18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Nationalization : Petitions ; Mail Matter
Petitions in relation to banking in Australia were presented as follows: -
By Mr. ABBOTT, from certain elec- tors of the division of New England.
By Mr. HAMILTON, from certain electors of Western Australia.
By Mr. McBRIDE, from certain electors of the division of Wakefield.
By Mr. BLAIN, from certain residents ofthe Northern Territory.
By Mr. FRANCIS, from certain electors of the division of Moreton.
By Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON, from certain residents of Mount Barker, South Australia.
Petitions received and read.
– Last week, I received a letter from an elderly lady, a constituent of mine, who was left some shares in one of the commercialbanks, asking my advice as to what she should do with them. The letter stated that she was not anxious to sell them, in view of the Prime Minister’s declaration regarding the willingness of the Government to purchase shares. The lady asked whether there was any way to protect the assets of shareholders in view of the enormous expenditure by privatebanks of reserve funds which, after all, are the assets of shareholders. She further asks whether the Government will freeze the reserve funds of the banks in order to protect the interests of the shareholders. Will the Prime Minister make a statement on the matter?
– The advice whichI proffer to the honorable member to convey to the lady who has written to him is that she should hold on to her shares, and she will be fully protected by the banking legislation to the full value represented by those shares.
– I have received a letter from the manager of a private bank enclosing a circular which he received from the general manager of his bank. That circular states -
The pressure which has been brought to bear on the politicians by the public should be continued without any relaxation during the next few critical weeks. Indeed, itshould be increased if at all possible, especially during the second-reading of the bill. At that stage public clamour, if insistent enough, might prevail on some Government members to support amendments to our advantage moved by the Opposition.
In view of the fact that the “ spontaneous “ public protests will “ spontaneously “ increase within the next fortnight, can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform me whether some relief can be afforded to the staff at the post office in Parliament House, and whether instructions can be issued to the staff to separate ordinary telegrams from constituents from the flood of “ spontaneous “ protests ?
– I shall bring the matter to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral, who is, I think, already aware of the degree of “ spontaneity “ associated with the protests mentioned, and I think that he will take adequate steps to safeguard the genuine interests of members of the public who write to members of Parliament, so that the business of the nation will not be obstructed by a flood of “ spontaneous “ protests, so “ spontaneously “ conceived as to arrive at a “spontaneously” arranged date.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
Fab Eastern Exchange Proprietary Limited
– On the 26th September I asked the Prime Minister a series of questions relating to the transfer of an import licence to the Far Eastern Exchange Proprietary Limited, and I pointed out that two departments were involved in the transaction. As the estimates for the Treasury are now before the Parliament, I ask the. Prime Minister when I may expect an answer to my questions?
– The Minister concerned is preparing a comprehensive answer. I will have the matter expedited so that the honorable member may receive the reply as soon as possible.
– When may I expect a statement of the financial operations of Trans-Australia Airlines which the Prime Minister promised a fortnight ago to supply to me?
– I promised to let the right honorable gentleman have particulars of the balance-sheet of TransAustralia Airlines as soon as possible. Trans-Australia Airlines has just completed its first twelve months of operations, and I should imagine the right honorable gentleman from his knowledge of accountancy would know that some time would elapse before the accounts for that period could be audited and properly presented.
– A review of TransAustralia Airlines’ operations appeared in this morning’s press.
– I do not know anything about that. I assure the right honorable gentleman that there will be no delay in having the accounts prepared. As soon as the balance-sheet and report are available the Minister for Air will present them to the House.
Stabilization Scheme - Cornsacks
– Did the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers that it was intended to place an upper limit upon the amount of money which would be retained inthe Wheat Stabilization Fund? If so, what is the limit suggested? Is. it anticipated that this arrangement will enable the Government, after the next harvest, to make a distribution to wheatgrowers from funds derived from past crops? If so, has the Minister any figure in mind? Is it a fact that the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers indicated continued agreement with the principles of stabilization ?
– I did indicate to the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers that the Government proposed to investigate the possibility of fixing an upper limit, and distributing funds in excess of that limit in respect of wheat supplied to preceding pools. The figure I indicated was £15,000,000. The stabilization fund this year will be, approximately, £11,000,000 and should present prices continue for the incoming crop, and the yield anticipated be realized, there should be, when the 1947-48 crop is marketed, approximately £20,000,000 in the fund. That would mean that if a limit be fixed at £15,000,000 and the Government’s suggestion be adopted, a sum of £5,000,000 would become available for distribution in respect of wheat supplied to the 1945-46 pools. Investigations into the feasibility of such a plan are continuing and I hope that an announcement will be made in regard to it at an early date. The Premiers Conference indicated its approval of a stabilization plan and carried unanimously a resolution approving of the Common.wealth continuing to handle the incoming crop under the regulations embodied in the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen a statement by the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales, Mr. Graham, that there were 20,282 bales of bags in New South Wales, and 11,000 bales of bags in transit from India? That number of bags is sufficient for 28,153,000 bushels of wheat. Mr. Graham was reported to have said that the estimated wheat yield in New South Wales was 80,000,000 bushels. Is the Minister also aware that in the north-west of that State,’ where the estimated yield was at least 30 bushels to the acre, only five bags to the acre had been allotted to farmers? That is enough bags for fifteen bushels of wheat per acre? In view of the grave alarm among farmers at the shortage of bags, will the Minister announce the exact position regarding cornsacks in Australia, the number in transit from India and the number ordered but not yet shipped ? What steps does the Government propose to take to put the position in order, so that wheat shall not be allowed to rot in the paddocks because of the lack of cornsacks?
– I have not seen in the press the statement by the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales, but the Australian Wheat Board has assured me that it will have sufficient bags in hand to cope with the bountiful harvest that is in prospect. The honorable member has a false conception of the situation regarding the allocation of five bags to the acre. The Australian Wheat Board estimated that there would be a certain yield in New South Wales and, having regard to that estimate, decided to supply bags in New South Wales at the rate of five to the acre in the initial stages of the season.
– That is civil servants work.
– I remind the honorable member that a preponderance of members of the board are wheat-growers who were elected by wheat-growers. They have the matter in their own hands and they have managed almost entirely-
– Has the Minister consulted them about the contract with the United Kingdom?
– You shut up !
– Order ! If the honorable member for Indi does not cease interjecting while other members’ questions are being answered, I shall ask him to withdraw from the House.
– I was saying that the arranging of supplies of cornsacks for the Australian wheat crop had been done entirely by the grower-elected Australian Wheat Board, with the single exception that the Commonwealth Government, in order to assist the board, had negotiated direct with the Indian Government and had sent representatives to India. The board is fully appreciative of the measure of success that this action achieved. The allocation of five bags per acre, which the honorable member said had been made only for the northern part of New South Wales, applies to the whole of New South Wales. I also inform the honorable member that five bags per acre will probably exceed requirements at silo handling stations with the result that a greater number of bags will be available at other stations.
– And reserves will be built up.
– Yes. I shall endeavour to obtain for the honorable member figures showing the actual number of bags on hand, the number of bags in transit, and the number expected to reach Australia at an early date. I warn honorable members who interject when they find that answers to questions which they have asked are not to their liking that they may expect retaliation from me, at any rate.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House what were the qualifications, technical or otherwise, of the honorable member for Martin for the following important assignments which he claims to have carried out on behalf of the Government: - (a)Representative of the Government at the International Transport Conference ; (b)Representative at the International Coal Conference;
Was the Prime Minister aware that the honorable member for Martin had been engaged on all, or any, of these assignments prior to his return to Australia?
– The qualifications of the honorable member for Martin to carry out investigations on behalf of the Government are the very high order of intelligence possessed by the honorable gentleman and the fact that he is a very studious and earnest young man who is most anxious to be fully informed and to inform, himself as to all aspects of industry that might affect the economic welfare of this country. Capacity, willingness to learn and a high order of ability are qualifications required of men who have occupied the highest positions in the world. He was selected by the Parliamentary Labour party for the task to which he was originally assigned, and the Government took the opportunity of his presence in. other countries to avail itself of his energy and- enthusiasm and requested him to examine the matters to which, the honorable member has referred. L was fully informed of his activities. The ability of the honorable member for Martin has been endorsed not only by the party of which he is a member but also by the electors of the division of Martin.
– To enable Tasmanian poultry-farmers to compete with mainland egg producers, and to save Tasmanian mills from carrying the increased freight charge on imported wheat, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture investigate the possibility of removing the present subsidy on imported flour, and subsidizing the freight on wheat instead?
– I understand that the Government is at present paying the freight difference on stock feed wheat shipped to Tasmania, so I do not see how the question of removing the flour subsidy can arise. I believe that Tasmanian poultry-farmers are so efficient, and Tasmanian natural conditions so favorable to poultry farming, that there should be no real difficulty in competing with mainland farmers.
– Has the Prime Minister read of President Truman’s appeal to the American people to go without meat on Tuesdays, and poultry and eggs on Thursdays, and to assist voluntarily the campaign to conserve 100,000,000 bushels of grain to send to Europe in the coming winter? In view of the serious plight of the people of Great Britain and starving Europe, will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to the early launching of a comparable scheme on a nation-wide basis in Australia ?
– I have seen newspaper reports containing excerpts from President Truman’s statement. I remind the honorable member that Australia is one of the few countries that have continued war-time rationing restrictions to assist the United Kingdom. Some time ago restaurant and hotel proprietors in this country made ian offer to observe a meatless day each week to facilitate the export of greater quantities of meat to Great Britain, but it was found that a small number of disreputable cafes and hotels, whilst making a great fuss about what they were doing to assist the United Kingdom, were continuing to demand as much meat as before. We then arranged through the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Rationing Commission to reduce the ration of this commodity by one-seventh. Consequently, action has already been taken to reduce the quantity of meat that restaurants and other public eating houses use. However, there is no aspect of this matter that the Government is not prepared to examine, and I repeat that Australia has maintained the war-time scale of rationing of butter and meat for the purpose of assisting the United Kingdom.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that the Taxation Department allows tax rebates in respect of contributions to hospital and medical, funds which are paid quarterly through friendly societies. If so, why is not the same concession granted to members of industrial organizations who have contributions of a similar nature deducted fortnightly from their earnings?
– The act provides for the granting of rebates such as the honorable member mentioned in the first portion of his question. I do not know the exact nature of the funds which the honorable member had in mind when he asked the latter portion of his question. In regard to hospital contribution schemes, the amount contributed to the scheme by the individual does not earn a tax rebate. However, financial benefits obtained as the result of such contributions are not regarded as income. The suggestion has been made that tax rebates should be made in respect of contributions to hospital funds, but that no account should be taken of benefits received by the contributors. The request has been considered on a number of occasions, but it has been rejected on the ground that it is not fair that taxpayers should “ have it both ways “. However, if the honorable member will submit a list of the institutions whose members are being unfairly affected by the Government’s policy I shall make a further examination of the position in regard to them.
– Last week the Prime
Minister was good enough to arrange for me to introduce as a deputation Mr. Morris, the president of theRats of Tobruk Association. We had a lengthy discussion with the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Interior, and the Prime Minister undertook to submit to Cabinet this week certain representations made by Mr. Morris on behalf of the “Rats of Tobruk” with which theReturned Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and other interested organizations were in agreement. Those recommendations included, in particular, that General Sir Leslie Morshead should unveil the memorial, and that extra representatives from each State of former “Rats of Tobruk” be included in the delegation to visit the Middle East. Has the Prime Minister yet made a recommendation to Cabinet, and, if so, what was Cabinet’s decision? If the Prime Minister has not yet made such a recommendation, will he undertake to notify me when he has done so?
– Because the matter which the honorable member for Moreton and Mr. Morris wished to discuss is one which comes within the ambit of the Minister for the Interior, I arranged that my colleague should be present at the interview. The Minister made the position quite clear. He informed the deputation that the matter had been discussed at a Cabinet meeting and had been referred by Cabinet to an appropriate committee. He now informs me that he will probably be able to present the report and recom-. mendation of the committee to the next Cabinet meeting to be held on the 20th October.
– With the Australian guaranteed price for oats at 3s. 3d. a bushel at sidings, and milling oats selling at approximately 4s. 4d. a bushel, Spencer-street, Melbourne, in contrast with the export price of oats, estimated to be approximately 10s. a bushel at ports, and in the light of the expectation of a record crop, the issue of export permits in relation to this product has become a matter that is of vital importance to the industry. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give earnest consideration to the proposition that no export licences shall be granted to individuals or trading companies, that the oat crop surplus shall be exported by a grower-controlled marketing authority, and that profits from overseas sales shall be distributed to growers ?
– The honorable member is well aware that this Government stands for organizations of growers marketing the products of their members. Unfortunately, with the passing of wartime powers, it is most difficult to organize a Commonwealth marketing pool for oats. I am whole-heartedly in favour of such a pool. As a matter of fact, I now have my officers working on a plan with a view to determining whether, even despite constitutional difficulties, some method may be evolved which will help the oat-growers of Australia. The honorable gentleman has asked me whether it would be possible to discriminate in favour of a growers’ pool if one were organized, possibly independently of government statutory support, in relation to exports; in other words, whether it would be possible to withhold an export permit from a firm, which may be composed of ex-servicemen, or from a grower who wished to export personally, and to say to a growers’ pool, “You may export your oats, and thus obtain the very high export price”. I suggest to the honorable member that if the Government did that there would be a hue and cry throughout the land about discrimination against citizens of this country.
– What does the Government propose to do ?
– I have already told the honorable member that the Government is investigating means for helping the oat-growers. That there cannot be an Australia-wide pool is due very largely to the fact that the party to which he belongs advised the people of this country, when the last referendum proposals were submitted to them, to vote against the proposal in relation to the orderly marketing of primary products.
Mr.SHEEHAN.- I ask the Prime Minister whether the Public Service Board is advertising for male clerks whose ages range between 21 and 35 years. Has the response been very poor? If it has, will the right honorable gentleman consider raising the age limit beyond 35 years ?
– Usually, all positions in the Public Service which require to be filled are advertised by the Public Service Board, which, under all governments, has a great deal of discretionary power in the selection of individuals for the performance of particular work. I have no knowledge of the advertisement to which the honorable member has referred ; consequently, I cannot tell him, at the moment, what the response to it has been. I shall obtain that information, and let him have it. I shall also discuss with the chairman of the Public Service Board the raising of the age limit, should the response to the call for applications have been poor.
– Would the Prime Minister accept an invitation, if one were issued to him from the Swan Reach regatta committee, in my electorate, to attend a regatta that is to be held on the 27th December next? The committee has asked me to endeavour to secure the attendance of the right honorable gentleman, or of his deputy, the Minister for External Affairs. The committee would undertake to ensure a good view of the sports, and a pleasant trip on the river, in view of the intention of those right honorable gentlemen to nationalize the banking system in Australia. Can the right honorable gentleman assure me that he would accept such an invitation, accepting my assurance that he would have safe conduct there and back?’
– I am not sure that question time is an appropriate occasion for the issuing of invitations, but if the Prime Minister chooses to answer the question he may do so.
– I express my thanks for the courtesy that has been extended to me by the honorable member for Barker, and for his deep concern that I should have some social relaxation.I am not cognizant of any invitation of the character he has mentioned having been issued to me. Naturally, because the date is so far distant it wouldbe difficult, if not impossible, for me to determine whether I would accept such a kind invitation ; but, as the honorable gentleman has been so courteous, I undertake to consider his request.
Cream - Advisory Committee on Production Costs.
– -Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me what is the position regarding the sale of cream in Australia to-day? Is it banned so that more butter may be sent to Great Britain or is it not? Does the Minister know that cream is bought and sold freely and openly throughout the country? Will the honorable gentleman attempt to stabilize the position as soon as possible, as certain small business men, who wish to observe the ban, are penalized, in some instances to the extent of £100 a week, for their attitude ? These men fear that they could be forced out of business if the present position continues.
– The Government has banned the sale of cream in Australia for any purpose other than the manufacture of butter. It has come to my notice that some people are not observing this ban, but difficulty is experienced in adequately policing it. At the inception of the prohibition, steps were taken to organize an inspectorial staff to deal with persons who did. not comply with the requirements of the regulations, and at an early date prosecutions will be launched against those who ignore the ban. The evasions which are taking place in regard to the sale of cream illustrate only too well the difficulty of getting the Australian people - not only the sellers but also the consumers of cream - to observe the prohibition as they should, and as they would if they really desired to help the hard pressed people of Great Britain. Frequently in this House and outside it a howl is raised, mostly by members of the Opposition, against the number of public servants employed in Australia. I remind those critics that we cannot police a ban such as the prohibition of the sale of cream, and deal with the people who ignore it, unless we have adequate, well-trained staffs. I hope that honorable members will take that factor into consideration when they criticize the number of persons employed in the Public Service.
