17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Recently, I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether he would endeavour to popularize the use of wool by the provision of made-up garments for destitute people in Europe. Will the honorable gentleman bring this matter to the - notice of the new Australian Wool Board, the members of which he is- to meet at the week-end, and request it to consider the proposal, first as a means of providing woollen garments for war sufferers, and secondly as a “valuable advertising medium?
– I shall meet, at the week-end, the old Australian Wool Board, which has done excellent work for the wool industry. The new board is to be appointed early next week. The matters raised by the honorable member are well worthy of full consideration, and I shall stress his views to the chairman of the old board, who, ‘ it is anti- ‘cipated, will be the chairman of the new board.
– I have received a communication from the general secretary of the Milk Zone Dairymen’s Council, which represents 3,000 dairymen supplying whole milk to the Sydney market,, asking whether the Acting Prime Minister will reconsider Iiia decision not to make public the Giblin report on the price of whole milk, and whether in future the Government will allow investigations in regard to the price of milk in New South Wales to be made by the Milk Board. Will the Acting Prime Minister give consideration to these two requests?
– The answer to both requests is “ No. “.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. Last Thursday, I made a statement which, in one respect, was misreported in the press, in that two words that I had used were not published. I accused one Thornton of being a Scotsman. I did so on the best of advice, but I have since been informed that Scotland is not responsible for him in any respect. At a meeting of the Trades and Labour Council in Sydney last night, Thornton said, “ Martens was wrongly informed. My father was an Englishman, and ‘my mother an Irish woman “. Mr. Tom Liston, the repre sentative of the Australian Workers Union on the council, retorted, “ That is another injustice to Ireland “. I regret having coupled’ Thornton with Scottish people in this country. For many years, I have had thousands of good friends of Scottish descent, and not all of them are my political supporters. I tender my deepest sympathy to both England and Ireland.
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) is reported to have said that he would deport every Scotsman, as well as Thornton, from Australia. If thi Government has decided to apply this policy, will the Acting Prime Minister begin with the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), Sen* tor Donald Grant, Mr. Forgan Smith, and Mr. Jock Garden ?
Question not answered.
– Has the Acting Minister for Defence, who represents the Minister for Supply in this chamber, seen a statement in the newspaper Weal Australian, of the 20th June, that th<shortage of wharf space at Fremantle is primarily responsible for the fact thai ships are not being turned around rapidly at that port, a fact which prevents the shipment of urgently needed civilian supplies from the eastern States? Is the Minister aware that the reason given f ot the shortage of wharf space is that urgent ship repair work is being done at some of the wharfs used for the unloading of general cargo in peace time? If this if true, docs it not indicate that there should be established at Fremantle a fully equipped repair dock, particularly as it is the last port of call for ships before they face the long journey across th* Indian Ocean, and the first port of call in Australia for ships coming to this country over the same ocean? Does th, Minister know the history of naval establishments in Western Australia, with particular reference to the naval base at Rockingham, on which a very large sum of money was expended during the last war, but which was abandoned before completion? Will the Minister see that the Henderson naval base is completed a.’ rapidly as possible, or does the Government intend to repeat the mistakes of the past, and abandon the work after so rauch money has been expended?
– I recall the representations of the honorable member in connexion with ships going to “Western Australia in ballast when there was lying in eastern ports important cargo that was needed in Western Australia. The House will remember the answer given on that occasion; but, in spite of that answer, [ still felt it necessary to press the matter further, so that only in the most unusual circumstances should ships be allowed to travel in ballast from eastern ports to Western Australia. A great deal of wharf space at Fremantle has been taken by the naval authorities because of needs arising out of the war, and because more naval vessels are using that port now than ever before. If naval vessels are taking up wharf space formerly used for civil purposes, thus preventing the normal flow of trade, it is clear that something will have to be done to improve the position. [ commend the honorable member for the suggestions which ho has offered. I shall take the matter up with the Department of Supply and Shipping with a view to having a course of action decided upon.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that some Australian servicemen, who were held as prisoners of war in Poland, Lave recently returned to Australia, via Russia ? Is it also a fact that they have been required to give an undertaking, either, in writing or otherwise, not to discuss or communicate or make public their experiences while prisoners of war, or during their return through Russia? [f the answer to the second question is in the affirmative, will the Acting Prime Minister say whether there is any official reason why these men should not make known their experiences?
– I am not aware of the circumstances mentioned by the honorable member. I shall make inquiries in regard to the first part of the question and supply him with information on the subject. In regard to the second part of the question, I believe that a suggestion was made at an earlier stage, not hy the Government, that it would be unwise for repatriated prisoners of war to give lengthy newspaper interviews, but this suggestion related to prisoners of war who were recovered from Japanese hands. The honorable member probably knows something of that case. No such instructions have been issued by the Government in relation to prisoners of war who have returned from Europe. However, I shall inquire into the matter and supply any available information to the honorable member.
Coal Stocks - Northern Coal-fields - Mb. R. James, M.P.
– Now that the strikers on the northern coal-field have resumed work, can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping tell us how soon we may expect a lifting of restrictions on gas and electricity supplies in New South Wales?
– I have not at my disposal the exact position of the coal stocks of gas and electricity undertakings. There are several causes of stocks becoming low, and one of the most important of these was the recent dispute involving deputies. I shall ask the Coal Commissioner to give me what information he can supply on the subject, and I hope to have that information before the House meets next Tuesday. I take this opportunity to express my admiration of the work done by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) in helping to secure a settlement of the dispute. Honorable members will appreciate that these matters are difficult to adjust, and the practical knowledge of the honorable member, who knows the coal-fields and the men who work there, was of great value to the Government, which is grateful for his assistance.
– In view of the large numbers of air-crew members who are availing themselves of the opportunity to secure releases from the Royal Australian Air Force, as reported in the press in the last few days, does the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction consider that the Government’s rehabilitation and employment schemes are adequate to copewith these numbers and the greater numbers of men who will be released when the reorganization scheme is put into effect? If not,will the honorable gentleman consider increasing the vocational training age limit, which at present is 21 years on enlistment?
– It is true that the decision to release trainees who are not required by the Royal Australian Air Force causes new difficulties.
– I referred not to trainees, but to men who have returned from operational service.
– The difficulties apply both to trainees and to long-service men. Their release will throw a considerable strain on the vocational training establishments in particular, and also, at a later stage, on the employment service. The honorable member will realize that these releases have yet to be co-ordinated with a general scheme for the release of at least 50,000 men by the end of this year. It is hoped that arrangements will be made for releases of key personnel for training purposes to take place almost immediately, so that, when larger numbers of men are discharged and will require vocational training and employment service, training facilities will be available for them. I cannot see how the raising of the age at which vocational training will be available, from 21 years on enlistment to a higher age, would help to solve the problem. It indeed would make the problem more difficult, because it would mean that more individuals would be applying for vocational training than now. I assure the honorable gentleman that everything possible is being done to secure at the earliest possible date the release of key personnel required for training purposes.
– On Wednesday the
Sydney Sun published an article headed “ Death Knell of Federal 24,000 Homes Plan in which it said -
Timber and shipping shortages are sounding the death knell of the Government’s hope of building 24,000 houses in Australia by the end of 1946….. no housing experts have been sent overseas by the Commission to examine post-war housing developments….. the post-war reconstruction Minister (Mr. Dedman)….. said the task of examining overseas trends in housing belonged to the State Governments.
As the Commonwealth Government is charged with the responsibility of housing ex-servicemen and essential war workers. I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether the Commonwealth Government will undertake research into the building industry. Where the States do not provide their quota of urgent priority homes will the Commonwealth Government take up the slack and, if necessary, use powers vested in it by the National Security Act?
– As I have pointed out previously, housing is a responsibility of the State governments. The Commonwealth Government can come into the picture only insofar as it relates to Commonwealth employees in general.
– War service homes!
– Employees of the Commonwealth, of course, include exservicemen. The Government has an experimental station for building construction in the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, which collates all data available from overseas and such information is handed on to the State governments and other authorities interested in housing. I am certain that if we apply ourselves to the problem with energy and can obtain the full cooperation of the State governments, we shall be able to have constructed in the coming year a very large number of houses. Perhaps it will be difficult to reach the target of 24,000, but, I believe that we can reach something approaching that figure. The construction of houses by the Commonwealth is a matter of policy. So far the Commonwealth Government has realized that with the very limited supplies of men and materials available the State government instrumentalities and private enterprise can absorb the lot. To put” a new authority into the field as a claimant for building materials would not make the task any easier. However, that matter is being kept in mind all the time and it may be that the Commonwealth will decide to enter the field as a constructing authority, so far as its powers under the Constitution enable it todo so.
-I have received complaints from municipal councils in my electorate regarding permits from the Directorate of War Organization of Industry for the repair of houses which they have ordered to be put into a better state of repair.. I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction what arrangements have been made by the directorate in the various States to ensure that a priority permit shall be issued immediately municipal authorities decide that houses must be repaired, to ensure that there shall be no delay.
– My department has to deal with a very large number of applications for building’ permits. Permits for repairs made obligatory by local government authorities are issued almost automatically, although there may have been a slight delay in a few instances owing to the very large number that has to be considered. I shall make an inquiry to ascertain whether the issue of the permits can be expedited.
– Will the Minister for Works say whether it is a fact that men who were given four months leave from the Civil Constructional Corps to go share-f arming have again been compulsorilycalledup for work in the Northern Territory?
– I know of no indi- vidual cases of that kind. The Civil Constructional Corps is calling up very few.
Mr..McDonald. - I shall give the Minister a few cases afterwards.
– Very few are compulsorily called up now. It is more a case of voluntary enlistment.If the honorable member will supply me with particulars of any casesI shall examine them immediately.
Bren Gun Carriers - Surplus Army vehicles.
Mr.FADDEN. - Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Slipping inform me whether the Government intends to release a number of Bren gun carriers to farmers and other approved persons through the Commonwealth Disposals Commission at a cost of £50; plus freight, from Bandiana, on the; Victorian border? If so, will consideration be given to the position of farmers in Queensland and in other States distant from Bandiana who would be required to pay heavy freight charges to obtain delivery of a Bren gun carrier? Will the Government endeavour to arrange for the Disposals Commission to make a certain number of these carriers available to farmers in each State?
– It would probably be desirable for an investigation to be made to ascertain what equipment of this character is available for release, so that such supplies may be distributed’ over theCommonwealth. It may be that only a limited number of Bren gun carriers is available at Bandiana. I shallhave an inquiry made.
– Will the Ministerrepresenting the Minister for Supply and Shipping confirm or deny the statements that only limited numbers of surplus Army vehicles have been made available to Tasmania, that thesehave long been disposed of, and that farmers and other persons in Tasmania are now advised to seek such vehicles in a mainland State, thus incurring a good deal of extra; expense in having them freighted! across Bass Strait? Will the Minister take the matter up with the proper authority, with a view to ensuring that a further supply shall be made available?
– Looking at the matter “ without the book “, it would appear that there would be only a limited number in Tasmania on account of the circumstances of the State.
– I agree with that. Cannot the number be in proportion to numbers in the otherStates, on a per capita basis?
– I appreciate the desire of the honorable member that the people of Tasmania should have an opportunity equal to that of others on the mainland, to purchase these surplus vehicles.
– That is all thatI ask.
– That is a fair request, and I shall place it before the Commonwealth Disposals Commission.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping any information that he can give me about the likelihood of easing the restrictions on the distribution of tyres and tubes, including those for bicycles? Many workmen on the coal-fields are meeting with great difficulty in obtaining transport from their homes to their work. When a motor ear is available, it frequently transports half a dozen men to their place of employment. When men cannot obtain tyres, even for bicycles, they are in considerable difficulty. Is it possible to release more tyres and tubes?
– I cannot indicate any prospect of an easing of the restrictions. We are still in great difficulty in regard to tyres and tubes. The production of synthetic rubber has advanced considerably in Australia in the last six months, and we are now depending on it to a great degree to meet our urgent requirements. When I was administering the Department of Supply and Shipping every effort was made to meet the needs of urgent users, and I am not aware of any alteration in that respect. If the honorable member has in mind any particular locality where special difficulty is being experienced and he will give me the information, I shall cause inquiries to be made.
– I ask the Minister for Information for some details about the exhibition that is being held in Paris, at which we understand inquiries are being invited from possible migrants to Australia. What facilities are available at the exhibition for inquirers to obtain information? What advice is being tendered to inquirers concerning Government policy? How are the inquirers being advised regarding the prospects of migrants in this country?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are simple. Every facility possible is being afforded to inquirers to obtain the information they desire. Competent officers of my department are attending the exhibition, and they are giving to the French people whatever information they require. This is the first exhibition of its kind to be arranged in any of the liberated countries of Europe.
– What are they told when they seek information in regard to migration ?
– They are informed generally of the policy of the Government in regard to migration. If members of the Liberal party in this Parliament can make up their minds as to whether or not they wish to form a part of a committee on migration, some progress may be made with the proposal of the Leader of the Australian Country party for the constitution of such a committee. The Government is not in the same fog in relation to migration as are the members of that party.
– Has the Minister for the Navy read the challenge in to-day’s Sydney Daily Telegraph to his statement in regard to the number of men transferred from H.M.A.S. Australia prior to her departure for the United Kingdom?
