26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation: Is it not true, as claimed by the twelve ex-servicemen’s organisations, that the present compensation for repatriation pensioners is grossly inadequate? Is it not true also that despite persistent and repeated submissions to the Government by the Returned Services League and other bodies the result has been consistent rejection of their representations, or at best the provision of small increases insufficient to provide real justice to repatriation pensioners? Is it not true that there is widespread hardship and distress as a result?
– I am aware of the statements made about repatriation benefits by the Returned Services League and other ex-servicemen’s bodies. I had anticipated the motion moved yesterday at a meeting of those bodies. 1 was invited to be present at that meeting and I wish to take this opportunity to say that it is not customary for a Minister to be present at a meeting called to protest against the policy of the Government. Submissions that were presented to melast year went forward to the Cabinet Ex-Servicemen’s SubCommittee. They were placed before the full Ministry during the Budget sessional period. I endeavoured to get as. much as I could for ex-servicemen. For reasons that have been made very widely known, not only to ex-servicemen’s organisations but also to the general public, the Government decided that it was not possible last year to approve the submissions made by ex-servicemen’s organisations.
I take this opportunity also to point out not only to the people directly concerned but also to honourable senators that pensions are not the only concern of the Repatriation Department. Last Friday week I travelled to Adelaide and opened there a new artificial, limb factory centre, built at a cost of over $100,000. In the next few months an outpatients centre is to be opened in Adelaide, and it also is costing a lot of money to build. On 8th April I will go to Melbourne to open the latest of two new wards for repatriation patients at the Bundoora Psychiatric Centre. On 26th April I will travel to Penh to open additions to the Edward Millen Hospital there. Soon after that I will travel to Brisbane to open a new artificial limb factory in that city. Within the next 18 months the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in Tasmania will be moving from his present situation into new buildings. New South Wales is part of the general pattern, which is in keeping with the Government’s policy of improving year after year the benefits that repatriation provides for the people who are in need of them. It is not only the policy of the Government; it is also my policy and the policy of my Department. I inform the Senate that, in spite of the criticism that arises from time to time, quite often I get letters similar to a short one that I should like to read. Out of consideration for the writer I do not propose to give his name but I am quite happy-
– Will the Minister give us an answer to the question?
– I shall answer the question in my way. I am quite happy to let Senator Murphy have a look at the letter, which reads:
I feel that I would like to thank your Department for their generosity especially over the past 6 years or so since I became TPI, for the allowance for my car expenses, etc.. and now thatI have had both legs amputated above the knee in supplying me free of charge with a new Hillman Arrow car, which we are thoroughly enjoying, and also the amount allowed towards the running of same. I am very pleased and grateful for this wonderful gesture on the part of the Repatriation Department and would like here to mention how very helpful your Mr J. K. Flannery of the General Assistance Section has been at all times for the arranging of this matter. Also last year and on previous occasions whilst I was in Heidelberg hospital for several months I received at all times wonderful treatments and kindness shown to me, and when I was allowed to return home I appreciated very much the fittings etc. installed in my home to make life so much easier for my wife and myself. For all of this I feel that I cannot thank you enough, and we are now able to manage very well to live a near normal and happy life together.
This is one of the letters of a type that I receive weekly. So much for the criticism that the Opposition never fails to level at the Repatriation Department.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for
National Development. Has there been a Cabinet decision on the issuing of retrenchment notices to employees of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority? How many and what kind of employees are involved? Does this decision affect any of the engineering or professional staff? What notices will they receive, and are the Minister and his Department making every effort to ensure that they will obtain other appropriate employment?
– Last June the Minister for National Development made a statement to the effect that certain sections of the Snowy Mountains Authority, including the investigation, design and scientific services, would be maintained and kept working, that as the scheme came to a close there would be retrenchments, but that’ before dismissing anyone the Authority would give at least 6 months notice, would see the unions involved and would endeavour to obtain other employment for these people.
– Did the Minister representing the Minister for the Army see in the ‘Australian’ of Saturday last a report that some hundreds of gallons of nerve gas were spread by the Army in the United States of America on 13th March, that the next day a wave of stock deaths started, and that so far 5,000 sheep had been killed? Can the Minister give an assurance that such tests, particularly in such an apparently haphazard manner, will not be carried out in Australia?
– This question, of course, refers to an event in the United States. I did see the report mentioned by the honourable senator. I have also read rebuttals of the suggestion made regarding the cause of death. I would not imagine that tests of this kind would be carried out in Australia. That is the only reply that I can give him.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Works, who is also Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities. I was very pleased to see that our fair city of Adelaide was honoured by the presence of the Minister at the weekend in connection with our Festival of Arts. Whilst there he made a statement which, as reported in the ‘Advertiser’, reads:
The building of a new Commonwealth office block in Adelaide on a city site owned by the Government for the past 8 or 9 years had ‘not yet been able to take its place in front of what is considered more urgent demand for Commonwealth accommodation in other cities’.
With the important exception of the Reserve Bank, the relative proportion of Commonwealth works built in Adelaide has not been encouraging,’ he said.
I ask the Minister whether there is inherent in those statements hope for the early implementation of plans for extensions at the Adelaide Airport terminal and the building of a Commonwealth office block in Adelaide.
– I was gratified to be able to visit Adelaide and to recognise the effort that that city is making as a distinctive centre of the Commonwealth from the point of view of being an attraction for international tourists. Incidental to my visit I was prompted by a suggestion from my colleague Senator Laught to take an interest in the Commonwealth buildings in Adelaide. I am pleased to be able to inform Senator Laucke that I am now possessed of on the site information. As the Attorney-General is responsible for making the decision on the law courts site and the Minister for the Interior the decision on the Commonwealth Centre site, I shall go into conference with those two Ministers. I assure the honourable senator that every consideration will be given in the immediate future to the appropriate buildings that should be proceeded with in Adelaide.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. By way of short preface, I point out that late in 1967 1 received from the then Prime Minister a letter. indicating that the Government would introduce legislation to provide workers compensation and common law protection for Australian workers employed at the North West Cape naval communication base. I now ask the Minister: When is it likely that legislation to give effect to thai promise will be placed before the Parliament?
– I am not in a position to give the information sought, but I will seek it and make it available to the honourable senator as quickly as possible. I suggest that he put his question on the notice paper.
– I am happy to have the opportunity provided by the honourable senator’s question to say that the creation by this Government of the Australian Tourist Commission in the form of a statutory body last July in no way spells the end of the work of the Australian National Travel Association. In fact the Commission was the brainchild of the Association, which looks to it to carry out the work in the international field which the Association believes is so essential to its activities within Australia. 1 wish to inform the Senate that yesterday, at the invitation of the Association, 1 attended the luncheon at which was formed the reconstituted body of the Association which is geared to co-ordinate all the work that is necessary within the tourist industry in Australia to ensure that we have that which will please the international tourists when the Commission brings them here.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs been advised of the widespread invasion of Laos by 30.000 North Vietnamese troops, which Prince Souvanna Phouma has condemned, and of the sufferings of the Laotian civilians resulting therefrom? How many protests against this move by Communist forces to escalate the Vietnam war has the Minister received from those in Australia who have made themselves the public relations organisation of the Vietcong and are so vocal in accusing the United States and Australia of escalation?
– I would have to obtain information in relation to the latter part of the honourable senator’s question. It is true to say that within the past 48 hours there has been considerable publicity about the invasion of Laos. It is true to say also that the Australian Government; views this matter with very grave concern. The question arises whether this is in fact a disregard of the provisions of the 1962 Geneva Agreement and the Commonwealth, therefore, is watching the current military situation closely. The position in Laos will be reviewed carefully during the Wellington meeting of the SEATO Council next week. That is the only information I can give the honourable senator and the Senate at this time.
– ls the Leader of the Government aware of items in today’s newspapers which suggest that scientist advisers to the Federal Government have advised against the signing of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty now with the United Nations? Can the Minister give any indication of an early decision by the Federal Government on this most important matter?
– T have not seen the Press references but 1 answered a question in this place last week and indicated that the Government naturally and very properly was considering this agreement. I do not desire to make any further statement on the matter at this time.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry or the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, whoever is the appropriate Minister. In view of the fact that many deaths have occurred over recent years as a result of accidents with farm tractors, including three within 48 hours last week, has any action been taken to ensure the development of safety devices for tractors so that they will become subject to examination before being licensed for sale?
– A question in similar terms was asked of me last week and I undertook to get some information on it. To date I have not been able to get that information but when I do receive it I will make it available to the honourable senator.
– Did the Minister for Customs and Excise recently remove from the list of prohibited imports the book ‘The Khama Sutra of Vatsyayana’ which has been a prohibited import since 1929 and the subject of earlier periodic reviews by the Commonwealth Literature Censorship Board in 1958 and 1963? Will he explain to the Senate the criteria he adopted when making this decision? Did he discuss his proposition with the State Ministers in charge of censorship? Did all of them approve his proposed action?
– I released this book knowing full well that it had been banned for a good many years and that the ban had been reviewed twice recently by the Commonwealth Literature Censorship Board. That Board was set up by the Commonwealth with the acquiescence of the States. In fact, three of its members are representatives of the States. On this occasion the Board agreed to the lifting of the ban. My departmental officers engaged on work of this kind also advised that the ban should be lifted. Consequently I took the necessary steps vo lift the ban.
– Did the Minister discuss it with the States?
– I did not think it necessary to discuss this with the States because they have representatives on the Literature Censorship Board. The Board consists of 9 people and 3 of those are from the States.
– I address my question to the Minister for Repatriation. Will he agree that there is a high incidence of tuberculosis among the civilian population of Vietnam? Because of this high incidence of tuberculosis in that country has the Government particularly been requested by the Federal Tuberculosis Sailors Soldiers and Airmens Association to have automatic acceptance of pulmonary tuberculosis as a war caused disability within the terms of the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act? Has the Government refused to accede to these representations, notwithstanding that there is automatic acceptance of tuberculosis as a war caused disability within the terms of the general Repatriation Act, a provision which was inserted by the Curtin Labor
Government in 1943? Has the Minister’s decision therefore discriminated heavily against servicemen who have served or are serving in Vietnam and, in view of the high incidence of tuberculosis in that country, is he prepared to review his decision?
– Answering the last part of the question first, I am sure the honourable senator will be very relieved to know that there has not been one case of tuberculosis reported among our soldiers serving in Vietnam up to the present time. There have been 2 cases from other areas but none from South Vietnam. There is a high incidence of tuberculosis in the civilian population of South Vietnam; but the measures taken prior to our soldiers going there and the very close scrutiny that is maintained to prevent any outbreak of this complaint so far have had the desired result. 1 also would like to inform the honourable senator - I think he already has this information, otherwise he would not have asked his question - that I am receiving representatives of the tuberculosis association this afternoon.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether he has any information that he can give to the Senate as to how far the Government’s consideration of the plan to rehabilitate the Australian dairy industry has progressed. Is it known when its acceptance will be announced? What is the timetable for the plan being put into effect?
– The position is that the Commonwealth Government has decided to allocate a sum of up to £25m in order to buy farms from dairy farmers who wish to relinquish their holdings. The money is to be made available to enable the holdings to be purchased by neighbouring farmers. There is no question of compulsion involved in this scheme. The money also will be used to enable those farmers who are unable to receive satisfactory financial returns from their farms to engage in some other form of industry. The Minister for Primary Industry has had talks with State ministers on the subject and further talks are to be held on it. Also, there will be talks between departmental officers. So far as I know a timetable has not yet been prepared but it is hoped that it will not be very long before this scheme is put into operation.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has he seen an announcement that the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd has a debenture issue for $40m and that this was oversubscribed by $60m, making a total of $100m available for investment by Australians in an Australian company? How does the Government justify its claim that we have to sell our birthright in our natural resources to overseas financial monopolistic organisations because of the inability of Australia to finance the establishment of an all Australian owned industry? Will the Government legislate to ensure that all overseas companies are obliged to have at least 49% Australian capital before they are allowed to exploit our recently found minerals, oil and other resources?
– The honourable senator has said many things to which I obviously could not subscribe. Indeed, no honourable senator on this side could subscribe to them. It is accepted in every sphere of understanding in relation to the finances of the Commonwealth that Australia needs overseas investment. The whole of the future of this country will be influenced to a degree by our capacity to encourage overseas investment in Australia and I am surprised, indeed almost amazed, that there should be any suggestion even from Senator O’Byrne that we could live in isolation and not have overseas investment in Australia. This story about selling our birthright is all nonsense. One has only to look around and see the tremendous development that has taken place in Australia with the assistance of overseas investment to negate that proposition. All in all, I think the honourable senator has not done enough homework in connection with the tremendous development that has gone on in Australia. The argument that because one Australian company, or indeed a dozen Australian companies, can find sufficient capital in Australia that is a good’ reason for rejecting the Investment of overseas capital is to my mind so narrow that it could never be sustained. In fact, all the progress that has taken place in Australia in the past refutes such an argument.
– I address a question to the Minister for Repatriation. Does the Minister recall the representations made by the Limbless Soldiers Association in connection with the new location of the artificial limb factory at Daw Park and the request by that Association that consideration be given to providing special transport facilities or courier facilities in view of the difficulties occasioned by this new location as compared with the old location at Grenfell Street, because of the fact that public transport is not convenient? Has he issued any recommendations to the local branch of the Department for procedures to be adopted with respect to those requiring transport or courier facilities?
– I recall the representation to which the honourable senator refers, following on the transfer of the artificial limb factory to Daw Park, and I was very pleased indeed to see the honourable senator present at the opening of that new factory. So far, I have not had any request’s for any transport services in addition to those that are normally provided by the Repatriation Department. If it is felt that the normal transport services at present provided are not adequate to serve those who wish to attend the factory, I shall certainly look into the matter.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise a question which relates to an answer that he gave to a question about the Commonwealth Literature Censorship Board, in the course of which he stated there were three members on the Board from the States. Can the Minister tell me who appoints these members from the States and from which States they come? Do they represent the States as such, or are they selected for their special ability regardless of from where they come?
– A panel of names is submitted to the Minister and the representatives are selected because of their qualifications. They do not necessarily come from any particular State. They are chosen because of their ability. I cannot tell the honourable senator the States which are represented, but I shall obtain that information for him and give it to him direct.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport alert his colleague to the intolerable position which has arisen again through the inadequate shipping space for cargo offering at north west Tasmanian ports for interstate transport? As this matter is vital to the interests of both primary industry and secondary industry, will he endeavour to persuade the Minister for Shipping and Transport of the urgency for immediate action both short term and long term? Finally, in view of my previously stated apprehension over the past. 2 or 3 years, will he ask the Minister to explain why these situations continue to arise year after year, especially during vital export seasons for primary products, with little evidence of any practical action being taken to correct the position?
– The honourable senator asks a series of questions, some of which are rather technical. I will ask him to place his question on the notice paper and I will obtain an answer for him from the Minister for Shipping and Transport direct.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question which relates to drought. Is it a fact that, during the past week, the Federal Government gave the Victorian Government an assurance of further financial support for the feeding of stock in drought declared areas? Is it true as reported that the limit placed on this financial support was Sim? As this amount will be of little use in inducing those who have breeding stock to commence and to continue grain feeding, will the Minister consider making a statement to the Senate which will clearly set out the attitude of the Federal Government to drought assistance to the States?
– The honourable senator has asked a, series of questions in relation to Victoria and drought relief. I recall that last week - I think it was last Thursday - I indicated to the honourable senator that the Treasurer was to make a statement relating to how much money had been allocated to the various States in connection with drought relief. In that statement, the Treasurer was to set out the special categories of relief such as by way of gifts, by way of loan or by way of assistance. I think that it would be far more appropriate if I waited to get that statement. As soon as the Treasurer makes the statement, I will repeat it in the Senate. Then it will be open for discussion or for further questions if any honourable senator feels inclined to take the opportunity to. raise the matter.
– My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Further to my question asked of him 2 weeks ago about bringing into operation a reciprocal social service agreement between the Australian Government and the Government of Malta to benefit Maltese in Australia 1 ask: Will the Minister inquire whether the Maltese Government has ever approached the Australian Government to establish this agreement and also whether this approach’ was rejected by the Australian Government, as is believed by many Maltese in this country? If these are not the facts, will the Minister let me know when Maltese citizens in Australia, being British, will be eligible for social service benefits as are all other British migrants in Australia?
– I recall that I answered the earlier question from the honourable senator in the absence of the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. I will see whether 1 can obtain expeditiously an answer to it.
– And to my question today? . .
– In view of allegations made by some survivors of the helicopter disaster at the Barracouta natural gas offshore rig that first aid facilities were very limited, will the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service take action to ensure that all such installations shall have first aid facilities of a standard equal to the highest standard existing on land based industrial establishments?
– We have all come to accept and encourage the provision of first aid facilities in all sites where industrial accidents can be anticipated in any degree. All I can say is that I will adopt the suggestion of the honourable senator and pass it on to the responsible authority. In saying that, I wish to inform the honourable senator that it will be remembered that, in the structure of the legislation that we passed last session relating to offshore petroleum in the area of the continental shelf adjacent to Victoria, we extended out as covering that area all the industrial law of Victoria. So all the awards, acts and regulations relating to this matter would apply. Having said that, 1 shall be pleased to convey the suggestion to the Victorian Government and request it to ensure that the best first aid facilities are made available.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation formulated a scheme for insuring conscripts in Vietnam, as promised by the Minister on 6th June 1967 when he advised the Queensland Returned Services League congress that three Departments - namely the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Defence and the Repatriation Department - would investigate such a scheme?
– Obviously the honourable senator is referring to national servicemen. As he states, I did inform the Queensland congress that we were going to investigate such a scheme. But I should have thought that the honourable senator would know by this time that the Government, instead of accepting the insurance scheme which I proposed, decided that national servicemen should come within the provisions of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund. Up to this point of time they had not been eligible to receive DFRB benefits. I think that that scheme is better than the insurance scheme which I had in mind because it provided for compensation only in the case of death. The Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund covers not only death but also injuries. The scheme, in broad terms, amounts to this: A young national serviceman who is totally and permanently incapacitated receives his normal repatriation benefits and in addition approximately the same amount from the DFRB.
There has been some misconception about this matter. Before the Parliament rose at the end of the spring session the Treasurer quite clearly announced that it would not be possible to bring down legislation in that session to put this scheme into effect. But he also made it quite clear that the scheme would cover all national servicemen who had suffered injuries after being called up. This is the position at the present time. The Government intends to bring down legislation in this session to allow the provisions of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund to apply to national servicemen.
- Mr President, my question is directed to you. I refer to an incident which occurred in another place when a member who entered the chamber wearing a safari jacket, which he claimed was suitable attire for the climatic conditions of that day, was required to don a coat. In the absence of any specific standing order to guide me, would you inform me whether on a hot day you would permit the wearing of a sleeveless safari jacket with a sports shirt, or are members of the Senate subject to the same outmoded restrictions as those obviously applying in another place?
– I am not prepared to suggest that the ruling in the other place was outmoded. If the honourable senator is serious about the question I shall look into the matter and give him an answer at a later date.
– Does the Minister for Repatriation still hold the opinion which he expressed during the debate on the Repatriation Department estimates in 1966 that increases in repatriation benefits were warranted but could not be granted because of the level of defence expenditure? Does he still believe that former servicemen should continue to bear such an unequal share of the burden of the defence of this country?
