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Thursday, 19 February 1959

Mr DRUMMOND (New England) . - I should like to join with those members who have expressed their congratulations to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and to his deputy, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) on the successful outcome of the general election, after some nine years in which the Australian Country party has been in association with the Liberal party in the Government of this Commonwealth. I should like to take this opportunity to say that, while I think the Australian Country party is fortunate in having the present Deputy Prime Minister as successor to Sir Arthur Fadden, I feel profoundly convinced that the work of Sir Arthur Fadden, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, has been an important factor in the development of the sound policies, particularly along financial lines, which have made possible a continuation of confidence in the Government of this Commonwealth.

I do not propose to pursue that line further, because the time of every honorable member is limited in a speech of this kind. I shall therefore refer briefly to several matters which are mentioned in the Governor-General's Speech. I know that it is the intention of the Government not only to reconstitute the committee of both Houses which has been reviewing the Constitution of the Commonwealth, but also, when the committee has completed its work, to give close consideration to its proposals with a view to determining whether amendments to the Constitution should be submitted to Parliament and to the electors. I congratulate the Government on its determination to re-appoint the committee so that it may complete its work, and in particular, make available to the House a more lengthy and considered statement of the reasons that prompted the recommendations which, accompanied by a very brief precis of the position, were submitted before the last Parliament was dissolved. I hope that the work of the committee, in the fields it explored very extensively, will be continued.

The committee, of which I had the honour to be a member, had, in the nature of things, to take the Constitution as a whole, carefully scan its provisions, and then determine the order of priority of certain recommendations to the Parliament. It was thought that, if we attempted to bring all these matters - some of them merely formal, some quite noncontroversial, and some controversial - under one series of recommendations for reference to the people at one time, we might defeat the purpose of the review, which is to fairing about amendments to the Constitution. Consequently, we determined that certain matters should be dealt with in the first section.

A tremendous amount of ground work has been done on subjects other than those which have been referred to in the committee's report, and it would be largely a waste of time and money if all of the work done were not brought to a conclusion. Having said that, T profoundly hope that, in the interests of the development of the country, it will not be necessary to wait until the whole review is completed before those matters which have been referred to the Parliament are dealt with and substantially, if not in their entirety, referred to the electors of the Commonwealth for their determination. More than that I do not wish to say at this juncture.

I allude now to a very important reference in the Governor-General's Speech to the determination of the Government to proceed, in association with the States, with the appointment of an impartial committee of inquiry to investigate and report on the complex problems of the dairying industry. In personal discussion and correspondence with the previous Minister for Primary Industry, I strongly urged that that course should be followed. There are many problems in the dairying industry, particularly as they affect the northern part of New South Wales and southern Queensland, which need a most comprehensive and critical examination, An attempt should be made to ascertain why this industry which is so fundamental to the welfare of Australia is not enjoying prosperity. One factor which possibly operates to the detriment of the dairying industry is agricultural finance. For that reason, I hope that no attempt will be made in this House to emasculate the provisions for the proposed development bank which will come before the Parliament shortly. Whilst regard must be paid to the general development of the industry, the fact is that in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, many dairying districts have emerged during my lifetime from primeval forests. Possibly, there is an urgent need for land legislation to provide security of tenure. I am not expressing an opinion on that point. I am certain, however, that the industry does require an infusion of capital, properly placed, and the means of putting the industry on an economic basis. The achievement of that objective at present defies all the hardworking attempts of a great many people who are engaged in dairying.

All those who are interested in universities will be delighted to learn that the Government has already appointed the chairman of the permanent Universities Committee which was promised by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) before the House adjourned last year. T am sure that everybody will be equally delighted to know that the committee will be appointed very shortly and will proceed to follow up the matters referred to in the Murray report, particularly those which the Murray committee did not have time to investigate fully. 1 believe that the work of the permanent committee, somewhat along the lines of that which was formed in the United Kingdom, is vital to the development of teaching and research in and the proper housing of universities throughout Australia. I am a councillor of one of the newest of our universities and I know that, apart from the disastrous fire which seriously hampered its efforts, it suffers from shortages of buildings and equipment. Similar shortages are operating against sound and confident planning for the development of other Australian universities. There is a demand to-day for people of science. We need people of broad training with capacity for leadership. Unless we have that leadership, we might find that training in technology and science are not devoted to their proper ends which are an improvement in the general conditions of the human race. Those who are trained in universities should give leadership on moral and physical lines as well as assist to increase the wealth of the human race.

With some trepidation, I direct my attention now to that part of the GovernorGeneral's Speech in which His Excellency referred to the Government's defence proposals. This is not a field in which I can profess to be an expert. As a man of peace, I believe there are certain factors which must be regarded as fundamental to any defence policy. Those factors which should be applied to Australia in my view are: First, the nation must be economically strong. If it is not wealthy, discontents will eat into the system of defence. Secondly, our industries and population must be reasonably decentralized. That is becoming more and more a vital factor in survival, as well as defence, under the threats which exist to-day. Thirdly, a young country such as ours must plan for vigorous development on a balanced scale. Fourthly, its defence forces must be as modern, efficient and well equipped as the national resources will permit and the national will can sustain.

Having outlined those points I wish to say this: Before and during the last general election campaign, a constant spate of criticism was directed against the Government for its failure to do this and that and for the alleged waste of money on various avenues of expenditure. I do not suggest that some of the points of criticism might not have been justified, but no government in the world to-day can escape the implica tions of the transitory stage in which Australia is moving forward. In the Middle Ages, long after the discovery of gunpowder, men still fought in steel breastplates and helmets. So to-day, as we move from one era to another, the tendency is to try to balance the probabilities of old methods against those which are to come. That is what has bedevilled this Government as well as every other government. How far must they stick to conventional forces, or will they find the old equipment about as useful as peashooters in the event, God forbid, of another war? Because of those vital questions, the development of new forms of defence is a slow process. Of course, the plain fact is that the world economy is geared to conventional forces of defence. If we were to swing overnight substantially from one form of defence to another, there would be economic chaos involving unemployment and a general disorganization of industries which interlock with defence. That, I think, would bring far more trouble to this nation, as well as to others, than would some hesitation as to how far they should proceed one way or another. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 2.15 p.m.

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