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Wednesday, 4 August 1954

Mr PEARCE (Capricornia) . - The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Makin) was not known to me previously, except by reputation, but he has proved to me by his remarks this evening- that he is still as anti-Liberal in his outlook as he was when he was a member of this chamber years ago.

Mr Calwell - How does the honorable member know that?

Mr PEARCE - The honorable, member for Sturt has given us: excellent evidence of it this evening, and he is in remarkably good company, because he is with, a batch of anti-Liberals. The honors able member sought to gain some consolation from his theory about the number of votes cast for the Labour party at the last general election. That is a very dry store- indeed and he cannot expect to extract any nourishment from it. Irrespective of the number of votes cast for the Australian Labour party at the previous election, the fact remains that the Menzies- Government continues to occupy the treasury bench.. The people have spoken. They have returned to office the political parties that have given them the sensible form of government that they have enjoyed, since they took, the reins of government from the socialists and anti-Liberals in 1949. If the honorable, member for Sturt has any quarrel about electorate*-

Mr Calwell - He: did not. make any comment about electorates.

Mr PEARCE - He did so. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) must have been asleep while the honorable member for Sturt was speaking. I inform the honorable member for Sturt that his- quarrel in that matter is with the honorable member for Melbourne, who played a> major part in the redistribution of electorates in 1949. The honorable member for Sturt was singularly modest in his claims about votes cast for the Australian Labour party, because he dealt only with primary votes. An overwhelming majority of preference votes of Communists were cast for the Labour party, and that fact would boost his figures a little. But the fact still remains that we are in- office, and continue to be the advisers of his Excellency the GovernorGeneral.

Mr Curtin - God help Australia !

Mr PEARCE - The position would be worse- if the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) held any position of responsibility. [Quorum formed.'] I noted, with a great deal of interest the wish expressed by the honorable member for Sturt that the Leader of the Opposition should remain long at the head of the Labour party. We on this side of the House heartily endorse that wish. As long as we have the Leader of the Opposition to present to the people as an alternative Prime Minister. the political situation will suit us- fine ! The honorable member also referred to the condition of Australia when, he took office as a Minister after the general, election of 1941, and said that the affairs of the country were in a shocking' state. The honorable gentleman speaks now in an entirely different voice from that of the late John Curtin, who on several occasions praised the foundations that the Menzies-Fadden Government had laid for Australia's war effort.

Mr Ward - He did nothing of the sort.

Mr PEARCE - The fact that he did so is: on record. It is of no use for an ex-Minister to say now that things were not in order when the Labour party took office in 1941, because his leader at that time was at great, pains to praise- the work of the previous Government. The

Governor-General was able to tell thu Parliament, this afternoon that; his advisers reported w. general and continuing state, of prosperity throughout thu Australian economy. He: went on to say-

The number in civilian employment, is the highest ever recorded, in. this country; and the output, of goods, and services is correspond ingly high. Prices have remained remarkably steady.

That, is a noteworthy achievement.

Co-operation between all sections of the community, and co-operation in. the international sphere,, will enable us to maintain this remarkable' state of internal prosperity and also to preserve the peace that is essential to the continuance of prosperity. There is scope for a greater degree of co-operation in international affairs. We, as the. parliamentary representatives of: the Australian, people, should know more of the problems that, face out neighbours in. South-East Asia, and the near north-,, particularly in Indonesia. ] should like this- Parliament to send delegations to all such countries on goodwill missions to study their, problems, and to tell them of our problems. By that means- we could gain a sound knowledge of the- difficulties that, beset our neighbours and of their plans for the future. Their ideologies, their aims and their ambitions may differ from ours, but they have- a right to pursue their own destinies. We in this National Parliament should have an opportunity to study conditions in neighbouring countries at first hand and to learn of their- plans for the future.. By doing so, we can find ways of co-operating with them! in order to achieve international peace; Much good can be gained by a frequent exchange of parliamentary delegations. We should facilitate visits to Australia, by representatives of those countries so that they can learn more about us and. our problems and aspirations than they know at present. Only by understanding each other better can we hope to break down the tensions that endanger our relations. By working together in- close co-operation we can achieve our objective of prosperity with a stable peace.

The success of the Government's plans, which were dealt with in the GovernorGeneral's Speech, depends largely upon co-operation between the Australian Government and the State governments. Such co-operation has been remarkable for its absence in the last few years. This has been due largely to the attitude of anti-Liberal governments in various States which have sought to make political capital out of the good deeds of this Government. No real effort has been made by State governments to work cooperatively for the advancement of our national welfare. The Governor-General's Speech contained an. interesting reference to plans for the extension of rail links and other transport systems for the purpose of developing beef production in northern Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Mr Calwell - It was a very airy reference.

Mr PEARCE - Such references were notably absent from Governor-General's Speeches while the Labour party was in power. Valuable results could be achieved if the Government could obtain the cooperation of the Queensland Government in this work. It is all very well to talk of sending commissions into northern Queensland and the Northern Territory in order to consider the best way to develop the beef industry, but the files of various Commonwealth and State authorities have become choked with the reports of such commissions. ' There is an urgent need to increase beef production in the great breeding areas of the Northern Territory. A representative of one meat company told me in Queensland last week that his organization had planned to bring 30,000 head of cattle from the Northern Territory to its killing works at Rockhampton during 1953-54 but, because of the shortcomings of our transport system, had been able to move only 10,000 head. We must provide means of transport that will enable the industry to make the best use of the breeding areas of the Northern Territory in conjunction with the fattening areas of Queensland. Beef production can be increased vastly by that means. Unfortunately, the Queensland Government's attitude to such plans is unco-operative.

Mr Calwell - That is not so.

