18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10-30 a.m., and read prayers.
Nationalization’ : Petitions. Petitions in relation to banking in Australia were .presented as follows : - .
By SIR EARLE PAGE, from certain electors of the division of Cowper.
By Mr. FRANCIS, from certain electors of the division of Moreton.
By Mr. ANTHONY, from certain, electors of the division of Richmond.
By Mr. HOWSE, from certain electors of the division of Calare.
By Mr. HAMILTON, from certain electors of Western Australia.
By Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON, from certain residents of South Australia.
By Mr. BLAIN, from certain residents of Now Guinea.
Petitions received and read.
– Will the Prime Minister make the necessary arrangements for the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to be brought to the Bar of the House while the Banking Bill is under discussion, to be examined regarding the policy that the bank proposes to follow and other matters relevant to the Banking Bill 1947?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is “ No. “
– In view of the assurance given last week by the Minister representing the Minister Acting for the Attorney-General that he would pass on to that Minister suggestions made by honorable members for combating communism in Australia, will the Prime Minister state whether it is correct, as reported, that the Government has decided that there is no need to institute a royal commission to inquire into the activities of Communists, particularly those in’ high positions in the Public Service? If so, was this decision reached after consideration of the many requests by members of the Opposition during the debate on the Estimates last week for such an inquiry? Has the Prime Minister seen a statement by the general secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Mr. Dougherty, in the Arbitration Court, that the .Communist party was determined to smash the union? Having regard to the overwhelmingevidence in the hands of the Government relative to the treasonable activity of Communists, is it a fact, as reported, that the Government believes that there is no need to take action to suppress the Australian Communist party?
– I understand that, members of the Opposition last week pressed for an inquiry into Communist activities in Australia, and that the Minister for Labour and National Service said that he would convey the suggestions ‘ of honorable members to the Minister representing the Minister Acting for the Attorney-General. It is true that similar proposals have been made before. The fact is that the Commonwealth Investigation Service keeps under close observation all who might be guilty of subversive activity. They include not only Communists but also other persons whose activities might be detrimental, to the interests of this country. Nothing has been disclosed to date- that would warrant the appointment of a royal commission or any other body to make a special inquiry. Should such. an occasion arise as the result of reports received regarding any section of ..the community or any individual, the necessary action will he taken.
– I . ask the Minister for Defence whether it is a fact that Mr. N. Sheppard was, until recently, the secretary of the Lithgow Branch of the Australian Communist party and that he conducted radio talks on behalf of communism over Station 2LT Lithgow, is employed in a high position in the Lithgow Small Arms Factory? Is it a fact that Mr. Sheppard hag complete access to confidential information pertaining to the factory? If so, does the Minister consider that Mr. Sheppard should -be employed in such a position in view of the revelations made in the report of the Canadian Royal Commission on Soviet Espionage regarding members of the Communist party?
– The matter raised by the honorable member concerns the Minister for Munitions. I shall bring the question to his notice.
Fatality, at Post Germein
– With a view to removing any obstruction to vision, will the Minister for the Interior ask the Commonwealth Railway authorities to make a thorough inspection of the approaches to the siding near Port Germein, where a frightful accident occurred last Friday when five persons lost their lives and a sixth person was dangerously injured? With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to express my deepest sympathy with the bereaved relatives of those who lost their lives. All of the persons involved in the .accident were my personal friends, and t feel their passing very keenly.
– I first learned of the unfortunate accident when the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, Mr. Gahan, telephoned me at nine o’clock on the evening of the occurrence. He then advised me that steps were being taken Ito expedite a thorough inquiry into the accident. He also informed me that immediately the accident occurred officers of the Commonwealth Railways were on the scene to render whatever assistance they could. All I can say at the moment is that as soon as the commissioner’s report is received I shall give it urgent - consideration. I join with the honorable member in expressing on behalf of the Government its deepest sympathy with the relatives of those’ involved in the accident.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister for Labour and National Service relating to the decision of the Foremen Stevedores Association to hold up shipping in New South Wales in defiance of an order made by Conciliation Commissioner Mr. Murray Stewart. Does the hold-up come within the definition expressed in section 30 j of the Crimes Act of a serious industrial disturbance prejudicing or threatening trade and commerce with other countries or among the States? If it does, and since this is the .first test of the new conciliation commissioner system, does the Government propose to demonstrate its determination to support the authority of its commissioners? If so, does it intend to apply the ‘ Crimes Act against those who are defying that authority?
– This dispute is at present in the same category as other industrial disputes except that it affects a small section of a very vital industry. Evidently the decision of the conciliation commissioner, Mr. Murray Stewart, was not received very well by the Foremen Stevedores’ Association, an unusual group to be involved in a dispute because it consists of only a small number of men who are not members of the general Federation of Waterside Workers. Until a report is received from Mr. Murray Stewart no good can come of fanning into flames the smouldering embers of the dispute. No stoppage hai yet occurred. This is a borderline case and it has not been ascertained whether it may be dealt with by the Stevedoring Industry Commission. Conferences are .proceeding and it is hoped that a settlement will be reached.
Trans-Australia Airlines ; Annual Report; Purchase of Convair Aircraft - Pardoe Aerodrome
– When is it expected that the annual report and financial accounts of Trans- Australia Airlines will be tabled, as required by section 40 of the Australian National Airlines Act 1.945 ?
– It is hoped that the report will be presented within the next few weeks.
– Within the next few weeks ?
– Yes. Investigations are now being made into certain purchases of materials and stocks from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission and from other sources which have given rise to differing prices. Until these investigations have been completed and the accounts have been put into proper order for presentation- .
– Were not the accounts closed at 30th June last ? It is true, then, that the accounts are in a chaotic state.
– I hope to be able to present the report and financial accounts within the next few weeks.
– In the Government’s latest booklet, Facts and Figures, it is proudly stated that five Convair aircraft have been ordered from the United States of America and that Trans-Australia Airlines has sent 25 engineers to America to study the maintenance of these aircraft. What will be the cost in dollars of these aircraft and the necessary spares? Will it he approximately 1,000,000 dollars? Why were not British Vikings bought in order to save dollar expenditure? Has the Minister for Air any record of the successful performance of Convair aircraft, and where ? What was the necessity for sending the 25 engineers overseas, when the purchase of aircraft of other types has not necessitated anything of that kind? What is the estimated cost in dollars of the visit of these engineers?
– It is true that towards the end of last year the Government ordered five Convair aircraft for use by Trans-Australia Airlines. The approximate cost of the aircraft, together with spare parts and the requisite gear for their maintenance, is 1,000,000 dollars. The order was placed because Convair aircraft were reported to be the best available type for inter-capital city work. The Viking had not then been proved suitable for that kind of service. It is the desire of the Government and of Trans-Australia Airlines to provide the best possible service, and as Convair aircraft are the most economical type of twin-engined aircraft and carry the greatest number ‘ of passengers, they were regarded as most suitable for the purpose and I fully endorse their purchase.
– Where are they being used?
– In the United States of America. While I was in that country I had an opportunity to see the Convairs in operation, and I am satisfied that even the critical honorable member for Balaclava will be pleased to have an opportunity to fly in them when they arrive in Australia. As for the other matters raised by the honorable member, including some criticism in the latter portion of his question, all I can say is that I believe that the proper course of action was taken in sending engineers to the United States of America in order to become familiar with aircraft of a type not known in Australia. That is the practice which has been followed by private companies for a number of years.
– In view of current reports to the contrary, can the Minister for Civil Aviation say definitely whether the purchase of land for an aerodrome at Pardoe, Devonport, has been completed? If it has, when will work commence on the project ? Can the Minister say in what manner andi at what date Tasmania is to see the pioneering of new air services by Trans-Australia Airlines, which was advanced by the Government as one of the chief reasons for its institution?
– I am unable to give the honorable member for Darwin any specific date on which the purchase of land for the Pardoe aerodrome will be completed. Negotiations for the acquisition of land are always conductedby the Department of the Interior on behalf of other departments. I think the honorable member knows quite well that I have done my utmost to speed up arrangements in order to have an airport at Pardoe made available as early as possible, but certain difficulties crop up from time to time, owing, I suppose, to land owners valuing their property at a much higher figure than the Department of the Interior would be prepared to pay. I am not aware whether that is so in this instance. Trans- Australia Airlines will be beginning an air service to Tasmania from Melbourne on the 2nd November.
– That is not pioneering.
– Intra-state air services are a matter for arrangement between the Department of Civil Aviation and the State transport authorities. Correspondence has taken place on that matter, but finality has not yet been reached. The honorable member’s suggestion that one of the chief reasons for the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines was the development of internal air services in Tasmania is incorrect.
Air Transport of Migrants - Radio Equipment - Lectures
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that a number of people are arranging with private enterprise to bring migrants from various overseas countries to Australia by air. Is it a fact that they are having difficulty in obtaining radio equipment for the aircraft which are to be used for these trips and that they are compelled to attend disposals sales and bid in competition with racketeers who know what their requirements are? Can the Minister arrange to give these persons a degree of priority, similar to that enjoyed by semi-governmental bodies, for the purchase of radio equipment at disposals sales?
– It is a fact that a number of Australian companies have applied to the Department of Civil Aviation for permission to bring in numbers of people in a stated number of flights from Europe to Australia because those persons cannot secure shipping facilities to enable them to reach relatives in this country. The Department of Civil Aviation lays down its conditions and the companies have to observe them. I have not, heard of any complaints regarding inability topurchase radio equipment, but I undertake to discuss the matter with the Minister for Civil Aviation and any other Ministers concerned, possibly the Minister for Supply and Shipping who is in charge of disposals, and ascertain whether anything can be done to assist people who, having fulfilled all other requirements, find themselves unable to carry out their contracts because of the lack of some essential safety equipment.
– This week I received from a friend who recently returned to Australia from England on Asturias, on which several hundred migrants travelled to this country, a letter in which he says that, although booklets and pamphlets about Australian conditions are available to immigrants, that method of telling them about Australia is not so efficient as would be personal conversations and lectures. Would it be possible to appoint some one well versed in Australian conditions to travel on ships bringing migrants to Australia in order to give them, through personal contact and public lectures, a comprehensive understanding of their new land?
– About 1,700 migrants travelled on Asturias on its last voyage to settle permanently in Australia. In the circumstances, there is something in the suggestion that we might examine the possibility of doing more in the distribution of literature to inform these new Australians of conditions in this country. The cost factor has to be taken into consideration, and we do not want to utilize berths by employing people just for the purpose of lecturing immigrants on ships. It may be possible by the use of additional films on ships to inform newcomers of the possibilities in this country.
Stabilization Plan - Handling of 1947-48 Crop
– When will the Min ister for Commerce and Agriculture make the statement that he promised to make in the House a fortnight ago outlining the Government’s policy in relation to the wheat industry. In view of the prevailing circumstances in which the Commonwealth’s wheat industry stabilization legislation is not going to be fortified by complementary legislation of the States, the people engaged in the wheat industry are without knowledge of what long-term policy the Government proposes to apply. Will the Minister make a comprehensive statement at a very early date?
– I shall make a statement as soon as it is practicable to do so. However, the honorable member’s assertion that the .State governments will not pass complementary legislation is mere assumption.
– In view of the approaching wheat harvest which it is hoped will be a record one in Victoria, can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give an assurance that the crop will he handled expeditiously? Will he consult with the Government of Victoria and the Victorian railways commissioners to ascertain the position in regard to reserve stocks of coal in order to prevent a recurrence of the serious transportation difficulties experienced last year?
– The honorable mem, ber may rest; assured that the authorities concerned in the handling of the crop, which we all hope will be a record one, are already conferring to overcome difficulties, including the problem of obtaining sufficient coal for rail transportation, so as to ensure the expeditious disposal of the crop.
– Can. the Minister for Works and Housing inform the House whether rent control officers are still function/ins: as such? Have many rental oases been brought before the courts by the control officers in the last six month®? Are there many cases outstanding; and, if so, will the Minister arrange for their determination to be expedited?
– Prior to this year administration of rent control was a matter for the courts, but owing to the reluctance of tenants to embark upon litigation because of a general disinclination to appear in court and also because of the expense and- delay involved, many of them were not asserting their legal rights. For that reason the Government decided early this year to remove the administration of .rent control from the province of the courts and to ‘appoint rent controllers. In the last six months there has been an increase of 100 per cent, in the number of applications for determination and a similar increase of the number of determinations actually made, which indicates the appreciation of tenants of the new scheme. If delay is occurring in .regard to the determination of any cases I shall examine them, and, if necessary, additional officers will be appointed to maintain the efficient service which we have endeavoured to provide.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House when a decision will be made in regard to the implementation of the apple and pear acquisition scheme?
– I cannot indicate any specific date for the implementation of the scheme, but the honorable member can rest assured that a decision will be made as soon as/ practicable.
– I intend to ask the Treasurer a. series of questions in regard to the dollar situation. First, in reply to a question by the Leader of the Opposition, the Treasurer stated that no estimate of the dollar deficiency in Australia can yet be made for the financial year ending the 30th June, 1948. Secondly, I refer to a statement which the Minister for Trade and Customs made last night to a meeting of a sub-committee of Cabinet which considered the dollar crisis. He indicated that further heavy reductions of Australia’s dollar expenditure seemed inevitable, and that the gap between, earnings and expenditure was 100,000,000 dollars. If no estimate can be made of the dollar deficiency in Australia for the year ending the 30th June, 1948, what data is in the hands of tie Australian Government as the basis for the imposition of these restrictions? In order to enable this Parliament to take some part in the fashioning of policy, or at least in expressing an opinion upon the Government’s policy regarding the importation of goods from dollar countries, will the Treasurer make a statement to the House - and enable honorable members to debate it - indicating the data upon which the Government is founding its policy? If he will not tell the House what the data is, what are his reasons?
