PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 723


Photo of Menzies, Robert

Menzies, Robert

Period of Service: 19/12/1949 to 26/01/1966

More information about Menzies, Robert on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 22/04/1963

Release Type: Press Conference

Transcript ID: 723

QUESTION: PRIME MINISTER: Q. P. M. I was wondering, Sir, whether you felt satisfied
that the special assistance in loans and the
grants for public works given to Queensland in the
past year or two are bearing fruit. Do you feel
they are having the desired effect?
Oh, I think there are plenty of signs of improvement
in the result, because when it came to the
non-repayable grants to stimulate employment, as
you know we weighted it a bit in favour of Queensland
very properly because the incidence of such
unemployment as there is is, is heavier in Queensland
than elsewhere. I thinik on the whole, that
there are signs of improvement and in fact it is
very interesting to note that the Arbitration
Commission made the improvement in the country's
economy the principal reason for granting a ten
per cent, increase in margins in the recent
judgment and the three weeks' leave. I don't
think anybody doubts that there is a marked
improvement all round. That doosn't moan to say
that the position doesn't have to be watched.
There is to be another Loan Council of course
the regular one in June as a rule and it is
at that time that we discuss the Loan programme
for the States including the housing component.
The tax reimbursement, as we used to call it,
is, of course, the subject of a current agreement
and it increases each year in accordance with the
factors that the formula provides for such as
increase in population and children o1l school age
and so on. I can't anticipate what will happen
at the June meeting but Loan Council meetings
tend to produce an improving result each time from
the point o1' view of the States.
Has the success of the last Loan made it easier,
Sir, to go to the Loan Council?
Well, you can't answer that with a simple " Yes"
or There is no doubt about it that the
success of the last Loan has improved the Commonwealth's
cash position for 1962-63. We were
budgeting for a pretty substantial cash deficit.
That will, of course, be very much smaller than
we anticipated because of the success of the last
Loan and I think there is reason to believe that
the Loan market will continue to be healthy in the
next financial year. I don't mean to say that
we will have œ C601,1. loans doubly subscribed. That
is an uncommon event, but I think we can look
forward to a pretty healthy Loan market in
1963/ 64 and, of course, one of the great effects
of that from the Commonwealth's point of view is
that instead of supplementing the Loan market
as we have for many years out of the Budget so
that the States will get their full money, we can
reduce that drain on the Budget and to that extent,
it improves our Budgetary position. ./ 2

Q. There is an active movement in North Queensland now
Sir, called " People the North'. I understand that the
Queensland and Western Australian Governments are joining
together to make an approach to the Federal Govcrnrento
P. M. Well that hadn't reached me when I loft Canberra. I
don't recall getting anything yet.
Q. The Premier was writing first to the Premier of Western
Australia and then they were goin-to write to the Commonwealth.
P. M. Anyhow, I am having lunch with the Queensland Cabinet
tomorrow and if there is something like this in the
wind no doubt Mr. Nicklin will take the opportunity of
raising it. But I wouldn't comment on it because I don't
know what it is yet.
Q. Sir, there is no particular project you would be discussing
with Cabinet tomorrow is there?
P. M. No, I have no agenda. When I come up here, I usually
like to see them and sit around and talk about our
problems. They are probably at the moment fairly
concentrated on their own because of an election coming.
Not a Federal election, but a State one. It is a good
thing to have contacts. As a matter of fact, in the past
our contacts were not sufficiently good with perhaps some
unhappy results but we have greatly improved that position
in the last eighteen months, both by meeting each other in
Canberra and here.
Q. Sir, what do you think of the suggestion that has been
made that the Snowy Mountains Authority shouldn't be
wound up as an organization when the Snowy job is over
but should perhaps use the accumiulated talents and
P. M. Well, at the moment, that is nothing but an idea,
Needless to say, it is one that we have had in our own
minds because we don't want to see a great, skilful,
technical organization like the Snowy Mountains Authority
just fade away, It is much too experienced and competent
for that, but exactly what you do with it in the future
is a matter that can't be solved by a few rhetorical
phrases. It requires a close study. The Minister for
National Development has not only been going into this
matter himself very closely but has several times
discussed it with me and with other Ministers. There is
no doubt about it that it would be a very good thing if
you could use a body of that kind. You have to remember
that all these works projects in Australia are in a prime
sense, State works. We have, ourselves, come to the
party on a number of them, but it is not just a simple
case of the Commonwealth saying, " This is what we will do
in such and such a place and we will use the Snory
Mountains people for it." These things require a lot of
negotiation with State Governmonts, just indeed as the
Snowy Mountains Scheme did. It took years to get the
legislation through, to give the thing complete
Constitutional validity by having an agreement between
Victoria and New South Uales and the Commonwealth That
took a long long time. It is quite true that we wont
ahead with the job but we were going ahead on a very
precarious Constitutional foundation until the agreement
0 / 3

