18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Following my question yesterday in reference to the suggested new air service between Melbourne and Darwin, can the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation informme whether he subsequently took the matter up with the Chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, as he promised he would do, and state what is the position?
– Yesterday, following the honorable member’s request to me, I discussed this matter with the chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission and learned that, as I had indicated, the suggested alteration of. the air service between Melbourne and Darwin was the figment of some person’s imagination. The commission has not considered an alteration of the existing service between Adelaide and Darwin and such a proposal is not contemplated.
Banon Dutch Ships
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Australian Government has exercised what the Dutch and Indonesian administrations have described as its “good offices”, with a view to securing the removal of the ban by the Australian Waterside Workers Federation on the loading of Dutch ships in Australian ports; if so, with what result?
– The request of the Dutch and Indonesian administrations is being given effect ; the “ good offices “ of theGovernment are being exercised in the direction desired.
– It has been reported that a large number of Liberty ships are lying idle in different American ports, and,I believe, are for sale. Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government is prepared to enter into negotiations for the purchase of some of these vessels, with a view to facilitating migration to this country? I understand that some of the vessels could quite easily be converted for use in the passenger traffic.
– The Minister for Immigration will answer the question.
– I repeat what I have said on several occasions, namely, that negotiations are proceeding through the medium of the Australian Ambassador in Washington for the purchase by Australia of any available vessels that are owned by the Government of the United States of America, or private interests in that country, and are suitable for immigration purposes. Fourships similar to Misr which arrived in Australia recently are available at $1,100,000 each. Although they are good vessels, there is some doubt as to their suitability for carrying passengers on the long run from the United Kingdom to Australia. The Australian High Commissioner in London has been instructed to have the vessels inspected, and when his report is received the Government will decide whether it will purchase them. Should the ships be purchased they will be used to bring people from Great Britain to Australia. “ Liberty “ ships generally are not suitable for the carrying of passengers, as they are cargo vessels produced under mass construction methods. Some of them are good, but others would not be suitable. The ships in which the Government is interested are of the “ Victory “ type, and if we can get them we shall do so.
Position of Mr. S. V. Price
– Has Mr. S. V. Price, the delegate of the Treasurer in Brisbane, resigned, and, if so, what were the reasons for his resignation? Was Mr. Price the person in charge of land sales control in Brisbane?
– I am not aware that Mr. Price has resigned, but it may be that he has done so in the exercise of his rights as a public servant. Nothing has come before me to indicate that he has resigned. If he has done so it has not been the result of any action on my part. I shall ascertain the facts and let the right honorable gentleman have a reply later.
– In view of the Prime Minister’s statement in Parliament last week that he had appointed Mr. Balmford as an impartial and independent investigator of charges against land sales control, can the right honorable gentleman say whether Mr. Balmford is the departmental superior of Mr. Lush?Will he also inform the House who is the impartial and independent investigator who has been appointed, or is to he appointed, to inquire into the charges made by Mr. Lush against Mr. Balmford?
- Mr. Balmford is a member of the Treasury staff and is the head of the land sales control section and also of the capital issues branch. When certain matters were brought to my notice I naturally asked the officer in charge to make an investigation in order to ascertain whether there was any justification for the charges. Mr. Balmford submitted a report which I thought contained sufficient evidence to warrant certain action being taken. After consultation with Mr. Balmford and the Acting Secretary of the TreasuryI decided that the charges should be further inquired into by the investigation branch of the Attorney-General’s Department. As that investigation is now in progress I do not propose to do anything further in the matter until a report has been received. When a report comes to hand the Government will decide whether any further inquiry shall be made, by whom it will be made and the nature of the terras of reference.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the investigation which he said yesterday was being carried out by the investigation branch of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department into the land sales control administration in New South Wales is to be limited to the activities of the one officer, Mr. Lush, who appears to have been suspended, or whether it will cover the whole administration in New South Wales? As this apparently is a matter for police investigation, I should like to know also whether it is limited to matters that may be the basis of criminal charges in the future. What action does the Treasurer propose to inquire into many other matters relating to the administration of the control of land sales, which may not be the basis of criminal charges but with which the public is most dissatisfied? It appears that in some instances the administration is believed to have gone far beyond the regulations under which it has been working. I should like to know whether there is any suggestion that the investigation branch will deal with the whole matter of land sales control throughout the Commonwealth.
– The inquiry by the investigation branch relates to the particular matter that has been brought to the notice of the Government, namely, the circumstances associated with Mr. Lush’s displacement. I have not made any charges of bribery or corruption against anybody, and I emphasize again that action was taken as the result of a series of departures from the ordinary procedure in dealing with applications. It is that matter, and that matter only, that is the subject of investigation at present. When I receive the report of the investigating officers, the matter will be examined. The reply to the honorable member’s question regarding an investigation of land sales controls throughout the Commonwealth is “No”.
– Despite anything that may be in the report?
– The report will not deal with the administration of land sales control throughout Australia. It will deal only with the particular matter to which I have referred. I realize that there are many difficulties associated with the administration of land sales control in every State. As I pointed out yesterday, one difficulty is the failure of valuers to agree. However, I do not wish to reflect on the great body of valuers, because they have been most helpful. In many instances decisions in Sydney were not made by Mr. Lush but by panels of men outside the Public Service, and engaged in the real estate business. That is something which should be made quite clear. Disputed cases are sometimes referred to the valuer of the Taxation Department or to the special panel. I heard the honorable member for Parramatta talking about this matter last night. My experience has been that one of the greatest causes of delays in having applications dealt with has been the failure of solicitors to forward the applications together with all the necessary information to the delegate of the Treasurer. People are constantly writing to the department complaining that their cases have not been dealt with. When these, complaints have been investigated, we have almost invariably found that the delays have occurred in the offices of the solicitors handling the transactions. A second difficulty arises in connexion with country valuations because of the vastly different views of country valuers as to the value of a particular property. Many of these valuers established themselves in business as stock and station agents and auctioneers and have not the requisite experience to make valuations which would be accepted by qualified valuers. The investigations being made are limited to the administration of the Sydney office and cover particularly certain transactions which have been brought under notice which have a bearing on the removal from office of Mr. Lush.
– On the 14th Ma>, I asked the Prime Minister whether the failure of the Government to honour an agreement, to pay to Sydney Ferries Limited a subsidy of 6d. a week in respect of each employee of Cockatoo Island Dockyard carried between the island and the mainland, had resulted in the company deciding to discontinue all ferry services to the island after the 31st May. The right honorable gentleman replied that early in the operation of the prices stabilization scheme, the Prices Stabilization Committee had decided to pay such a subsidy in order to avoid an increase of the wages of employees, and that the matter of remuneration no longer had to be considered. I now ask the Prime Minister whether in August, 1946, Sydney Ferries Limited was permitted to increase fares charged for workmen’s weekly tickets between the island and the mainland from ls. 6d. to 2s., while maintaining the cost to Cockatoo Island Dockyard employees of ls. 6d. a week, and that to the 18th April of this year no subsidy was paid to the company? Has Sydney Ferries Limited and Cockatoo- Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited been informed that the subsidy arrangement has lapsed? Can the Prime Minister say whether the ferry service to the island will be discontinued after the 31st May?
– An answer has been prepared to a question on this subject, asked, I think, on notice by the honorable member for Wentworth himself. I checked it yesterday, but because it did not give all the information it might as to the stage which negotiations have reached, I held it up. The arrangement for the payment of a subsidy of 6d. a week representing the difference between ls. 6d. and 2s., was made by the Department of the Navy, but the responsibility appears to have rested upon the Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited. It is clear that that responsibility has not been discharged, and up to date the subsidy has not been paid. Arrangements will be made to ensure that payment is made. The second question is whether the subsidy will be continued, and I cannot give a final answer to that. I have been informed that negotiations are in progress with a view to preventing the discontinuance of the service, and I - understand that the present arrangement does not terminate until the 30th June next. I shall obtain all available information on the subject, and supply it to the honorable member.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that Abermain No. 1 Colliery has been idle since the 31st March owing to an inter-union dispute ? Is it also a fact that the trouble has spread to two other mines? Seeing that the miners propose to call a conference of all districts in Sydney tomorrow, will the Prime Minister himself endeavour to convene a conference of the various craft unions concerned in industry with a view to the formation of one union to which all workers in the coal-mining industry would belong as in Great Britain, where there is very little industrial trouble of this kind in comparison with Australia?
– I know, of course, that Abermain No. 1 Colliery has not been working, for a considerable time hecause of a demarcation dispute, or something of that kind, between the Federated Engine Drivers and the Amalgamated Engineering Union as to who should do certain work. I was not aware that the trouble had extended to other mines. I agree that the existence of so many craft unions associated with the coal-mining industry leads to much difficulty, but I understood that there was a council of minme unions, including the miners federation itself, which was supposed to «over them all. I do not think that there is anything I can do to induce members of craft unions to join one union for the industry.
– Will the Prime Minister tail a conference?
– The trouble is that there just are not enough hours in the day for all the conferences which it is suggested I should call. I understand that already a number of conferences have been held to deal with this matter. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has been associated with a number of discussions aimed at securing a settlement of this dispute. I believe, also, that this matter has been considered by the chairman of the Coal Industrial Tribunal, Mr. Gallagher, who is also chairman of the other body dealing with the mining unions. However, I shall take the matter up with the Minister for Supply and Shipping to see if anything can be done to settle this unfortunate and unjustified trouble.
– What arrangements, if any, have been made for what the Prime Minister described recently as the friendly consultations between Great Britain and other Empire countries regarding Empire trade preferences? When is it proposed to submit to the Parliament any arrangements that may be made either at Geneva or London?
– Negotiations are now taking place at Geneva. Earlier consultations were held in London between representatives of the Dominions in relation to the proposed agreement on international trade and employment. Consultations are constantly taking place between representatives of the British” Commonwealth of Nations at Geneva in respect of matters of mutual concern. Recently I arranged for Dr. Coombs and the High Commissioner for Australia in London, Mr. Beasley, to consult with Sir Stafford Cripps who is responsible for the work of the Empire delegation. The preliminary discussions between the representatives of the Dominions on the general subject of international trade have been concluded. As to the latter part of the honorable member’s question, it is not expected that any agreement which may be made at Geneva will be available for consideration by the Parliament until September or October. There is always a danger, of course, that the discussions at Geneva may not result in a satisfactory
Agreement, but we are hopeful that a satisfactory solution of the problems of international trade will be reached. If agreement be reached, it is not likely to be brought before the Parliament until after the recess, probably in September or October.
Export of Woollen Piece Goods - Import of Cotton from Japan.
– I ask the Minister for Post-warReconstruction what is the position regarding supplies of first quality suiting materials ? Also, is it a fact that during the last nine months, as reported in a recent issue of the Sunday Mail, Brisbane, more than 177,289 suit lengths have been exported from Australia to Russia, and that the material, which was mostly double weft and worsted type, formed a part of exports, totalling up to 4,000,000 yards, to 48 foreign countries? Having regard to representations made to me by country citizens, who complain that they are unable to obtain good quality suiting materials, except on rare occasions, when a suit length costs £20, will the Minister take action to give Australian country residents a better deal ?
– This question has been raised on a number of occasions. It concerns the Minister for Supply and Shipping, to whom I shall mention the matter with a view to obtaining any information which may be useful to the honorable member. However, I should like to say now that, whilst a large quantity of woollen textiles has been exported from Australia, a large proportion of that quantity consisted of materials which are not suitable for the Australian market. These materials were manufactured during the war for war purposes. The quantity of woollen textiles of types suitable for local consumption isvery limited. As far as I am aware, exports represent only token shipments to markets in which Australia enjoyed trade before the war.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it is a fact that a total of 12,000,000 yards of cotton goods is to be shipped to Australia from Japan. If so, does the Commonwealth Government intend to distribute that quantity equitably between the various Australian mills, or will the distribution be a matter of private organization?
– Control over the importation of cotton goods, rayon, and so forth is under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Trade and Customs. I shall have the honorable member’s question conveyed to the Minister in order to obtain an answer.
Sandakan Death Marches
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Army concerning an item listed in a broadcast programme for the 30th May published in the A.B.C. Weekly of the 24th May, at page 16. It states - 9.15. Six from Borneo.
Story of the Death Marches and Fate of Prisoners-of-war in North Borneo, by Colin Simpson.
In view of the Minister’s statement to me last week that the report of Major Jackson had not yet been delivered following his visit with Mr. Simpson to Sandakan, North Borneo, to investigate the fate of 1,900 Australians who perished there, and in view of the notification in the A.B.C. Weekly that, at 9.15 p.m. next Friday, from station 2BL, the six survivors of the Sandakan death marches into the jungle are to describe the affair under the direction of Mr. Simpson, will the Minister, in conjunction with the Minister for Information, prohibit this broadcast until Major Jackson’s report has been read on the floor of this House? Will the Minister also have the script of the proposed broadcast laid on the table of both Houses of the Parliament before the broadcast is made?
– I have not seen the report in the A.B.C. Weekly, but I will have the matter examined and discuss it with the Minister for Information. On the result of that discussion will depend whether the talk will be allowed.
– In the absence of the Attorney-General, I refer the Prime Minister to a decision of the Full Bench of the Industrial Commission of New South Wales on Monday that it could not alter rates of pay pegged by National Security Regulations. The commission upheld the appeal of the Greater Newcastle City Council against an order made by Mr. Justice Cantor on the 18th December last, directing the council to pay its town clerk a salary of £1,450 a year. Two members of the bench held that the commission had no power to fix salaries at more than £1,000 a year or alter rates of pay pegged by the National Security Regulations, but the third judge dissented and held that the commission did have the power. In view of the doubt, even amongst highest judicial authorities, as to the effect of the wage-pegging regulations, will the Prime Minister prepare for the information of honorable members a statement showing the present policy of the Government in relation to wage-pegging generally? En view of the anomalies that are arising and the conflicting views held as to the effect of the wage-pegging regulations will he give consideration to their abolition?
– I thought the position had been made clear as to what authority, other than the Acting Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court, could do under the amended wage-pegging regulations. Any industrial authority is empowered to increase marginal rates by 25 per cent, plus 3s. If it is thought that a case has been made out for the award of a greater amount, a tribunal is empowered to make a recommendation to the Acting Chief Judge. The AttorneyGeneral has not yet received the transcript of the judgment and proceedings in the case mentioned by the honorable member, but he expects to have them to-day, when opportunity will be taken to review the circumstances of the case and the reasons for granting an increase over the prescribed amount to an employee of Greater Newcastle City Council set out by Mr. Justice Cantor in his judgment. However, there is no doubt that Mr. Justice Cantor did have the right to refer the matter to the Acting Chief Judge, and the Acting Chief Judge is empowered to decide such matters without any restrictions whatsoever. As soon as possible after receipt of the transcript of the judgment and proceedings I will make an early reply to the honorable member’s question. With regard to the latter portion of his question, it has been made clear on a number of occasions that as opportunity offered, the Government would relax the rigidity of wage-pegging with a view to its eventual abolition. That is the promise which I. made twelve months ago, and it still stands.
Canberra - War Widows
– My electorate adjoins the Australian Capital Territory. I have had several inquiries from home-seekers from Canberra about their prospect of getting a home here. Can the Minister for Works and Housing say how many people are seeking homes in Canberra, the number of homes under construction in Canberra and when those homes are likely to be completed to relieve the acute shortage?
– Housing is very scarce in Canberra, mainly because of the inadequate planning for the development of Canberra by pre-war governments. While trying to gear an organization for an expanded home construction programme in the National Capital we also have to construct roads and lay sewerage and water mains, which work should have been done before the war when there was a great volume of unemployment in’ the country. Unfortunately, about 1,300 people are on the waiting list for homes in Canberra. We have under construction about 350 houses, and T believe that within the next twelve months we shall have double that number under construction.
– Is it a fact that the Minister for Works and Housing was approached by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia with the request that he make available to war widows and their children homes at a nominal rental? Is it a fact that the Minister informed the League that it was not practicable to do so? If that is so, is the Minister prepared to reconsider his decision in view of the just claim which these people have upon the community ?
– It is true that some time ago the body mentioned wrote to me asking that consideration be given to providing houses for war widows and their children. I informed it that the department already has over 20,000 applicants eligible for homes, and that until we can satisfy them, I could not sec any good reason to extend the provisions of the act to cover the people he mentioned.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that retailers in Queensland and other States are agitating for the abolition of clothes rationing? In view of the claims being made that there are adequate supplies of most lines of clothing will the Minister consider removing some articles of clothing from the ration list, or making & more generous allocation of rationing coupons? Large quantities of clothing are available for purchase by the public but they cannot bc bought by the public because of the limited number of coupons issued to them. In winter time more clothing is needed by the people but they are unable to purchase it bacause of lack of coupons.
– I have not seen the statement mentioned, I understand, by the president of the Retailers Traders Association in .Brisbane.
– No, the request was received from Queensland.
– The request was made by the retailers.
– And the general public.
– The availability of various articles of clothing, particularly cotton and textile goods, is constantly reviewed by the Minister for Trade and
Customs and the Rationing Commission. For a period a grave danger existed that all the clothing required to meet coupons at the existing scale could . not be provided. During the last fortnight we have seen our way clear to increase imports from the United States of America and Japan in order to meet some of the deficiencies. I have no doubt that the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Rationing Commission will endeavour, when it is possible, to increase the value of clothing coupons.
– Will the Prime Minister ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to examine the matter?
– I shall ask the Minister to examine the matter immediately in the light of the latest developments regarding the importation of materials.
– As the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has a “ considerable amount of leisure “, as he said a few minutes ago, I ask him whether he has yet found time to reply to a question which I addressed to him on the 2nd May last, relating to conflicting statements by the former Minister for Agriculture in Western Australia and himself regarding flood relief in that State?
– I did not say, in reply to another question, that I had a considerable amount of leisure. I am still investigating the honorable member’s question.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to a statement which appeared in the press yesterday that the permanent heads of Commonwealth departments and other officers who were appointed . by Cabinet will soon receive increases of salary, and that their assistants and all other officers receivingmore than £750 per annum will later be granted proportionate increases. The report also stated that a sub-committee of Cabinet, consisting of the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General and the Minister for Health and Social Services, had been appointed to examine the salaries of the highest paid public servants and make recommendations to Cabinet. I ask the Prime Minister to inform me when will the review of the salaries of the highest paid public servants be made? When will he make a statement to the House on the matter? Is it proposed that the increases to be granted to senior officers in receipt of salaries exceeding £720 per annum - I mention £720 per annum because, although the press report referred to £750, I believe that the figure should have been £720 - shall be made retrospective to the 8th May last, as were increases granted to other public servants?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member referred but I shall inform him of the exact position. Some time ago the Public Service Board met the organizations representing lower paid public servants, who receive salaries up to £450 per annum. After many consultations, a case was presented to the Public Service Arbitrator, and a consent award was made which gave to those officers a total increase of £1,600,000. In addition, the Public Service Board met the officials of those organizations representing public servants in receipt of salaries between £450 and £750 per annum, and an award covering them has been made. The Public Service Board is not in a position to continue the examination of salaries in excess of £750 per annum until the salaries of those officers who are appointed by Cabinet have been determined. For example, the permanent heads of some departments receive a salary of £1,400 per annum. An equitable adjustment of salaries above £750 a year cannot be made until the present ceiling for the salaries of those officers appointed by Cabinet has been reviewed. Cabinet has appointed a sub-committee of three of its members - the Attorney-General, the Minister for Health and. Social Services and myself - to examine all those salaries which are determined by Cabinet itself and not by the Public Service Board. I hope that the committee will be able to devote a couple of days to an investigation of the matter during the ensuing recess. When the committee has completed its work, it will present a report to Cabinet, which will then decide whether it shall adopt or modify any of the recommendations that have been made and will determine the date from which its decision shall become effective. My impression at the moment is that, if the work of the committee can be completed fairly quickly, it may be possible to make any increases of such salaries apply from, probably, the 1st July next. .
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen a newspaper report that the general sales manager of H. V. McKayMassey Harris Proprietary Limited, Mr. S. S. McKay, had said that from two to three years will have elapsed before the leeway in the production of agricultural implements and equipment has been overtaken? If so, in view of the importance of maintaining production at the maximum, especially in the wheat industry, will the Minister have an urgent review made of the situation, with the object of ensuring that everything possible shall be done to meet the needs of primary producers ?
– I have not seen Mr. McKay’s statement regarding the shortage of agricultural implements and equipment,but I am aware that there have been some difficulties in connexion with the purchase of adequate supplies of agricultural implements of some types and of some duplicate parts that are essential for the working of agricultural implements. The honorable member has asked me whether I will take steps to remove the existing difficulties. I am undecided as to whether he desires the institution of some form of control and the diversion of labour and materials as a means of overtaking the shortages.. If he does, I shall be pleased if he will make a definite statement to that effect. As far as I am able within the ambit of existing powers, I shall be glad to do anything that I can do to have the production of these implements accelerated.
Motion (by Mr. Chif ley) agreed to -
That leavebe given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the War Gratuity Act 1946.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of the bill is to provide for the extension of certain provisions of the War Gratuity Act 1945 to the 30th June, 1947. Section 10 of that act provides that service subsequent to the date twelve months after the cessation of hostilities should not count for war gratuity. For the purpose of the act, the 2nd September, 1945, was proclaimed as the date of the cessation of hostilities. Under the act as it stands, therefore, service after the 2nd September, 1946, does not count for war gratuity. The Government subsequently decided that, having regard to the fact that general demobilization had not been completed at the 2nd September, 1946, the date of entitlement to gratuity should be extended until the forces had been established on a more or less postwar footing. The date selected was the 30th June, 1947, and the bill gives effect to that decision by inserting the words “ 30th June, 1947 “ in lieu of the words “ date twelve months after the cessation of hostilities” wherever they occur in the act.
The bill also provides for the amendment of section 27 to ensure that members serving at the 2nd September, 1946, or who re-enlisted subsequent to that date, shall not suffer any loss of interest on gratuity by reason of deferment of the date of entitlement to the 30th June, 1947.
Only two other matters are covered by the bill. There is an amendment to section 14 to make less restrictive the provision for a minimum of three years’ gratuity in the case of death when the member left persons totally dependent on him. In the act as it stands, the persons who might be entitled to the benefit of this provision were widow or widower, child, parent, step-parent, foster-parent or dependant of the deceased member, provided that they were beneficially entitled under the will of the deceased to any part of his estate, or would, had the deceased died intestate, have been entitled to a share in the distribution of his intestate estate. The amendment proposed in the bill gives entitlement to persons of the specified relationship who were totally dependent on the member at the date of his death, but removes the restrictive provision relating to entitlement under the member’s will or under an intestacy. The removal of this restrictive condition follows the adoption by the Government of a suggestion from the Central War Gratuity Board that the amendment was necessary in order that certain deserving cases should not be deprived of the benefits of this section.
A new section is to be inserted after section 32, to provide formal power of delegation of the powers of the Minister under the act.
Although the bill extends the benefits of war gratuity for a period to meet circumstances which were not anticipated when the act was framed, there has been no departure from the sound principles that were adopted by the all-party committee which originally reported on the subject of war gratuity payments.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 27th May (vide page 2938), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, to grant a sum of £25,000,000 to Great Britain as a contribution towards war expenditure incurred by it in respect of operations in and around the Pacific, affords to all honorable members a very proper opportunity to discuss not only a monetary grant to Great Britain, but also the whole matter of whether any assistance should be granted and, if it should, what that assistance should be. If the matter be one only of money, no honorable member on this side of the House will say that the grant should not be made pursuant to the bill. But we also say that more should be granted than is proposed; and we hope that this bill will be the forerunner of other measures, and will be a part of a scheme to scale down the indebtedness of Great Britain, not only to Australia but also to other countries. We on this side say that the expression that the money is to be granted, “ as a contribution towards war expenditure of the United Kingdom Government incurred by it in respect, of operations in and around the Pacific “ is a misnomer. If money is to be granted to Great Britain there is no need to say that the gift is being made for a particular purpose such as that. The feeling of the Australian people is that if a gift is to be made to our kinsmen in the Old Country it should be made because of our gratitude for all that they have done for us not only in the Pacific but in every sphere in which they “served during the war. The real feeling of the people of this country is one of unspeakable gratitude for the sacrifices of their kinsmen which began in 1939 and continued throughout the war, and are still being made. We wonder whether there is any particular significance in the use of the phrase, “ in and around the Pacific “. We have asked, by interjection and otherwise, what those words mean, but we have not received an answer. It may be that there is a good reason for them - a reason associated with high politics with respect to which we on this side have not been taken into the confidence of the Government - but prima facie the statement that this is a gift in respect of Britain’s help in the Pacific is niggardly and mean, and does not create a good impression in the minds of the Australian people.
The substantial question which divides honorable members on the two sides of the House is whether Australia can make a large and generous grant of foodstuffs to the people of Britain. No supporter of the Government has said that the people there’ are not short of food. On the contrary, it has been admitted that Britain is gravely short of food.
– The Minister for Transport does not think so.
– There may be a more generous body of opinion on the Government benches than that expressed by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). I prefer to select as typical of the views of honorable members opposite the state ment of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) that Britain is short of food. Some honorable members say - and it does not sound well when they say it - “ Oh, yes, but Britain is giving food to the people of Europe “. That is true, but it is obvious to all intelligent people that there is grave danger of the lights going out in Europe. If civilization as we know it disappears in Europe; if ordered life crumbles in countries such as Germany, Italy and France ; if democratic and political institutions fall to pieces in Europe, civilization not only in Continental Europe but also in Great Britain and the rest of the world will disappear with it Unless the culture and civilization of Europe is maintained there is no hope for any of us who have inherited western civilization. It is because food is the key to this situation, for without food any people will crumble, that the Govern-, ment of the United Kingdom has been at such pains to send food to the people in other parts of Europe. Judging by the remarks of honorable members opposite, the opposition to the proposal that large quantities of food should be. sent to Great Britain appears to be due to a belief that we in Australia have not enough food to send. In a carefully reasoned speech the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has shown that we have food which could be sent. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said also that the Opposition will grant to the Government immunity from political criticism in respect of any action it may take to secure more food for the British people. He has suggested that the law in relation to food rationing should be enforced more strictly, or that the Government should experiment with the lifting of rationing in certain quarters; or, if it thinks fit, that rationing should be extended ; and he has gone on to say that the Opposition will take equal blame with the Government for such a decision. The right honorable gentleman is criticized for his offer on the ground that it does not present a solution of the problem, but consists merely of alternative proposals. I emphasize that it is an offer from the Opposition to the Government which alone has th# power to act and knows the facts. We say that these matters should be investigated, and that a real national effort on the highest possible plane should be made. We suggest that the people should be called upon to make sacrifices, if necessary, in order that more food may be made available to those who need it. I thought that the cat was out of the bag when the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) spoke last night. The honorable member said plainly that the Labour party would not ration the people of Australia any further.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh said nothing of the kind.
– That is precisely what he did say. The honorable gentleman said that it was all very well for members of the Opposition to talk about more severe rationing because they could go into restaurants and buy a rich, juicy steak for themselves whenever they liked, whereas the ordinary man had only his rationed foods to live on and could not afford to eat in restaurants to make up for any curtailed ration. The implication is that rationing is so severe in Australia that any intensification of it would cause intolerable hardship to ordinary people. I reminded the honorable member for Hindmarsh at the time that the people of Great Britain, are living on half the quantity of food that we in this country have under our rationing system. We on this side believe that, if necessary, the rationing system in Australia could be extended. We also believe that the people of Australia would respond generously to a good cause if they were asked in a proper way to do so. We suggest that the cause of giving more foodstuffs to the people of Britain who have done so much for us is the best possible cause for which sacrifices could be made. We think, too, that the view of the Labour party that ordinary Australians should not be asked to make further sacrifices grossly underestimates the spirit of the people of Australia and their gratitude to their kinsmen in the Old Country. What is needed is leadership by the Government.
I<t is a truism that ordinary committees do not lift themselves by their own boot-straps : democracy does not progress unaided; it requires to be called to action by the leaders of the nation. Because the Government is not prepared to make a generous gesture, and will not take the .people into its confidence and tell them what is required,, and call them to action, do most of the people sit back and do nothing. If the truth were explained to them and they were asked to act generously, I have no doubt what their response would be, I desire to put this matter in the way in which I believe it is understood by the ordinary, plain people of Australia^ 95 per cent, of whom are still of British stock and therefore, have a natural feeling of warmth, friendliness and gratitude to the people of Great Britain. They realize, as do some members of the Government that the British people are really in a desperate situation. No one can read the recently issued British Economic Survey and official reports and statements which appear from time to time in various publications without realizing how acute the position is. Any person who understands the effect of lack of markets, absence of credit and all tlie aftermath of war must realize that Britain is indeed in a bad way. Britain saved the world, and now in the words of Matthew Arnold, she is in truth -
The weary Titan,
Staggering on to her goal;
Bearing on shoulders immense,
The load of the too vast orb of her fate.
Contrast its position with that of Australia, which is unscathed by war, which is enriched by war and, is even prosperous, whose people have their bellies full to a degree unknown in Europe ; and whose future is completely assured so long as we are prepared to work. The plain, ordinary people of Australia, realize that it is up to us to do something. By this gesture of feeding an overtaxed, over-wrought and worn-out people, we shall be doing something which is in our own interest, because if England goes we go with it. However, the people do not wish to place this matter on the level of self-interest. They do not think in terms of self-interest in international matters. They are readily touched by emotional issues, and this is an emotional issue. Irecall the motto which is engraved in stone as part of a war memorial at St. John’s Cathedral in Parramatta within my electorate - Pro tanto quid retribuemus - “ What can we do for those who have done so much for us ? “. That is the real attitude of the people of Australia towards sending food to Great Britain - food in generous quantities that will require sacrifices on our part. Plain people remember what happened in 1939-40 when France fell, and when the English people stood completely alone. All the world held its breath, and many people, including some well-informed persons, wereinclined to think that it was all over. The plain people of Australia willremember the words of Churchill when he said -
We will fight on the beaches, in the fields and on the landing grounds. We will never surrender.
Not every honorable member on the other side of the House was in tune with Churchill’s words, but most people were, and the plain people were, and they still remember them. It was a plain ordinary Australian, of the third generation who recently handed me a copy of a small poem entitled Lines by an American, written by a man named Brennan, an Irish-American. This is what he wrote -
Who prays for England now
Against the Sons of Cain,
Seeks nobler place than they who knelt,
When Drake set sail for Spain.
The dungeon lamps of Hitler flare
From Norway South toRome,
And Slaves flayed bare of all saveprayer
Cry England, England come -
Who prays for England now?
Who dies for England now,
Willfnd a resting place in English soil or English sea -
Yet all the world will trace
A new-born kinship with these dead,
Which knows not time nor span -
For blood so shed will e’er pulse red - in the great heart of man
Who dies for England now?
Who speaks for England now
Must scorn the tribal shout
In praise of them who silent stand
On their staunch isle redoubt.
A hero-nation groweth near
But God will hear, Oh neverfear,the dear voice of his Son -
Who speaks for England now,
Those lines were written, as I say, by an Irish-American, one of the millions of people throughout the foreignworld whose sentiment was the sentiment of the plain ordinary Australian people of today. Those plain people of Australia still remember the great sacrifices that were made by the British people, not merely on their own behalf, but on behalf of the whole world. There was, as we know, a great deliverance. The world held its breath, but the British people came through and, after further sacrifices, the full story of which cannot ever be written on paper, victory was finally achieved.I believe that the Australian people, who are naturally friendly, generous and open-hearted, want to make a real gesture to our kinsmen, a real sacrifice, if they are only asked to do so by the Government. Are we to look at this in a mean, niggardly fashion? Are we to be careful and calculating? Is it true, as some of the speeches seem to suggest from the other side of the House, although they will not admit it, that the “ age of chivalry has gone. The age of sophisters, calculators and economists is with us, and our glory has departed forever “, as Edmund Burke said. I have no doubt whatever where plain, ordinarypeople of Australia stand.