– All T want to say to the honourable senator - and I have stated it over and over again - is that it is common practice each year for al) exservice organisations to submit their case to me. I think that in the year before last seventeen submissions were made to me. I in turn convey them through the Cabinet Ex-servicemen’s Sub-committee to the full Cabinet. Then a decision is made, lt is quite true that the Government decided on that occasion that it was not possible to grant extra benefits to ex-servicemen. Without making any promises, I am hopeful that in the next Budget it will be possible to include extra repatriation benefits for the people in need of them.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, is supplementary to the question about the Snowy Mountains Authority directed to him earlier by Senator Branson. I ask: Notwithstanding the Minister’s statement that certain sections of the Snowy Mountains Authority will be maintained and kept working and that the Authority will give to its employees six months notice of retrenchment of employment, is the honourable senator aware that according to the February report of the Administrative Division of the Authority last month there were 178 cessations from its service and a recruitment replacement of only 66? Is the Minister also aware that of the 178 employees who ceased working with the Authority, 32 gave as their reason for cessation insecurity of future employment, and that 3 employees were shown as having been retrenched? Will the Minister agree that if the trend shown by those figures persists there will be a rapid tapering off of the effective work of the Authority and that this development, coupled with the drought effects being- felt in the southern district of New South Wales, will have a serious economic consequence for the Cooma region of New South Wales? Will the Minister urge that an inquiry be conducted into the obviously high number of cessations of employment with the Authority and take action to ensure that the Authority continues to function, at least for the time being, as an efficient instrument of the Commonwealth?
– The honourable senator is fully aware that this year the Commonwealth Government is spending $50m on construction works by the Snowy Mountains Authority. He also knows that it will take five years to complete the works undertaken by the Authority. When those works are finished the Authority will have no employees except some skilled operators. We have to bear in mind - and the honourable senator is quite aware of this aspect - that the Commonwealth Government is spending large sums in providing additional water supplies throughout Australia, including work on the Nogoa Dam and the Ord River scheme. Plenty of jobs are available throughout. Australia for persons engaged in that type of work.
– 1 ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs: Will the Government discuss in advance with the Parliament, and obtain its views thereon, the decision as to whether Australia should sign the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty?
– 1 ask th« honourable senator to place his question on the notice paper. The Minister for External Affairs will be making in another place tonight, I understand, a statement on foreign affairs. As soon as possible after he has made that statement I will be making it to the Senate on the Government’s behalf.
– My question, which I direct to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, relates to a report made by the Treasurer that annually $350m goes overseas to pay the interest on investments in Australia by overseas companies, thus draining a developing country of finance that in a sane economy could and should be ploughed back into investment. How does the Government have the temerity to tell the taxpayers of Australia - particularly the drought stricken primary producers - that national development and defence requirements will necessitate the imposition of heavier taxes, while the drain on our balance of payments is being aided and abetted by the policy of the Government?
– The honourable senator misses the whole principle of overseas investment. First of all, when we get Overseas investment in Australia it provides employment.
– It is the interest that I am concerned about. .
-I shall come to that. Overseas investment in Australia provides gainful employment for our people. We have at the present time a very big immigration programme. Our very security depends upon our ability to have such a programme. It follows that we must therefore have gainful employment for immigrants. It follows equally that we need capital for that particular aspect of our economy.
It seems to me to be elementary that twelve million people cannot possibly provide the capital resources for all of the development that Australia needs. It should never be forgotten that when overseas investmeni conies to Australia the profits which it earns are taxable. If my memory serves me rightly, company tax on profit’s is of the order of 42½%. Some people seem to suggest that it is lovely to have overseas investment but it is a shame when some of it, or some of the profit from it. has to be repatriated. The matter has to be looked at and examined in its entirety. I suggest it is quite wrong to take a single aspect of the argument in isolation and try to draw conclusions, as the honourable senator has done. I hope that the day will never dawn when Australia will not be an attractive place for overseas investment because we want it, we need it and our very security depends on it. As a prudent Government we shall take as much of this investment as we think it is basically economic for us to take.
– With the permission of the Senate I should like to refer to answers I gave to questions asked by Senator Laught and Senator Davidson. I told Senator Laught that on the Commonwealth Literature Censorship Board there are three members representing the States; in fact, there are five. I told Senator Davidson that I would obtain the names of the States represented thereon. For the information of honourable senators, these are Victoria,
Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and New South Wales.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry tell me whether the wool industry is likely to be adversely affected by the imposition of punitive tax measures on imports of Japanese cars into Australia?
– I do not think one can answer that question in isolation. It is quite obvious that the whole of the balance of Australia’s trade is involved in thousands of different ways and in respect of a variety of different commodities. It would be quite wrong to assume that because a problem has emerged in relation to the importation of completely assembled Japanese small vehicles trade in Australian wool with Japan could be affected. Australia has a trade agreement with Japan, and all the problems associated with that trade must fit into the pattern. I do not believe that any short term problem that we may have in relation to one aspect of a particular commodity involved in our trading with Japan automatically prejudices or interferes with the overall pattern of Australia’s trade with that country.
(Question No. 1)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
– The Minister for Education and Science has supplied the following answers:
The programme is at present centred on Alice Springs, Northern Territory, and includes the following aspects:
The work is actively led by a Senior Research Scientist with the full time support of an Experimental Officer and two Technical Assistants.
(Question No. 34)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Territories has now supplied the following answer:
(Question No. 52)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
What steps, if any, have been taken for (a) integration of the three branches of the armed forces and (b) integration of the auxiliary services?
– The Minister for Defence has provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Within the genral policy framework that the separate identities’ of the three Services should be preserved, action is in train to provide for services, which are common to each of the three Services, on the most appropriate basis, and consequently, by eliminating overlapping and avoiding unnecessary duplication of any kind, to achieve the maximum use of our resources.
Already substantial progress has been made in a number of fields, and vigorous efforts are now being directed to others. I intend to deal in some detail with this whole matter in a statement I am proposing to make tote House shortly. I shall then arrange to supply a copy to the honourable senator.
– On 13th March Senator Webster asked the following question:
Will the Minister for Works ensure that while he is Minister for Works his Department will give the closest attention to the use of Australian consultants, both architects and engineers, in the field of feasibility studies of major works within Australia so that a wealth of knowledge will be built up within companies and partnerships which are Australian owned and controlled?
As I. have said in this place on a previous occasion, the Department of Works in 1966-67 paid out $2,603,301 in fees for consultant services. Of this amount only$1,850 was paid to overseas consultants. AH feasibility studies for major architectural or engineering projects so far undertaken by the Department have been done using Australian consultants. It is a firm policy of the Department, when selecting a consultant for any important feasibility study, to require proven capability and experience in the same or similar work and to ensure that from whatever source the consultant service is obtained at least a substantial part of the experience and knowledge gained is retained in this country. I can assure the honourable senator that feasibility studies for major works will continue to be placed with Australian partnerships, and partnerships established on a continuing basis in Australia, provided that the particular experience and skills required can be obtained when required and to the extent necessary to carry out the work in the available time.
– On 13 th March Senator Laught asked me the following question:
I ask the Minister for Works whether there is a move to standardise building regulations throughout Australia. If so, what stage has this project reached? Are any factors or problems delaying its completion? If the delay is due to drafting, will the Minister consider the employment of draftsmen outside the Government employment?
The answer is as follows:
Positive action is being taken to standardise building regulations throughout Australia and this is being done through the Interstate Standing Committee of Uniform Building Regulation. This Committee was set up by the States following the conference of State Ministers for Local Government in 1964, and the then Minister for Works, Senator Gorton, arranged for the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station of the Department of Works to provide the secretariat to the Committee and to carry out testing and research work for it. The Committee which now has representation from all States and from the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory has met formally on thirteen occasions under the chairmanship of Mr B. L. Dechaineux of Tasmania and has made substantial progress with the work. The task of reaching agreement between all States on such a wide range of technical matters as are covered by building regulation is difficult and inevitably takes considerable time. The secretariat of the Committee is, 1 understand, adequately staffed at present to meet the needs of the Standing Committee and I have asked the Department to ensure that every assistance is given. The drafting of the model uniform building code being prepared by the Committee is being done by a subcommittee which includes the secretariat and some outside assistance.
I should make it clear to honourable senators that while the Commonwealth has a very real concern to have the model uniform building code completed as soon as possible, and is doing all it reasonably can to assist and expedite the work, the Committee dealing with it is essentially a Committee of the States, chaired by a State representative and with each Slate representative responsible to his own Stale Minister.
Reports on Items
– I present reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects:
Metal reinforced rubber belts or belting. Tetanus vaccines, veterinary products, quilts etc. and sleeping bag-; (New Zealand - Australia Free Trade Agreement).
General textile reference - Concluding interim report.
Sound recorders and reproducers.
Metal working circular sawing machines.
Stoves, ranges, cookers and the like.
I present also the following reports by the Tariff Board which do not call for anylegislative action:
General textile reference - Final report.
Sulphur bearing materials.
Pursuant tostatute I present also Special Advisory Authority reports on the following subjects:
Hot water bags.
Knitted coats, jumpers, cardigans, sweaters and the like.
Sand boots and sand shoes.
– by leave - On behalf of the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) I desire to inform the Senate of a decision that has been taken by the Government in regard to the transfer to Canberra of the principal seat of the High Court of Australia. As honourable senators will be aware, the High Court now holds regular sittings at least once a year in each of the capital cities of the six States. It sits in the capital cities both as a Full Court and to hear single Justice matters. The principal seat of the High Court is, however, in Melbourne where it has been since the commencement of the High Court.
It has always been the intention that the principal seat of the High Court should at some time be established at the seat of Government. Indeed, the original provision in the Judiciary Act 1903 - section 10 - contained a firm statement that ‘the principal seat of the High Court shall be at the seat of Government’. There was provision that until the seat of Government was established the principal seat of the High Court should be at. such place as the GovernorGeneral from time to time appointed and in 1903 the Governor-General ordered that the principal seat of the High Court should be at Melbourne. In 1926, when the seat of Government was about to be moved to Canberra, section 10 of the Judiciary Act was amended to provide that on and after a date to be fixed by proclamation the principal seat of the High Court would be at the seat of Government. In the meantime, as honourable senators will be aware, the Principal Registry of the High Court has continued to be in Melbourne.
The Government has had discussions from time to time with the Chief Justice with a view to coming to some decision as to the appropriate time for moving the principal seat of the High Court to Canberra. The Chief Justice has indicated his desire that some decision should be made regarding moving the principal seat of the High Court to Canberra. He has emphasised that, in his view, the present arrangements for the functioning of the Court mean that the Court is not sufficiently accepted throughout Australia as the symbol of Commonwealth judicial power and, in this regard, as a symbol of Australian federation. Both the Government and the Chief Justice have come to the conclusion that the time has arrived when some decision should be taken and announced in regard to the principal seat of the Court.
It is therefore my duty to inform the Senate that the Government has approved in principle the transfer to Canberra of the principal seat of the High Court and has given instructions for the preparation of plans for a prestige building. The National Capital Development Commission has been directed to develop plans for a prestige building on the lakeside site immediately to the east of Parkes Place and in a line with the National Library. Cabinet has asked that the plans be developed to the stage where cost estimates can be established and timetables determined. At this stage the Government has not committed itself to any specific timing and the actual transfer of the principal seat of the High Court to Canberra will depend on a number of factors.
The transfer of the principal seat will not necessarily mean that all Full Court matters of the High Court will be heard in Canberra from the time of the transfer. Both the Chief Justice and the Government contemplate that there would have to be some transitional provision, at least for the hearing of Full Court matters in capital cities other than Sydney and Melbourne. It is anticipated also that single Justice sittings will continue to be held in the various capital cities although the establishment of the new Federal Superior Court would be likely to reduce the number of matters calling for hearing before a single Justice.
A further announcement will be made when the Government has considered the plans and the report of the National Capital Development Commission, but the Government does not expect to be able for some time to indicate when it is likely that the principal seat of the High Court will be transferred to Canberra. In the meantime, the Government is confident that its decision now announced will meet with the approval of the Australian people. With the concurrence of honourable senators I move:
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move:
Perhaps I should outline to the Senate what is contained in Statutory Rules 1967 No. 157. It reads:
Amendment of the Telephone Regulations
Regulation .127 of the Telephone Regulations is amended by omitting the words ‘Five cents’ and inserting in their stead the words “Seven cents’.
Regulation 127 of the Telephone Regulations states: (1.) A charge not exceeding Sixpence for each conversation may be made by the subscriber for each local call and the money may be retained by him.
For background information for honourable senators I also want to draw attention to an amendment to the Telephone Regulations which came into effect on 14th February 1966. Regulation 35 of the Telephone Regulations was repealed and the following regulation was inserted in its stead:
Subject to these Regulations, the fees payable for effective local calls from the telephone of a subscriber shall be calculated at the rate of Ten cents for every three effective telephone calls.
In the same Statutory Rules it was stated that Regulation 40 of the Telephone Regulations was amended by inserting after subregulation (1.) the following sub-regulation: (Ia.) For the purposes of ascertaining the amount payable under these Regulations in the case where the amount calculated in accordance with these Regulations includes a fraction of a cent -
These Regulations cover the actual price charged for telephone calls so far as the Postmaster-General’s Department is concerned. Now, users of public telephones provided by the Postmaster-General’s Department do not usually make three telephone calls. This means that the concession of being able to make three calls for 10c is not available to the public generally. If it were available people could pay ai the rate of 3£c a call. A person who has a telephone makes numerous calls during the period the telephone is connected and is charged at a rate of three calls for 10c.
Now I come to the regulation which provides for an amount of up to 7c a call to be charged for certain public calls under what is known as the red telephone system. There are evidently three companies operating the red telephone organisation. They are the Victa Telecommunication Co. Pty Ltd, Horrocks Roxburgh Pty Ltd and Elliott-Automation (Pty) Ltd. I found there was great reticence on the part of anyone connected with the red telephone organisation to give any information about it. I thought I might find some reference to this novel innovation in the annual report of the Postmaster-General’s Department. However, the last report of the Department that I could obtain was issued in 1966. I do not know whether the fault lies with the printers or whether there has been laxity on someone else’s part, but the fact is that I have not been able to obtain a copy of the report of the Postmaster-General’s Department for 1967. The technique adopted by the red telephone organisations is to hire their telephones to shopkeepers and others. These phones are connected to the general telephone services of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The charge is $24 a quarter or S96 a. year. This means that a whole field of revenue is available to people not connected with the Postmaster-General’s Department who are given the privilege of using all the facilities provided by the Department simply by installing a telephone. It is a matter of simple arithmetic to equate the $96 a year rental to the cost of the telephone itself.
The important point is that the person hiring the telephone is unable to buy the instrument; he can only hire it. I submit that a simple calculation of the annual return from each telephone will disclose just how lucrative it is for these companies to have the privilege or concession of using this service. The Postmaster-General’s Department does not miss out altogether, but in my view it is being extremely generous to these red telephone organisations, because it charges the hirer only the usual $40 a year rental for the use of the line. In return for this $40 it provides such expensive equipment as crossbars, subscriber trunk dialling and other services involving high capital costs and, at the end of this very complex line, it plugs in the private services. For a cost of only $136 a year these red telephone hirers are earning a lucrative return from selling to the public a service provided by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
The point I wish to emphasise is that the reason behind the Government’s policy of embarking on this red telephone service has never been properly explained to the Parliament or to the people of Australia. The stated policy of the Government is to encourage private enterprise in preference to Government enterprise, and over the years for which I have been a member of the Senate I have noticed that the Government has always been very avid in extracting as much revenue as it possibly can from the Postmaster-General’s Department despite the fact that the Department carries out a social operation, which the Government abhors so much.
The Government is responsible for the finances of the nation and the provision of services to the nation, and how it can encourage direct competition with itself from organisations such as these, who do not supply the community with anything extra that the Government could not supply just as well, is beyond my understanding. The telephone service is the most lucrative section of the Postmaster-General’s Department. I suppose that next to the ordinary mail service it is the service through which the Department comes in most direct contact with the public, lt is also the service in which the greatest scientific improvements - are taking place. And a section of it has been carved off and handed to nongovernment organisations to deal with privately.
As I have said, there are three companies involved in this business. There might be some justification for the Government’s action if these companies were providing services outside the areas presently served by the Postmaster-General’s Department. At the present time the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is just unable to service many new suburbs, distant places and country areas immediately, and if the companies about which I am speaking were giving even only short time service to people in areas such as those they would be doing something in the public interest as well as helping the Postmaster-General’s Department out. But this is not the position. On the contrary, it is not unusual to see a red telephone on each side of a public telephone provided by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Indeed, these red telephones may be seen clustered all along the streets in direct competition with the Postmaster-General’s Department. They are eating into the revenue of the Postmaster-General’s Department more and more as time goes on.
– Are they only outside shops?
– No. They are inside clubs as well as shops and 1 understand that in the honourable senator’s own State of New South Wales 7,500 of these phones have been installed. They are in shops, clubs, home units, blocks of flats and other places that could quite easily be served by the Postmaster-General’s Department. So there is really no justification for adopting this principle of helping private organisations to compete with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Further, this very system, which in effect duplicates the normal telephone service, is inflationary.
Recently the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) spoke about the increasing cost of living and the increasing cost of production. Mere we have an example of something that can serve only to increase costs. While Mr Bury is telling the working man that he should not expect to receive higher wages because they would have an inflationary influence on the economy the Government, by encouraging this duplication of service is doing something which cannot help but have such an effect upon the economy. Here is one direction in which the Government could control inflationary trends. I find it very difficult to discover just how much profit there is for the hirer at a rate of three calls for 10c. The original regulation prescribed a cost of a maximum of 6d a call. By the magic of decimal currency this 6d became 5c. Now we find the 5c is to become 7c, which represents an increase of 40%. Compared with the three calls for 10c as provided by the regulation, the charge of 7c a call represents an increase of 100% in the cost of a telephone call to the ordinary user.
– But the purchaser of three calls for 10c is paying a rental for his private phone.
– He pays the same rent as others do.
– The user of the public phone pays no rent.
– J am not talking about the public phone provided by the Postmaster-General’s Department; I am speaking now of the red telephone. The honourable senator has raised a point that 1 intended to make later. This is the thin end of the wedge. Once the charge for a call on the red telephone is increased the Government will have the opportunity to say that it is ridiculous to allow the red telephone organisations to charge 7c while the Government charges only 5c for a call on one of its telephones which may be next door to the red telephone. I have never seen Government charges come down. The only prices that do come down are the bookmakers’ prices, and they get down to rock bottom. This is the point that I am making: It is the thin end of (he wedge if the Government proposes to lift the charge for public telephone calls to 7c. We wish to draw the attention of the Senate to this possibility in the very near future. The Government is scouting around for finance for quite a number of its mistakes. I thank the honourable senator for reminding me of that point.
The shopkeepers make their margin in collecting the money from the boxes. These moneys have been paid by people making their calls. While there are some advantages associated with the red telephone there are also some disadvantages. One point is that these telephones are not available when the shops in which they are situated are closed. Certainly, they are supervised by the shopkeeper or whoever is the hirer of the telephone. Those people supervise the instruments in their own interests and therefore avoid the possibility of vandalism which goes on quite a deal in relation to telephones. On the other hand, these hirers do not have to provide for the full service. The Postmaster-General’s Department has to pay for the real service that the public receives night and day al the public telephone boxes. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department must pay for the damage that is caused by vandals because its public telephones in the street are unsupervised. The situation is different with the telephone in a shopkeeper’s establishment because supervision can easily be provided. With no cost for vandalism the profit is increased.