– What I said in reply to a question by the Leader of the Opposition was that the deficiency last year was approximately 100,000,000 American and Canadian dollars, and I agreed to supply to the Leader of the Australian Country party and to the honorable member for Warringah himself a general outline of how that deficiency occurred. I informed the Leader of the Opposition that at the moment it is not possible to estimate the dollar earnings of this country for the year 1947-48. In addition, the requirements of all those who draw upon the dollar pool for the purchase of American or Canadian goods must be strictly rationed. The honorable member for Warringah also asked me to inform the House upon what data the Minister for Trade and Customs based his latest statement regarding! further restrictions of imports. A survey of import licences already issued has been made, and large numbers of these are being called in for careful examination. The prices of many American commodities, for which import licences have been granted, are rapidly rising, so that many more dollars will be required to purchase the same quantity of goods which Australia originally intended to import. Consequently, a large number of import licences have been called in and are being reviewed for the purpose of enabling the Government to ascertain the exact position regarding orders which have already been given. At the moment, I am not able to indicate clearly what our dollar expenditure will be for the current financial year, but a fairly comprehensive survey of the position seems to disclose that the value of essential and semiessential goods, for which import licences have been issued, will be greater than the dollars available to Australia, including our own earnings, which cannot be esti mated. For example, Australian wool is not being bought in the United States of America at the same rate as it was last year. I regret that I am not able to make to the House a definite statement about the whole dollar position. At present, officers of the Commonwealth Bank and representatives of the Commonwealth Treasury are in consultation with British officials in London on this subject. Some of their meetings have been held under the chairmanship of a Minister of the United Kingdom Government. All these discussions indicate that, for obvious reasons, including the fact that prices in the United States of America are steadily rising, dollars will have to be strictly rationed. I emphasize that the Government does not desire, just because of a possible demand for goods from dollar countries, to ration these imports. Indeed, the severe rationing of some goods could disrupt certain portions of our economy. Therefore, we desire- to be fully informed of the whole position, both from the standpoint of the United Kingdom and in regard to our own commitments, into which we have entered through the issue of import licences. I should be very reluctant to make the rationing more severe, unless such action is essential as the result of the lack of dollars to meet our commitments. I think that I ought to make it perfectly clear .that, should any further rationing be imposed, the reason for it would be that one cannot purchase goods from dollar areas unless one has dollars with which to pay for them. In the light of that indisputable fact, it is of no use for people to say that this may be an obsession. If it be possible for me to give a reasonably accurate estimate, in broad outline, while the House is still sitting, I shall be only too anxious to give all the information that I can give.
The Clerk having called on Notice of Motion No. 1 Government Business.
I admit at once, is of some difficulty and obscurity. It concerns the motion that was passed yesterday with relation to the Estimates and the Appropriation Bill.
Yesterday, in the House, various matters were dealt with. In the first place, the House carried a declaration of urgency. It then carried a motion submitted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) allotting the time for the consideration- of the remainder of the Estimates, the resolutions and all stages of the Appropriation Bill. The times allotted were not put in such terms as beginning or ending at a certain hour, but in succession the word’s used were, such and such department, until 6 p.m. this day; other departments, until
II p.m. this day; and so on. My submission is that, having regard to the terms of the “ guillotine “ Standing Order 262a, it is not possible to call on other business on the notice-paper in priority to the Estimates. Under Standing Order 262a, sub-clause II. -
When Estimates of Expenditure are being considered, a member of the Government may at any time declare that the Estimates are of an urgent nature, and, on such declaration, the question “ That the Estimates of Expenditure be considered of an urgent nature, “ shall be put forthwith - no debate or amendment being allowed - and on such motion being agreed to without dissentient voice, or being carried by an affirmative vote of not less than 24 members, a member of the Government may forthwith, or at any time during any sitting of the Committee, but not so as to interrupt a member who is addressing the Committee, move a further motion or motions specifying the time which (exclusive of any adjournment or suspension of sitting) shall be allotted to each or any department of, or to the whole of, the Estimates.
So that the times allotted for the consideration of the Estimates a>re subject to an adjournment of the sitting or a suspension of the sitting. This, of course, was designed to cover the adjournment of the House at the end of the day, the suspension of the sitting at meal time, and breaks of that kind. Standing Order “ A “ prevents the application of “ The Closure “, so that what we call “ the gag “ cannot be moved during that period. Then, sub-clause VIII. provides -
Where any time has been specified for the commencement of any proceedings in connexion with any business under this Standing Order when (the time so specified has been reached the business, whatsoever its nature be then before the House or Committee shall be postponed forthwith, and the first-mentioned business shall be proceeded with, and all steps necessary to enable this to be done shall be taken accordingly.
The language of the sub-clause, I admit, ds not so clear as one would like it to be. But, giving it some substantial meaning, surely it is intended to convey that, if we have the “ guillotine “ operating, and we reach the end of one of the periods fixed for one group of departments, the next period1 automatically begins; and if that next period automatically begins., then it seems to me that sub-clause VIII. applies so that the other business before the House or committee wall be postponed.
There are verbal difficulties about the interpretation of this standing order. I am very conscious of them, .and I have no doubt that you, sir, also are. But I direct your attention to this : Unless that is the correct view of the “ guillotine “ motion, then we shall have a very curious result indeed. If the “ guillotine “ times can be interrupted by going on with business in the House - for example, a notice of motion, the introduction of a bill, or the moving of the second-reading of a bill - then it is quite possible that - I am going to be completely Irish - the time will expire before it begins. This is quite a serious matter. It concerns the rights of the House. To-day is Wednesday. Under the “ guillotine “ motion, the Departments of Social Services, Supply and Shipping, External Territories and Immigration were allotted until 4 p.m. on Wednesday. If business of the House can be brought along to interrupt that schedule, then, of course, it is quite possible for that business to be still going on at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. this afternoon, in which event the schedule passed yesterday will have been rendered completely nugatory, because the time allotted for those departments would not have begun in fact, and yet it would have ended at 4 pAn. while the House was still engaged on some other matter. So, sir, we come to this : Unless, when the [resolution says “ until such and such a time “ it means by implication “ and the next group will begin at that time “, then it means nothing; because, if it does not mean that, then any government, having applied the “ guillotine “, could, produce government business in the House, which would have the effect of preventing any further discussion on the Estimates. The Prime Minister realizes that. Consequently, as a matter, of substance, my submission is that sub-clause VIII. is designed to produce a priority for the bill or measure which is under “guillotine “, and that. ‘Unless it be given that interpretation, the whole of the “guillotine” proceedings will turn out to be capable of complete defeat and, indeed, very serious misuse.
-(Hon. J. S. Rosevear). - I am prepared to give a ruling.
– May I speak to a point of order? I wish to raise a separate matter.
-The honorable member may do so.
– Under Standing Order 262a, what is intended by the limitation of debate is the allotment of a specified period. My point is somewhat different from that made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who laid’ emphasis on sub-clause VIII. Subclause II. reads - (II.) When Estimates of Expenditure are being considered, a member of the Government may at any time declare that the Estimates are of an urgent nature, and, on such declaration, the question “That the Estimates of Expenditure be considered of an urgent nature “ shall be put forthwith - no debate or amendment being allowed - and on such motion being agreed to without dissentient voice, or being carried by an affirmative vote of not less than 24 members, a Minister of the Government may forthwith, or at any time during any sitting of the Committee, but not so as to interrupt a member who is addressing the Committee, move a further motion or motions specifying the time which (exclusive of any adjournment or suspension of sitting) shall be allotted to each or any department of, or to the whole of, the Estimates.
I emphasize the words “motion or motions specifying the time which (exclusive of any adjournment or suspension of sitting) shall be allotted to each or any department of, or to the whole of, the Estimates “. My point is that the practice of providing for a limitation of time, which when reached ends the debate, is not an allotment of time. What is intended by the limitation of debate provision is that regardless of what else takes place, a specified period, say one, two or three hours, shall be allowed for the study of the whole, or part, of the Estimates. Unless those provisions mean that,- they are entirely valueless. If a definite period is not allowed there is no application of the limitation of debate provisions of this standing order.
– Yesterday, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) declared that the Estimates were of an urgent nature, he presented a time-table, the last item on which referred to an Appropriation Bill. Obviously, there cannot be an Appropriation Bill until such time as the Estimates have been disposed of. I think that you will agree, Mr.’ Speaker that the whole object of discussing the Estimates in committee is that there shall be founded on the discussions in committee a bill known as the Appropriation Bill to give effect to the decisions of the committee. The Prime Minister declared that certain matters were urgent. He did not wait until the House had resolved itself into the Committee of Supply to do that. He acted in the House. The effect of the carrying of his motion was that the House instructed the Committee of Supply that, until the Estimates had been considered by the committee, they were of such an urgent nature that no other business could be transacted by the Committee of Supply. When a measure or a motion is declared an urgent matter by a Minister of State, it stands to reason that it would be a denial of the effectiveness of that declaration of urgency by the House, which was carried after expressions of dissent by honorable members on this side and only after a division had been taken. We on this side did not think that the matters were so urgent as the Prime Minister regarded them. However, a majority of the House agreed that they were of an urgent nature. That declaration having been made, it would be absurd to consider any other business until that urgent, business has been disposed of. A few minutes ago an honorable member b)’ interjection referred to questions. Subclause II. of Standing Order 262a, which deals specifically with estimates of expenditure, and with nothing else, lays down that the times allotted shall be exclusive of any adjournment or suspension of a sitting. First, there has been an adjournment of the sitting. It took place after 11 p.m. yesterday when, on division, the Estimates up to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture were agreed to. The sitting was then adjourned until 10.30 a.m. to-day. The House having met to-day, it stands to reason that the order of business as set out in the Standing Orders must be followed and that Mr. Speaker must read prayers. I am sure that no one would attempt to prevent you from doing that, Mr. Speaker. The next thing is that petitions may be presented. Members availed themselves of that right to-day. After that, notices of motion may be given and questions may be addressed to Ministers. You, Mr. Speaker, then call on government business. No government business before the House to-day can he of a more urgent nature than the business which was declared urgent by the House yesterday. I submit that , until that urgent business - declared urgent by the House on division - has been disposed of, no other business may be considered by the Committee of Supply or by the House. The standing order is clear. I have here every declaration of urgency made in the years 1944, 1945 and 1946. In each case, the formula adopted was the same, and in each case the House proceeded to the despatch of the business that had been declared urgent. Those measures were the Wheat Stabilization Bill and the accompanying taxation measures, the Reestablishment amd Employment Bill, the Banking Bill, and the Commonwealth Bank Bill. In each case honorable members will ‘ find that while the House was sitting and Government business was before the chamber, nothing but the business which had been declared urgent was taken by the House. I submit that the House having given to the committee an instruction to proceed with certain business which the House has declared to be of an urgent nature - so urgent that it must be passed by 3 p.m. on Friday next - no other business can be considered until effect has been given to that instruction.
-(Hon. J. S. Rosevear). - The points raised are rather important and hinge on a standing order which, in my view, is loosely drawn. In the circumstances, one can only be guided by the precedents that have been set. Up to about ten years ago, when a motion of urgency had been carried and the necessary schedule had been -brought before the House, it was the custom to allot a certain time, say one and a -half hours, two hours, or more, to each department. That .procedure was altered about ten years ago. The present procedure is to fix an hour for the termination of the debate in respect of various groups of departments. I cannot accept the view that, because the House declares; certain matters to be urgent, it cannot take other business. In this matter I take a contrary view to that expressed by the honorable member for Barker (Mi-. Archie Cameron). If his view was correct, and a declaration of urgency suspended all other business, there would not be an opportunity to present petitions, to give notices of motions, to ask questions of Ministers, or to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance. Therefore, it appears to me that other .business oan be taken in the time allowed in the schedule. If the House considers that the standing order should be amended, it should, carry a resolution to that effect. I take the view that, in spite of a motion of urgency having been carried, the House is .always master of its business and can proceed to discuss other business df it desires to do so.
– I rise to order. I ask whether the limitation of debate is in accordance with the Standing Orders, seeing that no period of time has ‘been allowed for debate? All that has been done is to decide when the debate in respect of various groups of departments shall terminate.
– That is so. I assume that the Government decided that it would be better to allot a certain period for a group of departments rather than provide for a definite time for each department. It is for the reason that the allotted time may not be fully occupied in every instance that the procedure has been altered to provide for the hour at which the debate on certain groups of departments shall terminate. If the de- bate on a particular department concludes before the fixed time, there is nothing to preventthe additional time being taken up in the discussion of, perhaps, more important departments. That, I think, was the real reason why the Government of the day varied the practice of fixing specific times for the consideration of departments, and fixed a finishing time for the debate instead. Under the Standing Orders, I cannot rule out of order the Prime Minister’s proposal to go on with the business of which he has given notice. The resolution carried yesterday merely fixed times for the conclusion of the debate on various departments.
– Mr. Speaker–
– I have given my ruling, and I cannot allow it to be canvassed.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1946, as amended by the Income Tax Assessment Act 1947, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to banking and for other purposes.
– I oppose the motion. Leave to bring in this bill should be refused by the House, just as, unquestionably, it would be refused by the country if the country had an opportunity to express an opinion on it. There is, of course, nothing in the terms of the motion to indicate the contents of the bill, beyond the statement that it is a bill for an act relating to banking and for other purposes, but we have the advantage of having heard from the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) himself on several occasions some reasonable account of the substantial nature of the proposals contained in the bill. That is, it is a bill to nationalize banking. It is a bill to create a government banking monopoly. It is a bill which is designed to create such a monopoly in political hands, under other already existing provisions of the law. Above all, it is, as we believe, by reason of these matters and all their extensive implications, a bill to reduce very substantially the normal freedom of Australian citizens.
