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Thursday, 5 March 1970

Mr CREAN (Melbourne Ports) - 1 would like to congratulate the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown) and the honourable member for Paterson (Mr 0'K.eefe) upon the maiden speeches which they have made, and I would wish them, at least for the life of this Parliament, a useful and constructive period in this House. The Governor-General's Speech was a much more grand document on this occasion than was the previous one several months ago, which was a perfunctory exercise. I do not know whether it lasted for minutes, but it certainly covered some seconds. On this occasion the speech tended to go even beyond the normal length. In many respects it contains the shreds and patches that the defeats at the last election inflicted on Government members, when they received an indication of what needed to be attended to. In the course of the Speech the other afternoon His Excellency mentioned two matters that I want to deal with first, although I do not want to take very long on them. He said, firstly, that a comprehensive statement would be made on Australia's defence policy in the early days of this session by the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I would hope that this nation does not forget that this is the same Government which during the 1963 election campaign promised us the Fill aircraft. We have had the election of 1966 and the election of 1969, and we still do not have the FI 1 1 aeroplane.

Mr Kevin Cairns (LILLEY, QUEENSLAND) - The honourable member is too impatient.

Mr CREAN - The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) says that I am too impatient. Since the time that Mr Robert Menzies, as he then was, made the first announcement about the Fill Australia has expended on defence oyer S6,000m.

I would again submit that in that period what is called the hardware of the Services has been orientated around that aeroplane for which we have already paid $300m and which we still have not received. I would commend to honourable members - and particularly to new members - of this House the 17th November 1969 issue of a publication called the 'Current Affairs Bulletin', which was issued after the recent general election, entitled 'Defence Hardware'. For the purposes of this 'Current Affairs Bulletin', defence hardware is taken to mean physical defence military resources. The learned writer goes on to say that there must be an attempt to outline the environment within which that hardware can be expected to operate or, put in another way, to discuss the forces that necessitated the acquisition of that hardware. In the period from 1963 to 1969, to which I have referred, out of a total expenditure of $6,000m some S4,000m, or more than twothirds, has been in the non-hardware area. It has been used to provide manpower and to cover the maintenance of the various Services. These figures show us what a tremendous hole there has been in the hardware procurement programme because so many of the eggs were placed in the basket of the Fill. Surely nobody would argue - I am sure that no-one on the Government side would do so - that the Army, Navy and Air Force work in isolation. Buying a piece of hardware with one Service in mind limits what can be bought for the others. Purchases ought to be integrated in some way.

I do not know what would have happened to a Labor government if in 1963 it had said it was going to order this wonderful plane or if it had come along in 1966 and said, as my friend suggests: 'Be patient. We have not got it yet.' If in 1 969 Labor had said: 'We still have not got it' I am inclined to think that we would have been laughed out of court as a credible government. If the Government is now blithely to say - $6,000m later, without the linchpin, the Fill, and not knowing whether we are going to get it or not - that it is going to embark on a new, comprehensive resurvey of the defence forces, I think the Australian public ought to be a little critical of it. We have already paid $300m for the Fill and we have not received anything. If the implications of the writer of the 'Current Affairs Bulletin' are significant for us as a nation on the verge of the 1970s, as well as asking: 'What do we defend ourselves with?', we should be asking: 'What do we defend ourselves against?'

The 'Current Affairs Bulletin' refers to reappraising our relations with Asia. I hope that a very early attempt will be made to disengage Australian troops from one area, the area of Vietnam. I hope that the deescalation will not lead to escalation somewhere else, as in Laos. I submit that, at least in the 1970s, Australia's sphere of influence is in Asia and South East Asia. If we are to exert any influence, it is the belief at least of my side of the House that our influence will be valuable only if it is orientated around the economic development of those areas rather than around the form of military aggression called defence procurement. I hope that these issues will be debated later.

In the remaining time that I have available I want to speak briefly about something that was mentioned here today. I refer to these as rather cold words that I find in the Address-in-Reply:

Full employment has been maintained and considerable expansion has taken place. Commerce and industry, apart from some rural industries, are prosperous.