The red telephones can pay their way on about ten calls a day. After that number of calls has been made, the telephones are on the profit side. Really, calls made from the red telephones should be cheaper than calls made from public telephone booths because all night services are not provided. The use of the telephone ceases when the shop or club in which it is installed is closed. Therefore, this service is not available to the public at all times. But the Postmaster-General’s Department is responsible for providing a service night and day. Basically, I do not think that this type of service should ever have been allowed to operate outside the jurisdiction and control of the Postmaster-General’s Department. I have had experience of the Postmaster-General’s Department over a great many years especially during the period when I served as a member of the Parliamentary Public Works Committee. That Committee investigated post office constructions and other activities. I have found that the Department has good technicians and finance officers and other brilliant men in its various sections who must feel aggrieved that the Governmnet did not give them this very lucrative section of telephone services to provide revenue for their Department. After all, these people are very conscious of their job to bring revenue into the Department. So, I believe that matter which I am raising could be the thin end of the wedge in bringing about a general rise in telephone charges. We feel that people using the facilities provided at post offices are being made the milch cows and that this is a form of indirect taxation.
– The honourable senator approved of this when he walked out on the division relating to the postal increases last year.
– I did not approve of it.
– Why did the honourable senator walk out?
– A number of queer methods were used in the reassessing of the assets of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. This was done so that further revenue could be produced for the Government by the imposition of interest at a fixed rate on capital. This is another example of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department being made the means for the imposition of rather harsh indirect taxation. We oppose the proposal on these grounds also.
Finally, I believe this: The telephone service is a service that the public needs. It is like water services or electricity services. A telephone is absolutely indispensable for modern commerce or communications. This service should be made available to the public at the cheapest possible price. It should be available night and day to all members of the public for emergency purposes and for other reasons. The Opposition objects strongly to this section of users of PMG facilities being charged 7c instead of Sc. We believe that it is the thin end of the wedge foreshadowing a general increase in public telephone charges. Therefore, the Opposition opposes this amendment of the Telephone Regulations and asks the Senate to disallow it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
Debate (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 21 March (vide page 275), on motion by Senator Laucke:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:
May it please Your Excellency:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament1 assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your .Excellency, for the Speech which you have been pleased to address lo Parliament.
– Mr Deputy President, first I wish to correct a slight error in my speech last Thursday in this Address-in-Reply debate. I was so fascinated by my own remarks that I stated:
Honourable senators will remember the Keynesian view expressed at the Bretton Woods monetary agreement about the need to try to get an international monetary currency in real terms after the First World War.
I should have said ‘after the Second World War’. That was when the Bretton Woods conference took place. I wish to correct that error at this stage.
When I was granted leave to continue my remarks at a later stage last Thursday, I was referring to the balance of payments deficits of the two reserve currency countries, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. I mentioned that this problem was placing a strain on their financial position. One of the problems that these countries face is reserve currency. Perhaps I ought to mention at this stage that Australia is a country which tends to run a deficit balance of payments. We ought to note this for the sake of the nation and for the purpose of our own guidance. The last issue of the Treasury White Paper, January 1968, No. 49, mentions the sort of area of balance of payments deficits in which Australia has been engaged recently. At page 38 the White Paper deals with the fact that, in the quarter ended December 1967, Australia had a deficit on current account transactions of $180m. This was compared with the previous quarter in 1966 when the deficit on current account transactions was $157m. The Australian economy tends to be one that is running on a fairly continuous line of balance of payment deficits. 1 think that this is an important matter that needs to be considered by the Senate fairly soberly and objectively.
Honourable senators will find reference to the general pattern of Australian import and export activities and the resultant balance of payment deficit in the first section of the Budget Speech delivered last year by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). At page 46 of the Statements attached to the Budget. Speech 1967-68, honourable senators will find a summary of Commonwealth receipts and expenditures. There we can see a long line of years in which this country litis had an excess of expenditure over receipts. Australia is a country which, in the normal sense, can be regarded as one that does have this tendency to run continuously on balance of payments deficits. If we were not the sort of country that we are, this state of affairs could bring us to the situation where we would have many more problems to look at today.
What is it that allows us to overcome these fairly heavy balance of payments deficits? lt is capital inflow. What happened to this country is simply this: Australia is thought good enough and strong enough and is accepted as having a big enough future to be a good country for other nations around the word to invest in. Australia is thought to be a nation with a future, lt is thought to be a place where the investments of other people around the world can be made safely. This belief is the product of a number of things. In the first place, it is the product of political stability. Overseas people know that an investment that they make here will be safe. lt will nol be expropriated. It will not be watered down.. It will not be allowed to diminish. The reputation of this country has a lot to do with it. We are held to be people who have always kept our word in economic terms, political terms and treaty terms, and these things mean something. This is also a country with great opportunities. People look at us and say: ‘That is a country of the future. Therefore wc ought to be investing in it.’ It is this combination of reasons that generates the flow of capital to Australia and allows us to be able to support a situation which other countries are now finding difficult to support.
We had a fairly substantial capital inflow in the quarter ending December - so much so that our net position improved slightly. If any honourable senator who is interested in this matter turns to page 39 of the White Paper he will see that in the December quarter our balance of current account for that particular 3 months was $180m excess of imports over exports and invisibles. In effect, we were out of balance of payment by $!80m in that 3 months. But our net capital inflow was $250m. In the result we were able to add S70m to our overseas funds in that particular quarter. In the December quarter of 1966 we went back $38m. This is an indication of the opinion that the rest of the world holds for Australia, so far as its political stability, government, future, progress and the general worth of its people arc concerned. Later figures indicate the sort of thing that happened in January and February.
If honourable senators lake their minds back to the state of the economy last November, when we had British devaluation, they will agree that this was a fairly serious time for anybody involved in world trade as we are. There is some indication that in December we had a fairly strong capital inflow from countries that were disturbed by devaluation in the United Kingdom. The present indications arc that these trends; continued in January and again in February - these are only indications, not official figures. We would probably gain fairly substantially from other people’s difficulties, as the strong capital inflow into Australia is continuing. It is the thing that is beginning to make us quite strong. We have also to consider the effect of the economy as a whole.
I turn now to the general position of growth in which we find ourselves. One of the things that allows a country like Australia to run a balance of payments deficit when countries like the United Kingdom and the United States of America have found that it is hard to support this position - and all honourable senators know this - is our strong capital inflow. As 1 said earlier, a strong capital inflow is the product of confidence and opportunity. This has a great deal to do with the country as a country and as it is growing as a country. Australia’s growth rate is the type of thing which attracts people. They say to themselves: ‘This is a good country to invest in because this sort of investment will grow into something greater.’ But this is equally true for Australians. Sometimes honourable senators on the Opposition side of the chamber become worried about the question of overseas investment in Australia. I think that what we have to do is to look al the consequences of this type of investment and see what they really mean to us. This type of investment is a good thing for us as people who are using it, just as it is & good thing for the people who make it, providing that we ourselves as a country generate growth out of the things that we do.
Australia’s position is quite important in terms of overseas growth because after bad years of drought we have succeeded in returning to a fairly useful pattern of growth. Approximate figures relating to growth per annum are as follows: For the year ended 1963, 5.9%; for the year ended 1964, 6.9%; for the year ended 1 965, 7.4% ; and in the drought year ended 1966, 1.6%. Last year we returned to a figure of 5.8%. These are what we call constant price figures. They indicate the net growth rate in the economy. Under these conditions we are perfectly able to sustain profitability in any money that we choose to allow to come into Australia in the form of overseas capital in order to give us greater productivity. We can sustain this profitability and people will continue to let us do so while we are showing this sort of result.
At this stage I should like very briefly to comment on the fact that Australia’s economy at the last reporting stage, which was in January following on the figures for the 3 months ended December, was in a sound condition. Roughly, this is the position. There was a firm upward trend in demand and activity, and that trend in demand is continuing. Consumer spending has been buoyant. Retail sales are high. New passenger vehicle registrations have been rising steadily throughout the year and are running at a level of 15% above the figures for the year before. New dwelling commencements are at a high level. Future commencements are foreshadowed at a higher level than previously. Approvals for non-residential buildings continue to rise strongly. If there was a flat spot in this picture it was that there was tending to be a little lag in what is called private investment in plant and equipment. The Commonwealth’s expenditure on goods and services was 12% higher than in the previous December quarter. Industrial production was rising strongly.
We had to contemplate in the economy another situation which needed watching, and that was the fact that because of drought and the delayed effects of drought rural output was likely to be 10% lower than the record level reached in 1966-67. lt was to be a good level, but it was to be 10% below the record level. The labour market was firm. Employment had risen strongly. There was a noticeable increase in overtime. There was a slight decrease in registered unemployment. Bank lending had gone up strongly. The consumer price index had gone up slightly, but not very much. In effect, it looked as though the consumer price index would rise by 3.3%. But over the same year the average weekly wages rose by 6.5%. So there was a net gain in living standards. As I mentioned earlier, there was a net deficit of $180m in the balance of payments on current account, but capital inflow of $250m reduced the situation, and we were ahead. That was the state of Australia’s economy at last reporting. It is a state of economy in which any Australian, irrespective of his politics, can take great pride.
There is another reference in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to which 1 think I should very briefly give some attention. I refer to the question of transferability. That part of the Speech reads as follows:
In recent years attention has been focussed on the advantage to the community if people employed within the public sector were able to move from one kind of public employment to another without sacrificing their superannuation rights.
Last year my Government decided to have the question of transferability of superannuation benefits within the public sector investigated. The services of Sir Leslie Melville, K.B.E., were retained for this purpose.
This is quite an important matter for Australia. We are not a very large country and there is a limit on our resources of manpower, capital and mobility. We have to be very careful that we use the people we have in the most effective way. So one can make the strong argument that within the public sector in the first place, it ought to be possible to have people move as freely as possible from one occupation to another. We do not want the situation in which a man in his early life enters the Treasury, proceeds in a vertical fashion and can never move to another department or to another sector. In due course we want to achieve the position in which we will have maximum mobility within the public sector. Opportunities in another area will be open to the nian who begins in the public sector.
He will have the opportunity to move if he wants to. By this particular means, within the public sector we will be making the greatest use of the pool of ability and training which we generate in that particular field. People therefore can look to a career in the whole of the Public Service, not just in the department in which they began.
Al this stage I put forward the argument that there is great merit in considering in due course whether we cannot have some kind of mobility between the public and private sector in order that the benefits of private enterprise training could in some degree move into the area of the public sector: but equally, some skills, understanding and particular mobility of people in the public sector could be applicable to private enterprise. The real argument is that we have a small country and we have a lot to do. We cannot allow ourselves to bc stratified: to have the situation where people can pass only upwards without being able to pass sideways. If we have this type of columnar position, all we gel is a limitation of people’s opportunity and a pegging down of the use of the resources in the community. We ought to remember, that one of the great resources we have in Australia is the human resource. We should make the best possible use of our skilled people.
– ls the honourable senator claiming that public servants in one department cannot move to another department?
– No. I am claiming that it will become much easier to do so. The honourable senator may see in the Governor-General’s Speech a reference to the difficulty of transferring superannuation benefits. That is one factor that adds difficulty to transfers. I am hopeful that movement between departments will become much easier.
– The reference applies, docs it not, to people in another department, and not within a department?
– I understand that it applies within some departments at certain grades. I am grateful to the honourable senator for his interjection. I think this point is of concern to the whole Australian community and not only to members of political parties. My information is that at some levels - at certain grades - within the same department there is a tendency to restrict the ability of people to move. The honourable senator may recall that a couple of years ago the Chairman of the Public Service Board reported on the Board’s endeavours to encourage what was then described as lateral mobility. I understood that restrictions on the ability to transfer superannuation rights were inhibiting the achievement of that result. 1 am grateful to the honourable senator for his comments.
I congratulate the new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) on his appointment, and I congratulate the Government itself, of which I am proud to be a supporter, on its steady and progressive course. I hope I have borne out the success of the’ Government by the comments I have made on the financial strength of this country, the soundness of its economy and the very obvious opportunities presented to people in other parts of the world who without doubt look upon us as a very favoured and promised land.
– I also am pleased to take part in this debate and to join the tributes paid to our late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt. When I entered this Parliament in 1949 Mr Harold Holt was known as a tough parliamentarian. He was a member of the Opposition in the days of John Curtin and Ben Chifley. In the year of my arrival Mr Holt became Minister for Immigration, and following in the footsteps of his Labor predecessor he gained great approval from the people of this country. When he later became Minister for Labour and National Service he became associated with the trade union movement and accomplished some fine deeds in co-operation with Mr Albert Monk, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Later still he became Treasurer, prior to his appointment as Prime Minister. The respect he gained throughout the world was illustrated by the attendance of world leaders at his memorial service. I join with other members of this Parliament, in expressing to his widow and family our deep and sincere condolences.
I join Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, our former Prime Minister, in voicing my disgust at the conduct of members of the Government Parties in the election of their new leader. I attended the memorial service to our late Prime Minister and it seemed to me that Government supporters at the time used even more character assassination than in the past they have employed against the Austraiian Labor Party, but this time they were using it against each other. The Minister for Trade and Industry and Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr McEwen) was to the fore, and the venom he displayed in attacking the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) shocked the whole nation. Many similar occurrences have occurred since that attack, right throughout Australia. Suggestions, inferences and innuendoes have been employed by people outside this Parliament to attack the character of the Treasurer. Any decent Government supporter should be concerned at those attacks and the persons who make them should be called upon to justify their statements.
Ultimately Senator Gorton, as he then was, was elected to the leadership because he was regarded as the greatest Tory and reactionary of them all. He was elected to become Prime Minister, as the man to deal with Mr Whitlam, who is the number one hate of big business organisations throughout Australia. It was felt that something had to be done to destroy the Leader of the Australian Labor Party. Honourable senators on this side of the chamber know that today the biggest business in this country is control of the National Parliament. The question of who is to control the wellbeing and the wealth of Australia is determined in the main by the controllers of this Parliament. It is for that reason that the big business organisations of Australia are determined that Labor shall not occupy the Treasury bench, lt will take a better, man than the present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) or any member of his Party to destroy the credentials and ability of the Leader of the Australian Labor Party and the feeling held for him by the people of Australia. Mr Gough Whitlam is a man of impeccable character, and no man or woman can fairly point an accusing finger at him. I challenge members of the Government parties to match him in any sphere that they wish to choose. Mr Gorton was selected to deal with the Labour movement and not only its Leader. The carrying out of a great attack on the Labor Party and the trade unions was the first decision of the first caucus meeting of the Liberal and Country Parties. The battle cry is: ‘We have to get stuck into the Labor Party.’ That is the basis of the election of our Prime Minister.
The new Ministry was presented with a fanfare of trumpets, and the Press of course gave it an accolade. I wonder what the old master and founder of the Liberal Party thinks now that people he regarded from 1949 onwards as members of the lunatic fringe of this Parliament have become members of the Ministry. Some of them now occupy important positions in the Cabinet - I refer both to senators and members of the House of Representatives. I congratulate the two honourable senators who have joined the Ministry, and I also congratulate the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) upon his appointment. As other honourable senators on this side of the chamber have said, i hope that their stay in office will not be for long. However, at present 1 offer my congratulations to them. I hope thai one of the new Ministers in the Senate has not been bought off by his appointment. Opposition senators might be pardoned, remembering some of the great speeches he has made in the past, especially those in which he has referred to the honour of this Parliament, for thinking that the purpose of his appointment was to buy him off. lt has been said that the appointment of one of the Ministers in the other House came about because he has a swimming pool. I think other factors were associated with his appointment. I. think Mr Santamaria had more influence over that selection than is generally recognised.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. I think the honourable senator has engaged for too long in a discussion of personalities. I suggest that he should be asked to come to deal with the GovernorGeneral’s Speech.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! The honourable senator should confine his discussion to the motion to adopt the Address-in-Reply.
– I intend to do that. However, the Governor-General referred in his Speech to the Ministry, and I have devoted some of my remarks to that aspect. In view of the point of order that has been taken I will now come to the main points I wish to raise in this debate. Upon (he new Prime Minister’s selection (he Parliament was prorogued which meant, in effect, that the Prime Minister was cutting himself adrift from the old ties of the Menzies and Holt Governments.
Lord Casey came here and in great voice outlined the Government’s programme to honourable senators and members. 1 point out that this was the first meeting 01 the Parliament in 4 months. I am advised that the Government intends that the Parliament shall sit for 4 weeks - this is the third week of that period - rise for 3 weeks, and then sit again for 3 weeks. I do not know just what is to take place thereafter, lt can be seen that it is not the desire or the intention of the Government to meet the Parliament very often, lt would much rather administer the affairs of the nation without the assistance of the Parliament than have the Parliament legislate for this purpose. Personally, I do not think that the Government has very much legislation in view, in spile of the proroguing of the Parliament. This would appear to be the position on the information that we have before vis a, the moment. These are questions that ought to be answered very, very quickly by the Government.,
The Governnent has already caused consternation in the Public Service by the appointment of one who is termed the most controversial figure in the Public Service - a ruthless, tough officer - over men both senior in service and younger than he. Men who have given great service to former Liberal Prime Ministers have been overlooked and this officer has been really put in charge of the whole structure of the Public Service. The Governor-General spoke of inquiries into health, social services and Aboriginal affairs. These arc matters of very great concern to this nation of ours. After this announcement an editorial in the Daily Mirror’ stated:
Why on earth is the Government embarking on a time wasting inquiry - tribunal and all - to inquire into the health insurance schemes? The Government already knows enough about them, including the fact that the very people who need benefits most - the aged and chronically ill- must be helped over long periods of hardship. So what’s the point of more expensive talk? What we want is action.
– Did not the honourable senator’s party move for the appointment of a select committee on this matter?
– That is right. If time permits I shall tell the honourable senator what we would do in this field if we were in government. The Public Service and the Department of Social Services have all of the answers on all these matters. If the Government wants to act there is no reason why it cannot act immediately.
Something should be done now for those unfortunate people who are in want. We talk and talk about having an affluent society but more than three-quarters of a million people are in receipt of social service benefits. Most of these receive the base pension. There are hundreds of thousands of families, generally with young children, who have only one income coming into the home. Many elderly persons, too, come into this category. There is no affluence amongst these people. I appeal to the Government to take action now, not to wait 5 months for the Budget session and then a further 2 months - 7 months in all - before giving any additional benefits to these unfortunates. Let me refer to a most important matter upon which, I am very pleased to say, a statement has been made recently by the new Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth). Unless both husband and wife in working class homes are gainfully employed, their noses are kept to the grindstone. There is no question about that. There is no affluence in the homes of working class people unless more than one income is coming in. I was pleased to read the following statement by the new Minister on the same subject:
Many young people could nol afford to have children. As soon as 99% of young married couples began to have children their standard of living began to drop like a stone.
I am looking forward to improvements in the field of child endowment. 1 hope that Labor’s marriage loan proposals might be remembered by the Minister and that these and increased taxation deductions for dependants become part and parcel of his new policy.
I regret thai in the Governor-General’s Speech the claims of the Returned Services League were not discussed in more detail. I recall very well a powerful pamphlet issued by the League which, I am very happy to be able to say, I used to great effect in the Senate election campaign. The pamphlet pointed out that servicemen were honoured in war and forgotten in peace and that the present levels of war pensions were a disgrace to the Government, a disgrace to Australia and a betrayal of those who suffered in war. I hope that these people, too, will not have to wait an additional 7 months before justice is done to them. In the Senate election campaign we made good use also of an advertisement that appeared in the Press on behalf of Service organisations, lt was headed ‘RSL Fights for Pension Rise’ and cited an instance of injustice being done to people who may have to give their lives on behalf of the nation. The advertisement, which was authorised by the State Council of the Returned Services League of Australia (N.S.W. Branch), Anzac House, 26 College Street, Sydney, stated:
A young ex-national serviceman severely wounded in the head in Vietnam has recently been discharged by the Army as medically unfit and granted a 100% partial incapacity pension of $12 a week and medical treatment by the Repatriation Commission. For the rest of his life he will be unable to work properly, take part in social activities and to properly support a family . . .
