of. the Estimates; voluntary contributions by Queensland wheat growers; and income from investment of moneys standing to the credit of the Trust Account. I am satisfied that the money has been well spent and therefore I have , nothing adverse to say about the amount that has been collected. It has all been required.
Money taken from the Consolidated Revenue Fund represents contributions by the taxpayers of the -Commonwealth. So much is taken from that Fund and diverted to the Wheat Research Trust Account. Tax is, of course, paid by the farmers. I like to learn that men are taxed to maintain and improve their own industry. It is a Pick-, wickian form of applause that I give to this method. They are contributing the money and they will decide how it will be spent in the interests of their industry. I think that is a good move. I should like to see it encouraged and extended. Today we have a wheat that is satisfying local requirements. I have no complaint about the quality of the flour that is used in Queensland, because the bread is good. If the bread is not good, it is the fault of bakers who are using mechanisation in the breadmaking industry.
Wheat is being sold overseas, so it is bringing in export income. That is very important. Some people say that it should not be sold to Communist China, or to Russia, but any Country Party supporter could not be convinced on that score. Country Party supporters are very silent on the subject of the countries to which wheat is sold. I made an inquiry as to how China paid for the 50 million or 100 million bushels of wheat she bought. I was told that she was required to pay a deposit, as she did, that the balance was paid by instalments at certain times and that on the very day each instalment was due the payment was made, so that it was an honorable deal even if it was with a Communist country. I am glad to know that there are wheat industry research organisations which are giving earnest attention to the scientific improvement of a very important primary industry.
– The purpose of the Bill is really to adjust the wheat tax to the decimal currency which will be used’ in the near future. It will have the effect, however, of increasing the amount of tax by one-twentieth of a penny a bushel. The new charge will be .25 of a cent, instead of .25 of a penny, a bushel. This increase in the tax will be matched by a corresponding contribution from general revenue. It is interesting to note that since the inception of the wheat tax in 1957 an amount of £1,715,551 had been contributed up to the time when the seventh annual report was made on this matter. Up to that time the Commonwealth Government had contributed £1,271,000, leaving an amount of £444,551 as a contingent liability, which was being treated as somewhat in the nature of a reserve fund.. The figures to the present time would be, somewhat in advance of that.
It is interesting to note that over seven years an amount of approximately £500,000 a year has been coming into a fund which is used for the purpose of financing research into the wheat industry. I think that everybody in the Senate will agree that this is a very good thing indeed. The slight increase in the’ amount that will be levied because of the change in the incidence of the tax -‘due to the coming into operation of decimal currency will barely meet, if it does meet, the increased costs of research work. These costs are subject to increases, as all other costs seem to be. Just how far the tax collections will go to meet the increases is hard to say. Looking over the 1964 report I notice that the field of research under this grant is rather wide. We all know there have always been major problems in establishing the wheat industry on a firm basis. It was recognised early that much work had to be done in the field of drought resistance and in developing varieties of wheat that would stand up to the exigencies of the Australian climate. Rust was a great scourge and traditionally research into rust has been one of the great tasks confronting scientists in this field.
One problem is peculiar to agricultural research in the Australian environment and that is that so much of it has to be basic research. We cannot just take the results of scientific research in some other country although they are readily available to us, because often they are not applicable to the conditions of the environment in which our people have to work. So there is perhaps a greater need in Australia for the expenditure of funds and the application of manpower and brains to seek progress in many fields of agricultural research.
This applies with considerable force to research into wheat and associated problems; but when one looks at the report issued under the Wheat Research Act, one finds that the net is being cast rather wide. It seems that the field of wheat research has been widened to include soil organic matter, soil microbiology, pasture plants and noxious weeds. These problems are being studied with funds made available under this Act. While they all have relationship to the wheat crop, it is doubtful to me whether the levy provided under this Act was intended to be used for so wide a purpose. There is a danger that the funds may be used for purposes that would more readily and more suitably be met from funds made available for general research.
It is -possible to disperse the work so much that we shall lose . the effectiveness of research that -could be more clearly applied to wheat breeding, wheat quality, diseases of wheat and. cereal pests. There are also problems of wheat physiology and wheat storage. I could include under that heading also research into problems of machinery and the effectiveness of machines in tillage. This problem lies squarely upon the relevant committees which must decide just how they are to allocate funds, but I would urge that they take care how they direct expenditure of the funds available: Although seemingly large, these funds are not large in relation to the’ magnitude of the problems with which we have to deal.
It is interesting to study the history of the wheat industry in Australia. A great deal has been said recently about the rapid increase in the acreage under wheat. Honorable senators and the public generally might be surprised to learn that in’ 1930-31, the area sown to wheat in Australia totalled 18,165,000 acres and that figure was npt attained again until last year. With all the modern resources at our disposal, it took us some 34 years to catch up to the effort made by the wheat farmers in those depression years. When one remembers that the bulk of that crop was sown with horses, one realises the outstanding effort that was put into wheat production in those days. Actually when - one goes back to 1 930-3 1 , one finds that there has not been any increase in the acreage sown to wheat in Australia. So a lot of nonsense has been talked about the danger of over expansion of the wheat industry.
However, when one studies the yields one finds a somewhat different picture. In the five years prior to 1931, the average yield was approximately 11 bushels per acre. In the five years prior to 1957 the yield was 17.1 bushels; but in the five years since the operation of the Wheat Research Act, the yield has been 18.4 bushels. This indicates an increase in the efficiency and productivity of those engaged in the wheat industry but to get a true comparison one has to look at the conditions and the seasons during those various periods. The years up to 1 93 1 included two very bad years. The last five year period I mentioned has been relatively good. So it is difficult to gauge accurately any effects that might have been produced by scientific research into the wheat industry.
We know there has been an improvement in mechanisation. The great increase in power that is available to farmers now enables them to work their fields better and faster and at the most suitable time. Most of us who are engaged in the industry will agree that these factors provide the major reason for any improved efficiency in the industry. The difficulties that face the industry seem to remain constant. We overcome one weed pest or in some way it becomes less important, but another weed seems to take its place. There is never any permanent victory in any field of production. The problem of developing wheats resistant to rust and root rot seems to remain difficult. New rusts appear and complicate research problems.
So we need continued research into the problems of the wheat industry if we are even to maintain our position let alone make advances. Had we not had the results of research available to us, I am sure the productivity of the wheat industry would have fallen despite the improvements in mechanisation to which I have referred. .
I think this legislation is good. I am pleased that the Government is continuing to contribute because the work that is being done helps everyone in Australia. Economically, we are largely dependent upon the continued expansion of the wheat industry and the income which the export of wheat brings to Australia. Our prosperity is largely dependent upon the ability of the wheat industry to continue to expand. Further, the solution of the problem of feeding the people of the world depends on the ability of countries like Australia to continue to produce efficiently. I support this legislation and trust that it will lift the level of efficiency within the industry.
.- The Wheat Tax Bill now before the Senate is a very important piece of legislation because wheat is the most important crop in Australia in terms of acreage, production and export income. It is grown on a large scale in all the mainland States. As I think other honorable senators have said, we have about 18 million acres sown to wheat annually. The purpose of the Bill is to increase the rate of tax on wheat delivered to the Australian Wheat Board from one-fourth of a penny to three-tenths of a penny a bushel, an increase of about one-twentieth of a penny. The money so raised is to be paid into the Wheat Research Trust Account, which was established under the Wheat Research Act 1957. The Commonwealth contributes to the wheat research programme and matches wheat tax collections on a £1 for £1 basis through an annual appropriation. The Wheat Research Act provided for the establishment of a Wheat Industry Research Committee in each of the five mainland States. I understand that this proposed increase in levy has been approved by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation.
Iti his speech the Minister gave some details of the research which is embarked upon from time to time. So far as soils are concerned, there has been research involving soil nitrogen, fertility, organic matter, microbiology, tillage and moisture conservation. Research has been conducted by the Wheat Industry Research Committees into plant physiology and plant breeding, the quality, diseases and storage of wheat and the problem of noxious weeds. Having regard to the effects of automation these days, there has been research into mechanisation.
It is very significant that the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation has approved legislation of this kind. Not so many years ago it was difficult to make farmers appreciate the value and importance of scientific research into farming pursuits. A little over 20 years ago I commenced my working career in the New South Wales Department of Agriculture. During my years of service in that Department I came into contact with many people engaged in developing scientific research into the agricultural pursuits of this great nation. Let me mention a few of them. There was Dr. Stephen Macindoe; who at that time was, I think, Principal Research Agronomist of the Department of Agriculture. He was well known not only in Australia but also throughout the world as a great Australian wheat breeder. I have heard it said that he was even greater than Farrer himself. Then there was Mr. Harold Bartlett, another wheat breeder. Mr. Walter
Pogendorff was an expert in rice production and he is now chief of the Division of Plant Industry of the New South Wales Department of Agriculture. Mr. Bert Ormon was an expert on vegetables and Mr. Harold Kerle was an expert engaged in the scientific study of maize.
