17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I regret to inform honorable members of the death of Major-General Sir John Gellibrand, K.’C.B., D.S.O., a former member of the Commonwealth Parliament, on Sunday last, the 3rd June.
The late Sir John Gellibrand was essentially a soldier rather than a politician. He had served with great distinction in various campaigns before he entered this Parliament as member for Denison at the general elections in 1925. He lost that scat at the general elections in 1928.
Following the completion of a course at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, he became an officer in the British Regular Army, and served in the South African War, , being a member of the force which relieved Ladysmith. Subsequently, he served in Ceylon with the Manchester Regiment, and at one stage waa in charge of the garrison on the island of St. Helena. Although he had resigned from the Army and taken up farming pursuits in Tasmania, he immediately joined the First Australian Imperial Force on the outbreak of war in 1914, and proceeded abroad as a staff officer on the head-quarters of the 1st Australian Division. Later, he successively commanded a battalion, a brigade, and finally the 3rd Division in succession to the late General Sir John Monash. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order on Gallipoli, and a bar to the Distinguished Service Order at Bullecourt, and was created a Knight Commander of the British Empire in 1919. His decorations alao included those of Officer of the Legion of Honour, Croix de Guerre with Palm, and the American Distinguished Service Med’al.
Dr. Bean, in his Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-191S, said this of him -
Gellibrand was a highly educated man, with one of the most brilliant intellects in the Australian Imperial Force. He had fought as a company officer at the relief of Ladysmith in 1900, and in Gallipoli and France was one of those officers whose bravery waa conspicuous even according to the standards by which gallantry was judged in the early days of Anzac. He was u tremendous worker, and was possessed of a humour, a quick understanding of men, and a standard of quixotic honour, which fascinated every Australian youngster who worked under him, and which made him the finest trainer of young officers that the Australian force was to know. Gellibrand was unconventional in the extreme and even after he became a General he wore tha same clothes as his men.
Upon his return to civil life after the last war, Sir John Gellibrand held for a short period, the position of Public Service Commissioner in Tasmania, and in 1920 wa9 appointed Chief Commissioner of Police in Victoria, which post he held until 1922. He continued his active association with the Australian Military Forces, and was appointed General .Officer Commanding the 3rd Division, Victoria, from 1921 to 1922. In the present war, he took up duty as Commander of the Victorian division of the Returned Soldiers League Volunteer Defence Corps, but ill health caused his early retirement from that post.
The establishment of the Legacy Club is a monument to the memory of the late Sir John Gellibrand, who was one of the founders of that fine movement in Australia.
We pay tribute to this man, who as soldier and citizen rendered distinguished and faithful service to Australia and the Empire.
I move -
That this House expresses its sincere regret tit the death of Major-General Sir John Gellibrand, K.C.B., D.S.O., a former member of the House of Representatives for the Division of Denison, Tasmania, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, mid tenders its deep sympathy to his widow and the members of his family in their bereavement.
– I second the motion. The death of Sir John Gellibrand will be regarded as a personal sorrow by all honorable members of this House who knew him., and by all others who knew him and served under him and worked with him. My own acquaintance with him was more limited than that of some, but I have vivid recollections that in 1938 and 1939, when war was imminent, and later when war had broken out, Sir John placed his services very freely at the disposal of Ministers, including myself, and offered advice on numerous occasions in a spirit of pure patriotism and, of course, with great ability. He was an able general, and I am glad that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has read to the House from the official history of the last war the passage which deals with that aspect of his work. He was a courageous soldier, as his career showed; he was a wise counsellor, as many people could testify ; and, above all, he was a fine man who became a great and distinguished Australian.
– The Country party desires to add its tribute to the memory of Sir John Gellibrand, a fine man and a great soldier. Any one who has studied the history of Australia at war will be familiar with the achievements of this man. We offer our deepest sympathy to his relatives who have been left to mourn his loss.
– As the present member for Denison, the electorate formerly represented by the late Sir John
Gellibrand, I desire to say that he was always regarded as a great Australian who never confused utterance with achievment. He achieved much; he uttered little; but his memory will live long in Australia as that of a great man who never tired of doing great things for his country, both in war and in peace.
Question resolved in the affirmative,’ honorable members standing in their places.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– by leave - On the motion for the adjournment of the House on the 1st June, 1945, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) asked the Government to institute a searching inquiry into further allegations of what he described as the unsatisfactory equipment of Australian forces in the battle areas north of Australia. He described a series of photographs, which, he stated, he had received from an officer of the Australian Military Forces serving in New Guinea. Several showed a large number of natives hauling a heavy grader made from bush timber and obviously levelling an area for a landing strip. I listened, and was so impressed by his statements that I ordered an immediate, searching inquiry. I am now able to report that the airstrip depicted in the photographs has been identified as the landing ground situated 5 miles south of Maprik. This airstrip is 56 miles by the most direct air route from the base at Aitape, and is more than 100 miles over the narrow native tracks that follow the mountain spurs and river beds, which, as all honorable members know, are impassable by wheeled transport of any description. This airstrip was captured by Australian troops on the 21st April, 1945, nine days after the visit of the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser) to Aitape, when it was still in the hands of the Japanese. As earth-moving machinery of even the lightest type could not be moved by the land route, and could not be taken in by air until the strip was serviceable for the landing of a laden plane, block and tackle and other such devices were dropped by aeroplane on to the area, and local timber resources were then utilized to construct crude earth-moving and other types of equipment. The only available motive power, apart from the troops, was the labour of natives who were able to traverse the native mountain tracks, rising over the Toricelli Mountains and then down the valley to Maprik, which are impassable to mechanical transport. As soon as they arrived at the landing strip after its capture on the 21st April, 1945, they were used in the manner indicated in the photographs displayed by the right honorable member, and the landing strip became usable on the 14th May, 1945. The Australian Military Forces include some of the most eminent of Australia’s engineering experts, and they are most emphatic that no army in the world, with all available mechanical engineering resources at its disposal, could reasonably have adopted any method other than that used for the clearing of the emergency airstrip landing near Maprik.
Ship Joiners Union
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen the report in this morning’s press that Mr. Wright, who appeared for the Metal Trades Employers Association before Judge O’Mara in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, had said that waterfront union leaders had met last Friday and decided to defy His Honour’s decision forbidding discrimination against members of the Ship Joiners Union ? Will he warn the waterfront union leaders that such flouting of the law will not be tolerated by the Government? Will he assure us that the Government will proceed against the unions or union leaders offending against the law in this regard?
– I have not seen the article; but, if the honorable member vouches for its accuracy, I shall examine the matter.
Mb. Churchill’s Views
– Has the Acting Prime Minister seen the published reports of a recent broadcast by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Winston Churchill, that if Labour were successful at the general elections in the United Kingdom it would be necessary for that party to appoint a gestapo to carry out its policy? Does he not consider it most unbecoming of a man who has endeared himself to the world as a war leader to descend to the murky depths of the sewer in attacking the Labour party? Will he inform Mr. Churchill that the Labour party, which has held office in the Australian States, in some of them for periods of up to twenty years, in the Commonwealth Parliament and in the Parliament of New Zealand, has never had to stoop to such tactics as to use a gestapo in order to carry out its policy?
– I have not seen the article, but I do not believe that the leaders of political parties are entitled to interfere with the domestic affairs of other countries. No doubt, the leaders of the Labour party in the United Kingdom are quite capable of replying to any charges that may be made against them.
– Does the honorable member for Hunter vouch for the accuracy of the report?
– In this instance, I do not propose to take any action, whether the honorable m ember vouches for the accuracy of the report or not. As I stated, it is not the duty of this Government to interfere with the domestic affairs of any other country. Personally, I have always found enough quarrels locally without seeking other quarrels abroad.
Subsidy - -MARGARINE from Soya Beans.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen the statement of the president of the Queensland dairymen’s organization, Mr. W. L. Osborne, that the dairying subsidy was continually and erroneously referred to as being of assistance to the industry, whereas in reality, it was a subsidy to the consumer and not to the’ dairyman? This claim has also been made by members of the Opposition in this House. Has the Minister seen Mr. Osborne’s further assertion that the Commonwealth Government’s references to a subsidy of £7,500,000 to the dairying industry were absolute misrepresentation, and that the subsidy was based on a production figure of 180,000 tons of butter, whereas the total would not exceed 130,000 tana? In view of these statements by an authority on the industry, will the Minister take immediate steps to correct the references of which Mr. Osborne has complained? Will the Government also review the decision not to give the dairy farmers any of the benefit resulting from the increased price paid by the Government of the United Kingdom for Australian butter?
– I have not seen the statements attributed to Mr. Osborne; but I have the greatest respect for his pronouncements on matters affecting the dairying industry. Whenever I have met him at conferences, his advice has always been most useful. He has a thorough knowledge of the subject. However, I do not believe that he knows everything about the industry. Indeed, the only persons who are competent to assess what contributions are made by the Commonwealth Government to the dairying industry are officials of the Treasury, which has to foot the bill. The latest figures available show that the amount of subsidy paid to the dairying industry throughout Australia exceeds £7,500,000, and that figure does not include heavy subsidies on stock feeds paid to subsidiary industries, such as pig raising, and the direct subsidy paid on stock feeds for the dairying industry. The dairymens’ organization throughout Australia has not been perturbed by the position. Only a few days ago, the president of the Dairymen’s Federation of Australia, Mr. Howie, interviewed me in Canberra, and expressed appreciation of what the Government had done on behalf of the industry. He said that his recent conference with the Prices Commissioner had been most satisfactory. From those statements, the honorable member will see that the dairying indus try has received from this Government treatment hitherto unparalleled in the history of the industry in Australia.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army whether immediate steps can be taken to place under proper control Army authorities in the Northern Territory who laid it down that in May persons there had to buy from the Army store 1 lb. of margarine for every 1 lb. of butter to which they were entitled under the ration, and that in June they shall buy 3 lb. of margarine for every 1 lb. of butter? By what stretch of the imagination can it he claimed that the Army is entitled to say that the butter ration to which every individual is entitled by law may be obtained in those out-of-the-way parts only on condition that people purchase from the Army margarine which they do not want and which the Army, obviously, does not want? Will the Minister take steps to ensure that the Army shall buy back that unwanted margarine ?
– As far as I can see, the Army has nothing whatever to do with the civilian population-
– It has everything to do with the civilians up there.
– Or their rights to a ration of butter or anything else. The Army has no right to force civilians to buy margarine. I should think that any civilian upon whom the Army tried to impose a regulation of that sort would make representations to the appropriate authority in order to assure its discontinuance.
– In the absence of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) I am looking after the interests of his constituents.
– I shall take the matter up not only with the Acting Minister for the Army but also with the Minister “for Trade and Customs, because rationing is involved. I assure the honorable member that if what he says has been done a stop will be put to it at a very early date.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture read a speech delivered by Mr. G. C. Howie, president of the Victorian Dairy-farmers
Association, in which he made the following remarks: -
There was another factor playing an important part in America. Prior to the war, 75 per cent, of the margarine was made from’ coco-nut butter produced by black labour. To-day, the manufacturers of margarine have changed over to soya bean, and the argument against black labour was gone.
As soya hean is now one of the main bases for margarine, I ask the Minister to inform me at whose instance did he send an officer of his department to the United States of America to make investigations with a view to establishing soya bean production in Australia? As this is likely to bo very detrimental eventually to the dairying industry, will the Minister inform me whether dairying organizations were consulted about the introduction of this vegetable? Further, in view of the attempt made by the Army to compel people in the Northern Territory to use margarine, is it the policy of the Government to promote the use of margarine in Australia and to provide a cheap raw material for its post-war development?
– The opinions of dairying organizations about margarine are conflicting. To-day, I read in a northern newspaper a report that, because the base of margarine was copra, which was produced by black labour, one dairying organization had carried a resolution, to be forwarded to the Commonwealth Government, asking that the basie wage be paid to all persons engaged in the production of copra. There the objection is that the oil from which margarine is manufactured has been produced by black labour. Now the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has taken exception to oil from the soya bean, which in the United States of America is cultivated by white labour. As I informed the honorable member last Friday, I was responsible for sending Mr. Shand to America.
– At whose instance?
– At my own instance. I desire to see the soya bean cultivated on a large scale in Australia, not to provide oil for margarine, which would be a substitute for butter, but because this vegetable is one of the wonder plants of the world. In the United States of America, about 2,000,000 acres has been sown with soya bean and 200 different uses are made of this vegetable, from oils to plastics used in the construction of motor vehicles. The soya bean is considered to be one of the most useful vegetables in the world, and no one would be so short-sighted as to object to its introduction into Australia on a commercial scale. Personally, I shall do everything possible to establish the soya bean throughout Australia, because it will supply so many essential needs.
– For some time regulations have been in force which control the radius and hours of operation of hire cars. In some States these regulations are proving a hardship to hire car proprietors and to the general public. As the war position has improved considerably in recent months, I ask the Minister for Transport whether he will consider removing ‘the regulations at an early date?
– It is true that the war position has improved; but, unfortunately, the stock position in respect of both petrol and rubber is still acute. The Government is anxious to remove restrictions as soon as practicable. In, view of the honorable gentleman’s inquiry, I shall have this subject listed for consideration at the next meeting of the War Road Transport Committee to see whether som? relaxation is possible.
Diversion op Supplies - South Australian Plan - Pit Horses and Raoi Houses - Hay and Chaff.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that serious drought conditions exist in Victoria, and that more effective steps have been taken in that Stale to ration fodder than have been taken in New South Wales? If he is aware of these facts, will he explain why 2,000 tons of Western Australian chaff destined for Victoria has been ordered to be diverted to New South Wales?
– It would seem, from the honorable gentleman’s question, that he has only now become aware that, drought conditions prevail in Victoria. but the Government has been aware of them for a considerable time and has done everything humanly possible to assist the Victorian Government and Victorian industry to obtain supplies of fodder. Acting on behalf of the Commonwealth Government I approached the Minister for Agriculture in Western Australia to see whether a quantity of foddercould be obtained from that State. It was arranged that 25,000 tons of Western Australian chaff should be made available for the eastern States on condition that the Commonwealth Government assumed the financial responsibility for it. The Government was then faced with the difficulty of securing transport for the fodder. Through the good offices of the Department of the Army, military trucks were provided to transport the chaff to the seaboard for shipment to the eastern States. Quite recently grave alarm was expressed in New South Wales about the shortage of feed’ for colliery horses. As honorable members are aware, it is essential to the war effort that coal supplies shall be maintained. The Whole Australian war effort is dependent upon coal, and coal cannot he obtained unless the colliery horses can be fed.
– Has New South Wales taken steps, as Victoria has done, to ration fodder?
– Yes, and more effective steps. A ship was to sail from Western Australia to NewSouth Wales, and I gave orders to the Director-General of Agricultureto arrange for a certain quantity of the chaff which had accumulated in Western Australia to he Shipped to New South Wales. A request then came from the Wheat and Wool-growers Association in Victoria that I should immediately review the position, owing to the grave situation that had arisen in certain districts in the Mallee owing to insufficient feed being available for the horses which areused to keep the irrigation channels clear. I immediately gave instructions to Mr. Thompson, Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, to divert to Victoria a part of the shipment destined for feeding the colliery horses of New South Wales on the definite assurance that the fodder so diverted would go to rural districts in Victoria for the specifiedpurpose It will be apparent, there fore, that a part of a shipment originally intended for New South Wales has been diverted to Victoria. Furthermore, I undertake that a reasonable proportion of the fodder diverted will be restored. At the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, held in Victoria, it was definitely agreed that there should be an equitable distribution in all the States of the 25,000 tons of hay then to be cut in Western Australia, as well as further supplies from Tasmania. The Commonwealth Government will ensure an equitable distribution, and in no circumstances will do anything detrimental to the best interests of any State.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider convening a conference of representativesof the Departments of Agriculture of South Australia and Victoria and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, so that the South Australian plan for the acquisition and distribution of fodder may be fully discussed and examined? Failing such a conference and in view of the many conflicting statements on the Subject, will the Minister consider the appointment of an all-party select committee to examine the allocation and distribution of all foddersupplies,so that the full facts in regard to the existing fodder position may be revealed?
– The acquirement and distribution of fodder have been handled in outstanding fashion by the Government ofSouth Australia. Had all the other States acted similarly, the disturbance that has been caused, and the dissatisfaction that exists, would have been considerably lessened. I shall consider the request that I convene a conference, and, failing some satisfactory arrangement, the other suggestion for the appointment of an all-party committee will be considered.
-Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say how many pit ponies are being used at the present time in the coal-mines of New South Wales? Is it a fact that the number of race-horses in training in Victoria has been reduced from 900 to 350 through the action of the State
Government, but that no similar reduction has been effected in New South Wales?
– I cannot say how many colliery horses are at present being used in New South Wales. The phrase “ pit ponies “ is a misnomer ; as a matter of fact, very few ponies are now used for this work. I have myself supplied colliery horses to the pits in New South Wales for years, and I know that most of the horses used are of the heavy draught type. It is not true that there has been no reduction of the number of race-horses in training in New South Wales. There has been a considerable reduction, though whether it is proportionately as great as in Victoria I cannot say. I shall have inquiries made, and shall answer the honorable member’s question in greater detail when the information is available.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say what percentage of hay or chaff has been provided for rural areas in Victoria ‘by the Victorian Department of Agriculture? As I understand that “little or no control has been exercised by it over the distribution of supplies and that any plan in operation has been carried out by the merchants, will the Minister discuss with the Victorian Minister for Agriculture the need to give greater consideration to the claims of rural areas?
– I -shall take up the matter with the Minister for Agriculture in Victoria. I do not know what distribution has taken place. Recently, however, I was informed’ that quantities1 of hay were held in certain parts of Victoria. I had an investigation made. It was discovered that at Werribee a stock of approximately 1,000 tons was held. I was told that there was a considerable quantity held in another part. We found that the stock of about 1,000 tons held at Werribee was being distributed by a proprietary firm in small quantities. The firm said that the stock was being kept for its customers. We do not know who its customers are. It would seem that the stock will last for a considerable period at the present rate of distribution. I do not think that fodder has been handled to the best advantage in Victoria, otherwise there (would not be a stock of about 1,000 tons in one area while the Mallee is in great need of fodder.
Tribute to Workers
– Has the Minister for Information seen this statement by Mr. Essington Lewis, speaking on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Australian steel industry, published in the Newcastle Morning Herald of the 2nd June? -
At this time, notable for Allied victory over Germany and the completion of the Newcastle Steel Works’ 30th year of operation, I would like to take the opportunity of paying a tribute to the workers of the steel industry.
Their efforts over the years have provided the basis for Australia’s truly outstanding achievements, both in the industrial and active service fields.
They have good reason to take pride in their war-time record. It has been distinguished by invention, resource, and a purposeful team-work which brought results in the shape of war-winning production.
As all matters relating to the alleged deficiencies, shortcomings and disloyalty of decent Australian workers are given wide publicity both in Australia and abroad, will the Minister take whatever steps may be open to him to see that this statement of Mr. Essington Lewis shall be given the widest publicity, and that the war-time achievements of hundreds of thousands of Australian workers shall be made known to the world?
– The tribute paid by Mr. Essington Lewis to the steelworkers of Newcastle is well deserved. My department has done, and will continue to do, its best to bring to the notice of the people of Australia and other countries the magnificent services that have been rendered to the allied, war effort by the Australian working class. The language used by Mr. Essington Lewis can be fittingly applied not only to the steelworkers, but also to all other classes of workers in Australia.
– I have received a cutting from a New Zealand newspaper, which states that the Government of that dominion has obtained under lend-lease supplies of wire netting from the United
States of America, for use as a protection against the encroachments of rabbits. In view of the great damage which rabbits are causing throughout Australia, particularly in Victoria, and the impossibility of the farmers obtaining supplies in present circumstances, will the Minister for Munitions make arrangements, if possible, for wire netting to be obtained under lend-lease from the United States of America, in order to overcome, to some degree at least, the present deficiency in this country?
– I have reason to believe that the action suggested already has been taken, following representations by the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– Last Thursday, in addressing the House, I raised the question of whether there should be a discussion in this Parliament of the issues that have been dealt with at the United Nations Conference on International Organization at San Francisco. The statement was made from the Government side of the House that no such debate had taken place in other British Parliaments. I now direct the attention of the Acting Prime Minister to the London Times of Wednesday, the 18th April, which has a full-page report, for the accuracy of which I vouch, of debates in both the House of Lords and the House of Commons on the matters to be discussed at the conference.
– That was before the conference was held.
– Admittedly ; the conference began a week later. It was a debate on the matters to be considered at the conference. No such debate has occurred in this Parliament. Having regard to the fact that in both Houses of the British Parliament the matters to be considered at San Francisco were made the subject of full parliamentary debate, will the Acting Prime Minister review his decision not to to permit any debate in this House until after the termination of the conference?
– On the occasion referred to by the right honorable gentle man, I said that, in my view, it might be improper, while the conference was sitting, to engagein a debate in this House on the issues raised at, San Francisco, because statements might be made, which would perhaps unintentionally, cause embarrassment to this country.
– They are being made at San Francisco.
