18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Appraisement Centres at Rockhampton and t0wn8vit.i.e.
– I am led to believe that the Government decided some time ago to erect two wool-appraisement centres in Queensland, one at Rockhampton and the other at Townsville. Quite recently the work at Rockhampton was commenced. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether tenders have been called for the erection of buildings for the wool-appraisement centre at Townsville ? In any event, will he assure me that he will have the work expedited ?
– I shall make inquiries, with a view to ascertaining whether it is possible to expedite this work.
Speech bt Mr. j. A. Beasley - -Mort’s Dock Dispute - UNEMPLOYMENT Benefits.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received the full text of a speech made in London by the High Commissioner for Australia in the United Kingdom, on which I have previously questioned him? If so, did the speech refer to “sinister forces”? Was Mr. Beasley expressing the view of the Government ? What action does the Government propose to take against the “ sinister forces “ to which the press said that he referred?
– I asked Mr. Beasley to let me have a copy of his speech, and I have now received it. Its terms are similar to speeches made by Mr. Beasley on many occasions in the West Sydney electorate. I shall be glad to let the honorable member peruse it.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service relating to the position of certain men who are involved in the lock-out at Morts Dock and who, because they are over the age of 65 years, have, up till now, been refused unemployment benefit. Under section 36 of the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act all applications for special benefits must be referred ‘to the head-quarters of the Department of Social Services in Melbourne for consideration. As the dispute is now in its fifth week and these men are suffering grave hardship, will the Minister consider allowing the DirectorGeneral of Social Services to delegate authority .to his officers in the branches of the department in tho States in order that the delay in dealing with these special cases may be overcome?
– I am aware of tho circumstances outlined by the honorable member, and I agree that delays have occurred as the result of them. I shall discuss the matter with the administrative officers responsible for the. handling of such claims and ascertain whether it is possible to bring about some reforms which will avoid the delay.
– I ask the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific, and Industrial Research whether that council is the liaison body between Great Britain and Australia in regard to research in Australia in connexion with guided projectiles and atomic research. If it is, do not the members of its executive have access to all confidential information in relation to the results of such research? Has not Mr. Don Mountjoy, the most recent appointee to the executive of the council, very close relations with the Communist party in Australia? In view of these facts, and of the revelations of the Canadian .royal commission on Soviet spy activities in that dominion, does not the Minister consider that there is grave danger of the results of experiments in connexion with guided projectiles being betrayed to the Soviet by Mr. Mountjoy, through his Communist affiliations ?
– I can state categorically that Mr. Mountjoy has no connexion whatever with the Communist party. He has. been, and still is, a member of the Australian Labour party. In carrying out his duties as a. member of the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Mr. Mountjoy will be in a position to decide whether atomicenergy oan be rased for industrial purposes, and for the raising of the standard of living of the Australian people.
– I direct the attention of the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to advertisements which appeared in a recent issue of the Commonwealth Gazette calling for applicationsfor positions with the council returnable on -or before .the 18th November last. The qualifications required of applicants for the position of research officer were a university degree withhonours in science, with chemistry as a major subject, or equivalent qualifications, experience in the handling of natural products being an additional desirable qualification. Theadvertisement states further that in thecase of an appointee who has graduated at a high standard with honours,, or hashad post-graduate experience, the salary will be not less than £450 per annum for males and £375 per annum for females* Will the Minister consider paying to people who must have devoted many years- of study to obtain the requisitequalifications the same salary as. is. to hepaid to- Mr. Mountjoy?
– The salaries paid tothe employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research are decided’ upon by the . executive members of thecouncil after taking into account ratespaid to individuals carrying out comparable duties in the Commonwealth. Public Service. The remuneration, which will he paid to Mr. Mountjoy is fixed by a regulation promulgated by honorablemembers opposite when they were in. office.
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether Mr. Wells, president of the miners federation ; Mr. Healey, president of the Waterside Workers Federation;. Mr. Elliott,, secretary cif the Seamen’s. Union and Mr. Thornton, secretary of the Ironworkers
Union, are members of both the Communist party of Australia and the Australian Labour Movement. Itf so, what reason is there to presume that Mr. D. Mountjoy does not also hold dual membership in these bodies?
– Neither the four persons mentioned by the honorable member nor any other person can belong, at the same time, to the Communist party of Australia .and the Australian Labour party or the Australian Labour Movement. Both the Australian Labour party and the Australian Labour Movement expressly exclude from .membership any person having any connexion with the Communist party.
Allowances to University .Students
– Last week, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction said that he would inquire into the living and travelling allowances payable to ex-service personnel doing reconstruction training courses at our universities. Has he yet made the inquiry, and if so, what was the result ?
– The living allowance is payable during term and vacations, whereas the allowance for fares is payable only in respect of a week during which at least one day’s attendance at a university is required. Thus, daring vacations, living .allowance, but no fares allowance, is ‘payable for weeks in which there is no ‘attendance. The fares allowance was first ‘introduced on the 13th September, 1945. Administrative difficulties after its introduction prevented payment of living .allowance and fares allowance in one sum at the end of each fortnightly pay period, and it was considered of greater importance to preserve the continuity of payment of living allowance rather than have fcl ds delayed on account of adjustments to the smaller fares allowance. It was therefore decided to pay the fares allowance in a lump sum at the end of each term. Each student individually was notified by letter of this arrangement, which, it should be noted, actually involved payment of an amount of SES’ 5s., for a term of nine weeks, in a lump sum at the end of the term instead of ‘by fortnightly payments of 10s. Thus, the on’ly complaint which the honorable member for Fawkner can raise about this magnificent scheme for reconstruction training is that the amount of 10s. is not paid fornightly, but in -a lump sum of £2 5s. at the end of the term.
Air. BLAIN.- I have received a telegram informing me that the supply of water from the bore at Tennant Greek is only half what is needed for domestic purposes, the balance having to be carried for 6 miles at heavy cost. Can the Minister for the Interior say bow far the engineering service has gone with the .proposal to provide N an improved water supply for Tennant Creek, and how much money has been allocated for this work?
Mi-. JOHNSON -A great deal of intention has been given to the provision of an adequate water supply at Tennant Greek, but, as the honorable member knows, the matter is not without difficulty. The present administrator, who lias had much experience with water conservation, lias made an exhaustive search of the area, :and in the meantime bores have been deepened in order to obtain more water. I have been informed that, for the time being, -the present water supply will be sufficient to meet requirements until a permanent scheme is decided on.
Appointment of executive officer.
– Is it a fact that Mr. Ralph Foster, executive officer of the Australian National Film Board, will terminate his contract with the board on the 31st December, and return to Canada, and that, in accordance with the ‘desire of the Prime Minister, an Australian will “be appointed to “the post? If so, before making any such, appointment, will the Minister for Information, in view of ‘the need for stringent economy at a time when taxes remain such a crushing ^burden on the people, investigate the value of the work of the board and consider whether the continuance of such a costly propaganda organization is justified?
– The honorable gentleman is half right. Mr. Foster will terminate his association with the National Film Board on the 31st December, but I do not know whether he will return, to Canada. He was the representative of the Canadian Department of Information serving in Australia when the Canadian Government agreed to second him to the Australian Government for a period of twelve months to help establish the board. That period will expire on the 31st December. It is not intended to appoint a successor to Mr. Foster with the same title and the salary which he is at present receiving. The board having been successfully established, there is no necessity to appoint a successor. I do not know whether the honorable member is justified in suggesting that this is a very costly board or that it is not fulfilling a truly national function. Those honorable members who lave been privileged to see some of th: motion pictures made by the National Film Board are very loud in their praises of the work done by it and of the great publicity value that those films have for Australia in other parts of the world. Two films, one made to the order of the Minister for External Territories and entitled Native Earth, are showing in Parisian and other theatres in France with a French commentary and will probably pay for the cost of their production in this country. Several other pictures made by the board have been exhibited in England and are equally good money-spinners.
– The Minister for the Army recently announced that enlistees in the armed forces for the duration of the war and twelve months thereafter were to he released on the 31st January next. Will it be necessary for each member to make application for release or will all members be notified of their release automatically?
– It will not .be necessary for members of the forces eligible for release on the 31st January to apply for release. They will be released by order of the Government.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether .commanding officers have anything to do with the obvious reluctance of -the services to demobilize personnel ? Why cannot nien be demobilized now, so that they may return to the civil occupations in which they were employed at the time of their enlistment ?
– Henceforth, commanding officers will not be in a position to say whether service personnel, who are eligible for release, and who have been compulsorily held, shall be retained in the Army. Until recently, I believe, commanding officers were of opinion that they had the right to say whether a serviceman came within the category of key personnel; but it has now been made very clear to them that henceforth men who are eligible for release shall be discharged immediately.
– I ask the Minister for the Army whether it is a fact that although certain Australian troops at Rabaul have served for the duration of the war and twelve months thereafter, no effort has been made to release them? Is it a fact that the Government promised these men that they would be home by the end of October, and that that promise has not been kept? What steps are being taken to bring these men home, and will they arrive before Christmas?
– The statements made by the honorable gentleman are not facts. The Government did not give an assurance that the men would be home by the end of October, though it has endeavoured to release as many of them as possible, and many of them have returned to Australia. I give the honorable gentleman my assurance that immediately the men can be replaced they will be brought back to Australia for demobilization.
All-party Parliamentary Committee.
– In my speech on international affairs in this House, I suggested the formation of an all-party committee on international affairs. In his speech in reply the Minister for External Affairs said that he would consider the matter. Has he reached any conclusion?
– The question involves Government policy. I must confess that I have not given further consideration to the matter since the debate on international affairs ended. However, I shall direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the honorable gentleman’s suggestion and answer him subsequently.
– Has any action been taken by the Treasurer to increase the margin on property values under land sales control, in conformity with the increase by 20 per cent, of living and general costs in the last few years, about which the Prime Minister recently made a statement?
– I assume that the honorable member refers to the regulations that cover land sales. That matter was discussed at the conference of Commonwealthand State Ministers. At least some of the Premiers expressed the opinion that there should be some revision of the standard values setout in the regulations. I intimated to the Premiers that the delegates in the different States had discretion to grant slight increases of the standard values where warranted. The regulations are being reviewed. Meanwhile, instructions have been given to the delegates that they may exercise to a greater degree their discretion to grant increases.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has decided to renew the Federal Aid Roads Agreement with the States when it expires next year. Is he prepared to meet the request of local authorities that all collections from petrol tax be used for road construction and maintenance? Will he consider the needs of inland shires, which have greater mileages of unconstructed roads than have other shires, when arranging with the States an allocation of funds for the construction and maintenance of roads?
– The Federal Aid Roads Agreement will expire on , the 30th June next. It has been the subject of very limited discussion so far by the Cabinet, but it has appointed a sub-committee to examine the matter of its renewal and the financial terms on which it should be renewed. State Premiers and certain bodies associated with motoring have also approached me on the subject. All that I have been able to indicate to both the Premiers and the associations is that, whilst I should be prepared to allow the renewal of the agreement, decision on whether it should be renewed must be left to the Cabinet. Terms of its renewal would be a matter for discussion between the Commonwealth and State Governments. I hope that a review will be made early in the New Year, and that Cabinet will reach a decision reasonably early so that the States concerned may know how much money they will receive, and the conditions under which the grants will be made. That will enable the authorities to proceed with their planning.
Reported Disturbances on Border.
– Can the Minister for
External Affairs give to the House any information on reports of disturbances on the border of Greece?
– I regret that, at the moment, I am not able to add to the information which has appeared in the press; but I shall inquire what can be done to satisfy the honorable member’s desire for further details.
Criticism by Chicago “ Tribune “.
– As the Minister for External Territories is an assiduous reader of newspapers, no doubt he has observed in the Australian press a series of allegations made by the Chicago Tribune about Australia’s handling of affairs in New Guinea. In view of the concern of church authorities and others who are intensely interested in that area, does the Minister intend to answer the allegations, which appeard in big headlines in many; Australian daily newspapers?
– I did notice in the press the statement to which the honorable member referred, but I had no intention of replying to it, because I did not regard it as of sufficient importance. However, ifthe honorable gentleman considers that some reply should be made, I shall be prepared to consider the matter, and let him know later my decision.
– In the absence of the Minister for Air, I ask the Minister for Defence: What is the present strength of. the Air Training Corps and what establishment has been laid down for it? In view of the excellent work of the cadets during the war and having regard to the fact that many former officers of the Royal Australian AirForce are available to train cadets, will the honorable gentleman indicate whether the Government intends, if it has not already done so, to fix a. definite establishment for the cadets, or whether it intends to disband the organization ?
– I shall ask the Minister for Air to supply an answer to the honorable gentleman’s questions.
Mr.RIORDAN (Kennedy- Minister for the Navy) - by leave - Last week the honorable member for Cook asked, without notice, whether it was a fact that H.M.A.S. Adelaide was to be put out of commission and dismantled; and, if so, whether consideration would be given to a proposal that the vessel should be used as a breakwater at La Perouse. In reply to the first part of the question, I inform the honorable member that it is a fact that the vessel is to be dismantled. In reply to the second part of it, I inform him that his suggestion and also suggestions that have been made by other honorable gentlemen concerning the ultimate disposal of the vessel have been considered, but it has been decided that H.M.A.S. Adelaide can perform a very valuable role as a target shipf or squadron gunnery firings after as much useful equipment as practicable has been removed from her. As the practice shell used in these firings is non-explosive, it is hoped the ship will continue to fulfil this requirement for some time.
– As Australia’s future economic well-being, and an improved standard of living for out citizens, depend upon increased production, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs consider setting up and making available to Australian industry a service similar to the production efficiency service offered to industry by the British Board of Trade, which has. been responsible for higher efficiency and increased production in the United Kingdom? As lectures on industrial efficiency are in keen demand in England, and are creating wide-spread interest, will the Minister also consider the inclusion of similar lectures in such an efficiency service?
– I shall be glad to ascertain the views of the Minister for Trade and Customs on the suggestion that has been made by the honorable gentleman.
– I desire to inform the House that on Saturday, the 30th November, the Principal Parliamentary Reporter,. Mr. G. H.. Romans, will retire from the service of the Commonwealth Parliament.
Mr. Romans, who was born in New Zealand, commenced hisjournalistic career on the. South Australian Register in 1899. In 1902, he went to Western Australia, where he joined the staff of the Perth Morning Herald. In 1908, he accepted the position of senior reporter on the West Australian, and for a time acted as chief of staff of that newspaper. In South Australia and Western Australia, Mr. Romans was regarded as a versatile and graphic writer. While a member of the Western Australian Hansard staff, which he joined in 1910. he was requested by the Government of Western Australia to compile and edit a hand-book on Western Australia for the Immigration and Tourist Department of that State. In 1914, he was appointed to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Reporting Staff.
Mr. Romans has reported State and Commonwealth .parliamentary debates for 45 years. He has served this Parliament for over 32 years, during which period he .has been Second Reporter for seven years and Principal Parliamentary Reporter for six .years. By his retirement, the Commonwealth Parliament is losing the services of a very efficient and highly esteemed officer.
May I .add that my close association with Mr. Romans since I have been Speaker of this House has convinced me that it would be impossible for the Commonwealth Parliament to secure the services of a man of greater ability and organizing capacity in the work that he has had to do for the Parliament. In addition, he has exhibited the utmost impartiality on all the questions he has brought to my notice. I have found that, regardless of the side of the House on which the fault may have lain in the matter he has raised with me, he has always placed before me the most impartial view in order that he might secure the most impartial judgment from me. I am sorry that we have to lose his services, because I believe that every member of this House, from those who have served longest to those most recently elected, has at some time or other had the benefit of his advice and assistance.
– On .behalf of members of the Government, and, I am sure, of every member of this House, I take this opportunity to convey to Mr. Romans our very deep thanks for the great courtesy he has shown to us, and the magnificent efficiency he has displayed while he has been the servant of this Parliament in both his present and his former positions on the Parliamentary Reporting Staff. We all are deeply grateful for the many kindnesses he has extended to us. If I may digress, I am sure that many of us also have been extremely appreciative of the speeches he has made for us in Hansard - much better than those that we have made in the House. With you, Mr. Speaker, I regret that the time has come for Mr. Romans to sever his association with the Parliament. I can only express, on behalf of the Government, and I believe of all honorable members, our very best wishes for a happy ,and contented retirement which he will live long to enjoy. I know his tastes, and am therefore confident that he is capable of extracting a great deal of enjoyment from life in the years’ that are left to him. He leaves his present position with our deepest thanks and, in fact, almost affection, because of the very efficient services he has rendered to this Parliament ,and the country, and his courteous demeanour at all times.
– I associate the Opposition with the remarks that “have fallen from you, Mr. Speaker, and from the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). I have seen Mr. Romans both at a distance and at close quarters. Not only have I seen the result of his handiwork for a number of years, but in addition it has .been my privilege to sit almost cheek by jowl with him at this table. He is a man of very strong attraction, and very great skill, with a notable background of scholarship which has enabled him to discharge with outstanding success the tasks that he has performed in the Parliaments of this country. I think it should be mentioned that his effectiveness in his work has been aided by his very deep knowledge of the parliamentary institution and his completely unaffected sympathy with it. He understands it; therefore, he has always had standards up to which he has resolutely risen. It is unnecessary for me to say to honorable members, but perhaps it is desirable to put on record, that he possesses a most charming and friendly personality. .As Mr. Speaker has said, he is a man of absolutely scrupulous impartiality. He will be very much missed at the table in this House, hut he can leave us with the knowledge that he carries with him the friendship and respect of every member who has been in this House during his term of office.
– I express, on behalf of myself and the party that I have the honour to lead, sincere regret at the retirement of Mr. Romans from the Parliamentary Reporting Staff. Those of us who have been associated with, him and his work have at all times appreciated the fact that he has personified conscientiousness and tolerance. His work has been characterized by outstanding merit, and his dealings with all of us by absolute justice. Every one of us values the pleasant intercourse we have had with him and the comradeship we have felt for him outside this House. We deeply regret his forced retirement from the activities of the office he has so honorably filled in this Parliament for 32 years. I wish him, in his retirement, a happy and long life in the company of his wife and family. I am sure that we all appreciate that he must be a good deal older than he looks.
– In view of the recent statement by the Minister for Trade and Customs that he favoured the liberalizing of present methods of book censorship, will the Minister who represents him in this chamber secure from him answers to these questions : -
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Trade and Customs, and an answer will be prepared. I regret that I cannot answer it myself. If I were in a position to do so I believe that the answer would be entirely satisfactory to the honorable gentleman.
– by leave - The widely-accepted rumour that the Labour Premier ‘ of New South Wales has been nominated for appointment as Governor-General of Australia makes it necessary that the views of a substantial section of the Australian people should be put on record in this Parliament. The matter is not necessarily one of party politics, as the division of opinion on the proposed appointment will not be along party lines. It is one of high and important principle. The governorgeneralship has a significance which has been increased rather than decreased by the development of the modern constitutional status of the Dominions. By section 2 of the Commonwealth Constitution -
A Governor-General appointed by the King shall be His Majesty’s representative in the Commonwealth, and shall have and may exercise in the Commonwealth during the King’s pleasure but subject to this Constitution such powers and functions of the King as His Majesty may be pleased to assign to him.
The preamble to the Statute of Westminster describes the Crown as -
The symbol of the free association of the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and also states that - such members arc united by a common allegiance to the Crown.
There is no substantial legal nexus between the British Nations except the Crown. The remaining prerogative rights of the Crown, which do not in any sense subtract from full popular selfgovernment, either in the United Kingdom or in the Dominions, should not, therefore, be further restricted without great caution, since everything that tends to reduce the significance of the Crown weakens that institution, both as a symbol and as a legal link.
The Governor-General of Australia being the King’s direct personal representative, the appointment of somebody notoriously not chosen either by, or in effective consultation with him, and whose appointment would, by reason of party political convictions, be distasteful to a large section of Australian citizens, must inevitably weaken the symbolism of the governor-generalship, and, therefore, of the Crown which it represents.
The immediate point at issue is not whether an Australian should be eligible for appointment as Governor-General, hut whether an active .party /political leader should be transferred by his own party to a post which should, by tradition, and, indeed, necessity, be completely free of party politics.
We wholeheartedly affirm that the highest posts should be open to Australians of character and talent. There certainly is no reason why Australian citizens should not be regarded as eligible for viceregal appointments in British Empire countries, for example, in Canada, South Africa, India or New Zealand, as well as in Australia. It is equally clear that there must be outstanding citizens in those other countries who would be richly qualified for appointments in Australia. But it would be mere insularity on our part for us to say that only an Australian should be appointed to a viceregal post in Australia. If each dominion adopted the same view, there would be no exchange of leading citizens among the dominions on the viceregal level ; the notion that a governor-general or a governor is .the direct personal representative of the King would be obviously falsified; and the prestige of the office, which depends upon subtle and intangible matters, including a deep emotional response in the hearts of citizens, would inevitably decline.
It is true that, by modern constitutional practice, the King is bound, in the last resort, to act upon the advice of his Ministers in the exercise of his power of appointment, but it is equally true that Ministers exercising the responsibility of advice should not forget that the man appointed is to act as the trusted personal representative of the King, and not as the political representative of the Australian Government for the time being; and that, therefore, great consideration should be extended to His Majesty’s wishes in the matter.
An intelligent understanding of the importance of .the Crown ,as the symbol of Empire unity requires that the nominee or nominees of Ministers should be able, by reason of character, attainments, temperament and experience, to act in Australia with that detachment, impartiality in great constitutional issues, and dignity which inhere in the Crown in the Government of Great Britain:
The nomination by his own party of an active party political leader to the post of Governor-General would ignore all these principles. It would lower the Governor-Generalship in public esteem, confidence and significance. It would establish the precedent of regarding the Governor-Generalship as a political reward, under the policy of “ spoils to the victors “. It would exhibit a crude contempt for the remaining royal prerogatives, and would go far towards weakening the unifying importance of the Crown. It could, by people or nations not fully acquainted with true Australian feeling, be regarded as a public evidence of the growth of anti-Empire sentiment in Australia.
– by leave - The statement just delivered !by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was prepared in close collaboration with the party which I have the honour to lead. Consequently, the Australian Country party associates itself wholeheartedly with the viewstherein expressed.
– by leave - I do not propose to canvass the matters contained in the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), and supported by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). I believe that the making of such a statement at this time is likely to cause embarrassment to the Crown, and to create some difficulty in the minds of those charged with responsibility in respect of .the matter. I, as Prime Minister, have the responsibility of making suggestions or recommendations to the Crown. I hope that, in discharging this responsibility, I shall have as proper a regard for the interests of the Australian community, and for the ties that bind together the various parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations, as has any member of the Opposition or of the Australian Country party. More than that, I do not propose to say at this time. I believe that the statement made by the
Leader of the Opposition will, as I have said, cause some embarrassment, and that it was intended todo so. I have nothing further to add while the matter is the subject of suggestion and recommendation.
– Unfortunate drought conditions in Queensland and a great part of New South Wales will necessitate large quantities of wheat and stock feed being transported to those areas which otherwise would be exported. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture recommend to the Government that it pay to the wheat-growers the difference between the home-consumption price and the export price of wheat, thereby giving to growers a just price for their product?
– I say without qualification that I will not recommend to the Government that the difference between the home-consumption price of wheat and export parity be made up to assist primary producers. The honorable member knows, or should know, that under the policy laid down by this Government, wheat for home consumption, wherever it be consumed, is sold at the home-consumption price. There the matter rests as far asI am concerned.
– Pearlers in North
Australian waters are disturbed because there are now no Japanese divers to carry on their industry and because they are unable to obtain suitable replacements. They also fear that a foreign country may establish the pearling industry in Indonesia and from bases there exploit the very valuable pearling grounds in Australian waters. They ask whether it is possible to train Australian divers immediately and whether as a temporary measure divers could be obtained from Koepang while Australian divers are being trained. Has the Minister for the Interior made or will he make any such arrangement, and will the Government take steps to ensure that our valuable grounds shall not be exploited by another countryinthe near north ?
– The Government has given a good deal of thought to the re-establishment of the pearling industry at Broome and other places, if possible, without having to import coloured labour. The Minister for Immigration, who has been most helpful in that regard, made a survey of the number of people with the requisite knowledge of the industry now in this country who could be transferred to Broome and other pearling centres. Only last week a message was directed to the Premier of Western Australia advising him. that there were at least 50 coloured men in Australia who could be utilized in the industry. In addition, an organization of ex-servicemen in Western Australia is endeavouring to get the necessary craft and equipment for the purpose of fishing our pearling grounds. Every possible step is being taken by the Government with a view to restoring the pearling industryto production as early as possible.
Passages on “ Strathmore “.
