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
Thursday, 5 March 1970

Mr BROWN (Diamond Valley) - I move:

That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to:

May it Please Your Excellency:

We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.

I have been told that on occasions honourable members to whom Divine Providence has given the privilege of moving the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency's Speech have said something about their own electorates. It is unlikely that many honourable members will have heard of the electorate of Diamond Valley or will know very much about its character. I should first of all point out quite clearly that the name of the electorate owes nothing to the literary flourishes of Mr Zane Grey, nor are there carried on within its boundaries any mining ventures of the more speculative nature as the name might imply.

The electorate is composed of some 54,000 citizens of this Commonwealth who lead their daily lives like most Australians, who want the things most Australians want - the same opportunities to own their homes, to educate their children and to enjoy some security. They are people who have prospered under this Government and its predecessors. They are businessmen, tradesmen, orchardists, farmers and graziers - people who have sought opportunities and been given them. They are people who now seek an improvement in the quality of their lives - people who want to see their surroundings conserved so that they may enjoy them to the full. Above all they are people who, while being proud of living in the electorate of Diamond Valley and proud of being Victorians, are proud to be Australians. They want to see this Commonwealth set new targets and take new initiatives, perhaps in fields where the Commonwealth has not yet entered. They want to see Australia take a new independence and give a new leadership in this part of the world. And if I had to select one field which concerns them immediately and where they hope to see much more Commonwealth activity, it would be the field of education.

In a country like Australia, which is developing and expanding so rapidly, and where the available resources have to be spread over so many urgent needs, stresses and strains must appear in the education system. In Australia, these strains are inevitably exaggerated. We have cities with sprawling suburbs that have grown at such a pace that their facilities have been left lagging behind. Education is only one facility that has suffered. The money available for education has to be spread so far and so thinly that facilities in many cases have become quite inadequate. Again, the school population has expanded so rapidly that the very provision of accommodation to house it has become a major problem.

I can speak only of Victoria, and I know the tremendous achievements that have been made in education in that State; the number of new schools built, the expanded teaching service, the reordering of priorities to give education a major slice of the State budget, the overall improvement in the quality of education. But even with that major . effort there are still many schools that rely on temporary housing in portable classrooms, untrained teachers, lack of equipment, overcrowded classes. No country in Australia's position can afford to let that situation continue in any part of the country.

In his Speech, His Excellency mentioned three principal matters his Government would be concerned with in the field of education in this session. The third one is, perhaps the most important, for he announced that the Commonwealth was cooperating with the States in a nation-wide survey of education needs at the primary and secondary levels. The States know best what their own education needs are and the Commonwealth should be guided by what the States say their needs are. But when those recommendations are made, I hope that the Commonwealth will be adventurous, that it will not halt the new initiative it has taken in education, and that if the needs of a national education system call for it, then the Government will not hesitate to take an even greater involvement in education than it has in the past.

The Commonwealth has already made vast expenditures on education and its expenditure is increasing. Only 8 years ago, it spent $55m in direct grants; this financial year it will spend S266m. This Government and its predecessors deserve unqualified praise for this expenditure and for the process the Government has adopted of locating areas of greatest need that can best be met by direct expenditure by the Commonwealth. This increasing expenditure should be an indication of a continuing interest and involvement by the Commonwealth in education. I can only hope, as do my electors, that this involvement will continue, and that when the national inquiry is completed and the recommendations come forward the Commonwealth will take an even larger and more generous part in the national education system of this nation.

His Excellency also said that special grants for educational research would be made. No-one could quarrel with this expenditure. It is only by a continuing examination of the educational process, and scientific research, that there can be a continued improvement in the quality of education throughout Australia. The programme of unmatched capital grants for the construction of teachers' training colleges will be renewed for a further 3 years and the amount to be expended will be increased from $24m to $30m. Again, this is a proposal which should be universally approved, as it will be a substantial step to overcome the alarming shortage of teachers, and of properly qualified teachers, throughout Australia.