In those days there were insufficient men of their calibre but the work that they performed, having regard to the limited budgetary allocations made to them, was of tremendous value and importance to Australia and Australians generally. These men and others like them devoted their lives and their energies to obtaining a correct scientific approach to the agricultural pursuits of their day. I know that one of their great frustrations was the difficulty of persuading farmers and primary producers to heed the results of their research. Today, as a result of the technological and scientific advances which have taken place and the great expansion that we have Seen in the field of education, farmers everywhere are pressing for the establishment of more agricultural colleges and experimental farms and for the holding of more field days in and around their districts so that they can obtain the benefits of the efforts that have been made in this ‘very worthy cause.
To appreciate the value of the work which has been undertaken one must refer to some of the statistical records of the Commonwealth Statistician. The success of the Wheat Industry Research Committees can be assessed from a perusal of wheat yields over the years. For the three years prior to 1938-39, when it was difficult to persuade farmers to accept the benefits of the scientific studies that had been made of wheat production, the average yield was 12.2 bushels to the acre. In 1948-49 this rose to 13.3 bushels to the acre but dropped to 11 bushels to the acre in 1957-58. In 1957 the Wheat Industry Act was passed and it is most significant that in 1958-59, 12 months after the Act was implemented, the yield increased to 20.7 bushels to the acre. If I remember correctly, the yield is now about 17 bushels to the acre.
The importance of wheat to Australia can also be judged by a perusal of the exports of this commodity. In 1957-58, the year when the Wheat Research Act was implemented, Australia exported 39,500,000 bushels of wheat. In 1958-59 the figure had risen to 54 million bushels. In 1959-60 it was 91 million bushels and in 1960-61, 152 million bushels. The last figures available to me are for 1961-62 when the exports were of the order of 203 million bushels.
– That is the Australian production of wheat?
– That is the Australian export of wheat. In the last five years, the Australian Wheat Board has entered into arrangements with the Government of mainland China for the export of nearly 400 million bushels of wheat to that nation. This is a very significant thing because Australia is now the third largest supplier of wheat to the export markets. The United States of America supplies some 44 per cent, of the world’s requirements of wheat, Canada supplies 22 per cent., and Australia, principally as the result of the export of this great volume of wheat to China, supplies 14.5 per cent. The next in order is France, which supplies about 8 per cent.
It is interesting to observe also at this stage, having regard to the fact that Australia is now the third largest supplier of wheat on the world’s export markets, that on three separate occasions this country has had to import wheat. The first occasion, I think, was in 1902 or 1903 when the harvest was only about 12 million bushels. At that time nearly 13 million bushels had to be imported, principally from the United States and Canada. In 1914, our wheat yield was only about 25 million bushels and some 7 million bushels had to be brought in to feed Australians. In 1957, because local supplies were insufficient for our own needs, we again had to import wheat from Canada. We purchased about li million bushels. In the last two or three years, Australia has been blessed with record harvests.
Senator Prowse has mentioned that there are now some 18 million acres producing wheat. Of course, there was a time when it was thought that it was safe to sow only 10 million acres. That was about 1928 or 1929. Senator Prowse has rightly said that about 1931 this restriction, if one might use such a term,’ to about 10 million acres was eased and about 18 million acres were sown with wheat. A lot of Jeremiahs in the Australian community at that time” were predicting calamity in respect of over-production iri the wheat industry, yet today we are still sowing only 18 million acres with, wheat. Admittedly, there have been great technological and scientific advances. The yield has increased considerably from approximately 11 bushels an acre in 1938 to 18 bushels in 1965.. But, in 1929, when the Australian wheat farmers were sowing about 10 million acres, the world’s population was a little over 2,500 million people and today it is of the order of 3,500 million. In other words, in 35 years, the world’s population has nearly doubled. Therefore, I agree with Senator Prowse when he says that he does not think much can go wrong in having this acreage under wheat at the present time.
It is interesting to observe also the great wheat importing countries in the world today. The Commonwealth “ Year Book “ for 1963 shows that, of the five main wheat importing nations, three are Asian. The United Kingdom heads the list with 11.2 per cent, of the total world production. China has now come into the picture by importing 11 per cent, of the world’s total supplies. India imports 6.9 per cent, and Japan 6.6 per cent. In recent years Pakistan and Korea also have been large importers of wheat. I mention these matters to indicate that the Asian market offers a great potential for this important Australian primary product. Not very many years ago it was thought that the peoples of Asian countries would eat only rice. The statistical records available to us reveal that many people in China, Japan, India and Pakistan now eat wheat. I suggest that as these nations emerge, develop and expand, their potential as a market for Australian wheat will be very significant and, indeed, enormous.
We of the Labour movement support this legislation because we believe it must do good for the Australian growers. It is interesting to observe that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has catalogued about 1,000 varieties of wheat, but, the number of principal varieties sown in any one season is about 40. The principal varieties sown in New South Wales - the State that I have the honour to represent in the Senate - are Glenwari, Bencubbin and Gabo. In other States, such varieties as Festival, Insignia and Sabre are grown. I mention these names just to indicate that, as every year goes by, there seems to be a number of varieties coming into the catalogue. This also is indicative of the excellent research that is being undertaken.
The Labour Party believes that Australia has to approach a great many of its developmental and agricultural problems on a technological and scientific basis. Indeed, for the first time in the history of any political party in Australia, the Labour movement, at its last Federal conference held in Sydney in June, decided to support a practical and progressive scientific policy. Labour believes in greater research programmes being conducted in all our agricultural industries. We on this side of the Chamber believe in an expansion of the extension services to primary producers so that the results of the researches conducted not only with regard to wheat but in all sections of agriculture will be brought home to them. Therefore, we of the Australian Labour Party support, and indeed welcome, this legislation because we feel it must be of great benefit not only to the Australian wheat grower but also to the Australian economy and therefore, to Australia and Australians generally.
– It is indeed reassuring to hear from the Australian Labour Party that it intends to support this legislation, the purpose of which is to increase the rate of tax on wheat delivered to the Australian Wheat Board from one-quarter of a penny to three-tenths of a penny a bushel. When decimal currency comes into use in February 1966, instead of being -expressed in pence the amount will be expressed as .25 of a cent. The proceeds of the tax will be paid into the Wheat Industry Research Trust Account.
This tax for the purpose of financing research into wheat production in Australia is imposed on the wheat growers, and the proceeds are matched on a £1 for £1 basis by the Commonwealth Government. The initial legislation was introduced in 1957, about eight years ago. At its last annual conference, the Australian Labour Party apparently passed a motion to the effect that it believed in research into all aspects of farming because such research would help the farmers of Australia. I repeat that the wheat research legislation came into operation in 1957, and the
Labour Party was not in office then. The Labour Party is again telling us what it will do when it gets into office. We always hear about what Labour is going to do and hardly ever about what it has done. I mention this matter only in passing; I do not intend to go back to those distant days when Labour was in office. They were so long ago that . we can hardly remember them. In any case, I do. not think that Labour’s record in this . field is worth bringing up when debating a Bill such as this.
It is interesting lo note that the income from the tax on wheat delivered to 3 1st December 1964, from Pool 27, amounted to £320,000, that interest on investments is shown at £41,518 and that the Commonwealth’s contribution is shown al £185,000, giving a total of £546,000 for the year, to be expended on research in the wheat industry. There are various lines of research which are of great importance to this industry, and Senator McClelland mentioned some of them during his speech. Both he and Senator Prowse dealt with the production of wheat over a considerable number of years. Senator Prowse said that in 1931, I think, the acreage of wheat in Australia was about the same as - for last year, approximately 18 million acres, and he went on to say that the volume of production was somewhat similar in both cases. Looking at the yield in bushels to the acre, we find that in the period from 1931 to 1940 the average yield was only 1 2i bushels, on a little over 14 million acres. The average yield has risen steadily since then, and in 1964-65 it was estimated at 21.3 bushels to the acre. That is a considerable improvement on the average yield in the period 1931-40 and a much greater improvement on the yield at the beginning of the century, when we had no departments and no scientific organisations to look into the various problems associated with the wheat industry. At the turn of the century the average yield to the acre was 7.3 bushels. We are now, with the aid of research, producing approximately three times that amount.
Nowadays Australian scientists and plant breeders are having a race with the pests that infect wheat. One of the most serious of these is the virus rust. The plant breeders are continually producing new varieties of wheat. Senator McClelland mentioned some of them - Gabo, Festival and Insignia. All of these are subject to rust in certain areas of Australia, and’ the various departments and the Commonwealth Scientific- and Industrial Research Organization are continually endeavouring to : produce varieties that are rust resistant. They are continually endeavouring also’ to produce varieties that will give farmers throughout Australia higher yields to the acre. The latest wheat varieties that have been brought to the notice of Australian wheat growers are Mendos Gamenya and Festival. Gamenya has not suffered from rust so far in Western Australia, although I understand that it has been affected in some areas of Australia. The latest variety, known as Mendos, is completely free from rust up to the present time, but no doubt the rust will catch up with it, and then the scientists will have to produce a new variety. This they are continually trying to.
– What about the bread making qualities of the wheat?
– That is taken into consideration by the people who breed the new varieties. Gamenya is supposed to be ohe of the best baking wheats among the new varieties, and I understand that Mendos also is a good variety for baking.
