25th Parliament · 1st Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) took the chair at 3 p.m.. and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, ls the Minister aware that on 21st April 1966 Senator Branson, pursuant to leave granted to him, introduced into the Senate u private member’s Bill for an Act to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1965? Is the Minister also aware that the purpose of the Bill is to assist in the establishment of television stations in the less populated areas of Australia? Will the Minister say whether it is the intention of the Government, to allow this Bill to be debuted through all its stages in the Senate during the term of this Parliament?
– I am well aware of the fact that the Bill is on the notice paper. I am also well aware of the keen interest which Senator Branson always has taken in the development of television facilities in certain parts of Western Australia. He has pursued this subject for a quite considerable time. At the present time my task is to dispose of Government business as soon as possible and in proper order. When I see that finality is being reached with Government business I shall be prepared to consider the position as it then exists.
– My question is addressed lo the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. Has the attention of the Minister been directed to a statement attributed to Mr. Hudson, a Government member of the South Australian Parliament, made to the South Australian Economic Society on Monday last? ls the Minister aware that Mr. Hudson, when dealing with the question of universities, said that he thought the Commonwealth should take over tertiary education entirely, claiming that at present in some faculties there is a failure rate of 75 per cent, during the first year? Would the Minister care to comment on the practicability of this suggested lake over? Can he say whether the statement that there is a failure rate of 75 per cent, during the first year is a fair statement in regard to the results of first year students? Would modifications have to be made to the present Commonwealth and State financial arrangements if such a take over were to be implemented and, if so, what- modifications would the Minister suggest?
– I saw the report to which the honorable senator refers. The subject matter is clearly one of highly significant policy and not one on which any comment could be made in reply to a question without notice. I believe that the statement regarding a failure rate of 75 per cent, in the first year is not accurate. From what 1 saw of the report I do not remember that the author of that statement suggested that that was an across the board occurrence, but that it might occur in odd faculties. I think that that is all I can say on the subject.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister for Works. Has the Minister observed the highly coloured enlarged photographs in the exhibit in King’s Hall? Did the Minister observe that during the recent school holiday period King’s Hall was drab and uninteresting? Will he arrange to have the pictures which have been provided by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation returned to King’s Hall next year during the school vacation period?
– The exhibition now in the Kings Hall was set up by the C.S..I.R.O. to mark the 50th anniversary of the sponsorship of scientific research by the Commonwealth. Before any exhibition can be staged in Kings Hall, approval must be obtained from the Presiding Officers of the Parliament, but if it is thought that during the next school holidays an exhibition, or this display in particular, would be suitable for installation in the Kings Hall, I am sure that the C.S.I.R.O. for one would have no objection to its taking place. However, this would be subject to the approval of the Presiding Officers
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and
Transport indicate whether the Australian National Line has considered the feasibility of the purchase of a sister ship to the “ Bass Trader “ to trade between Tasmanian ports and other Slates? If no consideration has been given to this matter, will the Government see that an investigation is made as early as possible?
– There was a reference to this matter in the Tasmanian Press in the past 24 hours, and the information sought by the honorable senator has been supplied to mc by the Department of Shipping and Transport. It is to the effect that the Australian National Line has not investigated the specific possibility of a sister ship to the “ Bass Trader “ as it already has under construction at Evans Deakin and Co. Pty. Ltd. three roll-on roll-off cargo vessels of about 4,000 tons dead weight each of which is estimated to cost about $20 million. These vessels are similar in function to but larger than the “ Bass Trader ‘ and are designed for use in the MelbourneSydneyBrisbane and north Queensland trades, but the Line has in mind the fact that one of these vessels could, if it proved necessary, be used to supplement the operations of the “ Bass Trader “ in the Tasmanian trade. In addition, the Line has already announced the building of a second passenger-vehicular ferry similar to the “ Empress of Australia “ for the Bass Strait service which will provide additional cargo capacity of approximately 3,250 tons including containers and semi-trailers. This will not only supplement the “Princess of Tasmania” but will also provide further capacity for sea road operations to and from Tasmania which, in the Line’s opinion, will then be adequately covered.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, ls it possible for the Minister to arrange to have extended to me as Leader of the Australian Democratic Labour Party in the Senate, the same courtesy as is extended to the Leader of the Opposition, particularly in regard to the order of business and sitting days, as I am not very happy with having to rely on information from the messenger staff and the night watchman?
– I think it would be the wish of the Government that every courtesy be extended to Senator Gair or anyone else who happens to be the leader of a party.
– What about Senator
– Is his an independent party? I shall take steps to see that Senator Gair is advised.
– The service was not too bad when Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin was Government Whip but it is atrocious now.
– Has it deteriorated? I shall see what can be done.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Is it a fact that a new Citizen Military Forces infantry battalion known as the 28th Battalion, Royal West Australian Regiment, is to be formed in Western Australia on 1st October? Is this unit to be made up of C.M.F. servicemen who live in the country? As these men will have to attend two annual camps, making up 33 days training in all, will the Minister make sure that these two camp periods do not interfere with seasonal farming operations such as shearing, seeding, fallowing and harvesting?
– I am aware that the battalion named by the honorable senator is being formed. I think the Senate is aware that new units are being formed, mainly for the purpose of giving to people in country areas - not only primary producers but also persons in all walks of life: bank clerks, railway officials, post office officials and others who are transferred to country areas - the same opportunity to serve in Citizen Military Forces units as is given to persons in metropolitan areas. As for the rest of the honorable senator’s question, I shall endeavour to obtain for him a reply from the Minister for the Army.
– I direct to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research a question which is supplementary to that asked by Senator Benn concerning the excellent display mounted in King’s Hall at the moment by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether it is intended that this display will be shown in other cities of Australia in the near future? If it is so intended, will he consider particularly making it available at such functions as the Royal Hobart Show, which is to be held between 14th and 22nd October?
– I do not know of any plans for sending this exhibition on tour, as it were, to State capitals, but if there were any such plans or suggestions, I assure (he honorable senator that Hobart would nol bc left out of any proposed itinerary.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy advise when H.M.A.S. “ Perth “ was built? ls it true that she was built in 18 months and commissioned in July last year but that it will be at least another 12 months before she is added to the active list? Is this delay occasioned because the Ikara antisubmarine missile is United States designed and built and cannot be fitted or adjusted in Australian dockyards? In fact did it take 18 months to build the vessel and will it take two years to fit an ancillary weapon system? Will the Minister advise whether the ship will have to be returned to America should anything go wrong, as Garden Island has not the equipment to handle repairs and the United Stales manufacturers retain complete control over it, in any case?
– I had the privilege of inspecting H.M.A.S. “ Perth “ while she was in Sydney and was very taken indeed with such a modern ship. She was opposite the Opera House and I could not help thinking to myself that the expenditure of $40 million incurred on the “ Perth “ stood out in very sharp contrast with the expenditure of $40 million incurred on the Opera House just across the water. It has been necessary to fit this missile mentioned by the honorable senator, but I will be very surprised indeed if the facts are as stated by him.
– It is Australian designed.
– I know that the Ikara is Australian designed. I am talking about the rest of the facts. I shall inquire from the Minister for the Navy as to the exact position and let the honorable senator know.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the production of berry fruits has declined sharply in the last ten years? If so, is he able to give any reason for this decline?
– The answer is: “ No. I am not able to give any reason for the decline.” I should imagine that seasonal conditions would have something to do with it, just as they have an effect on all our primary industries. However, I shall endeavour to obtain an answer from the Minister for Primary Industry and let the honorable senator know the result.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General explain the delay in the occupancy of the new telephone exchange at Griffith in New South Wales?
– No, I cannot explain the delay, but I will find out and let the honorable senator know.
– I should like to ask a question entirely without notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. May I say by way of preface-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorably senator will ask his question.
– May I say in the most unprovocative way that I believed I would be permitted to say by way of short preface that I have taken an interest in the berry fruit industry. Can the Minister inform me whether the interest of my colleague, Senator Webster, is electoral or agricultural?
– The answer could be ascertained from Senator Webster.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. I do so because of keen discussion that has occurred in the Australian Capital Territory about the shortage of accommodation for aged people. My question is: Owing to the high cost of building in the Australian Capital Territory and the scarcity of accommodation for aged parents and other people, will the Government consider increasing the existing loan of $7,000 by making available a special loan of $2,000 to enable the building of larger homes or the extension of existing homes by those who desire to accommodate aged parents or other people?
– I think this is a ma.ter of Government policy, but if the honorable senator places his question on the notice paper J shall see whether an answer can be provided for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. The Minister for Immigration will be aware that his Department has been particularly successful in introducing migrants to primary production in many parts of Australia. Will the Government consider convening a meeting of all parties interested in the berry fruit industry wilh a view to introducing new growers to this most important area of primary production?
– Knowing Senator Webster’s interest in this matter, I shall be pleased to take it up with my colleague, the Minister for Immigration.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, by stating that L have received an urgent telegram from the Secretary of the Postal Workers Union complaining about delay in paying the latest basic wage increase to members of the Union. I ask the Minister: ls he aware that there has been considerable delay in granting the recent increase in the basic wage to members of the Postal Workers Union? Have superannuation deductions already been made from the pay of these members in anticipation of payment of the increase? If so, will the Minister announce publicly as soon as possible the date on which the increased wage payments will be made?
– I was not aware of the delay to which the honorable senator has referred. I shall certainly have the complaint examined as a matter of urgency and let the honorable senator know the result.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I preface it by saying that secondary industry in general was delighted at the Budget proposal thai grants be made available for research and development in secondary industry up to a sum of $250,000 in 1966-67 and $6 million in a normal year. Is the Minister able to give any details for the benefit of secondary industry as to how the grant will be made available?
– The honorable senator has given most of the available details already when referring to Government policy and the fact that $250,000 will be provided this year, and a total of $6 million in a full year. I can only say to him that at the present time details have not been supplied. The Government is working on the project and an announcement is expected shortly.
Senator KENNELLY__ I direct a question to you, Mr. Deputy President. I want to know whether it is in order for an honorable senator to ask a question on a matter which is the preserve of another honorable senator. I refer to Senator Webster’s interest in berries.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The purpose of question time is to permit honorable senators to seek information or to press for action. Questions are judged as they come.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs seen a report in which it is alleged by a member of the Opposition that the Americans bombed and destroyed a dairy farm set up in Vietnam by the Australian Government? Is there any truth in this allegation?
– I have seen the report of the allegation. I thought that, since it is an extremely serious allegation and since it bears upon the futility of endeavouring to provide civil aid without-
– I rise to order. I believe that the allegation referred to was made in another place last evening. I ask: ls it in order to discuss an occurrence in another place?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - As I have just ruled, question time is a time for seeking information or pressing for action, on matters within a Ministers responsibility. I believe that it is for the Minister to say whether the matter is within his responsibility.
– Before resuming the answer I was giving until I was interrupted, perhaps I should indicate that the running of the dairy farm fell within my responsibility when I was the Minister in charge of the administration of assistance under the Colombo Plan. 1 had some first hand knowledge of the matter. The allegation that has been made is of a serious character and, I think, bears upon and indicates the futility of trying to provide civil aid without at the same time providing protection for civil aid projects. Consequently, I have secured a chronological history of the establishment of the Ben Cat dairy farm and of what happened during the period it was sought to be established. I propose to give that history to the Senate.
In 1957, at the request of the Vietnamese Government, Australia began a programme of assistance under the Colombo Plan to establish an experimental farm which would serve as a pilot centre for dairying in Vietnam. Australia provided 128 Jersey cattle and about £75,000 worth of equipment, including a modern milk treatment plant incorporating refrigeration, pasteurisation and bottling facilities. Equipment supplied included an electrical generating plant, general farm machinery and two ice cooled motor vans for transporting bottled pasteurised milk to Saigon. Milk production at Ben Cat began on 20th March .1961. The last expert adviser to the Vietnamese Government on the operation of the farm was Mr. W. S. Arthur, an Australian, who arrived in Vietnam in March 1961. Mr. Arthur was able to maintain close contact with the farm, first by residing there, and later when the security situation deteriorated, by visiting the farm by road until he was kidnapped by the Vietcong.
– I rise to order. I question whether the Minister is answering the question asked of him, or is making a statement on Government policy.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order There is no substance in the point of order. I have ruled that the Minister is in order.
– Until he was kidnapped by the Vietcong-
– I raise a point of order, Mr. Deputy President. Is your ruling not contrary to Standing Order No. 416?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! I have already ruled that the subject matter of the question is well within the responsibility of Senator Gorton.
– Mr. Deputy President, would it be possible to have the question asked again so that the Senate may see that there is no connection between it and the answer being given by the Minister?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! The Chair cannot instruct the Minister on how he should answer a question. He is acting within his ‘responsibility.
– 1 have pointed out that Mr. Arthur was able to maintain close contact with the farm, first by residing there and later, when the security situation deteriorated, by visiting the farm by road until he was kidnapped by the Vietcong in September 1961. After that he was able to maintain contact with the farm by helicopter, because of Vietcong operations on the roads leading to the farm.
The security situation around the dairy farm began to give concern in the middle of 1960 when certain defensive measures were taken, including the provision of some civil guards. Some shooting, resulting in the killing of four calves, took place in February 1961. Other minor incidents followed, including the taking of small numbers of cattle by the Vietcong, until November 1962, when an attack by the Vietcong in some strength resulted in damage to a water lower, the wounding of three civil guards and the killing of the wife of one of the civil guards. In February 1964 one of the milk trucks which was carrying pasteurised milk to Saigon was ambushed and captured. In an attack on 3rd April by Vietcong a workman was kidnapped, two soldiers were killed and three wounded, 11 cows were taken and farm buildings were damaged. A further attack took place on the night of 4th May. The Vietcong entered the farm and intimidated the guards while others rounded up the cattle. When fired on by Government artillery in the nearby village Ben Cai. the Vietcong left the farm, taking with them 83 cattle. The cattle were recovered next day, having been left in a nearby rubber plantation.
Subsequently, because of its increasingly untenable position in the light of stepped up Vietcong attacks the farm was abandoned. When the guards left it was occupied and pillaged by the Vietcong on the night of 16th July 1964. The buildings were destroyed and the living quarters were looted for anything of value. The buildings housing the milk plant were burnt out. The equipment was almost a total loss except for the milking machines which’ had been removed to Saigon earlier. The cattle had been removed from the farm to Saigon before the attack.
At no stage prior to the evacuation of the farm and its subsequent occupation and pillaging by the Vietcong was the farm subjected to any aerial attack from any quarter, nor does the Australian Government know of any aerial attack subsequently taking place.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of reports that the data recording device, commonly referred to as the black box. carried on the Viscount aircraft which crashed near Winton, Queensland, has noi been found. 1 ask: Has the device been found? Is the Minister satisfied that the design and material construction of this device are adequate to resist fire and other hazards such as those encountered in this accident?
– It is too early to say that the flight data recorder has been lost. The short answer to the honorable senator in relation to this tragic accident is that technicians, specialists and experts at the present time are on the site. They are evaluating the various aspects of the machinery and equipment there. For that reason, they do not want to disturb things unnecessarily simply to look for this data recorder. The whole of the reconstruction process that will take place and the handling of the various items of equipment that will be taken away for examination are being carried out in an orderly fashion. When all this work has been done, it will be the time to make any decisions in relation to this particular piece of equipment. It is not true to say that the “ black box as it is called, has been lost. The search for it has been governed by the need for an orderly search of the equipment there. The investigators do not want to disturb things out of sequence. It may well be that the flight data recorder will be found and will give valuable information to the Department of Civil Aviation in relation to this tragedy.
– I direct my question to the Acting Minister for External Affairs. What efforts for peace in Vietnam have been initiated by the Australian Government during this year? The question is not about moves by other countries but specifically about Australian initiatives.
– I direct the attention of the honorable senator to the statements which have been made from time to time on this matter by the Minister for External Affairs.
– I ask a question of the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. Has the Minister seen a report that the Premier of New South Wales, when introducing his Budget for this financial year, stated that he has budgeted for a deficit of $4 million, and that in announcing increases in fares, freights, hospital charges and other forms of taxation he has pointed out that the increased expenditure involved on education alone in New South Wales exceeds by some $200,000 the increase in that State’s tax reimbursement grant?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator will direct his question.
-I ask the Minister: When are the Australian Government and the Minister in particular going to face up to their responsibility so far as education in the primary and secondary spheres is concerned and make more money available to the Stales for this important purpose?
– I have not seen the particular statement attributed to Mr. Askin, so I am not able to comment on whether the figures alleged to have been given by him arc correct. I would point out to the honorable senator that quite apart from the extensive interest which the Commonwealth has taken in tertiary education which has resulted in the revolutionising of such education, the Commonwealth in the secondary sphere has made very great contributions to the provision of scientific teaching aids in all secondary schools including those secondary schools under the constitutional responsibility of the Government of New South Wales. The Commonwealth has made contributions also at this level in providing sums of money amounting to $10 million a year for technical education at the secondary level. It has provided 10,000 scholarships for secondary school students and 2,500 scholarships to technical school students at the secondary level. For an area in which the Commonwealth has no direct responsibility, this contribution is not something of which anyone needs to be ashamed.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Acting Treasurer. Having regard to the answer given to my question on notice relating to export income increases generating payroll tax remissions of $14,274,000, I ask: When will the statistics relating to all increases in export income be available? When collated, will the statistics be published in a form available to members of the Senate?
– I think that 1 should seek the information that the honorable senator requires from the Acting Treasurer. No doubt the statistics will be collated. Whether the form in which they will be collated will be acceptable to the Senate or whether we will need them to be collated specifically for us, I do not know. I ask the honorable senator to put the question on notice so that it may be conveyed to the Acting Treasurer.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is Australia at war? If it is, on what date was war declared? If it is not and Australia technically is at peace, are there any safeguards for the reestablishment in industry of men who volunteer to join any branch of the armed Services, so that they will be reinstated on their discharge even if they have not been sent overseas?
– The answer to the second part of the honorable senator’s question is that people who are serving Australia in declared areas at the present time are entitled to all the benefits that the repatriation legislation extends. The answer to the first part of her question is that Austraiian troops are fighting, just as they were fighting in Korea.
– My question, which is addressed to the Acting Minister for External Affairs, follows upon the question asked of him by Senator Murphy a few minutes ago. Does the Minister’s reply to Senator Murphy mean that he cannot, or that he will not, refer to any specific Australian initiative for peace in Vietnam?
– My reply to Senator Murphy was that he should look up the statements made on this matter by the Minister for External Affairs over the past year or so. That means that I believe that Senator Murphy would do well to look up those statements.
– My question is also supplementary to that addressed by Senator Murphy to the Acting Minister for External Affairs; but I direct it to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that Senator Murphy’s question was evaded, will the Minister inform the Parliament of the details and dates of instances in which the Australian Government has initiated peace moves in respect of Vietnam, and also with whom such discussions regarding a peace settlement were held?
– I have nothing to add to what the Acting Minister for External Affairs has already said in answer to two questions. 1 suggest to the honorable senator that, instead of asking me to look up these details, he should follow the advice given by the Acting Minister for External Affairs and look up the statements himself. That would be a good exercise. He would be far better informed by the time he finished doing that.
– I ask the Acting Minister for External Affairs whether he sees the same significance as I and other honorable senators see in the fact that, when the Prime Minister of Australia, the President of the United States of America and our Asian allies are all combining in the most promising move for peace that we have had for years, instead of criticism being directed at the failure of the Communist elements to co-operate, the criticism still seems to bc directed at our own people who are trying to achieve peace.
– I do not think it can have escaped the notice of anybody who is interested in these matters that the total attack for the war not being concluded by the Vietcong withdrawing from South Vietnam is always on those who are resisting aggression and never on those who are inciting and taking part in aggression, and that the claim is always for those who are resisting aggression to make concessions that will mean gains to those who are inciting or taking part in aggression. It is extraordinary that questions on Vietnam, even when an effort is made to ask them on a perfectly factual basis, cause the sort of thing that we have seen in the Senate today - efforts to stop factual answers being given.
(Question No. 954.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– -The following answer is now supplied -
(Question Nu. 963.)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The following answers are now supplied -
(Question No. 965.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
Why have not regulations been made to prevent, except in special circumstances, the award of costs of more than one counsel in penal clause proceedings under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, as foreshadowed in the Senate on 12th May 1965?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answer -
The drafting of the regulations to deal with the matter referred to by the honorable senator is well advanced and should be completed in the near future.
(Question No. 980.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Will the Government be represented at a conference of medical and hospital benefits organisations to be held to discuss a proposal to increase charges to help meet imminent increases in hospital admission charges, or will the representatives of the organisations be allowed to increase charges without question?
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply -
Conferences of medical and hospital benefit organisations are usually arranged by the Slate Association of Health Benefit Organisations. Officers of the Commonwealth Department of Health usually attend such conferences at the invitation of the State Association.
Under the provisions of the National Health Act no organisation can increase contributions or introduce new benefit tables without the approval of the Minister for Health. Therefore, any proposals for new benefit tables will need to be submitted by the organisations for the Minister’s consideration.
(Question No. 982.)
asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Will the Commonwealth Government make representations to the Burmese Government seeking the release of Kyi Nyunt, who was President of the International Union of Socialist Youth in 1960 and 1963, and who has been imprisoned since July 1965, without charges being preferred or trial held?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows -
Since this is an internal matter for the Burmese Government, involving a Burmese citizen, it would not be appropriate for the Australian Government to make representations on behalf of U Kyi Nyunt.
(Question No. 988.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
What are the reasons for, and the implications and possible effects for Australia, of the decision of the United States Government to lift controls imposed for some years on wheat acreages and so increase wheat production?
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question -
On 5th May, 1966 when announcing the first (15 per cent.) increase in the national acreage allotment for wheat for the 1967 crop, the United States Secretary of Agriculture said: - “ The strong demand for wheat exports both for dollars and for food assistance programmes has reduced our stocks sharply. For the first time in 13 years, our June 30 carryover will be under 600 million bushels. Stocks will be further reduced during the coming year despite good crop prospects. With continued strong demand in the market, and more acres of wheat, farm income will be substantially increased “.
The Secretary of Agriculture announced on 8th August a second increase in the wheat acreage allotment for the 1967 crop bringing it to 68.2 million acres or 16.6 million acres greater than the 1966 allotment. On this occasion he said: “ I have increased the wheat acreage allotment so that farmers who want to produce more can help make sure that we don’t run short “. He went on to say that the programme changes were needed because “ the former wheat surplus has been put to use, making increased production desirable; wheat stocks arc being reduced below a desirable reserve level this year; with feed grain slocks declining, the need for adequate wheat stocks is even more pressing; domestic and world demand for wheat continues to be strong; export expansion can continue if we have adequate supplies at competitive prices; grain requirements for foreign assistance programmes, while not completely predictable at this time, are almost certain to continue to be large “.
