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Thursday, 27 April 1961

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) .- 1 second the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton). It is designed purely to effectuate the motion of which the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) gave notice many months ago and which to-day he has had the opportunity to present to the House in> a very eloquent and constructive fashion.

The amendment merely provides for what we believe would be a more workable committee to inquire into this matter, and gives the proposed committee the power to call evidence from the very large number of bodies and experts whom the honorable member for New England mentioned. The honorable member brought before the National Parliament a subject which is of concern to every person in this nation and is primarily now a matter in which the National Parliament should take the initiative. The war was scarcely over when in August, 1945, a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers was held to discuss the question of decentralization. I have not the time to give the text of the resolution which was passed by that body, but honorable members can find it in the 1960 Commonwealth "Year Book". The Labour Party takes pride in the fact that the Curtin Government in the last years of the war, and the Chifley Government took many steps towards developing the nation as a whole. Towards the end of the war the Curtin Government passed the Aluminium Industry Act and leased munitions annexes, which were no longer required, in provincial towns. The Chifley Government continued with the work of decentralizing industries and leased additional munitions annexes on favorable terms. Furthermore, it passed several acts which speak for themselves, namely, the Western Australia Grant (Water Supply) Act, 1948; the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Power Act 1949; the Railway Standardization (South Australia) Agreement Act 1949, and the States Grants (Encouragement of Meat Production) Act 1949. The last act made provision for roads to assist the beef industry in Western Australia and Queensland. In addition, the Chifley Government by administrative action set up the Katherine and Kimberley research stations to investigate the agricultural and pastoral potential of the tropical part of Australia which represents 40 per cent, of our area and 4 per cent, of our population.

It is along the lines of that active Commonwealth initiative that the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party is working through its decentralization committee, under the chairmanship of our Whip, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) and the secretaryship of the honorable member for Bendigo. The Commonwealth Government can already carry out by administrative action many of these matters.

Migration has not been the great settling influence in Australia that was at one time expected, and it is unreasonable for us to send immigrants or expect them to go to parts of Australia where amenities are not adequate for people who were born in Australia. But we must confess that we have relied on unmarried migrants to set up what measure of decentralization there has been in Australian industry since the Second World War. That is to say, the cities of Wollongong, Mount Isa and Port Pirie could not have doubled in size since the war if it had not been for the fact that migrants were brought in pursuant to the vision and administrative energy of Australia's first Minister for Immigration, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). The sugar industry, our principal tropical industry, could not have been maintained if it were not for migrant labour.

The regrettable thing is that the migrant labour cannot be kept in the sugar industry or in the three industrial cities I have mentioned because amenities are not being provided nor is there the necessary variety of industrial investment and employment. Sydney and Melbourne have grown greatly. By the standards of our consumer economy, they have prospered greatly since the war; but the rest of Australia has not. One cannot visit any provincial city in Australia or any regional centre without being depressed by the inability of those towns and centres to retain the young people born, raised and educated there. There is not a variety of industrial employment and investment in those places.

One thing the Commonwealth Government could do forthwith is open to it through its own providoring and purchasing services. The Department of Supply last year spent over £51,000,000 in buying supplies for other Commonwealth departments. The expenditure in each State was as follows: -


The position is completely incomprehensible. Queensland, which has 14 per cent, of Australia's population and a quarter of

Australia's area, receives about 1.5 per cent, of orders from the Commonwealth Government. That is no contribution to decentralization. The Commonwealth Government's own ordering policy centralizes Australians around Melbourne and Adelaide, maybe for political reasons, but we are all suffering economically because of it. There is another matter that the Commonwealth Government can control. It has no general power over capital issues, but it has a general power over the investment policy of foreign investors. I sympathize with the point that was made by the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) concerning an oil refinery at Port Stephens. The same position has arisen more recently regarding an oil refinery at Port Alma. The unfortunate fact is that State governments are unable to require foreign investors to set up an industry in any particular part of a State, because rather than do so the foreign investors will go to a more compliant State or a State whose bargaining power is weaker.