Together with the breeding of new varieties of wheat, we have seen a change in wheat production throughout Australia. Senator McClelland said that 10 or 15 years ago it was thought that the maximum area that could be sown to wheat in Australia was 10 million or 12 million acres, but we find that in 1964-65 18 million acres of wheat were grown. Eight or nine years ago Western Australia had three or four million acres of wheat, but it is now approaching .the six million acres mark. With the help of officers of the State Department of Agriculture and research officers of the C.S.I.R.O. new varieties of clover have been developed which can be grown in the lower rainfall areas. They can be grown in areas with a rainfall as low as 11 or 12 inches a year. This is bringing large areas of country into use for wheat growing and is also having a big effect on the average yield to the acre.
Cyprus barrel medic is now being planted iri country areas of Western Australia which have an average rainfall of 11 or 12 inches a year. After two or three years of topdressing, the growth is prolific enough to enable three or four sheep to be carried to the acre on a 1 2monthhly basis. Medics implant in the soil large quantities of nitrogen. After four or five years of nitrogen fixation as a result of the introduction of new types of medics and/ or clovers, a farmer is able to plough his paddock as soon as rain comes and plant a crop of wheat. If the fall of rain is reasonable, that crop will produce a yield which is twice as great as that of an area which has not been treated with nitrogenous plants. 1 predict that in Western Australia, providing the world needs the wheat, within the next 10 or 15 years the acreage of wheat will be doubled. This remark can be applied to the whole of Australia, particularly the eastern States. We are only scratching the surface in relation to the quantity of wheat that we can produce in Australia. We could probably treble the acreage and double production to the acre if the world wanted the wheat. The increase in .productivity that can be achieved with, the help of scientists and the advice of extension officers is one of the most interesting subjects that one could study.
On last Friday afternoon I was at the Royal Show in Perth. Being interested in farming, I took a great interest in the new machinery that had been placed on show by various agents. I saw cultivators, harvesters and tractors of various kinds. I saw four wheel drive tractors of more than 130 horsepower that were capable of pulling two or three 18 disc ploughs. I saw also selfpropelled harvesters, designed to take an average cut of 26 ft., that could be handled by one man and that were capable of being driven at speeds of up to 8 miles per hour. Such machinery was unheard of in Australia 10 years ago. Tremendous areas can be handled with the use of the large machinery that has been developed for employment in the wheat areas of Australia.
I do not wish to delay the Senate. It seems that the Australian Labour Party is now getting on side with the Government in regard to most of the legislation that is introduced. I look forward to honorable senators opposite supporting, within the next week or so, legislation on other matters that are of interest to the community. I am sure that we will get their co-operation, not only in relation to this measure, but other legislation as well. I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill. ; Senator McKELLAR (New South Wales - Minister for Repatriation) [4.44]. - in rereply - I should like to thank honorable senators who have taken part in this debate for the support they have, given to the Bill. This is an important measure, even though it does not call for the expenditure of a lot of money. The wheat growers have seen the benefits of the research that has been undertaken since the scheme came into operation. They are eager to see the scheme continued and are willing to make a greater contribution to it.
Reference has been made to increased yields and acreages, and the objectives that the research people have before them. All that has been said in this respect is quite true. Plant breeding is very important. Unfortunately wheats that are bred to. combat rust survive the trials and are rust resistant for -a period but then lose their qualities of resistance. Why, I do not know. As Senator Scott said, when this happens a new variety has to be grown. Wheat quality is important. But we must remember that what the farmer is concerned about most is growing wheat that fills the bag. That is where his pounds, shillings and pence come from. If he is in an area where wheat ‘of high protein value is grown, he can get a premium of 4s 6d. or perhaps 7s. 6d. a bushel in addition to the ordinary price. Any loss of yield can be offset by the premium he gets from growing a high protein wheat. Farmers who live in areas where this can be done are in a very fortunate position.
Reference has been made also to wheat diseases. In New South Wales frost is one of the factors that militate against yield. It is a question not so much of getting a plant that will resist frost but of growing a particular type of wheat at a certain time and then hoping that the weather will be favorable. I repeat that in New South Wales frost damage exacts a very heavy toll indeed on wheat. Senator Scott has referred to the great strides that have been made, in the manufacture of machinery. In -New South Wales it is quite common nowadays for one man with one machine having a much smaller cut than that mentioned by Senator Scott .to strip from 1,500 to 3,000 bushels of wheat intone day. What a contrast that is to what happened 10 or 20 years ago. All these factors have an important bearing on the wheat tax we are discussing today. For that reason, we all may believe that, when this measure is passed, we will have done a good job. Once again I thank the Senate for the speedy passage it has given to the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from 23rd- September (vide page 565), on motion by Senator McKellar-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill we are considering seeks to raise the sum of £3.8 million for financial assistance to Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania for the purpose of war service land settlement. The introduction of this kind of legislation is almost an annual event. It gives us an opportunity to direct bur thoughts to. the whole scheme of war service land settlement in the States that chose to work in conjunction with the Commonwealth in discharging the responsibility of settling eligible ex-servicemen on the land. Western Australia and South Australia have experienced difficulties. I understand that in both those States the areas were, perhaps, hastily selected. I do not know whether it was the fault of the agronomist, the engineer or whoever originally submitted the proposal to develop particular areas in those States, but they have come up against great problems.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the period after the First World War?
– No, after the Second World War. I refer to the last 20 years, which has been the new era in war service land settlement. I have read of various complaints that have been made in the Parliaments of Western Australia and South Australia. I would go so far as to say that the difficulties in those States have been minor compared with the difficulties that exist in very important sectors of war service land settlement in Tasmania.
It has been the practice in the Parliament over the years to do a certain amount of buck passing regarding the agent States. The States realise the importance of the scheme and also that they must work in conjunction with the Commonwealth according to their ability to meet the financial commitments that are involved. At the outset an amicable agreement was reached between the States, irrespective of the Government which was in power at the time. I think it was unanimously agreed between the States and the Commonwealth that the scheme would give an opportunity for people who had been prepared to serve their country in war time to go on the land. By serving overseas, in many cases they lost continuity of service in the occupations which they followed prior to enlistment. In addition, the scheme satisfied the inner urge of so many Australians to till the soil and earn their livelihood on the land. The scheme provided a means by which men could acquire their own farms.
There were numerous applications for land. Men had high hopes that if they worked hard they could provide a living not only for themselves, but for their sons and following generations. But, unfortunately, this has not happened in many cases in Tasmania. Some of the areas that were developed for war service land settlement were faultless in their selection. The Lawrenny estate on the Ouse River in Tasmania was sub-divided. The settlers who were fortunate to obtain a block of land in that area had the incentive to put money back into improvements. Their returns have been substantial and the whole community is prosperous. A similar experiment and development took place in the Cressy area of northern Tasmania. The same story can be told about the people who went on to that land. It had been developed to or past the primary stage. By intensive pasture improvement, additional watering and even irrigation, these farms became a matter of great pride and provided considerable income to the war service land settlers.
I refer immediately to the situation that exists on King Island in the Bass Strait. A substantial war service land settlement scheme was initiated on that island. For the first four or five years criticism of the methods used in the development of the land was more or less a legend. For some reason or other, the methods employed were so costly that people predicted that in the final analysis it would be impossible to establish farms at a price which would enable the settlers to make a living. In 1965 - 20 years since World War II ended - a great number of ex-servicemen are reaching the stage of sickness of mind and body because of the continuing frustration and pinpricking and lack of certainty as to their future. Speakers on this matter in various places have supported what I have just said. But I do not think that the message has penetrated deeply enough to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) who is responsible for the Commonwealth’s side of war service land settlement.
The .people who know the situation intimately ob King Island believe that only a royal commission into the whole of the King Island war service land settlement scheme can bring the true situation to light. I was on King Island about two weeks ago. I thought that a depression of mind existed amongst the settlers there. This is unusual in these times of boasted prosperity and expansion in the Commonwealth. Over the last few years, an acknowledged 91 families - and it is- calculated that perhaps there could be 1 00 families - have left their farms. After spending 10 or 12 years doing the basic work on the farms, they have left King Island.
– What has happened to the land?
– Some of the land has been taken up by other people, but they in turn are leaving. We hear stories about no-hopers, or men who are ambitious to become farmers but do not have it in them to do so. We expect to find the type of man who does not realise the responsibilities of life on the land, particularly on a dairy farm where the hours are long and the continuing tasks of milking and all the other things that go with dairy farming are never ending. I take my hat off to the dairy farmer because he works seven days a week and 365 days a year. I believe that people who go into dairying have to be cast in a mould that is unusual in our community. People have said that a person has to be quarried rather than born in order to be a good ‘dairyman, because of the hard as iron conditions that dairy farming can impose on him.
The position is serious when people will purposely give up an opportunity to own their own land. Although a revision of the scheme is being made at the present time, the farms that are now vacant as a result of people walking off them will be reallocated, as additional areas, to the people who have remained. That indicates that there have been many faults in the planning of this scheme. In the first place, the land had a lot of stunted ti-tree and other scrub on it. The clearing of the land was a very big job. The nature of the soil necessitated the provision of proper trace elements in order to increaseits productivity. In my view, the reaction of the cleared land to development was not studied properly. There is a tremendous problem of regrowth. It is giving headaches to many people there at the present time. I do not think the authorities have given sufficient thought to the magnitude of this problem.