We boast of our nationhood. We are making great play in the councils of the nations about Australia’s nationhood. We are throwing our weight about, but I venture to say that the real test of our nationhood is this: Can we rise to our moral responsibility on this occasion? We must get food to Britain. It does not matter how we get it there. We must investigate all possibilities. We must make a call for patriotism and sacrifice. As I said before, if the Prime Minister of Australia were only inspired to get up and issue a call all the people would follow enthusiastically behind him. Ration the people if necessary. Ask them to make sacrifices. Let the Government educate its own trade unions on this matter. Money spent on teaching the people to make sacrifices, if necessary, is well spent. We shall share the responsibility. We shall share any odium or blame, if necessary, but we do not believe that there will be any blame. The plain people always respond if they are given & lead on a decent lofty, moral issue. If we do not do this thing we shall bitterly regret it. If we do, we shall give succour to a noble people, and we shall add lustre and glory to our own nationhood.
.- There appears to be no real difference of opinion among honorable members on this issue, although there is a division of opinion regarding the methods that should be adopted in order to assist Britain. I should have preferred this measure to go through the House without discussion, because the interplay of opinion may lead our kinsfolk overseas to believe that there is an actual difference of opinion upon the major issue. That is not the question. “While listening carefully to the debate, I was surprised to note a spirit of carping criticism of the Government in honorable members opposite. They could not avoid attempting a stab at the Government over something which is a moral problem. I cannot understand why it should be necessary to defame Australia, its war effort and its people in order to assist the motherland. Perhaps my education has been neglected in that respect, but I imagine that the British Commonwealth of Nations lives by the unity of its constituent parts. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), followed by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), made by implication derogatory statements about Australian’s war efforts, and the Australian people in order to bolster a case that needs no bolstering. It is accepted by all sections of the community that we have a job to do in this regard. This long-winded discussion of the merits or demerits of this first plan to assist our kinfolk overseas must make Britons’ ears burn. Some honorable members are discussing Great Britain as the governors of a charity ward would discuss an orphan child in full hearing of the helpless applicant for relief. That i3 one fault of open parliamentary discussion of matters such as this. Surely this measure could have been handled more delicately and could have passed through this chamber-with much less disputation. However, the Opposition has made the bill a controversial measure, and I propose to have something to say about it. An invidious comparison of the war efforts of the dominions has been made by the honorable member for Barker. Surely this measure has been sufficiently explained by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). This proposed grant of money follows the exchange of opinions between the two governments concerned. It is the beginning of some organized interchange of ideas between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Homeland concerning the long-range problem of the rehabilitation of Great Britain. The problem is one of not only immediate food supplies, but also of future trade. One could quite easily indulge in a highly moral dissertation on our obligations to Great Britain, and quote the poets, good and bad, in support of the argument. “We can disregard the figures given by the honorable member for Barker in regard to war efforts and also his remarks concerning the reference in this measure to a repayment of certain moneys expended during the war in the Pacific. If honorable members opposite cannot understand a gift being made with a clause attached to it that makes it appear to be a contribution to the reduction of a debt that we cannot ever fully repay, we on this side of the chamber can only leave the matter to the imagination. A tortuous analysis of war expenditure in the Pacific as against the Middle East and an endeavour to compare the blood and treasure poured out by this country during the war with the contributions of New Zealand and Canada, comes very badly from a member of this National Parliament. That question is not in dispute. “We gave to the limit. “We did our best. That, I am sure, will be acknowledged readily by. our sister dominions. There is no need to mention that matter in a discussion of assistance for Great Britain. Our task is to do the job which Britain wants us to do, and that, in the first place, is related to the question of credits overseas. The other thing that can be done is the organization of food supplies for Great Britain, and the people of Australia are doing that now. This other thing can only be done outside this Parliament. People are giving earnestly, silently and proudly in the discharge of a debt that’ they freely concede can never be fully repaid. Wharf-labourers are working on Sundays, but that, of course, does not get streamer headlines in the press. Instead, newspapers ask, “ What is Parliament doing?”. Parliament can do so much, but the spirit of the people can do so much more. If any further direction be needed it will be given by the Government. Recently I read that wharflabourers in Queensland had decided to forgo their Sunday rest to facilitate a quicker turn-round of ships carrying food for Britain. That of course was not big news because it was good news, and showed the sympathetic feeling that exists among the ordinary people of this country for the people of Great Britain. In the same newspaper, I read that in Surry Hills, in the electorate of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) and a district that is not distinguished for its mansions, or its supporters of the Liberal party, one 3mall church alone had raised the sum of £87 for food for Britain on a single Sunday morning. The working people of this country understand what is going on in Great Britain far better than do honorable members opposite who rise in this chamber, or on public rostrums throughout the country, talk about the necessity to help the British people, and then go back to their four-course meals and forget all about it. The working people of this country know what poverty means. There is a universal bond between workers all over the world, and they are the quickest to react to the suffering of their less fortunate fellows in other lands.’ This is not a matter for governments. It is for the peoples of the world, particularly of the British Commonwealth, of Nations, by their generosity and their sacrifices, to do something for the people of the Homeland. We have all read articles in the press recently about the response that has been made to appeals for the return of food ration coupons. The people on the lower income groups are attempting to do something thoughtful, considerate and sacrificial for the people of Great Britain on similar incomes. This Government has no apology to make for this measure. In its organization and leadership, it is doing a very good job in connexion with the food for Britain appeal. There are many indications of what is happening outside Parliament in relation to this appeal. In regard to meat, for instance, an article appeared recently in the Sydney Sunday Sum, which I shall quote briefly -
Combined effort of the Meat Board and the Meat for Britain Appeal is likely to result in New South Wales alone providing the extra 10,000 tons needed.
The Lord Mayor (Alderman Bartley) sai’l this to-day.
The figure of 10,000 tons of export quality meat to maintain Britain’s ration had been set for South Australia, Victoria and this State combined, he explained. “Since the Meat Board’s campaign for export stock began this month 500 tons have come forward weekly and if this is maintained the Board will have produced 4,000 tons by June 30 - deadline date for export. “ The Meat for Britain Appeal will buy 3,000 tons of export quality meat this month and hopes to do the same next month “.
Alderman Bartley said the Federal Government had given the scheme its wholehearted endorsement and this had greatly contributed to its success.
As a result of the campaign there was strong evidence that the blackmarket wa,s dwindling”.
The people of Australia fully appreciate the need to do everything possible to increase the British meat ration. Frankly. I have no doubt that some of thi? £25,000,000 will be used for the rehabilitation of Great Britain in other directions. The Labour Government in Britain admits that a plank of its present platform is the rebuilding of British trade, particularly exports, lt has not imposed this harsh food ration - harsher than in the war years - upon the people of Great Britain because it thinks that it is a good idea. Britain is endeavouring literally to starve itself back to prosperity. Already it has worked miracles in this regard. However, despite the statements made by the right, honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) alleging a low standard of living in Britain, I point out that the attack made by a leading dietitian on the British food ration was refuted by Dr. Addison, who said that the people were in good health, and that children generally were taller and heavier than the average in 1939. The reason i3 of course that every one is getting a fair share of the food that is available. People living in countries in. which food, is” plentiful may look askance at. tha British ration, but the distribution- of it is such that the poorer people in the East End of London, and in those areas of the Midlands that were depressed before the war, are now getting their share of everything, that comes- into Great Britain. The. point about our meat export to Great Britain-
– The pity of it was the adult sacrifice of children right throughout the war.
– The statistics are available to the honorable member. There is no denying that the diet of the British people is monotonous; it has the effect of making them languid and tired; but medical evidence and my own experiences when I visited England in 1945 indicate that nobody was actually in want The diet was appallingly monotonous and not calculated to build up energy but it was sufficient. We should not be- over sentimental about this question of food for Britain. Everything sent io the Motherland is- designed to fulfil a two-fold plan to assist it hack ro its. former position as a great nation find to supply extra food during the interregnum in order to supplement the ration, of its people.. As has been pointed out by- the- most ardent advocates of food for Britain, if we sent to the United Kingdom all the meat we have in this country it would not supply to the workers of that country a pound of steak for breakfast. In this connexion I should like to quote an article which appeared in the New York Times concerning Great Britain’s planned economy. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) drew a. grim picture of Great Britain, which has survived the greatest war in history, and. quoted good, bad and indifferent poetry its the obituary of the British people. They- were strange words to come from a. man of the calibre of the honorable member. The plain fact is that during, and since the war the British people have been rallied by three slogans. The fir.st was, “Britain can take it “’. After the victory Great Britain launched its trade campaign and the slogan became “Britain can make ifr”. The rallying slogan now is,. “ Britain, must do without it “. In the New York Times. Mr. L. P. Thomas, pre sident of the L. P. Thomas Company and a director of several organizations handling building materials, dealing with Great Britain’s planned economy, is- reported to have said -
Criticise? of the. Labour Government by both the liberal and conservative press creates an erroneous-, impression abroad. Actually the country is more united, than ever and is recovering rapidly from the winter disasters. The coal situation is improving, with labour going back faster than the mines can absorb workers, and output this year may surpass the 220,000,000 ton goal set by the trade unions.. New mechanical equipment for the mines is planned, but is being held up by slow shipments from the United States.
There is little . unemployment and employment in the export trade has risen from 800,000 in 1939 to 1,400,000* in 1946. Wages are higher and. have passed the five pound, sterling per week level for the first time in the country’s’ history.
That is one of the principal reasons why we should see that Great Britain is encouraged, to go on with its magnificent job; not merely of re-establishment but of re-establishment from a base no longer built on imperialism which depends on the lower .paid’ workers to maintain its economy, and to see that the whole1 system ]S more effective and that there is a planned economy. That is the goal for which Mr. Attlee and his Cabinet are striving. Some honorable members opposite because of the frustration of shipping, which, incidentally, applies equally to food intended for Great Britain as to migrants desiring to come to this country, have completely warped ideas about this problem. If we had the ships we could, within the limits of our production, supply all the available food in this country to ease the position in Great Britain; but we have not the ships. A grant to Great Britain is in the circumstances the most sensible means of assistance. It has never been suggested that Great Britain took our products in enormous quantities when others were available from nearer sources of supply. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) referred to Danish butter. Danish butter has always been the choice of British consumers and it stands to the discredit of members of the Opposition that while they still gave- lip service to the principles of Empire preference- and the development of our butter .market overseas, when they were in office- most of our Australian butter was. used for blending- with: Danish butter and. sold as a secondgrade product in the United King: dom. The same is equally true in regard, to Australian, beef and mutton. In its> hoy-day Great Britain preferred to; buy ihe. greater part, of its requirements of beef from Argentina. If £25,000,000 is available to assist Great Britain it. seems absurd to hear honorable members opposite flipping it away on their fingers as though it were a mere bagatelle. Is not this proposal tied up with something, more beneficial than actual money? Is not the availability of shipping and the closeness of other markets in which Great Britain can bay its foodstuffs also important? A grant of £25,000,000 willenable Great Britain to buy some foods from Denmark, agricultural products” n-om; Ireland, which is teeming with such products, and other .things it needs from’ adjacent countries. That is why a. money gift is planned; it can. be used sensibly and! immediately.
The emotional outbursts from honorable’ members opposite that we must send food to- Britain ignore the simple fact that a money gift will enable the British Government to acf immediately to rectify its position. This is not a- question- of a-, charity bazaar ; it is- a- planned concept for rehabilitating a country which has always held- a high- place’ in. the councils- of theworld’ and which”, when democracy waschallenged, was for a time- its sole champion. Let us tackle this food problem from the angle that we are adopting a method of assistance that the Government of Great Britain itself has asked us to adopt, and let us have no- more- of these1 emotional outbursts in this House. Given a fair chance Great Britain can pull itself out of its difficulties, and by the bootstraps if necessary, and get back- to the position it occupied up to and during the. war. These- are the things I regard; as important to stress- in a debate of. this nature. I feel: impelled to reply to the criticism implicit in many statementsemanating from the: Opposition, benches’ that Australia is not. pulling its weight. Those statements are not true and it is.dangerous and unreaL for. Australians- to; talk like that. Let u& see what otherpeople, think, about us; In: a Sydney newspaper under the heading, “ Thanks a Million “, the following letter from a grateful Englishman was published: -
I am writing this to. your paper, on behalf: of. myself and millions of. others in this country who appreciate what your great country is’ doing, but do not think of writing.
Hardly a day goes by without reading inthe paper that’ Australia is helping us with one thing or another-..
Thanks a million, friends, for the way you have helped. Over here wc get by, but when you’re short of a cigarette and have no soap, and keep tightening your belt, it isn’t bo good..
That letter- was written by a. resident of Hammersmith, a suburb of London.
– It expresses the view not of the British Government but of an individual.
– The whole, problem is to feed the individual. As I stressed; earlier in my speech, the whole problem: of food, for Britain is the getting, of. sunplies to the British, people, and the accepttance by the people of this country of. anobligation to our kinsfolk overseas. Tha right honorable member for Cowper also said that the war-time diet was- better than the peace-time diet. That is freely admitted. The war-time diet was necessary for victory: The people of GreatBritain had to. tighten- their, belts in order to defeat the enemies- of the Empire. The peace-time diet, is- necessary for rehabilitation. At’ this moment, if it. were-, notnecessary to pursue a high ideal, the British people could be provided with a’ better- food ration- than they receive. However, the British Government has set1 itself the-, objectives of reconstructing the nation and rehabilitating its trade. Furthermore, it is regaining- its position in the trading world1. Visitors who. return from America say that stores in- NewYork are’ filled with British goods - knitted goods; leather goods; furniture, and other products: Americans areproudly displaying them as high-grade, reasonably-priced articles that are- returning to> the shops for the first-, time since the war. Advertisements’ urge the American, people to buy British goods in order to help Great Britain succeed. in the: task which it has set itself.
The. right honorable member’ for Cowper referred to the cancelling, of debts, which indicated the way in- which he re1 cards- the proposed, gift of £25,000,000.
He said that the gift would only pay the doctor’s fees, whereas food was needed to keep the British people alive. Apparently the right honorable gentleman, as a medical man, does not believe in paying doctors’ fees. Presumably, he considers that, in this case, the patient will survive in spite of the doctor. I suggest that we allow the British Government to make its own plans and content ourselves with helping those plans when and how we can. If we do so, I am sure that the patient will survive. I bitterly resent the comparison of British and Australian losses during the war that was made by some honorable members opposite. Such statements cannot do any good. They create an inferiority complex in the minds of Australians, who are led to believe that this, nation did not carry out its task in the war efficiently and faithfully. That, of course, is not true. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) saw in the bill an implication that Americans consider that we should pay more money towards the expenses of the Pacific war.
– I did not say that was in the bill at all.
– No, but the honorable member’s speech implied that there was a demand from America that Australia should (pay more for the costs of the Pacific war. If the honorable member will read the report of his speech, as I did this morning, he will find that my statement is true. He said that New Zealand had made a greater war effort than Australia. The honorable gentleman praises everything outside of this country. To him, other hills are greener and other people are finer. I believe that he did not sincerely mean such statements, but actually made them because of his policy of expressing carping criticism of the Government. In pursuit of that policy he must present some sort of a case, and he has to build it up from day to day, which is very difficult to do.
I now come to the remarks of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). He urged the sending of food to Britain, and described the proposed grant of £25,000,000 as a “bookkeeping entry”. He dismissed it by saying that it would purchase a mere mouthful of food for the
British people and asked would it not be better to repatriate our overseas loans and endeavour to make an adjustment of our debts with Great Britain. I am utterly opposed to his proposal. The grant will assist Great Britain in the best possible way.
– Does the honorable member agree with the honorable member for Reid?
– No. This is not a debt adjustment bill. The question at issue has never been one of debt adjustment; it a question of Empire cooperattion, and we should be proud to support the measure. The proposals made by the honorable member for Reid might be logical in the proper circumstances, but they do not apply to this .bill. Finally, I round off-
– Not square off?
– I do not find it necessary to square off. I have not had the long political experience of the honorable member for Barker, .but I cannot compete with the honorable member in making mistakes and mis-statements. I arn obliged to deal with only a few incidental errors, and I find that I am fully employed in doing so. I imagine that the honorable member must be a busy man indeed. This measure is useful and kindly, and it is adequate at present. The subject of supplying food to Britain should be removed from the sphere of sentimentality. If we sincerely want to aid our British friends we should set aside all emotional aspects of the problem and treat it in the level-headed way in which this measure has been submitted to the House. Too much poppy-cock is talked about food for Britain by people who, after making their emotional statements, do nothing positive to help the Mother Country. We must appeal to the people of Australia for support in providing food for Britain. Every daily newspaper reports the work that is being done .by the Red Cross Society and other organizations which have organized Food for Britain funds. The only thing lacking is the bridge of ships necessary to take the food that is available to Great Britain. That is our only frustration. It affects our immigration plans and the sending of food to Britain, two of our most important tasks. When the shortage of shipping is overcome - as will be done, I believe, within the next two years - Britain will emerge triumphant from its difficulties. When the story of its magnificent struggle is told, I am sure that Australia’s contribution to the Mother Country will be perfectly set in the complete picture. It will appear as an honest effort that we wanted to make gracefully and silently. Unfortunately, we have not all been silent, but we still have the opportunity to be graceful and efficient. The beginning of our effort will be the grant that we propose to make to Great Britain on this occasion.
– There, is no opposition to this bill. We on this side of the House are pleased that such a gesture is to be made by the Commonwealth Government. The amount of £25,000,000 .that is to be granted to Great Britain will not be a mere book-entry, as it has been described by one honorable member. This money will be granted to Great Britain for the purchase of food, the reduction of overseas balances, or for any other purpose that its Government considers appropriate. The main problem is to obtain the money in Australia. The balances that stand to the credit of Australia in London to-day represent the proceeds of exports that we have made to Great Britain and for which Great Britain has paid. The moneys that have been paid have circulated to the different strata of Australian society, and the proposed sum of £25,000,000, therefore, must be produced in some way from the pockets of the Australian people. It may be obtained from revenue, from treasurybills, or by way of loan. The gift will be a real gesture of sympathy and help to the Mother Country in its present difficulties. We are all aware of the sufferings of Great Britain at present. The White Paper which has been published by the British Government informs us that 42 per cent, of Britain’s imports to-day come from the dollar countries. In return, Britain is able to export to those countries only 14 per cent, of its production. The White Paper also points out that, during the coming year, Great Britain will have to draw more than £350,000,000 more from dollar resources.
At the time when the paper was printed, only £955,000,000 sterling remained of the large amount that Great Britain had borrowed from the United States of America. These facts show that the United Kingdom is in an extraordinarily difficult situation. Apart from the dollar problem, there is the problem of balances held in London not only on behalf of Australia but also on behalf of Egypt, India and other countries.
If this gesture that we propose to make induces Other countries to do likewise, then the good achieved by it will be greatly enhanced. The debate on the measure has dealt mainly with the subject of food for Britain. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that the food question is of infinitely greater importance to Great Britain than the question of money. Great Britain must have food if it is to overcome ite present difficulties. It needs a more vigorous, contented., hard-working people. The people of Britain cannot be expected to give of their best efforts when they have constantly in mind the fact that they will be short of the food necessary to sustain them in their efforts. Great publicity has been given, both in Australia and in Great Britain, to the suggestion that the British people are starving. The impression I have gained from conversations with people who have recently arrived in Australia from England is that although the people are not starved physically, they do not get all they need and suffer mental depression and a sense of frustration from the monotonous character of their food, and that has a deleterious effect on their outlook and morale. That is of great moment, and whatever Australia can do to ensure that Britain shall have not only more food but also a wider variety of food ought to be done. It is questionable whether the Government has a genuine desire to send more food to Britain. Its main needs are fats - butter and meat. To test the sincerity of the Government’s protestations that it is sending to Britain all the food it can, one needs only to refer to figures prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician showing Australia’s consumption of butter and meat. In 1938-39, each Australian ate 33.55 lb. of butter, in 1939-40 30.26 lb., and in 1945-46 26.10 lb. That Australians ate last year only about 4 lb. less butter than in the first year of the war and about 6½ lb. less than a year before the war indicates that there is no effective rationing of butter in Australia. The meat position at present, is as follows. In 1934-35, they each ate 207.68 lb. of meat and on an average, in each of the last three years before the war, 248.1lb. compared with 194.8 lb. in 1945-46. So Australians have reduced their meat consumption by only 54 lb. a year on the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician; but I do not think those figures give the true position, because a great deal more country killing goes on now than previously, and, if that were taken into consideration, I think it would be found that Australians are eating as much meat to-day as they did before the war. However much we try to do so, we cannot prove that we are rationing ourselves sufficiently in either commodity. If we are to send more food to Britain immediately, we must eliminate the black market, a difficult thing to do because of psychological effects of a policy of restriction, and reduce the present ration scale in Australia. The Australian Country party and the Liberal party offered to share with the Government responsibility for a reduction of the ration scale, and any resultant unpopularity; but, of course, the Government intends to do exactly nothing in that direction. So it can be truly said that the Government is not genuine in its desire to send to Great Britain all the food that can be sent.
It is extraordinary that the British Government through its agent in Australia, the Commonwealth Government, is not purchasing more fat stock for export to Great Britain. In the last four weeks between 2,000 and 3,000 head of fat cattle could have been bought, slaughtered and exported from Victoria alone. I know that it could be argued that if that meat were sent now it could notbe sent later, but Britain’s acute need will exist only until the opening of the export season next August. An important consideration in the export of meat to Great Britain is that the housewives there could render the fat into dripping and thereby widen the variety ofmeans of cooking whatever food they are otherwise able to buy and solessen the monotony of the present meals, which is getting on the people’s nerves. An amazing commentary onthe inaction of the Commonwealth Government in the matter of supplying Britain with food is that the 15,000-ton liner Corinthic, which is due in Sydney, will leave for New Zealand immediately after arrival because no food is available for shipment in its refrigerated space. Even should it cost the taxpayers more if the Government went on the market to buy stock for slaughter and export to Great Britain, they would willingly pay it. It is a pity that that vessel should have to go the extra distance to New Zealand to pick up a cargo of food that Australia should have had awaiting its arrival. Country people find it hard to understand the Government’s attitude of waiting for something to turn up. They know that if they want something they have to go out and get it, not wait for it to come to them. Either of its own volition or as an agent of the British Government, the Commonwealth Government should buy stock to provide meat so badly needed in Britain, but the Government’s passive policy is to ask the people to make a voluntary effort. They are asked to surrender ration coupons and send food parcels. Graziers are asked to make a gift of stock. The graziers’ generosity is on a large scale. If the Government were sincere it would do more so far as the primary producers are concerned. Some people are not aware of therealities of the situation confronting graziers who send stock to the killing centres for export to Great Britain. Some even think thatprimary producers are withholding stock from sale for overseas consumption. Nothing of the sort is happening. The point is that growers, in consigning stock for slaughter for export to the United Kingdom, are making a considerable sacrifice. One grower recently sent a truck of cattleto Melbourne for slaughter for export to Great Britain, and this truck was merelyone of five which he intends to send. His cattle come from one of the finest fattening districts in north-eastern Victoria. The amount he received for the truck of cattle was approximately £2 9s. per 100’ lb. The current market price in Melbourne is between £3 and £3- 3s. per 100 lb., so that honorable members can realize the sacrifice this particular grower is making. He estimates’ that he is losing between £4 and £5 a head, or between £40 aud; £50 a truck. With four or five truck-loads he stands to lose between. £200 and £300. However, very few people in this country can. afford such » gesture.
– In normal times- is not a considerable quantity sold on the export market at lower prices?
– The Government” is asking graziers to make too great a sacrifice, and because the sacrifice is too- great the requisite quantities aTe not coming forward. The; same position applies to the export of mutton. The ruling price for export mutton is roughly 5-Jd. per lb., whereas the price on the open market1 in Melbourne is from 7d:. to 7-d. per ,1b. A truck of wethers, which would realize £2 10s. to £2 14s. a. head in Melbourne to-day, is worth only £1 18s; to £2 a head on the export market, so thai sheep-growers are losing something’ like £50 on a truck, of sheep. I have- been to ‘ Food for’ Britain “ rallies and I have no doubt that my experience has been similar to that, of other honorable members. Gifts of one, two, three, and five guineas are made, but if a man contributes ten guineas it is regarded as a most generous contribution. Yet on a single truck-load of sheep graziers are losing between £50 and- £60: Is that equality of sacrifice ?
I went into this matter in some detail in the course of a question which I asked the Minister for’ Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) the other day. He said that he would not deny the generosity of farmers and graziers who are making- stock available for export. But the point is that what is required is1 not generosity so much as results. If the Government were prepared to reduce the sacrifice being made by graziers much more meat would be available for export. If it. decided to pay graziers the ceiling price the inevitable result would be; to. divert more stock to the killing centres for export. But the Governmentrefuses” to do this. It is well known that, market prices’ in the southern States’ are considerably higher than ceiling prices, and I am not asking the Government to fix any extravagant price to encourage graziers to consign stock for slaughter for shipment to Great Britain, I am merely asking that it should order the payment of ceiling prices. That would not only attract more stock but would result in a more equitable sharing of the burden. Because the Government refuses to- do that, I say that it is not doing all that is possible to make available the maximum quantity of meat for export to Great Britain. In regard to short-term plans for. food exports, as I have said-,, the only thing which the Government, can do, in addition to permitting the payment of a ceiling price- for stock consigned for export, is to curtail the present nation and take vigorous action to suppress black marketing.
Turning, now to long-range plans for export of food, to Great Britain to enable that country to conserve its resources in the dollar area, the main consideration is to ensure a continued increase of exports. Very few people have any real idea of the statistics inr regard to Australia’s export and home consumption of food. Most, people think that this is a country which produces vast quantities of food of which we consume only a small portion, but I have obtained certain figures from the Government Statistician which should be of considerable interest. The fact is that this country is rapidly approaching, the point of complete consumption of production. Considerationof the latest figures showing the production and consumption of a. number of commodities, excluding wool, should convince honorable members how prejudicial to further production the imposition of added burdens on- primary producerswould be. As population increases in. this country our exportable surplus must inevitably diminish. The. Government. Statistician, in compiling, these statistics relating to consumption, has struck an annual average over the five” year period ended 1940-41, and I think that annual average may be taken. as: a fair and: accurate basis for any computations. In 1945-46 Australia consumed only 22 per cent, of the wheat produced, leaving 78 per cent, availablefor export. However; we consumed1 89 per cent, of meat produced, leaving only 11 per cent, for export. We consumed 73 per cent, of butter, 34 per cent, of cheese and 59 per cent, of sugar produced. Those are the country’s main products, apart from wool. How does it come about that 6ince 1942, when we entered into arrangement for the export of great quantities of food, our exportable surplus has declined so much? The answer may be found in the population figures. According to the Commonwealth Statistician, the population of Australia in 1931-32 was 6,553,000 and in 1945-46, 7,412,000, an increase of 13 per cent. With the increase of population, less food is available for export. I asked for an estimate of what additional population Australia could support before the home market would absorb our total production of meat. The Commonwealth Statistician wrote to me as f ollows : -
It appears, therefore, that a further 10 per cent, increase of population, or roughly 700,000 people, would begin to press on meat supplies.
Of course it would ! On present production the home market would be able to absorb our entire production of meat. The letter continued -
The same percentage might also press on dairy products-
That is true - since to a large extent, the exportable surplus of butter and cheese depends on the consumption of raw milk.
In other words, an increase of population by from 700,000 to 1,000,000 persons would seriously affect the export of butter and cheese. The Commonwealth Statistician remarked that the sugar position is reasonably satisfactory. As to wheat, honorable members know that in some seasons we have had large surpluses, but that a couple of years ago Australia was obliged to import wheat. Another factor which must be considered when we are examining our ability to export, is that as the population increases, some of the land on which products for export are now grown will be utilized for the growing of vegetables. Hence, the food position of Australia is rather alarming in regard to, not only our ability to continue to export primary products to Great Britain, but also our capacity to maintain a substantially bigger population than we have at present. As I have shown, an increase of population by 1,000,000 persons will absorb our total production of meat, butter and cheese. Our wheat production is unreliable. In the long view, the solution of the problem of the maintenance of our exports of food to Great Britain, while at the same time augmenting our population, depends upon increased production. I do not propose to describe at length the measures which should be adopted for the purpose of expanding our food production. That is not a subject for debate on the United Kingdom Grant Bill. However, in the next few years, we shall not be able to supply much more food to Great Britain unless we make food rationing in Australia more severe. As our population increases, we shall be compelled to reduce our export of food, unless every possible effort is made to increase our productive capacity by such measures as water conservation and irrigation, pasture improvement and the application of fertilizers to the soil. The only solution of the problem is an increase of production.
Economists have stated that Great Britain’s demands on the dollar pool are so great that Australia could assist most effectively by purchasing less from Great Britain- and allowing its exports to go to countries in the dollar area. That is not a remedy which I like. One way in which we can give real help is by the maximum production of gold. Gold is still the standard of the world’s currency. It will buy dollars anywhere and at any time. If we increase our gold production, we shall render the greatest possible service, apart from sending food, to enable Great Britain to meet its urgent dollar requirements.
Britain’s remedy, to a large degree, is in the hands of the British Government and the British people. Great Britain would be well advised to draw its inspiration from its glorious pas( rather than from socialist ideas which have caused great distress and even ruin in many European countries. The people of Great Britain are not working as they should. For years, Labour agitators have been telling them that the employer is making them work too hard, is not paying them enough, and is making excessive profits. Many workers in Great
Britain appear to have believed them, because the output per man-hour has decreased whilst wages have risen. The inevitable outcome is an increase of the cost of production. Any person who is familiar with costs of production and prices in Great Britain knows that it is extremely difficult for other nations to trade with Great Britain to-day. In addition, Great Britain finds it almost impossible to sell its goods to countries in the dollar area, because its costs of production are so high. An extraordinary situation has developed. Great Britain, facing the worst financial dilemma in its history, is retaining heavy taxes, for the simple reason that it is expending hundreds of millions of pounds in socializing industries. The socialization of industry, so far from increasing production, is interfering in many ways with it, and. with the exertions of private enterprise. The retention of higher taxes increases the price of goods and creates difficulties for the export trade. A few days ago, in the Parliamentary Library, I read about a 26 horse-power car manufactured by Austin for export. The specifications were ‘fine, and the car should find a ready market in many parts of the world. But the price in Great Britain was £1,500 sterling! Where many of these motor cars will be sold, I do not know. Great Britain itself must overcome this problem of costs and high prices, and increase the output per man-hour, as we in Australia must do. Probably, the average citizen of the United Kingdom does not fully realize the present situation of his country. The truth is that a big percentage of Great Britain’s purchases of food are made in countries in the dollar area from the loan which the United States of America and Canada granted. As I mentioned earlier in my speech, Great Britain has made heavy demands upon the loan. At the beginning of this year, an amount of 950,000,000 dollars was available to it, but according to the White Paper withdrawals this year will amount to 350,000,000 dollars. This matter must be decided in the United Kingdom. The people themselves must resolve it. In the meantime, our objective should be to make available immediately all the food that we can possibly spare. We should also give serious consideration to the necessity for expanding production in order that we shall be able to maintain continuity of exports to Great Britain and provide for an increased population in Australia, thereby enabling us to proceed to an even greater destiny.
