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Tuesday, 19 March 1957

Mr SPEAKER - I have to report that the 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 shall not formally read it to the House. It will be included in " Hansard " for record purposes.

The Speech read as follows: -

You have been called together to deal with matters of national moment. The first session of the Twenty-second Parliament having ended by prorogation, I am now opening the second session of that Parliament.

The recent visit to Australia by His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, gave great pleasure to all of us and was greatly enjoyed by him. While in Australia His Royal Highness opened the Olympic Games at Melbourne and took the opportunity to pay informal visits to the Territories and to our major developmental projects. More recently we have rejoiced in His Royal Highness' elevation to the rank of a Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

When I last addressed you I referred to the important constitutional problem of the relationship between the two Houses, and to the intention of my advisers to set up a committee to examine this and other constitutional problems. That committee was set up and has made substantia] progress in the work of reviewing the constitution. Much still remains to be done. You will therefore be asked to reconstitute this committee immediately in order that its work may suffer as little interruption as possible.

On the international plane, events are complicated and uneasy.

In July, 1956, Egypt by her act of nationalization of the Suez Canal disturbed a pattern of guaranteed international interest which had existed since the Constantinople Convention of 1888. My Government, with other users of the Canal, participated in a conference in London wherein the hope rested for a formula which would protect the interests of all parties and isolate the operation of the Canal from the politics of any one country. The Parliament will recall that my Prime Minister was closely associated with those efforts to seek a peaceful solution.

In October, 1956, hostilities broke out between Egypt and Israel, and the United Kingdom and French Governments intervened. The subsequent history of events is well known.

My Government will continue actively to pursue an overall settlement of the basic problems of the Middle East which have so often threatened the peace of the post-war world. It is essential that the questions between Israel and Egypt should be disposed of, and the future of the Canal assured. We welcome the declaration by the President of the United States of America of his intention to exercise the influence of and discharge the responsibilities which his great country has recently accepted in the troubled affairs of the Middle East.

Concurrently with the crisis in the Middle East, events in Eastern Europe have indicated the strains and stresses to which the satellite states are subject. The people of Australia - and indeed of the whole free world - were deeply shocked at the calculated and ruthless armed intervention by the Soviet Union to suppress the national aspirations of the Hungarian people in October-November, 1956. This intervention was a flagrant breach of the Peace Treaty of 1947 which had guaranteed democratic freedoms to the Hungarian people, and to which the Soviet Union was a signatory. The Australian people showed their practical sympathy by organizing on a large scale voluntary relief, whilst my Government made grants amounting to £130,000 and also immediate measures to arrange facilities for 10,000 refugees from Hungary to find permanent sanctuary in Australia.

In its approach to international problems my Government has continued its policy of strengthening the Commonwealth relationship. In JuneJuly, 1956, a meeting of Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth took place in London. As members of this Parliament know, the United Kingdom Prime Minister, Mr. Macmillan, has expressed the hope that following a conference between President Eisenhower and himself a further meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers will be convened to discuss matters of mutual interest.

Meanwhile, Australia welcomes the emergence of the independent African State of Ghana as a full member of the Commonwealth and looks forward with warm fraternal interest to the impending achievement of independence, within the Commonwealth, by the Federation of Malaya.

At the invitation of my Government the SEATO Council of Foreign Ministers recently met in Canberra from 11th to 13th March, 1957. This high-level meeting approved plans which will further strengthen the organization which provides a shield against aggression in an area of vital interest to Australia. Already the SEATO Council has been able to record rapid progress by member nations in their common problems of defence and of economic and social development. That Council has noted incessant efforts by international communism to subvert the free institutions of the nations of the area. Special attention has, therefore, been given to the threat to the internal security of nations within the region.

Australia also continues its undiminished support for the Colombo Plan and the Australian contribution will continue to emphasize technical and training assistance.

My Government has directed special efforts towards the development of the most efficient defence system that our resources can sustain. Military appreciations have been prepared and studied. Plans have been worked out which put emphasis upon mobility, hitting power and modern equipment. A full statement will be made to Parliament at an early date in the present session. Adequate facilities for debate will be provided.

In the past year all armed services contributed components to serve in Malaya as part of the

Commonwealth Strategic Reserve. In so doing, these units have played a useful part in reducing the incidence of communist terrorism, and in assisting .to promote that stability which is so essential to the orderly development of the Federation of Malaya.

