27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator SCOTT presented from 31 electors of the Divisions of Banks, Blaxland, Cook and Mitchell in the State of New South Wales a petition showing that in the national interest, it is essential that there be an effective and respected Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration system; that the decision given by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the professional engineers’ case on 3rd December 1969, which has followed to the letter in both magnitude and date of operation the salary increases for engineers employed in the Commonwealth Public Service which were announced before the arbitration hearing had concluded, has given rise to utter dismay and has indicated a lack of independent assessment; that recent statements made at the Australian Workers Union Conference and by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions have indicated dissillusionment with the federal arbitration system and have particularly referred to the professional engineers’ case; that an unacceptable arbitration system must inevitably lead to industrial unrest throughout Australia.
The petitioners pray that the Australian Government take positive action as soon as possible to re-establish confidence in the Commonwealth arbitration system.
-I give notice that at the next sitting I shall move:
That, with reference to the establishment of the seven Standing Committees agreed to by the Senate on 11 June, 1970-
Unless otherwise ordered, each Committee shall consist of eight Senators, comprising four Government Senators to be appointed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, three Opposition Senators to be appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and one Senator from the minority groups to be appointed by the President of the Senate in accordance with advice given to him by members of the minority groups. In the event of no agreement being reached by the minority groups as to the advice to be given to the President, the appointment of a member of the minority groups to a standing committee shall be resolved by the Senate. In addition, the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition shall be ex officio members ofthe Committees.
Each Committee shall proceed to business notwithstanding that all members have not been appointed and notwithstanding any vacancy.
Each Committee shall elect a Government member as Chairman.
The Chairman may from time to time appoint a member of the Committee to be Deputy-Chairman and the member so appointed shall act as Chairman of the Committee at any time when there is no Chairman or the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the Committee.
In the event of an equality of voting, the Chairman, or the Deputy-Chairman when acting as Chairman, shall have a casting vote.
A Standing Committee shall not meet while the Senate is actually sitting, unless by special order of the Senate.
The foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far asthey are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, shall have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General and refers to the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s regional station 5MV at Renmark, South Australia. Is it a fact that the station is underpowered and has such limited range that many people in the area who should be able to receive this regional station are unable to obtain satisfactory reception? Will the Minister have the matter investigated with a view to increasing the power and the range of station 5MV?
– I cannot give the honourable senator answers to the points he has raised, but as requested I will discuss the matter with the Postmaster-General and get what information I can for him.
– My question is directed to you, Mr Deputy President, and I assume to ask it on behalf of all honourable senators, other than the Leader of the
Government. Will you convey formally to Senator Sir Kenneth and Lady Anderson the congratulations of all honourable senators on the distinction which was accorded to them over the weekend? Will you also convey 10 them thai although we may not all, as a party matter, approve of the form of such distinctions. we thoroughly recognise that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson has given outstanding service to this community, ve are pleased that he has been so recognised and we hope that he and Lady Anderson will live long to enjoy this honour?
Honourable Senators - Hear, hear!
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - I shall have much pleasure in conveying that message to Senator Sir Kenneth and Lady Anderson.
– I ask the
Minister representing the Treasurer a question. Will he request the Treasurer, in the forthcoming Budget, to heed the appeal of the Manufacturers Association of Australia for a reduction from the 25% luxury sales tax now imposed on cosmetics, including baby powder, ladies’ lace powder, bab cream and other cosmetic items, to the general rate of 15%. I draw the attention of the Minister - I know this has been done previously - to the justice of this request and point out that dog powder and similar animal requisites are tax free. Does the Minister not agree that the women of Australia deserve a better deal and should be given a reduction in sales tax on these important items?
If I may be permitted to digress slightly from the question put to mc in my capacity as Minister representing the Treasurer. I should like to thank Senator Murphy and honourable senators from both sides of the chamber who have expressed to me their appreciation of the honour that has been graciously conferred upon me by Her Majesty the Queen. I feel very proud for myself, my wife and my family, but also very humble because 1 recognise that what I have done and what I do is what every other citizen who aspires to public life attempts to do, that is. to serve his community. 1 hope to be able to serve my community and the people of Australia for a long lime to come.
– Not necessarily in that capacity.
Rumours contain some funny stories, but I take the point expressed by the honourable senator. In response to the question from Senator Fitzgerald, as the honourable senator knows the Government gives consideration to various matters prior to the Budget session. The representations made by the honourable senator in relation to sales tax are among the questions very carefully examined at the time of preparation of each Budget when the Government pays particular attention to sales tax on certain items. All that I can hope to do and what I shall certainly do is to direct the honourable senator’s request to the Treasurer so that he may have regard, when framing the Budget, to the cosmetic lines mentioned by the honourable senator
– Has the Minister representing the Attorney-General noticed that 5 cases against Tasmanian fishermen for breaches of fishing regulations have been adjourned pending the hearing of a test case before the High Court in which the right of the Tasmanian Government to make regulations concerning off-shore administration is being challenged by the Tasmanian Fishermen’s Union? Does this not indicate how important it is that the legal control of the waters in question be decided? Has the Minister noted the invitation of the Fishermen’s Union to the Commonwealth Government to share in the costs of the case? Would such action not be another way of achieving the same result as that sought by the Commonwealth in its offshore legislation as to who has the legal control of the waters in question?
– My attention has not been directed to the news of the litigation to which the honourable senator refers, lt hardly seems to be appropriate, therefore, for me 10 comment upon the matter. The only comment I do make is that fisheries outside the territorial limits - I think that is the expression used - are expressly referred lo as being within the Commonwealth’s power under the Constitution. Having regard to the ambiguity of that expression, the subject matter of fisheries might not be an appropriate one to use to test the full sovereignty of the area of the continental shelf and the territorial waters.
– I direct a question to the Acting Minister for immigration. I refer to the peculiar manner in which the British great train robber, Biggs, and his family emigrated to Australia and to today’s report of a man eloping with his brother’s wife and family on assisted migrant passages to Australia. What did the Department do in relation to the Biggs case when it was exposed? Why have the remedial measures then taken not stopped the present episode?
– My attention was drawn to a comment in the newspaper concerning the family to which the honourable senator refers. 1 have some information on the matter. British subjects of European descent have always been able to travel to Australia without prior permission on presentation of valid British passports. Ronald Biggs and his wife managed to obtain passports issued by the British passport office in names other than their own. The manner in which the passports were obtained is the subject of continuing inquiries.
The honourable senator referred to a report concerning a man who recently came here with his brother’s wife and two children as British assisted migrants. The woman successfully posed as the man’s wife throughout the careful procedure associated with the granting of assisted passages. The 2 children were put forward as the man’s own children. The man’s real marriage certificate was produced. The man and woman and her two children travelled to Australia with the type of document of identity normally used by assisted migrants. The question of what further action can and should be taken is being carefully examined from the legal and other aspects. The Department of Immigration, like the passport and immigration authorities of other countries, is continuously studying means of preventing malpractice in the issue of passport and Other matters, lt is necessary however to avoid subjecting the great majority of innocent travellers to unreasonable precautions and inconvenience for the sake of increasing marginally the chances of detecting the malpractice of a few.
– 1 ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether his attention has been drawn to the joint survey of industrial trends over the last 3 months made by the Bank of New South Wales, and the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, which reveals a slackening in the production of engineering and build.ng materials in New South Wales and South Australia particularly. Is it a fact that past experience has shown the South Australian economy, which is heavily dependent on the motor vehicle, house appliance and building industries, to be particularly adversely affected by this sort of trend? Will close attention be paid to the South Australian economic barometer in these vital matters as the determinant of national economic financial policy?
On my arrival in Canberra only a short time ago, my attention was drawn to the joint survey to which the honourable senator referred. 1 have asked for some information in relation to it through the Treasury. As at this point of time I have not received any comment from the Department. As soon as 1 do I shall be happy to make a statement in the Senate.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior because I understand that this matter would be handled by the Department of the Interior through the Public Service Board. Is the Minister fully conversant with the crisis that exists in the Canberra Community Hospital where unprecedented action has been taken by nurses to get home to a complacent community and a stubborn Government the message concerning their conditions of service and the recognition of their status and wage justice? Has the Government any explanation to make to the nation as to why it has allowed this situation to assume crisis proportions? What immediate action does the Government propose to resolve the impasse?
– 1 think this is a question that properly belongs, as the honourable senator says, to the Minister for the Interior who sits in another place. I know, from what I have read, that there is a crisis in the hospital situation in Canberra and that it relates to the nurses who are nol satisfied with the remuneration they are gelling. All I know, other than this, is that I watched a television programme yesterday, or the day before, in which the Chairman of the Canberra Hospital Board, who has a lot of knowledge in this matter, said quite clearly that this had to be resolved bv the arbitration system, and could only properly be so resolved. Beyond that I have no further information. This evening I will direct the question in writing to the Department concerned, because the. other place, as honourable senators know, has now risen.
– Has the
Minister representing the Minister for Health seen a report that a significant section of general medical practitioners in New South Wales is contemplating raising its fees for surgery consultations and home visitations by as much as 10%? What action, if any, can the Government take to ensure that the most common fee, as set out in the schedules to the recent National Health Bill, is adhered to by general medical practitioners? If the Government is powerless lo do anything about any increase in medical fees, bearing in mind the increase in contributions that people will have to pay under the new Bill to medical and hospital insurance funds for health insurance purposes, will the Govern.ment take action to lift the amount of Commonwealth benefit to patients to ensure that the wide gulf between the refunds received and fees paid is not enlarged further? Will the Minister agree that, because contributions have been increased substantially, if fees do, in fact, rise and there is no increase in benefits to cover the additional charges, the public has had a real confidence trick put over them by the recent so-called medical benefits legislation?
– I would never agree that the public has had a confidence trick put over them, by the recent legislation. However the honourable senator has raised a number of points which I will lake up with the Minister for Health to get an answer for him.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate as the Minister representing both the Minister for Trade and Industry and the Treasurer. Can he indicate to the Senate whether any steps are being taken to encourage or to assist the establishment of Australian-controlled banking facilities in south east or eastern Asia? 1 ask further: Docs the Government agree that such facilities will assist in the development of Australian trade in that area?
– This question really warrants an extended answer because quite a series of significant procedures are adopted by Australia io assist in the way the question has suggested. I should like to take the question as being on notice and perhaps get an answer tomorrow.
– is the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that a giam oil slick has caused tremendous damage to the beaches in the Townsville area, particularly on Magnetic Island? What action has been taken by the Department to rectify the damage? Will the provisions of the recently amended Commonwealth legislation bc utilised to have the company responsible pay for the damage caused?
– This morning 1 heard a news report about this matter. I asked a question of the Department of Shipping and Transport in order that might have some information to supply to the Senate. The information that I have so far is that the Liberian vessel “Serfois’ accidentally spilled about I ton of oil while berthing at Townsville. Investigations at dawn on Monday showed that a south-west wind during the night had blown the oil on to the beaches at Cleveland Bay and Magnetic Island. The incident is described as minor hy representatives of the Queensland Department of Harbours and Marine. The only other comment that I would like to make for my own part is that I think it will be agreed that such an incident within the harbour is probably a matter for the Townsville Harbour Board which, as a board, reports in the first instance to the State Government. Nonetheless, I am sure that the Commonwealth
Department of Shipping and Transport will be concerned. I will direct the balance of the question asked by the honourable senator to that Department this evening.
– ls the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service aware of reports that the United States Supreme Court today declared that an individual has a right to object conscientiously to all wars or to a particular war? If United States youths cannot be forced to fight in what they conscientiously believe to be an unjust war, why should Australian youths have been imprisoned and why should 50 more be facing prison sentences because they object to fighting in the Vietnam .war? As the Government has dropped its plan for civil conscription for objectors, will it now reconsider the National Service Act in the light of the United States judgment?
– I am sure that it is completely within the knowledge of the Leader of the Opposition that the provisions of the National Service Act passed by this Parliament provide that any person who claims that in conscience he cannot engage in war is entitled, on proof of that condition of mind and soul, to exemption from service by the court. 1 have seen some reference to the judgment of the Supreme Court of the United States, lt would be completely irresponsible for me to comment on that upon the basis of the news communications presently at hand in Australia. The provisions of our legislation are infinitely more liberal than the provisions that were available to conscientious objectors in previous wars. At present the Government thinks that the basis upon which a conscientious objector is entitled to exemption is well expressed in the legislation.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply and relates to the Government Aircraft Factory at Avalon. Reports have been given to me and to the local member, Mr Scholes, of rumours current in the area that some part of the plant is to be leased to commercial enterprise. Is the Minister in a position to confirm or deny this report? If the report is true, can he guarantee that the present staff will be maintained?
I have already made statements about the aircraft industry. In those statements I made reference to the need to keep a viable work force in the industry and to the efforts being made to ensure that the work force is maintained. 1 would not like to make a definite statement in reply to the honourable, senator’s question until I checked out the information in relation to Avalon. As the honourable senator knows and as the Senate generally knows, there is a shift of the work load at Avalon to some extent. But when he projects the possibility of part of the plant being leased to commercial enterprise I caution myself to get the facts from the Department of Supply before replying. I will do that tomorrow.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise make the necessary inquiries to determine whether the imprint on the second edition of the book ‘Australia’s Heritage’ is authentic or whether the book was actually printed in Hong Kong and then transported by ship to Australia?
– Yes, I will.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Does the Federal Government have to approve a rise or fall in air passenger fares? Is it a fact that the Federal Government has received an application for increased air passenger fares from the 2 major domestic airlines? Is one of the reasons given for the increase the higher landing charges required by the Department of Civil Aviation? If the Government has a stated policy that the airlines must gradually meet the cost of aerodrome facilities, does the Government really mean that the people who use airline services must eventually pay for facilities which originally must have been provided through taxation?
– It is rather difficult to remember all those points or even to write them down as they are stated. First of all, the Government does have to approve a rise or fall in air passenger charges and associated air freight charges. lt is true that about 10 to 12 days ago the Department of Civil Aviation received applications from the 2 trunk line operators - Ansett Transport Industries Ltd and Trans-Australia Airlines - for increases in air passenger fares. Lt is equally true that the Department has instructions from me that it is to examine such applications with extreme care, to ask all the appropriate questions, to search out al! the facts and in due course, having done so. to make a recommendation. The Department is in the process of making such a searching inquiry. I have not yet received a recommendation. I; is equally true that, as a result of a decision made a long time ago, there has been an endeavour, by imposing landing charges, to recover as far as is possible and as is sensible some of the costs associated with civil aviation. This is designed to recoup some of the costs of airport facilities.
I think that the balance of the question should be directed to the Department by being put on the notice paper, lt is a long question and 1 am anxious that it be answered in full. Le/ mc make the additional comment that aviation in Australia, in the domestic and international fields, is growing at the rate of about 5% per annum, which is a much faster growth rate than in the Australian economy as a whole. So the demand that is imposed on resources by aviation has to be taken quite seriously because aviation is doubling about every 5 or 6 years. This necessarily means that quite a large burden is placed on the Australian community in supporting the facilities to support aviation in this country.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Are newspaper reports correct that students in Saigon are demonstrating against the American presence in Vietnam? As this recent demonstration confirms previous beliefs that Americans and/ or America’s allies are not welcome in Vietnam, even by those whom we are claimed to be assisting, will the Government reduce the loss of Australian young life by withdrawing Australian forces from areas where they are unwanted?
– The honourable senator’s question starts by asking whether statements reported in a Saigon newspaper, presumably, are correct. I do not know whether they are, and I am certain that nobody in Australia would vouch for them at question time in the fashion in which I am asked to do. Any conclusion that the honourable senator draws from the article is a matter for his own judgment. But the position in relation to Australia’s participation in Vietnam is well known. The Government’s policy in relation to our troop commitment there is quite clear. I do nol think there is anything to be added. I do not think the question creates any new situation in relation to the matters involved.
– 1 address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate as Minister representing the Treasurer. My question relates to the statement made last Friday by Sir Roland Wilson that the Commonwealth Trading Bank has formed a consortium with 4 European banks - 1 German, 1 French, I Italian and 1 Dutch - to be known as the Australian Finance Corporation Ltd, with the purpose of raising money for investment in Australian industries, in particular, I understand, mining. Did the Government approve of this action by the Commonwealth Trading Bank? Did it know of this action by the Commonwealth Trading Bank? Will the Leader of the Government some time before the completion of this sessional period make a statement to the Senate as to the proposed activities crf the Australian Finance Corporation Ltd and in particular point out in which way the activities of the Australian Finance Corporation Ltd will cut across and interfere with the activities of the Australian Industry Development Corporation?
Yes, I will seek information and, when I obtain that information, make a statement in relation lo the proposed Australian Finance Corporation Ltd to which the honourable senator has referred. I could not imagine any circumstances iti which it could be calculated or designed to cut across the recent legislation which was introduced in this place and passed by us.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has an application for higher air freight charges been received by the Federal Government from the 2 major domestic airlines? If an application has not been received, is the Minister aware why a request for higher freight charges does not go hand in hand with a request for higher passenger fares? Is it a fact that considerable competition occurs in this field from other air and road freight handlers? Will the Minister take this fact into account when assessing the extent of an air passenger fare rise.
– 1 will begin by answering the last part of the question. The honourable senator may be quite sure that the Department and I will take into account all the factors that we possibly can in assessing any application for increases in fares or freight rates. Beyond that, I would like the honourable senator to put his question on the notice paper.
– I ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. What action does the Government intend to take to counter the erosion of parliamentary responsibility caused by the continuing practice of Ministers of the Crown accepting shares and participating in share transactions? Is the Minister aware that although this behaviour is confined almost entirely to State Ministers’ the integrity of all parliamentarians, State and Federal, is brought into question and, because of recent events, is a cause of much concern?
The question which the honourable senator poses bristles with contention, of course, as I suppose it is calculated to do. In truth, I have nothing to add to what I said to him last week in response to a question that he asked in relation to the responsibility of all Ministers of the Crown to act with complete propriety. When Ministers hold shares, it always must be established in my judgment - I was expressing a personal view, and I repeat it - that quite clearly they in fact could not be interested in shareholdings in any matter which related in particular to government in the sense that they would need to declare their interest.
Having said all those things, I still do not believe that a member of Parliament or a Minister of the Crown loses his right as a citizen to do these things. I do not believe that he has to say: ‘Although I have worked hard, and by being diligent and careful as a citizen I have saved some money, and my wife has saved some money also, we are to be denied the right to buy some shares in an honourable, honest and open way’. For that reason, I am afraid that I cannot subscribe to the views that are inferences from the question asked by the honourable senator.
I have not bought shares for many years. This matter does not concern me. But the fact is that I still believe that everybody, including any senator, has the right to invest his or her savings-
– Even if he becomes a Minister?
The fact that he becomes a Minister does not mean that he has to go and live in a tent on his own and take no part in community life. Is there any sin in a man buying shares? Is there any sin in a man buying a house? Is there any sin in a man buying something to try to better himself? The qualification that 1 have made - and I repeat that it is a personal qualification - is that a man must act with complete propriety. He must act realising that what he does will be open to scrutiny. He must at all times be certain that he has no interest in a company which has dealings with him in his particular portfolio; for instance, he has to be certain that he will not have to make a judgment in relation to a company in which he might have a share investment. That is the criterion which I personally would apply, and I am sure it is the criterion which all the men whom I know in public life would apply. For that reason I do not respond any further to the honourable senator’s question.
– Does the Minister representing the Attorney-General believe that the right of freedom of speech of members of parliament and the democratic rights of individuals are being eroded when a member of parliament who makes a statement supporting the policy of his federal leader is tried and suspended from his party and is not permitted to attend a meeting of that parliamentary party although he has appealed against his expulsion? Of course, I refer to the case of the honourable John Galbally?
– I raise a point of order. Under which responsibility of the Minister does the question fall?
– Mr Deputy President
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator
Bull) - Senator Wright, are you speaking to the point of order?
– I was going to suggest on the point of order that Senator Cant may do me the courtesy of making a judgment as to the extent of my responsibility. In answer to the honourable senator’s question
– Mr Deputy President, have you ruled on the point of order? What do you think this is? Do you think this is a circus of Reggie Wright?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT’- Order! 1 think that the Minister must answer the question within the responsibility of his portfolio.