– They certainly are not being made by members who sit on this side of the House.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– They are not being made in this House. I did not consider that such a debate at this stage could serve any good purpose, and I said that it was desirable that when such a debate took place the Australian delegates should be present. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) has informed me by cable that he hopes that the conference will conclude its deliberations about the 11th of this month, and that he intends to return to Australia immediately thereafter. I cannot say whether the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) also will return immediately. In my judgment, the appropriate time for the debate suggested will be when the conference has concluded its deliberations and at least one of the Australian delegates can be present in this House.
May Day Holiday
– In view of the apparent misunderstanding regarding the recent May Day holiday dispute in the Port Kembla district, can the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House of the real position in relation to the observance of holidays generally? Further, can he state whether the Government violates National Security Regulations in permitting a holiday to be taken when the available evidenceis to the effect that a holiday would not interfere with war production? Did the Government violate the regulations in connexion with this holiday?
– In the early part of the war regulations were gazetted to restrict the taking of holidays so that production would not be held up. In
October or November of 1943, when the situation became easier, those regulations were reviewed, and supplementary regulations, known as the Holidays and Annual Leave Regulations, were gazetted. There were then no regulations in force to prevent the taking of holidays, and employers and employees were back under the industrial awards as before the war. However, there was one tag to it - a provision to enable the Minister of any department, acting on the advice of the management of an undertaking, to direct that employees should work on a particular holiday. Thus, there is no regulation in force to-day to prescribe whether holidays shall be taken or not.
– Can the Minister vouch for that?
– Generally speaking, that is the position, except, as 1 have said, that a Minister may direct employees to work on a holiday if it is necessary to ensure urgent production.
– Does the Minister mean on a proclaimed holiday?
– Yes. The ‘proof of my statement lies in the fact that when the Government decided to grant a holiday on V-E Day, a special regulation had to be issued so that employees would not lose a day’s pay, and to ensure that those who did work on that day would be paid at penalty rates. So far as I am aware, May Day is not a prescribed holiday under any award. The Government was requested to issue a regulation proclaiming May Day a holiday, but it refused to do so, and under industrial award it is purely a matter for the employers and employees to decide for themselves. That was the answer which I gave to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser), who represents most of the people concerned at Port Kembla and that was the information he forwarded. Thus, the answer to the honorable member’s second question is that the Government could not violate its own regulation in this matter, because there is no regulation to violate.
– Has the Acting Attorney-General read in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald the statement attributed to the manager of Lysaght’s Limited, Mr, Wardell, in reference to the May Day stoppage? It is as follows: -
The plain fact is that the Solicitor-General Sir George Knowles, threatened that an order would be issued citing this company unless we refrained from the proposed suspensions.
He added that the statement by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was absolutely correct. In view of Mr. Wardell’s comments, has the Acting Attorney-General anything to add to his statement on Friday, when he denied the Leader of the Opposition’s contention in this matter?
– by leave- On the 7th May last a number of employees of five companies at Port Kembla absented themselves from work, and during that day the Director-General of Man Power became aware that it was intended by the companies to suspend the employees in question from the time for resumption of work following such absences.
In the interests of continued production, the Director-General communicated with the companies during the late afternoon and ascertained that, whilst three of the companies intended to proceed with the suspension, two other companies had themselves already decided not to do so. Before dinner on that day definite instructions were given by tho Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) for the issue of a direction under National Security (Mobilization of Services and Property) Regulations directing the three companies in question to resume duty at the usual time. It was understood that two of those companies were due to resume at 11 o’clock that night, and the third about 7 a.m. next day. It was clear, therefore, that “time was of the essence of the contract “. The regulations provide that a direction, in order to be legally effective, must either be served on the person, or company concerned, or gazetted. In view of the short time available, personal service on the companies was impossible, and it was necessary to have the direction gazetted. The direction was drafted immediately after dinner on the night of the 7th May and a copy was delivered at the Government Printing Office about 9 p.m. for gazettal.
The Solicitor-General was in Sydney at the time and a call booked to him at 8.48 p.m., according to the Telephone
Office records, was connected to him at 9.32 p.m., the conversation finishing at 9.59 p.m. During that call the exact text of the direction was dictated to him. The Solicitor-General was asked, in view of the short time available before work was due to be resumed, to advise the three companies by telephone of the direction. He at once did so, the first call being recorded at 10.4 p.m., the person called being Mr. Pitney, of Australian Iron and Steel Limited. This call lasted eighteen minutes, and in the course of it the Solicitor-General, at Mr. Pitney’s request, dictated to him the exact text of the order. At 10.33 p.m. the second company, Lysaghts Limited, was connected, and at 10.51 p.m. the .third company, Metal Manufactures Limited, was connected. In each case the .Solicitor-General explained the effect of the direction, and added that the direction had to be gazetted in order to be legally effective, and it was anticipated that the Gazette, which was then being printed, would be available for issue shortly after 11 p.m. The representative of each company, when informed of the effect of the order, stated that, in view of the direction, his company would not persist in the suspensions. In view of the assurances of all three companies, it was decided not to issue the Gazette.
It is clear from the foregoing that the action of the Solicitor-General in telephoning the companies was absolutely necessary in order that the giving of the direction might be brought to their notice in time to prevent a stoppage of work with consequent further loss of production.
That, in outline, is what took place. The inference noticeable in all the statements that have been made on this subject is that an order was directed to the companies. The facts are that the contents of an order that had been drawn Were directed to the companies. It is at that point that difficulties about the action of the Solicitor-General have arisen.
– If the companies accepted the order they would not be proceeded against? It is a fine distinction.
– In conclusion, I express the pleasure of the Government at the action of the companies in accepting the advice tendered to .them to resume work next day. That decision having been reached, there was no need for further action.
– In the early part of the war, many motor launches and other small craft were impressed for use by the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. Some of these are now being auctioned or disposed of by tender. In some instances the original owners complain that they are not given an opportunity to get their craft back. Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping arrange that they be allowed to buy back their craft at the price at which they were impressed, less a reasonable amount for depreciation ?
-I consider the request a fair one, but the latter part will require consideration.
Transport from Europe.
– ‘Can the Minister for Repatriation say whether it is a fact that widows of members of the Royal Australian Air Force killed in action in Europe are not given priority to allow them to travel to Australia to live under the care of their late husbands’ relatives? In view of the fact that priority lists show not one instance of an airman’s widow having been allowed to come to Australia, will the Minister see that these women, some of whom have young children, are given a No. 1 priority? Will he say how many applications by widows have been refused?
– No applications by widows of servicemen to. come to Australia have been refused. If a widow wishes to come to Australia we make arrangements for her, and she is given a free passage.
– I have particulars here of a widow being refused a passage.
– Many widows of servicemen have already come to Australia. If a widow does not wish to come here, we make arrangements for her to be paid her pension in England or elsewhere, but a widow who wishes to come to Australia to the relatives of her late husband is assisted in every way. Widows already enjoy a priority, but it is still necessary to arrange travelling accommodation, and that is not easy. As a matter of fact, we have not been able to bring out as many as we would like to, but practically half the number of widows with children, who applied for passages, have already arrived. As for wives of! servicemen, first priorities are given to the wives of men who returned to Australia after serving in Europe, leaving their wives behind them, and later served in New Guinea or elsewhere in the Pacific. Some such men have been wounded while serving in the Pacific and have been discharged, and we make every effort to bring their wives out to them. No soldier is permitted to apply to have his wifebrought here until he himself has come back to Australia. Were it otherwise, it would be possible for a married soldier who had been serving in England, and who had been living with his wife for perhaps two or three years, to have her brought out here immediately, whilst the wife of another man who had come out to serve in the Pacific area, and had been separated from her for some years, would be unable to get a passage.
– by leave - The Government has considered the effect of the recent judgment of the High Court in the case of Gratwick v. Johnson, wherein an order made under the National Security (Land Transport) Regulations, was held invalid because it contravened section 92 of the Constitution. The order in question provided, amongst other things, that, except as otherwise provided in the order, no person should, without a permit, travel by rail from any State to any other State in the Commonwealth. The DirectorGeneral of Land Transport was empowered to grant or refuse a permit at his discretion. The High Court held that that order amounted to the prohibition of interstate commerce as distinct from its regulation. The particular order which was under consideration in the case in question was made in June, 1942. In April last a fresh order was made. Although this new order contains some important variations from the original order, the Government is advised that, in view of the principles laid down in the judgment, the new order would probably not successfully withstand attack in the courts. Nevertheless, the demands on interstate rail travel have so increased in consequence of the war that, in the interests of the essential travel of persons engaged upon important public duties and others, it is necessary that interstate rail travel shall be regulated. The order is therefore now being closely examined, and will shortly be re-issued in an amended form which will be in consonance with the High Court judgment.
– Could the Minister arrange for me to have the opportunity to peruse the judgment?
Commission of Inquiry
– I ask the Minister for Air whether, if the Government has appointed counsel to assist Mr. Barry, K.C., in his inquiry into matters connected with the tendering of resignations by certain Royal Australian Air Force officers, will be indicate his name? How many of the eight officers concerned in the inquiry are represented by counsel ? Have counsel been allotted to them by the Government or are they being paid for by the men themselves? Can the Minister indicate when the inquiry is likely to end ?
– A Mr. O. J. Gillard, barrister, has been appointed to assist the commissioner, who, this week, has proceeded to a forward area in order to continue his inquiry. The officers are represented by counsel. No restrictions have been placed upon the assistance that they need in that respect. I understand that Flight Lieutenant Davoren has appeared for Squadron Leader Caldwell and others.
– At their own expense?
– As he is a flight, lieutenant he is, I assume, paid by the Department of Air. I have heard of no requests for other assistance and none have been refused. I cannot say when the inquiry will end, but I assure the honorable gentleman that it will be thorough, and I hope that the results will clear up a great deal of misgiving.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he will consider the inclusion of artificial teeth in price control orders as there is widespread evidence of very high prices being charged for them?
– The honorable member’s question will be referred to the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– As the High Court is due to sit in Brisbane on Wednesday of next week, and for many years past some of the judges have failed to go there, will the Acting Attorney-General obtain for me the following information : - (1) How many judges sat in Melbourne last week? (2) How many judges are sitting in Sydney this week? (3) How many judges will go to Brisbane? (4) If all the judges are not sitting in Sydney, and some of them decline to go to Brisbane, will the Acting Attorney-General take appropriate steps to ensure that the High Court Bench shall be fully constituted at all future sittings?.
– Naturally, some portions of the honorable member’s question will require investigation, but speaking generally, I consider that it is most desirable that the High Court, because of its vital role in Commonwealth affairs, should sit periodically in all States. Any failures which have occurred in the past in regard to this matter should, I believe, be adjusted soon. The High Court should take all necessary steps to ensure that it shall sit regularly in all States.
– Has the Acting Prime
Minister read a newspaper report that the PricesCommissioner, Professor Copland, had stated that the price of beef in Australia had increased by only 5 per cent. since the outbreak of war? Did the distinguished professor refer to betterquality beef or to the poorer-quality beef which members of the working class are able to purchase with their meagre earnings ? Has this position arisen because the Prices Branch has compelled butchers to sell all beef at the same price, regardless of what they pay for beef on the hoof or at the abattoirs? Is the Acting Prime Minister aware that for cow beef, master butchers have to pay£1 15s. per 100 lb., for ox beef £3 per 100 lb., and for yearling beef £3 5s. per 100 lb. All the cuts, regardless of their quality, must be sold at a flat rate. Has not the Prices Commissioner increased the price of poorer quality beef by more than 100 per cent. and the price of best quality beef, which the wealthier classes purchase, by only 5 per cent.? Will the honorable gentleman ensure that this matter shall be rectified and that butchers and consumers alike shall receive equitable treatment?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member referred. Beef prices are determined by the Prices Commissioner, in collaboration with the Meat Industry Commission, and I do not think that a flat rate has been fixed for all classes of beef, as the honorable member stated.
– Definitely, that statement is correct.
– Whatever the prices are, they have been determined after consultation with the Meat Industry Commission, which is fairly representative of all sections of the meat industry. I shall endeavour to obtain a full reply to the various points raised by the honorable member and supply an answer as soon as possible.
– In view of the recent increase of 10 per cent. in the price of imported tractors, which increase has been added to the previously loaded wartime price, I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether there is any reason why the Government should not give early and favorable consideration to bringing tractor prices into conformity with the Government’s price stabilization scheme by subsidizing the price of these machines to farmers?
– I shall look into the matter, but I point out that the general principle underlying the price stabilization plan is that subsidies shall be provided in relation to consumer goods but not capital goods. I do not say that there may not have been one or two instances of subsidies having been provided for what might be called borderline capital goods, though I cannot recall any specific instances at the moment. Generally speaking, capital goods have not been subsidized. I shall communicate with the honorable member again on the subject.
Debate resumed from the 1st June (vide page 2437), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That thebill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Fadden had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ the Bill be withdrawn as a direction to the Government that it be redrafted, to provide, inter alia -
1 ) That the Commonwealth Bank Board be maintained in accordance with the decision and recommendation of the royal commission appointed to inquire into the monetary and hanking systems in Australia.
That the note issue should be limited by statute.
That the Commonwealth Bank be so constituted that each of its constituent parts shall be provided with separate management, and with whatever liaison as is necessary to ensure a co-ordinated policy.
That the Commonwealth General Trading Bank and Industrial Finance Bank be treated, insofar as their relationship to the Central Bank is concerned, in exactly the same way as other trading banks.”
.- On Friday last, when I asked leave to continue my remarks, I was dealing with the exchange rate. It has been customary for those who get fat on the labour of the primary producer to boost the doctrine of the adverse exchange rate. The farmer is said to get £125 in Australian currency for every £100 that his produce realizes on the sterling market. On this point the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems states, at page 213, paragraph 551 -
The movement in the exchange rate in January, 1931. was one of the major contributions of monetary policy to recovery in Australia. It increased the returns to exporters in terms of Australian currency which tended to increase the volume of export production, and it tended to restrict imports. Had the movement come earlier, the fall in the national income would have been less, and the task of recovery easier.
I point out that the statement that the adverse exchange rate increased the “ return to exporters “ in terms of Australian currency would be true only in respect of the person who was an exporter as well as a farmer. I make that statement for the benefit of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) who undoubtedly would benefit by an adverse exchange rate provided that the thesis expounded by those who drafted the report of the banking commission is correct. But let me demonstrate the difference between the person who is a “ farmer “ and the person who is an “ exporter “. The CommonwealthYearBook, No. 34, 1942, states in paragraph 10, at page 166-
Approximately 90 per cent. of Australian wool is normally disposed of locally. Under pre-war conditions buyers of United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Germany and other European countries, and from America, Japan, China and India, attended the sales conducted in Sydney, Albury. Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and Launceston.
The next paragraph reads -
During the ten years ended 1938-39, the price of greasy wool sold in the selling centres of Australia averaged11½d. per lb. Australian equal91/5d. sterling. This figure might be compared with an average of 18d. per lb. in nine years ending 1928-29, and 9d. per lb. for seven years ending 1913-1914. (Prior to 1929 the £1 Australian was equal to £1 sterling.) ‘
So it seems that since the adverse exchange rate has been ruling the Australian “ cocky “ has certainly not been the person who has benefited by it.
Now let me examine the position of the wheat industry. The Commonwealth Year-Book for 1934 in Chapter XXIII… headed “ Trade” at page 648, refers to the Ottawa Agreement in these terms -
Duties provided on foreign wheat are conditional on Empire producers continuing to offer these commodities on first sale in the United Kingdom at prices not exceeding world price.
The Ottawa agreement has a similarity to the plan known as the Dawes plan, under which all commodities surrendered by Germany as part and. parcel of its war reparations were to be sold on world markets. That plan provided that France should receive a specified amount of currency, calculated according to the value of the franc, and, in addition, a quantity of coal, which should be sold on world markets. A dispute arose as to what value should be placed by France on the coal thus surrendered. The Germans claimed that France was undervaluing it, consequently Germany would have to surrender a greater quantity than was appropriate to meet the fixed amount of reparations. France, on the contrary, argued that the price demanded by Germany was much above the real value. In settlement of that dispute, the Dawes plan provided that the amount received by France should be determined by the ruling price for coal on the London market. Naturally, that price was influenced by the large quantity of coal dumped on the market by the Reparations Commission. Until the coal had been sold, France could not receive payment for it, nor could Germany be credited with the value of it. In order that France could receive reparations, the coal had to be sold at much below production value; and in order that it could secure a market, it had to be sold for less than the price the English market usually gave for coal produced in England under economic conditions. Therefore, the price for English coal had to be reduced to that of the reparations coal which had been dumped on the market. We know what resulted from these operations : The price of coal on the world’s markets brought about a depression in the coal and steel industries in England, which was finally reflected in those industries all over the world. It was also a contributing factor in the great depression of 1929-31. Under the Ottawa agreement, a similar scheme was propounded in connexion with Australian wheat, which had to be placed on the market in Great Britain. The wheat had to be offered for first sale on the
English market at the ruling world market price. The dumping of that wheat made a world price, because it had to be sold to the exclusion of other wheat, the price of which, consequently, had to be reduced in competition. The statistics published in the Commonwealth YearBooh reveal that a progressive decline of world prices ensued. The sales of Australian wheat on the Liverpool market were 25 per cent, greater after the adoption of that scheme than they had been previously. Yet, no more was received in Australia for it. Because of the sale of a larger quantity of wheat from Australia, an equal quantity of American wheat was held off the English market. America protested strongly, and when the Ottawa agreement was revised about 1937 Great Britain agreed to forgo the duty of 3d. a bushel that had been imposed on foreign wheat in order to make a favorable market for Empire wheat. That is the story of the decline of wheat prices following the depression, until the final collapse of the market. So the arbitrary fixation of an adverse exchange had a dual effect: It compelled Australia, which had to meet overseas commitments in sterling, to increase by onequarter the quantity of wheat it formerly had had to provide in order to cover foreign exchange. It also had the vicious effect of forcing down world prices. 1 do not wish to engage in an academic discussion of the effects of an adverse or a favorable exchange. I can, however, quote world opinion in order to show the consequences of an arbitrary fixation of exchange rates by any country, for the purpose of obtaining an advantage over its competitors. Dealing with the juggling of the exchanges, Eugene 3. Young, in his work, Looking Behind the Censorships, said -
What France had started in the way of manipulating cheap currency for trade advantage, Britain, the sterling bloc and Japan completed. Foreigners found that with the low-priced pound, yen and franc they could buy more elsewhere for the sa’me amount of foreign exchange than they could buy in America when they had to acquire our dear dollars and use them for purchases here. Ow foreign market was smashed, our domestic prices driven down to catastrophic levels ae we tried to meet the competition. When Britain, having rolled up huge balances her, in the former French way, demanded gold early in1933, the strain became too great and the collapse of our banking system was hastened.
When it was suggested that Hitler should adopt a straight-out financial policy for the cheapening of the mark by arbitrary action, his advisers - Dr. Schacht and Dr. Fischer, I believe - pointed out to him that if he wanted to maintain his personal prestige and the prestige of the German people, it was essential that the mark should be kept at an overvalued rather than an undervalued rate. Professor Stephen H. Roberts, dealing with the manipulation of the exchange in Germany in his work The House that Hitler Built, said -
Every new proposal of a dictator must appear a national gain, and it would be impossible to present devaluation in this light.
The Foreign Commerce Year-Book, 1933, issued by the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce of the United States Department of Commerce, dealing with the deliberate and arbitrary debasement of the currency in relation to people on a very low standard of living, said -
Netherland India suffered even more severely, both from slackness of demand for sugar, rubber, and other leading exports, and from the necessity for competing in foreign markets with the products of countries whose currencies had depreciated; importvalues were 34 per cent. less than in 1931, and exports, though 6 per cent. heavier in volume, fell 31 per cent. in value. Trading in Siam and Indo-China was at a low ebb as a result of depressed rice prices; the former depreciated its currency in order to stimulate exports and the latter granted government aid to rice-growers. Prices for all Ceylon products were very low, and many tea and rubber plantations closed down.
I could proceed along these lines, hut I prefer to quote facts and figures provided by Australians who may be regarded as authoritative in the matter of Australian farm economy. The Honorable T. H. Bath, trustee of the Wheat Pool of Western Australia, has prepared figures and a graph giving the relative values of parity and actual prices in the wheat industry from 1911 to 1941. The graph shows that parity and actual prices run parallel, with the same minimum and apex, from 1911 to 1924. We know that the years between 1924 and 1931 witnessed the growth of a difference between parity and actual price. Both of them maintained a fair degree of regularity from 1924 to about 1928, the difference between them being approximately1s. a bushel. But from 1930-31 to 1941, when the adverse exchange operated, there was a difference of 2s. a bushel. Obviously, the cost of production in Australia’s primary commodity had increased, relatively, more than the 25 per cent. which, for export purposes, the primary producers received as the result of the arbitrary fixation of the exchange rate. But this had a snowballing effect. The producer who exported received an advantage of 25 per cent. compared with the producer for Australian consumption only, but hehad to purchase overseas on an adverse exchange market the capital goods which he needed to continue production in Australia. The cost of transportation to Great Britain had to be discharged in sterling, and this represented a disadvantage of 25 per cent. Then payment had to be made in sterling for goods brought to Australia, and this in turn represented a disadvantage of 25 per cent.
