26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.rn., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise: In view of experiences in overseas cities where civil disorders have been compounded by the use of high-powered rifles, will he take action to ban the importation into Australia of .223 Armalite M16 rifles, except for use by State police and the defence forces?
– Rifles such as the Armalite are prohibited imports unless my permission is given. Such approval always depends on the issue by State police of a permit to the importer. At present there is a lack of uniformity of control of firearms of this kind by the various State authorities. I understand that the matter is receiving attention following its recent consideration by the Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State AttorneysGeneral.
– I address a queston to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Now that the Commonwealth Government has given a lead by commencing to issue reflective number plates for motor vehicles in the Australian Capital Territory, will the Minister urge his colleague to use all his powers of persuasion to have all Australian State governments take early action, in the interests of road safety, to introduce reflective motor vehicle registration plates throughout the nation?
– I am aware that reflective number plates for motor vehicles are to be introduced almost immediately by the Commonwealth Government in the Australian Capital Territory, and also, I understand, in all the territories under its control. I will take the first opportunity available to me to discuss this matter with the Minister for Shipping and Transport with a view to his discussing it with State authorities.
– I preface my question, which I direct to the Minister for Customs and Excise, by reminding him that on 30th June 1966 Customs Proclamation No. 1143 appeared in the Commonwealth Gazette establishing the Port of Dampier in Western Australia. Can the Minister inform me whether there was any prior consultation with any Minister of the Western Australian Government or any officers of a department of that State before the determination was made? If so, who was the Minister or which State department was concerned? On what date was the consultation held?
– No approach was made to the Western Australian Government or to one of its Ministers regarding the proclamation of the Port of Dampier. These proclamations are made usually so that overseas ships will call at a port that is proclaimed by the Department of Customs and Excise. Discussions were held with the appropriate State under-secretary as to whether that particular port should be called Dampier or King Bay.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to the establishment of a fenced-in lion park near Sydney, New South Wales, wherein a number of lions roam at will? Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the reported establishment of a similar park in Quesnsland? Will the Minister confer with the Minister for Primary Industry on the advisability of allowing the importation of more lions for similar parks in view of the risk to flocks and herds when the inevitable escape of these beasts occurs?
– I know that there is what could be described as a lion park on the outskirts of Sydney. I did not know that a similar park was projected for Queensland. I think the honourable senator is quite right in drawing attention to the possible dangers if, through a variety of causes, the lions escaped. I do not know how secure the fence is. Articles have appeared in Sydney newspapers about the quality of the fence. It would certainly need to be away from trees so that they would not blow down over the fence and allow the Hons to escape. One feels that such contigencies could arise. According to news reports this morning the lions have had a fight amongst themselves. I agree that a danger could exist. I will direct the question to the Minister for Primary Industry.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General and in a way is supplementary to that asked by Senator Mulvihill. In view of the ease with which persons over 16 years are able to purchase dangerous firearms, including the Armalite rifle, will the Attorney-General consider calling a conference of State Attorneys-General with a view to enacting uniform legislation throughout Austrafia to restrict the sale of such weapons?
– I am sure the Minister for Works, who represents the Attorney-General, will not mind my interceding on this occasion. Whilst the question is directed to the Attorney-General, it contains an element which comes within my own portfolio as Minister for Supply. Under the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations very rigid rules are laid down as to the disposal of obsolescent war materials. If the new Armalite rifles are being imported illegally I am quite certain that the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations would prevent their sale. If die weapons are being imported legally, State governments have the power to prevent their sale. I will direct that element of the question to the Attorney-General but I should also like to be supplying him with some background information as to how the Commonwealth deals with the problem.
– I direct my question to you, Mr President. Remembering the interest that was shown by visitors to Parliament House in the copy of Magna Carta and hoping that it will find its way back into Kings Hall I ask: Would it be possible to ‘have an original copy of the Australian Constitution placed in Kings Hall to encourage young people visiting the Parliament to study the Constitution?
– I will give some thought to the matter and advise the honourable senator at a later date of what can be done.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who represents both the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs. Could the Leader of the Government make available the document or memorandum concerning relations between the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs which was circulated by the head of the Department of External Affairs, Sir James Plimsoll, within Government departments, and which purports to deny any difference of opinion or viewpoint on defence between the Minister for External Affairs and the Prime Minister? I ask for this document so that honourable senators may judge whether any difference exist between the Ministers or departments on the important issue of the defence of Australia.
– I am afraid that the honourable senator has not done his homework accurately in relation to this question or, if he is quoting from a newspaper, the newspaper has not done its homework correctly. The Minister for External Affairs dealt with the matter categorically in another place yesterday. In fact, he read the text of a communication for which he accepted full responsibility and which was circulated amongst senior officers of his Department at home and abroad. In truth, there is nothing to add to what the Minister said in another place yesterday.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Bearing in mind the problem being experienced by telephone subscribers, particularly the business sector, in controlling and recording the cost of STD telephone calls, and ‘bearing in mind the expressed desire of the Postmaster-General’s Department to encourage the maximum utilisation of the STD system, will the Postmaster-General take further urgent steps to provide, as an optional fitting to telephone handsets, a meter to enable the number of calls at local service rates to be ascertained and recorded?
– I can only refer the honourable senator to comments made by the PostmasterGeneral recently. He said that he had not yet had a report from his Department on investigations concerning this matter. He did make the point, which I think is important, that if the new equipment, which would be supplied by the Post Office to individual telephone subscribers, were supplied at all, it would be supplied only as an extra. I think that this point was well made by him. I shall bring before the PostmasterGeneral the matter raised today by the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. 1 note that the Prime Minister is about to undertake a pre-election tour of northern Australia and that Groote Eylandt is included in his itinerary. As the Director of Welfare in Darwin, Mr H. C. Giese, has imposed a virtual ban on visits to Groote Eylandt by journalists, film makers and even research workers, will the Minister ascertain whether the rights of the Aboriginals in this area have been eroded?
– The honourable senator referred to a ‘pre-election’ tour of inspection by the Prime Minister. All I would say is that the Prime Minister is very properly taking an opportunity to visit areas of Australia where tremendous development is taking place, as I indicated to Senator Ormonde, largely as a consequence of the Government’s great work and the initiative that it has shown in the development of Australia. I will refer to the Prime Minister that part of the question which relates to any restrictions that may be imposed at Groote Eylandt.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. What is the Government’s attitude towards continuing support for export industries which are being affected directly by the Government’s decision not to devalue Australian currency at the time of the
British devaluation? I refer particularly to the dairy industry. Will the Minister consider making a clear and concise statement on the Government’s attitude towards compensation for industries which continue to be disadvantaged financially by this decision?
– As the honourable senator knows, a committee has been set up to deal with the matter of the impact of devaluation. Obviously the substance of the question does not lend itself to a considered reply at question time. Indeed I would have thought it was a matter in relation to which the honourable senator could have used the forms of the House or the opportunity afforded by the Budget debate to develop any argument that he has. Nevertheless I will refer the question to the Treasurer for a considered reply.
– I direct my question to the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities. Is he aware that as a result of the decision of the Commonwealth Government to disband the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority attempts have been, and are being made, by the Cooma Municipal Council and local residents to attract other industries to that area? Is the Minister aware that the Cooma Municipal Council recently received a request from the United States military authorities seeking tourist information about this attractive area of New South Wales for distribution to United States servicemen intending to come to Australia from Vietnam on rest and recreation leave? Will the Minister arrange for officers of his Department to contact the Cooma municipal authorities to see whether his Department can assist them in promoting the Snowy area of New South Wales as a prospective rest and recreation area for United States servicemen coming to Australia?
– I am aware of the concern of the Cooma Municipal Council in relation to the falling off of interest due to construction operations of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority coming gradually to a close in the next few years. In fact I had a conference with representatives from that district some 2 or 3 months ago and considered the problem. I was not aware that any representations had been made to the Cooma Municipal Council by the United States authorities in relation to their rest and recreation personnel. The Senate will be interested to know that the Gold Coast authorities recently applied for inclusion of their area in that programme and that to date there has been no intimation of acceptance by the American authorities. I will be accompanying the local member for Eden-Monaro, Mr Dugald Munro, on Thursday and Friday of next week on a visit to the Cooma area. I shall take the opportunity to consult with the authorities in Cooma to see whether there is any difficulty in this respect that I can help to resolve.
– My question is ako addressed to the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities. What is being done by his Department in the interest of tourism to bring about a reduction of air fares across the Pacific, which have been described by many airline authorities as excessive? Will he bring his talents to bear on the problems associated with the operations of the International Air Transport Association which has been described as a price fixing cartel? Will he also have a hard look at the policies of Qantas Airways Ltd which, as a commercial enterprise acting to gain the highest profit margin and pursuing other policies, nevertheless may not always be acting consistently with the best interests of Australia?
– As the very terms of the question imply, this is a tremendously comprehensive problem. The Leader of the Opposition is no doubt aware that air fares on routes across the Pacific Ocean are fixed by international agreement. He referred to this as being in the nature of a price-fixing cartel. But the maintenance of efficiency in international airways demands some sort of co-ordination and the price structure is constantly reviewed. The Government has been considering the clash between the demands for charter services and the present provisions of the international agreement to which the Leader of the Opposition referred. At the present time relaxation of those provisions is not favoured.
The last part of the Leader of the Opposition’s question referred to Qantas Airways Ltd. It will be recalled that last week a decision was made on an application by
Pan American World Airways for increased services to Australia. Having regard to the public interest, with which Qantas is concerned, only partial acceptance of that application was agreed upon. Economic operation is essential in air services and this requires balanced judgment. The advantages of cheap fares must be weighed against efficiency. However, I assure the Leader of the Opposition that ever since I have been Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities, the Australian Tourist Commission has had this matter continuously under consideration, in conjunction with the Department of Civil Aviation.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Can the Minister say when an answer can be expected to questions regarding a possible change in the present practice by which the PostmasterGeneral’s Department requires certain subscribers to finance the full cost of upgrading telephone lines?
– I will obtain an answer from the PostmasterGeneral.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask: Is the Government under pressure from military organisations to reduce the size of the call-up in order to relieve labour shortages in industry?
– I know of no such proposition. The question is clearly a matter for the Minister of Labour and National Service or the Minister for Defence - I think the former. I will have it brought to the attention of the appropriate Minister.
– Yesterday afternoon, after having three questions asked of me by Senator Turnbull regarding tenders for car rental concessions at Commonwealth airports and the amounts offered by each firm which tendered, I promised the Senate that I would provide an answer today. It is as follows: Three firms submitted tenders.
They were Alex Kay Pty Ltd, Avis RentaCar System Pty Ltd and Hertz of Australia Limited. All offers submitted under the Airports (Business Concessions) Act are treated as confidential because of the pertinent company and personal information which accompanies them, and because df the effect that disclosure of this information could have on competing companies. I am prepared to disclose the successful tender on this occasion, but I do not think that it would be of any assistance to the Senate or to Senator Turnbull to know the unsuccessful tenders. I therefore say that the successful tenderer, Avis Rent-a-Car System Pty Ltd, submitted the highest offer of the three tenderers. It amounted to a $2.05m minimum over a 10-year lease period.
– Has the Minister for Works learned that a proposal by the Tasmanian State Government to authorise the provision of a staff canteen to occupy almost one floor of a projected 13-floor office block building for the Tasmanian Hydro-electric Commission has caused consternation in Tasmania and brought forth protests from employees of both the Commonwealth and State Governments and of private enterprise business and commercial undertakings? If unrequired luxury and extravagance is anticipated, has the Commonwealth Government, ‘because it has provided considerable loan funds to the Hydro-electric Commission for power projects, any right to request that undue waste of funds be avoided wherever possible?
– I cannot see that this matter comes within the scope of my portfolios in any respect. As the Senate knows, the Commonwealth Government has made available considerable loan funds, amounting over a programme of years to some $47m, to enable the Gordon River project to proceed. But that is entirely irrelevant to the nature of construction which the Commission itself determines for the accommodation of its staff.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Bearing in mind the great interest of the general public in the beautiful
National Library building and its contents, will he request the Prime Minister to consider making arrangements for as many as possible of the facilities of the Library to be open at regular times for inspection by the general public?
– I shall refer the honourable senator’s question to the Prime Minister.
(Question No. 350)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
What is the attitude of the Australian Government to proposals advocated in the Indonesian Newsletter No. 68/30 of 29th July 1968 which suggested that the future of West Irian ‘by way of free choice’ could be by seeking the views of the legislators of the province?
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply:
The item in the issue of the ‘Indonesian Newsletter’ referred to was a report of a statement by a member of the Indonesian Parliament, Mr Agus Sudono. Mr Sudono was reported as saying that one way in which West Irian might exercise its act of free choice concerning its future would be to ask the views of the legislators of the province. He did not say that this was also the view of the Indonesian Government.
Article 18 of the 1962 Agreement between the Governments of Indonesia and the Netherlands concerning West Irian states in part: Indonesia will make arrangements, with the assistance and participation of the United Nations Representative and his staff, to give the people of the Territory the opportunity to exercise freedom of choice’. The United Nations representative, Mr Ortiz Sanz, has now taken up his appointment and he arrived in Djakarta on 12th August. After initial discussion with the Indonesian Government he will shortly be visiting West Irian. The Australian Government will continue to watch the progress of his activities, and in particular what is proposed to give effect to the 1962 Agreement.
(Question No. 352)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following replies:
(Question No. 363)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
How much has Australia borrowed from West Germany, and what are the dates of repayment of the various loans involved?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following reply:
The Commonwealth has borrowed 200m Deutsche Marks ($A44.6m) in West Germany, representing the proceeds of two public loans floated in October . 1967 and July 1968. In addition, the proceeds of a loan of DM 16,800,000 ($A3.75m), which the Commonwealth arranged from the Deutsche Bank on behalf of TransAustralia Airlines in March 1968, are to be drawn by 31 December 1968.
The public loans are each to be repaid by ten equal annual instalments of DM 10m. Repayments on the loan floated in October 1967 commence on 1 November 1973 and the final payment is to be made on 1 November 1982. The second loan is to be repaid between 1 August 1974 and 1 August 1983. The loan for T.A.A. is to be repaid in ten equal semi-annual instalments, each of DM 1,680,000, from 30 June 1969 to 31 December 1973.
(Question No. 380)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
What were the reasons for the suspension of a member of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force on 8 July, under section 11a of the Police Regulations?
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
From investigations made by the Commissioner of Police into certain happenings, there was prima facie evidence of a breach of the Police Regulations by a member of the Police Force of the
Australian Capital Territory. The member concerned was accordingly suspended and charged under the Regulations. He has denied the truth of the charge and in accordance with Police Regulation 11a arrangements are being made to appoint a person to hear the charge and all matters appertaining thereto in the manner provided in the Regulations. The matter is therefore at present sub-judice.
(Question No. 389)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
Will the Government make a protest in relation to the gaol sentence imposed on the runner-up in the South Viet-Nam Presidential election, Mr Truong Dinh Dzu?
– The Minister for External Affairs has provided the following answer:
The Australian Government has not made a protest. The Government supports and encourages the important advances which the South Vietnamese Government and people are making in constitutional government, political institutions and a civilian judiciary under the severe strains of war including physical assault on the capital itself. In the particular case of Truong Dinh Dzu, apart from the Government’s reluctance to comment on a legal process in another country, the Government is also conscious that matters may be viewed very differently in a country at peace and in one under military assault
(Question No. 414)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Affairs has provided the following answers:
(Question No. 417)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
In view of reports that Mr Jack Egerton, President of the Queensland Branch of the Australian Labour Party, has been in Latvia attending the so-called Latvian Republic Trade Union Council - which functions under the so-called Latvian Socialist Republic - can the Minister verify the claim of Latvians in Australia that the Australian Government recognises the Latvian Government-in-exile and not the Communist led Republic, under which, as with all Communist countries, trade unions as we know them cannot function?