Silting suspended from 12.UB to 2.15 p.m.
.- This bill is for the purpose of granting and applying out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £25,000,000 as a grant to His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom. As Great Britain’s need is undoubted, and Australia is willing to come to its .aid with the grant of such a substantial amount, I should have thought that there was little more to be said. Indeed, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) made that clear when he said that we should send to Great Britain not only this money, but also food of equal value.
The bill is a short one, and the amount proposed to be granted is large. The grant is being made, not boastfully, but as a contribution to Great Britain’s aid in and about the Pacific - which, I presume, means in the war generally. Viewing the matter in its true light, and illumined as it has been by the right honorable member for Cowper, this contribution is being made in recognition of the services that were rendered by Great Britain in the war. As the assistance rendered by Great Britain is a consideration for the grant, and a consideration is usually stated in any proposition, this should appeal to the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), because he likes to have matters expressed in a legal - formula. In a word, it is the expressed consideration for the gift. Why a dominion should make a gift to the Mother Country would not be clearly comprehended unless it was’ in consideration for something that had been received. But the consideration in this case is not only that which is stated in the bill, namely, work done by Great Britain during the war.1 In addition, clearly, it is largely sentimental. We necessarily have an affection for the Mother Country and desire to assist it in its extremity. The reason for our desire to assist it does not need much explanation. The affection and regard which Australia - which at one time was a possession of Great Britain, but is now a dominion - has for Great Britain should be, and is, well understood. The gift to Great Britain of so large a sum as £25,000,000 would be inexplicable on anyother ground than the affection which Australians have for their kinsmen in the homeland. It is perfectly clear that the gift of food .to Great Britain is irrelevant to the purposes of the bill. At this stage I shall not make more than passing reference to the many a!bortive attempts on the part of the Opposition to discuss the need to send more food to Great Britain. Indeed, I should not be permitted to do so. There is no question about Great Britain’s need for more food. That need was .admitted and even insisted on on behalf of the Government by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) in an excellent speech last evening. The -only question to be decided is whether the gift should take the form of money which would enable the United Kingdom Government to purchase food to the value of £25,000,000, or whether goods to that value should be sent, perhaps in addition to a gift of money. Recent floods and blizzards have aggravated Great Britain’s needs, which were already great as the result of a total war. Although the proposed gift may be described as a generous gesture on the part of the Commonwealth, I do not say that the amount is sufficient to meet Great Britain’s needs. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) say where food could be -purchased with the money to be appropriated .by this measure. .No one imagines that £25^000,000 will be sent to Great Britain in the form of specie. Most people know that exchanges of money between countries are not made in that way.
In my opinion, this proposal to make a gift to the Mather Country should not be advertised outside the family circle of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I think it is unfortunate that the Opposition has blatantly stated this. The form used in the bill itself is a much more apt and pleasant way of stating the fact than to say, “You -are hungry, ‘and therefore we make a concession to you of some of the money you owe us”. 3 regret that the ‘Opposition has more thai] once sought to make capital out .of the “Food for Britain” appeal. Of course, food is being sent to Britain by private persons, and sent in very large quantities. I welcome that fact. I believe that food should ‘be sent, and it is a noble gesture to send it. The grant which it is proposed to make is not a mere book-keeping entry. It represents real value, and the gift isbeing made in such a way that Great Britain can acquire food to the value of £25,000,000. Britain’s .need is great, and it has proved to he a natural proposition that we, a dominion, should make a- gratuitous grant of £25,000,000 easily convertible into food, and that is what we are doing. I might have suggested that the real reason for making this grant is not the reason stated in clause 2 -of the bill, namely, that it is in consideration of war expenditure incurred by Great .Britain in and about the Pacific, but I have foreborne to .do so. I realized that the real reason was that Britain wanted food There is really nothing more to be said We know that Great Britain has need of this grant; we know that we are willing to make it, and that is all. there is to it.
.- The bill before the House is called the United Kingdom Grant Bill, and it is proposed in this measure to make an appropriation of £A.25,000,000 as a grant to the United Kingdom. In the press to-day, we read that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had expressed the .opinion that the Commonwealth surplus from revenue this year would be in the vicinity of £43,000,000. During the war, we reduced our debt to Great Britain from £533,000,000 to £487,000,000, and our London credit balance increased f rom £46,000,000 to £190,000,000. Thus o.ur financial position in London is better by £270,000,000 than it was before the war. and that has been achieved by selling food to Britain and not at a sacrifice, because the Government ,of the . United Kingdom, under a guarantee, bought from us at a good price all the food thai we could export. Therefore, it is amus-ing to hear honorable members .opposite speak of generosity in connexion with this proposed gift to Great Britain. There is nothing generous about it. In the bill it is stated that the grant is to be made as a contribution towards the war expenditure of Great Britain. This grant, from a purely financial point of view, .represents only a scaling down of our credits in Great Britain. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) quoted from the AuditorGenerals report .some of the items of war expenditure by Great Britain in Australia, and I ‘could add to the list. For instance, Great Britain paid us £4,000,000 for the building of mine-sweeping vessels in .Australia. Vast defence works were undertaken in this country to assist the Pacific %var effort, including bases, repair facilities, magazines, and io on, and capital assets remaining with Australia total approximately £88,000,000, including .uncompleted projects. Of that .’sura, Great Britain has already paid us nearly £11,000,000. Great Britain .also contributed £2,000,000 to the -operating expenses. On the naval ‘side alone, Great Britain has paid us nearly £17,000,000, We -should bear these facts in mind when honorable members opposite say in ‘their ?mug way, ‘” We are putting something in the poor box for Great. Britain. Are we not good fellows’?” Great Britain also paid £1,934,000 for the upkeep of civilian internees and prisoners of war held in this ‘country, although many of the prisoners were actually captured by our own troops. When the cruiser *Sydney was lost, the people of Australia immediately subscribed generously for the construction of a new vessel. A total ‘of £426,000 was raised, and the Government still holds that money. Some time. ago, on behalf of one of the municipalities in my electorate, I asked for the return of £’i,000 that it had contributed to this fund so that it could make a gift of food to Great Britain, but the request . was refused. Great Britain replaced Sydney with the cruiser Shropshire.
– What did that cost?
– I do not know, but it would be worth several millions of pounds to-day. Honorable members opposite, who know little of defence measures, are probably unaware of the tremendous effort that was necessary to .train our Air Force. To this end Great Britain gave us 1,600 aircraft, together with numerous spare engines and a large supply of spare parts. We received hundreds of training aircraft, including Avro Ansons and Fairey Battles, without which we never could have trained the squadrons that fought overseas and in New Guinea. How dare this Government express its gratitude in this way. Early last year I asked in this House whether the Government had made any -gift food to Great Britain between 1943 and 1946 : what had the other dominions done; and would the Government consider a gift of food to the value of £2,000,000 to Great- Britain. The Prime Minister replied that nothing had been done in the years that I mentioned ; that he had no information about the efforts of the ether -dominions; and that no consideration would be given to a .gift of £2,000,000 worth of food to Great Britain.
The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) said that this was a financial measure and that there .should be no talk of food in this debate. He is ‘quite wrong there. Perhaps he is unaware that in response to frequent representations from this side of the House, including a motion by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), urging a gift of £25,000,000 worth of food to Great Britain, the Prime Minister agreed that the two subjects could be discussed in the one debate. I say, therefore, that honorable members are quite in order in dealing with food for Britain in the course -of this debate. In fact, that is the reason why Mr. Speaker has permitted a discussion of this subject in addition to the general financial aspects of the bill. I have endeavoured to show what a microscopic gift this £25,000.000 really is. Why, the aircraft that was given to this country by Great Britain during the war were worth £1,000,000. I remind the House also that in the depression years, when Labour governments in this country were greatly perplexed by their financial problems. Great Britain generously agreed to waive interest charges on Australia’s debt from World War I. In fact, I believe that a general moratorium on the debts themselves was granted.
– The whole debt, was cancelled.
– That is so. The amount involved was something like £78,000,000. Yet now honorable members opposite talk of a pettifogging £25,000,000 gift to Great Britain- a sum that the Government could hand out any day by a reduction of the income tax or the sales tax, and which, as I have shown, is about half the expected surplus revenue for the current financial year. The Government could do far more. I was sorry indeed to hear the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) and others in their self-satisfied way saying, “We cannot do more. We cannot take food from the Australian workers.” The people of Australia are ahead of the Government. They are generous- hearted people, and are setting the Government an example by sending millions of food parcels to Great Britain. They are showing what could be done and what should bc done. Apparently, many honorable members opposite still believe that the British diet, although monotonous, is adequate, and that the British people will struggle through successfully. But what are the facts of the position? Since we have heard from some honorable members opposite the impressions of Great Britain that they gained from flying trips, I, too, shall have something to say of my personal experience, because for some years during the war I was in Great Britain with the Royal Australian Air Force. A visiting Minister or member cannot gauge the true position by living at the Savoy Hotel or at some other hotel for a few weeks. We in the forces were for some time billeted, with the British people. I was billeted with an English family, and I know how difficult it was for them to meet the position. I know, too, how they subtracted from their own requirements to ensure that members of the dominions forces had their fill. Honorable members opposite claim that there is too much sentiment about this matter. Of course there is sentiment in the Australian nation. We could not lay claim to a drop of British blood in our veins if we did not -realize that we should do everything possible to relieve the mis-; fortunes of the nation upon whose protection we depended for so long. I have before me details of the ration applicable in Great Britain to-day. I am afraid that when I talk about the points system half of the honorable members of this House will not know what I mean. I shall explain, therefore, that 32 points are allowed in the British ration each month. It takes ten points to buy a packet of 4 dried eggs, and 20 points to buy a tin of syrup. So the purchase of a 2-lb. tin of syrup for the children, and a packet of dried eggs requires nearly all the points available for a month. The meat ration is ls. worth a week, plus 2d. worth of canned corned beef. In other words, the total meat ration is approximately 1 lb. a week, compared with 3.7 lb. in this country. One ounce of cooking fat is allowed to each person every week and I shall have something to say about that matter later because of the unfulfilled promises made by the Prime Minister when he was in Great Britain about increasing that ration. The weekly ration of cheese is 2 ox. and of sweets 3 oz. The milk ration is 2§ pints a week and the bread ration is 63 oz. or one 4-lb loaf. Thus, the British people have had to impose upon themselves something that the German submarines could not achieve, namely, the rationing of bread. These are the fruits of victory of the nation that was the spearhead of attack and the bulwark of defence, and saved civilization, because democracy undoubtedly would have gone under in the early stages of the war had not the British people held out. We played our part in battle. Australia’s war record is excellent, but since that conflict has ended its governmental record has been disgraceful. That this should go on during the eighth successive year for these people, and that the Government should do nothing to aid them shows how lacking in the right spirit it is. Since 1943 I have endeavoured in this Parliament to ensure that’ better efforts be made to help the people of Great Britain. I proposed a “ Sweets for Britain “ campaign designed to mobilize all sweets held by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture in order to assist the British children who had not seen sweets for years. It was launched by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that I was suspended from the service of the House when I endeavoured to make a personal explanation on this question of food for Britain.
– Order ! The honorable member was suspended for committing a breach of the rules of the House.
– You were quite justified in your action, Mr. Speaker. I do not question it. Honorable members will recall that, on the cessation of hostilities, T asked the Prime Minister if, as a gesture of goodwill to Great Britain, and to show our thankfulness for victory, he would send a food ship to Great Britain. [ pointed out that when Japan- had experienced a severe earthquake in 1923, the Australian Government sent a food ship to succour the people of that country. The right honorable gentleman promised to consider my suggestion, but in a general and rambling statement made some weeks later he merely said, in effect, that a food ship would not solve Great Britain’s problems. Who said it would? Evasion of every kind, and callous indifference has been the consistent attitude of the Leader of the Labour party in this House. Later, I asked whether the Government would consider making a gift of £2,000,000 worth of unrationed foodstuffs to the British people; but nothing was done. That such a gift could have been achieved is evidenced to-day by the large quantities of food being sent to Great Britain by individuals in the community. In sufficient time before last Christmas I again urged that as a Christmas gift to the people of Great Britain we should send a shipment of unrationed foods such as eggs, dried milk and other commodities which were in plentiful supply in Australia. The London Baily Graphic, in its issue of the 8th November, said -
Britain may get a special shipload of food as a Christmas box from Australia, if a proposal by the Australian Federal Parliament is agreed..
But what was the response on the part of the Government? The Prime Minister merely said that he would consider the suggestion, but neglected to do so until I raised the matter again. Finally, the right honorable gentleman again said that such a gift would not solve the British food problem. Yet alien Argentina sent a generous gift of meat to Great Britain prior to that Christmas season and for its generosity received the thanks of the British people; New Zealand, a country much smaller in area, with a population about equal to that of Victoria, sent a gift of £1,000,000 worth of food. South Africa did likewise, and Canada wrote off an immense debt which helped the British people very materially; but Australia, a land of milk and honey, overflowing with the bounty of providence, has not adopted as a national policy the sending of a pennyworth of food to Great Britain; it merely intends to send £25,000,000 out of our money box. One could go on continually in that strain. We suggested a committee of ways and means and honorable members on this side of the House offered to collaborate with the Government in devising ways and means of securing food and sending it to the British people; but this offer also was ‘rejected. Let us consider what the world press is thinking about this matter. Some honorable members opposite affect to despise that truly Australian journal the Bulletin. Among other things, the Bulletin quoted a British dietitian as saying that the people of Great Britain were gradually dying of starvation. That may be an exaggeration, but it has some semblance of truth. Dealing with this statement, the Bulletin had this to say -
Australians . . . have had no leadership from the people in charge at Canberra. In that quarter there was instead sullen hostility to the cause they had at heart, followed by indifference and evasion when sullen hostility became inexpedient, followed again by gestures of belated sympathy which so far have amounted to nothing.
On top of the blasts of war, the raining of bombs on innocent women and children and rationing of the severest form, the British people have had to endure the fury of snow, flood and . tempest ; but the Australian Government is still unmoved and is still unreluctant to give them even a pennyworth of food. I asked in the House if the Government would agree to a grant of food to the Australian Red Cross Society which had been asked for succour by the parent organization in Great Britain - the British people do not ask for help unless it is sorely needed - but nothing was forthcoming except a promise that there would be official co-operation. It is true that that official co-operation was. freely given, and I pay a tribute to the officials of the Commonwealth departments who co-operated with the Australian Red Cross Society in its attempts to assist in alleviating the distress in Great Britain. But still the Government did nothing, ignoring completely the magnificant example set by this excellent humanitarian organization, the Australian Red Cross Society. The society had no difficulty in filling its quota of 700 tons of food. Of this quantity gifts totalled 244 cubic tons, consisting of 7,151 cases, yet not a pennyworth of food was supplied by the Government. Although the Government said it was useless to render coupons - it even directed an. official to make such a pronouncement ever the air - it now approves and during the last few weeks no fewer than 384,000 meat coupons and 5S,000 butter coupons have been posted by generous people to the society. Although the British people have lost property worth many millions of pounds, although a great deal of their stock and crops have been destroyed and the position in which they found themselves at the end of the war had greatly worsened, the Government remained unmoved. I have no doubt that the decision to make a gift of £25,000,000 to the Government of the United Kingdom resulted from conversations between the Australian Government and the British Chancellor of the Exchequer. No doubt the gift will be of some assistance, and to that degree I agree with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), who said that it will enable the British people to buy food of that value and that they will not have to pay interest on the amount of the gift. While that may be true, where are they to buy the food? Are they to pay £1 a bushel for wheat from Argentina? There is no world food shortage to-day. If honorable members will study the white papers on world food production they will find that last year’s “production compares favorably with that of 1938. The whole- trouble lies in the distribution of the world’s food supplies. This. is what the Melbourne Herald had to say as to the attitude adopted by the Government -
Mr. Chifley’s answer to questions about our food exports to Britain is one of the shabbiest public statements ever made by an Australian Prime Minister.
Honorable members might like me to quote from further afield. In urging that more food be sent to Great Britain. Mr. Dillon, speaking in the Dail, in Eire, said that many Britons were suffering a degree of exhaustion .because of shortages of food. Britain’s sacrifices would excite admiration for a very valiant people.
This statement was made by the Opposition Leader of a country which interned British airmen during the war, which refused shelter to British ships crossing th* Atlantic in convoy to bring precious petrol to Gr.eat Britain, yet about whose machinations during the war Great Britain did not worry very much. Mr. de Valera, formerly a hitter critic but now knowing the great magnanimity of those people, said, in reply to Mr. Dillon -
Our government considers it nothing short of wonderful that the British people are behaving as they are in stinting themselves in order to send food, to where it is most needed in Europe.
This should not be a political party subject; but that statement should compel some members of the Labour party into realizing that they are not doing enough, and that speeches of sympathy with Great Britain are of no account. Our Government has lifted the ban on the supply of cream except under a permit system to certain invalids. Immediately it did so, I asked a question about it and was assured by the voluble Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) that the cream was made from whole milk, that in any case it would not go to butter factories to be processed into butter for export to Great Britain. To his own satisfaction’ he gave a long answer to my question. But’ the butter manufacturers of Victoria have stated that whereas in August, last year, only 53.000 lb. of cream was available to meet the needs of those permitted to buy it, the quantity manufactured rose in one month, as soon as the ban was lifted, to 607,000 lb., and in the next two months to 725,000 lb., and 726,000. lb. respectively.
As every one knows, cream can be, and is being; converted into butter, in private bornes. The manufacturer’s statement shows that the export of butter to Great Britain has been reduced by 390 tons a month. People in Great Britain get 2 oz. of butter a week ! One honorable member, after a good meal, rubbed his hands and said, “ But they get 4. oz. of margarine “. lt would, do some honorable members good to put themselves on the rations of the British people, as some people have done, and surrender their unused ration coupons. What can we do about the situation? I” intend to read a copy of a letter sent to the Prime Minister- by an organization whose membership covers all shades of political opinion. I was sent a copy. It expresses the opinions of the many warmhearted people sending to Great Britain parcels of food at exorbitant postage rates. I have asked that all parcels of f ood consigned to the British Ministry of Food should be despatched free of postage. The British Ministry of Food could then distribute the food so sent to it amongst the people generally. Thereby, people with no friends in Australia to send them food would benefit. But the Government refuses to do that on the ground that an agreement on postage with Great Britain must be adhered to. There has been ample time for that agreement to be reviewed, but it. has not been, and the postage on food parcels is about equal to the cost of the food in the parcels in some cases. The letter to the Prime Minister reads as follows: -
We, the- members of the St. Kilda Reunion Club, a body which is unaffiliated with any political party, and representing as we do, a good cross section of public opinion and all shades of political thought, deplore the unwillingness and/or inability of your Government, to carry out the wishes of the vast majority of the people in all walks of life in Australia, in respect to the matter of increased essential food supplies from this country to the people of Great Britain in their hour of need. We, urge it will not be too little too late.
The man who signed the letter, the honorary secretary of the organization, was a prisoner of war and, accordingly, he experienced some of the rigours that the people of Great Britain are passing through. When the Prime Minister was in England, he conferred with the British Cabinet and made a final broad cast saying that he knew what the British people were going through. I hope he still does. He made certain promises. They have not been fulfilled. The press of the 8th May, last year, contained the following news item: -
London, Tuesday. - Britain specially ap pealed to Australia and 5few Zealand to send every available ounce of surplus oils and fats and Mr. Chifley was taking back figures supplied him by Britain of the urgent need to meet the deteriorating world fats position.
This statement was made to the Herald to-night by the Food Minister (Sir Ben Smith) after his consultations with Mr. Chifley.
Sir Ben Smith, who was succeeded as Food Minister by Mr. Strachey, failed as dismally as Mr. S’trachey has failed. He is one of the men with academic qualifications that the Labour party loves. They can solve every problem but the practical ones and have not the vision to see a way out of Great Britain’s troubles. The newspaper item proceeds -
Sir Ben Smith and the Australian DirectorGeneral of Post-war Reconstruction (Di. Coombs)-
In whose hands our destinies lie at Geneva until, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) may choose to fly there to take over from him - have prepared the basis for a new Australian effort in response to Britain’s appeal.
That was nearly a year ago, but we have heard nothing of it. The article proceeds -
Sir Ben Smith said: “Yes, I particularly asked Mr. Chifley to do his utmost on the oils and fats position, and I appreciate his reference to this aspect of the food position in his farewell broadcast. The same goes for New Zealand. Both the Dominions have given the figures serious consideration, and I am confident that they will do the best possible “.
The “ best possible “ is this donation to the pool, but nothing is being given in the way of food. The Government has done nothing to acquire bacon or tinned milk, which are unrationed in Australia. It would be simple for the Government to assess what food the Australian people want and buy the rest and ship it to England, but it is not doing that. It could, but does not, buy and ship surplus canned and dried fruits and the like. Practically every morsel of. the Australian breakfast is unrationed-. All the excess ought to be requisitioned and . shipped overseas. I think that I have shown that as a grant this £25,000,000 is a sham. It is a part payment for the generosity that Great Britain has showered upon us. It is shameful that money is not set aside to buy surplus food in Australia for export to Great Britain. If that were done it would show that the Australian Government is at least as generous as the Australian citizens.
– I associate myself with statements by honorable gentlemen on this side of the House that the gift of £25,000,000 to Great Britain is a paltry return for what Great Britain has done to ensure the safety of Australia. The bill sets out in clause 2 that the money is “ a contribution towards war expenditure of that Government “ - that is His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom - “ incurred by it in respect of operations in and around the Pacific “. The sum of £25,000,000 could not possibly be accepted as an adequate measurement of our appreciation of the aid we received from the Mother Country during the war. It must be remembered that in the dark days of the war the Royal Navy convoyed our troops from and to Australia, and that but for the Royal Navy and the British mercantile marine none of our wool, wheat, butter, or other exportable commodities could have left our shores. Consequently, if the gift of £25,000,000 which we, in our pretence at being lavish, make to the United Kingdom, is the measuring rod, we are indeed repaying with ingratitude the vigilance and protection which we received at its hands and expense. I should like to be assured that this meagre grant is made voluntarily, because I have reason to believe that the United Kingdom Government, through its Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, approached the Commonwealth Government as a creditor in the sterling group, and asked it to reduce this indebtedness by £100,000,000. When the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) replies to this debate, he should assure the Parliament and the Australian people that the Commonwealth Government has not made this grant as the result of pressure.
The shattering blasts of war have left a terrible aftermath in many countries. Deep scars still mark the ordeal through which their peoples have passed. Some are suffering from disease, pestilence and malnutrition. Others have a political sickness, which militates against the maintenance of permanent peace. Unfortunately, the United Kingdom is the victim of almost all those conditions. It has been a leader in world security measures, and can still contribute a great deal towards this end. Obviously, Australia, as a member of the British family, must measure up to its responsibilities, and assist to overcome the present disadvantages with the same eagerness as it has accepted the advantages of being a part of the British Empire. Any person who has studied the situation knows that Great Britain gave unstintedly of its resources in order to protect the peace of the world. To-day, the economic position of Great Britain is most serious. Undoubtedly, its overall financial position is due mainly to war conditions. This deterioration occurred at a time when Great Britain stood alone, with its back to the wall, before assistance, costly as it was, was brought to its aid. In its present circumstances, Great Britain cannot liquidate the debts which it had to incur, not only on its own behalf, but also on behalf of other peace-loving countries.
Shortly before the outbreak of war in 1939, Great Britain held foreign assets valued at £4,000,000,000. By the end of 1946, nearly one-half of those assets had been dissipated for the purpose of providing money for the prosecution of the war on behalf of the freedom-loving peoples of the world. Its capital resources abroad were so substantial prior to the outbreak of World War II. that they constituted an important source of economic strength from which an adverse trade balance could be financed. That is precisely what happened. But currency reserves and liquid security holdings were rapidly absorbed by war demands for essential imports, and by 1943 the prewar picture had completely changed. . In that year there was a total net deficit of over £1,400,000,000 met roughly in equal shares by lend-lease on the one hand and by the sale of foreign assets and borrowing abroad on the other. Net income also fell away sharply from the pre-war figures, as British shipping was absorbed, and much of it was indeed lost. In war operations, foreign investments and loans became valueless, as country lifter country was conquered toy the enemy. Great Britain then went heavily into debt so that it might meet that portion of its war cost not covered by lendlease, whilst awaiting the recovery of the proceeds from its exports, or the realizations from its foreign capital assets. By the end of the war, half of these assets had been sold in various ways. Its financial income was substantially less than before i he war, export trade was less than onethird and merchant shipping tonnage less than three-quarters.
According to estimates, the net deterioration of Great Britain’s external capital position, including both the loss of foreign resources and the growth of sterling indebtedness was already over 65,000,000,000 when the last shot was fired. Despite this, Great Britain stilt had about’ £500,000,000 sterling mainly from newly mined gold and the conservation of dollar earnings of countries in the sterling area. This comparatively small reserve was well below the prewar level, and quite inadequate to meet Britain’s own needs, and even moderate demands for the release of blocked sterling balances for current purchases. Consequently, the British exchange problem could not bc met by available reserves, nor could imports be further reduced. The only path to be pursued was to expand exports to a point far higher than prewar level, but that cannot be attained for years. There will inevitably be further considerable accumulations of debt before the British balance is restored.
Great Britain’s efforts to increase production have met with tremendous setbacks. Severe floods, and an unprecedentedly cold winter, threw 2,000,000 persons out of employment, and meant a loss of production of up to £40,000,000 a week. The “White Paper, issued by the United Kingdom Government early this year, surveying economic prospects for 1947, is the most disturbing document ever issued by that Government. It estimates the minimum deficit, in respect of overseas payments, at £350,000,000 for 1947, and that figure can be an underestimate. The seriousness of the position is revealed by the fact that only £955,000,000 of American credit will remain at the end of the year. The United Kingdom Government now obtains about 42 per cent, of its imports from the Western Hemisphere, and is selling only 14 per cent, of its exports in that area. That gives concisely but in alarming detail the economic position of Great Britain today. It is therefore only common business acumen for Australia to make a contribution which will have the effect of partially cancelling Britain’s sterling debt to us. The amount of that debt has been variously stated, but I have been informed that it is £230,000,000. The gift that this Government is proposing to make therefore represents not quite 10 per cent, of the total. Having regard to the great service that was rendered to Australia by the United Kingdom, from its immense resources, and particularly by the British Navy, I consider that a gift of £25,000,000 is a poor tribute as an assessment of Australian sentiment and financial responsibility towards the Mother Country in the hardships through which at has passed and from which it is still suffering. The Australian Government could, with every justification, greatly increase the amount. In any case it had no right to assess compensation for war services rendered to Australia in and around the Pacific at such a relatively paltry figure. It should have taken a broad view of Britain’s services to Australia. It might then have arrived at a more reasonable basis of acknowledgment, and it would not have stated the totally inadequate sum of £25,000,000 as compensation for preserving unencumbered the title deeds of this country. Except for Britain, we should not have been able to export 1 lb. of our exportable surplus commodities, nor would we have been able to bring back to this country a single one of the men who fought for us overseas. That we were able to continue our export trade and to provide shipping for our service personnel was due to the vigilance, determination and courage of the British Navy and the British Mercantile Marine.
I shall be greatly relieved if the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) will make a definite statement that the relatively meagre amount of £25,000,000 which is being provided for Great Britain under the terms of this bill is tobe considered as a voluntary grant and not a sum which is being paid as the outcome of representations made by Great Britain to Australia with the object of our making due acknowledgment of . what Britain has done for us. I understand, though I cannot produce any proof, that the United Kingdom Government made an approach to the Australian Government on this subject, and that it was represented that in view of all the circumstances an amount of £100,000,000 might he considered a proper contribution for the purposes for which this paltry and inadequate amount of £25,000,000 is now being provided.
.- It seems to me that sometimes we lose perspective in considering subjects such as that before us at present. If we take a reasonable view of conditions, we must admit that food is needed in the United Kingdom. We also know that there is sufficient food for the people available in Great Britain, but the diet is monotonous. The British people are not starving ; they require a wider assortment of foodstuffs than they are able to get.Fish is available in Great Britain in such plenty that considerable quantities are being exported. Cereals are also available in quantities which leave a surplus for export. I find in the Australian Trade Commissioner Service, a publication issued by the Public Relations Directorate of the Export Division of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, a statement to the effect that included in British goods received in Egypt during January were 3,887 cases of whisky. I do not know all the ingredients that are required for the manufacture of whisky, but certain cereals are required. In January also, 370 tons of herrings and 133 tons of salmon were exported from Britain to Egypt. The same publication states -
A barter of 100,000 tons of Egyptian rice for an equal quantity of Canadian wheat is reported to be under discussion between the Egyptian and British authorities.
If such trading is going on between Egypt and Great Britain it is not unreasonable to assume that similar trans actions are proceeding betweenGreat Britain and other countries. The point I make is that the people of Great Britain are not starving,butrequire a greater variety of foodstuffs. There are people in Great Britain who have money to pay even extravagant prices for some foodstuffs. We have been informed, for instance, that 10s. 6d. may be paid for one peach. The people who have sufficient money can even buy the kind of breakfast they would like. If we deliver greater quantities of meat to Great Britain the question arises as to who will get it when it is offered for sale. I suggest that those who have the money will be able to buy more of the relatively small additional amount that we send. But I believe that it would he quite true to say that the poorer people, who constitute, if not the majority, at least almost the majority of British people, would not have money for that purpose. The food that they are able to buy already costs all that they can afford to spend. The most useful thing we could do would be to ensure that gifts which are sent to Great Britain really reach the people who need them. Those who can send fats, for example, should continue to send them, and such gifts should be distributed equitably.I have stated on previous occasions in this House that the United Kingdom and Australian Governments should come to an arrangement which would permit food parcels to be handled at the very minimum postal charge. If that were done, more food parcels would be sent to Britain. The amount of £25,000,000, which is proposed to be made available to Great Britain under the terms of this bill, should be used by the British authorities for food or for whatever purpose those authorities desireto use it. I do not know where it will go, or what it is really worth in relation to food or anything else, but I should be much more confident of an improvement of the conditions of British workers if food were distributed as a gift and was not sold at a profit.
– This bill is for the purpose of making a contribution of £25,000,000 towards the war expenditure incurred by the Government of the United Kingdom in respect of operations in and around the Pacific.
My chief objection is that it is a piecemeal measure, such as this ‘Government customarily brings down. It deals only with a particular part of the battle area in the world war which recently terminated, and it assesses the value of the United Kingdom’s contribution in the Pacific at £25,000,000. The debt which Australia and the other partners in the British Commonwealth .of Nations owe to the United Kingdom cannot be assessed at £25,000,000. We have to look at the whole picture. If the matter is to be reduced to cold business terms, there must be an adjustment of the debt incurred in respect of the different areas in which the world war was fought. The Government is merely making a beginning at the Pacific end, and must realize that Great Britain incurred- very many more debts in connexion with the conflict which it waged, practically alone from 1940 until the Germans attacked. Russia, and brought that country into the war, and the Japanese attacked the United States of America at Pearl Harbour and involved it also. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain, Dr. Hugh Dalton, was quite right when he said that a conference should be held to consider the debts which Great Britain owes to different countries, and that those debts must be adjusted. I was rather amazed last night when the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said, at the end of his speech, that he had considered for a long time that some measures along those lines should be taken. Neither he, nor the Government in which he is a leading Minister, has ever sought to raise the matter in this Parliament, with a view to convening an Imperial conference to consider what adjustment could, be made of Great Britain’s debt structure. The document which the British Government recently circulated, “’ An Economic Survey for 1947, presented by the Prime Minister to Parliament by Command of His Majesty, February, 1947 “, is one of the saddest pieces of reading that has been placed before the people of the British Empire for very many years. It is of no use to attempt to .separate our position in the world from that of the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa or New Zealand.
