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
Tuesday, 19 March 1957

Mr FORBES (Barker) .- 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 Parliament 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 should like, before addressing myself to the motion, to say something of my feelings on this occasion of my maiden speech to this House. They are three-fold. The first is a feeling of inadequacy and humility in face of the responsibilities which devolve upon a member of this Parliament; and the second is a feeling of grateful thanks to the electors of Barker, or rather to the act of faith of the electors of Barker, who put me here. It was an act of faith because very few of them knew me. My predecessor, Mr. Archie Cameron, was revered and respected by them over a long period of years. I can only say that I will do my best to live up to the Parliamentary and electoral standards which he set. Thirdly, I am deeply conscious of the honour which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has done me in asking me to move the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency's Speech. Of course, I am aware that the mover and seconder are normally chosen from the ranks of new members of this House which, on this occasion, narrows the field somewhat. While J thank the Prime Minister for the honour he has done me, 1 cannot help feeling that I would have preferred a less conspicuous occasion on which to make my initial plunge.

I am sure that all honorable members will join with me in expressing deep pleasure at the visit to Australia of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh on the occasion of the Olympic Games. Those who were present on the opening day will realize how much his presence meant on that occasion. Honorable members will also have noted with satisfaction his progress through many outlying portions of the Commonwealth since he left our shores. I am sure that these visits are of very great practical importance. They bring home, as nothing else could, to the peoples who are growing towards self-government, as well as to those who have reached it, that when we say, as we now do, that the Queen is the head of the Commonwealth, we mean just that. She is no less the living symbol of the association because the form of words happens to have been changed.

I congratulate the Government on the contents of His Excellency's speech. I had the feeling, as I was listening to His Excellency, that this sounded more like the speech of a government coming fresh to the fray after a long period in Opposition than one which has continuously held the responsibility of government for more than seven years. Nothing could do more to disprove the old dictum that a government in office for a number of years becomes moribund and barren of ideas. On the contrary, His Excellency's speech is a constructive survey of the problems which this country faces, both in the national sphere and in its international relations. It is a clear statement of the legislative and administrative policy which the Government proposes to follow in the immediate future. It has those undertones of idealism and faith in the future which, 1 feel, are so essentia] to constructive and effective performance in Government.

We may well ask ourselves why this Government has not suffered from the malaise of inaction which eventually brings most governments down and which brought clown this Government's predecessor. I do not think one has to go far to find the answer. It has been stated many times. The Menzies Government started with the conviction that if Australia is to be made great, if living standards are to be raised, and if a framework is to be created in which all Australians can live a happier, freer and more prosperous life, one must, if the country is to be soundly based, develop its productive resources. Development has been the mainstream of policy which, because of its obvious benefits to all sections of the community, does not look like drying up. That is why the Government has been able to come before honorable members to-day constructive in policy and fertile of ideas. I am quite sure that this concept of development has captured the imagination of the Australian people, particularly the youth of this country, amongst whom I number myself.

Not long after the Menzies Government came to power, I went to the United Kingdom where I had the privilege and good fortune to spend three years at Oxford. It is, perhaps, worth noting in passing that two other members of this House were there at the same time - the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser). We were then preoccupied with other things and I do not think any of us imagined in our wildest dreams that in a few short years we would be members of this House. Indeed, I do not think I even knew on which side of the political fence they stood, though I had my doubts about the honorable member for Yarra.

I mention my stay overseas to make the point that there is nothing like spending a long time away from it to make a person really appreciate his own country, even if that stay is in a magnificent country like Great Britain. From 12,000 miles away one sees one's own country in perspective. One sees all its aspects - its virtues and its faults - more clearly, perhaps, than one does on the spot. The effect on me was immeasurably to increase my appreciation of all things Australian. In particular, I had the feeling that at that time I was missing something. It seemed to me that Australia was like a young giant awakening from its lethargy, and flexing its muscles and eager to get on the move. One could almost physically sense that an era of unparalleled development was under way. I felt that it was no time for a young man. to be absent and I longed to return. Nor was I disappointed when I did return. I have found in the electorate of Barker a living example of my aspirations and hopesfor Australia. The development there has been quite remarkable since the present Government created the conditions which touched it off. The energy, enthusiasm and limitless faith in the future that exist over the whole area so exactly match my own mood that I am sure that honorable members will bear with me if I say something about them.