– The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply:
Australia has never recognised the validity of the incorporation of Latvia into the territory of the Soviet Union and has made this view known on frequent occasions.
– On 14th August, in a question without notice, Senator Webster asked whether the Government is aware that the current price per lb of butterfat being paid to Australian producers is by far the lowest price that has been paid for many years. He also asked whether the Minister for Primary Industry believes that the price being offered and being paid will support the business of even the most efficient dairy farmer and whether an assurance can be given to the Senate that this matter is under the close scrutiny of the Government. The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer:
It is not a fact that the current initial price per lb of butterfat being paid to Australian dairy farmers is by far the lowest price that has been paid for many years.
Many factories in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia are paying the same, or almostthe same, prices as last season’s initial prices. However most Victorian and Tasmanian factories have dropped their initial pay rates this season quite considerably in comparison with previous seasons’ initial pay rates.
The main reason for this is that the Victorian and Tasmanian factories have ‘been following a practice in recent years of paying much higher initial rates than the factories in other States in the expectation that subsequent step-ups in butter equalisation values will cover these higher rates. The factories in the other States have adhered to the long standing practice of paying conservative initial rates and stepping them up as sales progress, thus avoiding the possibility of actually overpaying producers and subsequently having to make reclamations from them.
This season it is apparent that Victorian and Tasmanian factories have come back to the practice which has been followed in other States.
It is impossible to forecast what the final return to dairy farmers will be; so I am unable to indicate whether I think that the price will represent an adequate return to efficient producers. However I would point out that the Government has already announced the details of devaluation compensation in respect of export sales of butter, cheese, skim milk powder and casein ex the 1967-68 season’s production. These sales would normally be expected to continue until about December 1968. In due course the Government will give consideration as to whether or not devaluation compensation is warranted in respect of sales ex the 1968-69 season’s production. The Government has also announced that it will underwrite the Commonwealth dairy produce equalisation scheme at a level which will give the same guarantee as last year, namely, 34c per lb commercial butter basis. The Government has also maintained its initial subsidy rates on butter and cheese at a level slightly better than last year’s opening rates.
– On Tuesday Senator Keeffe asked me whether Calgair Sales Ltd of Canada or Stanair Incorporated of California had successfully tendered for the purchase of Royal Australian Air Force aircraft prior to the recent purchase of Dakotas. Neither companyhas successfully tendered for the purchase of RAAF aircraft prior to the recent sale of Dakota aircraft.
Regarding the honourable senator’s earlier question on expenditure on maintenance, new parts and overhaul of the Dakota aircraft, information is not available in my Department. In fact, as I indicated yesterday, it is not part of the responsibility of my Department. As the House is to rise today for a short recess I have requested that an answer be supplied to the honourable senator as soon as it is available, by way of an answer to a question on notice. I hope that by the time we reassemble here, the Department concerned will have the answer to the honourable senator’s question.
– by leave - The Postmaster-General (Mr Hulme) has made a statement in the House of Representatives on the establishment of regional television stations for Cairns and surrounding areas. The statement reads as follows:
I am sure that honourable senators will be interested to learn that the Government has decided that the site for the permanent television transmitting station to serve Cairns and surrounding areas will be on the summit of Mount Bellenden Ker, a height of about 5,000 feet. The estimated total cost of establishing the national station on this site will be $1,770,000. Of this amount, $l.lm will be for access, building and engineering services to be carried out by the Commonwealth Department of Works. This will be referred to the Parliamentary Committee on Public Works for -examination but in the meantime the Department of Works will proceed with full documentation pending a report by the Public Works Committee. It is proposed to build a cableway to the summit of Mount Bellenden Ker rather than a road, the construction and maintenance of which would present tremendous difficulties and would be a most cost-intensive operation.
Mr President, when the proposal for the establishment of the Cairns television service was examined in 1964, it was decided to site the stations on Mount Bartle Frere, which is 5,200 feet above sea level, at an estimated cost of $1,120,000, of which $560,000 was for building and associated works, including a road to the summit. The technically superior location on Mount Bellenden Ker was not recommended at the time because of the apparent greater cost of access either by road or cableway. However, subsequent surveys of the access route to Mount Bartle Frere revealed that the terrain was more rugged than anticipated. Because of this, the Mount Bellenden Ker proposition was re-examined and it was found that, although the revised capital cost of establishing the station on the latter site was about the same or perhaps a bit higher than it would be for Mount Bartle Frere, the annual maintenance cost was lower. In due course, part of the development costs of the Mount Bellenden Ker site will be offset against the benefits it will provide to radio communication services.
My own Department plans to use the transmitter building for a repeater station for a adio telephone service between Atherton and Cairns, while the Department of Civil Aviation will use it to establish improved ground to air communications in the area. Technically, as I have mentioned, Mount Bellenden Ker is the preferred site. The shorter unobstructed transmission path into the urban area of Cairns will provide clearer reception and, since the site is about 35 miles closer to the control point and maintenance centre at Cairns, a better transmitter maintenance service will be provided. The Mount Bellenden Ker transmitters will serve Cairns and district, the coastal plain north of Cairns to Mossman and south to Tully, and the Atherton Tableland. A good service will be provided for about 90,000 people.
This has been a matter of great complexity, many technical surveys and detailed examination not only of the two preferred sites but of several others also. Because of the unforeseen difficulties and delay in establishing a permanent location, approval was given to establish temporary national and commercial stations in Cairns, and these have been operating for some time. However, their service area is greatly restricted and, although it was known in advance that this would be the case, nevertheless there have since been many representations for an improvement in the service, particularly from north of Cairns and on the Atherton Tablelands. I make no apology for this, since the temporary stations were established only as a stop gap measure pending the provision of the permanent stations. It was our aim to select the most suitable permanent site, having regard to all the circumstances. This necessarily has taken some time to determine. Both the national and commercial stations will operate from Mount Bellenden Ker. The new installation should be ready for use not later than the end of 1971.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) agreed to:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday, 10th September at 3 p.m.
Debate resumed from 28 August (vide page 411), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Senate take note of the following papers:
Civil Works Programme . 1968-69
Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1968-69
Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure, for year ending 30 June 1969
Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the service of the year ending 30 June 1969
Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain Expenditure in respect of the year ending 30 June 1969
Government Securities on Issue at 30 June 1968
Commonwealth Income Tax Statistics, for income year 1963-66
National Income and Expenditure 1967-68
Upon which Senator Murphy had moved by way of amendment:
At end of motion add - but the Senate is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that it does not make provision -
to lighten taxes and health costs for families and to increase benefits;
to plan defence procurement and expenditure;
to meet the problems of Australia’s capital and provincial cities; and
to retain control and promote development of Australia’s mineral, fuel, land and marine resources’.
– When the Senate adjourned last night I had referred to primary industry and the cost price squeeze. I posed the question: What are the areas in which the Government can assist? I believe that the Government must do all in its power to ensure that the wool industry and indeed all primary industries - exporting industries particularly - operate in a more favourable economic climate. I refute completely the idea held in some quarters that the main reason for the problems of the wool industry is the decline in wool prices and that growers and governments can find the solution in this area. I admit that prices have fallen, and that that is an important factor, but the cost squeeze is of equal if not of greater importance in depressing the industry. To subsidise the industry would be quite impracticable. We have to remember that to give even lc per pound by way of sub sidy would cost the Government $18m. The Treasury could not consider paying such a subsidy. When all is said and done the payment of a subsidy would not be tremendously helpful to the industry in the long term.
I deal now with two controversial areas in which the Government and tribunals can assist. I refer to arbitration and tariffs. The national wage case, which is being heard at present, is of enormous importance to every wage earner and to the national economy. No doubt every wage earner and every salaried man seeks increased payments. I agree that that is natural and understandable. I find no fault with that. I agree that every person is entitled to a higher standard of living. The Government’s policy, since it came to office, has been along the lines of ensuring that almost everybody has the opportunity to own his own home. If one looks at the figures issued by the Department of Housing one can see how we have fared in this direction. People are entitled to their own cars and to amenities for their homes. I am all for it. Every person is entitled to a share in the benefits of increased productivity and I support this concept. But if increases in wages are greater than the increase in productivity and do not bear close relationship to consumer index movements, the cost of living automatically rises, inflation occurs, and wage earners soon lose their new-gained increase. This is not helpful to anybody. Inflation affects all sections of the community and the increases awarded by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission are eroded. Over the past 4 years award wages have increased by 10.4% and average earnings by 20.5%, but national productivity per person employed at constant prices, whether he be on a wage, on a salary or in business, has risen by only 7.6% . Prices - and this is important - have risen by 11.1%.
Surely this demonstrates dramatically that increases in earnings are in excess of national productivity and are pushing up prices, which is against everbody’s interests. This is a clear-cut case of wage-cost inflation which benefits nobody and erodes money values. It affects the value of savings, which are important to a large section of our community and particularly to those who have saved so that they might be able to live in reasonable comfort in their old age. It affects particularly the exporters and especially those who are selling on world markets. Decisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which bear, or appear to bear, no relation to the wool industry’s capacity to pay or to productivity have a drastic effect on the industry’s attempts to be profitable. I trust that the Commission will be made aware of this and will bring in judgments which are more closely related to the indicators to which I have just referred, namely, economic conditions, productivity and capacity to pay. I repeat that I make no attack on increases which are justified by these indicators, but the value of increases in excess of this is lost. I trust that the Government, which I understand will be represented before the Commission either this week or next week, will refer to the dangers of inflation that can arise if these indicators and their effects are not taken into proper consideration.
Finally, I wish to refer to tariffs. This is a subject on which I have commented in this Chamber ever since I came here. I wish to speak briefly on tariff policy particularly in relation to under-protected export industries. I support the concept of moderate and reasonable protection which allows trade to flow with comparative advantage and a degree of freedom which, I believe, is for the good of all. However protectionism, which I might describe as unreasonable protection, has the effect of shielding inefficient, often uneconomic, industries completely from competition. This inhibits or stifles trade. As we all know, trade must be of a two-way nature and must be competitive, not only in relation to internal trade but also in relation to the imports which come to Australia and which are so necessary to our economy.
Recent controversy over imports of Japanese cars may be regarded as a typical example. I support strongly the antidumping measures that the Government adopted against Japanese cars a few months ago. As a consequence of the Government’s action the prices of Japanese cars rose immediately. But what did we find? We found that the local motor car industry immediately increased its prices. In spite of the fact that it had a pretty good volume throughput and in spite of the fact that its sales were high, the industry immediately put pressure on the Government for increased protection. I hope that the Government and the Tariff
Board will resist the representations that I understand have been made for a further increase in tariffs.
Without question, tariffs are a factor in increasing costs. This is illustrated by the report of the Vernon Committee on Economic Inquiry. I have found - those who are engaged in this industry will support me - that the grazing industry is being hard pressed and is justified in its claim that it must receive some consideration in this regard. I am one who has reservations about the value of subsidies to primary industry, but let us face the fact that secondary industries which are highly protected through tariffs are receiving indirectly a form of subsidy far in excess of that received by our rural industries. This is something difficult to measure but I am sure that what I have said is true.
I regard as sheer nonsense the view held by some people that countries like Japan must buy our wool and other products because they have no alternative. We should remember that Japan is one of Australia’s best customers and, I believe, will become even more so in the future. Let us consider what is happening in Japan at the present time. Some people have said that Japan would not retaliate against Australia if we imposed a further duty on Japanese cars. This perhaps is not likely, but not impossible. Japan is a big producer of synthetic fibres and its industry is expanding. No longer is it the big exporter of woollen textiles that it was immediately after the war. Most of Japan’s purchases of our wool are processed and consumed in Japan.
I am encouraged tremendously by the new approach of the Tariff Board to protection and by the Board’s proposal to publish in its next annual report a list of classifications of high, medium and low cost industries in Australia. I believe this will be of great value to the economy and particularly to those industries which are seeking reasonable tariffs. I was not in the chamber yesterday when my colleague, Senator Webster, had something to say about the proposal of the Tariff Board to publish these classifications in its next report. He said that it was dangerous for the Tariff Board to do that. I disagree emphatically with him. I ask: Dangerous to whom? Perhaps those who are receiving unwarranted protection do not want these classifications published. Why does the honourable senator consider it is dangerous that they should be published? Why should they not be published? Why should industry fear any classification (lowing from a review? I am not against any industry that can justify its present level of protection, but justification should be required.
Surely Senator Webster agrees with the statement: in the Vernon Committee’s report that tariffs are a factor in the cost price squeeze and that the unprotected sector is worthy of consideration. To support my views on the effect of the cost price squeeze on our primary industries, I quote from page 1 3 of a booklet published by the Commonwealth Treasury entitled ‘The Australian Economy 1968’. It states:
The contribution to export earnings we shall continueto require of our rural industries makes it highly important that they should operate economically - thai is, they should be capable of producing at costs that will be fully recovered in the prices received Tor sales in export markets. In this context, costs’ must be measured in terms of the real cost to the nation. Unfortunately, rising costs have been eroding the economic pace of the rural industries and there will be serious effects - particularly for the balance of payments - if this goes on.
I strongly support that contention. I hope that, having admitted to that situation, the Treasury, will act in the interests of the economy generally, bearing in mind the problems that concern export industries at the present time.
I am also encouraged by other events occurring in tariff discussions at the present time. A few years ago the Australian Wool Growers and Graziers Council was the only primary producers’ organisation appearing and giving evidence before the Tariff Board. I am encouraged by the fact that in recent years that organisation has been supported by the National Farmers Union and more recently the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. This is an indication that the rural industries are thinking of tariffs as a factor in the cost price squeeze in which they find themselves.I again turn to public statements by people who are well qualified to discuss tariff matters. I refer to the booklet entitled ‘The Tariff Debate’, which has been distributed recently. This booklet contains addresses by prominent people who are knowledgeable in tariff matters. I refer particularly to the introductory remarks by Sir John Crawford, who was a member of the Vernon Committee.
In conclusion,I come back to my earlier remarks on the gap between the present value of our exports and our overseas credit requirements. The continuance of our growth rate as a nation is, in my opinion, over-dependent on capital inflow.I believe that the Government’s economic policy must be directed not towards more handouts but towards maximum incentives to ensure that export industries can operate profitably and thus make the maximum contribution not only to Australia’s development but also towards building-up our overseas balances. Mr Deputy President,I support the motion and oppose the amendment.
– Mr Deputy President, may I add my congratulations to those honourable senators who have addressed the Senate for the first time in this debate. I believe that at one time Disraeli, the great English statesman, said that he would have preferred to be taking part in battle than making his first speech in the British House of Commons. I do not think that any of the new senators had those qualms or worries and I am sure we can look forward with great expectation to keen debating from them.
I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy). 1 think that it is appropriate that I should read the amendment at this stage. It reads:
At the end of motion add - , but the Senate is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that it does not make provision -
to lighten taxes and health costs for families and to increase benefits:
to plan defence procurementand expenditure;
to meet the problems of Australia’s capital and provincial cities: and
to retain control and promote development of Australia’s mineral, fuel, land and marine resources’.
I have listened with great care to the debate so far, and particularly the submissions made by honourable senators opposite. We are told that we are living in a so-called affluent society but I have looked with very great concern to find out exactly what affluence those people that we represent in this Parliament have.
– How do we compare with other countries?
– I suggest that the honourable senator should make up his differences with Senator Bull rather than pick an argument with me.
– How do we compare with other countries?
– I have listened to Senator Webster’s submissions and to those made by other honourable senators. After the Budget speech was delivered in this chamber by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson), the first comment that I heard from the Australian Democratic Labour Party was that it was the worst Budget since World War II. When the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labour Party (Senator Gair) spoke on the Budget he emphasised the very same point. I recall some of the previous budgets. 1 recall the ‘horror’ Budget that followed the 1951 double dissolution. I also recall the little’ Budget that followed the early election of 1955. Remembering those Budgets, I felt that this Budget was not as bad because a few items associated with it will, I suppose, please some people. Certainly the age pensioners have received an increase of $1 a week, which I will have something to say about later, and the totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners have received a $3 increase. The Budget also included increased hospital assistance and limited help to the Aboriginals. Primary producers also received some handouts, on which the Australian Country Party is quite willing to express its opinion. But I believe that the criticism levelled at the Budget by pensioners’ organisations and others is quite warranted. Recently I read a letter from a pensioner in the Sydney ‘Sun’. It stated:
After much trumpeting, our new Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, with one hand voted out a miserable SI to single pensioners and an even more miserable 75c each to married couples.
