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Thursday, 25 September 1958


Mr LUCHETTI (Macquarie) .- Mr. Speaker,this matter of Commonwealth grants to the claimant States is of national importance.


Mr Turnbull - Do not hold that against them.


Mr LUCHETTI - I can only hope that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and a few other members from Victoria will join in a national approach to an important matter that deeply concerns the whole of Australia; for Australia's future depends on a united, strong and vigorous nation, and not on petty minds and petty people who consider national problems from the stand-point only of their own electorates, and leave the rest of Australia to get along as best it can. This is a matter which should engage the close attention of all honorable members, Mr. Speaker. I want to approach it, not from the stand-point of a New South Welshman or of the representative in this place of the Macquarie electorate, but as an Australian, looking to Australia unlimited and the future development of this great island continent.

The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has dealt extensively with the needs of Tasmania, to which he belongs. He has spoken of the development of Tasmania and the accomplishments of the Tasmanian Government, and he' has addressed himself particularly to the financial needs of that sovereign State. The honorable member has told us of the great progress and development that have occurred there over a considerable period. The reason for this development is perhaps to be found in the fact that, for some 23 years, Tasmania has had Labour governments. Over that period, progressive Labour governments have really faced the problems of developing that island State in order to enable it to play its part in the development of Australia as a whole.


Mr Anderson - What about Queensland?


Mr LUCHETTI - I shall say something about Queensland. In this connexion, the honorable member should note that Queensland is not a claimant State. It is a principal State, and it does not seek any special assistance from the Commonwealth. The wise leadership that that State has had over many years has promoted development and the decentralization of industry there i.n accordance with the highest traditions to be found anywhere in the Commonwealth. that brings me to the matter about which I wish to speak. What is the purpose of the grants made to the claimant States? It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that these grants are made in order to promote development of undeveloped areas, the provision of services and facilities, and the extension of the amenities of civilized mankind to the undeveloped areas of Australia. If we look at the matter from that stand-point, I think it will be agreed that, despite the excellent report that the Commonwealth Grants Commission has presented, further study and consideration of the subject is long overdue; for I do not consider it is enough that States, as States, should receive handouts from the National Government. That is not the way to lead this nation to its destiny and to promote its development.

We must look at the picture of Australia as a whole, and see the complete pattern. We should look, in particular, at the area north of the 26th parallel of latitude. The part of that area that lies in the north-west of Western Australia comes within the scope of the consideration of this bill. That part of Western Australia is a vast area of some 500,000 square miles, but has a population of only 6,000 people. Surely, that fact should awaken the national spirit of every honorable member and arouse the consciences of most people outside the Parliament. It is a fact that must concern every person who realizes the situation in which Australia, in the Asian area of the world, is placed to-day. No person with an awareness of that situation, and the great problems that beset Australia, can be satisfied that enough is being done to develop the north. It is true that the Commonwealth has decided to provide certain funds for expenditure in the north-west of Western Australia. On that, I commend it. The provision of such finance is desirable and necessary, but I believe that the amount to be provided is totally inadequate. The Northern Territory does not come within the scope of this measure, because it is not *a State. The Territory, with an area of about 500,000 square miles, has only about 18,000 people. We owe much to the pioneers of the sugar industry who developed the sugar belt in Queensland, and to the progressive governments that fostered the sugar industry. If we exclude that area from the total area of the continent north of the 26th parallel, we have an area of about 1,300,000 square miles with a population of only about 24,000 people.

If the making of grants to promote development is to have any real meaning or serve any worth-while purpose, we should not have regard only for the artificial boundaries between the States. Though these boundaries are artificial, they are real, permanent and enduring, particularly with respect to Tasmania, which is separated by water from the rest of Australia. With respect to South Australia and Western Australia, development should be approached from the stand-point of Australia as a whole, without regard to State boundaries. If some future Commonwealth government approaches the development of Australia in the true national spirit, disregards what the States have to say in these matters, and adopts a truly national approach to the problem, it will come much nearer to meeting the needs of the people, and, for my part, as an Australian, it will cheer me immensely. The problem cannot be adequately dealt with while State boundaries are permitted to have such an overriding influence. The Constitution Review Committee and other bodies, as well as many of the people of Australia, have been much concerned with State boundaries, but, first and foremost, we ought to consider what is an economic area of government, in order that we may assess more realistically the financial needs of a State and the wealth of its resources, and gain an appreciation of what is needed to promote development. That is of great importance.

The aid that we give to Asian countries under the Colombo plan must be paid for by the people of Australia in taxes, and that payment ultimately comes out of the resources of this country. It ought to be generally understood that, likewise, the aid given to the claimant States of Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia must be paid for by the Australian taxpayers as a whole, and that it comes out of the national resources. It should not be thought that aid is given to a State in order to enable it to excel in some special field or other to the detriment, of another State. . It should be realized that we must all march together side by side to our national destiny, which depends on the development of this country.

