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
Wednesday, 22 March 1961

Mr BROWNE (Kalgoorlie) .- I join with members of the House in express- ing my sorrow at the tragic passing of His Excellency Viscount Dunrossil. Both he and Lady Dunrossil, in the short time we knew them, endeared themselves to us and they, in turn, came to love Australia. Lord Dunrossil will be remembered by all of us with great affection. Sir, the Government's programme, as outlined by His Excellency the Administrator, is good news. It is good news to me, particularly, because so many of the developmental plans announced concern my own electorate of Kalgoorlie. The announcement that the Government is favorably disposed to a network of good roads in the cattle country of the north will be widely welcomed by the residents of the Kimberleys. For too long, this area has been held back by the use of obsolete and inefficient methods. Good roads will enable producers to truck cattle to killing centres and ports instead of walking them. This will allow the turning-off of younger cattle and, consequently, will result in more cattle. In addition, decreased wastage will mean a gain of many thousands of pounds of beef. The value of this move to our export earnings will be tremendous.

Similarly, the Government's plans to boost the search for minerals including oil will give great encouragement to Western Australia. Exploration of the enormous mineral wealth of Western Australia is hampered by difficulties of exploration, by lack of water for ore treatment, and by the cost of transportation over great distances. Incentives which will overcome or compensate for these obstacles could open up almost unlimited mineral resources. Australia simply cannot afford not to apply every effort to finding oil. Petroleum products are by far our largest import item and while one geological indication that oil can be found in Australia remains, we must spare no expense to get it. The Government is to be congratulated on its farsighted policy in this respect.

The standardization of the railway from Kalgoorlie to Kwinana, coupled with the Western Australian Government's plans to exploit the iron ore deposits at Koolyanobbing will boost tremendously our export earnings as well as giving the Western Australian economy generally a much needed shot in the arm. As a State, Western Australia simply cannot survive without fully exploiting its natural resources, mineral and agricultural, as well as the resources of the sea. We must make this exploitation and development possible by providing means of transport, social amenities, communications and, in fact, every possible and practicable incentive and assistance to the people who are willing to perform the vital job of developing the nation.

At this point, Sir, I should like to refresh the minds of honorable members on the subject of our past development. During the debate on the Opposition's farcical want of confidence motion, we were told that Australia was standing still. Too often, we hear honorable members opposite, and their ill-informed supporters, saying that this country should be developed at a faster rate, even though Australia, over the past ten years, has gone through and is still going through the greatest period of development ever. We have been going ahead at such a pace, in fact, that it was necessary recently for the Government to slow down the rate of progress in the interests of economic stability. This slowing down process has been the subject of much criticism both by the Opposition and by certain sections of the press. One is tempted to recall that often in the past economists advising the Opposition and the press have decried the Government's economic policy and the measures used in implementing that policy. But the policy has, for eleven years, been successfully tried and tested. It has stood up to every type of economic trial, and crisis after crisis has been dealt with effectively within the framework of the general policy.

It is interesting to speculate, in view of the success of the Government's measures, on what would have happened to the economy had the alternatives of either the press or the Opposition been put into operation. This, of course, applies chiefly to the press. The Opposition has demonstrated recently quite clearly that it has no real alternatives to offer. But, Sir, to return to the question of our development, I think that some refreshing of the mind may be called for, because our memories are short and we are all inclined to take things for granted without taking the trouble to remember how things were ten or twenty years ago. In spite of our greatly increased industrialization, we are still essentially a primary producing country. More than 80 per cent, of our total export earnings come from primary industries.

As my electorate of Kalgoorlie is a primary producing area it can, I think, be used as a fair guide to the development and expansion of Australia generally. The Kalgoorlie electorate produces practically every primary product that the State produces, with the exceptions, I think, of timber, coal and dairy products in volume. Our products include nearly every mineral, wool, beef, wheat and other cereal crops, bananas and other fruit, vegetables, pearl shell, whale oil, fat lambs, rice and crayfish. Every primary industry with the exception of the gold mining and pearl shell industries has made an advance over the past ten years. In some cases, the advance has been spectacular; in others, the advance has been at a steady rate. For instance, for the ten years ended 1939, the average annual value of Australia's cereal crops was £35,000,000. The average for the past ten years is £160,000,000.

