18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) . took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker, Mr. Burke, Mr. Corser, Mr. Francis, Mr. Holt, Mr. Mulcahy, and Mr. Watkins be members of the House Committee, throe to form a quorum.
– I ask the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research whether Mr. D. A. Mountjoy, a former member of the House of Representatives, who contested the electorate of Swan in “Western Australia at the last general elections and was defeated, is to be appointed to a govern ment position ? If so, what is the position to which he is to he appointed, what is the term of the engagement and what salary is being paid? What qualifications does Mr. Mountjoy possess to hold such a position?
- Mr. Don Mountjoy has been appointed a member .of the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
– Jobs for all, at the expense of the country.
– The House will recall that during the last Parliament the Science and Industry Research Act was amended ‘ to provide that the number of members of the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should be increased from three to five. One of the purposes that I had in mind in .proposing that amendment of the act, which was agreed to without opposition in this House, was-
– To find jobs for defeated candidates.
– It was to ensure that matters in relation to research should’ be taken into account from the point of view of the workers in the community. I believe that one way in which the standard of living of the workers of this country can be raised is by paying greater attention to scientific research generally. Mr. Mountjoy has shown in the past very great interest in the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. particularly in relation to the application of its energies to agricultural problems. I therefore believe that he will be a very valuable member of the executive of the council.
– What are the terms and conditions of his appointment?
– The terms and conditions of his employment are laid down in the act.
– I ask the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research- (1) Is Mr. Mountjoy a returned soldier? (2) Has he a technical degree which would enable him adequately to take his place among the highly technical personnel of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research ?
– The provisions of the Re-establishment and Re-employment Act were complied with in relation to the appointment to which the honorable member refers. As to the second part of the honorable member’s question, not all members appointed to the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in the past have possessed university degrees. Some of them have been representatives of big industries who, of course, have had managerial experience. T do not agree that it is necessary for every member of the executive of the Council to possess a university degree.
– In view of the fact that, so far as I can tell, the Science and Industry Research Act provides that members of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research shall be appointed for a period not exceeding five years, and shall receive such remuneration and expenses as are fixed by the Governor-General in Council, will the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research inform the House of the term for which Mr. Mountjoy has been appointed, and the remuneration and expenses that are to ‘be paid to him?
– Mr. Mountjoy has been appointed for a period of three years. The remuneration to be paid to him was fixed by regulation a long time ago, and is ‘at the rate of £500 per annum. In addition, Mr. Mountjoy, in common with other public servants, will be entitled to travelling allowance, the rate being, I believe, 30s. a day, as well as, of course, an amount sufficient to cover his fares.
– Was any exserviceman given an opportunity to make application for appointment to this position? If so, when? Was the position advertised? What remuneration i3 paid by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to university graduates who join its staff?
– The remuneration of university graduates who join the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research depends upon their qualifications.
– It is under £400 a year.
– Under the act, the appointment of Mr. Mountjoy to the posi tion that he now occupies was entirely within the prerogative of the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I made the appointment, and I accept full responsibility for it.
– Can the Minister for Information say how many political appointments of defeated supporters were made by the Opposition parties when they were in power? Will he in particular state what salaries were, paid to Chief Judge Drake-Brockman, and to Mr. Justice. Lukin who retired from the Queensland Bench on £2,000 a year, and was then given a Commonwealth appointment? Having regard to those appointments, can the Minister say why members of the Opposition are trying to make so much capital out of Don Mountjoy getting a few quid ?
– I think that it is very well known to the people of Australia that the Opposition, when in power, always worked on the principle of spoils to the victor.
Treatment of DESERTERS
– I understand that a deserter from the Navy loses all accrued benefits upon his discharge, whereas a member of the Australian Imperial Force, in the same circumstances, is allowed such benefits. In view of the fact that both services are administered by the Commonwealth Government, will the Prime Minister state why different conditions should apply to them ?
– I understand that the regulations provide for certain penalties for members of the services who fail to attend for duty, or who are discharged for misconduct. I do not remember what the conditions are, but I shall have inquiries made, and the honorable member will be supplied with the information.
Releases - Australians in Japan.
– Was the Minister for the Army correctly reported as having said that 99 per cent, of the 15,000 troops at present held compulsorily were on the mainland, and that he saw no reason why they should be retained in the service if they wanted to be discharged? ‘If the Minister is determined that they shall be discharged by the 31st January, what action, if any, has been taken to ensure that his wishes are given effect?
– I do not admit that I said that 99 per cent, of the troops detained were on the mainland. However, I do say that the Government has given a direction that men held compulsorily shall be released by the 31st January. I have already conferred with the Military Board, and asked that the decision of the Government be given effect. I have every reason to believe that it will be.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether men who enlisted for the army of occupation in Japan are included in those who are to be released, if they desire release on account of their circumstances having changed since they enlisted ?
– No. Those men volunteered to serve for two years. The men to be released on the 31st January enlisted for the duration of the war and twelve months thereafter. They are being compulsory held in the armed forces, and will be the first to be considered for release.
Cost of Production - Supplies fob Poultry Feed - Price - Stock Peed.
– During the last session of Parliament, the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture promised that an inquiry would be held into the cost of producing wheat. Can the present Minister say whether the Government intends to hold such an inquiry ?
– The promise given by my predecessor in office will be honoured. I am at present considering how the committee shall be constituted, and I hope that this week or early next week the names of members of the committee, and the terms of reference under which it will make its investigation will be announced to the House.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is a fact, as has. been stated on several occasions in this House recently, that he is endeavouring to have as much wheat as possible sent to Queensland and elsewhere io feed poultry and other livestock ? Does this policy mean that the greater the quantity of wheat supplied for this purpose, the less the grower will receive per bushel for his total production? If so, will the Minister rectify this anomaly, so that the wheat-growers shall be relieved of maintaining other industries?
– It is true that the Commonwealth is endeavouring to have the normal wheat requirements of New South Wales and Queensland supplied. As the distribution of wheat in Australia is the Commonwealth-wide responsibility of the Wheat Board, and as the Commonwealth will bear the freight costs from Victoria or South Australia to New South Wales or Queensland, the grower should not be adversely affected.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the wheat-growers of South Australia and Victoria will receive export parity for that portion of their wheat which is sent to New South Wales and Queensland for stock feed purposes?
– The answer that .1 gave to an earlier question by another honorable member covers fully the inquiry by the honorable member.
– Is it true that the Australian Wheat Board is making sales of wheat overseas at 13s. 5-Jd. a bushel f.o.b. ? If so, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture arrange that farmers supplying wheat for consumption within Australia shall be paid the full export price for it, instead of 5s. 2d. a bushel as now?
– The honorable member knows that the Government’s policy in regard to this matter has already been declared. That should be an adequate answer to his question.
– During the war, a regulation was enforced prohibiting access to wharfs except by permission of a Commonwealth authority, at that time the Navy. Does the Minister for the Navy know that yesterday, people who wanted to bid goodbye to relatives travelling by the Asturias were prevented for nearly two hours by a Commonwealth authority from going on to the wharf? What Commonwealth authority was responsible, what provision of the Constitution was it acting under, and if it was under the defence power, will the Minister say what warrant there is for the exercise of that power at the present time in such circumstances?
– My attention was directed to the incident referred to, and I immediately communicated with the naval authorities in Melbourne. The matter is being inquired into, and I have not yet been advised of the result. Immediately the requisite information is received it will be conveyed to the honorable member.
– I desire to address to the Minister for Labour and National Services a question relating to the lock-out at Morts Dock and also the plight of those persons who will be involved in the resultant general lock-out which will take effect, I understand, as from to-night. The Federated Shipwrights Union has advised me that many of its members who are affected by the lock-out are over 65 years of age, and although they are unemployed through no fault of their own they have been refused the unemployment benefit by officers of the Department of Social Services. Will the Minister give consideration to the desirability of extending payment of the unemployment benefit to unemployed men over 65 years in such cases where their unemployment results from a lock-out in which they become involved through no fault of their own?
– In respect of the unemployment benefit, the act draws a line of demarcation when men reach the age of 65 and women 60 years of age. The work ‘test is applied to everybody irrespective of age. Whether any formula can be devised under -which, payment of the benefit may be extended to persons over the age of 65 years who have been thrown out of employment in circumstances such as those mentioned by the honorable member I am not sure. I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Health and Social Services and furnish a reply to the honorable member as soon as possible.
– It has again been brought to my notice that ½ in. blue tacks used by upholsterers are at present unprocurable in South Australia. In view of the grave shortage of these tacks will the Government take action to make adequate supplies available to South Australian users?
– I acknowledge the honorable member’s great interest in all matters pertaining to the upholstering industry. The Government has made inquiries abroad with a view to obtaining the requisite machinery to enable the production of tacks referred to by the honorable member to be increased. I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to look further into the matter and to ascertain whether anything can be done to make additional supplies available to South Australian users.
Commonwealth Assistance to States
– I have here a letter similar to many other letters that I and, no doubt, other honorable members have received about the provision of £25,000,000 by the Commonwealth Government to assist education in New South Wales. Has the Prime Minister received from the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McKell, a request for £25,000,000 or a substantial proportion thereof for the rehabilitation of education in New South Wales and the rebuilding of many educational establishments in that State?
– If the honorable gentleman is asking whether the Premier of New South Wales has made a direct application to the Commonwealth Government for money for educational purposes the answer is “ No “. The Premier well knows that a request for money for such purposes in New South Wales, or any other State, is a matter for consideration by the Australian Loan Council. He has submitted his programme of public works to the Loan Council. He proposes to expend a considerable sum of money on the building of new schools and the renovation of others. At the Loan Council meeting all the Premiers applied for sufficient money for all the public works that their States are physically capable of carrying out during this financial year. On that principle money was made available by the Loan Council to Mr. McKell and other Premiers.
Drought Belief Subsidy
Mr.WILLIAMS. - I ask the Prime Minister : Has any decision been reached on the application of dairy-farmers for joint action by the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales to provide them with a drought relief subsidy?
– A somewhat similar question was asked a fortnight ago by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Fraser). I indicated then that consultations were about to take place between representatives of the Commonwealth Treasury and the Treasury of New South Wales on what assistance, if any, should be given to dairy-farmers. I think that that question applied to a particular zone seriously affected by drought. Those consultations took place. A report has been given to me by the officer who represented the Commonwealth Treasury in the discussions. I shall try to give the honorable member for Robertson and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro a more detailed reply regarding the (result of the discussions.
Motor Vehicles: Spake Parts: Sales in New Guinea.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping seen newspaper reports that at the disposals sale at Lae last Saturday twelve catalogued lots of tractor and motor spare parts, whose estimated value was £335,000, were offered as one lot? Does he agree with the reports that the offer in one lot restricted bidding to few buyers, and that far more money would probablyhave been realized by offering separate lots? Why were the twelve lots offered as one? Does the Minister think that that indicates conservation of Commonwealth funds?
– I have not seen the newspapers statement referred to by the honorable member, but I view with considerable suspicion such statements, which are made by the press from time to time. I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping supply an answer to the honorable gentleman.
– I have received representations from planters and servicemen desiring to return to their former holdings in New Guinea, who complain of inability to secure equipment such as transport and building material, because the lots are sold in quantities which are too large for local buyers to purchase, and are purchased mostly by speculators, who bring them back to the mainland. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping confer with the Minister for External Territories with a view to arranging that at least a portion of the goods for sale shall be reserved for purchase by local residents, particularly at such places as Madang and Rabaul, where sales are still to be held.
-I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and ask him to confer with the Minister for External Territories with a view to seeing what can be done.
Standardization of Gauges
– As it appears certain that the plan for the standardization of railway gauges will be proceeded with, will the Minister for Transport indicate in what way, or to what extent, Tasmania will benefit, financially or otherwise, from the work?
– It was agreed at the discussions which have taken place between the Commonwealth and the States that Tasmania would not be included in the general scheme for the standardization of railway gauges, but that, at a later date, the Commonwealth’s technical officers would confer with Tasmanian railway officials with a view to formulating a plan for improving the railway services in that State. If the financial commitment involved in carrying out the plan be beyond the capacity of Tasmania, the Commonwealth will confer with the State and render to it whatever assistance is possible.
Food Supplies - Shipping Services
– Last Friday the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked a question relating to shipping between Australia and Papua-New Guinea, and mentioned that no ship had called at Port Moresby during the last two months. I informed the honorable member that I would have inquiries made, and advise him further. It would appear that his inquiry was based upon an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 22nd November, of a grossly exaggerated character.
My inquiries disclose that the following voyages from Australia to the Territory have been made since the 1st September, 1946 : -
In addition, Muliama made the following trips from Sydney to Samarai: - On the 7th September, 1946, with 586 tons of cargo ; on the 4th October, 1946, with 580 tons of cargo ; on the 9th November, 1946, with 530 tons of cargo.Aligna sailed from Brisbane for Samarai and Rabaul, with 595 tons of cargo.
The importance of improving the shipping service to the Territories is fully appreciated by the Government, and having regard to the general world shortage of tonnage, the result of the efforts of the Department of External Territories can be regarded as very satisfactory.
– Has the Minister for the Navy read a newspaper report and seen the accompanying photograph published in a newspaper of to-day’s date relative to the finding by fishermen at sea off the Hawkesbury Estuary of a large unexploded depth charge? Will the honorable gentleman say what has been done, and is being done to retrieve depth charges dropped in this area or elsewhere in Australian ports or waters during the war?
– My attention was drawn to the report and photograph referred to by the honorable member. I at once communicated with the Sydney office of the Navy and was informed that the subject is being investigated. So far I have not received any report of the result of the investigation. I shall make inquiries concerning the latter part of the honorable gentleman’s question and furnish the desired information later.
Mort’s Dock Dispute - Sydney Shipyards - Suggested Royal Commission
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he can give me any definite advice as to whether the proposed mass lock-out from Sydney shipyards, sponsored by employers affiliated with the Metal Trades Employers Association, is likely to be called off? I point out that the lock-out is timed to begin to-night. In view of the fact that 8,000 men will be affected in shipyards, and that ultimately more than 100,000 workers will be involved, I wish to know what action has been taken in order to settle the dispute.
– I cannot give the honorable member any definite information at the moment as to whether the proposed lockout will be called off or not. I had a conversation this morning with Judge Sugerman, who has been dealing with this matter for some time, and he informed me that it had been agreed that the Industrial Registrar, Mr. Morrison, would call the parties together this afternoon. I am hopeful that some satisfactory result will follow.
– Has the Prime Minister read in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald the statement by Mr. W. Lane, State Secretary of the Federated Enginedrivers and Firemen’s Association, the key union in the Sydney shipyard dispute, that the union at a meeting to-night would consider a motion calling on the Commonwealth Government to set up a royal commission to inquire into the circumstances of the lock-out? In the event of such a request being received, will the right honorable gentleman consider it? Whether or not such a request is received, will he consider the setting up of a royal commission to inquire into, first the activities and influence of Communists in trade union circles and the public service; secondly, the affiliation, if any, of the Communist party with any foreign power; thirdly, the source of Communist funds; and fourthly, the influence of the Communist party in connexion with the industrial disputes that are now occurring in Australia ?
– I have not read the statement to W 111, h the honorable gentleman has directed my attention. If I receive the request mentioned, I shall consider it. All requests are considered. The last portion of the question also will be considered.
Shortage tn Queensland.
– I bring to the notice of the Prime Minister the following extract from a letter which reached me this morning from the Department of the Co-ordinator-General of Public Works in Queensland -
The position of galvanized iron in Queensland lias so deteriorated that to-day orders in the hands of suppliers are approximately nine to eleven months behind. This department is doing all possible to expedite delivery of this material and others from New South Wales.
In view of the continued decrease of the volume of deliveries of galvanized iron and other building materials from the southern States to Queensland, due to strikes in the southern States, I ask the Prime Minister whether, if he has no other proposals to meet the position, he will endeavour to arrange a road transport system, subsidized or otherwise, to enable urgently required building materials to be delivered in Queensland.
Mr.- CHIFLEY. - I shall ask the Minister concerned to investigate immediately what can be done to improve deliveries.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping give me any information as to the prospects of obtaining immediately supplies of plain’ fencing wire, particularly for the purpose of making necessary repairs to existing fences ? I quite appreciate that sufficient wire for new fences is out of the question at present. I ask, however, that some supplies of wire be made available to storekeepers in the Riverina. Even small quantities would be helpful.
– There is a very grave shortage of basic steel throughout the Commonwealth which, of course, affects the production of all materials for which basic steel is essential. I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to inquire whether anything can be done to increase the production of fencing wire. I believe that everything possible is being done at present to ensure the equitable distribution of such supplies as are available.
– In view of the very low percentage of arrears in connexion with payments on war service homes, and the fact that all purchasers of such homes have .had war service, I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether the Government will consider a substantial reduction of the present . interest rate on amounts outstanding. Further, as each purchaser of a war service home is required under the act to maintain the property, what priority, if any, is given to purchasers in securing paints, fittings and other materials that are necessary for maintenance purposes?
– The question should have been directed to the Minister for Works and Housing, who is now in charge of war ‘set vice -homes. I shall bring it to his notice, and ask that a reply be far.nished to the honorable member.
M*. RYAN. - Has the Minister for Defence .-seen the report that the British 303 Lee-Enfield rifle is to be -fitted with a new barrel, to enable it to take American .-300 ammunition? 2s -consideration being given to the fitting of a new barrel to the Australian Lee-Enfield rifle for the same purpose?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable member “has referred. If there is any truth in it, I .assure him that the matter will be considered by the Department of Defence, and. a decision will be made, taking into account whether it would be of advantage to Australia - 1 should imagine, at the moment, that there is not very much doubt that it “would be - to follow the Course that ls being adopted by ‘Great Britain.
– Recently, the Prime Minister, in answer to a question by me, said that the Minister for Supply and Shipping proposed to initiate discussions with the Waterside Workers Federation regarding the lifting of the ban on Dutch ships. Have such discussions yet taken place? If so, what progress, has been made? If not, when will the discussions be initiated?
– I have discussed the matter with the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and some informal talk has taken place in order to see whether it is possible to lift the ban, having regard to the possible ratification of the reported agreement between the Netherlands Government and the Indonesian representatives. So far as I can learn, there appears to be some opposition to the lifting of the ban until the agreement is ratified. When that will be done I cannot say. The purpose of the Government is to have the ban lifted. We do not support the ban- that must be clearly understood. However, as I mentioned before, there are implications which make it very difficult to take action without risking a complete holdup of waterfront activities.
Boxing : Charges -for Admission
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether it is a fact that prices -for admission to places of entertainment are controlled ‘by the Prices Commission ? Is the Minister aware that “for a forthcoming fight at the stadium, in Sydney, it is proposed to charge prices ranging from £4 to £7 for ringside seats ? Having regard to the present rates of taxation, and to the desire of the Government to prevent inflation and the useless spending of money, will the Minister say who is responsible for allowing such charges to be fixed? Can the Minister estimate how many persons who honestly meet their taxation imposts could afford to pay such prices?
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to tire Minister for Trade and Customs, and ask that a reply be made.
Cattle Dip NEAR Alice Springs.
Mr-. BLAIN. - Many months ago, a lone tick was discovered in a cattle-truck travelling from Alice Springs to Adelaide, and as a result an embargo was placed on the transport of cattle from Alice Springs to Melbourne and Kalgoorlie. Moreover, the Premier of South Australia insisted that a cattle dip be constructed at Alice Springs, and that cattle should be dipped, and trucked within 24 hours of dipping. According to a recent press announcement, the tick found on the truck was of a harmless variety - not a true cattle tick at all. Can the Minister for the Interior say just what kind of tick it was? If it were really harmless, did he make representations to the_ Premier of South Australia for the lifting of embargo on the cattle from the north, and has he rescinded the instruction that a cattle dip be built at Alice Springs?
– The chief veterinary officer of the Department of Health visited Alice Springs, and it was learned that the” tick found in the cattle truck was, in fact, harmless. After that, as a result of negotiations with the State authorities in South Australia, the embargo on the cattle from the north was lifted, and it is not now intended to proceed with the construction of a cattle dip at Alice Springs.
Canadian and American Critics
– Has the Minister for Immigration seen a report in this morning’s press that many Canadian and American immigrants, including a number of ex-servicemen and their wives, are leaving Australia because they are disappointed with this country’s possibilities. Has the Minister read the reported statement by one immigrant that “ a business man does not stand a chance against the brick wall which the Labour Government has raised in Australia “. Does the Government contemplate doing anything to attract valuable immigrants of this kind? Does the Government intend to answer the charges of these disappointed people?
– I did read the item referred to, and in the same issue of the same newspaper I read a story about the return to Australia of an Australian bride and her American serviceman husband because conditions in the United States of America were not so good as they had expected. These matters are governed by individual choice. At the present time, more people are coming to Australia than are leaving it. Indeed, conditions are so much better here now than during the depression that I marvel at any one wanting to leave. In any case, the number leaving Australia at the present time is very small compared with the thousands who left during the depression years in the time when the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) was a member of the Government.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That Standing: Order 70 - 11 o’clock rule -be suspended until the end of the year.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 26th November (vide page 5S3), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely, “Salaries and Allowances,£ 8,870 “, be agreed to.
Upon which Mr. Menzies had moved by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by£1, as an instruction to the Government - to withdraw the budget and redraft it so as to include reductions in taxation upon personal incomes.
.- Before proceeding to discuss the first post-war Chifley budget it might be advisable to glance back to 1931, when honorable members opposite formed a government following the defeat of the Scullin Government. On coming into power they found the finances of this country in a very much healthier state than when they went out of office in 1929. When, in 1941, the Labour Government regained office, but not power, this country had been at war for two years. I wonder whether honorable members opposite remember the years between 1931 and 1939. I wonder whether they had experiences similar to those of thousands of workers who walked to the city from their homes day after day seeking employment which they could not find; or the experience of many thousands of people who were evicted from their homes because they could not pay their rent, or of the many thousands of occupiers of war service homes who, though they were purchasing their homes from the Commonwealth, lost them because of their inability to meet the payments. I repeat that when the Scullin Government was defeated the finances of this country were in a comparatively healthy position. As the result of the wise policy of that government, our overseas deficit had been converted into an overseas credit. But when the Scullin Government was defeated and the reins of office were assumed by honorable members opposite the financial position of this country drifted rapidly, until we had the spectacle not only of widespread unemployment, but also of semi-starvation among our people. In New South Wales in particular tens of thousands of people existed on the dole, and single men were expected to live on a sustenance paymentof 6s. a week; married men were sent to labour camps, where they were employed, not under award conditions, but under relief work conditions. Many of them counted themselves fortunate if they were given two weeks’ work in six in order to provide the wherewithal to maintain their wives and families. And if as the result of unfortunate circumstances they were unable to attend these labour camps they became ineligible for payment of sustenance or the dole. Such were the conditions in which our people lived under anti-Labour governments in the years between 1931 and 1939.
