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Tuesday, 29 June 1937


Senator ARKINS (New South Wales) . - A matter of vital concern to Australia is the alarming growth of international propaganda by means of wireless communication and broadcasting. During recent . years many countries have developed an extraordinary technique in this respect. Some of the most prominent nations of the world have their own highly-trained technical staffs, including outstanding linguists, who send out to the world propaganda placed in their hands for the purpose. I am informed on the best authority that speeches are broadcast in languages which make it clear that propaganda detrimental to the British Empire and to ourselves is being indulged in, because such speeches obviously could not serve any other purpose. It may be that some check of these activities is kept, but more should be done, so that we may be better informed as to the views that are being disseminated.


Senator Badman - It would require a tremendous staff.


Senator ARKINS - That is so; but the defence of this country is our chief concern. An adequate defence policy cannot ignore the need to keep up to date with the technique of modern wireless communication. Nearly every wireless receiving set of recent manufacture is capable of receiving messages from the other side of the world. 1 read recently that Heir Goebbers, who is in charge of the propaganda of the German Government, recently said that Australia had definitely been set down for invasion and capture by foreign powers. His statement emphasizes the need for Australia to keep in constant contact with wireless messages broadcast from foreign countries. People everywhere are being influenced by this propaganda, and, consequently, it cannot be ignored. It may be necessary to engage in counter propaganda in order that the world may know the truth. The Department of External Affairs is the proper medium for dealing with this matter and should give it immediate attention.

A complete topographical survey of this continent should be undertaken without delay. I am aware that an aerial survey of Australia is now taking place, but that is not sufficient. Should Australia be attacked - and I sincerely hope that it will not be - an enemy might land in a portion of the continent the topography of which is practically unknown by the authorities.

That this should be done on an international scale at once is, in my opinion, imperative. I again emphasize the necessity to link up the southern parts of Australia with the Northern Territory by means of concrete highways. When I discussed this subject on a previous occasion I said that the first essential was the construction of bridges, which some honorable senators contended was impracticable. I still maintain that it will eventually be found necessary to construct main highways to give direct access to the north, and thus provide a more ready means to open up additional territory.


Senator HERBERT Hays - For nine months in every year the ground is sufficiently hard to carry traffic.


Senator ARKINS - There are many months in the year when the existing tracks are impassable. When I last mentioned this subject I was informed that bridges would be swept away by flood waters in the wet season, low level bridges constructed of concrete would remain for years anu render great service in making these routes trafficable at practically all periods of the year. Honorable senators cannot have it both ways. I cited the opinion of a gentleman holding an important position in the Northern Territory, to the effect that the building of such highways is essential. There ar.e others, of course, who say that such a scheme is impracticable.


Senator Herbert Hays - Not concrete roads i


Senator ARKINS - Yes, in section. According to a paragraph which appeared recently in the Sydney Morning Herald, the construction of the highway from South Australia to the Northern Territory has already been mentioned.


Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - Why not a railway from Queensland.


Senator ARKINS - I do not favour such an extension, because I believe that the time is not far distant when for purposes such as these, railways will be obsolete. The further development of the Northern Territory must be undertaken largely by the construction of roads which can be used by vehicles driven by diesel engines, generating electrical power which is transferred to each unit of the train, such as are now being employed with astounding success in Germany and in the United States of America. If the Northern Territory is to be settled, better means of communication must be provided. Only to-day I read a book by a Mr. Hadfield entitled Through the Windscreen, to the effect that the Northern Territory could be settled most effectively if its development was in the hands of men of initiative. While there are some who say that extensive and profitable development of the Northern Territory is impracticable, there are others who contend that it has a wonderful future.


Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Does not the honorable senator think it preferable first to produce something to cart over such roads?


Senator ARKINS - Road construction must first be undertaken to give access to markets. For instance, during drought periods hundreds of thousands of cattle die owing to the lack of adequate transport facilities.


Senator Abbott - Can stock be economically transported by road?


