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, 17 February 1959

Mr SPEAKER - I have to report that the House this day attended His Excellency the Governor-General in the Senate chamber, when His Excellency was pleased to make a Speech to both Houses of the Parliament. The Speech will be included in " Hansard " for record purposes.

The Speech read as follows: -

You have been called together to deal with matters of national moment. The Parliament having been dissolved and a general election having occurred, the 23 rd Parliament is now duly constituted.

When last I addressed Parliament, we were happy to have with us Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Her Majesty's visit was an outstanding success and was enjoyed, I am sure, as much by Her Majesty as by the people of Australia, who fell once more under the spell -of her charm and graciousness.

This year we are to have the honour and pleasure of another Royal Visitor - Her Royal Highness The Princess Alexandra of Kent, who, at the invitation of the Commonwealth, will visit three States and the National Capital with the prime objective of gracing by her presence the Queensland Centenary Celebrations. We congratulate Queensland on having reached this historic year: This vast and prosperous State is making giant strides towards a great and happy future.

Later this year, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association will hold its general conference in Australia. Members of Parliaments of other Commonwealth countries, nurtured in the same traditions of Parliamentary Government as ourselves, will meet in Canberra and will later tour Australia. They will be amongst us for some seven weeks and, during that time, will have every opportunity to know our country and our people.

Just before the end of the last Parliament, a joint committee of both Houses submitted a number of specific recommendations for constitutional review. My Government proposes that the committee should be re-constituted immediately to complete this work. My Government will then give close consideration to the proposals with a view to determining whether constitutional amendments should be submitted to Parliament and to the electors.

My advisers believe that much can be done to promote friendly international relations and bring about closer understanding and co-operation between nations by the exchange of visits of national leaders. Last year we had the pleasure of a visit from the Right Honorable John Diefenbaker, Prime Minister of Canada, and quite recently my Government had important discussions over a wide range of questions of common interest with Dr. Subandrio, the Foreign Minister of Indonesia. At the end of March my Minister for External Affairs will visit Japan and the Republic of Korea which are countries of great significance in the Pacific area.

Our relations with the countries of Asia are of first-rate importance. Trade between Australia and Asian countries will be further developed and Australia will continue to play an active part in helping to raise living standards in the countries of Asia through the Colombo Plan.

In March, the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, a regional body of the United Nations, will hold its annual meeting at Broadbeach in Queensland and will be attended by distinguished representatives from many countries, principally in Asia.

My Government will continue to give full support to the South-East Asia Treaty Organization. My Minister for External Affairs will lead the Australian delegation to the annual Council of Ministers meeting, which will be held in Wellington, New Zealand, from 8th to !0th April.

Australia has always supported negotiations, bolt within the United Nations and elsewhere, to achieve balanced general disarmament. My Government has welcomed the fact that, at a technical conference in Geneva in July and August, substantial agreement was reached on the feasibility of instituting a control system to detect the violation of any possible agreement to suspend nuclear weapons tests. My Government hopes that the United States, the United Kingdom and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics will be able to agree on the actual discontinuance of nuclear tests and the establishment of a control system. My Government has already announced that it is willing to allow the establishment in Australia of international inspection posts as part of a comprehensive agreed programme for the supervision of tests and for disarmament. Since the suspension of nuclear weapons tests is not in itself real disarmament, Australia will continue to work for an effective and controlled system of all-round reduction of armaments.

Australia has also been chosen a member of a United Nations committee set up to consider ways and means of encouraging international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

My Government believes that there is great scope and need for more international co-operation in the promotion of scientific research and in its dissemination and application.

This year the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition will maintain its activities at four southern stations - at Macquarie Island in the sub-Antarctic and at Mawson, Davis, and Wilkes on the Antarctic Continent. The valuable research which proceeded before and during the International Geophysical Year at these bases will be maintained. Exploration of unknown areas of Australian Antarctic territory will proceed.