.- I move-
That there be laid upon the table of the
When I first asked the questions that’ are the subject of this motion I was given an evasive reply by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). Later, when I repeated them the Minister replied with a curt refusal. In my parliamentary experience I have rarely found that a Minister would refuse to lay upon the table of the House papers connected with the administration of his department. When a Minister did refuse I found that he did so for one or two reasons; either the publication of the papers would interfere with the administration of justice, or the Minister was afraid of what the papers would disclose. I do not know which of the reasons actuated the Minister on this occasion, but the papers for which I have asked relate to the ease with which a particular section of people is gaining entrance to Australia. Overseas, particularly in Britain, there are hundreds of Australians wanting to come home, but they cannot get shipping accommodation. In Britain there are thousands of workers anxious to come to Australia, and in Australia we need workers. But we cannot take these immigrants because there is no shipping available and there is no housing accommodation for them if they did arrive here. In many of the countries that were our allies in the last war there are thousands of workers who would flock here, but for the same -reasons they cannot come here. But former German and Austrian residents are coming to Australia in hundreds. They are not workers, -because we are told that they are wealthy people. They have no trouble in obtaining shipping accommodation. Vacant berths are held for them, though they are travelling only half the journey. And they have no housing problems. Homes are available for them as soon as they leave the ships in Australia. Although thousands of soldiers are unable to enter business in our country, because of .rationing and other controls, most of these aliens step straight into business when they leave the ships. Our soldiers, American soldiers and the soldiers of many European countries fought for the right to have preference here. But, as soon as any body criticizes this immigration preference, those in authority burst into tears for the poor victims of fascism. They may have been the victims of fascism. Everybody knows that there are millions and millions of victims of fascism. But only a very small proportion of those victims are wealthy and have powerful friends. “Why is this Government interested in these victims who are wealthy and who have powerful friends? That was one of the things that I hoped to find out from the papers, but the Minister will not produce them so that we may inquire. There is a docu ment that shows the practice before the present Minister took office. Copies had wide circulation here, I believe, and they were circulated around my electorate during the recent campaign. It is a copy of the report of the detectives of the Commonwealth Security Service who investigated the business conducted by the former member for Reid. Mr. Morgan had set up an organization for getting in. touch with German and Austrian victims of fascism in Europe and arranging for them to obtain landing permits in Australia. This is the covering report of the detectives, and, in the file, with the reports, was a long detailed list of the clients handled and the methods used in handling those clients. Under Morgan’s system an intending immigrant sent his application to him, and every application was accompanied by a deposit of £5, which remained with Morgan, irrespective of the result of the application. If a permit was obtained the payment was increased to the sum of £20 a head, and, as 400 aliens have arrived in two ships, such a contingent would show a profit of £8,000, under the Morgan plan. The Minister, in a statement at the Maccabean Hall in Sydney, said that he had just signed 2,000 landing permits. Under the Morgan system, the applicant put his signature to a blank application form. The particulars were entered in Morgan’s office in Sydney, and this enabled Morgan to fill in the kind of particulars the department wanted. For instance, when a particular application was filed, the department might have been asking for farmers. The applicant would be described as a farmer, even though he had never been outside a city in his life. At another time, the department might have required applicants to have a capital of £2,000, and the application form would be filled in to show that the applicant had £2,000. But the wheels did not always run smoothly. Often, the application would be hung up in some government department. Morgan had an arrangement under which he would call upon the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) to get in touch with the department to untangle the jam, and get the application moving again. The papers on the file show that for each of those services the honorable member for Darling was paid £2 10s. in cash.
– I rise to order. The statement of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) is an absolute lie. He asserted that I received a payment of £2 10s. in cash for having rendered services
– Order! The honorable member has not raised a point of order. He may make a personal explanation after the honorable member for Reid has concluded his speech.
– The police report states that Morgan was not the only one who engaged in this business. Many of the papers on the file bear the words “ refugee racket “. Morgan happened to be the one who got the publicity. I state that it is a very wide “racket”. Now, in the face of such clear evidence that the “ racket “ was working, we are entitled to see the papers. I asked, in a proper way, that the papers he laid upon the table of the House. I repeated the request. Every honorable member know9 the answer. I still say that we are entitled to see the papers, so that we may be sure that all these improper practices that occurred in the past, have ceased. If they have ceased, the Minister should have no hesitation in laying the relevant papers upon the table of the House. It is idle for him or for any person inside or outside this House to say that any one who questions that form of immigration is insular or anti-alien. Fine statements about internationalism and the like seem to be just a cloak to cover up - to put it on the highest plane that I can - an exclusive system of immigration. It would seem that if the applicants have the cash, they can get the permits for the ship, the home, and the business. But if they have not got the cash, they are left on the beach. Neither religion nor race has anything to do with it. The report of the Commonwealth police shows that this form of immigration has been a profitable and an unsavoury racket. We are entitled to have the papers so that we may see that what was operating before is not operating now.
A few days ago, the Minister made a long statement to the House on immigra tion. When he came to that portion dealing with aliens, he said that he wanted ten of our own race to one of the others. He also pointed out the absolute security that we had against any undesirable persons entering Australia. He declared : “ The bulwark of our security is that we have the protection of the security police “. One of the outstanding things on the file is that the security police say, “ We have found out those things. Now what shall we do?” The answer in the file says, “Because of the attitude of the department, file them “.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The statement which the honorable member for Reid,’ (Mr. Lang) made about me is definitely a lie. Until a few moments ago, I had no knowledge of the statements alleged to be contained in the file. I have no apologies to offer to the House, I have nothing to conceal, and I suggest that the contents of the file should be disclosed to the Parliament.
Some years ago, the anti-Labour government of the day admitted to Australia certain Europeans who had suffered under Hitler’s administration. Persons from all parts of the Commonwealth applied for permits for those people. In my capacity as a member of this Parliament, I probably handled a number of those applications in the same way as I would attend to any other request from a citizen. For example, a person might ask me to present certain matters to a Minister, and I would do so. But I have not received any remuneration or promise of remuneration for anything that I have done, as a. member of the Parliament, on behalf of any person. I have been a member of this Parliament for thirteen years, and I challenge any one, whether he be an official or a private individual, to prove these allegations against me.
My father was a personal friend of Mr. Morgan, and was associated with him in a building society. Some years ago, when aliens were applying for admission to Australia, my father mentioned to me that Mr. Morgan had six, or eight of these applications, that the forms had been with the department for a considerable time, and that he had not been able to get replies. He asked me whether I would make representations with a view to expediting replies. I asked for the names of the correspondents, and presented the request to Mr. Peters who, I think, was the officer in charge of immigration at that time. As my representations were made in writing, they may still be seen by any honorable member. The actual representations asked for an early reply to the applications. At the request of individuals, I, as a member of the Parliament, have made representations on thousands of matters. So has every honorable member. I make no apology for the representations that I made. At the time I made them I did not know Mr. Morgan personally. I had never spoken to him. It was some considerable time afterwards when I met him. In fact, I met him only once or twice before he was elected to this Parliament. I made representations in these case as a parliamentary representative and because I had been requested to do so. I did not ask for special consideration. I asked that replies should be furnished by the department. I did not press for the granting of the requests. I have not done that in any case in which I have not had a knowledge of the circumstances. I have made representations on matters of this kind in cases which have been submitted to me, but I have always done it in the usual way. In my mail to-day I received an application from a person of Greek nationality in my electorate who desires a relation to be admitted to Australia. I posted that letter to the Minister in accordance with the practice of all honorable members in handling these matters. I have not written or spoken for or against but have merely asked that the representations communicated to me should receive the consideration of the Minister. That is what I have always done in the past. I have no apology to make for my conduct. I have never received any money in connexion with these matters, and what has been said in this connexion is an absolute lie.
– I second the motion of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), the purpose of which is to have certain papers laid on the table. I was not in the cham ber when the honorable member asked his previous questions on this subject. When I was asked to second the motion in writing, I agreed to do so, but I knew nothing whatever about Strathmore immigrants or any other of the matters which the honorable member for Reid has discussed. I make it perfectly clear that my attitude is that it is always in the best interests of the people that full information shall be made available. If there is nothing wrong, no harm can be done; if there is anything wrong, information in regard to it should not be withheld. When I intimated in writing that I would second the motion, I knew nothing of Strathmore and ‘had no details relative to the persons travelling on the ship. Having extended to another honorable member a courtesy which I considered reasonable I proceeded to secure some information on the subject of the motion. I wish to dissociate myself from the honorable gentleman’s remarks on the general subject of aliens and immigration. I am quite satisfied from my investigations that Strathmore was under the control of the naval authorities, who determined priorities and berths, that there has been confirmation of the fact that people in Great Britain do refuse troopship accommodation which is available, and that the shipping companies are not anxious to offer accommodation because they regard it as a bad advertisement. I have also ascertained that it has been denied by a prominent official of the Peninsula and Oriental line that there are 70,000 British and Australian people awaiting passages from England to Australia.
Much publicity has been given .to the num!ber of different nationalities among the passengers on Strathmore. After several passengers had been interviewed, it was reliably ascertained that among the so-called aliens were Maltese and Cypriots. Although complaints were made that the immigrants were not of a good type, it will be remembered that the Maltese and Cypriots, apart from being British subjects, distinguished themselves during the war years with deeds of endurance and bravery. The Greeks, also, who so heroically helped our allies, have been slurred in the newspaper reports as being undesirable, but the only substantial complaint made about them was that two Greek girls wore so much makeup that a man was obliged to move away from them, as the odour was too much for him. AH the immigrants were sponsored by relatives in Australia, who had guaranteed that they would have accommodation here, and also that they would be given jobs, and not be a burden on the community. Some Palestinian women, who were described as being *’ over 50 “, are the remnants of scattered families, many members of which did not escape the bestial attacks of Nazi-ism, and who arc coming here in an effort to forget the horrible past, find a peaceful haven and start life anew with their last surviving relatives. A few of the immigrants were inmates of Belsen, the stories of which aroused such pity and resentment in the hearts of all freedom-loving people soon after the sufferers of it and other horror-camps were liberated by the Allies.
– We have j’ust heard two speeches from the members of the “ Lang Liberal party “, which can only he described as the first expression, in thi? Parliament, of that anti-alienism that some persons, for ulterior motives, are striving to develop inside Australia. The charges made by the author of the motion related not only to the aliens on Strathmore, but also to the general policy* of permitting aliens to enter this country. I remind the House, however, that the Lyons Government, years before the Labour Government assumed office, made a gesture to the victims of Nazi tyranny by offering to receive into Australia 15,000 Jewish people at the rate of 5,000 a year.
– Not Jewish people, but refugees.
– They were described as refugees from racial and religious persecution, but they were actually Jews.
– They were not all Jews.-
– The honorable gentleman may seek to make a distinction. They may not all have been Jews who attended the synagogue, but they were
Jews under the Nuremburg law, which provided that a person was a Jew who had a Jewish grandparent. All these people had Jewish blood in their veins. There may have been some Christians among them, but the vast majority of then were Jews who held to the Jewish faith. Six thousand of these people entered Australia just before the war clouds descended upon the earth. In addition to these, other Jewish people were sent here for internment from Singapore and Great Britain, not because they were guilty of any overt act, disloyalty, or because they had been found guilty of subversive activities, hut because the British Government, immediately after the battle of Dunkirk, felt it incumbent to remove from these countries any person against whom there could be any possibility of suspicion. Many of these people were released in Australia. Some of them have now gone back to Great Britain, but the majority have remained here. Those who came here under the Lyons Government scheme were accepted for service in the Australian Imperial Force if they were eligible, and many of them served for years, and some lost their ‘ lives, on the battlefields of the Middle East and New Guinea. Those who were brought here on Dunera from Great Britain and from the Straits Settlements were allowed to serve in the militia forces. Practically all of them wanted to service in the Australian Imperial Force, but were prevented from doing so by the Army authorities. Many have been given the right of permanent residence here, and in most cases those who have acquired the requisite residential qualifications have now become naturalized British subjects. They all had relations who did not escape from the Nazi tyranny. Some of them were able to discover the remnants of their families after releases were effected from the horror camps of Buchenwald and Belsen, and those unfortunates coming within the closest degrees -of consanguinity have been allowed to come and settle in Australia - mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, brothers’ wives and sisters’ husbands and their children. I am proud to have been able as the Minister for Immigration to pay some tribute to humanity by granting a limited number of these permits, on the condition that those who had asked that their close relatives should he allowed to come to Australia guaranteed that the new arrivals would be provided with homes and jobs, and ako guaranteed that they would not become a charge upon the public funds in Australia for a period of at least five years. “When this Australian “ Julius Streicher “ rises in this Parliament and stigmatizes those migrants as undesirables because of an accident of birth or race, and particularly of religion, and says that they .are not worthy to come here, he shows that he himself is not worthy to sit in the Parliament of the nation. I have had representations in support of the granting of landing permits for these people from practically every member of the Seventeenth Commonwealth Parliament. When I was accused by the member who submitted the motion of having given an evasive reply, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) said “ Hear, hear “. I have had no more constant customer than the honorable member for Wentworth for the issue of landing permits. If there be anything sinister in the issue of landing permits, as the filthy mind of the honorable member for Reid caused him to suggest, then the honorable member for Wentworth has benefited to a greater degree than has anybody else in the Parliament. If the question be one of so many thousands of pounds a boatload, then apparently honorable members opposite have been exercising their acquisitive faculties to a greater degree than anybody else. But I do not believe that one member of this Parliament took one penny from any individual who desired to bring a relative to Australia. It is true that Strathmore arrived here after having embarked people at Port Said. When I made a statement on the matter, by leave, on the 7th November, I believe I made it clear that the persons taken on at Port Said replaced British officers and others who had travelled from Great Britain to take up their work in Egypt. I then stated that we knew nothing of the fact that those people were being taken on to that boat. Since I made that statement, I have had the opportunity of consulting Mr. Ruben H. Wheeler, the Chief Migration Officer of Australia House, who returned to Australia on Asturias last week.
– A good man, too.
– A very good man, who has come back to do an equally good job for Australia in the Department of Immigration at Canberra. He told me, and I repeat it to this House, that Australia House had no knowledge of the fact that these people were to embark at Port Said. Certainly, nobody in Canberra had made any representations for berths for anybody on -that ship. The ship is under the control of the British Ministry of Transport. The Commonwealth does not own a single nail in a single ship anywhere on the seven seas. It is dependent on the goodwill of the British Ministry of Transport for the transport of people to Australia. The British authorities have a perfect right to give preference to their own people, at any rate on some occasions. In fact, it is their prerogative to determine preferences and priorities. If they care to give preference to their own people, we cannot complain. They have treated us very generously in the matter of berths. When the present High Commissioner for Australia went to London, we were getting between 100 and 120 berths, .a month from th© British [Ministry of War Transport. Because of the efforts of Mr. Beasley, the number of berths available to us to-day is approximately 800 a month. It has been even higher than that on some occasions. We have brought to Australia 3,500 wives of Australian servicemen, from 300 to 400 children, about 400 fiancees, many Australians who were stranded in Great Britain, and Australian business men. This was the only ship in the year 1946 which disembarked any passengers at Port Said and was able to take on board some unfortunates who, for many months prior to their embarkation had been living in Egypt by grace, of the Egyptian Government, at very considerable expense to their relatives in this country, and on visas which had to be renewed every fortnight or so. I shall state the nationalities of those who came to Australia. It will be seen that not all of them are of the Jewish faith, as has been suggested for sinister purposes. There were thirteen Yugoslavs, 51 Greeks, one Russian, three Turks, 22 Palestinians, one Syrian, one
Lebanese, thirteen Poles, four Czechoslovaks, two Hungarians, twelve Austrians, four Germans, seven Stateless, and three whose nationality was not known when they embarked. I pause here to say that throughout the world there is a number of Jewish people who have no nationality to-day because they were denationalized under the anti-racial laws of Germany. At Port Said, 196 souls were embarked on that boat. They took the places of 151 British people. This proves that the standards which these people will accept in order to obtain transportation are not’ so high as those that we demand for United Kingdom or Australian citizens. Of the 196 who came here, 42 were children and 154 were adults. Of those 154 adults, 137 were admitted for permanent residence because they had landing permits. They were aliens. There were ten aliens who had come to this country en route to other places and landed here for only a brief period - one American visitor en route to New Zealand, four Dutchmen en route to the Solomon Islands, and four Yugoslavs en route to New Zealand. Do those who are guilty of an anti-alien feeling object to Yugoslavs being citizens of this country? If they do, I remind them that one of the last winners of the Victoria Cross in the last war was Australian-horn of Yugoslav parents. He was named Starcevich Also on board were eight Cypriots. For the information of the honorable member for Bendigo, I point out that & Cypriot is a native of the island of Cyprus, which is a British possession. There were 29 Maltese and twelve naturalized Greeks. In all, there were 49 British subjects. Is it denied that they have a right to land here? We did not require of them any papers other than a valid passport and a clean bill of health. Therefore, there are no departmental files in respect of those 49 British subjects. We have no papers in respect of any of the passengers except the 137 who held landing permits, and the papers in their cases consist of a Form 40 of the Department of Immigration, which is filled in by the relatives or friends in Australia who have given the guarantees I have named. There is a Form 47, which is filled in by a person who desires a permit to enter Australia. Each file may have on it both forms.
Form 40 contains confidential information which I do not think I ought to disclose to this House, because I believe it to be confidential between the person who supplied the particulars on it and the government department concerned. The twelfth question asked on Form 40 is, the value of the assets of the guarantor. Is that the business of anybody other than the man who makes the application, and the Department of Immigration, which has to determine whether or not the value is sufficient ? In answering question 14, the person filling in the form has to say whether or not he is engaged in business on his own acount. He has also to state the amount of his income. Surely that information is not to be made available to any muck-raking newspaper ? Surely it is not to be put on the table of this House for Fascist “ rags “ like the Century to print for the purpose of blackmailing people who do not wish it to make any more attacks upon them ! I believe that information of that sort, which comes into the possession of the Department of Immigration, should be treated - as it is - in the same way as the Taxation Department treats information that is supplied by honorable members when they lodge their income tax returns each year. Under the taxation law, the Commissioner of Taxation is forbidden to disclose any information that is included in a return furnished by a taxpayer. If honorable members vote for the motion now submitted, they ought to amend the taxation law so that we can see just how much each person in the community in whom we are interested pays in income tax, how much capital he has, and the source of his income.
– Not excepting the honorable member for Reid.
– I thank the honorable member for his interjection. He anticipated me slightly. If I could have the taxation law amended, I should be most interested in the income of the honorable member for Reid, and whence it is derived. I should like to know how much he received from tin-hares and fruit machines, and what he did with the £20,000 that was paid to him as blackmail while he was Premier of New South Wales by a big industry against which he had threatened to pass repressive legislation. He knows very well, that what I say is true, and is also well aware of the industry that I have in mind. That is not all that he received in the long, dishonorable and corrupt career which was his while he was Premier of New South Wales. But I preclude myself from realizing my ambition, because I oppose the tabling of these documents, and therefore, am opposed to throwing the taxation files open to any one who wants to see them. Not only in respect of taxation has secrecy to be observed for the public good. There has to be secrecy about the census, which is to be taken on the 30th June next year. The particulars that will then be supplied by every member of this House, and by every citizen of the Commonwealth will be confidential to the Commonwealth Statistician, and so they should be. Such information will continue to be confidential while this Government is in office. I was amused to hear the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) speak of motives. I have found in the course of any life that those persons who suggest ulterior motives in others are usually themselves actuated by ulterior motives. The proposer of this motion suggested that there might be one or two reasons to prevent me from tabling the papers for which he asked, and I reply that there is only one reason, and that is a good one: The ‘public interest precludes such action. The honorable member’s observation that the Government was afraid of what the papers contained was one of his characteristic insinuations which I hurl back in his teeth. He said that in the whole of his career he had rarely known of any Minister refusing to table papers in the House. I made a note of his actual words, and here they are -
Rarely have I found that a Minister would refuse to lay on the table of the House papers relating to his own administration.
I am. not without an inquisitive mind, and so I delved into the records of the New South Wales Parliament in order to see how the honorable member for Reid, when Premier of that State, reacted to requests for the tabling of documents at a time when he himself was charged with bribery and corruption. On the 15th March, 1932, a motion of urgency was moved in the Parliament of New South Wales by the Leader of the Opposition regarding the issue of greyhound coursing licences, and a ‘ royal commission was asked for. A request was made that certain .papers be tabled, and the Leader of the Opposition concluded his speech with these words -
I submit this House should have at once been informed of their contents and the whole position they disclosed.
He was not even accorded the courtesy of a reply, and the motion was defeated by 45 votes to 30. Among the “ Noes “ I found the name, J. T. Lang. On another occasion there was a demand for an inquiry into the case of Mr. J. S. Goode. The Premier of New South Wales, now the honorable member for Reid, replied that it was about time this political persecution of Mr. Goode ceased, and he added -
The Government will not assist the honorable member in the slightest way in his propaganda.
I repeat those words now. This Government will not assist the honorable in ember for Reid in his propaganda against people who have suffered as much as have the unfortunate Jewish people, or against any other people who have suffered racial or religious persecution in Europe. It is suggested that aliens are coming to Australia in British ships. The only occasion on which aliens came to this country from Europe, or from the Mediterranean littoral, in British ships was when some were carried on Strathmore in circumstances which have already been explained. Otherwise, British ships are reserved entirely for the transport of British people. On the 4th November last the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and I conferred, and the Prime Minister sent a cable to the Australian High Commissioner in London saying that no landing permits issued by this Government would entitle the holders to a visa that would be valid for travel to the . United Kingdom. If the persons concerned wished to come to Australia they must come through continental .ports. British ships coming to Australia must carry only those with the highest travelling priorities. There are still 137 wives of Australian servicemen iD Great Britain. They have been offered passages, but for personal reasons do not wish to come here at present. There are also in Great Britain a number of servicemen’s children, and some hundreds of fiancees of servicemen, whilst about 2,000 Australians are stranded there awaiting transport home. No privileges are being granted to aliens, but, as a humanitarian gesture, it is proposed to allow them to travel to Australia on ships (belonging to the Messageries Maritimes, or on Swedish, French or Norwegian ships. Very few aliens have travelled out under the British flag, and very few have come by aeroplanes. Some have come from Shanghai on British ships, but they did not displace or interfere with the carriage of residents of the United Kingdom or Australians. What I have done in regard to the transfer of people to Australia, is in line with what my predecessors in office under this Government did. I have done nothing different from what was done by the former Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings). An examination of the files of the department will disclose that there has been no general variation of policy since the time when the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was Minister for the Interior, or when Senator Foll occupied that post. We have had to wait until this day in November, 1946, to listen to a muck-raking charge brought by the honorable’ member for Reid.
I come now to the most sinister part of the honorable member’s speech, that relating to the alleged contents of a document circulated in the Reid electorate during the recent election campaign. I know something of that document because, in addition to having an inquisitive mind, I have also a retentive memory. Charges similar to those in the document referred to were made against Mr. Morgan, the former honorable member for Reid by a Minister of a United Australia party government in 1941. Reference to the pages of Hansard will show that what has just been said by the honorable member for Reid is almost identical with the foul references that were made in 1941. If there is anything in the allegations made now, the Menzies Government had an opportunity to inquire into the matter when it was in office. However, after the first attack was made on the former honorable member for Reid, the file in the Security Department mysteriously disappeared, and got into the hands of a crook in Sydney, named Fitzpatrick, campaign director for the present honorable member for Reid. This man said that he was determined to destroy the political career of Mr. Morgan. He publicly declared that he was determined to do this because Mr. Morgan had attacked him in this Parliament, and accused him of doing a number of illegal things in connexion with war-time contracts. Fitzpatrick said that Mr. Morgan had turned the taxation people on to him, and that, as a result, he had had to disgorge £62,000 - which shows how much money some crooks were able to make out of war contracts. This man had certain documents from the: file printed, but without the printer’s imprint - which is an offence in itself. He put the reprints into the campaign rooms of the present honorable member for Reid, whence they were distributed to the public. Thus, the honorable member for Reid snatched victory by the grossest misrepresentation, and the support of the Liberal party. I hope that an investigation will disclose who was the venal officer in the .Security Department who handed the papers over so that they could be used against Mr. Morgan.
– What was wrong with the papers?
– The charges made to.-day against Mr. Morgan are false. As for the production of the papers asked for by the honorable member for Reid, dealing with the people on the Strathmore, I have said that it is not in the public interest to lay on the table of the House departmental files of that kind. It has never been done since federation. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) refused in 1933 to lay papers on the table because, he said, it would not be in the public interest to do so. We have to go back as far as 1913 for another example.
– The Minister is a. con.temptible scoundrel !
– I do not say that the honorable member for Moreton was not justified in his refusal. I am citing his action as an excellent example. Up to 1903, it’ was the practice to ask for returns to be tabled, but after that the practice fell into abeyance. I cannot find in the records of this Parliament, and certainly not in the records of the Parliament of New South Wales while the Premier of that State was a man named Lang, any indication of documents of the kind under discussion being tabled, and there were plenty of opportunities for acceding to the requests that this be done in; the New .South Wales Parliament so that the record of his activities might see the light of day. But I make this offer: The Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party may peruse the files in question. I will not lay papers on the table of the House so that the press or anybody else can get at them. If the. Leader of the Opposition and the Leader, of the Australian Country party can find in the files anything which they think should be disclosed they will be at liberty to disclose it. They will be free to use such matter as they choose, but make the papers available to a muck-raker, .1 never will.
– I desire to make a personal explanation in reply to the silly and foul innuendo of the Minister for Information and Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) that when I was a Minister of the Crown I refused to lay on the table of the House a certain document. The document in question was an ordinary report on the tobacco industry, and I refused to table it because it had not then been considered by Cabinet. After it had been so considered it was laid on the table. It was merely a matter of procedure. I deny the foul innuendo that I was guilty of hiding papers.
– The Minister for Information and Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) cannot leave the matter where it is. I had not intended to speak and I would not have supported a motion of this kind, because I believe that the files in question contain sufficient personal matter to justify the Minister in declining to place them on the table of the House. The Minister wrongly accused me of making an interjection at a certain stage.
I did not make it at that stage, but 1 made it in connexion with an observation of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). The Minister for Information is too jaundiced to see clearly. He should take sufficient time to recover his balance before he stands up in this chamber to make a statement on matters of great moment. When honorable members said, “ Hear, hear ! “, the Minister said, “ The honorable member for Wentworth is my greatest customer, that which is in the dirty mind of the honorable member for Reid “ - he had made specific charges in this chamber-
– The time allotted under Standing Order 119 for this debate has expired. Does the honorable member wish to continue at a later date?
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Order ! The time for discussion has expired. Standing Order 119 provides -
If all motions shall not have been disposed of two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate thereon shall he interrupted, and unle’ss the House otherwise order, the orders of the day shall bc taken in rotation; but if. there should be no order of the day, the discussion on motions may be continued. The consideration of motions may be resumed after the orders of the day are” disposed of.
– Does that not mean government orders of the day? There are no private members’ orders of the day.
– The standing order provides that if there be no other business to proceed with, consideration of the honorable member’s motion may be continued. The standing order clearly provides that two hours after the House meets the debate on the motion shall be suspended unless a special motion is carried by the House permitting its continuance.
– On a point of order. Suppose an honorable member desires to make a personal explanation which is not a part of the debate on the matter before the Chair, although it arises out of it. Should he not be permitted to make that personal explanation?
– I have not ruled against that.
