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Thursday, 5 March 1970

Mr REID (Holt) - I am pleased to be the first elected member of this Parliament to represent an electorate which bears the name of Holt. Up to the time of his tragic death in December 1967 few names would have been better known throughout Australia and indeed the Asian countries than the name of Harold Holt. I am sure the people of my electorate are deeply aware of the honour that has been given to them which will perpetuate the name of a much loved and respected Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia. I also feel it is appropriate that I should spend the first few minutes of my maiden speech and join with other honourable members to record my allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. As head of the British Commonwealth, the Queen is a source of hope and inspiration to many people and it gives me very much pleasure to have this opportunity of expressing my continued loyalty to her. Without a doubt, Great Britain and, for that matter, Australia and many other countries, are passing through a difficult period - a pagan one where the great emphasis is on materialistic gain. Of course, the more of these things we get the more we want and the less time we have for the more important things in life.

Many people today say that Britain is on the way out as a country of power and influence. I well recall many people saying this in the early days of the last war and we all know what happened then. As a matter of fact, people have been saying or making this statement for a century or more. But the fact remains that Britain survives and continues to play an ever increas ing part in world affairs. Surely the quality that makes a country great is our loyalty and allegiance to each other and our loyalty to the Queen. These precious things are going to live on long after all our materialistic possessions have disappeared. Britain has handed down great traditions over the years. This is a challenge that the young people of the British Commonwealth countries must face up to. It is entirely in their hands. We have a young Queen in a still younger Commonwealth who is setting a magnificent example of service unto others. All we need do is to follow her way of life.

This leads me to speak of the changed pattern in world affairs and particularly of what is happening in Asian countries and our responsibility to people in these countries. Yes, we certainly have responsibilities towards those who have less. Each and every one of us has a responsibility. Today, too many people are inclined to turn their heads on one side and say that it is not their responsibility and that it should be left to the Government. This attitude, of course, has applied for far too long and it is one of the main reasons why a great deal has not been done to help the people in these countries. Never before have so many people in the world needed succour. Every day the story of their plight is told. They range from the aged and needy in our great cities to the hungry people of India; from the orphans in Vietnam to the victims of racial discrimination.

I think the great danger lies in the fact that it no longer shocks us to know that these great tragedies are occurring. We are no longer shocked today to know that ten thousand people in Asian countries died of starvation and neglect and that another ten thousand will die tomorrow and so on. Out of every 20 children born in many of these countries 10 will die in infancy and 7 out of the remaining 10 will be stunted both mentally and physically for life because of malnutrition in childhood. Only 3 out of 20 survive the ravages of hunger. When we take time off to think about this situation we tend to shrug it off without any thought of personal commitment. We tend to sit back and wait for someone else to act or to see what the government or governments will do about it. Today we must realise that our true destiny lies in Asia. If we wish to continue to live in peace and harmony and maintain our high living standards it is so essential that we have strong independent countries to the north of us. It is so essential that we make great sacrifices to help the people of these countries grapple with their many problems of poverty, privation and neglect.

Here 1 would like to direct my remarks to foreign aid, as I am sure that one of the best ways to win friends and influence people in these countries is through economic aid - that is, self help and practical assistance which will enable these people to help themselves more effectively. As president of For Those Who Have Less, a voluntary agency which sends livestock to these countries, 1 can speak with some experience on this matter. As the majority of the people in these countries are dependent on agriculture for a living, 1 think our major effort should be directed along the lines of agriculture and livestock. With the closing of the Suez Canal most of the Pacific and African countries are looking to Australia for good breeds of livestock. I envisage Australia within a few years as a huge stud farm from which the majority of these countries will draw good breeds of livestock to build up their herds and flocks. I predict a great demand for exotic cattle from Australia within the next 5 years. 1 instance a country like India, where approximately 80% of the population live in some 600,000 villages. In the majority of these villages life has not changed very much over the years. I know that some villages close to towns now have power and better communications, but speaking generally things have not changed a great deal. For most of the village people life goes on much the same. Their main objective is to live in happy family communities and to grow sufficient food to survive. Strong, independent and self supporting villages are so essential in India today. Everything possible must be done to retain the villages as separate identities. India's great strength lies in the village communities. Today these people are totally dependent on nature. When they have good rains, food is plentiful. When drought conditions prevail, food is scarce. However, on most occasions they are able to grow sufficient paddy and vege tables and receive sufficient bulk food. The diet is not a balanced one, as they lack protein.

