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Thursday, 2 May 1957


Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lawrence) - Order! The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) will refrain from raising his voice.


Mr CHANEY - The Western Australian section of the Territory north of the 26th parallel constitutes oneseventh of the continent but has only 7,000 residents. If we are to continue to speak about developing Australia to the best of our ability and denying it to the people of other parts of the world, the time is long overdue for the Commonwealth Government to make a much greater contribution to the development of that area.

Since 1901 that part of Western Australia north of the 26th parallel has seen only a very slight increase in population. In that year, Australia's population was 3,700,000, and that of the area of Western Australia north of the 26th parallel was 6,200. Ten years later the population of Australia had increased by 700,000, but the population of that part of Western Australia had increased by only 200. The population then declined until 1940, but built up between that year and 1947 to a slightly higher figure. The population of Australia was then 7,500,000 and that of the area of Western Australia north of the 26th parallel only 6,800. In 1 953, the latest year for which figures are available, the population of the continent was almost 9,000,000, but there were still only 7,700 people in this vast area. To all intents and purposes, one can say that the population of this area has remained static for 50 years. The slight increase of 1,200 or 1,300 has no doubt been attributable to the establishment of one or two large industries in the area.

At present the non-taxable allowance in this area, which is in Zone A, is approximately £180. This, of course, has a varying effect on people at different levels of income. To the man who pays 15s. in the £1 it represents a rebate of £135. To the man who pays ls. in the £1 it represents a rebate of only £9. The solution of the problem of developing the north-west of Western Australia has been voiced in this House by Western Australian representatives on numerous occasions. It is that, for a certain period, the area should be declared a completely tax-free zone.


Mr Hamilton - But not for absentee owners.


Mr CHANEY - The honorable member and I do not agree on that point. Some of the people who are now absentee owners have done more than has any one else to develop the parts that have gone ahead. They have now retired in the Perth area, but they suffered the rigours of the northwest when communications were extremely bad and air travel was not available. I do not see why they, too, should not reap some reward. One could say, I suppose, that the asbestos undertaking at Wittenoom Gorge, which is primarily the concern of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, has an absentee owner, but I believe that if we are to have development we cannot worry about whether the person who owns the undertaking is present or not. We must go all out and offer tax-free conditions.

Production in the north - and the north is capable of production in many fields - has, like the population, been static or has declined. In the 50 years since federation the value of copper produced has fallen from some £12,000 to £8,000 annually. If we take the relative prices into account we will see that that is a very great drop indeed. Tin production has gone up slightly. Gold production has dropped from 17,000 ounces to about 7,000 ounces. The number of sheep was 2,000,000 in 1901 and rose to some 3,000,000 in the 'thirties, but apparently the industry has never recovered from the depression, because the number is still only 2,000,000. Many of those who were developing the area for pastoral pursuits found that it was much better to open up land in the southern part of the State, to the detriment of the northern part. The number of cattle has dropped from 650,000 in 1910 to only about 500,000 to-day. In the Northern Territory, however, it has increased by 100 per cent, in the same period. While I doubt whether development comparable with that in the Northern Territory would occur even if the Commonwealth were to take over the whole of the area above the 26th parallel, I believe that the solution does lie in the hands of the Commonwealth Government. It would cost only about £500,000 per annum to relieve every person who resides in that area of income tax. I arrived at that figure by dividing the total taxation paid in Australia, both personal and company tax, by the total population, thus getting an amount of tax per head which I think works out at about £70. It is quite obvious that, for a small amount such as £500,000, we could attract people to this area by giving them freedom from income tax. Some incentive must be provided to induce people to live in a place where conditions are so far removed from those which exist in the centres of civilization. They have not the amenities and attractions that are available to a person who works in the southern part of Australia.

As the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has pointed out, once the budget is brought down in this House it will be too late to do anything about this matter. But if we are interested in oneseventh of the area of this continent, and if we are to go on with our policy of restrictive immigration, we cannot afford to keep an undeveloped territory and deny the use of it to other people. We have to make up our minds about this. Since I am a staunch supporter of the restrictive immigration policy I must press the Government to give some assistance to this part of Australia, which is capable of much greater development, and we shall be well repaid for any concessions granted by the Parliament of the Commonwealth to the people living there.