The RSL believes the Government is dodging ils obligations to men it sends overseas to fight and the RSL needs the support of all people, young and old, to resist the present attitude to war pensions. The RSL campaign to improve the lot of war pensioners is now well under way with the issue of 500,000 pamphlets entitled ‘Honoured in war . . . forgotten in peace.’
That advertisement had great value in the Senate election campaign and the matter it contained is of vital concern to the Government at the moment. The Government has every reason to be concerned and I hope that something is done in the near future on this matter.
I should like the Government to be honest and to make the position clear on another issue. Is our economy as sound as it is said to be by the Treasurer in pamphlets and statements issued in the last few weeks? Or is the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) correct in stating that increased wages granted under the arbitration system can destroy us all? The Government ought to be fair to the people of Australia and let us know where we are going in this field. I am always concerned to find that the Government vigorously opposes and delays claims for wage increases by the real producers of the nation’s wealth - the workers in the fields, factories, mines and workshops. This, to me, is a great injustice. These people and nobody else, are the real producers of the nation’s wealth. It is time that the Government made its position clear. At present the Government’s possion is completely confused by apparently contradictory statements by the Treasurer and the Minister for Labour and National Service.
For some time we have been passing through one of the worst droughts in history, yet the Governor-General’s Speech devoted only four lines to water conservation. His Excellency said:
My Government will introduce legislation during this session to authorise expenditure on water conservation projects already agreed upon with the States. These will be financed from the $50m being made available by the Commonwealth over 5 years for these purposes.
Is it any wonder that the former Minister for Primary Industry and Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party in the House of Representatives, Mr Adermann, says emphatically that this is not enough? In view of the tremendous loss to the nation, the Govern men tV lack of interest in this matter is almost unbelievable. It was this Government that allowed the Snowy Mountains Authority to break up. That body contained great people who had been well trained in water conservation work. It is a great tragedy that the Authority has been allowed to break up. What is being done about drought now? Are our drought breaking facilities being wasted? We have heard much about the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s cloud seeding aircraft. But recently I read in the Organisation’s report that this matter is now one for the States only. Unfortunately the cloud seeding aircraft seem to be absent when there are any prospects of making rain.
I want to know what is happening in regard to our great natural resources. Recent finds of oil and gas seemed to promise great things for our people. Yet recently I read the following in a newspaper article:
Huge savings in our oil import bill, but dearer petrol for the Australian motorist
That is the prospect In store following yesterday’s announcement by BHP-Esso . . .
That is the sort of thing that is happening at the present time. We have all these great natural resources in Australia and we are making great strikes of oil and gas; yet it is estimated that petrol and gas will become dearer in the near future. I do not know exactly what is happening in this field, but 1 do know that a change in government would alter the present situation dramatically, and bring benefit to the ordinary citizen of the nation.
What is happening in regard to our iron ore? According to a recent Press statement, mountains of iron ore are at our feet at Mount Newman, Mount Goldsworthy and Mount Tom Price in Western Australia and at Frances Creek- in the Northern Territory, in the golden sands of our beaches we have rutile and titanium, the miracle metal which is sifted from our beach sands to meet 95% of the Western world’s demand and which is used so effectively in the defence of the Western powers. I say to this Parliament: Let us use these resources for the benefit of our people, not of the great combines and overseas interests. Unfortunately our people do not appear to bc receiving very many benefits as a result of the exploitation of our great natural resources.
The Governor-General’s Speech might have contained more about what the Government proposes to do to help the Slate governments and local governing authorities. They are crying out for financial assistance. They need help for such important matters as health, hospitals, housing, education and roads, particularly in rural areas. Water conservation schemes are also very important. In fact, they are the lifeblood of the rural areas. Had the Governor-General in his Speech, which was written for him by the Government, dealt more effectively with these matters and told us what the Government intended to do in the future in respect of them, we would have felt very much happier in this debate. We would have felt that much more legislation would be forthcoming after this debate.
I was pleased to hear the GovernorGeneral’s statement on Vietnam. Having been there with the last parliamentary delegation I was particularly interested in what he said. I sorrow very deeply for the unfortunate people of Vietnam. Eighty per cent of the population is illiterate; 50% of the population is under 18 years of age; and there is only a handful of doctors to look after the 15 million or 16 million people. So I do not believe that any of us in this Parliament or anyone in Australia can be happy about the situation that exists there. I was very unhappy to see the great disservice that was done to Australia in dismissing the matter of the inhuman treatment handed out to the captured women. We Australians should have been among the first to show the world that we are opposed to any ill treatment of that nature. Because we have suffered so much at the hands of the enemy, we should have shown to our whole nation and in turn to the whole world that we do not endorse or become parties to such ill treatment. 1 always pay tribute to our soldiers wherever they may be. I saw them in Vietnam. I felt that they were doing effectively the job that they were sent there to do. In Vietnam our boys are aware of the pitfalls that surround them. There are no Vietnamese in their camps because our boys realise that they cannot take any risks. I am positive that they feel that the Vietnamese cannot be trusted. On the other hand, the United States troops have Vietnamese running around their camps like flies. So 1 am not surprised when I hear that the Americans are in trouble. They get into trouble from people whom they have inside their own camps and people who are working alongside them in their own ranks.
Let me repeat something that 1 have mentioned before. When we were in Vietnam Colonel Ted Serong, who previous to our arrival was in charge of the Australian forces there - Senator Cotton would verify this if he were in the chamber - said to our delegation: ‘Inside 15 minutes I. could take you ‘ from here in the heart of Saigon to a Vietcong controlled village’. Later Colonel Rouse, who was second in charge of the Australian forces in Vietnam, told us that oil tankers travelling from Saigon to Vung Tau paid a toll to the Vietcong. We were horrified, because in the heart of Saigon itself there were half a million of the best equipped and best armed troops in the world. I said to him: ‘Do you mean to tell me that you know where these villages and hamlets to which you pay the toll are?’ He replied: ‘Yes, we know where they are; but that is the type of war it is’. So it does not come as any surprise to me that Saigon is being attacked. As a matter . of fact, I would not have been surprised if i* had been attacked much earlier. The attacks on
Saigon are continuing. Last Friday’s ‘Australian’ contained the following report:
Vietcong forces shelled the US air base at Tan Son Nhut at Saigon this morning for the first time in 2 weeks.
The attack came only hours after US intelligence sources said the North Vietnamese threat to overrun Khe Sanh had ended. lt is not a happy state of affairs when things like that can happen in a situation that is supposed to be well in hand. Leaving aside the conflict of opinion in the United States which has been sharpened by the challenge to President Johnson by Senator Robert Kennedy and other senators, I make this plea for the sake of everything that is decent: Let us stop the bombing of the North. I join with U Thant, SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations, and Tran Van Do, the representative of South Vietnam who was in Australia at one lime and was feted and honoured by the people of this country, in claiming that the bombing of North Vietnam is a failure. Tran Van Do is reported in the ‘Daily Mirror’ of 15th February 1968 in this way:
South Vietnam’s Foreign Minister, Dr Tran Van Do, admitted today that the American bombing of North Vietnam had been ‘a complete failure’.
We should be using every endeavour to bring peace to Vietnam because I believe that peace is a possibility. We should be using every endeavour to get out of this unhappy situation, this unwinnable war, as soon as we can and before we are hated still more than we are at present by everyone who does not have a white skin.
– Why not have a yarn occasionally with Ho Chi Minh?
– 1 have no brief for Ho Chi Minh and the honorable senator should realise that. Let me state the view of one person who is vitally concerned about this matter and with whom we are carrying on a very close association. Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodian Head of State and heir to the throne had this to say:
The Australians are fighting in Vietnam because they are not yellow. They are part of the white western world. Australia and New Zealand are afraid of their white skins. They claim to be part of Asia but they are not. They know the whole region will be dominated by Asians.
I point out that we maintain cordial relations with and supply economic aid and other forms of assistance to Cambodia. That is the situation we are getting into by reason of our involvement in Vietnam.
I believe that no Christian can justify the destruction of human life, be it the life of a North Vietnamese, a South Vietnamese, an Australian, an American or of any of our other allies. Life is just as dear to an Asian as it is to any of us in Australia. Recently on the front page of a newspaper we saw a photograph of an Asian woman - obviously a South Vietnamese - showing on her face the agony of the people of Vietnam. The caption to the photograph is ‘God Help Me’. When we realise the shocks, agonies and horrors of this war we must conclude that we just cannot lightly pass them by. As 1 have said on numerous occasions in this Parliament, surely to God we could be exercising our influence with the countries with whom we trade in an endeavour to bring the war to a conclusion as quickly as possible.
If Government supporters have such great faith in the Government’s policy, let then enlist. I say with all my heart that I protest against the conscription of youngsters of 20 years of age who have been forced by ballot into this unwinnable war. Country Party senators may object most strongly to what I have said but I am heartened by a statement which appeared in a newspaper on Friday, 22nd March attributed to the Victorian Wheat and Woolgrowers Association. lt is in these terms:
The Victorian Wheat and Woolgrowers Association of Victoria yesterday unanimously condemned the birth ballot system of conscription for military service. It urged a more equitable system in which all eligible males were called up, and better pay and conditions to attract more volunteers for overseas service.
The delegate from Yarrawonga, Mr F. Keenen asked: ‘In business you pay danger money and camping away allowance - why not in the Army?’ He compared the ballot to press gangs used to build the British Navy in the past. ‘The war belongs to everybody, but we’re sending a few unfortunate boys who haven’t got a vole’, he said. ‘We claim to believe in a fair go but this isn’t it’.
The delegate from Rupanyup. Mr C. Sudholy, said: ‘To join the Citizen Military Forces a man has to get two character references and the permission of his employer. But conscripts are just dragged away by the hair of their head with no permission and no references’.
The people who believe so deeply in this Government’s policy - we see many of them around polling booths on election day and in other places, even in this Parliament - should be exhibiting the same spirit that they want these lads of 20 years of age to exhibit. I express my horror and condemnation of the present situation. The Australian Labor Party is most determined on this issue and seeks the opportunity to work with U Thant and other world leaders to put an end to this terrible war.
In another place the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Barnard, has mentioned the possibility of another election. He has been laughed at by Government supporters. I wonder whether he is so far from the truth. With a financial crisis looming, he could be right on the line. No Government could bc happy with an election every .18 months and the present Prime Minister, like his predecessor, would want the opportunity of a 3 years go, as it is termed, at the people of Australia. History has a habit of repeating itself. 1 join with our Deputy Leader in warning the Australian people that this Government could create a situation in which it would obtain approval from the Governor-General for an early election for the House of Representatives.
– On what grounds?
– If the honourable senator will listen to me for a few moments I will tell him the grounds that have been used on previous occasions. This Government was elected in 1949 with a great blare of trumpets. Petrol rationing was one of the major issues in the campaign. The Government sold out Great Britain and the sterling area in which it was supposed to have great faith, and sought petrol from America and the dollar area, lt lifted the financial safeguards which the Chifley Government had laid down for the well being of Australia. One of those was the control of capital issues, a policy which ensured that the funds available were used for the benefit of the nation. Within 18 months the Government ran into all the financial difficulties in the world so it sought a double dissolution for which, for some peculiar reason, it obtained approval. So we had an election in 1951, 18 months after the Liberal-Country Party Government had been elected.
Immediately upon re-election the Government introduced the horror Budget. That Parliament lasted for 3 years, at the end of which the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ said that the Government would have to pull something out of the hat to win the 1954 election. Of course it did. On the eve of the election the Government pulled a rabbit out of the hat in the form of Mr Petrov whom it had had dangling for 2 years previously ready to defect. By giving great publicity to the. supposed threats to our security, the Government won the election.
– And Dr Evatt was communicating with Molotov.
– 1 will come to that in a moment. The point I make is that if the history of this matter is ever written - I hope it will be - the damaging of the reputation of people like Madame Oilier, and the untimely death of others connected with the affair, will not give us much cause for pride. It will be a tragic page in Australian history. In fact, when the true story is unfolded, it. will prove the greatest political stunt ever put over the people of this country. Eighteen months afterwards, in 1955, the Government hit upon the statement made by the Leader of the Australian Labor Party at that time. Our leader had written to Molotov. In a mock blast of great disgust and terrible concern, the Prime Minister of the day sought another election because, again, he was facing a financial crisis. He sought and got that election on the ground that Dr Evatt had said that he had written to Molotov. The Prime Minister of the day asked for an early election and got. one. lt was asked then on what grounds an approach for an early election could be granted. The Government could get one on any grounds and it proved this to be true at that time. I could go on and say why Dr Evatt wrote to Molotov and all those things had taken place. But the fact is that again, 18 months afterwards, there was another election, followed by another credit squeeze.
In the period to 1958 the election ran to its 3 year period. In 1961 a financial crisis again arose. The Prime Minister at the time was so blase1 and so little concerned about things generally that he did not worry about the Opposition. The Opposition meant nothing to him. He believed he had no effective opposition and was unconcerned.
– It was the eighth Parliament in 1 8 years.
– Yes, and Parliaments should be elected for a period of 3 years. Without going to the electors beforehand, the Prime Minister of the day imposed a credit squeeze. To his surprise the Government was re-elected with a majority of only one seat. Within 2 years some smart people inside the Government parties* ranks said that they could increase their majority if another election was held right then. So 2 years later the Government parties again went to the people. Unfortunately, in doing so, they threw out of balance the elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate, which hitherto had coincided so the Government now faces an election every 18 months. No Prime Minister, particularly the present Prime Minister, could be happy or would be happy under these circumstances. Therefore, for all those reasons, the Prime Minister is looking for an election catch cry. I. say to the Senate and to the people of Australia that they should watch developments. If there are any financial difficulties and the need to tighten the economy, there will be no doubt about the Government wanting an early election. As history shows, there will be no question about what the Government will do. I come down on the side of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the other place in regard to this matter and time only will tell whether I am right or wrong. 1 have spoken longer than I intended. The Labor Party in the Senate and in the other chamber has informed all Australians of its intentions. The notices of motion which we had on the business paper last session and which lapsed when Parliament was prorogued have been reinstated and they show where we stand. We have asked the Government to set up a number of committees to investigate and report on matters which concern the people generally. We seek a committee to inquire into medical and hospital costs in Australia. We seek a committee to investigate the establishment of a national organisation to deal with the effects of national disasters, particularly those arising from fire, flood and drought. We seek a committee to forecast Australian housing demands, the capacity of the building industry to meet future demands for houses, the extent to which private capital can be expected to finance future demands for housing and the role of Commonwealth finance in housing. We seek a committee to investigate all aspects of homes for aged persons. We seek a committee to investigate the overseas control of Australian resources, commerce and industry and to report on the ownership and control of our resources, the principal foreign persons or companies involved, the extent of their ownership and control, and any matters pertaining to all aspects of overseas control here. We seek another committee to inquire into and report upon the needs of pre-school, primary, secondary and technical education throughout Australia. We seek a committee to inquire into and report upon primary arid secondary poverty in Australia and to include in ils report all aspects that turn on our social service programme and legislation.
We are concerned with all these matters. If we become the government we will not only report on them but also bring down legislation which will be for the wellbeing of the people of Australia, not for the handful representing the big financial interests who control the government, as is the case at the moment.
– 1 readily support the terms of the Address-in-Reply. I know it is quite a few days now since the actual terms of the Address-in-Reply were put before the Senate but it has been the subject of debate for some time. Nevertheless, because of the nature of the occasion I think that even at this stage it is pertinent to recall in a few sentences something of the circumstances surrounding it. The occasion affords one an opportunity to refer appreciatively to His Excellency the Governor-General. He not only graces the office but his presence, when he comes to speak to us, graces the Parliament as a symbol of our oneness as a nation. On such occasions, I think, we have the opportunity to contemplate for a few moments the office of GovernorGeneral in a sophisticated society where efficiency, streamlining and speed tend to be uppermost in our thoughts. Certain things are necessary to remind us that we are a nation and part of a family of nations; that we have a total life as a nation to live out. The Governor-General comes to us as the symbol of an authority - the authority of the nation and of the Parliament.
This Address-in-Reply debate affords me the opportunity to congratulate Senator Laucke. I do this with considerable pleasure. As a fellow South Australian I am pleased to see him here in the Senate. I value the political philosophy that he stands for. He has a splendid record in the South Australian Parliament and as a leader in commercial and public life in that State. As a South Australian senator, I certainly wish him well. I also would like to congratulate Senator Greenwood. He comes to us surely under unique circumstances. His thoughtful speech the other evening, devoted entirely to the area in which he serves in his vocation, was one that gave promise of the kind of thoughtful analysis and presentation that he will present in the years ahead.
When the Governor-General was speaking to us at the opening of the Parliament he said that the Parliament had been called together in unusual and historic circumstances. I would like to place on record my own recognition of the work and statesmanship of the late Mr Harold Holt. So much has been said and written by so many people in so many splendid phrases and ways. There have been wonderful occasions which reminded us and, 1 am sure, a great many Australians, that he gave us a new idea of our country’s stature. If 1 may say so, with all respectfulness, in the fullness of time and taking into account the fitness of things, it may be that there will be some opportunity in some appropriate way, and at some time, for some body or some institution to make recognition of the work which this great Australian did over so many years in the service of the Parliament so that Australians in the future will remember the many new doors that he opened and the many new opportunities that he provided.
Now we have a new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). I suggest that honourable senators know him better than senators knew any Prime Minister in our history. Our Prime Minister has an appreciation of the role and place of the Senate in the scheme of parliamentary affairs. We certainly wish him well. I also join with other honourable senators in congratulating those who were elevated in office at the commencement of this new session.
The Governor-General’s Speech covered a great number of subjects. It is true that honourable senators have drawn attention to things which were not included in it. Any one of us could read through his Speech and charge or note that it had certain omissions - matters in which we are interested or which we feel are deserving of attention and consideration. But I think it is true to say that a Governor-General’s Speech is not the kind of speech to include the whole range of policy offerings, especially in these circumstances, but rather that it should give a general coverage of the. record of the Government and foreshadow, albeit if not by direct words then at least by inference, some of the matters that will be brought forward by the Government, f. should imagine that it would be an accurate statement to observe that wilh the existence of unusual and historic circumstances and implications other than those mentioned in His Excellency’s Speech the new Leader and his Government face a future with probably more challenges in it than most have had to face through the years. Pressure in Vietnam has been intensified. Our American allies are under very severe pressure at the present time. The Government recognises this challenge by continuing to support a policy of active intervention in this very unfortunate war but at the same time, by continuing to support the United States and the Government of Vietnam we are not only reiterating our continuing support for the effort that is being made but also our strong desire for a just and lasting peace. Because of that desire, we are actively helping to see this conflict resolved.
The British withdrawal from this part of the world poses a challenge that is probably greater than most of us realise. We find almost cruel, I think, the suggestion that we have seen the fall of an empire, yet movements and events have taken place and will take place so quickly that there seems to me to be no other way to describe it. For centuries the British people have sailed the oceans, planted the flag and, by their brain and brawn, by the use of their talents and by much hard work have developed and prospered nation after nation. We are critical today of what we call colonialism. Certainly in the light of modern research and investigation, and certainly against the background of modern civilisation, colonialism, as we mostly generally and fairly loosely describe it, shows up some defects.
But I think that in spite of all its faults it. is true to say that there are millions of people and many institutions who, through this system of British development in the last century, even if they are not efficient at least now have ideas of what they might be and the things that they might do.