– The honourable senator’s question refers to the right of freedom of speech of a member of parliament. I would have thought that any Minister in this place would be unworthy of his salt or his salary if he were not prepared to expound his view regarding the right of freedom of speech of a member of parliament. Freedom of speech is one of the fundamental rights which the Constitution confers upon a member of parliament. Obviously it would be completely subversive of his duty to represent the community - the duty which a member of parliament undertakes when he is elected to parliament - if his right of freedom of speech were to be restricted or .subordinated by a party caucus or junta, unelected by the people.
– ls the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that appeals for money to assist the victims of the Peruvian earthquake are being conducted throughout Australia? Will the Minister give favourable consideration to allowing such donations as concessions for income lax purposes?
I will refer that question to the Treasurer without delay.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. In view of the extraordinary generality with which the Minister answered the last question which was put to him by an honourable senator on the other side of the chamber, 1 ask: Will the Minister deny that since becoming a Minister he has voted against the statements of conscience which he made on various issues prior to becoming a Minister and that he has done so pursuant to the doctrine which he announced to the Parliament that once he became a Minister - not even a Cabinet Minister - he would be no longer bound by his independent judgment as a representative of the people?
– U surprises me that a question with such a degraded outlook should emanate from the Leader of the Opposition, who is one of Her Majesty’s counsel in the legal profession. The only secret council legally constituted under the British Constitution where the collective decisions of the council are in accordance with the Constitution is the Ministry.
– The Cabinet.
– U should be known to the Leader of the Opposition that every member of the Ministry is bound–
– The Cabinet, and you are not a member of it.
– t wish the Leader of the Opposition would allow me the courtesy of replying to his question without repeatedly interjecting in a manner which seems to be designed by yapping to confuse my answer. I was about to say that 1 have no doubt that it is well known to the Leader of the Opposition that before any member of the Ministry accepts office he has to take an oath nol to reveal the counsel given before the Ministry and the Government of the day arrive at their decisions, lt has always been my understanding as a private member of the Parliament thai the Constitution imposed upon me a duty to question whenever I thought it was needful for mc to do so propositions put before the Parliament by the Government. However, to long as I am a member of the Government I am bound by the constitutional principle that the Ministry acts as one unit for the purpose of strong government in putting before the Parliament its final decision. It seems to be the envy of the Leader of the Opposition that the members of the Australian Labor Party, including the honourable senators who sit behind him are not able to vote according to their beliefs but that they are bound by a rule that the majority decision of Caucus decides their manner of voting in the Parliament. Honourable senators opposite seem to envy the proper independence and freedom which honourable senators on this side of the chamber enjoy enabling the distinguished members of the Liberal-Country Party coalition Senate team and I to vote according to our judgment.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate any knowledge of a suggestion that a request has been made by petroleum supply companies for an increase in the price of motor vehicle fuel? Does the Minister feel that sufficient public and indeed national interest is being shown in the cost price of indigenous crude oil for the Commonwealth Government to make its attitude clear in regard to any request for a higher retail price for petrol?
The retail price of petroleum is, as was indicated in an answer which was given in this chamber last week, to a degree the responsibility of the Department of Customs’ and Excise insofar as it administers the question of the intake of indigenous crude. Therefore, any questions in relation to this matter should be directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise or his representative in this chamber. I am sure it is known to everybody that in order to lake advantage of the duly concession which is given the companies have to use a certain percentage of the indigenous crude oil which is discovered and won in Australia. That has an influence upon the price, lt is also true that South Australia has price fixing in relation to the retail price of petroleum and that the other States, which have the balance of the responsibility, are influenced by the extent to which the price is varied by the Prices
Commissioner in South Australia. I suggest that all I have said goes to demonstrate that it is not an easy problem to which the honourable senator has referred. If he studies the Hansard reports of the week before last he will gain a better picture of the procedures adopted in relation to fixing the price of petroleum.
– Has it ever been known that the South Australian Prices Commissioner has rejected an application for an increase in price?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI would not know whether that is so. In any event, I should have thought that ever)’ time that the Prices Commissioner in South Australia made an adjustment of the price, in response to representations, he would give consideration to the possibility of lowering it. The short answer to the honourable senator’s question - perhaps not so short in the circumstances - is to be found in Hansard of the week before last.
– My question is directed to you. Mr Deputy President. Are you aware that waitresses and other full time female staff employed in Parliament Mouse possess figures that compare more than favourably with any similar group of girls in any other establishment? Are von also aware that the uniforms now being worn by the girls to whom I have referred were designed 43 years ago? If (he answer to both questions is in the affirmative, will you contract to discuss with your colleague Mr Speaker the possibility of having a reputable design house such as Prue Acton or Tullo design uniforms in keeping with the swinging 70s and not the forgotten 30s, so that those new un if onus will be available for this very attractive group of girls at the beginning of the Budget session?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT - The honourable senator’s question will be referred to the President. A reply will be given at an appropriate time.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Air. When the Minister and his officers are considering the applications by the major domestic airlines for an increase in passenger air fares, will they give special consideration to the transport difficulties that affect Tasmania? Will the Minister give favourable consideration to recommending to the 2 major airlines that air passenger fares for flights to and from Tasmania remain at their present level?
– Although the honourable senator addressed his question to the Minister for Air, I understand that he really is asking me to answer it. All I can say is that the matters he has raised will be taken into account.
– I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General: Why will the Government not prosecute all obvious offenders against section 7a of the Crimes Act who are supporting defiance of, and appealing to youth to defy, the National Service Act?
– It is the well recognised practice of the Attorney-General’s office to prosecute all offences, whether under the section of the Crimes Act referred to by the honourable senator or otherwise, which on the evidence appear to be cases of guilt and in which prosecution is in the public interest.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior indicate whether he has received a response from the Minister for the Interior to my suggestion of last week that section 96 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act be amended to allow an earlier cut off of the lodgment of postal votes? As exemplified by the recent by-election for the electorate of the Australian Capital Territory, this action would ensure a much speedier election result being obtained.
– I have not yet received any information in answer to the honourable senator’s question. I will see whether I can obtain an answer this week before the Senate rises.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for National Development make urgent inquiries to ascertain the reasons why orders for steel placed by Queensland firms with Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd are only approximately 50% fulfilled, the result being a diminution of job opportunities for workers in the metal trades in Queensland?
– Yes, I will see that that is done.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is he aware of the method by which the retail price of petrol is decided in Commonwealth Territories, and in particular the Australian Capital Territory? Why do the decisions of one State Commissioner in relation to the price of any product decide the price at which that product will be retailed throughout Australia? Has not the petroleum equalisation subsidy an important bearing on the retail price of petrol in Commonwealth Territories?
– It will be appreciated 1 am sure, that I represent the Minister for Customs and Excise. I am not that Minister. Therefore I cannot answer these questions, which really are questions of principle and policy in the administration of that portfolio. I shall direct them to the Minister for answer.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that the terminal building at the Gladstone airport in Queensland is one of the most dilapidated in the State and that the surrounding area closely resembles the Gladstone rubbish tip? Is he aware also that there are inadequate facilities for fighting a major aircraft fire and that plans to establish new terminal facilities have been slow in coming to fruition? Will he inform the Senate when his Department will be prepared to take the necessary action to expedite construction of the new terminal building and apply the appropriate pressure to have adequate fire fighting facilities installed before a major fire occurs at this increasingly busy airport?
– I should be surprised if at this time I could take all those statements exactly as read. However I can assure the honourable senator that when the Senate rises it is my intention to try to look at some terminals and airports, and Gladstone is one of them. I know from previous communications from other honourable senators that because of the expansion of Gladstone there is a need for quite considerable updating of facilities. I ant concerned to learn that the fire control measures are not. in Senator Keeffe’s view, all that they should be. He can be assured that I will direct a query to the Department this afternoon about them.
– M y question :» addressed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Do I accept from his reply to my previous question, and in view of the fact that civilian prosecutions against persons for offences under section 7a of the Crimes Act on evidence previously presented to the Attorney-General’s Department have succeeded, that the Department takes the attitude tiwi it is not in the public interest to prosecute for breaches of section 7a of the Crimes Act?
– lt would be quite irresponsible for me to comment upon any inference that it would be proper for Senator Cavanagh to draw in any set of circumstances. In the absence of any particularity as to the cases he has referred to I do not propose to draw any inference. If the honourable senator wishes information upon those matters I would ask him to put the question in a specific form on the notice paper.
– I ask the Leader of the Government a question. Am 1 to gather from an answer to a previous question that the Government is not prepared to set up a committee lo investigate the desirability of members of Parliament declaring their interests’.’ ls he aware that the House of Commons in 1969 found it necessary to set up such an inquiry because of the growing conflict between a member’s private interests and his public duties? In view of this does the Leader of the Government believe that it is necessary for this Parliament to establish firm guidelines for members of the Parliament in this regard?
I gave a personal view when I said that 1 believed that people should declare their interests. As to the rest of the question, 1 suggest that it be placed on notice.
– I ask a question o! the Minister representing the Minister for Air. What is the total sum of Australian taxpayers’ funds likely to be paid in America for the non-flying, probably non-deliverable, aircraft known as the FI 1 1 during the period of the parliamentary winter recess from the end of this week to (8th August 1970? Will a detailed statement covering such additional payments be made available to the Parliament on 18th August 1970?
– The Minister for Air is detained briefly and in his absence I suppose I am the most appropriate Minister to answer the question. 1 would ask the honourable senator to place the question on notice. I will see that the Minister for Air gets it as soon as he returns.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Defence aware that President Nixon set up a commission to examine conscription as compared lo a voluntary system of military service? ls he also aware that the commission has completed ils report and has unanimously recommended that conscription be replaced by an all volunteer force by mid-1971? Will the Minister inform the Parliament whether a similar commission has been or will be sei up by the Australian Government? Alternatively, has the Government reached a decision to make an announcement that the National Service Act will be abolished as from mid-1971 in view of the desire of the Australian Government to remain completely in line with the expressed policies of the American Government?
I am aware that a commission was set up in America. I am not aware of the full details of its findings. For this reason I suggest that the question be placed on notice.
(Question No. 82) Senator LAUCKE asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
With respect to receipts taxes collected by the Stales and the recent partial invalidation by the full High Court of this form of tax when levied by the Slates, do only those taxpayers who registered objection lo the tax, when submitting their initial returns, qualify for remission of tax paid up to November 18 last.
As thousands of law-abiding citizens may be denied refunds, merely on a technical point of non-registration of objection to the tax, will the Government give consideration to assisting the States to act uniformly with all taxpayers in the matter of possible refunds.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Commonwealth Government’s position with regard to receipts duty was explained in my Second Reading Speech when introducing the States Receipts Duties (Administration) Bill 1970. As requested by the States, the proposed Commonwealth legislation, which applies only to business receipts, will have retrospective application to 18th November 1969. There are special provisions in the proposed legislation relating to a transitional period commencing on 13th November1969 and ending on a date to be proclaimed. The general effect of these special provisions is that liability to receipts duty on receipts during the transitional period will be determined by reference to the receipts duties laws of the States in force, whether validly or invalidly, during that period. As the proposed Commonwealth legislation does not relate to the period prior to 18th November 1969,I am not in a position to comment on any questions arising in respect of that prior period and I do not consider it would be appropriate for the Commonwealth to initiate discussions with the States on such questions.
(Question No. 126)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
How many people are receiving Commonwealth subsidised contributions to medical and hospital contributions to medical and hospital contribution funds as a result of amendments made in 1969 to the National Health Act.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
At the end of February, 1970, there were 7,561 medical members covering 16,555 persons, and 6.699 hospital members covering 14,703 persons, who were enrolled with funds for the benefits of the subsidised Medical Services Scheme provided as a result of amendments made in 1969 to the National Health Act.
(Question No. 210)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 228)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply:
(Question No. 266)
Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
How many non-Europeans have been admitted to Australia on student visas in each of the last 10 years.
How many have completed their educational courses and returned to their home countries,.
How many have not completed their educational courses but returned to their own countries because of an unsatisfactory educational record in Australia.
How many are still undertaking educational courses.
How many have been permitted to remain in Australia after completing their educational courses.
Prior to 30th Novembcr 1967 arrival statistics for private overseas students included students returning from overseas and it is not possible to isolate those students arriving for the firsttime in Australia.
Comprehensive statistics of private overseas students present in Australia during each of the past 10 years are available. The figures for these vears are:
Statistics of private overseas students- arriving for the firsttime are available for1967 and 1 968 and those figures are 1,619 and 1,374 respectively. Statistics for 1969 are expectedto be issued shortly.
The figures for sponsored non-European students who entered Australia for the first time during the period under the Colombo Plan and similar schemes are as follows:
In 1967, 433 private students successfully completed courses and left Australia, while another 383 discontinued courses and left. Of these 383, some would have already gained qualifications in Australia and discontinued their studies at higher level. Similar figures for 1968 are expected shortly.
Note: All figures on private students include students from the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
(Question No. 253)
SenatorBISHOP askedthe Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice: (1)Isit a fact that married members of the Army and other Services who are housed in
Departmental homes in South Australia, including those at Woodside, and at locations in other States, pay higher rental charges than other Commonwealth Officers living in comparable departmental homes.
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Because of the expansion of the Army in 1964- 65 it was necessary to use rehabilitated temporary and reserve buildings such as those at Woodside for living and administrative accommodation.
It is planned progressively to replace existing sub-standard Army buildings in all areas where a continuing requirement exists. Replacements at Woodside must however await decisions on the future permanent locations of Army’s major units which are at present under examination.
(Question No. 326)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will the Treasurer give to the Parliament a detailed statement concerning interest rates now charged by the Commonwealth Bank, and each of the trading banks, on loans, including housing loans, and bank overdrafts, together with a detailed statement of interest paid on savings accounts by ail banks, including details relating to minimum and maximum deposits.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Reserve Bank has provided the following information:
The maximum interest rate which banks can normally charge on overdrafts is as present 8.25% per annum. Within the overdraft maximum, concessions are accorded to exporters and rural producers. Subject to this, banks are free to charge rates within the maximum appropriate to the nature of the proposition and circumstances of the borrower.
Lease financing, bridging finance and unsecured personal instalment loans are not subject to the overdraft rate maximum but the rates charged are generally below those charged by non-bank lenders. In the case of personal instalment loans, the maximum interest rate for a wholly unsecured loan is at present 6.5% per annum flat.
Fixed term loans from the Term Loan Fund Accounts of the banks would normally be made at rates a little higher than the rates for comparable overdrafts. Fixed term loans from the Farm Development Loan Fund Accounts of the banks are made at rates within the range of preferential overdraft rates normally applicable to rural borrowers.
Approval was given for an increase in savings bank interest rates from 1st April 1970. To allow each savings bank flexibility to determine, according to its circumstances, the rates it wished to pay on the various types of deposits it offered, it was left to individual banks to announce their own rates, subject to a maximum rate of 5% per annum.
The banks have since indicated that they will pay interest on deposits of individuals at the following rales:
Most savings banks pay 5% per annum on investment accounts subject to special notice, minimum balance and minimum transaction requirements.
The State and trustee savings banks have other varieties of deposit facilities available, and rates are:
Deposit Stock- 4.5% for State Savings Bank of Victoria; 5% for Savings Bank of South Australia.
Term Deposits, Certificates of Deposit and Fixed Deposits - where offered, they are subject to the same maximum interest rates us for trading banks.
Rates being charged to individuals on housing loans falling within banks’ normal lending criteria are:
Commonwealth Savings Bank - 6.25% for new houses: 6.75% for existing houses. State savings banks- 6.50%-7%. Other savings banks - 7.00%.
The predominant rates charged by savings banks to terminating co-operative building housing societies on government-guaranteed loans are 6.25%-6.75%.
On mortgage loans other than for housing and for housing loans outside savings banks’ normal lending criteria,the banks are permittedto charge lending rates up to the trading bank maximum overdraft rate of 8.25%.
(Question No. 329)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Will the Prime Minister have tabled in the Senate the document, or alternatively a copy of the document, which, it is claimed, sets out in detail the request of South Vietnam for Australian arms and troops to assist in military operations in that country; if not’, is it a fact that no request for military aid was ever received from any representative of any government in South Vietnam, at anytime.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the reply I gave on 21st May 1970 to question No. 290 (Hansard, page 1663).
(Question No. 381)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development the following question, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am not aware of any grave disquiet among senior officers of the Atomic Energy Commission in relationto the matter the honourable senator raises. Officers of the Commission do publish many scientific papers relating to their work, and they lake part in scientific discussions in reputable scientific fora. These contributions require, and rightly require, the approval of the Commission before they may be made. There has been no change in this situation in recent limes.
(Question No. . 386)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 420)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) The Postmaster-General is having investigations made into the use of private box number 16 Drayton North, Queensland. If these investigations provide sufficient reason to believe that the box is being used for an illegal purpose steps will be taken to cancel the tenancy.
(Question No. 428)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
Is it anticipated that Subscriber Trunk Dialling to Western Australia will commence on 1st July, as previously indicated; if not, when will it commence.
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Testing of the new East- West telephone channels is now taking place, the Subscriber Trunk Dialling will be available between the Eastern States and Western Australia from Friday, 10th July.
(Question No. 465)
asked the Minister for External Affairs upon notice:
The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Government has made clear its support for negotiations aimed at a peaceful settlement of the dispute and will continue to support any constructive measures designed to bring about a permanent cease-fire and a just and lasting end to the present conflict.
(Question No. 466)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice:
Is Australia a signatory to a United Nations Treaty which, in one Article, states that signatory nations ‘shall do all in our power to promote energetic action which, by combining legal and other practical measures, will make possible the abolition of all forms of racial discrimination’; if so, how does the Government reconcile agreement with this article with the growing trade wilh South Africa, which in 1969 reached a total of $65. 1 m.
The Minister for External Affairs has furnished the following reply:
The honourable senator’s quotation is from Article 10 of the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The Declaration is nol a treaty but was embodied in Resolution 1904 (XVIII) which has the recommendatory effect of a General Assembly resolution. It does not recommend that Member States should cease trade with South Africa and it is the Government’s view that such action would be unlikely lo influence South Africa’s domestic policies but would cause hardship to all the communities of South Africa.
(Question No. 52)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Commonwealth Government’s position wilh regard to receipts duty was explained in my Second Reading Speech when introducing the States Receipts Duties (Administration) Bill 1970. As requested by the States, the proposed Commonwealth legislation, which applies only to business receipts, will have retrospective application to 18th November 1969. There are special provisions in the proposed legislation relating to a transitional period commencing on 18th November 1969 and ending on a date to be proclaimed. The general effect of these special provisions is that liability to receipts duty on receipts during the transitional period will be determined by reference to the receipts duties laws of the States in force, whether validly or invalidly, during that period. As the proposed Commonwealth legislation does not relate to the period prior to 18th November 1969, f am not in a position to comment on any questions arising in respect of that prior period.
(Question No. 110)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following in answer to the honourable senators question:
For the purpose of this question a computer has been defined as including the central processing unit and all on-line equipment.
The information provided in the answer relates to digital computers used for data processing purposes. Analogue computers, which are special devices of a completely different order used for scientific purposes, and digital computers used for special purposes such as in aircraft, mission simulators, weapons trainers, message switching and so on have been excluded. This is in line with the practice adopted in the Auditor-General’s annual report.
In addition, where the cost of a particular computer already installed varies from that which I provided last year in answer to a similar question asked by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Hansard, 29th and 30th May 1969, page 2585 et seq), the varied cost is attributable to subsequent purchase or lease of additional peripheral equipment or the re-arrangement of equipment.
In this context, the relevant Ministers have provided the following information in answer to Parts (1) and (2) of the honourable senator’s question:
The services of private enterprise consultants are also available and have been used by departments in a limited number of cases. These services have not. however, been used to assist wilh the evaluation nf tenders and the selection of equipment.
(Question Nil. 223)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 340)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 356)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will the Treasurer request the Reserve Bank to verify that all Trading Banks have not applied the recently announced increased loan interest rates to rural primary producers.
The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As indicated in my answer to question No. 226 (Hansard page 1046 of 23rd April 1970), the detailed administration of the selective exemption of rural borrowers from the increase in trading bank lending rates of interest announced in March 1970 is a matter for the banks.