Wheat stocksin the United States have fallen very sharply over the last five years - from 1,411 million bushels in 1961 to 536 million bushels on 30th June this year. The desirable reserve level to which the Secretary of Agriculture referred is generally regarded as 600 million bushels, which is about one year’s supply for domestic food consumption and seed.
It is estimated that by the middle of next year, however, stocks will be less than 300 million bushels and it is apparent that the United States could not continue to trade at the level of recent years without a substantial increase in supplies. In additionto maintaining its domestic sales and exports, it seeks to build up stocks.
How much of the permitted increase in the acreage allotment will be planted this year remains to be seen. Planting ofthe crop begins soon for harvesting from July, 1967. Should the whole of the permitted increase be planted, and should a more or less normal season eventuate the increase in production which can be expected would do little more than raise slocks to the accepted reserve level, providing, of course, that there were no drastic change in exports.
In these circumstances the changes which are to be made do not appear likely to have any marked adverse effects on Australia and other competing exporters in the short term. Looking further ahead it is appropriate to note that the United States Secretary of Agriculture has stated that acreage allotments for future years will depend on the wheat situation at the time the allotment is determined.
At thistime the attention of major wheat trading countries, whether exporters or importers, is focussed on the Cereals Group, meeting under the auspices of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, scheduled to commence another round of discussions in Geneva on 26th September. Both Australia and the United States are active participants in this group which is working towards a global agreement on wheat and other grains which will bring a greater measure of stability to the world wheat situation. An agreement of this nature could affect the production policies of a number of countries and would therefore be of the utmost importance to Australia. At this stage of the negotiations there would be little point in speculating on the ultimate effect which an agreement might have on production in any individual country.
(Question No. 989.)
asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows -
(Question No. 987.)
asked the Minister for
Customs and Excise, upon notice -
Are parcels containing second-hand clothes and sweets forwarded by a resident of Holland to relatives living in Australia now subject to customs duty? If so, when did duties for this class of goods first become payable or, alternatively, what gifts can still be forwarded by persons overseas to relatives living in Australia which are not subject to customs duty?
– I now supply the following answer to the honorable senator’s question -
Yes. Goods sent to Australia as gifts are subject to normal rates of duty on importation. The Australian customs tariff does not contain any provision whereby goods could be admitted free or at concessional rates of duty simply because they are unsolicited gifts. However the Department of Customs and Excise reassesses the value of bona fide gifts and this generally results in a corresponding reduction in the amount of customs duty payable. Duty is not collected on bona fide gifts of small value where such duty is lessthan $0.75. If the honorable senator will supply me with sufficient details to identify any particular transaction he has in mind, I will have the assessment checked.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- I have received from Senator Keeffe an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of public importance, namely -
The urgent need for the Government to be directed to retain the services of the Snowy Mountains Authority for the purpose of planning, carrying out exploratory work and ultimately the construction of major water conservation schemes throughout the Commonwealth including Northern Australia.
.- 1 move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 10 a.m.
I believe that this action is necessary, because it has become obvious from recent statements by responsible members of the Government, and from a lack of statements on other occasions, that it is the intention of the Government to break up or otherwise disband the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. If the Government does not do so deliberately, then it will do so indirectly because it has given no consideration to providing continuity of employment for employees of the Authority. If the Government does not break up the Authority by legislative action, then the employees will automatically disband themselves.
Before I proceed with my argument I should like to cover very briefly some of the history of the Snowy Mountains Authority. As most honorable senators will recall, it was formed in 1949 as a result of action by a Labour Government. When formed, the Authority faced a very exciting task and was confronted with difficulties that had not been encountered before in Australia. Staff was recruited. We must remember that this occurred in the immediate postwar years when staff was difficult to obtain. Many of those who were recruited were brought here from overseas. The same sort of thing happened in regard to material. At that time material was in short supply and was urgently required for housing and similar projects. Consequently, material was imported for the building up of the scheme, which has become one of the engineering wonders of the world. It has indeed been a major project.
In 17 years the Snowy Mountains Authority has built 10 major dams, 489 miles of heavy duty roads, 651 miles of access tracks, and 84 miles of large diameter tunnels. As part of the major work, four more large dams, two power stations and a pumping station have still to be completed. Most of these works are well under way. The four power stations that are already in operation have a final installed capacity of 1,610,000 kilowatts. Eventually, the capacity of the scheme will be four million kilowatts. Let me say at this stage - I shall elaborate a little later - that this is the paying section of the project. If the Government initiated a similar scheme in any other State - later I shall probably adopt a parochial attitude and suggest that any such scheme be undertaken in Queensland - ultimately it must become a paying proposition. It is obvious that within the planned time the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority will become a paying proposition.
It is expected that the last major section of the project will be completed in about 1971 or 1972. We can give or take a few months. So we have not a very long time to go. Consequently, in the foreseeable future the staff, in particular the skilled personnel, will be looking for other places to go. Approximately 1,500 skilled staff are employed, including over 270 professional engineers. Because of the indecision of the Government, some of these people are already taking jobs overseas.
– New Zealand is a case in point.
– New Zealand is a very good example. Probably more skilled staff have migrated from the Snowy Mountains scheme to New Zealand than to any other country. In reply to a question in another place last Thursday, the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) said, in part -
This was all investigation work. The total cost, which was repaid to the Authority, was fairly small. It was certainly insufficient to justify the retention of an Authority which is spending such a huge sum as $63 million this year.
We are talking in terms of very big budgets. I suggest that for the Minister to complain about spending $65 million on a work of such tremendous magnitude reflects a cheese paring attitude toward national development. The Minister continued -
There is nothing in the Australian Capital Territory that we can foresee because the latest dam for Canberra has been designed. Any future water supply for this place will be likely to come from Tantangara Dam and will need only the laying of a pipeline. In Papua and New Guinea, however, there are a couple of hydro-electric projects under consideration. This again, while being important, would not bc sufficient to retain an organisation the size of the Snowy Mountains Authority.
In an offhanded way, the Minister referred to a couple of hydro-electric projects under consideration in Papua and New Guinea. Is not this one of the reasons why we should keep the Authority? ls it not a good reason why we should hold the organisation intact? According to discussions in this chamber, Papua and New Guinea is a very important place lo us geographically. That a couple of hydro-electric schemes there can be dismissed with a wave of the hand and half a dozen words is indicative of the shortsightedness of the present Government. The Minister continued -
The Commonwealth Government, therefore, has taken what it regards as an essential step and has approached the Slates to learn what use they would have for an organisation of this kind. It is true 111 at they ure most interested in obtaining assistance in the fields of investigation and design but it is untrue that any of them have shown a desire for further assistance in the matter of supervising construction because, as 1 have pointed out previously, they all have public works and water conservation authorities of their own which they believe are perfectly competent to undertake any necessary work provided they can obtain the money to do so.
They arc the words of the Minister in replying to a question seeking the retention of the Snowy Mountains Authority.
I wish now to quote from a statement made by the Secretary of the Association of Professional Engineers. He lodged with the Public Service Arbitrator a log of claims seeking retrenchment benefits for Snowy Mountains scheme engineers totaling $3 million. The maximum amounts claimed included S40.000 for loss of career and S’, SOO for a resettlement grant. The Secretary is reported to have said that engineers could not be expected to hang on indefinitely while the Government made up its mind. He said that if they were not to bc compensated they would not wait for retrenchment before looking for alternative employment. This emphasises the very important point 1 made a few moments ago. If the Government does not take a firm decision to disband the Authority, it will he doing so by its indecision. The people who went to the Authority have had many years training in their respective fields. They will not continue to stay on in jobs where there is no guarantee of continuity of employment. Who can blame them?
In the last quarter of the year, the loss in terms of engineers amounted to 21 per cent. The interim report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority is very revealing, because it shows that the turnover in labour - and again the biggest contribution is by the skilled people - is as high as is to be found in any other job in Australia. 1 am doubtful whether the Government can make a decision, but undoubtedly a Labour Government will, to engage in large water conservation schemes in future. In that event, it will be necessary again to go through the painful process of recruiting experienced people, if the present skilled staff is disbanded. It will be necessary to seek engineers from other countries. We will have to go to New Zealand, Papua and New Guinea and other countries where big engineering projects are being proceeded with.
Some criticism has been made by honorable senators opposite that the scheme will never be a profitable venture. I do not quite know how one. assesses these things. If you do not believe in progress or going ahead on a national scale, if you want to think small, nothing is ever profitable. Shortly, 1 shall cite some figures which wil) prove that an injection into the national economy as a result of the water made available for irrigation will prove of tremendous advantage to Australia. If we do not see money coming over the counter, but know that it will be coming in the post, is it not just as good? Is it not preferable in the long term that a project will be of great value to the country, not necessarily for our generation, but for our children and grandchildren, and perhaps even, further than that? It is estimated that irrigation will increase primary production in the area covered by the scheme to the extent of $60 million a year. In anybody’s terms, that is a lot of money.
As I mentioned in my opening remarks, water is merely a very profitable sideline of the Authority. The real return will be obtained from the sale of electricity for light and power. The nation’s investment will be repaid with interest over the next 70 years in accordance with the original planning of the scheme, lt is estimated that the total cost will not be more than S800 million. Earlier today in the Senate we heard mention of $40 million and S50 million. If the expenditure is regarded over the period since the Authority commenced, it has been indeed a very small contribution each year for a return that will continue to give benefits to this country for a number of years - benefits that none of us can foresee.
I have demonstrated that the scheme must ultimately be an economic success and it becomes even more obvious that the Authority should be kept intact. In addition to the skilled people employed by the Authority, consideration must be given also to the stores and equipment that have been gathered together for the tremendous job. If the Authority is disbanded, the stores and equipment will become surplus. They will be sold at a disposal sale for a fraction of their proper value. Their present value is estimated to be about $20 million.
Two points remain to be examined: The first is the manner in which the Authority may be used. The second point to be taken into consideration is the possible use of the Authority for developmental projects that must be economically sound in the short term and ultimately in the long term, or alternatively, in the long term. Having examined the history of the Authority and having come to a realisation of its tremendous contribution to the national economy, we must be able to plan its future on terms similar to its past.
One of the big problems in this country is that it is the driest continent in the world. A Government pamphlet entitled “ Some Notes on Drought in Australia “ refers to the droughts that have occurred in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia over a period of years. I shall not refer to droughts which have affected only a small portion of a particular State. 1 think that 1 ought to place this information on record to remind us that this is indeed a dry country. Honorable senators opposite cannot challenge these figures because they have been taken from a document compiled by one of the Government’s own departments. The pamphlet shows that droughts occurred in Queensland from 1882 to 1886, 1898 to 1903, 1914 to 1915, 1918 to 1919, 1923, 1925 to 1926, 1934 to 1936, 1946, 1951 to 1952, 1954, 1957 to 1959, and 1963 to 1965. There are large areas of Queensland that are still drought affected at the present time. The figures show that on an average there has been one drought about every seven years in Queensland. There have been 12 droughts in the 80 years for which records have been taken.
The figures show that Western Australia has experienced one drought every eight years and that the Northern Territory has experienced one drought every nine years in the period I have mentioned. In Western Australia the worst drought years were J 864 to 1866, 1895 to 1903. 1910 to 1914, 1924, 1934 to 1942, 1943 to 1945, 1946 to 1954, and 1960 to 1965. Some parts of Western Australia are still dry. In the Northern Territory, the worst years for droughts were 1897 to 1903, 1904 to 1906, 1915 to 1916, 1925 to 1929, 1931 to 1935, 1940 to 1941, 1943 to 1945, 1951 to 1952, anl 1958 to 1965. Of course, there have been good drought breaking rains in most parts of the Northern Territory this year. I have referred to the droughts in only the two northern States and the Northern Territory, that is, in the northern half of Australia. This is not to say that other States have not been afflicted with equally severe droughts. Last year the losses in New South Wales were tremendous. From time to time Victoria has experienced severe droughts, as has Tasmania but perhaps to a lesser degree. Of course, South Australia has also been badly affected by droughts.
Although the case which I am putting forward refers to the importance of wafer conservation in northern Australia, there are other places where the resources of the Snowy Mountains Authority could be used. We have lost many millions of dollars worth of production as a result of the drought that has just affected a major portion of Australia. Yet the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) complains that it is an awful waste of money - this is the inference - to provide $65 million for the Snowy Mountains Authority this year. If we had had adequate water conservation and consequent fodder conservation, the money that would have been saved to this country over the last two or three droughts would have been sufficient to establish another scheme similar to the Snowy Mountains Authority. This would have been an insurance against similar drastic things happening. But we forget, or we are too cheese paring, or we do not care about wafer conservation and all that follows in its wake.
An important point that I omitted to mention earlier is that one of the great tasks is to keep the Snowy Mountains Authority’s personnel together. They have built up a spirit of teamwork; each man knows where he is going: his department knows what is to happen next. The research people, the people who carry out field surveys, the geologists and all the other specialists associated with the Authority ought to be kept together, so as to preserve the tremendous teamwork that has been developed. Equipment has been acquired and laboratories have been established. The Authority’s main buildings are situated in Cooma. If we suppose that the Authority should be disbanded - the Labour Party does not contend this, even if the conservative Parties do - there are other matters that have to be considered. The Government says that we do not have work for the Authority. We contend that there is plenty of work for it. The Commonwealth and the States could reach agreement on various proposals. Even if the Government does not accept this argument, there are other ways in which the authority could render assistance to the underdeveloped areas to the north of this country. A few moments ago I referred to Papua and New Guinea.
Having canvassed the reasons why the Authority was established and the job that it was required to do, I think I have proved my point. Australia is an extremely dry country. We need an authority, such as the Snowy Mountains Authority to carry out developmental work. I think that we ought to look at the areas in which the Authority could operate and how it could carry out the work that is required to be done. First, we must remember that approximately three-quarters of Australia’s water resources lie north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Some very good information has been compiled, in an indirect way, on the soils that are available in the areas in which certain crops can he grown. In fact, one of the maps that has been produced covers the land systems running down from the Gulf of Carpentaria. It shows in detail what one could do in these areas and the types of soil that are available there.
Queensland needs water conservation to stabilise the production of beef and crops. As most honorable senators know, Queensland is one of the largest beef producing States. But a big problem, of course, is that the export potential of irrigated crops in the Asian area has not been properly assessed. It is not much use growing large crops if we cannot dispose of them. All sorts of theories have been advanced in this regard. lt is perfectly obvious that we must plan. Queensland is still a primary producing State, as is Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Figures recently released indicate that almost the whole of the export income of the Northern Territory has been obtained from beef production. In November 1965 the Queensland Government asked the Federal Government for assistance for the Nogoa Gap irrigation scheme, which is situated near Emerald in central Queensland. The Premier of Queensland made a similar request on a recent occasion. 1 shall refer to two or three areas in Queensland which require water conservation schemes. For some time the Bundaberg and District Irrigation Committee has been agitating for the establishment of a water storage scheme to cost between $20 million and $24 million. Although this is a very small sum of money, it could be used to great advantage in the Bundaberg district which, we must remember, has gone through a series of disastrous droughts. Almost 43,000 people live in the lower Burnett area. The cane industry in the area has a capital investment of more than $150 million. We should have irrigation schemes planned for central Queensland and the Bundaberg district. There is no need for me to go into the details of projects that have been proposed over the years in relation to the Burdekin delta area. The proposed development at the Flaggy Creek area on the Atherton Tablelands has been talked about for so long that the local people regard this and the other scheme as fables. They realise that governments talk about these schemes and yet do little about them. But the Labour Government in Queensland in years gone by made a major contribution to water conservation in the construction of the Tinaroo Dam and the Koombooloomba Dam. Both of these dams are on the Tablelands and together with other similar schemes provide power and water for a vast area of country.
– All that work was carried out without the aid of the Commonwealth Government.
– That is so. These schemes have made a major contribution to land settlement in the area and also to the growing of new crops that could not possibly have succeeded in years gone by without proper irrigation. They are crops that cannot be grown normally, using dry farming methods.
During April and May of this year, the Deputy Premier of Queensland said that his Government would seek the assistance of the Commonwealth Government to obtain the services of the Snowy Mountains Authority. The Queensland LiberalCountry Party Government was returned at the election in May. That was the last that we heard of any request for the assistance of the Commonwealth Government in securing the services of the Snowy Mountains Authority in Queensland until quite recently when the Queensland Premier panicked because he thought that something was going wrong. The Queensland Premier made a further request in a limited sort of way. The Australian Labour Party Kas never advocated the use of the Snowy Mountains Authority or any other major organisation without prior planning on the project to be undertaken. The Labour Party has said, time and again, in its policy speeches that it believes that if organisations of this nature are to be used and large amounts of public money are to be expended, the projects concerned must be planned in advance. This is the sort of thing that was done in connection with the Tinaroo Dam and the Koombooloomba Dam.
These projects were not constructed overnight. They were planned years in advance. Unfortunately, the possibility of such projects being undertaken without State-Commonwealth planning is very remote indeed. Let me say that in spite of the view of some people who support the Government that there has been a proper planning of water supply in Queensland, this has not been so. Let me quote some figures in support of my argument in this regard. In 1964 - these are the latest figures that I can obtain, and 1964 is not so long ago - only 220 stream gauges were being used in North Queensland. These stream gauges would have to be widely extended before the water resources of this area in the north could be adequately assessed. Why cannot planning commence in this field? The Snowy Mountains Authority has people with the capacity and knowhow that makes them capable of carrying out the work. Only 14 per cent, of the area of the Gulf of Carpentaria is gauged. Honorable senators will recall that I showed them a map a few moments ago outlining the soil types in that area. The Queensland Government has not made a real attempt in recent years to do anything about planning or conservation. It is true that, from time to time, it blows its trumpet and says: “ We have just established another weir.” But a weir will provide minor irrigation only, even though it does help in a particular area.
I think that we underestimate the ability of the people associated with the Snowy Mountains Authority. The Authority has the plant and equipment to carry out jobs other than those relating to water conservation. The whole of northern Australia badly needs a proper road system. It is true that we have a few roads, but more are needed if the area is to be productive. Additional roads are required for defence purposes, too. The northern area of Australia is not the only part of the country that has a bad road system. I referred earlier to the record of the Snowy Mountains Authority and its ability in carrying out this class of work. An exciting new possibility has developed in the north west of Western Australia in respect of which a Mr. J. G. Lewis in 1963 produced a report on the possibility and the potential of tidal power. The use of this power has been proved possible in other countries. Its use has never been proved in Australia although this report has proved that tidal power can be provided. These are some of the things in relation to which I believe the Snowy Mountains Authority ought to be retained.
We should look, first of all, to the major task which is the proper planning of a scheme and the correct carrying out of intensive research to see in which areas we can utilise our full resources properly. We can follow this by carrying out some minor works in the areas where they are most urgently needed. Full CommonwealthState co-operation will be needed. Any State government worthy of its salt - unfortunately the Government of my State does not appear to fall into this class - would collaborate in a plan of this nature because it would provide an insurance for our future and for the future of our children and grandchildren. This would be achieved by the conservation of vast amounts of water in the primary producing areas of Our great country. I make this final appeal: Save the Snowy Mountains Authority before it is too late.
[4.26J. - I am interested in the motion in relation to a matter of public importance which Senator Keeffe has placed before the Senate. 1 am particularly interested in the wording of his motion. 1 will deal with that in a little while. First, I would like to correct one or two statements that the honorable senator made during the course of his speech. He said that it is the intention of this Government to break up the Snowy Mountains Authority. I challenge that statement. The honorable senator has no basis whatever for making such a statement. The Government has said quite clearly that it proposes to consult with the States to see what the Commonwealth and the States together can do to retain the Snowy Mountains Authority; to what extent it should be retained; and what its future is to be. So, the remark with which the honorable senator commenced his speech to the effect that it is the intention of the present Government to break up the Snowy Mountains Authority is completely without foundation.
Senator Keeffe went on to say that similar projects to the Snowy Mountains hydro-electricity scheme were to be found in Queensland and that they would pay ultimately. .1 should point out to the honorable senator that the Government is fully charged with the value of water conservation. In a country such as Australia with its dry climate, water conservation is of great value indeed. But 1 have yet to find a water conservation scheme that has paid its way and provided a return of interest and a redemption of capital as the honorable senator suggested. The Snowy Mountains Authority does this because of its sale of electricity, and not because it is a water conservation authority. The proposal put forward by Senator Keeffe is that the Snowy Mountains Authority should interest itself in water conservation in Queensland and elsewhere in Australia. I point out to the honorable senator that I know of no major water conservation works that cover the repayment of capital and interest on such a project.
The honorable senator referred io professional men leaving the Authority and going elsewhere. Traditionally, engineers and skilled professional men go from one project to another to gain that very valuable asset - experience. This sort of thing will be found ail over the world. The honorable senator spoke about some of our skilled engineers going to New Zealand. Might I remind him that the great leader of the Snowy Mountains Authority, Sir William Hudson, came from New Zealand to Australia.
– That is different from going to New Zealand from Australia.
– ls it? Apparently the honorable senator is interested only in one way traffic. Sir William Hudson is the great leader who has developed the team spirit in the Authority. He is largely responsible for the great success that the Snowy Mountains Authority has enjoyed. He came from New Zealand to Australia. These men move around in the course of their lifetimes in order to gain valuable experience in .a variety of projects. The more experience they can gain, whether or not the particular project is coming to a finish, the better are their prospects. All projects in all parts of the world run for a certain period and then come to a finish.
– It depends on which party is in power.
– It does not necessarily depend on that. With great respect to Senator Ridley I say that if the Labour Party was in power for 50 years it could not do any more for the Snowy Mountains Authority once the project was finished. When the project is finished, that is all there is to it.
– The Authority can be used for other projects.
– I will come to the honorable senator’s point. I am talking about projects in all parts of the world. Men on profersional staffs move from one project to another. Because of the great experience that they gain they are better qualified to go to another project, they are more in demand and they can command higher professional fees. I believe that it is worthwhile mentioning these matters.
I refer now to the matter of urgent public importance. It reads -
The urgent need for the Government to be directed to retain the services of the Snowy Mountains Authority for the purpose of planning, carrying out exploratory work and ultimately the construction of major water conservation schemes throughout the Commonwealth including Northern Australia.
