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Wednesday, 8 March 1961

Mr CHIPP (Higinbotham) .- I move -

That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Administrator be agreed to: -

May it Please Your Excellency -

We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.

I am very sorry that I rise to make my maiden speech in this place in the atmosphere of sadness which obtains at this time. Feelings of great regret and sorrow are in the hearts of all members of this House at the tragic death of our late Governor-General.

I could not pass on to what I have to say without referring to another sad occasion - the death of my predecessor as member for Higinbotham, Mr. Frank Timson. Since my election, the tremendous esteem in which Mr. Timson was held has been continually impressed upon me. The honour of following such a man into the Federal Parliament of this country is indeed great.

I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility at being elected to this Parliament at a time when the most exciting years of Australia's history and development are about to take place. There is an abundance of evidence to suggest that no country in the world to-day has the potential for growth which we have. Dramatic opportunities similar to those which were available in the United States of America some 30 years ago, and which stirred the imagination of all peoples of the free world, now abound in Australia to an even greater degree. The fabulous fifties set a pattern of success and prosperity which aroused world comment, but I have no doubt that their achievements will be overshadowed and outmatched by our experiences in the sixties which we have now entered. As one who is new to the Parliament and who therefore is still virtually a member of the lay public, as it were, I say that the economic base now established for the launching of this further decade of prosperity and success is sound and solid. The foundations have been laid with meticulous care and attention.

I am convinced that the people of Australia have accepted the Government's economic policies as being necessary adjustments to keep the economy on course. The people have come to the inevitable conclusion that the economic progress of this country made during the last decade, the maintenance of the high rate of immigration, the ever-increasing development of our natural resources, the continuous upward trend in the standard of living and the maintenance of full employment do not happen by accident but are the result of day-to-day vigilance and attention to the changing economic stimuli which are a feature of twentieth-century economics. I am equally sure, Sir, that the people of Australia overwhelmingly endorse this concept of periodic adjustment in preference to reversion to those old-fashioned policies - or that oldfashioned lack of policies, should I say - which allowed light-headed and carefree booms which inevitably were followed by catastrophic depressions.

I therefore make no apology for not concentrating my attention on the economic situation of the nation at this time, for I sincerely believe that it is basically sound that the economy is straining at the leash to expansion and progress. I would rather direct my attention to a problem which I believe to be most urgent and vital to the future of our country in both the short and the long term. I refer to the need for a more even distribution of the human and physical resources of our nation. T hesitate to use the word " decentralization ", because, strangely, the thought expressed by so many oft-repeated terms sometimes becomes hackneyed itself, and I believe that if the concept of decentralization ever becomes hackneyed in this place a terrible danger to Australia will immediately have been created.

His Excellencythe Administrator referred to the Government's plans for the Northern Territory, the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and northern Australia generally. Having just returned from an extended visit to these areas, I feel impelled to take this opportunity to add my views to those voiced in this place by honorable members who have said before that this problem of the north is one of national urgency. For a member who represents a city electorate in the south, as I do, to choose to discuss in his maiden speech the problems of the far north may seem strange. I do this quite wilfully, because I believe that no other issue is more inextricably woven into the future destinies of all Australians, whether they be city dwellers or whether they live in the remote areas of our country, than is this one.

As I see it, there are two basic reasons why this problem is so urgent. First, there is the sociological aspect, and, secondly, the political aspect. Let me take the sociological aspect first. The more recent years of the twentieth century, with their processes of automation, have brought sociological and psychological problems into the midst of our community. There is undoubtedly a progression towards that state of affairs in which the labours of the work force of to-day are being directed towards more specialized operations. This specialization takes away that very sense of achievement which keeps a man socially alive and stimulates him to greater things.

For purposes of comparison, let us go back to the days when the artisan, at the end of his labours each day, was able to see some identifiable manifestation of the combination of his time, his skills and his abilities. In those days, we would surely have noted a sense of satisfaction - subconscious though it may have been - because of his personal achievement over any given period. Automation, on the other hand, with its techniques of mass production, is creating a work force of highly specialized artisans who apply a specific skill to one operation in the production of a highly complex unit. The artisan of to-day is denied the satisfaction of observing the results of his labours. The oldfashioned cobbler commenced the day with some leather, a hammer, a knife and some tacks. He concluded the day with his completed shoes. The skilled motor mechanic of to-day is denied this satisfaction, because his individual contribution to the completed article - the motor vehicle - appears to him to be infinitesimal.

Sociologists and psychologists who have studied this problem intensively strongly recommend that the leaders of the twentieth century find additional compensations to fill this gap. Obviously, many such compensations are being found to-day. But the challenge of a new frontier, with the inherent satisfaction of a feeling that one has made a contribution towards the development of the remote areas of a nation, would provide a magnificent solution to this problem for the many Australians who still have in them the spirit of adventure.

Those honorable members who have met the territorian on his home ground in the Territories will agree that he has a joy in living and an indefinable quality about his philosophy which, as the poet once said, the city folk never know. If this spirit of adventure which made our country great is not re-kindled, 1 fear for the results of the dehumanizing processes now at work in our capital cities. But the evidence at hand shows that a philosophy of " Go north, young man! " will not be developed unless encouragement is given. The determination of the means of encouragement needs the most careful study.