Help is urgently needed to provide animal protein. Of course, India has plenty of cows. As a matter of fact, India and Pakistan have half the world's population of cows, but those cows do not give very much milk. The cows are kept for three reasons. One is to produce motive power, that is, they carry something on their backs or pull a cart. They are kept also to produce dung, which is dried out and used as a slow combustion fuel. Milk is really a by-product of the other two operations. Naturally, the cows do not give very much milk. 1 venture to say that milk is the most important food item in India and in many of these other countries today, particularly insofar as the women and children are concerned, because there is just nothing to supplement the mother's milk. This is where the high mortality rate exists - not at the infant level, but after the child has been weaned, that is, between the ages of 1 and 5 years. It is here where help is urgently needed to produce better milk producing cows.

Being aware of these factors, my Society has concentrated on sending good breeds of high producing cows to India and many other countries. Many good projects have been established in most States in India. Approximately 5 years ago we sent a consignment of Friesian cattle to Harringhata in West Bengal. The cows are kept purely for milk production and breeding purposes, but the bulls are used to upgrade the better types of indigenous cows. The progeny from these crosses greatly lift milk production. The hybrid vigour comes out in the cross, and milk production is raised to approximately 4 times that of the indigenous dam. Some 16,000 cows at Harringhata are being replaced with these cross animals as quickly as they can be bred. Two thousand of these cross bred cows will be in production by the end of June, and hundreds more are calving every month. The Indian authorities are so pleased with these cross animals that they have now been introduced in most States.

Only 15 months ago the United Nations started a similar project at Harringhata. Here some 1,200 indigenous cattle were purchased, and these have been inseminated with Friesian and Jersey semen. It is the intention of the United Nations to evolve a new breed of cow. They are hoping to provide a cross bred cow that has fiveeighths exotic blood. No doubt this will take quite some time to produce because they will have to cross the crosses; but without a doubt they will eventually evolve a better type of cow. Similar cross bred programmes are under way in most Indian States. Many of the good bulls we have sent to these various States are used in artificial insemination centres. It is quite a common sight to see illiterate farmers walking their cows, when they come into season, 20 to 25 miles to have them inseminated with Friesian or Jersey semen because they know that if they get a cross bred calf it will1 mean more milk and more rupees.

Similar programmes are under way with sheep and pigs. Here the females are kept purely for breeding purposes, while the male animals are used for upgrading. On my recent trip I was greatly heartened to meet in these countries so many keen, young, dedicated animal husbandry and agricultural people who are anxious to do something for their country. While they have this spirit these countries will show much progress in the field of agriculture. This is exactly what has happened in India and Pakistan in recent years. They have an abundance of these dedicated young people who are anxious to help their country. But good breeds of animals are needed to enable them to do this job effectively. India and, for that matter, all developing countries can overcome their hunger and unemployment problems only through a prosperous primary industry. One of the problems in the village area is that the farmers are working with unproductive animals - cows which give very little milk, pigs which are scavengers and sheep which cut hair and not wool. It is a matter of introducing new cross bred animals into the village areas. In this way farming will be more economical. The indigenous farmers will take greater interest in their livestock, which will in turn give them greater purchasing power and assist the economy of the country. Of course, all developing countries, particularly Australia, built up their secondary industries on prosperous primary industries.