The first point that 1 make is that the Government has stated clearly in a statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) that the future of the Snowy Mountains Authority is at present under active consideration between the States and the Commonwealth with the object of endeavouring to determine what projects are of sufficient size to warrant maintaining an authority such as the Snowy Mountains Authority. In a Press statement made on 28th August, the Prime Minister said -
Before a final decision can be Hinde about the future of the Authority, it is necessary that the Commonwealth Government should be in possession of the views of Slate Governments as to whether they would see a requirement within their works programmes and the funds likely to be available to them, to engage the skills of the Snowy team to the extent necessary to sustain a workable organisation. The Commonwealth purpose would bc to ascertain in general whether they would regard the continuation of the Authority as likely to serve Stale and Commonwealth purposes in a valuable way.
This matter is at present under active consideration between the Commonwealth and the States and has been the subject of a statement by the Prime Minister. So why has this matter of urgent public importance been raised? I will come to the reason in a little while. I think it is interesting.
I am particularly interested in the last part of the matter of urgent public importance, which reads - . . and ultimately the construction of major water conservation schemes throughout the Commonwealth including Northern Australia.
All I can say is that this certainly will not have the support of the States because it cuts right across their interests. At the present time the Snowy Mountains Authority spends almost the equal of the entire expenditure by the States on water conservation. So the retention of the Authority would mean the abolition of all of the existing State water conservation authorities.
The Authority could do on its own all the work that the State authorities are doing. The retention of the Authority would mean the elimination of the staffs of all the State authorities.
I am sure that I am right in saying that this proposition cuts right across the interests of the States. 1 understood that we lived under a Federal system. This proposition would lead to the elimination of the existing State setups that have been built up over long years of experience. 1 refer anyone who wants to find support for my proposition to a statement made by Mr. F. B. Haigh, M.B.E., the Queensland Commissioner for Irrigation and Water Supply. In a public statement at Ingham he staled that he is opposed to the Snowy Mountains Authority or a similar authority undertaking major construction work in Queensland. Of course, he has his own setup in his Slate. He does not want this Authority to come trampling in without the .approval of the State Government to undertake works and to eliminate his organisation that has been built up over the years. I say quite frankly that honorable senators opposite will receive no sympathy for this proposition from the States, which have developed their own authorities and are jealous of the reputations and records that have been built up by those authorities.
I turn now to Tasmania. If 1 judge the political climate in that State correctly, when this proposition was put forward the State authorities said: “ In Tasmania we have the Hydro-Electric Commission, of which we are justly proud “. It is second to none in Australia as a hydro-electric authority. It has carried out vast works in Tasmania and has vast works ahead of it. The only thing that it is likely to be short of is money. The solution of that problem is not within the scope of the Snowy Mountains Authority I think the reaction of the Tasmanian authorities to this proposition would be that they have built up the Hydro-Electric Commission and it is quite able to undertake all the necessary works; but they would put up with the Snowy Mountains Authority if it were to bring with it the money to enable it to carry out works - for example, if it were to bring with it sufficient capital to undertake works such as the great Gordon River development which the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Commission has undertaken. We in Tasmania push our own barrow with a very fine organisation. We do not want it to be eliminated by the encroachment of any centalised authority, such as that proposed by Senator Keeffe when he says “ and ultimately the construction of major water conservation schemes throughout the Commonwealth “. I believe that, in a Federal system, we run headlong into the States if we pursue that course.
The fact is that this proposition is quite in keeping with the philosophy of the Opposition. This is what members of the Opposition have always wanted to do. They have always wanted to eliminate the State Governments, or to relegate them to the position of administrative or municipal councils and to set up a centralised authority in Canberra. That is part of their platform. They do not deny that. They cannot deny it. It has been written over and over again. Part of their . platform is the establishment of a supreme economic council, centralised in Canberra, with the State Governments in the position of being glorified municipal councils. The supreme economic council would tell the State Governments what was best for them. This idea of a supreme economic council has always been part of the philosophy of the Labour Party. Here is an example of that philosophy. The Labour Party wants to retain an authority such as the Snowy Mountains Authority - a fine organisationand make it a construction authority, eliminating the States in matters which are entirely the concern of the States and entirely within their constitutional jurisdiction. Senator Keeffe is suggesting that he and the Labour Party’s supreme economic council at Canberra would know better than the Queensland Government what major conservation projects should be undertaken in Queensland. I think that the Queensland Government would know better. I do not think that a central authority in Canberra would be better able to decide the priority in which the Queensland Government should undertake works than would the Queensland Government itself. The suggestion is that the States should be relegated to the position of glorified municipal councils. I do not agree with that.
The honorable senator referred to a recent statement by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn). The honorable senator failed to understand that the Minister said there was no project in the Australian Capital Territory which would call for the use of such an organisation. In other words, there is no Commonwealth project of sufficient magnitude to keep this vast Snowy Mountains Authority in business, and that is why we are consulting with the States. We have said to the States: “ There is nothing in the Commonwealth sphere. Let us get together and consider all the projects, and then let us see what sized authority should be maintained, if any.” I do not know what the States will say, and I do not pretend to be their spokesman. I am merely commenting on the size of the authority to be maintained.
– If any.
– Yes. 1 said “ if any “. 1 agree that the States have the right to say this. From an analysis of the projects will come something to give this great organisation a proper future and continuity of work for some years in the States.
Senator Keeffe commented on the possibility of using the Authority in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I point out that the cost of the Papua and New Guinea hydro-electric schemes is about $70 million. The Authority would laugh those off and then be looking for something to do. Those are only very small projects. We have ample Commonwealth organisations which could undertake such projects in Papua and New Guinea. It is interesting to note that at the present time there are 32 projects being undertaken by the Snowy Mountains Authority. They are located in South East Asia, Borneo, the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, New Zealand and all the mainland States. The Authority covers a wide field besides mere construction, .ft works on a “ do and charge “ basis in the fields of investigation, design and engineering services.
It should be remembered that the specialist staff built up by the Snowy Mountains Authority was based purely on the size of the Snowy Mountains scheme. I give great credit to the Labour Government which instituted the scheme. The fact that we have gone ahead with it and done much better is another matter, but 1 pay a tribute, nevertheless, to the Party which originally undertook this work. It has been tremendously successful under the sound guidance of the Liberal Party and the staff of the Authority.
– Did not the Australian Country Party have anything to do with it?
– Yes. The Liberal Party and the Country Party have worked together on this project, lt was the size of the project that made the retention of the specialist staff economic. That could not have been done on a project of smaller scale, and that is why the smaller States could not afford the maintenance of an organisation such as that set up to undertake the Snowy Mountains scheme.
The present staff of the Snowy Mountains Authority numbers 1,500. It is true to say that the demand for specialist staff takes place well ahead of construction. Senator Keeffe dealt with this aspect. Before the completion of the scheme there will be many gups in the ranks. Some of the specialist staff will be leaving if something is not done, and that is why, at this early stage, we are looking at the proposition and considering, in consultation with the States, what can be done. I am sure that no Commonwealth Government, whether it came from the Labour Party or from the party represented by the honorable senators who sit on the cross benches, would be able to find at this stage a Commonwealth project big enough to employ an organisation of 1,500 employees. I think that the dissipation of the staff will occur from 1968 onwards.
The Snowy Mountains Authority has already spent some $600 million. Its total expenditure will be in the region of $800 million by the time the project is finished. Expenditure is occurring at the rate of about S44 million a year.
– And all of it is from taxation, is it not?
– No, some of it has been from loans. We have borrowed overseas.
– All Australian taxpayers are contributing to it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood). - Order!
– Yes, we have had loans. If honorable senators examine the facts they will find that we have had overseas loans which have been spent on the Snowy Mountains scheme.
– Unfortunately, yes.
– 1 remember being greatly criticised by honorable senators opposite when, on one occasion, I introduced legislation in this connection on behalf of the Treasurer. Honorable senators opposite are terrified of borrowing money overseas for any project. They have always been opposed to it. However, because in the ultimate it was cheaper to do so, we borrowed money overseas for the Snowy Mountains scheme. This was a matter of tremendous importance to the generation of hydro-electric power. The money will be repaid from the sale of electricity.
The question of the way in which the Snowy Mountains Authority can be used is at present under discussion by the Cabinet. All the matters associated with that question are actively before the Cabinet and will be discussed with the States. The Commonwealth Government has made it clear that it has neither in operation nor in prospect any works comparable to the tremendous engineering feat being accomplished on the Snowy River. The Snowy Mountains scheme, of course, is one of the wonders of the modern world. I think that we should pay the greatest tribute to the management, the contractors, the staff, and in fact everybody who has worked on the project, for the great team spirit that has existed and which Sir William Hudson has encouraged throughout. As I have travelled in other parts of the world people have told me that they came to Australia specially to see the Snowy Mountains scheme. Because we will see the major work completed by 1972, and because of our belief that continuing progress in water conservation is essential, we wrote to the State Premiers seeking their co-operation and their views on what we should do. From our discussions, I have no doubt that a much clearer picture of the situation will become apparent, and with the facts before us a proper judgment can be made as to the future of the Snowy Mountains Authority.
– I associate myself with the motion that has been moved by Senator Keeffe. The Australian Labour Party introduced this motion because it was very much concerned about the future of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. After listening to the Minister for Supply and Leader of the Government (Senator Henty) for 25 minutes, my concern has been increased a thousandfold because he made it perfectly clear to the Senate and to Australia that the fears of the Opposition are well founded. These fears that the wonderful network of specialists will bp disbanded and lost to future development of Australia are held also by other sections of the community.
While the remarks of the Leader of the Government are still fresh in my mind, I want to refer to some of the highly contradictory statements he made in his reply to Senator Keeffe. The Minister started off by challenging the statement that the Government intended to break up the Snowy Mountains Authority. He said it. had no intention of doing this. Then for the next 20 minutes he made it perfectly clear not only that the Authority should be broken up but also why this should be done. He said that the Commonwealth Government was currently conducting discussions with the States about the. future of the Snowy Mountains scheme. Then he threw a spanner deliberately into the negotiations between the Commonwealth and the States by saying that the States would have nothing to do with any outside authority coming within their borders and taking part in undertakings of a developmental nature.
– As a construction authority.
– All right, as a construction authority. What the Minister was trying to establish - and I do not think I am being unfair and I would not be unfair - was that it was not possible for the States to use the Snowy Mountains Authority.
– I said no such thing. I said as a construction authority.
– I think it could be fairly inferred that, that construction could be put on the remarks of the Leader of the Government.
– The honorable senator’s construction is different from mine.
– The Minister might be able to satisfy some people that that is not a proper construction to put on his remarks but he cannot satisfy me because I feel that is what he conveyed. The Leader of the Government also said that the Aus tralian Labour Party believed in this type of central authority. This could be true, but is it nol a fact that the Government believes in this type of central authority also because it has taken a great of pride in the achievements of the Snowy Mountains Authority over the past 10 or 12 years. The late Sir William Spooner who, to give him his due, was a very good Minister for National Development, took a special pride in. the achievements of the Authority and not without reason. We are all proud of its achievements. The Leader of the Government said the States would not come to the party for the utilisation of the Authority. If that is so, how did the Government reach a situation where New South Wales and Victoria yielded their sovereignty to the extent that they were prepared to embrace the scheme eagerly initially? How does the Leader of the Government answer that argument when he claims that it is not possible to create an area of understanding between the Commonwealth and the States for the purpose of using this Authority?
– They had the Joint Coal Board in New South Wales for the production of coal.
– Of course they did. Quite frankly, I believe that if there is to be any argument against the retention of the Snowy Mountains Authority, it will have to be better than that advanced by the Leader of the Government because if no better argument is forthcoming, it will be obvious that the fate of the Authority has already been determined. It is fair to say that everywhere we go there is evidence that the Snowy Mountains scheme is starting to taper off and that there is no intention on the part of the Government to preserve the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority with its world renowned team of experts.
Not only the Australian Labour Party is gravely concerned about the situation. The Adelaide “ News “ saw fit only a month or so ago to state in its editorial columns that if this group of experts was disbanded, it would constitute something in the nature of a national disaster. The newspaper urged the Government to use every effort and to explore every avenue open to it to retain the Authority which has done so much for the development of Australia. Only recently there was a meeting in Canberra of the
Institute of Architects, Surveyors and Engineers, supported by other professional people, who carried unanimously a resolution asking the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) to use every effort to retain the Snowy Mountains Authority so that it could be utilised for the future development of Australia and for activities outside Australia. Of course, it could be said that these people had some vested interest in the expansion of development schemes. Nevertheless, there is no doubt in my mind that their disquiet and fears about the future of this organisation arose out of national rather than personal considerations. 1 would at least pay them that compliment.
Perhaps the most telling statement on this question was made by one who can be regarded as a world expert. In Canberra on 1 9th September this report was published -
The Snowy Mountains Authority should not be allowed to break up, the Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Mr. F. Dominy), an expert on water conservation, said today.
The competence, planning and vastness of the Snowy Mountains undertaking was worldrenowned, he said.
By anyone’s standards it was a massive project.
Mr. Dominy was replying to questions at a Press conference following the first day of the seventh conference of the United Nation’s Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East on water conservation.
The U.S.A. had trained many of the staff working on the project and it was acknowledged that it had a great array of competence, he said. lt would be ill-conceived if this great array of competence, which would certainly be in demand throughout the world, were allowed to dissipate.
Here is a gentleman who must be regarded as a world authority. He said it would be not only national disaster if the Snowy Mountains Authority should be dissipated or so weakened that it would no longer be a national force in the development of Australia but would be something of a disaster which would have its impact on Asia and in fact on the rest of the world. It might be fair to add to some of the details given by Senator Keeffe concerning the activities of the Snowy Mountains Authority itself. Evidence of its capacity to do things of a useful character outside Australia is borne out by the fact that already, as the Minister for Supply has said, it has undertaken tasks in South East Asia. Under the Colombo Plan in Thailand it has built 105 miles of road and up to June 1965 it had built 1,900 feet of bridging. 1 believe at that time another 1.200 feet of bridging was under construction. In addition, as the Minister has said, officers of the Authority have undertaken tasks in other parts of Asia and also in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
It is interesting to read from the report of the Snowy Mountains Authority for 1965 that it was providing technical training for varying periods for 14 Colombo Plan students and two United Nations fellows and vocational employment for 17 university and technical college students. In addition, five engineer officers from the British and Australian Armies were attached to the Authority. Technical training was also provided for two members of the Special CommonwealthAfrican Assistance Plan. So it is not only in the development of this country that the Snowy Mountains Authority is of great significance. Obviously, it is also performing useful tasks in respect of the defence of this country. This must be so, as it is utilised by the Army in the training of some of its staff. As Senator Keeffe rightly informed the Senate, in the assets of this organisation an amount of $20 million is wrapped up. It has about 1,500 personnel, and I understand that there are at present some 270 professional engineers on its staff.
I regret that one is restricted to a quarter of an hour on a subject that has such great implications. I come now to the question of the manner in which this Authority could be used. Senator Henty, I feel in not a very constructive way, set out to show the Senate that il would be impossible to arrive at any understanding amongst the States and the Commonwealth in respect of the utilisation of the Snowy Mountains Authority in work in Queensland, elsewhere in the north, in Western Australia or, indeed, even in my own State, South Australia. 1 see no such barriers. Of course, if one wants to place barriers against the possibility of any understanding being achieved in relation to these matters, it is easy enough to do this. Let us consider the position of any State which has an undertaking such as the Ord River project in Western Australia, which obviously is not within the State’s financial capacity to complete. I can see any State saying quite eagerly in such circumstances that it would be very happy indeed for the Snowy Mountains Authority to come in on the project. Indeed, what State would object - what State could object - if we found a need to undertake water conservation in the Northern Territory? This, of course, would be a Commonwealth responsibility. There would be no problems about treading on the toes of the States.
I have no doubt that in any State undertaking of a magnitude requiring the assistance of the Snowy Mountains Authority, the finance would have to come from the Federal Government. It is quite obvious that the Ord River scheme could never have begun if the Western Australian Government had been saddled with the financial responsibility of bringing it to fruition. Let any Government supporter, including Senator Henty, go to the centre of the Ord River project at Kununurra and tell the people there that such schemes are not vital to the interests of this country. He could not and would not do this. These are things about which no State Government would argue. No State Government would cavil at the intrusion of a Commonwealth authority into development within the State. I do not think that any of us can put enough accent on the fact that for future development, with the immigration scheme bringing in vast numbers of people, and for defence, the provision of water in the driest continent becomes a matter of first importance. It seems to be bordering on the tragic if we. having accumulated what is regarded by a world renowned expert as probably the greatest team of engineering experts on earth-
– It is not nonsense.
– Of course it is.
– It is not nonsense. The gentleman to whom I referred said that it was unparalleled in the world. I do not think I am exaggerating.
– He said the scheme was unparalleled. He did not say that this was the greatest constructing authority.
– I invite Senator Cormack to read the “ Hansard “ record that will be published tomorrow because the quotation will appear there. I think he will find that Mr. Dominy not only praised the Authority itself in the highest terms but also said that its competence and its ability to perform these tasks were not equalled anywhere in the world. I suggest that if, now that we have accumulated this wonderful team of experts, we allowed them to disband, this would be a very retrograde step.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- When I listened to Senator Keeffe begin to support his urgency motion this afternoon, I was reminded of some history of the early days of South Australia, which came to my mind more importantly when Senator Toohey rose to his feet. After a young member from the State seat of Victoria spoke in 1S56 in the House of Assembly it was remarked that no-one knew whether he was making his speech in English with Latin quotations or making his speech in Latin with English quotations. The more I listened to Senator Keeffe the more puzzled I became as to when words of Senator Keeffe were being uttered and when anonymous quotations were slid in behind, after or before them. Senator Keeffe, successfully I think, confused the issue with a barrage of words by saying at the beginning that the Snowy Mountains Authority had to be kept as a corporate body and then taking up two-thirds of his speech by illustrating that Queensland did not want the Snowy Mountains Authority so much as the money with which the Commonwealth Government would reinforce the Authority if it could only be got into Queensland.
– Queensland taxpayers are contributing to the Snowy Mountains scheme.
– I shall deal with the Snowy Mountains scheme in a moment. The first thing I want to get into the minds of honorable senators is that the Snowy Mountains Authority is an engineering construction authority. Let us look at it on this basis. 1 am quite prepared to agree with Senator Toohey that it is a very great engineering construction authority, but not that it is unparalleled in the world. I would not claim it as a greater engineering constructing authority, for instance, than the United States Army Bureau of Engineers which carries out specifically federal projects in the United States of America. I think that a good case may be made out to show that some sort of equivalent of the United States authority should operate in Australia, not necessarily as an Army engineering authority but as a Commonwealth engineering corporation, which might be called by whatever name we like, perhaps the Commonwealth Bureau of Engineers. It could be formed from the Snowy Mountains Authority engineers, in order to carry out specifically Commonwealth engineering works and, perhaps, specific engineering works that the States wish to implement but for which they have not the resources.
I do not concede that the Snowy Mountains Authority as an engineering corporation knows any more about irrigation and building dams than does the Victorian State Rivers and Water Supply Commission, which has produced 90 per cent, of all irrigation in Australia. I do not think that the Snowy Mountains Authority knows more about building roads than does the Victorian Country Roads Board. I do not think that it knows more about building bridges than does the New South Wales Department of Main Roads. I doubt whether it knows any more about water reticulation than does the South Australian Engineering and Water Supply Department. But if we can find a slot in Australian developmental projects for a corporate body of engineers such as those of the Snowy Mountains Authority, I have no objection. I think it was made quite clear this afternoon by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) that in fact the Commonwealth Government is involved at the present moment in attempting to find out in what way this body of engineers may be used. On page 3 1 of the Authority’s report, which has been circulated to honorable senators, are listed .10 elements of development in which these engineers are operating at present. They are engaged on works for the New South Wales Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission, the New South Wales Electricity Commission, the Department of External Affairs, the Queensland Irrigation and Water Supply Commission, the Department of National Development, and Conzinc Rio Tinto in Bougainville. Half a dozen other projects are listed. This information shows that the Snowy Mountains Authority is being used as a Federal constructing authority. However. I do not see any opportunity at the present moment for using the Authority to undertake engineering works on the scale on which it is now operating.
asked about the establishment of the Snowy Mountains Authority. He should recollect that the Commonwealth used its defence power to move in between New South Wales and Victoria to establish this national development project for the generation of electricity. The project has been eminently successful. At page 34 of the report submitted to the Parliament this year, the Commissioner drew attention to the economics of the project. The economics of this project depend on the production of power. Without acknowledging this fact, Senator Keeffe argued that the Authority should be moved into Queensland to undertake the development of water resources for irrigation purposes. The Snowy Mountains scheme for the generation of electricity has been successful because the output can be integrated into the grids of Victoria and New South Wales. But if the Authority were moved into Queensland, the success of its undertaking would depend on the economics of water usage and not of power usage.
Instead of moving the undertaking into Queensland for the development of water resources, it might well be used where it is to build an atomic reactor. Such a project would cost only about S500 million. The Authority could be responsible for the next phase of power development in south eastern Australia. The Authority could remain in situ for the next five or six years instead of being pushed up into Queensland, northern Australia, or the Ord River area. .1 do not say that in any derisive way but to illustrate the contention that, if there is to be a Federal constructing authority, there is ample opportunity for it to undertake work where it is at the present time. As I indicated a moment ago. it could remain where it is even for 10 years and could undertake the construction of an atomic reactor. It may well be that that is how it should be used.
When I turn to Queensland, I find myself in an extraordinary position. If wa want to undertake water conservation operations or build dams and so forth, we must have some information on which to work. From the viewpoint of the availability of technical data as a basis for building dams, Queensland is at the bottom of the list in
Australia. No such information is available. As honorable senators know, the Australian Water Resources Council is now attempting to gauge the streams in Queensland to ascertain how much water is available. The information is not yet available. On the other hand, when the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority was established, 75 per cent, of the required data was available.
– Has the honorable senator ever heard of the Bradfield scheme for Queensland?
– I have heard of the Bradfield report. That was not based on known data. Very iittle data is available. Except in relation to the Burdekin area, it is not known how much water is available in Queensland, it takes 50 years to assess accurately the supplies that are available. Perhaps it could be done in 25 years, but it would then be necessary to contract the amount of water that you could expect to use. During the four years that 1 have sat in this place no case has been advanced on behalf of Queensland that would convince me that sufficient data is available to permit the undertaking of the great irrigation schemes which it is claimed could be established in Queensland and which the Snowy Mountains Authority would be competent to undertake.