Having said all that, Mr Speaker, about one important domestic matter which properly concerns all Australians, because it is so close to their own concerns and their own hopes for the future, I hasten to add that most Australians are becoming increasingly aware - and those that are not should be aware - that this nation has wider concerns beyond Australia and, indeed, a role of importance to play in the world, particularly in the part of the world known as South East Asia. Previous Governments, and the present Government, have recognised that role and have exercised that role in military assistance and civil aid. No Australian who is properly aware of the place of Australia in this part of the world could deny the importance to Australia of a proper use of military aid to the free countries of South East Asia and generous civil aid to help their progress.

In his Speech, the Governor-General indicated that the Government would continue to give military and economic assistance to the Republic of Vietnam and would continue its Civic Action Programme. Both of these measures are to be welcomed. However, it is unfortunate that the reference to continuing economic aid to Vietnam is the only reference in His Excellency's Speech to the programme the Government has for further foreign aid to overseas developing countries. The record of the Government so far on aid to developing countries is one of which it can be proud. The quantity of aid that has been given is substantial; we have been selective in the projects we have supported to ensure that the maximum value is derived from all the aid we have given; we have, in contrast to all other aid donors in the world, made free grants, with no strings attached and with no interest payable. We have got Australia to the position where, including our grants to Papua and New Guinea, we give a greater percentage of our gross national product than any other country except France.

There is, however, one aspect of the Government's policy on overseas aid which can be substantially improved. This is to allow as deductions for income tax purposes donations made to approved voluntary organisations engaged in private aid to developing countries. At present, such donations are not allowable deductions. There are several reasons that have been advanced why such donations should not be allowed as deductions. The first reason is that if these deductions were allowed, the effect would be that the Government would be making the major contribution and not the individual donor. However, this is an argument that is just as much applicable to the normal charity or educational institution that raises money to spend solely within Australia. If it is logical and valid that donations to those organisations should be deductible, when the result is that the Government bears the bulk of the donation, then it is just as logical and valid that donations to organisations engaged on overseas work should be deductible. And the amount involved would be much less than is already allowed by way of deductions for charities and institutions engaged on work within Australia. There are at present about 10,000 organisations engaged on charitable work within Australia which qualify for the deductibility of donations. If donations to overseas voluntary aid organisations were allowed, only a further 20 to 30 organisations would be added to the list.

The second reason advanced for disallowing donations to overseas aid organisations is that the Government would be making a contribution to an organisation engaged on a project and the Government would have no guarantee that the project was beneficial or that the Government's contribution was being wisely spent. There is no reason why this should be so. It should be quite feasible for the Government to examine the workings of any given organisation and the type of project on which it is engaged to see whether it deserves the benefits of deductibility for donations to that organisation. It would be quite reckless to advocate that donations to all organisations engaged in this work should be deductible, irrespective of the type of work it does, the standard of that work or the countries in which it is operating. It would be necessary to consider all of these factors and to approve or declare which organisations would qualify for the benefits of tax deductibility of donations.

After all, the Government goes through much the same procedure in respect of its own projects, and rightly so. It determines the greatest benefit to be derived from the expenditure of public moneys on overseas aid, and should be able to exercise a similar role in determining which private organisations should be approved to gain the benefits of tax deductibility. Again, it has been argued that such a concession should not be granted because it would not be known whether a voluntary organisation would be successful or not in its fund raising activities, and the Commonwealth would not know in any year how much of its revenue would have to be allocated to voluntary organisations by way of this concession. But, again, this must be the case with the organisations and institutions operating within Australia and the same uncertainty must apply with respect to thenfund raising activities. If this, by itself, is a valid argument for refusing deductibility for donations to overseas aid organisations, then it is an equally valid argument why the same concession should be refused to organisations providing relief within Australia; and that would be unthinkable.

In addition, as I have already said, the concession would necessarily be granted only to approved organisations. One of the criteria for such approval could well be that the organisation has proved that it can readily raise funds from donations and that it can continue to do so. All that I contend for is to remove the blanket and universal disallowance of contributions, merely because they are used for projects outside Australia.