(Question No. 459)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Is it a fact that, under the requirements of the proposed federal receipts duty taxation, no trader based in the Australian Capital Territory will be required to pay a receipts tax on goods sold in the Australian Capital Territory.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes, provided the money from the sale is received by the trader in the Australian Capital Territory and in the course of his carrying on a business in the Australian Capital Territory. For a general account of the nature and effects of the proposed legislation, including the position with regard to the Territories, attention is invited to my Second Reading Speech when introducing the States Receipts Duties (Administration) Bill 1970.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONOn 13th May 1970 Senator Wheeldon asked me the following question without notice:
Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen reports that the Lon Nol Government in Cambodia intends to expel some 600,000 Vietnamese residents of Cambodia from that nation where they are now living? Will the Government make a statement as to the correctness or otherwise of these reports, the consequences of this action by the Cambodians against the Vietnamese and the possible consequences that this action by the Lon Nol Government will have on the whole situation in Indo-China.
I said I would treat the question as being on notice in order to obtain a considered reply from the Minister for External Affairs, who has supplied the following answer:
The Government has noted speculative Press reports to the effect that the Cambodian Government intends to expell some 600,000 Vietnamese residents.
The Cambodian and South Vietnamese Governments have entered into the closest co-operation with regard to the Vietnamese community in Cambodia. The present situation may best be described by reference to the joint communique, signed in Saigon on 17th May 1970 by the Foreign Ministers of both countries. This stated, in part, that the Cambodian Foreign Minister had renewed the assurance o£ the Government of Cambodia to protect the life and property of Vietnamese living in Cambodia and to take ali effective measures for the security of Vietnamese who wish to remain in Cambodia. The Cambodian Government will make available all facilities to those Vietnamese who have been living in Cambodia and who, after their repatriation to Vietnam following the latest events, might show a desire to return to Cambodia.’
– On 12th May Senator Greenwood asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, without notice: ls it a fact, as reported in today’s Press, that a recommendation by the Council of the Australian National University addressed to the Government has proposed additional undergraduate representation on the Council of the University? If so, is il a fact that the Government has decided not to grant such additional representation? If so, what are the reasons for the decision?
The Minister for Education and Science has provided the following answer in reply:
Statements made in articles and correspondence in the Press and a statement made by the President of the Student Representative Council suggest that the Government had rejected completely out of hand a request for an increase in student representation. The Minister informs me that this is not a correct statement of the position. A large number of suggested amendments lo the sui lute of the University were pui forward to the Government by the Council of the University. 1 restrict the following remarks to the suggested amendments dealing wilh student representation. The Government decided to bring before the Parliament amendments which would liberalise the conditions on which undergraduate students could go on to the Council, and to increase the representation. In particular it was decided to reduce the age of a person eligible to sit on the Council from 21 years, as it is at present, to 18 years and also eliminate another existing requirement, namely, that a representative of the undergraduates should himself be a graduate. This will permit undergraduates to sit on the Council. It was decided also lo increase the student representation by appointing the President of the Students Representative Council ex-officio to the Council of the University in addition to the existing elected member thai the students have. This means that they would have 2 representatives.
Il is true that in the recommendations of the Council there was a suggestion for a further elected student member. This would have made a total of 3. That recommendation was not accepted by the Government. On the other hand the Minister has emphasised dial the strength of representation will depend upon the calibre and quality of the representatives of the undergraduates and he has no reason to suppose that the students will not be very strongly and well represented on the Council by those they elect.
– I take this opportunity to correct an answer that I gave during question time to the Leader of the Opposition on the subject of conscientious objection. J am under the impression that 1 used that expression in relation to war. To be strictly accurate, I read section 29a of the National Service Act which provides:
A person whose conscientious beliefs do not allow dim to engage in any form of military service is, so long as he holds those beliefs, exempt from liability lo render service under the Aci.
– I present the Fourth Report of the Printing Committee. Copies of the Report have been distributed to honourable senators.
Report - by leave - adopted.
– I move:
The proposal includes the construction of laboratories, lecture theatre, administration buildings, amenity buildings, workshops and plant buildings for the Divisions of Applied Physics and Physics, which comprise the National Standards group. The estimated cost of the proposed work is SI 3.5m. I table the plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Senator Milliner, and read a first time.
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 10 a.m. 1 also move:
That the luncheon suspension for the remainder of the sittings be from 1 to 2. IS p.m.
We have extended the luncheon break a little because it was a bit tight. We propose to start each day at 10 a.m. till the completion of the sittings.
Questions resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
In 1967, an agreement was reached by a national conference, consisting of representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Waterside Workers’ Federation, the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority and the Department of Labour and National Service on a scheme for permanent employment in the stevedoring industry. In November 1967 the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act was enacted to give the necessary legislative backing to enable the permanency arrangements to operate. They were introduced by this means rather than by amendment of the main Stevedoring Industry Act because the Government had decided that the new arrangement should be subject to a trial period before permanent alterations were made in the legislative arrangements for the industry. Following the enactment of that legislation, permanent employment has been introduced into 7 major ports in Australia. Approximately 80% of all the regular waterside workers in Australia are in these ports and are now employed permanently, either by operational companies for whom they work exclusively or by a holding company set up by the various employers, which supplies labour on a day to day basis to operational companies in order to overcome the peaks and troughs of labour demands.
The Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act was given a limited life and it is due to cease to operate on 1st July next. The Government had hoped that by the end of the original period of operation of the Act to have introduced legislation which would have provided for the future and permanent arrangements in the industry. However, a number of factors have prevented us from doing so. Firstly, the technological changes which are taking place in the industry with the introduction of container ships, unit load ships and roll-on roll-off ships are far from complete. It could be another 2 years before the future structure of the industry becomes reasonably clear and before the permanent level of the work force in the industry can be determined with any precision. Secondly, although only about 20% of the work force is not permanently employed, these workers are spread through a large number of comparatively small ports and there is a need to determine what son of employment arrangements would be most suitable for them and for the industry. Thirdly, while the permanent arrangements have brought considerable benefits to the work force and while the position as to costs in actual stevedoring operations appears to be reasonably satisfactory - a factor which the Government regarded as crucial - the industrial relations situation in the industry has been far from good. Indeed over the past 12 months it has deteriorated to such an extent that the losses in man hours through industrial stoppages are of the same order as in the pre-permanency days. However, a recent agreement on wages and conditions between the employers and the Federation to which the ACTU was a party includes a no-strike clause on these issues for a period of 2 years. Thus, while we hope for and expect a significant improvement in this area, there is a need to see whether it eventuates before making final decisions in relation to the industry.
Because of these factors the Government has decided that it would be inappropriate and indeed premature to introduce permanent legislation at the present time. A further period is clearly needed to determine whether any major changes are necessary in the present permanency arrangements as a result of 3 or more years of operation and to work out the sort of arrangements that- ought to apply in the future in those ports in which casual employment still operates. For some it is probable that permanent employment arrangements of the type existing in the present permanent ports will be feasible. In the remainder, it is probable that these will not be suitable but it is obviously desirable that some regular form of employment should be introduced. Over the next 2 years it is the Government’s hope that suitable arrangements will be devised for all ports in Australia. Despite the Government’s decision not to proceed with permanency legislation it was necessary that legislation of some form be introduced before 1st July because of the expiry date of the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act. Before determining what form this further temporary legislation should take my colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) decided it- would be desirable to have discussions with ali those who have been closely concerned with the industry m the National Stevedoring Industry Conference to seek their views as to what should be done in the industry. These discussions proved most helpful and showed that there was a great deal of common ground among all the parties as to what might be done in the industry. Although all the suggestions for amendments to the legislation which were put to the Minister could not be accepted, it is believed that what is proposed in this Bill will meet with general approval from all the parties involved in the industry.
The present Bill has 4 main purposes. Firstly, it extends the period of operation of the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act 1967-1968. This is essential as all the arrangements which enable permanent employment to operate devolve from this Act and cease to have effect when the Act’s term of life expires. Thus, to enable the permanency arrangements to continue beyond 1st July next, the period of operation of the Act is extended for a further 2 years, that is, until 1st July 1972. This date also coincides closely with the termination date of the agreement reached at the National Conference in relation to permanency. Thus, it is an appropriate time from which changed and permanent legislative arrangements for the industry should operate. The Minister hopes that well before this date, however, he will be in a position to bring before the Parliament proposals for the future permanent arrangements in the industry.
Secondly, the Bill amends the constitution of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. At present the Authority consists of 3 full time members. However, since the introduction of permanent employment there has been a marked diminution in the functions of the Authority. Primarily, this has occurred in the permanent employment ports which, as has been said, account for 80% of the industry’s labour force. The functions of allocation of labour and initial discipline, which were major activities of the Authority, have been transferred to the employers. Thus, there is no longer any justification for retaining a full time 3-man Authority in the light of the reduced work load it has to carry. The Bill provides that the functions of the Authority shall, in the future, be exercised by 1 full time functionary who will be called the Director. He will have all the powers and carry out all the functions of the present tripartite Authority. However, the corporate existence of the Authority is not affected. Furthermore, the existing functions of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority are not affected by this legislation. True, further ports may become permanent ports over the next 2 years, but this is simply in accordance with the intention and authority of the temporary provisions Act introduced in 1967. Thus, it is not anticipated that the enactment of this legislation will have any direct effect on the employment position of ASIA staff. However, it would be wrong to imply that the policy which the Government has been following in this industry - namely, of transferring greater responsibility for the management of this industry to the employers - will not ultimately affect the Authority’s functions. Over the next 2 years, the Government will be giving detailed consideration to what the permanent role of a statutory authority in this industry should be. It is to be expected that there will be a continuing contraction in the activities of the Authority. It is impossible to say, at this time, the extent of the functions and the number and types of staff that will be required by a statutory authority in the permanent arrangements to be developed in the future. However, we do not expect that any major changes in functions and consequently major alterations in staff levels will take place before this Act expires in 1972. The welfare and future of the staff of the Authority are matters of the utmost importance, and proper provision for any who might bc displaced in whatever permanent arrangements are ultimately developed for the industry should be determined well in advance of any such displacement. My colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service has discussed this very important matter with the Secretary Of the ACTU, Mr Souter, and the Federal Secretary of the Federated Clerks Union. Following that discussion my colleague made the following statement:
There will be no retrenchment of the ASIA’S stair within the next 12 months except in those ports in which permanent employment is introduced in that period.
I will establish a committee immediately to report lo me. The committee will consist of representatives of the Department of Labour and National Service, the ASIA, the ACTU and the Federated Clerks Union. The committee will have the following functions:
lo identify as far as possible the future redundancy problem in the ASIA as ils functions and activities contract; lo consider and recommend what principles could apply in respect of any such redundancy situation, including the question of whether compensation might he paid to retrenched employees and, if so. the circumstances in which it may be paid: il would also consider the provision of assistance to retrenched employees in finding suitable alternative employment as far as possible at the same salary level;
to examine any individual problems of ASIA staff members who have lo be retrenched as a result of permanent employment being introduced into particular ports during the next 12 months.
Thirdly, the Bill provides that the National Stevedoring Industry Conference should be given statutory backing and redesignated the Stevedoring Industry Council. Since 1965, when industrial relationships and work performance in the industry had reached an all time low, the National Stevedoring Industry Conference under the chairmanship of Mr A. E. Woodward, Q.C., has worked with a great deal of success to improve the situation in the industry. It has been responsible for negotiating the agreement on permanent employment, overseeing ils implementation and sorting out the many problems that such a major change in employment relationships must inevitably bring in its train. Of course it would be wrong to suggest that the Conference has been successful in all its activities. There have been disappointments and failures, lt would not be an institution comprising ordinary human beings with conflicting interests if it did not have failures. However, there can be no doubt that this Conference, under Mr Woodward’s capable chairmanship, has been one of the most successful exercises in co-operation between employers, unions and government in any industry, let alone this most difficult and volatile stevedoring industry, lt has brought about a significant change in employment relationships in the industry and it is largely because of its existence that the introduction of the revolutionary container shipping system to Australia has been possible without the industrial upheavals that have occurred in most other countries.
As 1 have said, there is a need now to plan for the permanent arrangements which will operate ultimately in the industry. Although the vast majority of waterside workers are now employed permanently, the fact remains that 20% in a large number of small ports are still casually employed and there is a need for schemes for regular employment to be devised for them. The Government’s policy in relation to the stevedoring industry is that there should be a continuing effort to make the employment relationships in the industry as near as possible to those in industry generally. This can be done only if there is cooperation from all parties in the industry. The obvious body to undertake the necessary investigations and to advise the Minister on the future of the industry is the National Stevedoring Industry Conference. Furthermore, whatever the final structure of the industry, it will almost certainly include some standing consultative machinery. Therefore it is appropriate now to establish such machinery on a statutory basis so that its status and role can be sufficiently developed before the permanent structure of the industry is decided upon. It is proposed that this body should be called the Stevedoring Industry Council. The Bill provides that it shall be constituted along the same lines as the present National Stevedoring Industry Conference. Its functions, which are primarily to advise the Minister for Labour and National Service on the operation of existing employment arrangements, on the development of new employment arrangements and on such other matters as the Minister might refer to it, are set out in clause 6 of the Bill. Apart from these advisory functions, however, it will have the function of endeavouring to bring about amicable agreement in relation to industrial questions in the industry. It has, over the past 4 years, been doing just this, and this activity is in keeping with the spirit of the recent national agreement on principles for the establishment of dispute settlement procedures.
Fourthly, the Bill provides for the correction of a number of anomalies that have occurred as a result of the operation of the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provivisions) Act 1967-68. While these anomalies in themselves are small, they have created injustices and the Bill remedies these. Two types of anomaly are involved. The first relates to the payments for annual leave. “Under the permanent employment arrangements, the holding company and operational employers are responsible for the payment of annual leave to their permanent employees. However, in a number of circumstances such an employee may have had a period of casual employment during the leave year for which there is an element in the statutory levy collected by the Authority. It was accepted in introducing the legislation in 1967 that the Authority should reimburse an operational employer or the holding company for any portion of annual leave paid by the company which was attributable to casual employment. However, the legislation did not completely cover all examples of such casual employment; nor did the amendment of 1968. The current Bill now corrects the deficiencies.
The other anomaly relates to refunds of portion of the levy to employers who employ waterside workers on a permanent basis under special agreements, for example in container terminals, and who under these special arrangements do not use holding company labour nor claim reimbursement of wages from the holding company for the time when their employees are not able to be employed. It has been found that the definition of ‘special agreement for weekly hiring’ in the earlier legislation does not cover all agreements for employment of this nature and employers covered by some of these agreements have not been able to obtain refunds of the appropriate portion of the levy even though they meet the essential criteria for refunds. The Bill corrects this situation and both in respect of this anomaly and those mentioned earlier the legislation is made retrospective to the introduction of the initial legislation in 1967. The Bill also provides for employers who enter into new agreements of the kind mentioned above to be eligible for a refund of a portion of the levy provided that the Minister is satisfied that such agreements will not adversely affect the general permanent employment scheme in a port and will improve the efficiency of the particular stevedoring operations.
This legislation merely represents a further development in the process of change in the stevedoring industry which we embarked on in 1965. It is essential that it be enacted now as the present permanent employment arrangements cannot operate beyond 1st July this year unless the Act is extended. It is hoped that, as a result of the recent agreement on wages and conditions, we can look forward to the industrial relations climate being restored to the situation that was achieved in the first 2 years following the establishment of the National Conference. Only such a climate will enable the permanent arrangements for the industry to be worked out in the atmosphere and with the dispassion necessary to ensure their success. The employers and the Federation must realise that the future structure of the industry depends very much on their performance over the next 2 years. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Bishop) adjourned.
The following Bills were returned from the House of Representatives without amendment:
Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Bill 1970.
Australian National Airlines Bill 1970.
Air Accidents (Commonwealth Liability) Bill 1970.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Metric Conversion Bill 1970.
Civil Aviation (Offenders on International Aircraft) Bill 1970.
Debate resumed from 4 June (vide page 1983), on motion by Senator Cotton:
Thai the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition supports the move to provide finance for the establishment of an irrigation system in the Bundaberg area. Later on, we will move an amendment, not a vital amendment but one which expresses the opinion of the Opposition about the amount of in format ion which has been provided relative to the proposed expenditure. I wish to speak briefly on (his Bill. I have listened to previous debates in the Senate concerning water conservation. All honourable senators recall the extensive debates onthe Chowilla Dam and the Dartmouth Dam. Although I did not speak on those matters, I agree entirely that a need exists for water conservation in the southern States especially with the background reservoir of the Snowy Mountains - that huge reservoir of snow which in effect conserves water for continual use throughout the year.
If we support water conservation in the southern States, how much more must we supportthe provision of moneys for this purpose in the Stales to the north, in particular Queensland which has a very heavy fall of water which flows to the sea but which also has a very high evaporation level that results in the drying up of available sources of supply of water, thus intensifying the need for water for irrigation purposes and farm development. For this reasonthe debate on this Bill in another place was rather odd. Certain Liberal members questioned the advisability of providing finance for water conservation. One member suggested that it would be better to spend money on the construction of the Sydney Opera House than onthe construction of a water irrigation scheme at Bundaberg. He stated that a greater number of people would obtain pleasure from the Opera House than from a water irrigation scheme in the Bundaberg area. I find this an astonishing comparison when one considers that in the north water is used for purposes other thanto derive pleasure. It is a vital element in the development of primary industries over a large area. I do not intend to say anything further in this debate because I believe that my colleague Senator Keeffe intendsto develop the points I have made and also to move an amendment.
– I support the remarks made by Senator Georges. But at the beginning I should like to place my amendment beforethe chamber. I move:
There is a particular reason why the Opposition has moved the amendment. On a number of occasions, not only in this chamber but in the other place, reference has been madeto the fact thatthere seems to be an aura of secrecy surrounding legislation that is introduced.I refer tothe statement in the second reading speech of The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) wherein he said:
Let us examine that statement for a moment. The proposal concerning the Monduran Dam and the Bundaberg irrigation scheme generally was one of the things that came off the top of the head of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) when an election was imminent. As 1 said in this chamber only a few days ago when speaking to another Bill, Queensland is not averse to accepting grants or loans from the Commonwealth, even if they are thrown up as election gimmicks or promises. But we believe that the details of the technical evaluation and the cost benefit analysis ought to be made available to the Senate. That is the reason why we have moved our amendment. We require this information but we do not oppose the Bill. In his second reading speech the Minister slated:
In 1967. the Queensland Government submitted to the Commonwealth, for consideration under the original programme, a proposal for an irrigation scheme to serve the Kolan-Burnett area on the north side of the Burnett River … in September 1969 the Queensland Government announced the allocation of SS.3m for works which were considered particularly urgent . . .
The Senate will recall that when it was first announced that SI 00m would be made available for water conservation purposes, there was great tardiness on the part of the Queensland Government as to which schemes it would submit for consideration. In fact, the first scheme accepted by the Commonwealth Government was probably the Fairbairn Dam in central Queensland. The Childers area, and the Bundaberg area generally, is a particularly dry region. From my own observations there, people would be very lucky if they experienced 1 good season in every four or five years. For the rest of the time, this area has been drought stricken. Sugar cane grows to a height of 6 feet or 7 feet in north Queensland and it has a fairly high commercial content of sugar, but it docs not do as well in the Bundaberg area because of the generally semi-arid nature of the soil and the unseasonal conditions that have occurred in the area over a period of years. So any conservation scheme in the Bundaberg district must be of benefit.
It is not only the Bundaberg irrigation scheme to which reference has been made for many years. When I first entered this chamber 5 years ago a committee in the Bundaberg area issued a fairly good statement outlining why water conservation ought to be carried out in this locality. The request for the construction of such a water conservation scheme in the Bundaberg area was ignored by the Government of the day and it continued to be ignored until just prior to the last general election. Other proposals which have been submitted for Queensland include the famous Burdekin Dam scheme. Reference has been made to this scheme for so many years that people in the area look upon it as a legend - as being something which is not likely to happen. I make the appeal that when a Commonwealth loan is likely to be made available, information gathered concerning survey, stream measurement and all the preliminary works that are required before a major conservation scheme can be carried out, ought to be placed before the Commonwealth Government well in advance of the requirements for the scheme in a particular area. If it is done on a planned and orderly basis we will reach the stage in Queensland, which is a particularly dry State, where a series of programmes can be evaluated long before loans or grants are made available to carry out the actual construction work.