I cannot develop my argument asI should like to do, because of the limited time at my disposal ; therefore, I content myself by referring to the pamphlet reprinted from the Primary Producer, Perth, on the 7th January, 1943, compiled by the Honorable T. H. Bath, giving comparative values in relation to the purchasing power of an Australian bushel of wheat and an Australian pound of wool in the periods 1931-41 and 1921-31. I leave it to the primary producers to say whether they received a good or a bad deal in consequence of the arbitrary fixation of an exchange rate that was adverse to Australia.
.- The Commonwealth Bank Bill and the Banking Bill now being discussed by the House cover the whole financial set-up of the Commonwealth. They are to take the place of the Commonwealth Bank Act, but they do more than that: It is proposed that they shall perpetuate the existing control of finance by the Government. These proposals are dictated by party considerations rather than by a desire to provide the best banking facilities possible. This is a vital measure, but it has been framed in such a way as to divide the people rather than weld them together. The political control which is to take the place of control by the Commonwealth Bank Board, together with the provision for an unlimited note issue will not tend to create that public confidence which should be fundamental in any financial system.
If fu’ll employment is to be provided and additional industries established, the economy of the country must be freed from the shackles of departmental control, and there must be an end to government direction of finance. Under the Government’s proposals the banker, or the expert who will advise him, will be in a position to determine what industry shall be established. He will probably decide, according to a chart in his office, whether there are enough shirt factories in the district, whether there are enough garages in the town, and whether sufficient , butter is being produced in the area. According to his decision in these matters, financial accommodation would be extended or withheld. It may be that his decisions will be made without his having any practical knowledge whatever. It is evident from a study of this legislation that the Government intends to continue the present system of controls. If industry is to be directed in this way, it is obvious that employees in industry will also be directed. No opportunity will remain for a man of ability or initiative to start a new enterprise. It cannot be denied, in spite of what criticism we may direct against the trading banks, that they have rendered a very valuable and convenient service to the people. They have brought banking facilities to the citizen’s home town, and the people want this service to be continued. No similar service can, for the present at any rate, be given by the Commonwealth Bank. Of course, where service i3 rendered payment must be made, but it is always possible to prevent the making of extravagant charges. The limitation of banking service by restricting tho availability of funds will delay the expansion of production and industry at a time when such expansion is most necessary. In the circumstances, this may easily result in chaos. Under the present system, a client can approach his bank for financial accommodation, and the local manager can give an immediate decision. If it is favorable, the job, whatever it is, can be started immediately. It will be very different when all advances have to be made under the direction of the Commonwealth Bank, subject to rule-of-thumb method and government audit. It will then be impossible to provide speedily for such undertakings as housing, irrigation, water supply and the development of secondary industry; yet these works must be undertaken if employment is to be found for those now in the services.
Among the provisions of the bill which are causing uneasiness is that which restricts the assets of the trading banks to the pre-war level. It is, I understand, the normal practice for banks to maintain a definite ratio of shareholders’ funds to deposits and similar liabilities. Economic text-books state that this is sound banking practice, and it has been declared over and over again that shareholders’ funds represent the margin of safety enjoyed by depositors. What would happen if a bank should desire to increase its capital in order to maintain this margin of protection for its depositors? Presumably, it would issue fresh capital, and this would be added to its liquid resources. Immediately, the increased capital would have to be placed to the credit of its special account with the Commonwealth Bank. In other words, the bank would increase its capital merely to place the funds in the Commonwealth Bank, and, obviously, no bank is likely to raise capital in order to place it on deposit with the Commonwealth Bank at a rate of interest as low as 17s. 6d. per cent. Apparently, one of the effects of these bills will be to sweep away the protection afforded to depositors by the existence by a substantial margin of shareholders’ capital. Even if the most lenient and tolerant interpretation be placed on this provision, it seems that it must “ freeze “ .tie banks’ resources in their present condition. Thus, the banks will be prevented from growing with Australia, and from effectively financing its development.
There is another aspect to .this: the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) will admit thai the purchasing power of our money has already altered. Officially, prices had risen by approximately 25 per cent. This movement may have been checked, or it may still be going on. In any case, world prices seem to be rising steadily. If higher prices prevail, even only outside Australia, then, obviously, higher banking figures, both for deposits and advances, will eventuate. If deposits increase, the margin of shareholders’ funds will become proportionately less. Surely provision should be made to increase rather than decrease the protection afforded to depositors. The Government should strengthen, not weaken. the banking structure. Overseas opinion of, this legislation can be gauged from the following extract from an article called “ Australian Banking Control”, published in .the London Economist of the 24th February last -
There is no concealing the animus against the trading banks which inspire this legislation. If it is enacted, the trading banks will be prevented from taking further part in the expansion of active banking business in the Commonwealth. Loane and investments will perforce be kept within the strait-jacket of their August, 1039, dimensions. Additional resources will have to be placed at the disposal of the Commonwealth Bank, which, for its part, will be afforded opportunity of competing for commercial business with the trading banks. The . rigid restriction of trading bank profits must limit the opening of new branches and other forms of expansion involving capital outlay. The proposed political domination of the Commonwealth Bank is another retrograde step, and one which is in no way justified by the recent policy of the bank. ‘ But the main objection to the legislation is its attempt to remove from the trading banks of a new and undeveloped country every real incentive to get new business.
I particularly direct the attention of honorable members to the phrase “new and undeveloped country “. How are we to finance the development of this continent, or even justify our possession of it after the war, unless we are able to develop it, and this can be done only if the banks are permitted to provide financial accommodation. The proposed freezing of the assets of the trading banks at their 1939 level may result in retarding the economic development of Australia. I object to this legislation on the ground that it will retard the natural expansion of banking, and thus retard the settlement and development of the nation. It will also limit the opportunities of the people to progress.
These measures, oy preventing the possibility of expansion by the trading banks, will tend to weaken the position of the 22,000 employees of those banks. This is borne out by the concern expressed by some Government supporters, who sought an assurance from the Acting Prime Minister that the employees of the private banks would be given preference of employment in the Commonwealth Bank. No such assurance has been given to date, but the fact that it was sought is proof that the position of those employees is now less secure than it was. Of the 22,000 employees, 20,000 are members of unions, and 8,000 are on active service. What is to be the reward of these men now serving their country? Are they to return only to find that their jobs are insecure, or have been filched from them? Is this the measure of economic security which is promised to the servicemen in the Government’s White Paper?
The provision in the Banking Bill that local authorities and semi-government bodies must not conduct their banking business with a trading bank without the sanction of the Treasurer is causing concern, and I have already had three protests from shire councils in my electorate pointing out that it would be not only inconvenient but also impossible to trade with the Commonwealth Bank, because it has no branches in their districts. The Treasurer intimated to me by letter that it was not proposed to implement the provision in such cases. I would oppose any such provision being imposed unless convenient service could be given to the local authorities. In Queensland - and I presume the practice is much the same in all the States - when a local authority desires a loan, it seeks the authority or approval’ of the State Treasurer, and, upon such approval being granted, it is allowed to arrange the loan through any suitable channel, such as the State Insurance ‘Company or other insurance companies. Is this to be denied ? Are alf surplus funds of insurance companies, like those of banks, to be compulsorily diverted into the Commonwealth Bank? Are all works for local authorities to be determined by the bank expert? If so, does the Treasurer guarantee that loans sought by local authorities, and approved by the State Treasury, will be readily forthcoming from the Commonwealth Bank ? If not, how will the local authorities function? Compulsory action on the one hand invokes obligation to meet the needs on the other.
One word more, and it is to eulogize the activities of the Rural Credits Department, the institution of which stands to the credit of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and the Government of which he was then a member. I understand that this department will continue on the same basis as before. It has been a great help to marketing boards, co-operative organizations and the like, and .because of that, since my entry into this Parliament, I have advocated an extension of the department to provide for the creation and expansion of secondary industries, which I consider one of the essential needs of the day. That is probably what is intended by the creation of the Industrial Department. This department should certainly cover assistance to the processing of primary products and any secondary industry attached thereto. If so, then I am heartily in accord with it. I notice, however, that in comparison with the Rural Credits Department, which is allowed to advance to marketing boards and the like up to a maximum of 80 per cent, of the estimated value of the commodity, this amount to include the cost of handling the crop, no limitation is imposed upon the Industrial Department. If I understand the position aright, it suggests an advantage to secondary industry as against rural pursuits.
I risk repetition in order to emphasize that government direction of finance, which can mean nothing less than government direction of industry, with all the red tape and delayed decisions involved therein, can give us only the reverse of full employment, for chaos will inevitably result. We know what untold and unnecessary delays occur now, with men, material and finance restricted because of the war. How on earth, with all those available and every one anxious to reach his position in life, but with everything channelled through the one department, can we avoid endless delays? It is hypocritical for the Government to talk about easing controls when, by means of these bills, it intends to effect a control greater than any previously effected over the future of the community in business, on farms, or in jobs. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), that the bill be withdrawn and redrafted in order to correct serious anomalies which can upset our whole financial structure.
.- It is now well over 30 years since Mr. Andrew Fisher, as Prime Minister, introduced into this Parliament the legislation upon which the Commonwealth Bank was founded. I can well imagine that that legislation was greeted by the political forefathers of honorable gentlemen opposite in the same way as they have greeted this legislation. Indeed, I believe that if the records were examined it would be seen that honorable members to-day are merely reiterating what was said against the establishment by the then Labour administration of an institution which has proved to he one of the greatest of its kind in the world and has been the backbone of our financial system. Consequently, I did not consider it unusual to hear the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) repeating many of the old catch-cries used in opposition to the founding of the Commonwealth Bank. The honorable member talked as his predecessors of thirty-odd years ago talked about the currency being endangered. The honorable gentleman referred to the reaction against these measures in financial circles overseas. His remarks lead me, before giving my praise to these bills, to show exactly what has been the reaction in other countries. These bills have been before Parliament since early in March, and it was known for a considerable time before that date that this Government would introduce comprehensive banking legislation. Consequently, in all parts of the world, people had full opportunity to know what was intended. Nevertheless, since the bills were brought down the Commonwealth Government has succeeded in negotiating in London the greatest conversion loan ever conducted by this country, as far as I know. That indicates a very favorable reaction, notwithstanding the honorable member’s opinion that this legislation will detrimentally affect our credit abroad. Moreover, since these bills were brought down, Lord Nuffield has announced the establishment of a company with a capital of £1,000,000 to manufacture motor cars in Australia. It is interesting to read Lord Nuffield’s comments on that matter contained in the following cutting from the Sydney Sun: -
Nuffield’sPlans fob Cars Here.
London, Friday. - Lord Nuffield to-day gave details of his plans to make cars in Australia. He said he started the company there because he realized that if he did not get in in a big way some one else woulddo so first.
That shows that no great injury has been done to Australia’s credit by the introduction of these measures. Would a man with Lord Nuffield’s industrial capacity and knowledge of finance and his great wealth consider the establishment in this country of a factory for the manufacture of motor cars, if he thought that he might be throwing £1,000,000 down the sink because of the financial instability of the country? I recommend honorable gentlemen opposite, who talk about this legislation having a detrimental effect abroad, to study these reports of favorable international reaction. On the 2nd June, the Sydney Sun contained this further reference to Australia’s future -
British Industries Here Urged.
London, Saturday. - After the Pacific war,
Australia would be a base for production of Empire products for the Far East, Mr. Duff Cooper, Ambassador to Paris and former British Minister in the Far East, said yesterday.
British manufacturers should give earnest consideration to establishment of industries in Australia for these markets, he said.
If British industry desired a reasonable share of the vast Eastern markets, industrialists should follow Lord Nuffield’s example.
Industries which had to transport products half-way around the world to compete in Pacific markets started with an insurmounable handicap.
Expansion of British industry to Australia would make it possible for British people who wanted the sunshine and happiness of Australian life to go there in increasing numbers. - AAP.
That is a further indication of faith abroadin this country’s industrial future and proof that the financial standing of Australia is not endangered by this legislation. Also since the introduction of this legislation a Commonwealth loan has been oversubscribed by about £7,000,000. That is an endorsement by the people of this legislation, and an expression of their belief that it will be of benefit to Australia in the future. Shares in private banks have not fallen, despite the gloomy prediction of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann). These are important factors which show that there will not be any run on the banks, and our prestige will not be adversely affected as the result of this legislation. Let me recite them again: Mr. Duff Cooper, and Lord Nuffield and other industrialists have expressed confidence in Australia’s future, our people are over-subscribing new loans, bank shares have not fallen, and our conversion loan in London has been a magnificent success. That should be sufficient evidence that this legislation will consolidate our financial structure in the future.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has reiterated the catch-cries which we have been hearing for years. The facts which I have cited hurt the honorable member.
In view of the limited time at my disposal, I shall deal only with three or four important aspects of the bill. Clause 8, which may be taken as the basis of the Commonwealth Bank Bill, reads -
It shall be the duty of the Commonwealth Bank, within the limits of its powers, to pursue a monetary and banking policy directed to the greatest advantage tothe people of Australia, and to exercise its powers under this Act and the Banking Act 1945 in such a manner as. in the opinion of the Bank, will contribute to-
the stability ofthe currency of Australia;
the maintenance of full employment in Australia; and
the economic prosperity and welfare of the people of Australia.
That may be described as the charter of the Commonwealth Bank for the future. It may be said to be the charter whereby this Government will guarantee to the people freedom from want, freedom from fear, and social and economic security in the future. This legislation is virtually founded on those principles. Those objectives are near and dear to the heart of every person in every country, but particularly to Australians who have had the bitter experience of many years of privation and want, when thousands of our people were starving because, it was said, we had not sufficient money to provide work which would enable them to purchase the necessaries of life and live in reasonable comfort, and at a standard to which human beings are entitled.
The main criticism of this legislation relates to the proposed control of the Commonwealth Bank. The critics contend that the form of control proposed is political. Some form of control must be provided. Which is to be preferred? Is our financial system to be controlled by outside interests, over whom the Government of the country has no control, or by the Parliament, through the duly elected representatives of the people ? The answer is obvious. If we are to control finance, surely the elected representatives of the people are most entitled to exercise that responsibility; because the people look to their elected representatives to remedy defects in the financial system. Will not such a system be better than one whereby our financial system is controlled by private individuals as it has been in the past? Dealing with this aspect of the measure the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said -
Under this bill the central bank will be controlled by the Treasurer, who will be controlled by politicians . . . Members of Parliament lack the skill, experience and information necessary for such a task.
The right honorable gentleman stated that at the next general elections he would pledge his party to reconstitute the Commonwealth Bank Board. He said that that would be one of the baits he would offer to the people at the next general election. He claimed that the reconstitution of the board would free the bank’ from political control. Does he mean that were a Labour government to appoint to such a board, say, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy), and several other close supporters of this Government, the board would be free from political control, and that solely by virtue of their appointment to the board those honorable members would be wizards of finance? They are capable men in many respects, but could it be said that, because they were appointed to the board, they would be free from dictation by the government of the day? That is exactly what the proposition put forward by the right honorable member means, and it is exactly what control by the board has meant since the board was instituted in 1924 by the Bruce-Page Government. Ever since its establishment the board has been dominated by the interests represented by honorable gentlemen opposite, and has dictated to the government of the day and the people of Australia just what shall be done in respect of finance. Governments in the past have jumped to obey the dictates of the board. Furthermore, appointments to the board were made regardless of the fact that appointees were not experts on finance. Their selection depended primarily upon their political affiliations.
Let us see who were the members of the first board appointed in 1924. They were J. J. Garvan, who was managing director of the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company Limited ; R. S. Drummond, who was a wheat-grower and manager of the New South Wales Compulsory Wheat Pool; Sir Samuel Hordern, who was governing director of Anthony Hordern and Sons, a director of the Perpetual Trustee Company of New South Wales and a director of the Royal Insurance Company; J. Mackenzie Lees, who had been chairman of the Associated Banks in Queensland and general manager of the Bank of Queensland Limited; Sir Robert Gibson, who was a director of a number of companies; R. B. W. McComas, who was a merchant and the proprietor of W. H. Haughton and Company, and had been chairman of the Wool-buyers Association of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania; Sir Claude Reading, who had been managing director of the British Australasian Tobacco Company and a. director of other companies; and A. F. Bell, who was a director of the Union Trustee Company of Australia. In spite of the business acumen of those gentlemen, it is doubtful whether they had any more knowledge of banking than has the ordinary man in the street, or members of Parliament; but I have no doubt that each was a supporter of anti-Labour governments. Those facts show clearly the fallacy of the arguments advanced by honorable members opposite when they allege that under this legislation the bank will be brought under political control and will be completely dominated by the government of the day. In the past the board has been representative of business interests and has dictated financial policy. . What form of control does the Government now propose to substitute for that system? It proposes to restore the original form of control of the bank. The institution is again to be controlled by the Governor, who will be assisted by a deputy governor, and an advisory council consisting of the secretary of the Department of the Treasury, the Deputy Governor, a second representative of the Department of the Treasury, who shall be an officer of the Commonwealth Public Service and shall bc appointed by the Governor-General, and two officers of the bank, who shall be appointed by the Treasurer on the recommendation of the Governor. Each of those appointees, by virtue of his position, will possess specialized knowledge of banking. That is the control which the Government offers in place of the present system of political control under which the bank was ruled in the interests of certain sections of the community. In this way, the Government will restore democratic control, that is control by the people. This is a progressive step which will be endorsed by every fairminded person; and it will be of benefit to the nation generally.
In. the past, the Bank Board has challenged the Government of the day, particularly in the dark days of the depression when thousands of our people were unable to obtain work because, so it was said, sufficient money could not be made available. The Government of that day had to struggle for its very existence because the interests represented by the Bank Board refused to provide the financial assistance necessary to enable it to carry on. Thus we witnessed the spectacle of a board of directors controlled by outside financial interests actually sacrificing our people in order to serve their own selfish financial ends. When we talk about depressions, we should remember that finance cannot be dealt with only in terms of figures. Finance means more than that; there is a human side. In the past, when finance was controlled by private interests, our people knew the meaning of human suffering, blood, sweat and tears when they were told that there was not enough money to provide the employment which would enable them to purchase the necessaries of life. In those days, thousands of people were obliged to walk the country in search of employment. We had the amazing paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty. Private financial interests represented by the Bank Board of those days actually held the people of this country to ransom. When we remember those human factors, no true Australian can conscientiously sUpport a political party which proclaims its intention to restore the system of financial domination of the Government which has operated in the past through the medium of the Bank Board and private trading banks. The time has come for the Commonwealth Government to challenge the dictatorship of private financial interests, in order to ensure that when the war is over and our soldiers return to civil life, we shall at least have the finance necessary to provide employment and thus enable them to buy the necessaries of life and enjoy the security for which they have fought, and for which our workers on the home front have striven so hard. Dealing with the Government’s proposal for future control of the bank, the Leader of the Opposition said that the only bank that failed during the depression was the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales. Pointing his finger accusingly at the Government, he remarked, “ That institution was under government control, and failed “. The right honorable gentleman should be reminded of sections 348 and 366 of the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems in Australia, which dealt very fully with this matter. If the right honorable gentleman would peruse those paragraphs, ‘ he would find that, in addition to the Government
Savings Bank, the Federal Deposit Bank Limited suspended payment on the 4th September, 1931, and was taken over by the Brisbane Permanent Building and Banking Company Limited, and that the Primary Producers’ Bank of Australia Limited closed its doors on the 21st August, 1931, the creditors were not paid, and. the shareholders salvaged nothing from the disaster. Neither of those banks was resuscitated; but the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales was at least solvent, and if the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board of the day had not played politics the institution would not have been compelled to close its doors. Those are interesting facts, showing what can happen when the banking system is not controlled by the government of the day.
Considerable criticism has been levelled at the controls that will be imposed upon the private trading banks. In his secondreading speech, the Leader of the Opposition said -
The second reason is not psychological, but purely practical, and it is mentioned by that very brilliant and progressive writer and thinker, the economist, Lord Keynes, in Treatise on- Money. I can quote Keynes in any company on these matters, because if any economist has influenced modern economic thought, it is he.
As the right honorable gentleman holds Lord Keynes in such high regard, it is interesting to note that his lordship, later in his book, expressed the following view : -
The first necessity of a Central Bank, charged with responsibility for the management of the monetary system as a whole, is to make sure that it has an unchallengeable control over the total volume of bank-money created by its member hanks.