What sort of data is required? First, engineering data is required. I quite agree with the suggestion that the surveyors of the Snowy Mountains Authority are capable of producing the necessary engineering data. What soil data is available in Queensland? How would the water be used on the soil that is available? What would happen when you put the water on the soil? ls this information available in Queensland? I am afraid the answer is “ No “. What meteorological information is required? What hydrological information is required? Finally, what economic benefit would flow from any such scheme?
At the beginning of this sessional period the document “ Supplement to the Treasury Information Bulletin - Investment Analysis “ was circulated to honorable senators. If Senator Keeffe had read this document, he would not have wasted our time this afternoon in advancing a hotch potch of arguments. At page 6 of the document this passage appears -
Over the past thirty years or so techniques have been devised for assisting in the evaluation of public investment decisions. The broad technique is known as benefit-cost analysis; it incorporates the basic principle of the discounted-cash-flow technique now coming into increasing use in the private sector, but of necessity goes beyond it in defining the flows of benefits and costs resulting from an investment decision.
I suggest that we cannot embark upon tha investment of thousands of millions of dollars on a dubious irrigation project in northern Australia until it has been subjected to a benefit-cost analysis. Senator Henty mentioned that we have obtained money from the World Bank to assist the Snowy Mountains Authority. The Supplement that I have mentioned contains this paragraph at page 23 -
Finally, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development has prepared a number of benefit-cost studies of projects to be finance,! by ils loans. It will be seen therefore that benefit-cost analysis, although far from universally employed, is being increasingly used in situations in which it can be helpful. There is little doubt that this trend will continue and, from the standpoint of those concerned with the most effective use of capital resources, it is a trend to be welcomed.
All that Senator Keeffe, supported by Senator Toohey, has done this afternoon has been to advance a whole series of arguments in support of moving the activities of the Snowy Mountains Authority to northern Australia. Those arguments werea tissue of words; they had not been subjected to a critical benefit-cost analysis. I suggest that when honorable senators can stand in this place and show that projects that they are supporting have been subjected to a benefit-cost analysis and are within the financial competence of the public sector of the economy, then at that stage they should produce their case for the investment of funds supplied by the Australian taxpayers. We should not go into projects which have not yet stood up to a benefitcost analysis. 1 do not support the proposal.
Sena:or MCCLELLAND (New South Wales) [5.18]. - The negative attitude that this Government is exhibiting towards the development of Australia’s natural resources by Australians and Australian instrumentalities is more than indicated by its abject failure to make a firm and positive decision, or to make a firm and positive announcement, about the future of the great Snowy
Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. For this reason if for no other, it has been necessary to raise this matter of urgent public importance. Senator Keeffe proposed his motion in order to sheet home to the Parliament and the Australian people the nr-ed for the Government to come to a positive decision on this matter of far reaching national importance. Having listened to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) this afternoon, and just now having listened to Senator Cormack, one must come to the conclusion that the Government has no plans for the retention of this great Authority. I came to the conclusion that Senator Cormack was searching for reasons as io why the Authority should bc disbanded. lt is beyond doubt that the Snowy Mountains project is one of the engineering wonders of the world, lt is the hallmark of real Australian initiative, efficiency and enterprise. As has been stated by Senator Keeffe and Senator Toohey, the Authority’s achievements arc world renowned. Without doubt the Snowy Mountains scheme >s the pride of Australia’s engineering accomplishments. One really has to go to the scheme to appreciate the magnitude of the task that has been undertaken by the Authority and the manner in which that task has been tackled. In the area where the Authority began, the Southern Cloud crashed about 27 years ago. The wreckage was not found until the Snowy Mountains scheme was well under way. In previously uninhabitable country, this amazing enterprise has been able to hew out roads and construct dams and associated works. In short, it has been able to provide an opportunity for Australian engineers, architects, scientists and workers on the job to prove to the world that in this sphere they are second to none.
In. August 1949 the Chifley Labour Government established the Authority. Since then skilled Australians, combining with others who have been brought here from 27 nations, have been responsible for constructing through mountainous terrain about 1,200 miles of roads, and for constructing 10 large dams all ahead of schedule. Over SO miles of tunnels have been excavated and world excavating record after record has been created. The men of the Snowy Mountains scheme have brought four power stations into operation and have provided millions of acre feel of water for irrigation. One of the most amazing aspects is that the Authority has accomplished this work not only in record time, but also despite the inflationary spiral that has taken place since the Government has been in office, and without any increase in the original estimated cost. When the scheme was first mooted, it was envisaged that it would take about 30 years to complete at a cost of about £400 million. As a result of scientific discoveries and researches that have been carried out in the Cooma laboratories of the Authority under the guidance of Professor Leach, the Authority, started in 1949, will probably complete the project in 1971 or 1972. a period of only 22 years, and still at a total cost of about §800 million.
Because of Government lethargy and indecision, and the Government’s inability to plan for the future development of this great nation, because the Government refuses to face up to its responsibility of making a fertile Australia out of the driest country in the world, engineers, scientists and other highly skilled people are searching for other avenues of employment. Because design work on the Snowy Mountains scheme is virtually completed, scientists in Cooma are now experimenting with designs for dams, power houses and water conservation schemes in Thailand. Because the Snowy Mountains scheme design and most construction work is now completed or is nearing completion, the Authority is sending some of its best engineers and construction experts to Thailand where new projects are beginning. In bits and pieces, according to an answer given by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) in another place last Thursday, staff of the Authority have been engaged on a series of 32 projects undertaken in various parts of the world, including Borneo, Papua and New Guinea, and New Zealand. Despite what Senator Henty and Senator Cormack have said, according to the Minister the staff of the Authority have been engaged in projects in the mainland States. Obviously there was no objection by the States at that time when they were seeking the services of the Snowy Mountains Authority in the conduct of investigation works.
So what is the reason for the Government’s attitude? Why has it not been able to say with authority and affirmatively that after the Snowy Mountains scheme is completed, this great and efficient enterprise will be made available for some other undertaking? Obviously the Government’s reason is that no other projects are envisaged for Australia to warrant keeping the organisation intact. The annual report of the Commissioner which has been presented to Parliament states that an increase has occurred in the number of resignations from the professional staff and, indeed, resignations from the engineering section in the last quarter of last financial year equalled an annual rate of about 21 per cent. Last Monday’s edition of the “ Cooma - Monaro Express “ reported the Commissioner of the Authority, Sir William Hudson, as saying that northern Australia, with its good soils, is waiting for development. In view of that statement, honorable senators will appreciate the seriousness of the indictment levelled at the Government by the Opposition. The report states that Sir William went on to say -
We are in the same stage in the north today as what the States in the United States were before the Bureau of Reclamation started.
On the same page of that newspaper headlines appeared as follows -
Fairbairn Says Snowy Retention Not Justified.
Outside projects and State projects are insufficient 10 justify the retention of the Snowy Mountains Authority.
The Minister is reported as having said that although some projects are pending in Commonwealth owned Territories, they are not big enough to warrant the full resources of the Snowy Mountains Authority being retained. In another place last week the Minister said that the Government had approached the States to learn of the uses they would have for an organisation of the type of the Authority. He said -
The answer given by the Minister to the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) must certainly lead honorable senators to the conclusion that the Government has no plans at all for the retention of this great organisation. The Minister pointed out that the 32 projects undertaken have been completed and that the total cost was repaid to the Authority. He said that the projects anticipated were certainly insufficient to justify the retention of the
Authority. He pointed out that a couple of hydro-electric projects are under consideration in Papua and New Guinea. The Minister went on to say -
This again, while being important, would nol bc sufficient to retain an organisation the size of the Snowy Mountains Authority.
Surely this statement, more than any other statement, is an admission of complete and utter lack of foresight by the Government. The Minister for National Development occupies a very important portfolio. He is charged with the ministerial duty of guiding our development. He has told the Australian people that, so far as the Government is concerned, in a country crying out for development of its natural and national resources, no work of a suitable nature can be found for the Snowy Mountains Authority. The water run off in northern Australia, apart from any of the work that might be done with the States, warrants retention of the Authority. I do not think for one moment that the States would object to the Snowy Mountains Authority assisting in construction, works necessary to be accomplished. After all, the New South Wales Government co-operated with the Snowy Mountains Authority by agreeing to it being used as the construction authority for the Blowering Dam. Although Senator Cormack said that this great instrument was set up under the defence powers- of this country, certainly there was no objection to its establishment by any of the State Governments.
But apart from the States, let us look at the Northern Territory, which comes within the ambit of this Government. The run off of water in northern Australia is known to comprise three-quarters of the water resources of our continent. Immense deposits of minerals, including iron ore. bauxite, silver, lead, zinc, copper, tin and I suppose numerous others, have been located in northern Australia since the termination of the last war. In the last 20 years this country has been opened up and it is continuing to be opened up. No longer can it be regarded as empty barren land with little use except for pastoral development.
Senator Toohey referred to a statement that was made by the Commissioner of the United States Bureau of Reclamation, Mr. Floyd E. Dominy. According to the “ Cooma-Monaro Express “ of last Friday,
Mr. Dominy stated that Theodore Roosevelt’s far signtedness in establishing the United States Bureau of Reclamation had led to the population of 17 western States growing from 11 million in 1902 to 45 million today. That showed what a water supply can do. Mr. Dominy compared this situation with Queensland, which in 1902 had a population of 512,000 and today has only 1,616,000 people. Mr. Dominy pointed out that Australia was in the same stage in its north today as the United States was before President Theodore Roosevelt created his Bureau of Reclamation, which has spent $5£ billion and is spending money at the rate of $4 million a year.
– If Senator Cormack had his way, we would ‘still be wearing frock coats.
– 1 would rather rely on the ingenuity of the Snowy Mountains Authority’s engineers than on the advice which Senator Cormack has given to the Senate today. As I have said, no longer can we regard the north of this great country as empty barren land with little use except for pastoral development.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– As the Senate is aware, we are debating an urgency motion which has been moved by Senator Keeffe. I would draw the Senate’s attention to the wording of the motion, which states -
That the Government be directed to retain the services of the Snowy Mountains Authority for the purpose of planning, carrying out exploratory work and ultimately the construction of major water conservation schemes throughout the Commonwealth including northern Australia.
There has been an assumption - although I have not yet heard it developed to a persuasive degree - that the Snowy Mountains Authority is the ultimate in planning, exploratory work and construction. This may be true as far as certain areas of south east Australia are concerned, but it is yet to be proved that the type of engineering and the general approach, geologically, that now applies in the Snowy Mountains area is applicable with such distinction and success in other areas of Australia.
Every honorable senator knows that Australia, geographically, covers the widest possible divergence of conditions and circumstances. As yet I have not heard it proved to the Senate that there is any great pressure from the States for the establishment of water conservation schemes. Everyone is aware that Australia is one of the driest continents in the world. This has been stated over and over again this afternoon. But are the States in a position to ask the Snowy Mountains Authority to carry out certain works on their behalf? If they are, have they made such requests? Let us have chapter and verse so that we can see whether there is any relevance in the urgency motion which has been moved by the Opposition. 1 think honorable senators on this side of the chamber have pointed out that the relationship between the Government and the Snowy Mountains Authority is a good one. The Government has the situation under control. It is taking the steps that are appropriate at this stage of the Authority’s history. The Authority was established in 1949, to undertake, among other things, a programme of construction basically designed and agreed upon by State and Federal authorities. I think I should emphasise that up to this point in the debate honorable senators on both sides of the chamber are on a measure of common ground. There is not one member of the Senate who has not a high regard for the very competent personnel who go to make up the Snowy Mountains Authority. The Authority has a devoted engineer in charge. He and others with tremendous keenness and enthusiasm have built before our very eyes one of the greatest engineering wonders of the modern world. We are proud of the scheme and I pay a tribute to everyone involved at what I shall call the mechanical level of its development. This afternoon my Leader, Senator Henty, paid a tribute to those who originated the scheme in 1949. May I add my tribute to the Government that has been developing the scheme since that time. I think that the Minister for National Development (Mr.Fairbairn) recently pointed out in another place that the Government is adopting what he called a system of contracts and bonus payments to encourage people to go to the Snowy. All of this has produced efficiency in the management and development of the entire scheme.
Of course, the Snowy Mountains Authority is the premier organisation of this kind within the Commonwealth. But there are other authorities working throughout Australia in similar ways. I refer for instance to the Tasmanian Hydro-electric Commission, the Victorian State Electricity Commission, and the Engineering and Water Supply Department and associated authorities in South Australia which are undertaking the pioneering work in the construction of the Chowilla Dam. The construction of the dam is a new project which calls for skill, initiative and a considerable amount of enterprise.
– There are also 9,000 miles of pipeline In the State.
– As Senator Hannaford has reminded me, there are 9.000 miles of pipeline which services areas in South Australia and enables them to progress industrially, agriculturally and in many other ways.
I want to turn quickly to the latest report of the Snowy Mountains Authority, to which reference has been made this afternoon. T turn to the page which is headed “ Future Programme “. After listening to Opposition speakers, I gained the impression that the whole Authority was about to fold up tomorrow. Yet in the Authority’s reports in the last few years, and even in this year’s report, considerable emphasis is placed on the Authority’s future programme. This year’s report states -
During the year under review, work began on the remaining major sections of the Snowy-Murray Development and a start was also made on the Scheme’s largest project, the 1,500,000 kilowatt Tumut 3 Development. lt continues -
The primary objective of the Authority’s current programme is to complete the second stage of the Snowy-Murray Development involving the Jindabyne Project and the 550,000 kilowatt Murray 2 Project before the winter of 1969. The programme also provides for further contracts to be let progressively to complete the construction of the Tumut 3 Project. The first units in the power station are scheduled to come into service by the winter of 1972.
The completion of the Blowering Dam which the Authority is constructing as an agent for the State of New South Wales, is programmed tor May 1968 so that irrigation releases can be made in September of that year.
The report again emphasises that although certain aspects of the Authority’s work are completed and certain sections are slowing down, there is still a considerable amount of work for the Authority to do. Yet we have put before us the argument that the Government be directed to retain the services of the Snowy Mountains Authority. There has been no announcement and no indication to the effect that the services of the Authority will not be retained. There has been no expression of opinion by the Government, the Ministry or anybody else that the Authority is to be disbanded, wound up or done away with. Far from it.
I wish to refer in this regard to a statement that was made by no less a person than the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) towards the end of August in a Press statement that was pretty widely circulated and which I do not think honorable senators opposite have mentioned this afternoon. The Prime Minister said -
The Commonwealth Government has been giving a good deal of attention to the question of the future of the Snowy Mountains Authority. The major work in the Snowy Mountains area will be completed on present estimates by about 1972 . . .
If honorable senators refer to the future programme that is to be found in the report from which I quoted a few moments ago, they will see that considerable emphasis is placed on certain degrees of flexibility and extraordinary increases in the consumption of power. So, it is quite on the cards that the demand for the use of the Authority could well go beyond 1972. The Prime Minister continued -
Examination has been conducted by means of studies at official level and inter-Departmental discussion. These have, of course, included consultation with Sir William Hudson, Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Authority, and his senior colleagues. There has been consideration by Cabinet itself. What clearly emerges is that it is mainly in the area of State works that the future collective use of the skills which the Authority has built up is likely to be found. The works programmes of the Commonwealth and notably the water resources programmes in the areas under its control offer limited scope compared with those of the States.
The Prime Minister was referring, there, to the suggestion that the Commonwealth look beyond the Snowy Mountains area to those areas under the control of the States.
The Prime Minister, as did the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) and I, referred to a situation that is not as easily resolved as Opposition senators would have us believe with regard to the possible em.ployment of the Authority in an area that is under the control of a State. If any honorable senator opposite were in charge of the engineering and water supply authority of a State, would he be particularly happy to have another authority looking over his shoulder all the time or would he be prepared lo let an authority such as the Snowy Mountains Authority come into his area and dictate the way in which his work should be done? Most State Governments have designing and construction authorities of their own. They are splendid and efficient bodies. 1 do not say that this problem cannot be worked out. But it is something that is not as easily resolved as honorable senators opposite have tried to maintain.
The Commonwealth Government has not the authority to operate in a State. It may be argued that if the Commonwealth provides the necessary money this may be all right. But I think that before we go any further we should ask ourselves: Is there anything that we can afford to do thai we are not doing already? There is not an unlimited supply of finance available, even for worthwhile projects. Let us not be too glib about the matter. Many other matters in relation to the development of water supply and water conservation have to be taken into account. I know that Aus.tralia is the driest continent in the world.
I know that our greatest need is water. But when we embark on a water conservation programme we must look, and look urgently, at the other related factors. Might I suggest a few? What is the condition or the quality of the land that is to be served by a proposed water scheme? It is no good providing water just for the sake of providing water unless something is produced to recoup the expenditure involved. What will be grown in the area, assuming that it is irrigated to grow crops? If we do grow a crop, where will we sell that crop? What will we do with what we have grown? These matters have to be gone into thoroughly. This leads me to make the observation that honorable senators opposite are putting the cart before the horse. They are calling on the Government to retain the Snowy Mountains Authority while they are looking around for something worthwhile for it to do. Senator Toohey earlier today quoted from an Adelaide newspaper. The newspaper asks that every avenue be explored. Senator Toohey knows, as I have said this afternoon, that every avenue is being explored. Statements have come from the Prime Minister and other Ministers. Then there is the statement set out in the report of the Authority which honorable senators opposite have quoted very liberally this afternoon.
This is not a simple matter of saying that the Government should retain the Snowy Mountains Authority. If the Authority is to be retained, we have to look at it as far as the total developmental programme of Australia is concerned and make sure that there is an economic approach at every point. I ask the Senate to reject the proposition put forward by Senator Keeffe. While we have, on the one hand, unbounded admiration for the Snowy Mountains Authority and its contribution to the development of Australia, we have, on the other hand, the fact that the Government is considering the Authority as it exists now. The Government is looking at its relationship to the total development of Australia. If the Authority can be retained and employed elsewhere, then it certainly will be. But the Snowy Mountains Authority will be retained only insofar as it provides Australia with a great economic and sound progressive future.
– I have listened with great interest to the debate on this important question of the future of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. Never in my long experience in politics have I listened to a more dismal attitude than that adopted by the Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) and Senator Cormack in relation to this subject. They certainly showed up as a pair of dismal Jimmys - men with little confidence or optimism concerning the future of Australia. The thought occurred to me during the course of their remarks: What would our position be today if our legislators at the turn of the century and since had adopted the attitude that the honorable senators have adopted on this matter? What would have been the position in the United States of America if the men in ils Congress and in charge of the affairs of that nation had had as little confidence in their country as the Minister and Senator Cormack have demonstrated that they have by their speeches today? What Senator Davidson has had to say is of little value because he was endeavouring to point out to you, Sir, and to me the obvious factors that any intelligent person in dealing with a matter like this would of necessity take into account - the economics of the matter.
What was the attitude of the political friends of these senators in 1949 when the Chifley Government submitted its proposal for the inauguration of this hydro-electricity scheme by means of a partnership between the Commonwealth and the States of Victoria and New South Wales? I would bet that a reference to “ Hansard “ would show very definitely that they were opposed to it. 1 am given to understand that only one member of the then Opposition parties attended the official opening of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
– He did not know about the boycott.
– He was there inadvertently, not knowing that the boycott was on. I am sure that Government senators look back on that record with no pride. Now these people are hitting themselves on the chest and saying: “ We congratulate those who established the Authority. But look what we have done since it was established “.
– Have we not done something?
– The taxpayers of Australia have done the job by the provision of money for this scheme. A great deal more would have been done in Queensland if our rightful share of tax reimbursements had been made available to us.
– Queensland could not have used the power, lt had no industries.
– I suggest that the honorable senator take advantage of his air warrants and visit Queensland occasionally. There he will see the power that is being reticulated throughout a State with an area of more than 670,000 square miles. Queensland is not a pocket handkerchief State. It is a large State, with a very limited but decentralised population. The population is dispersed; it is not centred in the capital city, as the population of South Australia is centred in Adelaide, which has about 65 per cent, of the State population, or as the population of Victoria is centred in Melbourne, which has about the same percentage of the State population. Much the same percentage of the New South Wales population is in Sydney. Queensland is a real State.
When I hear honorable senators opposite express their attitude to the retention of the Snowy Mountains Authority, which must bc of some value to the future development of Australia, I am reminded of the time when Mount Isa Mines Ltd. - one of the greatest mining organisations in the world today - was established and the McCormack Labour Government, I think it was, decided to build a railway from Dajarra to Mount Isa. The railway was indispensable to the success of the Mount Isa organisation. But the dismal Jimmys at that time said: “ Mount Isa will be a white elephant. The building of the railway is a waste of public money.” I merely ask honorable senators to refer to the most recent report of Mount lsa Mines Ltd. Was it a failure? Was it a white elephant? No, it was not. It is a most successful undertaking.
There are four very important aspects of this matter The first is the Government’s attitude to the future of the Snowy Mountains Authority. Up to now there have been nothing but evasion, side stepping and indefiniteness on the part of the Government. Senator Davidson tried to extricate some of his ministerial friends and others from their predicament, but he was not very successful. I say that this Authority should be retained and that its headquarters should be retained in Cooma. From there it could work not only in Australia but also outside of Australia. We hear a lot about civil aid in South Vietnam and other places. I know that already the Authority has done a good deal of work in Thailand. It has built a 100 mile road and other works. There are other things that it could do in South East Asia.
Senator Henty’s solicitude for the States in regard to intrusion into their affairs really amuses me, because in my long experience of State politics I cannot remember any Federal government, irrespective of party, being very shy about intruding into the affairs of a State, when it suited that government to do so. However, I am not suggesting that that should be done in this case. Senator Henty says that this will disturb the State organisations. I have the highest regard for the State organisations, but no-one can tell me that many of them are not in need of co-operation and assistance from a body such as the Snowy Mountains Authority. All too frequently I, as the leader of a State government, was told that certain things could not be done because of lack of money or lack of skilled and efficient technical men, such as engineers and the other skilled men who are essential to and inseparable from big construction projects.
The value of the Authority in northern development cannot be questioned. The arguments in favour of the use of the Authority’s experts and accumulated knowledge in aid projects in Asia must present themselves to any thinking person in the community. I repeal that we should keep the headquarters of the Authority in Cooma. The staff and their families are already resident there. That might be a minor matter as far as honorable senators on the Government side are concerned; but 1 believe that it is important to the future of Australia’s developmental projects. Senator Cormack endeavoured to pour some ridicule on Queensland because of lack of data on certain things. Dr. Bradfield - a world renowned engineer - must have had some data at his fingertips when he laid down a plan for an irrigation scheme for Queensland.