The only other thing 1 want to say is again to remind the Senate that in a State which has a long history of drought, not only in the central and western areas but also in the coastal areas, the construction of water conservation schemes ought to be considered more often. An amount of $1 00m is to be provided for national water resources development schemes over a period of 5 years, which is $20m a year. That would scarcely build a decent sized Olympic swimming pool and cannot be looked upon as a suitable yearly allocation to build a major dam.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sir Magnus Cormack) - Is the amendment seconded?
– 1 second the amendment.
– 1 rise to commend the Government for having acceded to the request of the State of Queensland for a grant of up to $ 12.8m. under the national water resources development programme, for the construction of a dam in the Bundaberg region of Queensland. This is a very rich part of Queensland, but of course, it is dependent on decent: rainfalls and a good underground water level. Unfortunately, in recent years people in the Bundaberg region have experienced a succession of droughts. Indeed, I think they have had 2 good seasons in about 7 or 8 years. The underground water level is lower now than it has been at any other time in the history of the region. So if there is an urgent need for water conservation and the construction of a dam anywhere, it is in this part of Queensland.
It is true, as has been stated, that over a period of years, there has been great advocacy for a water conservation scheme in the Bundaberg area. Much literature has been disseminated, which has placed the facts of the case for such a scheme before the Queensland Parliament and indeed before members of the national Parliament. People in the Bundaberg region, who are engaged principally in growing sugar cane, have suffered considerably because of the number of droughts in the area. Of course, droughts are not confinedto them. At the present time people in thc western parts of Queensland, in the Longreach. Murraburra and Winton districts, are still in the throes of a drought. It is not only in this year that there has been a drought: these people have endured a succession of droughts over the last few years. I am sure that anybody who knows anything about the country and agricultural areas of Queensland or any other State would fully appreciatethe damaging effect a drough: has on industry in those areas. But when droughts are experienced in successive yearsthe damage is almost irreparable. It takes many years for an area to recover from the effects of successive droughts.
Contrary to what some people might say about water conservation in Australia, particularly in the dry States of Queensland and South Australia, 1 believe that we cannot spend too much money on it in those areas where there is a water shortage provided it is an economic investment which will be of benefit to the maximum number of people. The reticulation of water and power are indispensable for any Slate or. for that mater any country which wantstodevelop. I think I may have said before that during the period that I was Premier of Queensland a delegation of 3 gentlemen from the World Bank paid a courtesy call on me in the course of which the leader of the delegation said to me: ‘I know it is your Cabinet day today, Mr Premier, andI do not want to take up your time, but I am anxiousto know on what you spend your loan money’. I said: “Outside of what I am required to do in relation to the provision of schools, hospitals and other community essentials, I spend the money on these items in this order - water, power and transport, including road transport. You cannot settle people successfully unless they have a guaranteed water supply. Power is indispensable for the successful and efficient conduct of industry, whether it be primary or secondary. Having produced its product the industry must have road and other transport facilities to get its product to market.’ His reply to me was: I commend you for your programme. Any government which spends its loan money on projects in that order is spending it on sound lines.’*
I suppose other areas of Queensland are in need of water conservation projects, too’, but projects in the far western parts of Queensland are a different proposition altogether. In this case the Burnett River can be utilised to some extent, but it is a different proposition altogether in the sheep and cattle districts of the western part of the State. However, I am satisfied that this scheme will prove to be a successful one. It will be of great benefit to a large number of the people who live in North and South Burnett areas. I have read with interest their case andit has my sympathy.I trust that the work will be expedited as much as possible and that there will not be any unwarranted delay in the completion of this project so that benefit will be derived from the scheme as early as possible.
I have no opposition to the amendment which has been moved by Senator Keeffe. I should have thought that some information along the lines he has suggested in connection with Ibis project would have been included in the second reading speech of theMinister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), who represents the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) inthis chamber. I believe that this information would be available to the Department of National Development. I think it could be taken for granted that this gram would not have been made to the State of Queensland unless a proper technical evaluation and a cost benefit analysis had been made. I do not think that there would be any objection to the Department making available to the Senate the information sought in the amendment. I commend the Government for making a grant of$1 2.8m to the Queensland Government for this water conservation scheme in the South Burnett district of Queensland.
– Itrust that history will not record that the introduction of this measure was simply another case oftoo little too late’. The combating of droughts which occur in Queensland is something that must be tackled seriously. Indeed, the same could be said aboutthe droughts which occur in other parts of Australia. I do not think it isto the credit of a lot of peoplethat there has been so much procrastination in relation to this scheme. When one bears in mind the loss in sugar production which has been sustained by Bundaberg and its surrounding areas in the last 3 years as a result of drought one can quite readily appreciate that the amount of money involved in this grant could have been spent 3 times over and Australia would still have been in a better position financially than it is at present. Bundaberg and its surrounding areas rely substantially on the sugar which is produced there. The last 3 crushings in this area have been negligible. As a result, all industry and commerce in the area - indeed, in Queensland - have suffered. Had this proposed scheme been embarked upon some years earlier this area would not have suffered the loss which it has suffered. Indeed, the people who live in Bundaberg and its surrounding areas would not have been placed in the disastrous position in which they are placed at present.
In his second reading speech the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), who represents the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) in this chamber, pointed out that the Queensland Government submitted its original water conservation programme to the Commonwealth for consideration in 1967. However, it was not until 1970 before any final conclusion was reached on the outcome of its proposals. Apparently the Commonwealth Government is not entirely satisfied that it has been provided with the necessary information. Either that is the Commonwealth’s attitude or it has procrastinated on the issue because, as I said earlier, this venture was put forward by the Queensland Government in 1967. If the Queensland Government did not provide the Commonwealth Government with the necessary material on which the Commonwealth Government could make a decision then the Queensland Government was at fault. However, if it did make the necessary material available to the Commonwealth, I believe that the Commonwealth must stand condemned for the fact that it has been tardy in introducing a scheme of this nature.
The inclusion of clause 7 highlights the fact that the Commonwealth is not sure that all the available information has been relayed to it. Clause 7 provides that the
State is not entitled to financial assistance under the Act:
Surely we could have reasonably expected that in a period of 3 years the information would have been available. In those circumstances I suggest that the amendment proposed by Senator Keeffe is most appropriate and should be accepted by the Government in order that all the material may be available to the Senate.
– It is not my intention to intrude unduly upon the time of the Senate, but 1 feel that it would be less than generous if a number of Queensland senators did not contribute to this debate, firstly to express appreciation of involvement by the Commonwealth in this particular major work for the benefit of the Bundaberg district, Queensland and Australia through the sugar industry; and, secondly, briefly to refer to the tremendous importance and great significance of that industry to Queensland and to the Australian economy. The sugar industry in the eyes of many people in Australia is a pot of gold industry. I think it is always wise that we should try to disillusion those people in respect of the mechanics of the industry. The support price is felt by some people in parts of Australia other than the sugar producing areas to be a great concession by the Australian consumer-taxpayer. It is believed to be support of an industry that is wealthy in its own right and does not warrant such support.
– It should be supported.
– I appreciate that comment from Senator Webster of Victoria, one of the sugar consuming States.
– Is he for or against the Bill?
– He supports the Bill, as all men of intelligence will. The sugar industry gains its economic stability from its sheer efficiency and the magnificent machinery organisation which backs its operation. The International Sugar Agreement has been renegotiated after some years of desuetude. The Commonwealth preference agreement for sugar on the British market is continuing. Explicit contracts have been signed for the sale of sugar to Japan. An amount of sugar is consumed at the Austraiian home consumption price. All these factors, taken in conjunction with the efficiency of the industry, the mechanics of its operation and the international and national agreements enable the sugar industry to function on a competent level of efficiency and to produce a return to farmers, in general terms. But in no sense is it an extremely wealthy industry.
Sugar farmers in most cases do not have great holdings. They gain a reasonably assured income through hard work and the application of personal industry and technical efficiency. Both of those factors are constantly applied in the industry. As a result, although Australia is a white producing country - that is, it produces at a high level of wages, at the Western standard - we are able to produce sugar for sale on the world market in competition with countries which produce with much lower labour standards. The technical efficiency of the Australian sugar industry is one of the envies of the sugar producing world.
When a situation arises in which one of the great traditional sugar growing areas such as the Bundaberg district is in considerable difficulty due lo depletion of water resources in an industry that is becoming increasingly competitive but which yet retains its importance and significance as a means of keeping populated great areas of a great State like Queensland, it is timely, prudent and only just that financial assistance should be forthcoming. The proposal for this irrigation and reticulation scheme is firstly to replace the salinating aquifers in the Bundaberg area. This action is most timely and will be productive of results. Its second aim concerns the distribution of surplus waters by irrigation to areas which will not draw ultimately on the aquifers. These 2 concepts are embraced within what we call the Kolan-Burnett-Bundaberg scheme.
I pause for a moment to comment on one fact. Senator Prowse, who is now in the chamber, shared with me in the deliberations of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. He is particularly conscious of the great and increasing problem of salination of our water resources. That has been particularly evident in the
Murray River. We have had tremendous debates in this Parliament on the building of a dam at Chowilla, or alternatively at Dartmouth. As members of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution we looked at this question.
Similar problems arise in other parts of Australia. This Bill and the information which accompanies it highlight the fact that a similar problem can develop in aquifers in many parts of Australia. The problem is developing in the Bundaberg area where, due to a very bad season, there has been a depletion of the run-ins and the replenishment of aquifers. As a result, and also because of the heavy run-off of water, there is an increasing level of salination. The increasing demand on the aquifers in this area has been due in large measure to the great expansion of the sugar industry which accompanied the presentation and implementation of the Gibbs Report some years ago. Expansion took place to meet the existing and expected world demand. to which the Australian industry has responded. At that stage it involved an increase in the area to be under cane, an increase in the area of assignments, and with a succession of bad seasons and a constantly increasing draw on the aquifer, with a failure to replenish it, there were salination consequences.
This Bill is not designed merely to assist those people operating in a particular industry. In a sense it is a Bill to contribute to the preservation of very precious resources in Australia which are our natural water aquifers. Whatever its immediate purpose may be, it has dual consequences each of which is extremely valuable to Australia. I think we should remove a misconception that because money is to be spent on this irrigation project a great number of farmers will be induced to expand their acreage and to draw in increasing degrees upon available water supplies, whether subterranean or surface. That is not so. As honourable senators know, the production of sugar is strictly controlled either on a mill peak basis at the mill level, or on a farm peak basis whereby each farm has is farm peak and is required to produce within it, or to produce beyond it at its own economic risk. The area of land on which sugar may be grown is strictly defined, and it is assigned to a mill. This Bill has no intention to increase or to encourage an increase in the actual area of assignments, it would be wrong of the governments of the Commonwealth and of Queensland to come to the financial party by providing this money if it would only serve to aggravate the situation by inducing an increased draw upon those resources because of increased acreage. That is nol and will not be the position.
The consequences will be that farmers in those areas who are producing substantially by dry farming, and who over the last few years because of recurring intermittent and sometimes continued drought have produced at an economic loss, will be able lo produce their farm peak from an economic area, a smaller area, and therefore to produce at a level which will make it viable within the economic laws of supply and demand. We welcome this Bill. We welcome it for its contribution to the Bundaberg area, to which it will bring new vitality, security and stability for the people in that area, lt is tremendously important in these times of the flight to the cities from thu’ land, lt is increasingly important in this vast continent that we retain as far as we can the distribution of our rural population.
One of the submissions to the Gibbs Committee which greatly affected its recommendations and on which it laid great emphasis concerned the extent to which new growers should be admitted into the industry so that at least there would be a holding level of population in the rural areas governed by the sugar industry. All of these things are important, and I feel that the participation by the Commonwealth in this scheme, which not only gives a new vitality and new encouragement to the people of the area but also indicates the Commonwealth’s involvement in the conservation of a great national resource, will strengthen this part of the rural economy and in doing so will strengthen the whole rural economy of Australia. The ultimate scheme will involve the expenditure of much more money than is voted in this Bill because it will involve finally vast reticulation systems, the building of the Monduran Dam - this will be of vast proportions, probably as great as Sydney Harbour in water storage capacity - and generally the reticulation of water and the total replenishment of subterranean sources.
For those reasons as a Queenslander, and more particularly perhaps as an Australian. 1 welcome the advent of this action by the Commonwealth. I am sure that 1 speak for the people of the Bundaberg district, not only those immediately involved in the growing of sugar but also those involved in the secondary and tertiary industries which flow from the growing of sugar in the area, when I express appreciation to the Government for its involvement in this matter. I am sure that the Australian people as a whole can be grateful for this recognition of the importance of the industry and of the conservation of our natural resources. I support the Bill and also the amendment which has been supported by Senator Gair on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Parly.
Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) 15.27J - in reply - An explanatory memorandum was circulated wilh this Bill and one might make some very brief comments from the introduction to that memorandum. This memorandum gives a brief description of the Bundaberg area and of the works to be constructed by the State wilh financial assistance front the Commonwealth in order to provide an assured water supply for irrigation and other purposes. The works for which funds have been allocated by the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments comprise a major storage - the Monduran Dam of 475,000 acre feet storage capacity - 2 tidal barrages and pumping stations and distribution systems lo convey water from the Kolan and Burnett Rivers lo canals centred on Bundaberg in southern Queensland. The regulated river How provided by the main storage and ancillary works has been estimated at about 175,000 acre feet per annum. Water from Monduran Dam on the Kolan River will regulate the flows of both the Kolan and Burnett Rivers, the latter by means of a pumping station and connecting channel. Distribution of water to landholders will by by channel supply or by private pumping from the rivers or channels.
I think that indicates to all of us the general proposal. If one can say anything about it I think it probably is that the proposal, when consummated, will add to the stability and prosperity of the region. Obviously there is a problem of water drawdown which brings with it the problem of salinity. Equally there is the problem of the fluctuating supply of water which causes, in turn, the problem of fluctuating cane yields. Both situations need to be overcome. This is the first part of a huge national water resources development programme. This is the second such programme. The first programme which involved the expenditure of $50m has been completed, and the second programme which involves the expenditure of$1 00m is due to be taken up over5 years. The work with which we are now dealing is the first work in the second huge programme. Queenslanders will know very well that their State is extremely well placed with rivers and with water flowing into the sea, and that there is a great need for that water to be harnessed. That is what is proposed in this instance. It should be understood that this was requested by the Queensland Government and is an example, one might say again, of the Commonwealth and the States working together in a joint enterprise for the benefit of the Australian people, particularly the people of the region and of Queensland.
Senator Milliner referred to clause 7 of the Bill. I am assured that this is a standard in Bills of this kind and is related to the proper control of the expenditure of Commonwealth funds. The Queensland Government has accepted this in the past. It causes no administrative problem. Senator Byrne dealt with the difficulties of the industry, with which I agree. He referred to the problem of the fluctuating price level of sugar on the world market. He was correct when he said that this is a highly efficient industry and that it has a remarkable performance in the farming end in the breeding of new canes and new strains for high yield, in the manufacturing end and in the refining end. Its yield pattern is extremely high by world standards. I am given to understand that its refining and milling practices are equally high by world standards. However, it is also true that it depends a great deal upon the world market situation, upon the maintenance of the Commonwealth sugar agreement, upon some kind of preferred right of entry to the market in the Commonwealth of Nations and equally, we must reassure ourselves once again, it depends a great deal upon the Australian domestic market.
When we turn to Senator Keeffe’s proposed amendment we should direct ourselves briefly to the point that is made in the second reading speech to the effect that in the division of constitutional responsibility the assessment, development and control of water resources in the States is primarily a matter for State governments. Equally I am assured that we have to take the viewpoint not only of the Commonwealth Parliament, but also of the State Parliament which asked for this measure and of the region itself which did a lot of work in the preliminary investigations. A single national evaluation could be misleading because of the great regional value of the project. The livelihood of 35,000 people is involved and all factors were taken into account when the decision was made by the Government. The Commonwealth’s studies were designed for the purpose of advising Ministers and the quotation of the results of those studies out of context, when one thinks of the broad pattern of all those involved, could be, in the Government’s view, misleading. Therefore it is with regret that the Government feels that it cannot accept the amendment proposed by Senator Keeffe. The Government docs not believe that it is necessary or that it adds anything to the situation.
That the words proposed to he added (Senator Keeffe’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator Bull)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a secondtime, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 4 June (vide page 1992), on motion by Senator Drake-Brockman:
Thatthe Bill be now read a second time.
– This scheme, the subject of the Bill, is something that dairy fanners of Australia have been seeking for a long lime. The scheme was envisaged early in 1968 when the Ministerfor Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) made some suggestions for re-organisation of the dairying industry. Those suggestions were hailed by the dairying industry as a way out of a very serious predicament which had been getting worse for some years. The Opposition will not oppose the Bill butI wish to make some comments about the industry as a whole. The Agreement between Western Australia and the Commonwealth, to which the Bill gives effect, has a number of desirable features but in my opinion and in the opinion of many dairy farmers it does not go far enough. When the scheme wasfirst mentioned bythe Minister for Primary Industry the Stale Ministers for Agriculture rather rushed in and drew certain conclusions aboutthe effects of the scheme. Unfortunately I think they arrived at some incorrect conclusions.
I vividly remember attending a crowded meeting in Busselton inthe first half of 1968 soon after the Minister for Primary Industry made an announcement about the scheme. I have referred to that meeting on other occasions in the Senate. Mr Nalder, Western Australian Minister for Agriculture, assuredthe meeting, which consisted of 200 or 300 dairy farmers, that the sum of . $25m which would be made available to reorganise the dairying industry would, in the main, be devoted to development. AlthoughI was only a visitor at the meetingI obtained leave to speak to the dairy farmers.I pointed out that as far asI knew there was no intention to devote the money to be provided under the scheme to expansion of the industry. As far asI could see at that time - subsequent events have proved me right - the money was to be devoted to enabling marginal dairy farmers to leave the industry if they so desired. The land which would then be acquired by the Authority would be available to viable farmers who would be able to take up this land and develop their own properties into bigger and more effective propositions. This was not accepted with any enthusiasm by the meeting. Nevertheless, what I said was correct and it is borne out by the Bill which we have before us.
As honourable senators appreciate, the intention of the Bill is that a sum of $25m should be made available over a period of 4 years. It would be made availableto the States that are willing to en er into the agreement with the Commonwealth on the basisthat is set forward. Ever since the idea was promulgated by the Minister he endeavoured to getthe co-operation of the State Ministers for Agriculture in the scheme. However, he was unsuccessful until fairly recently when the Western Australian Minister for Agriculture intimated that he would be prepared to sign an agreement on this basis.I am still alittle concerned as to whether the Western Australian Minister realises what it is he is signing, because only recently he made a statement that he was opposed to mergers and that he was out to protect the interests of the smaller and marginal dairy farmer on his property.I checked back on this because it appears quite publicly in the Press. I found out that it was not made at any meeting and it was not made in Parliament in Western Australia. The Minister admitted that this was his opinion at the time and the statement was made in responseto a telephone call from the newspaper concerned. Even soI think that he is of the opinion that an agreement between Western Australia and the Commonwealth can be used for development, although there are within it the necessary clauses which only enable the marginal dairy farmer voluntarily to leave his property and have it bought by the Authority if he comes within the definition of the marginal dairy farmer.
The purposes of the Bill are twofold. They are set out in a very straightforward manner in the Minister’s second reading speech which was incorporated in Hansard. First of all, it is to enable low income dairy farmers who voluntarily wish to do so to leave the industry and to receive a fair price for their land and improvements: and, secondly, after the writing off of redundant assets, to make the land and useful improvements available to other farmers so that they can build up their properties to a viable family farm level and, where possible, diversify the pattern of land use. Those are 2 very desirable objectives and they are covered quite adequately by this Bill. For the definition of a marginal dairy farm, I would direct the attention of honourable senators to the summary which is in the Minister’s second reading speech. He lists the 4 criteria which determine a marginal dairy farm.
– What page is that on?