If we are so clever today in our assessments and comments on colonialism, I am sometimes given to wondering just what a future civilisation will say about the wisdom of granting independence to so many small communities, small islands in the ocean and small territories within the continents today. I do not criticise this as T. see it now. Indeed, I am a supporter of the processes that take place to enable their independence to be achieved. Along with others I am an advocate of lt. We as a people and as a Parliament wish new territories, new nations and new countries well in their independence. We give expression to our good wishes in various practical ways, and their prosperity will always be our delight. But looking ahead half a century, or a century, and trying even in a very rough way to envisage the power blocs that might emerge in that period of time, it is not without strong possibility that there will be problems to be faced by these areas which are comparatively small in terms of territory, in terms of population, in terms of economic assets, in terms of influence and even in terms of ability to exercise any kind of effective influence in any particular council. But, side by side with that, may I express the hope that with the shrinking of distances, with the speeding up of communications and transport, with the movement of people and the interchanges of skills and so on an interdependence will grow, an interdependence which I hope will make the independence of these various territories and countries a very great thing. So if the United Kingdom withdraws from our area of the world and Asian influence develops I think it is important to use this occasion to remind the Senate that Australia needs to have a serious and realistic appraisal of its own place in the general scheme of things. We are proud of our own independence. It counts for something. But the measure of our own strength and our own ability to make a contribution in the area to which I am referring is one of the challenges to which I referred at the beginning of my speech.
When the Governor-General was sitting in this place on opening day, he said:
It is, of course, clear that Australia cannot, if it is to discharge its other responsibilities at home and abroad, fill the vacuum created by the British withdrawal. But it has been made clear to us that the governments of Malaysia and Singapore wish Australia to contribute towards the stability of the region by maintaining some military presence.
There are two or three points in that paragraph to which I wish to refer. The first is that we must look at this vacuum which has been created by the British withdrawal. If we cannot fill it in the same way that the British occupied it for all these years, let us look at the measure of our contribution to see that it is at least effective and is strategically placed. His Excellency said.
The governments of Malaysia and Singapore wish Australia to contribute towards the stability of the region by maintaining some military presence.
I know it will be necessary to maintain some military presence. This we will do. I believe that we will do it with effectiveness and with acceptance by the people in whose territory it is placed. But I hope that all Australians will recognise the fact that it becomes our duty to contribute towards the stability of the region. This, of course, as it has been, must be done in a variety of ways. It must be done through our trade, through our aid, through our general interchange of facilities and the abilities which we, as the Australian nation, possess.
So we take our place, to the best of our ability, conscious of the fact that whilst we cannot fill the vacuum that has been created, and while we have considerable strength of our own, it is not the same strength as is possessed by some other nations of world standard and world power. But we hope that in the development of the area in which Australia is placed time will be on our side both in terms of our own development and of international opportunity. But, as I said before, the change has been very rapid. Indeed, it may well continue to be rapid. It has been so rapid up to this stage that, if I may coin a phrase, there has not even been time to say goodbye.
As I refer to these matters, we do not forget the years of stability that the United Kingdom brought and the foundations which she laid. Therefore I make a plea for our general stability of thought on this. I know that is a cliche, and I apologise for it, but I hope that throughout our Australian community there will be a commonsense feeling over this. We do know that not only has the Commonwealth of Nations completely changed in its composition and in its outlook but the outlook of the people has completely changed towards it. People say its days are numbered, and if we look at certain events and certain trends we cannot wonder at this point of view which has developed. It is a strange mixture now compared with what it was even as late as a quarter of a century ago. There are alliances between Commonwealth countries and countries outside the Commonwealth and there is a new relationship between countries within the Commonwealth. Yet I am given to thinking that this kind of turbulence that has grown up within the present setup will pass. Maybe it will pass on to another kind of turbulence, but it may well be that subsequent events will cause the present leadership of the younger Commonwealth countries to have a new look at things and, having passed through their areas of newfound status and prestige, they will find themselves in the situation where they may be very glad to have friends at court and where they may value, perhaps as we do not think they do now, the kind of family relationship which we understand, albeit in a kind of old fashioned way. as forming the threads that bind the Commonwealth of Nations. So, with the British withdrawal, American ascendancy, Asian emergence, Australia’s relationships across the Pacific Ocean on the one side and the Indian Ocean on the other are faced with many challenges some of which I have just touched upon. We are called at this time of the opening of a new parliamentary session to be realistic and stable in our thinking. I suggest that the Governor-General has taken the point very well indeed.
I wish to move on to a matter that is probably fashionable for all of us to refer to in this Address-in-Reply debate, indeed about which it is almost expected that a South Australian member of the Parliament will have something to say. This is the matter of water, of drought and of rivers and the things associated with drought. There has been considerable controversy in this Senate and in other public forums particularly in South Australia over certain events under the jurisdiction of the River Murray Commission. All of us, whatever our opinions of the events - and whatever may be the opinions which have been expressed by Ministers, commissioners and others - feel deeply concerned for a State that is deficient in its natural water resources and supplies so that whatever the outcome we may not only get an ample supply of water but also have an ample supply from storage and further that we may have it at least at reasonable proximity so that there will not be any undue delay on such occasions as it is required.
All of this is highlighted by the fact that Australia, unfortunately, finds itself dealing with the effects of a very severe drought. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that we have almost become accustomed to platitudes about drought. We have become so accustomed to it that, indeed, a large section of the community runs the risk of being indifferent to drought, especially those people who do not live close to areas of drought. A good many Australians do not. Because of the progress we have been able to make over recent years in the diversity of our production, in our exports, in the increase in mineral discoveries and the development of secondary industry we find now that the effects of drought on the great urban population of Australia are cushioned for most of these people.
While a drought lasts, it sears its way into the Australian economy but maybe the effect is later than is apparent to most people. But, never mind, the effect of drought is serious and is long term. Droughts never stop with a clean-cut figure of so many sheep or cattle dead or so many bushels of wheat lost. It is not possible to lay down in black and white at any given point in time an absolute and accurate effect of a drought year. Let me take quickly the case of sheep and cattle. There are the great reproductive losses, the inability to service new market needs, the loss of investment in studs as well as the long time effects of all of these things. In the case of pastures a whole family of losses is involved. There are seed, the use of machinery, superphosphate and other matters to say nothing of the loss of time in bringing new land into production. The erosion factor is related to this matter and in a drought wind exerts a merciless influence and produces a merciless result. I have seen it estimated that a really large dust storm in a drought year carries with it some 11 million tons of topsoil. When we analyse this quantity into components of phosphate, potash, nitrogen and so on, we find that it is estimated that there is enough topsoil in such a storm to top dress 70,000 acres of land to a depth of 1 inch. So, Australia is a problem country in terms of drought.
Some areas of Australia are very wet while a great deal of the country is very dry. One third of the continent receives in rainfall between 20 inches and 50 inches a year. The other two-thirds of the continent hovers between 5 inches and 20 inches of rain a year. I suppose that if we could maintain an even general average through all of this all of the time it would bc possible to effect a considerable increase in output. Bui our averages are interrupted for long periods of absolute drought, which is seldom if ever the experience in other countries. There is more to this problem in that the drought follows an uneven and irregular pattern and varies in its degree of intensity. We tend - perhaps this is because if is inherent in our makeup - to accept the inevitability of drought on the basis that the wet season will balance out the averages.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I had introduced the matter of drought and weather conditions generally. I had made the point that our average rainfall in Australia was interrupted by long periods of absolute drought that are seldom experienced in other countries. The difficulty about drought is that it moves in a very irregular pattern with varying degrees of intensity. We tend to accept the inevitability of drought on the basis that one way or another the wet seasons balance out the dry seasons and make up the average. ] suggest that this is a fairly philosophical way to look at a set of events of this kind as Australia moves along towards the end of this century, and when we consider that a great deal of work has to be done in all fields of activity.
The world’s great mountain ranges create predictable conditions that influence not only the weather pattern and the rainfall, but also the total effect of these two matters on the economy. So in this sense Australia is a problem country. As somebody has said, it is stuck with drought and we have to learn to live with it. Tt has been suggested in a less serious vein that our weather consciousness should bc more than just a matter of social conversation. In recent years the Bureau of Meteorology has made great strides in the matter of weather consciousness, weather forecasting and weather patterns. Space research has assisted in the knowledge and study of the matter, but I suggest that it should become everybody’s business, from the schools onwards, so that we all become aware of climatic conditions and their total influence. All of this is related more importantly to our total production, particularly our primary production.
Professor McMillan of the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Sydney, in speaking recently regarding this matter of water and its relationship to food production, drew attention to the fact that not many people realise the amount of water required to produce a certain item of primary produce. I do not know how important this matter is in relation to the overall picture, but I think it is interesting to point out that according to Professor McMillan it takes 250 tons of water to produce 1 lb of wool, 2i tons of water to produce a loaf of bread and half a ton of water to produce an orange. But by contrast it takes 65,000 gallons of - water to produce a ton of steel. So the question of water in quantity and its availability remains a matter of particular importance when we consider our immediate primary and industrial products.
A great deal has been said about the fact that many aspects of our production must increase in the years immediately ahead, particularly if we talk in terms of increasing and strengthening our influence in this part of the world and also in terms of increasing our population. Australia’s food production must increase if we expect to have a population of 20 million people at the turn of the century. Our industrial production must be geared to meet the situation that will arise in 2000 A.D. So it is not only a case of more water; it is also a case of using it correctly and economically.
Set deep in this question is a study of the areas of land within Australia where most of our food production comes from. Irrigated land in Australia occupies about 6% of our productive land. Our food production from this 6% is equal to some 25% of our total agricultural production. If I might look abroad, 1% of the earth’s surface is irrigated, and according to the statistics which I have studied, this J% feeds one-third of the world’s population. All this highlights for me the relationship of rivers and production and the combined influence on a nation’s total water situation. It is a fact of life that towards the end of a long dry spell or a drought rivers dry up at a very fast rate. The progress of water through clouds to min, to run off, to storages, and to evaporation and its movement through plants which I think is known as evapotranspiration, is an interesting story, but I shall have more to say on that, score at another time.
Australian hydrologists have been examining our water resources in an effort to make a complete scientific study of the way in which water moves. The result of this examination, in part, has revealed that we have less transportable water, that is, streams, rivers and underground supplies, than have other land masses. To give a graphic comparison of this matter, I have it on authority that the Amazon River in South America could fill Sydney Harbour in 1* hours but it would take all the rivers in Australia 15 hours to do so. This comparison may not be of great value, but I think it is an interesting one because it serves to emphasise the total effect of our rivers on Australian life. Only 0.8% of the world’s water flows in rivers. Two per cent is polar ice, 5% is underground water and some 93% is sea water. The figures relating to water in Australian rivers are behind those of other countries.
I turn to the special problems in South Australia regarding rivers. This leads me to assert again that there will have to be a reassessment of the public attitude, in areas other than those immediately connected with irrigation, towards this whole question. Our rivers must continue to provide water in irrigation areas in order to meet our production needs. The Murray River serves three States and will face increasing demands in its upper reaches in the next 10 or 15 years. If we consider the likelihood of drought occurring at irregular intervals and the subsequent drying up of all source rivers, wc must ask: How long can a growing industrial complex in South Australia depend on rivers? Every opportunity must be taken to develop water storage on the Murray River throughout its entire length. But if irrigation is important and if production arising from irrigation also is important, how long can industrial centres like Whyalla, which will grow considerably more than it has grown already, or the complex at Woomera, or Port Pirie, or Port Augusta, or even Adelaide, continue to depend, as they do now, an the Murray River?
So it is not only a case of rethinking. There must be more research and speedier research and action in the whole field of water conservation, of reuse and of other matters connected with water, including desalination. This, in my view, is urgent. In a country where industry is expanding, where new developments are emerging and where populations and cities are virtually exploding, we need some kind of authority that would go beyond any existing authority, because its terms of reference and its horizons would be completely different. It is true that the Australian Water Resources Council and the Department of National Development have been engaged in an extensive programme, and grants to the States for additional works and research in the last 6 years have totalled $7m. However, we still spend only about .7% of our national income on water research and development compared with expenditure in that regard of 3% of its national income by the United States of America. This is another of the challenges to which I referred at the beginning of my speech.
I turn now to a matter of. considerable interest to Australians, and particularly to South Australians. I refer to transportation and in particular I am thinking of railways at a national level. Today air transport is making unprecedented progress and expansion, In those circumstances the railways are placed in a new and different position. The unified gauge system and the whole matter of rail standardisation have assumed new importance and have had an effect on the life of the nation. Recently Mr Smith, the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways, said:
Railways are not only the most economic means for land transport of bulk commodities - minerals, coals and grain - but the most economic means of mass movement of motor bodies, large machinery, and anything that requires large volume movement over a specific long distance route.
I suggest to honourable senators that within a decade, as a result of present railway development and the development that will take place within the next two or three years, a large proportion of the nation’s heavy transportation will be performed more efficiently and more speedily by what I will call the national railway unit than by any other form of transport, lt is clear that a marked expansion of railway construction would be of the utmost value to the nation. All being well, in the comparatively near future we will have a standard railway gauge link between the eastern and western seaboards. Nol too long after that there will be connecting links from Port Pirie to Adelaide and Port Augusta to Whyalla and by the transcontinental line to Alice Springs. I have a particular interest in this matter because of the influence that this type of development will have on Adelaide. I say confidently that Adelaide will become a national and commercial centre. In short, it will be placed in a much more central location rather than being in an outer position in the national transport network. Adelaide will have not only a new importance but also a new life - a more intense life and more intense growth.
The most striking way in which the change can be effected is through improved efficiency and decreased transport time between the east and west. As a South Australian I refer particularly to the effect on transport times and freight costs for the journey between Sydney and Adelaide. Rail transport will be of particular value in
Queensland and Western Australia because of the mineral discoveries there. It is possible to envisage a rail system capable of moving well over 20 million tons a year. Of further interest is the new co-operation between road, rail and semi-trailer transports and other loaded road vehicles. The way in which our national rail transport is developing in the new interstate and intersystem environment suggests to me that before very long consideration should be given to devising the type of authority under which such a system and its interdependence and co-operation should operate.
A meeting of Railways Commissioners was held in Adelaide at the end of last month. In a paper, Mr Smith, the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways, pointed out that the combined railways commissioners owe a responsibility to Australia as a whole, beyond and above their responsibility to their own particular system, whether State or Federal. He said that each Railways Commissioner had at his command a great industrial and commercial organisation and if it were to move into the area of efficient interstate transport - or shall T call it national transport, which I think is a better phrase - some kind of joint effective control was called for, separate from anything else now in existence. Mr Smith wrote:
We must now be more than agents one for tho other - we must be one authority, complete and indivisible, representing the Railways of Australia, for Australia.
That is another area of challenge, perhaps not so intense as others, but an important one in the total development of the nation and one which takes its place with the other developments in our midst.
I wish finally to refer to an area in which I have had a little involvement and ons which is referred to by His Excellency the Governor-General in the Speech. In the last few days it has had some publicity in the Press because of the statements of the appropriate Minister and various other prominent people. I refer to immigration. All honourable senators will be aware of the advances made by Australia as a result of our immigration programme. The growth of population has brought about new communities and new cities, new approaches to our industrial outlook and the creation of new demands. Two or three comments are relevant at this point. I think it is pertinent to note that as a receiving nation, as it were, and a nation that has been engaged in an immigration programme for about 20 years, we are moving away from the practice of regarding new settlers simply as units in our work force and now regard them as integral parts in the realms of ownership, leadership, education and commerce. I think it is important to emphasise that point, because we loo often regard the world of immigration as a mass of statistics and figures, or units in a work force. lt seems to me that there is greater emphasis today, in discussing immigration, on reliance on the present Australian resident in the community and his person to person relationship to the world of immigration. This is an important aspect of our national life. In dealing with this changed emphasis in respect of the work force and reliance on the Australian resident citizen I wish to refer to an appeal made to a meeting of the Associated Chambers of Commerce being held in Tasmania at present. The appeal was made by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden), who attended the meeting and made the point that it is necessary for us to attract settlers with what he called superior skills, not only in crafts but also in the areas of management, finance and education. The Minister has drawn attention to the fact that if we are to increase our population from immigration at the rate of 1% a year it is necessary to speed up the development of every possible avenue to attract the right kind of new settler, as well as a variety of new settlers.
In speaking to the meeting the Minister outlined in detail, in terms of an appeal to manufacturing groups and others, the particular advantages to be gained by cooperation with his Department and by actively engaging in bringing to Australia more persons with superior skills - more skilled settlers in every sense. This could be done by arranging through agencies in the source countries in Europe - even by going there to meet immigrants - to have the whole world of their employment, training, education and housing mapped out before they leave the source countries. The Minister pointed out that this was essential, because this practice is being followed in Europe today with the utmost advantage to employer groups who wish to bring to a receiving country the best kinds of settlers. One of the main problems in immigration today is our need for professional people. We must arrange an adequate immigration programme for them and more particularly, of course, for adequate assimilation after their arrival here.
Like all developing countries, Australia is in urgent need of professional people because in so many fields the numbers of graduates from Australian universities are insufficient. Recruitment of professional people is going on overseas but there are problems because of a serious lack of uniformity amongst the States in giving full recognition to all of the certificates and other qualifications from various universities and other educational institutions in Europe. Where provision does exist for recognition of a trade degree or diploma the procedures are rather tortuous and at least discouraging to applicants. However, the Government has not stood idly by but has been busy on a concentrated programme in the United Kingdom.
Many United Kingdom qualifications - indeed most of them - are more readily recognised in Australia than are qualifications from other countries. There has been a stepping up of inquiries amongst professional people in the United Kingdom over the last few years to persuade them to come to this country in greater numbers. Indeed, the present situation leads rae to believe that there could be a greater flow of these people to Australia. Having seen, on a visit to the United Kingdom a year ago, something of the steps taken to interest professional people in the medical, dental, optical, architectural and other fields, I think that the present activity will yield very good results. Of course, there are the problems to which I have referred in relation to non-recognition in Australia of many overseas qualifications. It is very difficult, as honourable senators will appreciate, to make adequate comparisons between standards. It is essential that standards in Australia remain high and it is natural and proper that professional associations should jealously guard the hallmarks of their particular organisations so that standards do remain high. Until we get some sort of uniformity in this direction the matter of attracting professional people to Australia will be a continuing problem and it is to be hoped that before very long ways will be found to make possible smooth passages for these people.
At the recent Australian Citizenship Convention in Canberra, when this whole matter came up for discussion, one delegate put forward details of a retraining scheme which exists in Canada and which involves not only the payment of fees but also the provision of amounts for the keep of wives and families of migrants or settlers. This could prove expensive and would need to be very carefully examined before it could even be entertained. Whether anything like this would find acceptance in the Australian community is a matter for very considerable debate. The recognition of professional skills is a problem within the immigration sphere. The change that has taken place in relation to the movement of people emphasises to the Australian community at both government and personal levels the need to adjust where possible so that we can take advantage of the desire of people to come here and so develop our own population to enable us to meet the requirements of development and water conservation.
Recently, as honourable senators know, the Department of Immigration made a study of the matter of returning migrants. One of the points made was that the earlier Australian attitude to migrants was one of antipathy but that now, regrettably, this has changed to one of apathy. To say that the reasons activating returnee migrants stem from emotional rather than economic influences is perhaps a very broad generalisation, but I think it is true. This does seem strange in a country that is full of people who are noted for their ready and open friendliness. In spite of this, however, it can be said that a stranger feels lonely in any country, whatever may be done for him. I should like to place on record my tribute to organisations within our community which do their very best to help migrants to become integrated and assimilated. I think of the Good Neighbour Council and scores of churches and associated bodies. It is true that there may be a few organisations that take advantage of these people but I pay tribute to all the other people who help in a score of fields - business, industrial and legal - a new settler to integrate and settle down.