– Just what did he suggest?
– I have not the time to go into the details of the plan, and the honorable senator knows that.
– The honorable senator has not the answer to my question.
– I have the answer, lt is that already Queensland Governments, particularly the Government that 1 was privileged to lead, have been responsible for irrigation schemes in the State, and not one penny of Commonwealth money has been contributed to them. I have told honorable senators that before.
– Queensland did not ask for Commonwealth money.
– I asked until I was blue in the face. What is more, we were promised Commonwealth money. Mr. R. G. Casey, as Minister for National Development, and other Ministers came to Queensland and, after examination and approval of the schemes, promised Commonwealth money. But not one penny was contributed.
– Let us hear about the Bradfield scheme.
– 1 will give the honorable senator the details of the Bradfield scheme and a copy of a map in regard to it, too, if he wants them. But I do not think he is sufficiently interested. This is just another instance of disregard for the requirements of the smaller States. I do not think the Government is concerned about the future development of Queensland, or of Western Australia for that matter. 1 do not think it is concerned about the Ord River scheme, the Fitzroy basin scheme and the Burdekin scheme. The result is that it sees no future need for the Snowy Mountains Authority.
From my knowledge of public opinion, 1 say that the present Commonwealth Government, if it fails to retain this Authority, will be recreant to its trust for the future of Australia. What is more, it will betray any confidence that the public of the Commonwealth has reposed in it. In April 1963 the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, said, in effect, that the Authority would be retained. Mr. R. W. Boswell, the Secretary of the Department of National Development, said in a letter to the Cooma Municipal Council in 1965: “ The Government may decide soon “. How long does the Government want to make up its mind? The Minister for Supply (Senator Henty) told us today that the Commonwealth is still in consultation with the States on this matter. In October 1965 Mr. Fairbairn cast a lot of doubt on the future of the Authority. He said, as Senator Cormack said this afternoon, that it wa$ established under the Commonwealth’s defence power. That does not make any difference at all. The organisation has been continued since 1949.
– With the concurrence of the States.
– Yes. And who would be surprised by that? Is it not intended that the Commonwealth and the States should work in partnership on these projects for the national good, not for some parochial purpose? That is what they have done on many occasions. I referred earlier by way of interjection to the Joint Coal Board which was established by the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments during the war years when Australia was in need of coal.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laught). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
– We are debating an urgency proposal submitted by the Opposition. I will not read it out but it really asks for two things. The first is for the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority to do construction work. The second is for the Authority to engage in major water conservation schemes. First I want to pay a tribute to the Snowy Mountains Authority, to the people who conceived it, to this Government which has carried it on, and to the men who have worked in it. It is a credit to Australia and all those involved. It has done a most useful and worthwhile job. We must bear in mind that the Authority was designed and set up to do a specific range of things. These things have been well done to a timetable and the stage when they will be completed can now be seen.
One of the things people worry about is that in the Authority we have built up a range of people with particular skills and capabilities and it is felt that when the work in the Snowy Mountains area comes to the end of its planned range, these skills will be lost. This is a complete fallacy as will be seen by anybody who studies thematter and takes the trouble to understand it. Such skills are not lost to the community. Maybe they are not practised in the same place but all that ability, special training, expertise and know how are not lost. They might be utilised in other countries or places but they are not lost. This all becomes part of the Australian heritage of ability to do other things in other places. It is not correct to say that when the Authority’s work in the Snowy Mountains area begins to taper off, all these people will suddenly disappear overnight. They will not. Their work will go on and their usefulness will continue.
People in the Monaro area are worried that employment opportunities will be lost when the work of the Snowy Mountains Authority begins to diminish. It is fair to point out that useful schemes have been laid down to enable a continuation of employment capacity. The Commonwealth Government in conjunction with the States will take an active part in a forestry programme. In the Monaro area this will cover about .1.00,000 acres. In due course, the project will employ 3,000 people who in their turn will support 15,000. There will be a great expansion of tourism in the area flowing out of the construction works, the lakes scheme, roads, snow and scenic attractions. It is very likely that in the course of time the employment capacity of the area will not be diminished, irrespective of whether the Snowy Mountains Authority continues to build dams there or not.
What does the Authority do? First it investigates projects. Fundamentally it designs projects after they have been evaluated. It draws up specifications for projects. It lets contracts and supervises the contract work. It does not do a lot of construction itself. It has built access roads very well indeed. It has provided accommodation in various places. It has done noteworthy work in erosion control in the alpine country. But fundamentally, most of its work is done by contract. It is really a very large evaluation, designing and supervising authority. It is not fundamentally a great construction authority in its own right. This should be borne in mind. It became really a task force concentrated in both time and place to do a particular job with fairly ample funds at its disposal. The total envisaged to date is $600 million and on completion it will have taken $800 million. Annual disbursements are running out at $40 million to $45 million. The amount involved is still substantial.
The concern that people have is for the future of the Snowy Mountains Authority. What does it do from now on or to some future and predictable point of time? Undoubtedly it will still do some evaluation work, some design work, some research work and some general construction work.
It will have to do this within the Commonwealth territories administered by the Commonwealth where the Commonwealth itself has the final say and control and where the Commonwealth can make the final decision. Much of the area of work that has been called for and asked for and spoken about is in the States’ area where the States have their own responsibilities and their own position to consider and are perhaps a little anxious, understandably, to do some of this work themselves. One of the things we must have regard for in this business is first the request that we have a great water conservation development project. 1 agree entirely that some of this is first class; but some is based on emotion and lack of understanding and knowledge.
I cannot incorporate the chart I have in my hand in “ Hansard “ but 1 can tell honorable senators that it is produced by the Commonwealth Department of National Development and it is called the “ Australia Drainage Divisions - Average Annual Discharges and Water Commitments “. This chart shows the drainage basins of Australia, all the river systems, those that have been measured so that we know what water is in them and those that have not been measured. It shown the areas v!»ere the facts are known and where they are not known. lt shows the variability of the Australian stream flow which is most marked.
I want to emphasise several points. Honorable senators opposite are asking for work to ‘be done in northern Australia and I would like to see this happen. But when you look at work such as this and ask for the expenditure of huge sums of taxpayers’ money, some of mine and some of yours, you have to consider what you are talking about. In northern Australia where the Opposition wants a lot of money spent, when this map was published only 22i per cent, of the river flow had been measured and was known. You cannot spend large sums of money on the variable Australian river flow pattern without knowing a great deal more about it. The unfortunate fact is that the known river flows in Australia are substantially in New South Wales. As a New South Wales senator, 1 find this an attractive urgency proposal. If the motion were carried and the proposal were put into effect, a great part of the money provided would be spent in New South Wales because that is where the flow is known. You cannot spend money unless you know what you are going to spend it on and where it will be spent. The great problem of northern Australia and water conservation is to live out a few more years and find out what is the true river flow of the area where you want water conservation schemes. I commend this chart to honorable senators opposite for examination for it shows the true position. It might be profitable for Senator O’Byrne, for one, to inform himself for a change because honorable senators opposite are talking about spending a lot of money, which must come from the Australian people, without knowing the facts.
– Exactly the same was said when the Snowy Mountains scheme was first visualised.
– I was not a member of the Senate then. Another thing we can think about is the great work that the Snowy Mountains Authority could do in evaluation and research in the South East Asian area if it could get countries there to give it work to do. 1 saw some of the work in northern Thailand in the Khon Kaen area where the Authority is building roads and at Tak near the border of Burma where engineers are beginning to organise the next stage of the Asian Highway. The real money being spent in this part of the world could provide an opportunity for the Snowy Mountains Authority to lend its special skills. The total aid made available to South East Asia in 1965 was about $US2,000 million. I should like to see the Snowy Mountains Authority get its people into the picture somewhere. With their spsecial skills, the reputation they would build for themselves out of their great capabilities would add to Australia’s standing in that area. I would be very strongly in favour of that.
After all, the Snowy Mountains Authority is a really large and expert consultant authority and it must have clients. Where are the clients? One is the Commonwealth, which is restricted within its own decisions. The. States have a great area of decision but at the same time they wish to do things in their own way. The Authority has some opportunity perhaps in South East Asia as I have said. Once again I would say that its great value is in the area of research, evaluation, design, specification and supervision. It has to have clients in order to carry out these functions. That is the problem at the moment. Where do we get clients for a large consultant, constructing, supervisory authority like this? If the Snowy Mountains Authority were to spend the same amount of money as it now spends, by some appropriation or other, elsewhere in Australia, we would practically close up the State construction authorities, because the amount that the Snowy Mountains Authority spends per annum now is about equal to the sum total of the expenditures of all State authorities.
– On one project.
– Yes. What we are really talking about is whether we can do any more than we are doing at present without the general consent, goodwill and co-operation of those people in whose areas the water exists, in some cases without knowing how much water there is? We are talking again here, as we often talk, not about a motion. To wish to look at the commonsense of a project is not something to be condemned. One is not un-Australian if he says that he does not necessarily agree with Senator O’Byrne, who wants to spend money and does not know where to spend it. We want to know about the needs of the Australian people, all the things they want to do, and the means which they have to do things. Happily for us all, we do have a process for examining the benefits obtained from expenditures. We certainly need to know what is the water available for conservation in the areas in which we want to spend money. In northern Australia, this is not yet fully known. In southern Australia, it is. We still have the problem of getting the Commonwealth and the States to join together and to evaluate what they want to do, to make sure that it is a wise thing, to make sure that they can do it, and to work together for the development of these resources.
What. I should like to see is not a proposal like this, which would not do anything at all, except to give New South Wales all the money under a certain set of conditions, but a genuine attempt by the Commonwealth and the States to join together, as they do in the Australian Water Resources Council, to study the problems, to measure the available water, and to try to work out under the Federal system a method of utilising all of their resources in the wisest and most s’ensible fashion. So the proposal by the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) to have a conference with the States is a wise proposal. It is a sensible proposal. The basis of this motion, quite frankly, is a mass of rubbish and I do not support it.
– I rise to support the proposal advanced by my colleague, Senator Keeffe, lt is rather enlightening to sit here and listen to a debate of this nature. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Henty) spoke in opposition to the proposal put forward by Senator Keeffe, and since the Minister sat down we have heard nothing new from honorable senators opposite. They have all taken their cue- from what the Minister had to say. I suspect that quite a bit of discipline is being applied around the place and they are not allowed to say anything different. I think that the Minister’s bow might be the bow of subservience that the Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) gave to President Johnson when he returned from England, saying: “ I salute you, Mr. President “. 1 do not know how low down he got at thai time.
The whole theme of the debate indicates to the Senate and to the Australian people that the Government can find no more useful work for the Snowy Mountains Authority to perform in Australia. Senator Henty said that the Government had not stated an intention to break up the Snowy Mountains Authority. When he made this statement he repudiated the responsible Minister, the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn), who last Thursday, in answer to a question, had this to say - lt was certainly insufficient to justify the retention of an Authority which is spending such a huge sum as $63 million this year.
Senator Henty repudiates that flat and final statement. There are two full stops. The statement is not taken out of context. It is exactly what the Minister said.
– It is not clear. Read it out again.
– I do not want to read it out again. The honorable senator may read what is in the “ Hansard “ report. Some of my colleagues remind me that he may not be able to read it. 1 say that the Minister in this place repudiated the Minister for National Development in saying that the Government had not stated an intention to break up this Authority. Senator Henty went on to say that the States would not welcome the intrusion of the Authority because they had their own expert staffs. I ask him to point out to me any major projects performed in any State by its own staff. Invariably these projects are let to outside contractors.
– That is true of the Snowy Mountains Authority, too. Every major work has been let on contract.
– With the Snowy Mountains Authority as a supervising authority over the contractors. Senator Cormack has spoken, if the Deputy President allows him to speak a second time, 1 shall be happy, in the States, contracts are let to other people. The States have not the technical and professional ability to perform these works.
– Nonsense. I cited several authorities.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman). - Order!
Sena:or CANT. - Let them go, Mr. Deputy President; they do not worry me. The Minister in another place had a little more to say in answering the question -
The Commonwealth Government, therefore, has taken what it regards as an essential step and has approached the States to learn what use they would have for an organisation of this kind. Il is true that they are most interested in obtaining assistance in the fields of investigation and design but it is untrue that any of them have shown a desire for further assistance in the matter of supervising construction because, lis 1 have pointed out previously, they all have public works and water conservation authorities of their own-
In the main, these are maintenance authorities, not constructing authorities - which chey believe are perfectly competent to undertake any necessary work . . .
Then we come to the tail. At a union meeting, when somebody wants to get a resolution through, he generally puts the sting in the tail. The Minister went on to say -
The all pervading factor is that the Government does not want the Snowy Mountains Authority to continue because if it does the Government will have to fork out more dough for the development of Australia. The Government does not believe in the development of Australia, so it proposes to disband this wonderful organisation that has been built up.
– A constructing authority.
– It may be a constructing authority. After all, it is building the Blowering Dam. I understand from what Senator Davidson said nhat it will build the Chowilla Dam. There is plenty for it to do. Before sitting down, I should like to mention a couple of things that I think the Snowy Mountains Authority could do wilh profit. It is of no use to come to this place and try to draw lines of Australian development parallel with lines that were drawn by man to divide this country. Australian development is national development and cannot be determined on lines drawn by man. It is quite true to say that we would like authority centralised in Canberra. We think that the States do not perform a useful purpose and the honorable senator who has been interjecting, too, knows that they do not. He knows that what is happening in Australia today as a result of the Commonwealth Budget is centralising more authority in Canberra. Uniform taxation and control of economy mean everything, and they are here. It is of no use to talk about the Australian Labour Party’s policy of centralisation when the Government itself is centralising everything.
– Who introduced uniform taxation? The Labour Party did.
– Of course it did. But this Government has not got rid of it. Tell us a little bit, too, about the control of the banks. When the Minister for National Development replied to the question asked a few days ago, he almost complained about the spending of $65 million by the Snowy Mountains Authority this year. The drought in eastern Australian will probably cost the economy $1,000 million, but this Government will not do a thing to alleviate the effects of drought. This is an area in which the Snowy Mountains Authority could usefully be employed. It is all very well to talk about the arable lands of the world and the amount of arable land in Australia. The world lives on the first six inches of top soil but the first six inches of top soil in the drought areas of New South Wales and Queensland have been blown out to sea as far as New Zealand. Yet nothing is being done about this problem. As a result of overstocking, the natural grasses in the northern parts of Australia have been eaten out and there are no roots to hold the soil together. Every year millions of acres of topsoil are washed into the oceans surrounding Australia. The Snowy Mountains Authority could turn its attention to this problem with profit to Australia. But it will not grapple with the problem if we continue to look at lines that have been drawn by man to divide the country. This Government has a responsibility to develop Australia, whether it is in the State sphere or the Commonwealth sphere. The Government should go out and do the job that it is supposed to do.
Let me pose another question: We have large mineral resources in the Northern Territory. Bauxite occurs at Gove. On the McArthur River, a large find of silver lead and zinc has just been announced. At Rum Jungle there are huge deposits of bauxite, and in the Kimberleys there are huge deposits of iron ore. I propose to refer to the tidal power resources of the Kimberleys. The Snowy Mountains Authority could well harness these resources if the Government was willing to provide the finance and to keep the Authority in existence.
– One atomic reactor would be enough.
– Never mind about the atomic reactor. The honorable senator only wants a reactor down here in the Snowy Mountains region. His vision does not extend past the Murray River. Let him lift his eyes above that and have a look around, in case he becomes exotic at some time or other. I shall be very brief in my reference to tidal power, because I have not much time. A reference that I have before me states -
This report summarises the tidal power resources of the whole northwest coast from La Grange Bay to Darwin Harbour. These resources total approximately 300,000 megawatts which is an astronomical figure compared to Australia’s present installed power of about 6,000 megawatts.
Some 25 possible proposals have been chosen which do not appear to have any insuperable problems and could prove economically attractive on detailed analysis. After comparison with similar schemes proposed in other parts of the world, the author has come to the conclusion that nowhere is there a belter combination of high tidal range and topographic advantages. The best of the proposals are quite spectacular by world standards and probably form the largest block of hydro electric power in South East Asia.
This report is intended to focus attention on a. large and virtually unknown national asset awaiting development by modern scientific and engineering methods. This could be the key to development of the overall resources of the western half of North Australia, and could play an outstanding part in the development of the nation generally.
Referring to the Kimberleys, the report states - lt is clear thai harnessing of tidal power would be a great thing for the north west of the Australian continent and would possibly serve to foster heavy industries such as steel, aluminium, copper, lead and zinc extraction in the area. In view of known and potential mineral resources this is the obvious use.
Until the Government starts to develop and process the natural resources of this country, it will not provide work for our work force. The Government ships our natural resources overseas to provide employment for people in other countries and profits for overseas investors, but it does nothing for our own people. These are the sorts of projects that the Snowy Mountains Authority could well undertake if the Government would allow it to do so.
– What is the result of the benefit-cost analysis of all this?
– It is suggested that the power that could be produced from tidal stations on the north west coast of Australia could be delivered to Brisbane for Old. per unit. Obviously, that figure does not take into consideration the cost of capital development; it is the production cost. Over the years such a project would pay for itself just as the power produced by the Snowy Mountains scheme will pay for that scheme.
It has been stated that the Snowy Mountains Authority will continue until 1972. Everybody here knows that the Authority will not fold up overnight but will gradually be dissipated. As the work starts to come to a close the professional staff will be laid off; they will not be laid off overnight. As the planning is finished, the planning staff will go out. As I said, the Authority will come to a gradual halt; it will not halt overnight. We are raising this matter now so that the Government may do the proper thing and see that provision is made for continuity of work before the essential parts of the Authority start to be dissipated. I urge the Government to instruct the Snowy Mountains Authority to make inquiries into the mitigation of drought.
– How would the construction authority operate at that level?
– If you are prepared to spend money you can do anything you want to. But if you do not want to spend money, then you will not do anything. The crux of the matter is that the Commonwealth is nol prepared to spend the money. Major droughts have occurred in Australia during the following periods: From 1864 to 1868, from 1880 to 1886, in 1888. from 1895 to 1903, from 1911. to 1916. from 1918 to 1920, from 1939 to 1945 and from 1963 to 1966.
Iiic DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Senator PROWSE (Western Australia) 8. 28]. - This so-called urgency motion seems to be an attempt by the Opposition to cash in on a certain state of affairs or, to use current jargon, to jump on the bandwagon. There is a prevailing fear, amounting in some quarters to a form of hysteria, that the Government is preparing to disband the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. 1 suppose the raising of this subject as a matter of urgency is a quite legitimate political tactic to adopt. Indeed, we expect it: nobody minds it very much. But we must recognise it for what it is - a palpable political device. Certainly, it is legitimate. Let us examine what has been said in support of the Opposition’s proposal, which calls on the Government to be directed - as though any need exists to direct the Government - to retain the services of the Snowy Mountains Authority. While the Snowy Mountains scheme is in operation we will always have the Authority to direct, control, maintain and perhaps extend the operations of the scheme. So there need be no fear whatever that the Authority will be disbanded, lt was set up for a certain purpose which is to be achieved within a certain construction period. The Authority will continue for a great number of years to perform a very valuable role in the economy of this country.
In an attempt to whip up fears that the Government is about to disband the Snowy Mountains Authority, the Opposition is simply using a political device. I certainly must join issue with the Opposition about the wording of its proposal, because it shows how completely the Opposition has misunderstood the main function of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric power scheme. The Opposition proposal states that the urgent need is to retain the services of the Snowy Mountains Authority for the purpose of planning. Never at any time in history has the purpose of the Snowy Mountains Authority been to engage in planning, except insofar as it is necessary to plan to carry out a certain designated task. Of course, a great deal of infraplanning is done within its relatively straightforward engineering tasks. The proposal goes on to state - . . carrying out exploratory work and ultimately the construction of major water conservation schemes. . . .
Apparently honorable senators opposite think that the Snowy Mountains Authority was established to carry out a water conservation scheme. The Snowy Mountains Authority was set up to carry out an electricity undertaking, not a water conservation scheme.
I have taken the trouble to obtain the relevant Act- No. 25 of 1949- and I think it is worth while having a look at the preamble to it. It states -
Whereas additional supplies of electricity are required for the purposes of defence works and undertakings:
And whereas the construction of further defence works and the establishment of further defence undertakings will require additional supplies of electricity:
And whereas it is desirable that provision should be made now to enable increased supplies of electricity to be immediately available in time of war:
This was a defence undertaking.
– That was the basis for making it constitutional.
– I thank Senator Murphy who, with his great legal knowledge, has come to my aid. lt was a constitutional device to enable the work to proceed on its merits as an electricity undertaking or. if honorable senators prefer, in its supplementary role of supplying irrigation works primarily for the benefit of New South Wales and Victoria. It was clearly a doubtful constitutional role that the Commonwealth was playing at that time.
– Does the honorable senator say that a doubt still exists?
– I am not criticising the work that the Snowy Mountains Authority has done. It has done wonderful work.I am just looking at the misunderstanding inherent in the proposal put forward by the Opposition. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority was put over the people of Australia as a defence work. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act states that the functions of the Authority are -
– From what is the honorable senator reading?
– From the Act that set up the Snowy Mountains Authority. The Act continues -
An obvious constitutional device that enabled the scheme to be set up was found to be necessary by the then Commonwealth Government. I am not criticising the Government of that time. I am simply stating a fact. It is also the basis for the present Government’s statement that it is engaged in discussions with the States as to the Authority’s future. It isjust as essential today for the Commonwealth to enter into discussions with the States as to the future use of the Snowy Mountains Authority as it was essential in those days for a Labour Government to adopt a device?- a trick - to put over the Australian people to get the scheme started.
Honorable senators are aware of the difficulties associated with our constitutional limitations. The present Government has had to act similarly to surmount constitutional limitations that our founding fathers did not really understand. Nor can we blame them because it was impossible for them to have the foresight we now wish they might have had. However, it is a quite unworthy and an absolutely political device today to criticise the Commonwealth Government for entering into discussion with the States. What else can it do if it wants to extend - as it does - and continue to employ the extremely valuable staff that has been accumulated over the period of operation of the scheme?