There are, in addition, persuasive arguments why the sort of concession I am contending for should be granted.

In the first place, it would indicate clearly to the public that the Government endorsed and encouraged the efforts of private aid organisations and would stimulate the public to make donations to them and, in many cases, to make larger donations than it has in the past. I believe that the Government does welcome the contributions made by voluntary organisations and has assisted them financially and administratively in coordinating the work they have done. But the denial of deductibility for donations has, in fact, given the impression that the Government is not giving a complete public endorsement of the work that these organisations do, and has discouraged many potential donors. If the Government were to allow deductibility to approved organisations, it would be a public endorsement that the Government gives complete support to their work and would stimulate more people and institutions to donate generously to them.

Many companies and instutions devote a regular sum each year to charitable causes. Obviously, they look to see whether their donations are tax deductible. This is a hard fact of commercial life. Companies and institutions are deterred from donating to voluntary overseas aid organisations at the present because their donations are not tax deductible. If they were deductible, the money they have earmarked for donations would go further, there would be more stimulus to donate to this important work, the voluntary agencies would receive more in donations and the work they engage in could be more extensive. And, in the final analysis, Australia reaps the reward, knowing that it is doing more to help the development of new and struggling nations.

Mr Speaker,I hope that at the appropriate time the Government can reconsider its policy on this matter. If it does so it will be demonstrating even more an unqualified encouragement of the voluntary agencies which are doing so much for our neighbouring countries, and so much for Australia. Australia should not slavishly and automatically follow the precepts and practices of other countries in this or any other matter of policy, but the United Kingdom allows the concession that I should like to see in Australia; Canada allows it; New Zealand allows it; the United States of America allows it and The Netherlands allows it. I hope that the Government will at least examine the situation that exists in those countries to see whether there is some way in which this reform can be introduced in Australia. Mr Speaker, it is a privilege to move this motion and I move it accordingly.

Mr O'KEEFE(Paterson) [3.181- Mr Speaker, I rise to second the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply so ably moved by the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown), lt is a privilege to be allocated this task and I regard it as an honour to the people of Paterson who have elected me to this 27th Commonwealth Parliament as their member. Congratulations to you, Mr Speaker, on your re-election to your high office and also on the knighthood bestowed on you by Her Gracious Majesty the Queen in the New Year Honours List for services rendered to this Parliament and to the Commonwealth.

I should like to take this opportunity to pay a tribute to my predecessor, Sir Allen Fairhall, who represented the people of Paterson for 20 years with dedicated service to their requirements and to their needs. Sir Allen occupied ministerial rank during most of this time and frequently represented Australia on important overseas missions with distinction and benefit to the nation. Me will long be remembered by the people of Paterson and Australia for his distinguished services over such a long time.

The Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General has been acclaimed as presenting one of the finest programmes of legislation on record. It provides for many important developments in essential fields. The electorate of Paterson is like many other federal country electorates - a vast expansive area with diversified agricultural pursuits and many varied industries. The electorate's northern boundary extends over the New South Wales Great Dividing Range at Murrurundi to the Currabubula district and the black soil of the Liverpool Plains. This is a very rich area which takes in the Werris Creek, Quirindi, Willowtree and Spring Ridge districts. It is noted for its sheep, beef cattle, wheat and, of recent years, coarse grains. The development of the coarse grains industry, with the growing of sorghum and maize, has been possible through the establishment of extensive irrigation projects. In this area it is quite common for irrigation bores to produce from 80,00.0 to 100,000 gallons of water per hour, so it can readily be seen that this is an area well suited for irrigation. In Canberra last week the Australian Coarse Grain Growers Association was formed to facilitate the marketing of coarse grains. As with other primary industries, there are many problems in this industry. The object of the coarse grain growers is to get together so that they possibly can load full shipments of grain for export to overseas markets.

