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Thursday, 28 March 1957

Mr BRIMBLECOMBE (Maranoa) . - I join with other honorable members of this House in congratulating the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. We have had a demonstration from those two honorable members of what we may expect from them in the future. Their contribution to this debate has been very well received and, 1 believe, has been very enlightening. I have listened for a week to this debate on the Address-in-Reply and the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). All 1 can say is that with all the moaning and whining we have heard from the majority of Opposition members here, one would expect that in the near future we would have mass emigration of all old Australians from this country, leaving it for the new Australians.

I believe there is a housing problem in this country. A young and growing country like Australia, with a big immigration programme and a substantial natural increase in population, must expect some problems like this, and it is up to us in this Parliament to face up to those problems. I believe this Government has faced up to them in a practical manner. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), in his concluding remarks said that what was wanted was somebody to give leadership. This is both a Commonwealth and a State responsibility. I would remind the honorable member for Bendigo that when this Government's new housing agreement legislation was passed during the last session of Parliament it was opposed by some State governments. Nearly six months elapsed before the scheme could be put into operation. Some States are still opposed to it.

Mr Curtin Mr. Curtininterjecting.

Mr BRIMBLECOMBE - Honorable members opposite will not co-operate. They will not try to see what is good in the scheme. As usual, they are unco-operative.

The honorable member for Wilis (Mr. Bryant) chided my friend, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), for a statement he made on co-operation and working together. The honorable member for Hume made the statement after giving his reasons why the Russians should be kicked out of the United Nations. The honorable member for Wills said that that was a dangerous statement to make; that the Labour party felt that all peoples should be brought into consultation on world affairs and that every effort should be made at conciliation and arbitration in all fields. I would remind the honorable member for Wills that this Government set up an economic advisory council last year and again this year, composed of representatives of the business and all other sections of the community. Mr. Monk, president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, was invited to represent the great Labour unions of Australia on that council, but the Australian Labour party would not permit him to do so.

If the honorable member believes that all shades of opinion, including even that of the Communists, should be heard in the United Nations, why does he object to similarly wide representation on the various organizations that this Government sets up to advise it on economic and other problems. Opposition members, are not at all consistent. Most of their speeches simply reflect Labour's policy which, as was amply demonstrated in Brisbane recently, is unification - the centralization of government in the Commonwealth Parliament and the abolition of the State governments. Their idea is to have one supreme central government, which, with the abolition of the State governments, would have sovereign rights. The politicians would be supreme. The High Court, which is the only buffer now between politicians and the people, would be eliminated and decisions made here by the politicians would be final. That is not democracy to my way of thinking.

The Leader of the Opposition, after congratulating the mover and seconder, claimed that this Government had never had a planned programme and that all the accomplishments mentioned by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) were due to the earlier work of the Labour party. The truth is that the foundations were laid by the Bruce-Page Government. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) yesterday gave some illustrations of this. He demonstrated to the House that it is due to the Bruce-Page Government that this country is in the solvent position it is in to-day.

If honorable members of this House look at the statute-book, they will find that most of the measures which have saved this country's economy were brought down then and are still in operation. The stabilization plan in the dairying industry was brought in in 1923. The equalization scheme brought in then is still in operation. There was no plan for the wool industry. The wool-growers of this country cannot thank the Labour party for anything. I remind this House that a former Premier of Queensland, the late Mr. Hanlon, at a Labour conference in Queensland some years ago advocated a fixed price for wool in Queensland. We had to fight that and we fought it very effectively. We have a free marketing system for our wool to-day and the wool industry has saved this country time and time again.

I do not hear my friends in the Opposition chiding me as they did when in one of my first speeches in this House, I spoke of the necessity to do something for our farwestern areas, particularly in relation to our great primary industries. I was accused of working the parish pump and looking after the wool barons and beef barons. But honorable members opposite did not go on the hustings and talk about wool barons and beef barons. They were not game to do that. This country is very lucky to have an industry such as the wool industry to pull it out of its economic troubles. The general public should know that and should be given, if possible, an "opportunity to appreciate it. Pasture improvement was encouraged by the BrucePage Government away back in 1925. That Government also brought in a subsidy for superphosphate, which had the effect of trebling the supply of superphosphate and halving its price to the primary producer.

Those are just a few examples of what the Bruce-Page Government did for this country.

Now I intend to deal with some matters contained in His Excellency the GovernorGeneral's Speech. I said before thai the housing problem was an important problem; but there are other equally important measures contained in this Speech which have not been discussed by members of this House at all. They, too, require some thought. The first one I want to mention relates to the free-trade area that has been suggested in Europe. His Excellency said -

The United Kingdom has entered upon negotiations for a free-trade area which will bring her, and perhaps other countries of Europe, into association with the common market of the six. Such far-reaching changes could have important implications for the Australian economy and these developments are being kept under close review.

I am disappointed. I thought that during this debate some one who had some information would tell us a little more about what is implied in that statement. The only information I have is what I have read in the newspapers. I shall refer to an interesting interview on this question with Sir David Eccles, Britain's new President of the Board of Trade. He was asked certain questions on this proposal. One was -

Are you sure this scheme will not damage the Commonwealth?

His answer was -

Quite sure. Just think where the interest and affections of the Commonwealth lie. They want Britain to be strong. On both sides we are each other's most important customers. In addition, we are the bankers of the Sterling Area. The Commonwealth are always hoping we shall have more money to lend for their development. Therefore they have much to gain by any plan which will help Britain to get rich in co-operation with Europe. They can see that the £1 sterling will be stronger, and the European market for their raw materials will be larger.

Another question put to Sir David Eccles was -

All right, but what about Commonwealth foodstuffs?