– I have read this challenge. I view with grave concern the licence that is associated with the publication of grossly exaggerated or totally untrue statements by some sections of the press. The practice is common in matters that concern the Government, whichis not given fair treatment by some newspapers. This is a classic example. The Sydney Daily Telegraph has stated that 60 per cent. of the personnel of H.M.A.S. Australia were taken off that vessel prior to its departure for the United Kingdom. The statement that I made in this House in regard to the total number of personnel drafted from the vessel, was repeated at a meeting of the Advisory War Council in the presence of Commodore ‘Showers, second naval officer, and the drafting officer, and was verified by him. He was asked a question, which he answered satisfactorily. This newspaper, with a view to covering up its earlier declaration in regard to the matter, and to satisfy its inordinate desire for sensationalism, has stated this morning that certain naval men had challenged, the authentic and official statement that I made in this House. Honorable members will note that the newspaper has not mentioned the name of any person. I emphatically affirm that no reputable officer or rating would seek unauthorized publicity of this character. ‘This morning, I checked the position with the Navy Office, and was informed that the press report is completely inaccurate. Preliminary conferences in regard, to the drafting were held at various times prior to the 5th May, on which date final arrangements were made. From then to the date of sailing - the 24th May - ‘23 officers and 128 ratings were drafted out of the ship. Therefore, the statement that 200 personnel were moved from the ship 48 hours before sailing is entirely incorrect. The further statement that personnel were leaving the ship up to twelve hours before sailing is in the same category. H.M.A.S. Australia has a personnel of 1,000 men. Yet the newspaper has stated that up to 50 per cent, or more were drafted from it! I have given the official version, f deprecate most strongly statements which can only cause dissatisfaction and irritation to the members of one of our fighting services, are detrimental to Australia’s war effort, and must have serious effects on the public mind. One is justified in asking whether such licence should not be more than merely deprecated.
Cartoon in Sydney “Daily Telegraph “ - Newspaper Privileges in Parliament House.
– Have you, Mr. Speaker, seen the cartoon in to-day’s Sydney Daily Telegraph, depicting a sitting of this House during the consideration of the Supply Bil] to grant £55,570,000 to His Majesty towards carrying on the services of the year 1945-46? If you have, do you regard it as being calculated to bring the Parliament into contempt and as an example of licence rather than an exercise of the freedom of the press? It depicts an empty House, with an honorable member lying on the front Opposition bench, half asleep and arms outstretched. The Speaker’s mace is not on the table. There is only one Minister on the front treasurybench, and ho appears to be asleep. Another Government member is shown with his hands to his head, and my colleague sud I are shown on the back bench ; I am depicted as having a head of hair. Will you examine the cartoon and, if it is calculated to bring the Parliament into contempt, deal with the newspaper accordingly ?
– The honorable member’s question raises a very important matter, one to which 1. have been giving serious consideration for some time. Representatives of the press are here by the courtesy of the House, and not by any right which they possess. If honorable members are satisfied at any time that a section of the press is abusing that privilege, the House can take the necessary action. I am at present considering submitting to the Government and the House proposals for something which is at present sadly lacking - that is, a properly defined rule covering the matter of privilege, so that the House would not only have the right to declare when a privilege had been breached, or contempt offered to Parliament, but also power to inflict punishment for such breaches of privilege or for such contempt. I have not seen the cartoon referred to. I am not much concerned with what is put into cartoons, but I am concerned with any attempt to belittle Parliament or to destroy its prestige. Recently, some writers in the press have gone very close to the line. I have already indicated that if they step over the line they will go out of this House and remain out while I am in the chair.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from the 21st June (vide page3496), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.-I support the bill. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), when discussing this and the previous banking bill, said that he did not know anything about banking. Well, for a man who knows nothing of banking he certainly gave a very fine exposition of the subject, but I resent his allegation that members of the Government and its supporters are irresponsible persons. Not long ago, the Leader of the Opposition addressed a meeting of the newly formed Liberal partyin Melbourne and, judging by the report of the meeting which appearedin the MelbourneHerald. I should say that women formed more than 50 per cent. of the audience.
– Does thehonorable member object to that?
Mr.SMITH-Not at all. Imerely point out that there appeared tobea predominanceofthe gentle sex at the meeting, and that the Leaderof the Oppositiontook advantage of thisfact. We haveall heard the storythe lady who, when asked how she enjoyed the pictures,replied, “ Theywerewonderful. Icried allthe time “. The righthonorable gentleman told such a doleful tale at thismeeting in Melbourne that I am sureall the ladies had their handkerchiefs inuse beforeit wasover.As I have said, Iamvery tired oflistening to thecharge that supporters of the Government are irresponsible men. Idonotbelievethat the public would elect irresponsible persons. Nothing isgained by declaring that the Government uses Gestapo methods. There are, of course, always two sidesto every question, and there is always room for argument, but there is no need to descend toabuse. The Leader of the Opposition is awelleducated man, and he could use his powers of oratory to better purpose. Abuse is not argument. In their attack upon, the Government’s banking proposal’s, members of the Opposition have sought to playupon the fears of the people in just the same way as did the opponents of Mr. Andrew Fisher, when he introduced the first Commonwealth Bank Bill. The Oppositionand others opposed to the Government’s banking policy are Unanimous in describing this bill as” political “.I remember when the Fisher Government established the Commonwealth Bank. That bank was conceived, born and reared in politicalism. The Bruce-Page Government triedto place it beyond the power of this Parliamentby adding a board to the managerial structure. What else was that but political? The members of theboard were no more fit to administerthe CommonwealthBank than I should be. Some of them were businessmen; so am I, but I wouldnot claim to understand financesufficiently to conduct a bank, as they did.I do, however, know some of the things that finance does. To say that becauseaman becomes amemberof the Commonwealth Bank Board he becomes a financialgenius overnight isridiculous. Honorable members opposite say that the bank will be politicallycontrolled. Of course it will. The CommonwealthGovernmentconsists of men who everythree years must face the electors. Why, the Commonwealth Parliament is themost democratic set-up in the world. It is elected to controlthedestiniesof the country, and in order todoso it must alsocontrolfinance. Abraham Lincoln said, “Government isfinanceand finance is government “. So,until theCommonwealth Bank wasestablished by the Fisher Government, this country wasruled, not by its elected representatives, but byprivate financiers. Last night thehonorable member for Warringah (Mr.Spender).,expressing faith inprivate enterprise, said that it could do the job of post-war reconstructionif it were left free todo so.
-I said that itcoulddo themost important part.
– The mostimportant part; Irememberwhat thehonorable gentleman said. In the depression private enterprise fell down on the job. It did nothing to rehabilitate the country.
– It stifled finance.
– Yes. First, the private banks, by extending credit, caused the inflationary period, and, then, when the country needed money most to rehabilitate itself, although we produced food in plenty, thousands and thousands of men and women were forced to tramp the streets fruitlessly searching for the jobs that would enable them to buy it. If that is an example of the capability of pri vate enterprise, it is high time that the Government wrested this country from such control. A friend of mine operating a particularly good business was financially sound. The general manager and the local branch manager of the private bank in South Australia went to see him. The general manager said to him, “You have a very nice place, but you should make certain alterations, and now is the time to do it. We will advance you the money to enable you to make this place what it ought to be”. He accepted their offer. We all know what happened : the bubble burst, and, as is usual when something goes wrong, the local manager was changed. This business man did not do all that the general manager suggested, but he was operating on an overdraft. The new branch manager called on him and said, “I have a very unpleasant duty to perform. I want to discuss your overdraft. In fact, we want you to liquidate your overdraft because finance is very strained “.
Mr.Russell. - He was one of many hundreds.
– Yes. But he was not easily bluffed. He replied to the local manager, “You go back and tell your general manager that I will do nothing of the kind. . I know what your powers are. I Enow that my mortgage is at short call and that you can make me insolvent. You can do so if you like, but I will not comply with your request. The investment is secure. My assets will more than compensate for the overdraft. So so back to the general manager and tell him what I have told you “. Later, he went with the local manager to the city to interview the general manager, who put up the same proposition to him. He told the general manager, “ You are the man that induced me to incur the expenditure. Take whatever measures you think are within your power and putme through the insolvency court. I shall tell the world what you have done “. The result was that he was one of the few whom the bank did not bluff. He is now living in retirement, but if he had not stood up to the bank he would have been in the same position now as are thousands of primary producers.
-And they talk about bureaucrats!
– Yes. In the depression the banks made insolvent 3,000 primary producers in South Australia. Where would the primary producers be to-day if they depended on the banks? They would be in the same plight as the 3,000 men whom I have just mentioned. This measure will react to the advantage of the people generally, and will confirm public confidence in the Government. It was my business to interview men who had fallen into arrears with thebanks, and I know how badly the banks treated them. That is why I object to all the talk of rehabilitation under private enterprise. Private enterprise fell down badly on that job in the depression years, with the result that thousands of men were thrown out of employment, while farmers, although they produced more goods than ever before, could not obtain a return adequate to pay overhead expenses, and thousands of them had to leave the land. The same thing would happen after this war if this Government did not take the steps necessary to prevent a recurrence of that tragic depression. Propaganda is being circulated to scare the people. The Government’s opponents are warning the thousands of small depositors in the savings banks that their savings may be lost as the result of this Government’s policy. Honorable members opposite are trying to create a fear complex in the minds of workers, widows and orphans. The same old line of propaganda has been used throughout the years in an endeavour to discredit the Labour party. The people’s savings will be safer under a Labour government than under any other government. This propaganda against the Government and the Parliament is wrong. The people have shown that they have faith in the Labour Government and in the Parliament. During the referendum campaign, I was asked frequently by primary producers and others whether it was necessary to pass the referendum in order to give the Government power over the Commonwealth Bank. I said, of course, that the referendum would have no effect on the Government’s powers over the bank, and that at an opportune time the Government would introduce a bill to establish the Commonwealth Bank in its proper position. The referendum had nothing whatever to do with the (financial policy of the Government. The necessary powers have been available to the Commonwealth for years, but previous governments have failed to use the Commonwealth Bank for its proper purposes. In order to show that the Government’s opponents are using the same propaganda as was used in 1911, when the Fisher Government established the Commonwealth Bank, I shall refer to newspaper articles published at that time. The following passage appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser, of the 21st November, 1911: -
Evidently the Fisher Government have come to the conclusion that the tempering process is unnecessary, or, if necessary, that it can be carried out by a government institution. The Commonwealth Bank Bill represents another light-hearted excursion into the perilous realm of finance. … If the Federal Government are going to step in and start a concern in opposition to every paying business there will be little inducement to private enterprise to endeavour to build up sound commercial undertakings.
That is exactly what the Government’s enemies are saying to-day, namely, that the Commonwealth Government is going to take charge of private business. The Government wants to build up sound commercial enterprise in co-operation with private .business interests. The article continues : -
For this relief, much thanks. It is satisfactory to learn that the trustees of the Savings Bank in this State are fully alive to the seriousness of the menace, and will deal with the matter in the interests of the depositors. The New South Wales Government also have the question under consideration. They are taking counsel’s opinion as to whether the Commonwealth Government has power to establish Savings Banks, and if it should prove that the Constitution is sufficiently elastic to permit of this unexpected development of federal policy, they propose a joint protest from the States against the threatened interference with such vitally important State institutions. In Queensland it nas been suggested that if the attempt is made to render the continuance of the State Savings Bank impossible by withdrawing the existing facilities for depositors at the post offices the State Government should make ever; school teacher and every railway stationmaster officers of the local institution. The feeling indicated by such statements is certain to grow the more the effect of the centralizing policy is realized. Australians are satisfied with the existing arrangements, and in a matter which affects their pockets they will tx> especially disinclined to take the suggested leap in the dark.
Similar attacks were made on the government of the day in the Adelaide Register, which has since gone out of existence, although the bank remains. The Register of the 1st December, 1911, published the following resolutions by the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce: -
All this is precisely the same as the propaganda that is being circulated to-day to the effect that the bank’s operation? will be subject to political influence, i refer now to an article in the Register relating to the people of Victoria who were also up in arms against the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank. The article contains the following remarks attributed to the then Treasurer of Victoria, Mr. Watt: -
There is no need for federal interposition unless it be that the Commonwealth look? with hungry eyes at the huge deposits which are under the control of the existing administration. If it intends to reach out for these it can get them only by offering bigger advantages to the depositors than the present savings banks offer in the shape of higher interest rates. Speaking for Victoria, I may say that this Ministry will not permit the present Commonwealth Government to thus illegitimately gather up the savings of the Victorian people for expenditure in other parts of the Common wealth. We are firmly resolved on that. If necessary we intend to fight to conserve the huge interests which are in our care, just as we fought to prevent the Commonwealth from aggrandizing itself at the expense of the States in the recent referenda struggle.
Even in those clays the newspapers were discussing referendum results. The report continues -
I have pointedout on former occasions that the Commonwealth, both before and since that memorable contest, had been trying to do by financial strangulation what the people said they should not do.
That is precisely what the press and the Opposition are telling the people to-day. ft is being alleged that because the last referendum was defeated the Government is endeavouring to implement its financial policy through this banking legislation. Such statements should be discounted now just as heavily as they were thirty-odd years ago. I have another extract from the Register of the 1st December, 1911. That newspaper in its day was regarded as the most conservative journal in South Australia if not in the whole Commonwealth. This report refers to Western Australia and reads -
Perth - November 30.