Much criticism has been levelled against this Government and against the State governments for their failure to house the people. May I remind honorable members opposite that governments which they supported had control of this country for many years when labour’ and materials were in plentiful supply and when men, and women, too, were walking the cities and the countryside vainly looking for work, and housemaids were glad to accept employment for a paltry remuneration of 5s. a week. When Labour assumed office it was able to govern only through the good offices of a couple of independents in this chamber; but, despite that handicap, it carried on until 1943 when the people gave it a mandate to place the defences of the country on a sound- footing. Labour assumed office at a period when this country was going through the darkest days of its history, when the Japanese hordes were striking south in an attempt to invade Australia and we were totally unprepared to resist them. Our unpreparedness in those days resulted from the failure of the governments supported by honorable members opposite to heed the advice of the then Opposition to prepare for war. That Australia was then in a state of unpreparedness was admitted by the then Minister for the Army, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) who said that one division of Japanese forces could invade and occupy the east coast of New .South Wales because we had not the forces or the equipment to prevent it.
– That is not what I ?aid.
– The anti-Labour governments were more concerned with defending the northern approaches to this country with a few untrained troops than with making adequate preparations to resist an assault upon our shores. The majority of our trained men had then been sent to the Middle East. Honorable members will recall how, when the late Mr. Curtin turned to the United States of America for help, he was accused of cutting the painter by which we were attached to Great Britain. I do not suggest that Great Britain would not then have helped us to the best of its ability ; its assistance, however, must have been very limited because of its geographical position and the fact that it was so deeply engaged elsewhere. It was well for us that America came to our aid. In saying that, .1 do not want to be thought in any way to decry the magnificent efforts of our own service men and women. They alone, however, could not have halted the aggressor. If one man can be thanked for the fact that Australia was not invaded in those days he was our late leader, Mr. Curtin. In saying that I also give credit to the men and women who served on our fighting fronts and on the industrial front within our own borders. After Labour had assumed office, it not only took adequate steps to defend this country, but it also mobilized the man and woman power of this country for total war, and in addition introduced a generous measure of social services to ensure the future security of our people.
Much has been made by honorable members opposite during this debate of the heavy burden of taxation that rests upon the people of this country. Is it not better to have full employment, even though it is accompanied by heavy taxation, than to have no employment, no food, and no taxation? Notwithstanding the conditions under which our people lived under anti-Labour governments prior to the advent of the Curtin Government, the Australian spirit was sufficient to make them forget the raw deal they had suffered at the hands of honorable members opposite and they answered the call to serve their country in its dire need. They were in such poor bodily condition, however, that they had to be fed for weeks before they were able to reach the physical standard required of a soldier. I say that in order to compare the record of the Opposition with that of the present and past Labour Governments. So we travel along the road. The war is over. We are now in the period of transition from war to peace. However, even while fighting the war, we placed upon the statute-book many pieces of social legislation, including widows’ pensions, maternity allowances, hospital benefits, allowances to tuberculosis sufferers and their dependants, pharmaceutical benefits, and unemployment and sickness benefits. We raised the invalid and oldage pension to 32s. 6d. a week and the property bar from £400 to £650. We increased child endowment to 7s. 6d. a week. We did all those things while fighting a war, because we believe that the first duty of any government, regardless of war commitments, is to look after the welfare of its people. I can only repeat that it is better to pay taxes and have work than to be in poverty and unable to pay taxes. Since the war ended a little more than twelve months ago, the Labour Government has maintained in this country full employment. In fact, I think that the number of unemployed is less than 1 per cent. We believe that every one in this country who is able and wants to work can get work of the type that his physical condition enables him to do.
I take leave to inform the committee of the steps taken by this Government to reduce taxes and, incidentally, to assist industry. I think the test of the financial policy of any government is the state of business and the economic conditions in the country. The Government can point with pride to the following facts: Full employment prevails in practically every part of Australia and practically every industry. More than 400,000 men and women have been absorbed into civil occupations since the war ended. So great is the demand for labour that very many more could be absorbed were they available. Factory employment in August stood at 770,000 persons. It had risen by 110,000 since December last and is now 230,000 above the pre-war level, equal to an increase of more than 40 per cent.
Despite what has been said about discouragement of enterprise, businesses are extending and new undertakings are starting in every industry. The value of both wholesale and retail trade in recent months has reached record figures. Notwithstanding intense pressure on local demand, and the influence of higher import costs, prices in Australia have been held practically stable since the peak period of the war. The Government has succeeded in reducing interest rates over practically the entire lending field at a. great saving to both business costs and public finance. The central object of the Government’s policy for the transition period is to get men back rapidly to civil production. In fifteen months, 520,000 men and women were released from the services. Practically all whosought jobs have found them. The result is seen in production, which, in spite of many difficulties, is rising in most industries. Output of iron and steel in recent months has been well above pre-war levels. In the vital field of building material, the rate of output of bricks and roofing tiles is more than double that of a year ago. The Government has had extremely large special expenditures to meet on account of the termination of the war and the demobilization of the forces. Yet, since the Avar ended, it has made tax reductions to the annual value of £61,000,000. They, however, are by no means the only tax concessions made by the Government. During its term of office it has given an extremely wide range of concessions. The following tables summarize and give details of tax concessions and reliefs granted by the Labour Government from 1942-46.
The following is the annual cost to the revenue of tax concessions and reliefs for which estimates can be made: -
It ‘has granted sales tax exemptions to the value of £25,000,000 a year. What audacity honorable members opposite show in criticizing Labour’s record !
I should like to explain how the income tax affects people in Australia. The ‘ subject was briefly dealt with last night by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke). No person without dependants in this country pays income tax until his income from personal exertion reaches £200 a year. No person is called upon to pay social services contributions until his income from personal exertion reaches £104 a year. A person with a dependent wife and four children must earn by personal exertion £447 a year before becoming liable to income tax and £227 <a year before becoming liable to social services contribution. That man, his wife and four children are eligible, without paying income tax or the social services contribution tax, for all the social benefits which the Labour party has placed upon the statute-book. In addition, if his children are under the age of sixteen years? he may claim child endowment totalling 22s. 6d. a week in respect of the second, third and fourth child. How, then, can any honorable member assert with justification that that man and his family are hard-pressed by heavy taxes. Surely, the Parliament should grant this relief to a man with a family! The Labour party governed this country in war-time, and has the ability and courage to govern it in peace-time. Taking into consideration its social services programme for the future, the people will return the Labour party to office for many years.
For some time, I have been in communication with the Naval Board regarding the sentence imposed upon a lieutenant of the Royal Australian Navy, but to date I have not received any satisfaction. Now, at the direction of the Newcastle Federal Australian Labour party Council, I raise the matter in this chamber. Before I proceed, however, I desire the Government to understand that I do not in any way condone desertion from any of the armed services while the country is at war, but
I do believe that sometimes the circumstances of a case should bemore fully taken into consideration than appears to have been done in certain instances. I propose to read a statutory declaration signed at Newcastle on the 9th September, 1945, by Norman E. Farrell, before PL C. Milne, J.P. The document states -
I,- , do solemnly and sincerely declare that in November, 1944, whilst serving as lieutenant in H.M.A.S. Manoora, in northern waters, I received a signal from Naval Board itating I was to proceed to Melbourne on leave, prior to taking up a new appointment. Upon arrival at Sydney, [ was ordered to join H.M.A.S. Ballarat as navigator, which I did, and when 1 inquired of the captain about the leave I had been promised after months in New Guinea and Philippines invasions, he replied, “ You are going to be stiff “. However, the ship itself went down to Melbourne for a few days, during which time I was able to get ashore, only to find that my widowed mother, who has no other relations in Australia, was seriously ill. I then asked the captain for further leave, without success, saying he would see about it in Sydney.
In Sydney, the captain appeared to make no effort to grant me leave, whilst every one in the ship had received 21 days’ leave just prior to my arrival. On the last day before the ship was due to sail to Jervis Bay for exercises (during which time I could have been spared from duty), I was so distraught with worry that I could stand it no longer. I took an application for leave in to the captain, who again put me off by saying he would see about it. I became upset and hurriedlyleft the captain’s cabin, because I was ashamed. The captain, however, showed no sympathy, and ordered me back and reprimanded me for leaving his cabin without his permission.I apologized for my rudeness.
During the afternoon I could not stand it any longer, packed my bags and put them ashore intending to go to Melbourne. I came back on board again in the evening determined to try and give it another go, and eventually fell asleep. I awoke later, could not sleep for worry, and by this time was in an agitated state of mind. I went ashore and the ship sailed at 8 o’clock the same morniug for exercises in Jervis Bay. T was then worried about my action and-
This is the important point - at 4 p.m. the same day I walked into Naval Base Head-quarters, Sydney, to tell them what f had done and to try to get my leave in the proper manner. I was ordered back to the ship at Jervis Bay, but all I could say was that I just could not return under the existing circumstances.
I ask honorable members to bear this fact in mind -
I was then placed under arrest, having been exactly nine hours absent over leave. At the court-martial I was charged with “ desertion “. My “ Prisoner’s Friend “-
I assume that the “ Prisoner’s Friend ‘’ is the advocate for the accused - who, like my captain, was also a permanent naval officer, very wrongly advised me to plead “ Guilty “, saying that the court would be more lenient were I to do this. I therefore pleaded “ Guilty “ and the case was not fought. 1 made only one statement, blaming my action on disappointment in not gaining earlier command as I felt too embarrassed to plead compassionate grounds. I even tried to protect my captain, who was due for promotion, by stating that my action had nothing to do with him and savins’ I was sorry for any inconvenience caused him.
For being in effect nine hours absent over leaveI was dismissed from His Majesty’s service, and sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment, together with the loss of all deferred pay, bonuses, gratuities, prize-money and medals.
The Naval Board later reviewed the sentence, and reduced it to 60 days’ imprisonment. I wonder whether the court, at the time of the hearing, took into consideration Farrell’s record of service. Joining the Royal Naval Reserve in 1937, he served his country faithfully for five years in various theatres of war. He participated in the evacuation of Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, and the Battle of the Atlantic. He endured the first 27 raids on Darwin, and took part in all the invasions fromWake Island to Morotai and the Philippines. Yet this man has been branded a deserter, because he wanted leave to see his sick mother. The statutory declaration proceeds -
I was sent to Long Bay Penitentiary and after two months was released by the Naval Board. But after this gross miscarriage of justice and vicious sentence, I still carry the stigma of a prison sentence and have lost about £500 in gratuities, prize-money and deferred pay.
As I stated earlier, I do not condone absence without leave, or desertion, but I contend that this man, who served his country in battle for five years, should receive at least the emoluments that accrued to him during his faithful service. His war record indicates that he may have been suffering from war neurosis, or at least some mental disturbance, which caused him to walk off his ship and, nine hours later, to give himself up at Naval Base Headquarters. I hope that the Government will take heed, not only of this case, but also of hundreds of other similar ones which must have occurred.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) replied very effectively last night to the speech of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). I am not facetious when I say that I had hoped that it might ‘have been my privilege to reply to that honorable gentleman, who has been one of my political opponents ever since I entered this Parliament in 1935. All I shall say at the moment, however, is that the honorable member for Reid ran second to De Groot on the occasion of the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and so long as he attempts to embarrass the Labour party in this Parliament he will continue to run second. I assure him that the Australian Labour party, both inside and outside this Parliament, has never been more united than it is to-day, and it will remain united in spite of all the efforts of the honorable member for Reid to cause discord.
– What place will be ascribed, to the present Treasurer (Mr, Chifley) in the history of the Commonwealth is a matter for conjecture, but the right honorable gentlemen’s contemporaries must put him down as the most perverse and obstinate Treasurer ever to sit on the treasury bench. It appears that he must perforce oppose every suggestion made by honorable members of the Opposition. No matter how the right honorable gentleman may appear to agree with views that are expressed on this side of the chamber, in practice he invariably opposes them He assumed office as Treasurer just after the leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) had introduced a budget which incorporated the principle of post-war credits. lt the Australian working men had been able to enjoy the financial benefits of post-war credits during the last few years they would undoubtedly have been many millions of pounds better off to-day. That principle was applied in the budgetary procedure of practically every civilized country in the world, but because it was advocated by honorable gentlemen opposed to the Labour party the present Treasurer felt obliged to resist it. He would not even listen to any alternative form of post-war credits although the introduction of these would provide greater incentive to production. I believe that if post-war credits ‘had been agreed to in this country when we first advocated it we should not be. experiencing the industrial trouble that is to be seen on every hand to-day.
The right honorable gentleman also seems entirely to overlook the need for some incentive to increase production in this country. The members of the Opposition have advocated the reduction of direct taxes, but just as the Treasurer opposed our policy of post-war credits, so he is now opposing our policy for the reduction of direct taxes. It appears to us that because, during the recent election campaign, the Opposition parties advocated the reduction of direct taxes in order to improve the economic position in Australia, the Treasurer deliberately turned his attention to providing reductions of indirect taxes. Our view is that the reduction of direct taxes would provide the necessary incentive to all sections of the community to increase production, which, of course, would have the effect of causing prices to decline and the standard of living to advance. Because of the attitude the Treasurer has adopted in this connexion, we, on this side of the chamber, find ourselves in a dilemma. It appears to us that no matter how statesmianlike and wise and obviously ‘beneficial may be the policies we suggest, the Treasurer must oppose them merely because we suggest them. We are forced, therefore, to declare that one of the most urgent needs of Australia at the moment is more tolerance, more wisdom, and a frank recognition of the real requirements of the country by honorable gentlemen opposite.
It is, in our view, absolutely essential to introduce a greater incentive to production. This refers not only to the working classes but also to every other section of the people. Undeniably there has been a slowing down in industry throughout this country, because people recognize that it does not pay to increase production. I do not intend to enlarge upon that particular aspect of the subject, .because it has been dealt with effectively by other honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber. I shall however, devote some time to a demonstration of the ineffectiveness of reductions of indirect taxes as a means of lowering prices and living costs. The Government has declared that costs of clothing and housing in particular will be lowered if indirect taxes be decreased. That result is quite problematical, but the end which the Government has in view would undoubtedly be achieved more speedily if reasonable reduction were effected in direct taxes. It is fallacious to contend that prices will fall merely by the reduction of indirect taxes and to ignore the effect of direct taxes on the prices of goods and services.
In order to make my point quite clear I shall refer to the last available report of the directors of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, which was brought to notice by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) though I shall deal with aspects not referred to by him. The honorable gentleman pointed out that the capital of this organization was £850,000, and that its profits last year totalled £940,000, or more than 100 per cent, on the amount invested. He also indicated that an amount of £690,000 had been provided to meet taxation and that further amounts had been added to the reserves of the company for extensions of plant and buildings. The point I make is that although the company made more than 100 per cent, on its invested capital, it paid a dividend of only 12 per cent. Large business enterprises such as Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited must of necessity make provision to meet direct taxes, and they must of course pass on, in the price of their products, the taxes which they are called upon to pay. Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has had to pass on an amount which the people have had to pay, yet in spite of the fact that it made a profit of £940,000 last year and was able to set aside £100,000 for extensions of plant and buildings, it could pay only 12 per cent, to its shareholders. The Commonwealth Government of course is the largest shareholder in this concern. The normal return of companies in these days is 5 per cent, or 6 per cent.
I have cited these figures as an illuminating, if extraordinary, example of “ the effects of the Government’s policy of imposing extremely high direct taxes on industry. If the Government has a real desire to give an incentive to industry, and to reduce living costs, it must, in my opinion, reduce direct taxes substantially. Although I disagree with many of the views expressed by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), I agree with his statement that production could be stimulated by a policy of low taxation. This was proved conclusively during the Lyons regime. The increase of production under such a policy means gains and not losses to the Treasury. The experience of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, under the policy of high direct taxation taxation which is being applied by this Government, is not beneficial to the country. What is happening to that company under the system of pooling petrol, must be happening also, as my friend on my right has pointed out, to the other oil companies. Therefore, the motorist knows that whenever he drives his car, certain of the mileage costs in which he is involved arc due directly to high direct taxation. Just prior to the last general elections, I attended the Royal Agricultural Society’s annual show in Melbourne. Being interested in the purchase of agricultural machinery, I wanted to inspect particularly the machinery exhibits. I found that the prices were higher than they had been. I conversed with different executives, and was told by all of them - what I already knew - that high taxation was responsible for a portion of the increased costs of implements which are essential to primary production. Viewing the motor exhibits, I thought of the housewives in the Melbourne suburbs, who are a little tired of having to go to the butcher, the grocer and the baker, and are looking forward to the return of the delivery system that served them prior to the war. I found that the very small delivery van that would be used to-day costs approximately £600. The purchase of such a van with a view to making deliveries to housewives who urgently need them, would be a matter of no little concern to the small tradesman. Even if he were able to purchase it, he would have to pass on to his customers a portion of its inflated value, which undeniably is due to high taxation. Therefore, it would be most unwise to believe that the reduction of indirect taxation is all that is needed to bring down costs. A large reduction of direct taxation also is necessary. Only the working man and the primary producer are unable to pass on direct taxation. Unquestionably, it is passed on to the consumer in the prices of all the goods that he buys.
Another factor which is worthy of consideration is that, with the present high rates of tax, it is well nigh impossible for any primary producer or businessman to recoup in good years any losses made in other years. During this debate, much has been said about droughts in this country. We know that droughts have been widespread during the last few years, and that they are still being experienced in parts of northern New South Wales and Queensland, involving primary producers in large losses. The impossibility of recouping losses to-day is more evident in the primary producing section than in tha business section; but it could quite easily relate to the secondary manufacturer when losses have been heavy.
A good deal has been said about the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. Doubtless 50 per cent, or 60 per cent, of these men will be absorbed in employment by existing firms. This will apply at the outset even to many of those who may propose to start business enterprises on their own account in the future. The remaining 40 per cent, or 50 per cent, will bo anxious to begin immediately on their own account, are to be found in all sections of the community, and they are those who will really make for progress in the nation. If they are tied down, there will be no progress. Many ex-servicemen, taking up farms or going into business, will have to bear terrifically high direct taxation, and will find it almost impossible to establish reserves which will enable them to make progress on their farms or to develop their business enterprises. I make these few points in connexion with direct taxation because they have not been brought out in debate. We know that the Government is still expending millions of pounds annually, largely on employment in government enterprises. In fact, we have reached a state of semisocialization. Although the Government is utilizing a tremendous volume of money and man-power, it is yet unable to produce those goods which the public want. On the other hand, non-governmental enterprises are starved of money and manpower.
If the production problem is to be resolved, more people must be placed in productive enterprises. Reference has been made to the cutting out of “ dead wood “ in government departments. I believe that many persons now employed in government departments could be transferred to productive enterprises. This would raise their standard of living; because it is true that what private enterprise produces at a cost of sixpence costs the Government one shilling, and where the Government pays sixpence private enterprise pays one shilling. It is strange but true that a great deal of the industrial unrest in Victoria and other parts of Australia is to be found among men who are employed in Government services. There is plenty of room for economy in all Government departments. I shall give a few examples which I have abstracted from the budget papers. For example, I find that the Estimates for 1946-47 of the Department of Works and Housing provide for an expenditure of £1,160,000 on salaries and payments in the nature of salary, and of £545,000 on general expenses, a total of £1,705,000. The Estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation, provide for an expenditure of £670,000 on salaries and payments in the nature of salary, and of £113,000 on general expenses, a total of £783,000. Under the Department of Air, the estimated cost of aircraft, equipment and stores is £18,430,000. That needs explanation. How does the Government propose to expend £18,430,000 on aircraft, equipment and stores ? Is anything of real value being produced for use by a modern air force? We all know that many of our leading airmen are grounded because of lack of men to service existing aircraft. There cannot be an efficient air force unless the members of it are allowed to fly. I come now to the Department of Labour and National Service. The provision for salaries and payments in the nature of salary is £S70,200 and for general expenses £1S9,800, a total of £1,060,000. How many men are employed in that department? Where, or to whom, is it proposed that that money shall go? How many men in that department, and in the other departments that I have mentioned, are performing useful tasks, or are doing any work at all? In the Department of the Army, the provision in respect of pay and allowances in the nature of pay amounts to £28,000,000. The provision on account of salary and payments in the nature of salary of the civilian services amounts to £1,200,000; that for buildings, works, fittings, furniture, &c, amounts to £1,S17,000 ; and that for arms, armament, ammunition, mechanization, equipment and reserves amounts to £33,119,900, compared with an expenditure of only £13,171,9S6 last year. I have given these figures to the committee, first, because they are of considerable interest; and, secondly, in order to give the Ministers concerned the opportunity to obtain explanations from their departmental heads. If taxation is to be reduced, we must look to the expenditure by departments, which cost not merely a few hundred thousand pounds, but millions of pounds. We shall have a right to expect reasonable, detailed replies by Ministers when the Estimates are being considered item by item. The Department of Information has been mentioned. Its cost, it is true, amounts to £324,600. Nevertheless, it could be cut down considerably. I am not contending that sections of it should not be salvaged, because, having been overseas, I realize how little is known about Australia in other countries, and how necessary it is for some department or section of a department to advertise Australia abroad. It is strange to find that the amounts set down in respect of photographic services and overseas publicity are small, the big item being salary and payments in the nature of salary. I believe that there is ample room for the cutting out of “ dead wood “ in all departments. Costs should be reduced by millions of pounds, in order that substantial tax relief may be given to the people. The men regarded as redundant should be transferred to more productive enter- prises, where they would be employed with greater advantage to themselves.
The main subjects with which I wish to deal are water supply and transport communications in this country, not because they are new - they have been mentioned for years past - but because they are the two paramount subjects which have to be considered by Australia to-day. Listening to the debate, I have heard many expressions of opinion in regard to the future of this country. It has been said that the population could be increased to as many as 75,000,000 persons. Last week, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) read a long “ screed “ on the subject of immigration, in the course of which he referred to the introduction to this country of migrants not only from Great Britain, but also, later, from other countries. Undeniably, we need migrants, but before we visualize bringing millions of people here, we must be assured of our ability to feed them when they come here. That is a basic consideration. For that reason, I asked the Commonwealth Statistician to furnish to me figures relating to consumption in Australia, and exports from Australia, of the main products in the diet of our people. I had some knowledge of what was happening, but I was not prepared for the reply I received. The figures are indeed alarming. They relate to the year 1945 in which, admittedly there was a severe drought in several parts of Australia, but they also refer ‘to a year in which the consumption of most of the commodities under review was rationed. If we are concerned to discover how many people we can feed in Australia, it is wise to take as our base a poor year rather than a good one, because we do not want ever to be in a position of not being able to produce enough food for our own people. The figures are as follows : -
If we are to service our overseas debt, and be in a position to pay for imports which will swell our customs revenue, we must continue to export ; yet, if the population of Australia were increased by another 700,000 there would be no beef, veal or mutton to export on present production, and we should be able to supply our own needs in those commodities only by maintaining, or even tightening, the existing rationing system. Beef, veal, mutton, lamb and pork are the standard items in the meat diet of the Australian people, and they would presumably continue to be the standard items for migrants after their arrival here. Nevertheless, of those commodities, we are now exporting only 13 per cent, of our total production, which is enough to supply the needs of only little more than 1,000,000 extra people. The position in regard to dairy products is a little better, though here it is not satisfactory. The figures are -
Iii the same year Australia produced 141,600,000 bushels of wheat. Of this, 62,097,000 bushels was consumed locally and 79,503,000 bushels, or 56 per cent, was exported ; 1945 was a reasonably good year, but this year there is drought in many of the wheat-producing areas, and the most recent estimate is that the Australian, crop will be only about 100,000,000 bushels. A year or two ago we were thinking seriously of importing wheat because there was not enough here to feed stock in drought areas. It becomes evident, therefore, that if we are to carry a considerably larger population we must increase our production of food. Let us entertain no illusions about the productive capacity of Australia. We may become a great nation culturally, a nation of healthy, happy people enjoying a high standard of living, but, compared with some nations, we are not wealthy. We tend to “think we are, only because we are ignorant of the resources of other countries. Australia is an arid country. Even the areas adjacent to the coast have an intermittent rainfall. My own district, the north-east of Victoria, is regarded as one of the safest in Australia, with an average rainfall of 30 inches; but even there periodical droughts occur, during which production is severely reduced. If we are to produce more food, we must conserve water. Regional planning must be undertaken, not only by experts, but also by sound men of common sense, working in conjunction, with the experts, to see that plans for development are properly carried out. In my own area, weirs have been constructed, resulting, unfortunately, in the flooding of good land, as usually takes place in such cases. Little regard was paid to the salvaging of timber when the weirs were being constructed, or to the dangers of erosion, although the ordinary “ cocky “ knew that something should have been done about those matters. If nothing is done about water conservation and regional planning, we may say goodbye to our dreams of a larger population. Victoria presents many opportunities for water conservation. The schemes may involve the flooding of good land, but I hope that it can- be avoided. We have heard of the Snowy River water conservation scheme, and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has more than once directed the attention of Parliament to the possibilities in connexion with the Clarence River in northern New South Wales. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), a man of enthusiasm and wide vision, has frequently urged the need to embark upon water conservation schemes in Queensland. We have been told that, by water conservation in the Kimberley district of Western Australia, it would be possible to provide sustenance for some millions of additional people. All these schemes must be undertaken on a regional basis, as was the Tennessee Valley scheme in the United States of America.