All of us are parts of a whole. If the Empire should fall to pieces, we would be merely small fragments in a world of power polities. We know exactly what would be our fate as a small nation. The payments for net imports into Great Britain amounted to £826,000,000 in 1938 and £1,100,000,000 in 1946. The net overseas government expenditure of the United Kingdom was only £13,000,000 in 1938, but was £300,000,000 in 1946. That net overseas expenditure of thUnited Kingdom is one of the factors, and a very relevant factor, which is making it extremely difficult to achieve the position which the United Kingdom i.striving to reach by the end of 1947. . namely, to increase the export target te- 140 per cent, of the 1938 volume. That is the immediate target. However, the distant objective is to raise the volume of exports of manufactured goods to rise to about 165 per cent, of the 193f level. If the Government of the United Kingdom had been able to reduce its net overseas expenditureof £300,000,000 in 1946 to a figure approaching that for 1938, its position to-day would have been a great deal easier than it is. Last night, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction gave what lie considered was an analysis of the reasons for the great difficulties in which Great Britain finds itself to-day and the living conditions of its people. The Minister claimed that the present position had been brought about mainly by the loss of overseas investments. Disastrous losses were sustained by Great Britain not only in connexion with its overseas investments. Its shipping, which was one of the greatest factors that had been responsible for what we might call its “ invisible “ exports, was thrown into the world conflict utterly regardless of its capital value, and many millions of tons was last. The receipts of the United Kingdom from exports and re-exports amounted to £533,000,000 in 193S, and to £900,000,000 in 1946. The interest from profits and dividends fell from £175,000,000 in 1938 to £60,000,000 in 1946; and the receipts from other sources, which would include insurance - a very considerable factor in earning income for Great Britain overseas in the pre-war period- fell from £61,000,000 to minus £10,000,000. This great deficit was due not alone to the factors mentioned by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction last night, but also, very greatly, to the colossal losses which Great Britain suffered in respect of its shipping and insurance.
The Minister went on to point out that Australia’s sterling credits in Great Britain to-day amount to £190,000,000. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has stated that the amount is £220,000,000. I believe that he is more likely to be correct, because the last return that I have seen from the Commonwealth Bank in relation to overseas sterling holdings of the Australian Commonwealth, mention an amount of approximately £220,000,000. There is no need to argue about the accuracy of the figures; the amount is between £190,000,000 and £220,000,000. The Minister went on to say that the backlag of demand cannot be met immediately by Great Britain, and that what it was arguing was that it had been impossible to keep down sterling balances because of its inability to send exports to this country to pay for the goods that it received from us. The honorable gentleman added that the balances can be expended over the years. That is a mythical argument, which contains little truth. How is Great Britain to liquidate those balances, and simultaneously increase its exports by 175 per cent, compared with the volume for 1938 in order to pay for its imports and maintain a standard of living for its people? This matter has. to be considered realistically. We have to realize that the debt which Great Britain owes to Australia is very small compared with those which it owes to other parts of the Empire and to other countries. Great Britain owes £1,200,000,000 sterling to India for goods which it purchased in that country during the war, and it owes Egypt approximately £400,000,000 sterling. Each of those countries believes that it can collect its debt. The Australian Government would have done good work had it attempted to convene an Imperial Conference for the consideration by the whole Empire of the debt structure that had been caused by the war involving the dominions and Great Britain itself, in order to determine whether it is possible to write down considerably the debts owing by the United Kingdom and incurred in the defence of the Empire. The Economic Survey for 1947 issued by the Government of the United Kingdom points out -
This lay-out of imports and exports ends with a prospective deficit of £350 millions tobe mct by borrowing from abroad. This is itself considerable alongside the £955 -millions remaining of the United States and Canadian credits at the beginning of the year. But the drain upon these credits in 1947 threatens to be much larger than this. After the middle of this year our convertibility obligations under the Anglo-American Financial Agreement may result in some loss of dollars.
Under the Anglo-American Financial Agreement, the balances existing prior to the 15th July next are to be frozen for a certain period, but after the 15th July all sterling credits must be convertible to dollars if the owners of those credits in the United Kingdom require that that shall be done. The Economic Survey goes on to point out -
Moreover, our dollar position is much more difficult than would appear from our total balance of payments. We are now drawing some 42 per cent, of our imports from the Western Hemisphere, which is now the main source nf the food and raw materials that we must have. But we are selling there only 14 per cent., of our exports.
The balance of Great Britain’s exports is going into the Eastern Hemisphere, to sterling countries in which there is no convertibility into dollars, and it is impossible to use those credits for the purchase of urgently-needed food. It will thus be seen that the position is a very sorry and difficult one indeed. I should have thought that the Australian Government would have been big enough to realize that by what it is doing to-day it is merely playing with the position, and that the best means of adjusting the position is to convene an Imperial Conference for the consideration of the whole debt structure with a view to determining whether or not adjustments can he made.
The short-term picture as it affects Australia is concerned with supplies of food to the United Kingdom. I was rather astonished by that portion of the speech of the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn), in which she quoted from a trade bulletin of the
Department of Commerce and Agriculture certain facts and figures concerning trade between Egypt and the United Kingdom, and drew from them the conclusion that Great Britain had not acted wisely in having sent 100 cases of whisky to Egypt.
– The quantity was 3,887 cases.
– The honorable member went on to say that she believed that that whisky had been made from certain cereals. I point out that the added value given to grain in the distillation of whisky, and the very high price which Scotch whisky particularly commands on the world’s markets to-day, would probably enable Great Britain to increase substantially its imports of food and clothing and raw products, and thi3 would more than offset the value of the small quantity of grain used.
The honorable member went on to say that there should be a reduction of the postage on parcels of food from Australia to the people of the United Kingdom. I entirely agree. However, I understand that under the International Postal Convention postal rates with Great Britain can be reduced only by agreement with the Government of that .country. Australia cannot take unilateral action. Therefore, I suggest that the Commonwealth Postmaster-General should begin negotiations on this subject as soon as possible, so that postal rates may be reduced. At present, they bear most heavily upon those who can least afford the expense, and this has the effect of reducing the quantity of food going forward to Britain. The honorable member for Bourke also argued that the people of Great Britain are not short of food. Pood, she said, was not scarce in Great Britain, but the diet was monotonous. Apropos of that, there is a very interesting letter in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald from Dr. Brian W. Monahan, of Canberra, in which he writes -
I have recently received a copy of the article entitled “ Dying England “, by Dr. Franklin Bicknell, in The Medical Press. This article received some notice in the Australian daily press.
The basic fact brought out by Dr. Bicknell is that the present food, including all sources - rationed, unrationed, and restaurant food - leaves an average daily deficiency in energy value of approximately SOO calories per head. Such a deficiency would, of course, result in a short time in death from starvation. The deficiency is, however, met in part by reduced activity. This results in a vicious circle; deficient food supplies mean lowered production; lowered production results in less food, either home-grown or imported, in exchange for exports. . . .
I ‘believe, on the authority of Dr. Bicknell, this Harley-street specialist, that the people of Great Britain are short of food, and that the number of calories which they receive each day is far too small to maintain health and enable them to go on working. This belief is amply borne out by figures published in the financial column of the London Times of the 21st May last, the latest issue available in the Parliamentary Library. I quote the following paragraph : -
The feature of the overseas trade return? for April is the new record total of imports which amounted to £147,076,000, compared with £130,038,000 in the previous month.
Thus, the April figure for imports into the United Kingdom increased by about £18,000,000, mostly for meat, fruit, vegetables, oil, seeds, nuts and raw cotton. This indicates that the British people are desperately short of fats and meat, as well as oil seeds. There is, of course, a world shortage of edible oils at the present time. I believe that this Government ought to do more to assist in the sending of food to Great Britain. I do not know whether the allegations are true, but they have been made in the newspapers, that the amount of meat consumed in Australia by registered greyhounds amounts to 12 lb. a head a week, much of it first-class beef. The Leader of the Opposition said that if no meat were consumed in Australia over and above that permitted by the ration, we would be able to send another 200,000 tons to Britain.
Certain patriotic people are prepared to lose a considerable amount of money by sending their stock forward for treatment for export to Great Britain, but there are others whose patriotism - as the Prime Minister has sometimes reminded us - is in their pockets, and they are not prepared to suffer any loss by having their stock treated for export when they find that the loss on a light-weight beast is about £3, while for heavier cattle it would be even greater. There is also a loss on lamb. I suggest that if the Government wishes to use £25,000,000 to provide more food for the people of Great Britain, it would he infinitely better to expend it in the form of a subsidy on the British contract price for meat, in Australia, so that additional supplies might be rushed quickly to Great Britain. I admit that this is not a perfect remedy, but it would achieve immediate results. Moreover,, the charge that this would enable certain people to make large profits out of the drive for additional exports does not hold water, because taxation rates are so high that most of the additional profit would go back to the Government.
Donations to the Australian Red Cross Society for flood relief in Great Britain are free of income tax, but gifts to the “ Food for Britain “ fund are not tax-free. This tends to reduce the volume of contributions. I know it is altogether wrong that subsidies and concessions should be necessary ro induce people to assist the drive, but necessity knows no law. The people of Great Britain are short of food. They are weakening^ and slowly dying, as Dr. Bicknell said. They must have food, particularly meat and fats, and the food must be got to Great Britain quickly. Therefore, instead of making this gift in the form proposed, under which it is little better than a book entry, the Commonwealth Government should advance money to enable the Government of the United Kingdom to buy meat on the Australian market at the Australian ceiling price, so that additional quantities of mutton, lamb and beef might be exported. Whatever may be the proper, long-term policy, there can be no doubt that our short-term policy should be to- do everything possible to get more food to Great Britain as quickly as possible.
– It is evident from the debate on this measure that the House, as a whole, is in favour of the bill which we are now discussing, but it is not so evident that Government supporters regard themeasure merely as a* preliminary to a general shading down of the indebtedness of Great Britain to Australia. The PrimeMinister (Mr. Chifley), in his secondreading speech, went to some lengths to’ show the desperate straits in which Great Britain found itself because of the war. He covered the ground very fully,, and one might be justified in assuming from his remarks that this bill is to be merely the first of a number of measures of a similar kind. I admit that, after’ reading the speech more closely, I was rather shaken in that belief because, in the closing paragraph, he said -
When I was in London last year I discussed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer the matter of assistance from Australia, and it has been since considered in Cabinet. After full consideration, the Government decided that the most appropriate method of assistance to the external war debts problem of the United Kingdom, would be to make an- outright contribution of £25,000,000 Australian.
We are rather confirmed in that doubt by the remarks of the few private members on the Government side who have spoken in support of the bill. I could have, wished that many more of them would express their views upon it because the impression I gathered from’ those who spoke was that they believed- that what the Government proposed to dorepresented an ample contribution by Australia of the solution of the British debt problem. Not one honorable member opposite suggested that anything more should be done.
– I said that I hoped this bill would be the forerunner of others.
– -Then I standi corrected; hut certainly while I was in the chamber not one honorable member, opposite made any suggestion that this bill would be followed by similar measures. Indeed, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), gave many reasons why this should be regarded as an admirable contribution to the solution of the British debt problem. I admit that his reasoning was difficult to follow. He started off by saying that the Government was confronted with three questions. The first was, did Great Britain need financial assistance? The second was, did Great Britain need financial assistance in respect of Pacific war operations, and the third was> could; Britain have avoided getting into its present position? Then he went on to show the benefits that had accrued to certain members of the British Commonwealth of Nations as a result of the war. He stated - I think he understated - what Australia had achieved during the war. He pointed out that our overseas credit at the beginning of the war was £46,000,000. I do not want to argue the point, but I got some figures out of the Commonwealth Bank Journal which stated that Australia’s overseas balance at the end of June, 1939, was £35,100,000. However, for purposes of comparison, I am quite willing to accept the Minister’s figure of £46,000,000. He then went on to say that in 1945, at the termination of the war, Australia’s overseas balance was £190,000,000. “He also stated that, during the same period, we had liquidated a certain amount of our overseas indebtedness. He put the figure at £60,000,000. He omitted - I do not say deliberately - to say that the £60,000,000 was in sterling, while all the other figures were given in Australian currency. The amount of £60,000,000 sterling represents £75,000,000 Australian. He could have 3aid that our credit balance in Britain has gone on increasing since the end of the war, and at this very time, when Great Britain is1 in such dire straits, we are continuing to benefit from our trade with that country. The last figure which [ have been able to obtain, that for April of this year, shows that our London credit balance was then £225,000,000. Thus, as the result of the war, and allowing for the debt relieved during that period, Australia’s financial position in relation to Great Britain improved by more than £180,000,000. The Minister then proceeded to relate the position of Canada, New Zealand and South Africa ; but what he apparently did not appreciate was that any benefit that accrued to Australia or to any other dominion resulted from their rendering aid to Great Britain when it was most required. It was of vital importance to the very existence of the British people that, during the period of war, we should send them foodstuffs, raw materials and even manufactured goods to the fullest extent of our capacity. If the figures quoted by the honorable gentleman prove anything it is that in that respect Australia did less than any of the other dominions he mentioned. ;Mr. BARNARD - The honorable member cannot substantiate that statement.
– I shall be interested to hear the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) explain where I am wrong. During the war period, ‘Canada . in particular, owing to its increased industrial and agricultural capacity, rendered greater aid to Great Britain than did Australia.
– Rot ! They did not have the Japanese on their doorstep.
– I welcome that interjection, because if it suggests anything it is that Australia owes an even greater debt .to Great Britain and our allies for their protection. The cold fact is that our material assistance to the British people has been on a diminishing scale. I have before me some very illuminating extracts from the Board of Trade Journal dated the 26th March last, .showing the variations in trade between Australia and Great Britain during two very material years. They show that in 193& Australia imported from Great Britain £38,200,000 worth of goods and that in 1946 the imports from that country increased to £55,200,000. In other words, we took moTe from the Old Country in its time of struggle and travail than we did before the war. On the export side, in 1938 Australia exported to Great Britain goods to the value of £71,800,000 ; in 1946, a year of grave crisis in Great Britain, we exported to that country good* valued at £67,700,000. If those figures be reduced to volume of goods it will be realized how poor were our exports in 1946 as compared with 1938. The figures relating to some of the other dominion? show an entirely different picture. New Zealand, for instance, in 1938 exported to Great Britain goods valued at £46,900,000, but by 1946 its exports had increased in value’ to £74,600,000. Similarly, in the two years mentioned. Canada’s exports to Great Britain increased from £78,700,000 to £195,200,000 These figures constitute a very good illustration of the benefits received by Great. Britain from the Dominions in the year of its gravest travail. Honorable members must agree that this country owes to Great Britain a very much greater debt for the protection it afforded us during the war than does any other dominion. Great Britain took very grave risks in order to keep open the lines of communication through the Middle East, the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean. We know how costly that protection was in men, money and ships. I do not know if honorable members generally realize the destruction of ships that took place during that period, not only among those of the British mercantile marine, but also among hose of the British Navy. Up to the 8th March, 1945, the Royal Navy had lost five battleships, eight aircraft carriers, 26 cruisers, 128 destroyers, 77 submarines and 614 other vessels. We know that some of these losses were brought about as the result of the attempts by the British Navy to protect this country. We have not forgotten what happened off the coast of Malaya when two capital ships of the British Navy, H.M.S. Repulse and E.M.S. Prince of Wales, went to the bottom in an endeavour to protect this country. We are told now that this miserable pittance of £25,000,000 is a worthwhile contribution from this country towards those losses.
– It is a mere trouser button !
– I agree with the right honorable gentleman. I hope that this bill is not the last of its kind to be introduced by this Government. Honorable members may well recall what little assistance we rendered towards the security of the Pacific in the years immediately before the war. I remember that when, as the outcome of an Imperial Defence Conference, it was decided to establish a naval base at Singapore, Australia very strongly supported the proposition and gave it its blessing, but did not supply a brass farthing towards its construction. In answer to an interjection .by the Minister for “ Obstruction “, the VicePresident of the Executive Council-
-Order! The honorable member must withdraw and apologize to the Chair for that reference.
– I withdraw and apologize.
– I did not make an interjection.
– We merely gave the naval base at Singapore our blessing, but New Zealand, our little sister dominion, provided £1,000,000 towards that project, which cost the British taxpayers approximately £40,000,000. I admit that the naval base was not very effective in preventing the onrush of the Japanese, and it would be interesting to learn whether or not it is to be revived and used as part of our future defence strategy. If so, 1 hope that Australia’s contribution towards its establishment and maintenance will be a more worthy one. A good deal has been said as to what is most necessary to aid Great Britain in its hour of need. Honorable members opposite have admitted very grudgingly that the British people are not as well fed as are the Australian people, but they taboo the suggestion that we should do any more than we are already doing about it. After listening to the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) 1 came to the conclusion that he had gained his political experience sitting in opposition and had not yet adapted himself to his place among the Government ranks. Whenever the honorable gentleman rises in this chamber, apart from those occasions when he imputes insincerity or dishonesty to honorable members on this side of the House, he criticizes the administration or the legislation of the Government of which he is a supporter. Ho said that honorable member? on this side of the House do not realize that any subtraction from the food resources of Australia must mean a subtraction from the food of the workers. I do not know to whom he refers when he uses the term “ workers “. In my view every mau who does a useful job in thi? country is a worker. The honorable member then said that any further rationing of food in Australia would not inflict any hardship on members of the Commonwealth Parliament, because when they come to Canberra they obtain coupon-free meals. If the honorable member believes there is something wrong with that he should submit a proposition to the Government which he supports that coupons should be surrendered for all meals taken in such circumstances. If there be an inequitable distribution of foodstuffs in this country the blame rests upon the Government which the honorable member is pleased to support. When he contends that the ration scale of members of Parliament is ample, I remind him that when one former member of the Government went to Great Britain as a representative of this country, far from being prepared to accept the British ration, he took with him a. very generous hamper of Australian foods. I have yet to learn how he obtained the coupons with which to buy the goods he took, and I am still wondering whether his hamper is exhausted or whether it is being replenished from time to time. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to talk about ample food in Great Britain. None of them who went to Great Britain - and several of them have recently toured that country at the expense of the Australian taxpayer - was willing to accept the ration scale of the people of Great Britain as adequate to their needs. The honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) apparently does not realize that in severely criticizing the distribution of food in Great Britain she criticized the administration of its Socialist Government of Britain. Everything done there is done by a government so obsessed with socialism that it has forgotten all about administration. Ministers and their supporters who have spoken on this measure have given evidence that they are not prepared to do anything to provide in this country more food for Britain. All that they are willing to do is to criticize every suggestion made by honorable members on this side. They say- and I believe them - that the ration scale in Australia is ample. They admit that the scale is being tremendously exceeded. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said that meat consumption in Australia exceeded by more than 50 per cent. the quantity provided for by the coupons issued. Yet we have not heard one suggestion from the Prime Minister or any of his colleagues and supporters that the ration scale, to which they pay only lip-service, ought to be more strictly policed.
– Do not be foolish.
– I am inclined to agree that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) has cause to ridicule a suggestion that the Government should insist on stricter obedience of food rationing, because it is ridiculous to expect it to do so. Never in its history has it faced a difficult problem with courage. It has been singularly supine on the waterfront where, owing to not a shortage of food, but to industrial strife, ships have been forced to leave food on the wharf. When Orion sailed from Melbourne food was left on the wharf because of trouble amongst the wharf labourers. We are sorry to hear the Government admit short-comings and confess inability to overcome them. We have heard a good deal about the evils of laisser-faire. If there was ever an example of laisser-faire this Government provides it. I hope that, even at this late stage, the Government having admitted that a large quantity of food is being disposed of through the black market in this country, will ensure stricter policing of food rationing. A reduced ration scale would be unnecessary if rationing were strictly policed, because if the black market in meat alone were wiped out, 200,000 tons . more meat a year could be sent to Britain. If the Government is not prepared to ensure stricter observance of food rationing or to impose more severe rationing, what is it prepared to do? It has been claimed that the £25,000,000 can be used by Britain to buy food wherever it likes, but. I am surethat you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are not so foolish as to believe for a moment that any country outside the Empire will accept Australian currency in exchange for food or any other commodity. The cold fact is that Australian currency is not negotiable anywhere outside this country. Consequently, the handing of £25,000,000 of Australian currency to Great Britain will not help it one iota to buy food in any country other than Australia. We have the abject example of an Australian government not prepared to make more food available to Britain. So we hand £25,000,000 to Great Britain by process of a cross-entry in the books. It relieves it of paying a certain part of its overseas debt, but it does not assist it to buy food from any other country than Australia, and the Government professes inability to supply it with more. I hope that the Prime Minister will relent, at any rate to a degree, and promise to do something positive. The very least he can do is express in this House, over the air and through the press, Australia’s real position in relation to Great Britain. He can ask. the people of this country to volunteer their help to the Mother Country.. I hate the suggestion, because appeals for volunteers are answered by the same people all the time. The people willing to give are frequently the only ones who give. But so dire is Great. Britain’s need that any method of aiding it is better than none. If the Prime Minister would only say, in an earnest, and sincere appeal to the people, to volunteer aid, that he himself is convinced of the need of the British people, something would be achieved, but it would be nothing like what we are entitled to expect to accomplish, because nothing is* more deadening to the enthusiasm of patriots who deny themselves in the interests of their kinsmen in Great Britain than to- see other people flouting the law on. the black market. If the Prime Minister will show the same enthusiasm about the appeal for food for Great Britain as lie has lately shown about some other projects something worthwhile may result.
.- I have heard practically every speech made in this House on. the gift of. £25,000,000 to the United Kingdom as a contribution- towards its war expenditure in and. around the Pacific. The debate, lias been confined almost entirely to the problem of supplying Great Britain with more food. Before I embark upon my general comments on the bill, I wish to answer the statement of the honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr. McBride) that Australia gave the Singapore base, its blessing, but did not. contribute a penny towards its cost. Between the two wars men who shared his political opinions were in power for all but: two years: but failed to correct that anomaly. It has been claimed that after the- retreat from Dunkirk Great Britain stood alone. Great Britain did not stand alone. The British Commonwealth of Nations stood alone. There is. no question, though, that Great Britain was in the front line of the battle for civilization. No Australian would decry or detract from what Great Britain did in those terrible days, but I deplore that some honorable gentlemen opposite tend to decry our own efforts. Before and since Australia achieved nationhood in World War I., its. loyalty to the Empire has been second to none among the British; Dominions. At all times it has shared: the lot of the Mother Country. I recently read in the. leading paper of Adelaide that Mr., Phillip Noel-Baker, chairman of the Labour party conference now being held in Great Britain, said that noforeigner should believe that Great Britain was down and out. Neither should we believe it. He went on to say that Great Britain’s people were healthier, better educated and more inventive than ever in its history. If that, is so - and I am not able to dispute hie words or the words of any one else about the position in Great Britain - we must pay tribute to the Labour Government, which has been, in charge of Great Britain’s affairs for a considerable time. lt ought to be clear to every one that the making of a gift of £25,000,000 to Great Britain does not involve sending it bank notes, gold, silver or copper. The gift, however, will enable it to buy goods of that value wherever it can. Great Britain can export its own produce to whichever country it buys in and obtain the equivalent in food or whatever it needs to rebuild the country. Tha.t is how the gift will operate.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) referred to the naval strength of the British Empire and the part played by the Royal Navy in the Pacific. During the war I was pleased when 1 heard that heavy ships of the Royal Navy were coming to the Pacific, because I knew their size and strength. The honorable member for Barker recalled that Great Britain had presented the cruiser Shropshire to Australia, and he estimated that the warship was valued at £3,000,000. His figure is approximately correct. However, I remind tho House that at that stage of the war, Australia had lost three most valuable cruisers. As a balance must be preserved between- the types of units constituting- a naval force, the Royal Australian Navy needed its cruiser strength to be supplemented. In tha Pacific; War, cruisers played a prominent, pant. Even before Japan entered the- conflict, Australia bad lost three of its warships in the Mediterranean, but at that time,, other Allied, governments did not suggest that they should compensate us for them.
Some honorable members opposite have described’ as “ poor “ the proposed gift to the United Kingdom of £25,000,000. The honorable member for Wakefield expressed the hope that it represented only ibc first instalment.
– Hear, hear!
– Honorable members this, side of the chamber also- hope that i lj will be the forerunner of a. further gift to Great Britain. While the amount of £25,000,000 has been described as paltry, r remind honorable members opposite that during the financial and economic depression in the early 1930’s, the Commonwealth Government was not able to provide £18,000,000 to feed and clothe the poor of. this country.
The Dominion, of Canada, has made a grand effort, and nothing that I say should bc regarded as an attempt to detract from, its merit. However, the fact remains that because of its geographical position, Canada waxed rich during World War II. The reason was that Great Britain was obliged to- sell its securities in that country. The position in Australia is different. Great Britain holds in Australia considerable investments, which yield approximately £25,000,000’ per annum. That return, with the gift of £25,000,000, will help the Mother- Country in. its hour of trial. T do not believe, as some honorable members opposite pretend to believe, that the United Kingdom Government requested the Commonwealth Government to make this grant in order to reduce its indebtedness to us. All members of the British Commonwealth of Nations have a duty to rally to the cause, as they have in the past. On the 18th March last, the Prime Minister, replying to a question about this proposed gift, said -
The gift of £25,000,000 which the Australian Government will make to the British Govern^ ment, subject to approval by this Parliament, will be £25,000,000 which the British Government can expend in whatever way it thinks best in the- interests of the British people. Without commenting on the legislation which f hope will lie introduced next week, the- sum of £25,000,000 will be provided from. Aus tralian revenue resources and, therefore, will be a direct gift to. the British Government which may expend it on food, or in such- other way it desires.
While the Prime Minister was in Great Britain, he had the opportunity to discuss various matters with the United- Kingdom Government, and he believes that the gif t of £25,000,000 is the best way in which Australia, can assist the- Mother Country. I accept his view. The- right honorable gentleman has rendered great service, to Australia. Under his- leadership, the country has attained an. economic position, that it has never enjoyed, at any other time in its history. I support tl],bill, and am confident that if the Government proposes to make a further contribution to the rehabilitation of Great Britain, honorable- members will support the bill in the spirit in which the Government presents it to the House.
.- The bill, which authorizes the- making of a gift of £2-5,000^000 to the United Kingdom. Government, has been used in the House principally as a vehicle for a dis’ cussion of the necessity to make additional food available to the people- of that country.
– No, the* Government has never adopted that view.
– I stand corrected. 1 agree with the honorable’ member for Batman (Mr; Brennan) that the Government has never adopted that view.
– No, not under thi” bill.
– What I said was that this bill has been made - fruitlessly, as it happens - a vehicle for speeches principally directed to persuading, the Government to adopt that view.
– The honorable member, hastens to assure me that all. the speeches made by honorable members on this side of the chamber have not influenced the Government. That is just as we expected, unhappily; but it does not weaken the fact that a strong case may be presented why the Commonwealth Government should not stop short of any possible effort, to organize- additional supplies of food for the people of the
United Kingdom. During the financial and economic depression in the early 1930’s, members of the Labour party constantly pointed out that hungry people could not eat bank-notes, and that they needed food. That contention could not apply with greater force than it does to the condition of the people of the United Kingdom to-day. They need, not money, but food. Australia has established for itself a reputation of being one of the greatest exporters of food in the world. Therefore, it is regrettable that when the people of the United Kingdom are in dire need, Australia is compelled, through its official spokesmen, to say, “ We have done all we can to send food to Great Britain. There is nothing more that we can do.” The Opposition does not believe that. We contend that more can be done to relieve our kinsfolk. Everything possible has not been done until we have tightened our own belts a little. Although, technically, some foods are rationed in Australia, the truth is that no person in this country, rich or poor, is going short of food because of a scarcity of food here. Our standard of living is so high that we can sustain a reduction of food consumption in order to aid our hungry kinsfolk. The facts, which are indisputable, have been stated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the. Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and other speakers on this side of the House, so that in pursuing the same line of argument, I could only repeat their eloquent remarks. The Government lias not attempted to answer this case. However, I do not propose to labour that point. 1 avail myself of the opportunity, as other members of the Opposition have done, to say that this Parliament should bc devoting its attention not so much to a matter of a book entry-
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that this gift of £25,000,000 to the United Kingdom Government is not a book entry.
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr.. Dedman), in recent weeks, has not established for himself the reputation of being a financial wizard.
– I have not been disproved, and I know at least as much about the subject as the honorable member does.
– Even if the Minister knows as much as I do about finance, that might not be boasting. However, he has been disproved by people more competent than I am in this Parliament, and outside it.
– Leaving that aspect aside for the present, the honorable member knows perfectly well that his statement that this gift” of £25,000,000 to the United Kingdom Government is a bookkeeping entry, is untrue. The honorable member should be ashamed of himself.
– The Minister is well equipped to judge those who should be ashamed of themselves, and I do not accept his assessment of myself in that regard. I said that this gift of £25,000,000 to the United Kingdom Government is a book entry. Of course, it is a book entry! Let us consider for a moment the circumstances in which this bill was presented to the House. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said. “ This is a measure to grant £25,000,000 to the United Kingdom Government “. 1 hold in my hand the report of his secondreading speech. What people understand by a “ grant “ is something which we deprive ourselves of in order to give to someone else. What do we deprive ourselves of in order to provide this grant to the United Kingdom Government?
– The money is raised from the taxpayers.
– So the Minister realizes that much ! The Minister is helping me a great deal. He is. anticipating me point by point. This £25,000,000 comes out of moneys raised under last year’s budget. That is obvious from a speech delivered by the Prime Minister yesterday. The idea is to hypothecate for this purpose certain moneys raised by taxing the people. Last year the Prime Minister produced a budget which included items of expenditure of an inescapable character, and other items of a policy character. These combined required a certain amount of revenue. Tables were produced to justify the taxes which, the right honorable gentleman then asked Parliament to authorize. The fact of the matter is, however, that the Government has now found it possible to hypothecate £25,000,000 for a gift to Great. Britain, and also another £18,000,000 involved in the measure submitted to the Parliament yesterday, totalling £43,000,000, without imposing one penny of additional taxation. Yet the right honorable gentleman laughed to scorn the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) when he said, last year, that the Government was imposing taxes at a very much higher rate than was necessary to carry on the essential services to give effect to the policy that it had disclosed. The Prime Minister has not been notable for any radical trends in his financial policy. In fact he is rapidly establishing a reputation as the most conservative Treasurer Australia has ever known. Notwithstanding this, the right honorable gentleman has made it clear that it will be possible to disburse £43,000,000 without imposing any additional taxation. In these circumstances 1 decline to accept this measure as an act of generosity by the Australian Government to the United Kingdom Government. The truth is that the Government is “ doctoring the books “ by writing out £25,000,000, plus another £18,000,000 referred to yesterday, before it rules the line to close this financial year. The idea behind this procedure is to prevent the taxpayers of Australia from realizing that they are being mulct by this Government in a disclosed expenditure, of £43,000,000, which will probably turn out to be £50,000,000, without the necessity of the raising of- an additional penny of taxation. In other words, the Government has raised this sum at least more than was necessary to meet the cost of essential services and Labour policy during the last twelve months. There has not been a measure submitted to the Parliament which has proved more conclusively that this one that the statement of the Leader of the Australian Country party last year, that taxes could be reduced by more than 25 per cent., was wholly justified.
– Order ! Taxes have nothing to do with this bill.
– That is the very point that I am making.
– It is a point that the honorable member will not be permitted to make.
