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, 4 August 1954

Mr SPEAKER -(Hon.Archie Cameron). - I have to report that thu House this day attended His Excellency the Governor-General in the Senate chamber, where His Excellency was pleased to make a Speech to both Houses of the Parliament, of which I have received a copy. As honorable members have copies of the Speech, I presume that they do not desire that I should formally read it to the House. It will be included in Hansard for record purposes.

The Speech readas follows: -

Members of the Senate and Members of the House of Representatives :

Yon have been called together to deliberate on matters of importance to the well-being of the Commonwealth.

When last I addressed von, Australia was looking forward to the first visit to these shores of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh.

The visit is past; but it has taken its place among our most stirring memories. It hag strengthened, if that were possible, the deep devotion to our Sovereign which is one of the glories of our membership of the British Commonwealth. In a speech on her return to London Her Majesty spoke words which are au enduring challenge to every one of her subjects. She said : " . . . . We return with our faith in the high destiny of our Commonwealth and Empire even stronger than when we set out. For in this and in every one of its countries men and women are looking not to the past, but to the future, and as they go forward together the efforts of each nation give added strength to the whole ".

My advisers regard their responsibilities during the life of this Parliament to be the strengthening of Australia's security, the maintenance of a healthy economy, the development of our national resources, and the social welfare of the Australian people.

The conduct of Australia's external relations over the last three years has been a complex task. The course of world events gives ground for concern that this task will be no less difficult during the life of the 21st Parliament.

In applying its policy, my Government cherishes and has sought to strengthen the links of the British Commonwealth. It has given full support to the United Nations. It has developed close and friendly relations with the countries of the Pacific and Indian Ocean areas. Our relations with the people of Asia and with the United States are deeply important for Australia's future. Our special association of trust and confidence with the United States and New Zealand is symbolized in Anzus.

It was in pursuance of United Nations aims that Australia participated in action to maintain collective security against aggression in Korea. The Geneva Conference on Korea, failed to arrive at a permanent peace settlement which might replace 'the existing armistice arrangements in Korea. My Government will continue to support such a settlement on terras which are just for the Korean people.

Events in the Associated States of IndoChina have been a matter of grave concern. Communist aggression in South-East Asia clearly affects Australia's safety. My Ministers, by advice and consultation, have sought peace, national justice, and a common protection against the spread of hostile power They support the organization of regional collective security in the South-East Asian area. It is their hope that the people most directly affected will wish to join together with one another and with other countries in defence of their common interests in the spirit and within the framework of the United Nations Charter. Such defence, so far from being a derogation from the sovereignty of South-East Asian countries, would afford inter-national protection to that sovereignty.

Mindful of the serious international tensions and conflicts, especially in Asia, my Minister for External Affairs has, since the last Parliament, paid visits to Indo-China, India and Pakistan, has participated in the Geneva Conference, and has visited London and Washington.

My Government will continue, with other nations, its practical contribution to the welfare of the South and South- East Asian area through the Colombo Plan. Such measures of help encourage sympathetic understanding and good will.

My Government proposes to continue the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament and hopes that in the 21st Parliament ali parties will participate.

MyGovernment is undertaking a reorganization of the defence programme to achieve the maximum security that the country can provide for a long period, having regard to the needs not only of defence but also of economic stability, a steady development oi population and resources, and high levels of production and employment.

The changes in policy certainly do not provide for reduction in the size and urgency of defence preparations; but there will be some adjustments both between and within the armed services, including adjustments to improve the balance between equipment and manpower.

In the field of research and development Australia is making a notable contribution through the long-range weapons establishment, which is a joint United KingdomAustralian effort for the testing of guided weapons.

Our forces abroad demonstrate our cooperation in collective defence as a member of the British Commonwealth and the United Nations.

The national service training scheme is building up the reserve forces of each of the services.

My advisers report a general and continuing state of prosperity throughout the Australian economy. The number in civilian employment is the highest ever recorded in this country; and the output of goods and services is correspondingly high. Prices have remained remarkably steady.