Apart from water conservation, the development of Australia depends largely upon transport. I do not intend in this debate to discuss railway transport, although I am clearly aware of its advantages. I do not deny that it would be an advantage to standardize railway gauges, although I do not believe that this is the time for undertaking the work, when we are short of materials for more urgent jobs. When I .speak of transport, I have in mind the need for increasing facilities for motor transport. This is a mechanical age. We cannot expect people to go into the back country to develop the land unless transport is available for their business and social purposes, and this means motor transport. Australia is a country of great distances, yet every government seems to have taken a peculiar delight in heaping burdens on the motor industry, so that motor transport has been made unduly costly, despite the fact that, without cheap motor transport, it will be impossible to increase production and promote decentralization. I know that, in this budget, it is proposed to reduce the petrol tax by Id. and also to reduce sales tax on motor vehicles, but I do not regard the proposed reductions as enough. The Government’s financial policy is certainly devoid of vision. A budget should indicate the direction in which the Government proposes to go. This budget is filled with all sorts of nondescript items, but it lacks any clear indication of the adoption by the Government of a policy which is indispensable to the development of a country. There is no mention in it of water conservation proposals, or of plana for reducing the cost of motor transport ; yet both are, as I have pointed out, essential. To-day we have a wonderful opportunity to develop our own industry for the manufacture of motor vehicles. The cost of American motor vehicles is high, and is likely to continue to be high. Great Britain, broadly speaking, does not produce motor vehicles suitable for use by country people in Australia. Governments in Great Britain are too short-sighted to realize the value of an export motor trade, and have heaped terrific burdens on the export industries. We should now be in a position to manufacture our own motor vehicles, except, perhaps, for a few parts. If I had my way, I would remove sales tax entirely from motor vehicles manufactured in Australia, and I would do everything possible to reduce costs so that motor transport would be cheaper. In this way, the manufacture of motor vehicles would become one of the most important employing industries in Australia, and I have in’ mind also the manufacture of tractors.
The Postmaster-General’s Department, like all great socialistic undertakings, tends more and more to become an instrument for raising revenue rather than for giving service. The Government has made of it an instrument to collect money, which it uses or misuses, as the case may be. If primary production- is to be increased and people are to be brought back to country districts, we must improve telephone and postal services in country districts. J know that there have been difficulties during the war, but I also know that our telephone services, in particular, are at present execrable. Hours and hours are wasted in waiting for trunk-line connexions. During the last few years- I have often found it more convenient to take a service car from Melbourne and conduct my business personally than to endeavour to conduct it by telephone conversation from my own home. Rural production can only be increased by making the lot of the man on the- land more attractive. One of the most important factors in this connexion is the provision of better and cheaper telegraphic and telephonic communications in country areas. The present practice of establishing small telegraph offices in country areas and of restricting their hours of business to from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. is entirely wrong. The service rendered by such offices is of no real value to primary producers. The telegraph wires should be connected to exchanges established in the larger regional towns and facilities made available throughout the day and night either by a manual or an automatic system. It has been announced that the building programme of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department includes the provision of approximately 400 automatic telephone exchanges in country areas. That is merely playing with the problem; at least 4,000 of such exchanges are needed. The Postmaster-General should have some knowledge of what rural dwellers want. No doubt the improvements I envisage would result in additional expenditure, but, after all, the department was primarily established to render service to the public. The value of any public department is not determined by the profit it makes, but by the service it provides. I place these views before the Government in the hope that it will give them consideration. “We all desire to see this country progress. The opportunities for progressive reforms are now before us, and only by taking advantage of them by a sound progressive policy will the Government help to create a greater and a finer Australia.
– The debate on the budget has consisted mainly of a reiteration of election speeches. The Government has been given a full and complete mandate to carry out Labour’s policy, and, as I am confident that Labour’s policy will he given effect, my time can perhaps best be utilized by referring to a specific matter requiring urgent government attention. I bring to the notice of the committee the dejected and downcast state of our postal employees. It has been represented to me that the postal service is seething -with discontent because of the miserable allowances that are paid to the employees. The Postmaster-General’s Department is the Commonwealth’s largest business undertaking and has made millions of pounds in profits during the last few years; but the employees responsible for the service have not participated in the profits by receiving better wages and decent working conditions and amenities. The salaries paid by the department will not bear favorable comparison with salaries and conditions of similar employees outside the service. A postal clerk, an officer who is generally regarded as the utility man of the department, receives a maximum salary of £330 per annum, and this may be taken as a general standard. However, he does not commence at £330 - there is a low commencing rate and his progress through incremental scales is very slow. A postal clerk is a highly skilled officer who must have telegraphic qualifications of a high order. He must also have qualifications sufficient to fit him in an emergency to occupy many higher positions. By the time the average postal clerk reaches his maximum salary of £330 he is £370 worse off than the outside clerk who receives his full salary at the age of 21 years. A junior entering the service at the age of 19 years is required to pass examinations in all systems of telegraphy used by the department, comprising in all nine subjects, but the salary paid to him is the munificent amount of £156 per annum. In common with other public servants, postal officials have to make contributions for superannuation, and the pension which they receive on retirement precludes them from qualifying for the old-age pension. A postal clerk with years of loyal service to his credit is a man of high qualifications and great responsibilities. His salary year by year compares unfavorably with that of tradesmen, such as breadcarters, porters, butchers and bakers. By the time he reaches his 29th birthday, he reaches the same weekly wage as the breadcarter, but has earned a total of £55 less than the breadcarter. After paying superannuation and taxes many postal officers receive less than the basic wage. Skilled technicians possessing the same qualifications as those who operate the broadcasting equipment installed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and other intricate telephonic and telegraphic equipment and those who wired this chamber for broadcasting the proceedings of the Parliament receive £6 lis. lOd. a week, with four increases of 4s. 7d. a week until a wage of £7 5s. Sd. is reached. Outside the service a technician with those qualifications would command a wage of from £10 to £12 a week. It is regrettable that the Commonwealth is so parsimonious with its own servants. The telephone department is losing hundreds of girls who find private enterprise more lucrative. Unless action be taken to improve conditions in the department the standard of service will deteriorate. The Government should rectify this fault, and do justice to a great body of loyal servants. There is an opportunity in this field for the Labour Government to provide for the happiness of its own servants. In this connexion there are no constitutional limitations holding .us back. I ask the
Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to take steps to have the Public Service Board instructed to make a reclassification and a revaluation of the salaries of all public servants. During the war years many postal employees were required to perform additional duties occasioned by the war; in many instances, notwithstanding that their work was directly connected with defence projects, they were denied such war loadings as were granted to employees in civil industries. That alone places them at a distinct wage disadvantage by comparison with other workers. lt is also claimed by postal workers that their wage rates are not truly assessed and that the time has been reached when a complete and over-all revision should be made, and that, pending such revision, an immediate incremental advance of £75 a year should be granted to them. I trust that the Government will take speedy action to better the position of the employees of the Postal Department.
– This is the first peace-time budget to “which the committee has been asked to give attention. The Government Whip has just informed me that the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) wishes to address the committee. I therefore ask leave to continue ray remarks at a later hour.
– The honorable member for Bourke.
– I rise to order. The Minister cannot have leave to continue bis remarks at a later hour, if the speech of any other honorable member is to intervene. If the honorable gentleman desires to speak fit this stage he may do so. Honorable members on this side would gladly welcome the opportunity to hear him express his views at this stage, but they do not agree that he should have leave to continue his speech later.
– The committee is in charge of its own affairs. The Minister asked for leave to continue his remarks at a later hour and no objection was raised. I then called upon the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) to address the committee.
– On a point of order, I point out that immediately after the Minister had asked leave to continue bis remarks, you, Sir, without waiting to hear a dissenting voice immediately called the honorable member for Bourke. The Standing Orders provide that a member of the committee, having received the call from the Chair and having risen in his place and commenced his speech, must continue his remarks unless he obtains the consent of . the committee to postpone them. If, having been refused leave, he does not continue, he forfeits his right to speak. The Minister has not been given the consent of the committee to continue his remarks at a later hour, and accordingly if he does not continue his speech now he will forfeit the right to make it.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the question was not put to the committee. I heard you, Mr. Chairman, ask the committee whether leave was given to the Minister to continue his remarks at a later hour, and I was amongst those who signified assent.
– Not at all. It was never put to the committee.
– I think that it is clear that the question was put to the committee. The Minister asked that he be given leave to continue his remarks at a later hour. I said, “ Is leave given ? “. I beard a definite “ Yes “ and no dissent, and then called the honorable member for Bourke. There is no choice, but to abide by the decision of the committee. Therefore, I again call the honorable member for Bourke.
– On a point of order, is not the Chair required to put such questions to honorable members in such a form as to enable the questions to be resolved? You, Mr. Chairman, cannot merely ask, “ Is the committee agreeable to the Minister being given leave to continue his remarks at a later hour?”. If you refer to the records you will find that you did not put the question to the committee in such a way as to enable it to be resolved.
– I will not listen to any further comments on the point of order. I have given my ruling. Following the usual practice, I asked, “ Is leave granted ? “ Leave was granted. I have no choice hut to abide by that decision.
– In that case, I move -
Thatthe ruling be dissented from.
– Then I must have the honorable member’s motion in writing.
– You shall have it. You gave a most outrageous decision.
– The motion handed to me by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is not in order, either. My ruling was that the question, “ That the Minister be given leave to continue his remarks “ had been put to the committee in the prescribed form and that the committee had decided the matter. The question of whether the Minister was entitled to be given leave to continue is not involved. That is not the question on which I gave my ruling.
– Then I shall be able to raise another point of order as soon as the motion to dissent has been decided.
– Does the honorable member accept what I have stated to be the question on which he is inviting the committee to vote?
– I accept it in any form that will enable a decision to be made.
Question put -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. j. j. Clark.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolvedinthe negative.
.- Before I proceed with the remarks that 1 intended to make, I must say thatI deplore the happening of the last few moments,because I feel that it arose from a misunderstanding. I think that the general idea was that the honorable member for Bourke was not going to be heard.
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to reflect upon the Chair.
– I beg your pardon. I had better proceed. I think there was a misunderstanding. I was rather surprised to hear the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) declare in this debate a few days ago that this budget was a war budget, when I had believed it to be a peace budget. It has, in fact, become a war budget, though I do not believe that it was intended so to be. Speeches by honorable members on both sides of thechamber have created a minor war. Therefore, this has become a war budget. A large sum of money has been provided for defence, and the people of Australia, at this time, expect the expenditure of a comparable amount on peace. I believe that the promises which the Government made during the recent election have been honoured. For instance, the Labour party did not promise great reductions of taxes, and the electors must appreciate the reductions that hare already been made. Later, I shall refer to this subject in greater detail.
I deplore the proposed expenditure of so great a sum for defence purposes. In my opinion, we are planning this expenditure, not for defence but for future wars. I ask : What are we planning for peace? During the war, newspapers and speakers in every country outlined for the workers the promise of a new social order. Since the conclusion of the war, we have heard very little of this new social order that was to be rung in after we had so violently rung out the old. The implementation of the Labour party’s policy may well provide that new social order which was promised to the workers. The Labour party’s platform advocates the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Its objective is socialization, and we should not, at this stage, be ashamed of it. I do not believe that Ministers are ashamed of it. They should proceed to implement those policies which will improve the conditions of the workers and, in the last resort, introduce socialization, as they were elected to do.
As I stated, promises were made to the workers, and the workers throughout the world remember them. The industrial resentment and general unrest which occur in many countries to-day are partly the result of the workers still wanting the new social order for which they have looked so long. The coolie will no longer lie down to rest in a dirty street if, by creating sufficient disturbance, he can get for himself a bed. The coal-miners want to breathe fresh air, and wash in clean water. All over the world, people want homes. These demands must be met, and so long as they are disregarded, we shall experience industrial unrest. While we are waiting, the picture of the new order is fast fading from sight Now, much has been said by honorable members on both sides of the chamber about a group of people - the. Communists - who, it is said, have disturbed the peace and fomented industrial unrest. I do not hold a brief for the Communists, but I believe in justice. To those honorable members who have spoken in terms so harsh and derogatory of the Communists, I point out that this group has been forced into being, as have other groups in the past, by the very people who are now attacking them. In England in the middle of the last century, there was an illegal organization known as the Chartists. Members of that organization were forced into being by the industrial unrest and the frightful conditions of the workers in their time. In every age, when there ha.been unrest and a state of insecurity, a group that in modern times is known as the “ reds “ has sprung into being. The trade unionists in their day were the “ reds “. They were f forced into being by the necessities of the workers. Members of the Australian Labour party, in the early days of the movement, were described as “ reds “. They were forced into being because the workers believed that they needed a political voice. When I joined the Labour party in 1914, I was called a “red”. Every honorable member on this side of the chamber must realize that a group, which is forced into being by the needs of the workers, will be called the “reds”, no matter what their official designation may be. The dire needs of the workers force up speakers who are able to give utterance on behalf of those who are unable to express themselves. When we attack members of those groups, we create more trouble in the community In addition, such attacks are not constructive. These remarks should be interpreted not as a defence of, and not as support for, the Communists, because, officially, they worked strongly and steadily against me in my election campaign, but I do believe in justice.
I now desire to refer to several matters contained in the budget. I have asked that the sales tax be abolished for the benefit of the workers and I hope that will be done. I appreciate the action of the Government in removing sales tex from some items, and in reducing it on other items. Despite all that has been said to the contrary, the workers are the people who have made the biggest contribution to the sales tax collections. The workers, who can buy only in small quantities and purchase only the cheaper materials, paid sales tax throughout the war years, because their materials wore out and had to ‘be replaced ; but the wealthier people, who had money before the war, bought large quantities of the better classes of materials that did not wear out. Undoubtedly, the workers contribute the bulk of the receipts from the sales tax. At first glance, the amount might not appear to be substantial ; but over the years, the workers expend money more constantly on household requirements than do the wealthier sections of the community. Some scorn has been heaped on the proposal to remove sales tax from meat pies. In reply to that criticism, I have only one remark to make, namely, that the people who can afford to eat roast chicken, can have no knowledge of the needs of the people who can afford to eat only meat pies.
Some speakers in this debate submitted figures relating to housing. I propose to cite a few more. I can give only figures relating to Victoria, but they are supplied by the Government Statistician of that State, and I believe that the position they reveal is paralleled in other States. Honorable members will find the following table most illuminating: -
For each couple who were married in that five-year period, we built one room. In 1945 there was a shortage of 80,000 houses in Victoria. No target figure that I have yet seen has taken the marriage rate into account in accessing housing needs. In fact, the target figure for last year was far below what it should have been, having regard to the marriage rate, and the shortage now would consequently be very much greater than 80,000. I am not making these remarks in a critical spirit. I am merely stating the facts.
The greatest difficulty of this country to-day is the housing of its people. My children and the children of other honor able members are among the people without homes. In effect, we have a homeless generation. “What, therefore, will be the position of the children of this homeless generation? We are bringing into the world a generation which will not have the benefit of home life, because homes are not available. Children cannot be trained in one room or in two rooms, but some honorable members m this chamber know that that is what is being attempted to-day. The effects of this totally unsatisfactory position will be felt by the children of our children.
Early last year I read a report of a statement made by the magistrate of a delinquent children’s court in England to the effect that 8,000 girls a month had appeared before the court in London alone. The magistrate gave as a reason for this the shortage of homes. If the homeless condition of the people can have that effect, it must be obvious that in ten years’ time we shall have a most serious delinquency problem in this country - such a problem, in fact, as we have never dreamed of. The time to deal with this situation is now. We could cope with it, but so far we are not attempting to do so. With other honorable members, I believe that as we could manufacture munitions of war during the war years we should ‘be able to build homes f ot the people now that the war is over. What is to happen to the mothers of these homeless children if they have to continue to wait for homes? We have not done things that we ought to have done, having regard to the shortage of houses. We have not established creches, nurseries and kindergartens &a other nations have done. There are honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber who believe that these necessary conveniences for the people are essential, and I use the expression “ necessary conveniences for the people “ deliberately. In this connexion, I quote the following remarks made on the 10th December, 1940, by the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) in an address in which he referred to children and the birth-rate -
The benefit of the machines must go back to the workers in the form of reduced hours’ ami increased social services.
He ako said -
It may not always be desirable to keep on raising wages. It may be better to give to the workers the benefit of their production in the form of social services, such as child welfare centres, child endowment, kindergartens, creches, free medical assistance and free hospitals.
Wages have not been raised, but where are the kindergartens, creches, free hospitals and free medicine that could be provided by the Government .of which the honorable gentleman is now a member? The workers have lost both ways. Without these facilities children cannot be trained as children ought to be trained, if we are to have stability in the future.
Without doubt much of the industrial unrest which we are experiencing at present can be traced to the childhood days of the English people of the middle of the last century. They are the fathers and grandfathers of the workers of to-day. They lived in a condition of insecurity and under a sense of injustice, and resentment caused by these factors persists from generation to generation. If we expect peace in . the future, if we desire to bring about a state of goodwill and brotherhood, we must give more attention to the wellbeing of the children of this country. We must also give more attention to the welfare of the mothers of our children. It must be realized that neurotic mothers cannot rear healthy children. There are in this country to-day many thousands of neurotic mothers who, because of the cramped conditions under which they have to live, cannot face as they would wish to do the responsibility of training their children.
Not only are we short of houses in Australia, but also the houses which are available may be had only at very high rents which are beyond the resources of the ‘ people in the lower income groups. We have therefore to face the facts that there i3 inadequacy of homes and that the rents of the home3 which are available are too high. These conditions adversely affect, not only people in the lower income groups, but also invalid and old-age pensioners and war widows with and without children. Many aged people who have not applied for the pension are also in difficulty on this account, and their conditions in some cases are tragic. If it be said that money is not available for the purposes to which I have referred, I consider that it would be reasonable to reduce the proposed vote for defence purposes in order to allocate additional sums for social services. In this connexion I direct attention to the following paragraph in the ninth interim report of the Social Security Committee -
National fitness work is concerned with all groups from infant to adult, but at present youth - boys and girls both - of fourteen to eighteen years is receiving special attention, being considered most needy. Much harm can be done to this impressionable age group of adolescents, if, .through no fault of their own. there is no scope for individual enterprise in their employment and recreation. Much disappointment, delinquency and wastage of natural ability and youthful energy can be avoided if, by organized effort and trained leadership, attractive leisure-.time activities are provided for young citizens in their adolescent years.
Sufficient attention is not being given to the matters referred to in that paragraph. I have heard it said recently that the Lady Gowrie centres are to be discontinued. Now I hear that they will not be discontinued at any rate for another three years. In my opinion, the centres should be continued indefinitely and a great deal more money should be expended on the extension of this work and on other social services designed for the training of children, especially those who are not properly housed.
I shall not deal with other matters mentioned in the budget. I regard the hardships of the women and children of this community as my special concern. 1 hope that my remarks will not be regarded as merely destructive criticism. ] intend them to be helpful criticism, and I believe that such criticism will bc welcomed by the Government.
.- Already, at this early stage of the present Parliament, we have listened to a number of speeches on a wide variety of subjects. We have heard our foreign policy expounded, and the subjects of taxation and defence discussed. Whilst these are matters of national significance, compared with the subject of immigration, to which I propose to confine my remarks, they are of secondary importance. With a population of only 7,250,000, our position is untenable, and so long as that weakness continues we shall not be the owners of this country but will merely have for a limited period an option to develop, settle and populate it. We can no more justify our present attitude of failing to increase our population than could an absentee householder justify keeping a house empty. The matter is not one in which we have the choice of bringing or refraining’ from bringing people to this country. We know that eventually compulsion will be applied. Either we do nothing officially until world opinion forces us to accept migrants of any race, colour or creed, or we have a definite policy which will ensure our obtaining migrants of the type that we need. During the recent debate on, international affairs, we heard a good deal about the force of world opinion and a court of human rights. These matters do not concern us very deeply to-day, because world opinion is not easily expressed and there is no court of human rights. We should be glad that such is the case, because a truly international and fair-minded court which did. not pay regard to race, colour or religious persuasion, would compel us immediately to take large numbers of foreign, coloured migrants, particularly from India, China and Indonesia. Whilst I am not a prophet, I believe it to be quite certain that within the next ten years very heavy pressure will be put on us to accept unlimited numbers or coloured migrants, unless we apply without delay a policy which will ensure our receiving the migrants that we want.