– Has the Minister foi” Commerce and Agriculture yet received the report of the advisory committee on production costs in the dairying industry? If he has, when are we likely to be told the result of the Government’s consideration of it? As a 40-hour week is already in operation in New South Wales, has been legislated for in the Queensland Parliament, and will become applicable throughout Australia on the 1st January in respect of those whose wages and conditions are subject to awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, in consequence of the decision of that tribunal, has the Minister given any consideration to the extra cost which the dairying industry inevitably will be required to bear on that account?
Has an inquiry been commenced with a view to enabling that additional cost to be met?
– I have not yet received the report. When I receive it, Cabinet will consider it, and in due course a statement will be made in respect of the recommendations which it makes and the Government’s decisions thereon. The Government has under consideration the increased cost consequent upon the operation of the 40-hour week, and I am sure that that matter also will be dealt with in due course.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister, in his capacity as minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs, been directed to the report that Australia is one of the countries whose views will be sought in regard to the future control of the former Italian colonies in Africa? Has the Australian Government any views on the matter? If it has, what form of control does it intend to propose shall be imposed? Has the right honorable gentleman noted Russia’s interest in that region ?
– I have not seen the newspaper report mentioned by the honorable gentleman. The disposal of former Italian colonies was discussed at the conference of Prime Ministers which I attended in London last year. The views which the Minister for External Affairs and I believed were held by the Australian Government were communicated, on behalf of that Government, to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the other Prime Ministers who attended the conference. If the honorable member desires a full reply; I shall endeavour to make one as early as possible. That may not be possible for a few days.
– As the people of Western Australia are suffering great hardship and inconvenience as the result of tally clerks declaring “ black “ all cargoes to and from that State, can the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether the Government has taken any action to have such cargoes “ white-washed “ ? If not, will he inform the House whether any action to settle the dispute is contemplated?
– I shall discuss the matter referred to by the honorable member with the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and let the honorable member have a reply later.
Proclamation - Wage Pegging
– Can the Prime Minister say when action will be taken to proclaim the Arbitration Act passed by the Parliament during the last sessional period, and can he say from what date the new act will operate? Further, can he say when it is proposed to proclaim the Stevedoring Industry Commission Act? Has the Commonwealth Government taken any action to modify further the wage-pegging regulations, and, if so, will the right honorable gentleman inform the Housewhat modifications have been made, and what controls by way of wage-pegging, if any, will be retained ?
– The Arbitration Act will be proclaimed either to-day or to-morrow, but it is not intended to proclaim the Stevedoring Industry Commission Act for four or five weeks. Certain modifications of wage-pegging regulations were approved to-day, and a statement on the subject will be made shortly. I shall supply the honorable member for Fawkner with a copy of a statement which will be made available to the press to-morrow.
– In view of the extreme shortage of cotton and cotton goods, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicate what action has been taken by the Government to encourage the expansion of the cottongrowing industry? As the present price has not resulted in a satisfactory increase of the quantity of cotton grown in Australia, can the Minister say whether the Government has considered the possibility of paying an increased price? If not, will immediate consideration be given to that aspect of the subject, as the planting season has commenced?
– Up to the present, the Government has considered that the price paid for cotton grown in Australia is adequate. It is true that the industry is in need of stimulus, but the responsibility for its expansion must be shared jointly by the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments. I shall be glad to make inquiries, with a view to deciding whether anything further can be done by the Commonwealth Government to assist the industry.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether the Australian Apple and Pear Board authorized by legislation passed by the Parliament this year has yet been appointed? If not, will the board be appointed ?
– Machinery for setting up the authority provided for in recent legislation is ready but, so far, the board has not been established.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to approve the Treaty of Peace with Italy, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is introduced to enable the Parliament to approve the treaty of peace with Italy and to give to the Government power to do “ all such things as are necessary and expedient for carrying out and giving effect to the treaty on the part of Australia”. Four other bills dealing with the treaties with Roumania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Finland are cognate.I propose, therefore, Mr. Speaker, with the permission of the House, to refer to them as well.
– When a number of cognate bills are before the House it is usual to discuss them together, although each measure is voted on separately. Is the House agreeable to that procedure being followed on this occasion?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– The five treaties, which were signed in Paris on the 10th February of this year, have been ratified by the Governments of the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France arid the Soviet Union. “With the deposit of the ratifications of these four powers in respect of the treaties to which they were signatories, on the lath September, the treaties came into force. However, the treaties came into force only in respect of each Allied or associated power whose instrument of ratification is deposited later, upon the date of deposit of such ratification. They do not, therefore, come into force in respect of Australia until such time as the Australian ratification is deposited. Of the remaining Allied and associated powers, Canada, India and Yugoslavia deposited instruments of ratification on the 19th August. AH five ex-enemy States have ratified the respective treaties.
The treaties are being submitted for approval of the Parliament in accordance with the wish of the Government as expressed by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) in this House on the 26th February last. As the Minister stated on that occasion, careful consideration was given to the treaties before their signing on behalf of Australia was authorized by the Government. In many respects, the treaties were believed to be inadequate and imperfect. From the point of view of Australia’s long-term interests, they could not be regarded as adequate to ensure a just and durable over-all peace. Indeed many problems, particularly those connected with reparations, were solved on the basis of expediency, and without regard to basic principles or to the effect of the solutions on Europe as a whole. A number of proposals designed to eliminate the weaknesses which were apparent in the treaties in the drafting stage were submitted by the Australian delegation to the Paris peace conference, but, because of the limitations on the powers of that conference, these proposals were at no time considered on their merits.
The procedure adopted in preparing the treaties was also unsatisfactory. It denied to the nations which took an active part in the war a full and just share in the framing of the peace. The drafts before the Paris conference had been prepared exclusively by the Council of Foreign Ministers, and, after the conference, its recommendations were subject to final review, and even alteration, by the Council of Foreign Ministers. In many respects, therefore, the treaties do not represent the democratically expressed wishes and ideals of all the belligerent nations.
In spite of these shortcomings, the Government felt that the treaties at least adequately safeguarded Australia’s shortterm interests, and that their operation would be an important step in the restoration of normal conditions in Europe. In addition, it was clear that there were no practical means by which more satisfactory treaties could be secured. In those circumstances, the Government decided to authorize the signing of the treaties on behalf of Australia.
Both the Australian proposals at the Paris conference, and the substantial issues of the treaties themselves, have been put before the House by the Minister for External Affairs in November, 1 946, and again in February of this year. On the latter occasion, the Minister tabled a summary of the Australian proposal at the Paris conference, a table showing the results of the final review by the Council of Foreign Ministers of the major recommendations of the conference, and summaries of the provisions of the treaty with Italy affecting Australia and of the main provisions of the treaties with Roumania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Finland. As in the case of the Treaty of Peace Bill of 1919, the full texts of the treaties have not been reproduced as a schedule to the present bill. A copy of the treaties has been laid on the table of the House, and further copies are available in the Parliamentary Library. The full texts will shortly be printed in the Australian Conference series. Since there were full opportunities for discussion of the substance of the treaties during the debates on international affairs in this House to which I have referred, there is only one question I shall raise before, turning to the second purpose of the Treaty of Peace bills.
I wish to make it clear that ratification of the treaties in no sense implies condonation by the Government of certain events which have taken place in Bulgaria and Roumania recently. The Government is concerned at reports of denial of fundamental human rights, including suppression of opposition newspapers, arrests without trial and other undemocratic actions. The execution by the Bulgarian Government of the opposition leader, M. Petkov, is but one example, and the Government is in agreement with the action of the United Kingdom Government in protesting against what Ave believe to be a miscarriage of justice. The treaties of peace impose the clear obligation on all ex-enemy governments to - . . take all measures necessary to secure
Ici all persons under their jurisdiction, without discrimination as to race, sex, language or religion, the enjoyment of human rights and of the fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, of press and publication, of religious worship, of political opinion and of public meeting.
Now that the treaties are in force, the Australian Government, along with other signatories to the treaties, expects that the governments of the ex-enemy States will honour this obligation to the letter.
I turn now to the second purpose of the bills which is to give to the Government the necessary power to implement the provisions of the treaties. Each bill provides that the Governor-General may make such regulations and do such things as appear to him to be necessary or expedient for carrying out and giving effect to the provisions of the treaties, and in particular for prescribing punishments for offences against the regulations.
The matters on which such regulations will be required are not expected to be numerous, and concern mainly the economic and financial articles and technical annexes of all treaties, in which certain rights are conferred, and also certain obligations are imposed on the Allied and associated powers. Among the rights conferred by the treaties which may require legislation is that to restitution of property removed by force or duress by any of the Axis powers from the territory of the United Nations. A further article provides for the restoration of all legal rights and interests of the United Nations and their nationals in the ex-enemy States, and the return of their property or, in the case of damage, compensation to the extent of two-thirds of its value. In addition, each of the Allied and associated powers has the right to seize, retain, liquidate or otherwise dispose of all property rights and interests which on the coming into force of the respective treaties are within its territories, and which belong to the exenemy States or nationals - with the exception of Finland - and to apply such property or the proceeds thereof to the limits of its claims or those of its nationals against the ex-enemy State concerned. “Whilst most of the obligations contained in the treaties are imposed on the ex-enemy States, there are certain provisions which require reciprocal action on the part of the Allied and associated powers, and for which legislation may be necessary. For instance, while the Allied and associated powers and their nationals are given a period of one year from the coming into force of the treaties -
It will be evident that the legislation on the part of Australia will not be as extensive as that required by countries such as the United Kingdom, whose nationals had more business dealings with the ex-enemy States concerned prior to the war. Nevertheless, the Government will require the power to implement all such articles of the treaties as do affect the interests of Australians, and for this reason, I trust that the House will pass these bills without delay.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to approve the Treaty of Peace with Roumania, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to approve the Treaty of Peace with Hungary, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to approve the Treaty of Peace with Finland, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to approve the Treaty of Peace with Bulgaria, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Australian National University Act 1946, as amended by the Australian National University Act 1947.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Mr. DEDMAN (Corio - Minister for
Defence, Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) [4.17]. - by leave - I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill contains an amendment of the provisions of the Australian National University Act 1946-1947 relating to the establishment of the National University. Honorable members may remember that, in the act, provision is made for the permanent government of the university by a council consisting of not more than 30 members, including persons appointed by the Governor-General and representatives of the Parliament and the teaching staff, graduates and students of the university. As it was clear that it would be some time before the permanent council could be established in the manner provided by the act, provision was made in the legislation for the appointment of an interim council, consisting of such persons as might be appointed by the Governor-General, with power to do what was necesary in connexion with the establishment of the university and the commencement of its functions. The act provides that the interim council shall remain in existence, unless dissolved by the Governor-General, until the date on which the permanent council is constituted or until the 31st December, 1947, whichever is the earlier.
The interim council of the National University was appointed at the end of 1946 and has been engaged in the task of establishing the National University. Its members are, as honorable members will recall, Professor R. C. Mills, Director of the Commonwealth Office of Education and Chairman of the Universities Commission who is the chairman; Mr. J. D. G. Medley, Vice-Chancellor, University of Melbourne who is the vicechairman; Professor Eric Ashby, Professor of Botany, University of Sydney now of the University of Manchester; Professor K. H. Bailey, Commonwealth Solicitor-General; Dr. H. C. Coombs, Director-General of Post-war Reconstruction; Mr. C. S. Daley, Assistant Secretary, Department of the Interior; Sir Frederic Eggleston, formerly Australian Minister to China and to the United States of America; Sir Robert Garran, a former Commonwealth Solicitor-General, and Chairman of the Council of the Canberra University College; Mr. H. J. Goodes, Assistant Secretary, Commonwealth Treasury; Sir David Rivett, Chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research; and Professor R. D. Wright, Professor of Physiology, University of Melbourne.
As the period for which the interim council was appointed under the act expires on the 31st December next, it has been necessary for the Government to consider whether any action should be taken to extend this period, in view of the stage which has been reached in the establishment of the National University. As it stands at present, the act requires the permanent council to be constituted on the 1st January, 1948. On that date, however, it will not be possible for the members of the council representing the teaching staff, graduates or students of the university to be elected and the council would then consist only of persons appointed by the Governor-General, not to exceed four, and two members of each House of the Parliament, together with the vice-chancellor. The council would itself co-opt not more than three additional members. The interim council, which is charged with the responsibility of establishing the National University, has suggested to the Government that it would be impracticable at the present stage for the permanent council to be appointed on the date required by the act. The new council would at that stage be very small in numbers and it would be difficult to obtain representation of all interests which should be represented on the council. In addition, the personnel would be almost completely different from that of the interim council, and at the present stage the Government regards it as important that the work which has been commenced by the interim council should be continued without interruption until it is possible for the permanent council to be appointed as provided by the act.
The object of the present bill, therefore, is to extend the life of the interim council by deleting the time limit in section 12 of the principal act. If the amendment is agreed to, the interim council will remain in existence until the permanent council is appointed or until it is dissolved by the Governor-General. It is the intention of the Government, if the bill is passed, to give consideration to the immediate appointment to the interim council of members of both Houses of the Parliament, in accordance with the spirit of the principal act. I think that honorable members will agree that this would be desirable. The interim council has also suggested informally that the number of its members should be increased and that the scientific representation should be strengthened.
In my speech when introducing the Australian National University Bill in 1946, I explained fully the objects of the new university. It may be of interest if I were to refer briefly to the progress which has been made since that date. The task of the interim council since its appointment has been to carry out the preliminary work required before the university can be established. The National University is primarily intended to provide facilities for post-graduate research and study and the act provides that there are to be research schools, including a school of medical research to be known as the John Curtin School of Medical Research, a research school of physical sciences, a research school of social sciences and a research school of Pacific studies. At the present stage of the history of Australia it is more than ever important that we should press on with the task of providing the best possible facilities for research and the advancement of knowledge in these fields. The problems which face Australia and the world at large, resulting from the progress in physical sciences and the complexity of the questions which arise in the social sciences, must be solved if we are to be in a position to progress as a nation and to enjoy the fruits of the developments in science and human relationships which have been made during recent years. I need not stress the difficulties of the problems which confront, us, and I believe that honorable members will agree that in Australia, in common with all other countries, we must do everything that is possible to make our own contribution to the solution of the problems which surround us on every side. We have our own special responsibilities in the Pacific and our own problems of defence and social adjustments, which can only be solved by the extension of the field of knowledge which results from intensive research work at the highest academic level.
The interim council is working towards the earliest possible realization of such plans. It is at present engaged in the preparatory work of the establishment of the research schools of the university. lt has the benefit of the advice and assistance of the distinguished Australian scientists and scholars at present resident in Great Britain. These are Sir Howard Florey, F.R.S., of the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, Oxford; Professor Raymond Firth, of the London School of Economics; Professor W. K. Hancock. Professor of Economic History at the University of Oxford ; and Professor Marcus Oliphant, F.Ti.S., of the Department of Physics, University of Birmingham. The gentlemen whom I have named constitute an academic advisory committee for the interim council and considerable progress has already been made in the plans for the establishment of the research schools, including the recruitment of staff and the preparation of plans for the buildings which will ultimately be required. (Quorum formed.) Because of the requirements of the housing programme, and the difficulties in proceeding- with large-scale building activities at the present time, it is not contemplated that the buildings for the National University will be completed foi a. considerable period. In the meantime, steps are being taken to assemble essential staff and to select research workers for further training. The interim council has already called for applications for training scholarships which will be unique in the history of Australian universities and which will provide excellent opportunities for young graduates with ambitions and capacity as research workers to fit themselves for appointment to the research schools of the university. In addition, the interim council, with the object of commencing some academic work immediately, pending the establishment of the university, has adopted the practice of granting research fellowships which will enable Australian scholars to undertake intensive research work in Australia or overseas. Four social science fellowships have already been granted and further fellowships will be granted later.
The council has also decided to bring to Australia distinguished scholars and scientists who can make valuable contributions to the development of research work in Australia. Professor Marcus Oliphant, the distinguished physicist, visited Australia in January, last, and Professor B. W. Gerard, of the Univer sity of Chicago, an eminent physiologist and a world authority on the nervous system, has just concluded a most valuable series of lectures and discussions at Canberra, where Australian and New Zealand workers in his field of study were invited to meet him. He will also visit the Australian universities with medical schools, and New Zealand. Visiting professors in 1948 will include Professor W. K. Hancock, Professor of Economic History at Oxford University, Professor T. Griffith Taylor, the famous geographer, and distinguished physicists and other scholars. The council believes that this is a most valuable contribution to Australian research work and to Australian scientific and cultural development.
The Government believes that, at this stage, it is desirable that the interim council should remain in office until its task is completed, and has therefore brought down this amendment of the act.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harbison) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from’ the 3rd October (vide page 504).
Department or the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £3,445,500.