– I was under a misapprehension. I thought that you had clone so, Mr. Speaker.
– An honorable member may not make a personal explanation until the honorable member who has the floor has concluded his remarks. Does the honorable member for Wentworth desire to continue his remarks at a later date?
– The question before the Chair is -
That the debate be now adjourned and that the resumption of the debate be made an order nf the day for Thursday, the 19th December.
– I rise to order. My motion comes within the category of general business which is to have precedence over government business until 9 p.m. If there be no other orders of the day under Mie heading^ “.General business”, the Standing Orders provide that the specific order of the day for to-day - which is my motion - may be proceeded with. If it be discontinued, what is to become of the motion?
– As I have already pointed out, the matter is covered by Standing Order 119. It is quite clear that, unless the House at this stage carries a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders with a view to enabling the debate to be continued, the provisions of Standing Order 119 will automatically operate and the debate must be adjourned until the next day of sitting which, in this case, will be the next day upon which private members’ business is taken.
– I rise to order. Standing Order 119 reads -
If all motions shall not have been disposed of two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate thereon shall be interrupted . . .
The standing order does not deal specifically with private members’ business. This is a day upon which private members’ business has precedence over government business until 9 p.m. There is no other private members’ business on the notice-paper and, if I understand the position correctly, if this motion is not proceeded with, government business must be called on. The notice-paper clearly sets out that general business is to have precedence over government business until 9 p.m. There being no other general business, the motion of the honorable member for Reid must continue to have precedence over government business until that hour.
– Unless the House orders otherwise, government business will be proceeded with and the motion made by the honorable member for Reid will be placed on the notice-paper for consideration on next private members’ day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Because the forms of the House have prevented me from replying to certain statements I desire to make a personal explanation. During the course of the debate the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) attributed certain things to me. I shall recapitulate them in order to show how the Minister has misrepresented me. After dealing with some statements made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) the honorable gentleman said, “ The honorable member for Wentworth is one of my most constant customers “, or something to that effect. He then said if what was “ in the dirty mind of the honorable member for Reid “ were true - the honorable member for Reid had made certain accusations relating to racketeering and the acceptance of money for illegal purposes - “ the honorable member for Wentworth must have benefited most “. That, of course, is a deliberate lie, and the Minister knows it. He cannot get out of it in that way.
– He has now only one of two courses open to him, he must either table the papers that will prove his statements in relation to myself, or be branded as a consummate liar not fit to occupy his position.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw his offensive remarks and apologize. In view of his defiance of the Chair he is fortunate that I have not named him.
– If the Minister is prepared to apologize I shall withdraw, otherwise I will not.
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat. The honorable member desired to make a personal explanation and I allowed him to proceed, although, before he had gone very far, I could see that he was attempting to continue his speech which had been interrupted by the expiration of the time allowed by the standing order. His last remarks are totally unparliamentary. He has acted in flagrant defiance of the Chair, and I ask him immediately to withdraw and apologize.
– I will not withdraw and apologize.
– I name the honorable member for Wentworth.
– Name the Minister, too!
– I warn the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) that I shall name him if he disregards the authority of the Chair.
– Have a go!
– I name the honorable member for Richmond.
– A very impartial Speaker, a back-stabber !
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) put -
That the honorable member for Wentworth and the honorable member for Richmond be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The honorable member for Wentworth and the honorable member for Richmond thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
Question negatived -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Ways and Means.
In Committee of Supply: Considera tion resumed from the 27th November (vide page 695), 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.
– In my first address in this chamber I can assure the Chairman of two things, first, that I shall be brief and, secondly, that I hope not to be out of order. The first thing I wish to do is to thank the electors of Franklin for having expressed confidence in me as their parliamentary representative. My ambition is to justify that confidence. I intend to address myself now to a matter of great importance to Tasmania particularly to the Franklin electorate. I refer tothe apple and pear acquisition scheme. Its importance can be gauged by the fact that about 9,000,000 bushels of these fruits was producedin Tasmania last year, and was disposed of in these ways. It was made up of - Overseas exports, 1,150,000 bushels; interstate sales 1,080,000 bushels; marketed internally, 213,000 bushels; and processed by factories, 1,880,000 bushels. It is an unfortunate and regrettable fact that some people are rather inclined to regard the acquisition scheme as some form of charity to the orchardists. Those people know very little of orcharding. It is a very sane business proposition for this country. When the war interfered with shipping, cutting off Tasmania and Western Australia from overseas markets and interstate markets, the apple and pear industry was faced with ruin unless it could have government assistance, and, accordingly, the acquisition scheme was introduced by the Menzies Government. Had it not been introduced, a knock-out blow would have been delivered to one of Tasmania’s greatest assets. Two and a half millions pounds is a very conservative estimate of the direct capital investment in orchards alone. It is an important point that there are many, not only orchardists, directly or indirectly concerned. Had the industry collapsed, employees of mills, transport services, factories, merchants, banks, cool stores, packing sheds and many other businesses would have been affected, and the orchards could never have been brought back into full production. It is a well-known fact that an orchard neglected is an orchard gone. Also, if the approximately 3,000 orchardists paid an average of £100 each less in tax, that alone would have amounted to £300,000 less for the Taxation Department. Therefore, the Government got back a substantial part of the expenditure on apple and pear acquisition, while preserving a national asset. Shipping is by no means back to normal and the growers still decidedly need acquisition. I commend the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) for his decision to retain acquisition for the 1947 crop. No decision has yet been reached about the 1948 crop. Acquisition can continue under the defence power until the industry is no longer suffering from conditions caused by war. It is reliably estimated that the 1947 crop will be light, largely owing to waterlogging caused by excessive rain. Crops will be from 50 per cent, to 60 per cent, light in some places. By more efficient marketing of the 1946 crop higher compensation could have been paid. It should be paid for the coming crop. I urge the Government to consider paying higher compensation to the growers in view of the fact that their crops will be very light through no fault of their own. It can be reliably predicted that the 1948 crop will be heavy. Normally, light and heavy crops alternate. In view of the probability that shipping will be far from adequate, it is most necessary that the Government should consider extending acquisition to the 1948 crop.
As for the future of the apple and pear industry, the Government should fix a minimum guaranteed price. Growers who have enterprise to raise high quality fruit for the overseas markets should be allowed to secure a premium. Should the Government decide to set up a marketing board for the overseas market, it will be necessary to have a guaranteed minimum price for each grade and variety to insure the growers against loss and to enable them to pay good wages to their employees. Such a board should have a majority of producer representatives selected from the registered apple and pear growers, plus a government nominee. The producers themselves should have the predominant vote and should be allowed to run their own industry. The electors proved by their rejection of the referendum on orderly marketing that the producers want a say in their own industry. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) made reference to producer control. I think he explained the situation clearly in his very thoughtful speech, and. I fully agree with his remarks on that subject. The Government has a good opportunity to consolidate a great national asset.
– I do not want to delay the passage of the Estimates, but I consider that I ought to make some comments at this juncture on certain aspects of our national economy, to which great attention has been paid by members of the Opposition. Certain trends or that policy were emphasized during the election campaign. As one who has not forgotten the changed views on economics in the last few years, I have listened to honorable gentlemen opposite with great merriment. It would not be out of place to remind the committee and the Australian public of the economic trends of those years so that they may gather how much in the dark so many of us work. My mind goes back to 1928 when Australia was on the gold standard. We were brought up from childhood to believe that no country could survive without having a gold backing to its currency. But one fine morning we woke up and found that gold was no longer necessary in the sense in which we had thought it necessary. Then we went through a period of what was known as “ confidence “. We found that not gold but confidence was the necessary backing of our currency. The only thing that I can say is that confidence produced a state of psychological stability.
– But gold produced the confidence.
– At that stage we were told that it was not necessary. The next thing that happened was that we marched straight into a depression. I can see certain signs of a depression coming if we retain many characteristics of the past. After we emerged from the depression, we went through a period during which many financial panaceas were recommended, a. notable one being the system of credit devised by a person named Douglas. There was a great deal of merriment in this chamber from time to. time about his system, but I read with amazement, when looking through the financial statements of the last few years, that the thing that made members of this
Parliament and, particularly, the financial authorities of this country, literally squirm, namely, bank credit, was resorted to when the nation was in peril. Not only were physical and financial resources used to the utmost, but no one objected to using £400,000,000 worth of bank credit. The very system that Douglas pointed out we adopted to ensure the salvation of this country, and not a word was said in opposition to it. Now we hear advocated, “ Bank credit under certain conditions “, something that a few years ago was not to be thought of. Ten years ago, the people who make such remarks would have squirmed or made wisecracks about the impropriety of people who did not know anything about the financial structure of our country proposing such expedients. We have passed through that period and to-day, as a. consequence of war, there - are vast amounts of money available and insufficient resources. Now, we are told that the way to solve our present problem ie to increase production. During the economic depression, about fifteen years ago, approximately 500,000 Australian workmen starved because the national policy was to reduce production.
– Who formulated the plan to reduce production?
– The political party which the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) supports. Has the honorable member been dead during the last fifteen years? Evidently he has been. During the economic depression, the policy was to- throw men out of employment so that they would not produce goods. The financial advisers of our .political opponents have been very inconsistent. In 1928, they contended that our economic plight required an increase of gold production. In 1929, a restoration of confidence was the solution. In 1930-32 they counselled a restriction of production. In 1935, they urged the rejection of the Douglas credit proposals. In 1939-45, when the nation was at war, they advised the use of bank credit. Since the conclusion of hostilities, they have advocated an increase of production. They expect me to forget, very conveniently, how they have changed their views in the last twenty years. I shall not do so !
Placing emphasis upon increased production is all very well, and I have no objection to it, but no one has yet determined the point at which the stimulus to production should cease in order to avoid creating unemployment, which is the result of over-production. I read in the budget, with a certain degree of interest, that the Commonwealth proposes to continue to pay subsidies to primary industries. Whilst I have no objection to that, I do wonder where this policy will lead. T derive considerable amusement from the remarks of the opponents of the Government’s proposal to expend about £70,000,000 on social services. Unfortunately, social services, including child endowment, have been used to implement the basic wage, thereby falsifying the position in Australia. When the workers realize that honorable members opposite have fooled them and that they have not got satisfactory treatment from honorable members on this side of the chamber, a great change will occur in the industrial sphere. I propose to take this opportunity to tell the people exactly what has gone on during the last 40 years, and how they have been fooled by honorable members opposite, the Arbitration Court and I regret to say, by their own political representatives. I shall explain the facts to them, because I am independent enough to do so. On page 74 of the Labour Report 1943, the following passage appears : - l.u regard to the popular idea that the basic wage of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was identified with n specific family unit, the Chief Judge made the following statements to clarify the position : “ The Court has always conceded the needs ‘ of an average family should be kept in mind in fixing a basic wage. But it has never as the result of its own inquiry specifically declared what is an average family or what is the cost of a regimen of food, clothing, shelter and miscellaneous items necessary to maintain it in frugal comfort, or that a basie wage should give effect to any such finding. In the end, economic possibilities have always been the determining factor.
The Chief Judge proceeded -
E was impressed by the new evidence and argument as5 to the inadequacy of the earnings of the lower paid wage-earners with families. On our accepted standards of living, looking at it from the needs point of view only, T. regard the present basic wage as adequate for a family unit of three persons, but think it offers only a meagre existence for a family unit of four.
Yet for 36 years, from the Harvester award of 1907 until 1943, we fooled theAustralian working class with the assertion that the basic wage provided adequately for the needs of a man, his wife and two children. That was supposed to be the economic family unit. It was not until 1943 that the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court said that the basic wage provided for only the frugal needs of a. man, wife and one child. That explains why honorable members opposite, when they had the opportunity, did not legislatefor the payment of endowment for thefirst child. A few weeks ago, when we were on the hustings, honorable members opposite announced, with a flourish, that if they were returned to office, they would, introduce legislation to provide for the payment of endowment for the first child.. Whilst their idea appeared to be very laudable, they came into conflict with the Arbitration Court, because the Chief Judge stated -
I regard the present basic wage as adequatefor a family unit of three persons.
That makes provision for the first child.. The Opposition did not agree with theArbitration Court. It is obvious to me that when child endowment was introduced, honorable members opposite were not actuated by any benevolent motives towards the children of the workers. They found that child endowment was a cheaper method than dealing adequately with the problem of fixing the basic wage. The Labour Report stated -
In the end economic possibilities have always been the determining factor.
If economic possibilities are the determining factor, why have legal practitioners been appointed to preside in the Arbitration Court? Who claims that a lawyer is an economist? That is where our principal difficulty lies. Until that is changed, we shall never get satisfaction.
Honorable members opposite claimed, during this debate, that high taxes have killed the incentive to produce more goods in Australia. At the same time, we expect a man to maintain his family upon the grossly inadequate basic wage. Has it ever occurred to honorable members opposite that the workers also need an incentive to increase production ? And do they realize that the basic wage is the means of fooling the workers? Let us survey briefly the history of the basic wage. If we set a graph of the cost of living alongside a graph of the basic wage over a period, we shall find that the basic wage has always attempted, without success, to overtake the cost of living. Therefore, it is economically impossible for us to improve the system of determining the basic wage from that standpoint. The system of computing the basic wage requires overhaul. It must be approached in an entirely new way. Why should that be done? I shall explain the reason to honorable members in simple language. If the present trends in population, about which I have lectured on many occasions in this House, continue by the end of this century nearly 50 per cent, of the Australian people will be in the old-age roup. We are “ dying out backwards “, because the meagre basic wage does not offer any inducement to people to rear larger families. We are endeavouring to give some encouragement by providing child endowment, but that is really an excuse for the neglect to deal adequately with the basic wage. In 1S90, the average Australian family had six children; to-day, it has two children. A nation, which has that trend in population, will not last for more than a century. The position of Great Britain is even worse. If Australians do not get away from the worship of Mammon and apply themselves to the consideration of national problems, they, in their colossal ignorance, will “ die out backwards”. That is why we must recast the method of determining the basic wage. The man who earns £5 a week has no incentive to rear a large family. Instead of deploring the lack of incentive to increase production, we should concentrate on improving the standard of living of the worker.
I am not perturbed by high taxes, as are honorable members opposite, but I am perturbed by the population trend in the Commonwealth. Although Australia is a land flowing with milk and honey, the basic wage is not adequate to enable a man to provide for his family. The time has arrived when we should concentrate on the introduction of social amenities in order to encourage the people to have larger families, and thereby arrest the population lag.
– Marriage loans also offer an inducement.
– I agree. I am in favour of, first, an increase of the basic wage, and, secondly, encouraging people to have their own homes. As I stated earlier, the basic wage is designed to meet the frugal needs of a man, wife, and one child. After 30 years, our conception of the basic wage has been declared erroneous. Not until 1943 was a declaration made as to what the basic wage meant in Australia. The Chief Judge resolved all possible doubt when he said that the basic wage to-day meets the frugal needs of a man, his wife and one child. For more than 30 years, we were told that the basic wage was intended to meet the adequate needs of a man, his wife, and two children.
Our great problem is not how taxes shall be reduced but how we can best stabilize our economic life. I have preached in this Parliament again and again the gospel of population increases because I believe that our failure to increase our population has become the greatest disability from which the country is suffering. When I have spoken to big business men on numerous occasions on the necessity for them to evolve some scheme which will enable their employees to participate to a greater degree in the prosperity of the country in order that our family life may be strengthened, I have been astounded at their reactions. It is only necessary for people to consult official statistics to realize the serious position into which the nation is drifting. Within 30 to 40 years, if present conditions continue, we shall find ourselves unable to maintain our economic standards or to defend our country.
– We all shall have to accept the pension.
– That is so, and I do not know .how adequate finance can be provided under the existing capitalist system. My greatest anxiety at the moment is not as to how taxes may be reduced but as to how family life may be developed. Our family life has deteriorated seriously in the last half century, and something must be done about it quickly.
I wish to refer briefly to the position of the Commonwealth Government in relation to National Security Regulations. I realize that a bill ‘has been introduced for the purpose of dealing with this subject, but we have been provided, in recent conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers, with some outstandingexamples of the manner in which the State Governments are adhering rigidly to their sovereign rights.They are refusing to refer to the Commonwealth Government powers which quite obviously should be exercised on a national basis. The cost of maintaining the administrative machinery brought into being by reason of the National Security Act is a serious factor in our budgetary position, and the time has arrived when the whole situation shouldbe reviewed. I do not desire to enlarge upon the subject at this juncture, for a more appropriate occasion to do so will be provided in the near future. The point I make at the moment is that the Commonwealth Government is incurring great expense and involving itself in considerable unpopularity in exercising powers of control over various aspects of our national life which, under existing conditions, come within the province of the State Parliaments. I realize the need to continue certain National SecurityRegulations. In recent happenings of the United States of America we have had some indication of the effect of the sudden discontinuance of economic controls of one kind and other, and we do not desire to experience similar inflationary trends in this country. The Commonwealth Government has been doing an unpleasant service in maintaining restrictions which, properly speaking, should be enforced by State authorities in the present Australian constitutional situation. I shall not enlarge further on the subject at the moment, but willtake the opportunity to deal with specific matters when the appropriate bill is underconsideration.
– I desire to raise a matter of privilege, and I ask that Mr. Speaker be summoned to deal with the matter.
– Does the honorable member wish to discuss amatter “ suddenly arising ? “
– Yes, Mr. Chairman. It relates to the expulsion of two honorable members from the House, and involves the interpretation of the Standing Orders.
– That occurred in the House, and the honorable gentlemanshouldhave raised the matterof privilege when it arose. He may not do so now.
– I call your attention, Mr. Chairman, to Standing Order 284.
– The matter referred to by the honorable member for Barker is not one “ suddenly arising” and therefore I cannot permit it to be discussed at this stage.
– Then Itake objection to your ruling, sir.
– That must be done in writing.
The honorable member for Barker hav ing submitted inwriting hisobjection to the ruling,
Motion (by Mr. Archie Cameron) put -
Thatthe ruling be dissented from.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . 17
Mr. FADDEN (Darling Downs Leader of the Australian Country party) [o.2S. - The Australian Country party associates itself wholeheartedly with the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) the purpose of which is to instruct the Government to withdraw and. redraft the budget in order to provide for reductions of direct taxes on personal incomes. The Australian Country party takes this action because it believes that a basic necessity of Australia is an increase of production, and that to achieve that end it is essential that the high rates of direct taxation at present being imposed upon the taxpayers shall bo substantially reduced. The budget furnishes the reason why the Government did not take the people of Australia ‘fully into its confidence before the last general elections. Honorable members will recall that, in order to obviate the need to bring down a full budget, which would have given to the people some indication of what the Government had in mind, not only as to the financial policy which it proposed to pursue, but also as to the tax reductions which could be expected in the future, the Treasurer, on the 12th July, brought down what be was pleased to describe as a financial statement. That statement did not contain information which would enable intelligent conclusions to be drawn in regard to future financial policy and the possibility of tax reductions. I thereupon produced in concise form an analysis of it. I now produce a reconciliation between my analysis of the Treasurer’s statement and the budget which we have before us. It shows clearly the accuracy of the conclusions at which I arrived, and with the permission of the committee, I shall have it incorporated in Hansard -
In all the circumstances, and particularly having regard to information that I shall furnish later, I consider that the Treasurer’s financial proposals are pessimistic and super-conservative. They lack realism and imagination in respect of the requirements of the nation in the transition from war to peace. How the Treasurer secured their acceptance by the Labour caucus is beyond my comprehension. I am positive that if I were to place before my party such a pessimistic and ultra-conservative document, it would not be accepted, if only for the reason that it is utterly lacking in any imagination as to the resources of this country and its capacity to measure up to what will be required of it in the years that lie ahead. One consolation is the degree to which the Treasurer has vindicated the taxation reduction proposals which the Opposition parties placed before the electors last September. The budget, is a damning indictment of the Government’s frequently publicized full employment plan. It fails entirely to provide any incentive to increase production. That production is the basis of all progress is elementary. It is an indispensable requirement in connexion with all governmental expenditure. It is the source from which the wages and living standards of the people must be derived. I consider that this is a disastrous prologue to the “golden age” which Australia is asked to believe lies ahead. It must be admitted that reduction of taxation is the most effective and scientific method that could be adopted for increasing wages, because thereby the standard of living would not be lowered, the cost of production would not be raised, and the prices of goods would not be increased. I proposed that direct taxation should be reduced by approximately £35,000,000 a year, the reductions to commence from the 1st January next, that date obviously being the most convenient as it would allow sufficient time to elapse for the necessary adjustments to be made after the general elections. Let us compare- the cost of that proposal with the cost of the tax reductions proposed by the Government. Reductions aggregating £35,000,000 from the 1st January next would impose on the budget a charge of approximately £15,500,000 for the remainder of the financial year. At first sight, one would be inclined to say that for half a year the amount would be £17,500,000 ; but that is not so. There are factors with which I need not deal at this juncture. It is sufficient for me to say that about 50 per cent, of the taxes imposed on individuals comes from those who are subject to the principle of “pay as you earn “. The remaining 50 per cent, would not meet their assessments, and thus the revenue would not be affected, until after the 30th June next. Against that must be set certain adjustments which would be necessary in connexion with provisional payments arising out of the pay-as-you-earn system. The Taxation Department advised me on a previous occasion that in the current year the cost to this budget of reductions aggregating £35,000,000 for a full year would be £15,500,000. It will be remembered that when the Opposition parties first announced their taxation proposals, the Prime Minister, when in Western Australia, said that it would be absolutely impossible and undesirable to reduce taxes, and that what the Opposition proposed could not be done. He added that the Opposition parties were playing a confidence trick on the people of Australia, and were guilty of political dishonesty. Literature issued by the Government sought to convince the people that a reduction of taxation would cause unemployment, give rise to inflation, and thus bring about a depression. That was the reaction of our opponents in the early stage of the campaign. However, because of the manner in which our pro’posals were received by the people, the Treasurer and the party which he leads changed their ground on two or three occasions. The right honorable gentleman said that the Government could not reduce taxation because he did not know what responsibilities it would have in regard to Empire defence. Later, he said that the Government would survey month by month the possibility of making progressive reductions of taxation. We now have his proposals before us. Let us place them alongside those of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and myself. The proposal of the Leader of the Opposition for a minimum reduction of 20 per cent, would impose on the budget a charge of £11,500,000. lt may be merely coincidental that that £11,500,000 is identical with the amount by which the Treasurer proposes to reduce indirect taxation. It may also be coincidental that after the Liberal party had first announced its policy for the reduction of taxation by 40 per cent, over a period of three years, the Treasurer, in the dying days of the last Parliament, reduced direct taxation by £17,500,000. The tables of figures show that on the lower ranges of income the reduction did, in fact, amount to 40 per cent. A reduction estimated to cost £15,500,000 is to be made as a first instalment of the proposed reductions amounting to £35,000,000 a year. In this budget reductions amounting to £11,500,000 have been provided for, £4,000,000 less than the amount suggested by me, but this amount of £11,500,000 exactly corresponds to the promised reduction of the Leader of the Opposition. Accepting the Treasurer’s pessimistic estimate of revenue - and certainly he has not understated. the probable expenditure - the gap to be bridged between revenue and expenditure is £59,000,000. My own proposal was to reduce direct taxation by £35,000,000 per annum as from the 31st January next, because I regard this as a basic necessity if we are to increase production of those goods upon which sales tax will be collected. At this point, it becomes evident that the important question for decision is whether it is best in the interests of the people of Australia to reduce direct taxation or indirect taxation. The Government says that it is more desirable to reduce indirect taxation, because in that way the family man will derive the greater benefit. However, one need not at this stage debate the issue. Suffice it to say that Dr. Dalton, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain, stated recently that it was far preferable to reduce direct taxation - advice which might well be followed in Australia. What is needed most is an incentive to produce goods in short supply, goods upon which sales tax may be collected. The Government cannot have it both ways. Those goods upon which sales tax has been reduced are to-day in short supply. That being so, individual consumers can derive no great benefit from the reduction. It must be remembered that there are different grades of the same kind of goods, one selling at a high price and the other at a lower price, but the percentage reduction of sales tax will apply to both kinds equally. Therefore, the well-to-do man, who can afford to buy better-class goods, will benefit more from the reduction than will the man on the basic wage or on a comparatively low income. As a matter of fact, the decision on the question of whether a reduction of direct or indirect taxation is the better has already been made by the Government itself. If the argument in favour of the reduction of indirect taxation is so overwhelming, why did the Government reduce direct taxation, to the amount of £17,500,000 as an act of death-bed repentance? If it could afford to forgo £17,500,000 in revenue, why did it not reduce indirect taxation to that amount rather than direct taxation? It is evident that if any one is to benefit from a reduction of indirect taxation, the production of consumer goods must be increased, and if there is any substantial increase of production the cost of the tax concession to the Treasury may well be nil. For instance, the duty on petrol has been reduced by Id. a gallon, but once petrol rationing is removed it is extremely probable that sales will increase so much that the reduction of duty will involve no loss to the Treasury. The same may well be true of clothing. If, on the other hand, consumer goods are to remain scarce, the reductions of indirect taxation can be of little benefit to the public.
I propose to prove that the finances of the country need not be adversely affected even if the Government’s reductions of indirect taxation are effected in addition to a substantial reduction of direct taxation, as suggested by the Opposition. The Treasurer has estimated the current year’s expenditure at £444,000,000. Administrative costs areexpected to rise by £8,000,000, whilst total expenditure under all headings is to be reduced by only £9S,000,000 as compared with the previous year. Accepting theTreasurer’s estimate of revenue for the year at £3S5,000,000 - and that is a most conservative estimate- there will remain a deficit of £59,000,000 to be financed from loans. On the same set of figures, the tax reduction suggested by me would leave a gap of £63;000,000 to be financed from loans, whereas the proposed reduction of direct taxation by 20 per cent., as suggested by the Liberal party, would not have involved any increase of the amount of loan money to bridge the gap between revenue and expenditure.