– The purpose of this bill is to appropriate £25,000,000 in circumstances which do not provide for the imposition of a single penny of additional taxation.
– That has nothing to do with the bill. I trust that the honorable member will not come into conflict, with the Chair in this connexion.
– I do not desire to do so, sir.
– Every other honorable member who has participated in this debate has been able to do so without coming into conflict with the Chair.
– I submit that it is most unusual for the Parliament to be asked to vote £25,000,000 for a specific purpose without at the same time being under the necessity to raise additional revenues.
– If the honorable member will read the bill he will see that, its scope is limited.
– I have read the bill carefully, and I have also read the Prime Minister’s second-reading speech on it.
– The Prime Minister’s speech made no reference to taxation.
– That is true. It alsomade no reference to food for Britain.
– That is distinctly incorrect. The Prime Minister deliberately broadened the scope of the debate to cover food for Britain. It will be remembered that, in consideration of the Prime Minister broadening the scopeof the debate in this way, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir ‘ Earle Page) withdrew a certain notice of motion which he had on the notice-paper.
– I repeat that this isthe first time in my experience that this Parliament has been asked to vote such, an enormous sum as £25,000,000 for n specific purpose without the Treasurer being under the necessity, at the same time, of forecasting measures by which additional revenue could be raised for the purpose. The truth of the matter is that last evening the Prime Minister, in associating in his speech an amount of £18,000,000, with which he was then dealing, with the amount of £25,000,000 mentioned in this bill, revealed that the Government was capable of meeting these charges without raising an additional penny in taxes. The money, of course, is already in the coffers of the Treasury.
– Order! If the honorable member for Indi proceeds to defy the ruling of the Chair I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I shall endeavour to keep within the scope of a purely financial measure without referring to finance at all, although it will be extremely difficult for me to do so. We are considering what is entirely a financial measure.
– I rise to order. I do not know, Mr. Speaker, whether you were in the Chair a few moments ago when the honorable member for Indi, in referring to the £25,000,000 mentioned in this bill, said that only a book entry was involved. He was corrected by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) who said that the money would be provided from taxes raised from the people of Australia. If that is not one of the basic issues under discussion, I confess that I am bewildered about the range which honorable members may take in discussing a financial measure of this kind. The Minister stated, that the money would come from the taxes of the people. I submit, therefore, that the honorable member for Indi is in order in discussing taxation.
– The Chair rules otherwise.
– The bill which is before us reads as follows : -
A BILL FOR AN ACT
To grantand apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of Twenty-five million pounds as a Grant to Mis Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom.
Be it enacted by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, the Senate, and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, for the purpose of appropriating the grant originated in the House of Representatives, as follows : -
This Act may be cited as the United Kingdom Grant Act 1947.
There shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, for the purpose of a grant to His Majesty’s Government in. the United Kingdom, the sum of Twenty-five million pounds as a contribution towards war expenditure of that Government incurred by it in respect of operations in and around the Pacific.
That is the entire substance of the bill and it contains no reference whatever to food for Britain.
– Order ! The honorable member for Indi appears to be determined to by-pass the ruling of the Chair. He could have said all that he wished to say about the capacity of the Government to provide this money if the bill had provided for the raising of taxes but unfortunately for him the bill, as is clear from what he has just read, is intended for one specific purpose, and that is to appropriate from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the purpose of a grant to the United Kingdom Government, the sum of £25,000,000 “as a contribution towards war expenditure of that Government incurred by it in respect of operations in and around the Pacific It will be remembered, however, that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) had a notice of motion on the notice-paper dealing with food for Britain. With the consent of the House, he withdrew his notice on the understanding that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) would make some reference in his speech on this bill to food for Britain in order to broaden the debate. The debate, so far as I have been able to circumscribe it, has involved the making of the grant of £25,000,000 to Great Britain plus the consideration of the question of whether it would be better to contribute food for Britain. That should be broad enough for any honorable member.
– It certainly is broad enough for many honorable gentlemen ; it seems to be too broad for me. I submit that I am entitled to argue that the amount to be granted to Great Britain could be more than £25,000,000, and that if an amount of £25,000,000 can be granted to Great Britain without the necessity of imposing any additional tax burden on the people of Australia - though far be it from me” to advocate any additional tax burden - it cannot be claimed that such a grant represents a sacrifice on the part of the people of this country. I presume that the granting of this money will not involve the shipment of 25,000,000 £l-notes to the United Kingdom, for credits of this country in Britain which may be drawn against are very much more than is necessary for this purpose. The grant represents £20,000,000 sterling.
– Our sterling credits in Great Britain exceed £200,000,000.
– I understand that that is so. I presume that we will not demand interest payments by the United Kingdom in this connexion or the unfreezing of this fund. It is common knowledge that the United Kingdom Government is not in a financial position to discharge its sterling indebtedness to this country or to India, Egypt or various other countries that could be named. We have not the option, therefore, of demanding repayment of this money. It is recognized that it is not feasible to allow these huge funds to stand in the books of the United Kingdom Government, so that we may draw interest upon them. About’ the least gesture which a country such as this should make would be to abate the interest and principal payments. So far as I have been able to make an assessment, that would be for many years the equivalent of foregoing the principal indebtedness; because it will be quite a while before the United Kingdom will be able to discharge its overseas sterling indebtedness.
– It will never be able to discharge it.
– I am not prepared to say that, because my knowledge of the subject is not sufficiently great, but I am prepared to give it as my opinion that it will be a long time before the United Kingdom will be able to discharge its sterling indebtedness.’ So the very best that Australia could get as the reverse of this gesture would be the payment of interest. I should hope that it would be at a very low rate; for example, 1 per cent., which would be equal to £1,250,000 a year. By foregoing that, we would not be making an extraordinarily generous gesture. I put it to the Government and the people of this country that, as the sterling credits in London cannot be liquidated by the Government of the United Kingdom, we could have been much more generous in regard to this - I repeat - book entry than we are being ; in what I regard as “ doctoring the accounts “ on the eve of ruling off the books at the end of the financial year; in writing out of our revenues £25,000,000 plus £18,000,000, so that our books will not show the true figures; in writing off such an amount that the balance at the end of the year will be reduced to something like equilibrium. My interpretation is that the passage of this legislation for the writing out of an embarrassing surplus of £25,000,000 is as much a political convenience to the Government as a gesture of generosity to the British people. We are not entitled to claim that we are making a real gesture of generosity unless the act involves us in some sacrifice. This act does not involve an addition to our taxes or the foregoing of a capital sum to the United Kingdom which, but for the passage of this legislation, would be paid to us. Within the limits by which I am circumscribed, I offer these observations on a bill which is paraded as an extraordinary act of generosity. It falls far short of entitlement to the claim that it is a very generous gesture. On the other hand, a close examination shows it to be an act of very great political convenience to the Government, the kind of thing that is done by companies which, from time to time, are the objects of attacks by Labour members of Parliament - a “ doctoring of the books, so as to suppress the true state of the finances. That is what is being done by the transference of £43,000,000.
.- The discussion has centred on the food difficulties in which the people of Great Britain are placed at the present time. In a way, that is rather a pity, not because the problem is not a grave one, but because the tendency has been to obscure the general economic crisis in which the people of the United Kingdom find themselves, of which the food problem is only a part, even though, perhaps, it is the most important part. The hill sets out to do something on behalf of Australia towards easing that economic crisis. A little time can be usefully employed in examining that crisis, because, if the people generally have not yet fully appreciated its extent and gravity, I am certain that it is not yet fully appreciated by honorable members also. What represents an economic crisis for the United Kingdom, in the long run also represents an economic difficulty or problem which must be faced by Australia and other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It is quite easy to detect how the crisis has developed. Great Britain has expended £4,125,000,000 in the conduct of the war that has just terminated. That tremendous financial task, which was associated with its war effort generally, has converted Great Britain from its former position as a great creditor country, to a debtor country. At the same time, there has not been in Great Britain a production development which would enable it to face up to the situation by living on its own resources; in other words, the volume of imports which must necessarily be taken into Great Britain to-day is still very much in excess of what Great Britain is able to export. It is one of the ironies of the situation that £1,250,000,000 is owing by Great Britain to India and £450,000,000 to Egypt, a great deal of which was incurred in the defence of those countries. They were unable to defend themselves and, although they represented vital British interests at the time, they had to rely on Great Britain for their defence. In consequence, Great Britain has been faced with the most terrible economic problem. That was expressed in general terms by Mr. Winston Churchill, in a speech that he made earlier in this month of May, in which he said -
There never was a community in so dangerous an economic position. I warn you not to under-rate the gravity and financial distresses into which we are moving. They will be of greater intensity and severity than any we have known before. There is no country in the world being wracked to pieces as Britain is, and there is no country less capable of surviving such treatment.
Lest those grave remarks may be discounted as being those of the leader of an opposing political party, I direct attention to the Economic Survey for 194(7, which has been distributed among us by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). Those honorable members who have studied this sombre document, which is an official publication of the British Government, will realize how truly the facts back up the statement of Mr. Winston Churchill. In point of fact, the British Government has been relying, in recent months, upon the loan granted to it by the United States of America, in order to finance the balance of its exports, and it will have to continue to rely upon that source until the loan expires. Even last year, at a time when, because of world shortages, Great Britain was not able to import as much as it expected that it would be able to import, there was a deficit of £450,000,000 in the balance of exports and imports, and this year the deficit, apparently, will be even greater, for we find in this Economic Survey that a programme was set down for 1947 which anticipated imports of a volume of £1,450,000,000; but, if the figures from the Board of Trade for the last two months, for which I have been able to obtain the records - March and April - are examined, it will be seen that, whereas the programme contemplated imports at the rate of approximately £120,000,000 a month, those for March totalled £130,000,000, and those for April namely, £147,000,000; and in that latter reached the highest figure yet attained, month the exports totalled only £82,000,000. If one examines the breakup of those import figures, one will find that approximately one-half is represented by consumable goods - food, drink and tobacco. In April, those represented £70,000,000 odd of the total of £147,000,000. Great Britain, even to-day, with the aid of all the production which it was able to achieve during the war by cultivating additional land, the application of scientific methods, and so on, must import one-half of the foods that it consumes. It has been suggested by the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn), and possibly other honorable members, that the food position cannot be so serious as some English spokesmen have painted it, because Great Britain U exporting certain food. The honorable member for Bourke referred to fish and whisky. A closer examination of the import problem will furnish a part of the answer to what the honorable member said on the subject of exports of whisky. Great Britain is exporting to-day many commodities which it desires to retain. Clothing, perhaps, is one of the most important. The reason is, not that it can afford to export sugar barley, and the other ingredients of whisky, as well as clothing, but that it must do so if it is to survive and is not to fall into an economic morass and bankruptcy. Even with the best efforts which the British people can put forward, and by stinting themselves in order to build up export markets, those markets are falling behind in the desperate race that is being run. According to the figures that have been given in the Economic Survey, the exports last year were at 115 per cent, of the 1938 volume, yet that was sufficient to pay for imports only at the rate of 75 per cent, of the 1938 volume; because Great Britain, before the war, being in the strong position of a creditor nation, with interest payable abroad, and with its insurance, shipping and other services, was able to import far more by exporting far less. But to-day the position is reversed. Great Britain’s programme for this year is 140 per cent, of the export figure for 1938 ; but, because of a combination of circumstances such as fuel hold-ups, the extraordinary climatic conditions which developed, and possibly government policy - I do not wish to introduce that as a large element of controversy - Great Britain’s imports are at a very much higher rate than it was expected they would be, and it has not been able to approach to within a reasonable distance of the export target. It is well to bear in mind also - because this is a problem in which we are deeply interested on grounds of sentiment and self-interest - that the success which
Great Britain has achieved in the export field is not necessarily permanent. To-day, it is able to export under conditions which are favorable to exporters. There is a world scarcity. The goods which Great Britain produces are in demand, although the price is higher than that which people, in normal times, would be inclined to pay. Moreover, some of the exports are in the form of capital goods to countries which hope, in turn, to set up their own industries, and make themselves independent of Great Britain for the supply of consumer goods. Those who have recently had occasion to buy products from Great Britain, such as clothing, sporting materials, &c., must have been struck at their extraordinarily high price compared with the price of corresponding articles of Australian manufacture. While the corresponding Australian articles continue to be scarce, there will be a market for the higherpriced English articles, but let Australian production get within reasonable distance of the demand, and there will be a reluctance on the part of the buyers to pay almost twice as much for the English article. Therefore, we should not be too optimistic about the future of Great Britain’s export trade. What happens in the case of Australia may very well happen also in the case of other countries now taking British goods.. I emphasize this circumstance because it underlines the seriousness of the British position. Consequently, it underlines also the importance of this measure, and of measures like it, if we are to face the problems presented to us. The position is summed up in paragraph 61 of the Economic Survey in these words -
The central fact of 1947 is that we have not enough resources to do all that we want to do. We have barely enough to do all that we must do. Whether we reckon in man-power, coal, electricity, steel, or national production as a whole, the conclusion is unavoidable. To get all we want production would have to bc increased by at least 25 per cent. This is clearly impossible in 1047.
That was a survey for 1947.
– Now read paragraph 62.
– If there is any point in that paragraph which the honorable member wants to bring out I will read it, but I remind him that I only have a limited time at my disposal.
– I was wondering when the honorable member wa6 going to link up his remarks with the proposed grant of £25.000,000.
– If we are not able to justify the grant because of the situation that exists in Great Britain to-day, what need is there to make it? Those of us who are supporting the bill have need to be satisfied that ‘Great Britain requires this assistance, and I know of no better way to establish that fact than to examine the present economic crisis in Great Britain. However, I need not elaborate the point any further. I hope that what I have said has registered with honorable members in all parts of the House.
As for food shipments, surely no one in this chamber suggests that Australia is doing all of which we are capable. I had a look at a publication which reached us in the last day or so dealing with the marketing of Australian butter and cheese in the United Kingdom. It was prepared by Mr. S. 0. Howie and Mr. C. Sheehy, who, I gather, went abroad under government auspices. They stated that the prospective supply of butter to Great Britain from Australia for the years 1946, 1947 and 1948 would average 60,000 tons, whereas the average for the five years before the war was 92,000 tons. Thus, our target for 1948 was only two thirds of our average for the five years before the war. In the face of that no one can convince me that Australia is doing all that it might do to solve Great Britain’s food problem.
That is only one phase of the matter. Honorable members have discussed shipping. How much more could be done to provide shipping? We have discussed the reduction of the postal rates on food parcels to Great Britain, but the Government has told us that it cannot reach an agreement with the Government of the United Kingdom on the matter. Let the Government, if it wants to make a gesture, forgo its share of the revenue derived from the postal charges on food parcels to Great Britain. If it wants to encourage those who are sending parcels to Great Britain, and the British Government will not allow the rates to be reduced, let our Government forgo the whole or part of Australia’s share, because, I presume, Australia does receive a share of the revenue. These are only a few of the suggestions that come to our minds.
However admirable and useful and worthy voluntary efforts may be - and no one in this House will seek to discourage such efforts - the only effective way to mobilize the potential resources of the country is by central government action working, if necessary, in association with State governments and State government instrumentalities. It is only in cooperation of governments which control transport and the movement of goods that we can obtain the maximum results. It is not enough to make a gesture, however useful the present gesture may be, and then wash our hands of the matter. If we are to play our part in meeting this Empire crisis we must face it as if it were a war crisis. If Great Britain was at war we would not be arguing the constitutional question whether Australia had to go to war or not. We know that we would have to be at war if Great Britain was at war. At such a time we achieve a state of unity among members of the British Commonwealth of Nations that we do not seem to be able to get in time of peace; and I suggest that the reason is that we do not always realize how grave the crisis really is. Personally, I believe that it would be difficult to exaggerate the gravity of Great Britain’s economic crisis. If Great Britain crashes financially, the Empire countries must be damaged financially, also. The same unity and co-operation which is possible in time of war for our self -protection and security must be manifested at the present time if we are to overcome this crisis, also. How are we to do it ? Some of the answers have already been suggested. Quite obviously, one method should be by the expansion of our capacity to supply food. I have mentioned butter, exports of which have declined seriously compared with our average before the war. No doubt, this is true of other primary products, too. By appropriate government action, the people should be encouraged to increase production.
I now raise another matter, which, I believe, is closely related to this, namely, the Australian exchange rate. One .reason why we are able to make this grant of £25,000,000 to Great Britain is that we have a substantial credit balance in that country. To-day, I think it stands at about ‘£220,000,000, whereas before the war we tried to maintain a balance of about £50,000,000 to pay for imports, fee. Now, in spite of Great Britain’s economic difficulties, we are maintaining the exchange rate at 25 per cent, below sterling. This rate was fixed in December, 1931, and all the factors which seemed to justify the fixing of such a rate then, so far as Australia and Great Britain were concerned, are now operating in reverse; yet, so far as I know, no government statement has been issued on the matter. I do not know whether the Government believes that we should persist indefinitely with the present exchange rate. In the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, it is stated that the exchange rate of 25 per cent, below sterling was fixed in 1931 by the Commonwealth Bank, and whether it has now become a matter of Commonwealth Bank policy, after consultation with the Commonwealth Government, or whether the Government has not seriously reviewed the position since 1931, perhaps the Treasurer can tell us. While I am familiar with the economic and political arguments in. support of a continuance of the present rate of exchange, I do not know how it becomes morally justifiable in the light of existing circumstances.
– The Australian
Country party would not agree with that.
– I am making my own speech, and people may read into it what implications they like, and make what comments upon them they want to. My other point is this: Clearly, there ought to be a co-operative effort by all Empire countries if we are to come successfully out of this crisis. I should like the Prime Minister to tell us when it is likely that the Empire countries will come together, through their Prime Ministers in conference, to deal with these problems. We know that important discussions are taking place at Geneva under the auspices of the International Trade Organization, but it appears that the predictions of some of the pessimists and sceptics on this side of the House are likely to be fulfilled. The Geneva conference may be barren of results.
– Order ! The honorable member surely cannot link up those remarks with the bill.
– I link them up by saying that if that is to be the outcome the holding of an Empire economic conference at the highest possible level becomes all the more urgent.
– There is no connexion between an Empire economic conference and the bill now before the House. The honorable member is skating all over the place.
– I am the last to speak on the Opposition side, and most of the matters which may be discussed have already been fairly well covered. However, I make the point, and I am sure it is one on which all members would desire to be enlightened. Obviously this measure is not to be the final answer of the Government to Great Britain’s economic problems. There is more that we can do; there is a great deal more that we must do. If we cannot look to a general expansion of world trade to ease this economic crisis, then we must look to the resources and the capacity of the Empire to arrive at the best solution of which it is capable. The holding of an Empire economic conference is therefore a matter of the greatest importance and urgency. I trust that when “ the Treasurer replies to the debate he will deal with some of the points which we have raised, and, at the same time, give, us an assurance that this is but the first instalment of assistance to Great Britain and that the Government has a much wider policy in view. I support the bill.
– in reply - I do not propose to spend the short time available to me in replying to the second-reading debate on this bill by giving assurances about the future of world affairs. That would be gross egotism on my part. I rise merely to correct some figures cited by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) relating to the comparative consumption of meat in Australia and the United Kingdom. I know that the right honorable gentleman had no intention of misleading anybody and that he had to rely on such expert advice as he was able to obtain. He stated that the average weekly consumption of meat in Australia was at least 3^ lb. a head and that the average consumption in the United Kingdom was from j to 1 lb. a head. These figures give an entirely inaccurate picture as they are based on carcass weight which is quite a different thing from the quantity of meat supplied over butchers’ counters. One-third of all carcass meat consists of waste and bone. In addition provision is made for the issue of special meat rations to certain people engaged in heavy industries, and to timber-getters, railway men and others working in outlying places who require a high meat ration because of the lack of variety of other foods available to them. Many of them cannot obtain fish as a substitute for meat and consequently their meat ration has to be increased. It may be assumed that i lb. per head per week is accounted for in that way. Special rations are also issued to hospitals and other similar institutions. Of the average weekly consumption of meat in Australia, at least lb. per head of the population is accounted for in that way. In neither the United Kingdom nor Australia is offal meat rationed, so we are precisely in the same position in regard to meat of that type. The figures for last year disclose that the British Government imported approximately 27,000,000 cwt. and produced locally about 18,000,000 cwt. of meat. The total imported and locally-grown meat available in the United Kingdom was therefore approximately 45,000,000 cwt. Including men, women, and children the population of the United Kingdom is approximately 48,000,000, which means that the British ration is approximately .953 cwt. of meat per annum for every man, woman and child in the community, the average weekly ration being 2.05 lb. per head. The true figures relating to carcass meat are therefore approximately 3£ lb. for Australia and 2.05 lb. for Great Britain. Whoever supplied the figures tq the Leader of the Opposition was obviously unaware of the true position. In Great Britain, as in Australia, special allowances of meat are made for workers in heavy industries, and to hospitals and other institutions and it is quite possible that when these are taken into account, the quantity of butchers’ meat available over the counters may not be greater than 1 lb. a head a week. I furnish these figures so that honorable members and those who may read the debates in this Parliament will not be mislead by the figures used by the Leader of the Opposi- tion. Fish supplies are plentiful in Great Britain as compared with Australia.
– But one gets tired of fish.
– That may be so, but at least one does not go hungry if fish is available. With regard to fats, the nutrition experts who advised the Cabinet sub-committee appointed to inquire into this matter of food rationing indicated that the quantity of fats available to the Australian people was, if anything, less than the quantity available to the British people.
Opposition Members - Oh !
– Honorable member* opposite have cited the statements of experts. I am merely citing the statements of the Government’s expert advisers in reply.
– Does the right honorable gentleman seriously suggest that Australians are getting less fats to-day than the people of Great Britain?
– I am merely citing the contention of’ nutrition experts who have been in both countries that that is so.
– Is the right honorable gentleman referring to cooking fats?
– Yes, to cooking fats, margarine, and the like, but excluding butter.
The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) asked if the gift proposed in this bill was a voluntary gift. What else could it be? Nobody could compel the Australian Government to give £25,000,000 of its sterling balances to the United Kingdom. It is true that the United Kingdom Government has power under its own laws to do certain things with regard to sterling balances, but it could not direct the Australian Government to make a gift of this kind. The gift is a spontaneous action on the part of the Government. It does not constitute merely a book entry; it is a gift of £25,000,000, which will have to be provided by the taxpayers of Australia, and it may be used for any purposes that the Government of the United Kingdom thinks fit, either for the purchase of food from Australia or from other sterling countries, or for other purposes. I had lengthy discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in regard to the whole question of sterling balances and other factors affecting the economic position of Great Britain. The economic position of that country must eventually have its effect on the Dominions, and because of that we were vitally interested in these problems. The Chancellor of the Exchequer put the position of Great Britain very frankly, particularly in relation to the large sterling balances held by India, Egypt, Eire, and, to a considerably lesser degree, Australia and New Zealand. With due modesty, I expressed some views on the subject. I assure the right honorable gentleman that no suggestion was ever made by the British Government that the Australian Government should write off any of its sterling balances.
– Where did Mr. Baume get his information?
– I do not know. He was not present at any conference that took place between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and me, and the honorable member may rest assured that neither of us would have retailed to Mr. Baume the substance of any conversation that took place between us. The Chancellor of the Exchequer left it to me, to Mr. Nash, and the other dominion leaders to decide how best we could help in solving the problems that beset the United Kingdom. The Government spontaneously decided to make- this gift as a practical aid to the Government of the United Kingdom. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was completely off the track when he referred to the Government charging interest on sterling balances held in London. The British Government does not pay interest to the Australian Government in respect of sterling balances held in London. All sterling balances are held by the Commonwealth Bank, and if this bill becomes law it will mean that £25,000,000 will be paid by the Commonwealth Bank in London to the United Kingdom Government, and that the Treasury in Australia will reimburse the Commonwealth Bank in Australia an amount of £25.000,000 Australian or £20,000,000 sterling: In other words, the Commonwealth Bank will be recouped for the amount of sterling which it makes available to the British Government under the terms of this measure. The Commonwealth Bank invests the sterling funds in London just as does any other lender who has short-term moneys to lend. The Commonwealth Bank, undoubtedly, invests some of these funds in treasurybills and short-dated loans, which are open to all investors in the United Kingdom. The interest rate is i per cent., which is the rate applicable to British treasury-bills. The British Government pays a low rate of interest on treasurybills taken up by the Commonwealth Bank as a commercial transaction. The Commonwealth Bank retains interest paid to it in respect of treasury-bills because it has to buy sterling balances from the private trading banks that have a surplus over the amount necessary to meet commitments on behalf of clients in Australia. I could talk about these things at great length, but it would be wearisome repetition of what has been said many times. It is as well, however, to place on record the simple position that no interest is paid by the British Government except i per cent, on treasury-bills that the Commonwealth Bank hai taken advantage of the market to buy.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer and I did not talk about a gift of food to Great Britain. It is true that after my talks with him I conferred with Sir Benjamin Smith, the then Minister for Food in the British Ministry, about food that the British Government could buy. That conference dealt mainly with fats and oils, such as coco-nut oil, production of which we might be able to develop, the lack of which is Britain’s chief worry. There is no question of mendicancy. Many people in Britain resent the stories that they are half-starved and begging for food. They make it perfectly clear that they want to buy food from this country, not have it given to them. The British Government has a system for the distribution of food through the country in such a way as to give equality. An allowance is made of extra food for workers in certain industries. The British Government is paying more than £400,000,000 a year in subsidies of various kinds. The main subsidy is on food, and it amounts to about £350,000,000 a year. The British Government finds that equitable distribution of food amongst the people is best carried out if all food imports are in bulk. A great deal of goodwill .between Britain and Australia Has been developed by the food parcels that Australian people have sent to individual people in Britain. Those food parcels are deeply appreciated.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) wanted me to give an assurance about the future. A man who tried to do that would be foolish. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) envisaged an economic set-up amongst the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. He did not use the term, but, in effect, what he suggested was a sterling bloc. If everything else fails, that sort of thing may have to be adopted. “Without disclosing any confidences, I may say that the British Government believes that it must go into a wider field, if it is to develop trade and maintain a proper standard of living, than just trade with the dominions. I understand that in the House of Commons on the night before last Mr. J. H. Wilson, one of the Under-Secretaries, said that if trade with the dominions was the only way in which Britain could carry on there would be a still greater reduction of the standard of living.
– Dominion trade could be the base, but not exclusive of other trade.
– That involves going into all the matters of preference, and I will not detain the House on that subject. I think, however, that that responsible British Minister has confirmed what I have said, whether it be right or wrong. The people responsible for Great Britain’s economic affairs believe that a sterling bloc alone would not meet Great Britain’s needs of not only food, but also raw materials, if the appropriate standard of living is to be maintained.
– A large quantity of Australian manufactured food is denied to the people of Great Britain apparently because of the exchange difficulty. Can the Treasurer say whether that is so or whether there are other considerations?
– I suggest that the honorable member arrange a debate between the Liberal party and the Australian Country party on the matter of exchange, because I think that a movement upward or downward of the ex change would be popular or unpopular according to the party. I need not tell the honorable gentleman the advantages and disadvantages of the exchange. I do not think the exchange rate has any bearing on Great Britain’s economic problem, although it has on ours.
– After having made its economic survey the British Government decided that it could take only basic foods, and that a lot of food could not he taken because of the balance between imports and exports.
– I did discuss with Sir Benjamin Smith many commodities that we could send to England if shipping space were available - foods that are not rationed, not such vital commodities as meats and fats. There are difficulties about that. The subsidies that the British Government would have to pay to keep prices at the level it aims at would be too great to warrant its acceptance of foods not essential to the basic food ration. There are many such commodities. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) could name them more readily than I.
The economic position of the United Kingdom is exceedingly difficult. It is not easy to find the final solution. Those who stand on the side-lines, who are not always the best judges, cannot declare what is the best method for Great Britain to get out of its difficulties. Further discussion may be necessary - about not only our sterling balance but also the sterling balances of other countries associated with the United Kingdom. I first thought certain bold steps of a politically unpalatable character ought to be taken about the large sterling balances held in the United Kingdom by other countries, but let me say at once that when the war against Japan ended our sterling balance in London was only £147,000,000. The rest of our sterling balances have been developed since then. I admit that Great Britain’s economic position is worse even than during the war. As far as I can represent the view of the Government on a difficult problem, I have authorized the Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. McFarlane, who is in London to discuss sterling balances with the British Treasury. I understand that the representatives of other countries, including Egypt, will be in London about June also to discuss the matter. I hope that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) will be there at the same time, lest ministerial representation is necessary while the discussions are proceeding. When Sir Kingsley Wood was Chancellor of the Exchequer and we had serious problems about sterling balances he was very fair in his dealings with Australia. Later we had sympathetic treatment from Sir John Anderson. It was apparent then to any one closely watching the position that if the war went on for any length of time difficulties were bound to arise. Sir Kingsley Wood expressed the opinion that the longer the war lasted the greater the difficulties would be. So it is no new problem that has just peered over the horizon. Every one associated with the various treasuries could see that the problems would increase the longer the war lasted. There will be later opportunities to discuss that aspect of the matter.
I have tried to deal in a sketchy way with one of the greatest dramas in history - that of a powerful nation economically, militarily, and industrially fighting for its economic existence. I do not want Opposition members or any one else to think that I do not fully appreciate the great difficulties of the United Kingdom, and that its economic collapse would bring disaster to the rest of the British Commonwealth nations, although perhaps not to the same degree in the case of Canada. If I show impatience sometimes when piffling “ suggestions are made for the solution of Great Britain’s problem, it is only because I know the fundamentals and the magnitude of the problem. It is a problem that must be solved on a far wider basis than on the basis of some of the paltry suggestions that are made. The solution of the economic problems that face the United Kingdom requires not only imperial action, but also action by the United States of America.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 23rd May (vide page 2854), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– All that I need to say on the Australian National University Bill is this: Section 27 of the principal act makes provision, among other things, for a scheme of superannuation for the salaried teachers and officers of the Australian National University upon their retirement. The effect of the amendment is that, instead of a scheme of superannuation covering all the persons concerned, there may be more than one scheme. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has explained how that arises. The amendment will permit of a dual system of super? annuation. Honorable members will agree that there should be effective superannuation provision for all the staff of the proposed university and, in those circumstances, I support the bill.
.- While I am gratified to learn that the Commonwealth Government is making provision to enable adequate superannuation to be given to the teaching staff of the Australian National University, I should like to bc quite clear whether this scheme will be in addition to the social services scheme to which university teachers and professors, like every other citizen, contribute. The average rate of remuneration of university teachers and professors is approximately £800 a year, and they pay a social service contribution, on the basis of 18d. in the £1, of between £60 and £70 per annum. The recipients of superannuation payments under the Commonwealth Public Service scheme do not participate in the additional benefits under the social services plan, even though, as taxpayers, they subscribe to it. I should like the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to explain that point.
In any event, I am happy to be able to congratulate the Minister on bringing into existence a scheme which, in essence, is comparable with a national insurance plan for the whole community, and involving a personal contribution for a specific object. I also congratulate the Government on making provision, when the staff of the Australian National University is being recruited, for them to receive superannuation benefits. During the last few years, great difficulty has been experienced in obtaining university teachers. Some persons with brilliant minds, who would make admirable teachers and professors, have been lured into other branches of activity because the salaries which they received at the universities, especially in the early stages of their careers, were less than they could earn in any other callings.
– Order ! Salaries are quite outside the scope of the bill.
– Any proposal, such as a superannuation scheme, which will provide an added attraction to these persons to become teachers and professors at the Australian National University, will be well worth while. The Minister, and his very capable Director-General of Education, have been examining conditions at Australian universities, and I urge them to consider the advisability of introducing a superannuation scheme to cover all teachers and professors at Australian universities.