Married pensioners are already penalised with a smaller pension and they receive no rent allowance.
With the other hand, Mr Gorton takes most of it back in increased sales tax and postal charges, leaving barely enough for the hungry landlord.
In fact, for the next 2 months until the increased pensions come into effect, the pensioners will be worse off than before, as the new sales tax comes into force immediately.
Statements have been made in the New South Wales Parliament and by Opposition senators regarding the increased cost of bread and eggs. It is more or less shades of Thomas Hood’s ‘Song of the Shirt’: ‘Oh God that bread should be so dear and flesh and blood so cheap’. That is the situation that we are rapidly approaching in this nation. We find now that rents for housing commission homes are to rise by 25c in New South Wales, all on the basis of this so-called increase in pensions. I think the Senate will agree that it is no wonder the pensioners did not kiss the Treasurer on their way out of this building, as has been stated in many quarters. 1 was elated when I thought that something was being done about, increased hospital charges, but I found in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ this article written by the matron of St Anne’s private hospital, Killara, under the heading ‘Hospitals and the Budget’:
May I correct the widespread impression that there is to be general relief of the financial burden upon hospital patients suffering long-stay, illnesses? Many people believe that as a result of (he Budget hospital benefits for long-stay patients in non-public hospitals will rise from $14 weekly to $35 weekly. This is not the truth.
The increases will apply .only to public hospitals and a very small number of other hospitals which are ‘approved for special account purposes’ for hospital benefits. The minimum charge for a patient in a public hospital ward is $57.40 weekly, and this total amount is recoverable from the hospital benefits funds.
The patient who is admitted to a non-public hospital will be able to recover only the maximum of $35 weekly from the hospital benefits funds. However, even this amount is subject to manipulation, and the most alarming aspect is that the majority of patients in the long-stay category will not be able to recover any money at all from the funds.
The unfortunate situation at the- present moment is that despite all the claims of the Government which have been expressed on so many occasions, nothing that it has claimed to be doing is coming to fruition. I believe also that criticisms of the Budget made by pensioners organisations throughout the length and breadth of Australia has been warranted. “This is the first increase granted to pensioners in a Budget since the last election 2 years ago. I would say that it was quite laughable, if it were not so much of a tragedy, to talk about this as a welfare Budget, i should add that the Government has never increased maternity allowances or child endowment for the second child; in fact it has not increased endowment for the first child for 17 years.
Many speakers on this side of the chamber have referred to the deterioration in the value of the pension and 1 believe that their criticisms have been justified. As long as 40 years ago a pensioner could receive a full pension while earning an amount equal to the pension, but now if a single pensioner earns more than 71% of his pension it is reduced accordingly. Likewise, a married pensioner can earn only 68% of bis combined pension and thereafter his pension rate is broken down. The Government has said that it would cost $340m to abolish the means test and so moves, in that direction have been discarded. I thought thai (he Treasurer might have made some mention of the under-expenditure that has occurred in Government departments. The report of the Auditor-General which has just been delivered to honourable senators includes in paragraph 7 on page I I a reference to the Parliamentary appropriation not being fully expended:
Du l iny 1967-68, unexpended balances of annual Appropriations totalling %1 10.75 1,660 lapsed in accordance wilh section 36 of the Audit Act. . . .
So there is no justification for all this talk by the Government of not having enough money for the pensioners, for those in receipt of other social service benefits and for those in receipt of a repatriation pension. All should receive some degree of benefit because it was within the Government’s knowledge that $210m which had been allocated for departments had not been expended. 1 thought that the Govern-, ment or the Treasurer might have said something about that. On the question of a progressive easing of the means test, it would cost $65m to pay a full pension ,to all persons over 75 years of age, irrespective of their means, lt would cost a further $ 1 2m to pay a full pension to all persons over 74 years of age. A former Prime Minister. Sir Robert Menzies, had a great duel with his Party on this question of progressively easing the means test, but over the last 20 years nothing has been done about it. lt is a disgrace that the Govern ment should have done nothing along these lines in this so-called affluent society.
I refer now to hospital and medical funds. There are motions before the Parliament for a complete overhaul of the funds. I believe that when decisions have been taken on these matters and reports of committees have been presented we may be able to do something about hospital and medical funds. The committee to inquire into hospital and medical costs which was initiated by the Opposition and which is composed of Government and Opposition senators should prove to be of advantage in this period. In the matter of education I pointed out here recently in a question that private schools were in a dire situation. However, this was denied by the Minister who joked about it and said how much had been done. Only last night a Press report carried a heading ‘Catholic Church Crisis - School Shutdown’. The article pointed out that kindergartens and 5th and 6th year classes are likely to close. lt is a grave situation that we face in this field today. But noi only is there this crisis in private education; we find it also in State government organisations. Not enough has been done in this field. I believe that a great deal more should have been done in the Budget.
Before referring further to the details of the Budget I pose a question which I believe should be asked: ls this an election Budget? This is a matter of concern not only to members of Parliament but also to the people generally. Our present Government was elected for 3 years. Each election costs approximately S 1.500.000. There is no question about that, lt has been said that the Government cannot afford increased benefits for returned servicemen or for pensioners, yet it can afford to hold elections of an average of one in less than every 2 years. The Government has been completely dishonest. If an election is held this year it will be the ninth since the Government has been in office, in addition to which there have been two separate elections for the Senate. In the mind of every Australian this is a disgrace and something for which the Government should answer if an election does take place within the next few months. The next election is not due for 16 months. Honourable senators may wonder what prompts me to ask this question. First there is the pension increase which we have found always takes place right on the eve of an election campaign. Secondly, there has been the gerrymandering of Federal electorates, particularly in New South Wales, the State which I represent. Then there has been the Press softening up. which obviously is a Government inspired move to condition the people for the possibility of another election. If an election is held this year, it will make a total of eleven flections in a period of 19 years. We know, of course, how concerned the Government is at ils waning popularity. There is also concern about inflation and the possibility of a further credit squeeze because, as we know the Government generally tightens the financial screw after an election. It did that after the early elections in 1951 and again in 1954. But in 1961. it introduced the credit squeeze before the election with the result that it was very nearly defeated in the following election. I repeat that the Government has learned its lesson and, of course, will not fall again for a situation like this.
Then, too. lnc Government must be concerned about the attitude adopted by Mr A>;kin in New South Wales. He is likely to do to this Government what he said he would do to the demonstrators in New South Wales. Members of the Government should not have any doubts about it; he will run over them just as readily and just as effectively as he would have run over the demonstrators. Mr Askin staled that any advantages which the pensioners had secured had been at the expense of the Slates. He was probably right. I know that when he brings clown his budget the people generally will be greatly concerned about further living costs.
The Budget itself which is the most important document given to the Parliament of Australia each year outlines for all Australians the total of goods and services produced and the proposed expenditure for the coming year. The Treasurer is naturally concerned, as he should be. with the imbalance of overseas trade. There was a decline of SI. 000m in our overseas balances this. year. Naturally he is concerned about this. He is concerned, too. about the inflow of foreign capital to Australia. No doubt many statements must be ringing in his ears, but one in particular which should be giving him some worry at the moment is the statement by Mr McEwen who in discussions with the members of his party who are mainly established farmers said:
If we have enough income we can live comfortably; if we do not, we can still live comfortably by selling a bit of the farm every year.
That is very much like the present situation in Australia. We are not earning enough and we are selling a bit of our heritage every year.
The Government is concerned, too, about inflation at the moment. Let me tell honourable senators that the trade union movement is well aware of this situation and is geared to try to have something done to give some measure of justice to its members. The trade union movement has an application before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission at the moment. When discussing this question, government supporters always talk about the average wage. But they never talk about the average wage when discussing social service pensions and the pensions payable to totally and permanently incapacitated pensioners. I can assure honourable senators that with the present high cost of living which obtains throughout the length and breadth of our land, families are finding it extremely difficult to carry on unless both husband and wife go to work or the bread winner has two jobs.
The great tragedy to this nation is that we are selling out to foreign investors. By the assistance which we are giving them to buy Australia we are denying the Australian people the benefits which they should enjoy in this era of great mineral discoveries which have brought great wealth to the nation. Unfortunately, the foreign investors are the ones who are gaining the advantage: I repeat that the trade union movement is making a strong claim for a share in the great discoveries being made in our own native land. The question we ask is: Why should not the people share in this most profitable and most exciting period of Australia’s existence?
Recently, Sir Harold Raggatt published a book entitled ‘Mountains of Ore’. In it he gives a wonderful outline of Australia’s great wealth and refers to iron mountains and rivers of ore. He says that these, plus the discoveries of petroleum and natural gas, make this country one of the greatest in the world. That is why we in the Australian Labor Party feel that the people whom we represent in this Parliament should be sharing in these advantages. In the summing up of the book in the Financial Review’ of 27th March 1968, is this statement:
Sir Harold says in his book that mineral exports will be $635 ‘million in 1970 compared with the Bureau o£ Mineral Resources 1966 estimate of $560 million and Treasury’s 1966 estimate of $540 million. Exports of minerals in 1966 were only $200 million and in 1954 were only $100 million. (Further contracts particularly in the iron ore, and the development of nickel have led lo Government forecasts for an export level of more than $800 million by 1971. Sir Harold gives a detailed account of the prospects of all minerals.’
Only this morning I heard on the news service that there had been another great find of nickel at Kalgoorlie. With the great discoveries that have taken place in Western Australia, Queensland, the Northern Territory and Tasmania, this country has become rich in bauxite, upon which the alumina industry is based, it has become rich in nickel, and it has become rich in titanium which is important to the aircraft industry. We have also uncovered great deposits of rutile, zircon, gypsum, uranium, copper and iron ore. These, together with the discovered oil and natural gas resources make this one of the greatest countries in the world and the people of Australia should be sharing in some of the great wealth that we have inherited. On 27th June 1968, the Minister for National Development, Mr David Fairbairn, is reported in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ as having forecast last year that mineral exports could approach SI, 000m in the middle 1970s. The Herald’ suggested that this estimate now appeared to be too cautious. This indicates the great export future that we will have. This Government should be condemned for not taking advantage of the great mineral resources of this nation to promote the wellbeing of our own people. There are too many Australians who are living in most difficult conditions. I refer in particular to pensioners and Aboriginals.
My great friend and colleague, Mr Einfeld, who was a member of the House of Representatives for some years, has attacked poverty in New South Wales. He stated that there was a tremendous amount of poverty in that State. This report of his attack appeared in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ on 22nd August 1968:
More than 200,000 people in New South Wales were living in sub-standard conditions, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr S. D. Einfeld told State Parliament yesterday. He demanded an immediate state wide survey to ascertain the true conditions in which many people were thought to live.
We of the Opposition in the national Parliament have asked for a survey on numerous occasions. I believe that an investigation into all these matters should be undertaken without delay.
On 27th August in this place, I listened to a question by Senator Keeffe in which he set out the weekly wage rate payable to some Aboriginals in northern Queensland. The rates stated by Sentor Keeffe as being payable were: Store employees $10 to $16, boat crews from $16 to $18, police and watch house employees from $8 to $22, sawmill employees from $8 to $22, farm hands from $8 to $30, home training and kindergarten employees $2, hygiene and santitation employees from $8 to $16, garage employees from $8 to $22, plumbers and drainers from $8 to $23, painters from $8 to $18, carpenters from $8 to $20 and road maintenance and general workers from $8 to $23. I would emphasise that in all cases the higher rate is payable only to the ganger or the person in charge. This is a deplorable situation. Every Australian should hang his head in shame when we see such great mineral wealth, and are making available so little money in order to remedy the degrading situation of the Aboriginal people. In another attack that was made recently in Darwin mention was made of humpies not fit for dogs to live in. A newspaper article stated-
Poorly paid Aboriginals were still working on Northern Territory cattle stations on rations far below European standards and were housed in humpies nol fit for dogs.
A little over 12 months ago I went to Dareton - a New South Wales town on the Victorian border, near Mildura. I saw the circumstances and situation there. I wrote to the State Government and to the then Minister for Social Services. AH sorts of help were promised, but very little has been forthcoming. I say that this is not good enough in a country that is producing so much wealth. It is a great disgrace to the nation generally. 1 am very perturbed that people working in the pastoral industry throughout Australia under federal awards are still working a 44-hour week, despite the struggle, through every constitutional means, of the trade union to which they belong - the Australian Workers Union - to achieve equity and justice for them. It is about time this national Parliament made a standard working week mandatory throughout this country. That standard working week should be a 40-hour week, lt is a disgrace that in far distant areas of New South Wales people working under federal awards are still working an exorbitant number of hours.
Recently I saw the dire plight of banana growers on the north coast of New South Wales. The families of 3,400 banana growers there were living under very grave conditions. An article in the ‘Northern Star’ of Saturday, 27th July, quoted the comments of Mr Knight, a director of the Banana Growers Federation, lt read:
Mr Knight said the industry had carried on since ils inception without any financial assistance from cither Stale or Federal governments.
He went on to point out the very dire circumstances in which the families of the 3,400 banana growers were living. All these banana growers are working for less than the basic wage. I. point out that 3,400 is the number of families, not the number of individuals. The dairy farmers on the north coast are also in difficult financial straits. These are matters to which 1 believe the Government has to face up. 1 believe that these are matters that concern all and sundry.
White these conditions exist, racketeering is taking place throughout the country. In the New South Wales Parliament both the Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Hills, and the Deputy Leader, Mr Einfeld, have raised this matter on a number of occasions. I pay tribute to two newspapers in New South Wales - the Sydney ‘Sun’ with its ‘Hot Line’, and the Sydney ‘Daily Mirror’ with its ‘Action Line’ - for the help they have given over many years to those in need. I am deligted to sec the treatment and service that they are receiving not only from government departments, by which on frequent occasions members of parliament are held up in receiving service, but also from many of the business firms against which people have protested in letters to the newspapers. I also protest strongly. The Go vernment may say: ‘This is not a matter for us;.it is a matter for individuals. They enter into these agreements. If they are taken down, unfortunately that is their problem.’
But there is a matter for which the Government is mainly responsible: I protest strongly at the connivance of this Government in allowing private banks, insurance companies and lending societies to charge excessive interest rates. Recently. Mr Al Grassby, M.L.A., the member for Mumimbidgee in the New South Wales Parliament, made a devastating attack on lending companies. He pointed out that many migrants in the Riverina area were being charged up to 18% interest and were working in two or three jobs in the hope of paying off tremendous, loans on which they were be’ng charged exorbitant rates of interest. This is a matter that is bringing inflation and destroying the financial structure of our society.
It is a disgrace to think that the Government is allowing a situation in which private banks say to people who .come to them for money: ‘We have no money here, but if you go around the counter to our fringe banking institution we might be able to do something for you’. The rate of interest may not be 18%; it may be 1% a month. Recently a very good friend of mine in a country area of New South Wales borrowed about SI8.000. After making sixteen repayments of $317.70 a month, which meant that he had paid $5,083.20, he found that he had paid only $1,700 off the principal. That is the sort of thing that is happening. The Government should stop it happening, lt should introduce legislation to stop this sort of racketerring. It has promised such legislation. lt has thought about it. But it has done nothing at all about it. This is something that a Labor government would do immediately on becoming the Government
The honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) has continually exposed the financial takeover of Australia by foreign capital. The Australian Labor Party’s policy on this matter is quite clear. We have a very definite policy which has been enunciated in numerous election campaigns. The Leader of our Party has pointed out that the equity held by foreign’ capital in Australian secondary industries as a whole is almost 30%. He has pointed out that in the pharmaceutical industry it “is 97%. in petroleum refining and distribution 95%, in motor vehicle manufacture 95%, in oil exploration and production 85%, in telecommunications 83%, in bauxite and aluminium 75% and in food processing 50% . These are matters that should concern the Government. They would be controlled by a Labor government. We would utilise the Commonwealth Bank as a means of assisting in that direction. As honourable senators know, the Commonwealth Bank financed Australia ‘s part in two world wars. It could play an important and much greater part, under a Labor government, in financing the discovery of great mineral assets and the production of minerals for the wellbeing and benefit of all Australians.