P. M. was signed and ratified by the Parliament. When I say
( Contd.) that, I am not contemplating that it is going to take
years to evolve some other scheme. I don't know what
the schemes are; what there might be. Certainly you can
take it that we are interested in getting full benefit
of the Snowy Mountains set-up.
Q. Has Senator Spooner expressed any ideas on this?
P. M, No, well, we haven't got to concrete proposals. We have
been rather talking about the general principle. No, I
am not in a position to mention any particular schemes.
Anyhow, if I knew, I wouldn't say because you get
headlines " So and So is to be done by the Snowy
Mountains Authority". I am too old a horse for that.
Q# Decimal currency Sir. Views have been expressed up
here that the acLal changeover could lead to some
inflation-for example where things are close, they will
just up i a bit to get on to the now currency, the new
P. M. Jell, that can't apply to the main unit because that is
to be he precise equivalent of 10/-today. One thing
is that 1/ 100th part of 10/-is 1.2d. so perhaps you might
find that 19/ id. might become 19/ 1.2d. I can't say that
I think that it has got serious inflationary possibilities.
Q. This matter has been deferred once, Mr. Prime Minister.
Do you think that this time it will definitely be introduced?
P. M. Oh, yes. You are wrong in saying it has been deferred.
ije first of all said that we wore greatly interested.
We appointed a Committeo to investigate it. You know, this
outside Committee. Then, when we got their report, we
said we adopted it in principle and since then a lot of
investigations have been going on as to the mechanics of
the chnngeover. It is no use announcing a date for the
chsngeover unless you know that you can live up to it.
Woll, they have introduced it into South Africa and our
experts learnt a good deal from South African's experience.
Then, we arc in process of establishing the Mint at
Canberra. The site is at present being cleared and the
Mint, of course 9 will1 need to be so created as to deal
with the new coinage and finally, for the first time we
fixed a date, and this is a firm date, for it to come in,
because we are now satisfied that all the mechanical
problems can be overcome in that time. There will have
to be a great deal of changing, you know accounting
machines and all this kind of thing; this will cost the
Government, of course, a lot of money.
Q. Is there any room for the GovornmenttD pay compensation?
P. M. Compensation to whom?
Q. To the people who are grossly affected, who have machines.
P. M. Oh, there is going to be a provision that the Government
will meet certain costs of the changeover. I don't carry
the details around but I know that it amounts to a very
considerable liability on the Government, running into
what f. 301\ or œ E4OM, 0 a 0 0 0 4 0/ 4

Would it be any great advantage to Australia, Sir, if
New Zealand converts to decimal currency at the same time?
P. M. Well, it would simplify transactions between the two
countries but, of course, they are on a different rate of
exchange anyhow because New Zealand is on par with sterling.
I don't disguise from myself the fact that when it
ultimately comes in there will be a great deal of
hullabaloo you know housewives won't be very pleased.
They will say we have got used to the old business of
pounds, shillings and pence. But I have no doubt that
within a few weeks the complete simplicity of this will
recommend itself. You only have to be able to do a long
addition of three or four figures and you have got it.
The great fun is going to be getting aname for the unit.
Q. Have you any preferences, Sir?
P. M. Dear me, no, but I have seen some verr funny ones.
Somebody wants to call it a ming. I think that's rather..
( Laughter) Somebody recommended that we call it a
" dinar". These are not Ministers; these are people who
have written in to the Treasury. It makes pretty amusing
Q. Have you formed your own opinion, Sir?
P. M. No.
Q. There have been movements lately through local Government
associations on the State and Federal level, pressing
for representation on the Loan Council. Are they likely
to get anywhere with that, Sir?
P. M. I wouldn't think so. You see, muanicipal bodies are deait
with by the States. They are created by the State Parliaments
arid they deal with the State Parliaments. What
happens in the Loan Council is that the amount of the
Government Loan programme is fixed direct by resolution of
the Loan Council and then under what they call " 1the
gentlemen's agreement'", an arrangement is made as to the
volume of borrowing on semi-government and local government
account and as a rule, everything that doesn't exceed
œ-100,000 is regarded as local even though it is by a
semi-government authority and everything above œ-100,000
is treated as being a semi-governmient borrowing. And so,
they have been along once a year Ito say, " Could you increase
under the ' gentle-me-n's agreement' the amount that local
governing bodies can borrow?" and we did it this last
time, increased it by some millions because their market
was pretty fertile. In that sense and only in that sense,
we deal with local governing bodies in thoir borrowing, but
they make their representations through their State Governments
which, I must say in justice to them, are usually
pretty vigorous on behalf of the local governing bodies.
I don't think their case loses anything in its presentation.
Q. Sir, it has been announced recently that several large
industrial enterprises are being established in various
parts of Queensland. This will, 9 of course, put a fair
strain, I should imagine, on the State's ability to provide
housing. Is there any likelihood of the Federal Government
making a special grant to the State for housing? 0 0 00 00