Mr. WARD(East Sydney) [12.21.- I desire to take this opportunity of ventilating a couple of matters which I regard as being of great importance. Honorable members will be aware that on a number of occasions in this House I have mentioned the name of Mr. George Marue. Mr. Marue has claimed - and the claim has never been denied, although it has been made on a number of occasions - that for a period he was employed by the Commonwealth security service, and that his work was that of watching Dr. Bialoguski who, in turn, had been employed by security to aid in the defection of one Vladimir Petrov. Ever since Mr. Marue decided that his side of the story should be made known to the Australian public, he has suffered attention from the Commonwealth security service designed, in my opinion, to intimidate him and create conditions under which the Government might seek his deportation. Undoubtedly, the security service regards. Marue as being a very dangerous person from the Government's point of view because he knows too much about what previously transpired.

Mr. Marue,probably realizing that the Government might act against him, sought my aid some time ago in respect of an application that he had made for a certificate of naturalization. When I took the matter up with the then Minister for Immigration, I eventually received a reply, after a great deal of persistence on my part, advising me that a certificate of naturalization had been approved. Strangely enough, Mr. Marue heard nothing further also it this naturalization. He asked me to make further inquiries. I was then advised in the letter, which is marked " Confidential ", but which I now regard as no longer being in that category, of the reason for the delay in granting the certificate of naturalization. In this communication, which is dated 2nd October, 1956, the then Minister for Immigration stated -

Mr. Maruehas come under adverse notice since the 29th June last when I advised you thai I had approved of the gram of naturalization in his favour. Mr. Marue appeared before the court on 11th July on two charges of obtaining money wilh cheques which were dishonoured, but was acquitted cn both counts.


Mr Casey - I rise to order, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. I should like your ruling as to whether the honorable gentleman is in order in quoting from a document which he himself admits is marked " Confidential ", and which he received from a Commonwealth Minister. If this practice is pursued I believe that there will be no alternative but for Ministers to restrict the information that they give honorable members with respect to individuals. I suggest, with great respect, that it is entirely wrong to make public a document marked " Confidential ", a classification which it is expected will be observed. Otherwise, departmental and ministerial communications with honorable members will, I would expect, be very much restricted in future.


Mr Ward - On the point of order. Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, as I mentioned, I did regard the communication as confidential for the period during which I believe that it ought to have been kept in that category. The quotations that I now make refer to matters that have now been completed. In my opinion, it cannot be still regarded as confidential. The date of the letter is 2nd October, 1956. In view of subsequent happenings, I am confident that the then Minister for Immigration himself would no longer regard the letter as confidential.


Mr Freeth - I submit that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is quite wrong in substituting his own judgment for that of the Minister in regard to what is confidential or not. If he were completely satisfied that the matter was no longer confidential, surely it would be simple for the honorable member to get the Minister's permission to have the document reclassified as being no longer confidential. But for the honorable member to say that he, in his own judgment, no longer regarded it as confidential is something which no Minister could accept.

Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lawrence).- Order! I am not going to allow this matter to develop into an argument. Honorable members must keep their remarks strictly to the point of order.


Mr Turnbull - My contention, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, is that you may not rule the honorable member out of order for quoting this document. When a document is marked " Confidential " it is so marked with a feeling of assurance that the man who receives the confidential document will not divulge its contents. If it gets into the hands of some one who will not stand by what we may call a " gentleman's agreement ", there is no redress.


Mr Casey - May I, without presumption, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, for the benefit of your judgment in this matter, suggest that the word " Confidential " was put on this document because it contained what might be regarded as derogatory references to an individual of whom I, personally, have no knowledge. I believe that that circumstance is not affected by the aspect of time. I would not think it relevant whether a few months or a few years have gone by since the document was written. The then Minister for Immigration marked the letter " Confidential " because he believed that remarks which were highly critical of a certain individual should not become public knowledge.


Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER -

Although I and many honorable members may feel that when a document such as this is marked " Confidential " it should be kept so, I believe that it must be left to the good sense of the member who is in possession of the letter to decide whether its contents should be revealed. If the honorable member for East Sydney believes that his action is in good taste, and if he is prepared to take the results which may accrue from his quoting the contents of the letter, I rule that he is in order.


Mr Casey - I rise to order.

Mr. ACTING DEPUTYSPEAKER.Is it the same point of order?


Mr Casey - I think it can be regarded as another point of order. Clearly, the honorable member for East Sydney is claiming privilege in this case; but, if he regards the claim for privilege as overriding the classification that the Minister put on his letter, then we can expect the honorable member for East Sydney to have a very much more restricted source of information through ministerial channels than he has had in the past.


Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! What is the point of order? No point of order has been raised by the Minister.







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