I do not accept the Treasurer’s estimate of revenue, because we have been informed that a very large sum is outstanding in uncollected taxes for which assessments have been issued, and that there is an even larger amount for which assessments have not yet been issued. Moreover; there are 700,000 more men and women in civil occupations now than there were during the war, and they constitute an entirely new taxation field. In view of this, we are entitled to consider whether it is preferable to reduce indirect taxation by £11,500,000, or direct taxation by £15,500,000, if our object is to provide an incentive to produce goods and, incidentally, to discourage absenteeism in industry. Consideration of the country’s resources and of the probable revenue for the current year provides striking evidence of the Treasurer’s conservatism and lack of faith in the future of the country. The Treasurer has estimated an increase of 13 per cent, in the return from the pay-roll tax. This tax constitutes a sensitive barometer of employment and economic conditions in Australia. If the optimistic estimate of the Treasurer in regard to this tax is correct - and it is the only optimistic note in the budget - and receipts increase from £11,500^000 to £13,000,000, it is evident that there must exist here a field of taxation not previously exploited.
The other evening, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr, Rosevear) said that I had suddenly discovered that there was a nest-egg to be gathered in the form of uncollected taxes. I assure him that I did not make the discovery suddenly. I obtained the information in answer to a question I asked of the Treasurer, who told me that, on the 30th June last, arrears of taxation amounted to £42,403,804. He also stated in his reply that it was estimated that there was probably a further amount of £50,000,000 of tax in respect of which assessments had not yet been issued; These factors have particular relation to the capacity of the country to contribute revenue to the Treasury.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The honorable mem-ber for Dalley further stated during this debate that of the arrears of taxes the greater part represented bad’ debts which would not be received, and’ consequently should not be taken into account in assessing the potential revenue of the current year. In answer to a question addressed to the Treasurer by me’ recently, I was informed that at the 30th June last outstanding taxes amounted to £42,403,804). In my own knowledge and experience many large taxpayers have not received assessments for from two- to three years. I do not want it to be thought that I criticize the Taxation Department for having failed in its task. I realize that it has been faced with a heavy task which has been rendered all the more heavy because of man-power shortages. It has also had to measure up almost over-night to ever-changing conditions brought about by the introduction’ of amendments of the taxation laws, first the instalment plan, then the payasyouearn system, and’ varying adjustments- in computing assessments and reductionsmade operative as the result of legislation passed in this Parliament. I pay tribute to the efficiency and trustworthiness of the taxation officials; they are doing a good job in very difficult circumstances. The fact remains, however, that uncollected’taxes at the 30th June last amounted, to £42,403,804. The Government has endeavoured bo compare that’ amount with arrears outstanding, in previous years. That kind of comparison however has no value if only for the reason that under the pay-as-you-earn1 plan the amount of tax outstanding should, be considerably less than under the old system-. I also asked the Treasurer how much of the arrears of tax assessed and debited in the ledger accounts of the Taxation Department at the. 30th June, 1946, had been collected between the 30th June and the 31st October, 1946. In his reply the right honorable gentleman stated that: it is safe to assume that alb but a small proportion of the tax assessed and outstanding at the 30th June, 1946, would be collected before the 31st October. What a small proportion means, I do not know; but we can assume that even if 20 per cent, of the a wears of tax still remained outstanding, the amount received would he approximately £35,000,000. I asked also how much of the arrears of tax unassessed at the 30th June, 1946, which the Treasurer had stated on the 16th July, 1946, could possibly be £50,000,000, had been collected up to the 31st October, and I was advised that the outstanding amount on that date was estimated to be £15,000,000. Consequently, if the outstanding amount incidental to dormant assessments is £15,000,000, assessments equal to £35,000,000 must have been issued and the bulk of that tax must be collected before the 30th June next. So, we have £35,000,000 in arrears already collected, and £35,000,000 of the unassessed £50,000,000 legally and justly due to the Government before the 30th June next, or in other words a total amount of 70,000,000. Let us consider that in relation to the revenue position for the current’ year. The estimated revenue for 1945-46 was approximately £360,000,000, plus £30,000,000 from business undertakings, making a total of £390,000,000. From that total we may deduct the reduction of 12^ per cent, made in 1945 and operative for the full year 1946-47, amounting to £20,000,000, .the 1946 reduction of £17,500,000 which affects this budget to the amount of £15,500,000, and the amount represented by the concessions granted in the budget now before us which the Treasurer has estimated to cost £11,500,000. Thus the total amount of taxation reductions, both direct and indirect, is £47,000,000, which will reduce the estimated revenue on the 1945-46 basis, to £343,000,000. As the Treasurer has- estimated the revenue for 1946-47 as £385,00O;00O, it means that he expects an increase over the above adjusted revenue of 1945-46 of only £42,000,000. From information I have received from the Taxation Department it appears- likely that receipts from arrears of taxes assessed in former years and from dormant assessments will be £70;000,000 or £45,000,000 more than the Trea- surer has taken into account. In addition there are the proceeds from disposals which I believe the Treasurer has very much underestimated. The right honorable gentleman estimates that from that source and from credits from other governments and sales overseas he will receive something of the order of £57,000,000 this year. The Chairman of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission stated recently, however, that the proceeds of disposals .up to the end of October amounted to £76,000,000. The current financial year will hy the very nature of things be a far more difficult year to finance than will those that lie ahead. On the meagre information available to me it seems that there will be an automatic reduction of expenditure on account of various nonrecurring costs incidental to or arising out of the war. That expenditure includes £64,000,000 paid to the United Kingdom Government in respect of war expenditure adjustments in previous years. As the Treasurer has said, that payments represented an accumulation of adjustments over several years, :ind no doubt had special reference to campaigns in the Middle East. A further expenditure of £8,000,000 for lendlease is another final payment. And again the provision of £15,000,000 for Unrra is a final item. It is reasonable to assume that defence expenditure will be reduced by at least £60,000i000. Savings should also he made in expenditure on re-establishment if the Government implements in an effective and practical way its- full employment scheme. There must also be a reduction of war-time expenditure on subsidies and other outgoings of. a peculiarly war character. Reductions of nonrecurring expenditure should total from £180,000,000 to £200,000,000. Regard must also be paid to the credit of £43,000,000 in the National Welfare Fund. It will be remembered that the moneys lying at the credit of that fund were utilized and replaced by treasurybills. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) took me to task on that point, and as- the spokesman of the Government, asserted that treasury-bills were virtually cash. If the treasurybills issued to replace the amount standing to the credit of the National “Welfare Fund are virtually cash, then the Treasurer has an additional £43,000,000 at his disposal from that source. To sum up, on a most cautious valuation the potential resources of the nation available for future taxation reduction should amount to approximately £300,000,000. Having regard to all the circumstances, and even adopting the Treasurer’s own estimates of expenditure and his pessimistic and conservative outlook, we should be in a position to grant further taxation reductions of the order of £35,000,000 per annum, and on a most pessimistic basis the deficit to be budgeted for in 1946-47 could be £75,000,000 and not the £59,000,000 as contemplated by the Treasurer. [Extension of time granted.] Taxes must be reduced substantially below the war-time levels, not as an act of charity but in order to provide an incentive to produce goods in short supply, indirect tax on the sale of which would help to bolster the revenues. The Government’s conservatism is remarkable. For instance, only 26 per cent, of the proposed gross expenditure of £221,000,000 under the head “Defence and Post-war (1939-45) Charges “ is to be provided from loan funds, compared with 40 per cent, for the previous year. On top of that, I direct attention to another ridiculous anomaly. I find that of the proposed expenditure of £230,000,000 on non-war items, £25,500,000 is of a capital nature. New works will absorb £15,300,000, new works under “ business undertakings “ £7,750,000, and new works under “ Commonwealth Territories “ £2,500,000. So, there is £25,500,000 of capital expenditure to be made from revenue instead of from loans. That is one reason why taxation remains at high levels. I direct the attention of honorable gentlemen to the prospectus of the last cash and conversion loan of £90,000,000-
Cash proceeds of the loan will be used for war repatriation and rehabilitation purposes and for public works of the Common wealth and the States.
The Government is allowing the States te use loan money for the very purposes for which it is retaining and using high taxes. That indicates the conservative and unrealistic approach of this budget. The whole financial policy of the Government urgently requires reorientation. It requires a thorough overhaul. It requires to be considered on a basis of peace-time needs. We all know the urgency of war requirements necessitated the adoption of unorthodox methods and that money was wasted because in the emergency vigilance had to go by the board in the interests of our safety. But we are not at war now. Our circumstances are much closer to normal. Therefore, we ought to have a national financial stocktaking in order to devise a financial policy more in keeping with the needs of the nation than is that proposed in the budget.
I again direct attention to a grave anomaly. In May, 1942, I moved an amendment to the Income Tax Assessment Bill to eliminate the concessional rebate system in favour of straight-out deductions. The arguments of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), whose opinions I generally respect, was that the system was necessary for the equitable implementation of uniform tax. He .stated, as reported in Hansard, volume 171, page 1.763 -
If honorable members will study the schedule of the amounts that are to be paid, they will lind that by and large - I believe almost entirely - these concussions remain as they wore. If anything, they are, I think, a little to the advantage of taxpayers with dependants.
In other words, he contended that the justification for introducing this cumbersome and involved practice was that the taxpayers concerned were no worse off financially under the scheme. In the years that followed, he and I have continued to differ on this subject. Replying to a letter written by me in July last, the Commissioner of Taxation stated, on the 2nd August -
The effect on revenue of reconversion from the present concessional rebates to concessional deductions depends upon thu amounts allowed as deductions. Prior to introduction of the rebate system, the amounts varied considerably. Vor example, prior to 1036. no deduction whatever was allowed for a spouse, while only £50 was allowed for each dependent child under the age of sixteen. Allowances for medical expenses were on a much restricted scale. The present rebatable amounts were designed upon the introduction of uniform taxation to give approximately the same concessions as had been obtained under the old deduction.
J f, however, conversion were made “ on tho basis of the amounts now taken into account for rebate purposes, it is estimated that the cost would be upwards of £25,000,000 at the present rates. For the purposes of this estimate, it is presumed that the allowances for a spouse would be a constant amount of £100.
This clearly indicates that the present cost of reconversion to the deduction system would be £25,000,000. That merely means that £25,000,000 more is being taken out of the pockets of the taxpayers affected than if the deduction system were in operation. While such items as medical expenses, insurance premiums, rates, land taxes, funeral expenses and many classes of gifts are the subject of rebates, the vast majority of the taxpayers concerned are most effected by the rebates for dependants. In other words, the bulk of the extra £25,000,000 comes from the man with family responsibilities, and would not be payable if the original deduction system were still in operation or were re-instituted. Those are not my figures; they are the figures supplied by the Commissioner of Taxation. They show that the family man is placed at a decided disadvantage by the rebates system. It would be interesting to find out to what extent the family man is financing the endowment of his own children. I can quite” imagine the outcry if this anomalous and inequitable position had arisen when the system was first introduced. One criticism of the deduction system is that the man on a high income receives a far greater benefit than the small man. A similar position arose with concessional rebates, and was overcome by allowing a maximum amount of tax - £45. A precisely similar position in Queensland regarding deductions was solved by making them cut out above a certain income. In view of the complications of the rebates system and the obvious injustices which it is causing, I suggest that the Treasurer might once more consider re-instituting the deduction system. [Further extension of time granted.’] I thank the committee for its patience. It is difficult within the time allotted by the Standing Orders to encompass matters so important as those with which I am concerned.
I desire now to draw attention to the need for readjustment of the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States. I notice that the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McKell, when submitting his budget to the Parliament of New South Wales a few days ago, directed attention to this necessity, but I propose to approach the matter from an entirely different angle. I direct the attention of the Treasurer to the fact that at present, the finances of local authorities are greatly strained. Nobody knows that better than does the Treasurer himself, because he is a member of a country shire council. The unavoidable neglect of roads during the war years through lack of man-power, equipment and materials, has resulted in a serious deterioration of country communications. Lack of finance is hindering the opening of new roads, the repair of old ones, and the commencement of new works, including aerodromes. In many shires, particularly in Queensland, roads and bridges, communications and services were seriously affected by military transport. The money which is required to repay interest and redemption to the State governments on essentia) works, keeps the rates high, and retards the natural development of country areas. Local authorities have an unrivalled record of efficient service in developing nural . Australia. A measure of decentralization has been achieved, and the growth of country towns has been greatly accelerated by the prudent management of local governing bodies. It is to them that we must look ‘for a more rapid regional development. If any financial advantage is to be gained from cheap Commonwealth interest and redemption rates, the local bodies should benefit by it.
Under paragraph 5. of the schedule of the Financial Agreement Act 1928, as amended in 1944, State laws regarding sinking funds are subject to the agreement. The sinking funds established under the agreement are controlled by the National Debt Commission. Contributions are made by the Commonwealth and States as follows : -
Loans existing on 30th June, 1927 - Commonwealth 2s. 0d. and State 5s. per £100 per annum, payable for a period of 58 year*.
Now loans raised after 80th June, 1927, Commonwealth 5s. and State 5s. per £ 100 per hh mini, payable for a period of 53 years.
Subject to these provisions, ‘the Commonwealth has, from time to time, advanced to the States money raised for loan parposes. A portion of the money has been re-loaned by the States to local governing bodies, harbour boards, and the public for various purposes, such as home-building, and the financing of primary producers. The repayment terms which the States obtained from the Commonwealth, aire spread over 53 years, and redemption is at the low i:ate of 5s. per £100 per annum, whilst the Commonwealth Government contributes a similar sum yearly. The States, however, charge to local bodies, the public and primary producers a much higher redemption, varying between £2 10s. and £3 per £100 a year:. Terms of repayment are relatively short, varying between twenty and 30 years. Further, the States give no credit whatever to the borrower for the redemption payments of 5s. per £100 per annum made to the National Debt. Sinking Fund by the Commonwealth Government. By this method, the States impose special taxation on local authorities. Tie result is that the ratepayers and users of harbours have to pay an inflated a-ate in order to meet, that condition.
In ‘Queensland, loan money totalling £12,000,000 had been advanced to local authorities and others under this heading at the 30th June, 1929, and redemptions by -those bodies to date total approximately £8,000,000. But redemption payments by the Government of Queensland to the National Debt Sinking Fund was approximately £500,=000, so that -the State has obtained £7,500,000 in redemption payments in excess of actual obligations and requirements. Using the Financial Agreement as a basis, I estimate that since 1929, the ‘States ‘have obtained loan repayments of over £60,000,000 in excess of sinking fund obligations and requirements. This is re-loaned to borrowers by the States, which thus obtain all the financial advantage, whilst the Commonwealth and the borrower reveive none. The States are snaking huge profits. At this period, the local authorities should receive all the .financial assistance and encouragement possible.. As the leader of the Australian Country party, and as one who desires the development of our countryside by means of cheap transport, good roads, and aerodromes, I urge the Treasurer to give to this matter the most careful consideration. The States should not be permitted to make huge profits, as they have in the past, out of the loan raisings in which they participate as members of the Loan Council.
A few days ago, I directed attention to the lag in the building programme. Apparently, the Commonwealth Government is using treasury-bill raisings at 1 .per cent, and allowing the States to charge 3 J per cent, for money advanced for the erection of .a home. The disparity between those rates of interest is too great and requires .serious consideration. We should do everything in our power to assist people to build homes as cheaply as possible. If the local authorities are compelled to pay to the States a high rate of interest on their loans, they will be obliged to levy heavy rates. Very many of the ratepayers are primary producers, and the rates which they pay are a factor in determining the cost of production. The day is not far distant when we shall be compelled to market overseas our surplus produce. As rates are a factor in the cost of production, they should be reduced to the lowest level possible.
I now direct attention to the degree to which the administrative costs of ,the Government have increased. The Treasurer stated -
The increase of £8,400,000 in Administrative Departments ‘is due principally to the transfer of the Departments of Labour and National Service, Transport, Post-war Reconstruction and ‘Information from war votes to ordinary votes.
In other words, the present cost of those four departments is equal to the total collections of ‘Commonwealth income tax, in 1936-37, namely £8,500,00. These departments are exclusively a wartime growth, and their a’bolition ‘would not be noticed by the average Australian. Taxpayers -would .certainly .appreciate their disappearance. The Department of
Labour, in Queensland at least, merely duplicates an efficient State employment service, and is totally unnecessary if we are to believe the Government’s oftrepeated claim of full employment. The Department of Information serves no useful purpose between referendums, except to churn out Government propaganda. The Department of Post-war Reconstruction may be described as the biggest departmental fiasco ever to have been inflicted on the Australian people, and the Department of Transport seems to have succeeded in promoting the greatest transport hold-ups for years. In 193S-39, taxation, direct and indirect, for the Commonwealth and States was £1S a head. It is now nearly three times as much, namely £51 a head. On the average family unit of a man, wife and two children, the tax burden is about £200 a year. In view of the enormous increase of the cost of government, without any commensurate advantage to the paying public, it is obvious that some authority should be instituted to effect economies. Consequently, I suggest that the statutory Public Accounts Committee should be revived to act as a watchdog over government expenditure which is not providing an adequate return; in other words expenditure which is extravagant, economically unsound, or unnecessary. Excluding the various defence, service and production departments, which this year will cost £137,000,000, the ordinary administrative departments required £8,000,000 from Consolidated Revenue ten years ago. This year, they will need £16,900,000. As these figures exclude the war departments, the growth of expenditure of over 100 per cent, cannot be attributed to the war. There seems to be little hope of any relief by the tapering off of expenditure unless some independent committee such as I have suggested, be constituted. We must remember that expenditure is the reason for the imposition of taxation. The more vigilant we arc in effecting economies, the greater will be the amount by which we can reduce taxes.
I compliment the Government on its excellent record in regard to social security legislation. After all, security is what people desire. It is a most important consideration. It was for security that our men and women fought the war. The Government has increased expenditure on. social security from £3,000,000 to £64,000,000, and that is a remarkable achievement especially as it was effected during years of war. When the former member for Parramatta, Sir Frederick Stewart, was administering our social security legislation, he was unable to induce the Government to provide a paltry £2,000,000 in order to give effect to the national health and pensions insurance scheme for which he claimed a great deal of credit. This
Government has been able to do a very great deal more than was ever attempted by any previous administration, and I believe that before its present term of three years ends it will have given effect to many new proposals designed to afford greater security to the whole community.
We have heard a good deal in the last few months about the housing shortage and the alleged bungling of this Government in that connexion. Let me ask honorable gentlemen to take their minds back to the depression years when thousands of people were living on the dole. It was said .at that time that no money could be provided to construe houses for the poor. If housing projects had been put in hand at that time we should not be in our present difficulty. The responsibility for the existing housing situation should be placed at the door of previous governments. How could any government be expected to build thousands of homes during six years of war? Everybody knows that the housing shortage had become acute before the assumption of office by this Government. The shortage is cleanly manifest, not only in the big cities of the Commonwealth, but throughout the whole country. I do not know of any empty house in even the small towns in my electorate. In the depression years, a far-sighted government would undoubtedly have taken steps to clear the slums from our big cities, but nothing was done on the plea that money for the purpose could not be provided. I am quite certain that if another war were to occur ample money would be provided for war purposes. Therefore, it is reasonable to provide money for housing, and I am sure that this Government to the utmost of its ability will provide such funds. The responsibility for the present shortage of houses should not be laid on the shoulders of this Government. If the people who during the depression years were compelled to exist as best they could on, a few shillings a week had been put to the work of building homes the whole country would now be infinitely better off.
A good deal has been said, during this session on the subject of immigration. I agree that we need to increase our population. But the first responsibility of the Government is to look after the people of this country. Self-preservation is the first law of nature. Just as parents make the wellbeing of their families their primary concern, so the Commonwealth Government should make the welfare of the people its first concern. It would be ridiculous to bring thousands of migrants to Australia without first having made provision to house them. To do otherwise would be to put the cart before the horse. I believe, therefore, that housing should be provided before immigrants are brought to the country. In particular, it is urgently necessary that everything possible should be done to provide homes for the men and women who were in the armed forces during the war years and who are now rightly demanding to be settled expeditiously in civilian occupations. Like other honorable members,
I receive scores of letters every week from ex-service men and women asking rae to do everything I can to help them to procure homes. I take these requests to the Minister for Works and Housing who, no doubt, regards me as a nuisance. I realize, of course, that the honorable gentleman cannot do the impossible, and I know that he is doing the best he can to meet the situation. The problem of housing our own people must be solved before we think about bringing thousands of other people to this country from overseas.
Another subject which must be given more attention than ever before is that of land settlement. In ray opinion, a wrong land settlement policy has been applied in this country. It may be late in the day to say so, but I believe that the long-standing plank of the Labour party platform that freehold tenure in land should be abolished ought to be put into effect without further delay. It was a tragic mistake ever to allow the land of Australia to be alienated from the Crown. If the Government still had control of the land of Australia our exservicemen could be settled with only a fraction of the difficulty that is now being encountered. If I had my way I would, even at this late stage, use the resources of the Commonwealth Bank to resume for the Crown all the land that is now in the possession of private individuals. I have no doubt that by the use of the national credit this could be achieved. If the land is an asset to private individuals under existing conditions it would undoubtedly be an asset to the Crown if it were resumed. The fact should be realized that land is valuable only for its productive capacity. Hundreds of thousands of acres of good land in Australia is still undeveloped because the individuals who hold it lack the initiative or the resources to put it into production. If the Government had control of the land much better results would be achieved. I do not know whether the present difficulties in securing land for the settlement of ex-servicemen should be ascribed to Lands Departments or Land Boards, but I am quite sure that they are not due to ineffective administration by the Commonwealth Government. Land should be acquired at its proper value and that is, as I have said, its value tor production purposes. In my opinion the perpetual leasehold system should be applied to all the land of this country. Future generations would bless any government that took the necessary action to put it into operation.
In considering the present situation honorable members should bear in mind that we are passing through a very severe drought. I have never seen the Riverina in a worse plight than it is in to-day, and I have vivid recollections of the droughts of 1902, 1914, 1919, 1927 and 1941. Even in the usually flourishing districts of Wagga, Junee aud Temora severe drought conditions are being experienced to-day. The people of our country districts have been urging for many years that moremoney should be expended on water conservation schemes. This agitation has continued, with varying degrees of intensity, for the last 60 years. Yet only seven or eight years ago hundreds of men were dismissed from irrigation works at Berrigan on the plea that no money was available to pay them their wages. That particular scheme had been advocated for the last 54 years. At different periods great-Australians like Henry Lawson, Sir Sidney Kidman and Dr. Bradfield have pleaded with anti-Labour governments to undertake extensive water conservation schemes, but nearly always the reply has been that money is not available for such purposes. Two of the biggest meetings that I have ever attended in my electorate were called to consider the need for water conservation. At one meeting, attended by 400 people, a State Minister was present. After the meeting he admitted the force of the arguments that had been advanced, but said that there was no money available for the proposed work. However, I am glad to be able to congratulate the present Labour Government of New South Wales on undertaking perhaps the greatest water conservation scheme ever put in hand in the Commonwealth. It is the intention of that government to proceed with other schemes because it realizes that water conservation is essential to the prosperity of the country. We have an illustration of the value of water conservation schemes in the Narrandera-Leeton-Griffith district. Before irrigation was applied in that area the population was probably only about 200 people. It is now about 30;000. What water has done for that area is a revelation to those who knew it as a sheep-run. The people in it have been given security, comfort and happiness. Away from the irrigation area, the country is in a state of absolute desolation, whereas there should be electricity and water in every home. Necessary schemes of development have been neglected on the plea that there was no money with which to give effect to them. Honorable members opposite were responsible for depriving the Commonwealth Bank of the power to provide the financial assistance that would have enabled developmental works to be undertaken. That power has since been restored by the Government that now occupies the” treasury bench, and it will be used in the interests of the people when the occasion arises. We have the assurance of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to that effect. There will be no need to go cap in hand to the Loan Council and ask for £50,000,000, £100,000,000 or £150,000,000. We shall have the right to develop our own country with our own money and our own labour. The Government did not wait until the war was over to pass legislation which would enable it. to give effect to its monetary policy, on which I compliment it very sincerely. Honorable members opposite have the audacity to tell the Government what it ought to do, yet they could not administer the affairs of this country effectively, either in peace or in war. Misery was never greater in this country than between 1930 and 1940. I saw people, with their hearts and spirits broken, walk off their properties never to rise again. I saw very many business people go bankrupt because they could not obtain the money that was owing to them. That applied to business people of all descriptions, from the highest to the lowest. Some of them with whom I was acquainted tried hard to keep people on their land and give them an opportunity to pay their way, but the harder the farmers tried to get out of debt the deeper into it they got, solely because of the bad prices and legislation that had been passed in both New South Wales and the Commonwealth by governments composed of members of the United Australia party and the Australian Country party. There were 2,000 farmers on the dole in New South Wales alone. Yet honorable members opposite try to dictate to the Government as to what it should do in order to make this country prosperous! They were responsible for the misery and suffering of hundreds of thousands of people, including women and children. A guilty conscience needs no accuser, and they have one. They have charged the Government with having failed to show any consideration for the primary producers, and with having withheld from them money to which they were rightly entitled as the result of sales of wheat and wool. This charge was definitely untrue and I am pleased that the people concerned refused to be influenced by their misrepresentations, and again returned the Government to office a few months ago. They proved by their votes that they were satisfied with what the Government had done during its five years pf office. They accepted the advice of honest men led by honest “ Ben “ Chifley, and entrusted them with the government of this country in peace-time. There have never been more country-minded governments in the history of Australia than are the governments which are in office in New South
Wales and the Commonwealth at the present time. I shall quote figures showing the assistance which this Government has given to the primary producers. It has subsidized the dairying industry to an amount of £20,068,809, the apple and pear industry to an amount of £1,214,216, and the wheat industry by means of drought relief, to an amount’ of £2,492,114. The total amount of the superphosphates subsidy is £7,435,335. The assistance to stock feeders, by means of concessional prices for wheat, has amounted to £13,343,312. The Government has been accused of having stolen from the wheat-grower in order to assist the stock-feeder. Yet the action which it took has benefited not only the stockfeeder but also the whole community, by keeping stock alive and providing more food. The potato industry has been assisted to an amount of £6,985,565. Jute products for primary industries have been subsidized to an amount of £2,142,700. The payments made by the Government on account of the restriction of wheat acreage in Western Australia have totalled £1,963,932. Assistance in other directions has cost it £648,545. The total of all of these is £56,294,528. Yet the Government is supposed to be the enemy of the man on the land! I recall that in 1939-40 the then government refused to grant assistance which was needed and was sought, until the pressure exerted on it became sufficiently strong to induce it to change its mind. The speeches in regard to primary producers which have been made during this debate would be amusing if they were not so tragic. I hope that the Government will adopt the findings of the commission that is to inquire into costs of production in the wheat industry during the next few months. The Gepp commission found that wheat could not be produced for less than 3s. 6d. a bushel, yet the Menzies Government paid the farmers only ls. 4d., ls. 5d., and ls. 6d. a bushel for their crops. Not one word did I hear in defence of the farmers by members of the Australian Country party when that occurred. Immediately the Labour party name into power, it gave to the farmers a decent price, and attempted to stabilize their industry. The stabilization scheme is not yet in operation, but I hope that it -will be before long.