Many voluntary agencies have been doing very effective work in these countries for a great number of years. I would like to see any increase in the Colombo Plan funds channelled through those agencies which are assisting at a government level on self help projects. Large incentives are given today to industry and commerce. I am crf the opinion that the work which is carried out by the voluntary agencies in these countries is of equal importance for three reasons. Firstly, aid given through voluntary agencies is generally better utilised. Secondly, voluntary agencies are able to make direct contact with the private sector, which is where the great need exists. Thirdly, thousands of people work through these voluntary agencies and are able to give these projects the warm, human, personal touch which is sometimes lacking at a government to government level.

The work which the voluntary agencies have been carrying out amongst the underprivileged people has been going on for many years and the assistance which has been given is considerable. Perhaps of equal importance is the encouragement and hope which goes with the assistance. Aid from voluntary agencies is able to penetrate into distant villages where government assistance is not always available. For this reason we must give them greater support. Therefore, I would like the Government to give urgent consideration to channelling a percentage of its Colombo Plan funds through agencies which directly assist foreign governments. The problems in these countries are great and challenging and must be faced up to for many reasons. On humanitarian grounds alone I think we must do more to assist the people in these countries. It was never intended for one moment that we should have most of the good things in life whilst so many millions of people do not have the bare necessaries to survive. Whoever set this world in motion never intended for one moment that there should be such a great disparity between, to put it another way, those who have less and those who have more. The sooner we do something about the matter in a voluntary and sacrificial way the better it will be. My second reason is that I think it is in our national interest that the living standards of these people be raised. Even if they are raised 5% in 10 years it would open up a huge potential market to Australia. My third reason is that if we wish to continue to live in peace and harmony and retain our high living standards it is essential to have a strong India today because no country could possibly ignore a nation of 500 million people, armed both morally and with a sense of purpose. Today approximately half the people of the world do not know where their next meal is coming from. In times of war I have seen Australians share their last cigarettes with enemy troops who but a few hours earlier had been trying to kill them. In the world today we have hundreds of millions of peaceful people who in the main bear us no grievance and who wish to be our friends, yet they are dying of starvation. If this is not throwing down a challenge to the people of Australia I do not know what is. It should certainly stir us out of our complacency. I believe it is the duty of our leaders, both religious and political, and the duty of our leaders in industry and commerce - trade union leaders, heads of schools, ex-service organisations and women's organisations - to throw down this challenge to all with whom they come in contact.

I firmly believe that if Australians were presented with the real facts about what is happening in these countries they would take up this challenge just as readily today as they have done in times of other great crises. It is for this reason that I am pleased to have the opportunity to mention some of my thoughts regarding the people of these Asian countries. I should like to see the Government doing more along the lines I have suggested; that is, to channel a percentage of Colombo Plan funds through these voluntary agencies, because the great human problems of these countries must be faced up to in our time.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti - I call the honourable member for Perth and in doing so remind honourable members that this is his maiden speech. It is unnecessary for me to remind honourable members to extend the normal courtesies to him.

Mr BERINSON(Perth) [10.171-1 want to take this first opportunity available to me in the Parliament to thank the electors of Perth for their support and for the confidence they have expressed in the Party whose platform I represent. The recent surge of support for the Australian Labor

Party in Western Australia has been remarkable both for its extent and for the circumstances and period in which is occurred. As recently as 1958 Western Australia had only one Labor member in this chamber. Today there are six. Last October our numbers here were doubled, and though these figures alone are, of course, significant enough they are all the more so for the fact that this increased Labor representation required the defeat both of the third ranking member of the last Government - the Minister for Externa] Affairs - and of a former Minister for the Navy.

As impressive, however, as the extent of the swing has been, I want to suggest that at least equally significant are the economic conditions in which the swing has taken place. There is a view commonly held, and with a great deal of authority and experience to support it, that a government should always be secure in times of economic prosperity. The reasoning is that at such a time the public will support the status quo rather than risk any possibility of detrimental economic change. Yet over the past decade, over this period of increasing support for Labor and increasing antagonism towards the Government, the Western Australian economy has been extremely buoyant. This leads one to ask: Why should we have this apparent paradox? Why should a government lose support when all the external indicators suggest that it should in fact be gaining it? The answer involves many complex factors but I want to mention only two which continually came to my attention during the recent election campaign.