– Consideration of the proposed vote for the Department of the Treasury gives to honorable members an opportunity to obtain some information as to the administrative costs and expenditure of that department. As honorable members will recall, when, at the close of the sittings last week, we were discussing the estimates of this department, certain observations, were made by members of the Opposition relative to the peregrinations overseas of Government members and supporters. They questioned the vast and wasteful expenditure of public money to finance these jaunts. Some of us believed that the committee should be given further information as to the cost of these missions and how the money was expended, and in order to elicit this information the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) placed a question on the noticepaper the answer to which has since been given by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). It is interesting to note from the information supplied by the right honorable gentleman that, since 1946, no fewer than 24 honorable members opposite have made trips overseas at the expense of the Australian taxpayers. I doubt very much whether even those figures state correctly the total number. We have no knowledge of the cost of these missions, because in certain instances information on that point has been withheld by the Treasurer on the ground that costa had not been finalized. Let me say at once that I find no fault with the appointment of honorable members to represent this country overseas - I realize how necessary it is that Australia should be adequately represented at overseas conferences to discuss matters of international concern - but I deplore the growing tendency on the part of honorable members opposite to use these official missions as an excuse for public jaunting a t the taxpayers’ expense. It is high time t,he committee were given full information as to why this practice is permitted. The people contribute their taxes to meet the cost of government of the country, not the travelling expenses of selected Government representatives who are permitted to perambulate over the face of the globe. Once the mission to which they are appointed has completed its business
Order ! The honorable member must connect his remarks with the proposed vote for the Department of the Treasury. To what item in the Estimates of that department does the honorable member refer ?
– I refer to the item covering the proposed vote for the administration of the Department of the Treasury. I understand that the travelling expenses of many honorable members opposite are included in the votes of that department.
– To what specific item does the honorable member refer?
– Expenditure of a general nature is provided for in the Treasury estimates. On page 24 of the
Estimates, for instance, an amount of £242,700 has been provided.
– The honorable member cannot relate his remarks to that item. An earlier debate on this subject took place when the proposed vote for the Department of External Affairs was under consideration.
– I am drawing your attention to the fact, Mr. Chairman
– Unless the honorable member can relate his remarks to a specific, item in the estimates for the Department of the Treasury the Chair cannot allow him to proceed along these lines.
– I have no knowledge of the manner in which the vote of £242,700 to which I have referred is to be expended. It must cover at least some of the expenses to which my criticism is directed. On page 26 of the Estimates, under Division No. 36, there is a subitem “ Travelling and Subsistence “ under the heading “ General Expenses “.
– That has relation only to travelling expenses of public servants. The honorable member is not entitled to continue to discuss the expenses, of representatives on government missions at this stage.
– Would I be in order in raising the matter when the estimates of the various departments whose ministerial heads have been travelling overseas are under discussion?
– The honorable member knows that the Standing Orders permit him to discuss only those matters which are covered by that section of the Estimates under discussion.
– I shall reserve my right to speak on this subject at a later stage.
.- In dealing with the subject of land sales control it was crystal clear to me that both the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) raised their voices in this chamber in accordance with the dictates of their masters. They speak in the interest of those who are out to exploit the people at every opportunity. [Quorum formed.] The obvious conclusion is that they represent big business in this chamber, otherwise they would not be pleading for the scrapping of controls that are vital to our future economy and security and for which this nation has received so much praise from overseas. Apparently, these honorable members want a repetition of the exploitation that followed World War I. We all know what happened on that occasion. In April, 1919, I went to Tumut. At that time butter was 2s. 8d. per lb., and dairy cattle were bringing as much as £30 a head. Not long afterwards, however, butter fat was quoted at 6½d lb., and the bottom fell out of the market for almost all primary products. Yet to-day, certain honorable members opposite are pleading for the abolition of controls, a move which could only result in a repetition of the unfortunate times that followed World War I. I have before me an article headed “ Trouble ahead for Tenants “, which appeared in an American publication The National Week. It states -
Indications that only a small proportion of the home units now planned will be for rent:
Every day more than a thousand families are losing their rented homes to the booming real estate market. They are being forced out of apartments and houses to make room for purchasers who have the money to meet to-day’s prices.
The number of people finding themselves in this plight is increasingby the day. Reports to the Office of Price Administration show that homes were sold out from under 20,805 tenants in January, 24,000 in February, 29,686 in March. April shows another 5 to 10 per cent. increase. Additional thousands of tenants are buying at sellers’ prices rather than go out on the street. Eight large cities report more than a 50 per cent. rise in owner occupancy of single-family houses. Even apartments, duplexes and flats are going off the rental market as tenants get the choice of buying or moving.
The reason is that real estate prices are free to shoot up with demand, while rents are being held tight under federal rent control. The national cost-of-living index shows a 3.8 per cent. rise in rents since 1940. Prices of medium and low-cost homes have gone up an average of61 per cent. in the same period. That puts an attractive opportunity before a landlord. He can take a sure profit and escape the troubles of ownership too. For example!
A man who rented out a house valued at $4,000 in 1940 and who is getting $35 a month in rent now probably gets offers of about $6,400 for the house if he will sell. This $2,400 profit over the 1940 value is more than all the rent he would get during another five years if his rent stays at the present frozen rate. Thousands of owners prefer a quick and certain profit like that to-day.
More are expected to sell out if house prices continue to climb while rents stay the same. O.P.A. bars any general rent rise, is putting new shortage areas such as college towns under thelid faster than it is releasing controls on former shortage spots, such as military camp areas. As more dwellings are sold families forced to move, find it still harder to get places to rent. So more of them buy, forcing still other families out. The effect is to put more and move people out competing for rented places that are scarcer than ever.
That is the very thing that the Opposition proposes to do in this country. If rent controls were removed to-morrow, rents would increase by 200 or 300 . per cent. The Opposition is well aware of that, and that is why I say on the floor of this chamber that honorable members opposite represent the exploiting classes in the community. For further evidence of this, I again refer honorable members to an article that I read in this chamber some months ago. It is a leading article that appeared in the London Financial Times on the 27th August, 1946. It states: -
It is evident, therefore, that the war has brought a useful improvement in the standard of living of the Australian worker. Australia has achieved this improvement, and, at the same time, maintained during the greater part of the war, an unexampled stability in wages and prices. That, undoubtedly, is a striking testimony to the success with which the Government has handled the stabilising machinery of rationing, price and wage controls and subsidies. This stability is now attracting capital from abroad. It will attract capital still more powerfully if controls are operated as successfully in the future as in the past.
The article proceeds -
In the light of past achievements, however, it might not be over-optimistic to expect the Australian Government to be more successful than the United Kingdom and, still more, the American Governments in securing orderly transition from war to peace economy and warding off the threat of inflation. In all probability the present trend toward greater industrialization in Australia will continue unchecked. More and more British and American capital is likely to be impressed with the long-term advantages of a stake in Australia. Such investment offers a share in the Commonwealth’s development and expansion, and a means of acquiring suitable bases for a growing and prosperous trade with the Far
East. Here is the beginning of a movement which may swell to large proportions and bring great benefit both to Australia and to investors of new capital.
There is the answer to the alarmists on the other side of the chamber. For too long have they been pleading, on behalf of the upper class, for the removal of these controls. They desire to see the men who defended this country during “World War II. and who now hope to expend their deferred pay on the purchase of blocks of land and homes, fleeced and bled to the limit financially. That is their policy, because they represent’ the exploiting class. I’ sincerely hope that this Government will retain the controls which have been exercised in the best interests of this nation, and which other countries have praised for having preserved a stable economy.
.- The statement which somebody gave to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) to read to the chamber is very poor. The honorable member’s remarks were sheer drivel. For some of the reasons why rents are so high to-day we have only to look to the Commonwealth Treasury. I have in my hand invoices showing sales tax imposed on various building materials. For example, sales tax at the rate of 12$ per cent, was levied on screws, and nails.
– Sales tax has been removed from those items.
– Sales tax at the rate of 10 per cent, was imposed on various other building materials. This information was supplied to me by a carpenter at Kingaroy last week. I invite the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) to inform me when the sales tax was removed from these items.
– Sales tax has not been removed from all building materials.
– What is the date of the invoices?
– They bear various dates in 1946 and 1947. The carpenter informed me that he paid sales tax on building materials last week, and I accept his word. I know that sales tax has been retained on water tanks attached to houses. As this tax is not imposed on water tanks erected for agricultural pur poses and the watering of stock, I fail to see why the Government should impose a penalty upon the catchment of water in a tank attached to a house. This factor is one of the’ reasons why the capital cost of a house has increased and the rent is higher. I invite honorable members to examine the rents charged on cottages which this Government has erected in Canberra. On an average cottage the rent is now £3 2s. 6d. a week. On a hut with one door the rent is £1 12s. 6d. a week. In these matters the Government would be well advised to “ put its own house ‘ in order “. The explanation of high rents is the high costs which the Government permits in every department of the building trade.
.- I rise again because some of the questions which I asked on Friday when these Estimates were under consideration have not been answered by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) or any other Minister. I considered that these matters were of sufficient importance to a large number of people outside this chamber as well as to honorable members to have warranted a detailed reply. One of the questions which I asked at the time related to persons with deposits in the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and the proportion of their savings which had been invested in government and municipal securities. I invited the Government to give to the chamber some information as to how, under a politically controlled banking monopoly, the Government -would ensure the security and financial stability of those deposits when such a vast proportion- of them was invested in government securities and when the policy of the Government, as announced by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and others, contemplates clearly an indefinite continuation of inflationary and expansionist financial policy. I am glad that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction is in the chamber, because some of his utterances have given to various people, including myself, cause for concern, and have a direct bearing on the problem which I now raise again.
When speaking during the general debate on the budget, the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction quoted approvingly a passage from a judgment of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. He read a phrase which ran somewhat as follows : “ The rentier section is the least socially useful section of the community “. There is a tendency on the part of economists and would-be economists, doctrinaire politicians and Ministers, to adopt such words as “ rentier “ entrepreneur “ and the rest of the jargon of economist literature, and bandy them about without analysing what they actually mean in flesh-and-blood terms. When the Minister refers to the “ rentier section of the community “ as being the least socially useful-
– Order ! To what particular item of these Estimates is the honorable member directing his speech?
– I am directing my remarks to the control by the Treasurer of the Commonwealth Bank, and the other instrumentalities associated with the Commonwealth Bank. In 1945, this Parliament passed legislation which gave to the Treasurer of the Commonwealth direct control over the Commonwealth Bank through the instrumentality of the Governor of that institution. I am directing my -remarks to the instrumentality, in particular the Commonwealth Savings Bank, in which a big proportion of the liabilities of the bank, represented by the deposits of small depositors throughout the Commonwealth, is offset by assets in the form of government securities. I am trying to show that the pronounced policy of some members of the Government would tend to weaken the stability of those securities, and the inflationary policy pursued in a financial sense will depreciate the value of the deposits held by the savings bank.
– -The honorable member must confine his remarks more strictly. The general debate concluded when discussion of the first item of the Estimates finished.
– With respect, Mr. Chairman, I point out that the Commonwealth Savings Bank is a direct responsibility of the Treasurer, that there arc State savings banks throughout the Commonwealth which have very heavy investments in government securities and that the Treasurer can exercise a prime responsibility in respect of these. In the latest available’ issue of the Commonwealth Year-Book, which takes the story back to the end of June, 1945, it appears that there were then 3,371,000 operative accounts with the Commonwealth Savings Bank. There is a distinction between operative and inoperative accounts, the latter being defined as those of less than £1 which had not been operated upon for a period of two years. With State and trustee savings banks, there were .1,858,000 operative accounts at the same date. Thus, at the 30th June, 1945, there was an aggregate of 5,129,000 operative savings bank accounts.
– Commonwealth and State?
– Yes, the overwhelming majority - over 3,000,000 - being with the Commonwealth Savings Bank. Therefore, when the Minister made his somewhat disparaging reference to the rentier class, he included in that broad sweep about 5,000,000 small savings bank depositors throughout the Commonwealth. Their total investments in savings accounts at the 30th June, 1945, amounted to £566,000,000. Compare those figures, and it will be seen that the average operative savings bank account held a credit of about £100. Here we have throughout the length and breadth of Australia millions of depositors making up, through their bank deposits, a fund of savings which at present amounts to well over £600,000,000. The figures I quoted related to the 30th June, 1945 ; the present figures are much higher.
That fund has been freely used, by the Commonwealth Government in particular, for the purchase of Commonwealth bonds and for investment in treasurybills. The proportion is alarming having regard to the plans that this Government has for the future of Australia. Of £426,000,000 on deposit in accounts with the Commonwealth Savings Bank alone, more than £400,000,000 has been invested in Commonwealth securities or treasurybills. Honorable members opposite may reply that there is nothing unsound in that, that the Commonwealth bond or the treasury-bill has the backing of the Commonwealth behind it. That is true, but we have lively recollections of the way in which market values of Commonwealth bonds have fluctuated in periods of crisis. I say that that is an unsound form of investment for small depositors if we are to have, as the Government has told us, a politically controlled banking monopoly and, in particular, if that monopoly is to be directed by men who hold the views of the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction. The Minister has already indicated where his sympathies lie in this matter by describing the rentier class - these savingsbank depositors - as the least socially useful element in the community. Furthermore, in his maiden speech in this Parliament, the Minister talked about the Commonwealth Government raising interest-free loans for government purposes through the Commonwealth Bank. That policy was supportedby many other members of the Labour party, and I do not know that their views have changed in that regard. For all I know, they still believe that the Commonwealth Government should finance government operations with interest-free loans raised through the Commonwealth Bank. If the Minister has changed his view from that which he stated in his maiden speech, let him declare it.
– Would the honorable member mind quoting that speech so that I may see whether he is accurate or not?
– I should be very happy-
– So would I.
– I should be very happy to quote the speech later. I have checked it twice in the course of the last week. I shall tell the Minister something else that he said in his maiden speech. When I heard his reference to the rentier class, I recalled that he gave expression to some very queer financial notions when he first came into this chamber. I happened to speak directly after he made that speech, and his statements remained fresh in my mind. He made the statement that I have mentioned - the honorable gentleman can check it for himself -and he said further-
– I know what I said, and it was not what the honorable member says that I said.
– The Minister also went on to say that, in order to secure full in vestments in Commonwealth loans, the Government should, by the issue of treasurybills and to the extent to which that issue was necessary, endeavour to starve the investing public into investing its money at 2 per cent. interest. Does the Minister recall that statement? If not, I can refresh his memory about it.
– Will the honorable member give us a copy of his essay on socialism ?
– Order! The honorable member must ignore interjections.
– I should be very glad to read that essay again myself.
– Order !
– With your permission, Mr. Chairman, I should like to reply to the interjection, because the implication is that at one time I did have some belief in the usefulness and efficiency of socialism. That is true. I saw great merit in socialism when as a university student, the essay to which the honorable member referred was written. However, I have had almost twenty years of practical experience since then, and I heartily agree with what Mr. Bernard Shaw once said - that a man who at twenty years was not a socialist had no heart, but that a man who at 40 was still a socialist had no head. I subscribe entirely to that viewpoint.
My point is that to-day thousands of people throughout Australia have invested their savings as small depositors with our savings institutions. Sound banking practice requires that, if a bank lends money, it must do so on good security. In most banks such security is represented by industrial shares, landed property or something of that sort. However, the savings of people in the savings banks, and in the Commonwealth Savings Bank in particular, are invested in the main in government securities. If these government securities are able to maintain their face value on realization and if the purchasing power of the £1 is not unduly depreciated by Government financial policy, then no damage can result. However, if the reverse be the case, then great damage and loss can result. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and other senior members of this chamber must recall vividly .the .time when £100 Commonwealth bonds were fetching less than £40 each on the New York stock exchange and about £60 each in Australia. My recollection of detail is not clear, but those were the approximate values. Governments must weather storms as they arise. Financial disturbances occur from unpredictable causes, and the wisest policy which any government can pursue is to ensure that its securities are at all times worth at least their face value. To-day, government departments will not accept government securities for the payment of income tax or probate duty, because in time of national disturbance those securities may not be worth their face value. However, that fact has not deterred this Government from pressing the managers of savings banks to invest more than 80 per cent, of depositors’ money in government securities - investments which, in the light of the Government’s proposals, may have a most unstable future. Since the Government proposes to constitute a political monopoly of banking, and having regard to views such as those expressed by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, we should require some more convincing assurance of the security and stability of depositors’ savings than has so far been forthcoming. I ask the Government, even at this stage, to abandon any policy, and to refrain from giving expression to any intention, which may cause a depreciation of the value and security of those savings.
The same considerations affect the funds of insurance companies, in which are invested so much of the people’s savings. There are in this country to-day approximately S70,000 people over the age of 60 years, most of whom are looking forward to the payment of insurance policies and the use of their savings to provide for their old age. If, because of the financial policy of this Government, and its reckless handling of the country’s financial institutions, including the Government’s own finances, the value of the £1 is to be depreciated - and, as we all know, it has depreciated very considerably in recent years - the people whom I have mentioned will experience hardship and loss, which suffering will be quite unnecessary. Had the Government pursued a sane policy this possibility could not have occurred. Again I ask the Government to refrain from embarking on a reckless and uncontrolled course, which can only result in disaster for those who have put their trust in the Government and their small means in savings banks and insurance companies.