In terms of acreage and yield, the rise, in some cases, has been tremendous. For the five years immediately preceding the war we produced an average of 286,000 bushels of oats per year. For the past five years, the average has been over 5,000,000 bushels annually. In Western Australia since the war, the area under crops alone has increased by well over 1,500,000 acres. The beef cattle population has increased by 25 per cent. If this is not outstanding development, I do not know what is. Nevertheless, however commendable this expansion has been, nobody suggests that we should be complacent about it. We must expand and develop continually within the bounds of sound economic planning and common sense. For any who have doubts about our prosperity and development I recommend comparing the Commonwealth " Year Books " of 1939, 1949 and 1959. It is rather illuminating to compare the production in those years not only of primary products but also of motor vehicles, domestic appliances and other secondary goods, for both export and domestic consumption. To make that comparison is to be convinced that our growth has been little short of miraculous, and one must also be convinced that such growth is the result of an economic climate created by this Liberal Government.

Prosperity gives us the means to expand, and expansion leads to still greater prosperity. With continued careful economic control by a sound Commonwealth government, prosperity and expansion will keep on complementing each other to the infinite benefit of Australia and her people. The same picture extends to the mining industry; but the gold-mining industry is the exception. The gold-mining industry cannot prosper whilst the price of gold and the cost of production remain where they are. All the other principal minerals - copper, lead, iron, silver, tin, manganese and zinc, to mention some - are now being produced in greater quantities, and subsidies and bounties granted by the Menzies Government have at least arrested decline in the production of gold and pyritic sulphur. In respect of gold, the present Government has provided some millions of pounds by way of subsidies and in tax concessions designed to keep marginal mines in production and, with one or two exceptions, this end has been achieved. However, I look forward to an increase in the subsidy rates next year when the Gold-mining Industry Assistance Act becomes due for renewal. Similarly, I trust that the Government will have another close look at the subsidy as it applies to the small producers of gold.

The Amalgamated Prospectors Association of Western Australia has, both through me and direct to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), submitted good cases for the raising of the 500-ounce limit which dennes the small producer of gold. The subsidy of £2 8s. per ounce payable to the small producers is greatly appreciated by them. However, the placing of the limit for the purposes of this subsidy at a production of 500 ounces per year has the unfortunate effect of limiting the output of some shows to 500 ounces. The obvious reason for this is that 500 ounces of gold with the subsidy is worth £4,012 12s. 6d., and 501 ounces of gold - that is without the subsidy because of the extra ounce - is worth only £2,827 5s. The stupidity of this position is quite clear. The answer may be to pay a subsidy on a sliding scale according to the amount of gold produced, or it might be to pay a flat rate subsidy on the first 500 ounces irrespective of the total production. Whatever the answer is I hope very much that the Treasurer will find it.

Turning now to the north, I was gratified, during the Address-in-Reply debate this year, to note how many honorable members on this side of the House, who come from metropolitan and southern areas generally, have taken up the cause of northern development. Those honorable members are led by my honorable and esteemed friend the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray), who knows the north so well. It is gratifying to me, who have been expounding the cause of the north over the last couple of years, to see a quickening of interest in this House. I do not presume to say that this quickening is because of my continued representations in this matter, but nevertheless it is gratifying to see the interest taken in that direction.

I am encouraged by the fact that the Government has recognized the need for road transport in the north, as outlined by His Excellency the Administrator in his Speech. I am also encouraged by the general recognition that the Government has displayed of the need for federal assistance to the north. This has been further evidenced, as 1 think I mentioned some time ago, by the two grants of £2,500,000 that the Government made during the last Parliament for use in the Kimberleys, and by the not inconsiderable participation of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in such northern institutions as the Kimberley Research Station. Every other federal government has a shocking record of neglect in the north.