The first was a sense of sheer boredom with the present Government and the second was an utter disillusionment with a prosperity which does not permeate to the average citizen. For years Western Australians have been assured by successive Liberal governments that they live in a boom State, in a State on the move. In an abstract and impersonal sense that is no doubt true. Enormous wealth has poured into the State and has been generated within the State over the past decade. However, the question is: Who has benefited as a result? The answer must be: Very few. Higher wages, increased, overtime and a mineral boom of staggering proportions have not produced a higher standard of living. On the contrary, this standard is constantly being eroded by increased prices and increased charges, and not least by the effects of Commonwealth Government policy. On the one hand, Commonwealth payments in areas such as social services, education and housing have been too low and have been inequitable; on the other hand, a scale of taxation at least 10 years out of date has made Commonwealth collections too high, and inequitable.

The vote at the recent election was meant to be a rebuke to the Government and obviously has been accepted by the Government as a rebuke. It now remains to be seen just what the Government will do about it. If the Governor-General's Speech and the early Bills presented to the Parliament are an indication, it will not be doing nearly enough. The problems of the elderly and sick will not be solved by paying 10c a head to Meals on Wheels. The problems of land prices and rent levels will not be overcome by fiddling with the home savings grant scheme. Nor is it possible to have any realistic confidence in the proposed changes to the health scheme. In the judgment of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) - I refer to the Honourable Minister's statement at page 36 of yesterday's Hansard - the success of the amended health scheme depends on a suitable arrangement for periodic adjustment of fees and benefits. Yet almost in the same breath we are advised by the Minister that no such suitable arrangement has in fact been arrived at.

I would like to leave the discussion of specific items of Government policy for other appropriate occasions in order to deal with some aspects of Commonwealth and State relationships. Let me introduce the subject in this way. In the recent election the Labor Party placed considerable emphasis on questions such as the cost of land and rent, education, hospitals and urban development, all areas the essential control of which lies with the State governments. After the election we were accused of in some way misleading the electorate by this concentration on what were said to be primarily State issues. Of course, the short answer to that charge is to be found by reference to other matters such as conscription, Vietnam and the means test, which we also stressed and which are clearly and purely of Federal concern. But it seems to me that this criticism of the Labor Party for its emphasis on so-called State matters should be answered in a broader way. What needs to be said is that in these days of State reliance on Commonwealth finance it is no longer realistic to discuss State and Federal responsibilities as though they are independent and exclusive. They are not, and the sooner we acknowledge this frankly the sooner there might be some prospect of our facing up practically to the future relationship of the Commonwealth with the States.

In reporting the result of the Premiers Conference last month the 'Daily News' of Perth used on its billboards the headline: Shock For State Premiers'. The story was that the Premiers had requested at least a partial return of income tax powers and had been shocked at the outright rejection of the proposal by the Commonwealth. May I say that I for one would have been shocked had there been any other result. I simply do not believe that it is in the nature of political institutions to relinquish powers that they already exercise. I would go further and say that I do not believe that political institutions will refrain from increasing their powers when it is open to them to do so.

This has in fact been the pattern in Australia, where we have observed an increasing Federal dominance of the system as Federal governments have come to realise the extent of the power which the Constitution, as interpreted, bestowed on them. This has been the pattern of political development in this country; there is no reason to doubt that this pattern will continue and personally I welcome that prospect. I welcomed it on the ground of economy; I welcome it on the ground of efficiency; I welcome it, above all, on the ground that the very concept of Australian nationhood requires that the needs, the problems and the demands of Australians should be met on a national rather than on a fragmented basis.