– Order! The bill deals with the Australian National University, and the right honorable gentleman will not be in order in discussing a general superannuation scheme applicable to the staffs of all Australian universities.
– The only reason why I touched upon that point is that the Australian National University at Canberra, in its infancy, must look to other universities for its teachers. There should be an ample reservoir of teachers in Australian universities to enable that need to be filled. My suggestion, if adopted, will provide security for university teachers and professors at all Australian universities, and brilliant persons will be attracted to teach in the universities, instead of being dissipated into various avenues of commerce, as they are at the present time.
Mr. DEDMAN (Corio - Minister for Defence, Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial
Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) stated, the original act provided for one scheme of superannuation for all those who will be employed at the Australian National University. The purpose of the amendment is to provide two alternative schemes of superannuation. Under the amendment, it will be possible for members of the administrative and office staff to subscribe to and obtain benefits from the superannuation scheme, which applies to the Commonwealth Public Service generally. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) will recollect that this morning, I gave notice of my intention to introduce a bill dealing with superannuation benefits for members of the Commonwealth Public Service. Any alterations of conditions which that bill effects, will be applicable and available to the members of the office and administrative staff of the Australian National University.
The second superannuation scheme, under this amending measure, provides for the academic staff of the university continuing to subscribe to and obtain benefits from the Federated Superannuation Scheme for Universities to which they already subscribe. It covers the academic staffs of Australian universities, and, I understand, of universities in the United Kingdom. I am not able to say what benefits it provides, but the academic staff of the Australian National University, when appointed, will have the opportunity either to remain subscribers to the superannuation scheme which they joined at a much ealrier age, or alternatively, to join the Commonwealth Superannuation scheme. Both the office and administrative staff and the academic staff will be covered by those two schemes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported for committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 27th March (vide page 1278), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The House is asked to approve the constitution of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization known as Unesco. The hill is really in the nature of a formality, as the constitution has been approved by the various parties to it. The Australian Government also has approved it, and the constitution of the organization has been signed on our behalf. This is one of the international organizations which is a by-product, as it were, of the United Nations. It has most worthy objectives, which are set out under the main objective, in these terms -
To contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture, in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law, and for human rights and fundamental freedoms affirmed by the Charter of the United Nations.
The objectives are admirably stated, and those honorable members who have taken the opportunity to examine the bill, will find that the schedule contains the constitution of this organization. The constitution itself contains a most comprehensive declaration in which it recites, in effect, that since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the education of men that our best hope of maintaining peace is likely to be found. The Opposition makes no quarrel with the bill, nor does it seek to deter the organization in the admirable objectives which it has. Perhaps our minds are tinged with the scepticism that is bred of experience in relation to these matters. Time after time, we have found that organizations with similarly highly stated ideals, have set out with the best intentions only to founder upon the practical difficulties which are created once we endeavour to put those objectives into working order. We can only hope, at this stage of the organization’s existence, that it will have a happier future than that.
Australia is not merely called upon to subscribe in terms of lip-service to this organization. If I understood the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) correctly when he delivered his second-reading speech we are required to make a budgetary contribution of approximately £42,000 a year. He covered quite adequately, for those honorable members who want a picture of what is proposed, the machinery of the organization, and the broad objectives by which and the principles towards which it proposes to work. If I do express a scepticism regarding the success of such an organization, I do not propose, by that expression of scepticism, to deter the people nor the organization itself from doing their utmost to carry out the objectives that they have in mind. This may be an experiment in international collaboration - the experiment of trying to carry through the world the ideals we hold as to equality of opportunity, the removal of illiteracy, and, through the more diverse spread of the educational advantages that the English-speaking people enjoy, a better understanding among the nations of the world. If the organization can do one-tenth of what it sets out to do in those directions, it will have more than justified the cost which Australia and other countries will bear. We all recognize that we have reached the stage in the world’s history when either we are united in our approach to these international questions, or we perish. In other words, we must collaborate in peace or we shall dispute in pieces. We live in the atomic age, in which scientific minds have been able to manufacture the most diabolic weapons of warfare that man has ever contemplated. On that technical knowledge and capacity hang a terrible threat to the peace of the whole world. We believe, with those who have subscribed to the charter of this organization, that the best principle for the maintenance for peace in the future is the mutual understanding and tolerance that is born of an intelligent approach to problems which the world faces at the present time. We recognize the difficulties of these problems.
There is no reason why any member of the Parliament should resist such a measure as this. At present there is very little in practical terms that we can point to in regard to Unesco, because the organization has not yet begun to function. The machinery has been established, however, and all that we can do at this stage is to refer to the practical measures that may flow from it, which we hope may lead to a development of interest and ideals which, in themselves, will tend to destroy the difficulties which the organization may encounter as it progresses. We hope that by the use of propaganda methods and the spread of. education and knowledge Unesco will largely contribute to world peace.
.- This is one of the most important measures that we could contemplate. It has been recorded of Unesco that it is “ a magnificent experiment in international understanding”. In this regard it is one of the most important outcomes of the United Nations activities. Its purpose will be to increase international understanding and goodwill, and I believe that it will be able to do this because of the outlook of those who have participated in its inauguration. The United Nations is a body the object of which is to control war and eventually to outlaw it, if necessary by force of arms. Unesco is a more subtle weapon, which has been devised by educationists and scientists with the object of trying to discover the reasons which cause war. One needs to enter into the minds of the planners behind Unesco in order to appreciate the importance of their work. Ministers of education from some of the allied countries met in London in 1942 to consider the ravages of war. It would be well to consider some of the remarks that have been made by persons who were interested in the establishment of this great organization. Dr. Julian Huxley and other eminent scientists have declared that they see in Unesco a very reasonable and workable method for educating the peoples of the world against war and for outlawing those elements in our civilization which cause wars.
One might have expected pedantic language to be used in the instrument constituting Unesco, but the constitution is framed in surprisingly terse and clear language and not in the kind of medieval phrases which might be expected in such a document. The preamble reads -
The governments of the States parties to this constitution on behalf of their peoples declare -
That since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed; that ignorance of each other’s ways and lives has been a common cause, throughout the history of mankind, of that suspicion and mistrust between the peoples of the world through which their differences have all too often broken into war.
Those simple words are such as one might read in any daily newspaper and such terse phrases emphasize the importance of Unesco, and point naturally to the kind of planning that surrounds this organization. I also direct the attention of honorable members to a sentence in the address of welcome by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Attlee, to the conference which supplied the opening phrases of the preamble. Mr. Attlee said -
To-day the peoples of the world are islands shouting to each other over seas of misunderstanding. They do not understand each other’s history, each other’s way of living, each other’s way of thinking. The better they understand each other, the more they will realize how much they have in common and why and how they differ, the less prone they will be to take up arms against each other.
In congratulating the organizers of Unesco the late President Roosevelt said -
To-day we are faced with the pre-eminent fact that, if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationship - the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together and work together at peace.
The Ministers of Education who were responsible for a great deal of the work in connexion with the establishment of Unesco were taking shelter in England at the time, and they saw the need for the maximum degree of collaboration throughout Europe in order to preserve, in some manner, the reservoirs of education and understanding which had been accumulated through the years. Their desire was to encourage and foster the advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace through a world fellowship united in the ideals of service.
The purpose of this organization is to combat ignorance and to diminish hatred by means of mass information in newspapers, .radio and motion pictures. The press has a heavy responsibility in this regard, not only in our own country but also throughout the southern hemisphere and. in fact, throughout the whole world. Improved literacy in India and China is of the greatest importance. There is to-day a high percentage of illiteracy in these countries and it is in them that Unesco plans to do a great deal of its work. There will be plans to ensure freedom of access to all the treasure houses of the human mind. Mass education will be an important feature. The organization will endeavour to create a world university of the air, and a world auxiliary language. The world university of the air will be of such a nature that men will be able to tune in whether they live in Sydney, Lapland or Terra del Fuego. The world’s inheritance of information has been pillaged and it will be the work of this organization to make information available to mankind without limit of colour or creed. There will be provision for new education and new forms of education. Arrangements will be made for adult training in agriculture, adult training in health, and adult training in citizenship. A panel of experts will be chosen to contact workers in the field and every effort will be made to ensure clarification of language difficulties. Efforts will be made also to deal with world affairs on such a basis as will help to resolve conflicts of opinion, for many of these conflicts are curable. For this reason mass education is of the utmost importance. Never before in the history of the world have there been as many men and women hungry for books who lack the means of satisfying their hunger. Never before in the history of the world has the freedom of the creative artist to satisfy the fundamental need of his time been so restricted as it is restricted now by commercial practices, and by censorious suppression. The time has come to recognize that the world owes a duty to its less favoured peoples, not only in their interest, but in its own. It is not necessary, in order to recognize this duty, to assert that the roots of the evil of our time lie solely in the things of the human spirit, any more than it is necessary to assert; in order to arrive at certain other conclusions, that the roots of these evils lie solely in material conditions. It is necessary only to admit that what passes in the minds of men is a reality - and a reality which may well affect the great issue of peace and war - of life and death.
There will be a revision of text-books and relative teaching material. There will be no more burning of books and no misuse of books, and there will be no question of censorship. There will be no suggestion of a policeman of the mind or of a censor of the imagination. Culture will be undertaken on planetary terms. There will be a survey of the press, the films, the radio, and postal and telegraphic communications. Culture, for want of a better term, belongs to all and our educational facilities must be used to provide it. Unesco will not work for the middle classes or the better classes, but it will work for human culture on its best and highest level. All information is to be made accessible to all people.
A very important part of the work of Unesco will be connected with the survey of the press, and the radio and such other avenues as may be available, to help to inform the minds of the people. The surveys that will be made will include all tensions conducive to war, such as nationalism, internationalism, population pressures and technological matters. In this respect all avenues of communication will be explored. I emphasize that improved literacy will be of the highest importance to the people of Australia for it will undoubtedly enable the people of China and India in particular to understand our aims and ‘ideals in relation to our “White Australia policy better than they understand them to-day. Attention will be given to the under-privileged in every country, and this will involve considerations of climatic conditions educational difficulties, and everything of that kind, for these must undoubtedly be investigated if we are to meet our difficulties and overcome them. The social conditions of under-privileged people in the equatorial forests, the Amazonian forests, India and China must be investigated and living standards in these countries must be lifted. This can be done by an improvement of literacy and by improved living conditions.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory has passed through two world wars and he must know that if we do not undertake these basic tasks the preservation of peace will be an impossibility. We must face these issues with an impartial mind, and do our best to counteract all the difficulties that face us. Unesco has a master plan for the examination of tensions that may cause war. It will have to investigate ultra nationalism, which causes people to regard their country as greater than any other, as well as population pressures, minority groups, and other peoples who are prone to cause war. It will have to observe and report upon processes which may force people to adopt a defeatist attitude.
That, briefly, is the fine story of Unesco. I say in all sincerity that it is a good and a fine thing that men of understanding and wisdom should have taken the trouble to provide a charter which will be a splendid supplement to other efforts to avoid war. We can do no less than consider the matter carefully and thoughtfully. I congratulate the Minister upon having made Australia a subscriber to Unesco by means of this bill, in the simple terms of a grant of £42,000 a year. We have expended a lot more than that on lesser things. Probably, in the final analysis, in the years to come, it will be proved to be one of the finest investments that we have made.
.- I should like to be reassured by the Minister (Mr. Dedman) in regard to a matter that was not mentioned in his secondreading speech. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is the successor of the ill-fated League of Nations Committee on Intellectual Co-operation. It is astonishing, in the light of all the criticism that was directed at the late President Wilson, that none of his successors has been able, either in the Atlantic Charter or in any other international document, to advance one idea which was not originally a part of his ideas in connexion with the League of Nations. The League of Nations Committee on Intellectual Cooperation accomplished nothing. The level of intellectual co-operation in Europe in the period between the two world wars was not high, and certainly it owed very little to the League of Nations Committee on Intellectual Co-operation. Judging by the Minister’s speech, and the terms of the bill, this appears to be another academic organization of that character. I say that subject to correction, and put it forward because I am genuinely concerned. This organization had its origin in a meeting of Education Ministers in refugee governments in London. They were concerned about doing something practical to restore the smashed education of Europe. That is the last matter to which one can find a reference in this bill. The grant of £42,000 which the Commonwealth proposes to make towards the machinery of this organization will not provide an answer to the problem of Europe’s destroyed educational equipment, nor to the rehabilitation of Europe’s children. The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has made a great and generous step towards the rehabilitation of Europe’s children by increasing the Australian grant for that purpose from £400,000 to £4,000,000. I shall be glad to find, in the policy of the Australian delegates to this organization at any rate, a practical determination to do the first thing that is essential in Europe, namely, not intellectual cooperation at the level of Dr. Julian Huxley, but the restoration of the primary and secondary education systems of Europe - the production and distribution of text-books. All over Europe consumer goods of the most essential kinds, the mere kinds that keep one alive, are nonexistent. I should like that there should be attached to Unesco practical printing houses which will publish text-books, for use by Europe’s children, of a type which will satisfy our desires in relation to democratic ideas, the information that they provide, the form, that they take, and the contribution that they make to the practical and real aspects of education. These will be the problems of the first five years of peace at least. There will always be intellectual co-operation between the universities of Europe, and that aspect of Unesco is less important and urgent, though I am by no means under-rating it.
I am glad that the Minister proposes that there shall be included in the Australian delegation representatives of the teachers’ organizations of Australia. I hope that they will have a chance to bend the efforts of the Australian delegation in a practical way, by restoring some of me “ .bread and butter “ aspects of European education. I do not think that we should expect this to be a powerful organization for peace. The complete United Nations organization is directed towards that end. However, this organization will be able to play its part in that connexion. But its immediate objective will be service for the children of Europe, and I hope that Australia will always keep that in mind.
– in reply - I am glad that this measure has been so well received by the House. On that account, there is very little for me to say, and I need merely reassure the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) on the point that he has raised. The honorable member has said that he considers that this organization may, perhaps, be on too high an academic level, and that it may not contribute much, if anything, to the problem of the rehabilitation of education in Europe. The honorable member mentioned the sum of £4,000,000 which the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) recently, in answer to a question by, I believe, the honorable member, announced would be made available by the Australian Government towards the relief of children in Europe. I do not remember whether my colleague went into details as to how that sum would be allocated. A part of it is to be expressly set aside for the rehabilitation of education in Europe. Only to-day, I discussed with the Director of Education, Professor Mills, methods by which that money can he wisely expended. The honorable member is aware that there is in this country a very grave shortage of educational equipment - blackboards, books, and equipment of other kinds. It is rather difficult to evolve a method by which money made available by the Government for that express purpose can best be used. The Director of Education suggested to me to-day that perhaps one of the best methods of expending the money would he to bring to this country some them a short training in teaching, and students from devastated countries, give then return them, if possible with equipment, so that they may be in a position to undertake their task in those devastated areas. I have not yet given final consideration to that matter. I assure the honorable member that, notwithstanding the difficulties of finding ways and means by which Australia can assist in the problem of the rehabilitation of education in Europe, the matter has not been overlooked by the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 23rd May (vide page 2863), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill was originated in the Senate, in which it received the support of the members of all parties. It is designed to liberalize the compensation payments to seamen who may be injured in the course of their occupation.
Those who were members of this House at the time will recall that in 1944 the Parliament debated an amending bill which liberalized the conditions of compensation payments for employees in various branches of the Commonwealth Public Service and those employed on Commonwealth works. I understand that the prime purpose of this bill is to bring, as far as practicable, the compensation provisions that are applicable to seamen into line with those that apply to employees who come under the provisions of the general Commonwealth act. In that respect, members of the Opposition raise no objection to it. But I mention at this stage a point .which, perhaps, the Minister may care to comment upon later. The Government has wasted no time in bringing into line the compensation conditions as they affect seamen, but I have yet to learn that it has stabilized the conditions under which seamen are to be employed. As I understand the position, seamen engaged on ships trading between different ports in Australia are still in receipt of a war risk bonus; in other words, they receive a special allowance which had its origin in the special risks which they were called upon to face during the war. One would have thought that, the Government having found time to work out a just scheme of compensation for injuries sustained by seamen while engaged in their occupation, it would also have found time to work out a proper peace-time wage scale which should apply to seamen so employed. If the position is in conformity with the information that was last supplied to me, the rate of war risk bonus varies according to that part of the waters of the seven seas in which a seaman is engaged at any particular time. Whilst there may have been a sound basis for it while the degree of risk varied during the war, surely, there can be no foundation in principle for the continuation of the scheme under present conditions.
– Can the honorable member indicate where the bill contains any reference to war risk? The honorable member may make a passing reference to the matter, but he may not develop an argument about it.
– I do not propose to do so. This bill deals with other kinds of industrial risks to which seamen are subject, and with compensation payable for injury. Up to the present time, war risks have been one of those to which seamen are subject. One would have thought that when the Government was cleaning up the position regarding industrial risks generally it would have stated its policy on war risks. I raise the matter now in the hope that the Government, having received so much consideration from the Opposition in regard to other phases of the bill, will clear up this point for me.
.- The purpose of this bill is to amend the existing law in regard to compensation payable to injured seamen, and a new schedule is being introduced. In this schedule different amounts of compensation are fixed for the loss of a right arm and a left arm. I do not believe that there should be this differentiation. If a man loses his left arm his loss is just as great as if he had lost his right arm. I hope that when the bill is in committee the Government will introduce an amendment to provide for the payment of the same amount of compensation in both cases.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I regret that the Minister (Mr. Dedman) did not refer to the point which I raised. The third schedule to the bill stipulates the compensation payable for specified injuries. On the point raised by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan), the view is evidently taken by the Government that if a man who is naturally lefthanded should lose his left hand, he is entitled to receive the same amount of compensation as is payable to the righthanded man who loses his right hand. I do not know whether that explanation satisfies the honorable member. I agree with him that it appears somewhat inconsistent to fix different rates of compensation for the loss of the right hand and the left hand, and I should raise no objection to the same rate being fixed for both. The amounts payable for specified injuries are set out in the schedule, but it is not stated whether the same rate is payable if the jury is received in the ordinary course of employment, or as an effect of the war. Presumably, the Government proposes to treat seamen on the basis that the war situation still exists, and I do not know whether it does so because certain war regulations remain in force two years after the war has ended. By his silence the Minister evaded the point which I raised in my second-reading speech, and I give him this further opportunity to elucidate it.
– In reply to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt),
I point out that this bill deals with compensation payments, not with rates of pay for seamen. Whether the war risk bonus is continued under a National Security Regulation or some other legislative provisions does not affect this bill. As for the matter raised by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan), it will be recalled that, in my second-reading speech, I referred to the change that is being made because it is thought wise to insert a provision relating to procedure whereby a record will be kept of whether a man is left-handed or right-handed, so that higher compensation can be claimed for a limb theloss of which causes the greater injury. Evidently, the honorable member for Cook does not think that right. I shall have the matter further examined, and if anything can. be done along the lines suggested it will be done, but I am not prepared to accept an amendment at this stage.
– I am not sure that the interpretation given by the Minister to the provision about the payment of compensation for the left and the right hand would be endorsed by a point of law. The relevant Schedule provides that so much more shall be paid for the loss of the right than for the loss of the left, and so much more for the loss of a finger or thumb of the right hand than for the loss of a finger or thumb of the left hand. I should like to receive an assurance that, if necessary, the bill will be amended to make it clear that the man who suffers the greater loss will receive the greater compensation. As the bill now stands, it may mean that a lefthanded man will receive less compensation for the loss of his left hand, although it was more useful to him than his right hand.
– That is not so.
-The point is covered by clause 6.
– If the Minister gives me that assurance, I am prepared to accept it.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill-by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from 23rd May (vide page 2854), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the hill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of thebill before the House is to reduce the silver content of the Australian silver coinage. At present, it contains 92½ per cent. of silver to the fine ounce, the balance of 7½ per cent. being made up of an alloy of copper, zinc and tin. This content was fixed by the Coinage Act of 1909. The reason advanced by the Government for the alteration of the silver content is that, during the war, the price of silver rose, in Australian currency, from 2s. 7½d. per ounce to 4s. 9½d. per ounce, with the result that our silver coins are disappearing from circulation because the silver in them is worth more than their face value. It is proposed to reduce the silver content to 50 per cent., the rest of the metal in the coins to consist of alloy. That is one reason for debasing the coinage. Another reason is that, during the war, the Government imported 11,000,000 oz. of silver from the United States of America, and this must be repaid. The Government believes that it will obtain a considerable amount of silver from the coins now in circulation, and that this, together with the new silver produced from Australian mines, will make up the totalof 11,000,000 ozs. which has to be repaid. I hope that the experience of the Government in attempting to extract silver from the existing coinage will be happier than was that of the Government of the United Kingdom. In that country, much difficulty was experienced in separating the silver from the alloy, and not so much silver was recovered as had been expected.
The Coinage Act which was assented to in 1909, was amended in 1936, so that in a period of 38 years this matter has only twice been before the Parliament. Therefore, I take this opportunity to bring to the notice of the House once again, as was done in 1909, the question of adopting in Australia a decimal system currency.
This is what Mr. King O’Malley said when speaking to the bill in 1909 -
I did expect something progressive from this Treasurer, but I am disappointed. 1 suppose it would be of no use to try to persuade the right honorable gentleman, backed as he is by honorable members on the Government side, to make a change, for if they attempted to do so they would be frightened, arguing that they had no precedent to follow. Yet every person admits that a child landing in the United States could pick up the American currency in an hour. One hundred cents make a dollar, 50 cents half a dollar, and 25 cents a quarter of a dollar. The whole currency is so easy to calculate that any child could understand it, but no man in Australia could figure up the interest at a certain rate, upon, say, £1,357 7s. 8id., without consulting a hook. The Treasurer has a splendid chance to effect reform, but I suppose it is not to be done.
Mr. Fowler, the then honorable member for Perth, supported the proposal for a decimal currency, and said that he regretted that the Minister had not seen his way to introduce the reforms suggested by the Coinage Commission. Mr. Batchelor agreed with the honorable member for Perth that it would be much better to adopt the proposals of the Royal Commission on decimal coinage. Mr. Dugald Thomson, who had been a member of the Coinage Commission, also regretted that the Government had not adopted the recommendations of that body. Giving evidence before the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, of which the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) was a distinguished member, Professor Torleiv Hytten, economic advisor to the Bank of New South Wales, said -
I would suggest that the time has come for a change in the Australian currency unit, and the introduction of the decimal system to our currency. Our present system is an incongruous survival of mediaevalism. Apart from a few Eastern currencies, the £1 is now the only currency not divided on the decimal principle.
The main consideration, however, is the greater convenience of decimal currencies for internal transactions. Once the initial changeover had been accomplished, the saving in time and expense would soon repay the inconvenient transitional period, internally all calculations would be greatly simplified. For many calculations it is now necessary to convert sums of money into decimals first and then re-convert at the end. This both takes longer and introduces an added possibility of error. It is unnecessary to labour the benefits of simplification.
I submit that the system could be introduced very easily in Australia, and that this is a matter to which the commission might devote some thought.
He then suggested two schemes, one of. which was adopted by the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems. The royal commission was moved by the evidence of Professor Hytten and of other people in regard to decimal coinage, and in its report, to which the present Treasurer subscribed his name, at paragraph 688, it said -
Too little attention has been given in the past to the denomination and , forms of our token coinage. In our view, the division of the pound into twenty shillings, each of twelve pence, is antiquated. Most modern currencies are based on the decimal system, which has great advantages. With its introduction, money calculations of all kinds ‘ would be simplified and shortened, and a great deal of time and trouble would be saved in industry and in commerce. More of the time of school children, too, could be devoted to other subjects. The chief difficulties to be overcome are tradition, inertia, and the inconvenience and cost of the transitional period. Opposition will come from those who prefer the old system because they are accustomed to it, and from those who would deprecate a break with the custom followed by Great Britain. On the other hand, some parts of the Empire for long used a decimal system of coinage. The introduction of decimal coinage would provide an opportunity for a reconstruction of the whole of the token coinage from the point of view of shape, weight and design. The threepence, for example, is a coin of convenient denomination but inconvenient size. It would be easy to combine a decimal system with a new coinage, more convenient to handle than the present coinage, even if other metals than silver and bronze, and other shapes, than the present, were introduced.
The royal commission’s recommendation was couched in the following terms: -
We recommend -
A system of decimal coinage should be introduced based upon the division of the Australian pound into one thousand parts.
It is a matter of great regret that so many other recommendations of the royal commission were adopted but that a unanimous recommendation, so strongly expressed as this, and, moreover, one that was subscribed to by the present Treasurer in 1936, should not be mentioned in this bill. Even at this late hour, I ask the right honorable gentleman to consider the redrafting of the bill to provide what he recommended not so many years ago when he was not occupying the illustrious position which he graces to-day. I suggest that the division of the Australian £1 into a thousand parts and the provision of coins of smaller denominations than the halfpenny, would be of an advantage to the poorer people, as well as facilitate the recording .and accounting of commercial transactions. I ask the right honorable gentleman to take cognisance of what I have said, and when this bill goes before the Senate to insert in it an amendment to provide for the adoption of a system of decimal coinage.
– I perused this rather remarkable bill over the week-end. I called at the office of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), and his private secretary was good enough to provide me with a certified true copy of the remarks made by the right honorable gentleman when he introduced the bill, and also with information as to the circulation of silver coinage in the Commonwealth. According to the Treasurer, the reduction of the silver content of our coinage will asist us to build up the stock of 11,000,000 oz. which we obtained from the United States of America for coinage purposes during the war. He stated that this quantity must be returned within a period of five years from the date when the President of the United States of America declares the war emergency to have ended. He went on to say that we are buying practically the whole of our local production which is available after allowing for the demands of industry, which is roughly 6,000,000 oz’. per annum, and any amount not required for coinage will be used to build up a reserve to meet our obligation to the United States of America. It is upon that text I propose to preach for the next few minutes. The right honorable gentleman stated the issues upon which he asks the House to agree to this bill, but I am certain that he did not tell anything like a fraction of the facts. According to the Australian Mining Standard of last month, the production of silver in Australia is approximately 14,000,000 oz. per annum. Not long ago there was a glut of silver and the price was extremely low. I remember going to the Port Pirie
Smelters on one occasion, where I saw, behind great iron bars, piles of silver ingots which were being held off the markets of the world because of the overproduction of silver. The price of silver was then under 2s. an oz. Time has moved on, and, as the article in the Australian Alining Standard indicates, silver now has many commercial uses, as the result of discoveries arising out of the requirements . of the war. As the result of the present shortage of silver, two matters arise which are worthy of note. The first is that, according to the Treasurer, notwithstanding Australia’s war-time production of silver, the Government found it necessary to borrow from the United States of America 11,000,000 oz. of physical silver, the terms of the loan being that that silver had to be returned to the United States of America, and not paid for. The United Kingdom Government borrowed a total of 88,000,000 oz. from the United States of America on exactly the same terms. Recently that Government passed legislation abolishing silver coinage altogether. Other legislation relating to silver coinage was passed in 1922, when the price of silver was temporarily very high, and, in order to meet financial difficulties arising from “World “War I., the United Kingdom Government reduced the silver content of its coinage from 37-40ths. which previously applied, and which applies in Australia at the present time, to one-half. What the Treasurer proposes to do in this bill is to ask the Parliament to adopt the standard of silver coinage adopted by the United Kingdom Government in 1922, from which the United Kingdom Government receded last year in favour of copper and nickel. The interesting fact is that, whereas the United Kingdom Government expects to make a profit of £30,000,000 from the sale of its silver after allowing for the return of the 88,000,000 oz. to the United States of America, on the figures furnished it must have in circulation approximately 215,000,000 oz. of silver in its coinage. I asked the Treasurer’s office for information relating to the amount of silver in circulation in Australia. The answer staggered me and I asked for confirmation of it. It is no less than 88,000,000 oz. If we have in circulation in Australia 88,000,000 oz. of standard silver - that is, silver 37-40ths fine - we have in circulation in this country no less than £24,200,000 worth of silver coinage. The Treasurer is now asking the Parliament to agree to the silver content of our coinage being reduced from 37-40ths to 6-12ths, to consent to the taking out of our silver coinage the difference between 6-12ths and 37-40ths .content of silver. If we apply the difference between those two fractions to 88,000,000 oz. we arrive at the figure of 40,000,000 oz. According to the right honorable gentleman’s second-reading speech, he needs this 40,000,000 oz. of silver to help him to build up a stock out of which he will return to the United States of America 11,000,000 oz. of physical silver which was borrowed during the war. This is one of the most delicious pieces of financial strategy I have ever seen. There is a strange coincidence that the amount of silver in circulation in the Commonwealth should contain exactly the same amount of silver that the British Government borrowed from the United States of America. In order to repay our debt to the United States of America the Treasurer proposes to take out of the coinage of the Australian Commonwealth no less than 40,000,000 oz. of its silver content. The proposal appears to be even worse if we deal in fine ounces. I do not know upon what calculation the 88,000,000 oz. is based. I have taken it for granted that it is on the standard of 92$ per cent, pure and not on the 24 carat basis. One pound of silver will coin 66 shillings. On the basis with silver at 2s. 7$d. per oz., every time the Commonwealth mints 66 shillings the Treasury makes a profit of 36s. lOd. If silver be bought at 5s. 9£d. per oz. the Treasury makes a profit of only ls, 8£d., but when the price rises to 5s. 11-^d. per oz. no profit is made at all. The interesting point is that in the first part of his discourse the Treasurer told us that early this year the price of silver reached 5s. 9$d. per oz., or ls. 6d. under the margin at which the Commonwealth ceases to make a profit on the minting of silver coinage. Having regard to that, we can well appreciate why the Treasurer desires to debase our currency. The other interesting fact to which we must direct our attention is that this 40,000,000 oz. of silver, when extracted by the Treasury from our currency of 88,000,000 oz., would at a price of 4s. 7d. per oz. be worth exactly £11,000,000. In order to repay the 11,000,000 oz. of physical silver to the United State of America the right honorable gentleman proposes to take out of the silver currency of Australia 40,000,000 oz. of silver worth £11,000,000 at present market rates. If that be not financial strategy on the grand scale I do not know what is. I heard of global strategy during the war; this is global strategy in the realm of finance. I am absolutely opposed to a measure which seeks to debase our currency in this way. I shall not go back to King Henry VIII. or to King John in order to find grounds upon which to criticize the bill, but I say to the Treasurer that if he desires that Australia should adopt a token currency, a currency which has no tangible value, the proper thing to do is to emulate the example of the United Kingdom Government and decide that our currency shall contain no silver at all, to plump for a straight-out, valueless token currency. I cannot understand the Treasurer attempting to do this year the very thing which the United Kingdom Government did 25 years ago, and from which “it retracted only last year. I have heard not a little about the enormity of closely following British practice. This is not a case of following British practice closely, but of following it a quarter of a century behind in point of time. This bill should be considered very closely by the committee. Incidentally, the schedule of the bill provides for the minting of crowns. In 1936 an amending bill was passed providing for the minting of crowns, but only for use as coronation emblems. Those crown pieces are extremely scarce. I cannot recall when I saw one. All are gone. The world is metal hungry and suspicious of the paper currencies floating about. The moment the Government tells the people that it intends to extract this silver coin from their pockets and replace it with a coin worth only a tiny fraction more than half the intrinsic value of the present coin, it can look forward to a hoarding of the silver coins of the Commonwealth. There is an old saying that bad money always drives out good money. Bad money always does drive out good money. It drives it into pockets and other places where people hide money.