Mr Daly - I would not say that.

Mr BROWNE - I would, because I know. In this respect it is amazing to hear both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and his deputy promising the north untold millions. Labour governments are notorious for limiting their interest to the cities.

Mr Daly - Keep politics out of it.

Mr BROWNE - What do you think we are here for? Never has any Labour government made even a token effort to understand the problems of the north, let alone do anything about them. Now the Labour Party realizes that Australia as a whole regards this problem as one of national dimensions and not only Jumps on the band wagon but tries to bog it down to the axles with money, without having a policy or ideas or plans of any sort or even any knowledge of the area.

Mr Reynolds - That is why the electors keep returning the honorable member for the Northern Territory, who is a representative of the Labour Party.

Mr BROWNE - I exclude him from my previous remarks. Members of the Labour Party have no knowledge of the north. I think £60,000,000 was the figure which the Leader of the Opposition mentioned - he was parroted by his deputy - when asked what he was going to do about the north, and he cast his mind, quite obviously, to a map of Australia to find out where the north was. Then he said, " We have that problem fixed. We are going to spend £60,000,000 per year there." The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) made his statement on a television broadcast in Western Australia. One of the interviewers asked him, " Where are you going to get £60,000,000 per year from? ", and he looked very wise and said, knowingly, " Well, of course the Commonwealth has the power to impose taxation, you know ". We all know that very well. The people of Australia would not mind being taxed an extra £6 per head, man, woman and child, if they knew how the money would be spent and that it would produce the goods, but they will be most indignant, I suggest, if they are taxed this amount by a government with no idea in the world of what to do with it. If the Opposition is sincere in this matter, I challenge any member opposite to produce a practical developmental plan for the north country costing £60,000,000 per year. As the Labour Party is committed to a policy of socialization and nationalization, perhaps it estimates that by socializing production it will finish each year with a deficit of £60,000,000 in this respect, and in that case the estimate is a reasonable one.

The big problem in the north is the cost of transporting stock to markets, the cost of transporting wool and other produce to markets, the cost of transporting supplies from the south and even the cost of transporting children to school. In many instances the freight on an article to a station exceeds the original cost of that article. That is a ludicrous situation.

Mr Murray - And the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory a while ago said Canberra people were hard done by!

Mr BROWNE - Yes, the poor old fellow! The high cost of transport is crippling the north. After all, people's personal economies are of great importance when we talk about developing a certain area. Development comes with population, and a population will come to the north only when the north is made attractive both financially and socially. In this respect the Government would do well to examine some of the disadvantages associated with living in the north. As an example, the cost of educating children, for people living in the north, is so prohibitive that a great many leave the area and return south. While that situation obtains populating the north will remain a dream. It must be realized that not only in the north, but also in many other parts of Western Australia, children must be sent to schools, particularly high schools, which lie hundreds of miles from their homes. This means that the children must either go to boarding schools or be boarded out in homes. Either course is beyond the means of the average person. I am not speaking of people who wish to give their children an exclusive education. I am speaking of people who must, both legally and morally, give their children an ordinary education. One would think that the Government would be aware of this. I have mentioned it before and have written to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) about it, and one would think that, being aware of the position, the Government would decide that the least it could do is to make these inordinate and extraordinary education expenses allowable deductions for income tax purposes. I hope that in the near future the Government will see the necessity for doing that, to help people who live in remote areas without education facilities for their children.

Before I conclude I should like to say that although everybody knows that the Australian Labour Party has sunk to an all-time low few people - very few I should say - realize that it had reached such depths as to have on its front bench a man capable of uttering such a statement as was uttered by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) this afternoon-

Mr Daly - Aw!

Mr BROWNE - The honorable member does not know what 1 am about to say. The honorable member for Parkes was speaking on an urgency matter and said, in reply to an interjection - it was my own - that members on this side of the House with narrow majorities-

Suggest corrections