My Government will continue with energy to promote the defences of the nation, with emphasis on the provision of highly-trained and wellequipped forces from which Australia could make a prompt contribution in any emergency in support of our national security and treaty obligations. During this year, two more Daring class destroyers will be added to the fleet. The provision of modern equipment for the First Infantry Brigade Group and other elements of the Regular Army Field Force will continue to receive high priority. The twelve Hercules transport aircraft for the Air Force have been delivered from the United States and are now being brought into service: These aircraft will be a major factor in providing mobility for the Australian Armed Forces. Units of the Australian Navy, Army and Air Force continue to serve in the British Commonwealth Strategic Reserve in Malaya. The air component has recently been strengthened by a Canberra squadron and two Sabre fighter squadrons.

Airfields at Butterworth in Malaya and at Townsville were completed during the last year. The strategic airfield at Darwin (which will also be used by civil airlines) is now nearing completion and other airfield works of strategic importance, including those at Alice Springs and Learmonth, are proceeding.

Work continues in the field of defence science much of it in direct collaboration with the United Kingdom.

The realization of the first objective of the guided weapons testing range at Woomera - the development of the comparatively short range for testing anti-aircraft guided weapons - has been marked by the entry into production of two British air-to-air weapons and the most advanced of the ground-to-air weapons. The same range, with some elaboration, is now also in use for testing the deterrent "stand-off" bomb and for numerous launchings in the International Geophysical Year of the upper atmosphere research rocket, " Skyla: k ". The progress during the year culminated in the recent successful first firing of the "Black Knight " test rocket, forerunner of Britain's ballistic missiles.

In parallel with this work, substantial progress has been made with the second stage of the development of the range, involving its extension from Woomera to the western limit of the Australian mainland. Preparations for the testing of the long range ballistic missile " Blue Streak " on this range are well advanced.

In conjunction with the Government of the United States of America, a special satellite tracking a:id observing station has been set up at Woomera. Data obtained at the station is transmitted to satellite centres in the United States of America i-v radio and its observations have been of conFi'de-able value in the study of the satellites already launched.

An outstanding achievement has been the completion of research and development on the antitank short range controlled weapon " Malkara " which has been proved by trials at Woomera and Puckapunyal to have an accuracy and power in excess of any comparable weapon in the world.

When I last addressed you, there had been an interruption to the growth of trade and production in some countries overseas and particularly in the United States of America. In this situation. Australia had experienced a substantial fall in prices for many of her exports. More recently, economic activity in the United States has risen and elsewhere prospects for expansion, at least later this year, appear good. The prices of a number of our exports have risen but the price of wool, which is of the greatest importance for Australia, has remained at a relatively low level. Australia's exports in the six months ended December, 1958, were £75.000,000 lower than in the corresponding six months of 1957. However, Australia's international reserves fell by only £25.000,000 between June and December, 1958, and at the end of the year stood at £500,000,000. The relatively small fall in reserves was in part the result of Government borrowing in London and New York; but an important sustaining influence has been the continued substantial inflow of private capital. Overseas investors have shown in this tangible way their confidence in the basic soundness of the Australian economy and its ability lo weather temporary difficulties caused by fluctuations in world commodity markets.

My advisers inform me that production and demand in Australia continue to rise and that our economy has done better than most others in maintaining expansion. During 1958 employment opportunities continued to increase. There are some problems affecting particular localities, but employment generally is at a high level.

My Government welcomes the decision of the United Kingdom Government to provide wider convertibility for the pound sterling. Sterling is the currency in which the greater part of Australia's trade is financed and in which the bulk of Australia's international reserves are held. It is also the currency most widely used in internationaltrade. A strong and stable pound sterling is therefore not only of great importance to Australia but also to a general revival' and expansion of worldtrade.

My Government also welcomes the proposals for an increase in the resources of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The strengthening of these important international institutions would be a valuable support to currency convertibility and to the growth of world production and trade.

My Government considers that there is a pressing need to review the present financial relations between the Commonwealth and the State governments. Accordingly, it has arranged for a special Premiers' conference to be held early next month to discuss the complex problems that exist in this field.

The existing legislation under which financial assistance for roads purposes is provided to the State governments expires on 30th June next. A meeting has already been held with representatives of the State governments and local authorities and various bodies concerned with roads to discuss the general nature of the roads problem and the extent and form of future Commonwealth financial assistance to the States for roads will be discussed at the special Premiers' conference on Commonwealth-State financial relations.