Honorable senators opposite referred briefly to the outside work that has been done by the Authority recently. That it was referred to as evidence of the Commonwealth’s desire to get rid of the Snowy Mountains Authority seems to me to be completely lacking in logic. To my mind, the fact that the Snowy Mountains Authority is doing a tremendous job in an advisory capacity to the States and is doing work in South East Asia, quite rightly under its external affairs power in the Constitution, is not evidence that the Government intends to disband the Authority. It is evidence that the Commonwealth is finding great value in the organisation.
I want to join my mead oftribute to that paid by other honorable senators to Sir William Hudson, the Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Authority. He has been responsible for the administration of an organisation that is, without doubt, among the greatest of its type in the world. I would be remiss in not paying tribute to his work. In addition to assembling and controlling a wonderfully efficient staff, he has set up the best of employer-employee relationships. I think the Authority has been an object lesson of efficient administration. Sir William Hudson has not only contributed his great knowledge, but has also assembled this efficient staff. I am sure that no government would lightly see this great acquisition to the Australian economy being dispersed without regard to the consequences. I am sure that will not happen.
Not the least of Sir William Hudson’s achievements has been his exercise in public relations. In the latest report it is stated that last year 53,000 people visited the Snowy Mountains scheme. I am sure that most of them came away convinced that it is one of Australia’s greatest achievements. Sir William has built up a tremendous amount of goodwill for the Snowy Mountains Authority and under his guidance it has opened up what may be the most beautiful tract of Australia’s countryside. He has developed a tourist attraction that will last for centuries. The roads have provided access to a great tract of Australia’s alpine country. But I do not think that we should allow our admiration for the achievements of Sir William Hudson and his staff to warp our judgment in assessing the Snowy Mountains scheme in relation to our economy, and particularly to the economies of the two States which are the chief beneficiaries of the scheme. By the time the scheme is completed it will have cost $800 million. Some loan funds have been made available to the Authority, but in the main the Australian taxpayers have provided the money to enable the Authority to carry out this great work. But this has created a problem in the economies of the different States. In common with Senator Cant, who has now left the chamber, 1 am a Western Australian. Western Australians did not exhibit great enthusiasm at the expenditure of money which was to benefit mainly two States - the so called “ standard States “ for the purposes of the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
– The Minister concerned was a Western Australian - Nelson Lemmon.
– I know, but that makes no difference to the end result. The scheme has benefited immensely the economies of Victoria and New South Wales.
– And South Australia.
– Forget about South Australia for the moment. The so-called benefit to South Australia may turn into Dead Sea fruit if the present tendencies are allowed to continue. But I do not want to be diverted by irrelevant interjections. The purpose of the scheme is to supply cheap electricity, and that is what it is doing. The Authority’s report sets that out in print.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- The Senate is deeply indebted to Senators Keeffe, Toohey, McClelland and Cant for raising and supporting this matter of urgency on this side of the chamber. The urgency motion stares -
That the Government be directed to retain the services of the Snowy Mountains Authority for the purpose of planning, carrying out exploratory work and ultimately the construction of major water conservation schemes throughout the Commonwealth including northern Australia. e have just heard from Senator Prowse a little of the so called history of the Snowy Mountains Authority. He said that the Australian Labour Party used a trick to get the Authority started.
– Not a trick, a device.
– Let us have a look at what Senator Prowse said. He said that it was a palpable political device. If that is so, as I move around the country in the near future I will ask the people whether they wanted the establishment of the Snowy Mountains Authority; whether its work is appreciated and is a great asset.
– I agree with all that.
- Senator Prowse spent all his time dealing with the method by which the Authority was established. Senator Gair summed Senator Prowse up when he said to Government supporters: “ You are a lot of dismal Jimmys “.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- -Order
– I was merely repeating what Senator Gair said and be was not called to order. He said that Government supporters were adopting a dismal attitude towards the Snowy Mountains Authority. He emphasised the word “ dismal “. Speakers from the Government side today have adopted a dismal attitude towards the Authority because they have no confidence in the future of Australia. If the setting up of the Snowy Mountains Authority was a trick on the part of the Australian Labour Party, 1 think that we ought to have more tricks. Let the constitutional lawyers look after the Constitution; but let the Australian people and their representatives in the Senate look after the real, down to earth needs of Australia. The Snowy Mountains Authority has proved itself, despite the fact that the Jeremiahs and the dismal Jimmys have attempted to stop it. The Authority has turned out as the Australian people wanted it to.
I want to refer Senator Prowse and other honorable senators on the Government side to an article which appeared in the “ Cooma-Monaro Express “ of Friday, 23rd September J 966. The heading, which completely answers Senator Prowse, states: “ Snowy Mountains Authority - Past: Hardships - Present: Achievements - Future: Uncertainty “. The article continues -
The great Snowy Mountains scheme - costing $800 million and seen by more than half a million visitors - is nearing completion . . . and the team which forged it is simply fading away - jobless and without a future.
Honorable senators opposite, including Senator Henty to whomI shall refer in a moment, have proved to the Senate that there is no future for the Snowy Mountains Authority under a Liberal-Country Party Government. But of course, their time is limited. They have become hidebound and self-opinionated. They are too wrapped up in their power, having sought it for so long and having had it for so long. But they are on the way out. There will be a government in office very soon that will appreciate the potential of the Snowy Mountains Authority.
I turn now to what some honorable senators have said during the course ofthe debate. Senator Henty said that the future of the Snowy Mountains scheme is under active consideration in relation to projects of sufficient magnitude but whenever a project of sufficient magnitude is proposed, this Government runs for the shelter of the argument about Commonwealth and State relationships. It is like the chicken and the egg. The States do not have the money; the Commonwealt h is the taxing power but it will not give money to the States, therefore, nothing is done. Earlier I referred to the 17 years in which this Government has been in power. Today it cannot produce one definite scheme of development to which the Snowy Mountains Authority could direct its undoubted ability. Senator Henty said that we will run headlong into the States if the Snowy Mountains Authority is retained.
-I did not say that. I said that we would run headlong into the States if the Authority were retained as a construction authority.
– But the Snowy Mountains Authority is not a construction authority at all. Of the 6,000 people employed on the Snowy Mountains scheme at the present time, 1,600 are employees of the Snowy Mountains Authority. The remainder are employees of sub-contractors. They are people with the knowhow to drive tunnels, dam rivers and reafforest and conserve the countryside. They are all experts. But the Authority itself is the spirit of a young nation tackling the great problem of overcoming the disadvantages of nature. This is the challenge that the Snowy Mountains Authority presents to us. If we allow the Authority to disintegrate it will be to the everlasting discredit of this Government. That is why we have raised the matter today.
Senator Henty admitted that because there is no planned future for the Authority, it will be disbanded. After listening to Senator Henty very closely,I was moved to lyrics.
– I did not say that it will be disbanded.
– The Minister anticipated that the Authority would be disbanded because it would not have any work to do.
– He said “ disintegrated “.
-It might have been “ dissipated “ or “ disintegrated “. I was moved to lyric when 1 heard this.I wish to place on record a few little words on this point.
There was movement in the Senate when the word had passed around.
That the Liberals were to axe the S.M.A.,
To dissipate the engineers and those from underground.
And let them go to places far away.
There were Senators Scott and Cormack with tongues right in their cheeks,
Led by Denham Henty down the mountain side,
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! I suggest that the honorable senator come back to the matter before the Chair.
– This is the matter before the Chair.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! I do not think that it is.
– I am entitled to quote my own words on this subject. Let me continue -
Proclaiming their admiration of the taming of the creeks,
But even Blind Freddy knew they lied.
And out in the Snowy Mountains there’s a monument to Hudson,-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order!
– I rise to order!I direct your attention, Mr. Deputy President, to the fact that the honorable senator is attempting to carry on with a matter after you directed him from the chair to desist.
– My time is very limited-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order!I suggest to Senator O’Byrne that he get back to the matter before the Chair.
-I ask for leave to have my poem incorporated in “ Hansard “.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Is leave granted?
Government senators. - No.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Leave is not granted. The honorable senator will continue with his speech.
– The Minister with other senators on the Government side anticipated, as he said during the course of his remarks, that we would allow this travesty to occur. The Australian people will not allow it. Sir William Hudson believes that the concept of the Snowy Mountains Authority will prevail in this country. The Queenslanders, the West Australians, the South Australians and the New South Welshmen here should feel ashamed that this Government has not produced a project on which this Authority can continue its work aided by its great accumulation of talent. It is a disgrace that when a Government has been in power for 17 years it can consider a challengesuch as this as to what is to be done with the Authority with a look on its face just as blank as in its mind. The Minister anticipated that the long-suffering people of Australia would give the Government the option of maintaining the Snowy Mountains Authority. The Government will not get this option. A Labour Government will maintain the Authority. The idea of the Snowy Mountains Authority was conceived by a Labour Government. It commenced the scheme. It started its great progress. The Labour Party appreciates the great achievements of the Authority. It will tackle the great developmental services and major construction problems that beset Australia now and in the future.
The Jeremiahs on the Government side denigrate and try to bring down the importance of this Authority because of the mean and miserable differencesbetween the Sates. This difference is an inheritance from the hore and buggy days - the bowyang days - that we wish to leave behind. This is the old fashioned conservative difference that is better in the past. Every senator who has risen to his feet on the Government side has said that what we propose cannot be done. This is the attitude that is keeping the development of Australia back. Australia is in an era of new development. It is in an era when the people themselves will ask for an idea and a concept similar to the Snowy Mountains Authority. The Commonwealth must take the initiative because of the inability of the States to finance great projects such as the Snowy scheme. Sir William Hudson has said that there is a need to conserve water in the northern areas of Australia where the water is available in this relatively waterless continent. There is work for 100 years ahead for an authority such as the Snowy Mountains Authority. This is where the attention of that Authority should be directed.
We believe that the Government has to face up to this need and not use these mealy-mouthed platitudes about consultations with the States. We want to know what the Government intends to do with the Authority. We want to ensure it will remain viable. We want to know, as do the Australian people, what the leaders in this Parliament intend to do in this regard. It is no good fighting to defend a country like Australia if the weak people in charge of it do not know how to develop it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order! The time allowed under Standing Order No. 64 for discussion in relation to this matter has expired. The debate is therefore concluded. The business of the day will be called on.
Assent to the following Bills reported -
Trade Practices Bill 1966.
Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Bill 1966.
Debate resumed from 27th September (vide page 740), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr. Deputy President, the Opposition supports the Social Services Bill 1966,
At the same time, it wishes to show its regret at certain omissions from this Bill by moving an amendment to the motion for the second reading. Therefore, I move -
At end of motion add - “ but the Senate is of the opinion that the Government should be condemned because -
the proposed increase in pension rates still leaves the pensioner’s standard of living below what is a reasonable Australian minimum;
the Government is perpetuating the substandard rate for married pensioners despite the glaring anomalies and injustices in this course;
there is still no change in the income means test which has now remained unchanged during twelve years of inflation and rising prices;
the Government has once again failed to put any value back into child endowment payments and has repudiated its pledges by allowing many other social services to lose their value; and
it has failed to make benefits retrospective to the 1st July, 1966.”
Before discussing this Bill in general terms, I wish to refer to the issue of a paper to honorable senators earlier this week with the compliments of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair). In this paper a review is given of social service benefits from 1950 to the present date. 1 regret that anyone reading this paper would think that social service benefits only came into existence in 1950. Indeed, they have been in existence since 1909 when the first social service legislation was put. on the statute books of this country. I would like to see this matter rectified. Of course, I realise that this is an election year. It is more than likely that the material contained in this paper is for the purpose of political propaganda. At the same time, I think that it might have been fairer if the Minister had had a paper prepared showing the origin of all social services which are on the statute books at present as well as those that have been introduced or increased since
With that remark, I turn to refer to the institution of these various social services.
It is remarkable to see the change that has come over the public conscience in all countries of the world regarding the necessity for social service benefits in the community. A few short decades ago we heard of poor laws, poor houses and so on. Anyone who received a pension of any kind was regarded more or less as an outcast of society. Today, thank goodness, all that has changed. I am very pleased to say that in my 24 years in this chamber I have seen a complete change come over members of the present Government parties. Many of the members of those parties who were here whenI first entered the Senate were very much opposed to some of the social services that are of such great benefit to the community today.
Until . 1941 only four social service benefits were on the statute book. They were age pensions, invalid pensions, maternity allowances, and child endowment which had just been introduced. The three years from 1943 to 1946, when the war effort was at its maximum, were perhaps the golden years ofsocial services legislation in this community. More social service benefits were put on the statute book during that very difficult period than at any other time in the history of this Commonwealth. I believe that the main reason for that was that a joint committee on social security was in existence at that time. On that committee members of both Houses and both sides of the Parliament cooperated in investigating social services and bringing before the Parliament certain suggestions on which the Government of the day acted. It brought into force many of the social service benefits that we are to discuss this evening.
I can well remember the difficulties that faced the Government of that time in getting some of its social services legislation passed by the Senate. I can remember some of the subterfuges that had to be resorted to, such as talking out a debate until some members of the Opposition of that day had left the chamber and gone home and then bringing in various bills. We had only a very slender majority.I was it. I do not mean that I was slender; I mean that I was the majority. When the unemployment benefit was introduced some members of the Opposition of that time said that it would encourage idleness in the community. When we introduced the sickness benefit they said that it would encourage malingering. The payments were not as great in terms of dollars and cents as they are today, but they were never intended to be payments that would continue forever. They were given just to help people over a bad financial period. Yet they met with great opposition.
I Can remember quite well discussing legislation in this chamber until after the 4 o’clock train had gone one Friday afternoon. By then one senator who was opposed to the new social service payments had gone home. We were then able to put the legislation to a vote and have it passed. That also happened in respect of the pharmaceutical benefits bill that was brought down at about the same time.
– A political expedient.
– Definitely. That was how this legislation came to be on the statute book. The present Government has never repealed this legislation during its term of office, although it has had the opportunity to do so. This is the point that I wish to make: Whilst there was great opposition to the social service benefits when they were introduced, I thank the Lord that the present Government has seen the light and has not repealed them. Some members of the present Government parties who were in the Senate at that time said that they would repeal these benefits when they attained office. But instead, the people of the States from which those senators came removed them from this chamber. So the receipt of these benefits is still the right of the people of this community.
The Bill before us this evening confers certain benefits, for which I am grateful. But my point is that it does not go far enough. I realise that somebody says that every time any benefit is given. I do not deny that this Bill confers certain benefits. I repeat that 1 am grateful for them. That is why we do not oppose the Bill. But we are not satisfied that these benefits extend to as many people as possible or that they are as adequate as .they should be. What this Bill does can be summed up very concisely because it does not do a great deal. It increases pensions by one dollar a week. I hate the term “ dollar “ because it reminds me of its old slang use. So I will say that the Bill increases pensions by 10s. a week. But that increase has already been taken away by the increases in charges that are being made in the community. So the Bill does not confer a very great deal of benefit upon the people who will receive this increase. But married pensioners will not even receive an increase of $1 each. Because they are married they are penalised to the extent that they will receive an increase of only $1.50 instead of the $2 that I believe they should receive.
That reminds me of something that happened in regard to invalid pensions in the early days of the Curtin Government. Up to that time invalid pensions had not been granted to people who, irrespective of their age, could be supported by their parents. I have known of people up to the age of 50 or 60 years who were kept by their relatives because they were unable to work. They were not regarded as being individuals in their own right. The Curtin Government introduced an amendment of the invalid pensions legislation to enable all people over the age of 21 years to be regarded as individuals in their own right. If a person could not work because of invalidity, he was entitled to the invalid pension.
During those few years of Labour government, maternity allowances were increased and they have not been altered since. Twenty-three years is a long time. Nobody in this Senate would say that the monetary value of maternity allowances today is the same as it was when they were altered in 1943. I happen to be one of the senators who spoke on the occasion on which the maternity allowances were increased and on the occasion on which we agreed that portion of an allowance should be made available to mothers, if they required it, during the eighth month of pregnancy when they had to start paying for things in preparation for their confinements.
An amazing thing was that, between the time of the increase in the maternity allowance being mooted and introduced and the time of the amendment of the system of payment, ‘the incidence of illness and the need for specialist attention among prospective mothers apparently increased. I received advice from the matrons of several of the largest maternity hospitals in Australia at that time. They told me that the bulk of the maternity allowance increase given by the Governmnt was being taken from the mothers in the form of increased’ fees being charged by doctors. But, when the amendment was made to enable expectant mothers to receive portion of their maternity allowances when they needed the money most, the need for specialist treatment seemed to decrease immediately. I do not think any other act of Parliament or any scientific or medical discovery has done so much to improve the health of mothers. Before the amendment was made, about 80 per cent, of expectant mothers were receiving specialist treatment, the fees for which absorbed the whole of their maternity allowances. But once we altered the system of paying maternity allowances, the need for specialist treatment dropped overnight and once again only about 10 per cent, of expectant mothers were receiving this treatment. That was the normal figure before the increase of maternity allowances.
The Labour Government introduced other social service benefits, including the funeral benefit, which has not been increased since 1943. When we realise the difference between the value of the £1 in 1949 and its value today, we can see what that means. The £1 of 1949 - the Chifley £1 - would buy only about 8s. worth of goods today. That is a very important consideration when we are discussing these social services proposals. We do not want to speak only of percentages. When we speak of social services we are speaking of them in relation to human beings. We are too much inclined to talk in terms of percentages, to throw figures about and to speak of millions of dollars, lt is useless for the Government to speak of millions of dollars for social services if some of the people who most need social service benefits are not receiving the few dollars and cents that they require for their bare subsistence.
Under this Bill some people will receive increased benefits. I wish to refer to a statement that was made by Mr. Menzies, as he then was, on 10th November 1949. In his policy speech as Leader of the Opposition, he made the following important and startling statement -
Australia still needs a contributory system of national insurance against sickness, widowhood, unemployment, and old agc. It is only under such a system that we can make all benefits a matter of right, and get completely rid of the means test.
During the new Parliament we will further investigate this complicated problem with a view to presenting to you at the election of 1952 a scheme for your approval.
It has not come yet. He went on to say -
Meanwhile, existing rates of pension will, of course, be at least maintained. We will, much more importantly, increase their true value by increasing their purchasing power.
Although that statement was made in 1949 and although 17 years have elapsed since then, still we find that only five of every eleven persons of pensionable age are eligible to receive pensions because of the restrictions which still exist under the means test.
I come to the plight of civilian widows whose case 1 have so often espoused in this chamber. According to the last report of the Department of Social Services, .15,540 women are in receipt of widows’ pensions. I wish to ask the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) whether she can tell me how many of those women are in fact not widows at all but deserted wives. I think that quite a proportion of them are deserted wives whose husbands have blithely passed over to the Government all their responsibilities because they know that the Government will maintain their wives and children. Of course, it is the responsibility of the Government to do so, and that is a responsibility I respect, but I also respect the responsibility of the Government to try to recoup from these erring husbands some of the outlay. Because they have defaulted in this manner, many widows and pensionable people are being deprived of the additional benefits which they might otherwise receive. The people whose real responsibility it is to maintain the deserted wives and families simply have shelved it. It would be rather enlightening to see how many of the women are really deserted wives and not widows in the true sense of the term.
Only 16.5 per cent., or approximately one in six, of all pensioners receive the supplementary rent allowance which has been paid by this Government to pensionable persons. Widows who have to pay off homes are in a particularly difficult position. I know that the Minister appreciates this very much, and I am sure that all honorable senators also appreciate that it is difficult for a family to obtain a home for rent. It is particularly difficult for widows with young children to do so, especially in these days of high rents. Sometimes when a husband dies his wife is left with a home to pay off. She is responsible for the interest payments, the rates and taxes and the repairs, but because she is a widow she does not get repairs done more cheaply or have her interest rates reduced. The Department says that she is building up an asset by paying off the home. She is not entitled to the supplementary rent allowance which is available to a pensioner who is paying rent. Quite often the amount which a widow is called upon to pay in that way far exceeds the amount of rent paid by other pensioners who receive the allowance. I am certain that Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, in her dual capacity as Minister for Housing and Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, will take up this matter with the powers that be and try to have it remedied. 1 turn to the position of wives of age pensioners who themselves are not of pensionable age or invalids in the accepted terms of the Act and who receive no payment at all. A man who has reached the age of 65 years may have married a woman who is, say, two or three years below pensionable age. For those two or three years they have to exist on the one pension. If the husband is able to work he may have to go out to work, or the wife may have to return to work, after she has brought up her family and has been absent from the industrial scene for many years. What kind of jobs would be open to her? How could she compete with the mini-skirted brigade of today? There is a great deal of hardship involved. Often the husband continues to work although he may not be really well enough to do so, in order that he and his wife may exist.
I contend that a woman who is married to an age pensioner and is herself just below pensionable age should receive a wife’s allowance of some kind. I hope that the Government will consider this matter. As I said earlier, we talk in terms of thousands of millions of dollars in discussing the Budget, but in this instance we cannot provide a few dollars a week for this very deserving section of the community. We are told that it cannot be done. It is humanly possible to do it, and what is humanly possible is financially possible. This is one of the biggest anomalies - in fact, it is a cruelty - in our social service system. I hope that something will be done about it.
Provision has been made for civilian widows to increase their earning capacity. It is all very well to speak of increasing their earning capacity so long as they have earning capacity, but if a widow has children in the home they are her first consideration. In the community of today the position of young people is such that the influence of a good mother is becoming increasingly important and necessary. We should not say that a mother must go out to work to increase her income so that she and her children may live. We have to realise that she takes her responsibility to her children and to the community very seriously indeed. If her children are of school age or are of an age when they need her to be at home when they return from school, we should not say that every widow can go to work. To say that a widow may increase her earning capacity implies that she is being granted a great boon. Civilian widows will be entitled to earn an additional $3 a week. That is all very well if they are able to do so, but the Minister appreciates, I am sure, that the number of part time jobs that are available to women is very small indeed. As mechanisation and automation make headway, such jobs are becoming increasingly scarce. Generally speaking, the only jobs that are open to them are those of school and office cleaning, and those are jobs which take them away from their homes at the very time when they should be with their children. If a mother is not there when her children come home from school there is a chance that they will get into mischief. I know what I am talking about in this respect, because I worked for long enough as a teacher of children to know what the real dangers are. I do not mean that the children will become delinquents, but the tendency is there. In any event, by the time the mother gets home from work she may be too tired to care for the children, to be patient with them, to listen to all their troubles and so on. We are spending many millions of dollars on migration. We are doing that to bring people here from overseas, and rightly so. Nevertheless, we must pay more attention to our native born Australians who are the best, migrants we can have. We must give them every opportunity, too.