I am not going to undertake the fruitless task of discussing the bill in advance. We have not seen the bill yet, but I do at this stage want to exercise my rights - as I hope other honorable members will exercise theirs - to offer reasons why, at the very threshold, this bill should be rejected. I want, in particular, to advance three reasons to the House why that should be done. The first is because the people of Australia - the electors of Australia - have not been consulted on this matter, either directly or indirectly. I do not intend to repeat what I said to the House yesterday afternoon. Indeed, I do not know that I should be in order in referring to it because the House was then sitting in committee; but honorable members know that we on this side of the House, and, as we believe, many hundreds of thousands of people outside this House, are firmly convinced that the Government has no popular authority to introduce this legislation at all; and that without popular authority to introduce this legislation the introduction of the bill is to be regarded as basically a denial of the rights of the democracy. The introduction of this bill in these circumstances is an attack upon the democratic principle. It has not been -professed by the Prime Minister that he has, affirmatively, a mandate to introduce this bill. He, on the contrary, on the last occasion when he had the chance to debate it, offered two reasons, or, perhaps, I should describe them as excuses, for the introduction of this legislation. The first was that there was power to introduce it in the Constitution. That, of course, assumes that a nationalized banking bill is within the banking power. Let us assume it. What a fantastic idea it is that every kind of measure which will conceivably fit within the legal limits of a constitutional power is to be treated as having been authorized by the people of Australia in 1947 ! Because our grandfathers, or fathers, in the ‘nineties, when they were hammering out the Constitution, gave power to the Commonwealth, to impose laws with respect to taxation, are we to he told that that is a mandate to the Government of Australia in 1947 to increase, income tax, or to devise some new kind of tax? The argument is absurd.
Mandate for legislation is an entirely different thing from constitutional power. The mandate for legislation ds something which must be obtained from the people and which the people are entitled to say is to control the acts of their representatives in Parliament. So, the right honorable gentleman cannot profess that he had any affirmative mandate. Indeed, I go further and say that the position is quite the contrary. By every real implication at the last elections it was conveyed to the people that there would be no such control; because the whole substance of what was said in the House in 194)5 on the two bills, and on the hustings is, “ We have now produced a. banking structure which includes a competitive trading bank system, a structure which is completely equipped for the control of Australia’s economy and the avoidance of any depression or dislocation in Australia “. And’, as a matter of fact, a number of honorable members on the other side of the House said that wherever they went in Australia. So, for them, were any suggestion made to the Australian people at all on this matter it was not that the banks would be nationalized, but ‘that, in fact, they would continue to exist .as competitive bodies under the rules laid’ down by the banking legislation of 1945.
The third aspect of that matter is this : Not only has the Prime Minister no affirmative mandate, not only is it true that the whole implication of his policy and the whole implication of his words at the last elections was to the contrary, but it is also true, as other honorable members opposite know, too, that every available public opinion test shows that the people of Australia are hostile to this proposal. I am not so innocent as to suppose that because 70 per cent, of people indicate that they are against the nationalization of banking it follows that the same 70 per cent, will vote against the Labour Government that introduced it. I did not come down in the last political shower. But I say this : that the indications are that if this measure were segregated, if this measure were presented to the people of Australia for an independent judgment upon it and nothing else, this measure would .be rejected. In those circumstances, the Government has a plain duty. It can either ask the people of Australia who have not so far been consulted to give their opinion on this matter by referendum, or if it is so confident, as some of its junior members profess to be, it can go to the people on an election. We shall be content eitherway. That is my first reason, subdivided in that way, for saying that this* bill ought not to be introduced, and thatleave ought to be refused - that the? people have not been consulted and that there is no mandate for it;
My second reason for saying that the bill ought not to be introduced is that we know from the indications already given by the Prime Minister that the prime purpose of this measure is to create a monopoly, and a monopoly of a tyrannical kind. We shall, before we are very much older, hear in this place from member after member on the Government side the most pathetic, even if the most flimsy, stories about individual trading banks doing unspeakable things to customers, refusing credit and closing down on accounts. If that kind of thing could happen in a competitive banking system, what is going to happen when the Government deliberately creates a monopoly in banking from which there is no appeal and whose decisions will not be capable of being canvassed in this House, so that as the result of some political direction, maybe, a direction by word of mouth, Jones may be put out of business, Brown may be encouraged and Robinson may be restricted? Controls of every description may be exercised over individual citizens by an undisputed monopoly.
– A specially designed plan.
– Of course it is; it is a plan, and it is specially designed to create tyranny in this country. The sooner honorable members opposite realize that this fight which begins at this moment will go on- and it will go on not only in this Parliament but outside this. Parliament, because it is a fight for individual freedom - the better it will be for them and the better it will be for Australia.
My third reason - I want to be brief because I have already had an opportunity on a previous occasion to say something about the matter - why leave to introduce this bill should be refused is that the debate on it will divide the people of Australia and will create bitterness and uncertainty. And bitterness and uncertainty in this country at this time will be the deadliest enemy of production, of a concerted attack upon our economic problems and of our real capacity for contributing to the economic problems of the world. Of course, some honorable member opposite says that the remedy is in our own hands - “ You do’ not have to debate it. ‘Go quietly. Accept this thing”. Is that the fantastic suggestion? I tell him that we did not introduce this bill. We on this side accept no responsibility for the throwing of this measure into the ring; but as the Government accepts that responsibility, I tell the Government that this debate will go on. So far as I am concerned it will be a bitter debate; so far as the people are concerned this will be a debate of the greatest magnitude that this country has ever encountered. There are still thousands of people in Australia who are blissfully unaware of the implications of this proposal which puts into ohe set of hands complete mastery of all the financial aspects of their lives and living. But as time goes on - and it will go one during this debate, and in the country during the next two years - more and more people will discover the implications of this tyrannical proposal, and will discover that at long last the battle is joined over the issue; over whether the Government, the State, is the master and the citizen, the mere servant, or whether the Government is the servant of the people. We come here to the’ greatest, the most fundamental issue of democratic government and for the view we hold on that matter we shall fight here, we shall fight outside and we shall fight until, in due course, the people of Australia rise to defend their own liberties and sweep this Government out of existence.
– I rise to oppose bitterly the granting of leave to introduce this bill. The Australian Country party is mindful of the disastrous effects that the introduction of this measure with all its implications will have upon not only the people of Australia but also their associations with other parts of the British Empire. This measure will wreck the very foundation of the freedom, liberty and individualism of every person in Australia. It must affect all that we are and have. Consequently, we oppose the introduction of the measure which will undermine the basis of democracy in this fair country. This, indeed, will be a novel form of legislation judged by banking methods in not only the British Empire but also every other country with the exception of Soviet Russia. Whilst Napoleon retreated from Moscow, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is assuredly fast advancing toward? Moscow. That will be the effect of this legislation without any doubt whatever. Further, the introduction of this measure in the circumstances existing to-day undermines every tradition of Parliament and constitutional government in Australia. It is a. tradition in this country that each political party that goes to the electors goes to them, first, on the basis of its own constitution, and, secondly, offers to the country a specific programme for acceptance, or rejection, by the electors. Not only has the Prime Minister not received a mandate for this legislation either by implication or by definite decision on the part of the people, but he has not received such a mandate from his own party political organization. Therefore, how were the people of Australia on the occasion of the last general elections even to assume that the Labour party was going to introduce such a drastic proposal as the nationalization of the trading banks ? Indeed, the history of even the Labour party itself, and ita advocacy of banking reform during the whole of its existence, as reflected particularly in its constitution, has been of such a nature that the people could expect to be safeguarded against the introduction of any legislation for the nationalization of the trading banking system in Australia.
– That story is different from what the right honorable gentleman told the electors.
– I know that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard ) and his colleagues are going io say that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and I will declare that the Chifley Government is now asking for a blank cheque. We do say that; but we did not think that the Government would have the indecency to forge the signature on that cheque. The constitution of the Australian Labour party, as it existed at the time of the 1934, 1937, 1940, 1943 and 1946 elections, and as it ‘exists today, contains this very definite statement in relation to the Commonwealth Bank and banking policy -
The expansion of the bank’s business as a trading bank, with branches in all suitable centres, in vigorous competition with the private banking establishments.
Could any one be so unintelligent as to think that, that policy envisages the annihilation of the private banks as contemplated by the bill which the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) asks leave to introduce? What does vigorous competition with the private banking establishments mean? Does it not mean competition on a fair and just basis as against the nationalization, socialization or confiscation of the private banks? The people of Australia were justified in believing that the Commonwealth Bank Act of 1945 went as far as the Labour Government desired to go, consistent with what it considered desirable and safe banking reform for Australia. That that measure was viewed as a reasonable and sufficient reform by the Australian Labour party is evidenced by the fact that, in December, 1945, after the measure had been placed on the statute-hook, the party re-affirmed its financial and banking policy as that enunciated in 1934. Speaking on the second reading of the Commonwealth
Bank Bill, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said -
I say quite frankly that the present proposals of the Government in no sense mean socialization or nationalization of the banking system. I turn now to what I consider ought to be the structure of the banking system in this country. I consider that it ought to have at its apex a central bank, under which there should be functioning the various banks that undertake trading activities. The alternative would be, of course, to have only one bank undertaking the activities of the central bank and monopolizing the whole field of trading banks as well. That could perhaps be described as nationalization or socialization of the banking system. The Government has not selected that system, but proposes an alternative which it thinks is better fitted to this country.
Yet he and his colleagues now have the audacity to endeavour to make the people believe that when they voted for the Government at the 1946 elections they endorsed the nationalization or socialization of hanking as it is proposed to be brought about by the measure which the Treasurer now asks leave to introduce. Is it any wonder that the Opposition strenuously opposes this revolutionary method of disregarding the mandate which the Government obtained from the people, and ignoring its prime responsibility of placing before the people in a straightforward and honest manner the legislation it intended to enact if elected- to office? The people never expected that such a measure as is now proposed would be brought before this Parliament. If evidence of that is required it surely exists in the multitude of protestations, petitions, telegrams and appeals made to the Government to maintain the private banking system as an institution of democracy. The people have a right to assert their assent to or dissent from a measure of .this kind, either by “way of referendum or general elections. The Government is adopting the most high-handed and dishonest political tactics in seeking leave to introduce such a measure, notwithstanding all assurances given to the people at the last elections that the nationalization of banking was not contemplated. The Government has let the people down; it has let Australia down by this socialistic proposal, which will upset the economic equilibrium of this country.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That leave be given to bring in a bill tor an act relating to banking and for other purposes.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the export of eggs.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 14th October (vide page 720).
Department of Social Services
Proposed vote, £792,000.
Department of Supply and Shipping
Proposed vote, £4,795,000.
Department of External Territories
Proposed vote, £64,000.
Department of Immigration
Proposed vote, £1,775,500. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I address the committee on the Department of Supply and Shipping, and I am - glad that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) is present because what I have to say vitally affects his department which, in this respect, is linked with the Department of Supply and Shipping. At question time today, I directed the notice of the Minister to the threatened hold-up of shipping in the State of New South Wales as. the result of a decision of the federal executive of the Foremen Stevedores Association. Apparently last night this executive ordered a complete tie-up of all shipping at Sydney, Newcastle and Port Kembla from eight o’clock next Monday. This decision is a notable one for a variety of reasons. In the first place, it is another episode in that unhappy series which has led to a chaotic condition on the waterfronts of ports throughout Australia and which has resulted in a restricted use of the limited resources of shipping available for both our interstate trade and our overseas trade. It is notable for the further circumstance that it represents the first major ‘challenge given to the Government on its new conciliation system of arbitration. I therefore invited the Minister for Labour and National Service to indicate to the Parliament earlier to-day whether he proposed to back up with the authority of the Government the decision of the Government’s own senior conciliation commissioner, Mr. Murray Stewart, by enforcing that decision in respect of that dispute. I shall come in a moment to the dispute in question, but, before doing so, I direct the attention of the committee to the state of inactivity, and chaos, which has developed throughout the waterfronts of Australia in recent years. It has had the cumulative effect of denying, to the States that need them essential supplies of fuel such as coal and oil. It has had the effect of holding up the transport from one .State to another of essential commodities, primary products, and all those elements that make for prosperous trade within the Australian community; In my Own State of Victoria, as the result of the hold-ups of transport from time to time, we have been rationed in our gas supplies one day in every three during the lifetime of the Cain Labour Government. That is due primarily to the failure to move coal speedily and con’tinuously from New South Wales to Victoria. What is true of Victoria in that remarkable degree is also true of most of the other States. There are difficulties in South Australia in consequence, and shipping from and to Western Australia has been dislocated in recent weeks by an industrial dispute there.
– That dispute is between two unions, too.
– As the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) points out, the dispute there is one between two unions. It is. quite clear that the solution of a great deal of our shipping difficulties is wrapped up with the industrial policy of the Government. If the Government is not going to back up the decisions of industrial authorities, we can expect no peace in industry, and, in consequence, we must carry on with this intolerable situation which has developed in our ports and shipping. The Minister for Labour and National Service, in dealing with the particular issue before us to-day, said, “ Oh ! This does not differ from the general run of industrial disputes “. It does differ, as I hope to indicate to the committee, in several important respects. It differs first in that the Government^ having sought a programme of industrial peace through the system of conciliation commissioners, finds its own authority thwarted from the outset by the refusal of a handful of men to obey the decision of its senior conciliation commissioner. This is a critical psychological moment.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).I think the honorable member is straying to the next department, to “the Department of Labour and National Service.
– The problems are so closely linked that I hoped that you would allow me to address myself to that point.