.- The efficacy of the administration of the Treasury by the Prime Minister and Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) is well borne, out by a report of the United Nationswhich appears in yesterday’s press. Thereport stated that Australia is the only country in the world where prices have” not risen by more than 50 per cent, since 1939. That, in itself, is a complete refutation of the contentions of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). Examination of the figures shows that the Treasury, including all its branches, has been very capably administered. The honorable member made his criticism in the guise of examining subheadings of the department estimates. However, the simple fact is that he sought to distort the real situation. He said that the managers of the savings banks have invested far too great a proportion of their depositors’ money in government securities in the form of stocks, bonds, or treasury-bills; but, as the honorable member knows, those investments are regarded as the best security available in this country, and are specifically mentioned in trustee acts as the first-line security in which trustee funds should be invested. Obviously, therefore, it is -a complete distortion of fact to suggest that those securities may be worth less than their face value. Shares in industrial undertakings are not permitted as investments for trustee funds except in very special circumstances. The honorable member mentioned insurance companies, stating that they had invested a large amount of their funds in government bonds. This is an answer to his own argument. These private institutions by investing in government securities indicate a belief in the soundness of such an investment.
So far from government securities having fallen in value during the present Government’s term of office, the fact is that they have appreciated. That appreciation was due, of course, in part, to the falling rate of interest and other causes, but the fact remains that government securities are still the soundest form of investment for savings banks’ deposits. In addition to affording security, those investments return a reasonable rate of interest. The honorable member went on to deal with treasury-bills. It is well known that treasury-bills are the best form of shortterm investment, particularly for people or organizations holding money at call or on deposit for limited periods. Although treasury-bills bear a comparatively low rate of interest, the money’ is available practically at call, and for that reason treasury-bills and short-term commercial paper are a common medium of investment.
The ‘ honorable member went on to canvass developments which might occur if the Government proceeds to implement its proposals for the nationalization of banking, lt is neither necessary nor desirable to discuss that matter now, other than to point out that the Government’s plan is intended to provide for the greater stability of the nation. The honorable member mentioned the fact that at one time government securities fell to a very low level on the stock exchanges of this country. That decline, ho vever, was due to a number of causes, and the Government is determined to prevent a repetition of those events, and that is one of the main reasons why it has formulated its proposals for the nationalization of banking.
Generally speaking, the Treasury figures indicate a careful control of public finance by the Treasurer, and they provide clear evidence of the Government’s intention to prevent unjustified rises of prices. The success of that effort is evidenced by the report of the United Nations published in yesterday’s press, which shows, as I mentioned previously, that Australia is the only country in which price levels have not risen more than 50 per cent, since 1939. The Government’s policy is, first, to keep prices down, and, secondly, to provide incomes sufficient to enable the people to secure the commodities necessary to . maintain an adequate standard of living. The honorable member concluded his speech by making the suggestion that the Government’s proposals would bring about some panic amongst the people with regard to their savings. His real motive in making that suggestion, however, was not to prevent, but to bring about, such a state of affairs.
.- I think it is desirable to state the real reason why the price index in this country is at its present level. That index is compiled by the Bureau of Census and Statistics, which is listed under the estimates for the Treasury. During the war the. price of butter to Australian consumers was increased ky only one penny per pound. The price of milk is now practically what it was when the war started, and the price of bread has remained unaltered. Although some subsidies have been paid, they are as nothing in comparison with the increased costs which primary producers have had to bear. In fact, only last week interests associated with the sugar industry were permitted to charge an extra id. per lb., as a very belated recognition of increased costs. One reason for our not having been able to give greater assistance to Britain is that prices have been kept at a low level, with the result that there has been a calamitous decline of production.
My reason for rising was to draw attention to an extraordinary anomaly in the estimates of the Taxation Branch. We are told on every hand that taxes have been reduced since the peak was reached in 1943-44. One would expect the cost of collection to have been reduced proportionately, but what does one find? The budget papers for 1943-44, the year in which the maximum income tax rate was levied, show that the estimated expenditure of the Taxation Branch in that year was £1,416,000. For this year, the estimated expenditure is £3,026,000, or more than twice as much, despite the fact that there are other suggested reductions of expenditure in connexion with the collection of war-time company tax and so on. The Parliament and the people of this country expect efforts to be made to curb such unnecessary increases of expenditure. There is a method whereby the cost of administration of the Taxation Branch can be very materially reduced. After the 1914-18 war, approximately 1,000,000 taxpayers were paying income tax. By raising the statutory exemption to £300 a year in respect of a single man, and increasing the taxable deductions in respect of families, the government of which I was a member in 1923-24 reduced the number of income taxpayers to 230,000 or 240,000, from the 1,000,000 there had been in 1921-22. At the present time, according to the report of the Commissioner of Taxation, the number of income taxpayers is more than 2,000,000, compared with 300,000 at the outbreak of the last war. If the position were faced properly, a very material reduction could be made. The first step should be the raising of the statutory exemption. I have always considered, and have acted accordingly when in office, that men in medium circumstances on a salary of up to £700 or £800 a year, buy as much of the goods on which are paid sales tax, customs duties and excise duties, as do those who are in the richer class. Frequently, men in this category who have young families are unable to save, and have to struggle to provide food, clothing and schooling for their children. Their condition, as well as that of the budget, would be improved, and there would be a real incentive to work throughout the community, if the statutory exemption were raised.
One cause of an extraordinarily large number of men having to be employed in the Taxation Branch at the present time is the application of the system of concessional rebates. The rate of tax is determined on the basis of the gross income, and the total amount of tax is then assessed at that rate on that income. Then follows a long series of calculations, in order to determine the amount that may be deducted on account of the concessional rebates, and the tax that actually has to be paid. That involves a tremendous amount of clerical work. If the simple system of first making the taxable deductions before determining the rate of tax and the taxable income were reverted to, a substantial number of per sons would be removed from the tax field, and the work of the branch would be very greatly lessened. It is necessary that it should be lessened, because it is not humanly possible for it to do the volume of work it is now asked to do. It has a most intelligent and experienced staff; but, because of the enormous increase of the number of taxpayers within recent years, it has had to employ thousands of persons who have not had much experience, and in consequence the most extraordinary hardships and anomalies are being perpetrated. Only last week, I was asked by a former member of the House of Representatives to consider the assessment that had been issued to him. He said to me, “ Surely this cannot be right! Here is my tax assessment, oh which I am asked to pay. Here is an amount of about one-half of my income. Then there is a provisional tax of about one-third of my income. At the same time, during this year, I shall have a group certificate for about one-third of my income “. I suggested that the matter be placed before the Deputy Commissioner for New SouthWales. We interviewed that officer, who, when he had examined the assessment, said, “ This cannot be right “. Within a week, the matter had been adjusted. That result was achieved only because the taxpayer had sufficient sense to know that the assessment could not be right. There must be thousands of small taxpayers who have at stake £20, £30, or £40, and are unable to have the matter adjusted. Peremptory notices are issued, requiring the immediate payment of tax, any argument in regard to the assessment being deferred. Therefore, if we can limit the volume of the work that has to be done by the Taxation Branch, the more likely will it be that justice will be done all round, but especially in respect of the small man, who experiences difficulty in making up his return, and has not much knowledge of the law nor understanding of his assessment. The aim should be to keep the law as simple as possible. I received only to-day a letter which reads -
Could you assist me in the following matter?
I have been compelled by the Taxation Department of this State to pay £141 of tax which the department here claims I should have deducted from amounts paid by me to nen engaged in digging and bagging potatoes.
was told I must make the payment despite the fact that the High Court some months ago gave a decision that where men were engaged to pick onions at a price per bag, the employer was not required to deduct an amount for income tax stamps from the payments made.
I am not the only grower who has been so treated, and it seems to me that in view of the High Court decision the department’s action in demanding this payment from me was unlawful and should be refunded.
The thing is so unjust that I feel you will gladly help me get it rectified.
I shall recall to the minds of honorable members exactly what occurred. The High Court, when the matter came before it, held that the deduction of the tax could not be enforced in certain circumstances, because those circumstances could not be related to a particular period of time. The act was amended- last session with the result that the onus is now thrown >on the taxpayer. These primary producers are busy men. Growers of potatoes in my district while working day and night are to be asked to make calculations in respect of casual workers and men working at contract rates. The department makes them its tax-gatherers. That is unjust. That legislation passed through the Parliament only because its implications were not fully realized. I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to say whether the yield from small taxpayers is not really insignificant compared with the cost. Unless some change be made in the present system workers in industry will be difficult to obtain. The result will be a shortage of potatoes, onions, and other vital foods. Potatoes must be dug at the proper time, otherwise considerable losses are caused. Two courses are open to the Government: it should refund the money; or, failing that, the taxpayer concerned should be given a longer period in which to pay; or, alternatively, the act should be amended. If the staff of the department consisted only of experienced and skilled officers, many of these anomalies which cause distress and hardship would be obviated. The existence of the social services contribution is the cause of so many additional taxpayers having business with the department. I suggest that this matter of providing social services be viewed in the light of the possibility of obtaining assistance through a contributory social insurance scheme from friendly societies along the lines to which they agreed, first in 192S, and again in 1939. If that were done, I am convinced that the whole system of medical aid to those requiring it would be better controlled and that the taxpayers would receive better value for their money. It is anomalous that £270,000 a year should be expended in the distribution of payments for sickness and unemployment amounting to £1,600,000 Expenses at the rate of 12£ per cent, of the amount collected are altogether too heavy. The system should be changed. I offer these practical suggestions to the Government in the belief that the best results will be obtained by having only skilled and experienced officers in the department. Many small taxpayers are terrified when they receive their assessments, especially when accompanied by peremptory orders to do this or that. Efforts should be made to reduce the number of taxpayers to the minimum. That was done in the past with beneficial results. A further advantage would be that the purchasing power of the people would be increased by leaving more money in the taxpayers’ pockets.
– I listened attentively to the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and, if I understood him correctly, he would have this country’s taxation policy based on the number of individuals required to collect taxes.
– That is what the remarks of the right honorable gentleman amounted to. He was dealing with the cost of the Taxation Department, and he said that the cost of the administration had grown largely because there were many more assessments now than at some other period in the history of the department. The only logical deduction from his remarks is that the taxation policy should be based on the employment of the fewest possible individuals to collect taxes. That is not the basis on which a country’s taxation policy should be decided. What is needed is a system which will give equitable treatment for persons in the community, so that the burden may be shared in the right proportions. If that policy requires a few more employees in the collecting department, those additional employees should be engaged.
I wish to refer also” to a matter raised by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) who quoted from a speech delivered by me in connexion with the budget debate in which I read an extract from the judgment of the 40-hours case.
– I said that.
– Yes, but the honorable member did not complete the quotation. He referred to that part of it which had relation to rentiers, but he did not complete the quotation by reading. “ Savings now, however, come also from salary and wages via the banking system, and from taxation “. The honorable member suggested that because I had approved certain remarks which had been made about rentiers, I criticized those who put their savings into savings banks. I did no such thing. The dictionary definition of rentier is “ one who lives on incomes from investments “. To suggest that the term rentier cannot be applied to a worker or a wage-earner with a small income-
– I rise to order. Is the Minister in order in quoting from a debate in this chamber during this session?
– I have been in the chamber all the afternoon, and I believe that the Minister is referring to a statement made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). He has the right to reply to what the honorable member said.
– I was referring to remarks made this afternoon by the honorable member for Fawkner. [Cbe honorable member for Fawkner said this afternoon that because certain remarks had been made in relation to rentiers, I was criticizing the wage and salary earners who put their small savings into savings banks. In fact, he said that the term “ rentier “ applied to the workers who saved money and deposited it in a savings bank. That is entirely wrong, because, as I have ex plained, the dictionary definition of “ rentier “ is one who lives on the earnings from investments, and that definition cannot be said to cover the worker who saves a little money, and puts it into a savings bank.
The honorable member also suggested that far too much of the money which the people saved and put into the savings banks was invested in government securities. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) dealt with that complaint. The policy which has been applied by this Government ever since it came into office in 1941 has resulted in the volume of the workers’ savings being increased three-fold. I believe that the workers are well satisfied .to put their money into the savings banks, and there could be no safer investment for them than to allow the savings banks to use the. money as they think best in the interests of the depositors.
– I wish to say something on behalf of that large body of persons mentioned by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), the elderly people who have retired and are living on pensions, annuities, superannuation, or the earnings from their investments. The honorable member for Fawkner spoke very reasonably on this subject, and I strongly support his remarks. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) referred to some of these people somewhat contemptuously as “ rentiers “. I wish to make it clear that I have the utmost admiration for those in this country who might be described as rentiers. The rentiers in this country are not like those in England who have been called “ spivs “ drones &c. In Australia, they are the people who were thrifty during their working lives, and who invested the money which they earned and saved. Now, instead of coming on to the National Security Fund - not that I have anything against that - they are trying to live on their savings, or on the income from their savings. I call them the forgotten people of Australia, and they have had nothing done for them for years past. People in the higher income groups have reasonably large capital funds on which they can draw, and wage-earners have had their incomes adjusted to meet the cost of living. Although the real value of their wages is still below what they received in 1939, their incomes have been kept in some sort of relation to the present cost of living. However, the forgotten people have had nothing done for them. Their incomes remain at the same money level as before. In the meantime, however, higher taxation has reduced the actual amount of money which they receive, while the increased cost of living ensures that they are able to buy less than .before with their reduced incomes. I could recite dozens of cases of hardship, but I shall mention only one, particulars of which were handed to me by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who cannot present them himself because he has exhausted his opportunities to speak. It is the case of two old ladies of more than 70 years of age whose sole income consists of rents from property. It is obvious that rents from property do not give the same return as in the years before the war, or even during the early part of the war. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) knows very well that the return from houses which are let has been reduced by the increased cost of maintenance, quite apart from increased taxation. Many retired persons depend entirely upon the return from rented houses for an income, and under present conditions they are finding itvery difficult to live. These two ladies point out that the money which was invested in the house property from which they now receive their income was earned by personal exertion, but the income is now reduced because of the increased cost of repairs, while rents are pegged. I can see no reason why retired people in this class, who are really living on the income produced from their savings, should not have that income treated, for taxation purposes, as income derived from personal exertion, instead of income from property. There are 870,000 people in Australia over 60 years of age. A great many of them are living in retirement, and those whose incomes have remained stationary, while taxation has increased, must number hundreds of thousands. They aTe finding it extremely difficult to live, and it is time the Government gave serious attention to their position, and did something for them.
– I note that the cost of conducting the Taxation Branch is to increase by £514,000. We have been told from time to time that direct taxation is to be reduced. During the last financial year rates were, in fact, reduced, but in spite of this the total volume of. revenue increased by more than £20,000,000. This year, it is proposed further to reduce direct taxation by £.11,000,000, yet the cost of administering the Taxation Branch, the authority charged with the collection of taxes, is to be increased by more than £500,000. Probably the experience of last year will be repeated, and although company taxation is to be reduced, the total, volume of revenue collected from the whole community will increase. If tha’ be so. why should the Treasury require an additional sum of over £500,000 to collect less in taxes than it collected last financial year?
The Government, through the control it exercises over the savings banks has commandeered £400,000,000 of the people’s savings. That amount is invested in government securities, and honorable members opposite claim that those securities are gilt-edged. Such securities may be so regarded in Australia; but as government expenditure is increased the value of those investments will decrease. In effect, the value of the people’s savings which they have placed in the banks for safe-keeping will depreciate. When the Government seizes the funds of the private banks these securities will still further depreciate because the great hulk of those funds will be absorbed in ordinary governmental expenditure, and will, not be expended for the purpose of developing this country or in undertaking irrigation and water conservation schemes and other national works designed to obviate the huge national losses now suffered as the result of droughts. The Government will thus get its claws upon further hundreds of millions of pounds of the people’s savings. The average depositor places his savings in the banks in the hope that later in life he will be able to make profitable investments or provide a security for old age.
– How can the Government prevent droughts?
– The Government should make provision against drought just as India and other countries have done by locking rivers and thus enabling producers to save their stock and their crops and in fact increase these with safety. Governments of countries which have a much higher rainfall than Australia are now concentrating upon water conservation. I agree that in this matter the State governments share responsibility with the National Government; and for the information of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) I point out that the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria have done and still are doing much in this direction. When the Government has commandeered the deposits in the private banks whence will finance for private investments be found? If all surplus funds in the community are to be invested in government securities, what chance will the ordinary man have of bettering himself on the land or in business, large or small? Already the Government has compelled the private banks to place in special funds not less than’ £330,000,000 for which it pays interest at then-ate of only 17s. per cent, and may lend it at 4$ per cent.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair, namely, the proposed vote for the Treasury.