That is exactly what the Government proposes to do under this legislation, namely, to ensure that the Commonwealth Bank shall be able to guard against the dangers of an over-supply of> money in the community, and exercise full control over credit. Naturally, the possession of that authority will necessitate a certain amount of control over the private trading banks. The fact cannot be denied that the private banking institutions are conducted entirely as businesses. Their purpose is to make profits; in fact, they were established with that object only. Although we cannot complain because a business seeks to make a profit, the whole policy of the private trading banks in this country and other countries is governed by the profit motive. They are such a good business proposition from the standpoint of investment that their shares are regarded as gilt-edged. Consequently, they have a great incentive to make high profits, and to give ample returns for investments. Public interest is considered by the trading banks only when a general outcry occurs against their methods. In other words, the private trading banks make the community the plaything of financiers. In addition, the funds of the private trading banks, which comprise a large portion of the basis of their profits, are provided by the public without interest, or at very low rates of interest, and the public has no voice in their management. The profit motive should be divorced from the banking system. The only permissible profits are those to meet book-keeping charges and general overhead expenses. Our national life has no place for financial institutions which have power almost of life and death over many people, and which are guided entirely by the profit motive. The thought that a bank should keep foremost in mind when laying down its policy should be to provide service to the community, and to operate for the good of the community. The records of the past dealings of the private trading banks in Australia disclose that .they have not. observed those requirements. But the Commonwealth Bank can cater fully for the requirements of this nation, under the policy which I have enunciated, and thereby function for the common good. Let us glance at the profits of the private trading banks over the years, for the purpose of seeing how the profit motive predominates in their dealings with the general public. The Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems stated in its report, at page 2fi7 -
Prior to that period (1931-35), however, the trading banks as a whole have made large profits. In the period 1893-1936, a period of 43 years, including two major depressions, one minor depression and the war - the published figures show that they made a total profit of £106,548,000 being an annual average of 10.27 per cent, on paid capital and 6.28 per cent, on shareholders’ funds. These figures do not include amounts placed to inner reserves, though the use of these reserves contributed to the profits.
That statement shows that, during the most troublous periods in our history, the private trading banks were able to make handsome profits, and inflict upon many people great hardship and suffering. Their policy was ultimately detrimental to the general welfare of the nation, because many people became unemployed, and experienced the hardships associated with lack of money in the community. Although it is not a siu to make profits, the private trading banks should regard the profit motive as a very secondary consideration compared with the welfare and common good of the people. During the depression, when Australia experienced its greatest financial crisis, the private trading banks failed this country. That statement is substantiated by the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, which stated in its report, paragraph 565, page 218-
Along with other parts of the system, the trading banks must bear some responsibility for the extent of the depression. In the more prosperous times preceding the depression, they went with the tide and expanded credit. There was then no central bank to guide their policy, but, even in its absence, the banks might have taken concerted action which would have helped to check the boom, and thereby have lessened the extent of the depression. At the outset of the depression, the trading banks, in the interest of their depositors and of their own solvency, were forced by the general conditions and by the reduction of their London funds, due to the fall in export values and the cessation of overseas borrowing, to adopt a policy of contraction which intensified the depression.
That is a serious commentary on the activities of the private financial institutions. If they . were the Heaven-sent, financial saviours of this country, as honorable members opposite would have us believe, they would never have permitted such a condition of affairs to exist in Australia. The private trading banks also contracted credit to the amount oi over £44,000,000. When we consider that the government of the day desired to issue only £18,000,000 worth of credit in order to provide employment for many thousands of people, we can realize the disastrous effect that the policy of the private trading banks had on the employment of
Australians. In fact, this effect may be multiplied many times, because the money was withdrawn from circulation, and seriously affected the whole cycle of employment. I point out that fact in order to show that the private financial institutions have had a very fair run in this country, and have had .their own way in dictating financial policy. After the outbreak of war, certain restrictions were imposed upon them in the interests of the nation, but, until then, no section of industry had more freedom than they had. It is open to doubt whether any laws are in existence to regulate the times at which they shall open and close their places of business. They arrange almost everything to suit their own advantage. Over the years, they have had very fair treatment from successive governments, and at a time when the country was faced with a financial crisis, they abused their privileges. They were not responsible in any great measure for Australia’s recovery from the depression. That recovery resulted from action taken by governments and the Commonwealth Bank, and by an increase of prices for our export commodities. The Commonwealth Bank and the government of the day played a part in restoring to this country some measure of financial stability. Consequently, I am not greatly impressed when I hear criticisms of the restrictions that are to be imposed on the private trading banks. As for the contention that they will be forced out of business, I point out that during nearly five years of war, in spite of being subject to controls, they have managed to prosper. I do not see any objection to reimposing on the private trading banks the controls to which they are now subject under National Security Regulations, and those controls have been incorporated in this bill. If we are to safeguard against the evils of inflation, and to ensure that there shall be national control of credit in the interests of the people, it is absolutely necessary to have strong and rigid controls over the financial system through the medium of a powerful Commonwealth Bank. We cannot conscientiously improve our banking system if we do not impose rigorous controls on the private trading banks. In my opinion, those controls are urgent.
The Commonwealth Bank, with the power that it will possess as a central bank, with its new administrative set-up and with the co-operation of the private trading banks under the proposed controls, will provide a financial system that will be a sound foundation on which the Government may base its policy of full employment in the post-war period.
In making that statement, I am not one of those who believe that the control of the financial system is the be-all and end-all of the full employment ideal: but at least we know that without adequate control of the financial system, which entails control of the private trading banks and the Commonwealth Bank by the government of the day, we cannot hope to improve on the pre-war condition of affairs. In the past, tremendous restrictions have been placed’ on the welfare of the people by financial interests, with the assistance of the government of the day. For the reasons which I have given, I welcome the change which is to be made in the system of controlling the private banks and the organization of the Commonwealth Bank.
Another important factor associated with this bill is the Industrial Finance Department, which will “ provide finance to establish and develop industrial undertakings, particularly small undertakings; assist in the establishment and development of industrial undertakings; and provide advice on the operations of industrial undertakings with a view to promoting the efficient organization and conduct thereof “.
We can well, visualize the effect of this industrial bank upon industries which lack the finance necessary to put them on their feet. For instance, whilst a tariff duty could be imposed to assist a growing industry, the private banking institutions might withhold financial support, and starve the undertaking so that it could not develop and compete with an overseas organization in which the private banks had a financial interest. We need a department of this kind to provide through government channels finance required to ensure that small industries shall be able to build themselves up into substantial undertakings which will be of definite benefit 18(i] to this country, and play an important part in our industrial life. It is interesting to note that industrial finance banks have been established in other countries including Canada, where there is a subsidiary organization of the Bank of Canada, known as the Industrial Development Bank. That bank has more or less the same basis as the institution proposed in this legislation. It guarantees loans to new or current enterprises and underwrites and acquires new issues of shares and debentures. It is proving most successful. Similar experiments have been tried in South Africa and America with equal success, and in those countries also the functions of the industrial bank differ only in detail and administration from the department proposed in this legislation. This is a most progressive step. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has more or less endorsed the proposal; at least he appeared quite favorably impressed with the scheme. It is easy to visualize the prestige and strength which will be gained by the Commonwealth Bank in the years to come when it has had an opportunity to prove how efficient it can be in assisting Australian industry. I venture to suggest that before long, the Industrial Finance Department will be regarded as absolutely essential to industrial development. It will be necessary to have in charge of this institution an efficient man who has a sound knowledge of industry and industrial banking; a man who will be able to gauge very quickly the prospects of an undertaking and assess what its value will be in the years to come, particularly in respect of employment. I believe that such a man can be found in this country. The establishment of the Industrial Finance Department should result in the building up of new Australian industries, and so assist greatly the introduction of a new industrial order in this country, with full employment for everybody.
I have dealt with three fundamental features of tins legislation of which there has been considerable criticism. These measures are designed to ensure that in the years to come, the Commonwealth Bank shall be able to guarantee, at least the basis of full employment. Australia, as one of the allied nations. must ensure that its .people shall not return to the economic conditions which existed prior to the war. We all hope for the introduction of a better order than existed then, and we trust that in the post-war years this will be a land worthy of the sacrifices of our fighting forces. Our aim must be employment for every person in this country who is able and willing to work. We cannot again tolerate malnutrition and mass unemployment. We are endeavouring to build a better Australia, an Australia in which unemployment will be unknown, and this legislation represents a substantial step towards that goal.
– I can well imagine the headlines which will appear in the newspapers to-morrow morning. In -large type they will proclaim the heroic fight which has been put. up (by honorable members opposite against the Government’s ‘banking proposals in the dying hours of the secondreading debate. The only difference between a mod-de-Faa and a private bank is that whereas the bank surrounds its extortion with mystery, a montde.piete is concerned only with intelligent extortion. I have been greatly interested in the hanking problem, and I am sorry to say, I aim quite convinced that this legislation will do nothing more or less than stabilize private banking. The inspiration for this legislation was the action of the Opposition parties in distress, and I propose to draw attention to some very unpleasant happenings during the ignominious financial and political careers of honorable members opposite. The Commonwealth Bank operated most effectively between the years 1911 and 1924. I was interested to hear one honorable member opposite endeavour to justify his opposition to this legislation by stating that the Government had no mandate to introduce it. What he did not tell us was that the anti-Labour Government did not require a mandate to alter the Commonwealth Bank legislation in 1924. Obviously, it would not have suited the honorable member to disclose that fact. The people of this country have always known that hanking reform has been a plank in the Labour party’s platform. But this legislation will give stability to the private banks because, by the extension of the activities of the Commonwealth Bank to comparatively .unremunerative fields in which hitherto private banks have been forced to operate, the private banks will be (confined to the more stable forms of banking.
– In what sense does the honorable member use the word “ stable “?
– The quality of the banking operations which will be left to the private banks will be better than ever before. As I have pointed out the alteration of the banking legislation of this country originated .with honorable members opposite. Obviously, in the depression years of 1930 and 1931 it was not the money of the working classes which was endangered, by the banking structure of this country. Not only did a large number of working people not have any jobs or income, but also they did not have any bread, so that anything that could have happened to the private banks in this country, would have made little difference to the lot of the working classes. Who was it that demanded a moratorium? Was it the working people? Of course not. The moratorium was introduced because the oppressed masters of honorable members opposite demanded it. Not one honorable member opposite said a word about the introduction of the moratorium, which of course related to mortgages. It was the financial interests who went to the governments of this country and demanded legislation to protect themselves. If it were necessary to have a moratorium in 1930, and a debt conversion agreement between the States and the Commonwealth in 1931, what is radical or socialistic in including in this legislation the very provisions which honorable members opposite demanded when their supporters were in distress in those years? Yet this proposal is called “ socialistic “, “ revolutionary “ and “ tampering with the financial stability of this country “. There may be occasions on which this legislation will be used, but I do not think that in the immediate future it will be anything more than a statute. Never in the history of this country have savings bank deposits been so large, or our financial and industrial structure more stable. How can anybody conceive that at a time such as this, it is necessary for any government to interfere with the financial structure? Private business has all the money that at requires. During the depression years I was a Minister of State in the Government of Tasmania, and my personal experience may be of some interest to honorable members. Our early emergence from the depression was due largely to the action of the Scullin Government - action for which it has never received credit - in effecting the biggest financial deal ever conceived in this country, namely, the Debt Conversion Agreement. I heard an interjection from an honorable member opposite the other night that it was private enterprise which was responsible for our successful emergence from the depression; but figures show that in Tasmania, of the first 7,000 people who became re-employed as the result of the improved conditions, six out of every ten were employed by government, semigovernment or government-subsidized instrumentalities. I have no doubt that the same thing will happen in the postwar period. “We are told that we shall have to re-establish about 1,000,000 people in civil life. What would happen if only 50,000 were to return to the civil community to-day and seek employment? Obviously, private enterprise could not cope with them. .Savings bank deposits at present amount to approximately £500,000,000. The private banks and industry have all the money they need. It is unlikely that the provisions of these bills will be applied in the extreme sense. Unless that should become necessary, the power will remain only statutory. I can recall the time when the note issue was backed by gold. Everybody said then that if we once deviated from the gold standard, inflation would occur, although nobody knew how many notes were printed. Then one morning we awoke to find that Great Britain, the United States of America and Japan had gone off the gold standard. But nothing happened to the community ; we did not rock, shake, or swoon. After that we were told that the note issue had to be backed by confidence, but nobody knew exactly what “ confidence “ meant, although some honorable members opposite, who did not know the true meaning of any word, pretended that they knew. We passed that stage, and then we were told that there would be inflation or deflation according to the proportion of goods and services to the amount of free money. This was just another piece of economic jargon, which has too often1 been used to deceive the public. God only knows how the experts worked out that inflation depended upon the relationship between goods and services and free money! However, that was what we were told.
I now return to the subject of the depression. We started off with highpriced money at the peak of national stability and finished with low-priced money at the lowest point of national instability, an extraordinary example of the financial system working in reverse. It is a fact that the banks were drunk with money towards the end of the depression, and interest rates came down from as high as 7£ per cent, to as low as 3£ per cent, at the time of maximum insecurity. If there ever was a. time when people could have used their money to advantage it was when the buying value of money was almost twice its normal value. But people did not use their money during the depression; they banked it. Yet we are told that, with too much free money in the community and not enough commodities, prices go up, and that, with plenty of commodities and not enough free money, prices come down. It is the greatest bunkum that I have ever heard, and the Australian people are now beginning to recognize it as such. Therefore, I repeat that this legislation contains no provision that will ever be applied to the economic disadvantage of the people. As a matter of fact, the bills will stabilize the position of supporters of the associated banks, because all insecure mortgages, such as farm mortgages, will be diverted to the Commonwealth Bank, and the private banks will deal only with reliable business. The legislation gives to the private banks a greater measure of stability than they have ever enjoyed. They may not have the same volume of business as previously, but they will be able to be more selective. Nobody will deny that. If I had any criticism of these bills it would he that they are not broad enough in their provisions. I do not envisage any occasion on which it would be necessary to use the full powers provided, but, should a national emergency arise, we already have the example of honorable members opposite, who demanded a moratorium and a debt conversion when they saw their financial interests jeopardized by other and bigger interests. Thus, if the special powers provided by these bills are ever brought into operation, they will merely carry out what the Government’s political opponents did in the past. By example, members opposite have given their approval to this legislation. In the light of that fact, how can these measures rightly be described as revolutionary or socialistic? Does anybody think that the banks will needlessly interfere with the people? Who is a greater dictator than a bank manager? Anybody who has been to a bank manager to ask for £500, not having much security to offer, knows the dictatorial powers that he exercises. We must do away with government by suspicion and return to a true form of democratic government. At the present time we have uneconomic boards operating all over Australia. If one good man is in charge of a branch of government activity, that is called bureaucracy. If he works with two dummies, that is considered to be democratic. If there happens to be three dummies, then the organization is firstclass.
– On the Government’s side of, the House there are one man and 4S dummies.
– I suppose the best authority on dummies is. a dummy. A donkey should smell himself before he complains of another donkey.
– Now, now!
– If the honorable gentleman wants a scrap, he shall have one. He has a reputation for being nimble.tongued ; I should like to try him out. I repeat that we must do away with government by suspicion. At the present time, all parties in this chamber are in a pretty pickle. We are creating sensations when the people are war weary, exhausted, discontented and ridden by war regulations of one kind or another. At a time when the National Parliament should be trying to stabilize the com munity and set an example of resourcefulness and determination of. purpose, one move after another is made to create some kind of sensation, and this is causing discontent amongst the people. The same old “ lurk “ has been tried in connexion with banking. Honorable members opposite and the interests which they represent have had their say on banking through the newspapers, but, having failed to arouse the enthusiasm which they expected, the newspapers have gone cold on the project, and honorable members opposite have done likewise. Probably, in a few days’ time we shall see them entering the chamber wearing sweaters to prevent themselves from becoming any colder. They know that their barrage of bunkum has been seen through. The powers contained in these hills, which they describe as oppressive, are similar to the powers which they demanded when they were in financial difficulties.
– I do not think that the honorable member has even read the bill.
– Even if I had not read it, I would know more about it than the honorable member does after having read it. If the honorable gentleman wants a fight, he shall have it. I enjoy dealing with gentlemen of his intellectual weight.
– That still does not give the honorable member any measure of intelligence.
– Has the honorable gentle man ever handled a hill in a ministerial capacity? I have been a member of Parliament for a longer period than the honorable member, and I. know as much about parliamentary technique as he does. He is so blinded by the prejudices of his own side that, naturally, he does not want to see these measures passed, although he does not deny that the interests which he represents demanded a moratorium and debt conversion. This legislation provides for better government of the country. The honorable member denies that it relates to the financial stability of the nation, because he does not understand it. Yet, he charges me with not having read the bill ! If I had any adverse criticism of the Commonwealth Bank Bill, it would relate to only one point. Perhaps, if I read from the bill in the presence of the honorable member for
Fawkner (Mr. Holt) he will understand it better. I refer him to Part IX., which relates to the establishment of a mortgage bank department. The Government could have been more generous and divided that department into three sections. I should like to have seen a housing bank devoted entirely to the financial and administrative aspects of housing. Such a project would have a very close relation to the economic life of the country. Also I should like to have seen a. primary producers’ bank divorced from the general subject of mortgages.
– There is a primary producers’ bank in Western Australia.
– Oh, dear, what a discovery !
– It is a pity that the honorable member had not discovered it.
– There is also an agricultural bank in Tasmania. Did the honorable member know that? I repeat that I should like to have’ seen a housing bank and a primary producers’ bank established separately from other instrumentalities. These are separate functions related to special aspects of our economic life, the stability of which is of distinct advantage to honorable members opposite. My honorable friend has such profound financial knowledge that he must be aware that Australia’s trading overseas is almost entirely based on our exportable commodities.
– Dear, dear! That is elementary.
– So little Eric has come in ! Now Ave have a fighting Opposition of three in the chamber. My suggestion is worthy of special consideration because it is so closely related to our overseas trade. Housing and primary production should be dealt with by special organizations within the ambit of banking generally, but distinct from other banking activities. This would be of great value to the economic life of Australia. It is interesting to see what a bashing we are getting over the housing shortage. In view of the short memories of honorable members opposite and the public generally it is timely to remind them that in 1928 a housing bill involving the expenditure of £20,000,000 was passed by honorable members opposite, but the money was never used. In 1934, when the present Leader of the Opposition was Attorney-General of Victoria, he pointed out to the Loan Council in one of his rare moments of inspiration, that housing was of the greatest importance to the community. It is most extraordinary that it has ultimately dawned on the Australian public in 1945, when we are in the throes of war, that a progressive housing programme is a necessity. When the Scullin Government tried to secure a fiduciary note issue of £1S,000,000, of which £0,000,000 was intended to aid the wheat-growers and the remainder was to finance a housing scheme, the members of the great Opposition pitched the scheme out. These things must be told in fairness to the Government. I reiterate that this legislation is not revolutionary. Should the occasion arise for its full powers to be used, such action would be in conformity with the demands made -by honorable members opposite when they were in economic difficulties in the perilous years of 1930 and 1931. Such powers should rest with the Commonwealth Government.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– It is almost inevitable, when the people of Australia, in one of their mistaken moods - which occur every quarter of a century - send a Labour majority to the House of Representatives, that we should see legislation to control banks and to try to make money do what it never was intended and cannot be made to do. I have had a look through this bill. It sets out to do two important things. First, it proposes to destroy the method under which the Commonwealth Bank has been very effectively and efficiently controlled by a board for a number of years, and to place the control of it entirely in the hands of a governor who, in the event of a difference of opinion, is to be subservient to the Treasurer, that gentleman, in turn, being subservient to the caucus. The other important feature of the bill is the proposal for the abolition of the reserve against the note issue.
We cannot, I believe, approach a subject like this without some consideration of the nature and history of money - the meaning of paper money its uses, and so forth. There is too much of a tendency in this House to speak of money half-heartedly, as though it can be created at will by the party which happens to be in power. My friend from Hume (Mr. Puller) will be aghast at that statement, because once or twice he has looked at something which has emanated from Douglas Credit, and has almost swallowed it. If we trace what has occurred in the history of money back to the rudiments of civilization, we find that in early times there was no such thing as money and that barter was the only method by which trade was conducted. I recall that one of the things which struck me as a youngster at school was an illustration in the history books used in South Australia of Phoenician traders in Cornwall exchanging the silks and silverware that had come from the Phoenician settlements in Carthage, Spain and other places, for the skins and tin of the very rude - in point of development - ancestors of those in this chamber who happen to be of Cornish extraction. As time went on, the people discovered, by the process of trial and error, that the best means of effecting exchanges was some other commodity which was recognized as of value in all forms and in all places. That commodity finally was gold.
– It was a lot of other things before it was gold.
– I am dealing with the subject in a somewhat sketchy way, because I have not the time to go fully into it and I have no doubt that the House would not have the patience to listen to me were I to do so. In the very early stage of every world civilization of which we have a record - whether it be Mexico, Peru, India, Asia Minor, North Africa, ancient Egypt, Persia, Greece or Rome - one commodity was accepted as the final measure of value, and that commodity was gold. Another fact which stands out in the history of currency in all civilizations is the way in which gold has steadily appreciated in value over a period of time. No matter what civilization be studied, that fact will stand out very clearly. Another prominent fact - and this applies to all of those civilizations which were blessed or cursed, as the case may be, with political parties which, in common parlance, are called “ leftwingers “ - is that those left-wingers have always attempted so to manipulate the currency that, by sleight of hand, they could pay good debts with bad money.
– A lot of kings must have been left-wingers in the old days.
– Henry VIII. was one of the worst. The honorable member would have been fascinated by him. He clipped the coin ami issued new coin. It was he who laid it down that his taxes were to be paid in good coin, but that he would pay his debts in bad coin.
– One of the honorable gentleman’s ancestors debased the currency.
– No; .1 ani of Scottish descent. My friend cannot connect me with Henry VIII. Apart from that fact, I have no desire to be linked with royalty, having been brought up on Burns. ‘ The stage was reached when coinage came into use. The governments of those days, some of them many thousands of years ago, decided that, in the interests of the trade and commerce of their time, it was necessary that gold should be of a certain fineness, and that coins should be of a certain weight. If honorable members are interested enough to go to any museum to study this subject - the best that I know is the Melbourne Museum - they will see some very ancient coins, some of them bearing queer faces.