The Chamber of Commerce resolved last night, “ that the proposal of the Federal Government to establish a Commonwealth Bank is fraught with great danger, as the bank is not required in the interests of the community”. An amendment “that the Commonwealth Bank is fraught with great danger to the financial status of the people of Australia and should be referred to a committee of banking and financial experts, and that a protest be made against the establishment of a Commonwealth Savings Bank “, was lost by one vote.
Had the original Commonwealth Bank Bill been referred to a committee of banking experts the bank would probably never have been established. It certainly would not have been such an effective instrument in the interests of the people asit has been.
We have been told that after the banking smash of 1893, the banks met their obligations to depositors; but they did not give any consideration to the unfortunate people who had mortgaged their properties. A few days ago I met in South Australia, the son of a fanner, since deceased, who told me that his father had mortgaged his farm for £750, with one of the banks that crashed. The bank simply foreclosed on the mortgage, and the man lost everything. That is what happened to many other people who were in the clutches of those institutions in the early ‘nineties. The banks that suspended payments in those days may have satisfied their depositors ultimately, but they foreclosed the mortgages of those who were unable to meet their payments. Like many other people, I had an unfortunate experience with the banks at that time. I had a property which I had mortgaged. Although only three months before the bank suspended payment, I had obtained an increase of my advance on the security of the property, I was told by the manager of the bank that I had to meet my indebtedness within seven days or they would foreclose. The value of the security had not changed in the three months, but I had to discount the mortgage in order to meet the bank. Some time afterwards when I was about to open another business, the local bankmanager came to me and said, “ It would he convenient for you to bank with us ; what about it ? “. I said, “ You had better approach your head office”. I did not hear any more from him. Fortunately I am independent of the banks now, but that does not alter the fact that I, like many other people, suffered severely because of conservative banking practice in days gone by. I would like to read extensive extracts from a Register article that was published on the 1st December, 1911, but because of limitation of time I shall confine myself to the following paragraph from it: -
There is another point which must not be overlooked, that so long as the savings of the people are in the hands of a private institution they arc protected from confiscation in the event of war with any foreign nation by international law, and this would not be the case were they in the hands of the Commonwealth Government Bank.
Here again we find a repetition of the arguments that are being advanced to-day. It is being said that the Government will confiscate the savings of the people. The fact is, of course, that in the last few years the deposits in our
Savings banks nave increased very greatly. I believe that in a time of wai it should be a case of “ all in “. I do not forget that many of the men and. “Women who went out to fight for us in the interests of freedom and justice have lost everything. Life is the most precious possession of a human being. The people who have remained at home and invested in Government securities or lodged their money in the savings banks are drawing interest all the time, but many of those who went to war have lost their lives-. I am fortunate enough to have a little substance, but that does not alter my view that it should be a case of “ all in when the country is at war. I believe_ in equality of sacrifice, not the one-sided sacrifice that is so manifest to-day. The fact that savings bank deposits have increased so greatly in the war years indicates clearly that the people are not afraid that this Government will confiscate their savings. Deposits in savings banks in the Commonwealth have increased as follows, during the war years : -
The average increase of deposits in all savings banks during the war years has been 121.8 per cent.
That proves that the Government is, and always will be, prepared to protect the savings of the workers of the Commonwealth. We cannot have any confidence in the ability of private enterprise to re-establish ex-servicemen; it will fall down on the job, as it has on other occasions. I have said before, and I repeat : “ Finance is government, and government is finance”. The Government should be in control of the finances of this country. There should be an internal economy. It is claimed that our economy is dependent upon the volume of our exports and the financial conditions in other parts of the world. We have had years of bountiful production of almost everything that the community requires, yet our people have almost starved. An economy which permits such a state of affairs, should ‘be reformed. I contest the claim of those who, during the depression, said that Australia should not have an internal economy. There were men who, in those years, had their own internal economy, because they had plenty of money and wanted for nothing. Although Opposition members say that I am wrong, I repeat that if money can bc found to blow people to pieces and send them to the other world a* quickly as possible, there is something wrong if our financial resources cannot be used to ensure to our people a decent standard of living. This country cannot be populated and developed, along the old lines, which gave no credit to human values. Our people must he given economic security. When conditions were adverse, many people of the Old Country, as- well as in Australia, claimed that there must be a new order; but quite a number of them, now that the danger to our existence has passed, have forgotten their former professions of belief and are actuated solely bv the considerations of “‘business as usual”.
At the meeting that he addressed in Melbourne, the Leader of the Opposition made an eloquent oration. It is a pleasure to listen to his oratory, even though he plays on the feelings of the people. But more than eloquence is needed, if we are to surmount the difficulties with which we are confronted. Australia needs men who will be prepared to implement a policy that will be in the best interests of not a section only, but the whole community. The Melbourne Argus has reported the right honorable gentleman in these terms -
Mr. Menzies .began his address by declaring that the Liberal movement to succeed must be a new movement, not merely one more party or one new in name only. In spite of victory, times ahead would still be uneasy, and reconstruction in other countries would present a tangled skein which would take the best wit of man to unravel. “With that problem confronting us,” said Mr. Menzies.. “ we have in Australia a Government and a party that I profoundly distrust.”
He was applauded for that statement; but I resent it. I remind him that, at the last elections, he asked the people to (rust him, but their overwhelming verdict was that neither he nor his party could be trusted with the administration of this country, and that the government should be in the hands of a party which would be ever mindful of its responsibilities and would endeavour in every way to implement a sound policy for the re-establishment of ex-servicemen, thus making Australia a country worth living in. [Quorum formed.)
.- Government supporters have learned at least one lesson from the present war. Curiously, it is the lesson of hara kiri that has been taught by our Japanese enemy. This Parliament is committing hara-kiri. It could have no better instrument for self-destruction by disembowelment than the bill that we now have before us. Earlier to-day, there was a reference to the traducing of tha Parliament by persons outside these walls. It was claimed that the press and the public were libelling and slandering the members of this parliamentary institution. I am completely opposed to anything that would lower the status of the Parliament, or detract from its dignity or its historic strength. But if the Parliament is not to be traduced by the press or the public, it must itself recognize a.nd be prepared to accept its historic responsibilities. Many Government supporters entered this Parliament for the first time after the last elections, and thus have had a comparatively brief experience of its methods. I believe them to be sincere and earnest. I warn them that, by this legislation, the Executive is stealing from the Parliament much of the strength and authority that have been built up by centuries of painful struggle on the part of Englishspeaking people. That will be the central theme of my remarks. This measure contains provisions which will take from the Parliament and hand to the Executive - a body over which honorable members may consider they have some control, but in practice will be able to control only very slightly after this legislation has been passed - supreme authority in relation to not only the financial structure of this country, but also the domestic life of its individual constituents.
– Does not power, ultimately, always reside with the people?
– Did the power reside with the people of England up to the signing of Magna Charta? Had it not to be fought for? Did it reside with them in the days of the Star Chamber? Did it reside with the people of Italy under the Fascist regime, the people of Germany under Nazi-ism, or the people of Russia under Communism? Can it be said that it rested, with the people at any of these times? Of course it cannot. When the Executive of this or any other country is given the supreme authority which the Parliament should possess, it can control the liberty of the individual, and his freedom to conduct his public and private affairs as he chooses.
Before analysing some of the provisions of the bill, which, to me, have a. special significance, I shall deal with amatter that was raised last night by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). I attach more importance to it than I customarily do to statements by that honorable gentleman, because it is typical of the appeal that is made by frothy demagogues with a view to misleading the people of this country as to what is financially practicable at any given time. He spoke of the condition of perpetual debt in which we now find ourselves. I suppose that that cry has been raised from the day of the first national debt in Great Britain. Actually - I should have been glad to have the official figures; I placed a question upon notice with a view to obtaining them - the interest bill of the Commonwealth, despite the enormous increase of the national debt during the war years, is not very much greater now than it was immediately prior to the war, because of progressive reductions of the interest rate. However, I shall not attack the Minister’s argument on that ground. In countries that have a national debt, there is the backing of the assets produced by government expenditure.
– The honorable gentleman would not say that war debts have the hacking of any assets.
– Even war debts are accompanied by some residual, utilitarian assets. We shall have in this country after the war, as the result of Government expenditure, roads, hospitals, ports, harbour facilities and a variety of other assets, as well as greater industrial strength, far more trained artisans, and perhaps a better disciplinary spirit throughout the community because of the lessons taught by the war. I do not, of course, claim that more than a small fraction of war expenditure is of productive value: quite obviously, the bulk of it is incurred for purposes of destruction. I return to the specious plea that was dealt with very effectively by my leader, Mr. Menzies, merely because it was broached in rather a different way by the Minister for Transport almost immediately afterwards. My leader analysed the claim that, in times of peace, the vast sums provided for purposes of destruction during a war period can be provided for purposes of production and development. In a sense, that may be true. I give to honorable members a domestic analogy, which may appeal to them as coming within their own experience. In the life of a family there may come a time when some crisis develops, necessitating a mustering of resources. Perhaps some member has to undergo a serious operation, or a heavy financial loss is sustained, or a death, or succession of deaths, has occurred. In such circumstances, the savings accumulated over many years may have to be expended to meet the crisis. Family assets, even the furnishings of the home, may have to be sold in order to carry the family through a desperate period. Nobody could reasonably say that the family, now thread-bare and without assets, could continue the same rate of expenditure indefinitely. In the same way, in a time of national crisis, the Government is compelled to bring into the pool the savings of the people, and all the national resources, and expend them extravagantly. However, let no one delude himself that the country, having got through the crisis, is in the same strong position as regards national assets as it was before.
– Sheer sophistry !
– Apparently, the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) would follow the same path as that which was trodden so airily last night by the Minister for Transport, when he advocated the issue of interest-free money for government expenditure. I ask the Minister assisting the Treasurer, does he really support this policy? Does hp believe that it would be sound policy for the Government, in the present circumstances, to issue interest-free money for government spending? Does he not realize that, after the war, the difficulty confronting us will be, not a shortage of money, but a surplus of it ?
– Then we shall not need to issue any.
– Last night, the Minister for Transport said that the national debt should be pegged, and that henceforth Government expenditure should take the form of the disbursement of interest-free money issued by the Government itself. Imagine what that would involve. After the war, there will be a big programme of government spending. The Government proposes to embark on a housing scheme, and we know that both the Commonwealth and the State Governments have prepared big programmes of public works. The Minister for Transport spoke of the standardization of railway gauges at a co3t of £76,000,000. Is it seriously suggested that these undertakings are to be financed, with interest-free money issued by the Commonwealth Bank at a time when there is a vast amount of purchasing power in the hands of the people - purchasing power at present frozen by government controls? If the policy advocated by the Minister for Transport be adopted, there must be, in order to prevent inflation, an extension of control* even more rigid than those in force dur-‘ ing the war; alternatively controls will be discarded, and we shall embark upon a wild inflationary course. I challenge honorable members opposite, who know3 something of this subject, to contest my proposition. It is not without significance that no honorable member on the Government side, who is accepted as being anything of an authority on financial matters - I instance the Treasurer and the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) - has endorsed the theories of the Minister for Transport. I have discussed them “now because they represent the sort of mob appeal which is designed to attract political support, while the people are being blinded to the real threat to their interests.
There are three features of the bill which typify the Government’s growing tendency to filch, the authority of Parliament, and to regiment individuals in accordance with the philosophy of socialism. The first is the provision for freezing all surplus deposits of the private banks with the Commonwealth Bank at the figure at which they stood in August, 1939. We can understand the use of this provision in time of war in order to prevent inflation, but what will be its effect upon the country if such a policy is persisted in indefinitely after the war? I am. not speaking on behalf of the trading banks, as such. I have no particular reason to state their point of view, except insofar as it expresses my own belief that in the system of private banking there exists an important guarantee of the liberty of the individual. I have said .before that I firmly believe in a strong central bank directing the volume of credit in Australia by the exercise of some control over the activities of the private trading banks, but, subject to this control, the private banks should be able to render a competitive service to the public, thus guaranteeing to individuals economic liberty. By a process of slow strangulation of the private banks, this bill will restrict the opportunities of young Australians of this, and future generations, to enjoy the advantages of economic liberty. There has been no intimation from the Government, nor are Ave likely to receive one, that the bank reserves now frozen will be allowed to thaw out in any appreciable number of years, it at all; so we must examine the consequences of the present proposal. The first is that the capacity of the private trading banks to lend will be limited to their capacity in this direction as in August, 1939. Actually, their capacity will be diminished, because the value of the currency since then has diminished by ait least 22 per cent. We may assume that, in the next few years, some of the clients of the trading banks will drop out from various causes, such as death or business failure. To that limited extent, the hanks will be able to deal with new business, but that is likely to be more than offset hy the fact that the present clients of tie banks, in order to develop their businesses, will need increased financial accommodation. We may say, therefore, that the capacity of the trading banks to lend to new borrowers after the war will be negligible. Thus, a young
Australian, perhaps an ex-serviceman, who wants to go into business will be forced, whether he likes it or not, to seek financial accommodation from the Commonwealth Bank. He will not .be able to go from, one bank to another in search of better terms or conditions.