Moving south the electorate covers the Hunter River Valley through Murrurundi and Scone, which districts are noted for their sheep, dairying, beef cattle and the breeding of thoroughbred horses. Many famous studs are located in the Scone area. East of Scone, on the Hunter River, is situated the Glenbawn Dam which contains some 293,000 acre feet of water. This dam was completed in 1959 and it has been a great asset to the primary producers in the Hunter River area of New South Wales and to primary production generally. Moving further south the electorate encompasses the rich dairying districts of Aberdeen and Muswellbrook. It may be of interest to note that last year the quantity of whole milk supplied by the Hunter River Valley to the Milk Board was of the order of 23 million gallons. Muswellbrook is a splendid town which is developing rapidly by reason of the big Liddell coal fired generating station which is being established there and through the establishment of some industries. The Hunter Valley Co-operative Dairy Company, which is a magnificent institution, has a big factory in the region and it manufactures milk powder for export.

Also located in the region are a clothing factory, general engineering plants and quite a few smaller industries. There is also the very big coal industry.

The extension of the wine industry in this district is having an important impact. In February 1967 Penfolds Wines Pty Ltd established its Dalwood Estate winery there. This was opened officially by the late Prime Minister, the Hon. Harold Holt. Since this time Hamilton's Ewell Vineyards Pty Ltd from South Australia has moved into the district at Sandy Hollow. It has an extensive operation. Many other vineyards and wineries are being established in the area by reason of the suitability of the soil and because it is a good area with fewer hailstorms than many other areas. It is interesting to note that in the 1967-68 period 2,016 tons of wine grapes and 139 tons of table grapes were grown in the Hunter Valley. This industry is growing very fast. It will make a contribution to the local and export trade which over the past few years has increased. Australia exported in the 1968-69 season 1,803,000 gallons of wine valued at S3.395,000. From Muswellbrook there is a spur of the electorate which goes 100 miles west through the rich dairying district of Denman, up through the Goulburn Valley to Merriwa and Cassilis and then over the Great Dividing Range to Coolah which is in the Macquarie watershed. This spur is 80 miles wide and produces sheep, cattle and wheat.

The big Liddell coal fired power station is under construction some 14 miles south of Muswellbrook and will cost $200m. When this station is under full steam it will burn 6,000,000 tons of coal a year. This power station has also provided Muswellbrook and Singleton with much development as many of the employees of the station have built their homes in those towns. The employees of the contracting firms to the power station have done likewise. The Liddell colliery is situated here and other coal mines will be developed in the area. The coal industry is on the up grade in the Hunter Valley and is exporting coal to Japan. One company alone has contracts to the value of S45m with Japan. These towns are receiving the benefit of the power station and the uplift in the coal industry which was in the doldrums in the last few years.

Singleton is a rich dairying area and noted for beef cattle. It has a big factory - the Singleton Co-operative Dairying Company - which also makes a well accepted brand of cheese. A lucerne pelleting plant is established in this district and is exporting lucerne pellets overseas. Proceeding further south through Branxton we come to the provincial city of Maitland which is the hub and centre of a rich and progressive district of primary and secondary industry and commercial and educational activities. This, Mr Deputy Speaker, as you would know, is one of the older settled parts in Australia and has rich river flats which produce vast quantities of vegetables of all types, lucerne and dairy products as well as maize, sorghum and indeed all types of agricultural products. It is by far the biggest centre in the Paterson electorate and has a population of over 30,000 people. Its main industries are Bradford Cotton Mills, which employs 1,800 men and women. I might add that this organisation buys thousands of bales of cotton from the cotton co-operative at Wee Waa which is in the electorate of my colleague the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt). Other establishments in the Maitland area include many clothing factories which employ 416 people: engineering works, 300; brick and tile works, 140; timber and hardware business, 157; and a very big stainless steel works, 150.