The authorities live on the island of Tasmania. They are public servants . with basic security in their lives. Many of them have been chosen because of their .experience in various agricultural pursuits and in various departments. Perhaps they are inclined to treat war service land settlement as a matter which will find its own solution. My view is that it will not find its own solution and that a very drastic review of the whole situation should be made. Year after year the settlers are finding themselves further away from their goal; further away from getting the title deeds to their land; further away from knowing how much the land will cost them eventually; and further away from knowing whether they can get continuity and whether their sons will be able to follow on after them. That is one of the tragedies of the whole scheme, as I see it.
At the present time, in answer to many proposals that have been put to the Minister for Primary Industry, officers of the war service land settlement scheme are interviewing individual settlers in an attempt to come to some arrangement with them and to find an equitable solution of the problem. But the methods that are being used by the departmental officers are not meeting with any enthusiasm on the part of the settlers. As a matter of fact, the settlers feel very discouraged so far. The interviews have been going on for only the last couple of days. Tomorrow night, at Currie on King Island, the settlers will be holding a meeting to discuss the lack of substance in the proposals that are being put to them under the new scheme. The position is that if the farms fall below the production level the authorities will take over the financial management of them.
– Does the honorable senator remember what the production level is?
– It is 12,000 lb. of butter fat a year on the fairy farms; and I understand that it is 1,200 ewes on the sheep farms. The standard on other dairy farms under the war service land settlement scheme was only 10,000 lb. of butter fat; but in order to offset the disadvantages of King Island it has been raised to 12,000 lb. of butter fat. The great difficulty that arises when areas of land have to go out of production through re-development is that equipment has to be brought in to replough, recultivate and ‘ resow. That reduces the area that is available for the feeding of the dairy cattle and, in turn, upsets the economy of the farm.
The proposition that the authorities should take over the financial management of the farms seems to me to be the last straw - the straw to break the camel’s back. We must remember that these men were 20 or 21 years of age when the war broke out in 1939; they were at least 26 or 27 years of age - some of them were 30 years of age - when the war finished; and, as it is 20 years since the war ended, they are now in their fifties. What chance have they of starting a new life somewhere else in this day and age when it is becoming more and more difficult for men over 40 years of age to obtain just ordinary employment? I have heard of men applying for jobs for which previously they would have been quite acceptable and being told: “You are too old for the job “. I have heard of men of 50 years of age applying for jobs and meeting a wry smile because of their age.
Yet, these settlers are faced with the prospect of the authorities, taking over the financial management of their properties. That would take away for a considerable time any hope of their obtaining an equity in their properties and obtaining the title deeds to them or permanent tenure of them. The settlers would have to go on to the labour market and try to find some other way of earning a living. That is a tragedy to me, and I am not personally affected. So what must it be to the families who day after .day are facing the prospect of having to give up what has been their life’s work? Every honorable senator must know that the years between the ages of 20 and 50. years are the most active and productive of .a person’s life, particularly in respect of physical work. It is part of the natural cycle of life that, although a man learns a lot as his mind matures and can administer things more judiciously after he is 50 years of age, it is in the period between 20 and 50 years of age that the hard work is done.
The plea that I am making to the Senate and the Government is that, whatever happens, these settlers should be given the green light. They should be told: “ Whatever happens to you if you are a good settler we will not allow any of these other extraneous matters to affect your position “. By “ extraneous matters “ I mean the faulty selection of the land, faulty methods in putting trace elements into the soil to increase its productivity, faulty administration in respect of the time of handing over the farms and faulty techniques in respect of regrowth. All these problems are not being tackled properly. The significance and effect of them on the settlers in the present situation cannot be underestimated. The big problem that these people face is that they just cannot find out what their purchase price is likely to be.
– Does this apply only to this particular area?
– It applies mainly to King Island. There are many cases of grave discontent at Flinders Island, but it is not as widespread. Other honorable senators have referred to Montagu Swamp, now known as Togari. Some of the settlers there have a bonanza now, but in the early days they went into a very old swamp where, during the draining stage, the bodies of prehistoric animals which have been extinct for thousands upon thousands of years were dug up. The remains of one such animal have been placed in a museum. This is an illustration of the type of land used for war service settlement. There huge rollers were used to crush the ti tree. When the bad weather came, the ti tree was driven down into the mud and the result was a gluey composition. After the ti tree had been rolled it was a worse proposition for farming than it had been before. This is the type of result achieved by the expenditure of millions of pounds on war service land settlement in Tasmania.
It is hard for me to determine where the blame lies. .It is easy for honorable senators to say that it is the fault of the Tasmanian Government; it is easy for me to say that the Federal Government is at fault.
– Did the Federal Government pay for it?
– The Federal Government has not yet paid because payment is still in the process of being made. The big payment is coming out of the bodies and souls of the ex-servicemen there. It is our job to protect them. That is where the blood and sweat are coming from. I do not think that hard work ever does any man harm, but he must feel that it is worth while. He has to feel that he is getting a fair go.
– And that he is not being exploited.
– -He does feel that he is being exploited, but he . is not sure in what way it is happening. Everything is in a state of flux. Debts are piling up on the books of Tasmania and the Commonwealth. I understand that the Tasmanian Government will be involved. in writing off an amount up to £7 million, and the Commonwealth will be writing off up to £14 million. If the Tasmanian Government is called on to write off £7. million it could upset the balance of the State economy and the arrangement of State grants. It is clear that the problem of war service land settlement in Tasmania requires the closest scrutiny.
The Minister for Primary Industry has visited King Island. He has taken the view that he did not hear complaints from the settlers. People who understand the administration of a war service land settlement scheme such as that on King Island realise that the settlers must work in co-operation with the authorities. Their bread and butter depend on their relations with the administration. If a settler gets offside with a mem ber of the administration he may be left on the end of the queue when there is, for example, a superphosphate hand-out. He may find that he is at the bottom of the redevelopment plan. These things are very hard to sort out.
From the conversations I have had on numerous occasions with war service land settlers at King Island, they are all fully aware that this can happen to them. They are reluctant to complain about the administration in front of the Minister. They do not know whether their economic heads will be cut off for so doing. A vicious circle exists and we are not getting anywhere. The Minister has proposed that £800 be written off for depreciation of farm equipment over the years.
– That is the State Minister?
– No. It is the Federal Minister for Primary Industry, Mr. Adermann. The authorities are interviewing the settlers to put to them proposals to bring about finality of the terms of lease. An amount of £800 will be credited to each settler towards repayment of past commitments. It represents depreciation of farm equipment. Anyone who is familiar with, King Island will know that the wind which, sweeps over the island after coming across the Indian Ocean and Bass Strait has a very high salt content. It has a very deleterious effect on metal. In Currie, Grassy, Yambacoona and other settlements relatively new motor vehicles - some four or five years old - ‘have had whole sides rotted . out by the effects of the salt winds. To grant a depreciation allowance on these vehicles is simply to recognize that an extra allowance should be made for depreciation under such climatic conditions.
The people of King Island, as a rule, are cheerful. I have been visiting King Island since I was a small child. I think the first time I went there was in 1923, during school holidays, when I visited my aunt, who kept the post office at Currie. A cousin of mine was a successful war service settler there after World War I. He had a fine dairy farm, in the north of the island. Such people have done very well and have grown to love King Island. I had hoped that this generation of settlers would extend this sentiment. Instead, each time I go “to the island I find continuing frustration there.
It so depresses a visitor that when he leaves the island he asks himself: “ What can I do? “ But there is nothing to be done, except perhaps raise the matter before the Parliament. The legislation before us provides for expenditure of £884,000; part of it is for redevelopment and part of it for credits, allowances and the like. We are still getting no nearer to the date of completion of the war service land settlement scheme begun after World War II. When the scheme is completed, Tasmania can be relieved of that responsibility and can proceed with closer settlement as a general policy. The war service land settlement scheme on King Island seems to have delayed any activity of ordinary closer settlement in Tasmania. Until the scheme’s problems arc resolved, I cannot see any likelihood of closer settlement activity being proceeded with in Tasmania.
– The same errors would be repeated in closer settlement.
– I hope not. It seems as though governments . take on the responsibility of development. of third grade land and try to build .it up to second or first grade land. The philosophy is that the use of land that is already developed can be continued for farming and war service land settlement schemes are implemented to raise marginal land to a higher standard. That is quite all right. It is a very good policy but for the fact that the experiment involves ex-servicemen - human beings - as well as land. They are committed to the project once they take their families on to a farm. It is then very hard for them to get away and branch out afresh. The experiment has two prongs: One concerns human beings; the other, land. If the experiment with land is a failure, the Governments concerned have a human tragedy on their hands. That is what is happening in this particular situation. I shall not pursue that line further, because to do so would be, perhaps, redundant.
In principle, war service land settlement is a very good scheme. It has done a lot of. good for a lot of people. I think that governments have tried to avoid the mistakes that were made after the First World. War, when the economic cycle was such that even good farmers were forced to leave their farms. The great majority of persons who went into the war service land settle ment scheme have met with a measure of success and have been established as successful farmers. I hope that the Government will take the view that for its own good, for the good of the settlers, and because of so many other factors involved, it should try to get the best solution possible to relieve the anxiety of settlers on King Island, and to relieve the great concern of business people at the departure of families. Such conditions have a snowballing effect and confidence in the island’s economy is lost. A co-operative butter factory was established to produce 1,500 tons of butter a year. Plans were made and a lot of money was expended in developing the factory, but it has only just reached a production of 1,000 tons a year. That is disconcerting to people who are prepared to put their weight behind the advancement of this area. However, we are thankful for small mercies. The amount that is being allocated will keep the pot boiling for another year, but I do not think it will do anything towards solving the great problem that exists there.