Let us have a little reality in regard to the White Australia policy. Australia is white to-day, and we believe in and support that policy, not because we consider it to be in the best interests of the human race, or because it is what the United Nations would have us do, but simply because we have to support it. The preservation of every standard that has been built up in this country is conditioned by the maintenance of a white Australia. Let us have a little less humbug and pious expressions about what white Australia means. It means no more nor less than our existence, and in that way we must regard it. I have chosen to discuss this subject, not only because I regard it as of outstanding importance, but also because hitherto we have been unable to induce the Government to adopt a definite policy, or the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) to give definite replies to questions in relation to it. It is significant that the ,Speech of His Royal Highness the Governor-General did not mention this all-important matter. The Minister made last week a long and tedious statement, but did not announce any definite plans or give any indication of what migrants were coming to Australia. I have asked the honorable gentleman many questions on the subject, and so have the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) and other honorable members, but I have never heard him give a straight answer to any of them. He has evaded all inquiries, and has cast doubt? on the veracity of the information on which they were based. He has sidetracked the matter, and has “ passed the buck” to the British Government. He has blathered, bullied and blustered when referring to the press, but has given absolutely no information. He should be sub-titled the “ Minister for no information on Immigration “. If we are to have an effective policy for bringing to this country the hundreds of thousands of people whom we must have, a plan is essential, because migration will not take place of its own accord. Plans in relation to housing, closer settlement, and industrial expansion must be given effect in order that migrants may be absorbed and cared for when they come here. There are examples of such schemes having been put into operation within thilast twenty or thirty years. Italy sent hundreds of thousands of its nationals to North Africa. Those migrants found on their arrival that an intelligent, farsighted Government had cleared the land for settlement and had established factories in which they could .be employed. They were assured of markets for everything that they produced. Similar foresight must be shown by the Australian Government if it wishes to succeed with any immigration plan. The Minister has mentioned the intention to bring a few hundred building tradesmen from Great. Britain. That is not migration, but simply an attempt to make Great Britain solve the housing muddle for which the Government is responsible. If the Minister were to say to the people of Britain, “ “We want millions of Britishers to come to Australia. We should like 2,000, 3,000 or 10,000 single men to come out and build houses, clear land,’ establish farms, and later bring their wives and families “, does any one believe that the British would not respond? Of course they would. There has been nothing of that nature. No industries have been established, no forms of employment provided, which would make easier the absorption of migrants. Without action along those lines, there “will not be effective immigration. I believe that the Minister has been so uncommunicative because the Government has very little information to place before us. Rightly speaking, it has not a policy, but simply an attitude, which is a most dangerous one because it. means toleration of infiltration by a foreign element which is antiBritish in spirit and unabsorbable in character. The Minister has stated very glibly that he hoped that ten migrants would come from the British Isles for every foreign migrant that we received. That is only a hope. He has done nothing to ensure that such will be the case. The contrary has been our experience. Since the termination of the war his enormous and expensive department has succeeded in bringing only 4,S59 persons from the British Isles, and these have not been migrants in the real sense of the word but have been the widows, children and fiancees of Australian servicemen. How many aliens have come to Australia in the same period? We do not know. We have asked again and again, but cannot find out, because the Minister will not tell us. He has said that the Government has agreed to admit a limited number of aliens.. We want to know what the limited number is. In fact, is there any limit? The Minister also told us that strong pressure had been exerted on the Government at international conferences to admit large numbers of displaced aliens. That is all-important to us today, far more important in the field of international affairs than what happened in the matter of the veto, what is happening in regard to Spain, or what are the details of the other matters with which the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has occupied his time. If strong pressure has been exerted to induce us to admit foreign migrants, why was the Parliament not told about it earlier, and why were we not given an opportunity to express our views? So far as we can judge from the Minister’s statement, we shall see in the future nothing but an increasing number of foreign migrants arriving here. We do not know what the number will be, and can only make an estimate from what we read in the press. I have read that 17,000 foreign children are to arrive in Australia during next year. Whilst we all are doubtless very sympathetic towards such children, we are entitled to ask what migration there will be from Britain to off-set that accession to the strength of our alien population. In the past, there has been far too much exploitation of those who have come here as child migrants. They have been given into the care of institutions, and I do know from personal experience, having served in the war with some of them who had since grown to manhood, that they were inadequately educated, and at an early age were put to work on farms for practically no wages, more or less under guardians, often being exploited as a source of cheap labour. 1 hope that the Minister will provide special protection in that respect in the future. We desperately need migrants from Britain. Those whom we would be glad to get, are available. The Minister has told us that in Great Britain alone 153,000 persons have sought permission to come here. Many more will doubtless follow their example when our propaganda begins to have an effect on the British masses who are interested in this country. We have been told that Great Britain cannot afford to allow its people to come here. I contend that, if the British Empire is to continue as a force in the world, and if its institutions and everything else for which it stands are to be maintained, Great Britain must realize the necessity for the transference of some of its people, wealth and power to the dominions. If Britain wants Australia to be a British country, it must send us British people. I hope that the Minister will make that plain. In addition to the British whom we hope to get, there are many others; for example, Poles, of whom there are nearly 200,000 in Great Britain. I commend those to the Minister’s consideration as possible future migrants.
– And when they come here the honorable member calls them aliens.
– On a previous occasion when I mentioned them, honorable members opposite referred to them as Fascists. It is a pity that those who talk so glibly about their being Fascists did not do half as much as they did to fight fascism. It has been said that the Poles are drawn from an ignorant peasant class. That is not true. They manned an armoured division in the war, and to maintain such a force it was necessary to have thousands of highly skilled craftsmen and many highly educated men. We should get them here as quickly as possible. It should also be possible for us to get. Dutchmen, Frenchmen and Belgians to immigrate to Australia. Then, there is a great body of Irishmen now in England who served in the British forces during the war, and whom Mr. De Valera does not want to re-admit to Ireland. We have been told that we will not be able to get many migrants from Europe because the people there do not want to come. Those who say that do not reckon with the factor of fear in Europe - fear of war, fear of famine, and fear that their country may be overrun. It was fear that drove millions out of Europe to the United States of America during the last century, and the same fear might well populate Australia if we had in charge of immigration a Minister capable of taking advantage of the situation. Australia has the right to select the citizens who come to it from abroad. This country was settled by people of British stock, and it has been defended by them. We are not compelled to accept the unwanted of the world at the dictate of the United Nations or any one else. Neither should Australia be the dumping ground for people whom Europe itself, in the course of 2,000 years, has not been able to absorb. I am amazed that a Labour Government, of all governments, should sponsor the kind of immigration that is going on at the present time. I am not anti-semitic. Indeed, very few Australians are.
– The honorable member is putting up a very good show of antisemitism.
– Happily, in the past, men of the J Jewish faith have played a very distinguished part in Australia’s affairs. It is unfortunate, however, that many of the Jews who came to Australia in the year before the war and since the outbreak of the war have been notorious exploiters of labour. They set up “ sweat shops “, and in the records of the industrial courts one may read their names. They have cornered houses, and evaded income tax, regarding which the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) wagged his tongue so eloquently in his cheek the other night. These are the people for whom berths were kept open in the Strathmore to the exclusion of the wives and children of ex-servicemen.
– That is not right.
– The Minister for Immigration himself cannot deny it, and Lord knows, it is hard enough to get a straight answer from him on any subject. Parliament is being asked to approve an expenditure of £360,000 on immigration. The Minister has been talking about immigration for the last fifteen months, but nothing has yet been done. Why is there so much mystery about the number and description of the immigrants whom he is supposed to be bringing here? It is proposed to appropriate £65,000 to bring child migrants here under the control of organizations. What organizations are to be responsible for them? Parliament appropriated the money, and passed legislation authorizing the Minister to nominate guardians. We should now like to know when this expectant fosterfather is going to produce the children. During the last twelve months the scheme for bringing out assisted migrants to Australia has resulted in bringing no one hero at all. During 1919, the year after the conclusion of World War I., when there were the same difficulties regarding shipping, no fewer than 21,000 persons came to Australia from Great Britain. In 1920, the number was 86,000, and the total number of immigrants in that year was 109,000. So far, all our immigration schemes after the recent war ‘have failed to bring any one here, except a handful of war brides. I do not say that the Minister is entirely to blame. We know that the problems associated with migration are much the same as ‘those associated with rehabilitation, namely, housing, finding farms, and business premises. However, it remains true that, in regard to re-establishment and the settling of servicemen on the land, the Government has to admit the most dismal failure. The same record of failure has to be admitted in regard to providing for prospective immigrants. Aliens are entering Melbourne and Sydney by -hundreds every month, and, of course, they are being housed somewhere, while servicemen who fought for their country have to go without houses. I know of many a decent man who, having served for five or six years during the war, is now living with his wife and family in a single room. It is small satisfaction to such men to see aliens coming to this country and getting bouses.
– The honorable member does not seriously imply that every alien is able to get possession of a house.
– Surely the honorable member does not say that they are not living somewhere. Of course they must, be going into houses. I contend that it would be much better if the houses were made available to ex-servicemen who fought for their country. It may be that we cannot expect any large number of immigrants for another twelve months, but we ‘are at least entitled -to ask, in that event, that public money shall not be wasted by the Department of Information in an attempt to deceive the people regarding what is being done ‘by the Immigration Department. If it is not practicable to bring British migrants ‘here, we are entitled .to ask that migration from alien sources should be completely stopped.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 till 8 p.m.
.- The Treasurer’s budget speech has been both praised and condemned. It has been condemned by honorable members on this side of the chamber for many reasons. I propose to deal to-night with four subjects not specifically mentioned in the right honorable gentleman’s speech, but to which some reference should have been made, because of their great importance to this country. The first is the overseas exchange rate for Australian currency in relation to the dollar, and particularly to the £1 sterling. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) made no reference whatever to this important subject, although a considerable amount of pressure has been exerted by various interests for the reduction of the exchange rate, because of the high prices which certain Australian exports are securing to-day in the markets of -the world and the continual increase of London funds in the hands of the Australian banking system. I believe it to be essential for the prosperity of this country that the existing rate of exchange shall bc maintained and that there shall be no -reduction of the rate merely because of certain ephemeral rises of the prices of our export commodities in the world’s markets and because London funds are increasing, due to our inability to obtain certain commodities from war-stricken Europe and the United Kingdom. It is a matter of vital importance to both primary and secondary industries that the existing rate of exchange be maintained. Honorable members will recall that during the closing sittings of the last Parliament, after a good deal of questioning, we were able to ascertain from the Treasurer that the gold holdings of the Commonwealth Bank at the 30th. April last, amounted to approximately £1S,000,000. Since then there has been comparatively little if any export of gold from Australia. We are not only building up’ London funds which according to the latest circular issued by the Commonwealth Bank, amounted to approximately £220.000,000 at the end of October last, but we arc also building up a very large balance of international money represented by the gold holdings of the Commonwealth Bank in Australia. In his budget speech the Treasurer said “ clearly we are developing a potential in secondary production which is capable not only of meeting a much wider home demand, but also of supplying the overseas markets”. As honorable members know, this country is at present being deluged with orders for primary and secondary commodities from countries all over the world, particularly from the East. It is one of our proud boasts that the price of Australian steel to-day is competitive with the price of steel in the world’s markets and that we are more than able to compete with the older countries, such as Great Britain and the United States of America. If we reduce our exchange rate to parity these advantages will disappear to the detriment of the steel industry, and we shall no longer be able to place our secondary goods on the world’s markets as advantageously as we can to-day. Whether the prices of our primary products overseas will continue at their existing high level as long as some people think is very doubtful. In normal years wool exports from Australia represent approximately 40 per cent, of the total exports of this country. The sheep industry of the Commonwealth, with wool representing 40 per cent, of our total exports, and with heavy exports of fat lamb and mutton, is responsible for approximately 60 per cent, of our export trade. If there be a fall of wool prices we may regress to the position which we occupied in the 1890’s and again during the dark days of the depression in 1931. In his book The Boom of 1898 And Now, Professor Shand said that the rut at the bottom of the hill which caused the collapse of prices in Australia, and brought depression and poverty into the community, was the fall of wool prices. Although we read in the newspapers to-day that wool is selling up to 99d. per lb., the average price of greasy wool sold in this country from the resumption of auction sales up to the 30th September was only 19.65d. per lb. Bearing that in mind, there is a strong case for the maintenance of the existing exchange rate. From the nineties until the Great War of 1914-18, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America were on the international gold standard. During World War I., Australia and Great Britain went off the gold standard, as most other countries of the world did, but our currency still maintained parity with the £1 sterling. That position existed until 1924, when there was a large accumulation of London funds and it seemed to be beyond the ability of those operating the financial system in Australia to arrange for the transference of those funds to the Commonwealth. As a consequence the Australian £1 was at a premium of 3^ per cent, over the £1 sterling. It was not for some months that that position was rectified by the Commonwealth Bank issuing credit in Australia against funds held in London. On the 30th April, 1925, Australia and the rest of the Empire returned to the gold standard. It was, however, not the gold standard that existed prior to 1914, when gold circulated freely in the community, but a monetary gold standard under which anybody who brought sufficient paper currency of the Commonwealth to the 001*:monwealth Bank could obtain in exchange bullion in 400-oz. bars. That position existed until 1929, when Australia definitely went off the gold standard. In 1929, throughout 1930 and for some time in 1931 there existed the fiction, fostered by the Commonwealth Bank, that Australia remained on the gold standard. Though there was an attempt to retain the gold standard, it in fact no longer existed. Prices fell, but some people, particularly Treasury officials and governments, believed that it would cost more and more if we depreciated our currency in terms of sterling and that we would have to pay more overseas in Australian currency for sterling commitments. But what they did not realize was that the depreciation of our currency would bring about a considerable increase of price levels in this country and would have a beneficial effect on employment. On the 29th January, 1931, the Australian £1 was driven by the action of Sir Alfred Davidson of the Bank of New South Wales to an exchange value of £130 Australian to £100 sterling. That rate was maintained throughout ‘ the year 1931 until, on the 2nd December, 1931, the Commonwealth Bank fixed the rate of exchange at £125 Australian to £100 sterling. There was a fear at that time among the Australian banks that they might lose the value of their oversea funds in terms of Australian currency if the exchange rate approached any closer to parity. That rate has continued to operate. The majority report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, to which the Treasurer was a signatory, stated -
One of the major contributions of monetary policy to recovery in Australia is that it increased the returns to exporters in terms of Australian currency which tended to increase the volume of export production, and it tended to restrict imports. Had the movement come earlier the fall in the national income would have been less, and the task of recovery easier.
Some people say that in view of the internal purchasing power of the £1 in Australia, of the pound sterling in Great Britain and of the dollar in the United States of America, Australian currency should be at a premium. On the face of it, there does appear to be some argument in favour of the exchange rate being reduced, but the other factors which I have mentioned should be taken into consideration. The existing high price peaks for Australian wool lead people to believe that the wool market of the Commonwealth is at a higher level than it really is. As a matter of fact, wool sold in Australia is not bringing as high a price as it brought in 1924 when Australian currency was on parity with sterling.
Another factor to be borne in mind is that internal costs will undoubtedly rise in the near future. Honorable members opposite will probably disagree with that contention. I believe, however, that when a country is in a state of prosperity, as Australia is at present, there must be a considerable increase of the wages paid to its workers. In a depression they are told that they must carry the burden by having their wages reduced. So it is my belief -that in prosperity their wages must be increased. Consequently I think that although the pegging of wages may not be lifted entirely, there must be a whittling down of the pegging. I believe that this country, in common with every other country, must face costs of production considerably higher than those existing at present. Then, if the rate of exchange falls, we shall have most difficult adjustments to make, and perhaps we shall have a major crisis similar to that of the depression years. An extraordinary thing about this question of the exchange rate is that once it has been fixed, any alteration is strongly resisted by all sections of the community. We have to our credit in London £220,000,000. The terms of the agreement under which the United States of America undertook to provide to Great Britain about £11,000,000,000 worth of dollar credits provide that Great Britain may freeze its sterling balances or make written arrangements with its overseas creditors up to 1951. So there is no certainty that we shall be able to use that £220,000,000. We may not be able to convert it into dollars or into any other currency. So our London funds position may not be so strong as people imagine. If we fix our exchange rate at a lower level, or if certain suggestions, which I understand are under discussion now, be adopted by the Government, we may find that we are locked to parity, which we shall be able to alter by only 1 per cent, at the start and by 10 per cent, only in the event of major disequilibrium in our economy. Hence we must be careful indeed before we allow ourselves to be affected by the present situation and alter our exchange rate in order to bring the Australian £1 closer to parity with sterling. The situation requires the Treasurer to restore the confidence of the people by assuring them that there will be no major alteration of the exchange rate. That is a matter of importance to Australian primary producers, but it is even of more importance to the secondary industries, because, if Australia is to maintain the highest possible living standards, its secondary industries must compete, with those of other countries, in the markets of the world, and, if the exchange rate should be reduced, their difficulties in doing so would be multiplied. That is another reason why the Treasurer should give the country an undertaking that the exchange rate will not be altered.
I now turn to the matter of import licences. One matter that surprises most of us is that, at a time when Australia’s overseas funds are at the record high level and we have .a large quantity of the only international currency that exists, namely, gold in the vaults of the Commonwealth Bank, an amount which is probably much greater now than it was last April, when we were told that it -was £18,000,000, and at a time we are in sad need of not only consumer foods but also capital goods, we hang on to the money instead of spending it with the object of satisfying our o wn needs and of increasing international trade, that was the purpose of the loan made by the United States of America to Great Britain. One of the most essential provisions of the Document on Trade and Employment prepared by the Government of the United States of America and submitted to the Government of the United Kingdom, on the 6th December, 1945, which is now under discussion in London ‘between representatives of the different nations, is contained in the following passage: -
No nation will use measures likely to create unemployment in other countries or which are incompatible with expanding international trade and investment.
The system of import licences interferes with international trade. It may cause unemployment and reduced living standards in other countries. That would hare serious repercussions in Australia, because those countries would not then be able to buy as many of our exports as they might have bought. Import licences slow down international trade. Th International Monetary Fund was designed also to increase international trade. I advise honorable members to consider our trade relations with other countries. I choose as an example, France. I understand that an inter-departmental committee is responsible for saying what goods shall or shall not be allowed into Australia. France has, I am informed, received fair treatment, but it is a country that produces a considerable quantity of what some might describe as luxury, or nonessential, goods, such as cosmetics, scents, powders, lace and silk. Can this country afford not to take such goods in exchange for the wool and other raw products that it is selling to France? France is a particularly keen bidder for fine wools, winch it weaves into delicate fabrics for the luxury markets in New York and other cities of the United States of America. They are goods that few people in any other part of the world could afford to buy. France’s sales of such goods to the United States of
America enable it to create dollar credits. Under an international agreement, to which France is a signatory, those dollar credits must be made available for use. Australia or any other country would be able to get hold of some of those dollars in exchange for francs. Therefore, it may be wise for us to exchange our wools and other raw materials for France’s cosmetics and silks in order that by means of a triangular trade Australia may be able -to create dollar credits in the United States of America for the purchase therefrom of the goods that we so badly need. In the last few weeks, France has played a dominant part in the wool markets of Australia, and it ought to be encouraged, even for psychological reasons, to assist it to the utmost to deal with ais. So it is wrong to have an inter-departmental committee, consisting, I am told, of representatives of the Treasury, the Department of Trade and Customs, the Department .of Post-war Reconstruction and the Commonwealth Bank, deciding without reference to the Parliament what Australia’s import policy shall be. That is a matter that should be thrashed’ out here. Professor Lionel Bobbins of the London School of Economics pointed out the fatal blunders made in the depression when the rebirth of high tariffs- and exchange controls strangled international trade. The system operating to-day could be more deadly to international trade than were even the high tariffs that operated in the depression. The time has come for the Government to disclose its policy on imports. It should state clearly what goods are regarded as essentials and what are nonessentials and luxuries. I object to a secret council of ten meeting to decide without parliamentary sanction what goods shall be allowed to be imported and what shall be prohibited.
The third matter that I wish to mention is not referred to in the budget-speech, but is of the greatest importance. I refer ‘to the deterioration of our main roads during the war years, largely as the result of the constant heavy military traffic that used them, together with the lack of maintenance. The revenue derived f rom customs and excise on liquid, fuels in 1945-46 amounted to £12,164,000. The tax and primage on petrol amounted to 11-Jd. a gallon. Although petrol and diesel oil for transport purposes would not account for all the revenue derived from liquid fuels’, I would say that- they account for most of it. Consequently a vast sum is available for restoration of the roads. Under the original Federal Aid Roads Agreement, which came into force on the 1st July, 1937, and will not expire until the 1st July, 1947, 3d. a gallon was levied on imported petrol and 2d. a gallon on petrol refined in Australia, and the. proceeds were to have been used to assist the States to construct main roads. Now only 3d. a gallon of the tax is being used for roads; the remaining 8W. goes into Consolidated Revenue. In 1939-40, the Main Roads Department of New South Wales received from the Commonwealth Government £1,229,000, but the payment in 1943-44 fell to only £143,958. Issued in September last, the first number of Morn Roads published by the Department of Main Roads since the war shows that from 1939-40 to 1945-46 it has lost £12,433,000 of revenue that it would have received but for the war. It sets out the difficulties that beset it, not only on that account, but also because of other factors beyond its control. For instance bitumen, which cost £8 a ton in 1938-39, now costs nearly £19 a ton. The department also has to pay much more now than before the war for the construction of bridges and the construction and maintenance of roads. That is the experience of only one ‘State, but it is the malor State of the Commonwealth. If this country is to develop and defend itself it must have a road transport system of the highest standard. But, as the Department of Main Roads pointed out, its loss of revenue for country and developmental roads during the war amounted to £11,624,000. Before the outbreak of hostilities, the amount available for the construction of new roads was £1,000,000 per annum. Now, the department estimates that it has only £500,000 for that purpose, because of the increase of costs. Nearly all of that amount is required for the provision of bridges and culverts, leaving little for new construction. In numerous places in my electorate, and, no doubt, in other electorates, connecting roads and developmental roads should’ be constructed for the purpose of opening up excellent agricultural lands. At present, many of these areas cannot be utilized for primary production, because they are situated too far from a railway, and are served only by bad roads. The article summarizes the situation thus -
Based on the estimated annual increase of (! per cent, in -the number of motor vehicles registered as previously quoted, it will be another five years, before the same volume of road works can be carried out as in the pre-war 3’ears 1038-39, because of increased costs. A period of twelve years will therefore have elapsed from the commencement of the war before the same rate of progress as then prevailed can be achieved.
If the Labour Government insists on retaining the present heavy rates of tax on petrol - the reduction of Id. a gallon is practically worthless - it should expend this revenue on improving the existing system of main roads and constructing new ones. In addition, the Government should assist shire councils financially to seal their roads with bitumen, and construct other roads which at present are not classified as main roads.
This af ternoon, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) referred to the lack of telephone facilities in country districts. Last week, I had a discussion with Mrs. Mac. Smith, president of New South Wales Country Women’s Association, when she was in Canberra. She remarked upon the hardships which people who live in remote country districts endure. The cost of installing a telephone in these areas is very expensive. In my opinion, the men and women who suffer all the hardships of the bush - loneliness, isolation from doctors and hospitals, and the lack of nearly all the amenities of civilization except the radio - are entitled to have telephones provided for them at a cost no greater than the charge levied upon subscribers in the large cities. A small increase of the charge payable by metropolitan subscribers would enable this to be done. The ideal would be to introduce throughout Australia a flat rate for the installation of telephones, and for all calls.
An additional financial hardship which country telephone subscribers bear, arises from the fact that nearly every call which they make is a trunk line call. The Postmaster-General’s Department should be able to devise a formula to provide that in country districts, the trunk line rate should not be charged for calls within a radius of, say, 50 miles of the local exchange. That. radius could be increased in the sparsely populated areas. Speaking entirely free of any party motive, I urge the Government to examine the telephone facilities provided for people in the outback areas, with a view to alleviating their burdens.
.- For several days, honorable members have been discussing what is really the first post-war budget, and I congratulate the Government upon its policy for the current financial year. After having listened attentively to the criticism of the budget which honorable members opposite have offered, I am surprised, although it would not deceive any one, by their professions of concern for the people in the lower ranges of income. They complain that the budget favours the wealthy classes. They made a similar charge last July when the Labour Government reduced taxes on income derived from personal exertion. Honorable members opposite then ridiculed the remissions of tax, and claimed that the concessions meant only a few pence a week to the worker. They cannot have it both ways. In, my opinion, this budget will lie of great benefit to people in the lower income groups.