It seems to me that too much of the discussion by the Premiers and others proceeds on an unsupported assumption that in some undefined way the interests of the nation will be better served by a return to greater States' rights and reduced Federal powers. It is easy but cheap and superficial politics to erect an argument and to attract public support on the basis of an appeal to parochial patriotism. But somewhere along the line we have to ask: Are we to be one great nation or six mini nations, and if the former why cannot our affairs be managed nationally and with a national outlook? The founding fathers of this nation bequeathed us a federal system. It was the right and, indeed, the only practical form of organisation to propose for 1900. But many things have changed since then; not least the fact that the federal system is simply not operating in the way that the founders anticipated. They foresaw a balanced partnership between the Commonwealth and the States whereas what has developed is a very lopsided relationship indeed with the Commonwealth clearly dominating the field.

In this state of imbalance there are two alternatives open and it seems to me a pity that only one alternative ever seems to be considered. The first alternative is to attempt to correct the imbalance by reinforcing and renewing States' rights. The other is to consider a conscious and orderly transfer of power to the Commonwealth, especially in such areas as transport, education, health and housing, where the Commonwealth increasingly is required to foot the bill on matters over which it has no direct control. Until now most discussion on the subject has been restricted to consideration of the first alternative. That is natural enough because what discussion there has been has taken place at the State level where there are special interests to preserve. The argument most often raised against centralism at such times rests on an appeal to fear of control from distant quarters. Remoteness of the seat of government is equated with unconcern and unresponsiveness. Conversely, geographic proximity of the seat of government impliedly assures the reverse. This sort of view is common and popular but will not stand examination.

I do not believe that our social services would be better if we had seven social service departments rather than one. I do not believe that our postal services would be more efficient or our defences more effective if each State had its own post office and army. On the other hand I do believe that this nation would have been far better served by one central railway authority than by the seven we now have. The same might be said of our roads, schools, hospitals, houses, companies administra tion, and drugs and poisons control to mention only a few. As well as the prospect of increased economy and efficiency which would flow from national rather than fragmented control there is a further and perhaps overriding advantage to be gained from a fusion of responsibility with financial capacity.

Too often, legitimate claims for assistance are frustrated by a shunting process which has been developed to high degree by both State and Federal governments. This process has the Commonwealth saying that it would like to support a given appeal but that the matter is beyond its constitutional authority, and the States saying they would like to help and they do have the authority but please go back to the Commonwealth because only it has the funds. This cynical and frustrating procedure has been used time and again not as a reason but as an excuse for inactivity. Until 1961 it was used to excuse the Commonwealth from direct financial assistance to preuniversity education. Until the GovernorGeneral's Speech this week it was used to excuse the Commonwealth's refusal to assist with the training and treatment of spastic children. For years it was used to excuse the Commonwealth from participating in the upgrading and standardisation of Australian railways, and it was still relied on, as indicated in Hansard of 18th March of last year, to excuse the national Government from the provision of what is obviously a national facility, and that is a first class sealed east-west highway.

I appreciate that in arguing for centralised authority in Australia one opens a wide and contentious topic, lt is also, if past experience is a guide, only a long-term though also a certain prospect. Let me argue then, in the short term, for at least this much: That the Government refrain from using its constitutional limitations to justify its inactivity in any given field. It is better to say that you do not want to, or do not feel able to use Commonwealth funds to assist spastics, or to attack land prices, or to make kindergartens free, than to indulge in what is now everywhere recognised as a transparent device.

I come from a State which has always been conscious of its isolation from Canberra and the difficulties which can flow from that isolation. It is the only State ever to have determined by referendum to secede from the Commonwealth. But since then a war, a depression, advances in communications and transport and, not least, uniform taxation have made all such sentiments obsolete. 'Centralism' recently seems to have become a dirty word in some quarters. I do not know why. It involves nothing more or less than dealing with national affairs on a national basis. I regard that as clearly desirable. History suggests that it is also inevitable. We will be better served, however, if it comes as a result of conscious decision and planned development. I believe it is time to give serious attention to both.

Debate (on motion by Mr Pettitt) adjourned.

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