I hope that the Parliament itself will be sufficiently seised of the importance of this situation to have a high level inquiry into the situation and to make recommendations on how the problem can be brought to a happy conclusion in the near future. I am’ certain that anyone who has been associated with the problems down there has the same impression about the dithering, procrastination, pinpricking and other things that bring uncertainty and unhappiness to such a great number of people, when there should be confidence, ambition and prosperity. But they are missing. However, we of the Opposition wish to give this measure a speedy passage in the hope that it will do some good for the people of whom I have been speaking.
– The Bill makes provision for the raising of a loan of £3,800,000, of which £884,000 is to be devoted to Tasmania, mainly for expenditure on the King Island, Flinders Island and Montagu Swamp projects. I note that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) said in his second reading speech that the provision of funds for making advances to settlers is the main purpose of the Bill and the necessity to provide finance for this purpose will continue for some years to come.
– How many settlers are in those areas?
– About 120. There are, I think, 30 or 40 empty houses because settlers have left the area. Economically, the King Island soldier settlement has been a running sore, as it were, in the Commonwealth for many years. When I was in the Tasmanian Parliament the settlement posed a serious problem, and for as long as I have been in the Senate there have been continued complaints, feelings of dissatisfaction and strong representations regarding the soldier settlers. To add to the difficulties, I believe, the morale of the settlers has been very largely destroyed over the years because of continued frustration. They could see no possibility of getting anywhere or arriving at a satisfactory basis for their farms. I remember quite well that 20 years ago, when the State Government recommended that soldier settlement be established on King’ Island, practical, experienced men -some of them soldier settlers themselves - looked askance at such a proposition. They were not enamoured of it at all because of the isolation of the Island and other factors. I think it can be said that the settlement comprises very largely land with which no other settler who went to the Island would bother. Most of it was scrub country. It certainly was not the best land on the Island.
While I appreciate that it is difficult to settle men on land, I have known men who, if they were put on land that would produce at all - even if it was very second rate - would improve their positions sooner or later acquire better properties eventually, and finally make a success of them. There are other men who, if they were put on the best farms in the country, would after a few years be walking down the road with swags on their backs. Some men, for some reason or other, seem incapable of budgeting or living within their means in relation to their running expenses. These are factors that enter into soldier settlement and it can be truly said of primary production that, in the main, a man gets out of a farm precisely what he puts into it. If he does not put something into it, his farm becomes run down and he gradually goes from bad to worse.
Not only was the King Island project questionable but also the men started off in a bad way because their holdings were too small. There has been some attempt latterly to increase- the size of them. Moreover, the development carried out through the agency of the Tasmanian - Government was such that one would be praising it by saying that it was indifferent indeed. I do not know whether there was any desperate hurry for the farms or to put the land under grass; but the people who originally attempted to develop settlement on King Island knew as much about land development as a wild animal: Certainly they ploughed up the scrub.
– Buried it.
– Yes, they buried it. They could not work up the land. In most cases, they sowed the grass on the furrows. I have seen grass paddocks on King Island where you could trace the furrows all the way through. Many settlers did not have a paddock with a surface good enough to cut clover hay and yet they were supposed to be dairymen. In addition, there was a regrowth of the scrub. On many farms it grew as thickly as ever and finally the farmers set to work to plough up the ground again and to work out the scrub thoroughly.
– Who met the expense?
– I .think the Department did a good job in that respect. In some cases, the Department did the work and in other cases where the settler did the work I think he was reimbursed. Nevertheless, it was a frustrating start for any man who went on the land there after the Second World War- and tried to get a livelihood.
– Who sold them the idea of going there?
– The State Government of Tasmania recommended King Island as an area suitable for soldier settlement.
– It had to be approved by the war service land settlement authorities..
– I suppose so, but when I say that I qualify what I said about the suitability of the land for soldier settlers. My experience of settlement on Flinders Island has been quite contrary to the statements made by Senator O’Byrne. A much better job was made of the development there although in my opinion it was second class land. In addition, the holdings on
Flinders Island are larger than those on King Island. There has been very little or no regrowth of scrub on Flinders Island.
Summing up the position, I repeat what I have said before: The cost of soldier settlement in Tasmania is the highest in the Commonwealth. Tasmania, as an agent State, appeared to proceed as if costs did not matter, particularly in the development of the Montagu Swamp and probably in a lesser degree with King Island and Flinders Island. In fact, in the case of the Montagu Swamp one would get the impression that the more it cost the better pleased the State Government would be. The basic cause of the trouble iri regard to the difficulties of soldier settlement on King Island - and there are one or two pockets also in north-western Tasmania - is that the cost of development and of settlement was out of all proportion to the remuneration that could be received when the area became farms. I do not think there is any doubt at all about that. The cost was out of all proportion to the remuneration that could be received and somebody has to suffer in some way as a result. Either the settler has bigger commitments to meet or most of the burden falls on the Commonwealth Government which has to write off larger amounts to bring down the commitments of the soldier settlers to a level that they can afford.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) went to King Island some months ago. A public meeting was held in the Currie Town Hall which is a very large hall and it was full. Mr. Adermann, with the Tasmanian Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Atkins, put forward certain proposals at that meeting and these have been outlined by Senator. O’Byrne. I recall quite well that Mr. Atkins said at the time that the proposals would provide a solution to the problem. I wish I could be as optimistic as he was. In my opinion, soldier settlement on King Island has reached such a condition that the proposals brought forward by the two Ministers at that meeting will be only a palliative. Admittedly they have not been tried out; I understand they are to come into operation next month, but I do not think they get down to the root cause of the trouble. Certainly the Department of Primary. Industry is moving in the direction of having the holdings made much larger but until there is a major readjustment of soldier settlement on King Island I do not think there will be any great improvement..
I repeat that the difficulty has been that the settlers had their hearts broken from the start because of indifferent development and the inadequate size of the properties on which they were placed, and a very large readjustment will be needed in my opinion.
– Have any of them been able to sell out their farms?
– There is a reported case of a man who attempted to dispose of his property because of a physical disability. This was reported in the “King Island News” -
With respect to option of purchase, Mr. Andrae said that 2i years ago a medical specialist had recommended that he give up his dairy farm (10 years on permanent lease) because of a back injury. Option of purchase price had been advised of £39 an acre, but his C.S.B. commitments of £3,000 would have raised it to £65 an acre.
It was his purpose to purchase and then sell, but with freehold at a top of £40 an acre he would have incurred a loss of more than £20 an acre.
That was the position of one farmer. I know that some of these people are inclined to exaggerate but he said it would have cost him £20 an acre for the privilege of selling his property. That brings us back to the point that the cost of development originally was out of all proportion to the value of the property after it had been developed. Further, it was out of all proportion to the remuneration that would be received from it.
At the meeting which was attended by Mi. Adermann the settlers concerned looked askance at the proposals that were advanced. They had far reaching proposals of their own but they decided to give the new proposals a three months trial. Taking 12,000 lb. of butterfat as a standard, the. man. to whom I have referred gave instances, of three farms, all on permanent lease, with an average butterfat production of, 12,000 lb. to 13,000 lb. and yearly demands - a lot of them run at about this figure - of £700 to £750. Actual gross returns averaged £3,220. and average operating expenses, not. including depreciation, amounted to £1,769. After deducting living expenses, there remained a net amount of only £153 to pay the war service land settlement authorities. That is the position - I do not think it is much exaggerated - of a settler on what is deemed to be a property on which production comes up to standard.
– Has the joint report of the Commonwealth and State committee been made available?
– No. I telephoned the board in Hobart and I was told that the report would not be made available.
– Why should we approve any additional allocation of funds until the Parliament has received an up to date report?
– The story was that this was a committee set up by the Government, not by the Parliament.
– Does not the Government give the Parliament any information now?
– I was. told that because the committee was set up by the Government, it did not have to table the report and consequently the report did not have to be made public.
– It would be made public if members of Parliament insisted upon that.
– I have tried very hard, but without success, to get a copy of the report. I believe it contains very valuable information on the economic position of settlers on King Island.
I know very well - and I heard Senator O’Byrne mention this - that about 100 settlers have left the Island. That is not all the fault of the scheme. There may be people on the Island who are entirely unsuitable as farmers. Because of the isolation, the womenfolk often become discontented. Various reasons contribute to this state of affairs. However, the morale of the settlers on the Island is low and their frustration and disappointment are such that unless something is done in a fairly comprehensive way the position will go from bad to worse. I appreciate that there are people who will not try and that there are people who develop a kind of complaint complex. I understand that quite well. Nevertheless, I cannot lose sight of the fact that if the properties on the Island were bigger, if the people had a better start and if their commitments were more in line with the remuneration they receive, taking into consideration the burden of freight and the other difficulties associated with production on King Island, things would be better. The time is fast approaching when something must be done if settlement on the Island is to be preserved.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– The Bill now before the Senate provides for the raising of £3,800,000 for war service land settlement in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. Up to 30th June 1965, the Commonwealth Government’s expenditure on war service land settlement in grants to the principal States was £24,637,634 and to the agent States £98,988,837, making a total of £123,626,471. In addition, the principal States have spent an amount of approximately £90 million. So the total expenditure on war service land settlement is approximately £213,636,471. It is interesting to note that repayments and the like from settlers have amounted to £40,150,127. It is quite likely that future repayments should reduce the outstanding indebtedness of the settlers.