I compliment the Government upon having reduced the interest rate. The rate is not yet so low as I should like it to be. 1 know of primary producers having been charged up to 8 per cent, on their overdrafts, and being unable to meet their commitments. The rate has been reduced to 5 per cent, and I trust that it will be reduced still further when the operations of the Commonwealth Bank have been extended. There should be a branch of that institution in every town. It is the bulwark of Australia. I cannot for the life of me see why money cannot be obtained from the Commonwealth Bank at an interest rate of 1£ per cent., and loaned to State governments, homebuilders and ex-servicemen at a rate of 2 per cent., particularly for land settlement, housing, and the re-establishment of ex-service men and women. When all is said and done, money is only figures in a book. Wo have a valuable asset in the productive capacity of Australia. If a balance-sheet of Australia’s debits and credits were taken out, we would be well on the right side. I hope that the Government will consider this matter during its present term of office, because cheap money makes for cheap living. If a man proposing to purchase a property, a business, or a flock of cattle or sheep, wants time to pay, the first thing he has to consider is the interest he will have to pay, and what it will amount to in a given time. Cheap money is one of the principal factors in achieving success and prosperity. Men have said to me, “A low rate of interest would not make any difference to me, because I have no property on which I have an overdraft”. My reply has been, “ You are reasonably well dressed. You have a pair of boots, a suit of clothes, collars and ties. Everything that you wear on your body, even to the laces in your boots, and everything that you have in your home, are affected by the cost of money “. I contend that the reduction of interest rates must be one of the principal factors in bringing down the cost of living. I hope that before the Government again goes to the country, interest will be much lower than it is to-day. I am sure that it will be.
It may not come down to the level that I would like it to reach; nevertheless, it is coming down slowly every few months.
I compliment all members of the Ministry upon the manner in which their problems have been handled in very difficult circumstances. During the election campaign, members of the Opposition made many promises to the people. I commend the Government for the honesty and sincerity which characterized its approach to the people, and congratulate it on the social legislation it has already passed. I do not think that anybody in Australia, at the end of the next three years, will regret the Labour party’s occupancy of the treasury bench during that period.
.- This budget has been described as dull and uninspiring. Indeed, I believe that one honorable member who supports the Government described it as a “blood, sweat and tears budget “. In my opinion, it is at least as inspiring as the people were entitled to expect from a Prime Minister who had only recently delivered to the electors a very dull and uninspiring policy speech. When I say that, I recognize that the people showed their confidence in the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Government by returning them to power with an increased majority in the Parliament. However, several statements were made during the election campaign which were calculated to throw doubt on the more inspiring and constructive policy speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). When the Leader of the Opposition announced his tax reduction proposal, the Prime Minister accused him of putting forward a policy of bribery to tickle the ears of the electors. “ That view was not accepted by all government supporters, or even by all members of the Government itself. I have a vivid recollection that one Minister was reported to have said that he believed there would be a reduction of taxes. Indeed, he was so reckless that he offered to bet three packets of cigarettes that tax reductions would be made. Nevertheless, it required some courage on the part of a Government, which had described promises of tax reduction as bribery, to bring in immediately after the elections a budget providing for tax reductions equal to those suggested by the Leader of the Opposition.
I recognize, of course, that government candidates appealed to the people on other grounds, also. They asked the people to consider the record of the Government, and they placed, very prominently in their list of virtues the Government’s handling of the personal and materia] resources of Australia during the war. J_ have never hesitated to give credit to the Government for its war effort. Indeed, I believe that, in general terms, it was a good effort, and it is only necessary to add that its success was due to the fact that it was based on foundations which had been laid by previous governments.
Government candidates also claimed credit for the fact, that the financial position of a great many people of Australia showed a considerable improvement. Of course, a similar claim could be made in regard to the people of all the Allied countries which participated in the war. It is obvious that, in the carrying on of a war, huge sums of money must be expended, and this money goes into the pockets of the people. It is equally obvious that, in war-time, the ordinary goods and services upon which the people spend their money are largely conspicuous by their absence. Therefore, it is natural that in Australia, where the Government, in mobilizing the resources of the country for war, spent on an average £400,000,000 a year, money should be plentiful.
The Government has made a special appeal to primary producers and others to increase the volume of exports. I do not deny .that assistance has been given to certain sections of the primary producers, but the fact remains that export prices rose during the war by over 40 per cent., and they have continued to rise ever since. In the circumstances, it is easy for a government to take credit for the prosperity of exporters when the credit really belongs to those who buy the commodities exported.
Of course, there is an aftermath of war. Australia expended £2,500,000,000 on the war, approximately £1,400,000,000 of which has to be repaid, and this constitutes a first-class problem. The Government and the Opposition are on common ground in declaring that the only way in which we can meet our commitments is to increase production. I know that figures have been cited which, if taken at their face value, would suggest that the volume of production has already been substantially increased. Before the war, the national income of Australia was approximately £800,000,000. Now, it is stated to be between £1,100,000,000 and £1,200,000,000. This does not necessarily indicate an increase of the volume of production; rather does it indicate that the cost of production has increased.
Each year, when the Treasurer has delivered his budget speech, he has enunciated certain very sound principles of a kind which are more likely to find favour on this side of the chamber than on Jus own. Unfortunately, he does not apply the principles which he enunciates. In his most recent budget speech, he repeated what he had said in previous speeches regarding the need for increased production. He said -
We must lose no opportunity to increase our overseas earnings from exports of both primary and secondary products. At the same time, in order to guard against an adverse turn in export prices, excessive costs in those industries must be avoided.
One of the features of primary and secondary industries to-day is enormously increasing costs. There are many causes, but I suggest that an important factor is the lack of incentive to increase production. I know that there is a difference of opinion as to how that incentive shall be provided. We on this side believe that one of the things necessary to provide it is a substantial reduction of the rates of tax. We agree entirely that heavy taxes had to be imposed during the war. The people were then prepared to accept even the punitive rates of tax that were imposed by the Labour administration, but I am sure that the patriotic impulse that existed then has evaporated. For a long time the people of this country accepted heavy taxes, but the rates imposed on them were not greatly in excess of those which operated in some other countries. They compared reasonably well with the rates in force in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. But other countries which rendered yeomen service to the common cause in the war had lower rates of tax. I have not been able to obtain from the Treasury the rates in all those countries, but I have here a statement issued by the Royal Bank of Canada in April, 1946, in which the rates of tax imposed in various countries during 1944 are set out. Even though the figures are somewhat out of date, they indicate the general position in those countries. The statement shows that the rate of tax on an income of £500 a year in Canada was 6.7 per cent., rising to 68 per cent, in the higher ranges of income. In the United States of America the respective rates were 6.3 per cent, and 65 per cent. In Australia an income of £500 a year was taxed at 19.1 per cent., or nearly three times the rate in either Canada or the United States, and in the higher ranges of income the Australian tax rose to 84 per cent. Honorable members will agree that the two countries which I have mentioned played a prominent part in the war. In saying that, I in no way wish to belittle Australia’s contribution. Not only did Canada finance its own war effort but, in addition, it gave considerable assistance to Great Britain and other Empire countries. Canada made a free gift of 1,000,000,000 dollars to Great Britain, and advanced another 700,000,000 dollars free of interest to that country, and made advances amounting to 2,000,000,000 dollars to other Empire countries. South Africa played a minor part in the war, compared with the effort of Australia or Canada, and the rate of tax in that Dominion has been almost fantastically low. “Whereas a person in Australia with an income of £500 a year paid £98 as tax, a similar income in South Africa was subject to a tax of only £12 6s. lid. An Australian taxpayer pays into the Treasury £769 on an income of £2,000, whereas a similar income in South Africa is taxed only £183. When, during the election campaign, the Prime Minister said that a substantial reduction of taxes had been made in Australia, he omitted to say that the rates were still high. I was amazed at his courage in adopting the policy of the Liberal and Country parties so soon after the people had given their decision. It is true that his tax reductions are being made in a different way, and it is for that reason that I offer some criticism. We on this side hold the opinion that one of the real incentives needed for increased production is a reduction of taxes. Although the proposals of the Treasurer mean that, for the balance of the present financial year there will be a reduction of taxes by £11,500,000, that reduction will be made in an indirect way. I am convinced that the people of this country do not appreciate reductions made indirectly. A man knows that taxes have been reduced if he opens his pay envelope and finds in it a few more shillings or a. few more pounds than previously, but he does not realize that he has received anything from the Treasurer when he goes into a store and pays a few shillings less for the commodities which he purchases. The policy of the Government has led to a slackening of effort throughout Australia on the part of every section of the people. The professional man is not working as hard to-day as he did in pre-war years, nor is the businessman taking the same risks as formerly. We also know by the industrial hold-ups and unrest that is occurring throughout the country that the wage-earner is not now giving of his best. A reduction of taxes is necessary as a first step towards the stimulation of effort, and in order to achieve increased production there must be a great deal more discipline in the community than is maintained at the present time. Lack of effort and indiscipline among the workers have perhaps been more apparent than lack of effort on the part of other members of the community because it takes the form of violent industrial upheavals. I know something of the difficulties associated with the handling of industrial problems, and, as a former Minister for Munitions, I have a very real appreciation of the ability and energy of the_ Australian working man. In the period during which I had the privilege of occupying that ministerial office I found on all sides evidence of the intelligence and energy of our people. It is something not associated with the capacity of the Australian working man that is causing the difficulties we are experiencing to-day in the industrial arena; these tables are due, I believe, largely to the imposition of high taxes. Industrial strife is fomented mainly by a few troublemakers. This country has an arbitration system for handling industrial disputes which is second to none, but the system has to a great extent gone into the discard during the last year or two. Notwithstanding the fact that, in and out of season, this Government pays lip service to our arbitration system, we have yet to see any evidence of its endeavour to give real support to those administering the system. Recently, the Government established what is known as the Stevedoring Industry Commission, which it clothed with very wide powers. The personnel of the commission consists of representatives of employers and em,ployees, and Mr. Morrison, an independent chairman appointed by the Government. I assume that, as Mr. Morrison was appointed by the Government, he was persona grata not only to the Government but also to the unions with which he had to deal. The first dispute of any magnitude with which the commission had to deal was that in relation to the use of double-dump bales, an innovation brought about entirely by war-time conditions. The commission took extensive evidence, visited the wharfs and examined the loading of the bales before it gave its decision. Unfortunately, however, the decision was not accepted by the unions, and the then Deputy Prime Minister, who was in Perth at the time, flew in great haste to Sydney to settle the dispute. And how did he settle it? He settled it by passing a national security regulation overriding the decision of his own tribunal. Is it any wonder that that kind of treatment toy a government which gave great publicity to the coal legislation recently passed by the Parlia- now finds it impossible to get a suitable man to accept the chairmanship of the Commonwealth Coal Board? No self-respecting man will be made a rubber stamp, and be forced into the invidious position in which Mr. Morrison found himself. The Government must take some real action to support the arbitration system if we are to have industrial peace in this country. Honorable members opposite gibe at us by asking what we would do to bring about an end to industrial unrest. The parties on this side of the chamber had very clear ideas as to what they would do if they were returned to office. We have had an example of what a little courage can do, even when it is displayed by a Labour government. Only recently there was a widespread hold-up in Western Australia, not connected with a private industry but with a government activity. I assume that, as that activity had been controlled by Labour governments for very many years, the people engaged in it had been getting justice according to the ideas of the Labour Government. The men went on strike, but the Labour Government, believing that they would get justice from the proper tribunal, immediately took action against the leaders of the strike, with the result that the men went back to work and submitted their claims to the appropriate authority for determination. The people have waited for a long time for similar action to be taken by this Government. The Government has real opportunities to curb the industrial strife which exists and, unfortunately, is extending throughout this country. The continuance of industrial unrest is surely a disgrace for any country with an arbitration system such as ours.
The most disappointing feature of the budget is its obvious lack of appreciation of the need for economy in government departments as well as in private enterprise. My view in that respect is shared by the Prime Minister who states in the concluding paragraph of his budgetspeech -
Economy in Government is a proper counterpart o£ efficiency in industry. Both must be pursued in a strenuous effort, shared by nil, to achieve a higher level of efficiency and hence of standards of living.
To those principles I, and every honorable member of this side of the chamber, subscribe fully. But I can find no evidence at all in the budget of any attempt on the part of tho Government to practice economy. I recognize that the Labour party assumed office at a time when money was of very little consequence. I am not complaining on that score. No country can prosecute a. war effort on an accountancy basis; but that experience has been very bad training for the present Ministers. Apparently, they retain ideas of expenditure on a war-time scale. Although war expenditure has decreased: by £201,000,0.00, total expenditure has decreased by only £98,000,000. That is a very sorry picture. Whilst the figures which I shall cite do not explain that discrepancy, they indicate a lack of any attempt on the part of the Government to exercise economy in its administration. The proposed vote in respect of ordinary government departments in 1938-39, when total expenditure was less than £100,000,000, was £3,784,000. That sum does not include provision in respect of war departments; but the comparable expenditure has now increased to £16,928,000, or an increase of over £8,000,000 compared with ordinary departmental expenditure incurred last financial year. I do not suggest that that increase has taken place in exactly the same departments; because we arc told in the budget speech that certain war departments have now resumed on a peace-time basis. This huge increase of the cost of administration is out of all proportion to the overall increase in the budget as a whole; and goodness only knows that expenditure is great enough, being £220,000,000, excluding war expenditure, compared with less than £100,000,000’ in 1938-39. Purely administrative expenditure is now four times greater than in 193S-39. The Government must give a lead to the people in many directions. It is useless for it to talk of economy and efficiency to the business man and the producer in primary, or secondary, industries when it is making no practical attempt itself to economize in its administration. I shall watch with interest the future performances of the Government; and I am sure that the people also will do so. Whilst from a party political point of view it may not be a bad thing should the Government fall down on its administration, we are, however, more concerned with the welfare of Australia. We must safeguard our welfare as a. nation in order that Australians can achieve the future which all citizens believe it is capable of achieving.
.- I propose to deal briefly with the budget, and to reply to some statements made by honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) went to the country at the recent elections with the dullest policyspeech in Australia’s history, and, therefore he is not surprised at the dullness of the budget. In view of the outstanding success of the Government at toe polls, one can only wonder what the honorable member thinks a Government should do in order to obtain a mandate from the people. The honorable member referred to industrial unrest. I regret that he has left the chamber instead of remaining to hear my reply to his arguments. Before I do so, I turn to certain remarks by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) who described the budget as dishonest. All I wish to say to him is that the honesty with which the Prime Minister approached the people, and the honesty of the policy which he put to them, accounts for the re-election of the Government. About two years ago the honorable member, whom I do not accept as a political prophet, wrote in a column of a paper he controls- that I would be a “ oncer “ in this Parliament. I now inform him that I had the pleasure at the recent elections of trebling the majority by which I was elected in 1943. If there is anyone who will be a “ oncer “ in this Parliament it is the honorable member himself.
The honorable member for Wakefield said he thought that high taxes were the cause of the industrial troubles of Australia. Honorable gentlemen opposite are inclined to talk as though the industrial unrest of to-day is unparalleled in Australia’s history, but some figures that I propose to cite, which were supplied to me by the Commonwealth Statistician, and cannot, therefore, be challenged, will convince them, even against their will, that they are sadly astray in holding that opinion. Unrest in all spheres of life is always the aftermath of great upheavals like that experienced in the just-concluded world war and its predecessor. The figures that I propose to cite compare the man-days lo3t to industry in the first twelve months after World War I., when Australia was governed by a non-Labour government of which the leader was the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), with the mandays lost to industry in the first twelve months after World War II., under the Labour Administration led by the right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley). Under the Hughes Administration, in the first year after the 1914-18 war, 5,652,726 man-days were lost, whereas under the Chifley Government, in the same period after the war just concluded, only 2,046,100 mandays were lost, less than half those lost under a former non-Labour administration. Those figures in themselves do not tell the full story, because it must also be borne in mind that in those days our population was about 2,000,000 less than it is to-day and Australia was not nearly so highly industrialized.
Honorable members opposite have expressed the view that the Chifley Government’s tax reductions do not meet all the desires of the people. They claim that the people would be better off if the direct taxes were further reduced. I firmly believe, however, that the best way in which to assist the workers and their families is by relieving them of indirect taxes, which is what the Government is doing. During the election campaign, I addressed meetings of industrial workers every day for a month, but on not one occasion did I hear a complaint about the taxation policy of this Government. It is strange to hear honorable gentlemen opposite reiterating the policy on which they went to the country and suffered defeat. On the one hand, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) said, “ What we want is full employment”, and, on the other hand, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) declared that there was too. much employment. What a conflict of opinion is shown by the two Opposition groups! Then the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) expressed the hope that we would return to pre-war living standards. I do not know what he did for a living before the war, but, when Labour look office, after the war had been raging for two years, there were still 250,000 unemployed people in this country, and before the war the number of unemployed was vast. If that is the standard of living that honorable gentlemen opposite would return to, it is no wonder that I am on this side and they are on the other side. For the first time in our history, we have achieved, under Labor rule, full employment. That is what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said was impossible to achieve in any country. So, in the words of the right honorable gentleman himself, we have achieved the impossible. One of the main worries of honorable gentlemen opposite appears to be that the carrying out of our policy of full employment has dried up the pool of idle men, which was used in their days in power as a threat with which to coerce the workers into submission. I am pleased to be able to say that a great spirit exists between the employers and employees in the numerous small industries in my electorate. Many of them work on the basis of a return to the workers of a share of the profits. If the major industries of Australia adopted a somewhat similar attitude to their workers, who make their huge profits for them, I think there would be more industrial stability.
Although I hope to speak at greater length on another, occasion on the matter of housing, I take this opportunity to say a few words about that problem. An endeavour has been made to place the blame for the present shortage of houses throughout the Commonwealth entirely upon this Government. I have obtained from Elder Smith and Company Limited figures which show clearly that, in South Australia at least, the housing problem originated during the depression, and increased in subsequent years. The following table shows the number of houses that were built in the metropolitan area of Adelaide in the years stated : -
Tn 1910, a Labour government in South Australia introduced a Credit Foncier plan to enable people to build and own their own homes. The results have not been equalled in any other State. A subsequent Labour government undertook a housing programme providing for the construction of 1,000 homes, and these dwellings have since proved a great asset to the State. Only by mass-producing homes can we solve the problem now confronting this country.
The honorable member for Wakefield said that this Government lacked courage. Apparently, his mind has been dulled by the enforced rest from Parliament that he took in 1943. I remind him that the Labour Government took over the administration of this country at a time when honorable members opposite walked from the treasury bench. That is history and I need not enlarge upon it.
The Prime Minister’s policy speech at the last elections was honest. He told the people that Labour would review taxation from month to month, and would effect reductions whenever possible. He has already shown the sincerity of that promise by bringing down a budget providing for substantial remissions of indirect taxes. I can assure the people that this one promise made by the Prime Minister will be carried out to the full, and that, when the next three years have elapsed, the electors of this country will have no cause to regret that they gave Labour a further term of office.
– The merits and demerits of the budget have been fully debated by previous speakers, but, as the representative in this chamber of the greatest rural electorate in the Commonwealth, I consider that before the debate closes I should touch upon some aspects of production, particularly in primary industries. Amongst party leaders in this chamber there seems to be general agreement that there is an urgent need for increased production. I, too, appreciate that need. Only by increasing production can we solve our economic problems. However, there appears to be a difference of opinion as to the best method of increasing production. Let us -examine first the Government’s contribution to the solution of this problem. If we look in the budget for incentive to increase production, we look in vain. That citified chatterbox, the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha), said that incentive was not required, but I cannot under stand how we can hope to secure increased production if we do not give to producers, be they industrial or primary, the necessary incentive. In the budget we can find no promise, hope or possibility, nor is there encouragement, incentive or policy. There are neither tax reductions, nor the allowance of a sufficient margin of profit to ensure the necessary expansion of industry, and, in the case of primary industries, particularly those with an unlimited Australian market, there is not even provision for an adequate return to the producer. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson), a man with a practical mind, hit the nail on the head when he said that we must give incentive to secure increased production and that the incentive required is reduced taxes. None are so blind as those who will not see. A reduction of taxes would have resulted in a proportionate increase of production, and, in the end, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) would have collected as much revenue from taxes as he will obtain under the present proposals, whilst, at the same time, giving to the producer something for his extra labour. Apparently, the right honorable gentleman does not realize that when he promises to grab only whatever extra income is earned, there will not be any extra income.
There are several primary industries with which I should like to deal to-night, but time will not permit. However, I shall refer to some of them. Without discussing in full the Government’s policy, or rather lack of policy, regarding the wheat industry, I contend that the statement of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) that the wheat-growers have received the many millions of pounds that he mentioned, is beside the point; in any case, it is not in accordance with fact. A few days ago, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) was asked a question about the Australian-New Zealand wheat agreement. Like his predecessor, the Minister evaded making a statement on that matter, which is so vital to Australian wheat-growers. This section of the primary producers has been called upon to bear a considerable financial burden, and any advantages have been passed on to the consumers in this country. Whilst I agree with the home-consumption price and the concessional price of wheat for other industries, particularly the minor industries, I believe that the entire burden should not be borne by the grower. Regarding the agreement with New Zealand, I should like to place on record in Hansard a statement attributed to the New Zealand Minister for Industries and Commerce, Mr. Sullivan. This announcement is reported in The Dominion newspaper, and is also recorded in Hansard of July last, at page 170. The statement reads -
The understanding readied with the Australian Government on 10th December. 1945, was that, subject to continuation by 20th January, 1946, by the Now Zealand Government, the Australian Government would supply New Zealand with 4,500.000 bushels of wheat in 194C at 9s. (id. a bushel f.o.b., sacks extra, and New Zealand’s requirements for the following four years at a price to be negotiated, but which was not to exceed 5s. 9d. a bushel f.o.b., with the possibility that the price might bc lower than 5s. 9d.
The Australian Government, was advised that the requirements for the five years 1946-50 were estimated at IS.000,000 bushels. The acceptance of this oiler was sent to the Australian Government by cable on 26th January. No acknowledgment of the cable was expected or considered necessary, as it was merely an acceptance of the arrangement made with the Australian Minister for Commerce, Mr. Scully, in Australia. That the arrangement was in force and was being operated upon by the Australian Government was evidenced by the fact that shipments of wheat had been, and still were, coming forward at the price arranged. No word was received from the Australian Government that the slightly delayed acceptance voided the contract.
In view of that statement, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture should announce definitely where the Commonwealth Government stands. A controversy which developed in New Zealand will interest honorable members. The wheat-growers of New Zealand were negotiating for a guaranteed price in excess of that which the Dominion Government has granted to them, namely, 7s. Id. a bushel. The Government flaunted in their faces the fact that it had a contract with Australia for the purchase of wheat at 5s. 9d. a bushel, and contended that the New Zealand wheat-growers should be well satisfied with 7s. 3d. a bushel. So, in fact, the
Australian and New Zealand Governments used this contract to keep down the price of wheat to the growers, instead of enabling them to derive some of the advantage to which they are entitled by virtue of the high price ruling for wheat in overseas markets. I do not propose this evening to speak at length on the unsatisfactory position of the tobacco industry. I shall defer any comment until I have an opportunity to speak on the bill which has been introduced into this chamber. My principal purpose in participating in this debate is to deal with the policy of the Government towards the peanut industry. As nearly every honorable member knows, I am chairman of the Queensland Peanut Board. This industry has a very creditable record. It began in 1924, and to-day it is worth to the growers alone approximately £500,000 per annum. Political parties agree that Australia requires in the post-war period more industries. Unfortunately, some of our primary industries are getting a knock which does not encourage them to expand in order to yield the increased production that the Prime Minister seeks on behalf of Australia. The peanut industry operates under an act of the Queensland Parliament, and is controlled by a growerelected marketing board. I am wholeheartedly in favour of this set-up. Whenever bills which savour of government control have come before this House, I have vigorously opposed them, because I believe that the policy which will encourage an expansion of industry is to allow the growers to market their own produce in a co-operative manner.
My purpose to-night in raising this subject is to point out that the Government has given the peanut industry a knock - almost a death blow - which will cause it to retrogress. Until recently, it had been expanding satisfactorily. In 1943, the Department of Supply and Shipping advised the Peanut Board that it required our entire crop for oil. The board questioned the order, claiming that crushing our peanuts for oil would be a waste of good food. After negotiations had proceeded for some months and no progress had been made, we were instructed not to sell any more of our crop, pending a. definite decision. As chairman of the board, I advised the manager to continue to sell the peanuts, because I realized that if we waited for the red tape to be cut, three or four months would pass before a definite decision was reached, and the men employed in industry would lose their jobs. My contention proved to be correct. After three months, we had not been notified of any decision. The principal officer in the Queensland division of the Department of Supply and Shipping advised us to go to Melbourne if we wanted a settlement. He said that he was certain that he did not know what the head office desired, and he was equally certain that the head office itself did not know. We accepted his advice and went to Melbourne. After all, Australia was at war, and we desired to co-operate with the department. When we arrived at Melbourne, we met four or five young men who did not know anything about peanuts. I asked them to inform me why they required the peanut crop for oil. I asked also whether they had taken a cenSus of oil-stocks, and vegetable seeds for oils. They replied that they had not done so. I asked whether it was still possible to import oil from India, as had been done in the past. They said that it was.
