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Thursday, 24 March 1966

Mr HANSEN (Wide Bay) .- The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) gave us what he no doubt believes to be a stirring speech on why we should be involved in Vietnam. I should have preferred him at this stage to have told us why we should have to conscript young lads to go there in the force, which is to be trebled, that we have in Vietnam. Australians have always responded to the call when they have felt that this nation was endangered. I believe that the Government has not convinced the people of Australia that the nation is in danger. I take strong exception to the fact that 20 year old lads are to be sent to Vietnam.

A lot of people ask: Why should people in a certain age group be called on to make a contribution? I recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as no doubt you do, that when this national service scheme was first announced prior to the 1964 Senate election, there were all sorts of comments about it from various people. Some dear people said: " It will do these lads good. Some of them will get a haircut. It will make men of them." Little did these people realise that these lads were being consigned to a dirty war that was described tonight in very apt terms by the Minister for the Interior. I believe that public opinion is coming around to the belief that this is a dirty war. I wish to refer to an editorial which was published in today's " Courier-Mail ". This newspaper has never supported the Australian Labour Party. It has always been on the side of the Government. The editorial states -

The Commonwealth Government should loss no time in examining the system of calling up young men for compulsory Army service.

A strong feeling exists in Australia that one group of young Australians is bearing too much of the burden of service.

The Commonwealth Government will need to explain better to the people why compulsory service is confined to this small group.

If men were obliged to serve at a later age there would be no need for deferments of service because studies would then be concluded. It should be remembered that every deferment given to one 20-year-old means that another 20-year-old who otherwise would not be called up is required to replace the deferred man.

What system of call up has been adopted? The birth dates are drawn out of a barrel. We find that quite a number of the longhairs are not being called up. Hardship is involved in many cases where youths are called up. I should like to know how the word " hardship " is defined when an application is made for deferment. Of course, there are no exemptions. When an application is made for a deferment it is referred to the local stipendiary or police magistrate. No doubt he is a man who knows the local conditions, but I have seen magistrates in three different districts give different rulings] on similar cases. In rural electorates like my own there have been numerous applications made for deferment on account of hardship. An application might be made because a lad had to care for aged persons or because there was a considerable build up of work on the farm due to the drought. Some of these country lads work long hours, which one cannot expect an employee to work. When a case comes before a magistrate, one of the first questions that the applicant for deferment is asked is: " Can't you employ a replacement? Couldn't your parents use your Army wages to employ somebody in your place? " In most cases the parents would have to use their son's Army wages if they wanted to employ additional help because they are getting no income from the farm. I suppose the view is that the Army will keep the boy and the parents can use his wages to employ someone in his place. I lodge my protest at this callous method of unjustifiably calling up voteless 20 year old youths. I would not oppose calling them up for service if there were an emergency, but the Government has not convinced the nation that an emergency exists. I object to this method of sending these youths overseas without any choice into the terrible war in Vietnam.

I shall now devote some of my time to another war which is a little closer at hand. I refer to the war that this nation must wage against drought. The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Holt) in his statement referred to long term rural finance. He said that some $50 million will be released through the various banks for long term rural finance which, I understand, will be made available at the ruling preferential rates of interest of somewhere between 5 per cent and 7 per cent. Of course, this scheme is not designed for the sole purpose of assisting those who are facing difficulties because of the drought. I should like to see this money made available on interest free terms for a period up to five years.

Mr. Deputy Speaker,as you would know from living in a rural electorate, some farmers receive an income of only £100 a year. I heard last year of a farmer who had earned £3,000 gross but had only £100 net income for the year. He looks like facing a similar, if not worse, position this year. The people living on the land are not the only ones who are affected. I have a statement here by Massey-Ferguson (Holdings) Australia Ltd., which shows that that firm's sales for the three months ended 31st January 1966 were 19 per cent, below the record first quarter of the previous year. Net income declined from $440,000 in the 1965 first quarter to $126,000 for the three months ended 31st January 1966.

Perhaps the greatest loser in the overall situation is the Commonwealth itself. It will collect less revenue from income tax, company tax, sales tax and customs and excise. I speak of districts that I know, but I know also that there are many similar areas of country in various parts of Australia. I speak of places in which incomes have been fairly constant over the years and have suddenly been reduced. This loss of income must have affected the Commonwealth, particularly because of a reduced volume of exports. The Prime Minister has said that primary industries are still predominant in the field of exports - I think his exact words were "rural exports still predominate and will do so for many a day to come " - and we know that Queensland exports more primary products than other States.