Any comparison that is made between the war service land settlement scheme and settlement made by private citizens or companies must take into account the amount of liquid assets that the settlers in either scheme have when entering into occupation of their holdings. As a rule, soldier settlers had considerably less initial capital than civilian settlers. Therefore, it has been absolutely necessary to assist the soldier settlers in the early years of occupancy of their holdings. Although there may have been unfortunate incidents in land settlement by ill advised attempts to settle soldiers on unsuitable properties - we heard a great deal about that this afternoon - an overall examination of the scheme shows that soldier settlers have done a grand job in rehabilitating themselves in civil life.
In South Australia in particular, the various land settlement schemes have progressed in a relatively satisfactory manner. There were or are two main types of settlement in South Australia. The first is the one which we may call dry land farming, and the second is the settlement on irrigation areas chiefly along the River Murray. The advanced development of dry land farming is almost completed. This type of settlement was established chiefly on Kangaroo Island arid the south east of South Australia. That also includes an area called Eight Mile Creek, a project which, in its initial stages, caused much hardship and entailed great sacrifice before the settlers reached a degree of security. Generally speaking, these were dry land projects. On Kangaroo Island, one of the main dry land projects took place. The task was to convert virgin scrub land into pasture and establish a soil condition fit to grow cereals if need be. A completely new type of soil had to be brought into productivity. Animal stocking was restricted chiefly to sheep and beef cattle with little emphasis on dairying, in the initial stages of development. The establishment of suitable clover varieties and other pasture grasses presented difficulties in some areas due to soil variation. Not only the settlers but also the agricultural advisers had had little, if any, experience of how to deal with soils of the varying types that are found on Kangaroo Island. After the scrub was rolled and cleared, and the ploughing took place, seeding time came, because the land was to be sown down to pasture. The chief pasture sown would be subterranean clover. There were other pasture grasses but subterranean clover was really the core of any seeding programme. The time for seeding had its influence, too, on successful germination and pasture establishment. I cannot stress that point too strongly. Ofttimes, the settler on Kangaroo Island was compared with individuals who could seed at the optimum time. I will deal with that matter a little later on.
In regard to sowing pasture for the soldier settlement, the Department of Lands in South Australia had to budget for a percentage of reseeding. That is a fair comment, and it represented a fair basic risk that had to be taken. For instance, if rain fell at the end of February or March, a settler could seed with clover and risk it being burnt off. On the other hand, the settler could wait until June or perhaps a little later and sow clover. Then he would run the serious risk that he would not get a successful germination. There is an optimum time between March and the end of May which is ideal for sowing clover in this area. I stress that the question of reseeding and the costs of reseeding were important. I repeat that, in the initial stages, the inevitable comparison was made between the soldier settler and the civilian settler. It is pleasing to know that, on Kangaroo Island, almost every block, if not every block, is occupied and the area of each one is approximately 1600 acres. In the initial stages, about 800 acres on each block were rolled and cleared and put into production. It is more pleasing lo know that all payments due have been met. With the experience gained by the settlers has come a marked improvement in pasture development.
I mentioned earlier the time of seeding. When I state that in one area alone 30,000 acres of this virgin land were seeded - approximately 800 acres per block - honorable senators can see that it was a pretty big task. I said earlier, time is an important factor in germination. Some of the land had to be reseeded. Another important point on this matter concerns regrowth. A private settler could put stock into his pasture at an early stage and prevent a great deal of regrowth. The ordinary soldier settler, because of lack of funds, was unable to do so. That was one of the difficulties that had to be faced in regard to scrub regrowth, but with good management and hard work the difficulties have been overcome. I think it is fair to say that settlement on Kangaroo Island has been and is reasonably successful.
Settlement in the south-east of South Australia is also dry land settlement up to a point, although in some areas, particularly the Eight Mile Creek area, drainage is a problem. Efficient drainage helps towards successful settlement, and some of the drains that have been cut to take surplus water away are really small creeks. The cost of drainage is heavy, and it is here that I hope the Governments of South Australia and of the Commonwealth will be able to arrive at an agreement to give the settlers some relief from high drainage charges. I think this is a matter for adjustment between the two Governments, and I feel that a fair write off of some of the charges could be made. I am not going into the pros and cons of this matter at present but I think that, with a little tact and judgment on both sides, this problem can be fairly met. I will not deal at length with drainage at the moment, because that is a matter which is engaging the attention of both the South Australian Government and the Commonwealth Government at present. I repeat that I hope they will be able to come to an agreement under which a write off of some of the drainage charges can be made.
Turning to the irrigation areas, I want to deal chiefly with the Loxton area, where production centres on citrus fruits, stone, fruits, peaches, nectarines, apricots, pears, vines and, to some extent, vegetables. We find that some unexpected problems have arisen here. To the uninitiated, it appeared that with irrigation by the use of spray or overhead watering systems seepage or salt patch would not occur to any great extent, but using spray irrigation we get what is called dry salinity. There is an apparently light application of water from overhead. The water contains a certain amount of salt and with the very high evaporation that occurs in the river areas there are small deposits of salt from the irrigation water,, but the salt in the soil rises by capillary attraction and when this occurs heavy watering is necessary to leach it out of the soil. This requires adequate drainage to carry away the surplus water; otherwise one just reallocates the salt to other areas. Tt is difficult to apply leaching water by means of overhead sprinklers. In the old method of flood irrigation, using furrows and banks, one could flood the water on to an affected area and it would carry the salt down through the soil. I think some of the money being allocated, particularly to the Loxton area, is for drainage on individual properties.
In the early days of irrigation along the Murray River - chiefly by the furrow or flooding method - people had to develop the know-how for that kind of work. Today, while the overhead sprinkler systems seems so easy, the settlers have to know how to overcome some of the problems involved - one of which is dry salting. Work on the design and development of a sprinkler head to give a good performance has been carried out in the Civil Engineering Department of the University of Adelaide, and the South Australian Department of Agriculture has given valuable assistance in increasing the efficiency of irrigation schemes. The Horticultural Branch of the Department has given valuable technical advice. It is likely that further expansion of horticultural production in our river areas will depend on the acreage of good soil available and the amount of River Murray water available for use. This is limited. Therefore, to maintain and increase production in the existing irrigation areas, and to give continued employment to the increasing population, the efficiency of water management in the Loxton settlement is of great importance. We must increase our knowledge of the water needs of crops by means of research, and we have to know how to apply this knowledge to get better cropping results and greater financial returns.
Soils have, different irrigation characteristics. Hence it is necessary to gain, by analysis, information regarding the moisture holding characteristics of various classes of soils. We must also know more about the frequency of irrigation that is necessary and the amount of water that is required for the various applications.
– Are there irrigation channels in Loxton?
– Generally speaking, it is purely an overhead watering system although there may be a few channels. It is a unique system. To the uninitiated, it might seem that in the Loxton area there would not be very much seepage, but I repeat that dry salinity is an acute problem there. I anticipate that much of the money allocated will be expended on drainage, on sinking bores and so on. I will elaborate on that later. We must learn more about the time and rates of application of irrigation water; we must also find out the .root depths of the various plants being grown and weir sensitivity to drought conditions. These are all problems that have to be overcome in the Loxton soldier settlement area. Irrigation affects soil composition. Under normal conditions, the soil around Loxton has for many years experienced a relatively low rainfall.
– What is the annual rainfall there?
– It is in the vicinity of 14 inches annually. The soil texture is governed by this. Now that another 12 or 14 inches of water per acre per year is being applied, the texture of the soil is changing. That applies also on other irrigation settlements. One of the problems is to maintain soil texture under irrigation. An application of water greater than plant requirements is not only a waste of water but also may produce seepage problems.
Exploratory drillings may be necessary in the Loxton .area to identify soil structures and to find disposal outlets for anticipated seepage. I believe. that much of the money allocated for Loxton is required for drainage in this sphere - to meet individual cases, as it were. By using tensiometers the soil moisture tension gradients are measured and the movement of water is .calculated. Trial sites are established to determine moisture content at depths far below the reach of roots. Tensiometers may be situated 15 feet or more below ground level. To secure maximum results from spray irrigation, a great deal of research is required. 1 hope that the soldier settlers on the Loxton area will be furnished with the results of the research tests that are being, and will be, made. With these results made available, and with the continued determination of the settlers to make their holdings profitable, an assured future should be possible for them and their families. I believe that the soldier settlers is South Australia have fully justified the assistance that. has been granted to them by both the Federal Government and the State Government by becoming efficient and successful holders of property. I support the Bill.
Senator LAUGHT (South Australia) [8.21J. - J also rise to support the Bill. I have listened with great interest to the speeches that have been made. Senator Lillico painted a rather dismal picture of the situation in Tasmania. He said that the morale of the settlers had been destroyed and’ that he was appalled by the methods used on King Island. The development of the areas in question was left in the hands of the State Government. The Tasmanian Government should stand and be counted on this matter. I was very interested in the honorable senator’s remarks, so much so that 1 was led to have a look at the Commonwealth “Year Book” for 1964. The figures shown in the “ Year Book “ seem to bear what the honorable senator said about the appalling cost of the development of war service land settlement properties in Tasmania.