My Government will set up a competent and independent public investigation of Commonwealth taxation laws.

During the last Parliament, bills were introduced to effect certain changes in the Commonwealth's banking legislation that were considered to be necessary for the fully effective working of the Australian banking system. These bills were twice passed by the House of Representatives, but were rejected by the Senate on each occasion. My Government is confirmed in its conviction that the proposed changes should be proceeded with, and the bills will be again introduced early in this session of the new Parliament.

My Government accepts the principle of decimal coinage and is establishing a committee to inquire into ways and means of adopting it. A committee of inquiry will also be formed to consider the provisions of the Bills of Exchange Act. In both these cases there will be opportunity for interested parties to make their views known.

The past year has been a difficult one for overseas trade. My Government is pursuing an active trade policy directed towards the consolidation of existing export outlets and the development ot new trading opportunities. It has achieved some success in protecting Australian export industries from unfair trading practices of others.

The Australian Government has been studying closely the continuing trend towards economic integration in Europe in which a notable development on 1st January this year was the revision of tariffs and quotas between the six nations of the European Economic Community. Negotiations are continuing towards the creation of a European Free Trade Area under which other Western European countries, including the United

Kingdom, would be associated' with the European Economic Community. My Government will continue to keep in touch with these developments and to act as required to safeguard Australia's interests.

My Government through the Minister for Trade made an important contribution towards the agreement on the objective of stable commodity prices reached among British Commonwealth countries at Montreal last September.

Australia, last year, became the first country to enter into a trade agreement with the Independent Federation of Malaya. We participated in the negotiations for a new international sugar agreement and will, this year, be closely associated with negotiations for a new international wheat agreement and with discussions on the problem of world trade in lead and zinc.

My Government has maintained a stable import level and avoided the disruptive effect of frequent changes in the level of import licensing. Administrative changes, have been introduced to give importers greater freedom to purchase raw materials and capital equipment from the most competitive source including dollar countries.

In the development of our natural resources which depends upon the capacity of our manufacturing industry, my advisers will continue with the well established policy of protection for efficient Australian industries.

My Government continues to support the development of research schemes for primary industries on a co-operative basis between the Government and the producers of wool, wheat, tobacco, barley and dairy products. My Government is discussing a similar research scheme with the beef industry. As a result of the schemes now in operation the funds available for research in these fields have been increased by no less than £1,500,000 a year.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is achieving considerable success in research aimed at assisting wool to maintain its competitive position with man-made fibres.

My Government proposes very shortly, in association with the States, to appoint an impartial committee of inquiry to investigate and report on the complex problems of the dairy industry.

My Government has decided to double the amount of assistance to be provided to the Western Australian Government for the development of the area of Western Australia north of the twentieth parallel of latitude. Up to £5,000,000 will be available during the five years commencing 1st July, 1958, for projects which would make a net addition to the development of the area and which would not have been carried out without Commonwealth assistance. The prime responsibility for the selection, planning and execution of developmental projects within the area will rest with the Western Australian Government.

My Government has done much both by financial and by technical assistance to foster the search for oil in Australia and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. This assistance will continue. In each of the financial years 1959-60 and 1960-61 £500,000 will be available under the existing subsidy arrangements. A further sum of £1,000,000 will be provided each year to assist in the search far oil.

The Snowy Mountains Agreement between my Government and the governments of the States of New South Wales and Victoria recently came into force and this great national undertaking may now proceed on a sound constitutional basis. Action has also been taken by those governments and the Government of South Australia to amend the River Murray Waters Agreement. Later this year the capacity of the Hume Reservoir will have been increased to 2,500,000 acre feet - double its original capacity.

Australia now has an adequate supply of coal from more efficient mines. However, mechanization has also led to re-employment problems in New South Wales, but my Government has cooperated with the State Government and with industry in measures to overcome these difficulties. Considerable success has been achieved and these efforts will continue. Consideration is also being given to possible alternative uses of coal.