Honorable members opposite have made many misleading statements regarding the incidence of taxation. At the last election, their programme for a reduction of taxes did not deceive the people any more than their criticism of this budget will deceive the people. The public realize that Australia has just emerged from a very costly war. During the conflict, the wealthy classes did not object to the imposition of high taxes, because all their wealth was in danger of being taken from them. Severe taxes had then to be imposed. The costs of the war have been colossal. Now that the war has ended, the wealthy people claim that we should immediately return to the prewar rates of taxes. Of course, now they are safe, and their wealth is secure! While young Australians were dying in defence of their property, they raised no objection to high taxes. The plain fact is that we must be prepared to meet the cost of defending our freedom, and provision for deferred pay, subsidies to primary producers, and interest payments amounts to a large sum. Yet, in the first year of peace, the Labour Government reduced direct taxes by £37,000,000 per annum, and revenue from sales tax by £4,000,000. Under this budget, indirect taxes will be further reduced, benefiting men with families in the lower income groups. Some honorable members opposite declared that the value of the remissions of sales tax may be gauged from the fact that they mean a reduction of id. on the c03t of a meat pie. But workers buy meat pies nearly every day for their lunch. The remissions of sales tax may ena’ble the price of a shirt to be reduced by ls. Honorable members opposite have described indirect taxation as “painless extraction “, because the people do not notice that they have been taxed. Indeed, the Opposition favours indirect taxation. In my opinion, the sales tax should be abolished, and the income tax should be imposed according to the ability to pay. That is only just. The imposition, of sales tax on the price of small articles is a considerable factor in the domestic budget of a worker in the course of a year. This budget will enable some relief from indirect tax to be granted ,to the people.
Honorable members opposite complain that the Labour party has not reduced direct taxes. During the election campaign, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) assured the electors that if the Liberal party were returned taxes would be reduced by 20 per cent. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) promised a reduction of 28 per cent. Of what use would those tax concessions be to the people who do not now pay income tax? I move among many classes, including workers in industry and primary producers, and I have found that many of them have swallowed some of the misleading propaganda which honorable members opposite disseminated during the election campaign. I made a practice of questioning some of them. For example, one man complained to me, “ Taxation is terrible “. I asked him whether he was a married man, and he replied that he was. He added that he had three children. I asked him what were his wages. He replied that he earned £6 a week. I immediately told him that he would not pay income tax. He assured me that he did, and waxed indignant at my assertion that he did not. I informed him that, actually, he made a small social services contribution amounting to about 2s. 9d. a week. I pointed out that 2s. 9d. a week was little more than the cost of a large packet of cigarettes. I do not think that, at the outset, he believed me when I assured him that he was not paying income tax. In the course of the conversation, he mentioned that he had been ill in hospital. I asked him, ‘‘Did you receive 25s. a week for yourself during your illness ? “ He replied that he did. I said, “ Did you receive £1 a week for your wife while you were in hospital, and 5s. a week in respect of your first child ? “ . He again replied that he did. In reply to a further question, he agreed that he also received £2 a week towards the cost of his hospitalization. He appeared also to overlook the fact that the family budget was increased by 15s. a week as a result of the payment of child endowment in respect of the second and third children. I reminded him that he received all these payments in return for a contribution of 2s. 9d. a week. I pointed out that prior to the Labour party taking office he would have had to bear the whole cost of hospitalization, and would have got into debt. He would have been “ working a dead horse “ for many months. I reminded him also that while he was’ -ill his wife would still have had to pay rent, and purchase the necessaries of life. I emphasized to him that for a social services contribution of 2s. 9d. a week he had gained economic security. Those social service benefits were introduced by the Labour party when it assumed office in war-time. I said to him, “ Do you intend to forgo all those benefits, by voting for anti-Labour candidates in order that you may retain 2s. 9d. a week?” Under a contributory scheme which members of the Opposition offered, this man would have made a con- tribution of nearly 15s. a week. Those are facts, and they should be told to the people. This budget is based on sound economic principles, and by the taxation policy of the Labour party income is being distributed among the people more justly than ever before.
I cite a second illustration. A farmer, evidently like myself, had been paying interest nearly all his life. That man said to me, with an adjective, “ The taxation is iniquitous “. I said to him, “ What is wrong with it ? “. He replied that he was a married man with three children and had interest to pay. He said, “I have never paid income tax before; yet under the administration of this Government I have received an assessment of £120 “. I said to him, “ If you have never paid income tax before you have been unlucky. What was your income for last year ?” He replied, “ It was about £1,800. I had a good year”. I said to him, “ You must have netted about £1,000”. He said, “Approximately £900 “. I reminded him that be received £39 back in child endowment, and added, “ You are entitled to social benefits and you receive a large amount in butter subsidy. Previously the middle man reaped the reward of your work. Why should you now complain because you have to pay income tax? I know what the butter subsidy costs the Government, because I was in the Parliament which passed the legislation on the subject. I know also that the Government expends about £3,500,000 a year in superphosphate subsidy, and you are receiving superphosphate for £5 5s. a ton which, without the subsidy, would be costing you £12 a ton”. I drew the man’s attention to benefits he was receiving in relation to cornsacks and other items. I pointed out to him also that taxes were distributed equitably over the whole community. That man, for the first time in his life, was receiving a fair share of the wealth that he was producing. There was every reason, therefore, why he should pay a reasonable tax. Prior to the advent of this Government others were reaping the rewards from the labour of primary producers, who paid no taxes because the middlemen took all their earnings. Those middlemen are the supporters of the honorable gentlemen who are sitting in Opposition in this Parliament. By the manipulation of prices and by other means the middlemen took the income that should have been going to the producers.
Let me remind honorable gentlemen opposite of the time when wool was realizing only lOd. per lb. for the producers. Yet the Gepp royal commission, had reported ten years earlier that the cost of producing wool in Australia was approximately ls. per lb. The wool-growers at the time to which I am referring were being obliged to sell their wool at less than the cost of production. .Since this Government has been in office, however, controls have been applied which assure to the primary producers a reasonable return for their labour, and the farmers throughout the country are beginning to realize that it is in their own interests to keep this Government in office. As the circumstances of the country improve, reductions of taxation will be made. This Government, however, will not agree to make big remissions of taxes to wealthy individuals. Its taxation policy has been clearly explained by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke), who have shown clearly that the revenues which the Government is receiving from taxation are being returned to the people -in social services and in other benefits.
I can well remember the time when I paid very little in taxation. But what was happening to me in those days? All the money I earned was being taken from me by big business interests. There was plenty of food and clothing in the country at that time, and also an ample supply of building materials for home construction, but I did not benefit from that state of affairs. I am referring now to the days when many soldier settlers who went on the land after “World War I. were disposing of their properties because they could not make a living. The land had been purchased from wealthy landowners at high prices, and the same interests were buying the properties back at their own figure. I can call to mind many tragic cases that occurred in those years. In some instances, when the bread winner had died, his wife and family were left in extremely indigent circumstances. There was no widows’ pension and there were no payments for the maintenance of children. Widows had to go out to work and leave their children to get on as best they could. The land that was abandoned ‘by many soldier settlers after World War I., frequently because of high interest charges and unsatisfactory prices for primary products, reverted to grazing. However, under the administration of this Government, taxation is being imposed under reasonable conditions in order to provide money for the purchase of properties under equitable conditions, on which ex-servicemen can be placed with a fair prospect of making a living. The Government, realizes its obligations to the men who> fought for our freedom. I am glad to know that an amount of £35,000,000 is being provided in this budget for rehabilitation and re-establishment purposes. Many millions will also need to be provided for a good many years to come, in order that our ex-service men and women shall be assured of a living under reasonable conditions. After World War I. men were put on the land without any training whatever, and there was no provision for sustenance until they became established. As a matter of fact I was somewhat surprised to find after my return from the first world war that I could obtain a block of land. I had been informed that the men who returned from the Boer War very quickly learned that it would be wise for them not to disclose that they had ever been to the war. Although that was not the case after World War I., it is true that many settlers were placed on land of the poorest description without even a prospect of making a success of their ventures. In many, instances the land was bought at inflated prices. It was in fact a case of the repatriation of the land-owner and not of the soldier. I had to pay interest at the rate of 6^ per cent.
– Come clean! The rate was only 2$ per cent.
– That may have applied to one State, but my interest rate was 6£ per cent. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) knows what happened in Victoria after
World War I. Land was bought at very high prices and there was no adequate inspection to determine its suitability for soldier settlement. I took the risk of the high interest rates and the other disabilities, and I had a very hard time. In a detailed statement on the subject in the House some time ago I calculated that it would take 1,500 years to pay off the debt on my property at the rate I was able to pay. I know that I had the greatest difficulty to keep body and soul together. I was operating under a very heavy mortgage to the Closer Settlement Board, and there were year3 when I was allowed the magnificent suan of £30 or thereabouts to live on. I was a married man with a son, and I had to live under those conditions. On one occasion I and my family had to exist for six months on £12. I put 420 sheep on the property at one period and lost 300 of them. I lived in a tent for eighteen months, for no provision was made for the housing of soldier settlers at that time.
– Was not the land worth the money?
– It was not, for it was purchased under the most unsatisfactory conditions. Many ex-servicemen at that period, who made up their minds to leave their holdings, agreed to their properties being auctioned and believed that they would receive anything from £300 to “£400 as their equity; but they found that the auctioneers charged commission on the full value of the property, which might be as much as £3,000. The result was that many hard-pressed soldier settlers received no more than £100 or so for their equity. But the auctioneers made a lot of money! No wonder the settlers were not paying income tax at that time.
The situation in regard to the land settlement of ex-servicemen is very different to-day. Only suitable land is being purchased, and deals are completed only after the most careful investigation by competent officers. Moreover, properties are developed to the production stage before the obligations of the settlers have to be shouldered by them. I am glad to say that land settlement of ex-servicemen is regarded in these days as a national responsibility and finance is being provided by the Commonwealth Government. In Victoria, however, the State Government is accepting responsibility for half the cost. The rate of interest chargeable to soldier settlers is 3 per cent, and it becomes payable only after the properties have been brought to the production stage.
– We are not complaining about the scheme, but we want to know when it is to become operative.
– The honorable member for Swan knows what happened in Western Australia after the last war, and he is the last one who should criticize the scheme that this Government is putting into operation.
– I ask the Minister not to interject.
– Under the land settlement scheme being put into operation by this Government the exserviceman, if he is married, will receive a sustenance allowance of £5 a week. I would have been very glad if some one had come along and offered me 10s. a week when I went on to my block after World War I. That is going to cost money. Members of the Opposition promised the electors that, if returned to office, they would give preference to exservicemen. The form of preference which they would have given would not have cost anything. Under the scheme of this Government, the cost will rightly be borne mostly by those who can afford to pay it. The honorable member for Wimmera stressed the contention that no ex-serviceman had been settled on the land. When I first took up my property, I had no income, and my only tools were a long-handled shovel, a crowbar, and rings for a maul, which I made out of a piece of red gum. I used these to erect a fence. I did not have even deferred pay on which to live until I began to get some return from the property. I struggled along in that way for ten years, and only succeeded in getting into debt. Those conditions will be avoided on the present occasion. When a man goes on to a property, he will be as far ahead a.s I was after I had been on my property for ten years, because his farm will begin to produce immediately. Is it not better to employ these men in preparing properties for occupation prior to placing them on blocks ? A man may be employed on a property which eventually will be allotted to him ; and in, the meantime he will be engaged in the erection of his future home, the ploughing of his land, and the planting of clover on it. He may receive 15s. a day during that period. I worked until 10 and 12 o’clock at night clearing my property, and could not obtain finance to buy even seed oats. The Government is charged with not having placed one man on the land. It is to be commended for its refusal to settle ex-servicemen under the conditions which existed after World War I. Exservicemen of World War II. will be on the high road to success immediately they go on to their properties, because they will not be overburdened with interest and their properties will begin to produce immediately. Agricultural loans of up to £1,000 can be obtained. The numbers of such loans so far approved under the Reestablishment and Employment Act are - 1,389 in New South Wales, 596 in Victoria, 231 in Queensland, 214 in South Australia, 756 in Western Australia, and 102 in Tasmania. Of the loan? approved, the numbers used to finance the purchase of single-unit farms are - 96 in New South Wales, 179 in Victoria, 50 in Queensland, 26 in South Australia, 333 in Western Australia, and 53 in Tasmania, a total of 737. It will thus be seen that the charge that no men have been settled on the land is made purely with the object of party-political gain. If members of the Australian Country party tell the truth at amy time, it is by accident or through a mistake on their part. I make some allowance for my friend from Wimmera, because an auctioneer, like a poet, is always allowed some licence to indulge in exaggeration.
– That is not clever.
– -It is a fact. The honorable member sometimes makes very wild statements. He has said that the Commonwealth Government is imposing a tax on wool sales. While making that statement, he flourished the returns of a grower who had received £50 a bale for his wool. I should be happy to pay the tax if my wool realized that amount.
The honorable member should know that under the new agreement that was made when the war-time agreement ceased to operate, a joint organization was set up to dispose of accumulated stocks of wool. The floor price of wool was raised to 18 pence per lb., but out of that the grower has to defray the cost of appraisement. The Wool Realization Committee, which handles the matter on behalf of the grower and the Government, has estimated that the approximate cost of appraisement in the first year will be nine-tenths of Id. per lb. As the price of wool rises, the cost will be approximately 5 per cent. When the Wool Realization Committee has to dispose of next year’s clip, the charge may be reduced to one-tenth of Id. per lb. It is entirely misleading to say that this is a Commonwealth tax on the wool-grower. Probably many wool-growers heard the honorable member make that statement. Later they will wake up and realize that it is a misstatement.
– In New Zealand and South Africa, the charge is Ti per cent.
– Do not misrepresent me. I read from a document prepared by an authoritative firm. The honorable member may peruse it if he wishes to do so.
– I wish to refer now to the desirability of increasing the number of branches of the Commonwealth Bank in country areas. When the Commonwealth Bank Bill was before thisParliament about eighteen months agoevery member of the Australian Country party voted against it. They should have known better. Very few farmers are aware that they opposed it. The Commonwealth Bank has a branch at Hamilton, and its business is increasing so tremendously that it has had to enlarge its staff. It is only right that the public should have extended to it all the facilities which the Commonwealth Bank alone can give. I realize, of course, that house construction must receive first preference in any building programme, and that considerable time may elapse before branches of the Commonwealth Bank can be established in towns with a population of 5,000 or 6,000, even though the banking business which has to be transacted in tL em is considerable. A man likes to have in his own town the bank with which he deals. I suggest to the Government and the Treasurer that temporary premises should be provided in the meantime. I have noticed that private banking institutions are active in this matter. A branch of one of these has been established in an old butcher’s shop, and it is attracting to it the business of the town. The Commonwealth Bank should be established in all towns. Many men have asked me where branches of the Commonwealth Bank are established. A man who may want to transact his business through that institution may find that the nearest branch of it is 100 miles distant from him. It should be practicable for the manager of an established branch to visit different towns within a certain radius at least once -a week. The officers of .the Commonwealth Bank are competent bankers, and could provide all the financial accommodation which the people are demanding. I appeal to the Treasurer and the Government to use every endeavour to have new branches established, in temporary premises, if necessary. Bank managers with whom I have discussed the matter have told me that this can be done. If action be not taken now, probably three years will elapse before premises can be provided, and in the meantime the bank will lose whatever business is offering. The Commonwealth Bank was responsible for the reduction of interest rates, and those country people who ‘have benefited as a result want to show their appreciation by transacting their business with it. A wheat-grower said to me, “ You can tell them that the track to the private bank from so-and-so’s farm is overgrown with grass. In future, the banker will raise his hat to us; we will not raise ours to him “. Only through the Commonwealth Bank can all the facilities that are needed be given. Farmers and business men are realizing that through that institution the Government can give effect to its policy of full employment. I am sure .that the Treasurer and the Government will do everything possible to extend its operations immediately in modest temporary premises, and not wait until imposing structures can be erected.
I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) in regard to country telephone services. More and more are the people in rural areas depending on the telephone. I realize the difficulties that confront the Postmaster-General in obtaining the equipment and trained men which the department needs. Many exservicemen are being trained as linemen and electricians under the reestablishment scheme. All the efforts of the department must first be concentrated on country areas. I know, of course, that the ex-serviceman who has commenced a business enterprise in a city will say, “But I too, want a telephone “. While conceding his claim, I point out that the country has many disadvantages compared with the city, and should first be given telephone facilities. The automatic system should be extended so as to remove many of the difficulties which the -people in outlying areas experience in making contact with a manual exchange. This would enable a subscriber to obtain a connexion right through ,to ali exchanges and to trunk-line services. I agree, too, that any revenue derived from postal services should -not pass into Consolidated Revenue, but should be returned to the people in .the form of better services. I believe that that will be the policy of the Government.
.- I appreciate the courtesy of being allowed, in my maiden speech, to make my contribution to this debate free from interjections. As the second-last batsman of the new team, that gives me great consolation. I have read with considerable interest the statement by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) of the financial commitments of the Government. I do not propose to deal with those commitments to-night, because they have been debated very thoroughly in the last couple of weeks. Instead, I propose to refer to the omission from the budget of any financial provision for water conservation schemes, particularly in the Lachlan Valley. It cannot be denied that primary production in Australia is very closely associated with water conservation, and unless primary production is encouraged, secondary production will be handicapped, and national prosperity will decline. Therefore, I ask the Treasurer to make available a substantial sum of money for the carrying out of water conservation schemes in Australia, and particularly in the Lachlan Valley. The work should commence without delay, and should be allotted No. 1 priority for men and material. The Lachlan Valley, in common with several parts of Australia, is suffering from one of the worst droughts in our history. The losses suffered by producers are very great, and should serve to emphasize the urgency of this work. The criminal waste which has been going on for many years, through priceless water being allowed to flow into the sea, should be stopped immediately. I mention the Lachlan River in particular because I know it, and it is a case in point. It has a rich delta, perhaps the richest in Australia. With scientific development - and we have the men here to do the work - it would be possible to produce in that area sufficient to support a large population. To-day, the few residents are living a hand to mouth existence, whereas, if a developmental scheme were put into effect, it should be possible to provide the people with all modern amenities, and ensure their prosperity. A feeble attempt at water conservation has been made by the construction of the Wyangala Dam, but this merely serves to illustrate what ought to be done in this direction. To-day, in the Lachlan River, there is scarcely enough water for the domestic needs of residents. In fact, I have received many complaints that farmers living along the river cannot pump water - a truly criminal state of affairs. A national work of this kind calls for the support of all citizens of the Commonwealth.
I stress in particular the importance of water conservation in relation to the settlement of ex-servicemen. I do not want to criticize unjustly the feeble and futile efforts of the Government to settle returned men on the land. From my own experience, I know of the elaborate promises that were made to us, the ambitious schemes that we hoard about while we were away, and the little that has resulted from them.
We are compelled to admit that land settlement schemes for ex-servicemen have proved a dismal failure. It is unnecessary for me to dwell on the feeling of disappointment and frustration among ex-servicemen, and those feelings are intensified by the difficulties experienced in connexion with rehabilitation. A constructive and progressive resettlement policy must be put into effect immediately. However, unless the soldier settlements are established on fertile land, the whole scheme will he doomed to failure, and there will be a repetition of the experiences which the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) mentioned as ‘having occurred after World War I. The first consideration is to obtain suitable land. It has been said by some that all the suitable land is already closely settled. That may be so. We know that along the coast of New South Wales, where there is a reasonably assured rainfall, the land is, in fact, closely settled. I repeat, however, that it is of no use to put exservicemen in sparsely populated areas with a low rainfall. The serviceman must be given a first-class chance to make good. Water and other amenities available to city people should be at his disposal. If he encounters a drought during his first year on the land he is certain to fail. As a returned sailor, I am determined, insofar as I can, to see that exservicemen receive a fair deal. If a sufficient number of dams were constructed on the Lachlan River to prevent flood waters from running to waste, water could be conserved for use during the time when it would be most needed. The country along the Lachlan River is exceedingly fertile, and can be readily irrigated. Exservicemen could be settled on the irrigated land with an assurance of success, as markets are available for their produce. It has been demonstrated that the products of the Lachlan Valley are unsurpassed in quality. The returned men are worthy of the best that we can give them, and therefore I cannot overemphasize the importance of settling them on fertile, well-watered country.
The lack of adequate transport facilities is also a serious problem for primary producers. It is not possible to estimate the hardships which have been suffered by primary producers, because of the shortage of trucks and other rolling stock, owing to insufficient coal being available. As a result, graziers have great difficulty in moving stock from drought areas to places where feed is available, and equal difficulties have been experienced in transporting fodder for starving stock. The drought, aggravated by transport difficulties, has caused serious loss to individual producers, and has resulted in a grave loss of national wealth. The present position in regard to water conservation must earn for those responsible the severest censure for their neglect. We all must take our share of the blame. No one government is responsible, and we cannot point the finger at any one person or party. One end of the Lachlan River is a scene of desolation. Hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not millions have been lost during the last two years. No one can appreciate the tragedy of a drought unless he has lived with the people affected, and has seen stock dying and crops failing. I have seen all this, and yet I have never before had so much admiration for the primary producers as when I saw them fighting so magnificently a losing battle. Month after month, the graziers have gone on buying fodder, hoping all the time for nain; meanwhile, their stock have been dying, and they have seen the result of all their efforts going to waste. I shall not weary the committee with details, but I should like to impress on honorable members how different the story might have been had proper water conservation schemes been carried out in the past. The present enormous personal and national losses of wealth could have been almost wholly prevented. Peed would have been abundant. In fact, there would have been a surplus available for use elsewhere. Therefore, I again urge the Treasurer to make money available to enable work to bo commenced simultaneously on several clams, so that the benefits so long denied may be quickly conferred. If the. Government neglects to act it will be shirking its responsibility. The nation cannot be made prosperous by economists, but only by production and the elimination of waste. Every bushel of wheat, and every bag of concentrates, used in the feeding of stock represents national waste that should be. avoided. This is not a party matter. Let us work together to put into effect water conservation schemes which will be the first important step towards making the Commonwealth able to support the additional population so necessary to ensure its safety.
– Among the governments of the world the position of this Government is indeed unique. It is one of the surviving administrations which, having been responsible for governing during -the war, has recently submitted itself to the people and been returned to power. This demonstration of the confidence of the people adds lustre to the Government’s achievements.