To give a comparison, I point out that in South Australia 1,013 farms have been allotted, in Western Australia 1,003, and in Tasmania 523 or about one-half of the number for each of the other two States. The size of the farms allotted is as follows: In South Australia approximately 600 acres, in Western Australia approximately 1,900 acre and in Tasmania- approximately 900 acres. So the farms in Tasmania are not particularly small. When we examine the advances that have been made to the States for the development and improvement of land we find that £14 million had been made available in South Australia, £19 million in Western Australia, and £15 million in Tasmania which, as I said earlier, has only one-half of the number of farms in each of the other two States. It will be seen that the cost of developing each farm in Tasmania has been 50 per cent, greater than the cost of developing those in either South Australia’ or Western Australia. Quite a sum of money has been spent in Tasmania on each farm. In the light of what both Senator O’Byrne and Senator Lillico have said, I should say that the result in Tasmania has been very disappointing indeed.
As I understand the situation, in South Australia, which I have the honour to represent in the Senate, the scheme is drawing to a conclusion. Unfortunately, I have had to turn to the “ Hansard “ report of the debate in the House of Representatives to obtain that information. On 17th August the Minister for- Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) delivered his second reading speech in relation to the Bill that is now before the Senate. In his speech he gave far more information than was given to the Senate by Senator McKellar. I am rather concerned about the fact that in this chamber a considerably truncated speech was delivered upon the ‘ introduction of this measure. I think it is quite wrong that honorable senators should have to turn to the “ Hansard “ report of the debate in the House of Representatives to ascertain the fuller meaning of the Bill that is now before us. In regard to the position in South Australia Mr. Adermann said- . . development is moving towards finalisation and it is expected that work on Kangaroo Island should be completed mainly during this financial year.
Development on Kangaroo Island has presented many problems to the State Department of Lands and the Department of Primary Industry, which administer the war service land settlement scheme. Consequently, I am pleased that the Department of Primary Industry believes that the work on Kangaroo Island should be completed this year.
The settlers on the Island are in a very isolated part of South Australia - the Island lies off the southern coast of the State - and must bear all the additional costs that its situation brings to them. At least they are able to get good pastures for their stock and, thanks to the introduction of the roll on roll off ship “ Troubridge “ they are able to get their stock to market in Adelaide the day after they are loaded on trucks to be taken to the ship at Kingscote harbour. I have. had a look at the properties on Kangaroo Island. A wonderful spirit exists among the settlers. From inquiries I have made, it seems that the problems that first beset the settlers are now considerably fewer. These settlers have not suffered from the dry season that a lot of other parts of Australia have experienced, and I predict that they will have a better than average season this year.
As Senator Mattner pointed out, a problem of drainage arose in the Loxton area. I am glad to know that about £100,000 is to be spent this year on the Loxton irrigation area. I understand that the Department of Primary Industry is hopeful that this problem will be cleared up in about two years. However, I regret to say that the South Australian Government, is not getting on with this irrigation project in the manner in which one believes it should. The State Government seems to believe that it will take four years te overcome this problem. Until it is cleared up, the vines and citrus trees are likely to suffer. I hope that the South Australian Government will realise the urgency of the matter and will have the problem cleared up within two years rather than four years.
The main item for South Australia is the expenditure of £1,020,000 for advances to settlers. I understand that the rate of interest that the settlers pay is 3* per cent, and that for structural improvements they have 30 years in which to repay the amount of principal and interest, which amortises at the rate of 5.6 per cent. If advances are made to them for plant and stock, they are expected to repay in 10 years, the rate of amortisation being 12.17 per cent. If money for working expenses is advanced to them, they are expected to repay it within one year, that is, out of the results from the sale of the crop.
The war service land settlement scheme appears to be progressing fairly well in South Australia. In the south east districts where the scheme has been operating for up to 15 years, many of the farmers have freeholded their properties and a number of them have sold their properties and gone on to larger properties. By and large, the scheme in South Australia has been a great success. One of the interesting items that I discovered when looking through the “Year Book” for 1964 was that in South Australia the loss on advances since World War II amounts to £37,000. In Western Australia it amounts to £160,000, and in Tasmania £20,000. The total loss to the Commonwealth is only £653,000 out of total advances of £127 million.
Thanks to good management, good prices and hard work by the settlers under the war service land settlement scheme, the loss on advances is low. I congratulate the Department of Primary Industry on its wise guidance of the scheme. I also congratulate the States for co-operating with the Commonwealth and the men who have been beneficiaries under the scheme. I think the figures show that it has been a great success. I regret that there are problems on the islands north of Tasmania as mentioned by Tasmanian senators from both sides of the chamber. However, I think that generally the scheme has been a great success. I commend the Bill to honorable senators.
– in reply - I am very pleased indeed to see that the Senate supports the Bill. I have a few brief comments to make on some of the remarks that have been made by honorable senators. First, the soldier settlement scheme which was commenced after World War II fortunately has turned out to be a much better scheme than the one which was initiated after World War I. Some of the mistakes that were made after World War I were avoided in the scheme which was introduced after World War II. Also, larger areas of land were made available on more favourable terms than in the earlier scheme. In a number of States the early settlers under the World War II scheme struck good seasons and good prices. Some of them have made a lot of money. This is a very pleasing feature. Another reason why the later scheme has been so successful is that greater care was taken to assess the capacity of the individual who was put on to the land. We know that unfortunately there are exceptions, and honorable senators who have spoken in the debate have referred to some of them.
I thought that Senator O’Byrne was somewhat critical of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann). I think he referred to the Minister as being unsympathetic. I do not know whether he meant that. I have never found the Minister for Primary Industry to be unsympathetic on a primary industry matter affecting an individual. He is one of the most sympathetic and one of the soundest men I know. I assure Senator O’Byrne that any help that can be given by his Department will be given. Senator O’Byrne also mentioned the concessions that have been made to the settlers on King Island. I understand that he was correct in the concessions which he outlined. Perhaps he may be interested to learn, if he does not already know, that the estimated total cost of these concessions is approximately £200,000. They have been provided for approximately 120 settlers.
Senator Lillico mentioned the situation on Flinders Island and compared it with that on King Island. I understand that there is quite ah advantage to be gained by these settlers when they are disposing of their blocks, if they decide to sell on a lease tenure rather than at auction. I also understand that this is not always done. I do not think that this state of affairs will continue for long because it will not be very long before the benefits that can be obtained become well known. The Commonwealth has provided £715,000 for external drainage works on the blocks at Loxton. I think that Senator Mattner referred to this matter. The amount of loan money that has been provided in South Australia includes £100,000, mainly for internal drainage work at Loxton. Apart from the specific matters that have been raised tonight, I think that the scheme has proved very beneficial to people in most parts of the Commonwealth. Our hope and desire is that the provisions that are made in the future for the people on the islands north pf Tasmania and in the Loxton area who have been mentioned tonight will place them on a far better footing than they have been on in the past.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I rise to ask the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) whether he can give the Senate any information on the report of the committeeof inquiry that investigated war service land settlement in the State of Tasmania. I understand that the investigation was carried out at the joint instance of the Tasmanian Government and the Commonwealth Government. Requests have been made for the disclosure of this report for more than 12 months. For some mysterious reason, which is quite inconsistent with any proper conception of the relationship which should exist between the Executive and the Parliament, it is thought that the Executive is entitled to retain the report as a confidential document. Can the Minister tell us whether or not a copy of the report is in the possession of the Commonwealth department and whether or not it is available to the Senate?
– I understand that the committee was asked to make an investigation by the State Government of Tasmania. A report was compiled. It is the property of the State Government, and until such time as it decides to make the report available, we cannot do anything about the matter. That is the information I have received.
– I beg to put another view. I understand that in this matter we are financing the State of Tasmania, which is an agent State. This Parliament supplies the wherewithal with which the Tasmanian Government operates. If the State Government had an investigation carried out and secured a report, I would think that the Minister who is reresponsible to this Parliament is recreant to the confidence placed in him if he has not a copy of the report. He is the principal and the Tasmanian Minister simply the agent. If the Tasmanian Government wants additional money to carry on this development, it cannot lay down conditions to us. Therefore, I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) to face up to the situation and declare a more resolute view. This information having been passed on to the Commonwealth Department, and knowing that such an inquiry has taken place in Tasmania, I sincerely hope that it is not, as a matter of routine, handing out further annual advances for development. If the report is in the possession of the Commonwealth, I think that this Parliament is not discharging its proper parliamentary function unless it has the information imparted to it by the Minister for Primary Industry. I would be very happy to be informed whether or not the Minister for Primary Industry is continuing to advocate the voting of moneys year by year, without seeing that report. In my view, such a situation would be unthinkable. If the Minister has the report, I deny that it should be regarded as the exclusive property of the Tasmanian Government. If it is in the hands of the Minister for Primary Industry, we, representing the people who are to pay the money for this purpose, are asked to vote the money, and it is a primary obligation of the Executive to disclose that report to us. I ask the Minister for Repatriation: What is the answer to those submissions?