The second important feature of the bill is contained in clause 27, perhaps the most dangerous and significant clause of the whole bill. This is the clause which gives the Commonwealth Bank power to determine, not the volume of credit which shall be available to the community at any time, but the manner in which it shall be employed. The Commonwealth Bank may, under this clause, direct the trading banks as to the classes of purposes for which advances may or may not he made. Outside those countries ruled by dictators, I do not think that such farreaching power has been exercised over the banking system of any country in the world. I do not know of any country, where it is claimed that a vestige of liberty remains, which has given power to the central bank to state in what direction credit shall be made available. It is true that there is a safeguard. It is provided in sub-clause 3, which reads - (3.) Nothing in this section shall -
The power of direction of the Commonwealth Bank is to be general in that sense, but that does not afford any real protection to the individual, because the same government which can determine in what channels credit shall flow will also be able to control, through other departments, what resources are to be available. This form of control has been exercised during the war for war purposes, but it is apparently to be continued after the war through the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. So, although there is apparently some protection for the individual in that the banks are not to be given instructions to deny an advance to any particular person, that person can well be denied the rights which would normally be available to him to develop industry, even along channels laid down by the Commonwealth Bank, because of the refusal of other Commonwealth departments to make available to him the necessary materials that he would require for his projects. This process of what is known as qualitative control of credit is one of the most dangerous that this Parliament could undertake in banking policy. It has been shown throughout history that where you give government control in this way over matters involving financial benefits to groups of persons, you lay open the most fertile opportunities for corruption within governments and within the Government service itself. I repeat that I have yet to be shown that qualitative direction, of credit is operating in any country other than those under socialistic dictatorships. Yet here we are embarking on it. I pause at ibis point to quote to the House a short passage from Hayek’s book,The Road to Serfdom. He had, as readers of his book well know, a very close knowledge of what has been done in this regimenting process in central Europe. This is his comment on this kind of control -
The so-called economic freedom which the planners promise us means precisely that we are to be relieved of the necessity of solving our own economic problems and that the bitter choices which this often involves are to be made for us. Since under modern conditions we are for almost everything dependent on menus which our fellow men provide, economic planning would involve direction of almost the whole of our life. There is hardly an aspect of it, from our primary needs to our relations with our family and friends, from the nature of our work to the use of our leisure, over which the planner would not exercise his “ conscious control “.
I come back from that to the clause, and I direct attention to the fact that once again we have had put before us an explanatory memorandum in which the Government has included what I might almost call lying comment; it is certainly misleading comment. Honorable members will find on page 13 this comment on clause 27 -
This clause will give statutory effect to the suggestion of the Banking Commission (paragraph621) that the Commonwealth Bank should : advise the trading banks as to the general direction of advances, without interfering with the granting of particular advances.
Since the memorandum says that the clause proposes to give statutory effect to the royal commission’s recommends’ tion, I shall read the recommendation; it is in paragraph 621 -
We recommend -
In order to promote a wise distribution of credit, the Commonwealth Bank should equip itself with all possible facilities for ascertaining economic trends in Australia and abroad, so that it can advise trading banks as to the directions in which it is desirable in the national interest that advances should be made.
– We give them advice in a very effective way.
– The Government proposes to give the banks the sort of advice that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) gave to the Sydney newspapers when he advised them to close down for a couple of days. This clause sets out to adopt precisely the same technique. I am taking the House from the wording of the Government’s memorandum and the wording of the royal commission’s recommendations to the wording of the clause -
Penalty: One thousand pounds.
A penalty for not taking advice, apparently - (2.) Without limiting the generality of the last preceding sub-section, the Commonwealth Bank may give directions as to the classes of purposes for which advances may or may not be made by banks and each bank shall comply with any directions so given.
Penalty: One thousand pounds.
At the appropriate stage in committee, I shall test the Government’s bona fides on this matter. It says that this clause gives statutory effect to the recommendation of the royal commission. In committee, I will move that the clause be worded in conformity with the recommendation of the royal commission. We shall then see how much good faith there is in the advice that this Government purports to give to this House, including its own supporters, who, apparently, have not bothered to read the bill thoroughly; otherwise, they would know that the advice is false. I remind honorable members that they ought not to let out of their minds that the bank means the Treasurer, and the Treasurer means the caucus and all that flows from that fact. Thisclause gives the bank, and, through thebank, these other influences, power to determine the direction of these advances. I do not want to labour the point. I think I have made it sufficientlyclear. I merely refer again to the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) yesterday, as to how disastrous this could be in the hands of the bank. He spoke of the Federal Reserve Bank in the United States of America and the depression it precipitated in 1937 by interference with economic conditions, which were developing in that country. Assuredly, if some government department, this banking institution, sets itself up to decide where it, will be wise for Australian investments to proceed, weshall get the same chaos and dislocation of industry as was experienced in the United States of America. Who is lively tobe the better judge of whether an investment is sound and likely to be profitable than men with their own hard cashto invest, risking, perhaps, a lifetime of effort, in carrying through a project? Surely, not some government officer sitting in his own room and not personally involved in what may happen to that project! I know whom I would back with my money, and I am certain that the country does too. Here again we have an in-tance of Parliament surrendering to the Executive and the bank what is really publicpolicy as to whether there should be development in certain directions or not. If the Government decides that it is necessary that we should have economic development along certain defined channels, what is to prevent it from bringing a bill before this Parliament in order to get the necessary appropriation and authority for. it? But it does not propose to do that. What it proposes to do is to use this back-door- method.
The third item to which I desire to refer is foreign exchange. No one would deny that there may be occasions in the life of the country on which control over foreign exchange transactions may become necessary. We had such a crisis in the depression. We have abnormal circumstances of war which also make necessary control of foreign exchange. But those occasions are not so frequent in the life of the nation that it is not practicable for Parliament to be consulted at any time it is proposed to impose severe restrictions upon the use of foreign exchange. This control of foreign exchange is not the innocent or harmless process that it may appear on the surface. I come back again to Hayek, who makes a pregnant comment on the highly political use that may be made by the Executive of its control over foreign exchange. At page 90 of hisbook he says -
The extent of the control overall life that economic control confers is nowhere better illustrated than in the field of foreign exchanges. Nothing would at first seem to affect private life less than a state control of the dealings in foreign exchange and most people will regard its introduction with complete indifference. Yet the experience of most continental countrieshas taught thoughtful people to regard this stop as the decisive advance on the path to totalitarianism and the suppression of individual liberty. It is in fact, that complete delivery of the individual to the tyranny ofthe State, thefinal suppression of all means of escape - not merely for the rich, but for everybody. Once the individual is no longer free to travel, no longer free to buy foreign boohs or journals, once all means of foreign contact can he restricted to those of whom official opinion approves or for whom it is regarded as necessary, the effective control of opinion is much greater than that ever exercised by any of the absolutist governmentsof the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,
That is a tremendous power to put into the hands of the Executive.I repeat that there are occasions on which such rigid control of foreign exchange by the Government may be essential, hut those occasions are not so frequent that Parliament cannot be consulted and told what need the Executive has to control foreign exchangesthat shall be made available to individuals. Whether people shall be allowed to travel or purchase literature from abroad, whether business men who desire to go abroad on proper commercial purposes shall go cap in hand to curry favour with the Executive in order to get exchange resources - control of these and kindred matters represents a power which this Parliament should not lightly transfer to the
Executive. To show the recklessness with which this power is being adopted, I refer to one provision in clause 29 - (1.) Where the Governor-General is satisfied that it is expedient so to do, for the protection of the currency or of the public credit of the Commonwealth, or in order to conserve, in the national interest, the foreign exchange resources of the Commonwealth, he may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, making provision for and in relation to the control of foreign exchange and, in particular, but without limiting the generality of the foregoing, for or in relation to - (/) the prohibition of the importation or exportation of goods unless a licence under the regulations to import or export the goods is in force;
– That is the German prevar system.
– Yes. As the honorable member for Balaclava, with his long experience as Minister for Trade and Customs knows, this enables the Executive to cut right across the tariff policy of this country, prescribed by the Parliament. The government of the day could permit or prohibit the importation of goods at will. What place has a clause of that kind in such a measure as this? [f Parliament is prepared to forfeit control over tariff policy and its own determination whether certain goods should or should not be imported, let us have a proper measure brought before us and let us have this properly ventilated. Do not try to sneak it in as a minor sub-clause in a banking bill. A tremendous possibility is opened up by this ‘ sub-clause, which provides an opportunity for the Executive of the day, without reference to the Parliament, to determine the trading, policy of the country. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) pointed out last night that a government with a strong tendency to foster, say. secondary industries at the expense of primary industries, could act behind the back of Parliament in such a way aa to destroy the capacity of the primary producers to trade with other countries. What justification does the Government offer for including this pregnant clause in the bill?
– It offers its majority.
M’.r. HOLT.- Yes, that is the only explanation. “God is on the side of the big battalions “, a general once said, and apparently the view of the Government ie that right is with, the mighty majority. I mention these matters because they demonstrate how the Parliament is being deprived of its authority to speak for the people. The historic process whereby power has been taken from the Executive and. exercised, through the Parliament, for tho people, has been reversed. In this bill we have an instance of private enterprise .being destroyed almost at a blow, and its destruction will involve the destruction of the liberty of the individual. Where private enterprise has flourished, freedom of mind and body has .been guaranteed. Where private enterprise has been murdered by collectivist laws :md government strangulation, freedom of mind and body has died. This bill strikes a deadly blow at private enterprise and at Parliament. It casts the dark cloud of regimentation across the clear blue sky of Australian freedom.
.- When the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was a member of the Labour party, he took part in the discussions in the Commonwealth Parliament, in 1911, in support of the establishment of tile Commonwealth Bank. He then defended the government of the day against the sort of propaganda that issues from the Opposition on. this occasion. I quote from a speech delivered by the right honorable gentleman at that time : -
Whenever it is proposed to tax the rich mau there goes out a wail from members opposite, not on behalf of the rich man, but on behalf of the poor man who is warned to beware of the Labour party.
He added -
Is it the little man who provides cbe pow der and shot for these attacks? No, it is the mau with plenty of money against whom thi legislation is directed.
To-day. honorable members opposite pretend that they do not advocate the interest? of the private banks when they oppose the Government’s legislation, but are. in fact, concerned about the poor man.. The big man is not their friend, they say. They pose as the friends of democracy, and warn the people of the dreadful results which will allegedly follow the passage of this very important hill. They are hard put to it, of course. lo produce substantial arguments in support of their contentions. They have tailed to impress the Parliament in the course of this debate, and they have failed to impress the people. I have not the slightest doubt that most Australians are very much in favour of the legislation which the Government proposes to enact, because they recognize that it will give to them a better deal than they have had previously. Legislation is judged by results, and the private banks of Australia have very few friends amongst tin1 people. In referring to the people, 1 do not mean only the members of the working class who were the victims of the man-made depression ten years ago, when the .banks created a shortage of money as the result of a policy of deflation. I mean also the primary producers and the great sections of the middle classes which suffered in the same depression years. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) went to Geneva in 1935, and, on his return, he reported to the Government in the following terms : -
I consider some consideration should be given to such control of organized finance as will prevent a return to the usurious rates ot ore-depression days.
Nevertheless, when this Government brings down legislation, ten years after the honorable gentleman’s own government failed to do so, in order to prevent a return to the “usurious rates of predepression days “, he answers the crack of the whip wielded by the bankers and big business men, and attacks the bill. So, too, does the right honorable member for North Sydney, who, in the past 30 years, has managed to swallow all the democratic sentiments which he once uttered about the people who have financed the opposition to every progressive piece of legislation that this Parliament has ever enacted. ifr. White. - Is socialism democratic?
– Of course it is. Anything that the people accept is democratic. ‘ If the people want socialism, they are entitled to have it. Capitalism, which the honorable member represents - that rapacious product of rank materialism - is not democratic, and it has been the mainspring of all the dictator ships which, happily, have fallen recently in Europe.
– The people of Germany gave a 99 per cent, vote for Hitler.
– The people of Australia gave a 60 per cent, vote for the Labour party in 1943, and probably will give a 90 per cent, vote in 194’6, because of this and similar legislation.
Mr. Hughes interjecting,
– The right honorable gentleman saw the light in 1916, and received £25,000 at least for the excellent cl’arity of his vision.
– That is gratuitous. 1 resent it, and I ask that the honorable gen,leman withdraw the remark and apologise. It is a lie.
– Order ! Exception has been taken to the Minister’s remark. He must withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
– And apologize.
– I shall not apologize. The honorable member for Parramatta also said-
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. The right honorable member for North Sydney said that the Minister’s statement was offensive to him, and asked that the Minister withdraw it and apologize. The Minister withdrew, but will not apologize. Is that in order? Must he not apologize, seeing that you have asked him to do so?
– I did not ask the Minister to apologize. I asked him to withdraw the remark. So far as an apology is concerned, that is a matter for the judgment of the Minister.
– I shall conform to the Standing Orders. The honorable member for Parramatta, in his report on capital for small businesses, in 1935, also stated -
The insecurity associated with bank credit, capable of being withdrawn at call, has been a weakness of our present financial structure.
This bill will prevent the banking institutions from withdrawing money in the way in which they have done in the past, because it will provide facilities for people to transfer accounts to the Commonwealth Bank, and it will ensure
– We cannot haveit without full regimentation.