– This is on page 1988. 1 am glad the honourable senator is aware of the argument that I am bringing forward and is following it diligently. As I said, the criteria which determine a marginal dairy farm are - I will not quote them in full but just give the salient features - firstly, it must of course be a rural property; secondly, it must have some minimum number of cows, and the number suggested as a minimum is 20 lactating cows; thirdly, at least half of the gross income of the farm must be derived from the production of milk or cream sold at the manufacturing price; and, fourthly, the farm is not reasonably capable of producing to a level agreed between the Commonwealth and the State, In the case of Western Australia this has been determined as an average of 12,000 lb of butterfat per annum. Those are the main objectives of the Bill and the definition of a marginal form.
I will now turn to the agreement, which is to be read in conjunction with the Bill. This is again spelt out for the benefit of the marginal dairy farmer. On the first page of the agreement in (b) we have set out that under the marginal dairy farms reconstruction scheme dairy farmers may voluntarily dispose of their land and implements to the State at market value and the State may dispose of the land and useful improvements with the object of building up other rural properties to economic levels. Those are the features that I want to take up because I think they are very important. J entirely agree with them and I subscribe to them. When the farmer has disposed of his property to the Authority in line with the provisions of the Bill this land with its improvements would be available to any other farmer to purchase. He would be able to purchase it without the value of the improvements that are on it so that we do not have 2 adjacent dairy farms with the capital expenditure for 2 milking plants, milking sheds and such matters being duplicated. Of course, the Bill provides that these improvements could be sold if it were possible for the Authority to get a buyer who would take it al a reasonable figure; otherwise I gather they would remain on the property.
There is a limitation on the size of the dairy farm which would be in existence after another property had been purchased. The farm we would then have, with the property taken over by the Authority from the marginal dairy farmer, must not exceed twice the minimum size which has been determined for a viable dairy farm in the particular State. I think that I should say that this is not an entirely new scheme, in Western Australia, and I think also in New South Wales, there have been schemes for reconstruction of the dairy industry and endeavours have been made to get dairy farmers out of the difficult situation in which they are finding themselves. These schemes have been successful up to a point. Of course, they have been limited by the amount of finance available. In Western Australia, where we have had a scheme in operation to assist the smaller dairy farms, the State has spent Sim. But of course this is not to be compared with the amount that could be available from the Commonwealth. In this case if no other States come in and subscribe to the Bill it is quite possible - this will probably frighten some of the other States - that the whole $25m could become available to Western Australia over the period of 4 years. It is interesting to note that Tasmania already is seriously entering into negotiations with the Commonwealth to see whether it can be included in the scheme. Although it has some reservations as to the term ‘marginal dairy farm’, I think in due course these will be ironed out.I believe that New South Wales also is looking at the situation.
Another point in the Bill which needs to be mentioned in the question whether the amount advanced by the Commonwealth is to be an absolute gift or a loan. The amount to be made available to a State is to be equal to the amount that the State is prepared to contribute. The agreement provides that the State has to agree to pay back 50% of the amount advanced by the Commonwealth, repayment to be made over 46 half-yearly periods, and interest at the rate of 6% is to be payable on the amount advanced by the Commonwealth. Some of the States will object to having to pay back to the Commonwealth such a large proportion of the amount. Some probably believe that the amount to be advanced is a gift, but of course this is not so.
– Is it a fact that the States will have to put up as much money as the Commonwealth?
– Where do we find that?
– The Minister mentioned it in his second reading speech, but of course this has to be read in conjunction with the agreement. At page 14 of the roneoed copy of the agreement under the heading ‘Financial Arrangements’ clause 17 states:
Subject to compliance by the State and the Authority with the provisions of this agreement the Commonwealth shall in accordance with and subject to the provisions of this agreement provide financial assistance to the State of a total sum of Twenty-five million dollars ($25,000,000) available to all the States in respect of a period of four years from–
The date would have to be filled in. It continues: consisting of -
That refers to an equal amount.
– ‘Does it not say in the second reading speech that the Bill lays down that of the financial assistance made available by the Commonwealth the State will have to repay half only and that over a period of 25 years?
– Yes, that is correct. I have just said that. The States will have to repay half of what is paid to them, but also they will have to pay an amount equivalent to that provided by the Commonwealth. These are the 2 points in which I believe Senator Webster was interested.
– I do not think that is right. That is the reason I contradicted the honourable senator. Does he read that into clause 17 of the agreement?
– Yes. I think this is a quite important point.
– That is not correct. The honourable senator is giving it a wrong interpretation.
– Is it on a 50/50 basis?
– No. The Commonwealth provides $25m and all the States haveto do is to repay half that amount.
– I have looked quite carefully at this. Perhaps the Minister will be able to deal with this point in his reply. We will be rising for dinner shortly and I may be able to check the matter. However, my study of it suggested that the States would have to provide the same amount as was being provided by the Commonwealth. 1 shall certainly check on that and raise the matter again when we resume tonight.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– When we rose for dinnerI had stated that in my opinion the Bill and the Agreement were based on the fact that the State would provide a certain amount of money for the takeover of farms and that this amount would be met by a similar contribution from the Commonwealth. The Minister for Supply (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) objected to my interpretation and I said right at the death knock that during the dinner break I would determine what I felt the position really was. I have done so. I believe my interpretation is still correct although I do agree that it is probably not what the Minister intended in presenting the Bill. In the second reading speech there is no reference at all to this matter that I have raised, but the Agreement states at page 14: . . the Commonwealth shall . . . provide financial assistance . . . consisting of -
That seems to be perfectly straightforward; it is an amount equal to the amounts expended by the authority, which is a State authority. Clause 6 (1.) of the Bill states:
The payments by the Commonwealth . . . shall be amounts equal to the amounts expended by the Slate … as the price of land . . . acquired by the State under the scheme.
So 1 think the interpretation which I am putting on it, although it is perfectly logical and legal, is not what was intended when the Bill was introduced. The Bill should have been more carefully drafted, and perhaps the Minister may be prepared to agree that this should be straightened out. I will not state the terms which I think should be used but it does seem to me that it could be phrased in such a way that it is beyond doubt, because in the final analysis someone will interpret legally what the Bill says and not what is said in the second reading speech or the inferences of the second reading speech. That has explained the Bill.
I now want to deal quickly in the time left to me with some objections I see to the Bill, because it does not go far enough in its coverage. The first objection that really disturbs me is that when a farmer has acquired the land which has been taken over by the authority and then wants to go ahead and develop it or raise some finance even to pay it off, there is no provision for making such amounts available to him. He will not be provided with the finance to develop this property which has been granted to him because he has the opportunity of making a viable unit of the whole farm. This is one very important thing. Another point that is very important is that we are going to add the now homeless farmer who has sold his property to the list of home seekers somewhere else, probably in the metropolitan area or, hopefully, in a country area where he might retire or find another occupation. He will have to place himself on the long waiting list of people looking for houses and no effort is made and no encouragement is given in the Bill to the State governments to expand their building programme.
The third objection is that the Bill does not provide for what could be necessary retraining of the farmer when he has left his dairying property to make him a useful member of the community. This seems to be extremely important; otherwise we will have people with very little knowledge of technology or of a trade moving into the community and not taking up positions where they will be of value to the community. Finally, I do not think that this legislation solves the main problem of the industry, that is, over-production at a time when we have under-consumption. I feel the world could absorb more milk products but we have not solved the problem of distribution. This Bill makes no effort to solve that problem. Although it will take the marginal farmer out of existence, it will noi really cut his land out of dairy production if the person taking over the land wishes to continue dairying and has another property he wishes to amalgamate with it.
Senator Webster has been watching the position very closely in Victoria, which is creating quite a serious situation through the attitude of the Premier to the development of dairy farms. 1 have some information that was passed on to me by Senator Poyser who had to leave the Senate unexpectedly, lt relates to the situation in Victoria and was obtained from the research section of the Library. We find that Victoria is endeavouring to develop 2 schemes, the Heytesbury scheme and the Rochester scheme which 1 assume honourable senators have heard quite a deal about. Both these schemes are being developed under the Land Settlement Act 1959 by the Rural Finance and Settlement Commission. These have only developed to a certain degree and there is a tremendous amount of development still to take place. For instance, the Heytesbury scheme will have a total of 117,000 acres and at the present time only 67,000 acres have been developed. So there is still a large amount of dairying land or land which people are being encouraged to turn into dairying land in that area. The land at Rochester was purchased by the Rural Finance and Set.lement: Commission and will eventually incorporate 55 dairy holdings; at the present time there are only 9. They are endeavouring to push this up to the full development stage, which will mean further production for an over-produced market.
In . my view the situation is extremely serious because of the probable entry of Great Britain into the European Economic Community and also in view of the fact that the European Economic Community is moving into the area which has been considered to be our market. For instance, in Ceylon and Indonesia, where we have had quite considerable sales of butter, we are being beaten because the European Economic Community is now selling butter at §23 per cwt. which is a price that we cannot approach. They are moving imo our traditional field. The amount of butter that is expected will be produced in Australia in the next 12 months will be of the order of 230,000 tons. A considerable surplus will be stored in Australia. The world surplus of butter at the present time is about 600,000 tons, which is more than a year’s supply for the world. The European Economic Community has in store over 300,000 tons of those 600.000 tons. It is using every endeavour to dispose of that butter on the world markets by undercutting prices. That is the problem we are up against.
– Could the situation not be helped by cutting down the accelerated rate of cheese importation into Australia?
– It would assist but I do not think it would result in a considerable improvement. It would assist the situation as far as we are concerned but it would not solve the problem. Our problem at the moment, as 1 see it, is that we have to look realistically at the world’s butter fat situation. This is what the Government is trying to do in introducing the Bill, hut the Bill is not going to achieve much. That is the difficulty as I see it. The Bill will help by removing from the situation the marginal dairy farmer who is in difficulties, lt will give him a different opportunity in life. To that extent the measure is a good one. lt will help to make a more viable industry in these areas which now consist of small units. 1 could say a lot more on this measure but I do not want to take up more than my share of the time. I shall conclude, as
I commenced, by saying that the Opposition supports the Bill. While it has reservations about the effectiveness of the Bill it has no hesitation in supporting it. I hope that the Minister will be able to see my point with regard to the interpretation of the agreement and the Bill as it is written at the present time.
– Mr Deputy President, I welcome the Bill before the Senate. 1 hope that honourable senators recognise the tremendous importance of this piece of legislation. The Bill, together with what has been done with regard to quotas on wheat deliveries, marks a new era in the development of farming in Australia. No longer can we look lo an unlimited expansion of primary products to carry the import requirements of this country. That situation has gone on, perhaps for too long. We have been dependent on the products of our farms to a tremendous extent. We have developed the idea that we must continue to export primary products and that the world must take our products. I am afraid that that sort of thinking has come to a sudden halt with a very uncomfortable jolt in the last year or so according to the hard facts of statistics, lt is extremely fortunate that, contemporaneously with this situation regarding our primary products, we in Australia have been fortunate enough to have had our mining wealth developed with a market for our mining products. 1 hope that in time to come we will not develop the same sort of outlook and dependence on mining that we have had with regard to agriculture, lt is a fortunate conjunction of events that the development of our iron ore and nickel has taken place while there is a ready market for those products. There is no certainty that that will continue indefinitely. We need to be warned that Australia’s development needs to be a balanced development - balanced in accordance with sound economic principles with regard to the situation in the rest of the world. The Bill attempts to do this in a small way.
We have not carried out nearly the amount of research into the solution of our agricultural problems as has been done in Canada, for instance, lt is interesting to note that the latest research publication from Canada a book entitled ‘Canadian Agriculture in the 1970s’ which I would recommend to anybody who is interested in the subject and which is a very high level research publication, gives 6 main recommendations. The first recommendation is that the surpluses must be controlled and reduced to manageable proportions by reducing production drastically if necessary. Where alternatives exist production resources must be shifted to more promising market opportunities. Where such alternatives cannot be found land and other resources must be retired. In the main the Bill docs follow the lines of that recommendation. 1 would regard the Bill more as a measure of social welfare than of economic amelioration of the present situation.
– It is a first big step, is it not?
– lt is a beginning. The suggestion contained in the Bill has been before the States since 1966. I am pleased that my own State of Western Australia has been the first to come into line iti agreement with the proposals. The fact that industry in Western Australia has welcomed the suggestion is some assurance that it has been studied and it is felt that there is merit in the proposal. I understand the reluctance in other States to agree to the proposal but I am sure that the benefits will eventually be found to be attractive to the other States when they get around to examining what the Bill really sets out to do.
The obvious reason for the legislation stems from the tremendous world surplus of butter, a surplus which has been generated through policies of economic nationalism in Europe. On the one hand those policies have provided very high prices for butter and consequently have reduced the consumption per head in those countries. At the same lime the supply has been increased so much that the European Economic Community is embarrassed by the amount of butter produced and is proposing now to slaughter dairy cows in order to bring the problem into manageable limits. The upsurge in production of butter, butter fats and dairy products indicates the tremendous resources of agriculture that are available in the world today. Those who fear world starvation can be reassured by the fact that technological resources and developments in the world today as applied to modern agriculture are capable of meeting the world’s food needs. The hard mathematics of the costs in Australia and the declining prices were set out in the Minister’s speech. In the last 5 years the equalised return to producers declined from 47.1c per lb of butter fat to an estimated 41.3c per lb in the current year. Over that same period, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics index of prices paid, costs have risen by 161%. So that here is a classical example of what is happening in the dairying industry with the so called cost-price squeeze. I am glad that the Minister said:
In attempting lo counteract this situation, farmers have made strenuous efforts to improve productivity. No matter how measured, the results are striking. I - real terms production per cow or per acre or ,j.-r man or per dollar have all gone up . . . lt is clear that the producer has accepted the productivity challenge posed by rising costs and advancing technology.
Here 1 should like lo say something about the current concept of the economics of agricultural production in relation lo prices. lt is generally assumed that the way to reduce production in agriculture is to reduce the price of the commodity, but in his speech the Minister said that this is not so. The immediate response of the farmer in this situation is to increase production so that he lowers his unit costs. Inevitably in this situation the Australian fanner has increased production. This was demonstrated without doubt during the depression years when in response to a falling price for wheat the Australian wheat grower in 1931 planted, mostly with horse power, some 18 million acres of wheat - a figure that was equalled only in 1965, and then wilh tractor power. Victoria has never planted as much wheat since as she planted in 1931, nor has South Australia reached its total of that year, lt is nonsense to say that the only way to reduce production in this situation is 10 lower the offering prices.
When I was a student years ago there was a saying current that the best way to train a good, sound classical economist was to get a parrot and teach it to say: ‘Supply and demand, supply and demand”, j am afraid that some of our economists have not got past that stage: certainly this seems so when we read some of the things they write about agriculture and agricultural production.
– Are you saying that they are galahs?
– The honourable senator would be more familiar with galahs.
– I am looking at them all day.
– All right, I will let that pass. One of the doubts I have about the legislation concerns what is to be done with the land that is retired. I think Senator Wilkinson made this point and this reservation too. If we are going to join the retired land with other dairy farms - and that is envisaged in the Bill - and the combined area of the new farm is more productive and more competitive this will tend to increase the supply of butter rather than to reduce it. We have other alternatives, and I refer again to the alternative set out in the Canadian report - that of diverting to other forms of agriculture. There are not many alternatives for land that is suitable for dairying. Forestry has been mentioned, but I think it is highly dangerous to suggest that isolated areas of land should be devoted to forestry because fires would probably harvest most of it before the isolated forests matured. If we are going to make any considerable move towards beef production, which seems the obvious alternative to land that is suitable for dairying, we can produce the beef, but there are also other tendencies moving people into beef production and it will not be long before beef production in Australia is in the same position as other forms of production. We need to be careful before we direct any strong movement into beef cattle.
I have grave doubts about this measure as one of economic importance, lt will be a help to those farmers who wish to retire from farming and whose units of production are too small, but I do not think it will touch the very small producers because most of them are part-time dairymen. From recently published statistics I have made a calculation of the number of farms with fewer than 20 cows. After excluding those properties that have 1 to 4 cows, which obviously are not economic producers, I found that those properties with 5 to 20 cows represent only 4.7% of the total number of holdings engaging in dairying. As a measure to control surplus production I am afraid that this Bill will have a minimal effect. I am interested also in the basis on which properties will be valued. I wonder how we are going to arrive at the capital value of a property which, in the hands of an owner, has no capital value - in other words a property which is tying him to a job which is producing somewhat less than the basic wage. What is the capital value of this sort of property? We can look at it only in relation to the assumed value it will have in the hands of the person who takes it over. This will be very much a rule of thumb measure.
I am interested also in the new base line that is set. The standard set at present as a minimum is 12,000 lb of butter fat per annum per farm. This is a rough guide line as to the economic capability of a property to be a livable unit, but the new line drawn is up 25% to 15,000 lb of butter fat. I did a rough calculation, and I suppose a rough calculation is as valid as some of the more sophisticated ones, and if the present movements of prices and costs that have been demonstrated over the last 5 years - that is the fall from 47.1c to 41.3c per lb of butter fat and a rise of I6i% in costs - continues it will be only 5 years before the new line of 15,000 lb of butter fat is of no more use than the present line of 12,000 lb. The new line will be no better. On this basis, the new farm has only 5 years before economic movements will have caught up with it. We will have to start again to reconstruct a new level in the industry. There is, to my mind, a desperate urgency to do something that will check either the rise in costs or the fall in prices - or both. If we are to avoid a situation in which the Australian dairy industry fades away, not at a slow rate - the rate is too fast to be comfortable - primary producing countries have to get together on supply management. We cannot have a situation in which people in one form of production - that of basic necessities - are compelled to exist on a lower living standard than the rest of the community does and are compelled to accept conditions that the rest of the community does and are compelled to accept conditions that the rest of the community would not accept but are still expected to carry out an essential part of the economic life of the community, the production of our food requirements.
While I welcome the Bill as a means of getting out of dairying those people who want to get o.tt and of temporarily at any rate putting more dairy farmers in a situation in which they can live on their properties, unless we do something to correct the present tendencies of increasing costs and falling prices in the primary industries, Australia and Australian agriculture are in for a very difficult time. I do not know that it is any consolation to us to know that agriculture in the rest of the world is in a similar position. I think there is some strength to be gained by knowing that fact, because there is a common interest among primary producing countries. I urge the Government to do everything possible to reach international agreements on production levels and on sharing world markets so that some rationalisation or some common sense can be introduced into world agricultural production.
– This Bill is a regrettable necessity. That was the view expressed to me by representatives of the dairying industry from all States who took the opportunity to present to me, as representing the Australian Democratic Labor Party, their view of the present situation in the industry and of what should be done in future. They assured me that there was no alternative to this legislation if the dairying industry was to be rehabilitated. For that reason, my Party proposes to support the Bill. The object of the Bill is to phase out - those 2 words phase out’ seem to be very familiar these days - of the dairying industry what are called marginal farms. Marginal farms are farms which are not big enough or which do not produce enough to make them a satisfactory economic unit. For the purposes of this scheme a marginal dairy farm is defined as a rural property running more than 20 lactating cows and with not less than half the gross income derived from the production of milk or cream valued at the manufactured price, but being one that has an overall production insufficient to provide a reasonable level of income.
The principle of the legislation is that a marginal dairy farmer wishing to leave the industry would offer his land to an authority in his State and, if the offer were approved, would receive compensation in full as soon as the transaction was completed. The authority would make the land available in whole or in part to another farmer together with the improvements that that farmer indicated would be useful. The land and the useful improvements would be sold to him at a price based on current market values in relation to the proposed use of the land. Before making the land available the authority would ensure that after amalgamation the built-up property would be an economic unit. We know hat many dairy farmers have mixed feelings about this scheme, but its voluntary nature should ensure that only those who want to get out of the industry, or who have to get out of it, will get out of it. How many will get out of it will, I think, depend on their view of the compensation that they will receive.
– I think, in fairness, we should emphasise that, lt is entirely voluntary.
– I think we should emphasise that. I. think that is an extremely important feature of the legislation.
– Many people in the community have attempted to put into an improper context what the Minister for Primary Industry has put forward in relation to the dairy industry.