The honorable member for Bass has ably outlined Tasmania's problems. He has told us of the needs of Tasmania. He has extolled the virtues of that State and told us of the great development that is in hand there and of the social services and educational facilities that are provided. The cases of Western Australia and Tasmania are entirely different, Mr. Speaker. With respect to South Australia, I do not propose to go through the extensive report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission in detail, but I should like to mention a point that has been made - a point that ought to be considered by the House. The report states -

Recent announcements indicate further substantial investment in industrial development in South Australia, particularly in or near the metropolitan area and at Whyalla.

I think that South Australia is reaching such a stage of economic maturity that it might well be regarded as a principal State, and as such accept full responsibility in economic and other matters affecting it. In view of the tremendous growth of secondary industries in South Australia, the time is not far distant when that State could consider that it has the capacity and the resources to go ahead as a principal State, and also to assist in the development of Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) reminds me, and this should not be overlooked by honorable members, that all that South Australia needs is a change of government. If it had a change of government it would have a change of heart. I am sure that you, Mr. Speaker, appreciate the problems confronting South Australia, and that you know that, with a change of government, South Australia could say to the Commonwealth that it had made substantial progress and was prepared to play its part as a full partner in the Commonwealth and help the Northern Territory and the north-west of Western Australia to develop fully. 1 am raising important matters that should be considered by the House. What are we going to do with the north-west of Western Australia? Our efforts in the past have not been good enough. In the northwest of Western Australia a fine area of land is underdeveloped and underpopulated. It does not lack resources, but it lacks means of transportation, water conservation, irrigation, and harbour installations. It lacks all the facilities essential to its development. In view of the present difficulties confronting this nation, both externally and internally, in the immediate future there will have to be a greater reliance on the internal capacity of Australia to meet the challenge of our undeveloped areas.

How are we to find work for the people who will lose their jobs as a result of the refusal of the United States to buy our lead and zinc? What are we to do with the people who will be unemployed as a result of the recession that could easily arise out of this situation? Unless we look to the future and plan a programme of development for this country, the population of our cities will increase still further and greater difficulties will beset us.

The situation in Western Australia is a challenge to every honorable member. It is a challenge to every person in Australia. In Western Australia there is a great area of underdeveloped land. Something like 6,000 people occupy 500,000 square miles of land north of the 26th parallel, close to the lands of Asia. There is still great mineral wealth in the area, available to be used for the benefit of the people of Australia if only capital can be made available to trigger off the necessary development.

I speak to this bill this afternoon not for the purpose of entering into a controversy as to the needs of one geographical area compared with those of another. I am not greatly moved by such considerations, but I am concerned about the need to develop the north-west of the continent, the need to develop the Gulf country, and the need to see that our bauxite resources are protected and developed for the well-being of the people of Australia. If what has taken place in recent times is to continue, our overseas markets will be diminished, if not entirely lost.

Finance should be provided to develop the Northern Territory, an area that is wealthy almost beyond the dreams of avarice and certainly wealthy beyond the estimation of most honorable members and most people in Australia. The Northern Territory is crying out for special assistance. I have been through that area. I have seen the people of Hatches Creek. I saw the wolfram mines close down. I knew those mines when they were booming. I know the story of how Chinese worked the mines during the Second World War. I know Tennant Creek. I know the difficulties faced by mines, such as the Peko, that have had to fight for existence. If we are to develop this country something should be done about developing northern Queensland. A better rail system in northern Queensland would tap the rich cattle country of the Barkly Tableland. There could be a railway from somewhere near Dajarra right through to the tableland, but it would cost money to build. That is why I say that the money that is being provided in this bill should be regarded as an investment in " Australia Unlimited ", for the purpose of developing this great country of ours.

We know that beef is fetching very favorable prices overseas at present. But what about our other exports? The price of metals has collapsed. The price of wool in July this year was down 30 per cent, compared with July last year. In August this year the price was down 40 per cent, compared with August last year. If we are to face up to our responsibilities we must develop the north of Australia, and one of the things we can do is to develop the beef industry. We must provide railways, roads and wharfs in order to develop this country. I am sure that we all have faith in Australia. That being so, here is our opportunity to act. Now is the time to stand by the beliefs that we will express in our electorates during the next eight weeks and not to retreat, no matter what happens. It is all very well to stand on a street corner and proclaim our faith in the future of this great country, but unless we take positive steps now to meet the challenge that is inherent in the current situation, we shall have failed this Parliament and the people.

I believe that what is proposed in this bill, as far as can be gauged from the report before us, reasonably meets the situa tion. The bill does not offer a solution for all the problems. It is only a beginning of what is needed if Australia is to be the place in which we want our children and our children's children to live.







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