– The honorable member may make only passing references to it.
– “We cannot expect free movement of ships- and effective handling of cargoes in ports without a solution ofindustrial difficulties that have been such a disastrous feature of our post-war experience. That being so, it becomes imperative for the Government to make the conciliation commissioner system work and, with this first challenge directed to it, the Government cannot allow the situation to pass without making it quite clear to those who would defy its authority where they stand. The problem is closely linked with the department, as I think you will realize, Mr. Chairman, when I direct attention to section 30j of the Crimes Act, which contains the limited, number of situations in which the extreme provisions of the act may be invoked. You will be aware that section 30j provides - (1.) If at any time the Governor-General is nf opinion that there exists in Australia a serious industrial disturbance prejudicing or threatening trade or commerce with other countries or anning the States, he may make a Proclamation to that effect, which Proclamation shall be and remain in operation for the purposes of this section until it is revoked.
T interrupt myself to point out that the section refers specifically to interruptions to transportation, threatening trade or commerce with other countries or among the States, just the sort of disturbance that we have in the dispute in which the foremen stevedores are involved. The section goes on to provide - (2.) Any person who, during the operation of such Proclamation, takes part in or continues, or incites to. urges, aids or encourages the taking part in, or continuance of, a lockout or strike -
In addition, any such person, if not born in Australia, may even be subjected to the grave penalty of deportation from the Commonwealth. Those sections were deliberately inserted in order to meet a situation that threatened our transport and threatened our trade and commerce. “We have had a series of hold-ups in recent years which have done that. They have dislocated trade between the States and interrupted the flow of goods to Great Britain and other countries, and the Government has let them pass almost without challenge, certainly without serious challenge. If the Government lets this wilful defiance pass without showing determination to uphold the authority of the law and its own tribunals, it will deal a fatal blow to the success of the conciliation commissioner system. I do not need to elaborate on that, for I am sure that the Minister for Labour and National Service realizes the significance of the present challenge. We cannot hope for a prosperous Australia and a free distribution of the goods that the country is capable of producing if we cannot, maintain order on the waterfront and the ships that pass between our ports. If this latest threat of dislocation is to be met in the weak way that the Minister’s answer suggests it will be, we can look forward with apprehension to a continuance of the events that have marred the post-war economic record of the Commonwealth.
Mr. haylen (Parkes) [12.23 J.- Despite surface criticism there is in thi* country acceptance of the fact that a splendid job is being done by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) and his department. The estimates for the Department of Immigration provide almost £1,000,000 for “British migration (other than child) “, and about £150,000 for the transport of displaced persons who will be coming from Europe in the very near future. The frustrations of the department appear to be over, because, although slowly enough, ships are coining to Australia, first with British migrants as passengers, .and then we may expect, a trickle, which will later become a stream, of displaced persons from Europe who will .be fitted into our economy. We have accepted the viewpoint that these people are necessary to fill the 200,000 jobs, good, had and indifferent that the Minister has stated are available. As reconstruction makes progress the number of immigrants will increase, as will the velocity with which they will come abongst us.
The sum of £40,000 has been provided on the estimates of the Department of Immigration to encourage child migration. I trust that the greatest care will be exercised in regard to “ institutionalized “ migration to ensure that it shall be conducted along sympathetic and human lines and in accordance with the christian professions of many of its sponsors. Unless we are careful the money which we spend in bringing children to this country will result in our having to spend much greater sums on them in other directions in years to come. The whole experiment of child migration must be kept under careful surveillance. We in this country have an entirely different viewpoint in regard to it from that of people overseas, who part with their children with the greatest reluctance. We should remember that the problem of the disposition of “ war orphans “ has been almost entirely overcome by the decision of the peoples of Europe to provide for their own war victims. However, many thousands of children still remain without parental care, .and they are the type of children who are to be brought to this country. I have made a careful survey of our present institutions for the reception, care and control of children, and I believe that they are by no means adequate. Those institutions, and the people charged with their administration, should be supported and encouraged by the provision of adequate funds, and the Minister for Immigration should not be inhibited by an inadequate grant. Some of my comments apply also to the organization for the reception of adult migrants from the United Kingdom and displaced persons from Europe. The total grant provided now is less than £2,000,000, although obviously that is only a fraction of the amount which will be required if immigration becomes the large-scale feature of our economy which we hope it will.
Child migration, however, is a matter which presents peculiar problems, the solution of which must be approached in a spirit of sympathy and humanity. I hope that the Minister will receive every support from the institutions which are to house these children and from the teachers and guidance officers who will be responsible for inculcating the ideals of Australian citizenship in the children. The Minister should avail himself of the expert, services of social science workers and induce them to enter wholeheartedly into the scheme. Of course, the adoption of a really enlightened plan will cost a lot of money, but that expenditure should be regarded as a national investment of first-class importance. The most comprehensive service should be provided to assist child migrants, and even adult migrants, to become assimilated into the Australian way of life. If the Minister provides the services which I have indicated and co-opts the assistance of social science workers he will have erected a bridge over which the migrants can walk in comfort and security. I repeat that scientific assistance is necessary, and T deplore the fact that a sum of only £750 is provided for scientific research. That sum is intended to cover the assistance to be rendered by anthropologists; but surely that is only a token of the sum which i9 to ‘ be spent later. The success of migration depends ultimately, however, upon the interest displayed in it by the people of this country. Of course, the Government can assist considerably by making available facilities for the transportation of migrants and their ready assimilation into the Australian way of life, and a great deal depends on the energy, goodwill and foresight which the Government brings to bear on the problem. However, the application of scientific methods to this problem, particularly in regard to the work done by welfare workers, is extremely important, and should be undertaken without regard to expense.
Migration is not only going to cost a great deal, but it is also going to make heavy demands on the human qualities of Australians. We have not as yet overcome the isolationism which characterized us in pre-war years. I have never believed that Australians suffered acutely from xenophobia; I have always considered that the hatred of strangers which manifested itself was founded in the knowledge that in previous years the advent of immigrants to this country resulted in a worsening of our social conditions. That is not so to-day ; our people now accept them as willing helpers in the task of rebuilding and revivifying this country. We know that the arrival of these immigrants will not lower our living standards nor increase our housing difficulties. Indeed, the officers of the Department of Immigration have impressed that upon intending migrants at all times, and even if sufficient shipping were available to transport all those who are anxious to come to this country, their advent would not be allowed to prejudice the opportunities of those Australians who are still in need of accommodation.
A big responsibility rests on the people of Australia to receive migrants properly and to look after them while they are “ settling in “. Immigrants are entitled to, and should receive, a warmhearted welcome of the type for which Australians are so renowned. The erection of shelter sheds at the ports of entry and the “ briefing “ by the department of courteous, well-spoken officers to’ receive the migrants is not sufficient. If the interest and enthusiasm of Australians cannot be aroused to welcome these newcomers provision made by the Government at the ports of entry becomes nothing more than an empty gesture. The reception committees should be strengthened, and they should co-opt the services of many of the women who served this country so well in war-time. Those women are well trained in the task of receiving visitors to this country, and 1 have no doubt that many of them would be only too glad to assist if they were made to appreciate that this is a national job and that, their services will be voluntary. Some provision should be made in the Estimates to encourage the formation of reception committees, and the Government should devise a publicity campaign to make the Australian people aware of their responsibilities to the migrants, and the migrants, in turn, aware of their responsibilities to Australia, The adop- tion of measures of the type which I have indicated would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, and the money would require to be expended over a period of years. . However, my point now is that no provision has been made in these Estimates for anything of the kind, although money spent in the directions which I have indicated would he more than repaid. Apart from the beneficial effect which that would have on immigrants, the outlook of the average Australian would be considerably widened, and the tendency would be to remove the blind, unreasoning prejudice which Australians manifest towards foreigners. We must also remember that we have a great deal to accomplish to banish fear and anxiety from the minds of the displaced peoples of Europe. They must be made to feel that they have been accepted by us, and that the only condition which we impose is that they shall faithfully observe certain ethical standards which we regard as fundamental to the Australian way of life.
Quite frankly., I think that we are trying to drive too hard: a ‘bargain with the countries from which we are seeking migrants. We are demanding technicians and skilled people, and the argument that we most frequently use is that we must have additional population in the event of another war. Very many of our patriots want immigrants for cannon fodder, but the majority of responsible citizens want them, to help in the development of this country in peace. If we are so unfortunate as to become involved in the catastrophy of another war, then immigrants will, of course, be of great assistance to us.
I propose to refer again to the work which should be entrusted to reception committees, and the part played by the States in receiving migrants. The departmental officers appointed by the States, with the approval of the Australian Government, are responsible for placing migrants. Notwithstanding the valiant efforts of the Minister and the officers of the Department of Immigration, the reception facilities provided are inadequate, although this is probably due mainly to the frustration of the post-war era. However, I think that we have given too much authority to the States in a matter which rightly belongs to the Commonwealth. For one thing, I am not satisfied that the Government of New South “Wales is “pulling its weight” in regard to the servicing of applicants in Great Britain who inform Australia House of their desire to come to this country either as free or as assisted migrants. I know that .their troubles may be due to man-power difficulties, but I have had too many personal complaints of cavalier treatment by officials whom they meet at the counters of the State departments. if ever we should carefully select our men, whether they be Commonwealth .or State employees, for particular duties, it is for contact with the public in respect, of migration. We can kill the very urge of migrants, to come to this country, and of sponsors to bring them here, if they meet with discourtesy and disdain, if emphasis is placed on the long delay, and if, in- short, warm,, friendly contact is absent. We are endeavouring to relieve distressed England of those of its people who desire to come here. At the. moment, however, my principal concern is that the officers of the State departments are not functioning so efficiently as the Australian Government expected them to do, in regard to the applications that go to Australia House and the inspections that follow. The rule, roughly, is that after an application is “ vetted “ and ite priority is allotted, an examination - is made by the State authority of the suburb where the nominator or sponsor lives, for the purpose of ascertaining whether suitable accommodation is available there. That has become a frustration in the mind of the nominators or sponsors. For many weeks, an inspector does not call, and when they go back to the department in one of the capital cities, they are informed, “ It is useless for you to come here. Thousands of people want to go to Australia. There are no ships available, and you know how long it will be before any action can be taken “. When an application does reach Australia House, the persons concerned are informed. “ There will be an interminable wait “. All these things are true. There is delay, and we cannot cope with the flood- of migrants desirous of coming to
Australia, but ;their first “ knock “ should not come through a Commonwealth department.
The Minister for Immigration has valiantly fought his way through many difficulties, and has obtained ships for this purpose. The vessels are now on the seas bringing migrants here. The Minister has built up and consolidated this department without a blue print. He had to make it out of the blue sky, as it were. For years immigration was one of the functions of the Department of the Interior, but during World War II. the Department of Immigration was created, and the Minister had to lay the foundations of the structure. I make these remarks without any intention of irritating the State authorities. A tremendous responsibility devolves upon .them in relation to the duties assigned to them. The Commonwealth Department of Immigration has asked the States to assist with the reception of immigrants, and theexamination of their ‘applications. That is routine, and I fear that it is not handled efficiently, particularly in New South Wales. Therefore; somethingshould be done about it. Queensland has made good progress, and, in Victoria, the reception committees, at least on the social side, have done fine work. I participated in the activities of several of them, and . am aware of their efficiency and enthusiasm. Whether the administrative side is efficient I am not in a position to say. I am not voicing these criticisms just for the purpose of” saying something carping about a department. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) informs me that in this, matter Tasmania also is efficient, as,, naturally, one would expect it to be. But the serious thing for all of us, as Australians, to consider is that the migration plan must work. One of its greatest dangers is over-weighted and unsympathetic administration.
Whilst these matters .are important, the most important of all is the Australian attitude towards immigrants. It has not changed. From time to time, the press publishes a fresh spate of criticism of refugees^, though lately we- have been freefrom it. This is not so much an open season for them as it was, apart from special articles in the newspapers relating to particular instances. The next source of criticism could easily be the “ pommy and the third source could be the “ Anders Poles who are to be placed in Tasmania, or the Italians who are to be placed in Western Australia. If we are to have a successful scheme we must think of these matters in an international way. If the Australian is satisfied in his mind that there is no threat to his future by the presence of these immigrants, why should he think, with a tightening of the mind, with hatred of the stranger, which distinguishes so many Australians ?
– Does the honorable member suggest the breaking down of the White Australia policy?
– I am not suggesting that, while tens of thousands of Britons are anxious to come to Australia. I have never expressed any such intention in my speeches. We should break down the “ Aussie-will-do-me “ complex, which is a bad thing when immigration is related to our own advantage. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who is a worthy representative of the “ Crown colony “ idea, should not think that immigrants are brought to Australia to he our wood and water joeys on the sheep and cattle stations. I have never been a great believer in migration which is sponsored by little groups of employers. My faith would reside in government schemes, the purpose of which is the settlement of people in Australia, and their welfare. We, as Australians, must realize that migration is a two-way job. The migrants are available, when the frustrations of shipping and other things which distress us so much have been cleared away. But we still have our own conscience to examine, and our own outlook to clarify. Australians must be prepared to extend a welcoming hand to the immigrants. We want to make them good Australians, and, to do this, we all must play our part. No amount of money placed on the Estimates, and no expenditure of energy, including the application of th« genius of the Minister for Immigration and his departmental officials <vill make fi complete success of the scheme. For this purpose, Australians must also revise their ideas. Immigration is a good job, which is not being undertaken in a party political spirit.. It is an Australian job which must be done.