– The treasury happens to be the department which the private banks have most reason to fear. If I cannot discuss this matter ut this juncture, under what other heading shall I be given an opportunity to oppose this “ steal “, this “ Ned Kellying “ of the private banks, which the Government now proposes to perpetrate at the whim of the Communists of this country ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member will not l>e in order in proceeding in that strain.
– Honorable members opposite claim that the deposits in the savings banks are now invested in government securities, and that such action is being emulated by the big life assurance companies which, they say, have invested their funds in government securities. To some extent this is true, but these funds must be available at short notice in the event of the death of a policy-holder.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member appears to be evading the direction of the Chair. I ask him to resume his seat.
– I was simply answering the arguments of the honorable member for Perth , (^Mr- Burke). I require that the question be put that I be further heard.
Question put -
That the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) be further heard.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr; T. N. Sheehy. )
Majority . . . . 12
In division :
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN”.The honorable member has not raised a point of order.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Silting suspended from 6 to S p.m.
.- I wish to speak to-night of the manner in which high taxes affect primary production, which is a vital part of our economy. During the war, maintenance work on rural properties was completely neglected for a number of reasons. First, taxation was considerably higher than it is now, but people expected that and realized that it was necessary in the interests of a maximum war effort; secondly, labour was scarce; thirdly, farmers had to concentrate on maximum production of food for troops and civilians; and, lastly, materials were in short supply because industries were concentrating on ‘the production of essential war equipment. Throughout the war, therefore, the primary producer worked at a considerable disadvantage; but he accepted that, and he looked forward to the end of the war in the hope that he would then be able to put his property in order. In normal pre-war times, provided good seasons were experienced, farmers were able to accumulate reserves for maintenance work. It is true that for income tax purposes to-day allowances are made for money expended on maintenance! - in respect of machinery the concession is 20 per cent. - but with rising costs these allowances have proved totally in adequate. Farm, machinery is scarce and costs 50 pei’ cent, more than in pre-war days. While paying high taxes, primary producers are not able to accumulate sufficient reserves to meet their needs. These reserves are required not only for repairs to fences, farm machinery, and the many other items on which depreciation is heavy, but also to meet emergencies such as droughts. Unfortunately, until the present season droughts have been practically an annual occurrence in some parts of New South Wales. As I have said, primary producers looked to the end of the war in the hope that once again they would be able to accumulate sufficient money to restore their properties .and implements to efficient operation ; but like ex-servicemen who have returned to rural life, or who have gone on the land since their discharge from the forces, the primary producers who remained on the land in the war years to produce food as an essential part of our war effort have found their plans completely frustrated. To-day, lack of adequate maintenance and .repair work is seriously hampering primary production. Wheat-farmers are particularly badly hit. In addition to heavy income taxes and indirect taxes, they are called upon ito pay the wheat tax that was introduced last December. Finally, instead of being able to enjoy the benefit of the high prices ruling in the wheat markets throughout the world, they are being severely penalized by the bungling and interference of this Government. The prices of primary products, particularly wool and wheat, are very high to-day, but farmers generally are unable to take advantage of them because of the heavy imposts placed upon them in the form of taxes. Also, the lack of supplies, which was a feature of our war-time economy, has continued since the end of the war. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber who represent rural constituencies know by the number of letters that they receive that there is general dissatisfaction throughout the farming community on. this score. Primary producers complain that they have to obtain permits for this and permits for that.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).Order! The committee is now dealing with items on the Estimates. The honorable member is now making .a speech that would have been more appropriate to the general debate which has now concluded. He is not entitled to deal with general matters but must confine his remarks to specific items.
– I am endeavouring to link my remarks up with the Estimates now before the Chair by showing how taxes affect production. Primary producers to-day are severely handicapped by taxes, and are unable to make their maximum contribution to food production, which is their main function. The great need in this country to-day is for increased production.
– Order ! To what item is the honorable member referring?
– To taxation.
– If the honorable member does not confine his remarks to a specific item I shall have to rule him out of order.
– I am endeavouring to show bow taxes are robbing the community of the incentive to produce. That, I submit, is an important matter.
– It is very important, but it cannot be discussed now.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman. A reduction of taxes would be a real incentive to increased production and would enable farmers to establish a monetary reserve not only to meet adversity such as drought, but also to increase production by enabling effective maintenance to be carried out.
.- To ensure that I shall not be out of order I preface my remarks by saying that I propose to deal with the Secretary to the Treasury, the Assistant Secretary, Financial and Economic Policy Branch, and the Commonwealth Statistician. Those are the three matters which I shall proceed to discuss.
The Treasury is responsible for the Government’s financial, and economic policy. The Secretary to the Treasury has just returned from a secret mission to London and New York. This mission was concerned primarily with the dollar crisis, but no report on the subject has been made to this Parliament. There is too much mumbo-jumbo about the dollar position. This Parliament and this country are entitled to know the facts. Instead, they are concealed behind a veil of secrecy. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) said that he would give certain figures only to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). Why will he supply the information to only those two right honorable gentlemen? Why the secrecy? Surely this Parliament and this country are entitled to all the facts. The trade figures are published. Why, then, are not the rest of the figures published? Again, I ask for an explanation of the secrecy and of the secret mission undertaken by the Secretary to the Treasury. Why, also, is the cost of petrol applied against the dollar reserve when it is not shown in the trade figures ?
It is impossible to separate the truth about the dollar position and the Treasurer’s own ideas regarding economic policy. The Government’s policy reflects the Treasurer’s chronic pessimism. It is based on the Government’s fixed obsession that another financial and economic depression is inevitable. Already, the Government is thinking in terms of the dole. This country is to be asked to make great sacrifices in an attempt to enable us to keep on the dollar standard. The Treasurer seems to. be completely overawed by what he calls “ the dollar scarcity problem “. The people of this country are to be asked to make more and more sacrifices to the almighty dollar. Peace-time austerity is to be more depressing than was war-time austerity. The simple pleasures -of the ordinary man and woman are in jeopardy. Tobacco, motion pictures, books, newspapers, motor cars and even textiles, which we need to clothe ourselves, are only a few of the items which are being seized upon for drastic curtailment by the edict of the Treasurer. This will mean a lower standard of living. Regimentation and the iron discipline of a state-managed economy are to be our peace-time lot under this Treasurer and this Government. We face what might almost be described as the “ horrors of peace “.
This Government has designed its own “ iron curtain “. It proposes to cut Australia off from the trade of the world. That action must bring reprisals from the countries affected by the Treasurer’s policy. The hesitancy of American buyers at the opening of the current wool sales was the first of the danger signals. Germany, before the outbreak of World War II., tried the same theory of economic self-sufficiency. Hitler called it “ autarchy “. It ended in war, and misery for the people of Germany. Whilst every nation is entitled to protect its industries from unfair competition by imposing a tariff, the present system which the Treasurer is introducing of prohibitions directed against particular nations is not only dangerous but also wrong. Such prohibitions introduce the element of discrimination, and when such discriminations are directed against friendly nations, I say deliberately that they must lead, to put the matter on the highest possible plane, to misunderstandings. We were told that one of the objectives of the post-war world was to provide freedom of commercial intercourse amongst the nations to enable a better exchange of goods. The policy of the Treasurer is an absolute repudiation of those principles. The quickest road to a financial and economic depression is for countries to become involved in a trade war. Yet that is what is happening to-day.
Apart from the sadistic pleasure that the Government appears to obtain from making the Australian people suffer, there is not the slightest justification for the Treasurer’s present policy. Figures compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician provide absolute proof that there is no need for the panic that the Government has worked up on the dollar front. Figures which the Treasurer presented to the Parliament with this budget show that for the year ended the 30th June last, this country had an all-round record income derived from the sale of its goods abroad. Since then, wool prices have again risen. The coming wheat harvest is expected to be a bumper one, and world parity was never, in the history of Australia, higher than it is now. Then why the gloom? Why the panic? If there was a danger of prices collapsing, of the wheat crop being ploughed into the land, of our wool being dumped into the sea, (hen there might be a reason for alarm. But the market was never better and the demand was never greater. Despite the Treasurer’s forebodings, we are not a bankrupt nation. Australia was never more prosperous, but the policy of this Government is to make certain that the common man shall not be allowed to share in that prosperity. The “golden age “ is a mockery. The Government’s economic policy is based on humbug and hypocrisy. For the year ended the 30th June last, we had a favorable balance of exports over imports, in respect of merchandise, to the amount of £78,010,000. We have accumulated funds abroad of well over £200,000,000. That is the very reverse of our position during the last depression. Then we lacked funds. For that reason we were compelled to cut imports. Wow. almost for the first time, we have a huge accumulated balance abroad. We have always been told that if we have a favorable trade balance then we should increase our imports. But this Government thinks in reverse. It finds gloom where it should find every reason for optimism’.
Let us examine the Government’s dollar obsession. The Common wealth Statistician has just released the trade figures for the year ended the 30th June last. It is impossible to reconcile those .figures with the Government’s current policy. This country imported merchandise from the United States of America for the year valued at £34,905,000. In the same period we exported Australian goods to the United States of America to the value of £47,795,000. That means that we had a favorable trade balance with that country of £12,890,000. How can this Government justify any form of discrimination against the goods of the United States of America on those figures? Admittedly we had an adverse trade balance with Canada of £9,264,000, hut that does not justify the Government’s present policy. The United States of America, cannot be held responsible for Canada’s failure to buy our goods. Why should we deliberately set about wrecking one of our best, markets? There is a real danger in the present position. What would, happen if the United States of America decided to boycott our trade? The United States needs our wool, but it could do without it, just as we can do without American movies and American tobacco. Where is the Government’s policy getting us?
The .best way for us to help Great Britain is to sell lenore of our goods, not, less, to the United States of America. This Government’s approach to every problem is negative. We have the goods. We have the advantage to-day of lower costs. We have the .advantage of a favorable exchange. Then why not tackle the problem positively? Instead of restricting trade, let us expand it. Let us bury the Treasurer’s dollar obsession. The truth, of course, is that the Government, seizes on every excuse to inflict further sacrifices on the long-suffering public. It clings to rationing, even though the need for it no longer exists.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).Order! The honorable member is not entitled to .refer to such matters. They do not .come under the Department of the Treasury.
– They come under the Secretary to the Treasury.
– I rule otherwise.
– These things should be in his report, because they are dollar matters.
– The honorable member has been given wide latitude. I shall allow him. to discuss financial matters, but not other matters.
– I shall connect this matter with the subject of dollars, Mr. Chairman. If you object to the statement that meat rationing–
– Meat rationing does not come under the Department of the Treasury.
– And that sugar rationing was abandoned too late-
– Order !
– Now I desire to say something about clothes rationing.
– The honorable member is not entitled to refer to clothes rationing.
– I shall link this matter with the item before the committee as clearly as anybody could link two things together. I hope that I shall be allowed to express my argument. I want to deal with clothes rationing because I want to say that the country has been humbugged about it.
– The honorable member knows that clothes rationing comes under the administration of the Department of Trade and Customs. He will be entitled to discuss the matter when the estimates for that department are ‘under consideration, not now.
– I shall skip it then, but I say this - that the Treasurer’s action is typical of his Government’s blundering. Australian cloth is being exported to Canada, and comes back in the form of ready-made suits. Those suits are sold in Sydney stores for £25 8s. each, but if they were made in Australia the price would be less than half. However, it is obvious that the cloth millers in this country prefer to sell their cloth to Canada because exported cloth is not subjected to price control. That is one instance of the way in which our trade balance is being upset. Almost every day we read alarming statements issued from Canberra to the effect that more restrictions are needed - to conserve dollars and that there are to be more drastic rationing of clothing and petrol, Fewer motor cars, and. less raw material. These Canberra alarmists even tell us that some Australian industries may be forced to close down. That is a certain way in which to start another depression, and that is exactly the course along which the Treasurer is leading Australia because of his obsession with the dollar position.
This country was never in a better position to develop its trade with the United States of America than it is now, but the Government is attempting to strangle that trade. One asks oneself, has the Government some ulterior purpose ? Is it afraid to allow the Austraiian people to enjoy prosperity? Does it desire to .establish a way of life without pleasure, comfort or hope? The Treasurer will go down in the annals of his own department as the “ dismal Treasurer of the Commonwealth “.
.- 1 direct my remarks particularly to the Taxation Branch of the Treasury. An extraordinary position has developed in regard to the issue of tax assessments. We know from information extracted from the Treasurer that at the 30th June last, no fewer than 700,000 assessments, representing in the aggregate an amount of approximately £60,000,000, remained unissued.
– That does not appear in any item of the Treasury’s estimates.
– I am referring to Division 36, Taxation Office. Not only has the Taxation Branch fallen in arrear in the issue of assessments, but it has also failed to collect a total amount of £47,300,000 in respect of unpaid assessments. We know that the department has had a difficult time, partly because of an unusually high percentage of enlistments of its staff in the services during war, and partly because of the difficulty in securing the services of people with the necessary qualification. But the real reason for the position in which the department finds itself is the intricacy of the legislation which it has to administer. Many taxpayers have told me that the prospect of having to furnish a return fills them with fear and awe. According to information which I have received from overseas, the administration of taxation legislation has been greatly simplified in Great Britain and. New Zealand, and one wonders why similar action could not be taken in Australia. There should be a complete review of taxation law and the administrative methods of the department. A Royal Commission should have been appointed long ago to inquire into simplification of taxation assessment and collection. This matter has been a frequent subject of discussion, and recently it was mentioned again at the conference of the Federated Taxpayers Association. That body is of the emphatic opinion that the assessment and collection of tax, and the general simplification of taxation law and procedure, should be investigated by a l?oyal Commission. This body suggests that a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire particularly into the incidence of taxation and the economic effect on State finance of uniform taxation.
Commonwealth income tax was first introduced in 1915 by the Fisher Government. On that occasion the then Attorney-General, the present right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), in introducing the Income Tax Assessment Bill 1915, said -
It is a bill to impose a tax upon incomes for the purpose of obtaining revenue, and must be considered from that point of view. In imposing taxation, it is necessary to consider not merely the requirements of the revenue, but also the incidence of the tax, so that conomic equilibrium may be disturbed as little as possible. … At this juncture it is of the utmost importance that we shall do nothing to discourage enterprise; on the contrary, we must do all that we can to encourage it.
To-day everything possible is done to discourage enterprise, particularly in regard to the complicated returns which taxpayers are required to render. I appeal to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to seek a solution of this problem by appointing a royal commission to inquire into the matters I have outlined. The various taxation acts have become so involved and cluttered up with amendments, additions and deletions that there are scores of sub-sections and paragraphs appended to almost every section. As an instance, it is only necessary to look at section 160 of the Income Tax Assessment Act. One of the provisions of that act is designated as section 160 (2) (gr) («). The following section is so long, with so many sub-sections, paragraphs and sub-paragraphs, that the letters of the alphabet have to be used twice to designate them., whilst two sets of numerals are required to enumerate them. That sort of thing is ridiculous and causes chaos. It is utterly impossible for any one who i3 not super-skilled in the preparation of returns to render them correctly.
Further, the social services contribution is applied in such a way as to be beyond the comprehension of many trained accountants, let alone the unfortunate taxpayer, who has no alternative but to pay the amount for which lie has been assessed. That ought not to be the case. When a taxpayer receives his assessment, he ought to be quite satisfied that he is being required to pay the amount for which he is liable, and no more. The social services contribution has no real relationship to the cost of social services. Any intention which the Government might have had to place social services on a contributory basis, has gone by the board. The Federated Taxpayers Association of Australia recommends that a royal commission should inquire urgently into the Income Tax Assessment Act, which is now a patchwork statute, so complicated as to be unintelligible except to the most skilled tax expert. That is one of the reasons why 700,000 assessments have not been issued. The Federated Taxpayers Association of Australia recommends further that the mechanics of taxation should be so designed as to impose the minimum of inconvenience and cost. This, in its opinion, is the right of all taxpayers. To-day, taxpayers who have an income greater than a few hundred pounds are compelled to employ tax experts to prepare their returns. The inherent honesty of taxpayers must be revived by a new approach to taxation, which is a means to an end and not an end in itself. Many people to-day have to go before the Commissioner of Taxation and confess that they have not paid the amount which they should have paid. The reason is that the law is so involved that they are helpless in making up their returns. Injustices as between classes of taxpayers must be removed. The family man must be given greater consideration, and the will to work must be recaptured. These are matters which ought to be inquired into by a royal commission. The simplification of tax returns would remove the unfortunate circumstances which now exist in the Taxation Branch, and have resulted in hundreds of thousands of assessments being unissued and many millions of pounds uncollected. I know from personal contact with the branch that it is anxious to render the best service. This Parliament should ensure an immediate investigation which would lead to a simplification of the law. I trust that the Treasurer will accede to the request of the Federated Taxpayers Association of Australia. Almost every financial critic who writes for the daily newspapers has stressed the need for a simplification of the taxation sys tem. That could best be brought about by the appointment of a royal commission, to which the Taxation Branch could submit evidence based on the wealth of experience which it has gained over the years as to how the system can be improved. If that were done, taxpayers would be much happier and more contented than they are now. I hope that before the next returns have to be furnished by taxpayers the system will have been improved and simplified, and that it will be more in keeping with the practice in other countries.