I propose to say a few words regarding the subject of ship-building which vitally affects the people, not only in my electorate, but also throughout the length and breadth of Australia. As the Government proposes to provide £2,300,000 for ‘this great industry, it would not be amiss for me to dwell for a moment or two upon its great importance to this, country. The beginning of ship-building in Australia was not a very happy one. After the first world war the industry was allowed to languish and go to seed. It is the policy of this Government not to repeat the mistakes of the past, and as a result we can look forward confidently to the rapid expansion of the industry. When the second world war came upon us, the ship-building industry, which should have played an important part in the defence of Australia, and in the development of its trade, was bankrupt. Too great a tribute cannot be paid to those who were responsible for its revitalization during the war years. To them alone is due the credit of bringing it to the flourishing position it enjoys to-day. At the outbreak of war only 3,000 men were employed in our ship-yards; as the result of the policy of this Government the number of persons employed will increase to no less than 10,000 men. The initiative, enterprise and efficiency of the Australian workman has enabled us to build ships which compare more than favorably with those built in any other country, particularly vessels of the “ River “ class. Having regard to the criticism being levelled at the Australian industry on account of high costs, it is perhaps well to point out that ship-building costs in the United States of America are twice as high as those in the United Kingdom, yet it has never been suggested that, because of that fact, shipbuilding should ‘se discontinued in the United States. 1 is important, too, to recall that when the industry was first established in Germany, Japan and Canada, it was subsidized by the governments of those countries. Even if it becomes necessary to subsidize the Australian industry, we should agree to it willingly because only by its successful establishment can Australian industries, both primary and secondary, be safeguarded in the present and in the future. Australia has been referred to as the frontier of the Pacific. If we are to maintain that position we must expand our export trade, and for that adequate shipping is absolutely essential. It is encouraging to find that the Government proposes to give such an impetus to the industry as will ensure that skilled tradesmen are retained in it and that it will not again languish as in former years.
I propose now to deal briefly with the rehabilitation policy of the Government. Undoubtedly, many honorable members are able to bring before the notice of the Government cases of hardship in its administration of the rehabilitation legislation, but it is true also that hard cases make bad laws. The subject must he approached in a broad national way. The achievements of the Government in the rc-establishment of our ex-service men and women will stand comparison with those Of any other government, in the world. Tn the United States of America, for instance, during the first few months of demobilization unemployment rose to the staggering figure of 11,000,000. As the result of the wise policy pursued by this Government, however, notwithstanding the fact that hundreds of thousands of people have been drafted back into civilian life, unemployment is practically negligible.
I propose now to deal briefly with the subject of economic controls. We are committed to the retention of certain controls as a necessary part of our economic re-organization during the transition period. I support their retention unreservedly. Much of the criticism directed against economic controls twelve months ago has now ceased because the people have recognized that their imposition has enabled us to maintain a stable economy. However, there are certain factors surrounding the administration of certain of these controls which if not dealt with will bring the whole fabric toppling about our ears. I refer in particular to black-marketing operations in the meat industry in New South Wales. I do not make a sweeping statement that all wholesalers operating at the New South Wales abattoirs indulge in blackmarketing practices, but I say specifically that black-marketing operations at the New South Wales abattoirs are rife. Operators carry on their pernicious trade in defiance of the law, and, as the result, reputable traders and the public generally are held to ransom. The price of meat was raised a few weeks ago, but this condition of affairs existed before the rise of price was authorized, and it still exists. The price of beef was formerly fixed at o£d. per lb., but retailers who went to the Now South Wales abattoirs were forced to pay 6½d. per lb. The price of pork was formerly fixed at 9Jd. per lb., but retailers could not obtain supplies unless they were prepared to pay the black-market price of ls. 3d. per lb. That in itself might explain the absence of pork from the shops to-day. I have been informed by victims of this pernicious practice that when they have complained to the department their supplies have been withheld by the wholesalers. This state of affairs should be immediately rectified. What applies in the meat trade no doubt applies in other trades, and unless this practice is curbed it will have catastrophic effects upon our whole economy.
Much criticism has been levelled against primary producers and the workers generally regarding costs of production. It is not sufficient merely to cite statistics and leave the matter there. Let us consider the coal industry, because coal is the centrifugal force, not only of our own economy, but also of that of the entire world. Coal production in Australia to-day is at a higher level than it has ever been before. Recently we reached a production record of 12,000,000 tons. lt has been said that if Australian industries continue to expand at the present rate, by 1952 they will require an annual production of coal amounting to 16,000,000 tons. The fact that our coalminers have been able to better production records of the past is in itself an answer to their critics. And their achievements are the more meritorious because their numbers to-day are far less than they were prior to the war. Prior to the war the membership of the Northern Miners Federation exceeded 10,000; to-day it is a little over 7,000. It is a standing disgrace that in such a profitable industry there is a lack of the ordinary amenities which would make the life of the coal-miner at least more tolerable. In no other industry is there such a miserable appreciation of the worth of the workers engaged in it. Is it any wonder that there is discontent in the industry to-day? It is not just a matter of the miners absenting themselves from work. Every one realizes the arduous work they do. I rose to defend them by placing before the committee facts that we do not often see in. the press. Too many people are too ready to condemn the miners.
It is well that I should place on record the background to the dispute at Mort’s Dock and other dockyards on the Sydney waterfront. It is history that the trouble could have been settled at the outset for £4 10s. The management of Mort’s Dock and Engineering Company Limited refused, however, to settle the case because of the principle that they alleged was involved. Therefore, because of tactlessness and determination to create the dispute, it decided to give notice to its hands and close down. That was bad enough, but even worse is the disclosure that I am about to make. A sub-committee of the Metal Trades Employers’ Association, consisting of five members representing Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited about which I shall have something to say later, Mort’s Dock, Poole and Steele Proprietary Limited, which I understand has recently been taken over by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and two satellite companies, decided that the whole water-front should be closed down.
So the water-front has been closed down. The association is by no Means unanimous. A good number of firms represented in it are opposed to the decision; but, realizing its power, they have decided not to fight it. A good many firms that are not members of the association are also affected. What concerns them mainly is that a sub-committee representative of the biggest firms on the Sydney water-front should have been entrusted with the power to close down not only their own works, but also smaller docks that are in no way implicated in the dispute because they have not employed and do not employ crane-drivers, lt is not very encouraging to walk through the docks district and see men congregated in groups on streetcorners. It is reminiscent of the depression. These men want to work. They have the right to work. That right has been taken from them because of an unjustifiable action by a section of the Metal Traders Employers Association. The reaction of the proprietors of the smaller docks is to ask themselves, “Is this a move on the part of the larger shops to close us down?” They have protested without avail to their association. I direct attention to the part played by the Cockatoo Dock in the dispute. I understand that this Government has some interest in the management of the Cockatoo Dock. How is it, then, that a firm in that situation can have a big say in determining the policy that is now operating on the waterfront?
Without going into figures, which have been sufficiently canvassed by other honorable members, I intend to deal with housing. We are all conscious of the urgency of the housing problem, and there is no need for me to dilate on that. My purpose is to express the hope that in the carrying out of the proposed housing schemes the mistakes that marred the beginnings and development of housing in this country will be avoided, and that the whole scheme will be properly planned. In order to show how necessary it is to plan development, I need only cite the City of ‘Sydney which is hideous as the result of complete lack of planning in its development. Whilst the provision of houses for homeless people is of extraordinary importance it is equally important, perhaps even more important if posterity is to get its due, that we shall plan development on the best levels that we are capable of, so that, a few years hence, we shall not discover that what we have created has merely added to the slum areas that disfigure our cities and towns to-day.
I make bold to say that I believe in the right of the workers to strike. I do not say that the strike weapon should be used indiscriminately or ill-advisedly. I believe that no other Labour man would dispute that view. It has been said in this debate, though, that what I describe as the right to strike is wrong. Why, some one opposite went so far as to compare a striker to a thief or murderer ! There is no analogy. The comparison is grotesque. There is a -moral law that gives the worker the right to strike. I know that the Government is committed to the policy of conciliation and arbitration, but the only commodity that the worker has to sell is his own labour and it is only natural that he will bargain. I submit, therefore, that it must be recognized as a principle of equity and justice and moral right, that the workers may strike if driven to it.
Notwithstanding that the Labour Government has just fought a victorious war, it has found time to place on the statute-book the bulk of the social services operating in Australia. The Labour party, however, will not rest on its laurels. Whatever it accomplishes, there will be so much still to do. I hope that the Government will soon favorably review the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. The invalid and old-age pensioners have a hard battle to buy even enough food, particularly seasonal food. I should like the Government to pay particular attention to the provision debarring an invalid pensioner from enjoying the same privilege as is given to an old-age pensioner in the matter of earning other income. Whereas the old-age pensioner is allowed to earn £1 a week in addition to his pension without his pension being reduced, the invalid pensioner must subsist on his pension and must not earn any thing else. The pensioners are amongst the most deserving sections of the .community. They have contributed greatly to our development. So L am confident that when the opportunity arises the Government will give favorable consideration to their claims for a better deal.
Doubtless many of my views have not found favour on the Opposition benches, but honorable gentlemen opposite have listened to me in a manner that I appreciate. What I have said I believe in. I have not tried to be provocative. I have merely presented views that I sincerely hold. I withhold from no one the right to express his views. Sincerity is not truth. One can be absolutely sincere and yet hopelessly wrong. I am not unmindful of the fact that the things I have said I have said under privilege, but I do not think that I have abused that privilege. I thank honorable members for their courteous reception of my maiden speech in this chamber.
.- The conventions of this House permit an honorable member, when the budget is being debated, to talk upon virtually any subject, and honorable members have boxed the compass, and ranged from Dan to Beersheba, and other places, in the variety of subjects which they have discussed. I desire to go back to one which has been referred to again and again, particularly ivy the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), and that is the question of industrial peace in Australia. This is the most important of all the problems which will face any Australian government in the immediate future. The problem underlies the larger question of production in Australia, for it is a truism that Australia cannot be great, and cannot stabilize its economy, unless it increases production. We cannot anchor prices down indefinitely in an artificial way, as we are doing at present, unless more goods are produced to absorb the surplus of money at present in the community. Nor can we extend our export trade so as to make this country rich, and powerful, and increase the standard of living which all citizens hope to enjoy. When discussing industrial peace ii- the House of Representatives in 1925, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) used a figure of speech taken, I think, from the book of Exodus - “It is Aaron’s rod that swallows up all other rods “. And that is true ! It is also true that other countries have their industrial troubles. We read in the newspapers of industrial struggles between employer and employee, and between governments and employees all over the world. But in Australia there are present certain factors which do diminish the justification for industrial disorder. In the first place, this country has come out of the war very well. In the second place, we have in Australia social betterment schemes which are greatly in advance of those of other countries. We have also - and this should never be forgotten - an arbitration system which used to be the glory of this country, and our pride in the eyes of the whole world. But, unfortunately, we also have in Australia an administration which will not enforce the law. It gives way to pressure groups. It gives way to what I describe as the new “ third estate “ in Australia - not the people, not a government elected by the people, but the unions which sprawl over the people and over the Government and dominate both of them. The administration which gives way to pressure groups of unions, and does not enforce the law of the land because the enforcement of that law would displease those groups, is a government which does not govern.
I have no bias or sympathy in favour of what is known in this country as “ big business “. I recognize, as most of us do. that a great deal of the industrial life of Australia is carried on in these days by corporations. And it is a fact, although we may regret it, that by that very circumstance, the direct persona] relationship which used to exist between employer and employee is diminished and greatly weakened because executives, directors and managers have not the same interest in the welfare of their employees as did the employer who in the old days personally employed men. That is regrettable, and one of our tasks in these days is to bring about better relations between employers and employees, especially when the employer takes the form of a joint stock company. One recognizes, too, that the great advantages which have been won for working people in Australia, during the last generation or two, have often not been given readily by employers. There are some notable exceptions to this, bur. for the most part, what the workers have got has been won for them by their unions. I recognize that, and, to me, the maintenance of strong unionism in Australia is very important and necessary.
But when all that is admitted, when all that is understood, and when one approaches the problems of industrial peace from a naturally sympathetic standpoint - the sympathy of one who himself has had to struggle and knows what, that means - there still remains the fact, that no country can carry on its economy and progress unless some system is laid down for the regulation of industrial disputes, and rigorously and honorably observed by both sides. After all, we in Australia did establish industrial arbitration. We did say, in the early days of this century, that here was a newprovince for law and order; and we did believe it to be so. We held it up to the world for its admiration, and as an example that other countries might very well emulate. Of course no matter how perfect a system of industrial arbitration and machinery for the settlement of disputes you have, there still remains in the hearts of men all over the world something in the nature of a “ divine discontent “. That is proper. That is inherent in progress. “Workers will always desire to improve their conditions. Nothing can stop it, and nothing should be done to stop it, because it is by that alone that progress is achieved. But when this takes the form of open disobedience of rules which are laid down, and when workers say “ If the award suits us, we shall abide by it, but if it does not suit us we shall flout it”, there comes a stage when every man, no matter how warmly he feel towards those who are struggling to improve their lot, and how naturally sympathetic he may be towards those who are climbing upwards, must say, in the interest of democracy, of representative government and of parliamentary institutions, “ Thus far and no farther”. So it is my proposition that the Government of this country must enforce the law. No democracy, no system of representative government, can survive unless equality before the law is rigorously maintained.
Industrial law is just as much the law of the land a3 is any other law. I was a little surprised and somewhat disturbed to hear the honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. O’Connor) make some distinction between industrial law and other forms of law. I was still more surprised to hear the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) do the same thing. His proposition was that industrial law was something which had some special basis to it, as the result of which, if it did not seem to be fair to the workers, they were entitled to reject it and resort to direct action. That argument has only to be stated to be revealed in its falsity and absurdity. That is not the basis of law enforcement at all. Thi?, proposition is this: That in a civilized community citizens make an implied contract among themselves, and they say, “ “We come together, in a civilized community and agree to abide by the rules which are laid down; and because we so agree to abide by those rules, we shall get, protection from on© another “, and in every such community, no matter what form the laws take, every person does so agree to abide by that principle and observe that obligation - except on« class of person, the outlaw. Unless the unionists of this country, the striking unionists, and the industrial law-breakers are to be regarded as outlaws, they must also observe the rules which are laid down. After all, those rules are not so unfair. “What do they amount to? Tribunals are set up, and they are presided over by skilled persons. Appearing before them are the representatives of the men on the one side, and representatives of the employers on the other side. Out of the discussion which ensues, an award is wrought. That award is then promulgated. It becomes the law of the land. The honorable member for Fremantle suggested that if that award does not suit the men, they are entitled to disregard it and strike, and the honorable member for “West Sydney said that, despite the award, the men are still entitled to exercise the right to strike. There is no such right, for they have impliedly, and not only impliedly but also actually, abandoned that right by going to the court and submitting to its adjudication. The assertions of those two honorable members are contrary to every principle of the law which we enjoy in this community. If what they say is true, civilization is not “ a new province of law and order”, as Mr. Justice Higgins said many years ago ; it is “ heads I win and tails you lose “. “What is the attitude of the Labour Government of Australia to this subject? Does it say that it subscribes to arbitration ? Even in the few days that I have been a member of the House of Representatives, I have heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) say, in precise terms, that he and his Government subscribe wholeheartedly to the principle of industrial arbitration. If they do, it must follow f rom that as a necessary conclusion that they subscribe to a proposition that men who submit themselves to the legal tribunals set up to adjudicate on industrial disputes shall obey the awards, whether they are favorable to them or not. Although the Government claims that it does subscribe to the principle of industrial arbitration, event after event, industrial dispute after industrial dispute, have proved that the Government is not prepared to give effect to it. Look at the key industries, because it is in them that the new strike technique is being developed in Australia. A strike in a key industry stops all industry. These key industries employ the iron-workers, the slaughtermen, the coal-miners, and the wharflabourers. No matter which of those industries we turn to, we shall find that in practice, although the Government says that it subscribes to the principle of industrial arbitration, it does not enforce industrial arbitration. I remind honorable members that every industrial stoppage which occurred in Australia throughout the war was a breach of the law of the land - a breach of the economic organization regulations and also of other specific regulations passed by this Government. Again and again when it became imperative that action should be taken to enforce the law, no action was taken. I entered this Parliament not seeking to be unduly critical of men or governments, but I must say that this is a sad and sorry record of retreat and compromise, which can end only by the handing over of the Government of the country by people’s representatives to some outside disorderly anarchistic body.
I do not know what the motives of the Government are. I believe that in the case of some members of the Government the motives that have inspired this refusal to .follow through the laws which have been made and which should be enforced, are good. They do not wish to bring further disorders and greater dislocation to the community. But good motives certainly do not actuate some other members of the Government who would be willing to give up the government to outside influences. But it does not matter what the motives are, whether they be good or bad, the fact remains that, the enforcement of the law, which is a vital part of government, because the business of government is not only the enactment of legislation but also the enforcement of it, has been abandoned.
I shall give one illustration of this - the Bunnerong power-house dispute. It may be said that this is old history. I refer to it, however, because it was a dispute not between a private concern and workers who were being ground down to the dust, but between the workers and a public instrumentality. I remind honorable members that in 1943 an award was made ordering shift work at Bunnerong. At least four tribunals have dealt with shift-work at Bunnerong, and in every instance have reached the unanimous finding that shiftwork at Bunnerong was essential, normal and fair. Again and again there have been appeals, but the decisions of the tribunals have been endorsed. However, the unionists refused to do shift-work. That was a breach of State arbitration legislation, the economic organization regulations, and the industrial peace regulations. It is abundantly clear that in this dispute, both Commonwealth and State laws were broken and nothing was done about it. The dispute dragged on. In 1944 the unions applied for a variation of the award, and the court at that time made the following declaration : -
The Commission has laid it down many times “that it will not allow employers or employees to seek a favorable decision before it under .the industrial law when at the very same time they are flouting the law. The very essence of the arbitration system is that the decision of the tribunals set up under that law should be obeyed by all parties. That is a fundamental requirement. It is clear that the members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union and Municipal Employees’ Union who have been required to transfer to shift work in accordance with the provisions of the award have deliberately refused so to transfer and are in contempt.
By a unanimous finding of a bench of three judges, the court refused to vary or reconsider the award. The unions still refused to do shift- work. That, again, was a breach of the law, and the dispute continued. In March, 1945, the matter came before the court again, and the court again refused to deal with it on the ground that the men were flouting the law. The union officials, with their tongues in their cheeks I have no doubt, went to their members and asked them whether they would he prepared to obey .the award of the court. By a majority decision, but not by secret ballot, the men :said that they would not do so. The officials informed the court to this effect, whereupon the court declined to deal with the dispute. I could read the passages from the judgment to this effect, if time permitted.
– Take them as read.
– I have no doubt that they may safely be taken as read, because T believe that every member of the Government knows the facts of the case.
– Would the honorable gentleman use the Army or the police to force the employees to work?
– We shall come to that in due course, but I intend to trace the history of this sorry matter a bit further. The next stage, with the men still refusing to obey the award of the court, was that there was a partial black-out in Sydney. The matter was then brought to the notice of the Commonwealth Government, which requested the court to rehear the matter. The court declared that it would not hear the matter further unless the Commonwealth Government was prepared to give an undertaking that it would back up by law any decision of the court. The Commonwealth Government promised to do so, and, on the 19th May, 1945, it issued a national security regulation, ordering the men back to work. I shall not read the regulation, but the preliminary words were -
Now therefore, I, Joseph Benedict Chifley, Acting Prime Minister of Australia . . .
Then follows the recital and an order that the employees should present themselves for work at the usual time and place. The order that was made was obeyed for the time, being; the men went back to work, but they did not go back to shiftwork. They went back to their ordinary work. Then because the Industrial Commissioners had been promised by the Government that it would enforce the court’s decision, the case was immediately brought on for hearing. I make it clear that the matter had been referred to the court by the Commonwealth Minister for Works and Housing, and that the court was willing to hear it only because the Commonwealth gave an undertaking that any finding that was made would be enforced. Mr. Dwyer, counsel for the Commonwealth Government, in giving the undertaking, said -
It is felt by the Government that the operation of this important undertaking is so vital to the war effort and to the health and comfort of a large number of persons, that, in the event of the order not being carried out, it would be necessary for the Commonwealth Government to take all steps possible to procure its observance. I say that in no provocative sense, but to assist the court in the matter.
That involved a definite promise. In the profession in which I have had the honour to practise for twenty years, when counsel at the bar table gives an undertaking to a court, it is a most solemn matter. For falsely giving an undertaking the barrister concerned may be struck off the rolls. The barrister, of course, gives the undertaking on behalf of the litigant whom he represents, and if the litigant fails to carry out the undertaking, drastic proceedings may follow. An undertaking given to any industrial tribunal is just as binding as that given to any other court. On that occasion the Commonwealth instructed its counsel, to give that unequivocal undertaking. The same day the court proceeded with the hearing of the matter and reached a unanimous decision that shift-work should be continued. It dismissed the claim of the men and declared that shift-work was usual, reasonable, and absolutely essential in the industry. It ordered the men to perform their duty, and to do shift-work under the terms of the award. The men refused to do shiftwork.
This, as I have said, was a flagrantbreach of both Commonwealth and State law. Now, at any rate, one might have expected that the Commonwealth Government, which is the supreme governing authority in Australia, having given its word - a word which we are entitled to assume it would never dream of breaking - would insist upon the law being obeyed. But nothing of the sort occurred. Not a single thing was done, except by some backstairs roundabout negotiations followed by another retreat. The Commonwealth said to the men, “ Look here, if you will go back to work” - not shiftwork, mark you, but ordinary work - “ we will grant you another inquiry”. On that undertaking the men went back to work. Another inquiry was held, notwithstanding that three or four had already occurred. ‘ Some months later, in September of this year, Judge O’Mara heard the matter again. Both parties were represented and, after having heard them, the judge had no difficulty in dismissing the men’s claim and in ordering them to do shift-work. His Honour made it clear that in his opinion shiftwork at Bunnerong was absolutely essential. But still the men did not do shiftwork ! The general elections were to be held about that time and the matter was kept fairly quiet.
Now let us hear the epilogue to this tragic story, which involves, I repeat, not ;.i capitalistic octopus, but the Sydney County Council, the Commonwealth Government and the workers. The County Council lost heart and gave way to the men and made an agreement under which the men received vastly increased rates of pay over and above those ordered in 1943. But it is significant that the agreement, which should have been registered with the Arbitration Court in accordance with the wagepegging regulations, has never been submitted to the court for registration. .1 suggest that it never will be submitted, and that if it were submitted it would not be registered by the court because it would be inconsistent with the wagepegging regulations at present in operation.
The story that I have told about Bunnerong could be repeated in relation to many other industries. The unionists know very well that this
Government will do what they wish, so they say, as I have heard some of their representatives say “We will make big demands, because we know that the Government will give way “. If that is the manner in which our legal tribunals are to be treated, and if organizations have sufficient power to force the Government to do what they desire, then I say “ God help Australia ‘’. No matter by what name it may be called, whether ignorance, weakness or plain malice, does not matter; the fact is that the democratic way of life in Australia is being destroyed, because there cannot be a democratic way of life unless the rule of law is observed.