– And they are not gold.
– A lot of them are gold, and many others are of baser metals and even of stone. I am not saying that gold was the only material used. If the honorable . gentleman visits the Melbourne Museum he will find some stone tokens that have come from Japanese mandated territories. No doubt the honorable gentleman, in view of his very intensive study of the currency, knows all these little “ wrinkles “ which I would not know had I not been to the museum.
– The honorable gentleman having made his trip to the museum, I ask him to return to the bill.
– I am dealing with the bill, which relates to the currency and the control of it. As time went on, the stage was reached when the people realized that they could keep money in the form of gold or silver in their vaults, and issue paper against it. The use of paper as currency is not a recent invention; it was used a long time ago. Again, one has to study the history of paper currency, and note the different inscriptions on the various notes that have been in circulation. About 30 years ago, when both chambers of this legislature were dominated by a party of the same name as that which sits opposite to-day, great invasions into banking and currency were essayed. I have heard certain references to them during this debate. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia was then established, and we have since had all the movements, acts and alterations which have culminated in the bill now before us. When the Commonwealth Bank was established by the Fisher Labour Government, it was not given any authority to issue notes, the only authority given to it being to act as a bank in competition with the other hanks of Australia. If honorable gentlemen, particularly those who sit opposite, will study the debates and discussions of those days, they will learn that one of the chief objectives of the Labour party was to establish a Commonwealth Bank, with the express purpose of driving out of business the existing private banks. Actually, the private banks have not been driven out of business by the Commonwealth Bank.
– Does the honorable gentleman know why they have not been ?
– Of course I do, and so does the honorable gentleman - for the simple reason that the people who have had money to deposit with a bank have preferred to entrust it to a private bank.
– That is only the honorable gentleman’s interpretation.
– It is the correct interpretation. During the last 30-odd years, there has been nothing to prevent any person in Australia who so desired from dealing wholly and solely with the Commonwealth Bank. Perhaps it is not wise to admit it, but as one who has committed acts of unwisdom now and again, may I say that I have not dealt with a private bank for more than fifteen years.
– The Commonwealth Bank has refused thousands of accounts, and the honorable gentleman knows it.
– That is a matter which I am not able to argue at the present time. I have not had an account with a private bank for more than fifteen years; therefore, I have no brief for the private banks. But I have a brief for the right of the private individual, the citizen and taxpayer of this country, to do what he likes with his own money. This legislation will produce a state of affairs in which the private individual will not be able to do what he likes with his own money. I say further that that i3 the purpose of the bill, that is the main reason for its introduction. It is in furtherance of the socialistic, left-wing policy, which can function only if a government composed of men owing allegiance to it is able to control the assets, actions and lives of those who return them to office.
– All politics!
– All politics is control to a certain degree. May I say to the Minister - one of our most distinguished financial experts - that all civilization is balanced between the right of the individual on the one hand, and the right of the community on the other hand. But this bill is definitely loaded on one side. It puts power in the hands of the government of the day so to alter the financial structure by a stroke of the pen that the value of money can be changed overnight.
– In the interests of the people.
– In the interests, not of the people, but of the Government. If ever there was legislation which posed the issue, the people versus the Commonwealth, this is it.
– What is the Commonwealth but the people ?
– The Commonwealth is not the people. If the Minister cares to go out among the electorates to-day he will have that driven home to him very forcefully. The Commonwealth is doing act after act, day alter day, which the people of Australia believe to be absolutely contrary to their interests and inimical to their welfare. Let us examine, for a moment, the functions of money. So far as I know, they are only three, and they are very intimately related to the object that is hidden in this1 bill. Money is, first, a measure of value; secondly, a means of exchange; and thirdly, a method of saving. In a civilized community in which trade is carried on, men lend, borrow and take risks, and private enterprise operates, one of the important functions of money is that of exchange. This and the other functions cannot be discharged effectively unless the currency of the community is held at a stable level, using that term in the sense in which, I hope, the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) used it before dinner. It means that all debts contracted should be paid in a currency which is of neither greater nor less value than the currency of the country in which the debt was contracted. I say, again, that this bill is directly related to the financial’ situation with which this Government is faced as a result of the war. “When the war broke out in September, 1939, the total public debt of Australia was £1,299,000,000. On the 31st March, last, the public debt was £2,588,000,000, and, including the last public loan, the debt has doubled within less than six years. The note issue on the day when- war broke out amounted to £49,275,000, but on the 21st May it was £186,000,000, so it has increased by nearly 300 per cent., whilst the public debt has increased by 100 per cent. The total amount of treasury-bills in circulation on the 31st August, 1939, Commonwealth and States combined, amounted to over £81,000,000. but the total amount of the bills in operation on the 21st May was £417,000,000. Therefore, the increase in the amount of treasury-bills has been 400 per cent.
– And 7,000,000 people have been benefited.
– I deduce from that interjection a view which, I suspect, prevails on the other side of the House. Not only the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan), but also every other honorable member opposite believes that happiness is to be measured by the amount of paper money in circulation. One of my constituents recently sent to me a German note of the face value of nearly 500,000 marks. Of course, we have heard of the way in which the financial re-construction of that country was effected.
– Its people were bankrupt in 1933, but from 1939 they kept the world at bay for three years.
– If time would permit I should like to go into the method by which that country became solvent ; but the honorable member is not prepared to go into city or country areas and advocate the adoption of that method in Australia.
– The currency of Germany was deliberately inflated.
– The figures which I have cited show the extent to which inflation has occurred in Australia. I put it to honorable members opposite that no increase of the productive capacity of this country has occurred commensurate with the figures which I have mentioned.
– A stupid bogy has been raised regarding inflation in Germany.
– It was not stupid for the people who were ruined by it. Honorable members opposite may try to explain the position in any way they like, but they cannot lightly dismiss the financial position with which the Curtin Government is faced to-day. The public debt has doubled, and the treasurybill issue ha3 increased by 400 per cent. They cannot escape the fact that the note issue has risen from £50,000,000 to £186,000,000. No honorable member opposite can truthfully say that the productive capacity of Australia has increased. I contend that in respect of the things which human beings need in time of peace, its capacity has actually decreased.
– Does the honorable member want us to stop the war?
– I am not asking the Minister to do that.
– Does the honorable member think that we should not pay our soldiers?
– I am too old a bird to be caught with chaff like that. I have grown too much grain not to know the difference between wheat and cocky chaff. We have more notes actually in circulation than ever before in the history of Australia, and more treasury-bills are on issue than ever previously. What is a treasury-bill? It is nothing hut a short-dated government promissory note. Honorable members will recall that whenever Micawber signed a promissory note he remarked : “Thank God, that’s settled”. The day will come when the Government will have to face up to the note issue position which has been created as a result of the prosecution of the war. I have said in times of peace that no matter what government may be in power, war and waste are inseparable. Therefore, I admit that the huge figures to which I have referred are partly the result of waste rather than war, .but that does not get us away from the cold, hard fact that a critical financial position has to ‘ be faced.
There will come a time in the history of the country when the people will want t,<> know exactly what the currency is based on. I referred previously to the important fact that it is the intention, and I have no doubt the desire, of the Labour party to abolish the gold reserve behind the note issue. I believe that the gold standard is the only ultimate standard by which the currency of any country is to be measured.
– Has the honorable member any gold shares?
– I have never had any.
– Why has the United States of America all the gold in the world and yet so much poverty?
– If my friend will consult with his colleagues on their return from the San Francisco conference - I hope it will be before the next elections - he will discover that there is not very much poverty in the United States of America to-day. Honorable members opposite can say what they like about getting away from the gold standard, but the fact remains that the present Government fixes the price of gold in Australia. On the 15th September last it increased the price by 2s. per oz. The price was raised from one record to another. When our currency was based on the gold standard, and when a treasury note issued by the Commonwealth Treasurer bore the inscription “ 1 promise to pay the bearer on demand at the seat of Government the price of standard gold was £& 17s. 10 1/2 d. per oz. and the price of fine gold was £4 5s. per oz. The price of fine gold to-day, as fixed by the Curtin Government in September last is £10 12s. per oz. That is the measure of the worth of paper currency. When the price of gold is no longer controlled, the price in Australia, in my opinion, will double, and that too will be the measure of the paper currency. If the Government no longer requires gold as a backing for the currency, why does it retain under this bill the power to fix its price? Why should it have the power to fix the price of gold any more than the price of wheat or other commodities?
– Would the honorable member leave that to private enterprise?
– No doubt private enterprise will fix it finally. If the honorable member looks at the peace treaties that Russia signed with Finland and Roumania, he will see that the indemnities are to be paid in gold.
– iSo there is some good in Russia, after all.
– I am not saying that. Within the last fortnight, the Government of China, led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, has increased the price of gold from 25,000 to 35,000 dollars per oz. It may be sheer coincidence, but I do not think that it is, that when the United States of America went off the gold standard and the gold dollar was de-valuated, the price of gold there was raised from 20 dollars to 35 dollars per oz. I have a strong suspicion that there is some connexion between those figures and the increase of the price of gold in China.
– The honorable gentleman knows well enough that the United States of America depreciated its currency so that it could trade with the world.
– I am glad of that interjection. When the Minister for Works was a private member, and when the question of the depreciation of the currency arose, the lead was taken, not by the Commonwealth Bank, but by one of those despised private institutions, the Bank of New South Wales. It v/as the general manager of the Bank of New South Wales who defied the Commonwealth Bank, went into the open market, and bought exchange at a higher figure than that offered by the Commonwealth Bank.
– The honorable member said that people in the United States of America were hungry because they had too much money.
– -Then they are no worse off than King Midas, who had too much gold. There are three things which mankind has always sought. One is the elixir of life, which it was thought would enable human life to be prolonged. I saw a statement recently that men now living would reach the age of 150 years. The second thing which mankind has sought after is the philosopher’s stone, by which certain wise men hoped that they would be able to transmute lead and the other base metals into gold. Thirdly, there has been the search for the Holy Grail. Such ideas as that still prevail, but the moment a government ceases to control the price of gold men will go out fossicking for it once more. Gold will have for them a greater allure than any other metal. Every currency ever issued rests finally upon a basis of public confidence. One of the best illustrations of this is to be found in the gospel according to Matthew. When the Pharisee went to our Lord and asked, ’’ Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar?”, our Lord, taking in His hand the coin of the tribute, asked in return, “ Whose image and superscripture is this ? “ That is a question which is asked, in effect, by every one *who handles currency. In other words, on what is the currency based? Honorable members opposite say that our currency will be based on nothing - no gold reserves, no sterling reserves, just confidence in the Government. We have had too many examples in the recent past of division in the ranks of honorable members opposite to have a great deal of confidence in the Government; not serious divisions, perhaps, but enough to show that differences of opinion exist. In an Australian journal tie other day, I read a story of the early mining days in Western Australia when official currency was so scarce that private individuals began issuing their own notes.
– The old. “shin plasters “.
– That is what they used to call such currency in the United States of America and, speaking of the United States of America, I recommend to the attention of honorable members the writings of Russell Lowell on credit and currency. Here I recall the story of a visitor who went into a bush store on one occasion and tendered a golden sovereign in payment for something he had bought. The old storekeeper look at it, stratched his head, and said that he did not know what it was. The visitor told him that it was a sovereign, and pointed to the image of the Queen’s head on the coin. The storekeeper replied, “ Yes, it does look a bit like the old woman, but who’s this chap on the other side on the horse wrastlin’ with the goanna ? “. No government, whether Liberal, Labour or composite, can tinker at the currency, or take power to itself to interfere with the assets of private persons, without incurring certain penalties.
– Is the honorable member content to leave this power to the private banks?
– The currency of Australia, both metal and paper, is issued by the Commonwealth Bank, and under the authority of the bank.
– Does the honorable member believe in the giving of promissory notes?
– Promissory notes and cheques are no more than orders to collect currency. This is not the first time that I have debated the subject in this House, and explained what happens when, for instance, a man subscribes to a government loan. In effect, he forgoes his right to use money to the amount of his subscription, so that it may be lent to the Government for its use. When the Government raises a loan, the Commonwealth becomes indebted to the subscribers, and Parliament should ensure that the debt will be eventually paid in currency as valuable in goods, commodities and services as was the money which, the investors originally subscribed. Honorable members opposite are for ever attacking the charging of interest. Let me give them a kindergarten lesson on economics. There are three factors in production - land, labour and capital - and none of these will work without reward. Land commands rent, labour commands wages and capital commands interest. Another favorite occupation of honorable members opposite’ is to damn those who take profit. I am interested in this profit motive. While honorable members opposite are loud in their condemnation of the great god profit, most of them would be only too glad to get into the temple by the side door and worship the god if they had the chance. They talk “loudly of plundering by bankers and merchants, but most of them would think themselves smart fellows if they were able to put £5 on a winning horse at twenty to one. That, at any rate, is something which holds no- temptation for me. I believe that the gambling instinct is one of the worst of the evils which afflict the community. Honorable members opposite can at least acquit the private banks of financing gambling propositions.
– Does the honorable member exclude the Stock Exchange?
– What is the Stock Exchange? It lists certain securities for sale, and there are buyers and sellers. That is something which has gone on all throughout history; there is nothing new in it. The real test of this legislation is how it will affect the individual. I do not care a hang about the private banks. They do not interest me, but I am interested in the right of the private person to bank his money where he will, and to borrow money where he will and on what terms he can get. These are matters for individual judgment. What will be the position if the hidden objective of the Labour party be attained? Every one knows that the Labour party is pledged to bring about the nationalization of banking. This legislation is only a step in that direction. If it is passed there will be eventually only one bank operating throughout the length and breadth of Australia - the Commonwealth Bank. In that respect, it will be like the Post Office is now.
– Hear, hear !
– I thought the honorable member would assent. The wealthiest man in Australia or the tramp on the road must each pay 2-Jd. to post a letter, and ls. to send a telegram. I know, because I fixed the rates myself. If there were only one bank operating in Australia we should be reduced to the same dead-level in regard to banking practice as we are now in our dealings with the Post Office. The great virtue in private banking is that, in many cases, the banker places his trust in the man rather than in the asset. The mallee lands of South Australia, about which I know something, would never have been opened up had it not been for the backing of the Bank of Adelaide - and it is not one of the biggest banks, either. The policy of this bank was to put its trust in the man, rather than in the proposition itself. A government-controlled bank, on the other hand, would have to operate according to regulations. What will happen after the next election if the people are so misguided as to return the Labour Government? They will then feel the effects of the legislation which we are now debating. Serious consideration must be given to the servicing of the Commonwealth debt, and the problem of funding £480,000,000 ot treasury-bills will have to be tackled. To-day, there is this safeguard - no matter how many currency notes a man may have, he cannot do a great deal of spending, except on the black market, unless he is also provided with another piece of government paper - a ration card. The day will come when this barrier to spending will be moved. Moreover, the people will demand currency notes of a higher denomination than £10. The action of the Government in withdrawing such notes from circulation is a clear indication of what people may expect in the future if this legislation is agreed to.
– The same thing has been done in England.
– I wonder whether the honorable member would be prepared to support any proposition I put up if I could show that it had been accepted in England. We must see how these things affect us here in Australia. The effect of this legislation will not he apparent until after the next elections. The public debt of Australia is of such a nature that there must be some kind of financial reconstruction. The Government’s proposal to vest certain powers in the Commonwealth Bank is an underhand way of carrying over into peace-time certain laws .which were introduced in time of war in the form of National Security Regulations for the control of funds. I particularly object to the proposal that private banks shall not be allowed to increase their business. This does not square with the public declaration of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) in England that private enterprise would be afforded opportunities in Australia after the war. Every one who has any knowledge of the history of the Labour party, its objectives and methods, must be fearful that the Government has it in mind to do certain things which are not stated in this bill. This is merely the instrument which the Government will use for its purpose. Banking has passed through a period of continuous development, and it will continue to develop in the same way as other private concerns do. There are certain functions to be performed by a central bank under the financial structure of any country - functions which only a central bank can perform - but there are also functions which can only be conducted properly under a system of private banking. I think that we have that system in Australia to-day. I believe that this bill will destroy something and not put anything worthwhile in its place; therefore I shall oppose it.
– The two bills which the House is discussing - the Commonwealth Bank Bill and the Banking Bill - might more properly be described as the “Anti-depression Bill” and the “ Anti-unemployment Bill “ respectively, because their passage will ensure that after this war Australia will not again be plunged into the depths of a depression such as it knew from 1930 onwards until the outbreak of the war, and which it also knew in the ‘90’s of last century, when many banks collapsed. Honorable members opposite have protested vigorously, but vainly, that they have no interest in the private banks, and are not concerned with protecting monopolies. They claim to see great danger in what they describe as the political control of banking - .something which they have convinced themselves will be introduced if these measures be passed. We on this side are opposed to the political control of banking, if by that term is meant that we want members of Parliament, or members of the Government, to interfere with administrative acts of the Commonwealth Bank; but we believe that the ultimate responsibility for the determination of banking policy rests in this Parliament, and nowhere else. To the cry that we stand for the political control of banking we answer that we do not stand for bankers’ control of politics. That control of politics has been continuous during the years of various anti-Labour administrations in every .State and also in the Commonwealth. The history of private banking in this country is a record of corruption, dishonesty, fraud and failure. We must ensure that, just as the Commonwealth Parliament is responsible for the determination of every other policy which affects the lives and the well-being of the people, so it must decide the banking policy which shall be in force in the nation. We do not allow free-traders, importers or manufacturers, to decide the country’s fiscal policy; nor do we allow the Taxpayers Association - more aptly described as the Tax-dodgers Association - to determine taxation policy. We do not allow admirals, generals and air vice-marshals to determine the naval, military and air force policy which is to be pursued. The Government employs them as its advisers, but ultimately the chosen representatives of the people in this Parliament decide whether they will accept or reject the advice that is tendered. There is nothing about banking so mysterious that bonkers alone must be left to decide the banking policy of the nation, and to what degree a policy of deflation or inflation shall be pursued. For far too long there has been bankers’ control of the finances of this country. The result has been that we have experienced disaster after disaster. There was disaster in the depression years, and it continued until the outbreak of the present war. In the course of his speech the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) said inferentially that the depression ended about 1935. The honorable member said : “The Lyons Government, having helped the country out of the depression appointed a royal commission on banking “. The inference is that about the year 1934, when that royal commission was appointed, the depression had finished its woeful course.
– The Minister should not attempt to twist my words.
– The honorable gentleman went on to say, “ I hold no brief for the private banks. I believe that during the depression some, but not all of them, were too conservative in their methods”, but no one believed him when he said it. In that statement he admitted two things, both equally important. His first admission was that the banks, not the Government, implemented financial policy; the second admission is that that policy was too conservative. His exact words were that the policy of the banks was too deflationary.
– There was competition between the banks.
– The honorable gentleman tried to create the impression that the government of which he was a member had rescued Australia from the worst evils of the depression.
– It was a government, not the deplorable thing that is called a government to-day.
– I shall show what sort of a government it was. The honorable member for Balaclava, if his latest statement is to be believed, was of the opinion that about 1934 or 1935 Australia was on the way to recovery and had overcome the worst evils of the depression.
– That is right. It was. then that we set up the royal commission.
– The government of the day had been blackmailed by the Country party and had to establish a royal commission. The motion which forced the government to appoint the royal commission was moved by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) on behalf of the Country party. Members of that party who will vote against this bill when the division is taken were like roaring lions, declaiming against the banks during the depression. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) was one of them.
– He was not in the House at that time.
– As a member of the Country party, he was going about the countryside declaiming against the banks. I shall tell to the House some of the things that were happening about the time when, according to the honorable member for Balaclava, everything was all right. On the 2nd June, 1934, the honorable member had a celebration in the St. Kilda Town Hall. Members of the Australian Women’s National League were there in force. All the dowagers and the young matrons of the wealthy class were present to cheer him and his Prime Minister, Mr. Lyons. The then Prime Minister addressed the. meeting, and in the course of his remarks’, said -
The Commonwealth, thanks to sound finance and stable government, is at last well along the road to economic recovery.
On the same night, the Star, a newspaper published in Melbourne at that time, published a description of a scene in the electorate of Melbourne which I represent in Parliament to-day. The article was headed, “ Family Sleeps in Lane “. While the honorable member for Balaclava was cheering because there had been a recovery from the depression, and while members of the Australian Women’s National League were cheering with him, this is the kind of thing that was taking place -
When arrears of rent caused the eviction of Mrs. Jessie Compt and her four children from a house in Spring-street, Fitzroy, her few pieces of furniture were piled in a back lane adjoining a forge and machine shop. There, huddled about a fire which burned in a. dustbin, the family kept a cold and dreary vigil last night, while the thermometer dropped to a minimum of 41 degrees.
To add to Mrs. Crompt’s distress she had the worry of nursing a child aged eighteen months, who was, until recently! an inmate of the Queen Victoria Hospital, suffering from pneumonia, while she herself has been in noor health since the birth of a child who died a few weeks ago.
That occurred on the very night that the honorable member for Balaclava was taking credit for the way in which the Government of which he was a member had allegedly helped to restore national solvency.
