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, 19 May 1965

Senator WEBSTER (Victoria)

Mr. President,I thank God that I have had the opportunity to take a seat in this chamber. The untimely death of the Honorable Harrie Wade created a Senate vacancy for the filling of which the members of both Houses of the Parliament of Victoria unanimously thought fit to support my entry to the Federal Parliament. I greatly regret that the Honorable Harrie Wade is still not a member of the Senate. His passing created distress in the hearts and minds of members of both Houses of this Parliament. Few men have given more of their ability and energy to the advancement of the lot of their fellows. Harrie worked unceasingly and with great credit to himself in his public and private vocations. As a Minister of the Crown he held the esteem of all who knew him. In his capacity as a Minister, first as Minister for Air and later as Minister for Health, he gained the appreciation of many people who perhaps could not know him in a personal capacity but certainly knew of him through his work. Mr. President, I have met no one who has had other than a kind word for Senator Harrie Wade. His friendship and his fame were spread far in all States. He was an outstanding man. Elevation to high rank and office did not change him' from being approachable and considerate at all times. His passing is regretted but his work in this chamber is a monument to his life.

The great Australian Country Party officially sponsored my nomination for the Senate. I speak in high terms of the policy of that political party. It is one which, for about 50 years, has had consistent representation in State and Commonwealth Parliaments in Australia. It can rightly be said that no political' party in Australia has had greater success in the pursuance of its policies, which have been of national importance and directed to the benefit of all sections of the community, than has the Country Party. Its policy is aimed at maintaining a free enterprise community with the minimum of control, in which the government directs its energies towards maintaining a system whereby work and ability are rewarded and one is free to succeed in the field of one's choice, whether it be in the field of spiritual success, or the achievement of honour or riches - a community where a person is suitably compensated in the field in which he puts forth his endeavours. I pray that we shall retain in this country a system whereby freedom of the individual is paramount. There have been only three Federal leaders in my party. - Sir Earle Page, Sir Arthur Fadden and Mr. John McEwen. The success of the Country Party owes much to the outstanding example and service to this country of those men.

The State from which I come has made a great contribution to the growth of this nation. Victoria is smaller than most other States. Its area of approximately 88,000 square miles is about 3 per cent, of the total area of Australia. Development in that State has been such that over 30 per cent, of Australia's population resides there. It provides a natural increase in population of some 37,000 people per annum. Victoria has a unique record for past development but its present development is being seriously threatened due to the inequitable system of tax reimbursement from the Commonwealth. Victorians make sound contributions by way of taxes to the Commonwealth. Individuals in Victoria pay some £745 million a year in taxes and companies in that State contribute over £346 million a year. In total, Victoria provides nearly one-third of the Commonwealth's income but on the present basis the State receives the lowest amount per head of any State from reimbursements by the Commonwealth. The total recovery of tax will be in the vicinity of 78 per cent, compared with about 85 per cent, for a neighbouring State. Whether it be individually, or on the basis of general revenue grants or grants for specific purposes, Victorians fare badly.

I would like to tell honorable senators of the contribution made by my State to Australia's total production. Australia has been built upon the great primary industries and, in my view, the future prosperity of this country is tied closely to its productivity in this field. I want to point out that the wheat farming community in Victoria has consistently increased ils yield. Today the average State yield is 24.5 bushels per acre compared with an Australian average of 19.9 bushels per acre. Victoria contributes over 300 million lb. of greasy wool, or 20 per cent, of Australia's production, from the 3 per cent, of Australia's area that it embraces. Dairy production in Victoria is well known. It is an outstanding achievement. Dairy farmers there have maintained an unbroken record of increased production over many years. As far as milk, butter and cheese are concerned, Victoria produces as much of those products as do any three of the other States. It produces over 100.000 tons of butter of the totalAustralia production of 200,000 tons, and it produces 50 per cent, of Australia's cheese. Farmers in Victoria produce as much mutton as is produced in any two of the other leading States. It has a great record in this respect. The Senate has just dealt with Bills relating to the poultry industry. Production by this industry in Victoria is extremely high. Per head of population, production in Victoria is of greater net value than in any other State. I could also refer to the citrus and dried fruit industries. In every avenue, Victorians can justly be proud of their achievements and contributions to the welfare of Australia.