– I am informed that this report is the result of an investigation of the affairs of the settlers and not so much of the scheme. I am further informed that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) has a copy of it in his possession. He has not been asked for a copy of it; but I will undertake to ask him whether he is prepared to make a copy available to the Senate or, failing that, to give Senator Wright an opportunity to peruse the report.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKellar) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 23rd September (vide page 566), on motion by Senator Anderson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Honorable Sir Alister McMullin). - There being no objection, the course suggested by the Minister will be followed.
– The Opposition intends to oppose- these measures. We take the same view in this debate as we took in the Budget debate. Honorable senators will, recall that during that debate the Opposition argued that the Budget imposed undue burdens on the ordinary wage earners, that it did not provide proper increases in social service benefits and that it did not deal with such problems as increases in imports and Australia’s dependence on foreign capital. For similar reasons, we take the view that the measures now before the Senate should be opposed.
Against that background, we suggest that the £11 million that will be raised by the increase in the duty on diesel fuel is small in relation to the total Budget expenditure of more than £2,500 million. We take the same point of view on this matter as we took on the petrol tax, namely, that the burden ultimately will rest on the consumers. That is our main objection to these measures. It might be argued that this legislation is necessary because the Government discovered fairly recently that there was no duty on diesel fuel, whereas the ordinary road user was required to pay duty on the petrol that he consumed. That discovery obviously was occasioned by the fact that the use of diesel powered units had increased. Their use is still increasing.
Against the background of the Government’s taxation proposals, the means of transport are changing. The diesel powered unit has become more efficient. Not only have such units become well known on country and interstate roads, but they have found their way into the wider sphere of construction. We have seen the use of very important units not only in private construction but also in Commonwealth construction. We should take note of that because, as I will point out later, whilst the Government imposes charges on diesel fuel and petrol, it has not yet coped with this change in fuel use in Australia. The Opposition suggests that the time is ripe to resist any increase in the tax on diesel fuel.
Whilst . it is true that the railways and Commonwealth departments do not pay the duty, many other users, particularly road users, will have extra ‘costs imposed on them at a time when all of the States are placing great burdens on road users. All of the States are increasing charges, such as registration and other new taxes on road users. We suggest that the road users do not bear the burden of those charges; they pass them on to the consumers. We say that the Government should not argue about containing price rises at a time when it is imposing these extra charges. The £14 million or £li -million, which will be raised by this increase in duty, is small in relation to the total Budget expenditure. This duty need not have been increased, particularly in the light of the change in the use of motor fuel.
The Government should have regard to Australian transport and fuel requirements. For instance, the number of diesel powered units has increased. The Commonwealth Statistician has pointed out that in 1962 there were 14,523 diesel powered trucks on the road. I am told that today there are about 20,000 of them on the road. The size and payload capacity of these units are increasing every day. Commonwealth departments, which do not pay this duty, are using to an increasing degree diesel fuel in power generation and earth moving projects. Hospitals, and picture theatres and other places of entertainment are also using increasing quantities of diesel fuel. Unfortunately, all of this fuel is imported. So, we say that against the background of the escalation of prices, the Government need not have increased this duty. It might well have let the use of diesel fuel run its course, even in the face of the increase in the petrol tax. I agree that in recent years the Government has said: “ We have to put a tax on diesel fuel because there is a tax on petrol “.
The revenue derived from road users as a result of the tax on diesel fuel is increasing.
I quote some figures which have been prepared by the Australian Automobile Association from figures supplied by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. They show that over the years the revenue from this tax has increased. The net revenue collected from the excise duty on automobile diesel fuel in 1957-58 was £2.27 million; in 1958-59 it fell to £1.5 million; in 1959-60 it rose to £2.2 million; in 1960-61 it rose again to £2.4 million; in 1961-62 it was £2.4 million; in 1962-63 it rose to £2.6 million; in 1963-64 it rose again to £3.9 million; in 1964-65 the estimate was £4.3 million and the amount collected was £4.6 million; and the estimate for the current year is £6.5 million. Therefore, I suggest that this increase in the duty on diesel fuel need not have been applied.
We suggest that the Government might have made a general survey of Australia’s requirements. I have in mind the importance of new sources of thermal power, such as natural gas. A study of the position of coal in relation to future defence commitments would also be profitable. The Opposition wants the Government to appreciate the obvious need for a survey pf Australia’s future fuel requirements. At present we are relying completely on imported fuels, and we should not be.
I wish now to cite some figures relating to railways throughout Australia. In doing so, I concede that the railways concerned do not pay charges on the fuel they use. The figures indicate, for example, that a few years ago the Commonwealth Railways used steam units exclusively for passenger traffic and goods haulage. In the latest report - I do not have the interim report - of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner it is stated that the number of steam units in the Commonwealth Railways had decreased to 7. The number of diesel electric units had increased to 45, diesel hydraulic units to 7 and diesel rail motors to 6. This type of development is typical of all State railways. Leaving aside for a moment all public transportation, it is clear that the State railway systems are becoming increasingly dependent on imported fuels. We ought to be planning for the time when it might be difficult to import fuels. I understand that at present about half of the diesel fuel imported is used inland and the other half is used by shipping.
If I were to ask the Minister tonight to inform the Senate of the quantities of fuel used by the Brisbane City Council in providing public transportation, I am sure that he could not do so. The Government does not keep such records. I am not criticising the Minister. I am putting to him that it has not been thought necessary to make that sort of observation. The same thing is true of Adelaide where the Metropolitan Tramways Trust operates. The use of diesel fuel by all public utilities is growing throughout Australia because a diesel engine is a more economical and efficient producer of energy than is a petrol engine. Auxiliary diesel plants are required by factories in case of emergency breakdowns, and so on. Honorable senators who have visited plants and have inquired about power requirements have quite often been told that imported fuel is used. It may be that the Postmaster-General’s Department supplies power for a communications installation and an auxiliary diesel power unit is also installed to supply power if necessary. I am putting to the Senate that it is necessary to study the overall picture of the use of fuels in Australia.
The Government has stated that it has corrected an anomaly in the legislation by taxing diesel fuel because a tax is paid on petrol. Exemption has been granted to Commonwealth departments, farmers and some other people. I suggest that a new anomaly has been created because a large part of our commercial and industrial organisation is dependent on imported fuels.
I do not wish now to enter into a discussion on the Budget provisions. That ground has been well covered in the past. The Opposition takes the view that the legislation before the Senate, Which follows the Budget pattern, ought to be opposed. Accordingly, we intend to oppose it.
– in reply - Senator Bishop has indicated, that the Opposition will oppose the passage of this legislation. As the honorable senator indicated, the legislation before the Senate is to implement a budgetary proposal to increase the rate of duty payable on diesel fuel. It is anticipated that the revenue to be obtained from this duty will be increased by about £1,500,000. Senator Bishop has argued that the’ duty should not be increased because in Australia we are dependent on petroleum. In my view, that is rather an odd argument. .There is nothing new in that position. A fact of life is that we depend largely on the importation of crude oil and petroleum. I think the honorable senator fails to recognise the significance of tremendous Commonwealth expenditure on oil search. This expenditure has been incurred because of the circumstances described by the honorable senator. A dramatic change in our dependence upon imported crude oil has occurred because of the provision by the Government of millions of pounds for oil search. As has been stated in another place, with the finding of crude oil at Moonee, provision will be made for the absorption into the economy of the output obtained from that field. While it is true that, as a nation, we are still largely dependent upon imported crude oil, we are taking dramatic steps to meet that situation.
There is nothing new about a diesel fuel tax. We have had such a tax since 1957. The legislation before the Senate is to implement a straight-out budgetary proposal. The budgetary reasons for increasing the rate of the tax have been canvassed in the Senate. The ‘Opposition will oppose the legislation. No doubt honorable senators opposite will register their opposition by their votes. The Government believes that the increase will be equalised and that the relationship with other fuels will be preserved. I refer, for example, to petroleum upon which excise is paid. I point out that a substantial concession is extended to primary producers who are exempted from, payment of tax on diesel fuel. In all the circumstances, the view of the Government is that the. legislation should be passed in order to implement a necessary budgetary measure.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.) :
Majority . . … 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Either the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) was too fast to his feet, or I was too slow, because I did not get the opportunity previously to state the reasons why the members of the Australian Democratic Labour Party proposed to vote for the Bill. We did so because we felt that in respect of a measure such as this the Senate has a certain responsibility. The Government must have its revenue. Senator Gair and I participated in a move only last week which, if it remains in effect, will cost the Government a fairly considerable sum of money. We felt that the £1.5 million involved, while in these days of hundreds of millions of pounds it might not seem much, is in itself a sizable sum of money. As the petrol user has to pay tax - and all parties here have allowed bills placing taxes on petrol to go through the Senate in the past - we could not see any reason why the diesel fuel user should not have to do so also, especially bearing in mind the exemptions which exist in regard to certain public instrumentalities and also in regard to farms. For those reasons, and because we felt that there was a certain responsibility not to whittle away the revenues of the Government except on matters of vital importance - and we did not think that this was one of those matters - we supported the Bill.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 23rd September (vide page 566), on motion by Senator Anderson-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Consideration resumed from 23rd September (vide page 566), on motion by Senator Anderson -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Senate adjourned at 9.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 September 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1965/19650928_senate_25_s29/>.