– That child is now twelve years old.
-She is lucky to be alive, after the treatment she received from the banks and the Government which was in office during the depression. The honorable member is in the habit of chiding the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) about war service homes, particularly the small number that have been built since the war began; yet he was a member of a government which, because the banks of this country forced on it a policy of deflation, evicted returned soldiers from war service homes.
– I rise to order. The Minister is not telling the truth. The Government of which I was a member built 17,000war service homes.
– That is not a point of order.
– I shall tell the House the facts as recorded in the Melbourne Sun - an organ of the Murdoch group - under date the 26th July, 1 934-
Because he had failed to meet payments due, R. T. Thompson, a former soldier, was evicted yesterday by the War Service Homes Commissioner from his home in Gallipolistreet, West Coburg. Thompson has a. wife and four daughters. On behalf of the Commission it was stated last night that after full inquiry into the circumstances Thompson had been treated according to the Commission’s policy.
The Melbourne Sun also published photographs of the eviction and showed some of Mr. Thompson’s belongings after they had been removed from the house. The honorable member for Balaclava evicted this returned soldier from a war service home.
– That is a deliberate lie. I never evicted any one in my life.
– The Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member evicted this returned soldier from a war service home located in Gallipolistreet, West Coburg. As far as he and his party are concerned, it was for many returned soldiers a case of: 1914, flags; 1934, rags and doss-houses. It is to ensure that that state of affairs will not be repeated in this country, and that the bankers shall not be able to enforce their will on the Australian community, that this legislation is needed. I could cite other instances of families being evicted from their homes in Richmond, and, indeed, of similar happenings in every capital city and in every hamlet and country town. The effects of deflation, as of inflation, are cumulative in their ill effects and lead to mass unemployment. Deflation brought mass unemployment upon the people of this land. Yet the honorable member says that he does not believe that the banks created the depression. Sir Herbert Holden, one of the most eminent banking authorities in Great Britain, in lecturing students at Oxford University, said -
What brought about the depression ? Everybody knows that the depression was caused by the bankers the world over in following up their time-old policy of calling up overdrafts and advances.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) quoted at length from Lord D’Albernon, a distinguished British financier, statesman and diplomat, but one very important statement made by the noble lord he did not give. Speaking of the economic crisis in 1931 he said -
What has really occurred has been a hold-up in currency.
The most significant statement relating to the power of those who control money came from Mr. Reginald McKenna, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer and chairman of the Midland Bank, who said -
They who control the credit of the nation direct the policy of governments and hold in the hollow of their hands the destiny of the people.
Of course, honorable gentlemen opposite, knowing that all those opinions are on record, try to adopt a double attitude. They oppose the bill and, at the same time, say they are not under the influence of the private financial institutions. They say that they have no time for the money power, but what they really want to do is to ensure the continuance of the rule of the money power whilst trying to fool the people that they are its opponents. The truth is that the
Australian Labour party is the only party that has ever attempted to come to grips with the financial institutions that rule this country and all countries. The Labour party passed the first Commonwealth Bank Bill in 1911. The bank was sabotaged in 1924, and there was no mandate from the people to justify it. As a matter of fact, the 1922 general elections were held with the present right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) as Prime Minister. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was Leader of the Country party. Mr. Charlton was Leader of the Labour party.
– The honorable gentleman’s political history is astray.
– That is not so. I am as well aware as is the honorable gentleman that at that period the then Prime Minister had, transferred his allegiance from Bendigo to North Sydney. He was elected in North Sydney, not in Bendigo, as the honorable gentleman seems to think. There was nothing in his policy speech which provided for the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board or interference with the Labour Government’s legislation. The then Leader of the Country party, the right honorable member for Cowper, did advocate the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank Board on the lines of the board of the Bank of England. He was the leader of a rump in this Parliament. He had no mandate from the people. When the then honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) deserted his leader and at the behest of the money power formed a coalition government with the Country party, he accepted the dictation of that party and passed legislation in 1924 which provided for the setting up of the Commonwealth Bank Board. I know the great importance that honorable gentlemen opposite attach to the Commonwealth Bank Board. I know that to them the board is everything. I know that they would pass all this legislation tonight if we would only allow the Bank Board to remain. It is the Commonwealth Bank Board that they are anxious to protect, and that is why the Leader of the Opposition in his speech on these measures said -
When we on this side of the chamber are returned to office, we shall take prompt steps to restore board control to the Commonwealth Bank.
But the right honorable gentleman, of course, knows that this party will never accept the Commonwealth Bank Board. He knows that we opposed the legislation which in 1924 set up the Bank Board. That bill was “ guillotined “ through this Parliament, but the Labour party fought strenuously to secure the deletion from the bill of the clauses setting up the Bank Board. On the 10th July, 1924, Hansard, volume 107, at page 2022, the then Treasurer, the right honorable member for Cowper,”the tragic Treasurer “, as he was described by one of his own colleagues, is reported as saying of the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Charlton -
I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on his dogged determination to disembowel the bill. This is the third attempt that has been made to destroy the proposal for a Board of Directors for the Commonwealth Bank. First of all a motion was moved in the House to appoint a board of experts from inside the bank. On the last series of proposed new sections an amendment was moved to appoint a hoard of three, and now the honorable member is moving a further amendment to delete certain proposed new sections without substituting anything in its place.
The evidence of 1945, as of 1924, shows the great importance that honorable gentlemen opposite place upon a board of directors representative of private vested interests being given that control the destinies of the Commonwealth Bank. We have only to look over the people who have sat on the Commonwealth Bank Board since its inception to see just how few democrats have been appointed to the board. One of the first members was the late J. J. Garvan. He was associated with insurance companies. Then there was the late Sir Robert Gibson, who certainly was no friend of the democracy of this country. He has a lot to answer for in the number of people whom he condemned to undeserved destitution and misery during the depression. There was Sir Samuel Hordern, another well known democrat! He is chairman of the Australian Mutual Provident Society. Then we had
– Is he not also a director of Younghusbands Limited?
– Then the Minister should say that in fairness.
– I am thankful that the honorable member has at last decided to be of some assistance. Ho is a member of the board of directors of Younghusbands Limited, and, I might add that another director of the National Bank, Mr. H. D. Giddy, is the chairman of directors of the Herald and Weekly Times Limited. We see in all these directorates an interlocking and an interchangeability which make the control of the banks, the press, the insurance companies and great mercantile firms like Younghusbands Limited and all the other large profit-making institutions as one. Those from private institutions, who have served on the Commonwealth Bank Board have been there not to protect the interests of the nation, but to protect the interests of big business. They have done it very well, but they will not do it much longer, because, about three weeks hence, the portions of the Commonwealth Bank Bill abolishing the Commonwealth Bank Board will be proclaimed and the board will disappear for ever. The general manager of the same National Bank, which I have been discussing, Mr. McConnan, has had something to say about this bill and about my colleague the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward).
– He is running far cover now.
– I have no doubt that my colleague is capable of dealing with him and with any other general manager of any of the other associated banks. What I want to emphasize is that Mr. McConnan was really intended as Governor of the Commonwealth Bank when Mr. Armitage was appointed. It was the intention of the Menzies Government to appoint him.
– That is a positive lie.
– That is true. I knew that that would touch the Opposition on the raw. Honorable members opposite could not let that pass. The truth is, that Mr. Armitage was appointed Governor in an attempt to appease the Labour party in 1941. It was an attempt by the then government to remain on the treasury bench with the support of the two independents, who later sided with us to enable the first Curtin Government to be formed, because they had awakened to our predecessors’ shortcomings. The truth is that, if the anti-Labour parties had had a working majority in this Parliament, Mr. McConnan and not Mr. Armitage would have been the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to-day, and would have applied still further the policy of sabotaging the Commonwealth Bank. I could tell other stories about activities of the honorable gentleman opposite to destroy the Commonwealth Bank, but time does not permit. It is futile, therefore, for the Leader of the Opposition and other ex-Ministers in the Opposition parties who were scraped off the treasury bench like barnacles off a ship’s bottom at the time of Australia’s greatest peril to pretend they are not the agents of the private banks. No matter what protests honorable gentlemen opposite utter, the banking institutions will never be able again to pretend that the Commonwealth Bank Board, from its inception until now, has been free from anti-Labour or other political influence.
I want so say something about the other depression - the depression of the nineties. The Leader of the Opposition said -
It is true that in 1$!)3 there was a bank crisis, following upon the breaking of a land boom, and that some hanks got into difficulties from which a number of them never emerged.
The fact is that two of the banks that were functioning at that period closed before the boom burst. It is true that every bank in Victoria, including those with head-quarters in Victoria and those with head-quarters in London, and excepting the five banks whose head offices were in New South Wales collapsed. Every one of them, as my colleague, the Minister for Transport, has said, reconstructed. Some of them have never repaid what they owe to the depositors or their heirs and successors. The worst offender of the lot was the English, Scottish and Australian Bank with head-quarters in London. One of the directors of that bank is Sir Olive Baillieu. Some of his family took advantage of the crash of the ‘nineties. They were associated with a bank - the Federal Bank - which was started, managed and controlled by a sanctimonious humbug, a Minister in the Victorian Government, the late James Munro, and all the deposits and share capital of that bank were used up in advances to the Baillieus and their friends. When the bank crashed the depositors and shareholders got nothing. Most of the banks that reconstructed did so by confiscating the deposits of the unfortunate public of Victoria and issuing preference shares for them. The English, Scottish and Australian Bank issued 4£ per cent, preference shares. A few years later the bank, because it was working under a British charter, persuaded the British Parliament to pass an act to reduce the interest rate from 4£ per cent, to 3 per cent. ; and, although it is 52 years since the bank crashed in Victoria, none of the £2,000,000 that remained owing to depositors of that bank in Victoria and other
States has ever been repaid by the directors of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank. The English shareholders of this institution have made fortunes, recording in some years, dividends at a rate as high as 20 per cent. If they made only 10 per cent, they got their capital back twice over in twenty years. Records of the Melbourne Stock Exchange show that even now, of the money lost in the bank crashes in Victoria, about £890,000 is still owing to the holders of these shares. Directors of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank wait until the preference shares come on to the Stock Exchange, and buy them up at the rate of 12s. in the £1. Thus, they not only defraud on the interest, but even refuse to pay back the full amount of the principal. And yet the protagonists of the private banking institutions who sit on the Opposition benches presume to read us a lesson on political morality. They presume to question the equity of this legislation, and to tell us that it is unethical for a Labour government to insist that State Governments, municipal councils and other local government bodies shall bank with the Commonwealth Bank and not with private banks. The Leader of the Opposition told us one of his usual half-truths about the bank smashes of the ‘nineties. Let me tell the whole story.
In Victoria twelve trading banks closed their doors, 100 land banks failed, 500 land syndicates collapsed and 48 building societies defaulted. The twelve banks alone had total liabilities of £104,000,000, of which £80,000,000 represented the deposits of the public. These were seized and transferred into interminable securities, carrying interest at low rates where the particular institution could be patched up. A reign of terror prevailed in Victoria at that time. Thousands of toilers were ruined and multitudes impoverished. Soup kitchens were opened to feed the workless. In those days there were no invalid or old-age pensions. Many people became mentally deranged as the result of losing all their savings through the manipulations of scoundrels. Some of those scoundrels were members of the Legislature of Victoria; and if they were alive to-day they would be just as vocal in their opposition to this legislation a.f is the honorable member for Balaclava. Over-borrowing and over-lending on boom valuations were the canker which ate into the heart of Victoria. For ten years after that, Victoria looked into the darkness. It was 30 years before the wreckage was cleared away, and even to-day, 50 years after the event, the effect ofl that collapse is still being felt. One prominent financier was imprisoned, and leading public men fled the country Fraudulent land valuers were exposed, and the nationalist politicians of the time were discredited. That was the result of private banking control of finance. The Leader of the Opposition also failed to tell another significant fact. He failed to tell us that the young Solicitor-General in the Victorian Government of that day was forced out of the Government because he wanted to prosecute the dishonest financiers. He was forced out by the then Attorney-General, Sir Bryan O’Loghlen. The disaster ruined many people in not only Victoria but also in other colonies. Many land syndicates failed in New South Wales. But for the action of the Dibbs Government the results in that colony would, have been equally disastrous. However, this young Solicitor-General was destined to make an imperishable name in the service of this country. He helped to draw up the Constitution of the Commonwealth, and was a member of the first Commonwealth Parliament. Later, he was appointed one of the first members of the High Court of Australia and, subsequently, became its Chief Justice. Later still, he became the first Australian-horn Governor-General of this nation. Sir Isaac Isaacs was forced out of his Government because he wanted to expose by criminal prosecution the rascality of financial manipulators. The Leader of the Opposition did not tell that story; and he cannot be ignorant of it, because it is possible for him to ascertain the facts as I have done. Honorable members who wish to study the history of the bank crashes of the ‘nineties can do so by reading the late Professor Shann’s An Enonomic History of Australia, the late George Meudell’s The Pleasant Career of a Spendthrift, the late Randolph Bedford’s Naught to Thirty-Three, the report of the Royal Commission on State
Banking, in Victoria, 1895, and the Australasian and Insurance Banking Record of 1893. Following the smashes in the nineties, the Banking Record of 1893 advocated the establishment of a central bank. It pointed out that a central bank could not possibly be established because the colonies were not then federated, but urged that when federation was accomplished a central bank could be established which would be of great benefit to the private banking institutions. That is why the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), when he was Treasurer, amended the Commonwealth Bank Act. Thus we have to go back 50 years to find ip a conservative and capitalist journal the inspiration for the amendment effected to the Commonwealth Bank Act in 1924.
Following the bank smashes in Victoria, the Victorian Parliament appointed a royal commission to inquire into State banking. I hold in my hand a 50-year-old copy of the report of that commission made in 1895. That report is significant. The personnel of the commission included only one Labour man, Mr. W. D. Beazley, M.L.A., whom I remember well as a boy, and it is strange that the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems appointed by the Lyons Government in 1935 included only one Labour man, namely, the present Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). Thus the report of the Victorian commission was signed by many people who had no affection for the Labour movement, who were not members of the Labour party, and whose philosophy was generally opposed to that expounded by the Labour party. The commission’s report was signed by Mr. Joseph Winter, M.L.A., who was chairman, Mr. J. Hume-Cook, M.L.A., who later became the member for Bourke in this Parliament, Mr. William D. Beazley, M.L.A., the first Labour Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, Mr. A. 0. Sachse, M.L.C., and Mr. Thomas Scott, M.L.A. Mr. Nathaniel Levi, M.L.A., signed the report of the commission, but expressed dissent from the recommendation to establish a land mortgage department in connexion with the proposed State bank, whilst Mr. T. Kennedy, M.L.A., signed the report but dissented from the commission’s recommendations with respect to the proposed administration of the proposed State hank, lending on mallee lease-holds and the State bank undertaking commercial business of any description. Mr. R. M. Smith, M.L.A., and Mr.F. S. Grimwade, M.L.C., opposed the establishment of any State bank. The royal commission recommended the establishment of a State bank having’ as its basis the amalgamation of the then existing savings banks which were to be divided into four departments - first, a savings bank department; secondly, an issue department which would issue notes against the par value of gold; thirdly, a land mortgage department which would establish the Credit Foncier system; and, fourthly, and most important of all, a banking department to manage government and municipal accounts, to arrange for the flotation and management of all future government loans, to make advances to municipalities and to be the department wherein friendly, charitable and non-trading societies, retail traders and others could keep their accounts. That royal commission, 52 years ago, laid the foundation, in effect, of the Commonwealth Bank Act of 1911; it recommended, as we propose to do now, that State governments, semi-governmental bodies and municipal councils he compelled to bank with a State bank - the Commonwealth Bank. But that commission’s report came to nothing, because the forces of wealth were too strongly entrenched in the Victorian legislature, particularly in the Legislative Council. This Legislative Council was, and still is, elected upon a restricted property franchise which operated not only in respect of voting, but also in respect of membership. Until recent years a person could not qualify for membership unless he owned unencumbered freehold property to the value of at least £1,000. Just as the forces of predatory wealth were strong enough to prevent effect being given to that commission’s report on the establishment of a State bank in Victoria in the last decade of the last century, so the same forces of predatory wealth and monetary power were strong enough to prevent theCommonwealth from giving effect to the royal commission’s report on monetary and banking systems in 1937. This Govern ment is determined to give effect to those portions of the report of that commission, which will ensure that the Government shall lay down the banking policy of the nation in the event of any disagreement in a matter of policy between the Government and the authority controlling the bank. I shall now deal with the scandalous behaviour of the Commonwealth Bank Board during the depression years. The chairman of the board at that time was Sir Robert Gibson, whose only claim to membership of the board was that he was a successful business man; and his claim to success in business lay in the fact that he was a successful bedstead manufacturer. He sent the following letter to Mr. Theodore, who was then Treasurer, on the 13th February, 1931:-
Dear Mr. Theodore,
With reference to your discussions with the directors of the Bank Board on the subject of the rehabilitation of the financial and industrial position of Australia, when it was agreed that some concerted effort must be made to cope with the situation and so avoid, if possible, the ultimate disaster which will otherwise eventually face the country, I am requested by my Board to convey to you a resolution of the Board as set forth hereunder
For sheer audacity I know of nothing to equal this -
Subject to adequate and equitable reductions in all wages, salaries, and allowances, pensions, social benefits of all kinds-
That means invalid and old-age pensions - interest and other factors which affect the cost of living, the Commonwealth Bank Board will actively co-operate with the trading banks and the governments of Australia in sustaining industry and restoring employment.
The Commonwealth Bank Board thus blackmailed the Parliament of this country, and Parliament was powerless to prevent the action because, whilst the Labour Government had a majority in this chamber, anti-Labour forces were entrenched in the Senate. Sir Robert Gibson knew no more about banking than does the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) or the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). His letter continued -
My Board realizes that this resolutionin itself can be taken as only a comprehensive objective which it is desirable to aim for, and necessitates practical co-operation and effort in its attainment. This necessitates some definite movement and the creation of constructive plans for accomplishment.
I am requested to state that my Board desires me, as chairman, to co-operate with you in every way possible to this end and to join with you in calling together a conference of the trading banks, when general measures might be adopted for the purpose of giving effect to the .terms of the resolution, and the creation of a sub-committee, to be approved, representing the Government, the Commonwealth Bank, and the trading banks, to watch developments and advise upon methods to be adopted which will further the attainment of the return to prosperity of the country.
I conclude by observing that never again, once this legislation passes, shall we have to tolerate a state within a state, or a nation within a nation.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. During his speech, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) said that I had evicted a returned soldier.
– That is right.
– The statement is quite untrue. I have never evicted a returned soldier, or anybody else.
– The honorable gentleman was a member of a government which evicted a good many returned soldiers.
– The Government had nothing to do with it.
– Like Pontius Pilate, the honorable member may wash his hands of responsibility, but that does not alter the facts.
– The Standing Orders do not permit me to engage in an argument with the Minister while I am making a personal explanation. I repeat that bis statement is untrue. I have never evicted anybody in my life.
– Like a voice from the past, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said-
– I rise to order. I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) rose in her place when the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) had concluded his personal explanation. As the previous speaker was the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), I submit that the honorable member for Darwin, and not the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Fraser) should have received the call.
– I understood that the honorable member for Darwin did not desire to speak until to-morrow, and, therefore, I called the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
– Once again, the honorable member for Barker has proclaimed in this chamber the supremacy of golden values over human values. The speech which I heard him make this evening was a direct parallel with the speeches made by his colleagues in the Senate fourteen or fifteen years ago, at a time of unexampled, depression in this country, when they successfully opposed the sending abroad of even £5,000,000 worth of gold. The honorable member for Barker proceeded to issue a warning against the dangers of inflation in this country, and, at the same time, opposed a measure, one of. the purposes of which is to provide the machinery to prevent the development of the danger of inflation in Australia after the war. The third point made by the honorable member was that this legislation, if passed, would interfere further with individual human rights’ in this community - an argument which is very familiar in opposition to all progressive measures for the extension of. public economic controls. As to the purpose of this measure there need be no argument. The effect of this legislation is to maintain and extend in the post-war years public controls over the financial system, such as are being operated in time of war under special war-time powers. This legislation does confer upon the Government power over banking policy, power to regulate banking, and power to protect the currency and the credit of the Commonwealth.
The claim for the granting of such powers to the National Parliament rests upon two contentions. The first is that the Government alone must accept final responsibility for the economic health and prosperity of the community. The second is that banking policy is an essential feature of the machinery to maintain such economic health, and to promote the economic welfare of the community. If the responsibility of maintaining full employment, raising the standard of living and ensuring the economic health df the community is to be placed upon the shoulders of government, as it is to-day, then it follows that government must be given the power necessary to discharge that responsibility. Banking policy is one of the essential portions of that power. But the opponents of this measure, following the same line of argument as has been developed by the honorable member for Barker, are again endeavouring to persuade the people that the passage of this measure will interfere with, and reduce the essential liberties of the individual in the community. The idea is being sedulously fostered in the public mind that if the people can succeed in eliminating government economic controls, they will have removed all controls over their economic destinies. The truth, of course, is just the opposite to that belief. The contest to-day is not between economic controls exercised by government and no economic controls. The contest is to see whether, in the post-war years, economic controls shall be exercised by the government in the public interest, or whether there shall be a reversion to a system which operated in all the years prior to the war, when very stern and strict economic controls were exercised by big business in the interests of private monopoly and private profit-making.