The use of modern methods and scientific advances and the application of ingenuity on the part of the producers has been of the utmost importance if these fields. The leadership which Victorians have had from industrious governments has been a contributing factor not only to the success of that State but also to the success of Australias development, lt is achievements of this kind which are of great importance in making Australia the Commonwealth that it is. 1 have referred to the industrious governments of Victoria. All political parlies can claim credit in this respect, Mr. President, because the Liberal Party, the Australian Labour Party and the Australian Country Party have governed the State at various times in their own right. Indeed, the Country Party governed Victoria for 10 of the most vital years of its development. But it is because of the things that successive Victorian Governments considered essential to development that the State is in the position of being under-provided for financially today. All the effort made by former governments and by the present Government to maintain consistent yields in many areas of endeavour is as lost in view of the present day refunds to my State. I would like to instance one field of endeavour. In areas that were once not thought fit for production, irrigation has brought about almost unbelievable trans-formation. Victoria has achieved much of its productivity in many primary industries by investing in irrigation projects and other works. The returns from this investment immediately go to the Commonwealth by way of taxation. In short, from a business angle, the State invests in capital works and the profit goes to the Commonwealth. Victoria has been an outstanding example. It has surpassed the other States in the volume of work it has carried out and the volume of money it has expended in this way. The Commonwealth would do well, in the future, to provide all the head works for irrigation in all States. This is not a new idea; I heard it propounded many years ago by the late Sir Earle Page. If the Commonwealth had then taken the line he suggested and increased the return of money to itself through increased production, my State would not be in the position it is in today.

Victoria has consistently expended money on developmental works and I plead for an increase in the Commonwealth reimbursement to my State. Victorians are currently paying £22 per head per annum in State taxation alone, as against an Australian average of £20 4s. They pay £23 million to the Commonwealth annually in petrol tax and receive, in return, only £11 million. Victorians believe in assisting development in the other States and nobody can hold this against them. This has been demonstrated by Victoria's payment, in the last five years of over £100 million out of its taxpayers' pockets, towards the development of the other States of the Commonwealth.

Surely wisdom must prevail here. Through its Premier Victoria has asked the Commonwealth for a return of from £5 million to £10 million to satisfy the requirements of its own State works. Surely this is a conservative request and I ask the senior Ministers of the Government to pay attention to this most urgent problem. This question will be decided by the Government within the next two weeks, and I ask that some thought be given to Victoria's present dire need. The emphasis that Victoria has placed on the need for irrigation began at a time when the States collected their own income tax. Of course investment in capital works was a wise move at that stage because it returned money to the States themselves. Today the States get no allowance in their tax reimbursement grants from the Commonwealth for this emphasis on rural expenditure.

I have been involved in a variety of industries in my time and the timber industry and the great building industry of Australia, together with allied industries, have been my main interest. I suggest that the extent of Australia's timber resources 20 years hence will mark either wise encouragement or insufficient stimulation of the timber industry. I congratulate the Federal Government on having planted some 462,000 acres of softwoods in Australia. Private industry has planted some 165,000 acres of softwoods during past years. But these areas are insufficient for this country's future requirements. In total, Australia has planted only approximately 34,600 acres of hardwoods. This is entirely insufficient and a shortage will be felt in the not too distant future - particularly a shortage of hardwood. I believe that a tax incentive scheme needs to be devised by the Government. In particular there is a need for some method whereby the fruits of labour in planting timber for the future are not, after 30 years, taxed in total in the year of harvesting. A taxation averaging scheme is necessary. I have mentioned the building industry. 1 am proud of Victoria's achievement in having the highest home ownership percentage of any State in the Commonwealth. Further than that, Victoria has the honour of having the highest home ownership figure of any country in the world, and that is something of which past and present governments of that State can be justly proud. Seventy five per cent, of home occupiers in Victoria are home owners, compared with 61.9 per cent, in America and 38.1 per cent, in Great Britain.

I have found by experience that the building industry is the most accurate barometer of industrial growth and prosperity in the community. It is also the industry that is most sensitive to the flow of public finance. I congratulate this Parliament on the passing of the recent legislation setting up the Commonwealth Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. I am confident that the flow of money for housing purposes will be greatly accelerated throughout Australia by that legislation. Honorable senators may or may not be aware that no industry reflects the pulse of the country's industrial economy more accurately than does the building industry. We should have a ready realisation of the impact on the national economy of satisfactory returns to primary industry, and a ready concern for the maintenance of a high level of activity in the building industry because these are the most important factors contributing towards a stable economy. We are very reliant on prosperity in the building industry for prosperity in all the trades that service this industry.

Another matter in which I have been most interested in the last few years is the introduction of television to this country. It is many years since modern communications came to Australia in the form of radio and telephones but 1 have seen the advent of television as a means of mass communication. I believe that television has had a far greater influence on our way of" life than any of the older means of communication. Like most other Australians, I am aware of the results that can flow from the improper use of television stations. Ownership of television station licences, allied with ownership of newspapers and radio stations, could be dangerous if these means of mass communication should fall into the wrong hands. I congratulate the Government on the introduction in another place of legislation to tighten control of the ownership of television stations. The Government should be congratulated also on the way it has spread the benefits of television to rural areas and the standards it has maintained in television programmes.