Very important social factors are involved also in the mushroom growth of a capital city. We in Australia are extraordinarily fortunate' to have maintained a high sense of public morality in all our big cities and elsewhere. However, there are those who estimate that Melbourne and Sydney will each have attained a population of 4,000,000 within the next 25 years. At our present rate of development, this will present us with an unbalanced situation in which we will have a disproportionate concentration' of people in our southern and coastal areas while the major part of our 3,000,000 square miles is still relatively unused. If the experiences of other big cities can be taken as any guide, we must always be fearful of the possibility of a sudden deterioration in our public morals and social values if our capital cities continue to expand as they are expanding at the present time.

One might well ask the question, " Why do not people go out of the cities and live elsewhere now? " The answers to that question could be many and varied but, basically, one line of argument is that people will follow industry. Having had some little experience in my previous employment of trying to induce overseas industrialists to settle in Australia, I know that when they were confronted by their accountants with a summary of the unit cost of producing in a town or country area several miles away from a capital city, the proposition was not and could not be acceptable to them. The simple truth was that, while certain economies such as lower labour turnover and so on could be effected by manufacturing in the larger suburban or country areas, the great increase in unit cost of production brought about by additional transport charges would virtually price them out of the market. I feel that for too long the State governments in particular have regarded this solely as a transportation problem. But the Ministers for Transport in the various States cannot be blamed for not accepting full responsibility for the decentralization of industry. The Minister for Transport in each State is endeavouring to administer his portfolio in a businesslike way and cannot be expected to find out of his vote that amount of money which would be necessary to equate the higher cost of moving industry to the country. The point I want to make is that for too long it has been regarded as a simple transportation problem. I believe it is a most urgent national problem.

Secondly, there is an urgent political need for utilizing our remote areas. I have sometimes wondered at the task that will face our Australian representative at the United Nations ten years from now. I should imagine that he will find considerable difficulty in opposing with any forceful argument the claims of the undernourished and over-populated nations in connexion with our northern areas if, by that time, we have not made a major practicable contribution to the development of the north.

Let nothing that I have said be construed in any way as criticism of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) or his department. From my observations, if the work of any government department cries aloud for praise of the highest order, it is that of the Department of Territories. It has done most commendable work over the past few years. For example, the welfare work amongst the full blood natives in the Northern Territory for the good of their bodies, minds and souls has been little short of staggering, especially when we remember the magnitude of the problem. The success achieved with the assimilation and integration of partcoloured people has been admired and acclaimed by many world authorities. In the Territory of Papua and New Guinea a start has been made on the many and varied complex situations there. This has been most encouraging for there is being applied to it that wisdom of approach which has been so tragically lacking in the approach to problems connected with the Congo and other places.

To justify what I have said - it might be looked upon as critical or provocative - let me say in conclusion that there is no doubt in my mind that a well-considered master plan of development for our remote areas, conceived in the broadest of terms, should be adopted immediately. The cost of its implementation will be enormous, but the price of not proceeding with it is unthinkable.

During the past several weeks I have spoken to hundreds of leading citizens of these territories and asked them for their opinions as to how their respective areas could be developed. I was astonished at the range and variety of replies I received. With all due respect to those with whom I spoke, it was obvious that each was motivated by a parochial impulse. This, of course, is inevitable and, as far as the individual is concerned, it is as it should be. Because of the complexity and magnitude of the problem, I believe that the most difficult aspect of conducting a survey and formulating a master plan will be the lack of objectivity of those persons who give evidence, and, indeed, of the architects of the plan who receive that evidence.

I have wondered whether it is possible for any group of Australians, no matter how representative they may be in the commercial, industrial, professional, academic, trade union, government or any other field of endeavour, to view this problem concerning their own country with that complete objectivity and dispassionate thought which I am sure all members in this House would consider vital to such a project. I would therefore suggest that the Government might give consideration to appointing from outside Australia a group of experts who might come in with a completely fresh approach, with no basic prejudices about the possibility of these areas and with no precon 'ed ideas or notions about their potential. There are many such world-respected organizations in the United Kingdom, in the United States of America and elsewhere. To give one example, the Stanford Research Institute of California, a product of the Stanford University and a well-respected organization, has done similar studies with outstanding results in many countries of the world. Indeed, it was retained recently by t'-° Government of Victoria to report on the industrial and commercial potential of that State.

We all believe that the potential of our far north knows no bounds. Probably we al! have different ideas as to where development should commence and at what rate it should proceed. There are some who believe that the tax instrument should be used more heavily in providing economic relief and encouragement to the citizens of the north. There are others who claim that to declare Darwin and other places on our northern seaboard free ports would give the required stimulus. There are those who believe that tUc growth of citrus fruits in the Alice Springs area, with the consequent production of concentrated fruit juices, would be successful, and there are many other personal and specific ideas as to how certain parts of the Territory could be developed. The co-ordination of these ideas and their compilation into a master plan is, I believe, a vital necessity to the future of our country. Tn my opinion the fresher the mind and the more objective the approach, the more valuable will the finished product be.

The second and final suggestion I have to make is that I believe that the magnificent performance of such statutory corporations as the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority might well be borne in mind when the development of our remote areas is being planned. This suggestion is consistent with my feeling that the people who are so close to the problem are sometimes influenced by basic impulses and parochial feelings. The Government, in considering the development of our remote areas, should bear in mind the setting up of a statutory corporation or an independent commission. I am sure that it will. Let us continue to multiply the magnificent work that already is being done by the Department of Territories and by the Government in these remote areas. To do so would make the future of every Australian so much brighter than it is.

Mr. Speaker,it is with great pleasure that I commend to the House the Speech of His Excellency the Administrator of the Commonwealth.

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