This afternoon, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke), whom we always regard as an apologist for the Government, said that very few, if any, of the items involved in the cost of living had increased by more than 50 per cent. Statistics furnished by the Commonwealth Statistician prove that the cost of a large number of items has increased by more than 50 per cent. For example, the price of silk stockings has increased by 59 per cent. I am sure that the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), and the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn), will bear that out. The price of women’s handkerchiefs has increased by 100 per cent., that of women’s overcoats by 70 per cent., that of men’s sports coatsby 55 per cent., that of men’s sports trousers by 59 per cent., and that of vegetables by 165 per cent.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).Order ! The honorable member has mentioned a sufficient number of items to illustrate his point.
– I am replying to what has been said previously in the debate.
– Order ! I rule that the honorable member is not entitled toproceed any further with the figures which he has been reading.
– It has been the accepted practice in this Parliament that at least passing reference may be made to a matter. I wish to read some of the items in different groups.
– Order ! The honorable member has made a sufficiently lengthy reference, and must now pass on. I will not allow him to make any further reference.
– In reply to your ruling-
– Order ! If the honorable member does not obey my ruling I. shall ask him to resume bi: seat.
– 1 submit that, in fairness, when an honorable member has made certain statements, other honorable members opposed to him .are entitled to make a passing reference to them. I have referred to women’s clothing, and now desire to mention other items.
– Order ! The matter which the honorable member wishes to debate has been ruled out of order. If the honorable member has no further matter to discuss, he can resume his seat.
– I have other matter. I register my protest–
– Order ! If the honorable member does not obey my ruling I shall order him to resume his seat immediately.
– I have obeyed the Chair, reluctantly. I regard the ruling as most unsatisfactory.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to withdraw that statement.
– “Well, I have given it as my opinion. If you desire me to withdraw, I have to do so.
– Order ! Th«i honorable member will resume his seat.
– I have listened to one or two remarkable speeches on these Estimates. In my opinion, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) uttered some of the most unsympathetic, un-British sentiments that; could be voiced in any parliament. I am very pleased that members of the Opposition did not show rauch enthusiasm for pome of his remarks. He referred to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) as a catastrophe to Australia. He should remember his own achievements while he held a high financial position in this country. He spoke of an iron curtain having been drawn down by the Treasurer. When he held office, he worked very much behind an iron curtain.
– What has this to do with the Treasury?
– I shall refer to the Treasury in my own way. I can understand Opposition members not wanting anything said in reply to the venomous attack made on the Treasurer by the honorable member for Reid. The honorable member sits on the right side of the chamber and, therefore, he receives the call as if he were a supporter of the Government. If he were a fairminded man he would move across the dividing line and take his place among those who are in active and direct opposition to the Government. During the honorable member’s speech I took some notes. Among other things, he said that the Government’s economic policy is one of humbug and hypocrisy. There were a few “ Hear, hears “ from the Opposition benches when those expressions were used. The honorable member went on to say that the Government was not acting in a proper way towards friendly nations. I take it that he had in mind particularly the United States of America because he referred to imports from and exports to that country. I have not the Statistician’s figures with me, but from statements which have been published from time to time I understand that the value of our imports from the dollar countries last year was about 200,000,000 dollars compared with exports valued at only 100,000,000 dollars, thus leaving a gap of approximately 100,000,000 dollars. In the light of those figures, it is ridiculous for the honorable member for Reid to describe the Government’s economic policy as one of humbug and hypocrisy. Later in his speech he complained that suits were being imported from the United States of America and sold in Australia at £25 each. 1 agree with him that suits for Australians should be made in Australia, but the honorable member’s . comments were in contrast with his complaint of the Government’s unfriendly attitude towards the United States of America. According to the report submitted to the Government by the Secretary to the Treasury, the position in regard to dollars is serious indeed. Yet the honorable member for Reid said that the statement of the Treasurer was merely so much alarmist propaganda. I believe that no honorable member in this chamber would favour any action which would be detrimental to Great Britain -and, therefore, I feel keenly the remarks of “the honorable member for Reid who has merely vented his spleen on the Treasurer.
– .Why does not the honorable member and the Government he supports do more to supply food to Britain?
– The Government has done as much as a government representing the parties opposite would do for Britain.
– The honorable member for Richmond must remain silent.
– I shall support every measure introduced by the Government to assist Great Britain and am proud of its record in this connexion, despite the criticism of the honorable member for Reid. In his criticism of the Government’s policy, which he said was depriving the common people of Great Britain of the necessaries of life, he referred to motor cars. Imports from dollar countries cover more than imports from the United States of America. If the honorable member for Reid desires no restriction on imports from dollar countries, he should know what the effect on Great Britain and other sterling countries would be. I have great friendship for the people of the United States of America, and I believe that they are keen, to help us. When the honorable member for Reid says that the Government’s economic policy is catastrophic, I am amazed, because he should know that many authorities in the United States of America, have expressed admiration of that policy, which they regard as an example to the world.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) advocated the simplification of taxation returns. The right honorable member for Cowper suggested that the number of taxation assessments should be reduced by omitting from the taxation field persons on low incomes. He referred particularly to the number of persons brought into the taxation field by the social services tax. Such a complaint comes strangely from honorable members opposite, who have always advocated that our social services schemes should be on a contributory basis, so that every one would have to contribute something for the benefit he received. Another honorable member complained that the cost of administering the taxation office is to be increased by £500,000, due to the fact that more officers are to be employed. Only a week or two ago honorable members opposite were complaining about the large number of unissued assessments, and the large amount represented by uncollected taxes for which assessments had already been issued. They claimed that an amount of nearly £200,000,000 was outstanding, and that this money was in the nature of a secret reserve at the disposal of the Government. Obviously, it is inconsistent for honorable members opposite to complain in one breath that the taxation office is in arrears with its work, and in the next breath to complain that it is proposed to increase the staff. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) said that greater tax relief should be given to farmers who have to spend money on improving their properties, yet if this be done the taxation returns must be further complicated, rather than simplified.
Another reason for the increase of the number of taxation officers is the growing practice of employing taxation experts to make out returns. Business men have often said to me that it pays them to employ a taxation expert because the concessions which such a person is able to obtain more than repay the cost of employing him. While concessions of that kind are allowed, it is necessary for the taxation office to take particular care that the concessions shall be enjoyed only by the persons entitled to them, and this makes it necessary to employ more officers. I, in common with other honorable members, have from time to time approached the Treasurer, and brought under his notice what we regard as taxation anomalies. It is the practice of the’ Treasurer to inquire into such representations, and, if the complaint is found to be justified, and if the circumstances have general application, he instructs his departmental experts to prepare regulations or legislation to meet the situation. This throws increased work upon the taxation office. I recognize that for business men, and- for taxpayers other than wage and salary earners, the making out of taxation returns is a fairly complicated matter. In many instances, complications have been introduced in order to remove anomalies. For instance, I was a member of a committee which considered, among other things, the concession to taxpayers in respect of their wives. Previously, the concession applied only if a. wife did not have an independent income of more than £50. If her income was £51, the taxpayer received no concession at all. This was felt to be unjust, and a graduated system was introduced by which the concession was adjusted in accordance with variations of the income of a wife between £50 and £.100. A further complication of the same kind was introduced in respect of the £50 allowance in regard to social service contributions, so as to relate it to the number of a taxpayer’s dependants.
Some honorable members opposite made a point of the fact that, although the rate of income tax had been reduced, the total amount of revenue had increased. There is nothing remarkable about that, when we remember that the number of persons in receipt of taxable incomes has very substantially increased. As a large number of service personnel who were exempt from income tax have returned to civil employment since the war ended and are now obliged to furnish income tax returns, the department requires an enlarged staff to handle this additional work. I reject entirely the criticism levelled by the honorable member for Reid against the Treasurer. Proof of the healthy economic condition of this country is provided by the readiness with which overseas interests, particularly in Great Britain and the United States of America, are prepared to invest capital in the establishment of new industries in this country.
.. - The first part of the speech just made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) was but a tirade against the honorable member for Reid (Mr.
Lang), whilst the remainder of his speech was simply a rambling dissertation on taxation. I propose, first, to deal with a statement made by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller). As the honorable member for Hindmarsh did not refer to it at all, I assume that he agreed with it. The honorable member for Hume made one of the most damning assertions that I have yet heard in this Parliament, and I immediately refute it on behalf of the Opposition. He said, “ The members of the Opposition want to see the returned soldiers fleeced “. I doubt whether a more ridiculous statement has ever been made in any parliament in the world. What are the facts ? Of the members of the Opposition parties, seventeen have served in the Army, Air Force or Navy from the lowest to the highest ranks, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) having held the rank of major-general. Many of those honorable members have won distinction in battle. Therefore, I give thelie direct to the honorable member forHume. In addition, members of theOpposition have fought unceasingly for preference in employment for exservicepersonnel.
– I ask the honorable member to confine hisremarks to the estimates for the Treasury.
– The latter half of the speech made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh was a rambling dissertation on taxation. Even now, a fewminutes after the conclusion of his speech, I doubt whether any honorable membercan recall anything he said. On previousoccasions, I have illustrated the relationship of the Government -towards employers and employees by telling a story which I shall now repeat. Two catsfound a piece of cheese, and when a dispute arose as to how it should be divided between them they asked a monkey tomake the division. The monkey readily agreed. He cut the piece of cheese in two pieces, putting a piece on each side of a scales. Always, one piece weighed down the other, and in order to balance the scales the monkey took a bite out of the heavier piece until finally he had eaten all the cheese; The cats received no cheese at all. The monkey in that story personifies the Government in respect of its taxation policy. “When an employer receives a fair return for his outlay and an employee does a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, every one in the community is happy; but when the -Government steps in and denies to each the fruit of his labour the community stagnates.
I shall now deal with the subject of price control. To-day, black marketing prevents ordinary citizens from obtaining the goods they need. The honorable member for Reid dealt fully with this problem. He explained how black marketing robbed the ordinary citizens of a share in the prosperity which Australia is now enjoying. The common man cannot participate in that prosperity, because black marketing, due to bungling on the part of the Government, is rife throughout the community. We are not producing in sufficient quantities the goods which the community requires. Due to black marketing, persons with surplus money are enabled to obtain more than their fair share of the available goods, whilst very little is left for the citizen who wishes to purchase goods at fixed prices.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the estimates for the Treasury.
– I am merely answering arguments which were advanced earlier to-day by honorable members opposite. I wish to refer to statements made in this chamber earlier in the sitting to-day.
– Order !
– If I may not do so, I shall resume my seat.
.- I should not have taken part in this debate but for the puerile statements and the illustrations sought to be made by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull). We have heard him speaking about rats, rabbits and crayfish at different times, and now he gives us monkeys, cats and cheese, none of which is analogous to the subject of Treasury Estimates. We have wondered whether the bottom end of his spinal column ought to be at the top. I agree that there are some anomalies in our taxation laws. Only to-day, by way of question, I drew thu attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley ) to the anomaly that exists by reason of the disallowance of rebates in respect of medical and hospital contributions deducted from the weekly earnings of workers while quarterly contributions of a similar nature through friendly societies are subject to such rebates. That anomaly should be corrected. Some time ago the income tax legislation was amended to allow a rebate in respect of a housekeeper having the care of a widower with children under the age of sixteen years. Such a widower could, as the law now stands, claim a rebate for his de facto wife. Recently, a case was brought to my notice of a wife who deserted her husband and went to live with a widower with children under the age of sixteen years. Notwithstanding the irregularity of the alliance, the widower was permitted to claim rebate for this woman as his housekeeper, yet the deserted husband, who had to rely upon his daughter to keep house for him and his three other children, all under the age of sixteen years, was not allowed a rebate in respect of the services of his daughter because he was not a widower. Some provision should be made to cover such cases.
An endeavour should be made by the Taxation Department to speed up the issue of assessments. Yesterday, a cass was brought to my notice of a taxpayer who has not. received tax assessments since 1943. The man concerned has his group certificates covering deductions of tax by his employers and is responsible for their safe custody. These certificates may easily be lost or destroyed, and it is unfair to force him to accept responsibility for their safe custody for such a long period. Copies of the certificates can be obtained only after the making of a statutory declaration concerning their loss and after the observance of stringent formalities, notwithstanding the fact that the information contained in the certificate, including its identifying serial number, is contained in the records of the department. The concentration of the great bulk of our population in relatively small areas imposes a heavy task upon the branches of the department in the most populous States and renders more difficult the task of issuing assessments. For instance, within 50 miles of Newcastle, there is a population greater than in the whole of Tasmania. Representations have been made by me and by the honorable member for Newcastle (M r. Watkins) and others that a branch of the department be established at Newcastle. At ‘present there Ls merely an information centre there. If necessary, such a branch could cover the people living in the area from Newcastle to the Queensland border, and thus relieve a great deal of the congestion existing in the Sydney office. Assessments could bo issued from the Newcastle office and payments of tax made there. Up to date, however, these representations have not met with success, the department stating that shortage of staff prevents it from adopting the suggestion. It is inevitable that new staff must be recruited and trained or the arrears of assessments will never be overtaken.
The Estimates show clearly the progress this country is making in its rehabilitation since the war. Considering the difficulties with which we have been faced, and our splendid contributions towards meeting food shortages in Great Britain, the Government has done a remarkably good job, not only during the war but also in the post-war period.- Australia’s record shows that, as a unit of the British Commonwealth of Nations, it is prepared to pull its full weight in the rehabilitation of the Mother Country.
.- One of the statutory functions of the Secretary to the Treasury is to establish a liaison with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank and to concern himself with the policies pursued by the bank so as to ensure that they shall be in conformity with ‘the policies of the Government. In respect of policy matters the Secretary to the Treasury is, of course, subject to the direction of the Treasurer. I propose to make some short observations arising out of the functions of the Secretary to the Treasury in respect of the conduct of the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank. The Mortgage Bank Department was established four or five years ago as the result of years of agitation for the financing of rural credits in the form of fixed loans on land. Primary industries lean moreupon capital in relation to their annual production and turnover than any otherindustries. It has been proved throughout the ages that rural industries lean very largely on capital borrowed for fixed terms and not expected to be repayable in a short period. The fruition of years of agitation for Commonwealth intervention came with the establishment of the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank, an act for which great credit has been taken by the Labour Government. The facts show,, however, that the Mortgage Bank Department has failed completely to meet the requirements of rural producers. The most recent report of the Commonwealth Bank shows that in the last year, throughout the whole of the Commonwealth, there were only 416 successful applicantsfor advances from the Mortgage Bank Department.
– How many were turned down ?
– I do not know.
– That might be the answer.
– It would not be an answer because the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank quotes a lower rate of interest than that quoted by the trading banks, or that permitted by law for private mortgages. _ If the Commonwealth Bank were providing a service that was regarded as reasonably competitive with that offered by the trading banks, there is not the slightest doubt that statistics would show infinitely more loans last year than the figure that I have mentioned. In the whole of Victoria there were probably only 150 or 160, and I say without the slightest 1 fear of contradiction that in a moderately sized country town the local solicitors would have negotiated more mortgages than that in one year. It shows that the MortgageBank. Department has failed notwithstanding the fact that the Commonwealth Bank to-day operates under the direction of the Treasury and so reflects the policy of the Government. What are the shortcomings of the Commonwealth Bank in this respect? Notwithstanding the lower rate of interest people are being driven away from the Mortgage Bank Department or they are unable or unwilling to avail themselves of its services. It is a curious anomaly, and one which I think should not go unexplained in this debate, that the State Savings Bank of Victoria is able to quote an appreciably lower rate of interest for loans made under substantially the same terms and conditions as those made by the Mortgage Bank Department.
– They are not made under the same terms and conditions.
– I say that they were made under substantially the same terms and conditions. If there is an appreciable difference it will remain for a Government spokesman to. explain it. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) has on many occasions in this chamber asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to review this state of affairs and see whether, as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, in complete control of the Commonwealth Bank, the interest rate on loans could not be reduced to that quoted by the State Savings Bank of Victoria. In reply, the right honorable gentleman has repeatedly assured the House that he would have the matter investigated ; but the stark and undeniable fact remains that the Commonwealth Bank will not and cannot get down to the rate of interest quoted by the State Savings Bank of Victoria, the resources of which are not comparable with the Commonwealth Bank. It is common knowledge among those whose business it is to acquaint themselves of the operations of the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank that there is no more conservative institution in Australia. I pass for the moment the sad prospect of people having no option but to deal with the Commonwealth Bank. Here is the Commonwealth Bank today authorized to make advances on rural properties up to 70 per cent, of their value, when it is common knowledge that the trading banks will not advance more than 60 per cent. !