Situated in Maitland are the district offices of the Postmaster-General's Department, including both the postal section and telephone section. The Department of Labour and National Service and the District Returning Officer are also situated in Maitland. It is felt very strongly that a Commonwealth office block could be built in this city to cater for those departments which are at present situated in leased premises. This block could also incorporate the Taxation Branch, the Department of the Interior, the field officer for Commonwealth loans, the Department of Social Services, the Repatriation Department and Department of Primary Industry. Approaches along these lines have already been made to the Government and I trust that every consideration will be given to this proposal. Such a proposal, if it were adopted, would be a benefit not only to the Government but also to the people of Maitland and district who would benefit if all these services were available and rendered under the one roof.

On the Hunter River some 7 miles downstream from Maitland is the famous old town of Morpeth which was the port for northern New South Wales and even south western Queensland in the early days. Morpeth today has a milk factory plant for the Hunter River Co-operative Dairy Company. The district itself is a very fine area producing fat cattle and dairy products. Another spur of my electorate goes north of Maitland. This is the rich Paterson Valley of 425 square miles and it has a population of 2,000 people. This area takes in the towns of Paterson and Gresford and is a very rich agricultural land. It is some of the finest country that 1 have seen in Australia. The Lostock Dam is at present under construction above Gresford and when finished it will have a capacity of 16,000 acre feet and will provide a reliable water supply to those farmers adjacent to the Paterson River.

It was very pleasing to hear in the Speech of his Excellency the Governor-General that $100m would be made available by the Government over the next 5 years for flood mitigation and flood prevention works and for the establishment of small dams in various parts of Australia. This will be of great benefit to primary industries. I suggest that there are plenty of sections in the Hunter Valley and the Goulburn River area where some of these funds could be utilised to great advantage not only for the farmers in these areas but for the nation as a whole. Most farm industries are in serious trouble due to the high cost of production and to low prices operating overseas for some of the items, notably wheat and dairy products, thus causing contracting marketing opportunities with other countries.

Primary industries have suffered from years of drought which still gives rise in some parts of Australia to a major problem in regard to the re-establishment of primary producers. The cost squeeze problem has assumed such proportions and has had such an effect that new policies will have to be formulated to ensure that primary industry is sustained on a profitable basis. Wool, of course, has been the most affected of all. Over the years it has been Australia's greatest export earner, averaging from the year 1965-66 some $750m annually. As a matter of fact, in the last financial year, the value to Australia of the exported wool clip amounted to $795,507,000. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), along with Government members, have been giving this important problem considerable attention with wool industry leaders, and every effort is being made to solve the crisis which has arisen in the wool industry. Some solution must and will be found to help this great industry which has meant so much to Australia. As mentioned in the Speech made by his Excellency the Governor-General, some steps have already been taken to assist in this direction.

Minerals in many parts of Australia are playing a vital role in our growth as a nation. Minerals are earning foreign exchange, promoting the development of new industries and helping to settle the vast and remote parts of the Commonwealth. These discoveries are the achievements of Australians with courage and vision. Mount Isa in Queensland, with its production of silver, lead, zinc and copper, and Hamersley Iron in Western Australia are leaders in this field. An Australian aluminium industry has come into being and exports of bauxite and alumina are being made. Prospecting for nickel, phosphate and manganese as well as asbestos continues and in 1968-69 our exports of minerals were worth $454,969,000.

Coal has assumed an important role with increased production mainly by reason of huge exports to Japan from Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia. In the financial year 1968-69 the value of our export coal industry was SI 17m. In New South Wales this industry has received a big boost from the coal fired generating stations which have been built at Vales Point and Lake Munmorah. The S200m Liddell power station south of Muswellbrook is well on the way to completion. The increased export market will necessitate major expansion in this mining area, and plans are well under way for this to take place. The demand for coal by the great steel industry has increased and has given further impetus to the coal industry. I am happy to say that the port of New castle has a very modern coal loading plant which is a great asset to the industry and to the Commonwealth. The number of people employed in the industry has increased considerably. In my own State of New South Wales there are now 13,000 people in the industry. The figure 2 years ago was 9,000, and for the whole of Australia is of the order of 18,000. It is quite obvious that there will be a shortage of skilled personnel in the coal mining industry in the next 18 months or so, and perhaps the Department of Immigration could have a look at this and get some skilled miners out from Great Britain. Petroleum and natural gas discoveries are increasing and at the present time approximately 10% of the petroleum requirements of this country are provided from local fields. This percentage will increase in the years ahead and will save Australia foreign exchange and will be very important in times of emergency. Experts are of the opinion that by 1976-77 exports of minerals from this country should be of the order of $2,000m.