– I agree with Senator Webster that there is a good deal of misunderstanding and misconception about what the Bill involves. This measure has been approved by leaders of the dairying industry, including the Australian Dairy Industry Council, the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation and the Federal Dairy Committee. They placed before the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) proposals which they thought should be undertaken in order to tide the industry over its present difficult situation. These proposals embrace immediate action to secure the support of dairy factories and farmers in Victoria and Tasmania for a plan to limit production of milk during 1970 and 1971 with the objective of containing the total Australian production to 220,000 tons of butter and 70,000 tons of cheese. They had in mind that surveys indicated that unless some action were taken to limit the production there would be a considerably increased amount of butter produced and a good deal of this butter could only be made available for sale overseas at unprofitable prices. Members of the Council believe that they have to do this if they arc to save the present underwriting level in the industry. They believe that it is vital to the industry thai the Government should continue to underwrite returns to the producers at 34c lb in 1970 and 1971.
– What does the honourable senator mean by ‘underwriting’?
– The underwriting is the assistance which the Government gives to the industry. Among measures which the Council placed before the Minister were, firstly, a measure for the early passage of the legislation to implement the marginal dairy farms reconstruction scheme and to buttress the present voluntary equalisation scheme. The second measure was an immediate stop to the development by Slate governments of new farms for dairy production. That was a proposal for definite action to stop the provision of new farms or their development. The third measure was the immediate licensing of all existing dairy farmers, with a provision that no new licences be issued except by agreement of the Australian Agricultural Council. I emphasise that these are measures which the Australian Dairy Industry Council is seeking to have taken but which are not necessarily contained in the Bill.
The fourth measure was the prohibition of the importation of cheese while controls on the production of Australian dairy products were required. The fifth was the introduction by all State governments of legislation to control the production and sale of cooking margarine and imitation milk. The next was a continuation of bounty on exported processed milk products and an extension of the bounty to cover all full cream processed milk products. The last was the provision of devaluation compensation on all dairy products other than butter and cheese. That is a pretty formidable list of proposed measures of assistance for the industry. It Indicates that the Council feels that the industry is in a position in which it needs considerable assistance.
Why is this action being taken? As other senators have pointed out, it is due to the serious position of overproduction not only in Australia but also in other parts of the world. Recently I read an article that referred to a statement by Colin Clark, the well known economist, to the effect that, although Germany had undertaken with considerable success measures for a free economy after the Second World War. measures for a free economy had not been developed in the field of primary production in that country; instead there was a system of subsidies for primary production. He said that, when he asked a leading member of the German Government why these measures for a free economy had been applied to everything except farming, the answer was that there were too many votes involved in the agricultural areas.
The position is that this system of handouts not only in Germany but also in other parts of the European Economic Community has resulted in a mountain of butter; so much so that 12 months ago a German scientist set to work to examine whether it would be possible to turn some of the butter into stock feed and to feed it back to the cows. That scientific experiment proved a failure, but it indicates the desperation that people abroad feel in the present situation. Most people would say that in such a situation we should look for fresh markets, particularly in areas such as Asia. But it appears that for some reason - hereditary or otherwise - the Asian people are not particularly receptive to proposals to increase their consumption of milk products. They appear to have been used to other kinds of food. As I said before, the prospects for large increased markets in those areas are not good.
In Australia we also have an extremely serious situation. As I have said, we have had proposals for measures to be taken for the purpose of cutting our production. We have had farmers marches composed, to a large extent, of people who are engaged in the dairy industry and who insist that rising costs and reducing prices are placing them in a more serious position every day. As I said on another occasion, I have received deputations of dairy farmers who insist that unless something is done to help them out of their present situation they may lose their farms. I have heard already of a number who have lost their farms. They include at least 2 who were in such a desperate situation a year or two ago that they borrowed money at the rate of 14%. Some people will say that they were very foolish. But how can we blame a drowning man for clutching at a straw?
The situation is that the dairy industry in this country has determined to accept this legislation and has agreed to take measures lo restrict production this year and to put a slop to further expansion of dairy farms, lt even proposes that measures be taken for the licensing of farms. Everybody realises that these are measures which would not be undertaken willingly. They are measures which must occasion a great deal of concern among many people engaged in the industry. 1 suppose that their concern is reflected in the difficulty the Commonwealth has experienced in getting the States to take action in accordance wilh these proposals. It appears [hat the areas that will be affected most will be parts of Queensland, northern New South Wales, parts of Western Australia and parts of South Australia. The greatest doubts about the measures appear to have been expressed in Victoria and Tasmania, lt appears to be quite certain that in Victoria doubts have teen expressed about the measures, particularly in regard to the administration and the possible cost.
However, representatives of the industry no! only in the States that would be affected most btw also in the 2 Slates in which I suggested there were doubts - Victoria and Tasmania - have come to the conclusion that the legislation is a regrettable necessity and that therefore it will have to be passed. The object of the legislation is to ensure the best use of the land by making sure that the units are economic; that is, units that Will provide a reasonable standard of living to those who are operating them. Many people had reservations and doubts about the proposals in the beginning because they feared that they might result in removing many small farmers from the land. 1 was interested to read an article that reported a statement by Mr J. S. Adams, who was described as the Chairman of the Federal Dairying Committee. He said that suggestions were being made that one-third of the dairy farmers would have to go. He took up this question and said that, if anybody had to go, in his view it ought to be the ‘big boys’. He made some scathing remarks about the ‘big boys’ who had come into the industry. For example, he referred to them in these words:
Also coming in in increasing numbers is the city tax dodger - the doctor, lawyer, etc. who buys land, usually large grazing properties, builds 2 or 3 dairies on them with 150 to 200 cows on each.
He is not concerned wilh the prices his production is knocking down. He gets his reward in lower taxation rating, and to hell wilh the family dairy farmer who is being forced from his chosen way of life.
The average family unit dairy farmer, unless he very soon lakes steps to protect his slums in the industry, is doomed to disappear. His farm is usually nol large enough to allow the increase in production necessary lo meet the increase of larger farms.
He went on to say:
One third must go,’ they say. Why one third? Because it will take one third if they are pickedon one-man-family units lo make a big enough dent in our national production lo leave a nice compact cosy industry for the big ones, and the high finance boys.
He said further:
Why not peel a bil ofl’ the lop few 10 secure the industry for the dinkum dairy farmer*.’
Even at today’s depressed return I think that properly apportioned, there is enough lor all real farmers
In any case, belter one 200-cow tax dodger kept out than four 50-cow family units forced out.
He advocated quotas. He said:
Quotas can save the family unit because they can be allotted on any basis decided on by the industry.
That: is the opinion of a man who would have a knowledge of the industry, and 1 agree with him. 1 think that one thing that has affected many of us in examining this legislation is the uneasy feeling that this may be one of the first measures towards the elimination of the family farm. I am one who believes that the family farm must be maintained, despite the agricultural experts who say that the key to the future lies in huge collectives such as we see in authoritarian countries. 1 have believed always that the family farm is a way of life. Ii should be maintained even if some sacrifice has to be made in order to do so. If, as he says, quotas are one of the remedies, why not proceed upon the path that has been travelled by the sugar industry and other industries in recent years? This is the path which, unfortunately in some respects, the wheat industry has been compelled to go along in recent years.
Finally, may I say this: Nobody would suggest that this legislation is the be all and end all of the rehabilitation of the industry. This is not going to be much good to the man who has a farm, who is up against it at the moment but who believes, and has some reason lo believe, that he can make it with a little bit of assistance. I therefore look forward to other measures by the
Government to help the industry. I mention, for example, the provision of long term loans at low interest rates and the establishment, in some States, of organisations of the farmers’ debt adjustment board type for the purpose of assisting the man who is up against it, who is rinding that he cannot get credit, but who would like the opportunity to put his position before such a board and to submit to it that, if he could get reasonable assistance, he could still make a go of his farm. I think that a considerable number of dairy farmers in the community are in that position. They are looking for somewhere to go to get money at reasonable interest rates. They believe that, if they can get that money, they still can make good. It seems to me that this is a problem that the Government has not properly or effectively considered. I believe that it is one of the urgent problems which the Government must undertake.
As I said before, I regard this legislation as a regrettable necessity. 1 know that it has caused much thought to people engaged in the industry. I know that to many a small farmer it has been provocative of great anxiety and doubt. This is inevitable. But I believe that we can do a number of other things to help the industry. Foremost among them must come those things that are necessary to maintain the family farmer in the industry.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise to support this measure and, with Senator McManus, 1 express my regret at the need for its introduction. I regret that some other means was not found by which the dairyman, particularly the small dairyman, could have been kept on his holding and in production. I say that I believe that if this country loses its small farmers - if this is the first step in that direction - the whole community loses something that is very worthy and substantial to Australia. That is the reason I regret the necessity for the implementation of such a measure as this. Nevertheless, in all the circumstances, I support it. In my view the loan-grant proposition contained in the Bill is a generous offer to the States.
This scheme was first mooted 4 years ago. I think that it was about 4 years ago that the States agreed to it in principle. About 2 years ago. an officer of the Department of Primary Industry went around the States interviewing officers of various departments of agriculture with a view to bringing into existence a measure to which they would agree and which could be implemented on a Commonwealth wide basis. When one reads in Hansard that the States have received an assurance against the possibility of losses due to factors beyond their control, it seems strange that the States apparently have been lax in coming forward and in participating - that is, with the one exception, Western Australia.
– Western Australia is always a lot ahead of the rest.
– That is right. The dairying industry is faced with extraordinary conditions. A worldwide glut of dairying products exists. I took note that the Minister for Air (Senator DrakeBrockman), in introducing the Bill, made reference to the possible entry of Great Britain into the Common Market. We have heard that subject referred to for years in this chamber. It looks as though, in the fairly near future, this might well come to pass. The Common Market has a mighty storage of surplus dairy products. Gallup polls show that the British people are substantially opposed to Britain entering the Common Market. Yet, in the current general election campaign, every political party is supporting Britain’s entry. So, the people of the United Kingdom are to all intents and purposes disenfranchised as far as having any voice on the subject of Britain’s entry into the Common Market is concerned. The electors have no way by which, at the ballot box, they can register a protest against the proposition, which is most serious, which has far reaching consequences for the whole of the Commonwealth and to which, apparently, a great deal of permanence attaches.
– Enoch Powell has sounded a warning on Britain’s entry.
– He is one who has come out on this subject. But I repeat that although every political party contesting the United Kingdom general election on Thursday is in favour of Britain’s entry into the Common Market, gallup polls indicate substantial opposition to such a move. There is no way in which anyone who is opposed to Britain’s entry into the Common Market can register a protest against such action at the ballot box on Thursday next.
Be that as it may, I come from a State where in 2 substantial areas - the northeastern and the north-western portions - the holdings are small. The holdings are from 100 to 200 acres. They were designed in that fashion when cash cropping was a proposition that attracted farmers. 1 recall to mind in my boyhood days seeing farms totally under cultivation for cash crops. One paddock of 5 or 6 acres near the homestead was used to run horses and a cow or two for milking. But cash cropping has gone out. I agree with Senator Prowse, that it may well be that within 5 years, if costs continue to increase as they have increased and are increasing, the minimum production set down in the agreement will no longer be reasonable. I say further that if costs continue to increase, as they have increased over the past number of years, producers of all description, whether they be great or small, will be faced wilh a difficult position unless there is an improvement in the world export market for primary products.
Bui to return to the small farms about which I was speaking - and I suppose that a man is nearly always influenced by his own environment - with the passing of cash cropping a lot of the farmers turned to dairying. They installed milking machines and milked a number of dairy cows. In addition to having a dairy herd, they put in a paddock of potatoes, as a sideline which, at times, was a most substantial one, or in latter years they put in a paddock of canning peas or beans, which I have mentioned so often in this chamber. But now the potato industry has been lost to the small dairy farmers, firstly because of the implementation of irrigation on potato farms on the mainland and, secondly, because of excessive costs, particularly of transport, in the Sydney market. The canning pea industry is under threat. At the outset of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement substantial quantities of peas were imported into Australia from New Zealand. This had an adverse effect on these same dairy farmers about whom we are speaking.
It was with a lot of chagrin that I picked up a Tariff Board report of an inquiry which was conducted into electric shavers. I mention these matters to indicate that all round a fresh conception of Australian primary production has to be taken. The following question was referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report: whether, having regard to the objectives and other provisions of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement, the inclusion of electric shavers falling within paragraph 85.07. lt of the First Schedule to the Customs Tariff 1966-&8 in Schedule A of that Agreement would be seriously detrimental to the Australian industry.
After an exhaustive inquiry the Tariff Board made the following finding:
The Tariff Board finds that, having regard to the objectives and other provisions of the Agreement, the inclusion in Schedule A of the goods under reference would be seriously detrimental to the Australian industry.
A man would not be human if he did not regret the fact that the same or similar consideration was not given to the Australian primary producer when some of his products were included in the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement without reference to any inquiry at all. lt is a matter that makes one think and wonder. No doubt there would be some technical reason given for not conducting such an inquiry, but looking at the matter broadly and fairly, if an exhaustive inquiry is made into a small item like electric shavers and a finding is made that their inclusion in the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement would be seriously detrimental to the Australian industry, surely at the outset greater consideration could have been given to these dairy farmers who are in such distress at the present time. In my area it is correct to say that the position of some farmers is so desperate that although they continue to live on their farms they have taken jobs elsewhere. Some of the farmers have allowed their calves to remain on the cows to be reared in that way as vealers while they have gone out to work.
There is another factor that affects these small dairy farmers in my part of the country at least. J referred to the fact that many of them put in a paddock of potatoes as a help along the road. But we lost the potato industry. It is a few years now since some honourable senators in this chamber began to speak about the imports of processed potatoes from the United States and Canada. At long last the question was referred to the Tariff Board. To my amazement, when ] read the Board’s report I found that the reference was only an investigation into the economic condition of Australian potato processors.
– Not into the general industry.
– Not into the general industry at all. lt was purely and simply a reference to the Tariff Board to investigate the economic condition of 3 processors in Australia; to determine whether or not they could endure competition, principally from Canada and the United States. As I said, there were 3 processors. Two of them, Frozo Food Co. Pty Ltd and Potato Products (Aus.) Pty Ltd, were very firmly of the opinion that increased duties upon the goods under reference should be granted. The third processor was Gordon Edgell Pty Ltd, who is by far the largest potato processor and whose annual output of potatoes is more than 3 times the combined output of Frozo and Potato Products.
– Are they Australian firms?
– Yes. Edgell would not say whether it was in favour of duties being imposed upon the goods under reference. Apparently it was satisfied to continue under the tariff arrangement which existed at that time, lt was a case of ‘1 am all right, Jack, you can look after yourself. The Tariff Board’s report goes on to point out that imports currently supply only abou 10% of the local market. I emphasise the fact that imports currently supply only about 10% of the local market. I wish to point out that when one cannot sell one’s product and potatoes are rotting on the farms, as they are during this year, 10% is a lot. The report of the Tariff Board continues:
Though potato growing is itself not under reference-
In my opinion it should have been - it is apparent that contract prices offered over the past few seasons by Edgells associated company, International Canners Pty Ltd, and by the Kraft organisation at Scottsdale, have been sufficiently remunerative to encourage the more progressive growers to use advanced farming methods and to offer more potatoes than the processors have been capable of handling. It is also apparent that there have been more growers wanting contracts with these processors than can obtain them. . . .
Why on earth was the whole ambit of the potato processing industry and, more importantly, the position of the man who does the initial producing not referred to the Tariff Board for its consideration instead of only the economic position of 3 processors? The Tariff Board should have had to decide whether potato growers in Australia arc able to compete with the imported product. I believe that there will have to be a rethinking on the part of the Government in relation to its policies in regard to the primary industries of this country. These things taken by themselves are of comparatively minor importance, but when they are taken at large it can be seen that things remain to be done insofar as the primary producers of Australia are concerned. I regret the contents of this Tariff Board report because it deprives dairy men of another outlet which they are anxious to exploit. Apparently we prefer to import processed potato products from countries with which we have an extremely adverse trading balance than to extend the use of our own product by 10%, which is a considerable percentage. No reference has been made to this important aspect.
I support the measure under consideration. I regret that there- is no other avenue by which something can be done for the dairying industry. But 1 look askance al this matter. We talk about borderliners and marginal dairy farms. There are marginal farms in all forms of primary production. There are marginal producers among the industrialists. In fact, one will find them in all walks of life, if it were not for the extraordinary conditions through which we are passing it would, as far as I am concerned, be only as a very last resort that I would agree to support a measure such as this. But the mere fact that there will be no coercion, that participation in the scheme is optional and that any man is tree to please himself whether he will take advantage of this proposal and sell his property to his neighbour has influenced me. 1 suppose 1 have had more inquiries about this proposal than any other matter over the past couple of. years. These inquiries have been mainly from farmers wishing to sell their properties to their neighbours. Only a few months ago a man said to me: ‘I milk 25 cows. It has caught up with me and I cannot make a do of it. I want to get rid of my property. I cannot increase my herd because I do not have the scope. All I can do is sell out and take a job.’ The same thing is happening all over the country. It is happening at a time when considerable sections of the community are demanding and receiving more for their work and services. It is happening at a time when the men who have contributed so much towards the progress and development of Australia are going in the other direction. The time will come when they will be completely caught up with. This proposal is not a remedy; it is only a temporary palliative. When the time comes that these people are completely caught up with the country will be in a bad state indeed.
– The Senate is debating the Marginal Dairy Farms Agreements Bill, it must be very heartening to the dairying industry to hear the support which has been given to it by speakers in this place and in the other place. I believe that the very clear and concise second reading speech of the Minister for Air (Senator Drake- Brockman), who represents the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) in this chamber, which took up 7 pages of Hansard, summed up the matter. The Minister said: . . this scheme was formulated at the behest of dairy farmer organisations, lt will help the dairy industry - over 50% of the dairy farmers in Australia could be eligible to participate. lt will go some way towards solving a social problem in the rural sector, lt will strengthen the economies in those regions where low income farms are concentrated and in turn the national economy. Finally the scheme reinforces the concept of the single-unit family farm as the basis of agriculture in this country.
The Minister for Air commended the Bill to honourable senators. In anticipation that this scheme of the Commonwealth Government will bring about those aims, I have great pleasure in doing likewise. I certainly compliment the Government for its intentions. I also pay credit to the Minister for Primary Industry for the fact that, although he has gone through trials and tribulations over a number of years, he has been able to bring this legislation into being. Indeed, I see this proposal as the commencement of a farm reconstruction scheme which will be of benefit not only to the dairy industry but also, as previous speakers have mentioned, in particular Senator Lillico, to other areas of primary production. This type of farm reconstruction scheme is something that is required in many areas of rural production at present. The reconstruction scheme proposed for the dairying industry is particularly important in view of the standard of living that the Federal Government apparently is seeking to provide in the Australian community. Today a great deal of money is required to live at a reasonable standard. I hope that not only Western Australia but all the States will embrace the principles of this measure.
I suggest that a large slice of the responsibility for the late introduction of this Bill does not lie solely with the States. This is perhaps acknowledged by the acceptance by Commonwealth authorities of significant alterations which have occurred in the general Commonwealth and State agreement on this matter. In the time available to me 1 wish to refer to some of the terms of the Commonwealth Agreement with Western Australia, lt is the first agreement and the one on which the Federal Government has entered into the farm reconstruction scheme. 1 believe that the general terms of the Agreement that have been spelt out by honourable senators who have preceded me in this debate have made clear the purpose of the arrangement. However, several points of the Agreement will have to be reviewed by the Federal Government if it is to establish harmonious relations with the other States. I imagine that it is the wish of the Government that all States will enter into the scheme, lt will be of little use unless Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales also agree to the general propositions. I feel that it could be generally said that the Commonwealth is laying too hard on the line its demands in the Agreement, lt appears to me that there could be greater laxity in the spelling out of the terms of the Agreement with Western Australia.
– Do you mean a softening of the terms?
– A relaxing of the terms. I am pleased to see that you are taking such an interest, senator.
– I object to the use of the word ‘laxity’.
– We do not always agree with the words that you use. On page 1 of the Agreement paragraph (b) states, in part: a marginal dairy farms reconstruction scheme whereby dairy farmers whose farms have insufficient potential to become viable economic units whilst based on the sale of milk or cream for manufacturing purposes-
Throughout his second reading speech the Minister emphasises that some of these points may be varied and that the States may not be held to them. But surely if there is a marginal dairy farm in the terms that we are using, no matter what its production is it will be a marginal farm and I believe it will be necessary for the Commonwealth to allow the State authority which will administer the available sum of $25m to have some decision making discretion well beyond what has been provided in the specification of an economic unit and an uneconomic unit.