With other Labor men, I warn that if our great wealth in Australia is not properly controlled and if it is given away our people could become impoverished and indebted to overseas interests. I appeal to every decent member of this Parliament to right these wrongs and to make ‘ it possible for a government that has the interests of all Australians at heart to rule the destiny of this country. I support the amendment. Our objection to the Budget is that the wealth of the nation is not distributed properly; the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. There are too many impoverished people in our midst, and they will remain while this Government remains in office.
– First of all, [ congratulate those honourable senators who have made their maiden speeches in this debate. That is an ordeal through which all of us have gone at some time or other. 1 wish to touch on one matter connected with the maiden speeches, without being too critical. While the privilege of being heard in silence is always granted to a member of the Parliament making his maiden speech, it is expected of him that he will not make a provocative speech. That was not the position in respect of some of the speeches that I heard. I am sorry that this custom, which has been adhered to in the past, has been abused on this occasion.
The other point to which I wish to refer at the outset, because I did not have the opportunity to do so the other day on account of Cabinet sub-committee commitments, is the action that the Senate took in carrying a motion of dissent from the ruling of the President. I felt that it was one of the worst actions in the Senate since I have been a senator and I hope I never see the like again. The sorry spectacle was presented of the President of the Senate doing what he was elected to do, upholding Standing Orders.
– That was not the opinion of the Senate.
– -That does not mean that the Senate was necessarily right. Standing Orders are laid down as the rules of debate in the Senate. While they are in existence, and we have agreed to them, they should be adhered to. If honourable senators are not prepared to observe them, let us change them, but while they are in existence, if we have any regard at all for the dignity of the Senate we should stand by the President when he rules according to the Standing Orders. Senator Cavanagh, who is trying to interject, will have an opportunity to speak later. That is all I want to say on that point.
Within the last week we have once again had brought home to us how fortunate we are to be living in this country under the conditions we enjoy. I say that despite the sorry picture that Senator Fitzgerald tried to paint in his speech. Within the last week Czechoslovakia was subjected to oppression such as other countries have suffered’ in the past. Surely that must make us realise how fortunate we are to live in this land with freedom to express ourselves in criticism of governments, freedom of religion and all the other freedoms that mean so much, firstly to those of us who have never lost them, and secondly, in greater degree to those people who have lived in countries where such freedoms have been lost. Is it any wonder that people coming here from overseas regard Australia as a wonderful land of opportunity? It is a wonderful land of opportunity, providing that the people are prepared to work. There is no excuse for anybody to be poor in this country. None at all.
I am very pleased indeed to read that the disturbances in Czechoslovakia appear to be settling down, although it seems that the people there are to lose a great deal of what they were endeavouring first to achieve and then to maintain. Fortunately, very little blood has been shed, so far as we have been able to learn. Perhaps there has been far more bloodshed than we have learned of, but at least it is gratifying to know that the bloodbaths of previous years were not repeated on this occasion.
The wonderful mineral finds in Australia are further evidence of our great good fort line. Estimates have been given of the value of our mineral wealth, not only in the very near future but also in the long term. Great discoveries are made almost every few weeks and they may continue for some time. .Tn spite of the value of the great mineral finds we are making, once the great store of our mineral deposits is exhausted, that is the end of it. That does not apply to the Australian soil, providing that the people who own it and till it are prepared to look after it. If they are, our primary production will go on and on. This point should be remembered when consideration is given to the gains we are to get from our mineral deposits. Sir John McCaughey said very truly that wider is more precious than gold. Indeed it is. Precious as gold is, once it has been extracted from the earth, that is all there is to it.
Sitting suspended from .1.2.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I had reached the stage in my speech on the Budget at which ] had referred to the tremendous finds of minerals that mean so much to Australia. These do come to an end. While we hope that it will be many years before the deposits are exhausted, still the day will arrive when they come to an end. This does not apply to the primary industries that produce crops from the soil. By careful management year after year we produce wheat, wool, sugar, fruits and so on. These are the commodities that the land produces. Provided that the land is properly cared for, as it has been over the years - there has been greater emphasis placed on land management and soil conservation during the last 20 years than ever before - the country has a continuing source of wealth. Sometimes this fact is overlooked.
For many years Australia was regarded as being on the sheep’s back. Today we are not as dependent on wool as we were many years ago, but it still plays a very important part in providing the overseas currency that we need for export trade. Strangely enough the wheel has turned. I recall, as one coming from the land and having three sons on the land, that for many years wheat growing was in the doldrums. Prices and yields were low. We had droughts. Then wool prices began to increase and wool growing became profitable and attractive. 1 think we would do well to remind ourselves of the fact that it was the merino wool industry that made Australia famous. It is a matter of very great regret to those of us who over the years have been connected with the growing of merino wool to find that those who are in the merino wool industry today, through lack of opportunity for diversification, in many instances are in poor financial circumstances through no fault of their own. This has been brought about by the low price paid for wool by overseas buyers and the high costs that have bedevilled not only this industry but other primary industries that are not in a position to pass on their costs.
We have seen the wheel turn from the poor position of the wheat grower and the comparatively comfortable position of the wool grower to the position where wheat is in favour again. I am one of those who thinks that we will see an improvement in the present low prices being paid for merino wool and for lambs. I hope the improvement will not be very long in coming. 1 am convinced that this will come about. There are many factors involved. The Government is concerned that the wool growers have not been able to arrive at a satisfactory solution of their present troubles. For many years the policy of the Government has been that if a primary industry comes up with a scheme which it thinks will benefit the industry, be it the wool, wheat, sugar or some other industry, and asks for a stabilisation scheme the Government will give that industry an opportunity to express its views by way of a referendum of the people concerned. A referendum on the question of wool marketing was held some 2 years ago. The suggestion that was put forward at that time was turned down by the majority of wool growers. Unfortunately since then a majority of the wool growers has not come up with a scheme that they considered would be of some advantage to the industry. The Government’s hands have been tied because it is of no use for the
Government to put forward a scheme if the wool growers think that it will not be in their best interests and if it will be turned down or objected to by the majority of growers. This is one of the problems causing the Government concern. It is not that the Government is not interested in the welfare of this very great industry. Up to this time the Government has not been able to arrive at a decision as to the best way to assist the wool growers. I refer specifically to the merino wool growers, but there are others who are fast getting into the same position as those who are restricted to growing merino wool.
Over the past few years we have seen a tremendous increase in the number of acres put under cultivation for wheat. Many wool growers whose land has been good enough to allow them to grow crops, have turned 10 this form of production, in many instances with success, lt is too often overlooked that thousands of wool growers are not in a position to do this. They may be living in arid areas where it is not possible to grow wheat or other fodder crops. They cannot even grow crops to conserve for stock feed. Then wc have those whose land is in a comparatively good rainfall area but, because it: is mountainous or has some other characteristic of this kind, is not suitable for growing crops. Many people think that it is quite easy for a man on the (and to diversify his production, but in many cases this is not possible. Those who are restricted to wool growing, in the circumstances that 1 have mentioned, are in a parlous condition. There is no question about that. After years of hard work many of these people do not know when they will be able to get out of the financial trouble that they are experiencing at the moment.
I turn now to wheat. Recently there has been a lot of criticism levelled at the Government because the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) has announced after many months of discussion, that the wheat industry and the State Ministers for Agriculture have devised a scheme for the continuation of wheat stabilisation. Over the years the wheat growers have contributed to cheap wheat for local consumption. This fact is too readily forgotten. Up to now the assistance that the Commonwealth Government has provided to the wheat grower has not measured up to the amount that the wheat growers denied themselves to provide cheap wheat for local consumption. If there is any doubt about this, I can produce figures to show that it is true.
The scheme, which has attracted quite a lot of criticism, was arrived at after many weeks of negotiation between the Minister for Primary Industry, the Australian Wheat Growers’ Federation, representatives of wheat growers from all States, and State Ministers for Agriculture. This is felt to be as far as the Government can go. We have seen a tremendous upsurge in the production of wheat in Australia. Whereas a few years ago a crop of 200 million bushels was looked upon as a very big crop indeed, this year’s production could reach 500 million bushels. Only 60 million bushels is used for local consumption, including bread, confectionery and stock feed. This could mean that we will have to dispose of 440 million bushels overseas. The International Grains Arrangement has been negotiated after a lot of trouble on the part of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen). Now we are finding that there is some attempt to undermine the agreement because what we call fair average quality Australian wheat is considered to be equal in quality to some of the premium .wheats used overseas. So while the yield is expected to be very good indeed, the position regarding overseas sales is not good at all. As one who has three sons in this industry 1 say without any equivocation at all thai the terms of the proposed agreement that have been made public by the Minister for Primary Industry represent a very fair deal indeed to the wheat grower. I know the basis of the scheme. If the States are wise they will agree and get the agreement signed as quickly as possible because the overseas position is certainly not good.
Now let me take a quick look at the sugar industry, which is of tremendous moment to Australia, because north of Capricorn we rely principally on sugar and meat. Much capital is tied up in the production of sugar and many families are dependent on the returns that they get from the industry. The price of sugar is at a very low ebb indeed. The Government has worked very hard to try to get an agreement that will be fair to sugar producers. The battle is not over yet. Mr McEwen is to go overseas once again to see what can be done in this regard.
People engaged in the dairy industry had my sympathy for many years. About 1957 when I became Chairman of the New South Wales Country Party I advised those who could get out of the dairy industry to do so, because I could not see any future for the industry. Promptly, they wanted my skin on the fence. Unfortunately, the advice that I gave proved to be very good indeed. In spite of the assistance that has been given, people engaged in the industry work harder than anybody 1 know, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and long hours at that. Many dairy farmers who live outside the Milk Board zone in New South Wales have been eking out a bare’ existence; one could not call it a living. The New South Wales Government has a scheme to try to assist these people. It will not be easy. Once again it is necessary to obtain the cooperation of State Ministers for Agriculture. I am hopeful that we will’ be successful in getting this.
In spite of the position in the sugar industry, the dairy industry and the wool industry, some people . who represent the wheat growers say that they should be getting a better deal. Are we to give wheat growers a better deal at the expense of people in the other industries that I have mentioned? I do not think that we can. After all, the wheat grower today, apart from the man who is producing meat also, is in the best position of any in our primary industries. This is not a happy position but I do not think it is equitable that we should call upon the Commonwealth Government to spend very many millions of. dollars to help an industry that is in far and away the most prosperous position of all primary industries.
I referred earlier to our soil. No matter where one goes in Australia one comes across pockets of good land in the midst of what can only be regarded as very poor soil indeed. This seems to be typical of our country. As one who has travelled very extensively over Australia and spent 50 years on the land, looking at land from the point of view of fertility it amazes me time and again to see this characteristic of good land in the middle of very unfertile soil. 1 come now to the introduction of the new scheme of drought bonds, which I do not think has been properly understood yet.
Indeed, certain aspects need to be ironed out. This is a provision that has been asked for by people all over Australia. It will give them an opportunity to provide for the time when drought does come, as it will always come in this great country of ours. It is all very well to say that the primary producer should make provision for drought by water conservation and putting aside fodder, but this is not always possible. This scheme will give people who are unable to engage in conservation in the manner I have mentioned an opportunity to provide for the time when drought docs come.
One of the other things bedevilling the primary producer today is the price received for fat lambs. Too many people have been too ready to blame the importation of New Zealand lamb for the position in which they find themselves. I state without any hesitation at all that this is not the reason for the present low price of lambs. A few weeks ago in this place I. gave instances to show that in at least three States - Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland - into which New Zealand lamb has not been imported, lamb prices are at a very low level indeed. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the production of lambs has increased because so many merino wool producers have tended to turn merino ewes over to strong wool rams to try to grow fat lambs because the price for this type of wool has been very low. This has resulted in an increase in the number of so-called fat lambs. Because of the drought the lambs that have been available for market in most States have not been of top quality. In addition, there has been a large increase in the number of broilers and the amount of pig meat consumed in Australia. Those are some of the factors that govern the price of lambs in Australia.
It is completely wrong to say, as so many people have said, that the Iambs coming in from New Zealand have had a bearing on the Australian fat lamb market. In fact the cost of bringing the lambs into Australia has reached the point at which the importers have decided to cease operations. On two occasions my butcher has told me that he had New Zealand lamb in stock. One only had to look at it to realise that it was not Australian lamb because the colour was not as good as ours and the meat was not any better. He told me also that the price was so high that he could nol continue to buy it. I do not want to run down the New Zealand lamb because 1 have seen it in the markets at Smithfield in London and there is no doubt that it has been outstanding. I do not know whether the New Zealand lamb in our butcher’s shop would have been first grade but it certainly was no better than Australian lamb. 1 have mentioned some of the factors that have brought about the prices - in many cases unprofitable prices - that our growers are receiving for (heir lambs.
We have heard a lot of criticism of our young people. As the father of three sons and the grandfather of nine grandchildren I think 1 know a little about this subject. I am not one of those who. I suppose too often, criticise quite a number of our young people. I have always said that our young people are. sound, at heart. Nothing will ever make me budge from that conviction. They do things, just as we did, that do not appeal to their elders but they are sound at heart. However, I feel - this is understandable - that they could be more thrifty than they are. . I say that is understandable because we older ones went through a depression and knew what it was to be hard up for cash. These young people have never had that experience and I hope they never will. Not having had that experience we cannot expect them to be as thrifty minded as are those of us who went through that era.
My criticism, which does not apply to all of them, is that they are a little too prone to spend money on luxuries and on many things for which we older ones worked 20, 30 and even 40 years before we were able to buy. 1 think they are too prone to want those things straight away. However 1 have great confidence in them in spite of the fact that they have these shortcomings. When we were the same age as they are now our elders probably said the same things to us. I do not know to what extent the large amount of deposits in the savings banks of Australia can be attributed to our young people. I hope that a lot of it can be attributed to them. If young people can be taught, first of all, the value of money and, secondly, to work they will find in later years that they are all the better for having learned the lesson. I think we older ones can be too kind to our young people in this respect. lt has been very satisfying to see the large number of Australian people who have set out to own their own home. This is most important not only for their own welfare but also from the point of view of Australia as a whole. I understand that today over 70% of our people own their own home. I would feel, without knowing, that this percentage was increasing. This compares very favourably with the United Kingdom where only 50% of the people own their own home. Here again is another instance of how fortunate. we in Australia are. If people own their own home it is a good cure for a devil of a lot of isms - Communism and all the rest of them. It gives them a stake in their country and makes them ‘proud of their country. I am all for it.
I think that this Government can claim rightly some credit for the things that I have mentioned because the assistance it has provided since 1949 has made them possible. Some people say that we have too many poor people. Perhaps we have, but my goodness, you show me a number of people in Australia who aTe really in need and I am quite sure that if you examine their circumstances you will find that very few of them are in need unless perhaps it is on account of ill health or bad luck. Anyone in Australia who is prepared to work has the world at his feet.
I want to deal now with my own portfolio. Most of us have heard something about this in the last 2 or 3 weeks. During the current calendar year I have had the privilege of opening a number of establishments for repatriation hospitals in almost all States. These are symbolical of. the forward looking attitude that we have in the Repatriation Department, from myself down through the ranks, towards providing our patients with the most modern treatment and facilities that we can provide for them. I instance the following: I have opened two new wards of 68 beds at Bundoora which is just outside Melbourne. The hospital there has 64 patients. At Perth I opened the Edward Milne Restoration Centre which plays its part in helping people oh the road to recovery.