– The speech of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr Haylen), particularly his emphasis on the necessity for Australians to extend the hand of friendship to migrants who desire to settle here, and his appeal to Australians generally to shed the prejudices which they frequently exhibit towards people from other countries, whether they come from Great Britain or Europe, willi be endorsed by all honorable members. Unfortunately, the honorable member for Parkes does not always practise the humanitarian principles which he advocates. Australians aTe tolerant of immigrants so long as the strangers do not touch their own sphere in any way. As soon as the immigrant, whether he comes from Great Britain or a foreign country, infringes in the slightest degree some interest of an Australian, the unfortunate stranger becomes the recipient of all the sneers and abuse, veiled or otherwise, that it is possible to level. The previous speech of the honorable member for Parkes illustrates this point.
Mir. Haylen. - It still stands.
– The honorable member made a most bitter attack upon an artist employed by the Sydney Baily Telegraph. I always believed mat art and literature had no national boundaries. If a man were a good writer, or a good artist or even a good artisan, what else he was did not matter. But the honorable member for Parkes, who has just delivered to the chamber a homely little lecture on tolerance, attacked an artist named Molnar, describing him as a refugee and a Roumanian. In recalling this, I am merely pointing out that the honorable member’s utterances to-day are not in accordance with his practices as soon as he, in some way or other, is affected by the activities of a foreigner.
– I was not affected. My Australianism was affected.
– -I should like to know what the fact of Molnar being a refugee had to do with his a.rt and cartoon work for the Sydney Daily Telegraph. Had an Australian or anybody else been involved, would the same objections have been raised?
Sitting suspended from 12.Jf.-5 to 2.15 p.m.
– If toleration of new people in this country is to be practised as advocated by the honorable member for Parkes, an example must be set in the main by members of this Parliament, and particularly by the honorable member himself, who was delegated by the Government to visit Europe and the United Kingdom to report upon and recommend methods of attracting migrants to Australia. I approve the efforts that are being made by the Minister for Immigration to bring people to this country ; but despite the energy that he is applying to this task - and I do not doubt his sincerity for a moment - I fear that he has been caught up in a mesh very largely of his own making. I refer, of course, to the immigration policy of the party to which he belongs. Our first consideration when asking people to come to this country should be to ensure that there shall be accorded to them an opportunity to advance their status in life. Secondly, they must he assured of some of the amenities of life. The time has long passed when people from the other side of the world have been compelled to forsake the relative comforts that they enjoyed in their own countries to live in what might be termed the backwoods of a new land. Migrants to-day, whether they- come from Europe or any other part of the world, look for ‘.modern amenities such as electricity, good roads, and adequate housing. The provision of such amenities in this country is being retarded severely by the policy of the Labour Government. . It is too late now to deplore the introduction of a 40-hour working week, but - in regard to that, matter I should say this : The introduction of the 40-ho.ur working week means a reduction of approximately 10 per cent, in the total working hours. On the basis of a working population o;f 1,500,000, therefore, the labour loss is that of 150,000 people. Making allowances for individuals such as office workers who have not worked the full 44 hours, the loss to Australia’s labour potential can be ‘ estimated at approximately 100,000 people. That means 100,000 pairs of hands less in this country to build houses, to make roads, and to provide the amenities required to make Australia attractive to migrants. Although this is something beyond the immediate control of the Minister for Immigration, undoubtedly it will be a vital factor in the development of this country. At a stroke of the pen by the Arbitration Court - a decision forced upon the court by the precipitate action of the Government of New South Wales - we have lost in this country a labour potential equal to that of 100,000 migrants.
– Does the honorable member question the authority of the Arbitration Court ?
– I am merely drawing attention to the difficulties that have been created by the policy of the Australian Government. I have already emphasized that I approve the Minister’s endeavours to bring migrants to Australia. I support, too, his appeal for tolerance towards these people when they come here; but unfortunately the Minister’s efforts are being seriously prejudiced by the circumstances of industrial life in (his country, which prevent the provision of the homes and amenities sought by present-day migrants. In the country districts of Australia there are many vacant cottages. They may not be up to city standards, but at least they provide shelter and accommodation. Every endeavour should he made to induce migrants to settle in our country areas. There is a serious shortage of agricultural labour throughout the Commonwealth to-day. This is particularly evident in wheat-growing districts, where, it is feared, there will not be sufficient labour to harvest the forthcoming wheat crop. In Queensland, too, there is concern amongst cane-growers about the lack of adequate labour for cane-cutting.
– We are trying to get some thousands of people from displaced persons’ camps as agricultural workers.
– I am not criticizing the Minister’s efforts. If it can be shown that there will be some worth while return from the expenditure of approximately £1,750,000 by the Department of Immigration, I shall have no hesitation in supporting the proposed vote; but despite the not inconsiderable efforts of the Minister and his officers, the position to-day is that more people are leaving Australia than are coming to it. This undesirable state of affairs is revealed by figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician.
– That was in 1946, when special circumstances operated. Thousands of evacuees were repatriated.
– As the Minister himself has said on (more than one occasion, we do not need a few hundred or a few thousand migrants; we need tens of thousands if Australia is to play its part in world affairs. The job confronting us is not only the preparation of adequate defences for this country; the filling of what are popularly known as our great empty spaces is most important from that point of view. But there is an equally important consideration. I turn to the Department of Social Services, in order- to show the impact .of the population ages and of immigration upon our ability to maintain the social services’ that we haVe to-day. Owing to the falling birthrate, and to the comparatively fewer number of young people in the community, as well as the heavy overbalance of people over the age of 65 years in proportion to the total population, it will not be possible to maintain the economic amenities and. social services that we are endeavouring to provide, unless something is done to even up the balance of the population. That has to be achieved either by the birthrate taking an upward trend- means for ensuring which I am not able to suggest- or by immigration. Social services are financed from the National Welfare Fund. The budget speech, at page 15, shows that the credit balance of that fund has dropped from £50,000,000 at the 30th June, 1946, to £42,000,000 at the 30th June, 1947. In other words, the fund is being slowly budgeted out of existence. These are boom times, and we are enjoying what may be termed boom revenues. If the fund is ever to be built tip, it ought to be built up’ now, because Commonwealth finance’s will not always he so easy as they are to-day. The prudent person, like Joseph in the land of Egypt, has to take heed in the terms of different days and times. The annual commitments for existing benefits will increase very heavily in future years, even without any new benefits such as those that have been foreshadowed. The National. Welfare Fund will become a sham if the Government expends more each year than its boom-time revenue, and leaves future obligations to be met from a reduced revenue. The Estimates foi- 1947-48 provide for £69,000,000 to be paid into the fund to meet an expenditure of £77,000,000. If that is to happen in boom years such as those that we are now enjoying, what is to become of the National Welfare Fund, which it is our duty to protect in the interests of pensioners and others who hope to be or may be beneficiaries under it, when the revenue shrinks to a normal level, and it has to meet the full commitment that has been entered into in respect of unemployment benefits and pensions ? Those, of course, will grow. The present contributions to the fund are not meeting the present annual costs, no’r are they nearly sufficient to build up a reserve. If the fund lives on its slender reserves in these boom years, in what condition will it be in normal times,- leaving out of account times of depression? The action that is now being taken makes inevitable a big rise of the social services contribution if the fund is to be kept solvent. If we cannot maintain the fund in a state of balance at the present time, with full employment and the highest income in our history, what will happen, when we fall on slacker times? .It is folly to pile up liabilities on the fund without increasing both its income and its reserves. It is equally foolish to act as though the present temporary post-war boom is in reality the commencement of a golden age. When stocks which were depleted during the war have been replenished, as they must be sooner .or later, some of the air will pass out of this boom bubble and ordinary times will return. It is folly to build up commitments in respect of social services on nothing more substantial than a temporary boom. There is practically no unemployment to-day. The figures recently presented to the House by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) show that only about 4,000 persons are unemployed in the whole of Australia. The National Welfare Fund has been budgeted to provide ?4,000,000 on account of unemployment and sickness benefits. Even a low rate of unemployment would raise the annual expenditure to ?10,000,000 or ?15,000,000, and a very low rate would call for a substantial increase upon the ?4,000,000 at present budgeted for.
I am approaching the point at which there is a link-up with immigration. The number of persons in the population aged 65 years and over is increasing rapidly. In 1940, it was 510,000. By 1950 it will be 660,000, by 1960 it will be 850,000, and 28 years hence it will be over 1,000,000. That would be all right if the number of people of working age, under 65 years, were increasing in like proportion, but I shall show that that is not the case. Even with the present means test, and at existing rates, the number of persons aged 65 years and over will increase equally rapidly. The ?32,000,000 now being provided in respect of age and invalid pensions will have to be ?50,000,000 a year’ within fifteen years from now, on the basis of existing commitments only. .From these two items it will be clear that while many of us are still sitting in this Parliament the annual expenditure from the National Welfare Fund will reach ?100,000,000 per annum, without any new benefits or an increase of the present rate of benefit. Even a small shrinkage of the present tax yield would reduce the income of the fund below ?60,000,000, the budget estimate for 1947-48 being ?69,000,000. If the fund could not meet its commitments, the beneficiaries under it would receive only 12s. in the ?1 unless the social services contribution, which at present is very substantial, was almost doubled. That is a point which the Government and its administrators must keep in mind.
I have some figures which show the development of population in various age groups in Australia. In 1950, the number of persons between 20 and 49 years of age will be 3,400,000, and there will be 660,’000 of 65 years of age and over. By 1980, according to the estimate of the Commonwealth Statistician, the number of persons between the ages of 20 and 49 years will be 3,360,000. It is estimated that the number of people 65 years of age and Over will have risen to 1,060,000 in 19S0, compared with 660,000 in 1950. In other words, the burden on the younger section of the population will be nearly twice as heavy in 19S0 as in 1950* Unless the birth-rate increases or we can get immigrants, the burden on the rising generation will be almost intolerable.
-Fortunately, the birthrate is increasing. It is now 23 to every 1,000 of the population, which is the best for many years.
– It is true that there is a slight increase of the birthrate, but we cannot take too much comfort from that fact. I am presenting the facts as they exist to-day and as actuaries and statisticians expect them to exist 30 years hence. Those facts show the need for a progressive immigration policy and for a closer consideration of financial questions, with a view to meeting our future commitments, than is demonstrated in the papers before us. The fall in the birth-rate during the last 50 years has resulted in the number of people in the most vigorous years of life, namely, those between twenty and 50 years of age, being now only 3,400,000. As I have said, that figure will remain practically the same for the next 30 years. Immigration may increase the number slightly, but the indications are that no great increase of the population can be expected in that period.
-It is hoped that Australia will have 2,000,000 more people 30 years hence.
– If such hopes are to be realized, there must be a definite plan to get people here. Australia requires more immigrants than we are likely to get. It may be said that I am wrong, and that the number of people of working age will increase in proportion to the number who will enter the old-ago group, but that is not so. Should the expectation of actuaries and statisticians be realized, the number of adults of working age?twenty to 49 years - will increase by only 5 per cent, in the next 30 years, compared with a 50 per cent, increase of persons over 65 years of age. Those figures indicate clearly the nature of the problem confronting us. Even with the retention of the present means test, the effect on the National Welfare Fund and on social services will be severe. Money to meet the calls on the funds can be obtained only from taxation or loans, or, possibly, from the Commonwealth Bank. It is wrong to suppose that it will be obtained as easily in the future as during the war years. The money used to prosecute the war came from present and future taxes. Current incomes were taxed, and loans were subscribed, but those loans mean the imposition of taxes on incomes in future years. Before the war, the Commonwealth received £70,000,000 a year in taxes, representing about 8 per cent, of the gross national income of £940,000,000. The £350,000,000 a year now received from taxes represents 25 per cent, of the present gross national income of £1,400,000,000. Part of that increase is to meet interest and sinking fund payments on the national debt.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The remarks of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) oblige me to say something on the subject of immigration. I thank both honorable members for their constructive criticism of the Government’s immigration plans and for their approach to a question which is. of such vital importance to the future of Australia. Ever since I became Minister for Immigration the Government has planned to increase Australia’s population by bringing 70,000 immigrants to Australia each year. We had hoped that the excess of births over deaths, which during the war years averaged about 70,000 a. year, would account for another 1 per cent, increase of population, and that the total of 140,000 new Australians each year representing about 2 per cent, increase of the population which has been shown by experience to be about the maxi mum population increase which a nation, can absorb and assimilate without detriment to its economy. That, at least, is the experience of the United States of America. However, we have not been able to get 70,000 people a year from Great Britain, mainly because ships tocarry them have not been available. About 400,000 people in the United Kingdom are represented in approximately 211,000” applications filed at Australia House, London, for passages to Australia. Of that number about 20,000 have relatives and friends here who havenominated them and guaranteed them accommodation in their own homes. When the United Kingdom Government and theshipping companies can make more ships available the flood of immigrants to this country will grow. It must be borne in mind that at the outbreak of war Britain had 21,000,000 tons of shipping, whereas at the end of it only 7,500,000 tons of that shipping remained afloat. The rest was- at the bottom of the sea. Not one passenger vessel was constructed during the war to replace ships that were sunk; all the new vessels were cargo carrying vessels. To-day, passenger ships are again being built in British shipyards. I have seen a number of such vessels under construction on the Clyde and at Belfast and Barrow. Britain is building about one-half of the ships under construction throughout the world and some of them are being built for the Australian trade. I had the pleasure of walking the decks of Orcades and of looking down on Himalaya at Barrow. Those two vessels are being built for the Australian trade and will be launched next year. They will be a welcome addition to the Australian fleet. Of the vessels of the Orient Steam Navigation Company Limited, which previously traded to Australia - about eight in number - four were lost during the war, and those that survived the war as troopships have had to be converted to carry passengers. The only two ships which have been converted are Orion and Ormonde, and Ormonde is now making its first trip since its reconversion. Stratheden is the first of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s ships to be reconverted. It is obvious, therefore, that there are great difficulties in the way of those British people who wish to come to this country, and in the way of this Government and of the Parliament in bringing British people to Australia.
