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Thursday, 27 April 1961

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) . - The Minister for Supply (Mr. Hulme) has hung quite a speech on one paragraph of the oration I made this morning on the motion moved by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) with relation to decentralization. This is the first time a Liberal member of this House has spoken on the question of decentralization in the eight years that I have been in this Parliament. This morning, the honorable member for New England received the support of only one of his colleagues on the Government side.

Mr Forbes - Because you spoke.

Mr WHITLAM - Two Country Party members spoke and two Labour Party members spoke. I remind the House that the honorable member for New England put his motion on the notice-paper nine months ago, but it was not discussed last session. It was put on the notice-paper again this session. I welcome the fact that the Minister for Supply, who, I think, is the second senior Government representative from Queensland, has spoken on this subject. But I do not see that the point he made has exculpated the Government in its attitude towards Queensland. Let me quote from the answer he gave to me. The Minister said that of an expenditure of £51,159,000, only £768,000, or 1.5 per cent, was spent in Queensland. He said - and it is correct - that that amount of £768,000 represented the appropriation and trust- account expenditure that his department had incurred in that State. He has now given further figures showing the amounts spent by the District Contract Board in the various States. These figures show that, of an expenditure of £29,355,000 last year, only £1,500,000 was spent by the District Contract Board in Queensland. That State has only 14 per cent, of Australia's population, and it comprises one quarter of the area of Australia, yet we have been told by a Queensland Minister, that only 5 per cent, of the District Contract Board's expenditure went to that State and only 1.5 per cent, of expenditure from appropriation and trust accounts was incurred there.

It is true, as the Minister said, that copper or cotton in the processed form is bought by his department, but in fact the raw materials came from Queensland. How much was spent on those raw materials in Queensland by his department? How much of the £51,000,000 expended from appropriation and trust accounts, and how much of the £29,000,000 expended by the District Contract Board was represented by the raw material elements of copper and cotton?

Mr Hulme - I gave illustrations.

Mr WHITLAM - You gave four illustrations; cotton and copper were the two that had relevance to Queensland. I made many references to Queensland in my speech this morning because, as I said, Queensland and Western Australia are the two States which are the most extensive in area and most extended in finances. If the development of those States is to be left in the hands of their governments and it has to depend upon the financial resources of those States, Queensland and Western Australia will not be developed as rapidly as the rest of Australia. Private investment has been adequate to develop, in terms of consumer economy, the cities of Sydney and Melbourne, which already have the customers, the employees and the civic amenities. That is not the case in Queensland or in Western Australia.

Reference was made to the fact that Queensland had a Labour government for many years. In some respects, the Queensland Labour Government was the best government in Australia. Its hospitals administration in Queensland was easily the best- in -Australia. - The Minister said that the most oppressive taxation scheme in Australia was in Queensland. From his point of view, with his ideology, so it was. But that was cured by the uniform taxation system. The Commonwealth Law Reports are full of High Court cases relating to Queensland graziers who lived in Toorak. Queensland grazing properties were conducted by Victorian companies so as to avoid taxation, but uniform taxation has been in operation now for nineteen years. The plain fact is that the tropical parts of Australia, and the most extensive States in Australia, will not be developed by private enterprise. We must have government enterprise to do it.

We had a very good example this morning of this Government's attitude towards Queensland. The Commonwealth cannot build railways in a State without the consent of the State. It can build roads, aerodromes and ports, if they are in relation to overseas or interstate trade, but it cannot build a railway. There is a very great difference between the treatment that tho Commonwealth Government has meted out to Queensland in respect of the Mount IsaTownsvilleCollinsville railway and the treatment that it has meted out to South Australia in respect of the broadening of the gauge between Adelaide and Mount Gambier, and to Victoria and New South Wales concerning the new railway line of standard gauge between Albury and Melbourne.

Mr Hulme - It is no different from the position in regard to the railway from Kyogle to Brisbane.

Mr WHITLAM - I was under the impression that the Kyogle to Brisbane railway was built on the same principle as the Albury to Melbourne and the Adelaide to Mount Gambier lines.

Mr Hulme - That is right.

Mr WHITLAM - That is, that the Commonwealth lent the whole of the money. It required the States concerned to pay back only 30 per cent, of the loan, and it gave them 50 years in which to repay it. For the first time the Commonwealth has now made money available for the construction of a railway in less favorable circumstances. The Commonwealth is lending not the whole cost, but only two-thirds of it. It requires the repayment not of 30 per cent., but of 100 per cent, of the loan, and it requires the amount to be repaid not over 50 years, but over twenty years. It is an extraordinary thing that a Minister who comes from Queensland, an accountant of great experience in financial matters, has not referred to this aspect. The Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth) interjects. I should have hoped that he would have been pressing for the standardization of the railway between Kalgoorlie and Fremantle. But I am concentrating on Queensland in this respect. If we confine public enterprise to utilities, the Minister for Supply could have explained why the Commonwealth is taking so long to make up its mind about the Channel country roads and so on. The Chifley Government showed in 1949 what can be done with Commonwealth incentive. The Commonwealth can make a grant under section 96 of the Constitution and ear-mark it for a certain purpose. Once again confining public enterprise to utilities, why has not the Minister said something about Queensland ports? This Government repealed the section of the Stevedoring Industry Act that permitted the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority to make grants to port authorities to modernize ports. Here are three matters in relation to which it can be done. Without doing this, it is impossible to open up Queensland. As the consumer price index has shown, Queeusland has had the greatest increase of all Stales in inflation in the last six months md the greatest amount of unemployment.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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