There was an interjection by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams), and a comment by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), to which I should like to refer. The honorable member for Fremantle said, “ You on your side are always talking about the rule of law. What would you do about it? “ That is a fair question. It is not possible to say in advance what should be done in such a case, but some principles govern all . cases. Any government seeking to enforce the law, especially the industrial law, because there you are dealing with mon in the mass who are subject to emotional influences to which individuals are not normally subject, should approach the matter in a spirit of strict impartiality. It is quite normal that, exasperated as we all have been by some of these wicked stoppages, we should be inclined to be punitive. This would be a wrong approach. The approach must be impartial and tolerant, and with understanding ; but the law of the country must be obeyed. We who sit on this side of the chamber believe in arbitration. We consider that a cessation of the jungle warfare which has been dislocating industry can be brought about only by an independent tribunal the awards of which are loyally obeyed or courageously enforced. We believe in outlawing the strikes and lock-outs which occur in the course of industrial disputes. “We favour the secret ballot. Over 90 per cent, of trade unionists do not want stoppages. All that they want is industrial peace. We have not the slightest shadow of doubt that if the average unionist were given a fair chance to express his views by means of the secret ballot, he would vote against industrial stoppages, as he has done when given the chance. We also consider that those who incite breaches of the law should be prosecuted.
So rauch for general principles. What
About the specific case of Bunnerong? This brings me right to the point which the honorable member for .Robertson has raised - what would we do? It has been argued in this Parliament that a thousand nien cannot be put in gaol. Of course they cannot; nobody wants that. But a ringleader can be prosecuted, fined, and put in gaol. That lias been done in the 1 mst; and when it has been done, the trouble has been brought to an end. If the Government had the courage to prosecute the ringleader at Bunnerong or elsewhere, I venture to say that that would be the end of the trouble. At least, such a course is worthy of a trial. So far, if has not been tried. Let me deal with Bunnerong. I pass over the early stage, when it was purely a State dispute. I disregard the utterly feeble and supine attitude of the McKell Government, which refused to do anything in the matter when obviously it had the power to take aci ion, and merely had to enforce the Industrial Arbitration Act of 1912 of the State legislature, which provided ample machinery for dealing with matters of the kind. Let, us deal with it from the stage at which it became a Commonwealth dispute. There was a ringleader whose name has escaped me for the moment. Perhaps there was more than one. I say that, had the Commonwealth Government, fulfilled the undertaking it had given to the court to enforce the law, and had it charged that man or group of men - there were not many cf them - with a. breach of sections 5 and 7a of the Commonwealth Crimes Act, just as every other law-breaker is charged, that would have been the end of the dispute. Section 5 states that any person who aids, abets, counsels or procures, directly or indirectly, a breach of the law of the Commonwealth, shall be guilty of an offence. Section 7a states that any person who incites, urges, aids or encourages another person to commit a breach of the law of the Commonwealth shall be guilty of an offence. Then it may be said, “What if this did not end the matter? “ Very well. Let us assume that the institution of a prosecution did not settle the dispute, and that the rest of the men, or a Syn pathetic union or body of unions decided to strike in sympathy. It would then be the duty of the Government, following the undertaking given to the court, to see the matter through to the end, to meet it step by step, confident in the belief that the people of Australia would be behind its action. The people want above all things industrial peace and we believe that industrial peace can be achieved by fair and impartial eni 01,cement of the law, even if, in the last resort, that means the freezing of funds and the prosecution of ringleaders. I do not believe that it would. Everything that has occurred in Queensland and Western Australia recently, and in the past history of the Labour movement in New South Wales, has demonstrated that that would be the end of the matter. At any rate, let us try enforcing the law for a change. The people would back the Government if it took such a step. Success will crown the efforts of the Government if it will enforce the law in the spirit enshrined in Lincoln’s noble words - “ With malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right “.
Mr. DUTHIE (Wilmot) [9.38 J.- I have risen to support the budget of the Commonwealth Government. But I want first to refer to a statement by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) yesterday, in which he criticized the youthfulness and political inexperience of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke), because that honorable member had had the temerity to be the first member on this side of the chamber to reply to the speech of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). I regarded that as a particularly vicious, uncalled-for and unnecessary attack. There is no doubt that this eighteenth Parliament of the Commonwealth contains quite a few young men, perhaps younger men than have ever previously been members of the Commonwealth Parliament, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) being the youngest of them. J regard this attack very seriously, and assure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that if he were to stand for election in Tasmania there would be every prospect of his being defeated, because only last Saturday twelve of the 30 sitting members of the House of Assembly in that State were rejected by the electors.
– Including, I understand, a couple of Ministers.
– Three of them. Twelve new faces will appear in the next Tasmanian Parliament. Most of them are young men, and they include one man who has just reached 21 years of age. The’ honorable member for Perth has as much right as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to answer statements by the honorable member for Reid. Age has nothing whatever to do with the matter.
I wish to refer to direct taxation, with which subject the honorable member for Reid dealt yesterday. Coming from a man of his lengthy experience, ais statements were most extravagant. They were adequately answered by Government members who followed him. He charged the Government with having brought in and continued a taxation policy under which every wage-earner in Australia is paying income tax. Over 1,000,000 wage-earners in this country do not pay direct taxation. A proportion of that vast number pays a small social services tax. The failure of the honorable member to recognize the existence of this large field of exemption from tax is evidence of humbug on his part. Nor did he refer to the money that pours into the homes of wage-earners throughout Australia through the medium of social service benefits. He did not make one mention of that vast field of expenditure, amounting to £70,000,000; he deliberately avoided it, foa- what reason I do not know. Under this legislation, practically every family in the lower income groups derives some financial advantage in addition to the basic wage - which I agree with the honorable member is too low. A family of five receives £2 18s. 8d. a fortnight above the basic wage. The cost of social services has increased from £16,000,000 to £70,000,000 in five years. Those services are based on these Christian principles : The strong help the weak ; the rich help the poor - and do not like it.
– That this not a very Christian remark to make.
– I have met many rich people who do not like it. That is the criticism ‘ which they offer in regard to social services.
– They must be atheists.
– Perhaps they are. The healthy help the sick and the secure assist the insecure. This vast field will be enlarged still further in the ensuing three years. I believe that social services are assisting to solve the problem of financing those families which have small incomes, while the basic wage is being investigated; because money is going in by the back door while we are endeavouring to raise the income of the basic wage-earner. The price-levels are not being disturbed. That is one advantage of these social services. Immediately, the basic wage rises, prices rise also, and the advantages that had been gained quickly evaporate. The honorable member for Reid drew a pathetic picture of the poverty that exists to-day, but failed to mention that the savings of the people have increased in five years from £240,000,000 to £640,000,000. According to his reckoning, this must have been due to the operation of counterfeit plants in backyards. If there was not an actual gain during the war years, this increase of savings is a strange phenomenon indeed. It does not seem to indicate that the poverty which he mentioned, exists.
I turn now to the land settlement of ex-servicemen, a subject which has occupied a great deal of the attention of the honorable members opposite. In ‘particular, I wish to answer the statements of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), who said that the Government was completely indifferent to the repatriation and settlement of servicemen. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) said that the Government’s land settlement scheme had been a dismal failure. Those are strong statements, and should be supported by evidence before being accepted as truth. I propose to cite what is being done in the little island of Tasmania, which some people are disposed to omit altogether from the map of Australia. There, something is going on which illustrates what is being done on a larger scale in other parts of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Moreton criticized the Commonwealth Government for handing the administration of soldier settlement over to the States.
– I did not. I objected to this Government not insisting that the money which it advanced- should be used for the settlement of ex-servicemen.
– The States are the proper authorities to deal with this matter, because they are in close touch with the problems under consideration. In Tasmania, the Commonwealth and State war-service land settlement agreement is working out very satisfactorily. A total area of 818,000 acres has been investigated by the land settlement committee. A total of eleven projects, involving 143,808 acres, valued at £430,368. has been approved. These projects make provision for the settlement of 309 servicemen, who will take up mixed farming, sheep-raising and dairying. On King Island, 10,000 acres of 30,000 acres which has been acquired, are being cleared, and good farms in selected areas close to the settlement are at present carrying young stock, which are being raised for the settlers who will go on the new blocks.
– Yes, who will go there ! Is the honorable member satisfied with the rate of progress?
– Yes, they are going on the land, not leaving it, as did the soldiers who were settled by governments supported by the honorable member. Surely he does not suggest that 10,000 acres can be cleared in a few weeks, even by the use of bulldozers. All prospective settlers are being interviewed by a classification committee, so that the amount of training they need may be assessed. Of 322 approved applicants, 86 are going in for dairying, 69 for fat-lamb raising, 85 for mixed farming, 37 for wool-growing, 27 for orcharding, 13 for small fruits growing and 16 for poultryfarming. Re-establishment loans to the value of £29,661 have been granted already to 47 ex-servicemen who, before enlistment, had gained sufficient experience of farming to go immediately on to blocks. In his very able speech to-night the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) pointed out what was being done in the way of settling men on individual unit farms. His arguments were unanswerable, because he spoke from his own experience. He said that 700 men had already been settled on single-unit farms, which is an excellent start. In Tasmania, 236 applicants have been classified as eligible for assistance in the purchase of land. The famous Lawrenny estate, of 72,000 acres, in my own electorate, consists of some of the finest land in Tasmania. Tt was recently purchased for the settlement of ex-servicemen, and already the training of prospective settlers has begun. The mcn are being trained in fat lamb-raising, dairyfarming, wool-growing and mixed farming. Seventy returned men will go on to 72,000 acres, and every man will be given enough land to enable him in due course to double the herd or flock with which he wall begin. The land is being surveyed and subdivided to permit of dairyfarming, mixed farming, fat-lamb raising and wool-growing. It is rich land, and so far as its quality is concerned, the settlers are assured of success. The Cressy research farm, also in my electorate, has just begun a course, unique in the Commonwealth, in which six weeks’ intensive training is being given to twenty ex-servicemen. During this course, all aspects of agricultural work will be reviewed. Some of the men had previous training, and some were on farms for six, nine or twelve months beforetaking up the course. At Cressy they will receive instruction from experts. It will be really a glorified area school. I attended at the school while a quiz session was being conducted on the work done, and it would have been an education to honorable members opposite if they had been there. Next year, 120 men will go through the school in six batches. The whole Tasmanian scheme is planned on a two-year basis. It is hoped that at the end of two years all ex-servicemen, interested will be settled on farms. Homes, sheds, &c, will be built, and roads will be constructed. What a contrast with the settlement schemes after World War I. ! Then, as the honorable member for Wannon pointed out, there were no stable markets, and the prices of commodities which the settlers had to buy were not fixed. Settlers were given no , training in agricultural methods, no stock was provided, and nothing was done to supply material or seed. Moreover, the authorities were not concerned to see that soldier-settlers were put on good land. Prom one district in South Gippsland, between 50 and 60 settlers had to leave over a period of twelve years, driven away by blackberries, rabbits and bracken fern. The land, which had been held by so-called patriots during the war while the fighting men were away, was sold for settlement purposes to purchasing committees, the members of which were themselves in the racket as often as not. On, the Maitland estate in Tasmania one man was put on a block of 180 acres for which he had to pay a rent of £190 ;i year. He took up that block in 1919, and in the same year he had to pay £14 a ton for chaff to feed his stock. He had to use the little money he had saved, or could raise, in order to buy fodder at that fantastic price because nothing was done at that time to control prices. In South Gippsland, near Pish Creek, fifty returned soldiers were settled in one area. To-day, only five aTe left, the survivors of the economic blizzard of thu depression years, and of the high in- terest rates which the authorities demanded for money advanced. The same sad story has to be told of soldier settlements in the north-west of Victoria where men were put on what were virtually sand dunes. Sir William Dyett, who for 26 years was Federal President of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, said that, in his opinion, no government could be more sympathetically inclined towards ex-servicemen than the present Government, and I rate his opinion very highly. He certainly could not be called a Labour man.
I come now to the subject of housing. Members of the Opposition have made much capital out of the struggle of the people to get homes. I admit that, it. is a struggle. I myself have been living for six months in one room with my wife and two children, so- 1 know something of the difficulties which are being experienced. All honorable members on this side of the House have the great sympathy for those who are without homes. There are three principal reasons for the present shortage of homes, and two of them have been overlooked by honorable members opposite. The first is the poverty of the people of Australia before the war. In 1939 there was a shortage of 240,000 houses in Australia. At that time, between 85 per cent, and 90 per cent, of the people were earning only £187 a year, while 230,000 people were unemployed. What chance was there, in the circumstances, of the great bulk of the people being able to buy homes at a cost of £1,000 each, which is the price stated by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) when comparing pre-war prices with present-day prices? It is no wonder that slums developed. Poverty drove people into slums by forcing them to live in sub-standard houses. The second reason is, that during six years of war, home-building was practically at a standstill. In 194.3, the worst year of the war, only 500 houses were built in Australia. Carpenters were collected from everywhere, and drafted north to build essential installations. Materials were also diverted to those works, but not one word of criticism was voiced by honorable members opposite against that policy at the time because we were fighting for our lives. All the people knew in their hearts that it was right to out down home-building and to divert man-power and materials to the building of military installations necessary for the conduct of the war and for the defence of this country against the Japanese. Had we continued building homes on the 1941 level we would probably have been building them for our invaders. The third reason why there is a shortage of houses today is to be found in the phenomenal number of war-time marriages. During the years from 1940 to 1945 there were more than 4.92,000 marriages in Australia. And during the last eighteen months between 400,000 and 500,000 ex-service personnel have been demobilised, most of them married men who are looking for homes. It. will readily be seen how the rapid demobilisation of the forces has, accentuated the demand for homes; pet honorable members opposite have never viewed the problem from that angle. We all agree that to-day more homes are being constructed in three weeks than were built in three years before the war. If we analyse the figures relating to the production of home building materials we shall find that much greater quantities are being produced in Australia to-day than were produced in 1939. To-day there are more jobs than men to fill them, and because of the manuTower shortages we shall not be able to bridge the gap in home-building in five or six months or even a year.
Another matter to which I desire to direct attention is the lower interest rates which the Government has made possible. In pre-war years high interest rates helped to strangle industry generally. i”n 3936 no less than 70,000 wheat growers and 90,000 wool growers were in debt to the banks and financial institutions of Australia to a total amount of £288,000,000, and the annual interest bill of the wheat farmers alone amounted to £14,000,000, or nearly one half of the value of their harvests. Those figures give some idea of bow the hard-earned cash of the primary producers was swallowed up by the banks and financial institutions and how little they bacl left to live on after they had met the demands of the interest mongers. I know a farmer who paid £3,800 for his farm in 1911. By 1941, 30 years later, he had paid no less than £5,000 in interest on the money borrowed to finance the purchase, and the farm was not yet free of debt. That illustrates the curse of high interest charges. The Government has clone a great service to primary producers, home builders, and industry generally by lowering interest rates. Our returned soldiers building homes for their wives and families will also benefit greatly at a time when they can least afford to meet high charges.
I propose now to deal briefly with the Government’s proposals for the stabilization of primary industries. Strangely enough, the fiercest opposition to these proposals came from farmers themselves, mostly big farmers who, before the war, manipulated the markets to the detriment of small primary producers. By reason of their wealth they were able to hold back their products until prices rose, but the small farmer who could not afford to store his products had to sell at ruling prices after they were harvested. Very often the unloading of the products of the small farmers resulted in glutted markets and correspondingly lower prices. The Government’s stabilization proposals will place all farmers on the same level. Naturally the big farmers do not favour it ; they prefer the old system under which they were always able to dominate the small men and to reap a rich reward which enabled them to ride in better motor cars, to dress better, and to live in better homes than their less fortunate fellows. It was a disaster that this country did not endorse the second question recently submitted to a referendum of the people.
I conclude by a brief reference to full employment to which the Government is pledged. The British Government also has given very serious consideration to this principle, which, however, lias not been referred to by honorable members opposite during this debate. I have often wondered why this subject is of interest only to honorable members on this side of the chamber. The answer is probably to be found in the fact that the present economic system of this country, and indeed of most countries of the world, has been built up to its present level under a system which compels those employed in industry to be everlastingly under the threat of dismissal, and permits an employer to say to his employee “ If you do not work under the conditions T lay down and for the wages I prescribe, T ..hall soon get someone else who is prepared to do so. “ That intelligent people should believe in the maintenance of that pernicious system is fantastic. Some honorable members opposite would still like to see men lined up outside mines, factories and employment agencies, waiting for a “ cobber “ to fall sick or die so that one among them might get a job. Full employment will mean the end of the present economic system. r When every man is fully employed the markets will again be flooded with goods. What will happen then* Will the Labour Government be prepared to make available additional purchasing power to enable the people of this> country to consume all of the increased production? I realize that a good deal of it will be exported, but the people to whom it will be sent will have to be given additional purchasing power, otherwise our exports will have to be sold at a loss. Full employment is, therefore, a very important factor in our economic development and I am pleased that the Government is pledged to it. I have brought forward these few thoughts for bers earnest consideration of the Government and of honorable members generally.
– I find myself at some disadvantage by comparison with other honorable members, because of the fact that the declaration of the poll in. the Northern Territory was not made until other honorable members had assembled in this place. Because of that I was prevented from attending the opening sitting to hear the speech of His Royal Highness and the later sittings at which the Minister for External Affairs delivered his speech on external affairs and the Treasurer introduced his budget. However, I rejoiced when I heard that £220,000,000 was to be set aside for defence purposes. I immediately began to examine the budget and estimates in order to ascertain how this money was tobe expended and what establishments it. was proposed to maintain. In my failure to elicit any information on thepoint I can only echo the remark of the honorable -member for Reid (Mr. Lang) when he asked, “ Where is the Labour party ? “ I ask where is the personnel for whom this hugesum of money is to be voted? While visiting Darwin I called upon the brigadier in charge and asked where hisbattalions were. He said “ I have no battalions “. I then asked him where his company was. He said “ I have no company”. I then asked where his platoon was. He said “ I have no platoon ; I have only .an administration”. Apparently the same thing is happening throughout the length and breadth of this country. For what purpose is this £220,000,000 to be expended? I am amazed to find that, notwithstanding the provision of this vast sum of money, little or no mention is made of defence policy. Surely we must remember that the two urges of the human race are, first, self-preservation and second, a desire to leave the world a little better than one finds it. That is man’s ethical outlook; his altruism comes after his sense of self-preservation. Surely foreign policy is synonymous with selfpreservation or, in other words, defence. Upon reading the Hansard report of the speech of the Minister for External Affairs on foreign policy I find that he has adopted an ethical outlook, and the English-speaking peoples of the world would be foolish indeed if they did not agree with him and accept an ethical outlook as a part of their make-up. They would place themselves on the level of the brutes unless they allowed or postulated that our ethical outlook dictated our very being and actions. It might be said that man, being articulate, is superior to the brutes; in fine, that language itself indicates that man is superior to the brute. But I have also heard it said that everything but 10 per cent, of man is brute. Many people have thrown away even that advantage. In the last six years, we have seen great nations, Germany and Japan in particular, absolutely throw away that 10 pei- cent. Yet, despite knowledge and experience - physical experience of many - this Government has not come down to earth and devised a sane defence policy. Obviously we are split into two camps. Labour claims in its foreign policy, which, I repeat, in the final analysis, simply means defence policy, that humanity comes first. I think it was the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) who said it. That was the impression that I got from reading Ilansard. Fiddlesticks ! In my view defence comes first, so that, by being secure, we may be humane and prosecute altruism and ethics to enable the little countries of the Pacific to raise themselves to a new level from their backward social systems that, in many cases, border on barbarity. But howLabour dodges the issue of defence under the cloak of humanity coming first ! And why does it dodge it? It dodges it for a good reason. It dodges it because its policy says that it must dodge it. It? policy dodges the very thing that would make us secure and would give .us the right to exercise a foreign policy that would enable us to talk to the rest of the world, or stand up in the Pacific admired by our allies. What we need to institute is a policy of compulsory training. Unless we do that we can have no foreign policy. We dare not mention the words “foreign policy” without it. We must make ourselves secure. I read Hansard in an attempt to get inside the mind of the Minister for External Affairs. I was interested to read his speech on his foreign policy. Obviously Government supporters were not interested in his speech, because it is printed in Hansard that when he made it his own party walked out. Labour is not interested in compulsory training that would make us secure. Two years! Young men would welcome it. I know they would.
– What chance would they have against the atomic bomb?
– That is another cloak. It is to be a scientific war ! It will be a matter of metaphysics! Men will not be needed ! That is a runaway policy. That is the policy that this party espoused before the war during the regime of the Bruce-Page, Lyons and Menzies Govern ments. Every member of the then Opposition which is now the Government party “ dingoed “. Of course they did. I dare them to deny it. They know they cannot. It seems to me that the policy espoused by the Minister for External Affairs boils down to: (1) the United Nations as a security organization ; (2) reduced use of the veto power ; and (3) the closest co-operation with the British Empire. But how that last phrase seems to choke honorable gentlemen opposite! The fourth item of the right honorable gentleman’s foreign policy is maintenance of the best relations with countries of the Pacific, particularly the United States of America. I would add a fifth item, namely, universal training. Above all, let us resuscitate the English Speaking Union that was sponsored so ably .by, I think, Sir Henry Braddon and many others. Let us get that going again so that we shall be able to bind the English-speaking people, the people with Anglo-Saxon blood flowing through their veins. Let us be proud of that blood. Let us not he ashamed of our ancestry as the Labour Government seem3 to be ashamed of it. Travelling from Perth in the Skymaster, I met Air-Marshal Sir Alfred Longmore. He has come out here on a special mission for the Overseas League. Let there be more and more of that sort of thing. He is out here to try to tie the British people together, whereas this Government seems to be doing its hardest to untie the British Commonwealth of Nations. That outlines what we should do for security purposes. What real interests have we in the small nations of the Pacific, unless it is an interest in protecting them and trying to bring them to a better way of life.
– What about the Australian nien they have murdered?
– The honorable member is talking about revenge; I am not, but I am about to say something with which he will probably agree. I have every reason to fear, and I should like this Government to realize it, that in our time the small peoples to our north may be a menace to us. If certain people go there’ proselytizing by sending some of our Communists there, and allowing those who -visit our shores in ships to have their minds poisoned while herd, they may present a deadly menace to us. I want to give the Government a sound sense of geography. It should bear in mind the large numbers to the north of Australia in Indonesia and the archipelago or islands stretching from the foot of the Malay Peninsula through Borneo and New Guinea down to the Solomons, an area with which I am familiar. What a peril those millions of people could be! This Government has no defence policy. The Labour party has never had a defence policy. I am fortified in making that assertion by the criticism of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) of the speech of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). I quote from Ilansard of the 14th November, page 946. The honorable member for Perth is reported as criticizing the honorable (member for Warringah. A suggestion made by him was that Australia should efface itself.
Order! If the honorable member is quoting from the Mansard report of this debate, he is not in order. He is not entitled to make quotations from debates of the current session.
– I am quoting from the debate on international affairs.
– That is not allowed.
– Then, let me make reference to the criticism of the honorable member for Warringah in the debate to-day by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). I thought his criticism surprisingly unfortunate. The honorable member attended with all his colleagues the secret meeting of honorable members of the House of Representatives and the Senate held in this chamber in May, 1941. He could not have understood what the honorable member for Warringah, who was then Minister for the Army, actually said on that occasion. I also attended that secret meeting. In an attempt to awaken the Labour
Party to its responsibilities, the honorable member for Warringah, as Minister for the Army, said that if it were possible for an armoured division of a foreign foe to land on Australian shores we had not the equipment to repel the attack.
– He denied that this afternoon.