– The honorable member cries, parrot fashion, “ full regimentation”.No other government in the history of Australia regimented the people more than did the government of which the honorable member belonged during the years of the bank-created depression.He talks about freedom, which is the antithesis of regimentation. The only freedom that the workers of Australia knew during the years when he was a Minister was the freedom to starve.
– We provided them with work,
– And when the honorable gentleman used to ride along St. Kilda-road in his luxurious limousine, in the days of the bank-created depression, he had no concern for the thousands of returned soldiers–
– I have never owned a limousine, but the Minister rides to and fro in one every week. I ask him to correct that statement.
– During the years of the bank-created depression, a repetition of which this legislation will prevent, the government of which the honorable member for Balaclava was a member–
- Mr. Speaker, I draw attention to the state of the House. Every honorable member ought to be present, because it is a pity that such an excellent speech should be wasted on the desert air.
– The time required to form a quorum would not expire before the customary hour for the suspen
Sitting suspended from 12.43 to 2.15 p.m.
Mr.CALWELL.- Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I was referring to the fact that, during the depression years, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) used to drive daily along St.Kilda-road, Melbourne, to the Commonwealth offices, past the Shrine of Remembrance, at the time that hun dreds, if not thousands, of returned men were employed at sustenance rates in decorating the grounds of that memorial erected to the memory of their dead comrades and to their own valour. They were forced to work for the dole. They had the freedom to starve if they refused to work. The honorable member, and the government with which he was associated, condemned these and hundreds of thousands of other citizens of Australia to starve themselves back into prosperity.
Mr.Fuller. - I wonder whether he drove along the Hume Highway past the scrub camps in which the men from the coal-fields were existing.
– What happened in the cities and towns of Victoria and other States happened also along the country roads of the Commonwealth. As further evidence of the suffering inflicted on the people of this country by the banking institutions through the contraction of credit, I direct attention to several newspaper reports. The Melbourne Star a now defunct evening newspaper, which waspublished by the Argus, printed the following article on the 18th August, 1934:-
Among move than 400 returned soldiers who have applied for the job , of caretaker of the Shrine of Remembrance at £4. 10s. a week are four winners of the V.C. and a lieutenant-colonel with the C.M.G., D.S.O. and Bar and the Volunteer decoration.
– Quiteso. The article continues -
There are many othersenior officers and decorated men in the list. About 85 per cent. of the applicants are unemployed, and the remaining 13per cent. are in work of a temporary or unprofitable character.
So much for the consideration given by honorable gentlemen opposite to returned servicemen and the people at large. Yet the capitalist press would have us believe that an anti-Labour government would protect the interests of the people. As another indication ofwhat honorable gentlemen opposite did to restore solvency to the community during the depression, I direct attention to the following report, which appeared in the Melbourne Sun on the 6th July, 1934;-
Typical of many of the cases of extreme hardship dealt with by the State ReliefCom- mittee are two about which information was received this week. In one instance, a mother writes: “Dad is an invalid, my boys are absolutely barefooted, for pillows we use sugarbags filled with straw, wool packs serve us as bedding. Could you let me have a second-hand pair of boots for each of my boys, who will tack tin on the soles to make them last longer? “
That is what happened tothe children of thiscountry in the depression years. Many of them volunteered for service in this war as soon as the call came, and are determined that they shall receive better treatment on their return to civil life when the war ends. Certain reports have been published of remarks of leading officers of the Australian Army in this war, concerning the kind of postwar world that our soldiers will expect to live in. The following report appeared in the Melbourne Age on the 8th November, 1944:-
When the soldiers returned they would demand international security, and would demand the right to live in freedom, and to live’ their lives freely, and without want. They would not listen to any section of the community which would tell them there were insufficient credits to maintain employment. This was one of the many striking passages ina stirring address Lieutenant-General S. G. Savige delivered to members of the Legacy Club yesterday on “The Soldier’s Influence on the Post-warWorld”.
Mr.White.- I was there and heard the address.Why does not the Minister read the whole report?
– If the honorable member for Balaclava heard the address, it does not appear to have had a beneficial effect upon him, for he and his colleagues are still giving expression to the same old moth-eaten stories, and to the same old bankers’ platitudes, as in days gone by, andthey are still engaging in insidious propaganda in the interests of international financiers. That was made clearby the speeches they delivered on the Commonwealth Bank Bill and are delivering on this measure. Hereis another report of a speech by a prominent Australian officer. It appeared in the Melbourne Age on the 24th October, 1944, and read -
According to Lieutenant-Colonel M. Ashkanasy, who was in charge of the AdjutantGeneral’s branch in Malaya and New Guinea, a disconcertingly large proportion of soldiers, at the time they came intothe Army early in the war, showed signs of malnutrition and under-nourishment. Colonel Ashkanasy said that after the fall of Singapore, when the remaining men regarded themselves as condemnedmen, likely to die in a few days, a talk among them revealed that with few exceptions these men were entirely unprepared for a situation of that kind, and had no full appreciation of the ideals for which they were sacrificing themselves. Few of the men had any faith or philosophy of any kind. He felt strongly that it was a great weakness, and unjust to the men who had to submit to that ordeal. It was not the fault of the chaplains, who at that time had to carry out a variety of work. He was satisfied that, generally speaking, the Australian soldiers had risen considerably from that condition, and when they came back they would bring with them a deeper idealism and deeper spiritual note.
When the banking legislation now before the Parliament becomes operative there will be no malnutrition and no undernourishment in Australia - at least so long as a Labour government remains in office to administer the legislation. We can at least give that pledge to the people of Australia. Honorable gentlemen opposite, with their record of stygian blackness, can make no promises and give no assurances to the people about the future. If they should happen, by some mischance, to he returned to power the outlook willbe poor indeed as the speeches of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) have clearly indicated. These honorable gentlemen say that they disagree with the provisions of clause 27 which provides that the Commonwealth Bank may determine the policy in relation to advances to be followed by the trading banks. I can see nothing wrong and a great deal that is commendable in that provision. Apparently the Opposition favours adherence to the bad old policy of the depression years when the banks contracted credit in a disgraceful way. At that time the clients of the banks were informed that they must reduce their overdrafts because a banking inspector, or the Board of Directors of the bank, had decided that that policy should be applied. In the final analysis, this Parliament should dictate policy on that subject. The policy of the private banks would certainly not contribute in any way to the provision of full employment for- everybody, but would undoubtedly lead to unemployment, as it has always done. Honorable gentlemen opposite seem to be antagonistic to this measure because it might have the effect of preventing private banks or financial institutions from building large blocks of flats, or assisting people to engage in luxury trades of one kind or another designed solely to increase private profit. This Government considers that home building should have a high priority, and it may find it necessary to say to the directors of banks that, as credit is not inexhaustible, a substantial proportion of the credit available should be devoted to projects that will yield the greatest good for the greatest number of people. That is a sound axiom. This bill will ensure that the private banks will not be able to apply a policy which will be definitely against the best interests of the people. “What I have said about the depression is in accord with a statement published in a report of the International Labour Conference of 1937, as follows : -
If the depression has shown one thing more clearly than anything else, it is that economic prosperity and social security depend more on monetary policy than on any other single factor.
The plain fact is that the Opposition desires to return to the bad old order; it does not desire a new order. When the Japanese were very close to our shores, and on what was, for us, the wrong side of the Owen Stanley Range, only 40 miles from Port Moresby, honorable gentlemen opposite were very much in favour of a new order. Any order that meant the salvation of their lives and the retention of their property was acceptable to them. But as the Japanese danger receded these honorable gentlemen lost their enthusiasm for a new order, and are now doing their utmost to ensure a continuation of the bad old order under which capitalism would be able to function in the bad old way. They desire that there shall be a constant reservoir of unemployed people from which employers will be able to draw workers whenever they desire to do so, and to which they will be able to throw the men hack when they have finished with them.
We shall have about 25 years in this country to decide whether we intend to make proper use of our second opportunity to survive. If we do not do so, we certainly shall not survive. We cai! survive only if we can provide full employment for our people under a constantly expanding economy. We should be able to attract people to this country from other parts of the world, but if we have an unemployment problem here we shall not be able to do that. It is surely clear to everybody that if we are to increase our population to anything like the 20,000,000 that some people talk about we must change our economic system. The had old days must noi return to this country. Surely, it will not be said of us, as was said of the Bourbons of France, that we learn nothing and forget nothing. The people of Australia desire a change from the bad old order of .the days gone by.
The spectacle of the members of the Australian Country party opposing this legislation is amazing, for country people remember all too vividly how the private banking institutions treated them in the days of the depression. The previous Labour Government in 1931 endeavoured to pass through this Parliament a Fiduciary Notes Bill which would have assured to the farmers 5s. 6d. a bushel for wheat which, at that time, they were obliged to sell for ls. lOd. a bushel; but they were prevented, from doing so by the parliamentary members of the Australian Country party who favoured not the farmers but the Pitt-street and Collins-street farmers who farm the farmers. 1 have been making an investigation with the object of ascertaining whether the people at large are in favour of the financial measures which the Government has introduced, and’ I have learned tha*, many people who do not ordinarily vote for the Labour party, intend to vote for it in the future, because of its financial reform policy. The people realize that in the years when the Country party dominated the politics of this country very little genuine help was given to the primary producers or the workers.
I desire to make some remarks concerning the observations of the honorable member for Fawkner, who expressed the opinion that the trading banks could be trusted to decide the banking policy of this country. The fact is that from the inauguration of banking in Australia in 1817, when the Bank of New South “Wales was established, down to the present day, banks have periodically failed. Almost every decade has witnessed booms and slumps of a minor or major character, and these invariably act ultimately with great severity on bank depositors and shareholders alike. During the discussion of the Commonwealth Bank Bill, I referred to the collapse in Victoria of twelve banks, with the result that £S0,000,000 belonging to their depositors was confiscated and converted into interminable securities or preference shares. I have since made further investigations, which disclose that Sir George Dibbs, Premier of New South Wales, Sir John Downer, Premier of South Australia, and Mr. J. B. Patterson, Premier of Victoria, met in. Melbourne on Saturday, the 27th May, 1893. to discuss the effects of the bank smashes on the clients of those institutions as well as on the people generally in their colonies. An extract from Table Talk of the 2nd June, 1S93, reads -
Mr. Patterson in commenting upon the deliberations of the conference, said that it was agreed that in the public interests there should be supervision exercised by the Government over the general business of the banks.
This legislation proposes to do that. We have had to wait for 52 years for the introduction of a bill in any Australian Parliament, proposing to do what the Premiers of those three colonies said many years ago was necessary. T have read with very great interest the issues of Table Talk at that period. On the 25th August, 1893, it published this -
The failure of the Crown to launch prosecutions against the directors of the Mercantile Bank, was discussed in the Legislative Assembly on 17th August. The trend of the speeches in support of Mr. Murray’s motion was that prima facie evidence in support oi the charges of fraud in connexion with the Mercantile Bank was so strong that Sir Bryan O’Loghlen over-stretched his authority a* Attorney-General in abandoning the prosecution.
The prosecution was launched against Sir Matthew Davies, a leading financier and politician of that day. He got away as far as Ceylon, but was brought back and put on trial. However, it was discovered that an alien had been included in the jury, and because of that technical flaw the trial was abandoned, and the prosecution was subsequently dropped. Table Talk said in regard to another prosecution -
In the Legislative Assembly this matter hai1 also become the subject of an indecent party discussion, during which the exSolicitorGeneral - the man who left the Cabinet because of its interference to stay prosecution in the Si rat instance - declared that if he were in office the magistrate referred to would be dismissed on thu s-pot.
There is a further reference that I desire to make; it concerns the Federal Bank, which, also closed it doors forever in thai awful financial cataclysm. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) may have complete confidence in the banking institutions, but. it is not shared by many other persons in Australia. This is what Table Talk of the 16th June. IS98, published in regard to the Federal Rank-
A statement has been made this week, that the Federal Bank of Australia, which is in liquidation also intends to reconstruct. We cannot however regard the statement as serious. Since this bank has closed its doors particulars of the overdraft book have reached us and our increased knowledge - like Goethe, we are always asking for more light - discloses the deplorable fact that the Federal Bank was most shamefully depleted of itf cash by Mr. James Munro, his sons, soninlaw, and other relatives and “ tentacles “ whilst the other directors have also used the bank for their own purpose, as will be seen from the particulars below. Nine amounts in which Mr. Donald Munro is mixed up. amount to £161,237. What the value of these assets are, may be judged from the fact that the bank before it closed its doors, accepted 6d. in the £1 for something likea quarter of a million sterling and gave Mr. Donald Munro and other parties a legal release. Then we have Mr. Alexander Munro, a son of the Honorable James Munro, who owed £28,526. Mr. Donald Munro, another son, owes in his own name £26,161. Mr. G. Munro, a third son, owes £8,000. The Honorable James Munro, himself, owes £30,141 and on account of this station (per Crellin) £38,702.
Thatwas followed by a list of the overdrafts owing by other directors and friends, totalling £113,000. I have summarized the list ofamounts owing by the members of the Baillieu family at the time. Mr. W. L. Baillieu, Mr. E. L. Baillieu, Mr. J. G. Baillieu and Mr. R. F. Baillieu, either on their own account or in association with their relatives and friends, owed to this bank £153,537. The bank paid 6d. in the £1. That was the commencement of the Baillieu wealth.