– What is an economic unit?
– We do not have a lot of time to discuss this Bill. I have no doubt that Senator Young has read the Agreement. 1 have in front of me the specification of an economic unit in the Agreement. If the honourable senator has not had time to read it, I suppose that I had better read it to him. It is a point I wish to refer to and 1 will come to it after I have finished making the point I was making when the honourable senator interjected. At page 2 of the Agreement the Commonwealth spells out that $25m is available, but it does not specify how much is available to any State. The demand in New South Wales or Queensland is well above the demand in Victoria. If 1. were an administrator wishing to take the greatest advantage of the sum of S25m available, I do not suppose that I could go into the scheme more quickly and more inadvisedly than if 1 knew that there was no limit on the amount, available to me. 1 suggest that there is some concern that there may be quick expenditure which could force uneconomic entry into the marginal dairy farm scheme.
asked me about an economic unit. I say briefly that the specification of an economic unit or an uneconomic unit surely must not be applied very strictly by the State authorities. In each case the expression is tied mainly to the production of butterfat. Whilst it is laid down in the Agreement that annual production of 12,000 lb of butterfat is the maximum production to allow entry of a marginal dairy farm into the scheme, it is stated that a farm producing 15,000 lb of butterfat could perhaps be considered an economic unit. I agree with the comment of Senator Prowse that in view of the rate at which our finance is depreciating, a dairy farmer who today receives annually about $6,000, from sales of butterfat at a price of 40c a lb, and is considered to have an economic unit, very shortly may move out of that category.
I believe that the strict definition laid down in the Agreement must be varied. The terms relating to an economic or an uneconomic unit appear to me to be a little strict, lt is interesting to note that in New
South Wales today 90% of dairy farms produce less than 15,000 lb of butterfat annually. The technical definition in the Agreement will not do the Agreement any good in my view, at least in respect of encouraging the other States to come forward.
– That is why I asked about an economic unit. I believe that the definition should be more flexible.
– I quite agree. The Minister will be interested to note some of the comments about the action to be taken after a farm has been purchased. The restrictions that are placed on the sale of a property must be viewed a second time by a reasonably efficient State authority. At page 7 of the Agreement it is stated:
The scheme shall, to the extent that financial assistance is available to the Slate under this agreement and subject otherwise to the provisions of this agreement, provide for the making of agreements between the Authority and the owners of land comprised in marginal dairy farms in the State for disposal of the land, including structural improvements thereon, lo the Authority at prices based on market values current at the lime of the disposal;
Having purchased at the market value operating at the time there is a requirement for the authority immediately to make a notional calculation of the value of the redundant assets. There is no requirement for the State authority to sell at any particular point. Perhaps under a good Socialist government a lot of the properties could be bought up and never returned to farmers. That is not impossible.
Once it is known that there is a notional valuation, not only of the property itself but also of the assets that are to be written off, there immediately come to the State authority 2 systems of valuation. On one side there may be a wealthy farmer to whom the State authority, in an attempt to gain the best and greatest use of the money, will try to sell at the higher figure. The wealthy farmer may have a son who needs the house so that item is not redundant. On the other side there may be a marginal dairy farmer who wishes to buy at the very lowest figure. As I understand it, the requirement is that the property can be sold only at the lower of the 2 figures. Undoubtedly the valuation of the assets put on by the authority would be known within the area fairly quickly.
– Must not that be the market value?
– In my view there are 2 market values. If someone is interested in the redundant structures he may be prepared to pay more money than the going market value for the property alone. A point which must be acknowledged here - it is acknowledged by authorities - is that the confinement of the State authority to selling at the market value of the asset with capital assets written off raises a problem in selling at the greatest efficiency possible.
– But the market value must always be the highest value. Is it not incorrect to talk of it as the market value if it is not?
– No. In my view 2 market values are created. The point I am putting is this: Suppose you want to purchase a farm and the market value happens to be $100 an acre but that is because the farm contains 1 milking shed, 1 hay shed and 1 house. These are capital assets which are then to be valued and, in fact, written off the value of the property. The farm then becomes an asset valued at perhaps $90 an acre, and that will be known as the going figure for the property. I am putting that the State authority may have a buyer who is willing to pay $100 an acre, but I believe that under the terms of this agreement it will be forced to sell at $90. This is a point which State authorities have mentioned to me could lead them to disagree with the agreement.
– But the authority can sell separately-
– There are a number of points in relation to the agreement on which I could be sidetracked but I think that .1 have mentioned the more important of them to the Senate. When this agreement is refined and other States are encouraged to come into the scheme - that is something which must be done - I hope that there will be a review of the points I have mentioned.
– You questioned the actual purchase price of the property. Would this be due to demand if someone was willing to pay more? Would this be the commercial price? Would there be any compulsion to stop-
– That is a long question, which 1 could not answer property now. 1 was anxious to mention one or two things that have struck me about the dairy industry. J am appalled at times by the way in which writers, university people and economists refer to the dairy industry. Their remarks would lead the community - indeed many honourable senators - to believe that dairy products are being overproduced. It is something we would all accept. Without going deeply into the matter, let me point out that until 1970 not one dairy product was over-produced in Australia, give or take a little for what might be carried over in a season. 1 know that at 30th June last year it was considered that we would have a great stock of milk powders, but in any business that is likely to occur at any stage. The fact remains that there was no over-production. There is a possibility that in this year for the first time there will be an over-production of butter to the extent of 5,000 tons.
– In what sense do you refer to ‘over-production’? For what export amount does that provide?
– Would not the guarantee of 34c per lb assist the industry?
- Senator Wright asked for what export amount the over* production provided. Undoubtedly the export will be what we can sell overseas. I was anxious to make the point which tied in with Senator McManus’s comment. Let me come to the point in this way: To me criticism of the dairy industry is abhorrent. Six or 8 months ago 1 was conducting a campaign and some fellow was running around saying that the Government was supporting the industry to the extent of $10Om. That is a straight lie. The amounts that the Commonwealth pays to the industry are quite light. It pays a butter and cheese bounty of $27m, a processed milk products export bounty of $800,000, the sum of $i.lm for research and extension, some $544,000 for trade promotion, publicity and export development and, in this current year, devalution compensation amounting lo $20,840,000. In my view devaluation compensation must be set aside because it is applicable to any industry which can prove that a Government decision adversely affected it. In short, of assistance to the dairy industry amounting to 529,444,000, the bounty payment of $27m has remained sialic for 14 years by request of the industry, and on a rough calculation that bounty payment would be worth about 40% of what it was worth when it was first paid. If one bears in mind that in I96S New Zealand paid a subsidy of $37m to the town milk supply, one can only come to the conclusion that the efficiency of the Australian industry is well founded.
The various problems which beset the industry have been mentioned. Let me deal with the remark made by Senator McManus about the 34c. On 3 successive radio broadcasts I heard the Australian Broadcasting Commission say, as Senator McManus said, that this is a payment which is made to the dairy industry. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that the Federal Government will support the industry if the return for butter fat falls below 34c per lb.
– I did not say that it was a payment to the industry. I said that the fact that it was there assisted the industry.
– It does not. lt assists the industry only to the extent that as soon as the price begins to fall to that level the Commonwealth says: ‘If the price of butter falls below a certain level we will have to start worrying about our guarantee of 34c per lb.’ The Commonwealth has never paid one farthing to the industry on that basis but the guarantee that it has given is very important.
– You are speaking now about the equalisation of exports?
– Yes. A variety of problems beset the industry and upset the market. We hear of the possibility of the entry of Great Britain into the European Economic Community. Incidentally, over 75% of our total exports go to Britain and the balance is sold to about 60 other countries. The dairy industry does a wonderful job in disposing of its produce. During the Budget debate last year 1 mentioned margarine sales in competition with butter. 1 see advertisements appearing in the Press - no doubt other honourable senators have seen them too - relating to margarine. Despite the fact that all State Ministers responsible for agricultural matters have decided that there shall be a quota on the production of table margarine, the big manufacturers of margarine are pulling on the market with the aid of high powered advertising what they are calling ‘table spreads’. In fact this is purely cooking margarine. It is taking a large share of the market despite the fact that by law 90% of it must derive from beef or mutton fat. The processed raw materials cost about 10c per lb. lt is interesting to note that standard cooking margarine retails for about 24c per lb. But this new soft cooking margarine, after undergoing a simple process, retails for abour 38c or 40c per lb. lt is mainly packed in attractive wrappers and is extremely well advertised. I believe this is one of the main things undermining the dairy industry.
This product that is being put on the market to compete with butter is artificially flavoured and artificially coloured to give the appearance of butter, lt is not only undermining the butter industry but is also eroding the table margarine industry. I recommend that the Commonwealth Government and the Australian Agricultural Council take steps to bring about some uniformity in State legislation relating to the sale of cooking margarine. Victoria and Tasmania have introduced legislation restricting the sale of certain cooking margarine in their States, but the other States should do likewise. 1 put this proposition lo the Senate some 9 months ago.
The growth in the sale of this new type of cooking margarine has been terrific. I have figures which show that in 1966-67 a total of 689 tons was sold, whilst in the following year the figures were 6,317 tons, 10,644 tons and 12,500 tons. 1 see this increase in sales as an erosion of the very market we are attempting by this legislation to protect. Despite the fact that these soft cooking margarines are very largely tallow based, the housewife has come to accept them for a number of reasons - their flavour, colouring and packaging, but principally because of the high level of advertising. A fairly high margin of the profit on these articles goes into advertising, and the sale of this product is eroding the Australian market for butter.
– Other primary producers are being helped by this.
– I do not think they are to any great extent, but undoubtedly the honourable senator would be persuaded by the publicity and he would believe that. 1 hope I have sufficient time to make some comments about the oil seeds industry. A powerful group of organisations, of which the Unilever company, a very large overseas concern, is a member, is able to pour millions of dollars into a campaign suggesting that the butter industry is at loggerheads with some other primary industry. lt has been estimated that for each 1 lb of soft cooking margarine that is sold the Unilever company retains some 7c or 8c for advertising this product. I do not know whether Senator Sim, as a Western Australian, supports the proposition that someone can invade an established market and take it over with a product that is simply a copy of the traditional product. It holds no sanctity with me. i disapprove of it.
– How many cows does the honourable senator have?
– The cows we have do not come into contact with this problem. I notice that on the advertising of .Stork brand margarine the Unilever company spent $250,000 in a 5 months period alone in 1968. I hope this figure impresses Senator McManus as to the great volume of money that is available for a variety of purposes in this field. I believe it is fortunate in Victoria that Sir Henry Bolte’s legislation banning the use of colouring and flavouring in cooking margarine had the desired effect of keeping this product clear of the Victorian market. There was a danger that because of its attractiveness of quality, looks and taste, it would capture a portion of the butter market.
– Is that a crime?
– I believe so. I am pleased to hear that question from the honourable senator. The manufacturer of
Holden cars would not stand idly by while someone came into the industry and built a car exactly the same, put a brand name on the front very similar to ‘Holden’ and then proceeded to sell it on the basis of its similarity to the Holden. In New South Wales the Unilever organisation announced that it had spent some §200,000 on advertising Stork cooking margarine during the period from Aprii to August 1969. lt further announced - and this is something I mentioned in the Senate last year - that in Queensland on this brand it would conduct the biggest campaign ever for margarine in that S.ate. lt claimed that within 3 months of the launching of its product it had attained in Victoria 45% of the cooking margarine market and 66% of the market for all cooking spreads. In South Australia it claimed that it had taken 68% of the cooking spreads market and that in New South Wales it had gained 45% of their competitive market. I point this out only because I believe a large monopoly is being formed in the promotion of this product. The fact is that butter’s share of the total Australian edible fats market has dropped to an all time low at present of 70.4% . The 2 States which legislated against the colouring and flavouring of cooking margarine retained a very high percentage of butter consumption. In Victoria butter’s share of the edible fats market is still 82%, and in Tasmania butter’s share is 85%. In Western Australia, which has yet to be fully subjected to the type of advertising campaign that has taken place in other States, butter’s share of the market is 82%. 1 would like to compare these figures with those in the States that do not have legislation restricting the colouring and flavouring of cooking margarine. In Queensland butter holds only 63.7% of the edible fats market. In New South Wales it holds 62.2% and in South Australia 63.1%.
– This is happening with hides and the synthetic substitutes for sole leather and shoes.
– I believe this is all part of a very great problem with which we will be faced in this Parliament in the next few years. We will have to make a decision whether we should allow synthetics in various fields to invade the market and put all of our primary industries out of business. That is happening in respect of butter al the present time. I spelt this out fairly clearly last year.
There is at the moment a running battle between margarine manufacturers. They are offering trips overseas as prizes. They are holding baby competitions. Another offer is that the housewife will receive 1 lb free for every 1 lb she buys. 1 pointed out last year how the butter industry had been able to maintain a national responsibility by holding the price of its product at a reasonable level over many years. But this is not so with the other products competing on this critical market. The prices for some products that try to take the place of rural products have increased. For instance, the price of Streets ice cream increased by 25% within the last year. But none of these increases in prices has gone back to the producers who have supplied the raw material. This is a particularly important matter. [ think the Senate needs to look at the fact that whilst the Unilever organisation claimed that its profit decreased by 25% in the last year, in actual fact it remitted overseas - it is a 100% overseas owned concern - an extra Sim in dividends. I appeal to the Senate to recognise this fact.
I appeal to the State ministers and the Federal Minister responsible for agriculture to look at this matter at the next meeting of the Australian Agricutlural Council with a view to seeing that we support our indigenous industries and that we get support for the Australian market for butter. These new cooking spreads entering the market are attracting exorbitant prices for tallow based products. The housewives who buy them will bc financing a monopoly. If Senator Sim, as a businessman, thinks that there will be a great demand for oil seeds, 1 point out to him as a fair comparison that whilst oil seeds can be bought for about S375 a ton, tallow can be purchased for about SI 43 a ton. If I were a businessman it would be a long while before I would be buying the higher priced product instead of the lower priced and, therefore, the more profitable product for me to use. While we are asking the dairy industry to reconstruct and reduce levels of production to face the very serious consequences of Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community. I believe we must accept the fact that the domestic market for butter is being seriously eroded.
These soft cooking margarines, which are mainly tallow based, offer no significant market for Australia’s edible vegetable oils. Growers of vegetable oil seeds have been looking forward to a profitable domestic market, but as this is limited, any surplus production will eventually be sold on the highly competitive world market without the high level of public support it may have enjoyed recently. At a recent Tariff Board inquiry into vegetable oils the manager of one Australian oil crushing plant when asked by the Board what prospects there were for exporting Australian oil seed crops - I hope the Senate will forgive me for quoting this - said: ‘When that happens we may as well cut our so-and-so throats.’ Senator Sim, who is so interested in tariffs and protection, will say that we need to be very cautious as to the publicity put out by the people I have mentioned regarding the flow of oil seeds onto the market.
J believe that over the years the dairying industry has proved itself to be probably the most important primary industry Australia has. No other industry will structure towns and decentralise industry and population in the way the dairy industry has. I believe the present measure, originally introduced by the Minister for Primary Industry is a step which must bc accepted by every State. I hope that before the end of the year every State will embrace the marginal dairy farms reconstruction scheme which has been put forward. .1 believe that this scheme will lead eventually to a proposition whereby not only the wheat industry but in all probability the wool industry will be looking to some form of reconstruction along similar lines.
– The Australian Labor Party supports the marginal dairy farms reconstruction scheme provided for in the measure because it brings some glimmer of relief for a certain section of the dairy industry. But I say at the outset that the Opposition criticises many aspects of the scheme. The Australian Country Party, to which Senator Webster, who has just resumed his seat, belongs, can be blamed for the situation this industry is facing today.
– How do you make that out?
– Well, for 10 years the Australian Country Party has been influencing the Government, and the honourable senator has been acting as a very smooth and very polished advocate for the policy of vacillation. He has been virtually selling bis own industry down the drain. He said that not one dairy product had been overproduced until the last year or so. Later I will quote in that regard some words of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony). The dairy industry has had a direct hand-out of S27m plus the equivalent of about $30m in indirect subsidies through home price support schemes for butter and the very generous $17m a year devaluation compensation which is continuing 3 years after sterling was devalued. Austraiian dairy farmers are guaranteed 34c per lb average return on exports.
– How much does that cost the Government? Why do you not use some facts? How much does the 34c cost the Government?
– lt is costing the consumer-
– lt is not costing anybody anything.
– You have had your say. I am saying that the Australian consumer has to pay this amount.
– The 34c per lb?
– Yes. He has to subsidise the whole industry. It is a subsidised industry. The Minister for Primary Industry, who is a member of another place is reported to have said:
The Commonwealth Equalisation Committee, which gives us a forecast of the new year so we can determine what the interim payment will be, has told us we must start thinking in terms of 230,000 tons, and if this happens it will mean at the end of the year 1970-71 we will have a surplus of 20,000 tons of butter.
– What year is that?
– It is the year we are approaching now. 1970-71. This is the important point. I will touch on it in a moment. The Minister is reported to have said:
This is a crazy situation and 1 do not think a Government can be expected to continue to guarantee an underwriting of 34c when one calculates what the Government’s commitment would be under these circumstances.
The report continues:
Mr Anthony claimed that if the 34c was maintained’ in 1970-71 then an additional S20m would be required in excess of the bounty.
I remind Senator Webster that the Minister said in his second reading speech thai the Bill will give effect to the Government’s plan to make available S25m over a period of 4 years which means that an amount of S6.25ra a year will have to be divided among the various States. No provision is made here as to what proportion the various States will receive.
– We are in agreement.
– Yes, but in his second reading speech the Minister said:
The industry’s problems are aggravated by the fact that there are concentrations of low income producers in certain dairying regions, notably in south-eastern Queensland, northern New South Wales and the south-west of Western Australia, and to a lesser extent, in the south-east of South Australia. There is thus a regional problem as well as an industrial problem.
Senator Webster has not mentioned this problem at all, because he comes from Victoria, and the Victorian Branch of the Australian Country Party and the Leader of the Country Party (Mr McEwen) in my view have exercised an undue influence on Government policy. This has resulted in this long period of vacillation in implementing a scheme similar to the McCarthy scheme for the industry. What has actually happened over this period of time is that inefficient farmers have been encouraged to stay in the industry, and they, and the industry generally, have been encouraged to expand production. This is a very serious indictment of any political party which exercises the balance of power in a Government as the Country Party does. For 10 years it has allowed this situation to exist, knowing the position in Victoria and knowing that, even up to this last year, new blocks at Hytesbury were being made available for dairying.
– Are you blaming the Country Party?
– I am certainly blaming the Country Party for this situation being acceptable to any Government and its policy. The Australian Labor Party believes that not only has the Government been completely unaware of the consequences of encouraging the inefficient to stay and produce, but also it is expanding the amount of dairy land which is available for production. There are some very serious aspects of this scheme of which I think we should remind ourselves.
Most of them are outlined in the second reading speech of the Minister. When the world situation in dairying shows, as he says an overwhelming payment of production surpluses, how are we to justify the telescoping of farms and the introduction of mors efficient methods of production and to follow these things in turn-
– Do you suggest they are inefficient now?
– A proportion of them must be inefficient, otherwise we would not be implementing the scheme. It means that 40% or so of the industry can bc classified as inefficient because of the existence of smaller units. From what I can gather, amongst dairy farmers 20 lactating cows are not classified as a unit; there have to be 70 or 80 cows for a profitable proposition with the cost of production and the other factors associated with the industry in this day and age. Butter stocks in 10 major producing countries have risen for the fifth year in succession. This is a situation to which we have to face up, because our main exports have been to the European market and particularly the British market. The European Economic Community alone has a butter surplus of around 300,000 tons or little short of half the world’s annual trade in butter. The Six have accumulated this surplus through beggar-my-neighbour policies, such as high export subsidies, despite continued representations by Australia and other countries for moderation.