The most important aspects of television on its introduction were ownership of licences, and the establishment of the industry on a basis which the then Postmaster-General assured us would present a truly Australian image. The presentation of an Australian image in our television programme production is something in which we have failed rather dismally. Television programme production could be a multi-million pound industry in Australia and could save us millions of pounds in overseas exchange. Indeed, it could also be the source of considerable export earnings; but these results have not been achieved so far. No local industry could have survived the competition that the Australian television programme production industry has had to contend with. No primary industry would survive; indeed, it would not be countenanced for one minute. No basic industry, such as the timber industry for example, could survive the competition that faces the television production industry in Australia.

Some Asian countries market timber in Australia but they are paying either 80 per cent, or 100 per cent, on their original market value. Indeed some products handled by my own company pay a duty of 150 per cent, and this puts them on a very competitive basis. By anti-dumping legislation we stop products from flooding the local market and bringing an Australian industry to its knees. Under legislation recently passed by this Senate, protection is given to man made fibres produced in Australia. But what happens with the film industry? We have a capacity in Australia to produce all the films required not only for our own benefit but also for export as has been demonstrated. Let us consider the popular half hour and one hour films which are shown on television. This matter has been discussed at great length in the past. The Australian industry faces competition from series of one hour films such as "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour". In the United States of America originally these cost 152,000 dollars or more than £75,000 an hour to produce. " Rawhide " cost 141,000 dollars an hour to produce in the United States. The " Ed Sullivan Show" cost 150,000 dollars an hour and "The Virginians" 180,000 dollars an hour. The average cost of these one hour shows, reached after a survey of 20 shows, was 145,000 dollars an hour. These shows produced in the United States for about £75,000 an hour are finally sold on the Australian market for about £2,000 an hour. A high quality show can be produced in Australia for approximately £6,000 an hour but this industry is not protected.

No businessman could require his advertising people to enter into an agreement under which he would bypass high quality shows costing £2,000 an hour to contribute to a local production costing £6,000 an hour. But something must be done to encourage this industry. Members of this Parliament must feel rather ashamed that this industry has been allowed to lapse when we have the potential for successful development. I know that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) has his heart and soul in this matter and would like to see a revival of the Australian television and film industry. I hope that we will see some benefits flowing to the industry in the future. When the Broadcasting and Television Act came before the Parliament it was intended that Australian television programmes should have a large content of Australian productions but this will not be achieved unless we have an efficient Australian industry. I appeal to honorable senators to encourage development in this field.

I congratulate the Senate on the report of the Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television which was tabled many months ago. I regret that the findings of the Committee were not stated more concisely and that action has not been taken on some of the recommendations. I direct the attention of the Government to this most important industry and regret that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has been weak in its requirements on the Australian content of programmes. I am pleased to be assured that something along these lines will be done in future. I know that the recommendations of the Select Committee will be taken into account.

In the past few weeks the Senate has discussed education at some length. An important matter associated with education is the need facing Australia to achieve a wider-'distribution of the population from the densely populated cities to other areas. We are informed that unless we change our attitude, by the end of this century more than half the population of Australia will be concentrated in Melbourne and Sydney. This would be disastrous. I think we could assist in the education of future generations if we provided money to ensure that every child in secondary schools who had attained 15 or 16 years could go on a tour of every State of Australia. Provision would be made for the children to go to Perth to see the wonderful development in Western Australia and then north to the Ord River. These children should visit the wonderful Northern Territory. From an international point of view we would bc wise if we enabled children of that age to go to Papua and New Guinea. They would thus be shown what potentialities lay in their hands and what they should do for the future. I congratulate the Government on the valuable contribution it has made to education by providing funds in recent years. It seems obvious that in the future the Commonwealth Government will be called upon to play an even more important part in education. Travel by children throughout Australia would give them a brighter image of the Commonwealth and widen their horizons. They would see what is happening in other States and the opportunities that exist there. I am sure that development leading to decentralisation will take place through coming generations.

I have a great love and affection for Great Britain and the Commonwealth of Nations, and I regret that they do not have a stronger role in the world today. I hope that the Commonwealth of Nations will be drawn more closely together. Australia has played an important role in the past and will be called upon to do so again. I believe that we could much better face many of the problems of defence with which we are confronted today if we were a mors united Commonwealth.

Although my love for Britain is deep I would ally myself with any proposal that an Australian should be appointed to represent the Queen in the high office of GovernorGeneral of . Australia. Irrespective of whether I come from Victoria or from any other State of the Commonwealth I know of no better man for the position than Lord Casey of Berwick. I hope that he will be considered for the appointment because he would be a worthy representative of the Queen in Australia.

I again pay tribute to my predecessor, the late Harrie Wade. I pray that I may be able to emulate his example in this Senate.

Suggest corrections