In Adelaide I opened an artificial limb factory, the most modern of its kind in Australia, and then went to Brisbane 3 or 4 weeks ago and opened another new artificial limb factory which was exactly the same as the one in Adelaide. I went back to Brisbane about 2 or 3 weeks ago and opened a new outpatients centre at the hospital. This also will play its part in helping our people once again to take their place in society. Next month I am travelling to Adelaide again to open a new outpatients centre at the hospital there. In New South Wales at Yaralla - the largest hospital in Australia, having 1,500 beds - we have commenced work on a new operating theatre, the installation of new lifts and other work. To some extent Tasmania has missed out until now but Its turn will come. This year we will move the repatriation headquarters from an old building in one area to a new building in another area. A proposal to make additions to the hospital in Perth will be examined shortly by the Public Works Committee. The Government will also spend $1m on the kitchen at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital in Melbourne. This building programme and the increased pensions are all part of a 5-year plan that I undertook when I became Minister for Repatriation. Naturally, the building programme and the increased pensions will continue to be reviewed.
As 1 was blamed for quite a few things the other day, 1 think that it is only right that 1 should claim credit for the two biggest breakthroughs in repatriation that have occurred in the last 50 years. One is the introduction of the intermediate rate pension and the other is the special compensation allowance for those receiving pensions between the 75% and 100% rates. As there has been some misconception about the special compensation allowance, 1 would like to take this opportunity to explain it to the Senate in the hope that those who are in some doubt about it can read Hansard and get an idea of how it works.
The intention is to provide additional compensation for those who, although able to work, arc nonetheless seriously incapacitated by war caused disability. 1 have always taken the stand that repatriation pensions are not handouts but are compensation for those who have suffered disability in the service of their country. 1 have never deviated from that position and 1 never will. I have had some arguments on it and 1 expect to have some more, but I am quite prepared for them. The maximum rate of the special compensation allowance will be S3 a week on the 100% general rate pension, which has been $12 up to this point of time, scaling downwards proportionately to $2.25 per week on the 75% pension. Within this scale, the man on 80% will receive, for example, $2.40 and the man on 90% will receive $2.70, in addition to his basic war pension.
Because eligibility is based on actual severe incapacity, the new allowance will not necessarily be paid to all those receiving pensions between 75% and 100%. Some pensioners receive rates under statute or by long standing practice, even though the rales do not reflect their present actual incapacity. These pensioners are divided into three categories. They are former tuberculosis sufferers who, under the statute, must receive 100% pension for life, although their tuberculosis has been cured, and sufferers from defective vision or defective hearing who are in the 75% to 100% group because their pension rate is assessed before the vision or hearing is corrected by spectacles or hearing aids. Although these three categories are not automatically included in the new incapacity rate that I have announced, they are not automatically excluded. Their cases will be reviewed individually and eligibility for the allowance determined in the light of the present actual incapacity. Because of the considerable numbers involved - there are about 34,000 pensioners in the 75% to 100% group - there may bc some little delay before the special compensation allowance is paid to every eligible person. Bui payments will be made as quickly as possible after assent to the amending legislation. Arrears will be made up if the first payment cannot be made on the commencement date. That is the Government’s repatriation record.
– I direct the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the Gallery of the Laotian parliamentary delegation of five members, led by His Excellency Mr Sopsaisana, Vice-President of the Laotian National Assembly. The delegation is visiting Australia en route to the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference at Lima, Peru. On behalf of all honourable senators, 1 extend our visitors a warm welcome.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of. the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy). 1 also take this opportunity of extending congratulations to my two colleagues from Queensland who made their maiden speeches last night and to the other honourable senators who made their maiden speeches during the course of this debate. Firstly, I refer to the speech of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Mackellar). As Senator Cohen said yesterday, the Budget debate is an annual exercise in this chamber but I believe that this is a much more serious occasion than it has been in any of the previous years since I have been a member of this chamber.
I was surprised to hear the Minister for Repatriation indulging in what appeared to most honourable senators to be an attack On a decision of the Senate last week. I think that this action was most unbecoming. The Minister then went on lo make a general Cook’s tour through the wheat industry, the economy, the effects of the drought and the market: for cars. He wound up by apologising foi: the shortcomings of his administration of the Repatriation Department. The Minister also gave us a history of his family. He said that he has three sons and nine grandchildren. He pointed out that young p eople today aro sound at heart. I think that the Minister’s remarks ought to be noted because not long ago he was attacked in very round terms over the handling of Simon Townsend when Townsend was a prisoner of the system. Townsend has been since proved correct in conscience and he is no longer liable for registration and service as a conscript. At the same time as that unfortunate incident the Minister attacked those who participated in demonstrations. I am delighted to learn that he has now had a change of heart. 1 presume it can be taken from his statements that he no longer believes that demonstrations against the Vietnam war and events of a similar nature are inconsistent with the thinking of young people today. Perhaps this change of heart has been brought about by the crisis in Czechoslovakia.
I now refer to the Budget. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon) said in his Budget Speech:
Wo have entered 1968-69 with a generally bouyant economy. Employment is high and rising and, with it, the level of wage and salary incomes. In recent months good rains have fallen over practically all parts of the continent. If the season holds there could be a record farm output this year. Depending on prices and the level of. rural costs, this could bring a considerable lift in rural incomes. Consumer spending can be expected to go on rising. Private capital expenditure, on both housing and other forms of building and construction, has gained a momentum that should keep it going strongly in the months to conic. Investment in plant and equipment is now rising-
And so on. The Treasurer goes on for about two pages with a very rosy outlook of what can be expected, notwithstanding that during the forthcoming financial year there will be the continuing problem of balance of payments that has been brought abou!, of course, by the increase in imports failing lo he balanced by exports. If it were not for the great accident of capital inflow that we had during the last financial year, this country today would be in an even more uneconomic situation that it is in. There are other ways that one should look at the whole aspect. without becoming too enthusiastic. The national domestic hoorn as forecast in the Treasurer’s speech could quire easily lead to heavy intiation ar.d probably even fur’.her widening of the gap between imports and exports. This will continue to upset the balance of trade. We know that the general policy of the Government patties has been to impose a credit squeeze in the toughest way in order io see. whether this will dampen down the economy. We have seen some of the consequences of this on two ‘or three occasions in the last decade.
Perhaps we should examine in some detail where our money is coming from. In round figures, our receipts in indirect taxes will be about 32% of the total receipts, company tax about 15% and income tax about 27%. There are a number of other taxes, but I shall not go into all the details and bore the Senate. I noticed that Senator McKellar managed to put two honourable senators to sleep and I do nol want lo tlo that. In the breakup of figures we find that our expenditure on goods and services will te 9.2% of the total, on war and defence it will be 17%. on cash benefits through social services and so on it will be 20% and State grants will .take 20% . These are the major percentages which will make up the expenditure of Government income as forecast for the next 12 months. When one looks at the expenditure on goods and services and war and defence one «ees that it is significant that these take about 26% of lnc total whereas only 20% .will be spent on the people who have less of society’s goods than we normally have come to expect as good Australians. lt is equally significant that if one looks at the receipts of indirect tax of 32% and income lax of almost 60% of the total income received by the Government, one sees that it is the wage and salary earners who are providing the major portion of the income received by the Government. Yet they are the people who are the most hit to leg by the Budget. During the financial year 1966-67 lax payments per capita increased by a fraction over $2.1. The total tax per capita for every man. woman and child in the community is now close to $432 per annum. This must surely make Australia one of the most highly taxed countries in the world and one in which the Government shows least regard for the people who should bc helped. One can understand some of the background of this when one looks at the discontent in the Government parlies. It is obvious iiia I although they may endeavour to conceal the position from lime to time, the real discontent in Australia today is in the coalition parties. I propose to place on record a copy of an advertisement that was published in the Australian’ and in many other newspapers in Australia during the month of July, lt is quite an important looking advertisement with the heading ‘Wanted a Prime Minister’, lt stales:
QUALIFICATIONS: Must be it capable executive of proven ability with a successful background in commerce, law. banking or similar top administrative position. Some knowledge of public relations is essential, together with experience in public speaking. Most important, he must be able to effectively represent and protect Australia’s interest when dealing wilh overseas heads of State. The successful applicant will bc answerable to the shareholder ‘citizens of Australia, who retain inalienable right to criticise the Prime Minister or any oilier MP when necessary.
SALARY: $24,000- but a higher figure should be available lo a more suitable applicant. Apply wilh full details of qualifications to Parliament Mouse. Canberra.
Inserted by: Businessmen for Democratic Government. Fur reasons send s.a.c. to BDG, C/o Box 2!tt. Darlinghurst. NSW 2010.
I have no doubt that every man of the Government parties had a stamped addressed envelope lodged the next clay. Of course I exclude the gentleman who is the
Prime Minister. No doubt they would all apply for the job. But it goes even further than that. This is where our society is slipping so badly in Australia. This is where our Government is becoming so unstable. It is a further example of what can happen unless members of the Government parties are prepared to pull up their socks instead of worrying about their limited number of friends and themselves.
The Press this morning carried contradictions from the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) as to internal arguments going on in the Government parties. The Minister used the word ‘pimp’, which is very strong language, when alleging that someone was taking out stories that should not have been taken out.
– Does the report say who it was?
– I understand from members that it might have been a fairly reputable member of the Liberal Party.
– lt was ‘ about the Prime Minister, was it not?
– Yes. I have before me a copy of a circular which is a confidential document distributed inside the Liberal Party. It has gone to all branches of the Liberal Party in New South Wales and to many other branches of the Liberal Party throughout Australia. It is significant also that some branches of the Australian Country Party obtained copies of it, but it was jolly bad luck for the Liberal Party that the Australian Labor Party received a copy of it. I shall not read the whole document, but I believe that in order to consolidate the argument 1 am developing some relevant sections of the document should be incorporated in the record. They are as follows:
A Federal election must bc held by November 1969. We do not wish to see the Socialists win it. But that possibility becomes stronger every day. and will become a certainty if our Parly drifts into even deeper disunity. We feel that drastic steps must bc taken - quickly. lt is no secret that there are widespread doubts about the Prime Minister’s performance.
This is among members of the Liberal Party. It continues:
Some of you who will read this letter know already what we have to say: That there is grave dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister in the Cabinet, in the Parliamentary Parly, in the Public Service, in the Stale Executive, and right down to better informed small parly branches.
– Did the honourable senator write this letter?
– No, it was written by a responsible member of the Liberal Party. I hope that Senator Greenwood is not the co-author of it, although it could very well be that he is. It is possible thai he was a volunteer for the Prime Ministership. The circular continues:
Very few members of tIle Parliamentary Party say a good word for the Prime Minister as Prime Minister, whatever their personal feelings towards him.
These differences within the Parly are already obvious to people outside - the Press and the general public. If they continue, let alone increase, then we face certain electoral defeat. Any ministerial resignation (which is dangerously close at this moment) would seal our fate.
Members of the Government Parties would know that three or four Ministers in the present Cabinet are on the verge of resignation. I do not include the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) who is going to hang on like grim death. 1 continue, referring again to the Prime Minister:
He is in the same kind of position as Sir Alec Douglas-Home or Sir Anthony Eden. In our opinion, he just lacks certain qualities needed by the country, and the party, at this time.
There is no place in our thinking for the kind of character assassination that goes on in certain quarters.
I also refuse to indulge in that. It continues:
Our concern is purely political, and we want to keep it that way.
Behind our thinking is the fact that Australians have begun to follow the American Presidentialstyle techniques. The ordinary public nowadays are tending to vote for a Presidential-style figure, rather than a Party platform. That means that the public standing of the Prime Minister is a crucial matter in any election.
There must be many members of the Government parties sadly disillusioned. This was put out by prominent members of the Liberal Party associated with the new organisation, the Businessmen for Democratic Government, which published the advertisement that I read a short while ago. The letter continues:
One thing disturbs the Cabinet most. It disturbs us most. It is Mr Gorton’s ‘off-the-cuff’ way of speaking, without careful reflection. This rashness has already landed the Party in difficulty after difficulty. Nothing could be more damaging. He has to take his words back far too often. He fails to consult his colleagues before making statements on matters that concern them closely. He has failed to play the part expected of any Prime Minister in the most important Debates in Parliament, His failure to ‘do his homework’ was shown in his rash statement in America and Asia, and made our Government look silly. He intuited the Prime Minister of India by leaving the country while she was still here, and so on. There are dozens of similar small instances. Individually, they may be unimportant. Any man can make a mistake. When added up, however, their cumulative effort is serious. Do they add up to a picture of the kind of Prime Minister our nation needs? Wc frankly do not think so.
We think that the country, and our Party, need a leader at this present lime who will speak and act with a little more deliberation and dignity, who will keep more closely in touch with his colleagues, and who will run a happy team.
Then there are a couple of paragraphs devoted to the good qualities of Sir Robert Menzies. The letter goes on:
Our nation is facing many critical questions at this moment. Frankly we are alarmed at the way they are being tackled. With the British withdrawal and now Vice President Humphrey’s intimation that we must look after ourselves Defence policy seems to us of crucial importance.
The Labor Party has said for the In si 3 years that this feeling was growing in America. In fact, a section of the Liberal Party now admits it while the other section believes it but will not admit it. The letter continues:
It is no secret that Mr Fairhall as Minister responsible, has been urging a review of Defence. But nothing has happened. Foreign investment, the serious balance of payments problem and related matters have never been’ more worrying. How they are tackled does not only affect us as business men. It will affect every wage-earner. It will affect the next Election, lt is strongly believed in many informed quarters that another credit squeeze is imminent.
There are too many different approaches lo all these matters within the Cabinet.. The present leadership has failed to reconcile them. Glorious improvisation is just not enough. The ship lacks a competent helmsman.
After careful consideration, we are of the opinion that the first politically possible successor to Mr Gorton is Mr Fairhall. It may well be that others would be better choices. Many of us have other ideas. We agree, however, that as a matter of politics Mr Fairhall is the most suitable choice. We know that the Federal and N.S.W. Executives of the Party share our concern, and our view. Most of out Members of Parliament agree that a change is needed, but for personal and all sorts of other reasons there seems no clear opinion among them about the best successor. This is where you can help, as a Liberal supporter.
We ask you to think it over. If you agree, (hen we ask you to telephone or write to your Federal Member. (If he is a Labor man, write to one of our Senators.)
In (his case, of course., they sent it to a Labor man. The letter goes on:
Mr Fairhall is obviously not going to thrust himself forward, In public, he has no choice but to say fcc is not interested. Do nol be deceived hy that. We have reason to believe that, when the hour comes, he will not refuse to do his duty.
Finally, we ask you to keep the contents of this letter confidential, lt is obviously undesirable for a breath of it to get into the Press, which is always only too ready to print sensational matter about our difficulties. lt is signed by the ‘Business Men for Democratic Government’.
– The honourable senator said it was a Liberal Party publication.
– Of course it is a Liberal Party publication even though it is issued by a breakaway group. Many of them, however, have not been expelled from the Party yet. They are still operating inside the Party. They are discontented people who propose, not only to promote Senator Greenwood because of some of his statements in this chamber, but to write clown some of the existing Cabinet Ministers. 1 want to touch on a number of subjects, including pensions, repatriation, the treatment of Aboriginals and one or two other smaller items. I turn to page 6 of the Budget Speech where reference is made to age, invalid and widows pensions, lt reads: The maximum weekly rate of pension for single agc and invalid pensioners and widows with children will rise by $1 to $14.
How magnificent. It continues:
The combined age pensions of a married couple will increase by $1.50 to bring the maximum weekly rule to $25. These increases will apply also to Service pensions . . . The pensions of widows without children will be raised by 75c to a maximum of $12.50 a week.
