Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 21 March 1961

Mr CHRESBY (Griffith) .- Mr. Speaker,I would like to join with others in offering my very sincere congratulations to the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp) and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. England) on their maiden speeches in moving and seconding, respectively, the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. Without detracting from the speech of the honorable member for Calare, I would like to say that certain aspects of the speech by the honorable member for Higinbotham struck me as being of a standard which every one of us in this place would do well to follow. So forgive me if I try to follow the lead which I feel he gave.

Sir, thereaction of the negative mind to His Excellency's Speech is a picture of gloom, for the very essence of negative thinking is despair, decay and destruction. The constructive mind, however, recognizes it as a challenge to the skills of human endeavour and, subject only to that limitation, confidently accepts it as such. I believe, Sir, that a necessary first step towards meeting this challenge is a long overdue readjustment of our mental attitudes in this House. Each day we assemble and ask for divine guidance in the discharge of our high and important duties and thereafter truly demonstrate that what we really seek is not divine guidance but party supremacy. We fail to recognize that the Australian people are becoming tired of the utter futility of party warfare. Indeed, the death rattles of the party system in its present form are becoming more audible. Unless we apply ourselves with a new and dedicated vigour to the solving of the major problem of our age, then it will be but a matter of time before the party system will strangle us in its death struggles.

What is the major problem of our time? lt is that the physical sciences are developing at a rate which is faster than the present apparent capacity of the social sciences to keep pace. This leads me to make a statement of certain fundamentals: Surely no parliament can endure if its purpose - the very reason for its existence - is replaced by mere form and procedure. Before it is too late, we must restate and relearn the true purpose of parliament. There have been many definitions, but to me the most basic is that government and parliament should so administer the country's affairs that its people will be able more easily and rapidly to achieve the fulfilment of Micah 4, verse 4, which states: -

But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid:

The responsibility for the fatal condition into which parliament is so obviously drifting rests equally with the people, the press and the parliamentarians. It rests with the people because of their complete indifference to and lack of interest in the work of parliament and parliamentarians; with the press because of its continued destructive criticism of both the real and alleged failures and faults of parliament and parliamentarians which, in turn, induces a greater indifference by the people of Australia; and with parliamentarians because, broadly speaking, we have failed to learn how to overcome the weakness of party politics.

Sir, Iturn next to the question of the purpose of our economic system. I believe that the sole reason for the existence of an economic system is that it shall produce and distribute with a maximum of efficiency and a minimum of effort goods and services as, when, and where required by members of the community. Maximum efficiency and minimum effort, of course, involve consideration, on the one hand, of matters of cost and, on the other, the continuous application of the ever-increasing sum total of scientific and technical knowledge. As the largest single element in cost is labour, it follows naturally that the employer continuously endeavours to cut his labour costs by replacement, as far as possible, with modern methods of technology. The trade union movement, recognizing this advance of technology or, as it is sometimes called, automation, has become seriously alarmed at the inroads that automation is making and will continue to make, especially in the field of unskilled labour.

This raises the problem of what we can do with the unemployable unskilled labour, both of the present and the future. At this point, I should like to remind the House and the nation of the prophetic statement made by Professor Soddy, Professor of Physics at the Oxford University in the year 1928. He said-

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, scientists are hard at work inventing new labour saving devices to shift the burden of toil from men to machines, and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays foolish politicians are hard at work inventing new jobs to put them back to work again.

Assuredly, this problem will increasingly face every government in Australia. The genius of man, in the fields of science and technology, has been directed towards the elimination of the unskilled and the semiskilled worker in the production and the distribution of goods and services. In this respect, its increasing success is unarguable. On the other hand, the trade unions and the governments have not yet been successful in developing methods and techniques to take advantage of the results of man's ingenuity.

I turn, now, to certain related problems. With approximately two-thirds of Australia's population concentrated along approximately one-third of Australia's coastline of 12,700 miles, one must recognize that in our empty north we are faced with an absolutely untenable situation which offers us but three costly alternatives. First, can we persuade large sections of the coastal populations in the east and the south to shift homes and jobs to Australia's great north? If we cannot do that, then dare we consider the question of a multi-racial population of the north? The third alternative is to leave the position exactly as it is and thereby surrender, in the minds of others, our right to maintain possession of our northern mainland.