The Department of Trade produces booklets every year giving the pattern of overseas investment in Australia. From the 1 960 publication, " British Manufacturers in Australia ", it appears there are 568 Australian firms in which British firms have invested, and of that number, 505 companies are domiciled in New South Wales and Victoria. There are 27 in South Australia, twelve each in Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania. Again, the Department of Trade in its 1960 publication, " United States Investment in Australian Manufacturing Industry ", states that there are 230 Australian firms in which United States firms have financial interests, and 916 Australian firms with which United States firms have manufacturing agreements. Of the 230 firms in which American companies have invested, 220 are domiciled in New South Wales and Victoria, five are in Queensland, four in South Australia and one in Western Australia. There are none in Tasmania. Of the 916 firms with which the United States firms have made manufacturing agreements, 838 are domiciled in New South Wales and Victoria, 47 in South Australia, eighteen in Queensland, nine in Western Australia and four in Tasmania.

Mr Jones - Does the Commonwealth Government force them to decentralize their investments?

Mr WHITLAM - The Commonwealth Government undoubtedly has power to tell foreign investors where they will set up industries in Australia.

Mr Forbes - If you exercised the power, you would not get the industries.

Mr WHITLAM - In that case we could do what any other country in our industrial position does - buy up experts from other countries, borrow the money from international organizations and set up the industries ourselves. It is not necessary to develop Australia by selling slabs of industries in Sydney and Melbourne. We will not develop Australia that way. The Liberal Party policy has consistently failed to ensure the development of Australia as a whole. There are three primary powers which the Commonwealth Government can exercise to promote decentralization or national development. One is under section 51, placitum (i.) of the Constitution under which the Commonwealth can legislate with regard to trade and commerce among the States. Railway freights are a flagrant example of the centralization that every State Government carries on through its railway system. The Commonwealth cannot build railways in a State without the consent of the State, but it can, in fact, make grants to the States which will promote interstate or decentralized transport by roads, ports and airlines.

The next power it has is under section 122 of the Constitution under which the Commonwealth can administer territories surrendered by any State. We all realize that the only real way to develop the northern part of Australia is for the Commonwealth Government to accept from Western Australia and Queensland the northern half of Western Australia and the north-western part of Queensland in the same way as the Commonwealth did 50 years ago in respect of the Northern Territory. The other power which the Commonwealth has is to make grants to States under section 96 of the Constitution. The States have now only sufficient money to maintain the place and the pace of their present activities. Western Australia and Queensland are the States which are most extensive in area and most extended in finance. The. two States where development is most required are those which can afford it least.

Let us look at specific industries. There would not yet be an aluminium industry in Australia if the Labour governments of Australia and Tasmania had not set up the aluminium industry at Bell Bay. Now we find that we have the largest bauxite deposits in the world within our own country in northern Queensland. Near Gladstone, there are the coal resources and the water power to process the bauxite for our own internal demands for aluminium and for the export of the processed product which would be to the economic benefit, internal and external, of our country. The governments of Queensland and the Commonwealth could have set up such an industry with Commonwealth initiative, and it would have paid off.

Again, Western Australia which has all the resources of iron ore required and which has at its doorstep the best markets available to any of the Australian States around the Indian Ocean, must wait for its steel industry until the Commonwealth builds a railway and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited which has a steel monopoly, sets up the industry. There is nothing to prevent the Commonwealth Government making a grant to Western Australia to use the man-power and mineral resources of that State to produce the steel which Australia needs itself and which Australia could supply more cheaply and promptly than Japan or any of the European, purveyors, to all the independent countries emerging around the shores of the Indian Ocean.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The time allotted for precedence of general business has expired. The honorable member for Werriwa will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be made an Order of the Day under " General Business " for the next sitting.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

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