In other words, the pension will be £6 5s in the old currency. It continues:
To assist families without a breadwinner we propose to increase by $1 to $7 a week the allowance payable to the non-pensioner wife of an age pensioner who is permanently incapacitated or has a dependent child and to the non-pensioner wife of an invalid pensioner. We shall also add $1 a week for each child of age, invalid and widow pensioners to bring the total payment for each child, excluding child endowment, to $2.50 a week-
In the old currency, twenty-five bob -
The child’s allowance of $1.50 a week for a first child will be replaced by the addition of the same amount to the parents pension.
Then on page 7, there is some point made with relation to tax exemption for age pensioners. In spite of the stated policy of the present Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) who allegedly is a great supporter of the abolition of the means test, we do not sec one word of mention of the means test. When the Treasurer was coming into this building on 13th August, which was only a week or two ago, he was demonstrating his affection for the aged people outside Parliament House with smacking great kisses on every cheek he could find. I hope there is no truth in the rumour that he had to send out to The Lobby for his pies for the next few days until the pensioners had left the precincts of Parliament House.
On the morning of the day after presentation of the Budget, the very people to whom the Treasurer was handing out this great animal affection were moved unanimously to carry a motion which I would like to see recorded in Hansard, lt is signed by M. V. Barraud, President, and Irene Ellis, honorary secretary of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Association and reads:
Pensioners remain at subsistence level. The Federation rejects the Budget as it continues the policy of past pittances and does not reflect the promise of the Prime Minister to take ‘advancing steps to provide adequately for the aged, ill and afflicted nor the declaration of Mr Wentworth to improve the lot of those relying on the pension.
The Prime Minister has not risen to the needs of the moment. This Budget was a testing lime for the Prime Minister and Mr Wentworth and they have failed the nation. Pensioners were sceptical of these promises and they were correct - we have been let down.
The Budget improvements should have been made long ago and our position has not been improved in accord with cost-of-living rises and wilh the general standard of living of the Australian people. We will light back and we call on the Australian people at the next Federal election to show their objection through the Ballot Box.
This was followed by a letter from the same organisation addressed to the Prime Minister. I shall quote a short extract from that letter because I believe that it ought to be set down in black and white on the record. It reads:
On behalf of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation 1 have been instructed to convey to your Government the rejection by the Federation of the 1968-69 Budgetary pension increases as. being totally inadequate, and to say the following -
That the Budget pension increases do not measure up to what the nation expected by the declaration of the Governor-General on March 12, last. ‘My Government will review the field of social welfare with the object of assisting those in most need’.
This declaration by the Governor-General led social service and service pensioners to expect higher pension increases in the 1968-69 Budget than in previous years. But the 75c and the SI a week .pension increases are in line with past pittances and this is confirmed by the Government’s record over recent years: 1961 Budget - general pension increase, 50c a week 1963 Budget - increase single pensions, $1 a week 1964 Budget - general pension increase, 50c a week 1966 Budget - increase single pensioners, $1 a week: increase married pensioners and widows without children 75c a week.
In the present Budget a shockingly small increase has been given. To rub salt into the wound, it is perfectly obvious that the increase does not even cover the rises in the cost of living since the last time the pension was increased. In addition, in the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales government bodies are increasing the rentals on homes that are occupied by pensioners. In some instances the rental increases are sufficient to erode any value that the pension increase may have had. But what is even worse than that is that the increase in sales tax further erodes the small increase. Then, because of the increase iti sales tax and some of the other impositions contained in this Budget to which f will refer later, we will see the grand old business of putting up the prices of goods even further.
– What about the effect of: the new wheat stabilisation plan?
– As my colleague reminds me, the new wheal stabilisation plan, if it is implemented, could have exactly the same effect. Let me refer again to the correspondence from the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners Federation. It reads:
The Federation asks you, Sir, ‘Where is the compassion in the pittance of 75c or $1 a week for the weakest and most defenceless in the community - the aged, sick and the widowed subsisting on $13 a week or $11.75 a week for the past 2 years? Can the pittance now allotted to them be considered as giving “very special attention to their immediate needs”?’
Where is the compassion for the dependent wife? The pittance of $1, for which she has waited for 5 years since the last increase in 1963, makes a mockery of her cares and hardships.
Where is the compassion for the future citizens of our country- the dependent children of the civilian pensioner? For their pittance of $1 a week they have wailed 7 years.
And so the sad story goes on. It has been estimated that in this so-called affluent nation between 800,000 and one million people are not receiving the necessaries of life. They have insufficient clothing, inadequate housing, insufficient food, insufficient medical treatment and, because of the high cost of medical treatment, time and again neglect themselves rather than seek medical assistance in time of illness. That does not apply only to pensioners. It applies to many other sections of the community.
We have received a number of protests. I have received a large number of them in the last week or two in particular. Naturally, they come mostly from places in my own State. They come from as far away as Cairns, Bowen and Innisfail and from right down the coast. They all tell the same story. People ask: ‘How can we be expected to live on the social service benefits that are handed out by the present Government?”
The Government has been callous in the field of social service benefits. It has been equally callous in the field of repatriation benefits. We have waited a long time for some improvement in these benefits, but the improvement has been handed out in lc and 2c bits. That is precisely what it amounts to. It shows the Government’s complete and utter contempt for the feelings of ex-servicemen, their problems, their necessities and their general needs. The Treasurer said:
Priority has been given to the totally and permanently incapacitated war pensioner. His pension is to be increased by $3 to $33.50 a week.
Over the past few years the total and permanent incapacity pension has dropped from something over 100% of the basic wage of that time to about 80% of the basic wage of the present time. This Budget does not restore the parity. The Treasurer continued:
We are introducing a new special compensation allowance ranging from $2.25-
That is 22s 6d in the old currency, for the information of the aged members of the Government parties who still work these things out in their heads on that basis - . . to $3 per week which will be payable to certain more seriously incapacitated general rate pensioners. The pensioners concerned will be those - but not all - with assessed incapacity ranging from 75% to 100%.
That means that in the small category of people receiving a disability pension and with assessed incapacity from 75% to 100% a limited number, but not all, of them will receive this additional assistance. But there are many thousands of people in the community who receive disability pensions and who have assessed incapacity ranging from 1% to 75%, and they will not receive a brass razoo - in cents, pennies or anything else. It is all right for members of the Government parties to feel that this is a humourous situation, but in fact it is not.
In this country there are more than one million people who, during World War II. in various ways offered their lives or risked their health in the service of Australia. Yet today the Government treats them with utter contempt. It is not prepared to face up to its responsibilities. I was always under the impression that a pension, whether it be a disability pension or otherwise, was granted as a form of compensation and as a moral and legal right to those people who suffered loss of limb or. who had their health or capacity impaired in wartime. Today the rate of disability pension stands at more than 20% below what it should be and what is normally regarded as the accepted standard. Yet there has been no attempt whatsoever to do anything about bringing it up to date.
What is even worse is that the pension payable to a war widow is to be increased by $1 to $14 a week. I point out to members of the Government parties that that is £7. That is all they think a war widow is worth. She is a woman who lost her husband when he was fighting on behalf of his country. He gave his live. He could not give any more. Yet this is all that members of the Government parties think his widow is worth. As far as they are concerned, this defenceless woman can fend for herself. That is the compassion that this Government allegedly was going to exhibit when it presented its Budget.
The war orphan is treated in an even more shabby way. The pension for a war orphan who has lost one parent through war service will rise by $1 - ten bob - a week. That will make the pension for the first child $5.40, and for other children, $4.25 a week. Where the other parent also is dead, the pension will rise by the magnificant sum of $2 to $10.15 a week. The Government has really raised the value of such a child! This shows the contempt that it has for the people who served this country in wartime.
Then the Government is really going to become madly generous. It says that it: will hand out the increases as soon as it possibly can. According to a news item in today’s Press, the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) is on his way to the United Slates and if he has time when he comes back he will see that the pensioners receive their pension increases. According to the Budget, speech, the increased benefits will be payable from the first pension day after the necessary legislation has been passed. When the Government wants to increase service charges, to send additional troops to Vietnam or to do other things that are politically good for it, it is always in a hell of a hurry to see that those things are done. But that is not the position when it comes to looking after the underprivileged people in the community.
On numerous occasions I have complained, as have my colleagues, of the inordinate delay that took place in the provision of some sort of compensation for the conscripts who were forced to serve in Vietnam. If honourable senators opposite want me to recall the history of this matter, I will point out that something like 4 years elapsed from when this matter was first talked about until the Government did something about it. I have here a letter from a national serviceman. This is what he thinks of the Government’s present arrangement:
I am writing concerning a recent statement by your Dr Cairns-
Honourable senators will remember the statement by Dr Cairns which received fairly wide publicity in the Press 2 or 3 weeks ago. The letter goes on: in reference to contributions to the DFRB Fund by national servicemen, published in a recent Townsville newspaper. I would just like to point out that T, along with most national servicemen, disagree with this contribution, fund for the reasons listed below:
It would be greatly appreciated and greatly supported if you could take the necessary steps to either abolish or at least improve the DFRB Fund.
That letter typifies what the conscripts think of the so-called retirement benefits organised for them by the Government. Before closing my remarks on repatriation, in spite of the Minister’s apologies for the administration of his portfolio. I want to refer to the remaining very small band of Boer War veterans. Only a handful of them are left, but the Government still refuses to grant to them free hospital treatment in repatriation hospitals, in spite of the fact that the Opposition asked for and obtained majority support in the Senate for that move 2 years ago. The Government also refuses to extend free hospital treatment to the remaining Diggers of World War 1, whose numbers are diminishing day by day. The Senate by a majority vole also approved 2 years ago the extension of those benefits to World War I diggers.
The Budget includes increases in the fields of social services and repatriation. On the other hand, an additional $102m, or about 9%. is included in the defence vote. The appropriation sought for increased overseas spending on defence is about $3lm. The Australian Labour Party has consistently advocated a proper defence system for Australia. We have laid down a policy in blueprint form. It is perfectly obvious that much of the money allocated by the Government for defence is going down the drain. I will have a lot more to say about that during the debate in the Senate on the Estimates. I do not propose to explore that matter in detail at the moment because of limitations of time.
I wish to refer now to the alleged great handout to our Aboriginals, 200 years behind time. Honourable senators will recall that the Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs in another place has made a detailed statement as to the allocation of the Budget appropriation for Aboriginals, but we have not yet seen that statement in the Senate. i have read it outside the Senate and I am most perturbed by it. The Treasurer said in his Budget Speech:
As citizens, our Aboriginal people have a right to share in the educational and other community and welfare services provided by the various public authorities. This year special provision will be made for Aboriginal people in the fields of health, education, housing and productive enterprise. For these purposes, we are seeking an appropriation of $10m to be set aside in an Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account.
I again remind honourable senators that the expenditure overseas on defence is to rise by $31m, but only $10m is to be appropriated to help the underprivileged people we have exploited for the last 200 years. The Treasurer went on:
Of the$10m to be paid to the Trust Account, $5m will be used for assistance to Aboriginals in the fields of housing, education and health. The other $5m will constitute a fund for assisting enterprises carried on by Aboriginal citizens alone or in association with other Australians. It is unlikely that this amount will be fully spent this year. Any unexpended balance will be carried forward in the Trust Account and will be available for expenditure in the following financial years.
If we are unfortunate enough to have this Government still in power next year, it is obvious that it will reduce next year’s allocation for the Aboriginals by the amount unexpended in the current financial year. The Government has led the field in the exploitation and neglect of the original Australians. I wish to quote a very descriptive paragraph from a small booklet titled ‘The Implications of Democratic Socialism’ written by Bill Hayden, who serves our Party in another place. He has written:
In the forgotten fringe of the poverty dwellers are the part-aborigines.It would take a conscience of case hardened steel not to be moved by the sight of the deplorable conditions of those unfortunate part-aborigines who live in tin and hessian humpies congregated on the outskirts of some of our cities. Usually these little pieces of hell are considerably tucked away in the scrub where they will not offend the comfortable sensitivity of their better heeled’ non-coloured brothers. The poverty of these people is probably the most appalling of that to be seen among any of our poverty dwellers.
For the poverty dwellers there seems to be no chance of escape unless their income level is improved. Recent US Senate investigations into the progress of the War on Poverty in that country emphasise that the best way of beating poverty of breaking the ‘vicious cycle of generational poverty’ is to give the poor better spending power. Until a positive campaign to eliminate this poverty in our midst is waged the children of poverty will beget children of poverty as their valuesare stunted and their sensitivity destroyed by the permanence of depressing squalor about them.
Of course, the generous Government is to contribute an extra 75c a week to each married pensioner, and then is to take back about 69c. On 28th May last I asked a question about people employed on the Yarrabah station in Queensland. 1 received an answer a couple of days ago. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard a table of the wages of employees at Yarrabah.
In the second part of my question addressed to the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs I asked:
Does the Government agree that these .-irc inadequate weekly wages for Aboriginals ami, if so, when will the Commonweatlh Government avail itself of the new powers grained by referendum in respect of Aboriginals io ensure that all receive the minimum’ adult wage?
The Minister replied: the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs- that, is a Queensland organisation - has advised that the rates quoted are the cash component payable within particular areas of endeavour but in addition, yarrabah residents receive food requirements, house, electricity, sanitation and garbage, services, ‘ reticulated water, transport, maintenance, of children in boarding schools and similar benefits which vary, of course, from family to family depending on the numbers involved.
Honourable senators will, notice the big letout in the last part of that answer. If any honourable senators . have sufficient humanity to wish to inspect Yarrabah. 1 strongly advise that they do so. The conditions there are to be seen in many other settlements in Australia. Those conditions are so far behind normal social requirements that we ought to be thoroughly ashamed of them. The Government is to put aside $5m for Aboriginal enterprises. The extract that I read from Bill Hayden’s booklet highlights completely the problems encountered nol only in Queensland but in every State in which there is a fair number of Aboriginals. It is obvious that the amount put aside for Aboriginal enterprises will not go very far at all. In fact what it will cost the Government is not much more than the price of one of the famous Fills that we are getting for the purpose of war. 1 hope that at a later stage the Minister and the Government will see fit to introduce a supplementary Budget to make up for some of the errors of omission to which I have referred at some length.
We hoped there would be something in the Budget that would appreciably increase the amount of money to be -made available for war service homes. The Government examined this matter, as -was promised last year. We find a magnificent increase of $1,000, taking the maximum loan from $7,000 to $8,000. My Party advocates a maximum loan of at least S 12,000. If the Government were reasonably fair it would have to admit that this is the sum that would be required to’ build a modest dwelling today, together with a deposit and whatever else could be added to it. I have made several pleas to the Treasurer for the expansion of the taxation zone allowances in Queensland as a result of representations made lo me by the Queensland Police Union, the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union in Queensland and the District Secretary of the Australian Workers Union, speaking on behalf of a number of people in the Longreach area. The present exemption rates are $540 in Zone A and $90 in Zone B. We look in vain for some extension of benefits in this field. 1 hope this is another point on which the Government and the Minister will have second thoughts. Queensland has long had a very great problem, particularly in the remote areas, in that freight is added to the purchase price of goods and sales tax is then assessed on the total. On 29th May 1968 I again reminded the Treasurer that something ought lo be done about this very anomalous position. On 1st July the Treasurer replied:
This is a matter which has been the subject of representations by various interested persons and organisations for quite a number of years and which has been examined at considerable length by successive . Governments. However, because of the complex problems involved, no completely satisfactory solution has been found, and it has been concluded that the present system of levying sales tax on sales values which may include freight costs is the most satisfactory one.