– They do not offer that much.
– The honorable member for “Wannon (Mr. McLeod) said that the advances of the trading banks are not as much as 60 per cent. Apparently he speaks with some knowledge. The truth is, of course, that time after time, the Commonwealth Bank’s 70 per cent, valuation is less than the valuation accepted by these pernicious trading banks, pastoral companies and private lenders. Under the administration of this beneficent Government, the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank is conducted on incredibly conservative lines. Its interest rate on mortgages is higher than that of the State Savings Bank of Vic. oria, and its valuations for advances are conservative in the extreme. If this state of affairs exists in the face of competition from the trading banks, heaven knows how conservative the policy of the Commonwealth Bank will be in the absence of that competition. I appeal to the Treasurer to examine the matter to see whether out of his unbounded resources, and in the interests of the primary producers of whom Ministers constantly prate, he can reduce the rate of interest on mortgages to that charged by the State Savings Bank of Victoria, thus bringing about a state of affairs that will enable the next balance sheet of the Commonwealth Bank to show many more than 416 successful applications for assistance to those engaged in industries conducted largely with the aid of borrowed money.
– Primary producers have been paying back for many years instead of borrowing.
– I invite the Minister to rise in the course of this debate and substantiate that statement. This, of course, is not the end of the story of the Commonwealth Bank. It is doing some incredible things. Recently I had brought to my notice a case which occurred in the town of Numurkah in my electorate. I shall be prepared to give the names of the parties to the Treasurer if he so desires.
– Why has the honorable member not supplied them already?
– Because the people concerned have asked me as their representative to raise the matter in Parliament, and that is what I am doing now. The only time that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) opens his mouth in this chamber is when lie moves the “ gag “ in order to prevent members of the Opposition from raising matters of this kind.
The Treasury is responsible, not merely for the actual policy of the Commonwealth Bank, but also for the administration of the control of land sales - a system introduced and practised, so we are assured, for the purpose of combating inflationary tendencies. The case which has been brought to my notice arises from the sale of a block of land in the town of Numurkah.
– “Where is Numurkah?
– Numurkah is an important town in the Goulburn Valley, Victoria. The block of land to which I refer has a frontage of 40 feet. I am assured that approximately four years ago this area was purchased for £170. Four years ago is since the introduction of the pegging of land values. Recently, a person indicated his willingness to buy this block, and, J am told, entered into a contract to purchase it at £14 10s. a foot. A simple arithmetical calculation will show that the price was £580. The Treasury, in accordance with the policy of the Government, refused permission for the transfer. We can understand that attitude; it is- in accordance with the anti-inflationary policies propounded by the Government. Then, one bright day, a representative of the Commonwealth Bank visited Numurkah and purchased Ibis block for £1,000. I ask: What is the policy of this Government regarding the control of land sales? Is it designed to prevent private citizens from conducting transactions in accordance with their own judgment? Is the purpose to refuse one man permission to purchase land in accordance with his own judgment, and another man the right to make a profit? Does the Government knowingly allow this instrument, which, as a monopoly, is 1o mould the financial destiny of Australia, to sweep aside the announced policy of the Government and make purchases of this kind?
– Will the honorable member state the names of the parties concerned ?
– I shall give the names of the parties to the Treasurer.
I hope that this discussion will not conclude before a Minister, who has acquainted himself with the facts, makes an explanation. Perhaps a similar position has arisen in 200 towns like Numurkah. I see no reason to believe that the Commonwealth Bank’s complete disregard of the policy of Land Sales Control is limited to one town.
– It lias happened in Brighton, Victoria
– How are we to know that these incidents are not common? This defiance of Land Sales Control is being practised by an institution which is to be given a complete monopoly of banking in Australia.
As I explained, the Commonwealth Bank became the owner of this block of land, and desired to erect a building thereon. So, observing the forms of law, the bank applied to the shire of Numurkah for approval to do so. The Shire of Numurkah, taking into consideration the fact that its by-laws provide that this is a brick area, and that the Commonwealth Bank proposed to erect on the block a temporary wooden structure, refused to grant permission. The bank, by correspondence, asked the shire to reconsider its decision! But within several days, before the shire had time to reply, the agents of the bank installed some stumps for the temporary wooden building, and a truck conveyed to the site one of those magnificent prefabricated structures which clutter country roadstoday when the banking legislation is imminent. In defiance of the by-laws of the shire, the bank proceeded to erect this prefabricated wooden structure. I ask : Why should people be severely penalized for offences against a law which the Commonwealth Bank - a government instrumentality, can defy successfully?’ Australia, we are led to believe, is a federation. We have Commonwealth and State governments, and local authorities. Yet the local authorities are defied by an instrument of the Commonwealth Government! The bank has adopted an intolerably high-handed attitude, which will strike fear into the minds of many people, when they realize that, if theGovernment has its will, they will be- forced to transact their business with this autocrat. Honorable members on thi? side of the chamber will not accept this dictatorial attitude which defies Land Sales Control. “We shall not allow to pass unnoticed the complete failure of the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank. This failure cannot be explained away. In Australia, thousands of mortgage transactions and scores of thousands of overdraft transactions by primary producers take place every year, yet this instrument of the Commonwealth Government is able to meet annually the requirements of only 460 primary producers throughout Australia. It is time that these matters were exposed, and that a Minister made not a propaganda speech but an explanation of the activities of the Commonwealth Bank.
.- The remarks of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) call for a brief reply in order to correct his distortions of facts. I shall speak about his criticism of the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank. As honorable members know, the Australian Country party agitated for many years for the establishment of a Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank. We now know that this was merely lipservice. The Mortgage Bank Department has provided a service to the primary producers which the private trading banks, for which the honorable member is a great advocate, do not give. Men on the land who want long term loans cannot secure accommodation from the private hanks, and they have welcomed the establishment of this institution. The Mortgage Bank Department was inaugurated by the Labour party when it came into office in order to give effect to the wishes and meet the needs of primary producers. Farmers are continually asking when branches of this department of the Commonwealth Bank will be established in their districts so that they will be able to take advantage of its service. There is not one branch of the .hank in the Wimmera district. Yet the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) deplores the fact that the Government is attempting to establish new branches in country areas. He claims that the
Mortgage Bank Department has failed because only 460 accounts have been opened with it. The reason for that is obvious. Farmers are unable to reach the few scattered branches that have been established. There are only three branches of the Commonwealth Bank in the vast electorate of Wannon which I represent. They are at Warrnambool, Hamilton and Horsham. There are no branches at any of the other big towns in the electorate, and the Horsham branch itself was created nol very long ago. Men cannot travel from distant rural areas to Melbourne in order to transact their banking business. That is why only 460 accounts have been opened with the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank. The Government is endeavouring to overcome this disability by extending the country representation of the bank, and the honorable member for Indi should be giving full support to its efforts instead of opposing it. The farmers do not want to have their loans on call from day to day under the private banks’ system. They have had bitter experience of that method of doing business. They want to obtain loans on the 40 years’ term offered by the Commonwealth Bank. The honorable member significantly failed to mention the fact that the Mortgage Bank Department of :he Commonwealth Bank extends loans under that condition. Many primary producers have told me that they narrowly escaped foreclosures by the private trading banks during the depression. Now they want to achieve security for the future. They seek not so .much the low rate of interest charged by the Mortgage Bank Department as the longterm conditions which it offers, so that their sons will be able to carry on secure in the knowledge that their loans will not be on call from day to day. I tell the honorable member that he will find no record of foreclosures on the properties of men who have taken advantage of the privilege of doing business with the Mortgage Bank Department. The honorable gentleman has no genuine interest in this institution. The fact that he decries its activities now shows that his previous advocacy was mere lip service on behalf of the Australian Country party. He champions the private banks now during a boom period, of which those banks are taking full advantage, knowing that, should a slump occur, they will seek to recover their securities. Men who have obtained loans from the private banks are likely to regret that they did not do business with the Commonwealth Bank. The honorable member spoke of the town of Numurkah. Farmers in that district will find themselves in difficulties in the event of an economic depression. They should be given the opportunity to deal with the Commonwealth Bank. Until the Government has branches of the Commonwealth Bank established throughout the country, it is obvious that the farmers will not be able to do their banking business where they wish.
– I have no time to enter into an argument about the Commonwealth Bank or to engage in any delicious exchange of pleasantries with honorable members opposite. I have- no particular love for the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), and certainly I do not agree with his policies or with those of the Government. I leave them to themselves.
– The honorable member does not agree with his own party’s policies.
-My friend made very clear the other night that, on foreign’ affairs, he is not in agreement with the Government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) was obliged to say something about that disagreement not long after the honorable member had made his speech. I should say that the honorable gentleman, when it comes to agreement, gives the impression that he has a very large shareholding in the glassworks of Australian Consolidated Industries Limited.
I have some criticism to make of statistics issued on behalf of the Government. Members of this chamber are frequently obliged to refer to statistics, and, in order to fulfil our duties, we mu’st study figures supplied to us by the Government. In considering the Estimates and budget papers, we have to solve- some difficult conundrums. I understand the normal rules of arithmetic, but - the method of presenting statistics in these documents is so complicated as to cause bewilderment. I refer particularly to the figures supplied to us in connexion with Australia’s public debt. According to the budget papers, the public debt is divided into three sections. The first section is that which is redeemable in Australia. The total amount of that section, in round figures, is £2,323,000,000, Australian currency. The second section consists of the public debt redeemable in London. A note at the top of this page shows that loans raised in London are expressed in sterling. Therefore, before we can obtain the amount of Australia’s commitment in London, we must convert the total from English currency to Australian currency, which requires the addition of 25 per cent, of the sterling total. The amount of the public debt redeemable in London is approximately £403,000,000 sterling, which therefore represents approximately £505,000,000, Australian currency. The third table shows the amount of the public debt redeemable in New York. This is approximately £40,500,000. However, a note above this table states that this amount is expressed in sterling into which dollars have been converted at an exchange rate of 4.8665 dollars to £1. It is impossible to convert dollars to sterling at that rate to-day. Sterling currency has depreciated too much to allow of such a favorable rate. In this instance, we have to make two calculations before we can arrive at the total of the public debt redeemable in New York in terms of Australian currency.
– What do dollars cost in Great Britain to-day?
– I asked the honorable member previously how many francs were equivalent to £1 in Brussels, and he did not know. I believe that he does not know what currency is used in Belgium. As I said, before we can work out our indebtedness in the United States of America, we have to make two calculations. First, we must find out the rate of exchange of American dollars into sterling. Then we have to convert sterling .to Australian currency. In order to simplify our own task, and also for the purpose of informing the public properly, such statistics should be presented in term3 of Australian currency. An example of the difficulties created by this bad system is provided by the summary of the public debt on page 121 of the budget papers. Various figures in that summary are distinguished by footnotes, some of which are as follows : -
Plus exchange approximately £605,000 on remittances to London.
Plus exchange approximately £368,000 on remittances to New York.
Plus exchange approximately £2,866,000 on remittances to London.
Plus exchange approximately £515,000 on remittances to New York.
Simplicity, common sense, and logic should suggest to the statistical officers of the Treasury that our overseas commitments should be expressed in terms of Australian currency.
I turn now to statistics dealing with production. I have before me a copy of the latest statistical information on agricultural production. First, I refer to the figures dealing with the dairying industry. If I want to know the total production of butter in Australia during the last financial year, I find it expressed in pounds. If I want to know the quality of that butter, I find it expressed in terms of boxes. If I want to know how much of it was exported, I find it expressed in tons. Thus, we again have to engage in arithmetical calculation in order to find out the meaning of the figures. That, of course, might amuse some honorable members opposite, but it is not helpful to us or to other citizens in search of information. I refer next to the figures dealing with superphosphate. I am accustomed to handling superphosphate, and I have never yet understood why that commodity, which is always dealt with in tons, is referred to in statistics in terms of hundredweights. It would simplify matters greatly if those calculations could be reduced to some common unit of weight. The same confusion exists in the publication of statistics in regard to minerals. One realizes that different customs obtain in certain trades, and that it is quite natural for some commodities to be quoted by the ton, whilst others are quoted by the hundredweight. As an example, one has only to refer to the statistics in regard to the production of asbestos, which are quoted in hundredweights. In that case I think the figure should be reduced to pounds. The statistics of production of bauxite are quoted by the ton, whilst those of the next item, wolfram, are quoted by the hundredweight. In actual fact, the market quotation is always given on a unit basis, and 100 units constitute a ton. Surely there should be a shake-up in the Bureau of Census and Statistics in order to get down to common sense. I do not intend to quote all these items, because it would take far too long, but I trust that when the next statistics are issued there will be a considerable improvement.
The next matter to which I wish to refer also relates to the Bureau of Census arid Statistics. Immediately prior to the census being taken a few months ago a report appeared in the South Australian press to the effect that within fourteen days of the taking of the census certain information would be available to the public. I do not know who was responsible for the publication of that report, but I do know that not until the end of November next will any information be available to the Government. Just how soon after that period information will be made available to the Parliament I do not know, but some explanation should be furnished by the Government of the delay in revealing the result of the census.
I desire to support the remarks of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in regard to the collection of tax by some employers, who are required to act in that capacity on an unpaid basis. I had a great deal to say about that matter in May last, and I do not propose to repeat now what I said then, but the attitude of the Taxation Branch in requiring some employers to act as tax collectors continues to cause considerable annoyance. Many employers who have engaged contractors to carry out work have been informed by the branch that they are responsible for placing taxation stamps on the wages sheet of the individuals carrying out work for them. In many cases the contractor is also a payer of wages. The result is most confusing to every one concerned, and the branch should review its decision in this regard. People in this country do not accept kindly the duty imposed on them of becoming unpaid tax collectors on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. When the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mi1. Thompson) spoke to-night, he made it appear that people should take pleasure in paying income tax to the Commonwealth Government. I do not share that view, and, as a fellow South Australian, I commend to his recollection the wayside notice which used to appear on the Gawlerroad many years ago which stated, “ It is a pleasure to owe money so long as you owe it to so and so in Pirie-street “. He suggests that people should take a pleasure in paying income tax, but I know that the majority of people certainly do not, more so when they consider the record of the Government to whom they are paying their money.
– I desire to say a few words in reply to the intemperate utterances of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) in respect of the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank. In the earlier period of the honorable gentleman’s membership of this Parliament he, like many other members of his party, was forever clamouring for the creation of a mortgage bank department of that bank. Later, when the honorable gentleman became a Minister in a composite government his ideals changed regarding the necessity for the establishment of such an institution, and it remained for a Labour government to create one. That department was created by-
– Mr. Wilson!
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) is endeavouring, by way of interjection, to give the credit for the establishment of that department to Mr. Wilson, a former member of this Parliament. There are not many things for which either the honorable member for Gippsland or the honorable member for Indi is prepared to give credit to Mr. Wilson, but I believe he is deserving of some recognition for the support which he gave to the Labour Government which introduced the measure. However, the complaint of the honorable member for Indi that the report of the Commonwealth Bank of
Australia shows that during this year only 416 mortgage bank loans were made is disposed of when one realizes that since this Government came into office the number of applications for mortgages on land has declined to a figure quite unknown before. That decline has been due to the assistance given generally to the primary producers of this country by the Government, together with the fact that primary producers have enjoyed reasonably high prices for their products. However, the fact remains that the honorable member for Indi was a member of the composite government which failed to give effect to its repeated promises to inaugurate a Mortgage Bank Department.
The statistics show that the incomes of Australian farmers have exactly doubled since 1939, and for that reason they do not need to borrow money on mortgage. Another matter which should be borne in mind is that mentioned by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) . As he pointed out, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, because of the restrictive policy imposed on its operations by previous governments supported by the present Opposition parties, has not the means nor the organization to conduct this type of business. However, that disability will vanish in the near future, thank God ! In any case, rural producers do not need to borrow money on mortgage, as they did during the time in which the composite government of which the honorable member for Indi was a member was in office. Confirmation of my assertion is supplied by the recent statement of the chairman of a trading bank, who bemoaned the fact that it was exceedingly difficult to find applicants for overdrafts. The honorable member for Indi did not tell the committee that since this particular department commenced operations the total number of loans made has ‘been not 416, but many thousands, aggregating over £3,000,000. Nor did the honorable gentleman tell the committee that other departments’ of the Commonwealth Bank deal with assistance to the primary producers of this country. I cite the Rural Credits Department, of which he made no mention.
– It does not deal with primary producers.
– It deals with primary production.
– I have said that it does not deal with primary producers. Do not misrepresent me.
– Primary production bears the interest rate on those overdrafts which are provided for the purpose of making advances to the growers of primary products of all kinds in this country. For the information of the country, and the edification of the honorable member, I quote this statement from the report of the Commonwealth Bank-
Production and marketing of primary products was assisted during the year by advances aggregating £113,755,000.