– Nothing of the kind! Those were his exact words. They were worth saying. What was the history of the Labour party all through the years that led up to the war? Ever since I have been a member of this House there has never been a scintilla of evidence from Labour men that they support a defence policy. One of these days I shall quote extensively from Ilansard speeches made by Labour members that show how little they think about the need for defence. Why, even when the war had started, the Labour opposition would not support sending men to defend New Guinea and the Australian people living there. I could go on endlessly - the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) knows it - proving that the Labour party has never had a defence policy. Defence was decried by labourites. They cadged votes on the plea that defence was to be scorned. It was the easy way. Then, even on my return, to any amazement, I found that they had crawled to the United States of America. They went down on their bended knees, saying, “ Save Australia and you save America “. They shout about that now as something to be proud of.
– What is wrong with it?
– Labour squealed! It is not that I object to the Americans having come here. They saved us.
– And we got them here.
– The young honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) boasts, “ We got them here “. I admit that the young fellow was not in Parliament in those days. We got them here ! Yes, if the honorable member likes it; but, after getting them, the Labour Government cut up the Pacific into small parcels and said that no Australian soldier could go beyond the Equator or some latitude or longitude. Well, well ! How the United States of America must despise the Labour Government for it! I do not know what General MacArthur thinks, but if I were in his place, I should wonder what kind of people the Americans came to save when they cried out for help. The Labour Government did the young men of Australia a grievous wrong, when it would not allow them to defend their own- country. Now, a little more than a year after the end of the war, a squabble has developed between Australia and America over the possession of Manus Island. Why does Australia desire to hunt the United States of America out of that territory? This Government has a foreign policy which is indicative of an absence of defence preparations for Australia. Yet we are trying to hunt the United States of America out of Manus Island ! The least we can do is to say “ Thank you “ to the Americans. We can also say, “ You have your equipment on Manus Island. We belong to the English-speaking union. You stay there, and we shall help you “. If we must have other bases, let. us build them and install our own equipment.
We should educate the young men of Australia so that they will be willing to undergo compulsory military training. Unfortunately, poisonous rubbish is being pumped into their minds, as some correspondence which I received from Tennant. Creek shows. According to my informant, this stuff is being distributed in the town every Saturday afternoon by the local doctor. No doubt, similar propaganda is being distributed throughout the Northern Territory. My correspondent adds that it is rumoured that the local doctor is about to leave Tennant Creek, but that one like him will replace him. Evidently this class of person believes that the miners, the individualists, in the town will be influenced by this rubbish. There may be a few “rat-bags” in the town, but they canbe counted on the fingers of one hand, and there may be even one or two intellectuals. However, I do not believe that this kind of propaganda will convert, the individualist miners at Tennant Creek. In Darwin, however, circumstances are different. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) should know that, because he utilized the petition of the “ commos “ in Darwin to rebut my petition, which was designed to give to the people of Darwin a sane plan for the rehabilitation and the replanning of the town. Although honorable members opposite may laugh at this poison which is being distributed throughout the Northern Territory, they have their tongues in their cheek. They know that it is a menace, that it i3 sinister, and that it is cancerous. They cadged the votes of these people, because they will not stand up to them. As this propaganda is being distributed in other countries, we should indicate immediately where we stand regarding Russia. When I embarked for active service overseas, I thought that ^ was going to fight in the Caucasus with the Russians, but I was redirected to Malaya. Before my departure, I made an appeal for recruits in the Sydney Domain. I did not urge my audienc-3 to go to the war. I said “ Come with me “. But the “ commo “ under the tree of knowledge a hundred yards away would not accept my invitation. So I can speak with some authority “on- the subject of Soviet Russia. We mus-t understand what the Russians are doing It is useless for the Labour Government, or for any of our representatives overseas, to say “Do not get tough with Russia “. I propose to quote from the Sydney Morning Herald an article which was published on the 23rd November last, by a Russian, Victor Kravchenko, who had been in the United States of America. The introductory paragraph, and extracts from the article are as follows : -
Victor Kravchenko was a member of the Communist party for fifteen years. He was Chief Engineer and Director of Metallurgical Plants and Trusts, and head of the Soviet’s War-time Department of War Engineering Armament. In 1944 he went to the United States as a member of a Soviet purchasing commission. While there he decided to break with both the party and government, and wrote a book denouncing the Stalin regime.
This book / Choose Freedom, has been a best seller in the United States…..
Yet the harassed and exhausted peoples of the earth who had dreamed of returning to pursuits of peace, to freedom, and to progress, know no peace: they live in state of doubts, terrors, and of wars of nerves.
It is against this dark background that the interview recently given by Marshal Stalin. in which he declared that he did not believe in the danger of a new war, must be carefully weighed.
Stalin, in fact says the opposite to what he is working for.
Not only does he believe in the threat of a new war, but he and the government he runs are straining every nerve to get ready for it. Their whole foreign and domestic policy confirms this.
The main objective of the fourth FiveYear plan is “to assure the increasing defensive capacity of the United Soviet Socialist Republics, and to equip the armed forces of the Soviet Union with the most up-to-date military techniques.
The job of putting this plan into effect has been entrusted to eleven machine building ministries. By 1950 they are to multiply production fivefold. The Ministry for Armaments is working full .blast producing the latest weapons. A special ministry has been created, and is already at work building army and navy plant.
I exhort honorable members opposite to read the complete article. We must not bury our heads in the sand, as the ostrich does, and declare that there are no conflicting ideologies sweeping across Europe. One of these ideologies is spreading like an amorphous mass. It is without shape or form, but still it is spreading. I warn the Labour party that, in earmarking £220,000,000 for defence, it must do something about it in the physical instead of the metaphysical and empirical senses.
I referred to the subject of defence at the beginning of my speech because we in Darwin live near to the foreign world, and proper provision must be made for the defence of Australia. However, there are some domestic problems which do require urgent attention. I hope that the Minister for the Interior will confer with the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) with a view to arranging, at the earliest possible moment, a shipping service from eastern ports and from Western Australia to the Northern Territory. I know that the Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Wise, is sympathetic to the proposal to allow MV. Koolinda, on its next trip, to proceed from Wyndham to Darwin. I urge the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to give to this subject his personal attention.
Consideration of the problem of housing brings me again to the fantastic plan of the Government for the new city of Darwin. My efforts prior to the recent general elections in opposing this scheme, were defeated by the Government, which ruthlessly removed the Darwin business area about 1-J miles from the original site from which it should not have been uprooted. I thought that the Government would at least have provided housing with an internal design that would suit tropical conditions, but it did not do even that. I have before me a plan drawn up by architects employed under the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), but they have provided for building allotments 70 feet wide and only 80 feet in depth. Thoughout Western Australia the average depth of blocks for residential purposes is 165 feet, and I believe that that rule is observed in Perth. A town planning committee was set up in- Darwin to consider this matter, but it was dominated by a “ Commo “ who conducts the local newspaper, and his friends. Certain members of the committee convinced the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), that it is composed of men of substance. They do not own an allotment of land there, but they were able to command a majority of the votes on the committee. In view of the facts known to the Minister and to honorable members, and the further facts which I now propose to mention, I ask him whether he will cause an, investigation to be made, and a report presented, regarding the two townplanning schemes for the development of the new city of Darwin. It is well known that the first plan prepared for the Government has been superseded by a composite departmental plan prepared by architects or others in the Department of Works and Housing in Melbourne. One of the immediate results of the adoption and imposition of this departmental plan was to raise a storm of protest from church authorities. The Church of England and the Roman Catholic church have to be removed. The very history of Darwin will be destroyed and the basic principles of town-planning violated. Despite consideration by the local townplanning committee, appointed to advise the Administrator in the execution of the departmental plan, the matter of churches and church lands is not yet agreed upon. The question of the correct placement and adequate provision for oil tanks, so vital to any town, much less a naval port, is still the subject of diversity of opinion - the opinion of laymen and not of engineers. The local townplanning committee is dominated by clowns and “ rat-bags “. It has held only a few meetings, and the departmental plan provides in a new city homesite allotments of less than a quarter of an acre. They are as small as SO feet by 70 feet. It is astounding that the Minister for the Interior, who represents an electorate in a State where for the last half a century the Crown has considered 66 feet by 165 feet a minimum area for any home, should now be prepared to accept one-eighth of an acre, or only 5,000 or 6,000 square feet as sufficient for a dwelling. Real estate speculators in America certainly favour 80 feet by 70 feet, or 80 feet by 80 feet, and it is not impossible that the adoption of this size and shape is the result of the experience gained by departmental officers touring America at the expense of the Commonwealth Government.
The Minister for the Interior knows the suburb of Subiaco as well as I do. He is aware of the congestion there, and the conditions under which the workers, or, to use a popular phrase, the “ wage plugs “ or “ wage slaves “, have to live on areas as small as are now to be inflicted on the residents of the tropical town of Darwin. -If space and open air are required anywhere, they are required in this new town. It is illegal in the Minister’s home State to establish home lots less than 120 feet in depth. Assuming that the new houses are not to be built right on to the street, but set back at least 20 feet, 25 feet or 30 feet, as is the modern practice, and that the dwelling will be between 30 feet and 40 feet in depth, where will the unfortunate tenant obtain a backyard ? Townplanning authorities and local authorities demand, and certainly health and domestic privacy require, a backyard at least 50 feet in depth, even if only to conform with the requirements of health legislation with regard to the keeping of poultry or animals. Much has been made by the departmental officers entrusted with the imposition of their schematic empiricisms of the cul-de-sac type of construction, principally on the ground of economy in providing the essential services of sewerage, water, light, &c. But it is well within the knowledge of almost all, if not all, honorable members that the cul-de-sac type is an English convention forced upon garden suburb planners in the first instance by the cold, bleak climate, and then the dire necessity for conserving and curtailing the open spaces on costly land, plus the architectural convention of using two walls where one wall should be the aim under modern democratic home-building.
Under this ideal departmental plan for Darwin, no child is to travel more than one-third of a mile to school. Perhaps these experts have not heard of the Tasmanian area schools, the Western Australian area schools, or the educational practice now being adopted throughout the Commonwealth of centralizing school children by means of modern transport, so as not only to save administrative costs, but also to provide them with all the amenities and facilities for tuition in modern institutions rather than in school rooms or miniature schools scattered throughout congested areas. Honorable members may not be fully aware of the vicious class-distinction which the departmental plan proposes to inflict on the free democracy of my electorate. We all have heard of the legalised snobbery in Canberra, where a man is compelled to live in a suburb according, not to his culture or choice, but according to his classification as to salary. This imposition of government snobbery came from a party or at least a large section of a party, which avowedly aims at a classless society. It is within the memory of many honorable members that when, after a world-wide competition, Walter Burley Griffin’s plan for Canberra was accepted to establish the framework - the body and, I hope, the soul - of our nation’s capital, the departmental experts got together and produced another plan. Fortunately, there were men of vision who successfully combated the hotch-potch evolved by a disgruntled group of civil service heads for the development of Canberra. To-day, we see coming into being around us, and about to be further impressed upon us by the damming of the Molonglo, the vision of one man.
Now I am convinced from my own professional experience, my travels and my reading on this important matter, as well as from conferences with men of established reputation in town planning, that the departmental plan for Darwin will break down of its own- inefficiency and egregious empiricism. Town planning is the application of science, common-sense and forethought to control the development of an urban area, and to establish the social, political and economic aspirations and capacities of a people, according to their code of government. This House, and particularly the Minister charged with the administration of the Northern Territory, does not yet appear to realise that Darwin is not the back-door but the front door, to Australia, and that through and from this doorway we face the world. Unfortunately, most Australians view our terrestrial globe upside down and continue to think of themselves as “ down under “. The contrary is a demonstrable, scientific fact; Australia is as much on the top of the world as is the North Pole, or England or America, as a glance at the map will show. Particularly in this air age, and in view of our commitments politically and strategically to the near north, Darwin must be developed on rational common-sense lines, giving priority of place to naval, military, air and industrial establishments and requirements. The development of the business portion of the town must follow in its logical order and in true juxtaposition to these primary requirements. The residential and cultural groupings can then be placed not only where civic pride and national culture may be exhibited, but also in the most healthful and salubrious surroundings; above all they must not be jammed together into modern slums.
We learn from the press that another departmental expert is about to impose Brazilian architecture on our future Darwin. Could anything be more fatuous? Darwin has but two seasons, the dry and the wet, and the type of architecture should not be psuedo-Spanish,
Portuguese, Negroid, Carib or new German; it should be taken from those splendid examples of colonial tropical architecture established in British, Dutch, French and even Italian tropical possessions. The profession of town or regional planning requires training, experience, and travel. Above all it calls for experience in engineering, surveying, architecture, law and, more especially, administrative law. A town plan, to be functional and to render the maximum of service for the minimum of expenditure, must be a workable plan and take full cognizance of the desires and requirements of those people who have to live in it and, finally pay for it. The Minister may think, or argue, that the comprehensive, composite Darwin Town Plan Advisory Committee will solve all the technical and professional problems which, apparently, are already giving it, unsolvable headaches, whilst the Administrator, a young third-grade engineer from Western Australia, is apparently unable or unwilling to give it any lead or direction. He stated to the committee, when apologizing for not being present at its opening, that “the setting up of the committee was the final stage towards putting down the building on the ground itself. “ He said that the committee was more than an advisory committee on residential allotments ; it was an advisory committee on everything connected with town planning. For instance, the question of bulk oil installations had only that day been referred to the committee for advice. So far as frontages and depths were concerned, he said that the committee should consider the matter from a. practical as well as an academic point of view, so that its decisions would ensure comfortable living conditions for the people of Darwin. He went on to say that the plan as accepted or amended by the committee would be the plan for the re-building of Darwin. It was entirely in the committees own. hands. He then left the meeting.
First, the Mcinnes plan was dropped and now the departmental academic, empirical plan is to be watered down, diluted, altered, chopped about, or completely eviscerated according to the decisions of a local committee - and, mark you, at the invitation of His Honour the Administrator!
I have said sufficient for the Government to realize that the Darwin plan must be sound, workable, and above all, a plan that will establish the happiness, health and well-being of those who will make Darwin. I therefore ask the Minister to consider the appointment of a proved expert in town planning to advise the Government on the merits or demerits of the two plans.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
The following papers were pre sented : -
National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Twenty-third Annual Report, for year 1945-46.
Ordered to be printed.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes - Lilydale, Victoria.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Ordinance - 1946 - No. 11 - Careless Use of Fire.
Regulations -1946 - No.6 (Apprenticeship Ordinance).
House adjourned at11.56 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y. - On the 14th November, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked the following questions, upon notice -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The official price at present paid in Australia for gold is £1015s. 3d. per fine ounce. This price is inline with the official price paid in all the major gold producing countries including Empire countries, e.g. the prices paid in the following countries, converted to Australian currency at current buying rates of exchange, are approximately -
In the case of a few countries such as the Latin-American countries and India, the price at which gold may be bought and sold is not officially controlled. In those countries the price of gold fluctuates widely. Whilst I have no exact information available I understand that on occasion the price in India has reached the equivalent in Australian currency of something in the vicinity of £20 or more.
Rationing: Food for Hotels and Cafes.
d. - On the 15th November, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) asked a question regarding food ration quotas to hotels and cafes. The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information: -
Very recently cabinet considered the functions of the Rationing Commission and the value of its continued services to the community in Australia and to the people of Great Britain. It was decided to continue rationing of foodstuffs in order to maintain urgently needed exports to the United Kingdom, which looks to Australia for all the foodstuffs it can possibly make available. If increased quotas of rationed foodstuffs were allotted to cafes and other public caterers the savings effected by general rationing would be largely dissipated, and would result in reduced exports to Great Britain.
In view of the need of the British Ministry of Food for Australian exports to maintain minimum health . standards there, increased demands by tourists and holiday-makers for casual meals while on the road may be classed as luxuries, and to meet them would not line up with the Government’s policy of continuing rationing on its present basis in order to assist the people of Great Britain. Generally speaking, existing facilities are considered adequate to meet the reasonable demands of the travelling public, having regard to the fact that all civilians in Australia receive a generous weekly ration of butter, meat, tcn and sugar. . If, however, evidence were produced by hotel licensing authorities that the quantities made available to meet the needs of the travelling public resident in hotels for shorter periods than are required for the surrender of coupons the Rationing Commission would be prepared to make additional quantities available.
There are a wide variety of unrationed foodstuffs available to public caterers, and, in addition, travellers staying for six nights or longer per fortnight are required to surrender coupons to cover rationed foodstuffs supplied to them.
Division or Import Procurement.
d. - On the 20th November, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked a question regarding the Division of Import Procurement and the licensing of sterling imports. The Minister for Trade and Customs, has supplied the following information: -
The Division of Import Procurement ceased to function on 31st July of this year. This was announced on 1st August by the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator J, M. Fraser) who said that, following a review of the residual functions of the division, it has been decided to replace it by two separate branches, both directly responsible to the Comptroller-General of Customs.
The administration of import licensing is vested in the Central Import Licensing Branch. Other functions consisting mainly in the dis posal of surplus stocks of goods acquired during the war under lend-lease, Canadian mutual aid and cash purchase, are carried out by the Commercial Branch.
There has already been a considerable easing of restrictions on imports from the United Kingdom and other sterling area countries. Many of the important items in our trade with sterling countries have always been exempt from the operation of the Customs (Import Licensing) Regulations and a large number of additional items was exempted from the beginning of 194G. Based on 1938-39 trade statistics, about GO per cent, by value of total imports from sterling countries are now exempt from import licensing restrictions.
Of the sterling items remaining subject to import licensing control, many are being dealt with on the basis of granting licences for any quantities considered reasonable in relation to pre-war trade or current needs, on production of evidence that the goods are available from the supplying country. Other items are admitted under a quota system which permits a reasonable flow of the goods in relation to the pre-war trade.
The only sterling items for which no licences are at present being granted are a comparatively limited range of goods which are clearly of a luxury or non-essential character.
The Government has made it clear on a number of occasions that its policy is to remove the remaining import restrictions as soon as it is practicable to do so. However, although there has recently been some improvement in Australia’s external financial position, there are still a number of overseas liabilities arising from the war to be met and, pending completion of negotiations with the United Kingdom Government, there is some uncertainty as to the extent to which Australia’s present sterling holdings will be available for the purpose of financing future essential imports.
The position is kept under constant review and the honorable member may rest assured that the remaining restrictions on sterling imports will not be retained any longer than is considered absolutely necessary.
y. - Recently, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked me a question regarding industrial disputes in the period from July to October this year. I now supply the following information in regard to the number of disputes, the number of days lost and the number of workers involved, but from the records available in my department it is not possible to compile statistics to show the loss in wages and production.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice - 1.Has his attention been drawn to a statement appearing in a newspaper circulating on the south coast of New South Wales, dated 9th September, 1946, in which it is stated under the heading “ Mr. Allan Fraser Cuts Red Tape” that - the managing director of Australia Fishing Industries Limited, found he had been badly tangled up in red tape when trying to obtain formal consent for the issue of 90,000 shares of £1 each for his company. When Mr.Fraser was advised of the position, he wasted no time about getting things moving. Fortunately, the Prime Minister had been taking a keen interest in the activities of the company and readily consented to Intervene, and the required consent was forthcoming within 24 hours of Mr. Chifley’s intervention, and everything was now set “ full steam ahead “, the nominal capital of the company being increased to £300,000 and the paid up capital to £165,000?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The following answers are based upon the assumption that the honorable member’s question relates to the Commonwealth Employment Service, i.e. the Employment Division of the Department of Labour and National Service : -
States are housed with the Deputy Director of Employment), there are 156 district employment offices as follows: - New South Wale’s, 00; Victoria, 39; Queensland, 22; South Australia, 15; Western Australia, 15; Tasmania, 5.
New South Wales, 1 8,885; Victoria, 17,308; Queensland, 0,400; South Australia, 5,905; Western Australia, 8,225; Tasmania, 1,835; total 50,018. fi. It is not possible at present to isolate the average cost of placements from the cost of the aggregate of the services being rendered by the Commonwealth Employment Service. These include -
A general advice and information service for all citizens and particularly ex-service personnel. During thu thirteen months to 31st October, 1940, district offices assisted 451,500 persons with advice in addition to more than 323.390 placements resulting from 447,017 referrals.
Secretarial assistance to many repatriation local committees. (rf) Provision of much of the basic data required for and participation in the planning and implementation of the Government’s full employment policy and activities designed to remove difficulties arising from shortages of materials, ftc, which might otherwise cause unemployment.
In assessing the cost of placements effected, account would have to be taken of savings of expenditure on account of unemployment benefit and re-employment allowance which would otherwise be incurred if there were no efficient employment service in operation. Regard would also have to be taken of economics in time and money enjoyed by employers and workers using the Commonwealth Employment Service m obtaining expedi tiously the labour or jobs they require and inavoiding expenditure on advertising, commissions charged by fees charging agencies, fares, loss of wages, &c.
A.umej) Forces: Australians in Japan..
t asked the Minister foa* the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Commonwealth Disposals Commission : Utility Trucks.
n. - On the 26th November, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) asked a question concerning the distribution of army trucks in country areas.
The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the folio wing information: -
Since the commencement of its activities, the Common weal th Disposals Commission has ensured that the needs of country areas are being provided for in the distribution of surplus motor vehicles and other equipment. Over 75 per cent, of the army trucks released by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission have gone to country areas. As the total released up to date approximates 80,000 vehicles, (his means that in the last eighteen mouths, the Commonwealth Disposals Com.mission has arranged for not less than 00.000 vehicles to be distributed in country districts.
The commission’s method of distribution is through the trade which, in turn, ensures that the vehicles are in good condition when they are sold and- also ensures that the vehicles are gold at prices which are not in excess of the ceilings determined by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner. Further the present arrangements ensure an equitable distribution in country areas throughout the whole of Australia.
The number of vehicles still to be dealt with by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission is comparatively few and the commission is making every endeavour to obtain the outstanding residues from the Departments nf the Army and Air, with the object of ensuring that they are all distributed before Christmas.
The honorable member for Calare cun be assured that the district which lie represents will be given equitable treatment in the distribution of these remaining vehicles.
d. - On the 8th and 20th November, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) asked a question concerning drought relief for cereal growers in 1945-46. A bill dealing with this assistance has been brought in by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The assistance is being given as the result of an agreement reached at the Premiers Conference, and it is considered that it deals adequately with the problem. It is pointed out that drought relief is normally a State function, and while’ it is not practicable to enlarge the scope of the agreement between Commonwealth and State, it is competent for the
State to provide assistance where necessary to growers who do not come within the ambit of the agreement reached by the Commonwealth with the three States concerned.
– On the 20th November, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) asked whether the Queensland Government has requested the Commonwealth to grant drought relief to any primary industry in that State, particularly dairying, grazing, cereal growing, fruit growing or sugar. I informed the honorable member at the time of the action that bad been taken in conjunction, with the Queensland Government regarding the provision of assistance to the dairying industry. No request- has been received from the Queensland Government for the granting of drought relief for the grazing, cereal growing, fruit growing or sugar industries.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2 and 3 -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was (a) the date and (5) the amount of each specific advance made by the Common wealth to each State Government under the terms of the Commonwealth mid State Housing Agreement Act 1945?
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows : -
Royal Australian Navy : H.M.A.S. “ Sydney “.
y. - On the 22nd November, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) asked the following question : -
The answers to the honorable member’s question, are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 November 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19461127_reps_18_189/>.