Six pages of foolscap were enclosed with the reply, pointing out all the problems and explaining why that could not be done. If one is to believe that, obviously the economists and accountants in the Treasury Department and the Taxation Branch ought not to be employed in those establishments. But I do not believe that. I think this is a Government let out and that that is the only reason for it. There is no reason why people living in these places ought to carry heavier penalties because they choose to live there. The Government talks about developing the country and about decentralisation. The maximum loan for war service homes and the taxation zone allowances are two instances of where relief ought to be given. No relief has been given. There is no indication of relief to be given in the future. I again condemn the social service benefit increases because of their smallness and because of the inability of the Government to expand them in such a way as to bring an appreciable amount of relief to the community. It is all very well to sit back smugly and say: ‘We gave an increase to pensioners this year.’ Let us transpose a very well fed Government politician to a sparsely furnished room such as that in which many a pensioner has to live today. Pensioners wonder whether or not they can have an extra slice of bread for breakfast or whether, if they do, they will have to go without it tomorrow. The situation is as bad as that. The Government has not yet paid the increase. The sum of $13 will barely cover the rent, the gas and the light. The situation is particularly bad for those who have to live on their own.
The Government has made no attempt to help the mothers of the country by granting an increase in child endowment, lt is so many years since child endowment was increased that the payment has lost all its purchasing power. It is no longer a respectable component of the weekly wage packet. Yet that is what it was intended to be. It was intended particularly to help those with large families. The only concession that the Government made on a previous occasion was made in a very mean way. Repatriation pensions have not been looked at in an attempt to help those people who need assistance most. I am not at all impressed by the increase in the TPI pension and I am equally unimpressed - in fact I think the Government has hoodwinked the ex-servicemen - by the state- ment that in certain cases the disability pension will be increased to between 75% and 100%. This is not a Budget of compassion. This is a Budget in which a few crumbs have been handed out to some people but for which the worker will pay all the way. When it comes time to balance all the accounts the Government will be belter off this year than it was last year because it is getting the little people to keep its Budget solvent. I would hope that as a result of this neglect the Government has not developed a system of killing off the pensioners so that they will be less of a liability next. year. If the Government does not do something, and do it in a hurry, this country will deteriorate and the dissident group, to which apparently Senator Greenwood of the Liberal Party belongs, will be the first to turf the Government; out of office.
– Before Senator Keeffe leaves the chamber and before you, Mr Deputy President, call the next speaker, in accordance with standing order 364 I move:
He alleged that it was a Liberal Party document. 1 move that motion so that the Senate may judge for itself the truth or otherwise of his allegations.
– I will be delighted to lay the document on the table of the Senate.
Question resol ved in the affirmative. (Senator Keeffe laid on the table the document: Circular letter form under name of ‘Businessmen for Democratic Government’.)
– I am moved to observe that Senator Keeffe was not in his’ usual tempestuous form today, from which 1 deduce that he found little on which to criticise the Budget. He did endeavour, in a very fine exhibition of wishful thinking, to suggest that there was dissension within the parties forming the Government. I can assure him that he has no ground for saying anything along those lines. It is wishful thinking. We are a very happy coalition Government and proud of our Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). All that the honourable senator said fell on very dry and barren ground. I congratulate the honourable senators new to this place who have made their maiden speeches in recent days. I congratulate Senators
Maunsell, Georges, Milliner, Little and Young on their speeches. Each was forceful. Each expressed his particular point of view, so there was a wide divergence of opinion expressed. In each case the speech was most interesting. I wish each of these honourable gentlemen well in this place. I have known Senator Young for many years. He is well and favourably known throughout South Australia, particularly in the rural areas, whence he comes. He has interests beyond the rural scene. He is a man well qualified to represent South Australia in the Senate. We shall hear much from this man and to him particularly I would say: Congratulations on being here. Congratulations on your speech and very good wishes indeed for your future happiness and success within this place on behalf of South Australia and the nation as a whole.
I have much pleasure in supporting the motion that the Senate take note of the Budget papers. The Budget is the most important document to come before us, as its overall1 objective is to promote the advancement of the nation and the general welfare of the community. It must surely be gratifying for the people of Australia that we, in this comparatively young country of 12 million people, can sustain ‘ a Budget of no less than $6,59 1 m and that last year the gross national product amounted to some $24,2 14m, which was an increase of 6% on the previous year. On the basis of population a Budget amounting to an average of $550 for every man, woman and child is extremely high. I understand it is one of the highest in the world. These figures reflect the phenomenal growth of the economy. I believe that this growth has not been fortuitous. It has not just happened. It is not like Topsy but is the direct result of sound planning, effective development of our resources and careful financial administration.
The healthiest and ‘most progressive economies in the world today are those where free enterprise is- encouraged and where initiative, hard work and ingenuity are rewarded. These policies have been pursued by successive governments here in the past 20 years and the beneficial results are evidenced in our sound and spectacular economic growth. The gross national product rose in 1967-68 by some $1,1 70m or 6% compared with 10% in the previous year. It is welt to note- that the reduced growth rate in 1967-68 was due to the severe drought conditions experienced over a wide area of Australia, resulting in a fall of 21% in the gross farm product. This situation is beyond the control of anyone, but it clearly underlines the high importance of our rural industries to the general wellbeing of the economy.
The two main sectors of our economy - primary and secondary - are, 1 always feel, complementary one to the other. One assists the other. They should never be antagonistic. That which is achieved by one sector has a beneficial effect upon the other. It is good to note the vastly improved balance in our economy at the present time as between primary and’ secondary industry. Whereas last year there was a reduction of 21 % in farm output, the output of the nonfarm sector increased by 9% , so one assisted to balance the other and in the process the economy was not so adversely affected as it would have been had we had all of our eggs in one basket.
This is a good Budget. It is humane. It is soundly based to ensure stable growth. We have almost full employment and this must be maintained. To enable this, we must watch the cost structure generally, or we could well be living in a fool’s paradise. The Treasurer said, in his Budget Speech:
For some time now average earnings have been rising at a rate of 6% a year or thereabouts - a rate well above the best increase in productivity we could expect - and pressure on costs is building up.
These are very salutary words, in my opinion. We must realise that we live on the world’s markets and we must keep in line with modern conditions. We cannot live in isolation economically any more than we can live in isolation in the face of world pressures militarily or politically.
A certain inflationary tendency is always inherent in a rapidly developing nation but it must be watched consistently. I believe in the highest living standards that the economy can afford but these are dependent on the actual purchasing power of our money. Undue inflation immediately harms the living standards of everyone and particularly the wage and salary earner,’ the pensioner and the superannuated person. It affects the purchasing power of savings, the value of life insurance and so on. So it is of vital importance that inflationary tendencies should be kept in reasonable content at all times. I listened with the keenest interest to Senator Bull’s statement that in the last 4 years award wages have increased by 10.4%, average earnings by 20.5%, national productivity by only 7.6% and prices by 11.1%. This shows very clearly how wages and earnings in excess of national productivity are pushing up prices. This must be watched because we have living standards of which we are proud. They are to be maintained but in the process the value of’ our money must be carefully nursed and looked after or the impact on the very people we seek to help will be higher income without a corresponding purchasing power.
I wish to refer to the complexity of the Budget. When we note all of the documents related to the Budget we realise the terrific background to the presentation of the Budget. What a happy position we ar,e in as members of this place, without direct responsibility in government, able to sit back and criticise, and to do the Oliver T: Twist act very often. I do not absolve myself of this approach. I admire our Ministers who with their departmental officers, sit down with the Treasurer to work out how. the moneys available are to be allocated.
At this point I wish to pay tribute to the excellent, dedicated and unending work of the Treasurer. His office takes in the most sensitive matter that this nation has to consider - the state of the economy - which, as Senator Gair rightly said a few days ago, is on a razor’s edge balance. Any movement in the wrong direction, any misjudgment, could have adverse repercussions on the whole economy. The Treasurer, with his officers, has to determine just which line to take to ensure a continuation of the conditions we now have of full employment, a growing economy and confidence within the economy. I pay my tribute to that gentleman and to his staff, as 1 do to the Ministers of the Crown generally in the presentation of the activities of the departments they administer, fully appreciating the huge - amount of work that goes into the compilation of a Budget.
Let me now refer to some portions of the Budget. Expenditure on defence this year will amount to $l,217m, an increase of 9% on last years allocation. We should aim at the greatest possible local content in defence materials. We must encourage technicians to come to Australia with their skills and their knowledge to lay the foundations for permanent industries, the need for which is arising from demands now being generated for many things that we import from overseas. We have in Salisbury, South Australia, the Weapons Research Establishment, a very highly regarded organisation, which has led to the flow to Australia of some of the best brains in the world in the field of technology and in sophisticated industry generally. If we produced goods in Australia under licence from overseas organisations it would assist us to carry a greater work force. We could give contracts to overseas companies which were prepared to come here and to set up shop to make the goods that we currently obtain from their establishments overseas.
I am very proud to state, from my own experience of machinery, that highly complicated units of American origin initially but now produced in Australia under patent right or under licence, are of better quality than the same unit that I had imported from the original manufacturer. The fact that our industrialists can excel, as it were, the parent company in the production of goods made from steel, because of their high degree of skill in tempering and so on, thus giving our local machines a longer life, indicates to me that in this and many other avenues of industry we can not only match but even exceed accepted world standards. We should encourage industrialists to come to Australia to manufacture many of the things that we now import.
Much has been done in the field of social welfare. There has been a new approach to this matter. Fresh ground has been turned. I give full marks to the Government for having increased the allocation for social welfare generally by $111,n, taking it this year to $ 1,446m. We all would, like more money to be allocated for human purposes but in view of the nation’s general requirements I presume that as much as can be afforded has been allocated on this occasion. However I am very pleased to note that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) has said that this is only the beginning and that there will be extensions to the present set-up.
– It is a penalty on thrift and providence.
– Yes. With the situation that now exists, do what we may from year to year there will not be real satisfaction and credence will not be given to the requirement to observe and act upon the virtues I have mentioned unless a system is instituted by which those who have the virtues of thrift, self-help and self-reliance will benefit.
If superannuation benefits - I prefer to call them that rather than pensions - were available to all, taxation would take charge of a lot of the money coming into the hands of those who normally would not receive the benefit. The superannuated person is, of necessity, a spender. He does not hold his money; he spends it from day to day. It. revolves within the economy, and in the process it enables a better way of life for the pensioner who receives sufficient to allow him to live a life of dignity, contentment and happiness.
I am very happy to see home care as a medium of Commonwealth interest. If we can look after our aged people in their own homes - magnificent work has been done already by Meals on Wheels and similar organisations - we will be doing something very humane. Plenty of scope is available for ensuring the happiness of those elderly folk, who, while not requiring hospitalisation or specialised care in homes, do need some assistance within their own walls. I commend the Government for what I regard as one of the most humane aspects of the Budget.
I refer now to the trends in business as they affect the little man. Highest efficiency in industry or business is generally nol necessarily the province of only the large unit. The law of diminishing returns docs apply in many instances. I regard the small businessman, no matter what category of business he may be in, as a very important unit in our community. I do not like the present trend of the big becoming bigger and the small being pushed out. I think that more consideration has to be given to the ability of the small businessman to remain in business in his own right. His greatest difficulty is to retain sufficient of his earnings to build up reserves in order to replace obsolete machinery and so on. lt would be a help to the smaller organisations if some taxation concessions were given as this would allow them to build up their strength and to keep up with modern trends in efficient machinery and that type of thing. This concession could be in the form of a higher level of payroll lax rebate. Another form in which a concession could be applied is to have a lower rate of taxation on a given minimum income, with a sliding scale rising as the profits of the business increase. Either of those suggestions would ensure better conditions for those who I regard as the salt of the earth - the men who are prepared to run their own ship in their own way at their own responsibility.
– Does the honourable senator think that the trend towards the aggregation of businesses can be resisted? Can the small businessman ultimately stand up to the big operators?
– It would be possible in some cases if the small businessman were given reasonable protection. I know that some financial situations automatically lead to a take-over. For example, old established organisations, by their very nature of business, their depreciated value and so on, are easy meat and very attractive to the big organisations. But I believe that where exploitation of the small businessman occurs, and can be shown to occur, the Government has the means and the ability to protect the interests of the individual operator.
From a study of the world situation, it seems to me that there is a persistent trend towards centralisation of populations. This is not common to just a few countries; it seems to apply to all countries. I have in front of me some documents which indicate what various countries are striving to do to overcome this undesirable trend. It is happening in Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel and practically every other country in the world. In each instance some form of taxation incentive is the basis for promoting and ensuring the decentralisation of industries. I feel that in Australia at this stage of our development the Government should give assistance to a given industry by way of taxation or any other means where the background economics give reasonable expectation of success for that industry at a given location. This would help us to get away from the avalanching of our population to the cities with the consequent huge expense involved in the provision of roads and dearer housing, other buildings and services such as water, power, etc. As I mentioned earlier, the law of diminishing returns applies. Where cities or communities go past a certain point a huge increase is involved in incidental costs. I believe that the Government should do all it can to ensure that a policy of decentralisation is followed. Encouragement should be given to industry to set up in those country towns which could with reasonable economic expectation carry such industry profitably.
I refer now to the adverse effects on the South Australian economy of the severe drought conditions that have been experienced in that State. I commend the Government for breaking new ground and assisting those States suffering from the effects of the drought. The assistance given by the Commonwealth this year by way of reimbursements to the States, the subsidising of transport and that type of thing was, in my opinion, a magnificent gesture. I am very grateful to the Commonwealth Government for allocating $14m to the States for drought relief. Of that sum $1.7m was allocated to South Australia.
– That is not very much.
– No, that is the point. The sum of S.I .7m that was made available to South Australia to offset its budgetary problems was swallowed up very quickly in one item. The loss of revenue from the railways because of the effects of the drought was about $1.8m. lt can be correctly said that the amount the South Australian Government received from the Commonwealth Government was equal to the loss in revenue that the State suffered because of the lack of traffic on its railways. There is also the continuing disability of the effects of the drought on goods made in South Australia for consumption in the other States. The Premier of South Australia made strong recommendations to the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), for additional monetary assistance. Whilst not wishing to go into this matter any further, as one in close touch with the economic, conditions in South Australia and realising the problem that is being experienced in that State, I respectfully seek of the Prime Minister that the representations made to him by the Premier be received favourably and that the present overall deficit of $4m for this year as a result of the effects of the drought be reimbursed to South Australia. I have pleasure in supporting the motion that the Budget papers be noted and I reject the amendment.
– I support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). First I congratulate those honourable senators who have made their maiden speeches for making such good contributions in their first address to the Senate. No doubt al) honourable senators are satisfied, as I am, that these new honourable senators will make an important contribution to the debates in the Senate. I am sure that all honourable senators found, as I did, that they showed ability to explain their special interests and knowledge and that they dealt with some very important subjects. Without naming them I should like to say that I am sure they will make a contribution to the Senate. It is a fact that in this place it is possible to develop debates perhaps more thoroughly than might be done in another place. There has been a lot of talk about this, but I believe that it is true. 1 was much impressed by what Senator Laucke said about smaller enterprises being swallowed up by larger ones. I know that in his own industry this has become a very important worry. But this is so not only in the flour milling industry but also in the service industries. In manufacturing throughout Australia, very large monopolies, most of them foreign controlled, are coming into Australia. 1 am not referring in this context to people who import into Australia some new machine or technique and who do something for Australia; I am referring particularly, as did Senator Laucke, to enterprises which come to Australia and try to gobble up industries which are efficient and which are already doing a good job. I do not think Senator Laucke would object to my mentioning that he is interested in the flour milling industry and runs a very efficient family business which is well known. I have known about it for many years. It is a source of employment in South Australia for many workers. As is happening in many other industries, the flour milling industry has been subject to pressures from monopoly groups which are not Australian owned. The striking thing about all this development is that the Federal Government generally, as a matter of policy, goes along with this.
I have never heard any statement from the Government by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) or the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) to suggest that in their view this is not a good thing. In fact at all times the Government apologises for the intrusion and importation into Australia of foreign capital. The Australian Labor Party has always made a distinction, which will finally have to be made in this country. We say that capital investment ought to be related to the special assistance that it can give to this country. I am reminded of a speech made by the Treasurer on 26th May this year in Sydney when he said, as he and other Government spokesmen have often said about there being no danger in overseas investment in Australia:
Australian income payable abroad had risen from $52m in 1947-48 lo $32tm in 1966-67.