I could speak at length upon what happened at that period in regard to both the banks that did not re-open, and the banks that closed their doors and afterwards were reconstructed. Some of them did not complete, for many years, the payment of money owing to their depositor?. The English, Scottish and Australian Bankhas never repaid one penny of the £2,000,000 that itowes. Despite the repeated efforts continued up to 1923, by the representatives of the deposit holders, to persuade the directors to pay 20s. in the£,all efforts in that direction have been unavailing. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Mountjoy) has handed to me a letter he has received from one of his electors in Western Australia whose parents lost their all in the collapse of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank. I, too, have received correspondence from all over Australia, supporting statements that other honorable members and I have made in this House in condemnation of the financial manipulations in the last decade of the last century by practically all the directors of all the banks in Australia. One authority on banking gave evidence before the royal commission appointed by the Government of Victoria to examine a proposal for the establishment of a State bank, following the collapse of the other banks. He was Mr. Gilmour Brown. In my opinion, what he then said of the banking institu tions of his day is skill true. This is what he said-
The banking system as it now stands is a disgrace to civilizedcommunities. Itplaces in the hands of a small committee, the Bankers’ Association, a power greater than that of the Government - without its responsi bility to the country.
He also said -
They are a financial absolutism. They levy direct taxes, on the enterprise, industry and production of the community. They control our reserves, our rate of interest, our credit, and possess more absolute jurisdiction over our livelihood, our savings, our monetary future, than the Government.
This bill is designed to alter that state of affairs. Because they fear a change, the banking institutions of Australia, through their political representatives in this Par. liament, are making a futile effort to prevent, the enactment of the legislation. All the levies they have made on themselves, and all their expenditure on newspaper advertisements, in radio propaganda, and in other directions, will be of no avail, because the legislation will be passed; and when it has reached the statute-book, it will neverbe repealed. The people of Australia will not vote for the Liberal party, with the restoration of the Bank Board and the repeal of this legislation as the principal issues at the next Common wealth elections. When the people can obtain cheap money, as they will be able to do under the Commonwealth Bank bill, when they can obtain advances readily and are not required to reduce advances on good security, they certainly will not vote themselves back into economic serfdom - a condition that has existed for so long. I draw the attention of honorable members to aresolution passed by the Public Service Association ofNew South Wales, endorsing the Government’s banking legislation. It appears in the Sydney Daily Mirror of the 4th April last. The Public Service Association can be regarded as representative of a fair crosssection of the Australian community. It represents many persons who live on small wages, as well as many who may reasonably be regarded as belonging to the middle class. The conference, with practically no opposition, passed a resolution which contained these words -
We maintain that the enormous powers that vest in those who control the banking system should notbe left in the hands of a few private individuals.
– I thought the honorable gentleman did not believe what was published by the press.
– I am accepting not what the press has published but what the Public Service Association has resolved. The honorable gentleman would bo well advised not to make this an issue in Wentworth at the next elections, because he might not be so lucky as he was on tie last occasion, and might himself be “streets behind “. The dreadful conditions that followed the collapse of the land boom in the Australian colonies in the nineties, were felt by people throughout the Commonwealth, and many, unfortunately, are still suffering on that account. They were reduced to penury at the time, and some are living on oldage pensions to-day, because they were robbed by banking institutions. There were 17,000 houses empty in Melbourne at the end of the last century.
– We are not responsible for that.
– The honorable gentleman’s spiritual predecessors of four or five decades ago were responsible, just as he and his party were responsible for houses being empty throughout Australia during the depression. The existence of such settlements as Happy Valley on Botany Bay and Dudley Flats in Melbourne and the fact that some people have bad to live on mud-flats on the banks <>f the Molonglo River here in Canberra are directly traceable to his Government’s failures. I no not need to go through the whole gamut. Houses were empty because people could not pay the rent that was asked for them.
– That was the result of the Premiers’ plan.
– It was the result of the international manipulation of finance. If the honorable gentleman will take the trouble to read what I said in my previous speech, he will realize that even some of the people who support him politically have stated the truth concerning the origin of the depression. Governments were almost held to ransom during those awful years. To return to conditions in Victoria years after the bank crashes, I can recall going with my family, when I was a little boy, to live in a two-story house in a terrace of nine houses, three of which were empty at the time. A.n ex-police sergeant was permitted to occupy one house rent free, in order that he might act as caretaker of all of them. That was as recently as 1905. Seventy-five thousand people were driven out. of Victoria between 1895 and 1900 because they could not get work. The fortunate discovery of gold in Western Australia provided them with an opportunity to secure full, remunerative employment. Many people in Victoria at that time lived on the remittances that came from Western Australia. There was no old-age or invalid pension in those days. Many members in this House and the Senate can relate the story of that period. Two members of the present Ministry went to Western Australia to find work ; one is the Minister for La’bour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), and the other is the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron). I have heard from the PostmasterGeneral that thousands of men, forming a queue half a mile long, used to stand outside the post offices ai Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie on a Saturday afternoon awaiting their turn to buy postal notes and money orders to send back to their people in the eastern States. That sort of thing will not be repeated 30 long as the Australian people maintain their sanity. So long as they keep in office a Labour government that will guard them from the depredations of the banking institutions they are safe, but if they listen to the siren voices of the agents of the banks they will experience after this war a depression more terrible and more extensive in its effects than was that of the first nine years of the third decade of this century. The effects of the last depression were felt right up to the outbreak of this war. We have it on the authority of the Leader of the Opposition that, at the outbreak of the war, there were 250.000 persons out of work in Australia. When war came, unemployment vanished. Strange as it may seem, there is never full employment in time of peace, but in time of war there is always a shortage of man-power. We are determined that we shall not return to conditions under which there is a surplus of man-power. The resources of this country still remain co be developed. Australia is still practically in the pioneering stage. It can be made a great country, but if it is to be great every policy, whether relating co banking, taxation, or tariffs, must be soundly framed. This legislation in regard to banking is on the right lines.
.- One might describe these two banking measures as twin bills of ill intent, because they are intended to destroy the present banking system. No government supporter will deny that. The purpose of this legislation is to set up a monopoly of the worst kind - a government monopoly, under which the Government shall control finance and commerce in this British democracy. In this effort to sell us socialism, it is useless to harp on bank crashes of 50 years ago, or on the economic depression of a decade ago. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has a phobia against the press, and a penchant for throwing mud at individuals, which has earned for him the sobriquet of “ Minister for Defamation “. In the course of his speech, he cast certain aspersions upon me, which I could afford to trent lightly but that his words are recorded in Hansard, and so I must answer them lest some one might believe them, coming as they did from a reputedly responsible man. He spoke of returned soldiers who, during the depression, worked on the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne, at dole rates, while I drove by in my limousine unperturbed. I was a Minister in the Lyons Government for six years and that Government has never received full credit for what it did to get people back into employment. The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) knew what the difficulties were. He took measures to rectify the trade balance, and we in Opposition gave him our support. Later, when we assumed office, we revised the tariff schedule and took measures regarding exchange
– And there were 200,000 persons out of employment in New South Wales.
– In case the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) has suffered a lapse of memory, I remind him that the unemployment figure was 25 per f-ent. when the Lyons Government camp into office, whereas in 1938 it was down to 10 per cent., which is very close to the normal percentage for any country. The causes of the depression were not local. It was a world-wide depression, and from it wo have learned a great deal. What wo learned, then and since will enable n« to cope more quickly and more successfully with any similar situation in the future. There is no need for revolutionary measures. As for the gibe of the Minister for Information that I rode luxuriously in a motor car, I point out to honorable members that never during my long term as a Minister did I have a ministerial car, and as for my alleged attitude to returned soldiers, let me say that I have been associated with the services for 40 years and have served in two wars. I suggest to Ministers of the present Government that in these days of scarcity of petrol and rubber, they should not drive in ministerial cars from Melbourne to Canberra, and vice versa, when they could travel by train. I would not have touched on this matter but for the Minister’s gibe.
– The honorable member for Balaclava travelled even more expensively. He travelled by air.
– I never drove interstate by car. I sometimes used the air services when it was advisable to do so. I suggest that the attention of the Auditor-General might well be directed to the practice of Ministers using cars for travelling interstate. The allegation of the Minister for Information that unemployment was responsible for a large percentage of enlistments in the Australian Imperial Force is effectively answered by a returned soldier writing in Mufti, the journal of the returned soldiers’ organization, for September, 1944. This is what he says -
When mothers in the nineties wanted to keep their children quiet they threatened them with a visit from the bogyman. Uttered just before the children went to bed it was an effective check upon any tendency to disturb the rest of the household with unwanted noises.
When politicians want to spare their constituents from voting the wrong way they raise a bogy cry, and the one most in use at the moment is the bogy of unemployment. Noi long ago Mr. Calwell, M.H.R., the champion of the under-dog. but one who often allows his heart to control his head, made a statement that from his electorate alone, 2,000 “ economic conscripts “ were forcedto join the 2nd Australian Imperial Force. ‘ “ They were unemployed, and they had to enlist to get a crust.”
Statements such as these often get by, for the lack of some one to take the trouble of refuting them.
As in the metropolitan area 65 per cent. of the unemployed were between the ages of 40 and 60, the number of young unemployed in the whole of the metropolitan area would be less than 3,400, of whom at least 75 per cent. would be either unemployable owing to physical incapacity or at least not up to the standard of Army enlistment. The number of potential Army recruits from the ranks of the unemployed would be less than 1,000.
These figures give the lie to Mr. Calwell that 2,000 men in his electorate were forced by economic circumstances to enlist. The number of men in his district falling within the category, even if the category did exist, which is open to doubt, was negligible, probably not more than 50. “It is likely that the enlistments in his constituency were less than the number of men he himself assisted into safe munitions employment. . . .
If these speakers are not truthful about the past, one might question whether their statements can he accepted applying to the future.
So far from widespread unemployment being likely, there promises to he a shortage of manpower after the war.
That is common sense. If one has any doubt as to whether socialism is the motive behind this legislation, one has only to read the Treasurer’s own statement to the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems -
In my opinion, the best service to the community can be given only by a banking system from which the profit motive is absent, and thus, in practice, only by a system entirely under national control.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad to listen to the cheers of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), because I prefer his straightforward advocacy of socialism to the subtle methods of those who seek to attain the same end by devious means. The Minister for Transport is a straightout advocate of the proposal to make banking and commerce a government monopoly. The purpose of this bill is to regulate private banking, and one of its clauses provides for the freezing of the banks’ assets. That is only another way of effecting a capital levy. When the Minister for Information speaks to his supporters on the Yarra bank he says, “ Let us sock the rich ; let us make a capital levy “. That is a well-known socialist shibboleth. The Government is proposing to reach the same goal in a more subtle way, namely, by hampering the activities of the private banks. It proposes to freeze their funds, and so to prevent them from expanding, no matter how much Australia may develop. If perfection could be attained by government control of banking we all would support it, but the history of government enterprise is not such as to encourage us to take a hopeful view of the Government’s proposals. We can imagine the treatment which will be accorded by a government-controlled bank to men who, after the war, will have to approach it for financial accommodation. I have instanced in this House the colossal waste on buildings and plant by this Government during the war. A person going to the government bank for an overdraft will be referred to this person and that person, and there will be countless forms to fill in. Finally, he will get a quite impersonal reply. The private banks are commercial institutions. There is a personal relationship, especially in country areas, between the banks and the customers, and finance will be provided if the customer is credit-worthy. It is a fallacy to say that banks can create unlimited credit. They can only advance under the cheque and overdraft system up to the risk that they are prepared to take. Some of them are prepared to take more than others. But they will not go beyond the securities left by their customers, nor give them greater cheque accommodation than is warranted. What would be the relationship between the community and a State bank? Some of the greatest development in the British Empire, of which we are proud to be members, has been through the understanding and knowledge of commerce that operate in the activities of the private banks. Lord Nuffield, who was a bicycle repairer in his native town of Oxford, attributed the beginnings of his great success to the time he approached his banker for an overdraft, and got it, because he had designed a new type of motor car. He has prospered since then and is not only a great employer,
– It was a “phoney” poll.
– The honorable member may say so, but the fact remains that the people do not want tobe regimented. There are eight private banks in Australia competing against each other. If you cannot get the accommodation you want, say, at the Commercial Bank you may get it at the National Bank.
– And you may not get it there either.
– True.You may have to go to another bank. At any rate, you can try them all, but, under the Labour party’s plan, you would have no alternativebut to go to the Commonwealth Bank, and if you did not get accommodation there, you would have to do without. By a process of slow strangulation of the private banks, not hitting on the head, as the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) would do, the Government is going to unfairly force these commercial enterprises out of business. This easy money* story is not a new thing. It is as old as history, but it always leads to destruction. Honorable gentlemen opposite ought to study their history and, instead of repeating the tales of misery that we hear from them all the time, they might have a better understanding of where the course that they woud have us follow wouldlead us. They should read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Theywould then know that in the dying days of theRoman Empire,
Since the beginning of this war Australia. - in common with all the other Anglo-Saxon countries - has been borrowing methods that were developed in socialist countries. It is notthatsocialism hasproved at success? anywhere. Even the people, whom, we call Nazis were nothing but Socialist’s - National Socialists.