This is the important part -

We buy them from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Colonies, who in return give us preferences on our exports of manufactures to them. What would happen to this valuable exchange?

His answer was -

That is a good point and we have taken care of it. As things are, Commonwealth food enters the British market free of duty. This is important to countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Our new proposals would leave all this unchanged. For we have told our friends in Europe that we can only join in a Free Trade Area if foodstuffs, feeding-stuffs, drink and tobacco and horticultural products are excluded from it.

I pause there to say that 1 should like some clarification. I believe our own government should tell us exactly what that means. I do not understand how the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade will operate there. Sir David Eccles continued -

This is essential from the point of view of "our own farmers as well and of our policy of a strong home agriculture. We could not join on any other condition.

That is one of the most important matters mentioned in the Governor-General's Speech, lt affects the very foundation of the nation. If our export trade will be affected in any way, the whole foundation of the economy of this country will be affected. Everybody knows that our overseas funds are earned mainly by our primary industries. When I say " primary industries ", I have in mind that there are other primary industries than rural industries. The great bulk of our overseas earnings comes from primary industries. I hope that the appropriate Minister will, in due course, make a clear and concise statement to this House on how the Free Trade Area in Europe will affect this country and the producers of the goods. After all, Britain is our greatest customer for most of our primary industries.

I was very pleased to hear the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) say yesterday that when a nation has a prosperous rural community, there is prosperity throughout the length and breadth of the land. Everybody is prosperous if the rural community is prosperous. No truer words were ever said in this House. A similar statement has been made on many occasions, but it does not sink into the minds of some of my friends opposite.

Mr Hamilton - It is fundamental to the policy of the Australian Country party.

Mr BRIMBLECOMBE - I was about to say that. This party has a policy which is not sectional; it covers every section of the community. The honorable member for Perth amply demonstrated that when he said that, when we have a prosperous rural community, we have a prosperous nation. Now that the Australian Country party has been mentioned, I shall go a little farther. What was the reason for bringing a Country party into existence? It was formed because the average country dweller, not only the producer, was not getting a fair deal originally. He was not getting a fair share of the goods and amenities of this country. The public should know that. This party came into being and will remain here despite the recent comments of some newspapers. I go farther and say that this country should thank God it has a Country party. I mention those matters because the press recently has been very critical of our party. That is not new, of course, but it deserves some answer. The city press has always adopted that attitude.

Many other matters were mentioned in the Governor-General's Speech. I should like to mention another one, briefly. I congratulate the Government on its trade publicity campaign. Such a campaign was long overdue and I believe that it will help, us very extensively. In the last session, a bill was introduced to provide for the establishment of the export payments insurance corporation scheme. I believe that scheme will help the export not only of primary . products but also of manufactured goods. I commend the Government for introducing that scheme and I hope that it will be greatly extended in the future.

I am not altogether happy about one matter mentioned in His Excellency's Speech. I agree with my colleague, the honorable member for Moore (Mr; Leslie), that we continually hear suggestions that primary production should become more efficient. Why are we the only section of the community that is being told that continually? We are getting sick and tired of it! We agree that there is plenty of room for primary industries to become more efficient, but that comment applies to all industries. Let other sections of the community be told that they should become more efficient! I resent that portion of the Governor-General's Speech which suggests that primary producers should become more efficient. Though I said that there is plenty of room to improve, others should also do their share. I remind the House that the majority of primary producers are not in the game for the love of it or the fun of it; they also look for profits. Once a person enters a rural industry, he cannot just pack up and leave it. He cannot cart his property away on his back as any one else can. He puts his life savings into it and must stick to the job.

I shall refer to one other matter. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) mentioned costs which are affecting country areas in particular. He mentioned freights. I shall go a little farther. It is not only freights affecting us; it is also the crippling legislation that has been introduced recently - I am referring now tff Queensland - for the revaluation of the unimproved value of land.

Recently, rural properties in Queensland were re-valued, and throughout the Darling Downs and Maranoa unimproved values were increased by about 400 per cent. That meant an increase of 5d. a bushel in the cost of production of wheat. We are asked to reduce costs. The Queensland Government is constantly talking about reducing costs, but here is one instance of the way in which our costs have been increased. We have no come-back at all. We can do nothing about it except remove the Queensland Government from power, and that is a very difficult task, when we consider the way in which that Government has gerrymandered the electorates.

As a result of the greatly increased costs and our increased valuations, there is no incentive for anybody on the land to build up his property assets. I am quite prepared to give my own experience as an example. My valuation increased from £1,000 to £22,000 in one jump.

Mr Bryant - The honorable member is a rich man!

Mr BRIMBLECOMBE - Do not forget that I pioneered that country, and you cannot pioneer a country in five minutes. It is my home. I do not want to sell my property. I am not concerned about its sale value. But I am concerned about the people whom I will leave behind me when I go. Every day one can pick up the newspaper and see that probate has been granted of an estate in my district. Frequently one sees that the deceased's realty is, perhaps, £40,000, and his personalty nil. That is how he has finished, after working all his life and improving the country. When I first went out to that district everybody, including the members of our own State government, said that we were mad and would go broke. We were never given any encouragement. We could not get roads, electricity or any other amenity.

My time has almost expired, and before 1 resume my seat I wish to direct the attention of the general public to what took place at the recent biennial conference of the Australian Labour party in Brisbane. The people should try to understand exactly what is meant by democratic socialism. I asked quite a lot of my friends in the Australian Labour party what it meant, but they did not know. 1 did not know very much about it, either, until I read Dr. Burton's interpretation. This is a very serious question, and if we in Australia are to follow the tactics advocated by Dr. Burton, then the sooner we hand the country over to Russia the better.

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