– Dear, dear !
– The citified member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is sarcastic about the situation. He does not care about the primary industries. All he wants is cheap food for his constituents, and tie fact that primary producers would have to slave night and day in order to provide it, leaves him unconcerned. I am a protector of the farmers. Because the board objected to the diversion of the crop at that time, it saved the Commonwealth from the wasteful expenditure of £180,000 which would have been needed to bring the return to growers up to the ordinary price level. The peanuts were not needed for oil. The whole scheme was the result of a blunder by Some departmental official. The board advised the Government of the best method of controlling the industry during the war. Its advice was accepted, and for three years the Government acted in cooperation with the industry. All of the crops produced in that period were used for food. The use of peanuts in luxury classes of goods was prohibited. This continued until the war ended, when the board asked the Government what it should do during the ensuing season. The Government instructed the board to sell the crop in the ordinary peace-time manner. Therefore, the board entered into contracts for the disposal of the crop. The Commonwealth Bank, according to its conservative practice in making first advances to any industry, insisted that the board should produce contracts at the beginning of the season. The board arranged contracts providing for the payment of the price that had prevailed for the previous three years, namely, 7$d. per lb. The contracts were for a larger crop than the industry could produce. They were, of course, subject to variations of production. The board finalized arrangements for the disposal of the 1945 crop three months earlier than usual, because it realized that the succeeding crop would be large and that storage facilities would be inadequate unless the silos were emptied. The fact that silos were cleared in readiness for the new crop enabled the industry to take in a record harvest. However, half way through the harvesting season, the board received an order from the Government to divert 5,000 tons of the crop to be crushed for oil, and another order from the Prices Branch reducing the prices payable from 7-Jd. per lb. to 6d. per lb. for the main grade of peanuts, from 7-Jd. per lb. to 7d. per lb. for another grade, and from 4d. per lb. to 3£d. per lb. for all kernels used for oil. When I discussed the disposal of this crop with Food Control officials in March this year, I asked what Would be done about prices if the crop were diverted for oil production, seeing that the kernels worth 7£d. per lb. would have to be sold at the oil peanut price of 4d. per lb. They told me that the Government would compensate the growers for any deficiency. I objected to any diversion of the crop for oil at that time and pointed out that, as the war had ended, growers wished to return to normal methods of marketing. The Government decided to divert peanuts for oil production because India banned the export of peanuts to Australia for that purpose, and because the department stated that there was a shortage of oil in Australia. Although I was told that the matter was urgent when the discussions were held in March, no definite action was taken by the Government until August. However, before then an army of officials came to Kingaroy to meet the Peanut Board. There were three representatives of the Prices Branch and three Pood Control officials. Before they arrived, the board received a telegram stating that they were coming to Kingaroy to arrange the mechanics of a diversion order. There was no attempt to co-operate with the board, although it had co-operated with the departmental authorities during the war and had saved the Government from wastefully expending £180,000 in subsidies, as I mentioned earlier. During the election campaign, the Prime Minister was approached by a deputation consisting of the manager of the board, a member of the board, and a representative of the manufacturers interested in the crop. I understand that the deputation was introduced to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan). The Prime Minister apparently considered that the industry was not worthy of the courtesy of a reply to its representations. The board has received no reply from him up to the present, although I understand that he communicated with the honorable member for Griffith. I received that information fourth-hand. A representative of the manufacturers, has informed the board that he has had no written communication from the honorable member for Griffith. Whether the fault lies with the Prime Minister or the honorable member for Griffith I do not know. When the group of officials which I have mentioned came to Kingaroy to meet the board, Ave pointed out ‘that drought had reduced the estimated crop from 20,000 tons to approximately 12,500 tons. In fact, the crop totalled slightly more than 13,000 tons. At those discussions, after the board’s representatives pointed out that the crop would be reduced by drought conditions, the departmental officials said that they would be satisfied with an allocation of 2,000 tons for oil production purposes. They also repeated the promise which had been made to me in March, that there would be no reduction of the return to the growers as the result of the sale of a part of the crop at a low price. The prices officials who were present made no comments. Certainly they did not demur. Therefore, the direction which came from the prices authorities about two months later was a “stunner “. It stated that, because three years earlier the industry had received a higher price than it had expected to receive, the price payable for the portion of the crop diver.ted under the Government’s orders would be reduced. The order, provided that the price for first quality kernels should be lower than the price which has applied generally in the industry ever since its establishment. Since 1943, the growers have not had occasion to separate peanuts into different grades. However, the best lines of kernels have brought an average price of 6-J-d. per lb. ever since production was commenced, except for three or four years, between 1930 and 1940, when there was domestic trouble in the industry because individual growers sold so cheaply that the board was forced to reduce prices.
– Hear, hear!
– It is all very well for city representatives to interject. I am sticking up for the growers. In 1943 certain estimates had to be given by the board because the luxury line of peanuts with the shell on was taken off the market. We agreed entirely that the price was fair, because peanuts sold for roasting purposes in Avar-time could rightly be described as a luxury line. I point out that that was our best selling line. We received 6½d. per lb. for peanuts with the shell on, and did not lose the 33 per cent, to 40 per cent, of shell which we lost when Ave sold kernels. We approached the Prime Minister by way of a deputation, as well as the then Minister for the Army, Mr. Forde, when he was passing through the electorate. We did not hear anything more from Mr. Forde, nor did we receive the courtesy of a reply from the Prime Minister.
I want to show what the diversion order would mean to the industry. The diversion of 5,000 tons, which later was reduced to 3,000 tons and is still 1,000 tons above what the official stated in June would be expected, would mean complete cessation of supplies of edible kernels to all buyers. The market would be without supplies for approximately nine months. The manufacturers would have to close down, and their plants would be idle. The staffs employed by the manufacturers would be thrown out of work. Ex-service personnel would be affected as growers, employers and employees. These include some men who have used their savings to commence as peanut processors. Government supporters have asked me whether it would be possible to obtain a quota for these men to start them off in the industry. Because it was possible, I was delighted to be able to help them. All of them would be thrown on the scrap heap if this diversion order were implemented. The whole of the peanut industry would be disrupted, and the edible trade would be entirely lost for approximately nine months. It is likely that considerable expense would have to be incurred in regaining that business. The goodwill of the industry would be seriously impaired. I have mentioned the reason given by the department, which I know to be correct, namely that India has banned exports of peanuts. We asked representatives of the department, when they attended a board meeting at Kingaroy, what were the essential uses, and they were placed in the following order of priority: - i(l) Medical uses. The board rightly agreed at all times to guarantee that those supplies would be provided. (2) Industrial margarine. That caused considerable concern to the peanutgrowers, who incidentally are also dairymen. (3) Bread, cakes, pastry and biscuits. (4) Fish canning. (5) Textile batching oils. (6) Dipping dried fruits.
– The honorable gentleman realizes, of course, that peanut oil is not used in the making of those products. It is used to grease the tins. Animal and mineral fats are not suitable for that purpose. Bread and biscuits are essential commodities.
– I thank the Minister for that interjection. During the war there was no need to grease biscuit tins, because the Government would not allow biscuits to be made.
– The honorable gentleman has overlooked biscuits that were made for the armed forces.
– In the department which controls foodstuffs, there are interests that are concerned in this diversion. The gentleman at the head of the department is closely interested in one of the leading biscuit-making firms.
– It may interest the honorable member to learn that that gentleman has not had one drop of peanut oil for his firm since he has occupied that position.
– He has not been able to get it.
– He has suffered because he chose to help the Government.
– Some of the oil companies, which now claim that they need oil to keep their mills going, did not show any interest in the matter prior to the present shortage. Before the war, 93 per cent, of copra was used in the manufacture of margarine. The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward), in reply to a question, informed me that 6,000 tons of copra had been brought from New Guinea up to the end of June, that 12,000 tons had been received up to date, and that shipping was available to bring more.
– The total requirements are 72,000 tons.
– The list of socalled essential needs did not appeal to the board. The oil mills and other manufacturers have had more success with the department controlling foodstuffs, than the growers have had in sponsoring their claim for the maintenance of their industry.
I have mentioned that there has been a price reduction order. I believe that it was not based on merit, but apparently was made in order to victimize the growers. The price of 7£d., which we have received for the last three years, was satisfactory and resulted in expansion of the industry,, so much so that we sold £700,000 worth of peanuts during the twelve months which ended on the 30th June of this year. That represents realizations received by the board. All of it, less actual expenses would be paid to the growers. We plan to expand the industry. We had decided to send the manager into new fields, in order to try to get greater production, when we received this double knock. The matter has been held up, because we do not know where we are. While we are arguing about the remaining portion of 1946, we have asked the Prices Commisioner to declare what he intends to do in respect of 194.7, but he has steadfastly refused to declare a price for 1947. His attitude is, that we were given too much in .1.943. I make the point that the only reason ever given to the industry for the reduction of the price in 1946 is that our estimates in L943 were slightly too high and that we received, too much. We grant that we received more than we expected to get. We estimated a 40 per cent, loss in deshelling. I reiterate, that the procedure was altered. It was necessary to do a certain amount of estimating. The prices official from Brisbane complimented our manager upon his estimates, at the June board meeting, in the presence of other officials; consequently, there is nothing seriously wrong with them. I point out that expenses rose between 1943 and 1946 by an amount which exceeds the extra sum that we received in 1943. The department has not taken that fact into consideration. He states that the growers are getting too much for their product, and must reduce the price by -id. per lb. over all, but he cannot justify that, because he has had his own investigating officer in the district and will not declare a price consequent upon that examination. I challenge him to say why he has given an overall reduction which means a reduction of Id. per lb. What justifica-tion is there for asking the Treasurer to keep up taxes and meet subsidy payments because the Prices Commissioner is prepared to grind the growers down to an unpayable price? If he can justify a reduction of M. per lb., he cannot justify a reduction of Id. per lb., and expect the Treasury to pay the difference, in view of the fact that the Board already has contracts at 7£d. per lb. There is no corresponding order to reduce the price to the consumer. I do not wish to slate the manufacturers. They came as a deputation and supported the growers case, and were content to abide by their contracts, but any benefit of reduced price goes to them. The Board delivered against contracts and is being prosecuted, but the matter is now sub judice. If the Government loses the case that is pending, it is the intention of the Prices Branch to penalize the new growers? Although the Commissioner has sent his investigation officer to the district and has been, supplied with all the information that is required, he refuses to declare what he will do in respect of the 1947 crop. I have advised the growers to plant, hoping that this matter will be ironed out satisfactorily. I speak, not to serve a personal interest but because I am a representative of a primary industry of the electorate. The growers are forced by circumstances to work more than 4S hours a week, particularly during the planting and harvesting seasons, and the action of the Prices Commissioner amounts to victimization.
The board has supplied peanuts against contracts, because its legal adviser has said that it is bound to comply with the conditions of contracts already made. The reduced price will mean that the growers will receive a lower first advance next year, and that discouragement will result in a reduction of planting. Because of the expansion of the industry, the growers endorsed the recommendation of the board to erect extra silo storage. The industry was established in 1924, and by 1938 it had machinery and storage accommodation valued at £121,000. Prior to the present trouble the board had also arranged another contract for the provision of extra storage and machinery which was to cost £80,000. If the industry is granted a satisfactory price it will require that additional plant and machinery, and even more. If the 1943 price was a little too high, why should the 1946 growers including 200 new growers be penalized for something which happened in 1943? There will be additional growers in 1947, but should they, too, be victimized for what happened in 1943? If the present reduction had applied in 1943, the growers would have received a lower price than in the preceding year.
What is a payable price for peanuts? In about 1932, I appeared before the Tariff Board and pointed out the cost of producing a pound of peanuts, in order to establish a case for an increase of duty against overseas importations. The production, costs which have been proven since that time bear out that there is no profit in the contract prices at which peanuts must be supplied to manufacturers. Those contracts were made with the consent of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. Having declared tq me as chairman, and later to the board as a whole, that there would be no depreciation of the price, that department has broken faith. It said in tho second instance that it would be satisfied with 2,000 tons for diversion, but when it issued the order the quantity mentioned was 5,000 tons. The board may be charged with, attempting to determine the essential needs of the Commonwealth in this matter, but it is doing nothing of the kind. We submit that we have acted entirely within the law, because our legal adviser has told us that we must supply against the contracts made. I have presented this statement of fact because the price imposed upon the growers is lower than that obtained for many years. It is a lower price than that to which we are entitled. Under the present system of deliveries, we have lost our best selling lines, peanuts in the shell, at Bid. per lb. We have repeatedly sought a statement of the prices to be paid for next year.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire to express my thanks to the electors of Lilley for the honour they have done me by electing me once more to represent them in this Parliament. 1 think that:
I merit that reward for the work I have done in my electorate in the last three years. I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) upon the budget which he has brought down. I do not propose to discuss its merits beyond saying that it is one of the largest, and certainly one of the most important, that has ever been introduced to this Parliament. It is the work of a financial genius, one who as Treasurer and Prime Minister has served his country magnificently during the war, and since.
During the election campaign, statements were made which might lead unthinking people to believe that the Labour Government was irresponsible and untrustworthy. During the last five years, the Labour Government has been charged with responsibilities greater than those that have devolved upon any other. Australian government. It took over from the previous Government, whose misguided efforts had earned for it the general disapproval of the country, at a- time when Australia was obviously about to be challenged by enemies in the north. The Labour Government was faced with the task of preparing Australia to resist invasion, if that should come, and to prevent .invasion if that were possible. Labour shouldered that responsibility because it was determined to defend the country against any and every enemy. I, as an Australian, and a member of the Labour party, was anxious that Labour should discharge faithfully the obligation which rested upon it. The Labour Government came into office because of the ineptitude of its predecessor. It came in on the votes in this Parliament of two good Australians - two independents - who helped to vote the previous Government out of office.
– The Government still has two independents over on that side.
– I refer, not to the two who are now here, but the two who have left us. The people of Australia owe a debt of gratitude to those independents who gave Labour its chance to govern. Some of the things which the Labour Government had to do during the war were unpalatable. It had to introduce conscription, under which every man and woman in Australia was mobilized for war. It had to introduce the rationing of essential commodities. It has been truly said that the Labour Government saved Australia during the war, but the Government, after all, was only the executive. Let us not forget that, in the last analysis, Australia was saved by the Australian people themselves. Had it not been for the extraordinary efforts that they put forward it would have been impossible for Australia to do so in the war.
I have been in this House for three years. Some people may say that it is too long. Before the election some people said, “ Hadley is a ‘ oncer ‘. He will never come back”. I had other ideas, because I knew my electors. I left the last Parliament full of confidence that 1 would return, and I was equally confident that the Opposition would return, still the Opposition. Throughout all the tragedy of the war, tragedy which was so narrowly averted on our own soil, the Labour Government, led first by that great statesman, Mr. Curtin, and then by our present Prime Minister, saw to the defence of our country. We were fortunate in that we escaped the worst impact of war. Our fields and factories and workshops remained unscathed, as also did the homes of our people. Many of our young men went overseas to fight the enemy, and some did not return. To the relatives of those men I offer my deepest sympathy. The great bulk of our people, however, remained untouched by war, but they did a better war job than the people of any other country in the world.
The Australian Labour Government was criticized because it asked the United States of America for help. .Some of our critics said that we had “ cut the painter “, that we were breaking with Britain. Nothing was farther from the thoughts of the members of the Labour party, but we knew that the position in which England was, and we also knew the position in which Australia stood. Nevertheless, members of the Opposition condemned Mr. Curtin for his action, but where would those critics be to-day if Mr. Curtin has not approached President Roosevelt with a request for help? It was as a direct result of this action of Australia’s great leader that the nation was saved.
Much has been said during this debate and much was said during the election, campaign, about taxation. One would expect the leaders of political parties toknow something of political strategy, but what did we find during the recent election campaign? On the hustings I dealt, fully with matters affecting taxation, and I listened to what Opposition leaders and their supporters had to say on the subject,, but I have yet to learn how in view of our commitments taxes can be reduced. The leaders of the two Opposition parties made the great mistake of fighting oneanother during the campaign. When, the Leader of the Liberal party (Mr. Menzies) offered the electors a 20 per cent, reduction of income tax, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr.. Fadden) went further; he said that a 2S per cent, cut was possible. Their attempt to win the support of the electorsreminded me again that although it is possible to fool all the people some of thetime, and some of the people all the time,, it is not possible to fool all the peopleall the time. Their fatal mistake was in making those offers to the taxpayers so long before the election took place. Had they delayed the announcement of theirpolicy in respect of taxation until a few days before polling-day, they might have succeeded in fooling the electors. Yet they are regarded as wise political leaders and, perhaps, as strategists. How different are they from the Leader of the Australian Labour party ! That party, led by “ Ben “ Chifley, is again on the treasury bench, largely because of his inspiring leadership. Honesty won the election for the Labour party. The Opposition doe3 not know the meaning of the term. During the election campaign the press of Australia referred to members of the Labour party as “ irresponsibles “. In almost every newspaper published in the Commonwealth the electors were advised not to trust “ these irresponsibles “. I say that the irresponsibles are to be found in the Opposition parties. Indeed, it is because of that fact that they are still in opposition. And, because they are irresponsible they will remain in opposition. I know that pressmen, especially at election time, have to do what their masters tell them. During the war the press of Australia was on the side of the Labour party. Even before war broke out there was a clamour by newspaper proprietors for a national leader - someone who could lead the people in the event of an attempted invasion. That clamour culminated in the coming into power of a Labour Government under John Curtin. The newspapers eulogized him. and supported his Government’s war effort. Throughout the war that support of tha Labour party was continued. Indeed, some newspapers went so far as to say that it was a tragedy that the Labour party had not been in power years earlier. They expressed pleasure that the party had accepted the responsibility of moulding the country’s destiny. But, immediately the war ended, “ big business “ exercised its power, and we saw again in our newspapers references to “these irresponsibles “. Will any one say that the Labour Government acted as a lot of irresponsibles during the war? I say unhesitatingly that had the Labour party not been in office none of us would be sitting in peace and quiet in this chamber to-night. Only because the Labour party accepted the challenge and rose to the occasion did this country come out of the war successfully. In order to achieve its purpose the Government imposed many restrictions on the people. Those restrictions were accepted because the people believed that they were necessary. Men and women worked the round of the clock and Australians in the fighting services fought wherever they were asked to fight. I ask honorable members to compare the achievement of the present Labour Government in World War II. with what was achieved in World War I. when that “ grizzly bear “, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), was Prime Minister. Is there any country in the world with a better record of war service than, Australia, or that is in a better position economically to-day, than is Australia? There is not. We know what happened in England during the war, and what is taking place in the United States of America. To-day only about 1.2 per cent, of the people of Australia are unemployed; that number includes those who are in receipt of pensions. It can truthfully be said that no person capable of working is at present unemployed in Australia. This country’s internal economy is sound ; its people are well off. Australia’s position compares more than favorably with that of the United States of America, which is reputed to be the richest country in the world, and yet its people are bordering on revolution. After the end of the war no fewer than 12,000,000 to 14,000,000 were unemployed in the United States of America. Only recently, due to the mal-administration of the government of that country, price controls were lifted from certain commodities, and the effect upon the people was catastrophic; those on the lowest ranges of income were no longer able to purchase the necessaries of life. Honorable members opposite would have us adopt a similar policy. Thank God the Labour Government is in office to maintain these controls during the transition period. Only by the continuation of a measure of prices control can the stable economy of this country be preserved. The campaign for the lifting of prices control is also conducted in that section of the press that represents honorable members opposite and big business men who wish controls to be lifted in order to derive greater profits from the sale of their products. We should be proud to live in a country which is governed so sanely and wisely. Compare the position of this country to-day with that of Great Britain where our own kith and kin are dependent upon the production of Australia and the other dominions for the very necessaries of life. Having regard to the Government’s splendid record during the six years of war, how can honorable members opposite charge it with irresponsibility? How can they say it cannot be trusted? No man worthy of being called an Australian can accuse the Labour Government of not having done an excellent job. Honorable members opposite have criticized the Government for having maintained high taxes in the present budget. In an endeavour to champion the cause of those on the lower ranges of income, they have stated that larger remissions of taxes should have been made to primary producers and basic wage earners. They have said, too, that the maintenance of high taxes is crippling industry. Let us examine these statements. Statistics issued by government departments show that since the outbreak of the war bank’ deposits have increased by £160,000,000.
– By how much has the £1 depreciated since the outbreak of the war?
– I am not concerned about that at the moment; what I am concerned about is the fact that bank deposits have grown enormously since the outbreak of the war. I agree’ with those honorable members who contend that basic wage earners should not be taxed at all. As a matter of fact they are not being taxed to-day. Savings banks deposits increased from £200,000,000 to £600,000,000 in the six years following the outbreak of the war. Members of the Australian Country party have made a special plea for a lowering of taxes imposed on primary producers. Before the war the farmers were in debt to the banks and financial institutions of this country to the amount of £80,000,000. Duc, however, to the beneficent policy of this Government and its assistance to rural industries by way of subsidy, guaranteed prices and other means, the indebtedness of the farmers has been reduced by £60,000,000. Much has been said by honorable members opposite in relation to the question of increased production. Increased production will be possible only when the man-power problem is solved. When Australia declared war on Japan the Leader of the Opposition, who was then Prime Minister of Australia, made his historic announcement over the radio to the listening public of Australia and added that we would adopt the rallying call of Mr. Churchill on the outbreak of World War II., “ business as usual”. The right honorable gentleman also said that when the war was over the people of this country would have a new deal. It is a tragedy that during the space of my lifetime this nation should have participated in two wars. Who has borne the brunt of these conflicts? Apart from our fighting men, the burden has been borne largely by the rank and file of our people, family men on the lowest income ranges. When commodity prices soared it was almost impos sible for them to buy the necessaries of life for the sustenance of their wives and their families. The Labour Government has done its utmost to lighten their lot. As the Treasurer pointed out in his budget speech, the limit of Labour’s generosity is determined by the needs of the Government having regard to the preservation and the stabilization of our internal economy. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to those who are still in the lower income groups. In the past many of them have gone through long periods when they received no wages at all. This Government will do the right thing, as the Prime Minister promised during the election campaign; and the common people will be given first consideration.
Honorable members opposite have had much to say about strikes. I have been in the industrial movement ever since I reached the age of reason. I participated in strikes when there was no conciliation and arbitration system in this country. In those days the workers had to strike of necessity in order to obtain justice; but I have yet to learn that any one who participates in a strike ever gains any real benefit by so doing. Many men have said to me that the worker does not lose anything by going on strike. That is a fallacy. I say that advisedly to union leaders. I do not decry them, because they are my mates. But the man earning £5 a week loses £50 should he go on strike for ten weeks ; and in the great majority of cases he has not nearly that sum in reserve with which to provide for himself and his family. His family must obtain credit from the butcher and baker, and, ultimately, the worker has to make up that lee-way. Invariably, the pressure applied by the master class is so great that the worker inevitably loses as the result of strikes. That is why the Labour party to-day stands for arbitration and conciliation. We stand by that principle. It may not have got the worker very far yet ; but we shall eventually win through by adhering to that principle. Ultimately, we shall improve the system until we achieve our real objective. Queensland to-day has one of the most effective systems of industrial arbitration. I sincerely hope that the Commonwealth will implement the best features of that system. No delays at all are experienced under it. However, one serious defect of the present arbitration system is that in any application for an increase of wages, or marginal rates, the .workers are compelled to put their cards on the table, whereas the court does not compel the employers to put their cards on the table. The workers lose very much on that score. Only recently the press- reported an incident at the current basic wage hearing, at which the representative of one company refused to disclose its profits. We cannot prevent the workers from striking because the strike is their only weapon. Immediately they are deprived of that right, their industrial liberty is destroyed. To-day, 16,000 dockyard employees in Sydney are locked out. Why have employers the right to lock out their employees? I hope to live to see the day when any employer guilty of a lock-out will suffer the severest penalties, including imprisonment. The worker who goes on strike does not suffer most from industrial unrest, but his dependants, who, for the period of each strike, are obliged to go short of ordinary comforts, and, in many cases, the necessaries of life.
Much has been said in this debate about housing. I was formerly employed as a construction foreman in the Public Works Department in New South Wales ; and I have worked in industries associated with building construction. I know something about housing. Honorable members opposite have endeavoured to lay the blame for the present housing shortage at the door of the Government. This Government is not responsible for that shortage. Whilst it is directly responsible for the erection of war-service homes, the provision of ordinary housing is a matter for the States. However, past anti-Labour governments have left the present State governments a legacy of arrears; and it will take a very considerable time to overcome the shortage. The Commonwealth is now co-operating fully with the States by making available the necessary money to finance their housing schemes. I recall the time when, owing to the shortage which had accumulated as the result of the neglect of anti-Labour governments, it was most difficult to obtain a worker’s dwelling. Anyone who bad sufficient money could be accommodated by private enterprise. However, so limited was the finance made available by means of government loans that only a very small proportion of applicants could obtain a house. At that time, private enterprise, on the other hand, made the most of its opportunity to erect inferior dwellings which to-day constitute the slums in our capital cities. Houses built by private enterprise at a cost of from £200 to £300 are now rented at from £2 10s to £3 a week. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) will recall the financial stringency which beset the Government which he led in New South Wales and funds for housing were so limited that his Government had to reject 75 per cent, of applications for worker’s dwellings. To-day, conditions are different. The Commonwealth is financing the States’ housing programmes to the fullest possible degree. However, the shortages of labour and materials still impede the Government’s efforts to speed up the construction of homes.
