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Thursday, 11 October 1956

Mr ANDERSON (Hume) .- The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) complained about the amount of time that has been allotted for this debate, but he did not make full use of the time to which he was entitled. Indeed, so far I do not think any other honorable member has made so little use of the time at his disposal. He has a most extraordinary outlook. He asked what possible hope persons in country areas had when applicants in city areas had to wait for twenty years, ten years, or whatever the period was, for telephone connexions. That is one of the reasons why the Australian Country party exists. Persons in rural areas need telephones infinitely more than do persons in city areas.

I now wish to direct myself to the proposed vote for War Repatriation Services, which includes an appropriation of £55,520,000 for public debt charges. That is the cost of war. I was rather amazed recently to hear the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) ask why ample money is available in time of war, but is not available for works in peace-time. That was a most extraordinary question to ask, but it indicated the type of Marxian dialectics that has been adopted by the Australian Labour party. The sum of £55,520,000 that I mentioned represents a debt of approximately £8 for each man, woman and child in Australia. I have referred to thai matter only because one would expect sUch remarks from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and certainly not from the honorable member for Kingston. It only goes to show that if the honorable member for Kingston associates with such persons he will be inclined to make such strange remarks.

I refer now to the proposed vote for the Office of Education, and J wish to make a plea on behalf of children who live in the country. There is no doubt about the fact that children who live in country areas are at a marked disadvantage in relation to .education. A child in the country can obtain .education up to the leaving certificate standard, but if he wants to proceed further he must go to the city. In this respect. children who come from families in the lower income group or in more humble circumstances are greatly disadvantaged when compared with those who live in the city or whose families are in receipt of a higher income. A lad who wants to go to a university must board in the metropolis. To maintain that child and to pur him through the university in order to obtain a professional training involves an enormous cost to the family.

This country is in great need of scientists. We have heard recently about the concern that has been expressed by the Western democracies because they are not turning out as many scientists or as many scientifically trained men as is the Soviet Union. As the countries near Australia become more developed they need the assistance of scientists and skilled professional men, and such men have a very powerful influence on local opinion. The Soviet Union is getting away from its tough policy and is moving towards a policy of infiltration, and is using its scientists as a means of influencing opinion in countries that are close to Australia. We know that Russian scientists are going to assist Indonesia, and that they are going to every part of the undeveloped world. We should be able to compete with them.

Recently, a constituent of mine asked me what were the prospects of employment in government service for his son. I asked what were his qualifications. I was told that the boy had just left school and that he had passed his leaving certificate examination with honours in chemistry and A's in all other subjects, I replied that he had a first-class opportunity to get education through government scholarships. That is the kind of lad we need for training to become nuclear physicists and the like. 1 told the father that he had the qualifications to become the type of skilled man that the nation needs. I added, " In fact, it is his duty to train himself for that purpose ". After all, one has a duty to the country in which one lives. I discovered that the family could not afford to send the boy to Sydney, and consequently he was not a bit interested in this kind of training. All 1 was asked was what were the correct channels through which he could obtain a soft job in the government service. It may bc that the fact that the family did not have sufficient money to support the lad in a boarding house while he went to the university had created that lack of interest. If facilities were made available for young men in the country to go to the city to obtain the education that is more readily available to city lads, we would be playing our part in helping them.

I should like to see provision made in the appropriation for the Office of Education for a Commonwealth contribution towards the building of hostels so that country children could be given the same educational opportunities as city children. A few days ago I received a deputation from the parents and citizens' association of my home town. Those people complain that the vote for education is such that teachers are being withdrawn from the high schools in that town and other country towns and are being sent to the cities. We are gradually approaching the stage where rural education is being sacrificed for the sake of providing education in the cities. I think this Government should take action, either by awarding scholarships or by providing funds to the States on a £l-for-£l basis for the erection of hostels in order that children from the country might have the same opportunities as city children.

I now wish to discuss rural automatic telephone exchanges. I have much sympathy with the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt), the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and other honorable members who represent city electorates who complain about the difficulty of obtaining telephones. But it is very easy in the city to make a telephone call, because one can always go to a public call box. However, the position is quite different in the country. Country districts cover vast areas, and it is most important that the people living in them who are engaged in rural production which is vital to this country's economy, should be given imimproved telephone facilities. One way in which country telephone services could be improved is by the extension of the rural automatic system. At the present time, when living standards generally are much higher than they have been, people do not readily take to the arduous and difficult job of maintaining small unofficial post offices, and consequently rural automatic systems are gradually becoming more and more necessary in country areas.

Recently, I spoke about bounties and subsidies. I reiterate that at a time when this country needs to increase its primary production, the Government should seriously consider subsidizing superphosphate purchased by farmers in the States. Such a subsidy would be an important encouragement to a rapid increase of rural production, because if superphosphate is applied to land, the yield is increased within a year or two. That increased production, would, of course, increase our export income. Moreover, if the more conservative types of farmers know that they can secure superphosphate at a much cheaper rate than the rate at which it is sold to-day, they will use more of it. Many farmers do not use superphosphate to the extent desirable, because the purchase of this commodity requires a certain capital outlay which they cannot afford. The purchase of the superphosphate itself is not a major expense, but in order to obtain full value from its use on pastoral lands, for example, the farmer has to buy more stock. That is because the carrying capacity of his land has increased.

Last night, some members of the Opposition who represent city electorates criticized the use made by some farmers of their land. I should say that the country through which the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) passed is used to a high degree, and it is only because the honorable member does not understand how it is being used that he criticized it. I agree that there is much land which could be made to produce more, but there are many factors to be taken into consideration when we are con sidering how best to increase rural production. For example, there is the financial factor, and the factor of conservatism.

One method of increasing the production of the land is for the Government to subsidize the purchase of superphosphate. A bounty on superphosphate is not like the bounty suggested by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), which would only help people to buy the things that they thought they needed. The bounty that I suggest will pay for itself, because if a man applies superphosphate to his land, its yield will be increased, his income will be proportionately increased and the income tax which he pays to the Government will also be increased. Therefore, honorable members will perceive that a superphosphate subsidy would quickly pay for itself. It is purely a business transaction from the viewpoint of the Government, which will merely make money available in order to obtain a return from primary industry that will benefit the country and repay the Government. I suggest that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) should seriously consider this suggestion.

My suggestion could also apply to other goods used in primary production, such as spray materials. A large number of farmers operate under a system of close financial restriction. They are not able to spend freely or to make experiments to see how they can reduce their expenditure, because they have very small cash limits. Consider the orchardist, for example! General inclemency of the weather, a fall of hail or rain at the wrong time, can ruin a year's work for an orchardist. I believe that very few people realize the risks that are taken by, and the hardships that afflict, the producers of fruit. The Government could subsidize spray materials, or other materials used in the production of fruit. In Kenya, a country about which 1 know something, it was possible to rail a tractor 500 miles from the coast to the farm for 5s. Cattle dip, sheep dip, fencing wire and other materials of that type which help to increase rural production, were carried at rates well below cost. That system built up large agricultural production in Kenya, which, in turn, paid for imports such as whisky and other luxury goods.

Mr Leslie - Whisky is not a luxury.

Mr ANDERSON - Perhaps it is nearly a luxury. If we wish to increase rural production quickly, we should do so by means of the subsidies that I have detailed. Such payments would not be in the nature of gifts to a section of the people, but would represent a serious business investment which would bring in handsome returns. Australia must export more if we are ever to remove the frustrating trade restrictions and import controls with which we are at present afflicted. We can export more secondary goods, but I suggest that the quickest and most effective way of building up our export trade is to expand primary industries.

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