If, as the result of the public controversy now proceeding, the public is induced to, take away from the government in the post-war years such powers as are sought under this legislation, then big business will again obtain its own control over the economic destinies of the people. If big business again becomes the economic planning authority in this country, the object of the economic controls exercise!:] in Australia will be to restrict output so as to ensure high prices for the products of monopoly and to establish and maintain again in this community a large reservoir of unemployed labour. As honorable members of the Opposition will agree, if economic controls are to be successfully exercised by big business in this community, it will be a part of the deliberate plan of those who control big business here, and of their supporters in this Parliament, to establish in Australia a large army of unemployed labour. The authority for that statement is one which members of the Opposition will accept. It is given first in the London Times - a newspaper for the accuracy of whose statements the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) vouched in this chamber to-day. Only a few months ago, the Times stated -
Unemployment is not a mere accidental blemish in a private enterprise economy. On the contrary, it is part of the essential mechanism of the system and has a definite function to fulfil. The first function of unemployment (which has always existed in open or disguised forms) is that it maintains the authority of master over mau.
If any members of the Opposition do not accept the statement of the Times on this matter, I am able to cite an authority which they will undoubtedly accept as their gospel. I refer to the Bankers’ Magazine, which is the official journal of the private banking interests. It published this statement -
And is there not also a tendency in much of this modern planning to overlook the fact that, human nature being what it is, the workers of the future will require the old spur of rewards and punishment (good profits and good wages, fears of losses and bankruptcy, and, yes, fears of unemployment and poverty), to ensure the necessary drive in this world of internal and international competition ?
That conflicts with the way in which the appeal to the people to resist and oppose this measure of public control is made in the propaganda now being circulated and paid for by those same banking interests. I quote a typical advertisement to show the form in which this appeal to the public is being made. It reads -
We are fighting this war for eternal values, for Christian principles, for Liberty and Freedom and for the soul of man. For freedom to lead our own lives, for freedom from State interference, for freedom from filling up endless forms, and from dictation and direction by Government officials, and for freedom from the continuance of State control after the war.
In those sentences, the author of the advertisement mixes up the abstract and idealist statement with the one practical statement aimed to secure the abolition of public economic controls, so that private profit-making economic controls may a.gain be established for this community. Their- appeal to the people is made in the name of freedom, but as
I have shown, they seek, not freedom for the people, but freedom for big business itself .to re-establish its own control over the people. If big business does obtain that unchecked’ power over the community, we shall see, as we saw .before the war, not the freedom, but the economic enslavement of the masses of the people. There will be a constantly maintained reservoir of unemployment, so that even the man in a job will always have the fear of unemployment marching with him. Insecurity will be at each man’s elbow to drive him on to work. The distribution of the products of industry will be deliberately throttled down in order to preserve the high profits of the monopolists. That is planned by big business for the freedom of big business.
– Economic conscription.
– Yes. It is the inevitable sequel, if public economic controls, such as this bill seeks to preserve in the post-war years, are removed. Therefore, the seeker after individual freedom must reject the signboard which points him away from the continuance of public economic controls after the war, and instead, he roust realize that it is only by the wise exercise of such controls, by economic planning done openly by the whole community through its democratic institutions for the common good, and by the enthusiastic acceptance by the people as a whole of the idea of the positive State existing to organize the welfare of its citizens to promote economic security and a higher standard of living, that individual freedom in this community can be truly maintained and extended.
With all that I have said, most people are in agreement, but they say, and I feel that they say it with some measure of justification, that they have experienced public economic controls during the war. They comment that their experience of such controls during the war years has been in terms of manpower compulsion, tremendously high taxation, censorship, rationing and many other things which they wish to see, not continued, but ended. But that attitude of mind is the result of the very confusion which I have suggested is deliberately engendered in the public mind by the agents of big business - confusion of the operation of public economic controls with the operation of restrictions which have had to be imposed during the war solely because of special war circumstances. In fact, if we examine the operation of financial controls during the war and of public economic controls generally during the last five years, we find that they have not reduced the production of goods available for consumption. On the contrary, they have greatly increased the production of these goods. The restrictions have arisen, not from the operation of public financial and other economic controls, but from the obvious necessity to divert to the war task the greatest possible part of production. Had national economic planning not existed to some degree in this community in the last five years, the volume of essential production would have been, far less than it has been, with the result that we would have had to impose on the Australian civil community far greater restrictions than have had to be imposed during that time. I wish, the Government wishes, and the people of this country wish these restrictions removed at the earliest possible moment. That would be entirely compatible with national economic planning. In fact the more such planning is used, the earlier it will be possible to remove the restrictions, because, of course, the earliest moment at which restrictions can properly be removed, is when the shortages caused by the war no longer exist in our community.
With the powers given by these bills to continue public control of the finance after the war, it will be possible in the immediate post-war years, first, to so direct the financial system that we shall avoid a repetition of the chaos and unemployment which followed the last war, and secondly, to promote actively the economic security and personal freedom of every individual in the community. I have said that public economic and financial controls during the war have resulted in a great increase of production. How great that increase has been can be measured in several ways. One way is to remember that whereas our national income before the war was about £700,000,000, it is now approximately double that figure. Another test is that whereas fourteen workers in every 100 were unemployed on the day that war broke out, to-day all workers are in employment. The third test is that although for the past several years, half the total labour force in this community has been employed solely upon the war task, there has been very little if any reduction of the effective living standard of the people as a whole. Of course there has been a reduction of the living standard of some of those who were in employment before the war, but counting as portion of the Australian community, the large body of people who, before the war, were living on the dole or on other forms of sustenance available to them, it is true to say that the standard of living to-day is as high as it was in the immediate post-war years. I admit that many factors contribute to that result; but the the chief of these is the exercise of public control over the financial and economic system, combined with the fact that for the first time in our history there has been a market for everything that we have been able to produce, although, in a large part, that market has been represented by the deliberate destruction of the goods produced. Therefore, by national and financial planning such as these measures contemplate, there will be a great opportunity in the post-war years for the maintenance of high output and full employment, and for the use of the products of that employment to raise the standard of living of the entire community. Obviously, to achieve this, an essential task of government will be to maintain at a high figure in post-war years the purchasing power of the nation, which in my opinion will require the deliberate preparation of a budget providing for total national expenditure equal to the total value of full production, with every one in employment. That in turn will require the taking into -account of the total war expenditure of private industry including private capital expenditure, and the arrangement of public expenditure to bridge the gap between that total expenditure and what is required fully to employ the entire resources of the community. Again, that will necessitate the Commonwealth Bank working in close co-operation with the Treasury to adopt and maintain a policy of expanding advances as required by the total level of spending in the community, and also providing the necessary capital assistance for small growing businesses. So that the workers, the farmers, the small business men, and in fact all those who contribute towards creating this high production, shall share in it, it will be necessary to maintain the strictest control, not only over the operation of the banking system, but also over land values. Any increase of land values created by the activities of the community as a whole must go into the revenues of the community, and be used for the good of the community instead of being appropriated by private land owners.
To the successful working of the scheme, there are two obvious threats: The first is the possibility of noncooperation of private industry and big business in the task that has to be carried out, or in fact of deliberate sabotage of national planning by big business - a power which is well within the scope of big business. If, in an endeavour deliberately to sabotage public economic controls, the combines which monopolize so many basic commodities on which the rest of our industries depend, and will depend in the post-war years, aimed at restricted output and relatively high prices, they could undermine the whole resources of our national planning. Therefore, it seems to me that in the national planning of which these measures are a most important part, it will be necessary also to bring in national ownership and control, as required, of such combines and in fact all phases of the economic system which by virtue of their key positions, set the tone for the working of the rest.
The other obvious great threat to the success of national planning is the possibility of a disastrous fall of the overseas prices of those products which we export, such as that which precipitated the depression in this country sixteen years ago. Obviously, we cannot determine the prices which our products will bring on the markets of the world, but to some degree, we can offset that danger by entering into long term agreements with the Government of the United Kingdom and with other governments for the sale of our primary products at fixed and profitable prices for a period of years. Such agreements already have been made, and I believe that we shall have an opportunity to enter into many more after next month when a ‘Labour government will be in power in Great Britain. It is clear that whilst Australia continues to be substantially an exporting country, an important factor in our standard of living must be the return which we obtain from overseas for our exports. However, there is no reason why a sharp variation of overseas prices should be borne solely at the onset by the primary producers, with the resultant depressing effects being spread throughout the community as was the case in 1929-30. The primary producer is entitled to, aud under the Government’s proposed economic and financial controls it will be possible to give to him, a guaranteed price for his labour such as is given to the workers in secondary industries. It is essential as part of the public economic planning which we are considering in this legislation, that the farmer should have a guaranteed profitable price for his production the cost being imperceptibly spread over the whole community without shock or injury to the high income economy which we are endeavouring to stabilize and maintain in the postwar years.
These bills have been attacked on many grounds, the chief of them being that to which I have endeavoured to reply, namely that they interfere with the individual freedom of the citizens of this country. I bare endeavoured to show that they constitute a piece of mechanism essential to the provision and maintenance of the highest degree of freedom for each individual in the community. The basis of one attack upon this legislation was that it would replace the Commonwealth Bank Board by a governor and an advisory committee. The existing legislation, provides that of eight members of the Commonwealth Bank Board, six must be men who are active participants in private industry and finance, and it appears obvious to me that it is beyond human capacity to expect these men to be able to’ divorce public interest which they are compelled to safeguard as board members from private interest which is their concern in 99 per cent, of their working hours.
Therefore, the replacement of that board by a governor and advisory committee composed entirely of Treasury experts and bank officials pledged to serve the public good is a highly progressive step.
Secondly, this legislation is attacked because it provides that, should, the Commonwealth Bank’s view of what is correct policy differ from that of the Government, the view of the Government shall prevail, it having notified the bank of its view, and undertaken the responsibility for the policy to be followed. That appears to me to be an essential step, if we agree that the fundamental responsibility of maintaining the economic health of the community is placed upon the Government, and nobody else.
Thirdly, the legislation has been attacked because it provides that the Commonwealth Bank shall once again enter into active competition with the private trading banks. No matter how objectionable such competition may be to the private trading banks, it surely can be nothing but pleasing to all those who, having to do banking business, have their approach confined to banks, al] of whom are members of a bank ring - the Associated Banks of Australia. From the point of view of the customer of the bank, such as the farmer and the small business man, the competition which is being made compulsory by this legislation can be nothing but beneficial. The argument that it will place the Commonwealth Bank in a position to engage in unfair competition with the private trading banks is entirely fallacious and unfounded. In the first place, as any study of the legislation will show, the general banking division of the Commonwealth Bank - the section which will enter into competition with the private trading banks - is to be entirely divorced from the central bank, and no part of those funds which the private trading banks will have to lodge with the central bank can be used by the general banking division of that institution. The argument that the competition will be unfair because the Commonwealth Bank does not pay taxation equivalent to that paid by the private trading banks, is equally unfounded. A study of the banking statistics will show that the taxation paid by the nine main trading banks is almost exactly 50 per cent, of their profits before the deduction of tax. The general trading division of the Commonwealth Bank is compelled by law to pay 50 per cent, of its net profits into the National Debt Sinking Fund. In addition, the Commonwealth Bank pays pay-roll tax and sales tax; and, although it is not under any legal obligation to do so, it pays to every local governing body a sum equal to the rates that it would have to pay were it not a public institution. So that, in fact, the Commonwealth Bank is required to make, and does make from its profits, a larger percentage contribution to the public revenues than is made by any pri vate trading banks. This effectively disposes of the argument of unfair competition on that ground.
A further argument is that this legislation will do a very dangerous thing, in that it will destroy the note issue reserve. What are the facts about the note issue reserve? It is kept in English sterling, and is maintained solely for the purpose of meeting our commitments on the London market as required. Obviously, it would be absurd to keep in Australian notes a reserve of any percentage of the Australian notes in circulation. The only purpose of the reserve is that it shall be available to meet our commitments abroad as the circumstances require. Yet the very fact that we are compelled by statute to keep this reserve prevents its use for the very purpose for which it is intended and required. The abolition of the legal necessity to keep these notes in reserve will enable the Commonwealth Bank to use them as required for the only purpose for which they could be needed.
The legislation is attacked also because it sets up an industrial department to provide special assistance on long terms and at low interest rates for small businesses and those who wish to establish small industries. It is an acknowledged feature of the Australian private trading banking system that it does not provide long-term assistance for the conductors of small industries, deliberately preferring to preserve the liquidity of its assets, with the result that the small businessman or the conductor of a small enterprise is always at a financial disadvantage compared with the combine and big business. This department, which is to be charged with the special task of meeting the legitimate financial needs of small businesses over long terms and at low interest rates, will be a most healthy medium for ensuring the maintenance of effective competition in the private enterprise field in this country.
The further objection is taken that the legislation provides for the licensing of private trading banks. The suggestion is that under this provision it would be possible, merely by withholding the licence, to put out of existence any private trading bank. That objection fails completely to take account of the point that the legislation provides that all the present private trading banks shall be given a licence on application.
The legislation is also attacked on the ground that it will undermine and injure the interests of depositors in the private trading banks. That has been one of the most loudly voiced arguments of those who are opposed to this legislation. The deliberate attempt has been made to scare the depositors in private trading banks by telling them that if the Commonwealth Bank be given this power their deposits will be injuriously affected. Those responsible for such criticism must know that the exact opposite is the case, because, for the first time, this legislation deliberately enjoins upon the Commonwealth Bank the obligation to take over and continue to operate any private trading bank which is unable to meet the demands of its depositors until all of those demands have been met in full. This will prevent a recurrence of the scandalous happenings in the private trading banking system in past years and, for the first time in the history of this country, provide a real and an effective guarantee of the safety of bank deposits.
The legislation contains other provisions which, whilst arousing the bitter opposition of the private trading banks, can be nothing but beneficial to the ordinary people, particularly a community that is so largely representative of primary production as that for which I speak. Those provisions give to the Commonwealth Bank the power to control, first, the advance policy of the private trading banks, so as to ensure that advances shall be made in conformity with the most urgent economic and financial needs of the community at the time, and, secondly, to control all interest rates. Such provisions will he welcomed by every primary producer who has been struggling for many years to meet commitments at high rates of interest, a position in which most of the farmers in my electorate find themselves.
I have endeavoured to show that the conflict is between the maintenance and extension into the post-war period of public economic controls and a reversion to private economic controls such as existed in Australia prior to the war. Reversion to private economic controls implies freedom for exploitation of the ordinary people, but for the people themselves it would mean fear, insecurity, idleness and want. That is not my conception of the freedom for which this Parliament and the people should strive. Instead I believe that true freedom is obtainable only by an extension of public economic planning and by the control of the financial system which is sought under these proposals. The freedom that is attainable in this community, if we wisely and deliberately seek it, is freedom for the organized communityto shape its own life and to plan its own development. It is freedom to raise the living standards of the whole of the people and to give to them for the first time economic security and freedom to develop a standard of culture worthy of human dignity. The obstacles to the attainment of that freedom are not measures such as the proposal’s now before us for the maintenance and extension of public economic planning and control. The obstacles which stand in the path of such control are not Parliaments or Governments; they are the private, vested financial and land interests. I refer to the financial groups, the industrial combines and the great land-owners. They are the real enemies of individual freedom in this country.
.- The first important feature of the proposals under consideration is that they provide for the return to the Commonwealth Bank of its original charter as a people’s bank under the control of a single governor, who shall give effect to the policy of the government of the day, as representing the people of this country, who are the true owners of thebank. Thesebills also place the Commonwealth Bank on a competitive basis with the private banks, ‘ and will make it a central bank and give to it the control of the note issue. The second aspect is the proposed control of the private financial institutions. We have heard a good analysis of the private banking system and a historical survey of it from various honorable members, particularly the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke), the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward),’ the Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini), the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley), the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Eraser). On the other side of the chamber, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) delved into the dim and distant past, and traced the history of the currency system. The very fact that the financial systems of early civilizations led to their downfall is sufficient warning to us not to adopt their outmoded methods, which to a degree persist even to the present time.
The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley), in a brilliant sketch, dealt with more recent times, and outlined the history of the private banking system and the people associated with it. Personally, I am not concerned about the Niemeyers, the Guggenheimers, the Montagu Normans and other captains of high finance. To my mind, they are only names, just as the names of the customers of the private banks are regarded as mere book entries. Those financiers will make no lasting imprint on the annals of history. The honorable member for Perth, who is a student of economics-, gave a scientific analysis of the operations of the private financial institutions. He credited them with whatever good points they have, and also showed their inherent weaknesses. He clearly indicated how the private banks had failed to withstand the stress imposed on them in critical periods, such as the economic crisis of the nineties, the 1914-18 war, the depression of 1929 to 1932, and, lastly, the present war. The honorable member showed that the private banking system had let the community down on those occasions, because it is not suited’ to he 1 needs of . he people. He also indicated’ that that system had failed to keep pace with technological progress, with the result that human society had suffered accordingly. He pointed out that the human race is undergoing a process of evolution, and that it must advance from, every aspect, if there is to be real progress. Therefore, it is important to know who control the instrumentalities that vitally affect the interests of the human race. If they are in the hands of people who exploit them for their own advantage a conflict ensues, and if any step towards progress is resisted mankind suffers. We have the example provided by modern warfare, in which the results of inventive genius are not used for the benefit of humanity in general, but for the enrichment of a few individuals.
The history of ‘ the private banking system shows that those in control of it have taken steps to see that it serves primarily the vested interests of the shareholders. A general disregard for the welfare of the people is shown. The evolutionary process is going on in all stages of, human activity, social and economic as well as in regard to the individual himself. Instead of allowing ourselves to be over-awed by the mystery with which those in charge of financial operations have sought to shroud their activities we should seek to understand them by comparing them with the design of the Almighty Himself. Take, for example, the circulatory system of the human body. The blood stream carries to all parts of the body the nourishing properties of the food we eat. It is pumped through our arteries and capillaries by the heart, which is itself under the control of the brain - the central government, as it were. In the same way, credit and finance which represent the blood stream of the social body should be under the control of the central government. In the realm of medical science many theories which were once generally accepted have had to be discarded as fallacious. For instance, it was once believed that the blood did not flow through our bodies, but lay stationary in the blood vessels. When a person fell sick, tha doctors believed that the disorder could be cured by bleeding him. Large quan tities of blood were drawn off, with the result that the patient became anaemic, and, in the end, death sometimes ensued. Those in control of. our financial institutions seem to reason in much the same way. Whenever there is an economic crisis, they curtail the circulation of money and bring about deflation, with the result that there is economic stagnation, unemployment, poverty, and starvation, followed by death for many unfortunate people. The same mistaken policy is sometimes the cause of war, just as in the case of the body there is war between the various cells when the blood stream is vitiated. As a matter of fact, that is the condition of, society now. Unless we put the financial system in order, society will die. The day will come when those who were responsible for the introduction of this measure will be acclaimed as we now acclaim Dr. Harvey, who first advanced the theory of the circulation of the blood. At the time he was denounced and even ostracized by his medical colleagues. Mr. Ring O’Malley and Sir Denison Miller, who were responsible for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, were denounced at the time, but they are now acclaimed.
The private banks are concerned only with the making of profits, and with their own security. They have been compared with the man who. lends an umbrella when it is fine and wants it back when it begins to rain. Their concern is with profits and dividends, not with human values. They stand for the control of the many by the few. The Minister for Works (Mr. Lazzarini) pointed out how the Bank of England, although possessing very few assets, had made vast profits at the expense of the people of Great Britain by using tb.6 credit of the nation. Although it is so powerful, the people of Great Britain do not know who the shareholders are. When information on the subject has been sought in the- House of Commons the Government has refused to order the publication of a list of shareholders. When this war broke out, those in control of the Bank of England were found to be in league with Germany. Even after Hitler had invaded Czechoslovakia they tried, to transfer £6,000,000 in gold to Germany.
Those who are opposed to this legislation are trying to play upon the fears of the people, but I cannot see ‘why the shareholders, depositors or borrowers have anything to be afraid of. The controls established by the Government during the war have operated for the benefit of the clients of the private banks as well as of the community in general. Because of the restrictions imposed upon trading, the private banks found themselves with surplus funds amounting to £230,000,000, for which they could find no profitable investment, and the Commonwealth Bank took them over, allowing interest at the rate of 15s. per cent. The Commonwealth Bank also discounted for the private banks treasury-bills to the value of £70,000,000, in order to assist, them to make up leeway due to limited opportunities for investment, and the restriction on home building and other activities, and the private banks have made a profit on the transaction. In this respect, they are better off than many private persons, including those who went away to fight for the protection of the assets of the banks. Many of them have sacrificed their health and some of them their lives. The ‘banks are also better off than many of the proprietors of small businesses who lost everything during the war.
Even when this legislation is passed, the private banks will still have an opportunity to play a part in the economic life of the community. The population of Australia is only 7.000,000, and we were told by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that we should have a population of 20,000,000 in the near future. If, with a population of 7.000,000, we can support nine trading banks, there should be plenty of business for them when the population increases.