However, the present situation need not give us cause for concern, nor is there any substantial reason for expecting it to do so in the foreseeable future.
Then he related this to a proportion of the annual net national production. We have been concerned about this trend and I believe thai growing numbers of the Australian community and some members of the Government are also concerned about it. Some overall planning should be borne in mind to stop this sort of trend from developing. This is where the Opposition sees the Budget as having a great defect.
In recent years the Budget has become simply u bookkeeping exercise. I agree that it is not what it used to be. At one time we had budgetary influences annually or between Budgets which were designed to stop inflation or to check balance of payment difficulties. We rated them as horror Budgets. They were identified as catastrophy Budgets because they put the machinery of production out of gear. We had them in 1952, 1954, 1958 and 1961. As a result there has been some new thinking by the Treasurer about how to manage the economy, and the Budget has become increasingly an annual bookkeeping exercise. The Government tries to restrain the so-called pressures on the economy. Tt does not. try to straighten out the balance of payments issues which are occasioned by the great inflow of capital and which leave Australian capital undeveloped to the extent that it might be. The Government tries to repress all these influences by arguing against wage increases and by restricting the amount of social service payments which might be made in a particular year. 1 support strongly what has been said on this side of the House about the low level of social service payments and the inability of the Government to give the measure of justice that repatriation recipients deserve. In this place we have had every occasion to know that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) is aware of the circumstances, particularly of people disabled by the war. because we have debated the issue thoroughly. We have given him every occasion to put strongly to the Government material which would produce a better basis for a pension than we have now. On the other hand the Prime Minister has claimed that this is a social welfare Budget. He was given much support in the Press because he said a number of important things which ought to have been said. But the point I want to make is that it was rather surprising that the Prime Minister should say in his speech on the Budget:
We had perforce - because it is not possible in 6 months thoroughly to overhaul a social services structure which has not been overhauled for some decades - io raise social service pensions generally across the board. This will mean that some single and married pensioners who may need more will not get more. . . .
What the Prime Minister is now saying is that the structure has not been overhauled for decades. In the Prime Minister’s own words, this must have been the fault of previous Governments. Even at this late stage we can now assume that the Government has decided to look at the question of social welfare. But in doing something about it he has done no more than to give a meagre increase in pensions, an increase which is not so great, as the rise in prices. It seems that we cannot be satisfied that the Government is going to do any more than it has done in the past, nor can we be influenced to believe that it wil’l give the sort of impetus and consideration to social welfare that ought to be given. While it does these things it imposes greatly increased burdens on the community, including the pensioners, by indirect and direct taxation. .
Those who listened carefully to the Budget Speech will know that although some people are to receive small increases in their pensions, the Treasurer said also that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should not grant increases this year because to do so might be dangerous to the economy. Although he made that statement., he announced also a great scheme to bring money into the economy to offset the charges for defence and the increase in pensions about which he talked. Nothing has been done about the means test, as Senator Laucke said. The Government simply takes the stand that it will cost between $300m and S400m to remove the means test. It does nothing to reduce the impact of the means test. It could quite easily within the next 3 or 4 years reduce its impact by removing it in respect of people over 74 or 75 years. To. do so would cost no more than S60m or $70m. Nothing has been said about this, yet the Prime Minister tried to argue that this is a social welfare Budget.
– lt would not cost so much as that.
– I am referring only to calculations that were made elsewhere.
– lt would cost only $40m.
– The fact is that it would not cost a very large amount. Whether it is $40m, $60m or $70m, it is not a large amount when considered against the total Budget. If the Government is really concerned about social welfare, it ought to be able to do these things. If it does not do them, then it would seem to me that it is determined just to go along in the old traditional way of giving only the barest minimum of increases in social service benefits. It has done this in the past, and there is no reason to believe that it has not worked on that basis this time. 1 come now to some of the increased costs that will be passed on not only to the ordinary citizen but to pensioners because all these extra charges come back to the whole of the community eventually. I refer first to the proposed increase of 2.5c in the $.1 in company tax. For the remainder of this year the Government will derive an addition $56.5m through this avenue. For a full year, the additional income from this source will be $60m. There is to be an increase also in sales tax on all those items which have to be bought by the people. Not only is the sales tax to be increased on motor vehicles, motor parts and accessories, tyres and tubes, printed matter, spirits and wines, beer, typewriters, office furniture and sporting gear, but toys will attract an added rate of sales tax. Even the children are going to be required to bear some of these increases. For the remainder of the year, the Government will recover $34m by way of increased sales tax. In a full year the additional revenue derived from this source will be $44m. The extra revenue derived from increases in broadcast and television licence fees will be $5m for the remainder of 1968-69 and S7m in a full year.
I come now to the proposed increases in air navigation and passenger service charges. We are getting well ahead in the field of air navigation charges. Not only is it proposed to apply the charge to the international airports, but the intention is to impose a domestic charge on the travelling public including persons who travel as representatives for business organisations. From this source, the extra revenue for 1968-69 will be almost $500,000 and in a full year the additional impost will return to the Government a further $1,250,000. Of course, everybody knows that the person buying the product manufactured by the organisation for which the representative is travelling by air will bear this additional impost.
Next there are the more studied increases as lighthouse services and navigation charges, not to mention proposed increases in Post Office charges which, it is said, are necessary because of the increased liabilities of the Post Office. These extra charges will1 cost the people $5m.
To my mind, the real rub in the Budget lies in the fact that the Government has failed to take an Australia-wide view in coping with, our economic situation. It has failed to recognise the difficulties confronting Slate governments and local governing bodies throughout the Commonwealth. These have been referred to already by previous speakers, some of whom were making their maiden speeches. The Government has made no attempt whatever to face up to the difficulties experienced by State governments. They are still to be required to come to the Commonwealth Government, cap in hand, and ask for assistance in running their affairs.
Because of the financial position in which the States find themselves as a result of the Commonwealth’s failure to appreciate their difficulties, there will be recurring increases in charges levied by such State organisations and authorities as water and sewerage boards, electricity trusts and other local authority corporations. These imposts will be borne by all, including pensioners. There is an obvious need for an Australia-wide outlook on the part of this Government. But every time we mention planning, this Government moves into reverse gear and says that planning is a Socialist device. At the present time, Australia most certainly needs an economic plan. We want to know where we are going, especially in the direction to which I referred earlier when I spoke about maintaining our position in the face of growing overseas ownership of our resources and the sort of competition that we are getting from other countries.
We all know that as a result of our activities during World War II, we developed a fairly satisfactory manufacturing potential. I refer in particular to our motor car industry, our aircraft industry, our engineering industry and our electrical industry, all of which are now able to compete satisfactorily with their counterparts in other countries. But most of them, with the exception of the motor car industry, are running down.
I point out that our defence expenditure this year has been greatly increased and that almost one-third of the proposed expenditure on hardware will be spent on products supplied from overseas sources. The great potential in our own aircraft industry in South Australia and in the factories which are supported by the Government is not being used to its utmost capacity. What does the Government propose to do about this? We are anxious to know what it intends to do because if something is not done the workers in these industries are going to be displaced. We have the capacity and it ought to be organised and developed to compete with private enterprise.
We of the Labor Party have no objection to the Commonwealth’s engine and aircraft factories competing with outside organisations. We feel that if they are allowed to run their own businesses, if they are not inhibited by being restricted to a budgetary allotment each year they can compete successfully with outside organisations.
Instead of being encouraged in this way, the Service organisations and officers whose job it is to purchase our requirements are buying from overseas sources plant and equipment which could be manufactured in Australia. There is no sound reason why this should be so. Is this happening because of lack of proper liaison between the various branches of the Services? Or is it because the Services prefer what is made overseas to what is being manufactured in Australia?
At the beginning of my remarks 1 said that we have already proved that we have both the potential and the know-how. No doubt many honourable senators will remember that in these factories which are not working to capacity we are producing diesel engines in competition with outside enterprises and we are making aircraft in competition with outside organisations. We are also satisfactorily carrying out great defence work contracts. Both the Government aircraft factories are being required to do work other than aircraft work to keep the employees occupied, and that is not good enough.
Something ought to be done about this matter. The replies given by Ministers to our inquiries are by no means satisfactory. Special government committees should be set up to ensure that our industries arc allowed to develop in the future in a way which will enable them to compete with outside organisations. Only a few days ago, the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson), said this in reply to a question asked by me:
The possibilities of alternative employment in other Department of Supply undertakings are being kept under close surveillance.
He also said:
We have been endeavouring to develop other projects which will provide economic workloads for the facilities needed for defence purposes.
I have referred on previous occasions not only to this matter but to the ability of Australian industry to make mobile equipment such as the six-wheeled weapons carriers - the Army calls them six-by-sixes - and all sorts of earth-moving equipment, but in recent years the Government has reverted to the policy of purchasing plant and equipment from overseas sources. I am not opposed to the interchange of trade between nations. That is a good thing. My complaint is that we ought to use the potential we have in our own country. That potential is not being fully developed at the present time.
The position here might be likened to that of the flour milling industry to which I have referred on other occasions. The industry is here, established, lt is equipped and is competent. It has all the techniques, al’l the skilled workers and all the other things necessary for its successful operation, and it ought to be availed of. lf, because of lack of co-operation with one another, the Service organisations are purchasing from overseas equipment which we can make equally as well here, the Prime Minister ought to stop them. I hope that this will be done in the near future.
Another point that ought to be viewed with alarm is our growing reliance on other countries. Here I should give special mention to our increasing reliance on the Japanese economy. I know that we have to trade with Japan but that - country has developed a very sophisticated economy, and we are doing nothing to anticipate the changes which are taking place within Japan. There has been tremendous developments in Western Australia, A great deal of thai development depends upon the export of coal from that State, but the Japanese people are saying that in 10 years time atoms will supply the whole of Japan’s power requirements.
– Bow much coal is used to generate electricity in Japan?
– It is not a question of how much is used in Japan. We export a considerable amount of coal to Japan. We export coal in addition to other commodities. Senator Scott has a special responsibility in this field because he represents the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn). 1 will come to him directly in relation to the Chowilla project. The fact is that we are not anticipating the trends that we should be anticipating. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) talks about digging holes in the ground and having regard to the future of the country. I was about to read the following passage from ‘Japan Reports’:
The point has been reached where Japan can foresee the whole of her electricity supply being provided from locally developed power reactors within 10 years. Another major development is that in November construction will begin on a nuclear powered freighter, the world’s fourth in the merchant field, which will be launched a year from now and sailing the seas by March 1972.
If we ask the Minister for National Development or his representative in this chamber about nuclear energy, he puts us off and says that it is too sophisticated for Australia.
– That is not right.
– Of course it is.
– How much coal is used to generate electricity in Japan?
– I put the question and the Minister is the one who should answer it. What is the Government doing to dovetail the abilities of Australia into the new trading and economic developments in Japan? lt is not worrying about that. All that it is doing is digging holes in Australia and selling resources to as many overseas corporations as it can in order to make a quick profit. It is not worrying about the future. The Minister for Trade and Industry has said that we are selling the farm in order to make a quick dollar. The Japanese steel industry is doing much the same as the electricity supply industry. A report in today’s ‘Australian’ refers to a project in which the ability of nuclear energy to supply the power for steel making is to be examined. It states:
Japan Steel Association hopes the project will qualify for government subsidy and, if all goes well, lo begin building the experimental reactor by fiscal 1972.
Because of the limited time available to me, 1 turn quickly to a matter that is very important to South Australia. 1- refer to the lack of consideration that is shown in the Senate when we try to obtain from Senator Scott answers to questions about the Chowilla Dam. Let me refer firstly to the background to the Chowilla project. Honourable senators will remember that last year we canvassed the question in the Senate. There was an urgency debate on it on 22nd August 1967. In that debate the then Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Henty, said.
The River Murray Commission has asked for a deferment to enable it to investigate some of the technical problems that have arisen, one being salinity as a result of evaporation. . . .
He also said:
This decision has not been taken merely because of an increase in cost.
Later he said:
It is anticipated that the report will be available before the end of the year.
That was in August last year. What has happened since that time? On numerous occasions I and many other senators have asked Senator Scott to obtain from the Minister for National Development information about the diversion of attention from Chowilla and the examination that has been made of the Dartmouth project on the Mitta Mitta. On each of those numerous occasions, which I will not mention in detail because I think Senator Scott remembers them quite well, he has said: ‘I will undertake to obtain the information and give it to you’. On one occasion he said that the information on technical studies of the Dartmouth project would be available by March. We now find that the results of those investigations will not be made known until the end of this year.
On each occasion on which we put our questions to Senator Scott he says: ‘I will try to obtain the information’. But no information comes either to me as an Opposition senator or to any of the Government senators from South Australia who have asked similar questions. We want to know why this happens. We know that in the past the Minister for National Development has revealed what seems to me to be an objection to the Chowilla project. I have no hesitation in saying that. When we first raised in the Parliament the matter of the deferment of the project we were told that it was not a question of cost; that it was a question of technical evaluation. More recently we have been told that it is a question of cost and that because the estimated cost of the project started at $28m and rose to S60m and perhaps $78m it should be evaluated. But Senator Scott docs not give us any answers. It is only a waste of time to ask him questions on the Chowilla Dam.
– Then why does the honourable senator keep asking them?
– Because Senator Scott has a responsibility to answer them. I know that he is in some difficulty. But, after all, he represents the Minister for National Development. What he is really saying is: I cannot give you an answer, and if you cannot get an answer you had better give it away’. But we do not intend to give it away. As everybody knows, during the South Australian election campaign it was sKid that the Liberal and Country League woul’d build the Chowilla Dam when it came to power. I am not playing party politics here. This is an important issue.
– The honourable senator would not do that, would he?
– Of course I would. The fact is that the Liberal and Country League Government is in the same position as the former Labor Government was. The Federal Government is jacking up on South Australia. It is giving money to other States, but it will not give money to South Australia. Our State has become the Cinderella of Australia when it should be the key to Austrafia. It is now in the centre of the great standard gauge railway network.
– I thought the alternative was to be an ugly sister.
– 1 do not think that is right. We are getting on all right. Apart from all the disabilities, the fact is that we have built up one of the most efficient manufacturing organisations in Australiathe motor car industry. As everybody knows, it has become a major revenue producing factor in government. As a matter of fact, the Managing Director of General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd, Mr Max Wilson, made a statement recently about the money that is coming into the country as a result of his company’s activities in South Australia. That is apart from the Chrysler enterprise and the associated enterprises that go along with the motor car industry. Mr Wilson’s statement was reported in the News’ a few days ago in these terms:
GMH clearly played an important role in South Australia’s economic life.
Last year it paid South Australian suppliers more than S25m for goods and services.
With annual payments to employees of another $32m, more than $57m was directly provided by GMH each year in support of the economy - more than $1m a week.
We have not only this capacity in the metropolitan area but also important Commonwealth enterprises such as ‘the Woomera research organisation, which is running down in the same way as the aircraft industry is. We want to know what Senator Scott intends to do about these matters. We want to know what he intends to do about railway organisation. He is the Minister in this chamber who is responsible for conveying to other Ministers the suggestions and criticisms made by senators. I want to know what the Government intends to do about the standardisation of the railway to the Northern Territory. We know that on the
Central Australia railway, for example, 100 days have been lost-
– The honourable senator’s time is nearly up.
– That may be so. A study of the situation will show that since 1963 about 100 days of operations have been lost on the Central Australia railway due to washaways and floods. Yet the Government cannot decide whether it should standardise the track in that area. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Report on Pigments and Colour Lakes
– I present a report by the Tariff Board on pigments and colour lakes (Dumping and Subsidies Act). It does not call for any legislative action.
Senate adjourned at 4.46 p.m. till Tuesday, 10 September, at 3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 August 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1968/19680829_senate_26_s38/>.