I regret exceedingly that there has not been a more concerted effort for widows quite apart from party politics. I do not approach this matter on a party political basis but from a point of view of humanity. I should like to see both civilians and war widows get at least the equivalent of the female basic wage. I cannot see any reason for this discrimination. Surely a woman who is bringing up her children and giving them clothing, shelter, food and education is worth more than a person who stands behind a counter in a chain store wrapping up parcels and giving you change although 1 do not want to see their wages lowered either. The whole question of allowances for civilian widows, widows in general and the wives of pensioners should be dealt with in this Senate on a non-party basis. This is the only House where wc have women on both sides and if we got our heads together and had a free go we could fix this problem once and for all. I ask the Minister to approach the Treasurer (Mr. McMahon) and to see what can bc done about this. 1 turn now to the homes for the aged. I think the idea is very fine, lt is magnificent in its conception; but I think it has gone wrong somewhere along the line. Total expenditure to date has been almost $60 million. Apart from homes that have been granted approval under this measure, 683 approvals have been granted to religious bodies, 584 to charitable and benevolent societies and 16 only to ex-servicemen. But we come to another type which is covered by approval by the Governor-General. There are 50 of these, making 1,333 altogether. I should like the Minister to tell me what type of organisation is running these 50 homes for the aged, which are being subsidised at the rate of $2 to $1 by the Commonwealth Government, if they are not charitable or benevolent organisations, not associated with religious bodies or with ex-service organisations.
Another important point is that the majority of these homes for the aged do not give a service without a large deposit which is called a donation. As Mr. MacKinnon, the Liberal Minister for Health in Western Australia said that after his return from a conference in Canberra in July, the present plan to provide homes for the aged caters for the affluent and the healthy. The sick have been taken care of in this Bill. The homes can now make provision for a certain amount of accommodation to be available to sick persons. This was not provided in the previous legislation and it n a good move. But I get many letters on these matters and 1 know that in many cases the so called donation is as high as £2,000. That does not end the liability of the tenant of the home to the controlling body. The tenants have to pay also toward the upkeep of the home, electricity, insurance and so on. These amounts total in some cases $4 to $6 a week. That is why 1 agree with the statement of the State Minister for Health that these homes cater for the affluent. There are not many pensioners who can afford the initial payment. They can pay for maintenance and rent but they cannot afford to pay the initial donation and the Government has no control over that amount.
I have been trying to ascertain for years how much has been received by these other bodies. We can get the amount of subsidy but I should like to know how much is paid by the ingoing tenants to these homes for the aged. How much have they contributed? The aged persons get no equity after they have paid their donation. If they die the next day, the next of kin get nothing. The amount goes immediately into the funds of the organisations controlling the homes. If the controlling organisation is a church, I have no quarrel with it. The churches do not charge as much but the money they get helps to provide more accommodation. But I have some misgiving about other people running homes which have been approved by the GovernorGeneral. They are not run by religious organisations, charitable or benevolent societies.
– Is the honorable senator suggesting that any of these organisations are making a profit?
- Senator Prowse has made the statement; I have not. I know what 1 think but I am not game to say it in this place, because it would not be fair to some of the people who are quite sincere in running these homes. But the tendency can be there. We do not know. I am trying to get. information. I am trying to discover these other organisations or the people who are getting a subsidy from the Government because a large amount of Commonwealth money is involved. This is taxpayers’ money which is going into the homes and a report should be furnished to the Parliament as to how the homes are being run. How many of them do provide accommodation without the payment by the ingoing tenant of a donation to the funds? lt runs into a matter of hundreds of pounds at least. I should like to see this scheme extended to civic and State Government authorities. In the case of the State authorities, homes for the aged are provided, the maintenance of the inmates is covered by the pension and they get a little over for pocket money. Payment of a large amount is not involved.
When 1 raised this matter in a question on notice some time ago, I was suprised to learn when I got the answer from the Minister for Social Services that the homes for the aged are not solely for pensioners. You do not have to be a pensioner. You need only to be of pensionable age. The husband and wife do not have to be of pensionable age. Only one of the couple need qualify. You can have all the money in the world, pay a donation and live cheaply for the rest of your life in a house or flat which has been subsidised by the Commonwealth Government, particularly if you happen to be in the know and if you are acquainted with the organisation which is controlling the homes. I am certain that will come as a surprise to honorable senators. They might have thought, as I did, that these homes for the aged are solely for pensioners but the inmates do not have to be pensioners. They need only be over the age where they can get the pension. The fact that some of them are not getting the pension rests on the fact that they have some means above the requirement. Therefore, 1 am a bit unhappy about the situation. 1 think this is an excellent scheme in theory but 1 should like to have the doubts clarified.
I get letters from people who hear about these homes and when they inquire, they are told what they have to put down as a donation. They have no equity in the place and if they quarrel with the management, as does happen, they can be put out and everything is gone. The Senate is entitled to have more information on this matter in order to clear up any doubts. There may not be any truth at all in these allegations, but there are doubts in the community in regard to some of these homes. 1 should like the Minister to clear the matter up by giving us any information that she may have on this point.
As the Bill will be dealt with in detail in Committee, I shall not discuss every clause of it. I am pleased that the term “ mental hospital “ is now becoming accepted, instead of “asylum”. In 1943 I presented to the Senate a report that I had written as a result of work 1 had been doing for some years with regard to mental patients. I happened to live not far from a mental hospital and had for years taken a very great interest in the hospital and the plight of its patients, particularly children. 1 regarded the mental patient as being the Cinderella of medical and social services. Although I am not satisfied that we are doing all that we can do with regard to pensions for these people, 1 am glad that a move is being made in the Bill to give relief to short term patients in mental hospitals. More can be said about that later.
Senator Fitzgerald will be following me from this side of the chamber in this debate. He has all the figures in the world on child endowment. I have not brought many figures into my discussion because, as I have said before, figures are not my strong point. What I have tried to do is to review the situation as I see it. The main function of any Department of Social Services and the main responsibility of any government to the community is to help those who are in need. In the dim and distant past I made a speech as A.B.C. Guest of Honour, on a Sunday night in 1943, when 1 was in the Senate first. I remember suggesting many things that are now law. The “ Bulletin “, of which honorable senators may have heard, came out with an article saying that I had promised to the people of Australia everything from the cradle to the grave. It made a great deal of fun at the things I said. I am glad to give it the lie now. Everything which I suggested that night is now law, and a great deal of it has been brought into being by a Government of a political colour other than my own, which shows that as time passes people become more tolerant of ideas and more understanding. The function of any government is to work towards the greatest good and happiness of the people in the community. It is of no use to try to settle all of the other quarrels in the world and to help downtrodden people everywhere else if people at home are in a depressed condition. It behoves the Government to assist these people. I have moved an amendment because we feel that the Government has not done enough. 1 should like to say something about the timing of the enactment of the Bill. We regret that the provisions are not to be made retrospective to July. I know that when Labour was in power, too, it was said that this could not be done. I think it can be done, because we have done something similar on other occasions. When we passed legislation to increase pensions of judges we made the increases retrospective. More recently still, the Bill relating to the bounty on superphosphate was made retrospective to 17th August, the date on which it was introduced in another place. When if comes to pensioners, increases become applicable only from the date on which the Bill receives the Royal assent. So the longer we talk about it, the greater the delay in giving pension justice to the people affected by these proposals. Therefore, I do not want to deal any further with the matter at present. I place the amendment before the Senate and ask the Minister to bring my remarks to the notice of the appropriate authority so that justice may be done.
– When this social service legislation, which means so much to the women and children of Australia, is being considered it is quite a happy coincidence that we have you, Senator Wedgwood, as Acting Deputy President, that we have the debate for the Opposition led by Senator Tangney, and that we have the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) handling the Bill for the Government. So the discussion of the legislation is in good hands.
The Bill, which I hope we shall pass some time this week, will bring direct financial benefits to some 820,000 Australians. There are few families which have not a relative or close friend who will be a beneficiary under the Bill. To provide these benefits, an ever growing amount is coming from revenue, which can come only from the Australian people themselves. I shall not deal with the amendments that the Bill contains, because they have been well publicised. I hope to express some of my thoughts on what I call the $64 question in social services, that is, the abolition of the means test, either at once or gradually. As a direct result of legislation passed last year, expenditure on social services this financial year is to be increased by $34 million. This Bill, when put into effect, will add an expenditure of $40 million in the remaining part of the year. All of this is expenditure from Australian revenue in the National Welfare Fund.
The quoting of figures can be tiresome and they can be quoted to support any story which a speaker desires to tell. Therefore, 1 do not propose to overburden the Senate with more figures than I find necessary to make some of the points I wish to make. It is this Government’s policy - indeed, it would be any Australian Government’s policy - to provide greater financial assistance to the least fortunate of our people. Senator Tangney briefly criticised the Bill by saying, fairly, that the amendments do not go far enough. There is - and 1 agree with it - a continuing cry and a continuing need to provide more financial help under various headings and in various ways to the most needy people in our community. The Minister, id her second reading speech, said -
The Government is working energetically to develop the economy of this nation and to increase the wellbeing of its people.
I add that without this attitude neither security nor social developmen can be achieved. I claim that social development is being practised in Australia and has been practised since the principal legislation was introduced by a Labour Government in 1947.
I am referring specifically tonight to age and invalid pensioners. Following the 1949 Budget, pensioners were paid $4.25 a week. As a result of the proposals contained in this year’s Budget the same pensioners will receive a standard pension of $13 a week. Therefore, I claim that I am right in saying that social development is being practised in this country. Let me quote a few more relevant facts. In 1949 the Government paid a sum of $141,554,000 from the National Welfare Fund. It is estimated by the Treasurer that this year a sum of $1,019,884,000 will be paid. During my term in the Senate I have seen provision made not only for the increases I have referred to but for other developments, some of which have brought more people within the ambit of the social service legislation. I have selected a few such developments. I remember the very popular development of 1958 when provision was made for supplementary assistance for single pensioners who had to pay rent for the flat or home in which they lived. I believe (hat the greatest step forward was taken in 1961 when this Government introduced the merged means test. That was an intricate step forward. The Australian people know the valuable results that have flowed from that development. In .1962 the period for which people had to live in Australia before they became eligible to receive social service benefits was reduced from 20 years to 1 0 years.
In 1963 the Government adopted a new outlook on education. Provision was made for the payment of allowances in respect of full time student children up to 18 years of age. In 1965 the Government, being aware of the need to ensure that children received the higher education for which they were fitted or which they desired to undertake, raised the limit to 21 years of age. These are some indications of the development of social services in Australia. In 1949, 403,022 age and invalid pensioners were receiving benefits. Last year benefits were paid to 743,629 aged and invalid people. There are several reasons, including growth factors, for this encouraging increase. People are living longer and more people are receiving the assistance that the Government believes should be given to people in need.
Now I come to a head-on collision with those who advocate the abolition of the means test. A lot is being written and a lot is being said about this matter. Some fatuous nonsense is being uttered about it. I even read that somebody had said that all that was needed was some member of the Parliament to rise and say: “ We will abolish the means test “. The abolition of the means test would raise many problems. It raises many questions to which the Parliament, not only the Government, must provide the answer. The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) is reported as having said in reply to a question asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) that the abolition of the means test would add another $300 million to social service payments and that if the pensioner medical service was to be applied to the new recipients an extra charge of $64 million a year would be made on revenue.
It is easy to say that we should abolish the means test. How many people who raise that cry have faced up to the questions that must be answered? Would we abolish the means test in respect of the unemployment benefit? Would we abolish the means test for sickness benefits, invalid pensions, widow pensions and service pensions? If we paid some form of security pension or national superannuation to people who were in receipt of what might be termed an adequate or more than adequate income on which to live comfortably, would those people be entitled to the many valuable fringe benefits which the social service legislation and other legislation provides for the needy? It must be remembered that only the needy are beneficiaries under the existing legislation. Those valuable fringe benefits include medical and hospital benefits, rehabilitation benefits, and rebates in respect of television, radio and telephone charges. Again I ask: Would the recipients of age security or national superannuation payments, free of a means test, be entitled to the fringe benefits? At whatever age, be it 60 or 65 years, people now become eligible for social service benefits subject to a means test, would all people of that age be eligible for payments made free of a means test? I believe that somewhere along the line a means test would need to be applied. 1 suggest that it is idle to say that we should abolish the means test.
For want of a better name, let me refer to the suggested benefit as a national security payment. Would it be at the same rate as age and invalid pensions? Would it become payable at a different age? Would we go straight into the payment of such a benefit, or would we say that the nation could not afford to do so? Would we pay it to people in the 70 year and 75 year age groups, or to people in the 72 year and 75 year age groups? Would there be a need to have a large variation between males and females? Would people have to retire, or would they still be able to go on working? What effects would this scheme have along the line throughout our economy? Would hospital beds bc available to all those people requiring them if the fringe advantages of free hospital and medical benefits were introduced? Where would the revenue come from? Taxation is the only source of revenue for such benefits. Would it operate on a yearly budget, or would we be taxed to put into operation a fund that would work on an actuarial basis as do superannuation funds? Where would the burden of taxation fall and, in its falling, would it do more harm than the good we propose or hope to do? increased taxation would fall on the young and the middle aged. In Australia today are our young and middle aged people able to carry a heavier burden of income tax? Young people starting off and raising families face the most expensive time of their lives. The middle aged people have their families settled and are trying to put away something for their later days or, as is their right, to put away something if they so desire to pass on to those they brought into the world. They would be heavily taxed. What would be the reaction to heavier taxation on these people? What do we do now to the young people? I have talked about increasing to 21 years the age to which student allowances are paid.
We boast rightfully and are proud that we give to young married couples §500 to help them buy a home. The Housing Loans Insurance Corporation has been established to guarantee long term loans to prospective home owners. All this is good Australianism and is healthy in a young country. Honorable senators on both sides of the chamber are in favour of the scheme, and all Parliaments in Australia are pleased with its operation. If the means test is abolished, the people who are being helped at present with taxation concessions and in other ways to set up in family life - and that is the most important section of the Australian population - will be burdened with higher taxation.
– The amendment does not seek to abolish the means test. It seeks to change it.
– I am posing the question, and I will continue to pose the question in my remarks in the brief time at my disposal tonight: Can we afford to abolish the means test? Should it be done gradually or at some time in the future, or should we bring our monetary resources to bear to give all we can to those people in the greatest need in the community, rather than increase payments from the Government to those people who can feed and sleep and live well? These are the questions that are being posed around Australia. I am not expressing a straight out opinion; I am posing questions. I will give my final view in a few moments. I believe that we all know some of the problems facing us now because of the means test.
All honorable senators during their parliamentary careers have been brought face to face, many a time and oft, with the frustrations of people who are just on the borderline - not quite within the conditions of the merged means test! What do we have to say to these good Australian citizens? Are we to say: “ Why do you not go from Tasmania to Surfers Paradise? Why do you not buy that television set? Why do you not waste your money on non-essentials so as to reduce your monetary holdings to the level at which you become eligible for the means test pension?” I am aware of the harmful effects on the economy of wasteful buying. We have to remember these national problems in very difficult areas of responsibility. There are three difficult areas to which we cannot shirk from paying attention. The first is national development. Today we have discussed the Snowy Mountains Authority. We have heard how much we should spend on development. I am all in favour of using the finance we have or have imported to develop our latent and known resources. We have to beam our minds and actions and Commonwealth expenditure on the security of this country. Then, having a prosperous developing country in an affluent society, our first responsibility is to give back to the people the revenue they have provided so that the needy as soon as possible are made needless. That action is necessary before we heed the clamour for abolition of the means test, which so often has been loosely reported.
These are problems that not only the Government must continue to examine. I am a member of a Government committee which has been examining the means test. Other members of the committee - colleagues of mine in this Parliament - will have differing views from mine. 1 heard a debate in another place on this subject, and heard members of the Opposition expressing differing views. I praise them for it, and I do not criticise them for that reason. It is a national question which poses many great problems to be solved. There should not be a bar of party politics in this matter. The best brains possible should put forward the best of ideas which should be gradually moulded into a national policy. That is what is wanted by the people who are frustrated by the present means test. They want to know that there is a policy that will do them good, the financial aspects of which can be borne by this country.
I believe it is fair to say that some of the economic problems - not all - worrying our kinsmen in the United Kingdom, and our brothers and sisters across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand, have been caused, and the flames of worry fanned, by their national social security systems. I do not believe that we should glide quickly into such policies and put this country’s finances and economic position in jeopardy. I sum up my views by saying that the most attention should be given to the gradual abolition of the means test with particular regard to age and invalid pensioners.
In conclusionI want to say that I have paid scant attention to the points made in the amendment moved by the Opposition. They are mere statements of alleged facts. They are not really critical of the Government. They do not put one concrete proposal or suggestion to the Government. They do not make any statement of party policy. The Opposition’s amendment, if carried, would do nothing to the legislation that we are discussing in the Senate which, as I said earlier, will bring direct financial benefit to over 820,000 people.
I conclude by paraphrasing a paragraph in the Minister’s second reading speech: The Australian Government must work energetically to develop the economy of this nation and to increase the wellbeing of its people. Otherwise, neither security nor the means of social development can be achieved. The needy will get less help although they deserve more.
– I support the amendment which has been moved by Senator Tangney. I think I can say that we all endorse her kindly and humane approach to social services. Senator Marriott referred at length to the abolition of the means test. I did not know until the end of his speech that he was supporting the abolition of the means test.I thought that he was opposed to the policy which has been enunciated freely by some of his own supporters. As Senator Tangney pointed out, in 1949 the former Prime Minister said that his Government would abolish the means test. Mr. Chifley, during his period of leadership of this nation, introduced the social services contribution into the Income Tax Act for the principal purpose of ultimately abolishing the means test. The large sums that were to be accumulated in this way in the National Welfare Fund were to be used for the abolition of the means test. Unfortunately, in 1949 the Labour Government was defeated and we were not able to give effect to that proposal. I can assure honorable senators that when a Labour Government takes office after the next election, it will introduce legislation to provide for the abolition of the means test.
Senator Marriott referred to pension rates when Labour went out of office 17 years ago. He did not go on to say that prices have trebled in this period. Tonight I hope to be able to put before the Senate my views on the plight of our elderly citizens. Senator Marriott was apparently very satisfied about the matter. I am reminded of the words of Henry Lawson, who said -
I wonder would the apathy of wealthy men endure
Were alltheir windows level with the faces of the Poor?
Ah! Mammon’s slaves your knees shall knock, your hearts in terror beat,
When God demands a reason for the sorrows of the street.
By the time I have finished referring to articles that have appeared in the “ Pensioners’ Voice “ and to an article entitled “ An Affluent Society . . . for Some “, which was written by Keith Darrow I think the Senate will realise the situation which confronts elderly people today.
Some assistance has been given in the Budget to some sections of the community and I think that, generally, people are happy for the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table. But I can assure honorable senators that the 800,000 pensioners, to whom Senator Marriott referred, are not satisfied with the provisions in the Budget.
By the time the next election is over, those who have to face the wrath of the people will realise the pensioners’ reactions to the Budget proposals. The “ Pensioners’ Voice “, in a special issue published after the Budget speech, on 16th August, stated that the president, Mrs. M.. Barraud, and secretary, Mrs. I. Ellis, of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation had said that the Budget rises were totally inadequate to meet the needs of pensioners and that the Budget continued the discrimination between single and married pensioners. They went on to say -
We disagree entirely with the Treasurer in his statement of “ the small increase in prices “. The Cost of Living Index shows a rise of two dollars per week in the last financial year.
The rise to $5 per day for pensioner patients, although welcome, falls far short of what is required. The menially. ill pensioner patient should receive their full pension during the entire stay in hospital.
No provision has been made for free hearing aids, spectacles and appliances. No increase in funeral benefits has been granted and no concession allowed on telephones, while the hardship caused to the dependent wife of an age or invalid pensioner has been completely ignored.
J know of the pensioners’ plea because I have received deputations from pensioner organisations and from individual pensioners in both Sydney and Canberra. No doubt Government supporters have received similar deputations. Many of the pensioners who come to see us have only one meal a clay. They buy their clothes from jumble sales. This is the situation than confronts pensioners at the present time.
I think that I can speak for every honorable senator on this side of the chamber when I say that I am entirely opposed to the inadequacy of present pensions. I personally believed that when the new Minister for Social Services was appointed, pensioners would receive a much better deal. For a long time they had had to deal with the former Minister, Mr. Hugh Roberton. I recall an article entitled “ ‘ Mr. Humbug ‘ Hit Wrong Key”, which was written by Elwyn Spratt for the Sydney “ Sun “ in, I think, 1957. Amongst other things it stated, referring to some Government backbenchers -
At the moment their greatest stumbling block is Hugh Roberton, whom some privately refer to as “ Mr. Humbug “.
They regard him as a humbug because he became Minister for Social Services in 1956 not long after saying in effect, that if he had his way there would be no social services at all.
Frequently reference has been made to that article, both here and in another place.
When the new Minister for Social Services arrived on the scene, people who knew him felt that he had some feeling for the less fortunate members of the community. In his first speech in the Parliament he had referred to the abolition of the means test. Was the former Prime Minister aware of the irony of the situation? First he appointed to the Social Services portfolio a gentleman who had said, in effect, that he did not believe in social services. Then an honorable member who, in his maiden speech had referred to the abolition of the means test, was elevated to the position in which he would have the responsibility of carrying this out. From many statements that have been made, I believe that the Government will put forward proposals along these lines in the forthcoming election campaign. Nothing at all will be done thereafter. 1 feel that the present Minister for Social Services is a most competent, capable and very nice individual. But, unfortunately, he is not doing very much along the lines of assisting these people who are in need. Sometimes 1 think: Thank heavens we have a sympathetic Public Service.
-r-The Minister for Social Services is only one of a ministry of 25.
– I think that that might be the answer to the present situation. I am prepared to accept that interjection. If the Minister were given the opportunity, I think that he would do much more than has been done in the Bill now before the Senate. We are not dealing with percentages in this instance. We are dealing with human beings. I have already said that money is available to assist these people. We can find money for other purposes. Money can be found to send men to the moon. We cry over poverty in Asia. But we neglect the unfortunate people in our midst.
I wish to direct the attention of honorable senators to a series of articles written by Mr. Keith Darrow. These articles seem to sum up the situation pretty well. I will not be able to read a great deal but I do wish to draw attention to some of the significant points made because 1 believe that they will bring home to the Government exactly what is happening at the present moment in this field. Under the heading “ An Affluent Society for some - Behold the face of poverty “, we find the following words -
Thousands of men, women and children living on the bare necessities of life . . . thousands more living a degraded life in sub-standard housing . countless families relying on charily to provide the clothes they wear . . .