From what we heard here this morning and again this afternoon it seems that at least there are some doubts in people's minds as to whether rural industry, broadly speaking, is prosperous. Today I happened to come across one of those numerous publications that are sent to honourable members, this one being the 'Ricemill News'. I am sure it is well known to my colleague, the honourable member for the Riverina (Mr Grassby). I refer to the 'Ricemill News' for January 1970. I .have never noticed that it had what one might call a Labor slant, but this is what it says in an article at page 26 entitled 'Australian Farm Production to Increase', it states:

Already, Australia has a potentially serious rural poverty problem on its hands, and for some industries, in particular the dairy industry, this problem is already a fact of life.

The article continues:

Australia as it enters the 70s still does not have a national farm policy, and what farm policies it has for different industries are in many cases antiquated and not attuned to the next 10 years.

Then it goes on to note:

The spokesmen have also asked repeatedly for the formulation of a national farm policy, but thoughts by the Government on the formulation of such a policy have been pigeon-holed.

I repeat that this is not the wild rambling of some Labor columnist; it is a serious article in a rural journal, the .D :---; News'.

Mr Turnbull - Who wrote it?

Mr CREAN - I do not know. Perhaps the honourable gentleman can inform me. As I have already indicated, Australia has paid $300m for an aeroplane that it has not got. We are not sure, when we get it, whether it will do what we thought it would. During the course of the next 12 months the Government is going to underwrite the sum of $3 00m also to pay wheat growers in advance for wheat that may not be sold. Perhaps it will be sold, but at this stage in essence we are paying people to produce something about which there are uncertainties as to its subsequent destination. I simply take these two items - $3 00m up the spout for a plane that will not fly and $300m for wheat that at this stage we cannot sell. Both of these exercises are within the capacity of the Australian economy to finance. I just draw the analogy that, if expenditure of this kind were carefully planned rather than just prodigally spread. What a lot could be done perhaps to re-adjust the balance of the Australian economy. I am one who is rather horrified by the prospects of the city of Melbourne reaching a population of over 5 million before the turn of this century and the city of Sydney reaching perhaps over 6 million by the same date. Already Victoria and New South Wales between them contain 60% of the total population of Australia and more than half of the population of those two States is contained within the two conurbations of Melbourne and Sydney. In terms of expansion of population, the cities are growing relatively faster than are the country areas.

I had the opportunity recently to revisit the part of the world where I was born. That is the Western District of Victoria. I found in 1970 that the same sorts of things are happening there as were happening in 1933. I had to leave the town of Hamilton where 1 was born because there was no economic opportunity there for my particular or peculiar talents, whichever way you like to regard them. That is still the situation. If we mean anything when we say we will halt the growth of the cities, we mean that we will encourage the expansion of population in the non-cities, in the rural areas. In my view this will not be accomplished if we think of towns such as Portland, Hamilton, Horsham and Warrnambool in isolation. This will be accomplished only if we act on a regional basis and then only with the combined co-operation of all levels of government, Federal, State and local.

Every so often in these days a new word seems to be injected into our jargon. The new word coming in now seems to be ecology'. In some respects this seems to mean that we change the old thesis of the cradle to the grave and in the future think of development as a combined process all the way down from the sower to the sewer. I do not use that in any offensive sense. The development of any area has to be considered in the light of the resources available in the area, the technology available in the area and primarily the responses of the people who live in the area. I cannot see that there is any difference between the hundreds of regions - there may be less than 100 - that are viable when areas are aggregated. There is nothing essentially different, for example, between the area that my friend, the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) and I know, the Western District of Victoria, and the area surrounding the electorate of my colleague from Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard), where we are prepared to take millions of dollars and hundreds or perhaps thousands of people to dig a hole in the ground. We are digging the hole in the ground because we think we can find there not something that is wanted primarily in. Australia but something that is wanted outside Australia.