In collaboration with the Government of the United Kingdom, considerable progress has been made in the fields of defence science. My advisers expect the notable work performed at Woomera and Maralinga to continue.

When I last addressed the Parliament, the condition of the Australian economy was causing concern. There was internal inflation, and our balance of payments with other countries was unfavorable. Our overseas reserves had been falling rapidly. My Government took action to rectify these weaknesses.

My advisers report that the economy is now in a more balanced state; our trade position has improved; and our overseas reserves are growing. A high rate of productive activity has been maintained. Many important projects which should bring even greater prosperity are being undertaken.

To keep the economy on a stable and progressive course requires constant watch and appropriate action. My Government accordingly has the facts of the situation and its economic policies under close and continuous review. It has recently had assistance in this vital task from the Economic Advisory Committee, the members of which included representatives of private industry and commerce. A comprehensive economic statement will soon be laid before Parliament.

The improvement in the balance of payments, while it brings satisfaction, does not admit complacency. Although my Government has recently been able to ease the severity of controls on imports, much ground has yet to be won in expanding export production, in securing export markets, in improving the efficiency and competitive strength of our industries and in developing our latent resources before controls on imports can be entirely removed. My Government is working towards that goal. Its attainment will depend largely upon our success in avoiding further inflation. Reference is made to inflation, because it cannot be said too frequently that inflation is the enemy of progress and national development. A steady fall in the value of money increases costs of construction, causes expensive delays, and, by reducing the incentive to save, renders more and more difficult and burdensome the tasks of public finance.

The drive for increased exports has been meeting with considerable success. In the manufacturing industries there is a new consciousness of the importance of and opportunities for export markets. Following the negotiation and conclusion of the vastly significant Trade Agreement with the United Kingdom, a programme of trade negotiations with overseas countries is being undertaken in order to enlarge our export opportunities in the face of some overseas trends towards selfsufficiency. These negotiations will benefit wheat and other rural export industries.

Increased funds have been made available for Australian trade publicity in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and other overseas markets. Publicity campaigns have been closely related to the avail ability of Australian goods, delivery schedules and local conditions in particular markets. The Trade Commissioner service has been expanded and strengthened.

During this session legislation will be introduced to give effect to certain reductions in tariffs made possible by the negotiation of the new trade agreement with the United Kingdom. The items affected will be mainly those covering goods which are not produced in Australia and the effective tariff protection afforded Australian industry will not be diminished by these reductions. The new agreement represents a major advance in two directions. Lower import duties on goods from foreign countries will provide a very important cost-saving to Australian industry. Secondly, the constraints of the old agreement, so far as the scope for wider development of trading opportunities is concerned, have been broken and we now have room to move in our trade negotiations with other countries.

Over the past year new trade and payments arrangements have been under discussion in Europe. The six countries of the European coal and steel community have carried forward their plans for the formation of a customs and economic union.

The United Kingdom has entered upon negotiations for a free trade area which would bring her, and perhaps other countries of Europe, into association with the common market of the six. Such far-reaching changes could have important implications for the Australian economy and these developments are being kept under close review.

My Government will continue to assist primary producers to increase output and improve efficiency. It has offered to increase its financial contribution towards wool research and is negotiating for a matching contribution from the industry. To assist the export of semi-processed wools, my Government has agreed to co-operate in the establishment of wool-testing houses in Australia.

The question of wheat quality is receiving increased attention and the Government has agreed with the wheat-growers on a plan for increased research activity. The necessary legislation will be introduced during the session.

The current Commonwealth five-year plan for the stabilization of the dairying industry will terminate on the 30th June next. My Government is negotiating with the dairy industry for a new fiveyear plan and if these negotiations are concluded in time, legislation will be introduced during the session.

The recent discovery of large quantities of bauxite in Cape York Peninsula and new developments in existing metal mines have added very significantly to Australia's known mineral resources. New large deposits of copper and additional reserves of lead and zinc at Mount Isa could add a new chapter to the development of Australia. They have led to the decision of Mount Isa Mines Limited to establish a large copper refinery at Townsville. A major undertaking associated with this development is the rehabilitation of the railway linking Mount Isa to the coast; this question is being examined jointly and urgently by my Government and the Queensland Government.

It is my Government's intention to continue to push ahead with the Snowy Mountains scheme and so provide much-needed power for industry and water for irrigation.