We are confronting another situation of the full impact of which I think many of us are unaware. This is what I would call the new mobility. In relation to events in the last couple of days we have seen the use of chartered aircraft to move relatives of migrants or to move migrants returning to their former homes. Aircraft are getting bigger and the fare structure will be spread over a greater number of people. There will be more opportunities for migrants not only to return to their countries of origin but also to move to other places. This situation will apply all along the line. We are moving into an area in which people will have greater mobility. Those of us who are resident Australians will be sharing in this new ‘mobility but at the same time people will be moving on not necessarily because they are dissatisfied but only because they are more easily able to move and return. It has been put to me that in the foreseeable future! - say the next 10 or 15 years - if we are to hope to have 190,000 migrants net in a particular year we shall need to have about a quarter of a million arrivals to take up the wastage in this movement from one continent to another. The intercontinental migrant will be very much a fact of life. Here is another area of challenge facing this new Government, this new Prime Minister and indeed the whole of the country in the immediate future and a little further ahead.
In supporting the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply I am glad to have had the opportunity to refer to the matter of Australia’s role in the new and changing situation, the challenge posed by our water needs, the importance of a new kind of land transportation to Australia’s development, and the need for flexibility in the whole sphere of migration and new settlers. T leave these matters with the Senate.
– Before I deal with some of the items in the Governor-General’s Speech, I have a duty, I feel, to congratulate the two honourable senators who made maiden speeches during the currency of this debate, firstly, Senator Laucke from South Australia, my own State, and secondly, Senator Greenwood. Senator Laucke had very considerable parliamentary experience before he entered this chamber. His maiden speech
Indicated that he had had that experience and also that he has much to contribute to the debates in this place. 1 congratulate also Senator Greenwood. He dealt to a large extent with a proposition that, honourable senators will recall, 1 have touched upon in every Budget debate over the past 10 years; 1 do not think that is an exaggeration. 1 refer, of course, to the proposition inherent in the Governor-General’s Speech that some action may be taken to limit appeals to the Privy Council and that legislation may be introduced to bring into existence a Commonwealth court for the purpose of dealing with matters affected by this limitation and also, perhaps, to relieve the High Court of Australia of some of its work. I cannot say that I agree altogether with the ideas of Senator Greenwood but I thought that his contribution was a most thoughtful one which indicated that he had given the matter a tremendous amount of consideration. I believe that many people in this country have been thinking along similar lines for quite a number of years. They have been thinking whether we in this country should continue to have our final legal redress in a country about 12,000 miles away, lt might be considered that in the submissions that I have made to the Senate from time to time I have been a little inclined to denigrate the work of the Privy Council. Consequently I have come in for some degree of criticism. On one or two occasions Senator Wright has felt that my remarks about the Privy Council and whether we should continue to regard it as our final court of appeal have been a little strong. However I have felt strongly on this question.
Senator Greenwood is to be congratulated on devoting perhaps more than half of his maiden speech to what we senators should regard as one of the most important matters in the Governor-General’s Speech. I do not want to be unduly critical; 1 want to be reasonable in making my submissions. I do not think I can recall a Governor-General’s Speech that contained so little not only in terms of propositions but also in terms of the number of propositions. It appears that this document was rather hastily conceived; that it should have been given far more consideration: and that it is more remarkable for the things that it fails to do than for the matters that it raises. The Senate should concern itself with these matters.
Finally on the question of what the Government may do in respect of limiting appeals to the Privy Council, let me repeat something that I have said on numerous occasions in this chamber. I believe that the final court of appeal as constituted by the Privy Council is not available to the ordinary person in the Australian community because of the expense involved. I know that on some occasions ordinary Australian citizens have been assisted by public appeals. I am referring to people who have no means but have a case that should be resolved by the final court of justice. It seems to me, with all the sense of justice that I possess, to be a complete negation of all of the principles of British justice and the rule of law that a person’s ability to approach the final court of appeal should rest upon the generosity or otherwise of the public. Any court that requires a person with little or no means to be put in such a situation is not fulfilling the need for justice and is not providing the proper access to justice as we know it in this community.
I will be very pleased to see introduced in this chamber any legislation that will enable the people of Australia to secure justice by whatever avenues are open to them in this country instead of having to go abroad to obtain it. So I congratulate Senator Greenwood. I express my pleasure that the advocacy that I have made in this chamber from time to time - supported notably by Senators Cohen and Murphy with not only far greater fluency than I am able to bring to debates but also a tremendously greater degree of legal knowledge - has now received Government support. I also pay tribute to Senator Wright for the contributions that he has made over the period of 10 years that I have mentioned on this very profound subject. Gallup polls have indicated that the proposed course meets with the support of at least the great majority of the Australian community. 1 now bring forward a matter which is parochial but which has been referred to by Senator Davidson and raised by Senator Laucke in his maiden speech. Any senator from South Australia who makes a contribution to this debate cannot afford to ignore it. 1 am referring, of course, to the matter of water conservation in general and the Chowilla Dam in particular. 1 think I heard Senator Davidson say during his contribution to this debate that there had been a considerable amount of talk about water conservation but very little action. I do not want to misquote him. May I ask him whether that was what he said?
– I did not say that there had been very little action. I said that there had been a considerable amount of talk and I commented on the findings of the River Murray Commission which are expected later.
– 1 will concede that. 1 will say that there has been a considerable amount of talk and that there has not been much action. That statement has been supported by Sir William Hudson, the former Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. Recently he made a statement to the effect that we had sadly neglected the water conservation requirements of this very dry continent, lt is a very sad commentary on the Government that at a time of great stress in the community caused by the droughts of the last 2 years we should be thinking in terms of too little too late. lt is of very great concern to the people of South Australia that the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) should have visited that State and told the people that the Chowilla Dam was now only something that they could regard as an imaginary project which would not even be completed and that no more work would be done. I wish to refer to some of his remarks because the people of South Australia will not accept either the concept of the Chowilla Dam as put forward by him or the proposition that South Australia does not require a dam of this magnitude. Mr Fairbairn is reported in the Adelaide Advertiser’ in this way:
The Chowilla Dam project was ‘overdesigned and uneconomical’, the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) said in Adelaide yesterday.
He said that in his opinion the SA site did not have the highest priority for the River Murray Commission’s new major water storage area as sites higher up the river were preferable.
Recommendations concerning the fate of the deferred Chowilla project would be made by the Commission at its meeting on 24th April.
He went on to give reasons why the Chowilla project should not be continued. We have raised the matter of the Chowilla Dam from time to time. I stress that T am not suggesting that matters affecting this dam have concerned and have been brought to notice by only senators on this side of the chamber. I freely acknowledge that South Australian senators on the Government side have played their part in attempting to get the Federal Government to see that we in South Australia not only want the Chowilla Dam but need it in the interests of water conservation in our State. I take nothing away from Government senators from South Australia in that regard; but I do take something away from the Government.
From time to time it has been the habit of Ministers to quote .the Engineer-in-Chief of the Engineering and Water Supply Department in South Australia, Mr Beaney, as not being over-enthusiastic about proceeding with the Chowilla Dam project. It is interesting to find that one of the reactions to the dampening statement made by the Minister for National Development on the future of the Chowilla Dam was produced in a reply that Mr Beaney made in the Advertiser’ on Saturday of last week. That reply read as follows: lt was not accepted that the Chowilla Dam project was ‘over-designed and uneconomical’, the Engineer-in-Chief of the Engineering and Water Supply Department (Mr H. L. Beaney) said yesterday.
He was replying to criticism of the project in Adelaide on Friday by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn). . . .
Mr Beaney said Mr Fairbairn’s view was not shared by the River Murray Commission, the South Australian Government or himself.
This is interesting in view of the fact that from time to time Ministers in this chamber have said that Mr Beaney was one of the members of the River Murray Commission who believed that the project should not proceed. All honourable senators know that that statement was made.
– Senator Henty said that a couple of times, did he not?
– I do not recall the Minister but I do recall distinctly that the statement was made. The article goes on:
He described the Minister’s view as assumptions:
We do not accept that the upper river sites will provide sufficient protection against salinity’, Mr Beaney said. ‘They may even worsen it’.
He was referring to the alternative sites which have been suggested by those people who want to jettison the Chowilla project.
The article continues:
The problems of the upper river sites have by no means been resolved, and it is too early to give a definite answer.’
Mr Barney said Mr Fairbairn had suggested that the problem could be simply resolved, but it was a very difficult situation.
This is the important thing:
Three Stales with diverse interests were involved, and the Commission was looking for the maximum amount of benefit for all.
The two major arguments that have been advanced against the Chowilla project relate to salinity and evaporation. Let me recall to honourable senators when the Bill providing for this project to proceed was introduced in this House, as it was in the other place. We were told on that occasion that all necessary tests had been taken and the views of the experts available at the time had been obtained.
– Does the honourable senator know when that was?
– I think the Bill was introduced in 1964. I seem to recall Senator Laught speaking to it in 1964, only 3* years ago. I remind honourable senators that the Bill provided for the expenditure of some £27m, to use the old currency. We were given to understand at that time, and were entitled to expect, that all the necessary information and the views of the experts had been obtained in relation to salinity and evaporation, and we were assured that this considerable amount’ of the taxpayers’ money would not be thrown away on a useless project. Are we to believe, as the Minister for National Development suggested in Adelaide last Friday, that the information given to the Senate in 1964 was nonsense? Are we, and the people of Australia, to believe that the $5m which has already been poured into site preparation and all the other things necessary for even the beginning of a project of this magnitude, had been wasted deliberately?
If the Chowilla project is not to proceed those questions must be answered. The responsibility lies fairly on the shoulders of the Commonwealth Government to inform not only the people of South Australia but also the people of Australia as a whole because all the people of Australia have contributed to the funds which have been wasted. The paramount responsibility rests with the Minister for National Development because he told the people of South
Australia last Friday that they can forget about the Chowilla Dam. The Government has welshed on the project. A statement should be made in the Senate as early as possible telling us why the $5m has been wasted. Some 3 or 4 years ago the experts assured the Government that evaporation would not react against storage in the Chowilla Dam and salinity could not be regarded as a barrier to continuation of the project. Why are we now told something entirely different from that? These are fair and reasonable questions and the Government must answer them at some time or other. The people of South Australia will not be content until they have been answered.
It is all very well to talk about establishing dams to suit South Australia and Victoria on the Mitta Mitta and the headwaters of the other rivers that have been mentioned, but we in South Australia want to raise the question of water storage in our State which has been described as the driest State in the driest continent on earth. Another 2 or 3 years of drought - we can never tell what the future holds - could slow the flow of the Murray to such an extent that no water could reach places like Renmark, Blanchetown and Waikerie. That is not outside the bounds of possibility. Some of the great rivers in Australia have almost reached that situation. What a prospect for us in South Australia who regard the Murray as our lifeline. What an intolerable position we would be in if such a thing occurred. I am sure no-one in this Senate would be bold enough to say that such a thing could not occur. The people of South Australia believe that some conservation works must be undertaken. If the Chowilla project is not to proceed, perhaps there could be something not quite as large as the Chowilla Dam. At least let us have something which will give the people of South Australia a guarantee of water storage which they will not have if the Chowilla project does not proceed.
We hear a lot about salinity being one of the real reasons why the project will not proceed. I can recall also that when the measure was before us the question of evaporation was debated. Although it was admitted that a certain amount of evaporation would take place, we were assured that the amount of evaporation would be normal for the type of storage and area involved and that no great problems would show themselves as a consequence. We who know the Murray know that salinity occurs only when certain extraordinary circumstances show themselves, that is, in times of flood and in times of drought. It seems fortuitous for the Government that in this present period of drought salinity has become one of the basic reasons for not proceeding with the work.
I remind the Senate that from time to time I have said in this place that a good deal of the salinity which occurs in the Murray is avoidable and is brought about by the actions of other States. I have in mind the Loddon and other feeder streams of the Murray along which, because of lack of thought and action on the part of other States, huge salt slugs have been allowed to flow into the Murray. They help to create the salinity problem that exists. The problem has been accentuated by the present drought conditions. It is pleasing to know that Mr Dunstan, who, for the time being at least, is Premier of South Australia, intends to fight to the last ditch to get a water storage for South Australia. He supports Mr Beaney, Engineer in Chief of the South Australian Engineering and Water Supply Department, in his argument that the Minister has not taken into consideration everything which should be considered. 1 think it ought to be repeated that if a definite decision is made by this Government that it no longer intends to proceed with the Chowilla project, then a report should be given to this Senate - and I think this is due to the people of South Australia and the Commonwealth generally - as to how this blunder of the first magnitude occurred. We should be told why all these things which now constitute the reasons for not proceeding with the project were not told to the Senate when the relevant Bill was presented to it in 1964. I think the Government has this obligation and ought to give us the answer.
I want to touch briefly on a matter I have raised before in this chamber. I feel that enough thought is not being given at the Parliamentary level to the question of poverty in Australia. The GovernorGeneral, in his Speech to the Parliament, said:
My Government will review the field of social welfare with the object of assisting those in most need while al the same time nol discouraging thrift, self-help and self-reliance.
He went on to say:
To this end my Government will set up a Standing Cabinet Committee including the Ministers for Health, Social Services, Repatriation and Housing, and that Committee will direct its attention lo co-ordinating the approaches and proposals of the various Departments concerned with social welfare.
I would have liked the Speech to contain an additional clause stating that a Senate select committee would be appointed to study and report on poverty in Australia. It is tragic that we are living in what we and other people like to call an affluent society, yet there are very real and, in some instances, very great pockets of poverty existing in the capital cities of Australia that we are not even trying to deal wilh. I think it is an indictment of all of us in this Parliament that, up to this stage at least, the only group which has attempted to make a scientific study of the privations being undergone by what we like to call underprivileged sections of the community is an organisation which has its headquarters in Melbourne, 1 think, and is called the Brotherhood of St Laurence. Some two years ago J read a report that had been compiled by that society. If it was not read by every member of Parliament in Australia, and particularly by every member of the Federal Parliament, it should have been read by him. The report revealed some of the most distressing examples of poverty that one could find in any country. I do not want to make extravagant statements. I am not going to suggest to the Senate that there exists in Australia the same degree of poverty as exists in other countries.- To do so would be nonsense. But it is no good for the Senate or any other legislative body to blind itself to the fact that even in this society of ours, even in this great country of ours, there are not people living in the direst poverty; people living in circumstances we would not even consider’ and perhaps would like to forget rather than to remember.
While this is happening in our midst it is the clear duty of this Government to do something. First of all, it should find out just what is happening in this field. Any person who has taken any interest in this matter knows that most of the people in this field are elderly people; people who, in many instances, have no income other than a meagre pension. Because they do not own their own homes many of those people are being exploited by people who have no conscience. This sort of thing is happening to a far greater degree in the capital cities of Australia than we would like to admit. I would be failing in my duty if I did not make a contribution to a debate which touched upon any reference to social welfare; if I did not try to direct the conscience of the Senate towards the necessity to do something in this Held. lt is all very well to have some government departments co-ordinated. I am all for this. I think that this is a step in the right direction, lt is a practical step. Perhaps the only thing one could say against it would be that the steps should have been taken some years ago. The departments should have been co-ordinated so that they could more effectively come to grips with the problems which have a common basis. Until such time as some specific action is taken, either by a department or by a committee of this Senate- or by a joint committee of honourable senators and members from another place, whichever you like - we are only bypassing one of our gravest responsibilities, that is, to do something for this section of our community which is living in the circumstances I mentioned. I hope that this plea will not fall on deaf ears. 1 hope that other people will join with me - and I. know that they have from time to lime - in trying to get some consideration for what I consider to be a great national disgrace and a great national problem.
– And an inhuman situation.
– And, as Senator Lacey mentions, an inhuman situation as well.
– Until this matter is dealt with there should be no increase in parliamentary salaries.
– If any assurance could bc given to mc that a select committee of the Senate would be set up for this purpose then I would not worry about any increase in parliamentary salaries. I would be satisfied with the salaries.
– The honourable senator will support my amendment?
– I do not know what amendment the honourable senator will move. I want to touch on a matter which I feel is of some concern and which is particularly worrying to the motor body building industry in South Australia. No doubt it is a worry in other States also. I refer to the ever growing competition of Japanese motor vehicles. Let me say at the beginning that I am not in any way criticising the type of cars imported from Japan. I think these vehicles are of excellent construction. I think that any person who bought one would, perhaps, get value for his money. But the greater the volume of this type of activity the greater the danger to the main South Australian industry, the motor body building industry. Those people who have studied the gradual increase in imports of this nature must show some concern for the future of the motor body building industry in Australia, particularly in South Australia. I believe that some protection must be given in a country which is striving desperately to preserve and increase its secondary industry. We are nol going to attain this objective if we permit, at. least to a degree, unrestricted importation of Japanese cars which prevents the Australian industry from expanding.
I know there arc many people who argue against protection and say that not much is achieved by providing it. But every country at some time or other has found the need to provide some type of restriction in this field. Until such time as our secondary industries grow to the degree that enables them to withstand this type of competition, we shall have to consider limiting imports of this kind. I hope the Government will give some consideration to this matter, lt must bc remembered that certain statements appeared in the Press recently about some imports from Japan in particular, as well as imports from other countries: statements about conduct of a highly questionable character and suggesting that certain duties were being evaded because of action taken by the people concerned. I think that a statement ought to be made by the Minister for Customs and Excise about this matter. Obviously there appears to be need for such a statement. However, these arc matters to which I hope some attention will be given. There are many other points that one could deal with in this debate, but 1 have dealt with those to which I wished to draw the Senate’s attention. I leave the matter there in the hope that what I have said about the Chowilla Dam and about poverty in this country will not escape the notice of the Senate.
– 1 am glad to have this opportunity of speaking in this debate because it is the last opportunity J will have of taking part in a debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. It is about 12 years now since I took part in one of these debates, which cover so many facets of Government policy.
First let me congratulate the mover of the motion, Senator Laucke. He gave a most constructive address and demonstrated a responsible approach to the problems he spoke of. This is not easy to do in a maiden speech, but he is an old experienced politician in the State sphere and he handled the task well. I think he is going to be a great asset to the Senate.
I should like also to congratulate our colleague from Victoria, Senator Greenwood, who gave us, in the constructive address which he delivered here, a taste of some of the delights we are going to enjoy in the future. He followed a very fine Victorian and former senator, our present Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), and he has a great task ahead of him if he is to live up to the contributions made by our former senator. I think he will. I congratulate him on his maiden speech.
As to the Prime Minister, I think all will admit that he is a great loss to the Senate. In the Senate he was an excellent debater and an experienced and great parliamentarian, lt is a source of great joy to us to see the way in which he is holding his own in the House of Representatives and the grand job he is doing there. T think we in the Senate are entitled to take a little kudos from the fact that we have played some part in contributing something to history in that the present Prime Minister is the first member of the Senate ever to be elected to that office. We are proud of having taken part in that piece of history.
I want to comment on some of the tremendous problems confronting the Government. Although I have no doubt that the Government will find competent solutions for them, they are nevertheless pro blems of great significance to the economy. I wish to make special reference to our balance of payments position, the devaluation of currency by Great Britain and New Zealand, technology and management. I choose these subjects because in my view they are among the most prominent problems confronting the Government.
The important thing is to realise that, as a great trading nation, Australia cannot live in isolation. We are a comparatively small nation, but world events are placing us in the forefront in connection with the great changes taking place in South East Asia. I am very glad indeed to see that the Prime Minister proposes to continue the policy adopted by our late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, in making an extensive tour of South East Asia. Nothing but great good can come to Australia from such visits.
The great problems confronting us stem from the competition we are meeting from developing and newly emerging nations throughout the world and from the devaluation of currency by Great Britain and New Zealand. Australian industries will have to be geared to meet the competition brought about by these causes. This is not going to be easy. But the Government has faced up to the problem. This becomes apparent to all who care to examine the changing pattern of world trade over the last 10 or 12 years. As Great Britain began to make bids to enter the European Common Market the Government foresaw the possibility of losing old traditional markets and set about finding markets elsewhere to replace them. As a result of this Government’s foresight Japan is now our greatest customer, and I congratulate the Government upon this. The development of trade in other areas is irrefutable evidence that the Government is keenly alert to the problems which lie ahead of us in this field.