We are preparing to subsidise the industry lo the extent of S25m over 4 years and to telescope the inefficient farms. I belive that if wc introduce a policy such as this those people who are encouraged to leave the land should realise their equity to transfer into some other form of employment. I also believe there should be some method of rehabilitation of the displaced persons. There should be either some retraining scheme or some payment for redundancy, such as occurs in other industries on the insistence of the trade union movement. This type of thing could quite well apply to the dairy industry. I believe that in justice such a provision should be included in the overall plan. What we are doing is putting a slicking plaster over an infected wound, so to speak. On the one hand the industry is really being encouraged to use all the modern techniques, all the latest developments in dairy production and on the other hand we are finding that our capacity to export to our traditional customers is declining. This has a cumulative effect which will rebound very strongly against us and will impose a tremendous burden on the consumer in Australia.
The only other point to which I draw attention is the open ended policy that is inherent. We are trying to make the whole of the industry more efficient. By telescoping the inefficient properties with bigger dairying properies and increasing the production from the previously inefficient area by the use of more efficient equipment, better management and the like, we will have surpluses with which we cannot cope. Immediately facing the industry is a possibility, if not a certainly, of a quota system in which the amount of production per farm will have to be very carefully watched and, in my view, policed. These are consequences of the plan thai we have before us tonight.
The whole of our economy today is patched up. lt is an economy of expediency and we are finding more and more that it is running into dead ends. Our cost structure is forcing up our prices. We arc automatically excluding ourselves from our traditional markets. On the other hand, wc have a complete inability to cope wilh the terrible situation in which there is poverty amidst plenty. We have shares in milk processing factories in Manila, Thailand and Indonesia, and I understand that wc have plans for extending this policy of assistance into other parts of South East Asia. We can only hope that an expansion of this policy will alleviate the pressure which will inevitably come onto the dairying industry in Australia. The overall purpose of the Bill, which is an attempt to improvise as a temporary measure to relieve the pressure on the inefficient farmer and to get him off the land or into some other form of production or employment is commendable, but it will create many more difficulties. 1 should like to mention the subject raised by Senator Webster who referred to the control and production of cooking margarine. The dairying industry has applied pressure to the margarine industry, which has every right to expand production and to promote its product. The butter factories have been very afraid of increased sales of margarine and particularly of coloured or cooking margarine. Even the cooking margarine is being promoted very strongly. Yet in this situation the price of butter was increased last year by 4c per lb. It is difficult to explain how an industry can continue to increase the price of its commodity and yet be able to put enough pressure on State governments to induce them to prohibit the promotion of margarine. 1 believe that not only is this an injustice to a certain section of the community but also it is only a makeshift measure. Some doctors recommend the use of margarine because of certain ingredients in it and if people wish to purchase margarine they should be able to do so. There should not be restrictions on the sale of margarine in whichever form it is presented. The points that I have mentioned are among the complications that 1 see arising from this whole plan.
The dairying industry has wailed a long time for this plan to come lo fruition. We believe that it will provide some temporary respite. 1 do not know whether other circumstances will arise to give further relief to the dairying industry, but so far as I can see the plan has been delayed for so long that the industry has been built on a false foundation for a number of years when it was inevitable that a complete reorganisation of this type had to take place. I can only hope that the relief that is to be given will be of some help, but 1 cannot see how $6.25m a year will alford much relief. At present prices of land there will be some very worrying times for some people who may try to pay off their mortgages through the distribution of $6. 25m a year over 4 years making a total of J25m. We have an amendment to move later on. Whether this legislation can bring the relief to the industry that the Country Party is telling the farmers it will, we believe the farmers have been let down very badly by the Government’s policy over the last 10 years or more. Now their own chickens are coming home to roost.
– We are talking about cows.
– I am talking about the Country Party chickens that are coming home to roost. I started off laying the blame on the Government for this vacillation and the false foundations on which the industry has been built over the last 10 years or so. lt was inevitable that the coming of the European Economic Community, the restriction of other markets and our rising costs in this country would have been against the interests of the dairy man. For that reason the people of Australia should know that they will be called on to subsidise this industry continuously and that the whole cost structure of the industry is such that there will be a growing charge on the consumer in this country. A commodity such as dairy produce is essential, particularly for children, and the family man will be asked to pay more not only in prices but also in taxation. All the time the Government’s policy of imposing these extra charges to pay for the subsidy is increasing the cost of living and so we have a vicious cycle in the community today. It is a worrying situation for everyone.
I am sure the Government would not admit that it has itself to blame. If this country had taken a reasonable path in the early days after the last World War and had been prepared to have a measure of control of wages and prices we would have been far ahead of any other country wilh our rich natural resources and we would have been able to make the best use of the gifts this country has. Instead of that we are nol only behind many other parts of the world but the struggle we will have to maintain our standard of living will be greater, particularly for those sections of the community involved in primary production. The exchange rate has been to the farmers’ advantage. Many other attempts, such as subsidisation over the years have been made to bolster the primary industries. As Senator Lillico mentioned eather, the wool people are realising their difficulties. We are finding that the man on the land is facing a future of very great uncertainty. All I can hope is that this allocation of S25m will in some way give a bit of hope to the dairying industry. Those honest farmers work hard and have a 7 days a week job. Keeping a dairy farm going is a very exacting task and I hope that this measure will give them the degree of support they deserve. The Government’s policy has been imposed on them and has been to their great disadvantage.
– I support the principle of the marginal dairy farms reconstruction scheme, as provided in this legislation. For this reason and because the legislation shows consideration for the well being of the small man 1 wish to address a few words to the bill. This scheme shows understanding and takes a positive approach to the alleviation of the special difficulties being experienced by many small dairy farmers. The proposition provides for 2 situations. It provides for the small farmer who wishes to extend his farm from an uneconomic unit to one which can be made viable. This viability would come through a greater acreage of land and consequent greater production from the holding. The second situation provided for is that which allows for the small farmer who wishes to retire from the industry to do so with reasonable value for his assets and his investment and which enables him to enter another vocation with some cash in hand. If he has to leave his holding through sheer economic distress, he will not be left with only the break-up residual value accruing to him.
The most appealing aspect of the legislation is summed up in the closing paragraph of the Minister’s second reading speech when he said that the scheme reinforces the concept of the single unit family farm as the basis of agriculture in this country. That is the core and the great merit of the legislation. We hear so often these days that efficiency lies .only in the large unit. I do not believe that that is so, provided that a unit can reach a level of production or turnover that will cover reasonably the costs incidental to running the business. Therefore, given a reasonable gross turnover the efficiency of the small operator can be in excess of that of the huge unit. 1 have in mind that the law of diminishing returns, which has applied in business through centuries, still applies today. I deplore the persistent references to lack of efficiency because units are not of the biggest size. I believe in a unit which will give a good living and the ability to meet all commitments. We can have that sort of unit. Tn the past there were units which were not viably because of inability to extend them to meet a reasonable, modern requirement of greater turnover. There is no compulsion inherent in the legislation, it simply offers the facility to those who wish to act on it either to cease operations as dairy farmers or to extend operations so thai they will be satisfactory business propositions.
In its essential features this plan ls in accord with the recommendations of the Australian Dairy Industry Council which, in October 1966, submitted proposals to the Government in connection with the renewal of the industry stabilisation plan for 5 years from 1st July 1967. The Dairy Industry Council recommended that, in addition to maintaining the existing measures of Government support for the industry, funds should be provided for distribution in conjunction with the States and grants should be made for the reconstruction of dairy farm units which were uneconomic because of their size. The Government accepted that proposition. I commend it for so doing. I should like to see that principle applied to other areas of rural production. In these proposals there is a lot of humanity and a lot of plain, common business sense. I have pleasure in supporting the legislation.
– 1 rise to give my support to the Bill. 1 rise primarily to mention one point that has not been made tonight. AH honourable senators have stated very emphatically that this is a voluntary scheme. One thing that should be clarified is that even though it is a voluntary scheme, if anybody does desire to leave his property he will not be compelled to accept an assessed market value for it. He will have the opportunity to accept any value that he thinks will be of benefit to him. If he is offered a higher commercial value than the assessed commercial value he is completely at liberty to accept the higher offer. In questioning Senator Webster tonight I tried to get clarification of this point. I am certain that this is right. I have checked through the Bill and I have read the Minister’s second reading speech. I thought that this was one point that should be clarified completely. This scheme - and I commend the Government for it - has many virtues, as Senator Laucke has said, and one of its greatest is that it is voluntary. The opportunity is available to those who wish to leave to get the best they can as they leave their properties.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) [10.21] - The hour is tate and I know that senators are weary but I understand from occupying your seat temporarily, Mr Deputy President, during the afternoon that we are going to be enlivened by some speeches on the adjournment. Having said that. I wish to address myself to the general principle that this Bill postulates. 1 was interested to listen to Senator Webster deal with the problem of butter and margarine, which he introduced incidentally in the context of his argument, lt crossed my mind that the problem that was engaging his attention was not a novel one. I remember when 1 was a young boy reading of the history of the problems that engaged the wool industry in England and which were solved in part it was thought by passing a Bill which, when enacted, provided that everyone had to be buried in a woollen shroud. I quote that only as an illustration of a government enactment being used to interfere with or temporise with the mechanism of the market.
The essence of the Bill before the Senate at present relates basically not to the problem of the dairying industry but to the problem of the use of land. 1 speak as a Victorian senator coming as 1 do from a part of Victoria where the problem that is aroused by the interest of this Bill has been in existence from time to time for 120 years. In the history of Victoria there have been 3 illustrations of the problem of land tenure that confront us. The first was what is known by social historians as the squatting age. Then there was the breakup in the 1870s of the land tenure system, which was based upon wool and cattle production, and the turning of the system into small units in order to fulfil the social-
– The Enclosed Lands Act?
– That is so. It was based upon a social acknowledgement that it was the inalienable right of everyone to occupy it and to secure a living from it.
– What do you mean by social acknowledgement?
– If the honourable senator would only read his history of Victoria he would discover that with the end of the goldfields in Victoria there was a demand for the breaking up of the land and the land was broken up.
– What has that to do with social acknowledgement?
– I am saying that this marginal dairying industry is involved in a question of land use.
I want to recollect to Senator Webster, as a senator from Victoria, that this has happened 3 or 4 times in Victoria. The problem is one of effective land use in the context of the economic circumstances and the social circumstances that exist at ihi time. If the honourable senator will allow me to continue and does not break the thread of my argument - to use his own phrase - in the 1.890s. after the breaking up of the land in the 1870s and the bank crash of 1892, the land was reconsolidated. In 1919, it was broken up again for soldier settlement. It was reconsolidated because of economic forces and pressures between 1921 and 1939. From 1947 onwards, the land tenure system of Victoria was broken up again, in 1953, when I ended my first appearance in the Senate and when one of these Bills relating to the dairying industry was before the Senate, I made the prophecy that that Bill which related to the equalisation fund would be perhaps the last to be passed. I said that the Australian dairying industry was involved, as were all other elements of Australian primary industry, in the problem of land use.
I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that we are involved in this problem of the effective use of land. In cold, economic terms, this is clearly demonstrable in the terms of this Bill. We are also involved - as indeed I am involved - in a romantic or an emotional problem which, I think, is pervasive in the Senate. I am constantly reminded, whereverI go, of the poet who who was writing of circumstances similar to those in which Australia finds itself today. He wrote:
III fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates and men decay;
Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade; A breath can make them, as a breath has made; But a bold yeomanry . . .
That is the wordI substitute -
When once destroyed, can never be supplied.
I believe in a strong heart land in the country. We do not achieve a strong heart land in the country by compelling the people to live in a state of economic peonage. Therefore, I support this Bill as a measure to provide the means by which, firstly, there may be an effective use of the land and, secondly, there may be a compassionate social approach to the solution of the problem.
– in reply - I want to reply to some of the points made in this debate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Although the hour is late and we are coming close to the end of this sessional period, there is a question that I believe is of some importance and should be raised. It concerns matters related to libraries that are provided to a very large extent as a result of the provisions of Commonwealth funds through the Department of Education and Science. Several days ago I raised the question of certain high school libraries being in the position that material had been provided as a result of the provision of Commonwealth funds but, owing to the lack of trained people, this very valuable equipment, particularly audiovisual equipment, is not being used and is going completely to waste in some of these high schools.
The matter to which I wish to refer now does not relate to that point; it relates to the administration of a high school library in the State of New South Wales - the library of the Ibrox Park High School in Leichhardt. I appreciate that the control the Commonwealth Department of Education and Science has over the day to day administration of schools that receive grants from the Commonwealth is very limited insofar as it exists at all. But my submission is that if moneys are made available by the Commonwealth to the States for a particular purpose the Commonwealth ought to exercise supervision or at least give some advice to the States on the way in which the moneys are being spent and what is happening in libraries that have been constituted very largely as the result of the provision of Commonwealth funds.
There have been some problems in the lbrox Park High School just recently. I do not wish to refer to them at any length. They began shortly before the holding of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign in Australia on 8th May when the Vice-captain of the school was suspended for wearing a Moratorium badge. Since then there has been a development, which I believe is a very serious one, regarding the free dissemination of information to students. I have a memorandum from the Librarian at the Ibrox Park High School. I would like to read out part of it. She states in her memorandum:
During the fortnight before the Moratorium when many opinions about the matter were being expressed among students and staff at Ibrox Park High School. I, as Teacher/Librarian at the school decided that it was necessary for people taking part in these arguments to be well informed. Thus, on Friday May 1st, I telephoned a book suppliers and asked them to send me material that they had in stock on South East Asia and other topical problem areas in the world. I said we required historical, geographical and political approaches, and that the books should reflect as as many viewpoints as possible.
On Monday, May 4th, a representative of the Bookshop called with a box of books which they felt met with our requirements. I examined these books and decided to keep them. Later I made a display of this material on a front table in the library and told the senior students that if they wished to borrow any of them for the May holiday, they could do so, but that I would have to make a special lending record of this, as 1 had h.id no lime to accession the books.
On Tuesday, May 19th, after the May holiday I arranged these books in a group on their own on top of the bookcase containing the set of Encyclopaedia Britannica, so that they were accessible and separate for senior students, and this is where the)’ were when 1 left school at 3.40 p.m. that day.
She goes on to say that during Wednesday, 20th May, when she wished to point out to some students that these books were available, she found that they had disappeared. She reported the loss to the Deputy Principal and ultimately to the Principal of the Ibrox Park High School, a Mr Smith.
Mr Smith said that the books had been moved, and he felt that they should be moved because this sort of matter which was being discussed was not the sort of matter which ought to be discussed in the school.
– And what was his position in the school?
– Principal of the school.
– What was the ladys position?
– The teacherlibrarian of the school. Subsequently some books have been retained, but nearly all the books have been returned to the booksellers. The books that have been retained are books which do not appear to express any obvious point of view. They are: ‘Indonesia’ by G. A. Chatfield; ‘Malaya and Its History’ by Richard Winselt; ‘Thailand, Burma, Laos and Cambodia’ by John F. Cady; and 4 o:her books which seem to be geographical surveys of the areas in question.
A number of more controversial books have been returned to the booksellers. Those books include: The Philippines: Land and People” by Paul F. Cressey; China Today’ by H. R. Arthur; Asia in the Modern World’ edited by Helen G. Mathew; ‘The Far East. A Concise History’ by F. C. Jones; ‘Vietnam: History Documents and Opinions on a Major World Crisis’ edited by Marvin E. Gettleman and published by Penguin Books, a book which is extremely critical of the American and Australian position in the Vietnam war; “A Concise History of East Asia’, by C. P. Fitzgerald, a book also critical of this position; and From Yalta to Vietnam’, by David Horowitz, again a book critical in this respect. All these books have been returned to the booksellers and arc not available to senior students at this high school. A further book in this category is Mao Tse Tung’ by H. R. Arthur, which is published by ‘Resource Materials for Asian Studies’, in Auckland. However with an excess of zeal one of the books which has been returned is ‘Vietnam. An Australian Analysis’, by Alan Watt, a former Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department.
That also was returned and is not available to students at the school. So also was Hansard of the Federal Parliament. It was taken out of the library, apparently on the ground that controversial matters were appearing in Hansard. Hansard has subsequently been returned to the library.
The fact is that a very large number books concerning a matter of topical interest have been removed from this library. I know that Senator Wright as a champion of free speech would be concerned about matters of this type because in the past he has told us how concerned he is by the lack of proper discussion in Communist countries. He would have a very lively interest to see that such things as this do not take place in our country. I am sure that he would not find it amusing if he heard about something like this happening in the Soviet Union, for example.
The fact is that here are serious students in their final year at high school, aged 17 or 18, wishing to inform themselves on a subject which is of keen topical interest and a subject which might be of very great interest to some of them in the future if this Government is still in office and Australia is still involved in the war in Vietnam, lt might be of interest to them to learn about the country in which they will be conscripted to fight and in which they could be killed. It might be helpful if they were to know something about that country before they were sent there. The books which have been prohibited are not only books that offer a critical analysis of Australia’s position in Asia and of Australia’s position inside Vietnam in particular but also books which put forward a view which supports that of the Commonwealth Government and the Government of the United States of America in respect of Asia.
I regard it as outrageous that, if we have an educational system which is meant to equip students to take their part in the world around them and which is meant to equip them to take an interest in serious matters - matters of great concern which are facing them - students are prevented by action of the principal of this school from being able to inform themselves on a subject which, of all matters of foreign affairs, is the one which is of most direct interest to Australians and particularly to Australians of this age - that is, the war in Vietnam.
I think it is an unconscionable action which has been taken by the principal of this school. T appreciate the limited influence which the Commonwealth Department of Education and Science can have on these matters. But I do submit that if the Commonwealth is to provide money for the provision of libraries in high schools in the various States a responsibility rests with the Commonwealth to see that those libraries are being put to proper purpose and that they are being used in order to educate and equip people to take part in the great controversies and the great issues which are confronting the Australian people. Action such as that which has been taken at this high school is the stifling of free thought; it is the stifling of free inquiry. There is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for saying that 17 and 18-year-olds at high school, people who are preparing for matriculation, should be prevented from informing themselves upon such subjects as Australia’s role in South-East Asia and Australia’s role in Vietnam. I trust that the Minister will cause some action to be taken on this matter.
– Do you think that the Minister for Education in New South Wales could have been behind this suppression?
– I do not know who was behind the suppression which took place inside this school, but certainly it does not appear that the New South Wales Minister for Education has taken any action of his own volition in order to see that these books are made available at the request of the librarian, who incidentally also in future has to obtain the permission of the subject teacher before she can acquire any new books, which is quite contrary to the normal provisions relating to a school librarian, and she has also been compelled to provide to the principal of the school invoices of all those books which she has purchased over the past year. I do not know what the State Minister for Education has done. I would assume that he has done nothing about the matter as it has received quite a deal of publicity in the State of New South Wales, and for that reason I believe that the Commonwealth Minister should exercise some influence, not so that any particular point of view shall be put forward on this question but at least so that there can be open inquiry and open discussion and the free provision of all the best information available to those students who are interested.
– The honourable senator has made a statement to us with regard to matters occurring in a state high school in New South Wales. He has taken care to make it ex parte, giving me notice only 2 hours ago simply saying that he was going to refer to a matter concerning libraries receiving Commonwealth assistance. It is greatly to be regretted if publicity has been arranged for a particular incident of this sort without first of all going through the processes of some correspondence to enable the answer to be put on the record.
– What publicity has been arranged?
– I have no doubt it has.
– By whom?
– By speaking on the adjournment. 1 have no doubt that the honourable senator will recognise the dictates of fairness which would prompt any ordinary parliamentarian before raising a matter as a complaint of this sort to give the responsible Minister an opportunity to investigate the matter and answer in a responsible way in writing. I say the responsible Minister because it refers to a matter of internal management involving, apparently, a difference of opinion between the principal and the librarian of a school. Can anyone outclass the fatuity by which the Senate is invited to give its consideration to the matter of the statement merely of Senator
Wheeldon? The Commonwealth Parliament is invoked in this respect simply because we make a vote of $27m available over a triennium for library assistance to the high schools, and that is supposed to involve the Commonwealth Minister in responsibility for this internal difference apparently between Mr Smith and, perhaps, Miss Smith - I did not catch her name. I would hope that the Senate can have its attention directed to more responsible matters within the field of federal responsibility. 1 shall take the opportunity to refer the record to the State Minister for Education in New South Wales as a matter of courtesy to him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 June 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19700616_senate_27_s44/>.