– That happened in Malaya when the Japanese money appeared.
– Regardless of what part of Asia or what part of central Europe, the Balkans or elsewhere, you mention, the hoarding of metals, particularly in the form of coins, is a lot older than the history of those countries. There are certain things about the Australian precious metals industry that this Parliament should have a good look at. I have preached here before on the question of the gold standard,, and I do not retract one jot from what I have said. Increase ihe paper currency as you like, it will still be measured in terms of gold, and nothing else. The result is, if newspaper reports are correct, and I presume they are, that police officers watch the departure of certain aircraft to prevent the smuggling of gold, because it has been discovered that with the price of gold to be pegged by us, in conjunction with the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the other signatories to the Bretton Woods Agreement, at £10 15s. 3d. per oz., the market value of gold in India, French Indo-China, Siam, China and other countries is no less than £30 per oz. at Sydney, after the smuggler has received his fees and been paid for his risk wherever the smuggling takes place. It stands to reason that the market value of gold in Asia and in quite a part of Africa, for wherever the Arab goes you can bet your boots he will be willing to pay for gold, will be greater than we are prepared to pay here. As the result of the gold policy in the Commonwealth to-day, we are depressing the prices of the precious metal in Australia to make certain mines of marginal payability unpayable. Sooner or later the gold price will break.
In regard to silver, if so many industrial uses have been found for a practically precious metal, formerly used only in the coinage, ornamentally and in luxury articles, there is a future for it never before envisaged. Therefore we have to look at the coinage system. I point out to the Treasurer, while I am on my feet, that the schedule to the bill provides for a slight change of the gold content of gold coins. The schedules of the Coinage Acts of 1909 and 1936 provide that the standard fineness of gold in a sovereign or any other denomination of gold coin shall be “Eleven-twelfths fine gold, one-twelfth alloy ; or millesimal fineness 916.6 “. In the schedule to this bill, the dot has been knocked off the top of the “ 6 “. That means a fractional difference. I do not think it matters much because not many of us have a great number of gold coins in reserve, but in these matters, where we have Ministers, Treasury officials, and ‘ economists who know everything about everything in the world, it is as well that we should get down to the exact decimal. As one who left school at twelve years of age, I have a violent objection to seeing a recurring decimal turn into a nonrecurring decimal. It is a metamorphosis that we are not entitled to expect. I am opposed to the measure. The Government has not been frank with the Parliament if the figures supplied by its own officers are correct. If out circulation of silver is 88,000,000 oz., the Treasurer has no justification for “ pinching “ from the pockets of the Australian people 40,000,000 oz., plus the annual production of silver, in order to pay a debt of 11,000,000 oz. of silver five years after the President of the United States of ‘ America declares the state of emergency has ended. In two years, according to the Treasurer’s own figure, we shall produce a surplus of 12,000,000 oz. Therefore, the measure is absolutely unnecessary, and should be rejected, and I intend to vote against it.
.- I support the observations of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) about a decimal coinage. This is one matter with which a progressive national parliament in this year of grace should deal as soon as possible. Many matters on which the Commonwealth Parliament may legislate, such as a uniform divorce law and ‘company law, have been provided for in the Commonwealth Constitution for nearly 50 years, but have not been dealt with by the Commonwealth Parliament. The coinage has been dealt with in various coinage acts. To-day we should deal with it in the light of experience of about half a century and move with the times. I believe that the advantages of a decimal coinage are well known to honorable members. Nearly every country except Great Britain and Australia has adopted the decimal coinage system in one form or another. The history of the matter in Australia is that, in 1901, a select committee of this House was appointed to inquire into the question of a decimal coinage, but, before that there had been in England, from about 1827, a series of royal commissions to inquire into the same subject. They emphatically reported in favour of a decimal coinage. In England the matter was complicated, because itwas thought that difficulties might be met in instituting a decimal coinage without a uniform metric system of weights and measures and, perhaps for that reason, perhaps because of various vested interests, and perhaps of natural conservatism - no matter for what reason - the British Parliament did not go on with the matter, notwithstanding the strong recommendations of the royal commissions. One step was taken by the British Parliament in 1847 when it made provision for the minting of florins worth 2s., which formerly had not been known. That was done avowedly as the first step in a decimal coinage system, based on the sovereign; but nothing further was done. Shortly after the inception of the Commonwealth of Australia, the matter of a decimal coinage was debated and a select committee was appointed. It went into the matter with great thoroughness. The committee held 23 meetings and examined nineteen witnesses, and opinions in writing were obtained from a greater number of experts of the day in Australia and abroad. The committee had the advantage of the best opinion it could get upon the matter. The difficulty it found was what sort of a decimal coinage was it to recommend - a system unrelated to any other existing system of coinage, as was done, partially, in the United States of America, shortly after its establishment with the setting up of the dollar system, or a system allied to the existing system in England? It was generally felt that the way to do it was to work out a decimal system allied to the sovereign. The committee made a strong recommendation which can be summarized as follows: -
The sovereign, as - 10 florins, 1,000 cents,
Half-sovereign - 5 florins, 500 cents,
Two-shilling piece - 1 florin, 100 cents,
Shilling - ½ florin, 50 cents,
Sixpence - ¼ florin, 25 cents.
Interrupting the quotation. I point out that up to that stage there was to be no change in the existing coinage. The coinage of the realm in Australia could be corelated to the decimal system without the need to mint new coins. The recommendations provided -
That was a clear-cut series of recommendations. As the honorable member for New England has indicated, the advantages were clear. There wouldbe an obvious educational saving. There would be an obvious commercial saving, and Australia, in commercial matters, would be in a better position in relation to other parts of the world. It was thought by the committee - and there was a good deal of evidence to support it - that if Australia swung in behind the system of decimal coinage it would accelerate a similar movement in Great Britain. The obvious advantages of a decimal coinage system for Australia are so clear that I need not debate the matter further. I urge the Prime Minister and the Government to investigate the matter, to discover whether it is possible to bring down within a measurably short time legislation to bring about a decimal system of coinage in Australia.
– Honorable members privileged to hear the observations of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) are indebted to him for the startling information that he has concisely given to the House. His disclosures are, in my opinion, of such importance that they demand from the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) a satisfactory reply. The honorable member for Barker bases his case on information that he states he has received from the Treasury. He was informed that 88,000,000 oz. of silver is in circulation in Australia. From that he has calculated that this measure is not so innocent as the House might otherwise have been led to believe. Consequently, without going into details, I submit that the Treasurer has the obligation to provide honorable members with a satisfactory explanation.
– in reply - First, I shall deal with the matter raised by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). Personally, I have always believed that the decimal system of coinage is a superior form of currency. However, I realize that strong objections would be raised to its introduction, particularly from the stand-point of inconvenience. At present, our minting capacity alone makes it impossible even to contemplate its introduction. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) referred to the reports of royal commissions in the United Kingdom which have examined this matter. By thirteen votes to ten, one of these commissions in 1920 opposed the adoption of decimal coinage.
– The honorable member for Parramatta did not tell the House that.
– As the honorable member for New England said, decimal coinage has many merits ; but, apart from the physical impossiblity of adopting it now,- strenuous opposition would be voiced against the proposal. Many conferences would have to be held with interested bodies in order to convince them of the wisdom of the system. Some of the opposition would be based on the fact, that our existing system of coinage is traditional. Some people would oppose the adoption of the decimal coinage simply because it represented a new departure. In fact, some members of the Opposition in this Parliament are opposed to any form of change.
– We should like a change of government.
– Although I have always personally considered that the decimal system has great advantage over our present coinage, it would be physically impossible to introduce it now.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) worked himself into a fury when he accused me of having misled the House in explaining the purpose of this bill.
– Nationalization is being paid for by debasing the currency, and the honorable member for Barker had every justification to point out that fact.
– I shall deal with the charge that the Government proposes to debase the currency. The honorable member for Barker said that I had misled the House. The truth is that I made it perfectly clear, when I moved the secondreading of the bill, that silver coinage to the value of £26,500,000 is now in circulation in Australia to-day.
– That amount is greater than the figure which 1 mentioned.
– This information was obtained from the Commonwealth Bank.
– The amount of £24,400,000, which I mentioned, was supplied to me by the Treasury.
– The amount changes from time to time. Before the commencement of World War II., the figure was £9,500,000. In my second-reading speech, I said that the Government was buying all available local silver after the needs of industry had been met. In other words, the Commonwealth would purchase 6,000,000 oz. of silver. The honorable member stated that Australia’s production of silver was 14,000,000 oz. He may have obtained that information from some journal. A Treasury official has informed me that, according to the Commonwealth Statistician, Australia’s production of silver is 8,000,000 oz. However, I shall not dispute that point. The discrepancy in the figures is not important to the present discussion. The point which I emphasize is that industry is not using more silver. The silver which the Commonwealth is buying is that which is available after the needs of industry have been met. The honorable member for Barker accused the Government of proposing to debase the currency, thereby making a huge profit. The facts are that this bill proposes that the silver content of Australian coinage shall be 50 per cent., the balance being alloy. For many years, British coins had a similar silver content.
– Australian coinage has had a higher silver content.
– I listened to the honorable member for Barker very patiently while he made a number of misstatements. Before the introduction of cupro-nickel, the coinage of the United Kingdom had, for a long time, a silver content of 50 per cent. No one considered that, with the introduction of cupro-nickel, the coinage of the United Kingdom had been debased. The silver content of the currency of New Zealand is now 50 cent. The reason why the United Kingdom changed from silver to cupronickel coinage has two simple explanations. The first was the ever-increasing price of silver; which is not produced in the United Kingdom. The second reason was that the United Kingdom Government desired to repay to the United States of America the number of ounces of silver which it had borrowed during World War II. Australia will return to the United States of America the silver which we borrowed from it. The difference between the position of the United Kingdom and that of Australia is that we produce silver, and the United Kingdom does not. No doubt, cupronickel has its advantages, but we are not obliged to buy silver from abroad.
We are able to use our own sterling values to buy it. So, the two criticisms which the honorable member for Barker voiced about it are proved to have no foundation. If this bill proposes to debase the Australian currency, then the currency of the United Kingdom was debased for decades, and the currency of New Zealand is debased now.
The honorable member for Barker also complained that the Government will make a substantial profit from the introduction of the new coinage. The present price of silver is between 4s. 8d. and 4s. 9$d. per oz., and the profit which the Commonwealth Treasury will make from silver coinage, with silver at those prices, will be almost exactly the same as the profit which it made from silver before World War II., when the price was lower than it is to-day. I do not suppose that, the honorable member for Barker has reached a state of mind when he expects the Commonwealth to mint silver coinage at less than cost. All that the Government proposes to do is to make the silver content in our coinage, at the present price of silver, return almost exactly the same amount of profit as the Commonwealth Treasury received when the honorable member for Barker himself was a Minister. If he can find, any reply to these statements, I shall be pleased to hear them. ‘ I did not regard seriously his allegations of robbery. We have submitted this proposal to the Parliament because the price of silver has risen considerably and may go even higher. It is futile to talk about what the United States of America is doing. The price of silver has been fixed in that country, and silver producers in Australia could sell their silver there.
Summing up, I point out that our currency will not be debased; the profit derived by the Treasury will be almost precisely the same as it was before World War II.; we are buying surplus silver available after the needs of industry have been met ; and we propose to return to the United States of America the silver which we borrowed when we have accumulated sufficient for that purpose. The coinage which will be manufactured at a certain profit to the Treasury, will be put into circulation, and the value of its silver content will be the same as the value of the silver content of coins issued before World War II. The silver coins which will be called in, will be subjected to a difficult chemical process for the extraction of the silver. At one time, it was considered very difficult, though not impossible, to recover the silver content, because of the alloys mixed with it. Some chemical firms in the United Kingdom have now devised a method by which they can recover a large percentage of it. Some losses are sustained in melting down the old silver, and certain expenses are associated with the smelting process.I had not proposed to make such a long speech on such a minor bill, because I explained its purpose quite clearly in my second-reading speech. I said that, according to the Commonwealth Bank’s figures, the value of the silver coinage now in circulation in Australia is £26,500,000.
– That figure was not contained in the copy of the speech which was handed to me.
– I interpolated it in my speech and I presume that it is in the Hansard report. I hope that the honorable member’s anger has subsided, and that he will acquit me of any charge of having attempted to deceive the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Any idea that a bill similar to this was passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom without criticism, is not well founded. I have read the debates on the measure, and I have a copy of them in my hand. Whilst I do not propose to read lengthy extracts from them, I point out that the criticisms which were voiced in the House of Commons - I am concerned not with the House of Lords, but with the elected representatives of the people - were very trenchant. One of the most interesting statements was made by Mr. Ashton, a member for one of the London districts. Hesaid that the “ only cheap thing left in the United Kingdom to-day is its currency”. The word “ debasement “ appears frequently in the records of this debate. The secondreading debate was protracted, and many honorable members of all political parties in the House of Commons participated in it. Later, a lengthy discussion took place in committee. The bill, which was to do in the United Kingdom what the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) is proposing to do in Australia, was bitterly contested. Honorable members may argue this matter any way they like, but this proposal is for the debasement of our currency. There is no other name for it. This is one of the matters on which kings and governments in many countries have been condemned throughout history. It is futile for the Treasurer to state that the Commonwealth Treasury will make only the same profit out of the new coinage as that which it received before the war. As he pointed out, I was a member of a government before World War II.; but I was not Treasurer. On one occasion, I was afraid that I would be. No one appeared to want that portfolio at the time, and I am often a “ stand-by “ who can fit into almost any place if it is awkward. To date, I have not been responsible for the administration of the Treasury. That is a pleasure which may yet await the Australian people. Nothing that the Treasurer can say will change my opinion that the effect of this bill will be to debase our currency. A total of 40,000,000 fine ounces of silver is involved and, at the present market value, that represents about £11,000,000. That sum of money is to be extracted from the profits of the people, and it will go into the Commonwealth Treasury. Under the new conditions, the Treasurer will be able to mint almost twice as many coins from the same amount of silver. That will mean that a great deal more currency will be in circulation. It has been the practice ever since we went off the gold standard for the Treasury to make a certain profit by the minting of silver coins. At one time a fee was payable in respect of the minting of silver coins, and on another occasion a fee was payable in respect of the minting of gold coins; at still another period such fees were payable in respect of both silver and gold coins. Sometimes when the bullion has gone into the mint it has been extremely difficult to get the coins out. There is no likelihood whatever of our returning to the gold standard, and the only metallic currency that we have that is worth anything is the silver coinage. As one of the rank and file of the community, I am deeply interested in this subject. Nobody expects value in relation to copper coins; but hitherto silver coins have always had a certain intrinsic value.
– By taking ten florins into the Commonwealth Bank the people will still be able to obtain a £1 note.
– That may be so, but they will not be able to obtain a sovereign. The Treasurer is well aware that the value of the £1 has deteriorated greatly since Commonwealth Bank notes were first issued. Originally the bank note carried a promise that on presentation to the Treasury a sovereign could be obtained for it. I am not quite sure of the exact wording that appeared on the bank notes, but that was the effect of it. These days have gone. Anybody who is interested in the subject will find in the Melbourne Museum a number of exhibits which indicate the history of the change in this connexion. I am absolutely opposed to this measure, and the time will come when the people at large will be awake to what has been done. It is true that gold currency was never as pure as silver currency. The gold currency according to law must consist of ll-12ths. gold, and the silver currency must consist of 37-40ths. silver. I doubt whether gold currency to-day carries anything like the requisite percentage of gold, and it might be wise for the Treasurer to consult the officers of his department on this subject. I have a strong suspicion that further attention will have to be given to this matter before very long, and I expect still to be a member of this Parliament when that time arrives. I hope that my honorable friends opposite will be required to clean up the mess that they are now making in relation to our coinage.
.- The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is quite right when he says that this bill will result in a debasement of our silver coinage. I remind honorable gentlemen of Gresham’s law to the effect that bad currency drives out good money. I ask the Treasurer to tell us how our silver currency will stand in the future in relation to the silver currency of New Zealand. I am told that the percentage of silver will be the same, but I should like the Treasurer to answer my specific question. I should also like him to make a statement in regard to the future relationship of our silver coinage to that of the United Kingdom. Australians who were abroad on active service during the war know that they had great difficulties in relation to currency. In the Asiatic countries coinage practically disappeared, and stamps of quite minor denominations were used. At present our coinage is at a discount of 25 per cent, compared with that of Great Britain, because of exchange conditions. Will that situation continue? Our airmen in both Canada and the United States of America had great difficulty with regard to currency. Seeing that the Treasurer has informed us that, in the future, the Australian florin will contain approximately the same percentage of silver as the florins of the United Kingdom and New Zealand I shall be interested to hear the right honorable gentleman’s reply to my question. I wish to know the future ratio that will exist between our silver coinage and that of Great Britain and New Zealand.
– I do not desire the public to be misled by statements that are being made in this chamber to-night. I make it quite clear that any citizen who takes ten florins to the Commonwealth Bank will obtain a £1 note in exchange.
– It cannot be denied that there has been a depreciation in the value of the Australian £1 note, just as there will be a depreciation, after this bill becomes law, in the value of the Australian florin.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) made some remarks this afternoon about a change in the basis of the exchange rate, which would appreciate the value of the Australian £1 note.
– In relation to sterling.
– I wish to make it absolutely clear that I am utterly opposed to any alteration of the present exchange rate which would adversely effect our export trade. I would resist to the uttermost any move in that direction. We should be quite frank on these matters. I reiterate that the value of the Australian £1 note is less today than it was twelve months ago, and the Treasurer may take it for granted- that the value of the note will deteriorate still further as time goes on. The only governmental activities which are yielding a profit to the Government at present are the Mint and the Postmaster-General’s Department. Roth are monopolies in which no competition will be permitted. It will be interesting to see the balancesheet of the Australian National Airlines Commission in due course.
.- The statement made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that the Australian fi note had depreciated in value was absolutely ridiculous. I have bad the privilege, during the last few months, of travelling in a number of countries and of dealing with several different foreign -currencies. My experience has been that the value of the Australian £1 note overseas is high. Wherever one may travel he can buy more with an Australian £1 note than he could have bought with it before this Government came into power. In New York the Australian £1 note has appreciated very greatly. The United States of America, as honorable members know, dominates the financial world at present. In New York to-day an Australian £1 note can be purchased for $2.85. Five years ago it cost only $1.85. It is ridiculous to say that the Australian £1 note will buy less goods and services to-day than previously. As a matter of fact our £1 note is more valuable in many countries than the currencies of those countries. I found that because of our successful economic control organization our currency was highly rated in overseas countries. We are well aware, of course, that the exchange ‘ rate affects the value of our currency by 25 per cent., but we also know the reasons for this. The Australian £1 note has a higher purchasing power than any other currency. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has explained that in the future the silver content of our coinage will be approximately the same as that of Great Britain, Canada and New Zealand.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) did not reply to the specific question that I asked him concerning the future relative value of the Australian, the New Zealand and the United Kingdom florin. It is important that we should have this information. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) wandered about in Belgium for a little while and now expects us to accept his word as authoritative in regard to the value of our currency. As a matter of fact a good deal that he told us was sheer nonsense. Our service men and women who were abroad during the war had many troubles over their Australian currency. I can tell him that every member of the Royal Australian Air Force, when leaving Sydney to proceed to the United States of America, had to be paid in American dollars, because Australian currency could not be used in that country. In Canada, the greatest difficulty was experienced in securing the acceptance of the Australian £1 note. Government supporters “ pooh pooh “ the opinions of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). It is necessary to stress the fact that the Australian £.1 is depreciating in value. Why is it suggested that the parliamentary allowance of honorable members should be increased if that is not so? Government supporters need not accept the additional amount if they consider that the status quo has been preserved. The Prime Minister should state clearly what the position will be as between Australian silver and that of New Zealand for purposes of trade, and whether there is any proposal to alter the design so as to make it approximate to a fair basis as between all countries for purposes of trade.
.- Nations do not trade with one another in 2s. pieces; they conduct their operations on a higher scale. There is no general arrangement between nations in regard to metal coinage. The value of sovereigns, of course, is calculated not according to number but according to their weight. There is no standard of metal coinage that I know of, because various alloys are used and there is no precise knowledge of the metal content. New Zealand accepts Australian 2s. pieces, but we do not accept those of that dominion. That has been the position for many years. A country’s coinage can always be disposed of through different agencies; but there is no standard of acceptability on an official basis.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Income Tax Assessment Bill 1947.
Gift Duty Assessment Bill 1947.
Estate Duty Assessment Bill 1947.
Without requests -
Income Tax Bill 1947.
Social Services Contribution Bill 1947.
Gift Duty Bill 1947.
Debate resumed from the 23rd May (vide page 2857), on motion by Mr. Holloway -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is to enable the Commonwealth quarantine cervices to maintain a closer and more effective guard against the introduction of human and animal diseases which have never become established in this country but are a constant threat to the national health and economy. The vast increase of air traffic from overseas to Australia has drawn attention to the necessity of strengthening the hands of those who are charged with the responsibility of guarding Australia against the introduction of diseases which do not exist in this country. The bulk of the overseas air traffic originates in or traverses countries, especially in Asia, in which small-pox, cholera, plague and typhus are prevalent. By reason of its island conformation and its distance from other lands, Australia is in a unique position toprovide an effective quarantine guard against the importation of diseases. Until comparatively recent years, our quarantine defences have had to operate only with respect to comparatively slow-moving maritime traffic. The advent of air traffic has introduced a new and more difficult factor. No longer can we rely on the lapse of time involved in a sea passage from port to port to assist us in the detection of disease. A traveller may be in Bombay to-day and in Brisbane in a few days. This speed of travel may be eclipsed in the near future. Air travel has speeded international communications to such a degree that it is possible for a person infected with smallpox or other exotic disease to arrive in Australia during the incubation period and, unless adequate precautions exist, to traverse the length and. breadth of this continent before the disease becomes manifest. Such a happening could cause a major disaster in. this country, involving the loss of many valuable lives.
The only clause in the bill which deals with the quarantining of humans is clause 6. It is designed to confer on quarantine officers additional power to control the movements of travellers from overseas who may be a menace to the health of our people until it has been established that they are not infected with any serious communicable disease. There need be no delay if travellers can satisify quarantine authorities that they have been vaccinated and immunised. The Opposition strongly supports that phase of the bill.
The other clauses deal with animal quarantine. It has been found necessary to embody in the Quarantine Act the National Security (Control of Animal Disease) Regulations that were issued during the war and are at present contained in the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act of 1946. The experience of the war disclosed many omissions from our legislation. These were rectified temporarily by means of regulations that were issued under the National Security
Act. This bill proposes to incorporate them in permanent legislation. The Opposition is in agreement with those proposals.
I should like the Minister (Mr. Hol loway) to state whether he and the departmental officers are quite satisfied that adequate powers are being taken Io guard against the introduction of noxious plants and insects into Australia by means of aircraft. Aircraft landing and taking off from aerodromes in, say, India, Java, Timor and other places en route to Australia may pick up on their landing wheels or undercarriages noxious weeds or their seeds and convey them to landing grounds in Darwin, Brisbane, and elsewhere in Australia. In the monsoon season, while aircraft are on aerodromes, the plants or seeds could easily be washed off the wheels or undercarriages by heavy rains, and soon become established in Australia. Are regular inspections made of aerodromes, at least by agricultural officers or quarantine officers who deal with plant life, with a view to guarding against this possibility? 1 should like to have an assurance from the Minister, because people in the pastoral districts of Queensland are suspicious and fearful of the introduction of noxious weeds.
I pay a tribute to the work of our quarantine officers who over the years have so faithfully and zealously carried out the trust reposed in them by the legislature. They have assured that, as far as possible, this continent shall be free from diseases - human, animal and plant. It must be a source of great satisfaction to all of them, to know that this Parliament appreciates their efforts to keep Australia free from all diseases which come within their purview.
I regard the bill as necessary to meet changing circumstances. I hope that it will be administered with the thoroughness, skill and efficiency which have always characterized the work of our quarantine officers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I give to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) the assurance he has sought. I was very pleased to hear him say what he did about the efficiency of the officers of the Health Department who are entrusted with quarantine work. They inspect all aerodromes, landing grounds and airports, and have the assistance of experts in veterinary and other sciences. Because of the rapid transport mentioned by the honorable member, and the fact that seaborne traffic comes direct from Asiatic countries in which diseases are rampant, the desire is that there shall be power to inspect not only plants or animals which may be on board, but also the ship itself if it has recently carried animals. It is further desired that there shall be power to maintain contact with men and women who leave the ship, apparently quite free from disease, because of the possibility of germs being in process of incubation. I hope that the committee will agree to the bill without amendment.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 23rd May (vide page 2855), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, brought down by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), amends the Beer Excise Act in three ways, and largely effects an improvement of the present administrative practices. The first amendment concerns the issue of excise stamps. These stamps are placed on barrels and casks, and many of them are left with the department because of changes of excise. The Government seeks to avoid surcharging the stamps, by having them printed on a gallonage instead of -a monetary basis. Obviously, time would thus be saved in the department.
The second amendment relates to the export of beer. At the present time,.th* merchant who sells it for export applies for a rebate or drawback of the duty. The proposal is that some lines may be exported without payment of duty in advance. This, too, will lessen administrative work.
The third amendment concerns the watering of beer. Honorable members may regard the watering of beer as a serious crime, but I do not. However, as the purpose is to avoid loss of revenue to the Government, one must approve of the proposal. The fine is to be increased from £20 to £100. Honorable members will know what to expect if they add water to beer. I believe that it would be a good thing if the alcoholic content of beer were reduced, as was done in Great Britain during the war. I know that the Customs Department has explored this matter, and it has been stated that beer will not carry satisfactorily if the alcoholic content were reduced. That should not be the final word on the subject. Further investigations should be made so that, for the good of the community, beer that would be a good beverage might be produced with a smaller alcoholic content.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 13th May (vide page 2227), on motion by Mr. Lemmon -
That the hill be now read a second time.
.- The War Service Homes Act requires amendment in some particulars, and some of the proposed amendments embodied in this bill commend themselves to the Opposition. The bill proposes four major changes. The first is the abolition of the position of Commissioner, and the substitution therefore of the title of Director of War Service Homes. This is a consequential amendment arising out of the absorption of the War Service Homes Commission into the general body of the Public Service, a procedure which does not meet with the approval of the Opposition. The War Service Homes Commission was staffed entirely by exservicemen, who must now take their chance with the rest of the public service.
The second amendment provides for the acquisition by the Government of goods necessary for the building of war service homes. The Government may step in and acquire building material. During the latter stages of the war, I frequently stressed the fact that the Government would be deluged with applications for war service homes after the war. Now that the Government has 20,000 persons waiting for war service homes, it must realize that it could well have made provision earlier for obtaining materials?
The third amendment provides for increasing the maximum cost of a house and land from £1,250 to £1,750. In view of the increased cost of materials, we must approve that amendment.
The Government also intends to embark upon group building on the lines, I presume, of the schemes adopted by housing commissions in the States. While this may result in the quicker erection of houses, it can also, unless very close supervision is exercised, result in the creation of slums. In some of the States where such schemes are in operation, too many houses are being placed upon a given area of land. Care should be taken to provide adequate playing grounds, parks, &c. Because only builders in a big way can take on group building contracts, there will he a tendency for small builders to be forced out of business, although I believe that where men own small blocks of land, individual houses may be built. Many ex-servicemen have learnt carpentering and bricklaying under the reconstruction training scheme, and they should not be forced out of business because the Government is concentrating on group building programmes. I hope that the Minister will ensure that such men get their share of work.
I understand that architects in private practice will not be commissioned by the Government on the big jobs. All the plans will be prepared by architects in the Government service. We know that there are good architects in the service, but here is another instance of how the strength of the public service increases. There are now 100,000 more members in the service than before the war, although with the ending of the war the number should be reduced. Does this provision mean that more officers will be employed in the Minister’s department? We know that in 1944, although there were in the department directors and architects and a large and efficient staff, not one war service home was built. The Minister stated that it was proposed to erect 20,000 war service homes, but he did not say how long it would be before they were completed. Are we to have a multiplicity of plans but no houses? Since 1944 some hundreds of houses have been built, but not nearly enough. Therefore, I ask the Minister to stimulate the activities of his department so that it may equal the record achieved in the period between the two wars, when 21,000 war service homes were built. While many of the Government’s proposals are acceptable, we do not want to be fobbed off with promises and plans. We do not want to be given houses on paper only while a multitude of exservicemen continues to wait.
The bill proposes to increase to £1,500 the amount which may be lent on mortgage, although the permitted cost of a house and land has been increased to £1,750. Why is it not proposed to advance the other £250 on mortgage? I believe that a man who wants to buy a house should be allowed to borrow for its purchase an amount equal to what ho could spend on the construction of a new house.
Members of the Opposition take the strongest exception to the stated policy of the Government to refuse applications by war widows for war service homes, although the principal act clearly provides that they are eligible. The Minister, in reply to a question recently, said that this course was being pursued because so many other applicants had been received. War widows are, in many instances, in a worse position than many of the applicants for war service homes. A war widow receives a pension of only £2 10s. a week. If she has two children the total amount she receives is only £4 7s. 6d. a week. It is not right that a war widow with children to rear should be compelled to live in one room with- no prospect of ever having a home of her own.
– Widows are getting houses, but not all widows.
– There is nothing in the bill about the eligibility of war widows.
– But in the act itself it is provided that “eligible persons” means a war widow. We are now considering a bill to amend that act, and, therefore, it is competent for us, I submit, to discuss the provisions of the act. Clearly, war widows are eligible to obtain war service homes, and I challenge the Minister to say how many have received homes or are having them, built. I know of one war widow with a child who is dependent upon her pension of approximately £3 a week and her deceased husband’s deferred pay. When she applied for a war service home she was told, “ you are not a good risk”. There is nothing in the War Service Homes Act or anywhere else to authorize an official or Minister of the Crown to say to an eligible person that he or she is not a good risk; to say to a war widow, “ because your husband was killed, and you have only your pension and your husband’s deferred pay, we cannot consider your application “. If anyone is to receive preference it should be the person whose need is greatest. Those with large families should be given homes first. I know a man who is living with his family in a garage while waiting for a home. The Minister should give an assurance that war- widows will be able to obtain war service homes. It is no answer for honorable members opposite to ask what the Opposition did when it was in power. I believe that when governments which I supported were in power the act was always administered so as to give preference to those in greatest need. When we were in power 21,000 houses were built for all kinds of eligible persons.
– Were any built for war widows ?
– Yes. The provision in regard to war widows was inserted in the act when their needs were fully realized. There is a provision in the act for the application of a means test. That a means test is applied to war widow applicants for war service homes may surprise some Ministers - I am sure that it will - and I am certain that they do not want such a restrictive provision to remain in the law. I should like an assurance from the Minister, who is a young man who has recently accepted responsibility for a department which has been subject to a good deal of criticism, that in future war service homes will be provided for applicants in accordance with the principles of equity and justice. If the honorable gentleman will do that we shall support him to the utmost of our ability. There is much in this bill that commends it to us. For the rest, let the Minister answer my question as to why mortgage loans should be different from straight out buildings loans, let him give us an assurance that the interests of small builders who want to tender for the construction of houses will be protected, and that applicants whose homes are not included in group plans will be given an opportunity to employ their own architects. Let the honorable gentleman assure us, too, that war service homes will be built with the greatest possible expedition, and that war widows, who have no menfolk to speak for them, will be given justice.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest to the speech just delivered by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). I remember very well when he held office in the Lyons Government I had to make–
– Be careful!
– In association with the honorable member for Balaclava the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was a member of a government which evicted more ex-servicemen and widows from their homes than did any other government.