The civil application of atomic energy is now developing swiftly. Uranium production formed the initial stage of my Government's programme; it is now well established, and yielding useful exports. To provide the necessary basis of technical knowledge and advice for the application to civil purposes of nuclear energy in Australia a research organization has been created and facilities are being established at Lucas Heights near Sydney. Agreements for the exchange of information have been or are being worked out with the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada, and Australia has supported the setting up of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

My Government is conscious of the increasing importance of civil air transport to national development and international relations. Its intention is to strengthen Australia's air links with both the United Kingdom and the United States of America. To this end endeavours will be made to establish an Australian air service through the North American continent. My Government's intention to keep in line with current aviation developments is illustrated by the recent decision under which Qantas Empire Airways will purchase a fleet of modern international jet airliners.

My Government continues to assist the development of an efficient coastal shipping service. The recently established Australian Coastal Shipping Commission is now functioning. My Government has recognized the need for further assistance to the important domestic shipbuilding industry by increasing the subsidy on ships built in Australia. It has taken special note of the importance of an adequate shipping service to Tasmania by placing an order for the construction in Australia of a special passenger vehicle ferry for the Bass Strait service.

My Government proposes during the session to introduce a bill providing for a general revision of the Navigation Act to bring it up to date.

My Government will continue an active and balanced immigration programme appropriate to our capacity. Emphasis will be placed on an increase in the proportion of British migrants and proposals to widen opportunities for British settlers are being developed. Following the passage of a new Commonwealth Settlement Act by Her Majesty's United Kingdom Government, my Government will negotiate for a renewal of the United Kingdom Assisted Passage Agreement.

In the field of industrial relations we continue to enjoy comparative industrial peace. Last year in manufacturing industries workers lost on the average only about one-seventh of a working day as a result of industrial disputes. A valuable contribution to an improved industrial atmosphere and to efforts directed towards greater productivity is being made by the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council. The council and its Standing Committee on Productivity have succeeded in arousing a greater community consciousness of the vital importance of increased productivity in Australia.

My Government has a lively sense of the needs of the social services, and particularly of the difficulties of pensioners of all types who have no other source of income. It will continue to review its legislation. Meanwhile it records its pleasure at the growing success of the aged persons homes scheme and the effectiveness of the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service. A fruitful part of my Government's work is the development of the national health services, which have done, so much to prevent disease and further the health of the people. My advisers report that more than a million children have already been immunized against poliomyelitis with Salk vaccine, produced at our Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. Supplies of the vaccine will continue to be made available for this great campaign. The Government has just renewed with State governments the Hospitals Benefit Agreement which, since 1952, has done a great deal to support hospitals in every State.

The Commonwealth has now, pursuant to its announced policy, executed a new housing agreement with the six States. This will provide their governments with loan money to continue building houses for rental and also for re-lending to societies which will help people to build their own homes. There has been a remarkable achievement in housing in recent years by public authorities and private citizens. My Government's policy has contributed notably to this achievement. There are nevertheless still some arrears in home building. The practical need for some resources to be. diverted to public and commercial building has its inevitable effect on current programmes but my Government regards the problem of home building with sympathetic and active mind and as far as it is concerned will do what it can to ensure that the arrears are overtaken as rapidly as possible. The matter will be treated as of outstanding importance, proper attention being paid to material supplies, labour availability and costs of construction.

The Government has recently made a further special distribution to ex-prisoners of war of the Japanese from moneys realized from the sale of Japanese assets and from reparations payments: appropriate legislation will be introduced.

Parliament will be asked to give some increased financial support to universities over the next two years. In addition, recognizing that the universities are facing almost a new world in which decisions of critical importance concerning their organization, fields of teaching and finance will be required, the Government has appointed a most authoritative committee of inquiry to make recommendations for future university development.

In the Antarctic we have a new permanent station at Davis and we are setting up another new station as Vestfold Hills, 400 miles east of our original base at Mawson. This year, which sees the beginning of the International Geophysical Year, we are increasing our Antarctic scientific and exploration activities, both on our own account and in collaboration with other nations.

Research results of extreme importance to Australia are continuing to come forth from Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Of particular interest is the research affecting the water supply of this, the world's driest continent. Already primary producers are beginning to make wide use of the process developed in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for reducing evaporation from reservoirs and dams. The organization's wool textile research has also prospered, and recent research results on scouring and carbonizing wool will help wool to maintain its position as the leading textile fibre.

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

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