If we think about it, we must agree that that is still the situation with Australia's wool industry. Broadly the whole of Australia's wool production is exported, lt is not used in Australia. I sometimes wonder whether, if we were 100 years earlier, if the export trade had been less significant than it is now and if we were starting Australia, we would start it on the basis of a wool industry. Australians have had a great reluctance to do anything except what had to be done internally. Historically, of course, the wool industry has found an export market. I do not claim to be an expert in these matters, .but there seems to be a school of thought, perhaps residing in the Australian Country Party more than anywhere else, which holds that the only people who can talk about wool, wheat, sugar and butter in this House are those who live in the country. Most of us have to' eat the stuff and wear the stuff and after all many of those who live in the country do not produce these items.

Mr Turnbull - And you want them to be as cheap as possible.

Mr CREAN - As reasonable as possible. I think that the people who live on the land are as entitled to a fair price for their product as are the people who, say, work in factories. At least the trade unions are systematic; I doubt whether the rural industries are quite as systematic. There are divisions between large and small growers. I am fortified by a publication on the wool industry issued recently by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. It said that in terms of total production there is a demand for wool, that there is no long accumulation of it. that inflation in Australia has not been any greater than inflation in the countries that have bought our wool and that therefore, in terms of comparative costs, they should still be willing to pay in 1 970 the same real price as they did 5 or 6 years ago. However, that does not seem to be the position. I would submit that something is very much wrong with the marketing of wool in Australia. Far be it from me to submit any simple solution, but I would think that at the moment Australia is in a sense being robbed of about $200m in terms of the potential price of the wool clip. I met some people in the Western District who said: 'We produced as much wool this year of the same quality as we did in the previous year but received SI, 800 less for it'. This is a product that the rest of the world is still supposed to want. 1 submit that something is wrong somewhere.

I also found in the town of Koroit, which my friend would possibly know, that potatoes were being sold at $10 a ton. By my arithmetic $ 1 0 a ton is near enough to ic a lb. Yet in my greengrocery shop I. pay 4c a lb. What happened in the long chain from the time the potatoes were under the ground until they reached my mouth to raise the price from the ic that the grower received to the 4c that the shopkeeper received? I do not think that the shopkeeper is getting the rake off either, but somewhere along the line somebody is getting more than he is entitled to receive. The potato grower in Koroit is entitled to a fair price for his potatoes and in my view it is much more than $10 a ton. In my view the grower could be paid more than $10 a ton and potatoes could still bc sold at the same price of 4c. Somebody along the chain of distribution should receive less and the grower should receive more.

These are problems that we must solve, if we want to be realistic. There is no difference between systematically putting some kind of industry half way between Portland and Warrnambool or Warrnambool and Hamilton, for instance, and digging a hole in the ground for Poseidon. It is wrong of the Government to think that something wonderful is being done in 1970 with the creation of a new organisation to be called the Industry Development Corporation. I submit that what is wrong with Australia at the moment is that we have not properly husbanded our savings to get the greatest economic development possible. We have allowed others to come in and do by default what we should have been doing ourselves. Again I draw the attention of honourable members to this interesting article contained in the most recent issue of the 'Australian Economic Review 4th Quarter 1 969'. The article is headed: 'Aspects of Financing the Mineral Industry in Australia' and was written by Mr P. J. Rose. Table 3 in the article shows the sources of new share capital of Australian companies. In the period from 1959 to 1967 - 8 or 9 yearspeople in Australia purchased new shares worth SI, 159m in undertakings but people outside Australia bought interest in Australian companies to the value of SI, 143m.

I submit that there is no need to have an organisation to harness more overseas development. In reply to a question asked yesterday the Treasurer (Mr Bury) said that he could get 8% interest on his idle funds in London. At what rate does he think people are going to invest in new banking institutions? Are they going to do so at less than 8% or more than 8%? I submit that the economic development of Australia in the future is dependent upon interest rates being brought down rather than increasing. This has been the policy of my Party in a nutshell: That more people in the community are advantaged when interest rates are low than are advantaged by interest rates being high. If interest rates are high it means that the profiteer and the speculator gain and that the person in dire economic circumstances pays far higher for his standard of living, for his goods and services and for the roof above his head than in conscience he should. I hope that in the next 10 years we will plan more systematically the development of this great country of ours to stop the drift from country to city.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order!The honouarble member's time has expired. Before calling the honourable member for Denison I remind the House that this is his maiden speech and I ask that the usual courtesy be extended to him.

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