– That is a deliberately untrue statement.
– I take exception to the remarks of the honorable member.
– The honorable member may do so at a later stage.
– I rise to order. I have never been responsible for evicting anyone from a home at any time.
– I support the point of order raised by the honorable member for Balaclava.
– The honorable member for Balaclava has not raised a point of order.
– Never ait any time have I been a party to the eviction of ex-servicemen or war widows from their homes. 1 take strong exception to the remarks of the honorable member for Lang, and ask that they be withdrawn, and that he apologize for having made them.
– The honorable member for Lang has said that both the honorable member for Balaclava and the honorable member for Wentworth were members of a government which evicted ex-servicemen from their homes. He did not accuse either of them personally of having been responsible for such evictions.
– The honorable member said that we were both parties to the evictions.
– I said that both were members of a government responsible for evicting more ex-servicemen from their war service homes than anyother authority in Australia.
– Did the honorable member withdraw the offensive words, Mr. Speaker ?
– No. The Chair did not call upon him to do- so.
– I regard the honorable member’s remarks as offensive and untrue, and I ask that they be withdrawn and that he apologize.
-The Chair will decide whether the honorable member should do so. The honorable member said that the honorable member for
Balaclava and the honorable member for Wentworth were members of a government which evicted more people from their homes than any other government. He did not accuse the honorable members of having been personally associated with the evictions to which he refers. The Chair does not regard the honorable member’s remarks as offensive and therefore does not propose to ask for their withdrawal.
– On several occasions I had to protest against evictions being carried out in my electorate as the result of proceedings initiated by the Government of which the honorable member for Balaclava and the honorable member for Wentworth were members. The responsible Minister at the time was the former honorable member for Calare, Mr. Thorby. Not only were a great many exservicemen and war widows evicted from their homes by that Government, it also sold the vacated homes to private citizens who had not served in the war. That is one reason why there is such a shortage of war service homes to-day. In my electorate, which possibly contains more war service homes than any other electorate in Australia, many homes built for the men who went to World War I. were sold to private people who had never had war service. I remember very well the case of one constituent who died and was buried on a Monday and whose widow was approached on the following Friday by an officer of the War Service Homes Commission who said “Your circumstances are entirely different now. I think that you should vacate your home “. Eventually the widow was summoned to appear before the Campsie police court to show cause why she should not be evicted, but a sympathetic magistrate adjourned the case for three months. After a good deal of consultation with the late Prime Minister, Mr. Lyons, I and other members of the then Opposition were successful in securing his agreement to an amendment of the act which permitted the widow to remain in her home for the rest of her life.
– We are considering the building of homes now.
– It is high time that honorable members opposite ceased to ride on the backs of the ex-servicemen. The former members of our fighting forces know that the Government is doing everything possible to meet their requirements and those of the general public.
– Except producing materials with which to build homes.
– We know that materials and homes are in short supply because, during the days of the depression, when material and labour were in plentiful supply, the government supported by honorable members opposite,- including: the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride), neglected to carry out their responsibilities to the people. The honorable member for Wakefield is not concerned about the needs of the working people; he does not represent them in this House and he did not do so when he was a member of the Senate. The honorable member for Balaclava made a great song about his sympathy for the war widows and the ex-servicemen. When the honorable gentleman waa himself a member of the Ministry and had an opportunity to assist in this matter he, and the Government of which he was a member, failed to do so. The present. Government is endeavouring to meet all the requirements of the people and I have no doubt that very soon the lag in building operations will be overcome.
.- I desire to reply to the extraordinary and inaccurate statements made by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy). For the facts concerning the eviction of ex-servicemen and war-widows I refer the honorable member to Hansard. Not long ago a member of the party to which the honorable member belongs asked how many persons had been evicted from war service homes during the administration of the Lyons Government. The answer was “ one “. So all this talk about evictions by the Lyons Government is sheer humbug. If the honorable member remembered the facts he would not occupy the time of the House talking such “ hooey “. The man evicted from his war service home was an ex-serviceman who, during the depression, reported to the War Service
Homes Commission that he was unemployed, and had been out of work for a long period. The investigating officers of the commission found, not only that was he not unemployed, but also that he was employed at a good salary as an officer of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The man was informed that, in addition to meeting the regular repayments on his home, he would have to make some minor contribution towards the arrears of repayments. He refused to pay any money at all and the matter was referred to the court. The magistrate said, “ Here is a man in full employment in the Postmaster-General’s Department, an activity of the Commonwealth, who will not pay the Commonwealth the money he owes it”. He thereupon ordered the eviction of the man from his home. Those are the facts concerning the sole eviction authorizedby the Lyons Government.
To quote the Minister’s own words, this bill is designed to expedite the fulfilment of the country’s obligation to provide war service homes for 20,000 applicants who have already lodged claims and for the many thousands who will be lodging claims for war service homes during the next few years. A proposition like that is one which every honorable member can readily endorse. The Government is asking the Parliament to give it legislative power to build war service homes at a rapid rate. It will be remembered that after World War I. more than 21,000 homes were provided for ex-servicemen. Although the present Government has been in office since 1941, it has provided barely 100 homes. Legislation of this character by itself will not build homes. We do not build homes merely by expressing pious thoughts but by producing the materials with which to construct them. No effort has been made by this Government to co-operate with the States, in the production of building materials. I have before me a very costly report presented on the 25th August, 1944, by a commission appointed to inquire in to the subject of housing which was entirely ignored by the Government.
– The Government did not ignore it.
– I shall read the recommendations of the commission. Recomendation 596 states -
We recommend that action be taken to make available sufficient labour to cut and season the largest possible stocks of timber for domestic building in the early post-war years, the amount of labour required to be ascertained by consultation with the Department of Postwar Reconstruction and the Commonwealth Timber Controller.
Has the Minister carried out that recommendation? Where has the timber been cut and stacked? As the timber has not been cut and stacked, the Government proposes to commandeer supplies from the States. I tell the Minister that houses will not be built simply by making pious statements like this -
The purpose of this bill is to expedite the fulfilment of Australia’s obligation to provide war service homes for the 20,000 applicants who have already made applications and to the many thousands who will apply for such homes in the next few years.
That pious hope will not build houses. Neither will the passing of legislation to commandeer the limited supplies of material in the States. We have had many examples of this Government making regulations or bringing down legislation to overcome great national problems without result. It made regulations designed to increase production in the coal industry. The regulations were a failure. Notwithstanding their failure, they were incorporated in an act. Again they failed. This legislation will fail unless the Government carries out the recommendation of the Commonwealth Housing Commission and sends men out into the timber country to get the necessary timber and ensures the production of bricks and tiles and other building materials. Recommendation 597 states -
There are a number of other items where we consider shortages may develop if action is not taken during the war period to prepare for their production. Those items are listed below :
Galvanized sheet iron - flat and corrugated.
Asbestos cement - flat and corrugated (depending on supplies of crude asbestos ) .
Galvanised water pipes.
Electric meter boxes and switchboards.
Electric fittings and equipment.
Paint (all types).
The next recommendation states -
Certain items now used for war purposes and therefore in short supply which, it is assumed, will become immediately available for domestic construction at the end of the war, are listed below:
Bolts and nuts.
The report proceeds -
We consider that the probable shortage of many materials and fittings should be regarded as a basis for investigating the production of building materials in relation to working out details for housing programmes in each State. In some cases it may be possible to convert war factories to the production of certain items required. If it appears that the requirements of particular building materials cannot be met under present conditions, we consider that investigations should proceed rapidly to increase the production of building materials or to change the methods of construction of dwellings.
Has the Minister done anything to carry out that recommendation? None of the Minister’s proposals will get him anywhere unless he tackles the problems indicated in the report. Materials must be made available before houses canbe built. We have heard about the shortage of glass, paint, iron roofing and the like. It is imperative that the Minister ensures the production and availability of those materials. I know from travelling around my own electorate, as well as other parts of Australia, that hundreds of partially-erected homes are awaiting roofs, walls or glass. The Minister has done nothing to provide essential materials. This legislation only proposes to commandeer what is available for private homes in the States. War service homes come first, but that means that no one else will get homes once this legislation is passed. The Government proposes that the Commonwealth shall take full power over material. It is able to do so because the Constitution provides that in a clash between Commonwealth legislation and State legislation the Commonwealth legislation will prevail. So this legislation will do little more than make it impossible for anyone apart from some ex-servicemen to get a home anywhere in Australia unless the Minister carries out the recommendations of the Commonwealth Housing Commission.
The bill proposes to increase from £1,250 to £1,750 the cost of a war service home. Does the Minister realize that, even at the low interest rate of 3¾ per cent., if repayment of the loan is based on a 20-year period, the monthly rent will be £10 7s. 6d., about £2 2s. a week. How many returned soldiers can afford that? If the period is 30 years, the repayment will be £8 2s.1d. a month, and if it is 40 years it will be £7 0s.11d. a month. Those amounts are impossible. Some assistance must be given to the occupants of war service homes. Because the Minister has failed to carry out the commission’s recommendations and has not sent men into the highways and byways to get the materials for housing, it has been found necessary to increase the cost of the homes by £500. I grant that the Minister has not been in office long, but his predecessor fell down on the job in not obtaining sufficient materials to ensure the availability of plentiful stocks for not only war service homes but also homes for civilians. The price of the Government’s neglect means the loading of the cost of the home by £500.
– They will get better homes.
– Do not be foolish. One can have a castle if one can pay for it. The men who fought for their country cannot afford the rent even if they do get a better home. The Government must tackle the job in another way. It must meet the extra charges itself. In the Commonwealth-States housing agreements provision is made that the Commonwealth Government and the State Government shall share the difference between the present cost of a worker’s home and that charged before “the war. If the Commonwealth Government is prepared- to shoulder that liability on behalf of workers generally, it should be doubly prepared to shoulder it on behalf of returned men. It is entirely wrong that it should not do so. I ask the Minister to withdraw the bill and re-examine it with a view to ensuring that something better shall be proposed.
Since the outbreak of war scarcely 100 war service homes have been built in Australia. According to the latest information from New Zealand, which I have obtained from the Parliamentary Library, the Government of New Zealand has erected 5,692 homes for former exservice men and women of the New Zealand services at the cost of £8,049,121. How does the Minister ever hope to emulate that example when he will not provide materials? For too long this Government has tried to delude the people with pious hopes and the passage of legislation into believing that it will ensure production. The failure of speeches and legislation to produce the necessary coal will be matched by the failure of this legislation to produce war service homes, unless the recommendations of the Commonwealth Housing Commission are carried out. The Government has a sorry record of failure. The way it proposes to tackle the problem of constructing war service homes ensures failure before -it has begun. I hope that the bill will be withdrawn and reconsidered and that something .better will follow that reconsideration.
Mr. EDMONDS (Herbert) [11.0J.- I propose to direct the attention of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) to one important phase of this matter, and make a few observations regarding the speeches of members of the Opposition on this bill. Having listened to the remarks of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), I could easily be forgiven for believing that the Minister, after the bill has been passed, intends to throw it in the waste-paper basket, and not do anything to implement its provisions. The honorable member for Moreton almost raved as he asked whether the Minister had done certain things, and whether he would do others.
I shall not enter into the discussion that has arisen regarding the manner in which the previous government, and the present Government, treat the tenants of war service homes, other than to say that if honorable members opposite, who say that they have the interests of exservicemen at heart, were half as sincere as they claim to be, they would realize that ex-servicemen are entitled to something better than to be made a political football. They would not ride on the backs of ex-servicemen, who fought for this country, merely for the purpose of making political capital.
– Nonsense !
– I do not believe that any honorable member on that side of the chamber is prepared to ride on the backs of ex-servicemen to a greater degree than is the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White).
– The honorable member could have been a serviceman if he had only volunteered. Many honorable members on this side of the chamber are ex-servicemen.
– Let us clear up this matter.
– If the honorable member clears it up, he will understand why we, on this side of the chamber, stand by our comrades who are ex-servicemen.
– The honorable member for Balaclava, with his customary irresponsible ranting, has suggested that I could have been an ex-serviceman, had I volunteered. Recently, in this House, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) referred to the attitude of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) regarding ex-servicemen.
– That was quite different.
– The Minister for Repatriation was able to tell the honorable member for Richmond exactly what his position was, and the honorable member for Richmond had no other course than to apologize.
– The honorable member for Herbert cannot dispute the war record of the honorable member for Balaclava.
– The honorable member for Herbert was most offensive to me. He cannot get away from personalities.
– All this is irrelevant to the subject under discussion, except for the fact that the honorable member for Balaclava has made a statement which I shall not let him “ get away with “.
– What 1 said was in response to the honorable member’s offensive utterances.
– The honorable member said that had I volunteered, I might have been an ex-serviceman now.
– And the honorable member would then have been able to understand the attitude of the Opposition regarding ex-servicemen.
– The honorable member for Balaclava also said that I would then have “ stuck up “ for my comrades. I tell him that I did volunteer, and, in my pocket, I have a medical certificate which debarred me from taking my place in the armed forces. I throw that statement in the honorable member’s teeth. ‘
– All right! That does not worry me.
– The honorable member always, without exception, attempts to be smart at the expense of someone else and succeeds only in being stupid.
– The honorable member was very rude to ex-servicemen on this side of the chamber.
– Every exserviceman is entitled to the utmost respect, and the best that this country can give him. But he should not be used by the Opposition for the purposes of political propaganda.
– My speech did not contain any propaganda.
– If honorable members opposite do not get off the exservicemen’s backs, they will be bucked off.
– We have never been on the backs of ex-servicemen.
– Honorable members opposite are still on the backs of ex- servicemen, and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) is not the least in that respect.
– The honorable member for Herbert has traded on the unionists.
– I rise to order. The remarks of the honorable member for Herbert are offensive to me. When he makes such a wide general statement, Ikshould be compelled to withdraw it.
– The honorable member for Swan will have an opportunity to explain his attitude when he speaks on the bill.
– The honorable member for Herbert started this.
– I did not make a general statement.
– The honorable member did.
– I did not. The people who use ex-servicemen for political purposes should cease to do so.
– The honorable member is one of them who does so.
– He is doing so now.
– I am not. Had I been a serviceman, I should, upon my discharge, have taken my place in civil life without wanting anything from other exservicemen.
– Yes, because the honorable member would have traded on the unions.
– I return now to the bill, and I ask the Minister to direct his attention to one phase of it. Whatever may be the position in other parts of Australia, the only places in the electorate of Herbert where war service homes have been erected are the cities. It is true that in Mackay and Townsville, which are the big cities in northern Queensland, a considerable number of war service homes have been built, but for some reason, which, perhaps, may be sheer coincidence, because applications might not have been made, no war service homes have been constructed in towns like Proserpine, Home Hill, Ayr, Ingham, Tully, and Innisfail, which have populations ranging from 7,000 or 8,000 to 16,000 or 17,000.
– I do not know the reason, but whatever the explanation may he, it is too late to worry about it now. I ask the Minister to examine that aspect, and ensure that, in future, people in country districts shall be given proportionately the same opportunities as the people who enjoy all the amenities associated with life in the large cities, if the Minister will consider that aspect, lie will agree with me that people who live in the country are entitled to at least the same consideration as the people who live in the cities receive.
.- 1 have read this bill fairly carefully, but am not clear about some of its provisions.
– That is quite understandable.
– I am gratified that the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) is able to understand some things, because his speeches usually suggest that his mind is befogged.
-Order! 1 ask the honorable member to address his remarks to the bill.
– If honorable members opposite do not like sharp retorts they should not provoke them. The main thing regarding this bill is that, as soon as it is enacted, the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) should press on with the task of having homes built for ex-servicemen. I want him to tell the House whether the bill will provide him with sufficient power to carry out an adequate construction programme. If not, then he should amend it immediately and he will have my support. What is the good of ex-servicemen becoming married when they cannot obtain homes? I compliment the Minister on raising the permissible advance for applicants for war service homes from £1,250 to £1,750. Because of the way in which costs are soaring to-day there is not the slightest chance of building a decent house for a man and his family for £1,250. On this point, I want the Minister to clarify some doubts which I have. If a man has been granted an advance of £1,250 and has added some of his own money, perhaps to an amount of £300, will he be able to obtain a refund of that additional amount under the terms of this bill? I have in mind the case of a friend of mine. He entered into a contract to build a house for about £1,400. The War Service Homes Commission advanced £1,250, and he provided the additional £150. Soon after signing the contract he was asked to pay an additional sum of several hundred pounds. He did so. Will the Minister state whether this man will be able to take advantage of the increased permissible amount of £1,750 provided in this measure?
– He will bc able to make application for a further loan when the bill becomes law. Provided that he has an equity in the building he will be able to secure further financial assistance from the War Service Homes Commission.
– I appreciate the Minister’s assurance. I shall not discuss the bill in detail. The important thing is that houses must be built for exservicemen. If the Minister is satisfied that the bill will give him power to proceed with an adequate programme of construction I shall give my wholehearted support to it. However, if the Minister does not proceed with the job after the bill becomes law we on this side of the House shall have a great deal to say about the matter.
.- 1 rise to speak on this measure because the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) stated in his second-reading speech that over 20,000 applications for war service homes are outstanding. 1 am not sure of the number of applications pending in South Australia, but I have been informed that the number amounted to 7,000 recently. The situation created by this great demand for war service homes must be faced. For almost two years I have been advocating the mass production of war service homes in order to reduce the lag in construction. I first made this proposition to the previous Minister for Works and Housing, who was good enough to arrange for me an interview with the War Service Homes Commissioner. However, after two hours of discussion with the commissioner, I failed to convince him that my views about the construction of war service homes were correct. I am glad to learn now that the Minister proposes to adopt the scheme which I have advocated for so long. Some people contend that the mass construction of homes would not be satis: factory.. Experience in South Australia contradicts that view. Houses which have been mass produced for the South Australian Housing Trust are of firstclass quality. Sixty per cent, of the homes built under that scheme have been made available to ex-servicemen. Under the mass production system it is not necessary to build according to a single plan. Various plans have been used in the South Australian Housing Trust’s programme. Furthermore, I am sure that sufficient materials ‘are available to enable this project to be carried on.
I should like to be informed by the Minister whether any action has been taken to secure land for the construction of war service homes in South Australia. The South Australian Housing Trust has been very active in obtaining land and has acquired many large areas. Plenty of suitable land is available in South Australia, and I am anxious to know whether the War Service Homes Commission has been active in this regard. During the parliamentary recess at Easter, the Premier of South Australia confirmed a statement that he had made to me six months earlier that he was prepared to allot to the War Service Homes Commission in that State SO No. 1 building priorities. I wast to know what the commission has done about those priorities. If they have been allocated to the commission, why are parents of ex-servicemen continually asking me to secure contracts for the building of homes for their sons? Ex-servicemen have also told me that they cannot secure acceptance of their tenders, and that many of them have failed to obtain price quotations when they have called for tenders. I have had considerable experience in the building trade, and these facts indicate to me that there is something seriously wrong with the war service homes programme in South Australia. In order to ascertain the cause of the trouble I have interviewed several builders. They have informed me that the percentage of payments made to them by the War Service Homes Commission is not as high as that made available by private architects and by banks. The War Service Homes Commission pays 75 per cent, on construction, subject to a marginal reduction, which provides the builder with about half of the amount that he has expended. Under private contracts, builders always receive payment of a percentage of the cost of the materials oh the job. The War Service Homes Commission does not make any payment to builders for materials on the site. If a builder has five or six houses under construction for the commission, he is therefore required to bear a huge load of expense. I hope that the Minister will also pay attention to the designs of homes built under mass production methods. I do not expect to see a group of 50 or 60 houses built according to a common plan. I have submitted to the Minister four different plans which would be suitable for war service homes. Houses could be built according to these plans at a cost of between £1,000 and £1,200. This bill provides for a cost of £1,750. I consider that we need not worry about building homes at that price for the average “digger”. The War Service Homes Commission should be able to supply houses suitable to the needs of the average good Australian for much less than that amount. I hope that the Minister will investigate anomalies in relation to the construction of war service homes in South Australia. He would be well advised to communicate with the. State authorities. I am sure that they could supply him with the names of competent builders who would undertake the construction of war service homes of the same standard as those which have been erected on behalf of the South Australian Housing Trust. There is something wrong when ex-servicemen complain that they cannot get any one to tender for a job. Something should be done to enable these men to receive their entitlementsI consider that the provision of steel frames in war service homes is obsolete and useless. Only one type of window frame is of any use, and that is a box frame. I have no time for steel frames or patent windows.
Ample land is available near Adelaide for the erection of houses- for exservicemen, and I want to know from the Minister what he has done in this regard.
Furthermore, 1 ask that he be most careful in selecting the types of houses to be constructed, because I do not want only one type erected. The Minister for Works- and Housing was in Adelaide during the recent recess and I took him to Colonel Light Gardens, where a former South Australian Labour government had erected 1,-000 homes. Practically every one of those houses was different from the others, and I think that the Minister was impressed. What has been done by a State Labour Government can be done by the Commonwealth Government, and it is only a matter of accepting the advice of experts. The present shortage of houses constitutes almost a national emergency. When the Minister comes to deal with the matter he may find that be encounters a solid wall of resistance; but if I were in his position I should soon get rid of the resistance.
I favour the construction of different types of houses, and about 49 sets of different specifications are available for selection. I have written to the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) giving specifications adequate for a home that any ex-serviceman might reasonably acquire, and those specifications are those embodied in my own home.
I believe that sufficient - homes can be erected, and I confidently look to the Minister to deal with this problem sympathetically. - I understand the building industry and I know what I am talking about. Indeed, sometimes I think that we might do a greater national service if, instead of being in Parliament, we were building homes. I am not seeking publicity in making this appeal to the Minister; I have submitted to the Minister and to his .predecessor a definite plan, but I cannot go on making further pleas to the Minister.
– I should not have risen but for some misstatements made by honorable members opposite. I listened with great attention to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who made a most reasoned and temperate speech. He made some valuable suggestions - suggestions equally as valuable as those advanced by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr.
Sheehy), who, I am pleased to note, takes a realistic View of this problem and regards it as one which the Government must solve. As a practical man he realizes that there is a big problem, and. from the Government’s own ranks he delivers this indictment of its policy. The honorable member for Boothby said that he cannot continue raising the matter and that something must be done. That is one of the strongest indictments of the’ Government that could be possibly made, and, as I say, it comes from one of the Government’s own supporters. Where does the poppy-cock of the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) and the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) get us? The honorable member for Lang made a most ill-considered statement in this House with regard to the number of evictions that took place when the Lyons Government waa in- office. That has been answered by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), who cited the fact that the honorable member himself, when he asked a question, received the answer that there was only one eviction. One would have thought that the honorable member for Lang was in complete accord with the Government’s policy in regard to war service homes, and one would never have imagined that he would have criticized the Government’s policy in this regard. But let us look at what the honorable member for Lang said on the 13th March, 1946, which is reported at page 239 of Hansard. He said -
Those are the questions asked by the honorable member who made such a violent attack on the honorable member for Balaclava for having criticized the Government along lines identical with the questions asked by the honorable member for Lang. I am disgusted with the hypocrisy of the honorable member for Lang, who sits in his place and gibes at honorable members on this side of the House, when he had not the courage to stand on his feet and utter the criticism of the Government which he implied in the questions I have read. He took the coward’s way out under cover of privilege at question time, hoping that his questions would appear on the notice-paper, and that he would then be able to flaunt the fact that he had made a plea for ex-servicemen in his electorate. He is not game to stand on his feet and say to the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) in all seriousness that this is a problem which must be solved, one which has been accentuated by shortage of supplies during the long period of war, and one on which the new Minister has to make a standing start. That the Government knows that the problem is serious is proved by the powers that are being taken under this bill. What then is gained by the hypocrisy of the honorable member for Lang ? Why has he not been man enough to make his statements openly instead of under cover of a question without notice? The honorable member for Moreton, who was so maligned by the honorable member for Lang, is reported at page 240 of the same Hansard as having asked these questions -
How many applications have been received in each State and in Canberra by the War Service Homes Commission since the 1st July, 1944?
I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that that question relates to a period during which the parties which now sit in Opposition did not occupy the treasury bench. Other questions were -
How many homes have been approved and erected since that date in each State and in Canberra?
How many applications, have been refused in each State and in Canberra since that date,?
The answers, given to those questions furnish a reason for the later submission of questions upon notice by the honorable member for Lang, and the plea to-night by the honorable member for Boothby that the Government should treat the matter seriously. They were that from the 1st July, 1944, to the 30th June, 1945, there was a total of 3,529 applications for war service homes, and from the 1st July, 1945, to the 28th February, 1946, there were 8,464 applications, a total of almost 12,000. How many homes were built? The answer given by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), who was the then Minister for Works and Housing, was that 48 homes were purchased in the Commonwealth, 86 mortgages were discharged, 69 homes were erected, and the homes under construction at the 28th February, 1946, numbered 132. Yet there were 12,000 applications during that period! Is not the problem a real one? Of course it ia! In the honorable member for Boothby and the honorable member for Lang there are two different personalities, the one being actuated by honesty of purpose and the other being too cowardly to make his statements openly in this House.
Then there is the honorable member for Herbert, who, in the fashion usually adopted by Government supporters, accused honorable members of the Opposition of “ riding on the backs of exservicemen “. As an organizer of the Australian Workers Union that honorable member has “ ridden on the backs of trade unionists “ and possibly retained hi, position only because he created disaffection in the ranks of unionists. Yet he has the temerity to accuse honorable members on this side of the House of “ riding on the backs of ex-servicemen “.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Wentworth has said that I retained my position only because I created disaffection among the workers:
– There is no point of order. If the honorable gentleman wishes to make a personal explanation he may do so later.
– Not one clay’s work has been lost in any district in which I have operated as a union official. I object to the statement of the honorable member, and ask that he be made to withdraw it and apologize.
– If the statement that the honorable member for Herbert created disaffection is offensive to him, the honorable member for Wentworth should withdraw it. I ask him to do so.
– If the statement is personally offensive to the honorable member I have no hesitation in withdrawing it. I was speaking in general terms. The honorable member has not correctly repeated what I said, which was that no doubt he had retained his position. We know that at the present time other union organizers and leaders of trade unions are retaining their positions only by “riding on the hacks” of trade unionists. It ill becomes any honorable member to cast aspersions on statements that are made in support of a bill of this character, and to attempt to gain an unfair party political advantage. The criticisms that were voiced by Opposition members must have affected the honorable member for Boothby, because he later criticized the Government much more forcefully and in much stronger terms than any honorable member on this side of the House attempted to employ. Having exposed the hypocrisy of the honorable member for Lang in having attacked honorable members on this side of the House who criticized the bill in a reasonable manner, and having raised the tone of the debate to the high level which had previously characterized it, I leave the matter to the judgment of the House.
.- 1 was a member of this House when the War Service Homes Act 1918 was passed. I remember the first Minister who undertook the very onerous task of administering that legislation. I do not wish to terrify the present Minister (Mr. Lemmon), who is a young man and a very good Minister, by mentioning that it was freely stated at that time that the late Senator E. D. Millen was undertaking a task which would cause his premature demise. As a matter of fact, - the honorable senator passed out of political life very shortly afterward*. The alteration effected by the measure which commends itself to me as being of the utmost importance arises from certain questions which I addressed to the Minister for Works and Housing, who intimated in reply that he proposed to introduce legislation dealing with the subject of my questions, but that, in the meantime, the State Governments controlled in the last resort the land upon which, war service homes might be erected. I accepted that reply, and on that basis I took up a matter of a housing problem with him; and he assiduously attended to the matter and was able to obtain, if not a solution, at least some mitigation of the problem which was exercising my mind. The real problem which this measure resolves is that it enables the Minister to requisition materials for the construction of war service homes. I believe that that provision goes far enough for that purpose. I shall deal with that particular clause al. the committee stage. However, it certainly enables the Minister, upon giving notice in sufficient form to the holder of materials, to obtain such materials for the erection of homes. 1 am not so sensitive as is the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) on the matter of the type of house required. I support that provision, and, bearing it in mind, I welcome the bill. I hope and believe that the bill will be conscientiously administered, and will satisfy all requirements for the erection of war service homes. Ninety-nine per cent, of honorable members are agreed that homes should be provided for ex-servicemen ; and it is now too late to set out any point against that. I entertain no doubts upon that score. I wish the bill success, and I am happy at its introduction because of that provision which enables the Minister to requisition materials for the erection of homes. The Minister for Repatriation in 1918 originally administered the act, and very successfully and courageously carried out his duties. I hope that the present Minister will succeed in obtaining the necessary materials, and that he will incorporate them in houses suitable for the requirements of servicemen, who naturally and necessarily require them;
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hamilton) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
The following paper was presented: -
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No.59.
House adjourned at 11.52 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : –
The aircraft covered by the expenditure at (i) were entirely those (Mustangs, Mosquitos, Lincolns, Beaufighters, Wirraways) manufactured under local contracts current at the end of hostilities and delivered since 1st September. 1945.
The statistics in relation to prosecutions insofar as the Air Force is concerned are as follows: -
r asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are a> follows : -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
Food Control: Shortage of Supplies in Queensland.
n. - On the 30th April the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked me questions regarding the supply of eggs, potatoes and matches in Queensland. I have had the matter examined and am advised that the Australian Potato Committee’s figures show that distribution of potatoes in Queensland for the four weeks ended the 19th April, 1947, averaged 3 lb. 4 oz. per head, and for the week ending the 19th April, 2¾ lb. per head. This represents an adequate supply. Eggs are subject to variations in supply, and the present period is one in which supplies are subject to seasonal recession. Matches are not now under any government control. Messrs. Bryant and May state that it has not been possible over a considerable period to keep Queensland orders up to date. This position is due partly to a general shortage of matches and partly to lack of shipping opportunities. The transport difficulty was overcome by the use of rail freight, the Commonwealth meeting the difference in cost between sea and rail freight. Bryant and May advise that recent consignments forwarded by rail and sea have appreciably improved the Queensland match supply position.
Water Conservation : Transportof Piping.
y. - On the9th May, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) asked a question in which he stated that he had received complaints from farmers regarding their inability to obtain galvanized piping. The honorable member stated that in response to these complaints he had made inquiries through the executive of a major pipemanufacturing company at Newcastle who advised that hundreds of thousands of tons of pipes were lying at sidings at Newcastle through lack of transport.I have had this matter investigated and understand that the latest advice is to the effect that there are at present 4,424 tons of galvanized water piping awaiting shipment to the various States at Newcastle. Clearances of galvanized water piping since the 1st May, 1947, amounted to 3,277 tons. The quantity awaiting shipment at that date amounted to 7,701 tons. However, advice has been received from the Australian Shipping Board to the effect that sufficient shipping space has been made available to lift the whole of the accumulations at Port Kembla and Newcastle and it is anticipated that this will be effected at a very early date.
y. - On the 21st May, the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) asked a question relating to the treatment of venereal diseases. The Minister for Health has now supplied the following additional information: -
Heretofore, with the exception of the war period, the control of venereal disease has been within State jurisdiction and the Commonwealth has assisted with financial subsidies to the States. As a result of the referendumof the 28th September, 1946, the Commonwealth has powers, among others, for the provision of medical services. At the recent conference of Ministers for Health of the Commonwealth and States on the 19th May, 1947, a resolution was carried to the effect that during the immediate post-war period the Commonwealth will develop its own central authority, and in respect of hospitals hand over authority to the States, providing general policy and funds. As the medical services are initiated and ex pand, consideration will bo given to the rela tive merits of compulsory and voluntary notifications of venereal disease in the objective of eliminating this disease.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 May 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470528_reps_18_192/>.