We are also living in a highly technical world. 1 congratulate the Government upon making assistance available through the Department of Education and Science for the development of technical education. This is of the utmost importance, because it is only by research into and the development of technology that the great manufacturing countries of the world can hope to make any progress. Undoubtedly the greatest need in the world of industry and commerce is the training of skilled management. We must train the cream of our skilled workers in management. Recently I had the opportunity to inspect some of the vast industrial complexes in the United States of America, and as a result of those inspections I realised how essential it is that we develop skills in technical management and apply those skills to our manufacturing industries. As an example of the benefit to be gained from adopting this policy I mention the experience of the United States of America in the field of computers. At one time both the United Kingdom and France were far ahead of the United States in the development and use of computers. Skilled technical management in the United States realised the value of these machines, with the result that today the United States of America is far ahead of other countries both in the manufacture of computers and in the number used in industry per head of the work force. Skilled management in the United States, realising the value of the machines, adopted them no matter where they were made, and used them for the development of America’s great industrial complex.
Therefore we have a great need of skilled management, and I pay tribute to the Government for doing much to develop technical training in our schools. There is also a great need for university courses in the fields of management. Compared with the rest of the world we have not yet started training management to the extent that it will have to be trained if we are to compete with other countries. But we are moving along the right lines. Provision is being made to train staff in our technical schools. 1 also recently had the privilege of seeing the great industrial complex associated with the space programme in the United States of America. I inspected the enormous complex that has been built at Cape Kennedy for the launching of the Saturn rocket and the spaceship that is to be sent to the moon. I saw the next space programme, which is to come into operation in about a fortnight’s time, being developed. One has only to realise the extent of this development to appreciate how skilled management can apply technical knowledge for industry to operate in this sphere.
I had the great pleasure of visiting the General Dynamics Corporation factory at Fort Worth. This is where the Fill aircraft is being manufactured. 1 saw on the production line at Fort Worth six of the
Fill aircraft owned by Australia. These aircraft will be in our hands in the next few months. I am one who has always had a great deal of confidence in this aircraft. My confidence has never been shaken in any way. Having seen what is happening now, I still believe that this aircraft will be worth its cost and will be a tremendous asset to the defence of Australia, if it is needed in that capacity. The assembly line at the General Dynamics Corporation at Fort Worth is about a mile long. The materials go in one end of it and the finished aircraft comes out at the other end of this mile-long assembly line. It is an enormous complex. The company will turn out aircraft at a tremendous rate when production gets into full swing.
There are one or two other matters about which I wish to speak. As one surveys the world scene, one cannot help but be perturbed by the racial troubles and the general revolt against authority which seem to be the pattern in so many countries of the world. No matter what the authority is, whether it is on one side or the other, we find this development taking place. But let me come back to the situation in Australia. 1 believe that our standards of living and conditions of employment compare more than adequately with conditions anywhere else in the world. Today, after 18 years of our Government, the wealth of Australia is better distributed overall than it ever has been in our history. The overall development of wealth today is much greater than it has been in Australia’s history. The perturbing matters overseas suggest one thing: We should try to assess the trouble spots of the world before they become troublesome. In this regard, I wish to refer to one small matter. [ direct my attention to the territory of West Irian which is part of the Papua and New Guinea complex. At the present time West Irian is owned by Indonesia. I wonder whether we might take a lesson from the Americans in this regard and consider what America did in relation to Alaska. Alaska is situated close to the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics. Foreseeing future developments, the Americans decided to purchase the territory of Alaska and so they have avoided the possibility of a trouble spot in that area. At this stage, the great Indonesian country is gradually coming back tremendously. It is putting up a tremendous effort to regain its economic equilibrium, lt is important that Indonesia should be successful. The road back; will be a hard one. If Indonesia wants help, it will get help from the Australian Government and the Australian people. But this is one matter about which, if we thought far enough ahead, we might well find the idea of joining West Irian with the Australian Territory of Papua and New Guinea of some value at this time. I mention this suggestion in passing as something which I think is worthy of some thought.
I noticed recently the comments of the Indonesian Ambassador to Australia at the conclusion of his term of office here. These were the comments of a friendly ambassador from a friendly nation. I think I should refer to one thing that he said. He said that there was no need for the component areas of Indonesia to have any cultural affinity or racial affinity; those areas had a common affinity; they had suffered under the oppression of Dutch colonialism. While these areas may have this common affinity, I do not think thai this is a real bond which will necessarily bind outlying areas. I do not think that this is a basis upon which stability can be built. I would think that racial, cultural and ethnical affinities would make a far better cause for parts of a community to knit themselves together. I do not agree with the suggestion that as there arc some outlying territories that suffered under Dutch colonialism this common factor will provide a bond which will forever tie those areas together. I believe that wc should look at some of these trouble spots and try to overcome the cause of the problems peaceably and equitably. If we do not succeed, at least we will have tried.
There is one other matter on which I wish to comment. This is the development in Australia of some of the strikes that we have had recently. When we think about (he matter, we see that these strikes have been based upon some of the most petty causes that wc could ever really wish to sec. It does not matter whether these strikes and stoppages in essential services and industry occur in government or private industry. These strikes based upon petty causes lead one to ask: What is behind them? Are these I he developments of someone who wishes to work for the wrecking of our economy? Are these matters which are just another arm of the cold war? Are they part of a pattern throughout the world - a pattern which is endeavouring to destroy the standards of living of the Western world? It has been proved over and over again that the Socialist and Communist countries are unable to match our production levels and our standard of living. So, they are endeavouring to achieve their ends through this cold war technique. I wonder sometimes when J see vast holdups through petty causes succeeding in our country whether this is not also a part of the long war of attrition against the standards of living which have been built in the Western world and which the Communist countries have been unable to equal. This is a pattern which we should and which we are entitled to watch, and watch keenly.
I believe that there is a coterie in Australia working deliberately in this field to damage and reduce our production and to see that our resources are used more and more in defence instead of for the welfare of our people. That coterie has only one object in view. The object is to reduce the standard of living of the Western world and to force Western countries to take steps to utilise their resources in fields where no great immediate benefits are available to Western people.
May I also speak about the forces which have been brought to bear to bring about devaluation and the attack upon sterling in the United Kingdom. Again 1 think that this is a deliberate part of the cold war because 1 can appreciate that, in the righting of this situation in the United Kingdom, there will be great unemployment and great hardship. It is in the development of conditions of hardship that the Socialists and the Communists find their greatest opportunity for expansion. The Socialists and the Communists thrive where unemployment, hardship and lowering of standards of living are found. We have read recently of the attack upon the dollar. The balance of payments position of the United States of America has been given keen attention by the President and his Congress. I sec this attack on the dollar as something which is aimed at causing domestic policies to be introduced in the United States to reduce the standard of living in that country, which could very well bring about domestic hardship and provide a fertile field for the development of the type of ideal which is the opposite to that of the ideal of the Western world. The Communist countries have not been able to maintain production and to give to their people the standard of living which the Western world has provided.
I want to refer to the recent endeavour by some countries to bring about a. return to gold as the international currency standard. I do not pretend to be an expert in this field. I have only little more than a superficial knowledge of it. It is a very difficult field. But I do not believe that the narrow basis of gold can give sufficient world currency to enable the magnitude of world trade to continue to develop. I believe that the basis of gold will be too narrow unless the price of gold is highly inflated. I feel sure that we will see tremendous efforts being made to establish a world currency which will be acceptable to all countries, lt will be on a far wider basis than the narrow basis of gold. It is interesting to note that one or two countries have been in the forefront in an endeavour to establish the current situation with a view to getting some immediate benefit. But in the long run they may well damage the economy of the Western world. This short term approach is to be deplored. One of the countries in this category is the great nation of France which seems to be endeavouring to achieve some immediate advantage from a return to the gold standard.
Difficulties will confront our country as a result of the great drought that we have experienced and the reduction in the amount of overseas investment in Australia from the United States of America and the United Kingdom. These matters will have to be dealt with by the Government. I want to pay a tribute to the Treasury officials, to the advisers of the Reserve Bank of Australia, to the Treasurer and to the Government who in 1960-61 foresaw a situation arising and the state in which our economy would thus be placed. They took the necessary steps to overcome it. The Government was criticised for taking these steps. It almost lost office because of them. As we were reminded tonight, the Government won by only one seat. But I believe that the steps taken at that stage to consolidate our economy were such that today we find ourselves better able to withstand anything which might arise from a series of world conditions over which we have little control. We are in the situation where we have cut away much of the dead wood. Other countries are being forced to preserve their currencies. Today the Australian dollar stands high in world currency. I pay a tribute to the Government which has kept it this way and which was not afraid to risk defeat at a time when it felt that the economy needed a little surgery to restore it to a strong position.
Finally, I want to refer to the system of select committees which we have developed in this chamber recently. Obviously this is a great step forward for .the Senate. If these select committees are handled properly they will give the Senate some significant work to do in the parliamentary system of this country. At the present time we have the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes and the Senate Select Committee on the Metric System of Weights and Measures. These Committees are approaching the completion of their deliberations. I believe that their reports will signify that real work has been done by the Senate. The reports will be of value. We also have the Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources. I believe that the appointment of this Committee was a great step forward in this field. Other select committees are mooted. This is the matter to which T want to refer.
I have an uneasy feeling concerning this question of select committees. We have not nearly enough personnel to man all the proposed committees listed on the notice paper. I hope and trust that this is not an endeavour to wreck the significant part, that the Senate could play in our parliamentary system. I hope that it is not an attempt to ridicule the select committee system by proposing so many committees that we will not be capable of manning them. 1 hope that I am wrong in this assessment. It would be deplorable if, having started on this road by appointing, two select committees, for some unknown reason we wrecked the system before we had a chance to show the Australian people that in this role the Senate has a great opportunity to prove itself of value in the parliamentary system.
I have pleasure in supporting the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I congratulate Senator Laucke, the mover of the motion, and I also congratulate Senator Greenwood on his maiden speech.
I trust that the Parliament will sec to it that the measures which the Government brings forward to deal with many of the problems about which I have spoken tonight receive a speedy passage for the benefit of the Australian people.
– ] have listened with interest to some of the speeches that have been made during this debate. In my view, the GovernorGeneral’s Speech was one of the weakest that I have heard in my 30 years experience in this Parliament and in the Parliament of Victoria. A new Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was chosen. 1 can assure honourable senators that 1 was not unhappy with the choice. Possibly I did not know the other candidates as intimately as I knew him. but if 1 had been on the other side of the chamber I know where my vote would have gone. Having given my vote I would not have expected a ministerial position for the work I had done. I believed that Senator Gorton, as he was then, was the best man for the position. But I stop there because ] cannot say that I am over-enthusiastic about what he has done to date. While I wish him well personally, I cannot say that I wish him well politically. His is experienced enough in political life to know that he should not enter the other House, where possibly life is a bit rougher than it is in this chamber, and say: ‘I could do this where life was a bit quieter and get away with it, and I will do it here’. I suggest to his advisers that he should be warned to be well prepared.
The Governor-General’s Speech has not given me much pleasure. All parties in this House are supporters of the principle of arbitration. I thought that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech would have referred to that support, particularly in view of speeches made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) that could hardly be thought to be made by a member of a government that supports the principle of arbitration. It seems that the Minister supports determinations of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which grant to workers very small increases or no increases at all. Senator Henty deplored strikes. I do not like them any more than he does, but in the last analysis what can the ordinary man in industry do when it takes so long to get a determination?
The metal trades case was before the Commission for about - I speak subject to correction - 15 to 18 months. How long must people wait to have their cases determined while the cost of living rises each day? The metal trades judgment when delivered stated that over award payments currently being paid could be absorbed in the increase granted by the Commission. Anybody who thought that that provision would not cause trouble needs to have another look at what goes on. It was a stupid decision, and 1 say that with all respect to the people who brought down the award. They said to the workers: ‘You are already getting $2 or $3 above your award because of industrial and economic conditions in the nation today. The increased margin we grant for a top man is $7.50. but because of the position of industry today, where employers are competing with one another for your services, that over award payment can be absorbed within the increase of $7.50.’ How stupid can they be. They do not understand the position in industry. Then, to cap it all, after the cries of protest came, the Commission took another look at the judgment and said: ‘We will grant now three quarters or three fifths of the increase and we will have another look as to the balance and tell you in 3 or 4 months time whether it is to be paid’. The mass of the people will keep peace in industry for so long as they receive a percentage of the results of increased productivity. But if it is to be said that the benefits of automation and increased productivity are to by-pass the person in the factory or the workshop, there will never be peace in industry and the employers will not deserve to have it.
We talk today in airy-fairy ways about the standards of this nation. Why are they as they are today? The answer is, because about 52% of the female work force is married and two pay packets are going into the homes of those people. Of course they are able to buy, and of course the governments, State and Federal, have the problems of delinquency placed on their laps. How can the average home keep going today on one wage with the cost of living as high as it is. If all workers had to keep their homes going on one wage we would not hear the hue and cry of the people who say: ‘We have never had it better’. They are having it good today because we have a two pay-packet economy.
– And 20 years of this Government.
– I do not regret that that interjection has been made, but I do not want to be distracted from the line I am following. I am attempting to prove by my friend, Senator Henty, that there will be trouble in industry so long as tradesmen and the average workers in the factories and the fields do not believe they are getting a fair go because it takes from 12 to 18 months to have their cases determined by the Arbitration Commission. I deplore strikes as much as anybody does. Once 1 had a lot to do in trying to get them settled. The average skilled tradesman could take his place in most of the seats in this chamber. Some of the greatest men of this nation, whose memories we all revere, came from the factory, the field or the mine. God forbid that I should have anything but praise for a man who has academic qualifications, so long as he can apply himself to the job he has to do. The best way to settle unrest in industry is to ensure the prompt hearing by the Commission of applications by the unions. Steps should be taken to ensure that cases do not continue for the unfortunate length of time that has been taken in the past. Senator Henty said something about the cold war. We can forget that. There is nothing like it in this country. Certainly there are a few members of the Communist Party, but let us not think for a moment that this is tantamount to a cold war situation as we understand it. Still less is it like the graver cold war situation that used to exist.
Senator Henty referred to the situation of the United Kingdom, f deplore the fact that a once great nation will possibly become less than a second rate nation, but let. us trace the reasons. Britain has been engaged in two world wars. She entered one in August 1914 and got help from the big nation in 1917. She entered another in 1939 and the same big nation joined her in 1941. It is true that that help was needed - I value it and I want to be friends with that big nation - but we must appreciate the drain on British resources over those periods. Another cause of the troubles in the United Kingdom is that her industry, unfortunately, has not kept pace with modern times, British industrialists are more prone than those of rising nations to stick to old methods. Senator Henty referred to Japan. God forbid that we ever have to go to war again, but if we do, the best thing for our future and to prevent our country from being bombed will be to lose the war. When a war is lost someone comes along and rebuilds the industries of the defeated country, as has been the case in West Germany and Japan. Today they are, I suppose, two of the most prosperous industrial nations. So from a common sense point of view, if a country wants to be great afterwards the best thing to do is to lose a war. Senator Henty referred to the position of the American dollar. Admittedly this matter is very complex. It seems that De Gaulle has been the cause of the trouble in the United States. I gather this from what I have read in newspapers and in correspondence from the United States.
I deplored the Governor-General’s Speech because I did not think there was much in it. I deplored it because it did noi uphold the system of arbitration, which I admit has been buffeted about in recent years. I recall well that in 1929 the forerunners of the present Government wanted to get rid of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, but the people said that it should stay. However, unless the arbitration system can be made to work with great speed, as J believe it should in the age through which we are passing, there will be trouble.
It shocks me that there was not a paragraph of some length in the Speech on the very vexed question of Commonwealth and State financial relations. In fact, there was not one word about this subject. The problem is not easy. The Minister for Works (Senator Wright) and 1 sat for quite a long time as members of a committee that considered the matter and we could not solve the problem. However, it has ro be considered and it has to be solved.
Today in Victoria we have the imposition of a special tax of 10c on each §100 paid. Of course, that imposition wil! be passed on in higher prices. I have read that this Government says that it wil! not take the tax out of payments to Commonwealth employees. I do not know how I will get on as a citizen, in the main, of Victoria. The proposal is either right or wrong. I am a great believer in the system of uniform taxation. The new tax in Victoria, to my mind, is contrary to the principles of uniform taxation. The Government has to say whether or not it is an infringement of uniform taxation arrangements. If it is an infringement the Government should go to court to ensure that the Victorian Government is not permitted to collect the tax. This does not mean that the Commonwealth Government should not look at the finances of the States. The original formula for tax reimbursement, which has been amended to some extent, ought to be examined again. There should not be a situation in which the Victorian Government cannot do what it wants to do in the interests of Victorian citizens. Victoria had no-one but itself to blame for its position under the original formula, because of its taxation structure at the time. The amount that it spent on social services was the lowest amongst the States and because of the activities of the Legislative Council, of which I was a mem.ber for many years, taxation on high incomes was the lowest in Australia. The financial brains of the Commonwealth and the States must get together to ensure that the system of uniform taxation can endure and satisfy within reason the requirements of the States which have quite an amount of work to do that is not touched by the National Parliament.
The Speech had the usual things to say about Vietnam. I read elsewhere that the Prime Minister had said that he would not send any more troops there. Of course, I concur in this because I am one who believes that our troops should never have been there. If we are to live in this world we must live at peace with our neighbours. ] am still waiting to have tabled letters from the South Vietnamese Government asking us to send troops. 1 still need to be satisfied that the treaty we have with the United States of America brought us into the conflict; I do not believe that it did. I hope that the Prime Ministers Cabinet colleagues will support his attitude. November is some months away and there may be dramatic changes in the meantime in the Vietnam war. I will not prophesy who will be President of the United States after November but if a change is needed to end the Vietnam war I hope, with respect, that there will bc a change.
I am vitally interested in one or two other matters. They are the main reason why I rose to speak. 1 am interested in the present position in the field of civil aviation, and particularly in Trans-Australia Airlines’ handling of the dispute with the pilots over the manning of DC9 aircraft. There is no need for me to tell the Senate my views on TAA. They are well known. I make no apologies for them. I have said before that I believe in the two airlines policy. I would support it at all times. But I do not agree with the way it is operated at the present time.
I would like to see a fair go between the two airlines. They should be left to trade wherever they wish as long as they satisfy safety and any other requirements. I believe that it would be in the interests of both airlines if the restrictions that have been placed on TAA did not exist. 1 cannot find any justification for the actions of the commissioners of the Australian National Airlines Commission who now handle the interests of TAA. I remember saying - I have not changed my opinion on this - that I did not believe in a body of commissioners running TAA. I believe that three men - a highly qualified engineer, a business man and a finance man - should run it. .1 do not believe in chopping and changing the commissioners.
I have great respect for the Chairman of the Commission, Sir Frederick Scherger. I happen to know him. He is a very fine man. This is not a matter of personalities at all. But is it fair to the industry itself to choose men, give them 3, 4 or 5 years as commissioners, as some of them have been given, and then make a change? This is a big industry. It needs the most competent people to run it. It would be far better in the hands of three men who have grown up in the industry, if such men are available, who know what things mean and who have seen the antics of Mr Ansett. 1 read in a newspaper that Sir Frederick Scherger said that Mr Ansett had broken the agreement. Can anyone tell me of any agreement that Mr Ansett has kept? AnsettANA and TAA have had many agreements on group travel. There is not one such agreement that Mr Ansett has not broken. I know, because I was in an office when the matter of taking a football team away was being dealt with. Of course the agreement could not be broken, but he said to the party whom I knew: There are a couple of first class tickets and a fortnight at Hayman Island; do what you like with them’. No doubt Sir Frederick Scherger is a man who will accept another man’s word.