This could be a description of life in some under-privileged foreign country. We are used to thinking of the plight of others in these terms.
Yet this is also a picture of the life experienced in Australia by thousands of its citizens. Who arc the poor of Australia?
They are mainly those families living on less than $20 a week, age and invalid pensioners, civilian widows and most of those aborigines living in the towns and cities.
All of these could be classed as underprivileged; many of them are living in poverty. The worst hit are those who have been unable to secure low-cost housing.
As Senator Tangney has pointed out, low cost housing is a matter of great concern. As mentioned, the Minister who is in charge of this Bill in the Senate is the Minister responsible for the administration of housing. I hope that she will show in no uncertain term in the few weeks ahead of her as Minister for Housing that she can lay good foundations which will be remembered for many years by her own sex and by the Australian people generally in relation to our housing problems. Another article in this series reads -
This is real poverty and it exists right under our noses - not in some war-torn Asian country.
There are many private organisations and institutions throughout Australia catering to this desperate need.
Nobody knows how many meals are served each week to the destitute. One of these organisations in Sydney provides more than 200,000 meals a year free to those who have not the money to buy their own food.
All honorable senators who speak about this subject and are so complacent about what is going on ought to go around to some of these organisations and make their own estimate as to how the people of Australia are suffering at this time. Mr. Darrow goes on to quote the remarks of a noted Melbourne authority on mental health, Dr. E. Cunningham Dax, who is critical of many aspects of the pensions scheme. The article reads -
He said: “The income of an old person is stabilised so that if he receives more than ?9 10s. a week from all sources his pension is reduced by a corresponding amount.” “ In other words, he pays 100 per cent, tax.” The pension itself is not enough to live on, except in the most unusual circumstances.
Mr. Darrow continues in this article ;
Many pensioners and their dependants have to rely on various charitable organisations to avoid slow starvation. Past experience has shown that pension rises are few and far between. Pensioners are being forced to pull their belts a little tighter each year as rising prices whittle away the purchasing power of their meagre income.
This article. 1 should point out, was written, on 29l-h January 1966. Mr. Darrow continues -
A Tasmanian survey this year among 139 aged pensioners showed that 39 aged pensioners had no stove, 57 had no refrigerator, 77 had no washing machine, 66 had no radiator. 30 had no radio or television set and 30 had nol one of these appliances’.
– Out of how many?
– That is out of 139 age pensioners. The article continues -
Nearly all the pensioners spoken to argued for the abolition of the means test and a pension increase of more than ?1 a week.
One in every eight needed blankets for warmth but was unable to afford them.
Some of them could not afford to buy clothing - others were supplied by relatives.
In these circumstances there is little hope for but a dreary hand to mouth existence.
I could go on quoting these articles by Keith Darrow. One written on 30th January 1966 dealt with malnutrition in Australia in 1963 and stated that one person died from scurvy, seven died from beri beri and 46 persons died as a result of nutritional deficiencies. This is the situation in which these unfortunate people live today. As Thomas Hood said in “ The Song of the Shirt “ - and these words have been used before and will be again -
Oh! Cod! that bread should be so dear.
And flesh and blood so cheap!
Those words express the plight of people living today.
I have illustrated to the Senate the unfortunate plight today of these people who are living in our midst. I say to the Government that the meagre handout which is provided in the Social Services Bill 1966 is in itself not good enough.
Since the inception of the Labour movement, the Australian Labour Party has fought for these social service benefits. The Australian Labour Party since Federation has been responsible either directly or indirectly for practically every form of social service benefit that is to be found in the statutes of this Parliament.I say that without any fear of contradiction. I have studied very carefully and considered very closely the forms of social service payments that have been introduced. The age pension, in the first instance, was introduced in 1901 by the John See Government in New South Wales where Labour held the balance of power, it was introduced in 1909 in the Commonwealth under the Deakin Government. At one stage I was secretary of the parliamentary party of our movement and had the good fortune of being able to look at the various minutes of that period. I have read a letter written in 1909 that passed between Alfred Deakin and the Leader of the Labour Party, Mr. J. C. Watson. Mr. Watson was advised by Alfred Deakin that if he would support the Deakin Administration at the time it would introduce age pensions. That is how age pensions were introduced into the Statutes of the Commonwealth.
– What was the substance of the letter?
– The substance of the letter was that if Labour gave support to Alfred Deakin and the group that he led he would introduce age pensions.
– Where is the letter to be found?
– It is to be found in the minutes of the Australian Labour Party which are in the possession of the Leader of the Opposition in another place, Mr. Arthur Calwell. I am quite certain that if the honorable senator approaches the Leader of the Opposition in another place he will be able to see and read the letters as I have done on many occasions. All honorable senators know the other forms of legislation dealing with social services that followed during that period.
The Australian Labour Party is concerned with the wellbeing of the Australian people. This was the very platform of the Labour movement back in the 1 880’s where the issues involved were similar to those about which I am speaking at the moment. I recall, very aptly, I think, a statement that was made in the early days of the Labour movement when somebody asked what was the desire and what was the wish of the movement. One of our spokesmen of that period. Mr. W. G. Spence, said: “ We want some of the leisures, some of the pleasures, yes some of the treasures, for the people whom we represent “. That has been the desire, ambition and wish of the Labour movement throughout its history. Today it is still our desire, ambition and wish to bring some of the leisures, pleasures and treasures to underprivileged people. Our desire, ambition and wish in this debate tonight is that the substance of the amendment that we have put forward will be brought to the attention of the Government.
I can assure you, Madam Acting Deputy President - make no mistake about this - that the pensioners are on the rise. I have in my possession a pamphlet that will be published in the very near future. It reads -
Pensioners! You are great in numbers. Use your strength at the ballot box. Vote to power a government pledged to -
Lift living standards.
Give full pension to dependent wife of aged, invalid and service pensioner.
Gradually abolish the means test.
Free hearing aids - spectacles - dentures - artificial limbs and surgical appliances.
Completely free public health and hospital services.
Special grants to hospitals providing geriatric care.
Commonwealth housing subsidies to State and local governments to build low rental homes for pensioners.
Subsidies for bereaved and invalid persons to secure homes and for paying off their homes.
Increased funeral grant.
Reduction in telephone charges.
Pension retrospective to 1st July.
Work for peace through United Nations.
Record of present Government stands condemned.
It goes on to outline the record of the present Government. I can assure you, Madam Acting Deputy President-
– Have the pensioners calculated the cost?
– I mentioned earlier that the provision of these benefits may not cost as much as the amount that is being spent at the present time in order to send men to the moon.
– Has the cost been calculated?
– I am not certain that these people have calculated it. But I can assure the honorable senator that we are calculating it and that in the forthcoming election campaign we will put forward submissions that have been well calculated. I am quite certain that the people of Australia will know exactly what we intend to do in this field. We members of the Australian Labour Party - knowing most of the matters that these people are eager to secure, that, they are in this awful plight and that they are living under the awful conditions that I have mentioned - are most anxious and eager to assist them. We are also eager to do something in regard to the rehabilitation of disabled people. .1 know that at the present time great work is being done in sheltered workshops. I can assure the Senate that we will do everything that is humanly possible to assist that great work. I am certain that we will foster that work in a way that will be of great benefit to these people.
On numerous occasions we have mentioned what Labour will do and how Labour will help the aged and the infirm. In a talk that 1 gave recently I said that, in relation to its social services platform, Labour is pledged to the following things -
The p:ymcnt of social service benefits at the highest possible rate warranted by the respective services and which the national revenue can sustain.
We mean that in no uncertain terms; we will pay the maximum -
The payment of social service benefits to assist the needy sections of the community and thus remove gross inequalities in living standards.
The appointment of a Joint Parliamentary Standing Committee to continually review the operation of social service* benefits.
The progressive easing of the means test with a view to its ultimate abolition.
No Australian citizen shall be disqualified from receiving a social service pension on account of the period of residence in Australia.
Australian citizens shall not cease to receive pensions because of residence abroad.
I also said what Labour will do in the fields of health and housing. All of these are points of policy that can be found in the Labour Party’s platform. Copies of that platform not only have been circulated but also can be purchased in any part of Australia. We say quite definitely that a Labour government will increase age, invalid and widows’ pensions, child endowment, maternity allowances, the unemployment and sickness benefit and the funeral benefit and will work towards the elimination of the means test. We have no hesitation at all in making these statements without any qualifications whatsoever. We will provide medical benefits for people of pensionable age and make supplementary assistance available to any person in need or in necessitous circumstances. I have mentioned what we will do in relation to sheltered workshops. A Labour govern.ment will carry out a policy along those lines.
I do not believe that the present Government has any reason to be satisfied with or happy about what it has done. The pensioners themselves are not happy about what it has done. The people who are living in the circumstances that I have mentioned are up in arms. I am quite certain that in the very near future there will be such revulsion that these 800,000 people will demonstrate their strength and use their numbers, as other people have done, in many ways in the past in order to defeat both Labour and Liberal governments. We have addressed pensioner organisations. I have advised pensioners that, if they have any regard for their own wellbeing. they should use their strength. I am quite certain that they are accepting the advice of men and women in their own ranks as well as that of people from outside their ranks who have told them exactly what they can do and what they are entitled to do. Unfortunately, today, unless one can speak with great strength one receives very little from governments. I am quite sure that the pensioners have got the message. They are completely dissatisfied with the present Government.
For example, there is all this nonsense about comparisons of percentages. I know that members of the Government parties, and particularly members of the Country
Party, are quite happy to determine percentages. They are well qualified in counting sheep and things like that. But this is a matter of being concerned about the wellbeing of human beings. I know that on this occasion there will be a great drive by pensioners. I am certain that that drive will not end until this Government is driven from the treasury bench.
.- I express my appreciation of this Bill. I congratulate the Government and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair) on its introduction. I especially express my appreciation of the Minister’s deep interest in all matters relating to the social welfare of the people of Australia, in spite of what Senator Fitzgerald has just said, 1 consider that our Government can express the greatest pride in the record of social services legislation introduced since 1949. That legislation has been inspired by discussion within the Cabinet i’i-cuss on in thi Government Members Social Services Committee and ideas and requests that have been brought forward by voluntary organisations throughout Australia. The Minister referred, at the beginning of his second reading speech, to the increase in the standard rate of pension of SI a week, bringing the maximum weekly rates payable to single age and invalid pensioners, and to widow pensioners with children, to $.13 a week. There is to be an increase of $1.50 a week in the combined pensions of a married couple, increasing their basic payment to $23.50 a week.
In the excellent twenty-fifth report of the Director-General of Social Services for J 965-66 some interesting figures are given. They show that at 30th June 1966 age pensions were being received by 636,984 people. Of those, 189.796 were men and 447 188 were women. The1!”; figures are of particular significance because month by month greater interest is being expressed in the wellbeing of our senior citizens. It is worthwhile, therefore, to have these accurate figures presented to us. The report states that people over minimum pension age represent 10.3 per cent, of the total population and that of these, 53 per cent, are receiving age pensions. As has been stated earlier in the debate, there has been an increase in the number of people applying for pensions due to the great developments which have occurred in medicine and science, leading to increased life expectancy. During 1965-66 age pensions were granted to 19,788 men, of whom 74 per cent, were married. Age pensions were granted to 32,140 women, of whom 53 per cent, were married. The necessary deductions will disclose the total number of single pensioners who will receive $13 a week. As I have said, the married couples who are pensioners will receive $23.50 a week when this Bill becomes operative. 1 wish to refer to the results of research mentioned in the report of the DirectorGeneral of Social Services. This shows that the Department of Social Services is interested not only in the granting of pensions and in social services legislation but also in the wellbeing of the people concerned. The Department conducted a survey of the claims received for pensions from I4!.h February to 8th April 1966 in all States. The survey covered some 5,300 new pensioners. The average age of the men who applied was 68 years and that of the women 65 years. Of the applicants, 42 per cent, of the men and 23 per cent, of the women did so within six months of reaching pensionable age. Of the balance, approximately two thirds of he men and one sixth of the women had been in full time employment for varying periods after reaching the ages of 65 years and 60 years respectively. This leads one o the thought that consideration should be given to extending the retiring age in order that people who obviously are able to COn.tribute to the work force might do so.
Suggestions have been made that there should be a transference of people from senior positions to other positions where they could be usefully employed. By this means younger people would not be prevented from attaining senior positions of greater responsibility. Some 20 per cent, of :he men and 18 per cent, of the women who claimed pensions had lived on their means either continuously or for part of “he period after attaining pensionable age. Senator Marriott referred to the abolition of the means test. The figures show that these men and women who had lived for as long as -hey were able to do so on their savings before they applied for pensions, should receive great consideration. We know that there are many people in the community who are denying themselves the small luxuries which they might otherwise enjoy in order to extend their savings for as long as possible before applying for a pension. These people certainly deserve consideration so far as the means test is concerned.
Another interesting feature of the survey conducted by the Department is in relation to home ownership. The survey showed that of the claimants for pensions during the period February to April of this year, 70 per cent, owned their homes or had an equity in them. Of the married pensioners, S2 per cent, were living in their own homes, compared with 48 per cent, of single pensioners. The report states that on 30th June this year, 393, SOS people, or 62 per cent, of all age pensioners, received the standard rate of pension. Again, the proportion in the case of women is higher, it being 79 per cent.
In the second reading speech which the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) delivered on behalf of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Sinclair), reference is made to the Aged Persons Homes Act. Since the introduction of the Act in 1954, 24,000 aged people have been provided with accommodation under the Act. and the cost of providing that accommodation has been more than S60 million. The Minister stated that the policy of the Government is to provide greater assistance to sections of the community whose circumstances are less favorable than those of others. The provision of homes for aged persons is an expression of responsibility for the less fortunate members of the community. The provisions of the Aged Persons Homes Act could not have been administered as they have been if it had not been for the devotion of the various voluntary organisations which have provided accommodation for aged people who needed it. Until now the organisations have tried to extend nursing care to the frail and infirm residents of the homes they conducted. Under great financial strain and stress they had provided sick bay care within the institutions for cases of temporary illness, but this meant that the beds normally occupied by persons suffering from temporary illnesses had to be kept empty while they were being treated. Now, under the provisions in the Budget, approved organisations will be able to provide accommodation for residents who need continuous care provided, of course, that the number of beds does not exceed one third of the total number of beds in aged persons homes conducted by approved organisations in a particular town or city.
It is very gratifying to know that the Budget makes provision for admission to the homes of non-residents. This means that people who are not already residing in a home may be accommodated for continuous care.
J pay tribute to another group of people who are doing splendid work for the elderly and I refer to the National Old People’s Welfare Council. Their valuable work has been recognised by a Commonwealth grant as is shown in the Estimates and I was very gratified to see this provision, lt is in recognition of the valuable work of the Council in fostering the care of our senior citizens. The Old People’s Welfare Council of Victoria has done an amazing amount of work. Representatives of the Council have visited the municipal councils throughout Victoria and as a result there have been set up, with the blessing of the municipal councils and the interest of local people, 70 old people’s welfare committees. In addition. 1S7 elderly citizens clubs have been established. These clubs provide companionship, recreation and purposeful activity. I have visited quite a number and have been interested to see that the members have been taught craft work. They have various community activities, provide their own musical entertainment, choirs and so on. So it is good to know that these people who deserve the utmost assistance and are in need are receiving this help as a result of community interest and governmental recognition.
Time will not permit me to cover the whole of the Bill but I should like to refer to one or two points. One is the pensions for Class A civilian widows. Under this measure, they will receive an increase in the allowance of $1 a week making a total of Si 3. There are now 68,606 widows receiving pensions and this expenditure increased in 1965-66 by nearly $3 million making the total over $50 million. The report of the Department shows that during the year 7,268 new applications for widows’ pensions were received. These included 53 per cent, by women whose husbands had died and 33 per cent, who were deserted wives. So this problem of desertion by husbands of their wives and families is steadily growing.
– Has the honorable senator the actual expenditure on these allowances for deserted wives?
– Not with me but I can gel those figures for the honorable senator. Under the provisions of this Bill, these widows will receive $13 a week but they will be able to earn $7 a week, as at present, subject to the test on widows’ property and other income. However, they will be able to obtain a deduction from income for each child. This has been Si but under the Bill the concession will be increased to $2. So a widow with two children who is able to work will receive a pension of $13 and in addition she may earn $7 on her own behalf and $6 on behalf of two children. She will receive the mother’s allowance of $4 and a children’s allowance of $3 which makes a total of $33. She will also receive child endowment for the two children and if she is paying rent and is eligible, will receive a $2 supplementary assistance as well as other Commonwealth concessions. 1 think Senator Fitzgerald made reference to the telephone rental concession. The report of the Department states that in 1965-66, the first year for which this concession operated for a full year, the total expenditure exceeded $1 million. Senator Tangney spoke of this provision of the Bill and said that widows should not be expected to work in order to obtain the $33 I have quoted for the upkeep of the family. Many people - and 1 am among them - have misgivings about the employment of mothers of young children but there is no doubt that married women are working and whether they have young children or not, they do so for a variety of reasons. The 1961 census showed that married women in employment numbered 38 per cent, of the total females in the work force. The figures for May 1966 show that the total female work force is 1,091,000. The percentage of married women in that work force will be shown in the census which was taken recently.
As 1 have said, the women are working for a variety of reasons. Married women might feel that they want to add to the household income for family needs. A woman may be working towards education expenses of her family but I know a number of women say that they are working because they want the companionship of those with whom they work. Others wish to use the experience they have gained before marriage in a professional capacity or in some other way. So the fact that women are working must be accepted by us. As I. have said before, the problems that are brought about by the employment of married women must also be considered. 1 have a most interesting extract from the “Nursery Journal” of April 1966 published in England. The article is entitled: “ Working Mothers and Their Children “. lt contains part of a report by the National Council of Women of Great Britain. The National Council of Women convened a conference to study this question of married women in employment, lt was not able to give an exact figure about the number of children of married women but one estimate mentioned 125,000 mothers working full time and 175,000 working part time who had children under the age of 5 years. The article contains various other figures but they are well within those I have quoted. The report stresses the need for development of nursery care and care after school hours and urges the United Kingdom Government to consider these problems and to take the necessary action. 1 would point out again the work of the voluntary organisations in this regard. Various voluntary organisations have set up day nurseries and child minding centres. In fact, in Victoria they have conducted a pilot scheme for the care of children after school hours, which has proved to be invaluable and will probably set the pattern in other areas for development of this needed community service, made necessary by the employment of mothers. There is a great responsibility on the part of the State in relation lo families of which children are in needy circumstances. I have had sent to me within the last few days a handbook of the Victorian Social Welfare Department, illustrating the work of the Family Welfare Division. This book shows that 2,000 private homes are being assisted in order that the 6,000 children of those homes may stay within the homes. Financial grants enable mothers to maintain the homes and prevent the children from becoming wards of the State.
This setting up of the Family Welfare Division of the Social Welfare Department is a far cry indeed from the first statutory voluntary co-operation in child care in 1864, when the first Victorian Act of Parliament relating to neglected children was passed. It was entitled the Neglected and Criminal Children’s Act and provided for the establishment of industrial schools by the Department and by voluntary agencies. One must be indeed grateful that there is such a vast and enlightened change of attitude, from the calling of children who are neglected and in need of care criminal children, to the excellent work that is now being carried out by the Family Welfare Division. The Division endeavours to promote family welfare in the community and to promote cooperation with voluntary organisations and others who are interested in the care of children and young persons who are in need of care and protection. These people are assisted in this work by a Family Counselling Service, to which numbers of fathers and mothers come for advice concerning problems confronting them.
I illustrate the growing recognition within the community of the needs of people who are in necessitous circumstances or who are confronted with other family problems by speaking of the advances within Victoria, not as a Victorian proud of the work in that State but in order to show the development of a warm human concern throughout Australia for those who are in need. I read recently that at no time in history have more people been concerned with the needs of others. I consider that this is completely illustrated by the Bill before us and the Government’s record in social services.
Senator Tangney referred to the change of name of mental hospitals from “ hospital for the insane “ to “ mental hospital “. Here again is a typical change of attitude. When one thinks that not so long ago there was completely barbaric treatment of those who were mentally ill, one must be devoutly thankful for this change of attitude. The change of title will have a most beneficial effect, not only upon the person who is suffering mental illness but also upon the family of that person. The help that can be given by the family to the person who is mentally ill is being recognised more and more. Senator Fitzgerald referred to the claim that persons who are within mental hospitals should receive pensions. This point has been discussed on many, many occasions by people in Victoria who have brought forward schemes. I speak now in regard to my work in the social welfare field before coming to the Senate. We thought that portion of the pension should be set aside in order that the patient in a mental hospital would, on discharge, have a sum of money which would assist him in rehabilitation. I am extremely thankful that this Bill will provide pensioners who have been patients in mental hospitals and those who are not pensioners, with a sum of money equal to J 2 weeks’ pension or sickness benefit. This money will be extremely helpful to them.
I should like to refer briefly again to the change of attitude towards the mentally ill. Not only is the stay in hospital shorter but also the hospital care, after-care upon discharge, occupational therapy and rehabilitation for useful work in the community, are of tremendous value. In fact, the research work of the Mental Health Department in Victoria and, I am sure, the work of similar departments in other States is directed to building up mental health and not just to the cure of ill health. This applies to the aged, to those who are mentally handicapped, and to the physically handicapped. I should like to end with a plea for further financial aid in setting up more sheltered workshops and the provision of equipment for the children, young people, and adults, including aged persons, who use them. I and some pf .my colleagues have seen the splendid work being carried out on behalf of these various groups. I. pay tribute to the voluntary organisations which are conducting these workshops”.
The amendment moved by the Opposition has no justification at all. I oppose it and I support the Bill.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by Senator Tangney on behalf of the Opposition. It states that -
The proposed increase in pension rates still leaves the pensioner’s standard of living below what is a reasonable Australian minimum.
On that point let me say that the pension rate today is Si 0.80 below the basic wage rate for the six capital cities. I think it is safe to say that the pensions scheme that operated in Australia in 1948 was one of the best in the world, but one cannot say that of the pensions scheme that operates today. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) in her second reading speech, gave a long dissertation on what the Government had achieved in the social services field, but she was very careful not to mention a number of the things that have not been given proper consideration.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 September 1966, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1966/19660928_senate_25_s32/>.