Those advances were made by the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank.
– That department was established bythe Australian Country party.
– The honorable gentleman cannot take his medicine. A little while ago he complained of the lack of rapid advances by the Mortgage Bank Department. Now he claims that the Rural Credits Department was established by a government of which he was a member. That may be true. But he cannot claim the credit in both instances. The statement continues -
These advances were made on specially favorable rural credit terms, and embraced important commodities in Australia’s economy, such as wheat, flour, meat, butter, cheese, eggs and fruit. Advances totalling £36,255,000 were also made available to finance the export of meat, butter, cheese, eggs and fruit to the British Ministry of Food.
In addition to the factors I have mentioned - the general prosperity of rural industry, the lack of necessary office accommodation, and the numerous advances which normally wouldbe required - there is the further fact that the mere establishment of the Mortgage Bank Department had a magical effect on other financial institutions in this country which were anxious to make advances on mortgages. In my day and generation my colleague fromWannon (Mr. McLeod) and other soldier settlers had to pay high interest rates. Due to the operations of the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank, andto the deliberate policy of this Government, ex-servicemen and other rural producers have had the advantage of low interest rates. In order to find outlets for their funds, private financial institutions, in some instances, where the security has been exceptionally good, have probably made advances at rates below those charged by the Mortgage Bank Department. In the same breath as that in which he condemned the Mortgage Bank Department, the honorable gentleman praised the operations of the State Savings Bank of Victoria. He knows that that institution has all the facilities that it needs in the way of buildings, managers and staffs. He has lauded the great work which undoubtedly it has done in the way of lending money on mortgage to rural producers, but has omitted to say that it has been making rural loans in Victoria for probably 50 years, and that it has branches in every town of any considerable size throughout the length and breadth of that State. Nor did he mention that during the long period of its existence it has had the opportunity to gather into its service competent and experienced staffs. Undoubtedly, the State Savings Bank of Victoria and similar institutions in other States have done an excellent job for the people on the land, notwithstanding which, people like the honorable member for Indi have complained in the past of what they have alleged to be their conservative policy. Let us contrast the position of the State Savings Banks with that of the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank, which was established in 1942, during a period of war, when it was difficult to obtain staff owing to thecall-up of some and the volunteering of other suitable men. Although the department is in its inf ancy, it is in embryo what will prove to be in the future, particularly in view of the legislation which has been foreshadowed, the sheet anchor and the salvation of the rural producers of Australia.
.- I do not wish to buy in on this private fight between the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), nor do I wish to discussthe proposed legislation, as has been done by the Minister. However, I do want to refer to a remark made by him.
He has claimed that the prosperous conditions of the primary producers were responsible for the few applications for loans which had been received. The honorable gentleman did not mention that another reason is that the primary producers cannot, on account of the maladministration of this Government, purchase tractors, wire, harvesters, ploughs and other things which they need. Obviously, it is absolutely of no avail to seek advances.
I have risen particularly to advocate the abolition of land sales control. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) appears to think that because there is a wheat stabilization plan in operation a farmer can receive an enhanced price for his farm. That is not so. No man can receive an enhanced price for his farm because prices are pegged at the 1942 levels. Recently, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) advocated the adoption of the Canadian system, under which the control of land sales is removed, but rents are still controlled. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) said that such a scheme would be impossible. No doubt he spoke after having consulted his officers. If his advisers say that such a scheme is impossible it is time that they were dismissed and replaced by men who could devise a scheme which, whilst abolishing land sales control, would retain control of rents. The Minister said that if land sales control were abolished, excuses of all kinds would be offered as reasons for increasing rents, but surely the Government would have the control of rents in its own hands. If a man seeks to buy a property as an investment, he will not pay an enhanced price for it knowing that the rent will be pegged. No business man would consider such a proposal. The present system is operating to the great disadvantage of the re-establishment land settlement scheme. Earlier to-day, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Puller) said that the Opposition is out to fleece the returned soldiers.
– That is so.
– I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that you inform the honorable member for Hume that he may not interject from the ministerial bench, and that he must return to his proper seat, as I was instructed to do a few days ago. It would appear that there is one rule applying to honorable members on this side of the chamber and another rule applying to supporters of the Government.
– Order ! The honorable member for Hume should not interject from a seat other than his own.
– Like the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turn bull), I throw back in the teeth of the honorable member for Hume the lie that the Opposition is out to fleece the returned soldiers. If any one is out to do that it is the Government that the honorable member supports. Properties cannot be bought under the war service land settlement scheme because of the iniquitous system of land sales control. Reference has been made to the “ C “ series cost of living index figures. Since 1942 there has been an increase of 3s. a week in the amount of money necessary to purchase an equivalent quantity of goods to-day, as compared with that year. If only that additional cost were allowed in the purchase of farms, and the Government were to make it a free gift to ex-servicemen, it would be possible to purchase properties under the scheme. Most of the properties purchased under the scheme to-day are those which are offered almost as forced sales. Although the war has been over for more than two years, no ex-serviceman has been settled on the land to produce wheat and sheep in Western Australia notwithstanding that nearly twelve months ago the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) assured me that settlement would take place in January or February of this year. I have previously referred to the case of a returned soldier-
– The honorable member belongs to the exploiting class.
– I should be happy to exploit the honorable member.
– The honorable member will not be able to do that. I am awake to him.
– In the case to which I previously referred, the returned soldier and the vendor of the land agreed to a purchase price of £1,860. The land sales control authorities considered the price too high and would not agree to the sale. After six months, however, a representative of the Sub-Treasury communicated with the .solicitor who was representing the returned soldier and suggested that he should purchase the property at £2,200, in which event he would be given permission to sell it the following day for £2,400. Unfortunately, the returned soldier had spent his money in other directions, and could not go on with the sale. In his letter to me on the subject the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said -
The real position is that although Mr.– contracted to buy at a certain figure, which has proved to be fair and reasonable, and which for a while he urged the department to approve, he now wishes to persuade the department to enable him to cancel the contract.
It will be seen that in a period of six months the price rose from £1,860 to £2,400, notwithstanding that in the meantime no improvements had been effected on the property. When permission was granted to sell the land at a higher price, the original negotiator was not communicated with. A time limit should be imposed before a property, the sale of which had been refused by the Sub-Treasury, can again be offered for sale. Better still, however, land sales control should be abolished. Its abolition would save a considerable sum of money. Any officers affected could be employed on other work. The removal of the controls would soon result in land realizing its true value, because no man would buy land at a price at which he could not make a reasonable profit.
– Is the honorable member personally interested in the sale of property ?
– I shall be looking for a property soon, but I shall pay only market price for it.
– -The honorable member for Hume must cease interjecting.
– The sooner the controls are removed the sooner will land bring its true value and black marketing disappear. To-day, honest people are being forced to sign false documents and engage in black marketing in order to obtain land. I have inspected a property which I am prepared to buy at a price that the vendor is willing to accept, but because the price is about £200 more than the official valuation, approval of the sale would not be granted. Attempts are being made to force me to break the law; but I have never yet stooped to that, and I do not intend to do so.
The sales tax on refrigerators, wireless batteries and valves and other necessary articles required by people living in country districts should be removed. A refrigerator is not a luxury. I repeat that a refrigerator is an absolute necessity in the country. It is not a luxury, but the Government retains the sales tax on refrigerators, although it insists that it is anxious to help country people. I ask the Government at least to reduce sales tax on refrigerators, wireless valves and accumulators, which, in the country, are necessary.
It has been stated that if sales tax on trailers used by primary producers were removed it would be impossible to police the provision. I remind the Government that when sales tax was first introduced exemption’s were allowed on various articles used by primary producers. It was only necessary for the person concerned to make a statutory declaration that the article was to be used by him on his own farm and in the transport of his own produce. It has been claimed that if a concession were granted now it would be possible for a primary producer to buy a vehicle at concession rates, and then hire it out to a private carrier. That is a ridiculous suggestion. I am confident that if the department accepted a statutory declaration from the purchaser, very few would hire the vehicles to carriers. If a trailer is fitted with shafts so that it may be drawn by a horse, a tax rebate is allowed, but if it is fitted with a drawbar, no concession is given. This is driving primary producers to buy trailers fitted with shafts,, and then have them converted in the blacksmith’s shop so that they might be drawn behind a lorry. Primary producers do not want to be driven to this subterfuge, but they have no choice. It is nonsense to suggest that the provision could not be policed if a concession were granted. There is no reason why the department should not accept a statutory declaration - that the trailer would be used by the purchaser for his own purposes on his own farm.
– I urge the Government to grant taxation relief to workers in th«
Northern Territory. In Division 37 of the Estimates, provision is made for the appropriation of £3,080 for the Income Tax Board of Review, so apparently no very large staff is attached to the board. I suggest that through the board the measure of relief for which I ask might be granted. Uniform income taxation was introduced in 1942, and has applied to workers in the territory ever since. The Government quite rightly granted a concession to primary producers, particularly the cattlemen in the Northern Territory. Recently, I asked that this concession be extended for another five years, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) agreed. I believe that some of the cattlemen did very well during the war, but when I asked for the concession I was thinking particularly of returned soldiers who might take up holdings in the territory. For their sake, I was glad that the concession is to be renewed for a further five years from the 30th June last. However, station managers and stockmen who work on the cattle stations do not enjoy any concession. They have to pay income tax at the full rate, although the cost of living in the Northern Territory is high because of high freight charges. After all, it is the station manager and the stockmen who make the money for the station owners. The stockmen are out in the open for nine months of the year enduring all kinds of hardship, and living under primitive conditions, but they are taxed at the full rate. Lorry-drivers, miners and other individualists are also taxed heavily. I appeal to the Treasurer to have this matter reviewed so that the workers who are making the money for the station owners may enjoy the same concessions as do the station owners. It is 1,000 miles from Alice Springs to Darwin, and although we were promised a railway a long time ago to connect those two places, the scheme seems to have died. The freight on goods from Alice Springs to Darwin is £25 a ton, in addition to £10 a ton from Adelaide to Alice Springs. Because of the numerous hold-ups at southern ports, the shipping service from Sydney to Darwin has practically fallen into abeyance. This was the cheapest way of getting goods to Darwin, as the freight used to he only £3 a ton, and is now not more than about £4 10s. a ton. I ask the Government to give serious consideration to restoring the shipping service to Darwin, so as to reduce the cost of living in the territory.
I was not in the chamber this afternoon when the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) spoke, but he has since been taken to task by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) for saying that members of the Opposition were trying to fleece the soldiers. I am sure that if he had not made the statement, he would not have been rebuked by those honorable members. On the Opposition side of this House, there is a very good sprinkling of returned soldiers, more than the Government side can boast of. If the honorable member for Hume thinks that the returned soldiers who dominate the Opposition parties are not going to give the returned soldiers of this country a fair deal, he has another think coming.
When I visited Western Australia last October, land agents with whom I discussed the subject of control of land sales emphasized that they did not expect existing controls to be lifted immediately, but they asked me to impress upon the Prime Minister the necessity for permitting values to rise by 10 per cent. in the first year, 20 per cent. in the second year and 30 per cent. in the third year. They believe that if that were done this problem would solve itself. That is the view of approved valuers in Western Australia, and I support it. I again urge the Government to give to workers in the Northern Territory the concession in respect of income tax now enjoyed by primary producers in the Northern Territory.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - R. W. Keating.
Health- W. H. H. Cornford, R. M. W.
Cunningham, G. M. Dallimore, C. C. Fenton, R. W. Hawker, A. H. Humphrey, L. L. Lock, J. G. McGlashan, A. G. Schroeder.
Labour and National Service - P. D. Prendergast, F. N. Simpson.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations -
Orders - Inventions and designs (11).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for
Postal purposes -
Nowra, New South Wales.
Wollongong, New South Wales.
Lands Acquisition Act and Lands Acquisi tion Ordinance of the Northern Territory - Land acquired for Defence purposes -
Batchelor, Northern Territory.
Peace Treaties between the Allied and Associated Powers of the one part, and, of the other part -
House adjourned at 10.44 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
Will he have a statement prepared for the House showing (a) the output of coal for each month of 1947, compared with the output for the corresponding months of each of the previous five years; (b) thelosses of output due to stoppages for each month of 1947; (c) the allocation of New South Wales coal to each State in each month of 1947, together with the estimated requirements of each State in the same period; (d) the estimated requirements of each State for each remaining month of the year, including the Christmas holiday period, and (e) the estimated output during the remaining months of the year?
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information: -
These quotas represent the board’s estimate of each State’s requirements, having regard to the availability of substitute fuels and the need for equitable distribution of a total supply which is inadequate to meet the total demand. They include the following amounts per four-weekly period for the creation of reserve stocks: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
– The Minister for Munitions has supplied the following information : -
t asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Land Settlement of Ex-servicemen.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon, notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n. - On the 2nd October, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) asked a question concerning the construction of Lincoln and Tudor aircraft. The Minister for Munitions has supplied the following information: -
The position in regard to the Lincoln and Tudor aircraft projects is that -
It is not proposed to convert either Lincoln or Tudor aircraft for commercial use. All aircraft being manufactured are covered by Royal Australian Air Force orders.
The manufacture of Rolls-Royce Nene turbojet engines is being developed by the Com- monwealth Aircraft Corporation. The engines will be used for installation in Vampire aircraft being manufactured for the Royal Australian Air Force by De Haviland Aircraft Proprietary Limited.
General Elections: Breaches of the Electoral Act.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Real Estate Transactions : Procedure at Auction Sales.
– On the 2nd October, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) addressed a question to me regarding the conduct of auction sales under the National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations. I desire to inform the honorable member that as the regulations are at present framed, no direct control is exercised over the manner in which such sales are conducted.
l. - On the 1st October, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), asked the following question:
I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether there is any likelihood of the Postmaster-General’s Department overcoming the shortage of telephones, . which shortage is alleged to be due to lack of parts? Can he give me an assurance that within a reasonable time the department will be able to supply telephones?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -
It is regretted that there is no early likelihood of the Postal Department being able to provide all persons who have applied for telephone services with the desired facilities, although everything possible is being done to overtake the heavy arrears of outstanding applications.
Telephone services are being connected at a greater rate than at any time previously, and 92,034 new telephones were installed during the financial year 1946-47. Applications are being received in such great numbers, however, that it is quite impracticable with the existing limited resources of materials to cope adequately with the increasing demands for service.
In addition to telephone instruments, there are three main essentials necessary for the provision of telephone services, namely, wires or cable from the instruments to the exchange, switching and other equipment in the exchange and buildings for accommodating the apparatus. Where there is a shortage of any one of these essentials, new services cannot be provided.
The department is proceeding with a £30,000,000 programme to improve and expand the postal and tele-communication services, and the works to be carried outduring the next three years should enable the Post Office to regain the ground lost during the war, meet development and also increase the value of the services in the capital cities and country districts. The first stage of the programme comprises those projects which are necessary to permit immediate and urgently needed improvements to be effected in the facilities.
A commencement has already been made with the rehabilitation programme but the progress will depend mainly on the availability of materials. This matter is receiving special attention, and it is hoped that the conditions will enable the plans to be implemented expeditiously and effectively.
In view of the difficulties associated with the erection of new buildings, the department is endeavouring to meet the situation to some extent by providing temporary buildings by means of converted army huts, whilst in certain areas temporary mobile exchanges are being established.
Telephones are being manufactured in the postal workshops at the rate of 500 weekly, and substantial orders for additional instruments have been placed with outside organizations in Australia and abroad.
The department is doing its utmost to foster the manufacture in Australia of telecommunication equipment and . components, and negotiations are proceeding with local and overseas interests for the construction of factories in Australia for producing automatic switching equipment and additional telephone cables.
The honorable member may rest assured that the Post Office is not sparing any efforts in its endeavours to cater as quickly as possible for the present requirements in regard to telephone services and to increase its facilities to cope with future development.
As I mentioned in the House on the 2nd October in connexion with a question asked by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly), I am obtaining a statement from the Postmaster-General showing the efforts which -arc being made by the Postal Department to overtake the outstanding applications for telephone services, and I will have copies roneoed and distributed to all honorable members so that they will be aware of the progress that is being made and the difficulties which have to be overcome to meet the position.
Motor Vehicles: Tait Manual Control.
Mr. -Chifley. - On the 30th September, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked a question, upon notice, concerning, inter aiia, the Tait manual control devised by Mr. Tait, a Queensland ex-serviceman, and I promised the honorable member further information on this matter.
It has been ascertained that Mr. Tait is the patentee of an ‘appliance known as the “ Tait patent manual vacumatic control and it has been said that eight of the appliances have been fitted to motor cars in Queensland with satisfactory results. It has also been said that three of these appliances are now being fitted to motor cars in New South Wales. I understand that the cost of these fitments is np to £60 each. For the honorable member’s information, I ‘am sending him an extract from the Institute of Automotive Mechanical Engineers’
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 October 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19471008_reps_18_193/>.