Unfortunately he did not know how often the person whose word he was accepting had broken other agreements. His period of service as Chairman may not have been long enough. That is why I am against bringing in fresh people, however well meaning they may be and however capable they may be in other spheres.
I recognise Sir Frederick’s work in the Royal Australian Air Force. I believe that he finished up as Chief of the Air Staff. He had been brought into a new sphere and had to decide whether to accept the word of the man in charge of Ansett-ANA. In his position I would have said to Mr Ansett: ‘Now, listen. The moment your DC9s go into the air mine will go into the air’. Everyone knows that Mr Ansett could not afford to keep his DC9s grounded. What is the position today? At the peak before the dispute TAA was carrying 52% of the traffic on the routes that are called competitive routes. At the worst its share dropped to 38%. I understand that it has now risen to 40%. TAA is handing traffic over to Ansett-ANA. Anyone in the airline industry knows that a drop of 1% in passengers means a million dollars a year. The worst feature of this dispute is that it will create a certain feeling between the pilots and TAA and that every time there is any dispute at all it will become a question of principle as to who runs the airline.
I am not going into the question of who is right and who is wrong in this dispute. All that 1 am saying is that 1 believe it is a stupid business blunder for TAA to keep its aircraft on the ground while its competitor flies his. I ask any honourable senator opposite this question: Who would run a business along those lines? The answer is that no-one would do so unless he wanted to go broke. With great respect to Sir Frederick Scherger I say that one cannot run commerical pilots as one runs airmen. In spite of my great respect for him as a man, I wonder whether, with his years of training, he thinks he can get commercial pilots to bend as easily as airmen. I want to be quite honest. As I said, I do not know whether the pilots should or should not fly these aircraft without a third man in the crew. However, if 1 were running TAA I would not be 5 minutes behind Ansett in putting a crew of three in the DC9s.
Anyone who has studied the economic structure of Ansett-ANA knows that Ansett cannot afford to keep his aircraft grounded.
We on this side of the chamber have a name for people who break agreements when there is trouble. I do not know what honourable senators opposite call them. What could be worse than the present position? The Government is creating a situation between TAA and its employees which will have repercussions for a long time. Surely someone in management should have recalled the strike which cost Qantas SI 5m. I doubt whether Qantas is carrying as many passengers today as it was before the strike. That strike ended when management and employees got together. Who would know more about safety than “do the pilots? I suppose a pilot’s neck is just as important to him and his wife and children, if he has any, as my neck is to me and mine.
I am looking at this matter only from the business point of view. The present situation is the result of the worst blunder that can be imagined. What will happen when TAA puts its DC9s in the air? It will have lost the goodwill of its pilots, and a successful business cannot be run without goodwill. I asked a question of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott), who represents the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr Swartz), and was told that the matter was sub judice. The Minister should not say that to me again because it is wrong. The bans clause has nothing to do with the dispute between TAA and the pilots. If the whole dispute comes down to a matter of safety, let us put an additional man in the crew. If we do not, we cannot say when the aircraft will fly again. Every 1% of lost passenger traffic represents a loss of Sim a year to an airline.
Sir Frederick Scherger has claimed that Mr Ansett made a certain promise and Mr Ansett has claimed that he did not, so where do we go from there? The following appears in an article in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of Saturday, 22nd March:
Last night Mr Ansett denied having broken any agreement with Sir Frederick. . . .
But all the time TAA’s DC9 aircraft are on the ground -
Ansett-ANA is believed to be gaining extra profits, probably approaching $40,000 a week, as an indirect result of the dispute.
We have an interest in TAA. It is our airline. It is true that we do not get any dividends when it makes a profit but we certainly will have to carry additional taxation if it continues to make a loss. Let us hope that commonsense prevails. I deplore the present position because it will take TAA many months to get back to where it was before the strike. This is an industry in which goodwill is necessary. I shall not say any more about it because I do not want any words of mine to affect the position in any way. I say only that certain people run the airlines, and the pilots know who they are. lt is remarkable that there was no talk of disagreements or broken promises when the airlines were so prone to increase their fares. 1 have here a list which shows that since 1956 first class fares have increased by 46% and tourist class fares by 50% while the cost of living index for Australia as a whole rose by only 22%, so the airlines have not done too badly. 1 have tried to find the instigator of the move to increase fares. I had an idea who was responsible but I could not get verification so I will not comment further on that aspect.
The next, matter 1 raise relates to the Department of Customs and Excise, not to the present Minister - we will deal with him later after we have seen him in action - but to his immediate predecessor. I regret that he is not in the chamber at the moment. I want to show the Senate how two customs duties can be dealt with, It will be recalled that when the airlines purchased their Boeing 727 aircraft the Government charged them $2.Sm in customs duty. Then there was an appeal against the Government’s decision. This is what Mr Brogden has to say in his book ‘The Two Airline Policy’:
Following an appeal by the airlines based on actual experience of Australian use of the Boeing 727 compared with a careful assessment of the overseas operation of the Trident, the Government has concluded that the arguments advanced by the airlines have been sustained.
That was all right if the Government was satisfied but there must have been a fair amount of investigation before the duty was imposed.
– Did not the Government return the $2. 5m to the airlines?
– I should think it would. That goes without saying. I had occasion to visit the Department of Customs and Excise in relation to duty on aqualin, a herbicide used for destroying weeds. It is used by the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission in Victoria and by the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission in New South Wales to kill weeds in waterways. I use a little in a lake in which I am interested and, of course, it is also used in Lake Burley Griffin. So I took along to the Department all the required information and a letter from Mr Lewis, the Secretary of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission. I thought this letter certainly would be a winner. The letter said:
In reply to your phone inquiry about the Commission’s use of ‘aqualin’ the following information is supplied.
The Commission uses aqualin, the active ingredient of which is acrolein, because 16 years of continual experiments into all known herbicides have shown that it is the only herbicide which is both safe and effective for controlling submersed weeds in irrigation channels and drains.
The Commission has always placed great emphasis on safety in the use of herbicides. This is necessary because the water in which the weeds grow is used for a variety of purposes including domestic, stock, irrigation and industrial use.
Under these circumstances the greatest possible care is needed to make sure that herbicides do not pollute’ (he water and spoil it for later use.
Aqualin is used instead of .-… -……., and –,
Those two herbicides are the product of ICI and, of course, are made in Great Britain. Therefore, when they are used in Australia they are admitted to the country under the British preferential tariff. The Commission’s letter continued:
Aqualin is used instead of —, and reglone’ because it does not pollute the water to the same extent. Aqualin is a very volatile chemical which evaporates within 24 hours and thus the pollution problem is overcome completely by withholding the water from use for 48 hours.
I am not reading the complete letter. Mr Lewis said that if grammoxone were used the water would have to be withheld from use for 10 days. I get very tired when I read at length and if any honourable senator would like to read this letter they may have it. Further down Mr Lewis said:
In the Commission’s view, this 10 days withholding period makes it completely impracticable to use grammoxone in irrigation systems in Victoria. If water were withheld for 10 days during the summer period this would be a very severe restriction indeed and irrigators would suffer financially to a serious extent.
Apart from the question of safety the effectiveness of grammoxone and reglone has not been demonstrated satisfactorily under Australian conditions.
This is what the Secretary of the Victorian State Rivers and Water Supply Commission said. But I will go further into this matter. In connection with a hobby of mine I had occasion to call for tenders to keep a lake sufficiently free of weeds to permit aquatic sports. Knowing that there were two firms - the Shell Co. and ICI - with chemicals capable of doing this, the body with which 1 was associated asked them to tender. I will now read from a letter that I received from one of those companies, lt stated:
We would stress however, that the work done wilh Diquat-
In the other letter this chemical is referred to as grammoxone although it is the same herbicide. - although promising was insufficient on which to base a long term quote.
What we wanted was a quote to cover a 3-year period. Now, can any honourable senator tell me why the Government should let the airlines off? With TAA it is a matter of a book entry but the Government gives to its friend because, brother, he spends thousands of dollars on advertisements in the Australian Press to keep the Government in office. The Government can wipe off the duty payable by its friend. But the people who use the herbicides are State departments, municipal councils and those who care for our parks in various places. I have never known a more scandalous exhibition of partisanship than has been exhibited in regard to this situation.
The firm to which I was referring said thai it had little knowledge of the herbicide under Australian conditions and could not give a long term quote. All we sought was a quote for 3 years. Being a British product it came under the British preferential tariff. Because of the decision of the Department of Customs and Excise, duty has to be paid by those who use aqualin, the only tried herbicide according to those who use it and according lo the only people who were prepared to tender for 3 years because they knew what it could do. Now, it is good enough to save the Ansett organisation paying Slim in duty. The first letter I read was from Mr Lewis, Secretary of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission of Victoria and the second was from Mr Brinsmead, Manager of Agricultural and Domestic Sprays - per ICIA and NZ Ltd.
I do not want to say any more about this. If the Government of this nation makes decisions like that then I wonder why people have as much faith in its administration as they seem to have. It is good enough for the Government to help its private airline. It has passed Acts of Parliament to do so. It has stopped Trans-Australia Airlines from using its aircraft on certain air routes. I recall that when TAA flew to Darwin,
Ansett-ANA applied for the route and the Government handed it over. When the Ansett organisation bought out MacRobertson-Miller Airlines Ltd, which operated the service from Darwin to Perth, TAA applied but was told that it could not operate on that route. 1 would say a lot more outside this chamber. I would say things outside that I am barred from saying in here because the language would be regarded as unparliamentary. As to the duty on the herbicide, the amount of revenue involved is only small because of the quantity of this product used, but the important point is the principle involved. I can only hope that when administrative decisions are taken in future they will be taken on principle and not with the idea of giving political patronage which, I am sorry to say, I firmly believe was the guiding factor when the decision was arrived at in connection with the airlines and the people who use the herbicide known as aqualin.
I do not want, to say much more. I trust that in future the Government will be fair in its administration. 1 regret having to make the accusation that I have made because this is the first occasion in the Federal sphere that I have ever doubted the fairness of administration. But this time I am not merely in doubt; I can prove what I have said. When 1 made the first approach for a remission of duty it was granted. Then, evidently, somebody in the Department of Customs and Excise got a brainwave and the next application was refused. When I pointed out that my application had been granted the first time and asked for a reason why it was refused the second time, I could not get a satisfactory explanation, I deplore the happening not because of the amount of money involved but because of the principle at stake. If democracy as we understand it is to survive it can only do so when all of us, irrespective of our political thoughts, are satisfied in our own minds that decisions are arrived at fairly and are not influenced by the fact that people like Ansett spend thousands upon thousands of pounds on advertising during election time, which I believe was what influenced the Government in its decision with respect to the airlines, irrespective of: what the Government may say.
– First I should like to congratulate the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply upon the excellent speeches they delivered in this Chamber. Before dealing with the various matters raised by honourable senators I feel that in the few minutes available to me before the Senate rises tonight . 1. should endeavour to correct an impression that Senator Kennelly tried to create when he said that for the first time in his political life here he believed that the Government had been unfair in some of its decisions with relation to the imposition of customs duties.
The honourable senator referred to a remission of duty by the Government to two airline companies operating in Australia. He complained that the Department of Customs and Excise had refused to grant by-law entry and therefore remission of certain duty on a commodity known as aqualin. Let me point out that the whole basis of the Department’s policy with relation to the imposition of duties is that if there is readily available in Australia an herbicide, for example, which is the suitable equivalent of the product sought to be imported, then duty must be paid on the imported commodity.
– The honourable senator read out quite a lot. It was very hard for me to follow him.
– If there is a suitable equivalent.
– That is so. The honourable senator also referred to a decision with relation to the two major airline companies in Australia. They imported Boeing 727 aircraft. At first it was thought by the Government that the British manufacturers could supply an aircraft which was the suitable equivalent of the Boeing 727. The question of British preferential treatment was involved. This, I think, is 74%. Upon examination, it was found that the British aircraft was not a suitable equivalent. Therefore, as the Government had collected the extra duty, remissions of duty were paid to the two airline companies concerned - TransAustralia Airlines and Ansett-ANA. The amount involved was about $2.5m. Senator Kennelly inferred that this remission of duty was given only because one of the companies concerned had contributed a large amount of money towards the advertising expenses of the Government parties during an election campaign. I refute this suggestion.
– I refute this suggestion. I do not believe the honourable senator can prove one word of his charge.
– Have a look at the advertisements.
– We have never got anything out of this airline company that I know of. We are continually being charged with this type of thing by members of the Opposition.
– It is true.
– I refute it. I do not think it is true.
– He did not pay for any full page advertisements to support any member on this side.
– It was not done at our request. The company could do what it liked for the honourable senator or any other person. If it or somebody else wants to pay for advertisements for the Labor Party we would have no qualms about that. As for our going along to people and saying: ‘Will you do this? If you spend money on advertising in our campaign- ‘
-I did not say that.
– I am saying it.
– You are putting up an Aunt Sally to knock over.
– I am just giving an illustration. I am saying that if a company wishes to advertise in any newspaper it may do so, and if a company believes that it is not in its interests that a particular party should govern, it probably does that. I am saying that it may give us money and other people may give us money, but I do not know what the amounts are, and I dq not believe we would have anything to do with the type of thing suggested by Senator Kennelly.
The contributions made to this debate have been of very high quality indeed. Let me begin by saying how sorry we are that we have had occasion to have another election to appoint a Prime Minister because of the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of our late Prime Minister, Mr Harold Holt, who was acclaimed throughout the length and breadth of the world as one of the greatest Prime Ministers in the world’s history. I say he was acclaimed as one of the greatest Prime
Ministers in the world’s history because of the people who attended the commemoration service that was held following his death. That service was attended by the Prince of Wales as representative of Her Majesty the Queen.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Cormack) - 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.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I wish to take advantage of the motion for the adjournment of the Senate to raise a matter concerning a young national serviceman in Vietnam and his problems in getting his Vietnamese bride into Australia. These problems were well nigh insurmountable until f was contacted by his parents towards the end of last week. As a result of my approaches to officers of the Department of the Army and the Department of Health here in Australia, it has been possible to overcome the problems and unravel what to this soldier seemed technical officialdom or to say the very least, protracted delay in dealing with the matter.
– Did the honourable senator say they were unable to solve the problems?
– No, they have been able to unravel the problems now. But it appears that,- prior to my intervention at the request of his parents, there was a protracted delay in dealing with his problem, it appears that this young soldier was far from having assistance to get his wife to Australia and that every obstacle was placed in his way.
Firstly, let me say that I pay a tribute to the officers of the Department of the Army and the Department of Immigration in Australia whom I, of necessity, contacted on this matter. When the matter was brought to their attention, they went to no end of trouble to assist the serviceman to overcome what appeared to him to be the overwhelming problems that he was encountering.
As I have said, the soldier is a national serviceman - a private - serving in Vietnam. He went there in about May of last year. Shortly afterwards, he met and fell in love with a young Vietnamese girl. The facts from then on as related to me by his father are as follows: In July, the young man, who was over the age of 21 years at this time, applied for permission to marry the girl. Subsequently has was told to put his request in writing. This he did. On 17th August 1967 he applied in writing for permission to marry the girl. He was asked to produce proof of suitable accommodation arrangements for his proposed wife in the event of her coming to Australia. This he did in October 1967. On 30th November he was advised that the Australian Embassy regarded his proposed wife as being a satisfactory migrant but that a security check on her was continuing. Then, on 2nd December, he was interviewed by the legal officer of his unit, who, I am told, advised the young serviceman that if his marriage was to be legally recognised in Australia and if the girl whom he proposed marrying subsequently was refused permission to enter Australia, there could be complicated legal problems for him.
As a result of the advice tendered to him by the legal officer of his unit, the national serviceman and the Vietnamese girl completed a statutory declaration which apparently was witnessed by an officer of the Australian Embassy in Saigon. As I. say, he made his original application to marry the girl in July. Eventually, the marriage ceremony was performed on 8th December last. I am given to understand, although this is subject to correction, that this is the first occasion on which a young Australian national serviceman has entered into a form of marriage with a Vietnamese girl.
As a national serviceman, the young man was due to be discharged in Australia on 3rd February of this year. But because of the problems that he was encountering in bringing his wife back to Australia, and fearing that once he returned to Australia without his wife he might have greater difficulties in getting her out to Australia subsequently, he decided that the only way out of the predicament was for him to volunteer for another 3 months service in Vietnam. He then wrote to his civilian employer in Australia seeking leave of absence from his employment for another three months. This approval he received on 4th January of this year and, as a result, he stayed on in Vietnam.
On 20th January of this year, the serviceman was advised that the Australian Department of Health required the couple to undergo a further medical examination. His father has explained to me that this was the fourth medical examination that his son and his young wife had had to undergo,Incidently, two of these medical examinations had been undergone in Saigon at the soldier’s own expense. On 24lh January, 4 days after the fourth medical examination, the national serviceman was informed that he would hear or that he could expect to hear from the Australian Embassy in about a month’s time.
Not having heard anything by 26th February, he approached his commanding officer to find out what was happening and what further was likely to be involved in holding up permission for the girl to enter Australia. His father assures me that his son has told him that at this stage he had made six pleas - I think from recollection that three of them were in writing - to the various authorities for advice on matters related to papers, passports, inoculations, visas and things of that nature. By this time the soldier realised that his extended period of service in Vietnam was running out. He was due for discharge in Australia towards the end of April. Naturally, because he desperately wanted to be able to come to Australia with his wife and their young infant, he contacted his parents in Australia who in turn contacted me. 1 immediately got in touch with officers of the Department of the Army and officers of the Department of Immigration. With the very great assistance of those officers in Australia, at long last everything was able to be cleared for the young girl to come to Australia with her husband, who was returning from her country.
I understand that the serviceman is due to leave Vietnam in about the middle of next month. I sincerely trust that everything possible will be done now by the appropriate authorities - and, I assume, by the Army authorities - to ensure that the young girl is able to come back on the same aircraft as her husband and that it will not be a case of his returning to Australia with her pursuing him subsequently. A very warm welcome certainly awaits them from the parents here. 1 am certain that they will receive a warm welcome from the Australian community generally.
I have raised this matter to give the Senate some idea of the delays that are caused by public servants in those areas in dealing with matters of this nature. This case could well be the first of other cases of a similar nature. 1 trust that the inordinate delay that has taken place in this instance will not be tolerated in the future. I reiterate that 1 thank the officers of the Commonwealth in Australia who have assisted me to overcome the officialdom and the red tape that appeared to be involved in this matter. I can understand the necessity for health checks and things of this nature. But when we appreciate that this young lad had lodged his papers with Australian officials as long ago as last August and that in January he had to sign on for another 3 months in order to ensure that his wife would not be separated from him by thousands of miles, it must be agreed that this type of delay is certainly not good enough. I trust that if, in future, cases of this nature arise, the procedures that: necessarily are involved will be handled much more expeditiously. Again I trust that, every effort will be made by the appropriate authority - I assume, the Department of the Army - to enable this young man to travel back to Australia in the same plane as that in which his wife and infant son travel.
– I. think that we are all indebted to Senator McClelland for bringing this matter to our attention, and I am sure we are all very pleased to know that the story had a happy ending. I understood the honourable senator to say that this was the first occasion, to his knowledge, on which such a thing had happened. I think that this could well be the reason for the delay. I should imagine that once the procedure had been adopted for getting a serviceman’s wife home, as in these circumstances, it should be a very much simpler matter in future.I feel that the manner in which this matter has been ventilated tonight will in the future assist in expediting the return of such people in the way in which Senator McClelland has asked that it should be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 March 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1968/19680326_senate_26_s37/>.