Mr.Calwell-Does the honorable member believe that?
– Yes. I was in. Berlin in1938”, and met many ministers, heads -of departments and commercial men. This bill provides for the governmental control of exchange- and all commercial activities”. That is exactly what the Hitler’ regime imposed on pre-war- Germany. Iasked German commercial men what they thought of the then German export system’. They said, “ It is a mass of! regulations’. You must have 30- different approvals before you can export”. [ found that I could1 takeonly £5 worth of marks at 200 to the £1 into and out of Germany. In GermanyI found 200 values of the mark. There was one value for import, another for export, and so. on. Themultifarious; regulations that harassed the German employers; andworkers arebeing, introduced!here. In- fact, we have? them already. The Government has not learned the lesson from the fate ofGermany. The German people voted Hitler into power. The Government thinks- that because the- Labour- party hadonevictoryat the polls the people gave it power to- control every detail of their lives by totalitarian methods. The disaster to which Germany was headed when if allowed the Hitler rule willbe ours unlesswe are careful.Dr. Coleman proceeded -
Everyperverted; and cruel aggressionin Europewas made by Socialists under one name or another. Every story of persecution came from -Socialist countries.
– The honorable member believes that?
Mr.WHITE.- Yes. Has the honorable gentleman ever heard of. the British persecuting any people? Every form of persecution has emanated from socialist countries, whose example the Government is slavishly following.
Mr.Calwell. -Were not the early Christians socialists?
– There was this difference - they believed in a heart and a soul. The Marxist philosophy is utter materialism with no tolerance. I suggest that the honorable gentleman should study that comparison. Dr. Coleman went on -
Injustice was the rule rather than- the; exception. Socialism itself is a system foreign to the Anglo-Saxon mind. It was developed by the GermansMarxandEngels, the Russians Lenin and Trotsky; and the Italian Pareto. Little has- ever been, added to their (philosophy of letting- the government run- it.
It wouldbea shameful thing if we last the justice and tolerance that we have inherited from the British democracy,but we are in danger of doing so, because members of the Labour movement, who have some idea that they alone stand for the working man, are indoctrinated with social ismDr. Colemam continued -
Inall of those countries, poverty- is and alwayshasbeen endemic. The masses have considered themselves well treated ifthey could eat. They are exactly what they called themselves - the have-nots. And yet a large section ofourAnglo-Saxoncommunityisnow turning to. them; for guidance on:economic matters. ‘We in the democracies have given more of shegood material things of lifeto more people than any countries under the sun.
We have given more liberty and encouraged thedevelopment of human dignity- more than anywhere else. We have neverusedltheconcentrationcamp, the prison, the whip, and the gaschamber as political weapons. We have been tolerant of minorities, even while our minorities have often given theexample ofintolerance. Wehave- not preached hatred Cor anyone, either within or without our own borders. We have- not hated the Socialists, who havecried for freedom of speech in our countries while they denied that rightto- us in.theirs. Ike world’s greatest criticism of as- thesedays is, that we forgave our enemies too quickly after the last war - and that we are too ready to forgive them again. We believeintheorderlyprocessesoflawrather than inviolence and injustice. At the same time,we havenever entered awar that we haven’twon.Wehaveneverbeensuccessfully invaded. Andwehavealwayscontrolledthe sevenseas, which arenine-tenths of the world. Andyetweare now- going to them - to the eternal failuresin life - to ask them to teach us how to be successful.
Frankly, I find’ it bewildering. Our very success is partly because we have muddled and blundered alongwithout a plan. But now manypeople inour community: feel that in a planned world, we shall lose out if we have no plan.Soourintellectuals go abroad and bringus back a plan thathas failedeverywhere it has been tried as planned economies always, fail throughout history.
The intellectuals, of which Commonwealth departments are full, go abroad and find plans which have- failed wherever they have been tried and then bringthem back to Australia to be tried and fail here. We are taking a wrong trend to-day in fallowing the socialistic pattern, which is a dogma in the minds of certain people, who are either incapable of reasoning or are not prepared to reason, but who say, “ It must be better for the community, because it is socialism - Labour policy “. Centralization in a federation like this is unworkable and dangerous. We have a superabundance of distasteful planning. There are too many long-haired boys telling the Government how to stop the manufacture of this or that, or how this or that can be made the subject of a permit system. We are very much in the condition of Germany and Italy in 1938. It has come upon us almost unawares. I agree that it is necessary in war-time, especially at the outset, to have considerable regimentation, but this legislation could mean perpetual regimentation, which would take years to shake off and would do irreparable harm to Australian trade, while it persists.
Mr.barnard. - The honorable member is painting a gloomy picture.
– It is, because so many of the honorable gentleman’s colleagues talk so lightheartedly about this foolish policy of the Government. I hope I shall make them capable of thinking in a gloomy way. One clause provides for government control of all of the exchange of the Commonwealth. During the depression, our government was faced with great difficulties, but it did its utmost to provide employment and make trade flow, and by 1938 Australia was the second largest buyer in the Empire from Great Britain and the biggest dominion seller to Great Britain. That was proof that Australia’s trade had revived considerably. As the right honorable member for Cowper said, the exchange position had to be carefully weighed, and we made provision for a rebate on tariff protection to compensate in some measure for our adverse exchange. By allowing the currency to depreciate slightly, we permitted the transfer of money from the primary producers to others within the Commonwealth, and the tariff concession assisted the purchasing of commodities and implements at reasonable prices within Australia. Under the tariff laws the Government has all the powers that it needs to control trade after the war. If it abolishes the Commonwealth Bank Board, so that there will be no business buffer–
-No business domination.
– We do not want business domination, but control by men who, unlike the Minister, have had experience of business. We want a board of men. such as manufacturers, leaders of commerce, and bankers. From such a crosssection of the business world, we can obtain a good Australian opinion. This Government proposes to abolish the Commonwealth Bank Board–
Mr.Calwell. - It has almost gone now. The legislation will be enacted within three weeks.
– Yes, and the people will realize then the depths of the Government’s infamy. When the board is abolished, the master ofour destinies in the commercial world will be the Treasurer, who hassaid that, in his opinion, the best service to the community can be given only , by a banking system from which the profit motive is absent. From now on, he will be in control of the commercial destiny of all of the people in. the Commonwealth, because finance is the corner-stone of commerce. He will have to take the blame largely for the Government’s administration of this legislation. He must do what the caucus tells him to do, and if, in the caucus, the very vocal Minister for Information (Mr.Cal well) and the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) say, “ Look here, boys, we are going to inflate the currency four or five hundred per cent.”, he will have to do what they say. Anybody with the most elementary knowledge of finance knows that, if the note issue is increased without an equivalent increase of production and services, the value of the notes in circulation is depreciated.
– Does the honorable member believe that the nation’s great resources provide scope for the expansion of the Commonwealth Bank’s activities?
– Yes. The bank has a great duty to perform, but it should not be made a monopoly. The honorable member and his colleagues on the Government side of the chamber profess to be opposed to monopolies, and yet, in supporting this hill, they are supporting the worst form of monopoly, namely, a Government monopoly. If the Government would deal with the real problems that confront us, it would be of some use to the community. A few months ago the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked the following question of the .Minister for Repatriation : -
How many men discharged from this war nave applied for the maximum advance of £250 for rehabilitation purposes under the Australian (Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and how many have received it?
A mere £250 for men who have had up to four years of service! This is the answer that was given to the honorable member : -
Less than one-third of the applications were granted by these dictators, who claim that they can conduct the commerce of the country better than the commercial experts who have inherited the knowledge and experience of their predecessors over the centuries. These officials, who think that they know more about banking than bankers, should hand their heads in «hame.
– How many returned soldiers did the honorable member evict from war service homes?
– This is another of the danders of the Minister for “Defamation “.
– Two or three hundred at least.
– I shall answer the interjection, seeing that the Minister is in the habit of making lying statements.
– I have never evicted anybody in my life, much less a returned soldier. On the contrary, I have helped many ex-servicemen. I was a member of the government which inquired into war service homes in 1935, and, although the War Service Homes Commission launched a number of prosecutions with successful results, that government prevented evictions, except in a few cases. I have looked up the details recently, and I know that in the year 1932-33, nobody was evicted, in the following year one man was evicted, and in the year after that four men were evicted. Thus, in three years, only five men out of hundreds were evicted;, and in each instance the government found another house for the man. Furthermore, that government reduced the rate of interest charged to the purchasers of war service homes and went on with a policy of building. It built 21,000 homes, whereas the present miserable apology for a government hatbuilt only 31 in five years, although th, Treasurer has said that there is plenty of finance and there are thousands of allotments of land available. That is vastly different from the performance of the government which carried on under difficulties during the depression, when the people were lightly taxed. Our people are being taxed more heavily than the people in any other country. Yet, as 1 Lave pointed out, the Government hat given assistance to only 756 out of 2,194 applicants for re-establishment grants. Why were 642 applications refused? These men had served the nation, and they thought that they were returning to a norma] world in which they might obtain some of the good thing* enjoyed, by those who have not fought for their country and who have never had a headache, missed a meal, or lost a night’s sleep during the war. They reasonably expected that the Government would make available to them this beggarly allowance of £250 to help to reestablish them in business.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the bill.
– If the Government would .put its hand to the plough and deal with the real problems that confront it, it would not bring down an unwanted bill for the nationalization of finance. The subject to which I was referring involved a matter of finance with which the Government should deal instead of this nebulous scheme that nobody wants. It is paradoxical that, while we are engaged in what we hope is the last phase of the greatest upheaval in history, and while the best of our people are hotly engaging the enemy, the Government is bringing down measures of a totalitarian kind behind their backs. We should be the defenders of democracy, but somehow, in these years of rules, regulations and regimentation, democratic principles have been forgotten. The Government might well have abandoned this measure. The revolutionary changes which it proposes are not equalled in any other British country. Mention has been made of New Zealand.
Mr.sheehy. - The honorable member frequently praises New Zealand.
– Yes. In my opinion, New Zealand’s war effort has been excellent. During the regime of a previous government, I visited New Zealand in connexion with certain trade difficulties, which arose between that country and Australia.
TheSPEAKER,- Order! The honorable member’s visit to New Zealand is not related to this bill.
– This legislation will enable the Government to harass and obstruct the private banks. The postwar activities of these institutions will be curtailed severely. A substantial proportion of their assetswill be frozen, and the Commonwealth Bank will turn the full blast of competition upon them. That competition will be unfair, because the Commonwealth Bank is not called upon to meet many commitments imposed upon private banks, such as taxation and other contributions to the Treasury. If the Government can take this action to control the banking field, it can also embark upon new ventures in other fields. Power to do these things was sought by the Commonwealth Government at the referendum, but its proposals were defeated. Now, covertly, and dishonestly, the Government is circumventing the referendum by bringing down legislation which is socialistic, totalitarian and opposed to the spirit of the people. Australian citizens will not forget this. The next elections cannot come soon enough for them, because then there will be a new government on the treasury bench, and this infamous measure will be repealed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Martens) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without requests -
Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1944-45.
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1945-46.
Without amendment -
ChildEndowment Bill 1945.
Trade with India: Use ofShipping -
Real Estate Transactions : Sale of House at Aldgate, South Australia - Rehabilitation of Blinded Soldiers - War Service Homes : Erection on Leasehold Land - Victorian Sugar Supplies.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.-I wish to raise a question which I regard as of- very great importance. It relates to trade between Australia and India. I realize that problems such as this are not without many difficulties, and that during the past few months, this matter has been receiving some consideration. Interest in it was heightened by the presence in this country some weeks ago of an Indian trade delegation, which interviewed representatives of the Government, and toured all States of the Commonwealth. No doubt, its members applied their business knowledge and experience to this subject. My interest in the matter was increased recently when a liberty ship arrived at a Tasmanian port to load cement. I am reliably informed that the vessel arrived at that port in ballast. In view of the world-wide shortage of shipping, that seems rather strange. Is there any reason why ships coming to this country to carry our exportable goods to other parts of the world should not bring in cargoes from India, such as jute bags, tea, cotton goods, or carpets?Carpets are in very short supply in this country to-day, and prices are high. Many people are endeavouring to set up house and they require carpets, leather furnishings, and so on. These goods, I am informed., could be obtained from India.Indian carpets are composite articles, but people who have lived in India for many years tell me thattheirquality is excellent, andthatthey would be very suitableforthis country. Ifwe are tobuildupreciprocaltradewith India,hereisoneitemwhichwecould importinsubstantialquantities.
– Surelythe honorable member does not regard carpets as a necessity.
– That is not the point.Carpets are requiredbypeople settingnew homes. In the post-war years,I hope thatthere will be available to thepeopleofthis country many articleswhichinthe pasthavebeen regardedas luxuries,butwhichnow should bewithin the reach of everybody whodesires them. Irefer to telephones, radios,and ahundred and one other things whichmakemodern lifemorecomfortableandmoreagreeable. Inthepost-waryearsthesesortof articles may be used in great quantities and be of considerableadvantage in the home.Irealize that these problems may notbe so easy tosolveas appears on the surface.A ship must come froma port in Indiato load somethingat a Tasmanianport. Theremaybe difficulties of exchange and of taking goods from the point ofmanufacturetotheportfor shipping-possiblyat short notice. I emphasize, however,that while shipping spaceissolimitedandAustraliaisshort of essential goods - teabeing one and jute bags forfarmers-
– We coulddo withthewheattoputinthebags,too.