It is true that last year there was a surplus of departures over arrivals. That is explained by the fact that many people had been living in Australia during the war on a temporary basis. As soon as they were able, some went back to Hongkong’ or other places in the East, while others returned to Great Britain. In addition, a great many brides of American servicemen left this country for their new homes, and several thousands of war brides left to go to Great Britain. This explains the general movement of population after the war. For the six months from July to December las’., there was an excess of arrivals over departures, as mentioned by the honorable member for Richmond, And by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) a few days ago. However, from January to July of this year arrivals exceeded departures by 2,284 - not a very considerable number, admittedly, but at least it indicates that we have turned the corner. As I pointed out recently in answer to a question, the departures during 1946 included persons of Indonesian origin, Chinese origin, as well as of Portuguese and Timorese origin, numbering between 5,000 and 6,000. It also included 5,000 Italian prisoners of war. All Italian prisoners ave now been returned to their own country, except about 87 who are still at large. About 1,000 German prisoners of war also should be included in the total figures. The position in regard .to arrivals and departures’ has now become normal, and the figures show that the flow of migrants to Australia is increasing, and will continue to increase steadily.
– Will the Minister say something about migrants from India?
– Yes, but first let me point out that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) asked me to make a statement on the subject of immigration. I do not want to compete with the Banking Bill for desirable publicity, and I think, therefore, that it would be better if I were to wait until the. tumult on that subject has died down somewhat. However, I will make a statement later covering the point? mentioned by the honorable member for Warringah and other matters. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked about migrants from India. The Australian High Commissioner in India, Sir Ivan Mackay, was very solicitous about officers and men of the British Army and their families, as well as of British public servants and their families, in India. He communicated with the Australian Government and I was responsible .for arranging with the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan) and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) to send Manoora to bring to this country about 5,000 persons who had registered with the shipping companies for transport to Australia. Unfortunately, when the ship reached India in July, fewer than 700 of those who had been circularized were prepared to take passages on it. presumably because the ship offered only troopship accommodation.
– What was the capacity of the ship?
– It could take, .1 think, 1,500 troops, but we proposed to put on board only 800 persons; because it is practicable to carry only about that number when the complement includes men, women and children. We proposed to run a shuttle service between India and Fremantle until the entire 5,000 persons had been brought to Australia. However, either for the reason which I have suggested, or because many persons believed that they would not become involved in the communal disturbances, only about 600 were prepared to sail. We picked up all who were offering under the original scheme, as well as some others, and having landed them in Australia, returned Manoora to the Navy. At the time Sir Iven Mackay first made representation to the Government, only 28 berths a month were available for the transport of passengers from India to Australia. However, if those people in India do not want to come to Australia, we cannot do anything about it. On humanitarian grounds, and because we regarded them as desirable immigrants, we went out of our way to provide facilities to bring them here ; they are our own people, and we did not want them to be involved in the troubles in India.
The figures quoted by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) regarding the population age groups and demographic trends are very interesting, and his conclusions on the subject conform in general with the opinions expressed by the Government Statistician in a statement submitted to me some time ago. I made the statement available in this House in answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha). The figures contained in that statement are both informative and alarming. However, the House will have an opportunity to discuss the subject on a motion which is to be moved by the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons). I do not wish to say anything now that would anticipate what the honorable member may say, or what may be said by other honorable members in addressing themselves to the subject.
– In regard to migrants from Italy and Germany, will the Minister say who is considered by the Government to be acceptable, and who is not?
– The wives and minor children of citizens of Australia, of European continental origin, and whether naturalized or not, are permitted to join husbands and fathers in Australia. Australian women married to enemy nationals and resident in Europe are permitted to come back to Australia with their minor children. Until the ratification of the peace treaties with former enemy countries, enemy aliens are not permitted to enter Australia. The position of Italians, Germans, Austrians, Bulgarians, Finns and Roumanians will be considered after the peace treaties have been ratified by this Parliament. Once that is done, the Government will have to define its policy regarding many applications which have been received for the admittance .to -Australia of persons of enemy origin. There have been two departures from the general rule. German scientists, whose usefulness to our expanding economy is certified by the Secondary Industries Commission, and whose entry is sponsored by the com mission for work in governmental or private undertakings, may enter Australia on certificates of exemption. They come for a certain period and for work only in certain denned undertakings after they have been vetted by security serviceofficers of the British and Australian. Governments. We have had to go farther with regard to these people, however, than we have gone in respect of the otherswhom I have mentioned, because of ourneed to secure scientific knowledge and guidance in respect of some of our developing industries. We have made departures, too, in respect of some Italians who are needed to cut timber for supply to the Kalgoorlie gold mines. As I informed honorable members recently, the Wise Labour Government in Western Australia requested that permission be granted for 150 Italians to enter Australia toengage in that work. I was not very keen on the proposal, and did nothing about it until the McLarty Liberal Government revived the request. I then said that if the Western Australian Government could persuade the unions in Western Australia that there would be no objection to the proposal, and if I were assured that the ex-servicemen’s organizations would not offer opposition to it, I would favorably consider the request. The unions and the ex-servicemen’s organizations offered no objection to the entry of these people, and I have now decided to allow people already employed in that class of work in Western Australia to nominate 150 of their relatives in Italy to come to Australia to engage in timber cutting as desired by the Western Australian gold-mining companies. All of them will be admitted under certificates of exemption, which require that they must live in the locality in which they are first employed for a period of two years, and that they must continue in employment in the industry for which they have been nominated. I have also been asked what can be done to obtain an additional 2,000 cane-cutters, without whose services, I was told by representatives of the sugar industry in Queensland, we shall not be able to lift the 194S sugar-cane harvest. The representatives of the cane-farmers and the sugar-mill owners, who were introduced to me by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), were told that they must do precisely the same in relation to the sugar industry as was being done in regard to the gold-mining industry in Western Australia. Both of the representatives happened to be exservicemen and they undertook to make whatever arrangements were necessary with the Queensland Government, the unions and the ex-servicemen’s organizations in regard to the admittance of these people, so that we may be able to get the help needed in Queensland next year. The cane-cutters will not all be Italians. I have offered to obtain at least 1,000 men from the displaced persons’ camps in Europe, and I hope also to obtain 400 or 500 Polish ex-servicemen who fought with Australians in the defence of Tobruk.
– Why does the Minister limit Polish ex-servicemen to those who fought at Tobruk?
– Objections have been voiced about certain Polish ex-servicemen who are alleged to have been conscripted by the Germans in the early stage of the war, and to have fought in the German Army, but were taken prisoner by the Russians, and after their release fought with General Anders’s army in Italy. There may be some real objection to such men being admitted to Australia. There are, also, divisions of opinion among the Poles themselves on this question. Because of the feeling of hostility to foreigners that exists in the minds of some Australians, a matter which was mentioned by the honorable member for Parkes, I thought it best to restrict Polish migrants to those against whom there could not be the slightest objection. I also informed the British War Office that I was prepared to consider men who fought in the Royal Air Force in defence of Great Britain. We have such a large number of people to choose from that there is no necessity to invite persons to share our way of life against whom some objections may be raised. It is not easy to persuade everybody in Great Britain that the needs of the British Commonwealth as a whole are greater than those of any one member country. Only recently the secretary of the British Transport Workers Union indicated his agreement with Mr. Churchill’s view that the British people should stay at- home and fight .out the crisis that confronts them. He went on to say that he disagreed with my sentiments about migration. It would be difficult to persuade the British Government to allow hundreds of thousands of people to leave the country in one big mass migration movement and particularly at this time when it is in the throes of an economic crisis. The British Government has a difficult task in choosing between holding on to people and endeavouring to recover British industries, or letting people migrate to other countries of the British Commonwealth so that the demands on the rest of the world for food might be lessened by a reduction in the needs of the reduced population. The British Government must make its own choice, and decide whether it is better to retain its population and endeavour to recover its export trade and carry on with essential services or to let some of its people go. I assure honorable members that at any time I shall be only too glad to have their constructive views on this subject. I have never sought to make the subject of immigration a party matter; it is too big for that. The future of Australia most certainly depends on a rapid increase of our population. The defence angle has already been mentioned, hut perhaps a more immediate reason for urgency is the need to man our developing industries. We need, I believe, about 200,000 more workers than we have to-day. It is my task to endeavour to induce -people to come to Australia. We are doing our utmost’ to keep three streams flowing rapidly, the flow from Great Britain, the flow of returning Americans and their Australian brides who want to come to Australia, and the flow of people from the displaced persons’ camps in Europe. All those who come to Australia will be desirable people .who will fit in with our way of life and contribute something to the development of this country. I trust that honorable members will be seized of the need for toleration and that we shall live to see the population of this country very much greater than it is to-day. The bigger our population, the more certain it is that Australia will remain a country worthy of the cultures contributed by people who came here from all the countries of Europe.
.- I propose to speak briefly on two or three matters which may be regarded as of a rather minor character considering the importance of some of the departments with which we have been concerned. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) has indicated his desire to secure a greater volume of migrants to Australia. I. should like the honorable gentleman to publish a White Paper covering the whole subject. I do not believe he has told the whole story regarding exservicemen from India. The first instalment of his immigration plans has been a little unfortunate not only in numbers hut also because it has not resulted in attracting British people to this country. It is obvious that somebody blundered. The need for bringing British people to Australia should be stressed. Notwithstanding that, we cannot expect Mr. Churchill, Mr. Deakin, or any of the leaders in Great Britain to advocate the mass migration of British people to Australia. Honorable members who have been in England in recent years know that thousands of ex-servicemen desire to migrate to other parts of the Empire. I acknowledge that the shipping difficulties are real; yet ships are coming here from foreign parts with immigrants. We are not bringing to this country the large number of Britishers that would come here if they could. They are going to Canada and in great numbers to South Africa. That is characteristic of the British, who are a mixture of Norman, Saxon and Celt and have the spirit of adventure in their souls. From Britain they have flowed all over the world. Australia is not getting its share. If, in spite of the- Minister’s efforts, we have lost 2,000 more than have arrived, there is room for criticism. Every avenue should be explored to find means whereby we shall get our fair share of Britishers determined to adventure abroad. Three years ago in this chamber, I said that we should endeavour to bring to Australia British children for adoption. The late
Mr. Curtin, when Prime Minister,, favoured the scheme. I remember mentioning a family of four children? whose father, mother, sisters and brothers were killed by a bomb. I asked that they be brought here and he promised that they would be. He made the arrangements and the Minister for Immigration carried them out. They arrived recently. I have met them and I know that they are settled in Australia. I am surprised tofind that they have been in institutions and have thereby suffered in their upbringing. There are thousands of children in their category. There are organizations in Australia that would willingly foster the immigration of children from Britain. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) knows what has been done in Tasmania and I know what has been done in Victoria. We had lists of hundreds of Australian families willing to take British children into their homes and rear and educate them as their own. All that has been dropped. The Government’s idea is to accommodate children brought into this country in institutions. No institution is as good as a home. I ask the .Minister to re-examine that policy. I know that the Fairbridge farm scheme is operating, but there are many other schemes that should be fostered by the Government for the absorption in private homes of child migrants from Great Britain., British people in all categories should be encouraged to come to Australia.
– We allow the institutions to bring the children to this country. They can be later adopted by Australian people. We are averse to bringing children in for adoption by private individuals lest some children should suffer.
– I am glad to have that assurance. After what time is adoption permitted ?
– When we bring children to Australia we want them to know that if they are unhappy in the homes of the families that have adopted them they oan return to the institution.
– Is a child admitted to and kept at an institution for a term of years before adoption?
– No .period is laid down.
– I wish the’ Minister would make the facts clear in a White Paper, ‘because many people want to know. If the practice is as the Minister says, it will meet with approval. There is an obligation on the world to take displaced people from Europe. The Baits from Lithuania, Esthonia and Latvia dare not go back to Russia. Numbers of them are living in camps in Europe. They would he worthy immigrants. Among them there are men and women of a diversity of trades and professions. They are not all hewers of wood and drawers of water like the workers required for the hydro-electric works in Tasmania. Do not let us get just that kind, of displaced person. A search should be made of the camps in England for men and women of the right type. We have Australian representatives in Britain who should carefully interview the displaced persons there in order to get the right kind of people to come to Australia.’ There is a form of sponsorship whereby any Italian in Australia can bring to Australia compatriots whom he nominates.
– That is not so.
– Landing permits are given under certain guarantees in respect of Italians nominated by Italians already in Australia, but perhaps- more worthy Europeans without any ties in Australia are overlooked by that scheme and are beyond the pale. I admit the Minister’s enthusiasm, but he has not covered all the ground. He recently travelled to Britain and Europe and must have learnt from his officers the problems that require solution.
– I did.
– That is a problem for him to solve. The Minister spoke of the Poles who have come here to work in Tasmania. No one would deny that we should welcome the Poles who fought with the Allies. I have seen many of them in the Royal Air Force. They fought in various campaigns after their country was divided by Russia and Germany at the outbreak of war, and they are denied citizenship in their homeland.
It is right that they have found somewhere to settle. Britain has been their sanctuary for years, but the obligation is on the ‘Dominions to take their share. It is surprising to find that certain Poles are coming to Australia on a two-year contract.
– No, we issued certificates.
– Call it a certificate or a contract or what you will. It is an indenture.
– No; they have not. signed documents. If they do not observe the conditions under which they were allowed into the country, we have the right to deport them.