Senator ARKINS - Has the honorable senator overlooked the fact that only recently an aeroplane driven by a diesel engine was imported to transport sheep ana cattle to good pastures during dry periods of the year? Senator Foll referred this evening to the remarkable change that is taking place in certain portions of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. Surely we have not forgotten that the mining fields of that territory have been developed mainly with the assistance of air transport. Owing to the absence of roads and railways, heavy mining equipment, including dredges, has been transported by that means.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has demonstrated quite clearly what can be done by the application of science to industry. Will the Minister in charge of Development (Senator A. J. McLachlan) arrange for a thorough investigation to be made of the possibility of producing rubber in Australia or in New Guinea. A prominent industrialist in Sydney asked me to bring this matter forward, because, from personal reading and observation, he believes that rubber can be grown in New Guinea, and perhaps in parts of Australia. Investigations could also be conducted to ascertain whether the plants necessary for the production of jute could be cultivated, so .that we could manufacture our own wool packs and wheat sacks and other jute products instead of importing them in large quantities.


Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I can supply the honorable senator with reports on the production of jute and flax.


Senator ARKINS - I shall be pleased to see them. The Australian cotton industry has a great future, but I believe it should be developed further, particularly as cotton is used extensively in the manufacture of war material. A mechanical cotton-picker was once regarded as an impossibility, but eighteen months ago I mentioned that such a machine to collect the cotton bolls had been invented by the Rust brothers, in the United States of America. I understand that one of these machines is being brought to

Australia for experimental purposes in the Queensland cotton fields.

Some time ago I read that it had been decided to store certain phonograph records and cinematograph films in our Parliamentary Library. I do not know to what extent this branch of the Library is to be developed; but provision should be made to retain records of the spoken word, and also motion pictures of the speaker. Such records should be kept of debates on important subjects in this Parliament. Moreover, the Library could be supplied with records of important speeches delivered in the British Parliament. Although that will not be done for some considerable time, it will, nevertheless, be eventually accomplished; at one time man never, thought of preserving the written word, but eventually utilized the printing press to do so. I should like to see the innovation, which has been introduced, together with my suggestions, made an important part of our National Library. I suggest to the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) that, as a part of the operations of the Australian broadcasting system, attention should be paid to the development of television. We should not leave all of the pioneering work in this field to other countries, such as Great Britain. In that respect I remind honorable senators of the early history of wireless. The head of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, Sir Ernest Fiske, was a pioneer of wireless, and, to-day, is recognized as such throughout the world. In that field he has accomplished many things which have redounded to his and Australia's credit, but when he was conducting his early experiments, he was laughed at. I should like to see the Government enter the experimental field so far as television is concerned, although, I might add, television is practically beyond the experimental stage; indeed, some of the Coronation scenes were witnessed by many people in this way. Let us allocate some of the money which we expend on broadcasting, amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds annually, to the development of television.

I emphasise that it is essential in the' interest of the development and prosperity of this country that a national survey of the potential capacity of Aus- tralia should be undertaken. America provides an excellent example in that regard. After all, such a survey is an essential part of the modern science of government, because economics are becoming a major part of government. The only way in which to govern a country effectively is to base its future development on a scientific survey of its potential capacity. If they read the official reports dealing with American ac.tivity in this direction, honorable senators will marvel at what is being done in that country. From those reports, one can study every phase of American life, as the survey deals with every ramification of the life of that nation. On this survey, a scientific plan is being plotted, and, according to this plan, the country will be scientifically developed. I repeat that such a study is an essential part of the science of government. No government can develop a country in the most effective way for the people living in it unless it is acquainted with the full potentialities of the country. It must have definite information, for example, as to what the people can produce, and what constitutes a full wage in relation to the fullest possible consumption of products. These are things which, by scientific investigation, can be brought down to a common-sense basis. As yet we have hardly scratched the surface of Australia from the point of view of production; this continent has enormous possibilities, but we shall not fully realize those possibilities unless we view this problem with scientific eyes. I believe that if a committee were established to conduct such a survey as I suggest it would develop into as fine an institution as is the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.







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