At 30th June, 1954, Australia's international reserves stood at £570,000,000, an increase of £0,000,000 over the previous twelve months. During this period, my Government progressively relaxed its emergency import restrictions, and now, for the greater part of Australian imports, no limitations are imposed on the quantity that may be admitted.

The budget for the financial year 1954-55 will be among the first of the matters submitted to Parliament during this session. It will be designed to help to consolidate our present prosperity.

In the field of Commonwealth-State financial relations, my Government will introduce three measures. The first will provide for special financial assistance to the States to supplement the amounts payable under the States Grants (Tax Reimbursement) Act 1946-48. This measure will increase the total tax reimbursement payments to the States in 1954-55 to £150,000,000.

The second relates to Commonwealth payments to the States for roads purposes. Thu Commonwealth Aid 'Roads Act l'95'O is not due to expire until 30th June, 1.955; but, because of the effect of the increasing .production of locally-refined petrol in Australia -on the payment of petrol tax proceeds to the States, my Government has undertaken .i complete review of the existing legislation. The new legislation will provide for a -new basis and a very substantial increase in the Commonwealth aid roads payments.

The third will, after the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission have been received, provide for the payment of special grants to the States of South Australia, West Australia and Tasmania.

World economic changes have their effect on Australia's export commodities. Though wool continues to be in a sound position and the prospects in the United Kingdom foiquality meat are favorable, wheat is selling slowly, despite lower prices. Through the Australian Wheat Board, all possible markets arc being actively explored. For many other commodities the market circumstances point very strongly to the clear need for reducing our -costs of production - if such exports are to be even maintained.

The tobacco industry, after a prosperous season, has excellent prospects.

In the period of transition from bulk purchases by Government to free market operations in the United Kingdom my Government has been giving every possible assistance to the industries affected. Moreover, the need for an expanded programme of overseas trade publicity has become fully apparent, and the Government is -taking the -necessary steps to meet the need. It will continue to give .serious attention to marketing problems as they arise, and, through the continuance of .'its various grants in aid to State authorities, wi1 assist the industries concerned in the task of .bringing about a more competitive cost structure.

It is a fundamental part of 'the policy of my Government that the development of Australia should proceed at the highest practicable rate. 'This requires an adequate supply -of labour and materials-; sound policies for encouraging private investment and an inflow of capital; close financial collaboration with the States, who are responsible for most public works; the encouragement of savings by monetary stability; and a carefully selected and vigorously executed programme in the Commonwealth's own field. My advisers will continue, -in respect -of all these matters, the policies already applied. In particular., in discharge of its special responsibilities, my Government is pressing on energetically with the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric and irrigation scheme, which, in the provision of power and water, will contribute to great development both an primary and secondary industry in south-eastern Australia.

Tt has also agreed .to the recommendation -' the 'River Murray Commission, that the Hume Reservoir should be enlarged to 2,500;000 acre feet, the Commonwealth to contribute a quarter of the cost of the works.

My Government will closely examine the extent to which additional transport links, including rail 'links, are desirable .for the development of beef production in North Queensland and the Northern Territory.

The manufacturing .industries -of Australia., it is hoped, will continue their 'development, so vital .to the national strength. My Government wall continue to accord adequate protection to efficient and economic Australian industries. In doing so, it will , relY for advice on the Tariff Board.

My Government regards it as -essential, however, to the healthy and permanent development of manufacturing industries in Australia that there should .be a continuing drive by all concerned to increase efficiency and production and reduce costs. All the techniques

There is now a great .expansion of the oil refining .industry. When the present programme is completed the total output -of local refineries will be substantially equal to "the Australian demand. My advisers will continue to encourage the search for oil, 'both on the Australian mainland and in Papua and New Guinea.

It is also most important that the search for minerals should be pursued energetically and that our production of minerals should be as high as possible. In particular my Government will press forward with uranium exploration and development in the Northern Territory. It will also collaborate with the State 'Governments in the search for this important mineral. 'The participation of private prospectors, both companies and indivi-duals, in the search for "uranium is gratifying. At Rum Jungle -intensive investigations 'have confirmed the existence of substantial bodies of ore and the erection of a large and complex treatment plant is virtually complete. Production should commence next month, well ahead of the original schedule.