– Whatever it is, a contract or a gentleman’s agreement, they have to work on a certain job for two’ years. It is surprising that Europeans of their standard should be brought into the country on that basis, when, in our own territory of New Guinea, we have abolished the system of indentured labour and limited the time that a native ma.? work on a plantation to one year. It is incongruous that natives, who derive benefit by way of education from their work for white settlers, should be required to work for that rather ridiculously short term when Europeans are brought here on a two-year contract. That brings me to the subject of our external territories. The white settler in New Guinea seems to be given the least consideration hy the Minister . for External Territories (Mr. Ward). The honorable gentleman hatrecently been to Geneva, where he moved about 90 amendments in’ the debate on the control of colonial peoples - with what result I do not know. Sooner or later we shall have a report on his vapouring? or successes abroad. ‘ Meanwhile white planters in New Guinea, the outpost that defended Australia, that rich and fertile island, are being exploited by the Government. All their copra is taken by the Government and sold for them. They are not allowed to sell at a fair price their own products as are the Australian wheatgrowers and wool-growers.- They have to take what the governmental organization chooses to give them. Copra, for which they were paid £31 2s. a ton, the.
Government sold in Sydney for £42. a ton, and recently,, because of an outcry, the prices have been lifted to £51 5s. for first-grade and £50 for second-grade copra. ‘ But the planters are not getting the difference. They are in much the same position as were servicemen during the war when, for 6s. a day, they had to do the work that the waterside workers would not do at a very much higher daily rate. As the Government then kept the difference between what the shipping companies paid for the servicemen’s labour and the 6s. a day that the servicemen received as Army pay, so is it keeping the difference between what it pays to the planters for their copra and what it receives for the copra when it sells it on the market. I moved a private’ member’s motion for an inquiry into the maladministration of New Guinea and asked that the local administration that existed there during the Lyons regime be re-established. I have challenged the Minister for External Territories to go to the territory he administers and hear the complaints of the public servants, who feel that they are being exploited. Ridiculous wastefulness characterizes the honorable gentleman’s administration of the territory. About £2,500,000 is being spent there and £100,000 upon a model village outside Port Moresby at which tourists may see the handiwork of the Government, but the Government is forgetful of ‘ the Rabaul region farther north. When medical and educational services are the greatest requirements of the natives, the Government is actively engaged in promulgating labour ordinances which prescribe how many hours a week the natives shall work. The administration has paid war damage insurance at the rate of £10 for every hut that was knocked over during the campaign in New Guinea and Papua. This policy is putting into the hands of the natives sums of money which they do not need. We should concentrate upon providing them, with medical and educational services. That work, in itself, will be long and arduous before we can raise the natives to European standards. The academic .approach which the Government has adopted is not practicable and will not be successful.
It is time that the barrier of red tape was torn down, and that these territories, about which some of us know less than we know of Siberia and Tibet, should, be opened to Australian visitors, so that we may see how they are being administered. I do not propose to speak at length on the maladministration in Papua and; New Guinea, but I declare emphatically that the anomalies which I have described! are existing there. The administration has: failed to maintain the production of essential commodities. A policy for theeconomic development of the territoriesis lacking. As I complained earlier, theadministration is withholding the excess amounts received from the sale of copra. The administration’s native policy is unbalanced, and is having an adverse effect on the natives and the economic development of the territories’. There is unrest among the public servants. Near Port Moresby 24 houses were constructed recently at a cost of £50^000. The Minister should inquire why John Stubbs and Company, of Sydney, was granted that contract, what was the cost, whether the contract was obtained by open tender, and whether the houses represented full valuefor that immense expenditure. I should also like more information about theerection of the model native village at Hanuabada.
I now desire to refer briefly to several1 aspects of social services which the Government should examine. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) is aware of the existence of an anomaly which should be rectified. If a disabled ex-serviceman becomes unemployed, he is not permitted to obtain the full amount of unemployment benefit relief or dole, or whatever it may be called, because from that sum is deducted the amount represented by his disability pension. This pension did not adequately compensate him for theloss of an eye or a limb. The honorablemember for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and other honorable members ‘besides myself have frequently complained about thisanomaly, and when we discussed it during the consideration of the last Supply Bill the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and another supporter of the Government agreed with our contentions that the anomaly should be adjusted.
The Minister for Labour and National Service expressed some sympathy in tho matter, and the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) also suggested that action should be taken to rectify the anomaly. Unfortunately, the position has not been altered in the meantime, “We called for a division on this issue, and it was the nearest approach to defeat that the Government has experienced. The granting of this request will not involve a large amount of money. Nor is a large number of men affected. The position at present represents preference in reverse. A disabled ex-serviceman has deducted from his unemployment benefit the amount represented by his disability pension, but every other unemployed person is entitled to receive the full amount of unemployment benefit irrespective of his income from other sources.
I now propose to refer to a subject which is related to immigration. A person who was not born in Australia is not eligible for the age pension until he has’ resided here for twenty years. When this matter was raised in this chamber on a previous occasion, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) admitted that he knew of persons in his own electorate who, aged approximately 80 years, were still obliged to work because they were not eligible for the age pension in this democratic country. I urge the Government to re-examine this matter, and reduce the period to ten years or even less. A family in Great Britain may be considering the advisability of emigrating to Australia, and may contemplate bringing with them their aged parents. If these parents receive social benefits in the United Kingdom, they will not be favorably influenced to emigrate to Australia, because they will forfeit their pension. A reciprocal agreement has been entered into between Australia and New Zealand for the payment of pensions, but no similar agreement has yet been reached between Australia and. Great Britain. Again, a large sum of money is not involved, and I contend that the adoption of my suggestion would be equitable and justifiable for these old people.
– I am. pleased to hear the remarks of various honorable members regarding social services. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) quoted statistics, supplied to him officially by the Department of Social Services, which showed the substantial increased cost of social services benefits in future as the result of the increasing number of persons over 65 years of age. The honorable member also referred to the reduction of the amount in the National Welfare Fund last year of £8,000,000, and pointed out that it was bad to have a deficit in social services contributions from income at a time when nearly every person in Australia was employed. While I agree with the honorable member’s contentions in that regard, his submissions do not accord with the opposition which has been expressed to social services payments. Honorable members opposite have pointed out that too many people on the lower ranges of income are contributing to the National Welfare Fund, thus increasing the cost of the collection of income tax and the administrative work in preparing income tax assessments. Honorable members cannot have it both ways. They cannot, with justification, object to a deficit in the National Welfare Fund and, at the same time, advocate that other people, who at present are ineligible for social services benefits, should receive them.
Other aspects must be considered in relation to social services payments. I agree with the submissions of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), that the period of eligibility for persons who were not born in Australia should be reduced from twenty years. If we are prepared to admit people up to 50 years of age, we should regard them as being entitled to a pension on attaining 65 years, which we regard as the age of retirement from industry. However, there is another section of people which the Government must consider in the near future. To them, the means test is an obstacle. Some members of the Opposition, support the abolition of the means test, particularly on age pensions. I believe that the time is approaching when we must be prepared to take a big step forward towards the abolition of the means test. I am most concerned about the. people who, during their working lives, have accumulated a small amount of capital and who, for that reason, are not entitled to any pension. I think particularly of people who may have been able to purchase a couple of small house properties worth, perhaps, £700 or £800 each, from which they may he receiving a net weekly income of sometimes less tha.n 20s. each. Because they own these properties worth £1,500, or a little more,’ they are not eligible for any pension. If they had no such properties they could be enjoying an income of £2 a week from other sources without any interference with their pension rights. It seems to me to be a real hardship that people who have been thrifty enough to purchase a couple of properties such as I have indicated should be penalized in regard to pension rights. “When we talk about the abolition of the means test in relation. to the pension rights of women who reach 60 years of age and men who reach 65 years of age, we need to be quite clear in our minds what we mean. The abolition of the means test should not necessarily imply that people will receive a ‘pension irrespective of their other income. People should not expect to be able .to continue to enjoy the full income they had before reaching the age of pension entitlement and receive on top of it the full pension. They should not expect the’ country to subsidize their incomes in that way simply because they have attained that age. I consider that we should give attention to the abolition of the means test insofar as it applies to property, and apply the test only to the total amount of income enjoyed, irrespective of the source from which it comes. By that means we would ensure a measure of justice to people who have accumulated a small amount of capital and invested it in property. At present a husband and wife may possess and occupy a property without surrendering any pension rights. I hope that before long the Government will consider the abolition of the means test insofar as the possession of a small amount of capital is concerned. It is unjust also, I consider, that a husband and wife who have small amounts of money in the bank must lose £1 of their pension for every £10 each of them has in a hank in excess of £50. That, too, Ls a great hardship and the cause of much dissatisfaction. Neither such people nor those who have been thrifty enough to save a little money and to buy such properties as I have mentioned should be penalized in respect of their pension rights.
Like some other honorable members, I have received circulars from pensioners’ associations, in which it is stated that the recent increase of the pension to 37s. 6d. a week was more than offset by the increases in the cost of living. I consider that the increase of the pension to 37s. 6d. a week was a great advantage to pensioners. I appreciate the point made by the honorable member for Richmond that, with the gradual extension of the school leaving age, the whole situation is changing. Formerly boys and girls left school at fourteen years of age, but now they must remain at school until they are fifteen years or sixteen years of age. The conditions vary slightly in the various States. This means that the person who retires at 60 or 65 years of age and who did not leave school until sixteen years of age would contribute during the time in industry for a shorter period than a person who left school at an earlier age and began work. Contributions to the social services fund ‘ for shorter periods in these circumstances must inevitably involve, sooner or later, an increase of the social services payments by individuals if the benefits of the fund are to be maintained at the same rate. That is an important point that people should not overlook.
I wish now to refer briefly to difficulties that are being experienced in the southern States through the way in which our shipping services are being managed. The southern States depend, to a considerable degree, for their manufacturing industries on the shipment of iron and steel products and other raw materials from New South Wales. 1 refer, in particular, to galvanized iron, fencing wire and the like. During recent years, South Australia has developed greatly in regard to factory employment, but much of the raw material that is needed in the new factories must be obtained from New South Wales. Unless it can be obtained regularly, the State’s manufacturing activities will be considerably restricted. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) referred yesterday, in a question, to a statement by the management of John Lysaght (Australia) Proprietary Limited that over 4,000 tons of galvanized iron was awaiting shipment from New South Wales to South Australia owing to the lack of shipping. It is impossible to provide roofs for many partly constructed houses in South Australia because galvanized “iron is not available for the purpose, yet we hear complaints that ships are going from New South Wales ports to South Australia in ballast. This is a very serious matter in view of the fact that urgently needed cargoes of raw material for South Australia are being left behind on the wharfs. I do not know whether the fault is due to unsatisfactory management by the shipping companies or to ineffective supervision by the Department of Supply and Shipping, but it is. a matter that needs immediate investigation, because South Australia is urgently in need of raw materials of kinds which can be obtained only from New South Wales. I took up with the Minister for Supply and Shipping recently the subject of the unsatisfactory shipment of coke to South Australia and pointed out that four months had elapsed since a shipment of coke had been made to that State, except for small quantities shipped by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited for use in their own. establishments at Whyalla and Port Pirie. I understand that a small steamer left New South Wales for South Australia recently with a cargo of coke, hut for many months the supply of coke to South Australia has been most unsatisfactory. The irregular shipment of coke, and of raw materials, such as galvanized piping for water reticulation, and other products of the iron and steel industry of New South Wales, has been the cause of a great deal of trouble in South Australia. The Minister, in discussions that I have had with him, as well as in answers to questions in this chamber, has pointed out that scarcity of shipping has been largely responsible. I appreciate that shipping has been scarce. Nevertheless, I, as a representative of South Australia, and particularly of a district in which there is a large number of industrial concerns which need these raw materials, protest against the failure to load ships with the raw material that has been available for loading when they have been about to leave port. Inability to obtain the goods because of interruption of production was bad enough. When goods are produced, it is essential that all the ships available shall be used to their greatest capacity, and shall not leave port in ballast.
Many working men and women with whom I have come in contact have some reluctance to migrants being brought to this country because of the difficulty of providing them with suitable housing. Whilst they would welcome our kith and kin from overseas, they are rather afraid that the housing shortage may be intensified. The Government must accept some responsibility for the housing of those who are brought to this country. I have asked a question in regard to a hostel in my State which is being used for the accommodation of young people. OppOSition members have continually preached that the Government should not interfere with the business interests of private individuals. In South Australia, a large number of young women is needed to meet the requirements of the new industries that have been established. It is almost impossible to supply those requirements from the labour that i9 offering in the metropolitan area of Adelaide, and the firms concerned have attempted to induce young women to come from country areas. They have been able to assure parents that a large hostel belonging to the Government, and conducted by the Young Women’s Christian Association, would provide suitable accommodation for their daughters. But the Government has made the decision that when a building that it owns is not needed for government purposes it must be sold. I understand this to be in conformity with the legislation relating to acquisitions. That policy imposes a hardship, not only on the individual, but also on industry. I hope that the Government will reverse its decision, in the interest of providing proper boarding accommodation for young people who leave their homes in the country or in other States. I agree with the honorable member for Richmond that Australia needs immigrants, not in thousands, but in tens of thousands, in order that this country may be developed to the stage that we desire that it shall reach. The Government must take any steps that are considered desirable and proper for the housing of those who may come here. I cite the instance where recently a number of young women were brought from Scotland to do special work for Vactric, a firm in my district. .Young women who are working in private industries must have the Government’s assurance that they will have suitable places in which to live.
– Mr. Mulcahy-
-(Mr. Mulcahy). - The Minister for External Territories.
– I rise to order. As the last speaker was called from the Government side, should not the call now be given to an honorable member on this side?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I have given the call to the Minister for External Territories.