In conclusion, I shall reply to some statements made by the honorable member for Reid. I do not intend to be sarcastic. Speaking in this chamber on the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply, he turned to honorable members on this side and asked, “ Where are the Labour men?” I was first elected to this Parliament in 1943. I was elected as a Labour man. As I said earlier, I have been in the Labour movement since I reached the “ age of reason. I have seen it suffer many tragedies. I have seen men come into the Labour movement and endeavour to disintegrate it in order to serve their personal aims. But men of that type inevitably go by the board, whilst the movement goes from, strength to strength. To-day, some of the men who were once in the Labour movement are now sitting on the Opposition benches. I am reminded of men like Pearce, Holman and Hughes. They crossed over to the enemies of Labour, after being born and bred in the Labour party; and they continued to claim to be Labour men. The Labour party built them up. It gave them everything that it was humanly possible for it to give. The Labour party spent money on “ Billy “
Hughes to educate him. That is no myth. It took him under its wing, realizing the brains he had. It spent money on him to develop him. After he became developed and a “ big noise “ in the Labour party, he became associated with commercial magnates in Australia and on the other side of the world, and then forgot the people who had made him. So did the honorable member for Reid forget the people who -made him.
– Did you spend money on him?
– J spent money on him. When I was living in Sydney there was no more earnest supporter of Lang than I. But he was then in the Labour party. He was the Premier of the State Labour Government. I, as a Labour man, gave him, as my leader, my loyalty. That is what I gave to Lang. Search through the past and see what has happened. The Labour party became torn and disrupted because of his ambition to do something for himself. The Opposition can never beat the Labour movement. The only thing that beats U is disintegration and disloyalty. That is what beat the Labour party in New South Wales when J. T. Lang was Premier Governor Game sacked him and he was not man enough to stand up and fight. Holman, Lang’s predecessor as Premier of New South Wales, had backbone and initiative. When Strickland was Governor of the State, Holman did to him what Lang should have done to Game When Strickland attempted to stand over Holman and told him that he would not sign bills that had been put before him, Holman said, “ Well, you shall be on the next boat for England “. He refused to sign, and he was on the next boat to leave for England. If Lang had said to Game, “You are to be on the next boat to leave for England “, he would still have been Premier of New South Wales. He would then have gone to the country as Premier, not as Leader of the Opposition. I have gone through hell in my life because of ,my advocacy of the Labour cause. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) may laugh as much as he likes, but he has never had to put up with what I have. 1 have been victimized, kicked from pillar to post by people of the stamp of his= constituents because of my advocacy of Labour’s political policy. The honorable gentleman does not know what it is to go without food. He does not know what it is to have to ask for a job, as I have, and, when I have said,. “ My name is Hadley “, been told, “ You are a long way down the list. No work, sorry!” In spite of all that I have suffered I have never ratted on the Labour party.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired
– in reply - I do not propose to attempt totraverse all the arguments that have been advanced in this debate, because most of them .are a rehash of the statements that we heard when I made my financial statement before going to the country. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) covered ground almost identical to that which he covered then. As the people have judged and given their verdict on the various programmes, work aud policies of the three political parties presented to the electorates, I see no reason for wasting time on all that honorable gentlemen, opposite have said. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), however, during his speech made a few comments which I think require a short reply. He mentioned that during the electoral campaign I accused him and the leader of the Australian Country party of political dishonesty in the policies they presented to the electors. It is true that I said that they were politically dishonest. I repeat the charge. Both right honorable gentlemen promised to reduce taxes, but it is extraordinary that the leaders of two political parties that asked the people to elect their candidates in order that they should be able to form a coalition government did get together and present a policy common to both. It was an insult to the people’s intelligence to ask them to return to power two parties which did not even present a common policy. The dishonest aspects of their statements about reducing taxes were that while they were saying that they would reduce taxes they concealed the fact that they proposed to tax the people in another form. The Leader of the Opposition has been a consistent advocate of national insurance. On many grounds, national insurance can be defended as a worthy method of providing for social services; but, at least, the right honorable gentleman should have told the people, when he advocated it, what it would cost the taxpayers. His failure to do so is a form of political dishonesty. It is politically dishonest to tell people about the benefits that they will receive as the result of reduction of the income tax while failing to tell them what it would cost to introduce national insurance. The leader of the Australian Country party out-bidded the Leader of the Opposition on the subject of tax redactions. The two right honorable gentlemen even differed as to the means by which the income tax was to be reduced. The Leader of the Opposition proposed a flat rate reduction, whereas the leader of the Austr al ian. Country party talked1 about a graduated reduction. He spoke of a reduction of from 25 to 2S per cent., but he did not say that the average would be a reduction of 20 per cent, over the whole field of taxpayers. That cannot be denied, if the propaganda, in the press and elsewhere that emanated from the Opposition parties is to be believed.
– We adopted your own formula.
– The Opposition would adopt any formula it thought likely to catch a few votes. The right honorable member for Darling Downs made a general and delightfully vague statement in regard to some form of contributory tax to finance social services, but he, too, made no attempt to tell the people of this country what his taxation proposals were likely to cost them.
– I adopted this Government’s own system.
– At least the leader of a party should tell the people what his proposals will cost them ; but the. right honorable gentleman did not do that. On the other hand, Labour’s proposals were well known to the people. The right honorable member did not say publicly that his scheme was based on the same principle as the Government’s scheme, nor did he state what contributions would be made. That was my reason for stating during the election campaign that it was politically dishonest to present a programme of that kind to the people.
The Leader of the Opposition referred (o certain visits that I made to Melbourne at a time when a transport strike was in progress in that city. He quoted a Mr. Jack Brown, and certain other individuals, as having made certain statements. The suggestion was that my visit was associated with the transport dispute. That was not so. I visited Melbourne with a specific object. I had realized for some time that the 40-hou.r- week case before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was dragging on for too long.
– Whose fault was that?
– If the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) will listen for a moment, I shall endeavour to apportion the blame in the proper manner. The fault did not lie with the court, and I am not prepared to say that it lay with the employers.” It was believed by the unions, and indeed by counsel who intervened on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, that a great deal of information was required by the court in the form of evidence. The hearing of that evidence had proceeded for some considerable time and I felt that the court was being brought into disrepute - I am not reflecting on the judiciary in any sense when I say that. People knew that the hearing was dragging on, but they did not know why. I. also believed that the question of the basic wage required attention. I realized that the referendum having been defeated, the basic wage remained a matter for the Arbitration Court. Had the referendum been carried, this Parliament would have had power to deal with industrial matters, including the basic wage; but the verdict of the people was given against us, and we must respect it. Although a majority of electors in the Commonwealth favoured the granting of this power to the Commonwealth, the proposal was not supported by the requisite number of
States. I had always believed, and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) had believed, that the proposed 40-hour week, and the basic wage, had a very close relationship, and that they should be dealt with . by the Arbitration Court together. It will be remembered that the wage-pegging regulations were relaxed some time ago to enable that to be done. We had endeavoured to induce the Australasian Council of Trade Unions to make ‘application to the court to have the basic wage increased; but for reasons which no doubt it believed to be valid, it declined to do so. The result was that it appeared that the 40-hour week case would continue for a considerable time, and that in addition there would be a long inquiry into the basic wage. There was a feeling amongst a great number of the workers that the Statistician’s figures which influenced the basic wage did not reflect the true position. We felt that the court should examine this matter as quickly as possible. My first object in visiting Melbourne on that occasion was to meet a number of the most prominent employers in Australia - I did not select them; their names were suggested to me - and to discuss the question of a shorter working week with them. I informed them that my colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service and I had endeavoured unsuccessfully to induce the Australasian Council of Trade Unions to make an application to the court in regard to the basic wage. Although I had been only able to give a day’s notice to the employers of the .meeting in Melbourne, they very generously accepted the invitation and travelled- to that city from two other capitals. We had a lengthy discussion but we discussed only one matter, and that was the necessity to expedite the hearing of the case then before the Arbitration Court. I did not attempt to do any bargaining in regard to the 40- hour working week or an increase of the basic wage. All I wanted to do was to have the hearing expedited, and a judgment given. I made no attempt to influence anybody associated with the court in regard to the nature of that judgment. Following this conference, the Minister for Labour and National Service and I again approached the Australasian Council of Trade Unions in regard to this matter and I believe that our efforts were instrumental, at least to some degree, in having the hearing expedited. The employers agreed that they would do their very best to assist, and would allow their counsel to confer with counsel for the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, and counsel for the Commonwealth, with a view to expediting the hearing. As a result of these conferences between counsel - and I presume that they met the judge in chambers - it has been possible to speed up the hearing. That was my sole mission in Melbourne on my last two visits. I took no part at all in discussions relating to the transport strike in Victoria. That was a matter for the State Government. I state these facts in reply to the allegations that I had influenced a decision reached in Victoria at that time. My colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service and I devoted our attention entirely to the matter of hastening the 40-hour week inquiry. The Government intends, early in the new year, to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act to make it more flexible in regard to the handling of industrial matters.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the problem of production. We are informed that production is lagging, and that an increase of production is the only way in which we can meet the demands of the community and ease the upward pressure on prices. Nobody will deny that increased production is highly desirable, but always when the Leader of the Opposition speaks about this .matter there is an implication, that the workers of this country are not making their best efforts. The reason for that state of affairs, he says, is that taxes are too high, and there is no incentive to work. For as long as I can remember, I have heard the cry that workers were not doing enough, and their critics spoke in disparaging terms of the so-called “government stroke “. But years ago, the workers in the lower ranges of income did not pay income tax. Although many employers had a high sense of responsibility in their dealings with the workers, the more conservative types, and vested interests. whose main object in life is to make profits and who are indifferent as to how best they can serve their country, have always cast this stigma on them. According to those people, the workers, apparently, have never given a fair day’s labour.
The present demand for goods is, to some degree, due to the fact that under the Labour Government, all the workers are in employment. During the economic depression fifteen years ago, hundreds of thousands of them were unemployed.
– There are many unemployed in Melbourne and Sydney to-day.
– The number of people who are in receipt of unemployment benefits provides the best guide to unemployment.
– Many people are now unemployed as the result of strikes.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) is shuffling. The statistics -show that never before in the history of Australia has such a large proportion of the people ‘been fully employed. Because so many people aire earning salaries and wages, and because they accumulated savings during the war years when commodities were in short supply, they control a greater amount of money than ever before. Consequently, the demands of the community have substantially increased. Tim is indicated by sales. In one large retail store in Sydney, sales now exceed the pre-war figure by 60 per cent., and wholesale sales exceed the pre-war figure by 50 per cent.
– The cost of clothing has increased by 60 per cent, compared with the pre-war figure.
– Despite the payment of subsidies, the cost of clothing has increased considerably. One of the causes is the cost of certain essential goods which must be imported. In addition, the basic wage increased during the war years, and -concessions were made to the workers employed in the clothing industry. The Drake-Brockman award gave substantial increases of remuneration to these employees. However, production is increasing. Compared with last year, the manufacture of bricks has increased by 150 per cent, and the manufacture of tiles by 200 per cent. An ever-increasing supply of goods is flowing into the shops. No one can deny that, unless .he is completely “ one-eyed “ or stupid.
– Non-essential goods.
– It is true that a great, variety of goods are coming on to the market, and some of them may be regarded as non-essential, or luxury lines. However, the public demand -them, and while there is freedom of labour and effort to produce ‘them, manufacturers make them. But the manufacture of these non-essential and luxury goods is taking toll of the available labour force.
The Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party stated that only a substantial reduction of taxes will provide an incentive for an increase of the production of goods. I suspect, and .1 hope that I am not being unfair, that the clamour comes, .not from persons .in .the lower ranges of income, but from the wealthy. Frankly, I have been amazed by the expressions of solicitude for the workers. Undeniably, taxation has been heavy, and is still heavy, but then, our commitments are also heavy. Since the Labour party took office, the Commonwealth’s commitments for social services have risen from £17,000,000 to more than £65,000,000 per annum, and I hope that our programme, as it steadily progresses, will ultimately involve an expenditure of £100,000,000.” We make no apologies for that. I have always believed that full employment and social security are the two essentials for creating a contented community. The world has witnessed some of the fruits of unemployment. In Australia during the economic depression fifteen- years, ago, hundreds of thousands of bread-winners were out of work, and we are now reaping the evil fruits of that, period. The birth-rate declined, because the brand-winners, being either unemployed or in intermittent, employment, lacked social security. Now, the flow o.f young people into industry is at a very low ebb, and will so continue, according to the Commonwealth Statistician., until 1952. Next year will he almost the nadir. We .are now reaping the harvest of the policy which those who controlled the financial institutions not only of Australia but also of the world preached as being correct. That policy caused a decline of the birth-rate, and industry is now experiencing the effect. An enormous demand exists in industry for youths and girls. The reasons are numerous. For example, new industries are starting, and deferred maintenance in regard to building must be overtaken. The demand for workers is greater than ever before.
As I stated, full employment and social security are the essential requirements of a happy and contented working community. The Labour Government has introduced unemployment and sickness benefits. Medical, dental and hospital bills used to be the nightmare of the worker when he or a member of his family became ill. If the social services scheme relieves him of those financial burdens, and he is assured of full employment, the whole community will be more contented. The leader of the Australian Country party mentioned two other matters. Of course, he gave “ the old mare “ a run on the subject of uncollected taxes. I shall not deal with this subject in detail because I do not want to detain honorable members, but I remind the right honorable member that, although considerable amounts are shown in the records of the Taxation Department as being uncollected, that is not a true indication of the position. Under the “ pay-as-you-earn “ system of deductions from wages and salaries, money is constantly flowing into the Treasury, but obviously these figures cannot be shown on the department’s records from day to day and week to week. Honorable gentlemen will readily understand the reason for this. The right honorable member also had another entrant in the race. He discussed the merits of the rebate system of taxation as against the deduction system, and quoted a letter which he had received from the Taxation Commissioner. Perhaps that letter could have been more explanatory, but the right honorable gentleman put his own construction on it. He said that, if the deduction system were adopted in preference to the present rebate system, the taxpayers would be saved a total of £25,000,000 a year in contributions to treasury funds. The right honorable gentleman did not attempt to explain why the rebate system was introduced. He knows that it was inaugurated when the system of uniform taxation was adopted. The three members of the parliamentary committee which pepared the plans for the uniform tax scheme found that the rebate system was the only one which could cope satisfactorily with the problem of coordinating the allowances granted under the old system by the various States and the Commonwealth. It was the only equitable system, as the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) explained to the Parliament at the time. The right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) knows that, prior to the introduction of uniform taxation, a taxpayer was granted an allowance of £50 in respect of his spouse. The committee had to work out the best method of combining the Commonwealth and .State tax systems without causing severe injustice to any ‘class of taxpayer. Of course, with either the rebate system or the deduction system, taxpayers in high income groups would suffer to some degree. The committee selected the formula which it considered to be the least inequitable. Let us try to ascertain how the taxpayers could be saved a total of £25,000,000 a year as the right honorable member for Darling Downs has claimed. He said that, had the deduction system been selected by the parliamentary committee, it certainly would not have made an allowance of £100 in respect of a taxpayer’s wife. That .must be kept in mind.
– That is what I said.
– That is right. If the right honorable gentleman reduced that allowance to £50, as he suggested, there could not be any reduction of £25,000,000 in the total tax bill. Being a qualified accountant, the right honorable gentleman must know “ as well as I do that taxpayers on the lowest range of incomes are generally better off under the rebate system than they would be under the deduction system. Let us consider the position of a man in a high income group. As an exaggerated example, I take the case of a man receiving £5,000 a year. On the maximum incremental scale he pays tax at a rate equivalent to approximately 16s. in £1. It is true that, under the deduction system, an allowance of £100 for his spouse would be of great advantage to him, because he would benefit to the amount of 100 units of 16s. However, the calculation does not end there, because the deduction of an amount of £100 would reduce his income to a lower tax group. This would effect the rate of tax applicable to his income.
– The right honorable member is unfair. I pointed- out that it would be necessary to fix a ceiling of £45. Had he heard what I said, he would not have made that statement.
– I do not deny that the right honorable member might have made that statement. However, under the deduction system it would be impossible to make all the adjustments that he suggested.
– Of course it would. 1 said that the Government should find a formula.
– I have been Treasurer for five years and in that time I have been, trying unsuccessfully to find formulas that would satisfy the right honorable member.
– -The right honorable gentleman will succeed if he reduces taxes.
– The right honorable member knows that it would be necessary to fix a limit to deductions from large incomes, and that would not be an easy thing to do.
– The Government is doing that now. It has a £45 ceiling.
– Under the rebate system, that is easier to do than it would be under the deduction system. I do not know -whether the right honorable gentleman mentioned the fact that, by deducting £100 from the income of the £5,000-a-year man whom I mentioned, his income would be brought into a lower’ tax group. Did he make that clear?
– I merely stated the facts, and said that the Government should find a formula to save the taxpayers a total amount of £25,000,000 annually.
– The right honorable member stated the facts, but I am elaborating them in order to show that the problem is not so simple as he would have us believe. There would not be agreat deal of difference between the respective effects of the rebate system and the deduction system on taxes in the lower income groups, but in someinstances the rebate system is better for the taxpayer than the deduction system would be: As an example, consider thecase of a married man earning £250 a year. Under the rebate system he receives a concession of £13 a year. Under the deduction system he would receive £12 183. a year.
– That is . not a big difference.
– I am trying to show that a man is at least as well off under the rebate system as he would be under the deduction system. Consider next thecase of a man with a wife and one child, who earns £300 a year. Under the rebate system, he receives a concession by way of rebate of £15 12s. a year. Under the deduction system, the value of theconcession he received would be £12 18s. Thus, honorable members will see that hebenefits by the amount of £2 14s. a year by having the rebate system instead of the deduction system. I admit that theexamples which I have cited may be extreme and give undue emphasis to theposition.
– There is no doubt about that.
– Well, what does theright honorable member expect me to do ?’
– Is the Treasurer admitting political dishonesty?
– I have dealt only with facts and actual figures. Generally speaking, it is true that, as we move upthe income scale, the rebate system is not as good-, from the taxpayer’s point of” view, as the deduction system. However, I have stated the advantages of the rebatesystem over the deduction system which influenced the Government. The Parliamentary Committee which drafted theuniform tax scheme had in mind all the matters which were mentioned by theright honorable member for Darling-
Downs. It had to find the best way of combining State ‘and Federal tax systems and. it did so.
The general complaint by the Opposition seems to be that, during five years of [ ru-le in Australia, the Labour party has kept the nation on an even economic keel. I shall not refer in detail to our war effort. The Opposition’s complaint is that, during a period in which we have been at war and at peace, the Government has kept the nation too solvent. Indeed we have insisted, particularly at this time when everybody is working and many people are earning high incomes, that attempts be made to pay for the cost of the war instead of leaving them, to be paid off by posterity. In the last two years, we have not had to make use of treasury-bills, bank credit or advances to the Government, except temporary bills, which have been refunded. All of that has been explained, and there is no illusion about the matter. During the last five years, we have raised in this country loans totalling £1,090,000,000, and have never had recourse to the private banking institutions for any financial accommodation. When honorable members opposite were in office, they permitted the private banks and other financial institutions to subscribe to loans. We did not do that at any time, yet we have maintained economic stability. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) said last night that we are faced with rising prices and costs. That is inevitable, and it is happening all over the world. In agreeing with him on that point, I believe that I am doing so for the first time since we sat together on the Royal Commission on Monetary Banking Systems. I was interested in his remarks in regard to exchange. I regarded them as most informative, and derived much enjoyment from them. 1 am not unaware of the economic hurdles that are ahead of us. It is because the Government which I lead knows that economic difficulties will be encountered, that it believes that every step which it takes in relation to economic affairs must be carefully considered. We do not propose to “ tickle the ears of groundlings “ in order- to catch a few votes at election time. We consider that we have a higher responsibility to the people, and have tried to make it clear that we are not prepared to take any steps until we can see what the result of them will be. I have advised my colleagues, and they have generally agreed, that we must take each step carefully and guardedly, not any which we cannot retrace or which may tend to bring economic ruin to this country.
Most of the arguments to which we have listened during this debate have been advanced on previous occasions. I am always pleased to listen to the views of the Opposition, although, it is true, I adopt very few of them, and follow only that course which the Government believes to be right. That is why we are the Government. I have already said that taxation is under review. A lot has been said about extravagance. As honorable members will have an opportunity to discuss that matter on the Estimates, I shall not deal with it now.
The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) was good enough to offer some advice as to how the Government ought to conduct the affairs of this country. One may be pardoned for being prone to be suspicious of his advice, and to examine his performances as the leader of a government in Australia. We have the recollection of 1930, when he won an election in the State of New South Wales by a record majority and had two years in. office during which he had ample opportunity to prove his capacity to govern. He spent the whole of that time striding from one political blunder to another in seven-league boots, with the result that the credit of New South Wales and, indeed, of Australia, was very seriously damaged. New South Wales, in fact, was plunged into economic chaos. As the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley) mentioned to-night, the honorable member for Reid abdicated when the mess became too great for- him to clear up. The party opposed to him took office, even though it did not have a majority. When the honorable member took- his party to the country, he lost 31 seats. That was his performance while guiding the destinies and looking after the economic welfare of the State of New South Wales. Having had some experience of horse-racing, I am always disposed to judge on form and performances. I would not be encouraged to back a race-horse if its form were no better than that of the honorable member, and I believe that I shall be pardoned if, on behalf of the Government, I am disinclined to pay heed to his advice. He made some reference to “ splits “. I must confess that he is an expert on “ splits “. He had a large party, and split it into so many pieces that he is practically the only member of it who remains. He is now devoting his time to splitting his own personality, and sharing one-half of it with the Australian Country Party, the members of which I have noticed running around, busily engaged as his emissaries in connexion with certain matters. If they continue along those lines, they will be political “mugs”.
– It is the right honorable gentleman’s baby, not ours.
– It may be my baby, but the honorable member and his colleagues are nursing it at the moment.
I do not want members of the Opposition, particularly the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party, to feel that what they have said is entirely disregarded. I am hopeful that a few grains of wheat will be sifted from all the chaff that they have produced.
The general debate being concluded,
Question put -
That the item proposed to he reduced (Mr. Menzies’s amendment) be so reduced.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
First item agreed to.
Remainder of proposed vote - Parlia ment, £235,400 - agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department
Proposed vote, £1,868,200.
– Among the proposed votes for the National Library is an item of £5,000 for the purchase and copying of films. This is the first time in the history of the Parliament that expenditure has been proposed for such a purpose. I should like to know whether the films in question are of historial importance. Another vote of £2,500 is proposed for “Library service for overseas establishments “. No such item was placed in the Estimates during the war period for the benefit of our fighting forces overseas, and’ in view of the fact that hostilities have ceased for about 18 months, why has this new expenditure been proposed? On former occasions I have drawn attention to the wisdom of having research officers in the Parliamentary Library for the purpose of supplying data to honorable members to assist them in the preparation of speeches. I believe that a recommendation was made by the Library Committee that certain officers should be provided for research work, and I should like to know whether their services will be made available. Officers specially trained for this work could quickly provide valuable assistance to honorable members.
– There is a proposed vote to the Public Service Board for salaries and allowances. No thought has ever been given to the appointment of a woman to the board, and in view of the large number of female employees in the Public Service, that matter should receive careful consideration.
.- A small increase is proposed of the vote for the Governor-General’s office. I understand that a yearly allowance is made to the Governor-General of £10,000. Can the Treasurer say whether the whole or any part of this is subject to income tax?
. -The amount of £5,000 mentioned by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) is specifically related to the purchase and copying of films.
– Historical films, presumably.
– The committee which deals with this matter has proposed that a film section of the library should be established. The library has always had some association with films, and this is particularly true of the National Library. It is proposed to provide a complete range of historical, educational and documentary films as part of an educational centre, the films to be made available to other departments. The amount of £2,500 mentioned by the honorable .member for Moreton is to provide a library service for overseas Commonwealth establishments, and for use by Australian missions abroad. The scheme will be worked through the National Library in Australia, because it will be in the best position to supply books. The purpose is to avoid duplication, because the present tendency is for the staffs of overseas establishments to make separate collections of books. This can be largely avoided by the establishment of a central reference library.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) suggested that a woman be appointed to the Commonwealth Public Service Board. As a matter of fact, there has been no Commonwealth Public Service Board for some years, not, indeed, since the retirement of Sir William Clemens in 1930. Since then, there have been commissioners and assistant commissioners. However, the act provides for the appointment of a board, so that no new legislation will be necessary to enable a board to be appointed once more. As a matter of fact, consideration has now been given to the appointment of a board. When that is done, the salary of £2,000 a year paid to the commissioner will have to be increased ‘Under the terras of the act to £2,500, which is the amount specified for the chairman of the board. As for the suggested appointment of a woman., requests of that kind are not easy to satisfy in the case of a small body like the Commonwealth Public Service Board.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked whether all or any part of the allowance paid to the GovernorGeneral was taxed. No, we have not yet had the temerity to tax the allowance of £10,000 paid to the Governor-General.
– It is specifically exempt by a provision in the Income Tax Act.
– I was not aware of that, but I have no doubt that the position is as the right honorable gentleman has stated.
The Parliamentary Library is administered by the President and the Speaker, in conjunction with the Library Committee. I remember a reference some time ago to the appointment of research officers, and I shall make inquiries to see what, has been done.
. -The Estimates provide £3,000 for an investigation into coal dust in mines. In the terms of legislation passed by the Commonwealth Government and the Parliament of New South Wales, a board was set up to control coal production, and one of its functions was to investigate -measures for dealing with coal dust. I should like to know whether the £3,000 provided in the Estimates is in- addition to anything which may be expended by the Coal Board.
– The Government recently decided that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should set up a research station to inquire into the coal dust menace, and to suggest the methods of control suitable for use in Australian mines. A survey has been undertaken on behalf of the council, and it is proposed that Dr. Evelyn Jones, who is at present engaged on this work in Cardiff, shall be brought to Australia. The amount of £3,000 provided in the Estimates is in addition to anything which may be spent by the Government of New South Wales.
