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Tuesday, 9 September 1958


Mr FOX (Henty) - In speaking on the Estimates, I wish to direct my remarks to the Department of Territories and the Department of Immigration. In particular, I wish to refer to the development of the Northern Territory and the relationship between immigration policy and that development. 1 want to repeat a plea that I made in this chamber two years ago. No doubt, the recently announced increases in the zone allowances for taxation purposes will be gratefully received by residents of the Northern Territory. But if we are to develop this Territory as quickly as I believe it should be developed, it is essential that we grant all residents there, both individuals and companies, a complete exemption from income tax for an initial period of 25 years. Certain provisos may have to be made with respect to companies. For example, it might be stipulated that from 40 per cent, to 50 per cent, of their profits should be ploughed back into development. If we were to take this bold step, I believe we would be able to attract much more foreign capital to the Northern Territory.

I hope that my remarks will not be dismissed as those of an irresponsible person who is always advocating concessions or reduced taxation, or who has no appreciation of the amount of money that is required to run this country. I realize fully that if this concession is granted, an equivalent amount of money must be obtained from other sources and that some one has to pay. I also realize that unless we do a great deal more than we are doing at present to develop the Northern Territory more quickly, whatever government is in charge of Australia in. a comparatively few years' time may not have an opportunity of collecting any taxes from the Northern Territory. How much time have we got? Many thinking people have variously assessed it at anything from five to twenty years. That is frightening. Some of those people may be wrong, but I believe that our time will certainly run out before the end of this century unless we drastically alter our present policy towards immigration.

I wish the members of this committee could have heard the stirring speech that was delivered by Mr. Rohan Rivett to the last Citizenship Convention held in Canberra. He pointed out that to our near north, only 24 or 48 flying hours away, there are between 1,300,000,000 and 1,400,000,000 people. In some of those countries to the north of Australia, the population increases by between 5,000,000 and 10,000,000 persons yearly. In other words, the population of some of these countries increases annually - and certainly within two years - by the number of our total population. I should like to quote a few brief extracts from Mr. Rivett's speech to the Citizenship Convention. He stated -

It is no idle thing that there are thirteen hundred or fourteen hundred million people a few hours from our shores. Much more than half of those people live so close to the fantastically shaky level between subsistence and slight malnutrition that sometimes they are this side and sometimes they are that, and you can never say from month to month which side they are on. . . .

It is all very well for us to worry so much about watching the cost of living, watching the basic wage, asking, "Are we really better off? Are we getting real wages to make us better off than we were two or three years ago; or are we being robbed? "

That is not nearly so important as this other issue, because these people are right on our doorstep and their problems are very pressing. . . .

We cannot, with our rate of development, sit here smugly on 3,000,000 square miles of territory and say, "We have chosen this. It is ours. You stick to your few square miles, your crowded paddy fields and your overpacked valleys." I do not believe we can get away with that, and I think we are only kidding ourselves if we think we can.

I do not wish to be an alarmist or to impute wrong motives to any of the peoples to our north, but no matter how friendly they may be disposed towards us to-day and whatever their present attitude towards Australia may be, sheer economic necessity in ten to twenty years' time may compel them to look towards Australia for expansion. Is it not better to give the concessions I have suggested while we still have time to grant them, or must we wait until pressure is put upon us, perhaps even through the United Nations, to yield some of our northern and north-western areas completely? What would we lose then? We would lose not a few miserable millions of pounds but the great wealth and the potential wealth of this area - copper, tin, uranium, gold, bauxite and perhaps even oil.

This so-called dead heart of Australia can be made to beat if given water. I had the privilege of serving during the Second World War for fourteen or fifteen months in the north-western areas of Western Australia and I saw for myself the great change that was wrought in the country after heavy rains. This country could be made to grow anything if it were irrigated and provided with a regular supply of water. I say unequivocally that if the Government has not the money to develop this Territory, it should give every possible encouragement to private enterprise to get on with the job while there is yet time.

Some members of the Opposition hold up their hands in horror when it is suggested that we should increase the flow of American capital into Australia. I believe it is not only good business to do so, but also good defence policy. In time of war, it is only natural that the Americans should protect their own interests. The more American capital that is invested in Australia, just so much more quickly will the United States of America come to our assistance whenever we are threatened. I should like to conclude with a further quotation from Mr. Rivett's address to the Citizenship Convention. He said -

Time is no longer on our side. We cannot go along at the rate of 115,000 a year, even if it is uncomfortable to take even that many.

If we, as Australians, are to go ahead in the way we believe we should, we may have to make sacrifices that hurt. I think, however, that in the end we shall only be making them for our own children and their children after them.







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