Well, we did last year, not at the annual Loan Council
but in a subsequent one and I don't know what the
possibilities are on that. I can remember when the
overall Loan programme was fixed, say at œ C250M to
take a figure out of the air the States have always
named how much they want of that. Ve have never
dictated that bit at all. They say, I'de want œ 040M of
that for housing, or œ C42Iv." 1 Well, œ 4OM or œ C42M it is,
That is their business from our point of view... Of
course there is a great deal of activity on the housing
front. You know the savings bank provision for
housing has gone up very considerably in recent months.
That is all the savings banks. The current rate of
building in Australia is just about an all-time record,
something over 90 000 houses. If special problems
arise in respect to any particular area, I have no
doubt we will hear about that from the relevant State
Government. It is a very good thing to see some of
these industrial shows moving in here. I noticed this
morning the B. H. P. is going to establish something.
That's very good.
Q6 Have you any thoughts on retirement, Sir?
P. M. Whose retirement yours?
Q1. I wish it was.
P The last follow who raised this had me in the House of
Lords as an Earl. I will announce my retirement some
day, I hope. It may be that my executors will have
to announce it.
Q. Do you expect to see another election, Sir?
P. M. Oh, yes, I hope so but you never know. The one person
who is not interested in thiis problem is myself.
Q. Sir, do you anticipate spending any time in the
Queensland ele ction campaign yours elf?
P. M. Oh, I don't know what arrangements they are making.
I wouldn't have thought I had much chance. I am here
today and tomuorrow and I hnve a by-election in Grey at
which I have agreed to make two or three speechies and
the House sits until May 25th. When is your polling
da to?
Q. 1st June,
PIM. 1st June is the polling date in Grey. So I wouldn't
have thought it likely. But as for the other Ministers,
dontt ask me, Have they delivered their policy speech
Q. No.
P. M. How long do you run a State election campaign here?
Q. The policy speeches are due to be given on the 7th and
the 9th May.
P. M. Then it is about three and a half weeks. Long enough
Q1. Officially, it started on Friday with the issuing of
the writs. e9o 9 ee/ 6

IP. M . Still. it is a while before ti-iy do the policy speeches.
It doesn't got going until then.
Q. Are you satisfied with your own coalition relationships
over this Electoral Act and Redistribution?
P. M. Oh, yes, I am not upset. There are differences of opinion
about the redistribution but if you got hold of twenty
people in politics, you would have twenty different
opinions on redistribution I am not crying myself
to sleep about it. I hope wi will be able to got a fair
Q. Will the Liberal Party stand firm, Sir, for fairly equal
Federal electorates?
P1. M. You mustn't ask me what the Liberal Party is going to stand
firm about. There never have beon equal olectorates.
The law has been the same ever since we had an Electoral
Act. The Commissioners can allow twenty per cent. up and
twenty per cent, down with the quota and this is a
recognition that electorates are not just to be mechanically
equal, that circumstances vary between one electorate and
another. It would be pretty odd if Kalgoorlie to take
a gross example had the same number of voters as Kooyong
which you can travel around in an afternoon, And it
never has. As to what the differences ought to be or how
they ought to be achieved, these are problems that excite
differences of opinion. ' do are not to think of them as
purely along party lines because I daresay there are as
many different opinions on that matter in my Party as there
are on any other, We were ready to accept the last
redistribution on the principle that the Commissioners
had been appointed, that thoy had gone throughi the
processes and that as a matter of principle we ought to
accept what they did, though some of our Members didn't
like it very much because a man looks at his own electorate
and says, NWhatts happened here?"; but we, as a Party,
decided that we would accept thena on the principles which
I have described. That wasn't acceptable and so they are
all in the suspense account at present and of course if
they remain in the suspense account, Queensland doesn't
lose a seat. What's this Festival Hall like? The only time
I ever spoke in a stadium in Sydney a famous occasion,
I think it was in 1949, wasn't it? and a boxing ring was
in the middle and they had a microphone in the middle of
it an all-ways microphone and all the Comis. had
got in the first three or four rows round the hall of
this place; you had your back to half the audience and
your front to the other half and I walked around this
microphone like a teetotum. and from first to last I
didntt hoar a word I said. I had to go back to the pub
afterwards and listen in to see what had happened.
You cantt hear yourself think when you have got an
organised show. You can't look your audience in thoeye
only a bit of it at a time and you don't know whether
you are beginning your sentences or ending your sentences.
This is really an appalling attitude. When I got back to
the hotel, they were rebroadcasting it and I said to my
wife, " By Jove this fello~ irts not bad, Who is he?"
And she said you." " Wfell " 1 I said, " wonders will
never ceasce I wouldn't want another of tho if I wranted
to get a mess,-ge over to the public. For an evening's fun,
there is a good deal to be said for it, but not if you
want to convert people. e . e ese.. .7

Q. What do you expect to speak on tomorrow night, Sir?
POMP Oh, I dontt know. I have prepared my mind on a number
of matters but which onos I will decide on I don't
know yet.
Q. You haven't got a big upstairs gallery at this
place, Sir. Right at the back of the hall, there
is just a little one, It is not like the City Hall
which comes all round. So most of the audience is
on the floor.
PM. Wh at are the acoustics like? Have they got a
public address system?
I think it is quite all right.

Transcript 723