Mr PEARCE - As the honorable member for Melbourne knows full well, the State Government is prepared to cooperate only if the Commonwealth will provide all the money. It is not prepared to spend a penny on the extension of its railway services. It wants the Commonwealth to do all the work. That is an old story that we have heard over and over again. The States talk of their sovereign powers, but all they want are the sovereigns of this Government. Furthermore, they insist that they shall have the right to spend this Government's money as they wish. I repeat that we can solve the problems that hamper the development of the beef industry in the Northern Territory and Queensland only by means of close co-operation between the Commonwealth and the State. This Government has offered to co-operate, -but the Queensland Government has refused to reciprocate.

The honorable member for Melbourne recently paid a flying visit to such places as Cairns and Darwin, after which he spoke of the alleged inadequacy of our defence system in northern Australia. He came and went like a comet and then considered himself to be qualified to make some airy-fairy criticisms of our defences. He spoke of his great interest in Queensland and the Northern Territory and said that this part of the continent must be developed and defended.

Mr Calwell - Hear, hear!

Mr PEARCE - The honorable member and his colleagues say, " Hear, hear !" now, but their protestations belie their actions last night, when they had an opportunity to select representatives of Queensland and the Northern Territory for appointment to their controlling body in this Parliament. In fact, they have not elected to their executive anybody who represents any part of Australia north of Sydney. That shows how much importance they attach to the development of Queensland and the Northern Territory. They elected, for example, not the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), but the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), and not the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), but the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison).

Nomember of the executive of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party is a representative of Queensland or the Northern Territory. So much for their protestations of interest in Northern Australia! The truth is that they entirely ignored the Queenslanders in their ranks when they selected the membership of their controlling body. Why did they not choose a Queenslander or the honorable member for the Northern Territory if they were honestly concerned for the welfare of northern Australia? They tell one story with their mouths, but their votes tell a different story. We want to know where the antiLiberals stand in relation to the development of the great open spaces of northern' Australia. I hope that some member of the Opposition will take the opportunity before this debate concludes to explain why his party neglected the representatives of Queensland when it elected its executive last night.

The problems of northern Australia are real and pressing, and there is scope for co-operation in their solution between all political parties represented in this House. This Government would welcome honest and constructive criticism of its policies by members of the Opposition, and therefore I hope that the Opposition will ask those of its members who know and understand conditions in northern Australia to apply their minds to the subject. It is of no use for any honorable member who represents an area south of the " Brisbane line ", which the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) invented some years ago, to attack the Government on this issue. We on this side of the House want the Opposition to obtain the advice of members who come from northern Australia before it attacks the Government's plans for the development and the defence, of that vast region. These are dangerous times and we should work as a parliament, not merely as a party political institution in which opposing sides gibe and jeer at each other. We should be able to co-operate as Australians to solve Australia's problems. We can achieve great results if we put Australia's interests first and set aside our differences. All honorable members should be given fuller and freer opportunities to travel around Australia in order that they might acquire a complete understanding of the country's problems. If we were enabled to travel extensively through the country, we should be far better equipped than we are at present to grapple with the problems of the nation. I ask the Government to consider the advisability of making provision for organized tours to all parte of Australia by members of this legislature. The whole nation depends upon us for its development. Therefore, we should be properly equipped to discharge our responsibilities to it.

Greater co-operation is also needed between employers and employees. Fortunately, this Government has enabled great progress to be made in this direction and, as a result, it has attracted to itself the support of most of the trade unionists and working people of the community. In fact, the Government is in power to-day only because it has been able to foster far greater co-operation in the industrial sphere than existed previously. We are here because of that fact. We on this side of the House represent the majority and honorable ' members opposite represent, the minority of the electors, and I believe that each of us, using his influence, which is not inconsiderable, could promote some greater degree of good relationships between employer and employee. I believe also that there exist in Australia not only room for greater pride in workmanship, but also a need for greater pride in management. Management and labour should co-operate more closely. We, in this Parliament, have a direct responsibility to use our influence wherever possible to see that this is achieved.

We also have responsibilities towards people in the community who are poor, distressed and in need of the help that perhaps governments alone can give them. I was pleased to note that the GovernorGeneral stated in his Speech that plans are afoot to relieve still further the disabilities suffered by some people in the community. A lot remains to be done in the field of social services, but I am proud that this Government has done more in the way of extending social services benefits to the community than any previous Government has done, irrespective of the duration of its term of office.

However, as I have said, there is more to do. One of the things that. I should like , to see done is an extension of courses in rehabilitation work so that we may be able togive more people self-respect by restoring them to the working community as wage earners. In order todo so we require more trained and experienced social workers. I do not know the figures that apply in other States, because I have been unable to have them collated, but I know that in Queensland there are onlynine trained social workers for the Australian Red Cross and other similar organizations. They play a vital part in the rehabilitation of incapacitated people, and I believe that the Government would do a great service to the community if it were to initiate means whereby people in Government employment, and other people who so desired, could receive training in the field of social work. Such training would enable them to rehabilitate and restore to the wage-earning field people who are in need of such rehabilitation because of physical incapacity, who need all the sympathy and practical help we can give them. They are receiving a goodly amount now, but a great deal more could be achieved by increasing the number of trained and experienced social workers. In this way the problems of many of the distressed people in the community could be better understood, their way back to society and into the working community be made smoother, and their approach to their problems generally be made easier.. I leave it to the House. I believe that this desirable objective can be achieved and that the Government can do a. great deal towards the achievement of it. I am proud that the Government has again earned the overwhelming confidence of the people, and has been returned with a good majority. I believe that it will set out with vigour to implement the programme outlined in the Governor-General's Speech. That programme has been presented to us as one that will be for the good of the community, and I trust that, instead of receiving abuse from the Opposition, we shall receive from it encouragement and co-operation in meeting the problems that lie ahead.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Costa) adjourned.

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