Reference has been made to the effect which this legislation may have on the employees of the private banks. I agree that many of these employees have, according to their lights, rendered good service to the community. They have performed their work capably and courteously. In all my dealings with the private banks on behalf of various people I have had the most courteous treatment. Many bankers in country towns are most public spirited. These men are not to blame for the system under which they operate. Their experience should be availed of in the post-war period, either by transferring them to branches of the Commonwealth Bank or retaining them to act on behalf of their own institutions. The Commonwealth Bank has had the benefit of the private banking experience of such men as Sir Denison Miller and Mr. King O’Malley. The kind of propaganda that was issued when it was first proposed to establish the Commonwealth Bank is being circulated again to-day. At that time there were humourous cartoons in the newspapers and frivolous references to Fisher’s “ Flimsies “. The constant attempts to ridicule the proposed bank were partially successful, because in the first year of its operations the Commonwealth Bank showed a loss. But when war broke out in 1914 the value of the bank was recognized. Under the governorship of Sir Denison Miller, it financed various war loans and saved the country many millions of pounds which would otherwise have had to be paid to private banks as commission. In various crises the private banks have shown that they could not meet emergencies and had to fall back on assistance from the people’s banks. There has been much criticism of the present Commonwealth Bank Board which was established by the Bruce-Page Government. Shortly after the board was set up the Melbourne Age, a conservative newspaper, said that the Commonwealth Bank had become merely a banker’s bank. Experience has shown that to be true. During the depression, when the Scullin Government asked for £20,000,000 of credit in order to relieve the problem of unemployment by providing for public works to be undertaken, the banks failed the country. In 1935 the Bank of New South Wales admitted that the policy adopted by the banks during the depression was wrong, and that it was the province of the government of the day to create credit for public works in a time of depression, so that the wheels of industry would be kept turning. Under the Commonwealth Bank Board the Commonwealth Bank ceased to be an active competitor of the private banking institutions. Under a “gentleman’s agreement “ the Commonwealth Bank undertook not to compete with the private banks. Accordingly, a customer of a private bank who had an overdraft and wished to avail himself of the more liberal terms offered by the Commonwealth Bank would not be accepted by any branch of the Commonwealth Bank. Under this legislation, that policy will be discontinued, and the Commonwealth Bank will be able to engage in active competition with the private banks. That should be acceptable to honorable members opposite who claim to believe in competition.
– Does not the honorable member think that ultimately there will bc only one bank, which will have a monopoly?
– Should the Commonwealth Bank attract custom away from the private banks it will be too bad for those institutions. We should not concern ourselves about that, because if the nine private banks operating in Australia are the sound financial institutions which honorable members opposite claim they are, they should be able to withstand competition from one bank. The community generally will benefit from the greater competition between banks, and in particular, small businesses and manufacturers will be able to get the benefit of long-term credit. The provision in the bill that the bank shall give effect to the policy of the Government from time to time is a wise one. The conservative policy followed by the Commonwealth Bank Board, which has meant collaboration with the private banks, has not been for the good of Australia. Under legislation passed by the New South Wales Parliament many co-operative building societies were established and guaranteed by the State Government. Approximately 1 00 such societies were formed in the first year, and about 40 of them applied to the Commonwealth Bank for finance. The Commonwealth Bank Board, however, decided not to finance them, and so the Bank of New South Wales offered them accommodation at 4^ per cent, interest. As those building societies are guaranteed by the State Government it is as safe to invest in them as to purchase government bonds. The private banks were prepared to make advances at 4-J per cent. Had the Commonwealth Bank come into the scheme, as it should have done as the people’s bank, it could have provided accommodation at less than the rate charged by the Bank of New South Wales, but, the moment the Commonwealth Bank Board decided that it would not go into the scheme, the rate of interest was immediately increased by the Bank of New South Wales to 5 per cent., which became the ruling rate for some years until the rate was reduced by this Government under National Security Regulations. Likewise, the New South Wales scheme provided for advances up to 90 per cent, of the asset. There was no risk, because, as I have already pointed out, the State Government guaranteed full payment. There again the Commonwealth Bank adopted a conservative and more or less noncompetitive policy, because, when it eventually did enter the scheme, and advanced about 10 per cent, of the total advances, i.e., about £2,000,000 out. of a total of £20,000,000, it advanced only up to SO per cent, of the value of properties’, whereas the private’ institutions advanced up to 90 per cent. When the Government of New South Wales raised the guarantee to 100 per cent., the Commonwealth Bank increased its advances to 90 per cent, and the private institutions increased theirs to 100 per cent, of the value of assets of borrowers. The Commonwealth Bank, under the Commonwealth Bank Board, is still adopting a conservative policy. That will be impossible when this legislation operates, because the bank will have to give effect to the policy of the Government. The granting of advances on long terms to buyers of homes and small businesses will have a stabilizing effect on the community. We have had experience in economic crises, when banks call up overdrafts and restrict advances, of many people being forced to sacrifice their homes and businesses which are bought for “ songs “ by monopolies, including the banks. When values rise those assets increase accordingly.
The controls proposed are vital. During the war, the excess funds of the private banks have been controlled by the Commonwealth Bank. That has prevented inflation during the war, and it will have a similar effect after the war. Excess funds of those banks to the value of £230,000,000 are controlled by the Commonwealth Bank under National Security Regulations,’ but, shortly after the war ends, the National Security Act will expire, and that money will automatically revert to the private financial institutions creating a flood of money on the market unless the controls are incorporated in legislation. Banks exist for profit and if they cannot get it one way they will get it another. There will be speculation and an inevitable period of boom,, as after the last war, when “ gogetters “ sold worthless land to gullible people at inflated prices. The boom will burst with a consequent depression with unemployment and poverty. It is therefore essential that control over those funds should continue in the post-war period to ensure that if they should be returned to the private banks it shall be a gradual process and shall not have serious repercussions on the financial stability of the community. This legislation is also necessary for the economic development and security of the people of this country. If we are to hold th>s country and survive as a nation, the banks must reconcile themselves to this new procedure and help to operate our economic and financial machinery. Honorable gentlemen have shown that the banks cannot stand the stress and strains imposed on them from time to time. “We cannot risk any situation which may result in another depression, because depressions inevitably lead to wars. Is it to be the only prospect of the youth of this country that they must submit to recurring crises, as have the people of this country in recent years? Is the flower of the nation’s manhood to be bathed again in blood? Are those fortunate or unfortunate enough to return to find that all that is before them is poverty and utter despair? To ensure that that shall not be it is essential that we perfect the financial structure of this country in order to give effect to Labour’s policy of social and economic reform. The finest schemes are of little use unless the Government has control over finance. During war we have had three-way cooperation: - controls and direction on the part of the Government in conjunction with the financial institutions and the people. If that co-operation can exist in war-time, surely, it can exist in peacetime. “ Co-operation “ is the key word for the future, and is the only way in which Australia can achieve true nationhood.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Bernard Corses) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Last Wednesday, in this House, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) made an unprovoked attack on the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited and threatened it with control of its industry. The wielding of the big stick over industry is a growing practice and is symptomatic of the trend of the Government to force industry into line on industrial matters.
– Good gracious !
– Yes, that technique is becoming quite common. Industry is threatened by Ministers that unless it follows a certain course, action will be taken. We had the example of the Port Kembla affair. Now we have the case of. the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. Of course, we know that the Government has seen the effects of the strong-arm tactics applied to it by militant unions. From time to time the Government has capitulated when pressure has been brought to bear on it by the waterside workers, the coal-miners and members of other strong industrial unions. Therefore, they had no doubt they would be able to exercise the same pressure, and get the same results from this industry. The present position at the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited’s works is the culmination of a deliberate policy on the part of a section of the employees to enforce a demand for increased wages by direct action regardless of the court’s orders, or the wage pegging regulations. The matter at issue is a demand that the company pay the waterside workers’ casual rate of 3s. 8½d. an hour to a section of the men engaged in handling and emptyingbags of raw sugar coming in trucks direct from the ship. This is the same class of work that is carried out when sugar comes from stacks of stored sugar, yet no claim is made for extra pay by this section of workers when they take the sugar from the stored stacks. The men involved in the dispute refuse to work unless their demand is met. They are governed by an award. Their wage is £5 16s. a week whereas they demand a wage equivalent to £8 3s. 2d. a week for the time they are engaged in carrying out this particular work. The wage sought is £2 7s. 6d. a week higher than their ordinary rate, and is 31s. higher than that paid to the highest skilled men at present working under the refinery award. This work has nothing whatever to do with the unloading of ships, nor is it comparable in any way with waterside work. Indeed, it has been a part of refinery operations for 30 years, and, in effect, is just labouring work which under the award carries a margin of 18s. a week above the basic wage. Since the first demand was made in October, 1944, no fewer than nine refusals by men, or sections of men, have been made to do work required. On two occasions they have refused to resume work when advised to do so by the Commonwealth Conciliation Commissioner. They struck for a week in December, when Mr. Murray Stewart, the Conciliation Commissioner, took longer than they thought necessary to give his. decision with regard to their work. They ceased work again six days after the chairman of the Wages Board had refused their claim on the 11th January, 1945. They struck again on the 31st January, refusing to work until the demands of this section were met. That strike lasted for twelve days. Subsequently, they altered their technique. Early in March, they adopted a deliberate go slow policy about which honorable members know something. It is a technique which is generally employed after employees fail to get consideration. After the Commonwealth Conciliation Commissioner at the second hearing granted the men’s demand, the company exercised its undoubted right of appeal, and that it was justified in doing so is clear from the unanimous judgment of the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, which stated -
The only question is what extra rate does the change warrant according to the usual standard of wage fixation for the class of work being performed. Applying this test it cannot be said that the Commissioner has acted on proper grounds in fixing the figure of 3s. 8½d. per hour or that the evidence establishes that such a substantial increase as 1s. per hour is justified.
It is clear from that judgment that the company was quite justified in lodging its appeal. The court referred the matter back to the State Wages Board which rejected the union’s claim, the chairman of that board, suggesting that an increase of1s. a day mightbe more satisfactory than the increase of 9s. a day for which the men asked. The unions refused to entertain that proposal. These stoppages which were coupled with a deliberate go slow policy are the causes of the present shortage of sugar in Victoria. The Minister did not refer to this matter when he carried out his unprovoked attack upon the company. He made a statement which was calculated to encourage the strikers to continue their policy of direct action. He not only distorted the facts which I have just placed before the House, but also made political threats; and in my view, the men would have been fools to ignore his obvious invitation to them to take direct action in the matter. Indeed, his statement has already had effect in that direction. I quote the following from a report which appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 2nd June last : -
Melbourne, Friday. - Victorian households now served with raw sugar only may have no sugar at all soon.
This would result from a decision not to handle raw sugar, made to-night by the Transport Workers’ Union.
Hospitals, institutions, and defence establishments were exempted from the decision.
Secretary of the Union(Mr. T. J. Doyle) said the decision was takento assist the sugar workers in their disputewith the Colonial Sugar Refinery.
Recently, sugar workers at the refinery refused to handle sugar at the company’s wharves, unless paid wharf-labourers casual rates.
The Arbitration Court refused the demand. The men are now suspended, and refined sugar is unobtainable in Victoria.
Apparently, this position has resulted from the Minister’s incitement of the men to take direct action. Let us look at his statement to this House and see how it tallies with the facts. He said - . . The policy of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for many years has been to keep supplies as close as possible to the requirements of the people, with the result that the slightest hitch in transport arrangements or the operation of any other adverse factor causes a shortage to be experienced in Victoria.
That is not the policy of this company. Indeed, the company has repeatedly tried to increase its stocks. One reason for the depletion of its stocks was its failure to get the necessary man-power, notwithstanding repeated applications to the Minister. Indeed, the company’s appeal to the Minister to help it by directing, men to work on holidays at penalty rates has not even been answered by the Minister. In addition, the company’s stock lists have always been available to officers of the Rationing Commission, and, with that knowledge at his disposal, the Minister should have taken action other than that which he has taken in this House. The Minister also said -
A conference was held at which I urged the men to return to work. They did so, and left to me the arrangement of a conference through the Registrar of the Arbitration Court, Mr. Murray Stewart. He investigated the matter fully and naked Chief Judge Piper for permission to make a decision on its merits. The Chief Judge consented and subsequently approved of the decision at which Mr. Stewart had arrived. The men continued work until the company, which had agreed to abide by the decision, appealed to the full bench of the Arbitration Court and had it upset. Because of that interference by the company, the men have ceased work again.
No settlement was reached. The Registrar, acting as a conciliation commissioner, made an award which the Full Bench of the Arbitration Court held to be unjustified. The judgment, which I have just cited, was absolute justification for the appeal made by the company. Therefore, the statement made by the Minister does not square with the facts. I am quoting the events in their chronological sequence in order to show that the Minister in making statements to the House should at least be guided by the facts and be careful of what he says. Continuing, the Minister said -
Only the small section of men who handle the sugar as it leave the ships which berth alongside the works at Yarraville are involved. For years they have claimed that they should receive the rate paid to waterside workers while doing the same class of work.
But these men do not perform the same class of work. They do not handle sugar at ship’s side, and they do not undertake any waterside work. They are not casual but full-time employees, who have been following the same practice for the last 30 years, and are governed by an award of the Arbitration Court. Referring to the company, the Minister said - ft is regarded as a very close monopoly, which is careless of public interests.
That is purely a political charge, which cannot be justified by the facts. It is a loose statement by the Minister, who added -
Without ceasing work the employees have tried repeatedly to obtain more consideration. Because of the company’s harsh treatment of employees and its reckless disregard of the interests of the public, the belief has grown that this is one of the first industries which should bc nationalized for the benefit of the community. Should it continue to harass the people, withhold consideration for its employees, and refuse to abide by decisions of the Arbitration Court or its officers, it would be worth while to see whether greater control of the industry would not bc to the advantage of the people generally, as well as its employees.
The Minister wielded the “ big stick “, and used threats and intimidation in an endeavour to force the company to come into line.’ The attitude adopted by the company was supported by the judgment of the Arbitration Court. But the Minister overrode the decision, and took the opportunity in this House to threaten the company. This dispute does not involve the working conditions of the employees. The men claim the higher casual waterside workers’ rates for work which is neither casual nor waterside. The company has not harassed either the people or the employees. On the contrary, it is the men and the unions who are refusing to abide by the decision of the Arbitration Court. ‘ [Extension of time granted.”] By such irresponsible statements as those which the Minister made, industrial anarchy is encouraged.
Surely lawlessness in industry is acute enough without further direction by a responsible Minister who, if he does not know the facts - and I cannot believe that he does not - should at least inform his mind before making irresponsible and unprovoked attacks upon any particular company.
– in reply - I do not know whether I am justified in wasting the time of the House in replying to the statements of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), because his criticisms are repetition of what he said on a previous occasion. What I did say about the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited is that there was a growing vol nine of public opinion in Australia that this company had a reckless disregard of the people’s interests. If the honorable member considers that those words constitute an attack on the company, let them he so regarded but I never intended them to be so. According to statements made by retail grocers, in Victoria at any rate, the company always restricts supplies of sugar, so that they are constantly on the verge of a famine. The company never allows grocers to accumulate stocks, and the least stoppage in the industry must cause people to go without sugar. The other statement made by the honorable member for Wentworth can be easily disproved. I agree with him that I know all the facts. He declares that the waterside workers put a ban on the transport of sugar. That is not correct. The transport workers have placed no ban on sugar.
– There was a stoppage.
– The position is that the men, after a discussion, decided not to impose a ban on the transport of sugar. The honorable member for Wentworth said also that I had incited the employees to go on strike, or to remain on strike. When they were on strike, I mot the representatives of the unions, with the Disputes Committee, and urged them to return to work. I promised to use my best endeavours to have the Regis- trar of the Arbitration Court, Mr. Murray Stewart, investigate the matter. Accepting that assurance, the men returned to work. The Registrar obtained permission from the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court to examine the merits of the case, and he found that the work was not the same as that on which the men were permanently engaged. The honorable member for Wentworth spoke as if he were an authority on the work which these men perform, whereas, in reality, he knows nothing about it. The proof of that statement lies in the fact that the Registrar awarded the waterside workers’ rate to these men.
– .That award was upset by the Pull Bench of the Arbitration Court.
– The Registrar, who examined all the facts, decided that the work was not the same as that which the men did at other times. He specified that while they were doing the work when a ship was in port, they should get the same rate as the waterside workers. Another point is that the company often engages casual workers - nien who have just finished another job - when a ship is at the wharf, and pays them waterside workers’ rates.
– Why not claim th*’ same rate for taking the sugar from the stacks ?
– The honorable member is getting into deep water. He has not seen the men at work.
– I have seen them at work in other places.
– Another fact which disproves the honorable member’s contentions is that the chairman of the Wages Board awarded the men an extra ls. a day, because he considered that the work was different. The honorable member declared that the work which they performed was the same. Obviously, it is not the same. When the company engages casual labour the men are employed at waterside workers’ rates. When the company directs men normally engaged in indoor work to assist in unloading ships or to stack the cargo seven or eight tiers high, it will not pay them the higher rate, contending that they are permanently employed. I do not say that they should get the full casual rates, but the Registrar decided that they should. He conducted an inquiry into this matter, and asked the Chief Judge for permission to give a decision. His Honour agreed with it, proving that an anomaly existed. My complaint was that after all the trouble we went to for the purpose of inducing the men to return to work the company, which was aware of these proceedings, was not satisfied and appealed to the Full Bench of the Arbitration Court. The Registrar’s decision was upset. The Full Bench considered that the dispute came within the province of the State jurisdiction.
– The Full Bench also made a comment, which I quoted.
– The court con- sidered that it could not handle the dispute, because the matter had been dealt with previously by a wages board. In every respect, the honorable member’s contentions have been disproved.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
National Security Act -
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (69).
National Security (Shipping Coordination) Regulations– Orders - Nos. 91-93.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances - 1 945 -
No. 5 - Police Superannuation.
No.6 - Australian Mutual Provident Society.
House adjourned at 1 1 . 9 p.m.
The followinganswersto questions were circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the great losses occasioned to primary industryby the widespread and prolonged drought and the importance to Australia of developing water conservation schemes to meet the needs of producers in future droughts, will he consider exempting from taxation moneys expended on searching for sub-sur face water?
– The Income Tax Assessment Act already provides for the allowance of deductions in respect of expenditure on water bores. The existing law allows a deduction for depreciation of water bores, windmills, tanks, piping and troughing. Although expenditure incurred in searching for sub-surface water is capital expenditure which cannot be deducted in full in the year in which it is incurred, it is pointed out that the rate of depreciation on water bores is7½ per cent. per annum. The cost of water bores, therefore, may be written off over a period of approximately thirteen years. In practically all cases the value upon which depreciation is based is the total expenditure on successful and unsuccessful water bores. In those isolated cases where expenditure on boring for water is completely unsuccessful, that is, where there is not brought into existence any asset which is owned and used by the taxpayer for the purpose of his business, depreciation is not allowable. On reviewing this subject, I am satisfied that the present depreciation allowances provide adequately for expenditure of this nature.
y asked the Minister for Com merce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. Payment for seed grown under contract to the Vegetable Seeds Committee is dependent upon the result of tests in regard to purity and germination which are carried out by the State Department of Agriculture in the State where the seed is grown. The Department of Agriculture issues certificates and payment is effected by the Vegetable Seeds Committee on the results of the tests disclosed in these certificates.I have directed that there shall be no delay in finalizing such payments.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 5. This information is being obtained but delay will ensue because of the work involved.
n asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer : -
A full reply to the honorable member’s question would involve the production of a nominal roll covering thousands of members, and, consequently, it is not practicable to answer the question in the form in which it has been asked. Inquiries are being made in regard to the position of recreation leave for the brigade mentioned, including a comparison with an Australian Imperial Force brigade serving in a similar area.
y asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
This represents a total of 2,040.000 cases or 40,360.000 cans of vegetables. I think the honorable member will appreciate that this represents a very substantial contribution to the poolof food upon which Britain is drawing.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– These matters concern mainly the Department of Post-war Reconstruction and, in particular, the Secondary Industries Commission. I understand that the commission has been tentatively and confidentially advised by the companies mentioned of their postwar plans, but that further research and planning are still necessary. As regards the deposits of iron ore at Cadia, these were worked during the war as a security measure to guard, to some extent, against dislocation in the event of a stoppage of iron ore supplies from other sources. The use of these deposits is uneconomic, and as it is essential to maintain steel production costs in Australia at a low level, it is unlikely that the company will continue to obtain its iron ore supplies from Cadia.
Emergency Food Supplies,
n asked the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. Perishable goods in emergency reserve depots in Queensland are regularly rotated by sale through the trade and replacement with fresh goods where necessary. This process has continued for the pastfour years and has proved satisfactory. Owing to transport difficulties, both interstate andintra-state, it is not intended to terminate the scheme at present or to dispose of the goods in storage, except by way of normal turnover. However, the scheme has recently been modified by the reduction of the number of lines to be held as reserves by traders, as distinct from governmentowned stores in depots.
Conferences : Expenses.
r asked the Acting
Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
Aircraft Production in Queensland.
s asked the Minister for Aircraft Production, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 June 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450605_reps_17_182/>.