The Atomic Energy Commission is continuing to assist the development of Australia's uranium resources and is proceeding with advanced research into the peaceful uses of atomic energy.

This financial year a record amount of approximately £80,000,000 is being provided by my Government for housing. This will enable the normal current demand to be met and, in addition, will permit a substantial reduction in the already diminished arrears. My Government will continue to encourage home ownership.

Work is proceeding on the major standard gauge railway project from Albury to Melbourne. The results of this operation will be of considerable assistance to my advisers in their consideration of their major rail standardization proposals.

My Government has given substantial assistance, both financial and technical, to the Australian shipbuilding industry. The subsidy arrangement is being examined by the Tariff Board and my advisers will shortly be in a position to review the subsidy. 1959 will see the introduction into service of the fleet of jet airliners which my Government authorized Qantas to purchase for its international services. Re-equipment of the domestic airlines with modern turbo-prop aircraft will be stepped up. So as to ensure the maximum use of the new equipment, my Government will accelerate the development of both international airports and airports at country centres.

The Post Office is continuing to expand and improve its postal and telecommunication services to meet the growing needs of the community. Television services are now well established in Sydney and Melbourne and will be introduced by both national and commercial stations to Brisbane and to Adelaide, Perth and Hobart. Preliminary consideration is also being given to means by which television can be extended to major provincial and country centres.

The remarkable record of freedom from industrial disturbance in 1957 was surpassed by the record in 1958; not for twenty years has there been a period of two successive years in which the record has been equalled. A particular contribution has been made by the new emphasis which my Government has placed on conciliation. My Government proposes to meet the additional cost to unions of court-controlled ballots.

A stable and continuing immigration programme is generally accepted as essential to continuing development of our natural resources. The kinds of people we most want to settle in Australia are each year becoming more difficult to obtain in the numbers we require. Nevertheless, my Government will endeavour to maintain the flow of migration at a level consistent with an annual target of net immigration equal to 1 per cent, increase in our population. Legislation will be introduced to simplify naturalization procedures under the Nationality and Citizenship Act and to do away with the issue of a certificate of registration under the Aliens Act.

There continues to be substantial progress in the development of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Emphasis will be placed by my Government on agricultural extension work, native land tenure and distribution problems. Steady progress is being made through native local government councils and through Public Service training schemes in educating the native people towards a greater participation in the administration of the Territory.

My advisers have given close attention to the question of constitutional reform in the Northern Territory and in this session legislation will be brought down to provide for an increase in the number of non-official members of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory and for the creation of an Administrator's Council, which will be associated with the Administrator in certain functions of administration, and changes m the procedures regarding the tabling of Northern Territory ordinances in the Commonwealth Parliament and the procedures in respect of assent to or disallowance of ordinances. These measures will be a marked step forward in the constitutional development of the Territory and will help to foster the growth of political responsibility in the Territory.

My Government will continue its policy of keeping social services under constant review to ensure that they meet the needs and changing circumstances of our growing population. It will see to it that, as the economy permits, these social services provide the community with the assistance it requires. The effects of the recent legislation to provide supplementary assistance to improve the circumstances of those who are in the greatest need will be closely watched.

Following its consideration of the report of the Murray Committee, my Government proposes to introduce legislation to establish a University Grants Committee. It has already selected a chairman.

My Government has decided that there should be one law of marriage and divorce operating throughout Australia and that that law should make suitable and adequate provision for marriage guidance and other means of preserving marriages and safeguarding the interests of children. A bill, which will be based upon a private member's bill introduced in the last Parliament, will be brought in during the present session. Before a full debate of the measure is undertaken, adequate time will be afforded members of the Parliament and interested bodies to examine the provisions of the legislation.

My advisers hope that the present Parliament will have an opportunity of considering legislation to bring up to date the law covering both copyright and bankruptcy. This will round off the programme which my present Ministers set themselves when they first came into office of reviewing and modernizing the whole of the law of industrial property and bankruptcy.

In the earnest hope that Divine Providence may guide your deliberations and further the welfare of the people of the Commonwealth, I now leave you to the discharge of your high and important duties.

Suggest corrections