– An amount of £750 is provided in the Estimates for “ Library services to outlying territories “. I urge the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to increase this paltry amount to something more substantial. At this stage, I desire to compliment the Commonwealth Parliamentary Librarian, Mr. Binns, who inaugurated the library service to outlying territories. It was because of his acquiescence in my representations that libraries were established at Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Darwin. The bombing of Darwin has caused the existence of the library there to be almost forgotten and something should be done to restore it. Outlying portions of the continent should not be denied a library service equal to that available to people in southern areas. As the people of the Northern Territory may be described as migratory, arrangements should be made for books to be distributed hy post and made returnable to such places as Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and the Rankine River. A vote of £700 is totally inadequate to supply libraries to the people of the outback
The sum of £600 is set down for “ Visit of Librarian Abroad “. That is a totally inadequate sum for the purpose. I remember listening to an address delivered in King’s Hall by Mr. Binns after his previous trip abroad some years ago. I have no doubt that good results will accrue from his proposed visit, but the vote is altogether too small.
In division 16 - Council for Scientific and Industrial Research - the sum of £72,990 is set down for investigations in respect of “ Horticulture, including soil survey and irrigation”. No more important work could be undertaken. Soil survey was a new science in 1929, when 1 was staff surveyor in the Northern Territory. I then wrote to the Geological Survey Department in Queensland on the subject, and was informed that only one man in Australia, a Mr. Taylor, 1 think, was fully equipped to undertake soil surveys. Since then, as the result of research at the Waite Institute and various universities, the science has made advances. The sum proposed to bo expended is altogether inadequate for the purpose, because before any big irrigation scheme or other settlement project is undertaken it is most important that proper surveys be made. Those surveys should include soil surveys as well as aerial surveys. This is an important matter because many exservicemen, some of whom will be experienced, will settle on the land in the near future. Without a proper survey their enterprise may be doomed to failure. The vote should be increased three-fold.
– In connexion with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, it is proposed that £133,590 shall be expended this year on investigations in connexion with animal health and production. Unfortunately, certain diseases which affect sheep particularly are spreading in certain areas of the Commonwealth. One of these is dystochia which has made its appearance in southern districts where clover, particularly the variety dwaganup has been grown. The effect of this disease is that many ewes fail to carry their lambs during the period of gestation, and abortion takes place. In ether cases the lambs are born dead. In addition, there is sometimes almost a transformation of sex; wethers develop certain tendencies usually associated with females and grow udders in which a substance similar to milk is secreted. This disease is disastrous to the fat lamb industry, because where it has gained a hold the lambing, which normally may be 100 per cent., has fallen to 20 per cent., which is not sufficient to maintain the present flocks, let alone produce fat lambs for killing. The other disease to which I wish to refer is alreolitis. The teeth of affected sheep drop out and there is deterioration of the bony structure of the jaw. Mr. Graham Edgar, the senior veterinary officer of the Department of Agriculture in New South Wales suggested that pastoralists in the areas affected should brush the teeth of their sheep but that seems to me to be an unscientific suggestion. He said that the disease was caused by barley grass, but it was pointed out that the sheep had fed on barley grass for many years and had not previously been affected. So far, neither the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research nor the New South Wales Department of Agriculture has found a remedy for this disease. No remedy has been found to counteract these diseases, which are spreading throughout the sheep areas of this country. Unless some remedy is found they will constitute a difficult economic problem and may very well end in the ruin of many men engaged in the pastoral industry. The other disease is toxaemic jaundice, which has been spreading for many years through the improved pasture areas of the southern winter rainfall belts of Australia. Reports indicate that the cause of mortality in sheep in those areas is due to excess copper secretion in the livers of the animals, but they do not explain why such excess secretion takes place and why sheep running on similar country where pastures have not been treated have also contracted the disease. When I asked the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to cause investigation to be made and to establish control plots on non-artificially manured lands, and to read the excellent report on the subject published by Sir Albert Howard, he said that the matter would be brought before the council, but he did not indicate whether or not such an experiment would be undertaken. Up to the present no remedy has been discovered by the council or by the veterinary departments of the States for any of these diseases, which are causing such havoc among our flocks. Sir Albert Howard reported that he fed 1,500 rats with food of different types to ascertain whether their health would be affected by differing kinds of food. As the result of further experiments, he found compost fertilized food gave animals greater immunity from these diseases than was possessed by animals fed on food produced by the aid of artificial manures. He also found that cattle fed with compost fertilized food which nuzzled their noses against cattle infected with foot and mouth disease were more resistant to contagion. I ask the Minister again to take this matter up with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and to have experiments made with a view to stamping out these diseases, I have been disgusted by the attitude he has adopted in the past towards this important subject. When I mentioned Sir Albert Howard’s work, An Agricultural Testament, in the last Parliament the honorable gentleman sneered at me. Apparently he had not heard of the work or of the report of Sir Robert McCarrison, although he came from India and had served in the Indian Army. In the interests of the preservation of the sheep industry the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should conduct experiments to ascertain by what means the resistance of our flocks to these diseases can be increased.
.I cannot allow the Estimates of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to be passed without asking the Minister whether he has yet weakened in his hostility towards my proposal that the Government should assist dairyfarmers and stock-raisers of Queensland to combat the buffalo fly menace. I have raised this matter on very many occasions and have invariably had a discouraging reply from the Minister. The problem is so acute that dairymen have now ignored the Minister and have done their best to combat the pest by the use of DDT. Members of the Graziers Association have also made special efforts in that . direction. I am aware that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has been invited by the dairymen of Queensland and the Graziers Association to co-operate with them in stamping out the buffalo fly and that there has been a remarkable measure of co-operation between the officers of the council and those organizations. I ask the Minister to supply the latest information relative to what the council is doing to combat the pest, and what cooperation, if any, there is between the council and himself and the Queensland Department of Agriculture? The buffalo fly constitutes a serious problem to the whole of the dairying and cattle industries of Australia and if it be not attacked resolutely grave losses of stock will continue to occur. The graziers of Queensland have discovered a solution of DDT and other insecticides ‘which, for the time being, has proved effective in combating both cattle tick and buffalo fly. Even at this late hour I ask the Minister to state what the council is doing to cope with the problem. The old idea of using traps, so enthusiastically sponsored by the Minister on earlier occasions, is futile. The use of DDT or “ 666 “, together with other insecticides, is essential in the eradication of the pest. The buffalo fly came into Queensland from the Northern Territory and thus its eradication is a Commonwealth responsibility. The fly has reached southern Queensland now, and, within a short time, it will probably be found in the northern rivers area of New South Wales. It may even come as far south as Newcastle if adequate measures are not taken to prevent its migration. The Queensland Government is showing much greater enthusiasm than is the Commonwealth Government in attempting to wipe out the fly. In the past the Minister appears to have turned a deaf ear to my representations on this important subject. I again ask him to obtain a report from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as to the measures being taken to eradicate the fly and to make the report available to the Parliament.
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) referred to the proposed vote in respect of Animal Health and Production. He mentioned three diseases to which sheep are subject. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is undertaking experiments in Western Australia along the lines he has suggested. It is true, as he said, that this is a serious problem because unless some method can be evolved to combat these diseases the sheep and wool industry will be gravely affected. The first of the diseases he mentioned induces sterility in ewes.
– That disease has spread to the Riverina.
– I was aware that it had spread to South Australia. I shall make inquires to see how these experiments are progressing. Everything possible to expedite a solution of this problem will be done..
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) asked what amount was being set aside for soil surveys. Most of that work has been done in connexion with soldier settlement, and land settlement generally. The amount set aside for this purpose, namely £31,100, may appear to be rather limited ; but in view of the extensive field over which scientific research resources must be spread, the council believes that it cannot expend more on this particular aspect of research. I shall inquire whether the amount allocated last financial year was adequate, and whether it is necessary to obtain additional money for soil surveys of an urgent character. If necessary, I shall approach the Treasurer on the matter and request that provision be made for such urgent work in the Supplementary Estimates.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has an entirely wrong idea of my attitude to the problem which he raised. I have taken a close interest in the work of preventing the spread of the. buffalo fly. I have visited the infected areas, and inspected many of the stations under the control of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Although I am in charge of Other departments, I have managed to visit the Atherton . Tablelands in order to get a better appreciation of this problem. The honorable member is incorrect when he suggests that I am hostile to this work. On a previous occasion I said that the trap was an effective method of combating the fly. The honorable member now says that the trap is out of date ; but when I visited the infected areas fifteen months ago the trap was very popular with dairy farmers who were most enthusiastic about its effectiveness, and the assistance they were receiving from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in eradicating the fly. In addition, the council is conducting experiments with certain disinfectants and solutions in an endeavour to find means to prevent the further spread of the fly. Officers of the council assure me that they are not at all hopeful of being able to find any disinfectant, or insecticide, which will prevent the fly from spreading to the limits of the climatic conditions suitable to the fly. ‘That is the view qf the experts ; and I remind honorable members that something was said in this chamber to-day about the necessity to appoint to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research men with the requisite qualifications to undertake the work of the council. I do not think that the honorable member for Moreton, as a layman, is qualified to pit his opinion on this matter against that of the officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Those officers are continuing experiments in an endeavour to find a disinfectant, or insecticide, which will prevent the spread of the fly. I assure the honorable member that such experiments will be continued in the future.
– I draw attention to the substantial increase of the proposed vote in respect of every item in this department. With the termination of many of the activities of different departments, expenditure should now be tapered off. I refer, for instance, to the proposed vote in respect of the “ High Commissioner’s Office - United Kingdom “. Whereas the vote under that heading in 1945-46 was £112,500 it is now proposed to vote £238,600, or more than double the amount allocated the previous year. What are we getting for this expenditure at Australia House? Is Australia House a success? Is it giving Australia proper advertisement in Great Britain? I submit that it is not. I have not visited Australia House for three years, but I am informed by many people who have been there recently that although the new High Commissioner may have stirred up things a little, Australia House is not a credit to this country. In one branch, in particular, it has fallen down on its job. A tribute was paid to-day to a certain official who, it was claimed, had done a wonderful job in respect of migration. The reverse is the case. Anyone who has sought an interview at Australia House on the subject of migration will agree with me. It is the most difficult thing for an Australian in Great Britain bo make contact with an official at Australia House. I know of cases of Australians who said that they would sit on the doorstep of Australia House until some official was prepared to interview them. In view of these facts, I fail to understand why the amount for this particular item should now be doubled. Australia House is not obtaining immigrants for Australia. The total num!ber of British migrants who have come to Australia in the last two years is approximately 4,000; but the majority of them were wives, fiancees and children of ex-servicemen. This colossal expenditure is not producing results. Within the two years immediately following World War I., scores of thousands of British people migrated to this country without cost to the Government. Australia House is not organized along effective lines. It suffers greatly by comparison with the organization of Canadian, South African and New Zealand head-quarters in London. Australia House is a hybrid between a morgue and a turkish bath of marble slabs and somnolent officials. Many of them are doing excellent work, but efficient direction is lacking. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) endeavours to give effect to the Government’s migration policy from Canberra. Now and again he presents to Parliament ponderous documents telling of grandiose schemes for bringing British migrants to Australia. The fact remains that very few British people aire coming here. I am aware of the shortage of shipping; but if the job were being done properly ships would be made available. Foreign ships can bring foreign people to our shores but, with two or three exceptions, the only British ships running to Australia are cargo steamers with only small accommodation for passengers. Yet this mammoth vote for a huge staff a t Australia House is required to carry out activities of that kind. The AgentsGeneral of the States could be offered free accommodation there. The Agent-General of South Australia is well placed and is doing a good job, but some of the others would be better accommodated in Australia House, rent free, to help. As things are, hundreds of people who go to Australia House for information about Australia can learn little. If it were a private commercial undertaking, it would have been bankrupt years ago. It is intended to expend this financial year £23S,600 on the Office of the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom, more than twice the vote for and not far short of twice th, expenditure last financial year. How is it proposed that the money shall be spent? Why, one item proposes the expenditure of £16,400 on -the “purchase of lease of official residence”. What is the explanation of that. Perhaps there is a good one.
– I do not know whether it is good or not, but we will tell you the reason.
– It must be a very substantial house if the purchase of the lease alone is to cost that sum of money. A magical transformation will have to come over Australia House to justify the proposed expenditure. I exhort the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who has recently been to England and seen the work being undertaken at Australia House, and the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), who has been there many times, to ensure that something shall be clone to improve the place and its activities. Australia House is not a good advertisement for the country. It has a. bacl history. I do not blame the Government, entirely for that. Every Commonwealth administration has failed to put Australian representation in London on a sound basis. Australia deserves better head -quarters than it has there. I think that the money could be spent more effectively than proposed in the manner, and hope that we shall be able to encourage substantial numbers of British migrants to Australia.
.I listened attentively to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) refer to the High Commissioner’s Office in London. I admit that for a long time we have had reason to complain about the attention that has been given to people in Australia House, but I am satisfied that since the appointment of Mr. Beasley as High Commissioner, and Mr. Norman Mighell, with Mr. Callaghan to assist him, there has been considerable improvement.
– I hope so.
– During the years when the honorable member was a Minister I do not think that Australia House did what it was intended to do. Several young former members of the Royal Air Force who have come to Australia from England told me that when they made inquiries at Australia House about a year ago they could get no information at all about their prospects of employment and otherwise in Australia. I rose merely to contradict the statement that Australia House is falling down on its job. I believe that under the present High Commissioner considerable improvement has occurred with consequent benefit to Australia.
– In Division 16, £11,380 is provided to meet expenditure by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on nuclear energy. “ Nuclear energy investigations “, I take to be a polite way of referring to research into the atomic bomb or research into atomic energy. The press has reported reliable statements made at meetings of the United Nations, particularly by representatives of the Soviet Union, that the nation with the secret of manufacturing the atomic bomb is in a dominating position, and able to smash any other nation opposed to it. A considerable section of the work required for the manufacture of the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki was done in Canada. The production of the plutonium took place in the United States of America. That country has kept the process a carefully guarded secret. We have read about the activities of the Soviet “ spy ring “ in Canada. We read in the report that the Soviet had used its legation to house spies charged with the task of discovering the secret of atomic energy and the manufacture of the atomic bomb. To-day I a iked a question about the appointment of Mr. D. Mountjoy to the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I do not raise his appointment in any political way.
– Not much !
– I do not. He is a pal of the Communists. I have seen him sitting alongside and chatting with the president of the Miners Federation, M.r. Wells, one of the leading Communists in Australia. “ Birds of a feather flock together “ and “ Judge a man by the company he keeps “ are apt quotations. Mr. Mountjoy has been appointed to the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. One of the duties of the council is to investigate nuclear energy. That means that Mr. Mountjoy will have access to all the research work done by it on atomic energy and perhaps on guided projectiles. I think it was Professor Oliphant, or one of the other eminent scientists engaged on the production of the atomic bomb, who said that when their efforts were diverted to the production of the atomic bomb, experimentation in atomic energy had advanced to the point at which atomic energy could have been developed for industrial purposes. The atomic bomb is a devastating weapon. We have had a demonstration of its destructive power in two cities of Japan, each of which was devastated by one such bomb just before the war terminated. I do not know whether Mr. Mountjoy is a member of the Communist party of Australia.
– That is a foul suggestion.
– The honorable member for New England may be a member of the Communist party for all we know.
– I say that I do not know whether he is. All right, defend your Communist friends. Put hammers and sickles in your hair. I am being interrupted in trying to do something for my country. Whether Mr. Mountjoy is a Communist or not I do not know, but I do know that his brother was in Canberra for many months as the correspondent of the Tribune, Sydney. Other members of his distinguished family are, I understand, members of the Australian Com munist party. Mr. Mountjoy seemed to be very close indeed to Communist gentlemen in the Australian Labour movement who at various times came to this building, and I say that there is the greatest possible danger in having a man of his type sharing secrets of nuclear energy experiments in Australia, and presumably, having access to information regarding similar experiments overseas. If the Government feels that it should provide a pension of £500 a year for Mr. Mountjoy, who has no qualifications at all for the position to which he has been appointed, it should put him in a good lucerne paddock with a hut, pay him £500 a year and let him live in comfort. It should not imperil Australia’s security by putting an associate of Communists in a position where he can have access to atomic energy secrets, and perhaps betray his country as certain Canadians did, to an agent of a foreign power. The Government is doing a woeful and wicked thing in making this appointment, and I hope that even now it will reconsider its decision, and give him a job somewhere else.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) referred to the purchase of a lease of an official residence, for which £16,400 is provided in the Estimates. The position is that the lease of the present residence expires next year, and it was necessary to look round for a new residence. The lease of the new building is for 70 years. The matter was examined very fully, and was mentioned to me personally when I was in London. I believe that the present High Commissioner in London received some assistance from the then British PostmasterGeneral, who was a member of the House of Lords, in selecting a new residence. Provision is also made for expenditure on repairs to Australia House, which was damaged during the war. The structure itself remained intact, but I do not think there was a whole pane of glass left in it. That has had to be renewed. I spoke to the then Resident Minister about improving the lighting.
– What about the migration staff?
– I made arrangements for the migration officials, who were then in- the upstairs portion of the building to move to the ground floor into offices formerly occupied by the Tasmanian Agent-General. Some additional expenditure is also required to pay the salaries of new members of the staff, some of whom have been, sent from Australia.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) raised the question of nuclear energy. It is quite true that these experiments are related to atomic energy. An atomic energy laboratory has been established at the Melbourne University under the control of Professor Martin, and arrangements have been made for certain officers to go abroad in connexion with atomic research. The development of atomic energy for industrial purposes is far more advanced in the United States of America than it is anywhere else in the world; but there is a long story behind that and I shall not go into it at this stage. Experiments are also being carried out into the substitution of thorium for uranium. The supply of uranium in the world is limited, whereas thorium which is not so heavy, is more readily obtainable. There are considerable quantities of it in Australia.
– - What about the appointment of ‘Mr Mountjoy?
– I think that the honorable member is a bit “ off the beam “ in raising that matter on the Estimates.
– Are all the necessary security precautions taken in regard to these experiments?
– I understand so.
[.- I was interested to hear the Prime Minister’s statement regarding nuclear energy. It is important, of course, that research into this matter should be encouraged. The side issues raised by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) are suitable for this hour because he is scaring the pants off himself with spy stories. He should leave such topics to another member of his family who writes mystery stories. It is important that there should be a representative of the workers on the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
– It is a dangerous appointment.
– Anyone who has visited the New England district and has seen the smiling and beautiful countryside must wonder why it elects as its representative in this Parliament a man who is always complaining that “ the wheel of the waggon is broken “ and “ it ain’t going to rain no more “. He stands up in this chamber bellowing like a frustrated bull. It is odd that a man with even the glimmer of intelligence that the honorable member for New England possesses should use it to defame someone who is seeking to earn a living in this country.
.- I thought that the point made by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) would have warranted a reply by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). There can be but a few bodies in this country whose work is of more importance than that of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The benefits that accrue to this country from the activities- of that organization are spread throughout our national life in peace and war. It is a body that has earned the respect of every Australian. Never, in my experience, has the finger of scorn been pointed at it. It has remained above political criticism; but now this appointment, which is almost incredible to the Opposition and I believe to the people of Australia, demands some explanation from the Prime Minister. So far, we have not seen any indication that Mr. Mountjoy has any .qualifications that would fit him for the. job.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is an organization which requires the services of the most experienced, learned and skilled men. It has attracted men like the late Sir George Julius, Sir David Rivett and Dr. Richardson. Now, a defeated politician has been appointed to the executive. Members of the Opposition, and a large majority of Australians, can discover no justification for his appointment, other than the necessity to give him a job. His appointment is a travesty. It reduces the status of the Council for Scientific and Industrial
Research to such a degree that it now becomes an object of contempt. Tho Prime Minister should explain why this miserable business of pensioning off a defeated politician should be achieved by appointing him to this organization. What can he contribute to itf I say nothing against Mr. Mountjoy as an individual.
– What did the Australian Country party in Victoria do for Mr. Hogan?
– We know the vendetta which has existed for years between the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) and Mr. Hogan; but that does not explain the appointment of Mr. Mountjoy to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. This appointment is ridiculous, unprecedented, and indefensible. I am sure that, if we could read the minds of Sir David Rivett and Dr. Richardson, we would learn that they were dismayed and disgusted at the action of this Government in wishing on them one of its defeated associates merely to enable him to receive a miserable £500 a year. How did the Minister explain the appointment? He said that Mr. Mountjoy had revealed an interest in agricultural matters. Does any honorable member take that seriously? There is no man in Australia who has such a comprehensive knowledge of agricultural matters as has Dr. Richardson. Now, his associate will be Mr. Mountjoy, whose experience, to the best of our knowledge, is that of railway guard. Having Mr. Mountjoy conduct researches in agricultural subjects will be ridiculous. On the face of it, the Minister’s explanation is a lie. Mr. Mountjoy’s interest in agricultural subjects could not have been th” reason why he was appointed to the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which possesses n nian of the reputation of Dr. Richardson.
What was the other explanation offered by the Minister? He said that, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research required the services of someone to safeguard the interests of the workers. The council is not a sociological body. It deals with facts and records, and conducts researches. Its officers should be highly skilled persons who have experience of assessing facts. The appointment of this defeated politician is a disgusting practice for any Government to initiate, and it is not to be explained by counter charges that a previous government rewarded some of its political supporters. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is one of the few institutions in Australia which has been beyond criticism. To-day, it becomes an object of criticism.
We should not dismiss lightly even the point raised by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), exaggerated as it appeared to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), the gentleman of literary ability, who strings together the platitudes and trite phrases which amuse the readers of the Women’s Journal. Any man who becomes a member of the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will have available to him most secret information. I hope that Mr. Mountjoy will be capable of assessing the vital information which will come into his hands, although 1 have not the slightest doubt that he will be incapable of understanding it. The Government must know that it is widely believed that, if Mr. Mountjoy is not a Communist, he has been a Communist sympathizer. The most important subject that can engage the attention of this Parliament is national security, and the honorable member for New England did the country a service when he pointed out, in the knowledge that he would be attacked for his action., that most secret information would be available to a man of known Communist sympathies. No one knows better than does the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) that the Communists in Australia have never given their allegiance to the policies of this country when those policies were inconsistent with the policies of Soviet Russia. Shortly after the outbreak of World War II., the Communists directed all their energy and ingenuity to destroying the value of our war effort. Some of the Communists had to be interned. They were released by the Minister for External Affairs and Mr. Beasley, who is now the High Commissioner for Australia in Great Britain, after having given satisfactory assurances as to their future conduct. I hope the Prime Minister will inform honorable members whether Mr. Mountjoy is obliged to take the oath of secrecy before he begins his duties with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
– It is time that the honorable member woke up to himself.
– The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) is lucky to find himself representing the electorate of Forrest. He had a close shave. He was nearly out of the Parliament with “ Don “ Mountjoy. I should like the Prime Minister to assure me that Air. Mountjoy will be required to take the oath of secrecy.
– Since I have been a member of this Parliament I do not think that I have heard a more venomous attack on any citizen than has just been made by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). I have always tried to show some tolerance towards honorable members generally, even though at times they use strong language, but I repeat that T have never heard more venomous statements than those which have just been made, and never have I known a statement to do more discredit to the man who made it. Both in this chamber and on, the hustings, he has been the greatest purveyor of political untruths and half-truths that I have known in this Parliament. It is evident that he is so embittered by the whirlwind that he and his party have reaped that he is piepared to defame anybody. He has absolutely no proof that Mr. Mountjoy is a Communist; he cannot produce one scintilla of evidence that such is the case. Nevertheless, under the cloak of privilege in this Parliament, he is prepared to engage in bitter defamation of a citizen who has been associated with us in this chamber. I had hoped that no honorable member would fall to such depths. The honorable member questioned the appointment of Mr. Mountjoy to the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I inform him thai, prior to the elections the Government intended to appoint a representative of the workers to this position. Indeed, a cer tain, gentleman who is well known to honorable members and who is not a scientific worker was asked to accept the position. He was not prepared to do so. He is a citizen whom the Government believes to have considerable common sense, and a knowledge of the affairs of Australia which would have enabled him to occupy the position with credit to himself. It was not intended, when the position was created, that a scientist should be appointed to it. I am completely disgusted by the statements that I have heard in this chamber to-night, although I am not very easily moved to irritation by this sort of thing. I have no apology or further explanation to offer. The Minister in charge of the Council tor Scientific and Industrial Research (Mr. Dedman) recommended the appointment of Mr. Mountjoy. I am not aware that an oath of secrecy is required to be taken by persons appointed to the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Mr. Mountjoy will be treated in, the same way as other members. If they are required to take such an oath, he will be required to do likewise.
– I rise to order! The Prime Minister in speaking just now, stated that I was a purveyor of political untruths and half truths. I claim that that statement was unparliamentary and scurrilous. It is offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
(Mr. Sheehan). - The statement made by the Prime Minister was not unparliamentary.
– I reiterate that the statement was not unparliamentary. It only related that the honorable member had stated untruths.
– I have given a ruling, and it may not be debated.
That the rulingbe dissented from.
Minister is a scurrilous purveyor of untruths.
– Order ! The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) must submit his motion in writing.
The honorable member for Balaclava having submitted in writing his objection to the ruling,
Question put -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. T. Sheehan.)
Majority . . . . 15
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the house do now adjourn. Mr. McEWEN (Indi) [1.59 a.m.].- I take this opportunity to address a question to you, Mr. Speaker. It is quite a simple question.
– Order ! The honorablemember cannot do that on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
– Well, I can speak on the motion, I hope.
– But the honorable member cannot refer to anything that transpired in committee.
– Would I be in order in raising a point of order?
– Not at this stage.
– If I may not raise a point of order now, can you tell me when I shall have the earliest opportunity to do so?
– Nothing has occurred on the adjournment on which a point of order could be raised.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1946 -
No. 35. - Commonwealth Telegraph Traffic and Supervisory Officers’ Association.
No. 36. - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
No. 37. - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 38. - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Supply and Shipping - N. H. Fisher.
Distillation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1040, No. 123.
National Security Act - National Security (Prices) Regulations -
Declaration - No. 159
Re-establishment and Employment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1940, No. 107.
War Service Homes Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 164.
House adjourned at 2 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Broadcastings Australian Broadcasting Commission Children’s Session.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 November 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19461128_reps_18_189/>.