We should also keep in mind the effect of losses of wages and consequent spending power, again resulting in a loss to the Commonwealth because of a reduction of revenue from indirect taxes. In the Lower Burnett area six sugar mills are operating. In 1964 the total turnover was £10.3 million, but the figure for the following year showed a reduction of 39 per cent. This area supports 1,530 farmers and their sons working on the various properties, as well as their families. It also supports 3,900 other workers in the various mills. The wages bill for 1965 for the six mills was £1.6 million less than it would have been if the peak had been achieved. This simply means that less revenue is available to the Government. The total amount of wages paid was a good deal less than in the previous year, and the total amount spent was correspondingly less. This resulted in a falling off in the number of motor cars and other items purchased. People postponed such purchases until a later time, and in the final result the total revenue available to the Government was reduced.

An interesting survey was carried out recently in the Isis district. A report was submitted to the Isis Central Sugar Mill by Mr. L. G. Vallance, and an article subsequently appeared in the "Australian

Sugar Journal " for February 1966. The article read, in part -

The report states that over the past five seasons, 1961-65, the district has lost total crop revenue equivalent to £3| million due to inclement weather conditions, and it considers that such figures are of sufficient significance to warrant some urgent investigation into water storage and distribution possibilities. A probable water requirement of

Hto 2 acre feet per annum is suggested.

Mr. Vallancesuggests that this would improve the yield by at least 1 ton of sugar per acre, the present district average over the five year period 1960-64 being about 3.3 tons of sugar per harvested acre. Those acquainted with the Isis district know its rich red soils and how they require water, and also how profitable they can be in good seasons. But during two bad seasons many of the growers have not had any crop and in many cases have had lo replant at a cost of about £50 per acre. This continued loss has now amounted, as suggested in the report to which I have referred, to £3} million.

But the loss is a cumulative one. It has a snowballing effect which is felt not only by the people actually associated with the industry but also by those dependent upon them, such as implement manufacturers and salesmen and local storekeepers and their employees. So I suggest that it would be an economic proposition for the Commonwealth to implement schemes to bring some sort of stability to primary industries in proven areas. I am pleased to note that this view is held by no less an authority than the Snowy Mountains Commissioner, Sir William Hudson. He has said that the increase in State and Federal tax revenue is another factor that can be estimated fairly accurately, and of course this it true.

The Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) has said that people should help themselves in these matters. The cane growers of Bundaberg and Isis contributed £10,000 to have an investigation carried out. They have had the officers of the Snowy Mountains Authority doing survey work on the Gregory River near Isis, on the Kolan River and on the Burnett River. But this work has not been paid for by any gift from the Commonwealth, and one of the officers concerned told me that they were carrying out their investigations on a very tight budget. As a result of the co-operation that was achieved and the establishment of a committee called the Bundaberg and District Irrigation Committee plans will shortly be drawn up for a project to cost about £7 million, with a further amount of £3.6 million to be spent for another dam on the Kolan River. The purpose is not only to store water from the Burnett River, but also to supplement the underground water with which much of the country around the Burnett is endowed. Even those who have this water are finding difficulty. One farmer told me that in the last five years he has had to drop his pump 50 feet. One can imagine the cost involved in lifting the water that extra distance. The amount of electric power required would be quite substantial.

Another point to keep in mind is that these growers are so placed that they try to produce a certain tonnage of cane in their particular mill areas. In a flush season they may produce an overabundance while in a poor season their tonnage is down. They want some sort of stability and they believe that stability can be achieved.

The Prime Minister paid a tribute to Commonwealth and State co-operation on the Australian Water Resources Council, which has now been operating for about four years. I point out, however, that the contribution by the Commonwealth to the costs of this Council is conditional upon a like contribution being made by the States. The States that have been affected by drought, and those with small populations, such as Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, have many commitments and are not in a position to spend as much money as they would like to spend. So I join with other honorable members on this side of the House who have suggested that the Commonwealth make greater use of the services of the Snowy Mountains Authority. I do not suggest that the authority should hire out its services. Those of us who have been to Cooma could not help but be impressed by the Hydraulics Laboratory there, m which tests are made of various kinds of dams and methods of controlling overflow and diversion. Over the years the officers of the Authority have become skilled in their work. No State has men of their ability. The Commonwealth can and should make their services available. Their services should not be paid for by the States or some local committee that raises funds. The Commonwealth shares in this loss. It probably can afford to lose more than any of the other authorities. I would say that it has suffered a greater loss in pounds, shillings and pence than the other authorities.

In the few minutes that remain at my disposal I wish to refer to the Prime Minister's comment on the changeover to decimal currency. He stated that it had gone remarkably smoothly. That is so. But what about the people who took advantage of the changeover? Last September I suggested to the most honorable gentleman, who was then Treasurer, that some people would take advantage of the changeover to ensure better returns for themselves. The people who are suffering most are those whose wages are pegged or whose pensions are pegged. I believe that now - not next August or October - is the time for some adjustments to be made in the payments to these people whose incomes are fixed and who have been affected by increases in costs. I do not blame all the increases on the changeover to decimal currency, but there is no doubt that it has been responsible for a number of them.

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