Barker covers the whole of the southeast of South Australia, most of the hills and the coastal plains south of Adelaide and the enchanting Kangaroo Island. It is an area, as honorable members will know, entirely devoted to primary production and the industries based directly on primary production. It produces many of the finer wines in South Australia and contains the whole of the State's forestry industry, the growth of which has been quite remarkable. From an output of 54,000,000 super, feet ten years ago, production has increased three times to 156,000,000 super, feet and, of course, related industries have increased proportionately. Taking- another example, I point out that the crayfish tails industry has grown in a few years from nothing to the position where it earned this country nearly a half a million badly needed dollars last year. Yet the most spectacular developments have been in the pastoral industry. Ten years ago there were 6,500,000 sheep in the electorate of Barker. Last year there were 13,500,000 - over twice as many. Ten years ago the area produced 63,000,000 lb. of wool. Now production has risen by two and a half times to 158,000,000 lb. These increases are even more remarkable when it is considered that in the same period the cattle population has doubled and the output of all crops has increased - in the case of barley by three and a half times.

The potential development can be gauged by noting that the area of top-dressed (pasture has increased in the period by nearly eight times. In other words, the sheep population will probably double itself in the next few years when young pastures become older and increase their carrying capacity. This result has been achieved ;partly by the process of clearing new land -and bringing it into production, much of it made possible by the use of trace elements. The Australian Mutual Provident Society's magnificent scheme in the so-called Ninetymile desert is well known. It is not, perhaps, as well known that private individuals have developed in the same area an equal area of land, and that trace elements have been widely used to bring new land into production over the whole of the south-east of South Australia.

The other, and probably the more important factor in this development has been in the scientific improvement of existing pastures - the process by which three or four sheep graze where one grazed before. It is a development which has been brought about by marrying the hard work and practical knowledge of the farmer to the researches of the scientists. This is the modern pioneering technique. The frontiers of settlement in Australia have been pushed back nearly as far as they will go. It would be fair to say, I think, that if there is to be a further increase in agricultural production in this country, relatively little of this increase will come from the development of new land. The new pioneers are those who, in their practical work on farms and their researches in institutions and universities, are pushing back, not the frontiers of settlement, but the frontiers of knowledge. This work is so vital to the future development of the country that they deserve every ounce of support and encouragement that we can give them. I am very glad to note the many proposals in His Excellency's Speech which deal with this aspect of our development.

I believe that the Government can well be proud of the action it has taken since it came to power to stimulate the output of our rural industries. Our capacity to import the capital goods we require for development depends upon the export income with which we pay for them, and that income is the most important single factor in our progress. Those who believe that, and who recognize that for a very long time to come, and probably for all time, we shall depend for the bulk of our export income on our rural industries, will admit that the present situation must give some cause for disquiet. For example, although the current volume of agricultural production is about 23 per cent, above pre-war levels, it is less than the percentage increase in population. It can be estimated, roughly, that on present rates of population increase, only 24 years will elapse before we become importers of butter, and an even shorter period will elapse before we shall have to import certain other commodities that we now export. For all dairy produce it will be nineteen years, for beef and veal seven years, for mutton four years, and so on. These figures are only approximate, and are worked out on the basis of present percentage increases in production and present per capita consumption levels, but they are, nevertheless, most disturbing.

The principal cause of increased output in our rural industries is the investment of capital, both public and private. A clear recognition of this fact has motivated the Government's policy since 1949, and a large increase of production has been achieved by measures designed to make investment in our rural industries just as profitable as other avenues of investment. At present, due to a number of factors which I have not time to discuss now, there seems to be no doubt that our rural industries have fallen behind again as an avenue of profitable investment. There appears to be no more crucial problem in Australia to-day than the proper distribution of our capital resources as between the rural industries on the one hand, and the manufacturing industries on the other. I am aware that it is a complex problem, but in my opinion it strikes at the very heart of our future development and greatness. For that reason the balance should and must be redressed. I thank honorable members for the courtesy and tolerance they have extended to me on this occasion.

Suggest corrections