It may be that we shall have to offer to great firms and companies who are prepared to develop towns and population in the north special tax concessions or, possibly, forms of subsidy which would enable them fully to recover their capital outlay before meeting any considerations of tax. We may also have to offer taxation concessions, possibly for fifteen or twenty years, to people who will be prepared to live in and develop the north. Such concessions, of course, would mean that somebody else would have to pay for them either through loans, through taxation, or both. This may not be palatable to many people on the eastern and southern coastlines. But I believe that we can no longer rest secure each night in our own homes on the assumption that the north does not matter.

Sooner or later, Australia's concentrated population with centralized commerce, business and industry will have to pay for the north one way or another. The vital question is this: When and in which way do we want to pay? Much has been written and spoken with respect to road and cattle development in our north. While wholeheartedly supporting development, I am not very happy about an approach which appears to me to lack scientific reality. With some personal knowledge of much of our great north from the western coast to the eastern, I am convinced that with a drastic revision of present cattle policy there is no practical or scientific reason why Australia cannot rapidly become the world's provider of beef.

It is an urgent national target to develop all-year-round coastal fattening and killing from Wyndham in Western Australia right around the north and down the Queensland coastline. There is no reason why the abattoirs already established around that perimeter, with additional works at Darwin and possibly Normanton, cannot be kept in continuous operation. The key word to that development has been frequently stressed by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr.

Murray). It is nutrition. If necessary, more money, materials and scientists must be allocated to the urgent task of developing nutritious grasses and legumes that will flourish in both the wet and dry coastal regions. We must solve this problem. Then cattle-raisers may breed their cattle in the hinterland, wean, transport and fatten in the areas surrounding the killing centres. It is useless saying it cannot be done; it must be done at speed. No matter what we spend to achieve it, the rewards are great. Failure is just unthinkable.

Once a policy on the cattle industry is decided and we know what we are working towards, the obvious next step is to investigate what actual new and potential forms of ground transport are now or shortly will be available. Then we must lay down a road policy tailored to meet such transport requirements. We must not build roads and then decide our transport policy. If, as I believe, desirable, practicable and economic forms of off-the-road transport are available or are awaiting financial backing for speedy development, then we must lose no time in putting them to the test in and under the conditions of Australia's vast outback. To the extent that they economically prove themselves, we shall reduce the mileage of expensive road building and maintenance that is required. Condemnation before investigation is a criminal bar to progress; so let the theoretical critics remain silent until off-the-road transport has been properly and widely tested.

Coupled with all this is the question of oil and minerals. Recognizing that unless we find oil Australia is committed to an over-increasing drain and strain on its overseas funds, the Government Members Mining Committee suggested that the Government should encourage various groups through a subsidy system to investigate Australia's oil geology as a basis for a scientific approach to oil search. In no time, some 42 groups were spread throughout Australia in a planned, systematic geological probing never previously known in our history. In 1959, we put down 51 probing wells. Of course, the United States of America averaged something like 156 a day. Last year, we drilled fewer than twelve holes. The reason for the drop in drilling is simple. We have just about all the oil geological knowledge we require and, subject to further government subsidies being available, we are now ready to get down to the serious business of drilling for oil. I believe, from my own investigation and studies, that we will strike commercial oil within the next twelve or eighteen months, and that we will strike it in Queensland somewhere in the vast electorate of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe).

Next comes the question of minerals. Without doubt, Australia is a land blessed by God. We do not yet know the full extent of our mineral resources but we know that they are vast. I believe that apart from mineral extraction we must develop an overall national plan for concentrated research into new uses for our minerals such as lead. It is one thing to produce a mineral and another to find a use for it. One of the most immediate questions involving minerals applies to tin. At present, the search for tin deposits, either alluvial or lode, rs inadequate. I beg the Government to place tin on exactly the same basis as oil and gold with respect to taxation. This is an urgent matter if the tin industry is to survive and grow.

Sir, inconclusion, I offer these final thoughts: Think deep! Is this wonderful heaven-blest country of ours sunk in economic distress as many calamity howlers would have us believe? In the midst of the ever-increasing marvels of science and technology, surely we are not so devoid of initiative, skill and plain horse-sense that we cannot put to practical use God's promise -

I have come that ye may have life and have it more abundantly.

Surely we are not so divorced from political morality that we cannot demonstrate our true functions as parliamentarians -

He who would be greatest among ye, let him be the servant of all.

Suggest corrections