In the field of atomic energy, research in Australia is being expanded as also is the training of Australians in research establishments, in the United Kingdom.

Australian gold .production adds 'considerably to this country's earnings of oversea funds. This industry has been adversely affected .by a relatively .static price for gold and high local costs. My Government will, therefore, introduce, during this Session, legislation for the provision of financial assistance to the gold-mining industry.

The continued growth in Australia's economy has brought in its train a steadliy increasing demand for workers of all kinds.

The immigration programme for 1954-55 will be based upon Australia's ability to absorb migrants as permanent settlers without disruption of the existing economic pattern, Slaving regard to the contribution that migrants can make to national strength, to development, and to primary and secondary industries.

In the Territories of thu Commonwealth, on the foundations la'id in the past three years, further progress may be confidently expected both in the advancement of the welfare of the people and in -the development of resources.

In Papua and New Guinea the rate of investigation and classification of land and water resources and agricultural output will be increased. Expanded services will improve the health, education and social status- of the natives.

My Government will continue to undertake h large housing programme both directly and in conjunction with the States. The provision of war service homes will be vigorously pursued.

My Government now proposes that it should be made possible under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement .for tenants to purchase on liberal terms the homes in which they live. Negotiations have been commenced with the State Governments to reach agreement on what those terms will be. When agreement has been reached with the States legislation will be introduced to amend the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to put my Government's plans into operation at the earliest possible date.

My Government will continue its policy of improving Social Services and easing and liberalizing the provisions of the means test. To this end, the limits of .permissible income and property for age, invalid and widow?' pensions will be substantially raised.

These modifications of the means test will remove from retirement some of the anxiety with which thrifty nien and women have in the past been so greatly concerned.

My 'Government recognizes that there is no greater human -problem affecting old people than that of care and housing. Very valuable work has been done by the Churches and charitable bodies; .but their financial difficulties in finding the necessary capital are great. My Government will, therefore, provide on a poundforpound basis -money towards the capital costs incurred by churches and recognized charitable bodies and institutions in building homes for the aged up to a total Commonwealth contribution of £1,500,000 a year.

Further development of the Government's health plans will be continued. Voluntary insurance to provide for medical and hospital treatment will continue to receive the utmost encouragement and support. The Government's scientific and medical advisers will press on with their research work .aimed at bringing about .continuous improvement in the .standards of public health throughout Australia.

My Government is considering the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Television and will submit its policy to Parliament.

It is proposed to continue the policy of development of Canberra as the centre of Commonwealth administration. it is intended to submit to Parliament a comprehensive measure to replace the existing legislation relating to the acquisition of land for Commonwealth purposes.

My Government will continue its programme of reviewing and bringing up to date the law' of the Commonwealth on industrial property and other matters affecting industry and commerce. In particular, it is reviewing the laws relating to trade marks, designs, copyright, and bankruptcy.

It also has under preparation proposals to relieve the pressure of judicial business in the High Court of Australia.

The Government will submit a bill to put beyond doubt the authority and powers of the Boya] Commission on Espionage, and the protection of its proceedings.

A proposal will be submitted to the Parliament for the appointment of a committee of the Parliament representing both Houses and all parties, to review certain aspects of the working of the Constitution, and to make recommendations for its amendment.

Among other matters which it is hoped that committee will consider is the method of ensuring in the future some coincidence between the dates of elections for the -House of Representatives and of elections for the Senate.

In the earnest hope that Divine Providence may guide your deliberations and further the welfare of the people of the Commonwealth, 1 now leave you to the discharge of your high and important duties.

Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -

That a committee, consisting of Mr. Lindsay, Mr. Brand, and the mover, be appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech delivered by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral to both Houses of the Parliament, and that the committee do report this day.

Suggest corrections