Abattoirs are established in my electorate at Aberdeen and are owned by F. J. Walker and Co., while the abattoirs at Maitland are owned by the Maitland City Council and the abattoirs at Gunnedah in the Namoi Valley are owned by the Gunnedah Municipal Council. The total number of men employed at these works is in the vicinity of 650. The abattoirs carry export licences and make a valuable contribution to Australia's export earnings. Of our primary industries, the meat industry is the one bright section. It has been very pleasing to learn of the increased exports of beef, veal and mutton to the United States during this current year. Australia will provide the United States with at least 527 million pounds of these products. The value of these shipments is expected to be in the vicinity of $220m. The Minister for Primary Industry and others in his Department are endeavouring to expand the old established market of the United Kingdom and also increase exports to Japan. He has announced that as from 1969 exporters will be required to earn their entitlement to the United States market by the sale of meat to other markets. This is known as diversification. This policy is aimed at developing, and has developed, markets. For example, sales of beef and mutton totalling 30.000 tons have been made to the Soviet Union and there is a possibility of further sales being made to that country. Worthwhile sales may be made to other eastern European countries such as Czechoslovakia, Romania and Hungary. The Minister for Primary Industry, the Government, the Australian Meat Board and exporters have all played their part in making these additional exports possible. I pay tribute to Mr J. L. Shute, O.B.E., the Chairman of the Australian Meat Board, who has done a magnificent job in the meat industry over very many years. I understand that he retires in June of this year. He has made a great contribution.

The electorate of Paterson has approximately 4 million sheep and lambs and 500,000 head of cattle, comprising 400,000 beef cattle and 100,000 dairy cattle. This region would therefore hope to share proportionately in the more lucrative markets of the United States as well as establishing a diversion to other markets. All exporters should share equally any extra entitlements to export beef and mutton. Although at this stage the Government has not given any direct financial assistance to the States for the decentralisation of industry, I am one of those people who believe that every consideration should be given to such a proposal. We have in Australia approximately 3 million square miles of country and a population of 12.4 million people, 75% of whom live in the seaboard cities of Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and Launceston. I appreciate the fact that the Government introduced in 1955 an equalisation scheme for petroleum products to keep country prices within 3.3c of the capital city prices. I also appreciate the fact that beef roads have been constructed in the north and that assistance has been given to projects such as the Mount Isa railway line and others However, it is felt that if more financial aid were forthcoming the States could do a lot more to bring about decentralisation, which is most desirable.

The New South Wales Government, under a separate Ministry, has achieved results and over 430 industries have been brought out into the country areas of that State. I know that Queensland and Western Australia are also very active in this field. I feel that the States do not require assistance from any Commonwealth department of decentralisation but require substantial financial assistance to expand and utilise the first-hand knowledge and experience that they at present possess. The Government must devise some ways and means of helping with the equalisation of telephone costs, lt costs something like 80c or 90c to make a trunk line call some 300 miles from a capital city. Equalisation of telephone costs would eliminate a major locational disadvantage incurred by country industries. Another way in which the Commonwealth could help would be to offer special incentives to decentralise export industries. We must make every effort to build up our country towns and cities and to spread ourselves out over this wonderful country. It would be to our great advantage and assist our self preservation to do this. Mr Speaker, I have appreciated the courtesy extended to me during this speech and I trust that my stay in this House will be of benefit to my constituents and the nation.

Suggest corrections