– That is true,but bags willbe neededwhen the wheat is available.The maximumadvantage shouldbe takenof allavailable shipping, and a two-way trafficestablishedbetween IndiaandAustralia.Problemsofexchange shouldnotbeinsurmountable. Taking a long-rangeview it will beto the advantageofAustralia toencourage tradewithIndia.In thepost-war period our greatest marketsshould be with eastern countries;therefore, reciprocal traderelationswiththeEastcannotbe established toosoon.Millionsof people inthat part of the worldaresuffering acutelyfromfoodshortages,andfor many yearstheirlivingstandardshave been low. Ifthose standardscouldbe raisedevena little,the result wouldbe theconsumptionofagreatquantityof thegoodsofwhichAustraliahasasurplus andwhichtheyneed.Insteadofboats coming from Indiato Australia empty, they shouldbebringingcommodities needed in this country.
– I direct the attentionof the Treasurer (Mr.Chifley) to a complaintwhich Ireceived to-day from people at Aldgate, South Australia, in connexion with the saleof a house by auction. It appears the Treasury officialresponsible fixed filmprice of the house at £350. Four personspresent were prepared to pay that sum and it was resolved to decide the purchaserby drawinga name fromahat.Two of the persons whose names were putin the hat desired the house for a permanenthome,but the other two wanted it for the purpose ofa week-end cottage only. Theperson whose name wasdrawnoutofthehatwasoneofthe latter.I ask the Treasury Department to ensure thatincases suchas this only thenames of people whodesire tobuy ahomeshallbeplacedinthehat.
Mr.FROST(Franklin-Minister for Repatriation and WarService Homes.) [3.40].-On the19thJune,thehonorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) directedtomeaquestion,withoutnotice, relativetothe responsibilityfor thewelfare, trainingand rehabilitation of New South Wales ex-servicemen who have beentotally blindedin this war ; he asked whether such responsibilityrestedwith the New South Wales Blinded Welfare Committee. Forthe information of the honorablemember, I furnish the following information, which discloses what is being doneby the CommonwealthGovernment for these seriously disabled discharged membersofthe forces.
TheCommonwealth,bywise guidance orby selected training,endeavoursto bringthemember tothe point of taking up employment, because itnot only keeps themindand fingersoccupied, but also providesanincometosupplementthe warpension,whichisasfollows: -
In addition, an attendant’s allowance of £1 4s. a week is payable. The pension and allowance are free of taxation.
Not only is the blinded member eligible for treatment for his war-caused disability, but he may also, within certain limits, receive from the Repatriation Commission active remedial treatment, either as an in-patient or as an outpatient, for disabling conditions not ca used by war.
Under the Soldiers’ Children Education Scheme, the education and training of the children of blinded members are closely watched and guided from an early age, and from the child’s thirteenth birthday an education allowance of 6s. a week is made available, which is increased at fourteen years to 9s. 6d. a week, and further increased even to the extent of enabling the student to graduate at a university, if need be. In regard to fees, books, materials, and other adjuncts to training, the scheme is very liberal.
To assist in the establishment of a home, or to add to the comfort of an existing home, a married blinded member may be granted, by way of gift, furniture to the value of £75, and several men of this war have had the. advantages of this provision.
A blinded member who is married, about to marry, or has dependants for whom it is necessary to maintain a home, is eligible for an advance up to £950 for the provision of a home under the War Service Homes Commission.
Other benefits, which are available through a variety of sources, include free transportation for member and attendant, and exemption from payment of a wireless licence-fee.
It should be understood that the cost of essential equipment and appropriate training is met by the Repatriation Commission, which also grants assistance, if necessary, to provide the means of carrying on in the industry in which training has been given. In this regard, it provided an electric kiln and pyrometer for one man in New South Wales, who has undertaken pottery making, and the three machines which comprise an Ediphone set for a journalist.
The New South Wales War Blinded Welfare Committee has, under the aegis of the Repatriation Commission, undertaken to assist in hospitality to, and training and rehabilitation of, the war blinded in New South Wales, and also to provide any welfare work needed now and in the future.
The desirability of utilizing the ser vices of such a committee, will, no doubt be appreciated because there is a point beyond which a public department, no matter how sympathetic, cannot and should not go. Moreover, the committee includes blinded soldiers of the Great War, who are men of standing and skill. I would point out that the chairman in New South Wales is Captain H. Gilbert Nobbs, who lost his sight on the Western Front when serving with the British Expeditionary Force. In businesslife he is the chairman and managing director of Holbrooks (Australasia) Proprietary Limited, and he gives his best, in an honorary capacity, as a business man and a blinded officer, in assisting the younger men of this war. I am grateful for the work which he and his colleagues so generously and effectively perform.
On the 19 th June, the honorable member or Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) addressed a question to me without notice on the subject of the War Service Hornet Commission making advances for the purpose of erecting homes on leasehold lands in Queensland. I have had inquiries made and now desire to inform the honorable member that the provisions of the War Service Homes Act 1918-1941 do not permit the commission to grant loans in respect of leasehold property, other than where the fee-simple of the land is held by the Commonwealth itself, as in the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory. Generally, in the case of leasehold tenure, other than that of the Commonwealth, should default on. the part of the borrower occur at any time, the improvements effected revert to the lessor and the rights of the Commonwealth, as the authority advancing the funds to provide the improvements, would be subordinated to those of the lessor. Obvious difficulties would arise from this dual control over the improvements, and for the reasons mentioned, the Commonwealth has found itself unable to authorize the War Service Homes Commission to make loans in respect of any leasehold, other than one the fee-simple of which is held by the Commonwealth itself.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.] I called for a quorum, not so that honorable members might have the pleasure of listening to my oratory, but because I intend to raise a matter that is of very great and immediate importance to the people of Victoria, and I do not want it to be almost entirely ignored. In consequence of a strike in the only sugar refinery in Victoria, at Yarraville, sugar refining has been at a standstill since the 14th May. This is not the first hold-up of sugar refining in Victoria within recent months: there have been four serious industrial stoppages at the Yarraville refinery since October, 1944. There was a stoppage lasting one week in December, 1944, another lasting six days from the 11th January, and a third lasting twelve days from the 31st January of this year. The latest stoppage commenced on the 14th May, and has continued ever since. A direct result of all these stoppages has been to deprive not merely the housewives of a basic food, but also the factories engaged on urgent food processing of a basic commodity that they need in their production, which is required for both internal consumption, and export to our own services and to the British Navy. It is not my purpose to canvass at this stage the merits of the dispute. Independent industrial tribunals for the investigation of matters in dispute have been established in Australia. Within the last couple of days, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said in this House, We are here to govern, and we are going to govern “. From the viewpoint of the people of Victoria, the Administration has abandoned its responsibility to govern. This senseless and unnecessary industrial stoppage is depriving them of a basic food. Sugar is not a luxury, but an essential in every household. It is also essential to factories engaged in the processing of foods. Yet we have to tolerate for months the complete cessation of sugar refining operations in Victoria. Clearly, the men consider that they have a sound case. Equally clearly, the company considers that it has right on its side. My only concern is that the Government is prepared to allow an industrial dispute involving a mere handful of men to hold up indefinitely and unnecessarily the supply of a commodity that is needed by the Victorian housewife and is essential to food processing establishments. . How long does the Government expect this state of affairs to continue?I have no doubt that an appropriate industrial tribunal is available to hear the dispute. Already it has been investigated by a State wages board, as well as by the Registrar and the full bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court; consequently, there is no shortage of judicial investigators. If a decision can be given on the matters that are now keeping the parties apart, this Parliament should insist that it be given. Until that is done, the present chaotic state will continue. Some factories are dismissing employees, who are resentful of the action of fellow unionists. The time and labour wasted as the result of the hold-up of refining operations at Yarraville cannot be recovered during this year. There will be a diminution of the total volume of food that can be made available from this country to our allies and our own servicemen abroad. The strike is a direct challenge to the Government. It has the responsibility of ensuring that food supplies shall be maintained on behalf of not merely the people of Victoria, who have had to suffer considerable inconvenience for far too long, but also the people of the Commonwealth as a whole and our troops who are serving abroad. I ask the Government to indicate immediately when wo may expect the resumption ofsugar supplies in Victoria.
Motion (by Mr. Morgan) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear. )
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon-. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority. … . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
National Security Act -
National Security (Army Inventions) Regulations - Order - Inventions and designs.
National Security (Rationing) Regulations Order - No. 92:.
House adjourned at 4.6 p.m.
r asked the Minis ter forCommerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– In accordance with the expressed desire of the Queensland Government, contracts are not entered into bythe Commonwealth with growers in Queensland for the production of vegetables for service requirements. Commercial production in Queensland is organized by the State authorities with a view to. ensuring, that production will be as nearly as possible in accordance with assessedrequirements for all purposes, both service and civilian.I am, endeavouring to obtain from Queensland the detailed information regarding plantings in the respective half-yearly periods mentioned,, and a full reply to the honorable member’s question will be furnished as soon as such information is to hand.
War Service Homes.
Mr.BernardCorser. asked the Minister in charge of War Service Homes. uponnotice - 1.Is it ahot, as reported in a section of the Queensland press, that to assist soldiers desiring to purchase homes through the War Service Homes Commission,he has agreed to embody in legislation certain amendments submitted by returned soldierrepresentatives?
t. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Meat Industry-: Northern Territory Cattle.
n. - On the 6th June, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked a question regarding an order issued by the Army authorities in the Northern Territory requiring cattle headed for Adelaide to be dipped twice, and ho drew attention to a case where a drover had to bring his stock a considerable distance northwards to a dipping point before heading south to the railhead.
The Acting Minister for the Army has now supplied the following answer: -
When cattle are moved from tick-infested country into clean country a second dipping is necessary in from ten to fourteen days in order to ensure that all ticks have been destroyed and as a precaution against spread of tick-infestation. Inquiries have disclosed that cattle on the property referred to by the honorable member arc slightly tick-infested and consequently dipping was necessary under the Stock Diseases Regulations.
y. - On the 14th June, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked whether the Government’s decision to set up a commission to inquire into the coal-mining industry had resulted in fewer stoppages on the coal-fields, or greater production of coal, and if so, how present coal reserves compared with the coal reserves at the end of 1944, and what other action the Government intended to take to increase coal production in New South Wales.
The Minister for Supply and Shipping has now supplied the following answer : -
The Government’s decision to set up a commission to inquire into the coal-mining industry has not resulted in fewer stoppages on the coal-fields. However, it is quite likely that more stoppages would have occurred during recent months if the commission had not been set up. Production figures for the period the 1st January, 1945, to the 19th May, 1945, showed, a slight increase ‘ over the figures for the same period last year. The reserves of coal held on the 19th May, 1945, was 7,432 tons less than that held at the end of 1944. The Government is taking, and will continue to take, every action possible te increase the production of coal. The Coal Commissioner and his staff have been unsparing in their efforts in this regard, and have been instrumental in averting many stoppages, and where stoppages have occurred, have been successful in arranging an early resumption of work.
Mi-. Scully. - On the 7th June, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) asked a question concerning the amended statement by the Victorian Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Martin, regarding Victorian hay stocks. I now advise the honorable member as follows : -
I have had the opportunity of examining the amended statement by Mr. Martin the Victorian Minister for Agriculture. Mr. Martin’s statement is in conflict with the more recent reports of the Victorian Go- eminent Statist, who reported that Victoria held stocks of hay totalling 4(50,000 tons at, i lie 31 -st Mardi last. It is obvious from the report of the Government Statist, which I understand was drawn up from a census taken by the police, that Victorian hay stocks were inequitably distributed. It is regrettable in view of this that the Victorian Government has consistently rejected the request of the Con mi on wealth and of Victorian Country party members that it acquire and distribute existing stocks of hay on an equitable basis.
I have examined the questionnaire sent to the honorable member. I am not in a position to say when the questionnaire was posted to the honorable member. I am concerned, however, that the information on fodder stocks generally could have been obtained with greater accuracy and despatch had the Victorian Minister for Agriculture conferred with the Victorian Government Statist.
The production and the distribution of fodder is the responsibility of the Victorian Department of Agriculture and it is not the intention of the Commonwealth to usurp State functions. The remedy for correcting the existing state of affairs in Victoria rests with rural electors. If they are convinced that there has been bungling of fodder distribution in Victoria, and there is no doubt that there has been, then I have no doubt that they will take appropriate action. The Commonwealth is still endeavouring to obtain increased supplies from North America and New Zealand to ease the acute shortage of fodder in our States.
n asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– -For the reasons indicated in the reply furnished by the Prime Minister on the 1st October, 1942, to a question on this subject by the then honorable member for Bourke, Mr. Blackburn, it is not proposed to table the reports by Mr. Justice Lowe.
Censorship of Mails.
y. - On the 13th June, the honorable -member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked a question in regard to the censorship of mails to Great Britain and the United States.
In accordance with a mutual agreement between the Australian and United Kingdom authorities, the censorship of all mail between the general public in. Australia and the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand and certain other British possessions and the United States of America has ceased.
y. - On the Sth ‘ March, 1945, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 June 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450622_reps_17_183/>.