– I rise to order. Almost from time immemorial, the custom adopted by every chainman of committees who wished to be unbiased, has been to give the call to each side alternately.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.There is no point of order.
– - .You are departing from a principle that has been followed by your predecessors in the Chair.
– I can well understand the anxiety of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) that I, as the responsible Minister, should not have an opportunity to reply to his wild and unsubstantiated remarks in regard to the conditions in the external territories. He has merely repeated many of the unfounded charges which he previously made in this chamber, without furnishing any supporting evidence. It is well known in this Parliament, as well as in the country, that the honorable member has always objected to good -living standards being ensured for any workers, wherever they might be. When the Government restored the civil administration in the external territories, the honorable member - whose words are on record in Hansard - objected to its increasing the pay of natives from 10s. to 15s. a month. He said that we were improving conditions too rapidly, and were likely to spoil the natives. He has indulged in a lot of “ ballyhoo “ about the Labour party and the Government being dominated by the Communist party. Were it not for the fact that the missionary bodies are supporting the Government, and commending its policy in the external territories, he doubtless would suggest that it is introducing communism in those territories. We have set out to do our best to assist the natives. The honorable member for Balaclava has criticized the payment of compensation to native peoples for war damage done to their property by enemy forces and by our own forces for defence purposes. He has claimed that the natives do not know what the payments are for, and that when they get the money they do not know what to do with it. Obviously the inference is that because the unfortunate natives do not know that they are entitled to war damage compensation, they should not be given it; in other words, they should be defrauded. If the honorable member has not already acquainted himself with the views of the various missionary bodies with which the Government periodically confers, he should do so as soon as possible. He will be given some interesting information in regard to the policy of the Government towards these native peoples. The Government intends to pursue its present policy of helping the natives by improving educational standards and health facilities. One objection raised by the honorable member for Balaclava is that in improving the standards of the natives we are affecting commercial interests which in pre-war years were exploiting the natives. The honorable member said that the Government was robbing the copra-producers. Obviously he does not know the position, or, if he does know it, he is deliberately misrepresenting what is being done. It is true that a certain percentage of the Australian price for copra is being retained by the Government, but that money is being paid into a stabilization fund. Before the war on many occasions copra was sold at a price less than the cost of production, and the growers had to appeal to the Government for assistance. The Australian price of copra has risen within the last twelve months from a little more than £30 a ton to £51 a ton, and an amount of £6 a ton is being retained by the Government and paid’ into a trust fund for disbursement should the price fall below the cost of production in the future. This contribution does not impose any hardship on the producers because it is recognized that to-day the copra market is unusually buoyant. Although some individual planters may not approve of the’ stabilization scheme, I can assure the honorable member that if the opinion of all producers were sought at a poll, he would find the majority of them favoured the scheme.
The honorable member for Balaclava also referred to housing costs in the territories. Admittedly the cost of building homes in the territories has risen enormously, as it has on the mainland and in other parts of the world; but the Government has not blindly accepted any quotations that have been offered. Quotations have been submitted to the Department of Works and Housing and thoroughly checked by building industry experts, and the Department of External Territories has been advised that having regard to all the circumstances, the prices quoted could be considered reasonable. We were necessarily concerned at the complaints of members of the Public Service of failure to provide them with homes. We had to hurry on with the job and have the construction work carried out by the firms that were available and had the necessary equipment. The honorable member spoke of unrest in the New Guinea Public Service. If he means that occasionally some member of the Public Service complains about something that is happening in the territory, such as a delay in providing him with a home, there is some unrest; but I have no doubt that members of all public services complain from time to time, and surely that cannot be regarded as evidence of widespread unrest. I recall that on a former occasion when members of the anti-Labour parties sought to prove a charge of unrest in the Public Service in the territories, the honorable member for Balaclava said that public servants had threatened to strike within 24 hours unless I met certain claims that they had made. The truth was that there was no such demand, and no threatened strike. It is my intention as soon as possible in the new year to visit the territories so that public servants may have an opportunity to place before me various matters in which they are interested. The alleged widespread unrest is merely a figment of the imagination of the honorable member for Balaclava.
– I rise to order. The Minister is grossly misrepresenting me. I have a telegram from the Public Service Association.
– Order ! There is no point of order.
– As I am anxious not to exclude the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) from this debate, I shall make only one further reference, and that is to the intention of the Government to expend a certain sum of money on the reconstruction of Hanna.bauda village. This proposal -has been criticized by the honorable member for Balaclava as wasteful expenditure. On one occasion the honorable member asked why the Government did not do something .about housing Australian workers instead of worrying about providing the natives of New Guinea with homes. The honorable member knows quite well that the materials required for the reconstruction of the Hanuabauda village can be obtained locally, and could not be used to ease the housing shortage in this country unless, of course, the honorable member believes that the homes of Australian workers should be of an’ equivalent standard to those of the New Guinea natives. Does the honorable member favour thatched huts for Australian workers? Would he suggest that the materials used in such structures be brought from New Guinea and used in the erection of houses in this country? Apparently he does, because that is the only construction that can be put upon his complaint. The Hanuabauda village was destroyed to meet the requirements of our own defence forces: This Labour Government is not like the Opposition. We are not concerned only with meeting the wishes of those individuals who can exert great pressure upon members by means of well-organized petitions and circular letters. Although the New Guinea natives have no elected representative in this Parliament, they certainly have a voice here, because the Labour party recognizes that there are certain obligations resting upon the Australian Government because of the sacrifices made, and the assistance given, by the New Guinea natives during the war years, and we intend to honour these obligations. Before the honorable member for Balaclava makes any further complaints about the administration of the territories, I suggest that he should secure more reliable information than he has had on this occasion. I conclude by repeating that the honorable member has never believed in the payment of adequate wages to workers, and I remind him that on one occasion he was charged with having failed to pay award wages. I leave the matter there, believing that reasonable members of this chamber will realize that there is no foundation for the charges that have been made by the honorable member.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The Minister, in typical style, has made an ill-founded charge. He has alleged that I was charged on one occasion with having failed to pay award wages. It is true that there was an arbitration case involving a firm with which I was associated, but the decision went against the union, with costs against the union.
.- I wish to discuss a matter’ relating to the New Hebrides condominium. I do not know whether it is the concern of the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward), or whether I should bring the matter to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). I understand that, atone time, there was operating in the New Hebrides a company known as the Australian New Hebrides Company. It acquired certain land holdings which were subsequently taken over by Burns Philp and Company Limited. Subsequently, Sir James Burns, who believed that he ought to encourage white settlement in those islands, made a gift o.’ the land to the Australian Government. 1 do not know what the title to the land was, but I know that concern is felt about that title now.
– The honorable member is discussing something which should properly come under the Department of External Affairs.
– It is only a small matter, and if the committee will indulge me-
– The subject docs not come under any of the departments now before the Chair.
.- Recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) made a statement on the dollar shortage, and stated that the importation of certain commodities, including petrol, would probably have to be further restricted. I always believed that fairly large quantities of petrol were available from sterling areas, including the Middle East, but I assume that the Government knows, for once, what it is talking about, and that the restrictions are necessary. Petrol restrictions seriously affect the man living on the land. Farming to-day is largely mechanized. A great many f armers live a considerable distance from the nearest village, and supplies have to be brought by car or truck. In addition, the greater part of the farm produce has to be taken to market by motor truck. Many country people believe that the shortage of petrol, combined with the scarcity of trucks, has been largely responsible for the noticeable decrease of primary production. The latest out in the petrol ration has hit country dwellers much more severely than those living in towns, where there are alternative methods of trans’port. I mention the matter now because the sta tement of the Prime Minister -the day before yesterday seemed to indicate that the dollar position was even more grave than we had supposed, and that still further restrictions of imports were likely. If petrol rationing has to be made more severe I ask the Government to give special consideration to people on the land. Any further restrictions in the use of petrol should be imposed first upon city dwellers.
– What was said by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) regarding age groups in the community cannot be denied. The trend appears to be inevitable, and we cannot do much about it. However, it is misleading to base one’s judgment entirely upon the figures of age pensioners. The number of pensioners has increased largely because of the slight increase of the ‘permissible income, and because of the pension increase of 5s. a week.
I am glad to be able to report that the cost of administering the Social Services Department, although disbursements by the department have increased by several millions of pounds, is very low. The staff has been reduced by 381, and the cost of administration is only 1.21 per cent., the lowest in the world.
– The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for the Department of Social Services, the Department of Supply and Shipping, the Department of External Territories and the Department of Immigration has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Department of Labour and National Service
Proposed vote, £1,178,300.
Department of Transport
Proposed vote, £54,000.
Department of Information
Proposed vote, £339,900,
Department of Post-war Reconstruction.
Proposed vote, £711,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- I understand that the Department of Transport exercises a measure of policy control over the allocation of permits for the purchase of new motor vehicles, although the degree of control has not been made clear. I know that the actual issue of permits rests with the State authorities. In the course of my duties as a representative in the Parliament, I have been approached from time to time by persons who believed that they were entitled to new motor vehicles, and I have transmitted their representations to the State authorities. I think I am stating the position fairly when I say that the State authorities have represented to me that they function at the request of the Australian Government in seeing that there is a fair distribution of motor vehicles, but they themselves have very largely surrendered to the motor trading companies the actual allocation of vehicles. In short, I have been told, through the Victorian authorities, that they have been operating under a system that substantially leaves to the motor companies themselves the actual allocation of vehicles as between district and district, and between person and person, but that the State authorities do intervene if they have reason to believe that some person who is really entitled to a new motor vehicle is being overlooked. The number of motor vehicles arriving in Australia is affected by decisions of the Australian Government. I do not believe that the Australian Government, or the Department of Transport, ought to abandon responsibility for seeing that the few vehicles which are available are fairly distributed. If this Government chooses to use State instrumentalities as its agent I have no criticism to offer, but I maintain that the Australian Government, through the appropriate department, ought to lay down clearly the policy to be followed by the State authorities, and should ensure that the policy is, in fact, applied. I cannot believe that it is a proper thing for the Commonwealth Government to approve a subsequent delegation of authority to the point that the State authorities step out and practically leave the allocation of motor vehicles to the motor companies themselves. I shall cite a glaring instance of what is going on. I have been approached by some of my constituents who are members of a wellknown pioneering family, consisting of a. father, who is over 80 years of age, and a family of eight or ten sons, who collectively farm a big area. They milk more than 100 cows; they produce about 30 tons of tobacco a year; they fatten hundreds of cattle and graze thousands of sheep; and they grow thousands of bushels of maize. They have other activities, the details of which I cannot give at this stage, but the information which I have given I know to be true; I have not exaggerated the position. The only motor vehicle possessed by the members of that family is one 3-ton truck; they cannot get even one motor car. Yet one has only to go around the streets of any Australian city, or attend a race meeting, and he will see thousands of people who cannot possibly be so entitled to permits for new motor cars as are the people to whom I have referred, but are driving about in new motor cars. There is something wrong with the administration. I do not know what it is.
– It would be difficult to find a bookmaker without a new car.
– It is common knowledge that if there is one section of the community which is able to get permits to buy new motor cars it is that section consisting of bookmakers. One has only to attend a race meeting to see bookmakers arriving in luxurious new motor cars. This pioneer family lives from 20 to 30 miles from the town. Should sickness occur in any of the eight families working the holding, the sick person, who may be an expectant mother or a man over 80 years of age, must be taken to a doctor in a 3-ton truck; or else an overworked doctor must travel over 50 miles to attend the patient. No question of the family’s credit arises. These people could pay cash for a new car if they could get a permit to buy one. I admit that that is the most outstanding case that has come to my notice, but there are others similar to it. I do not wish to attack the administration of the Department of Transport. I merely point out these things to the Minister, and ask him to take steps to ensure that it will not be possible for any member of the Parliament to make a similar complaint in the future.
For reasons which are not clear to me, the Department of Post-war Reconstruction has been clothed with the responsibility of negotiating international trade treaties. There is precedence for such work being undertaken by the Department of Trade and Customs. Moreover,, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture has exclusive federal responsibilities in connexion with primary industries, which are the industries mainly concerned with international trade treaties. Further, the Department of External Affairs has all the paraphernalia for engaging in international consultations. Yet, for some inexplicablereason, the Department of Post-war Reconstruction is entrusted with theresponsibility of negotiating these agreements. If it would not mean trespassing on the time of other honorable members who desire to avail themselves of thelimited opportunity to discuss these Estimates, I could refer to a number of industries which are likely to be affected by the .international trade discussionswhich take place from time to time. I shall confine my remarks to one industry, with which I am especially concerned, namely, the canned fruits industry. This industry is capable of1 vast expansion;its production is both considerable and valuable, and.it provides a great deal of” employment. The main overseas market for Australian canned fruits is the United Kingdom. The history of the industry for the last twenty years will show that between 40 per cent, and 60 per cent, of its production is consumed in Australia, and that of the balance the greatest proportion is sold in the United Kingdom market. It .is possible for Australian canned fruit to compete with theproduct of the United States of America only because of the existence of a preferential Empire tariff which was established under the Ottawa agreement. From the little that we have been told in the Parliament, and from what we can gather from newspaper reports, it would appear that active negotiations are proceeding at Geneva, London, Washington and elsewhere because of the ambition of the United States of America to terminate British Empire preference, so that its products may compete in the United Kingdom market on an equal footing with the products of Empire countries. The highly efficient canned fruit industry of the United States of America has a big internal market; about 85 or 90 per cent, of its output is- sold in the home market, and so American producers of canned fruit have to export only from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, of their pack. Most of that surplus is disposed of in the United Kingdom market in competition with Australian canned fruit. The only other markets of any significance for Australian canned fruit are those in New Zealand and Canada; those markets, like that in the United Kingdom, will be affected by any whittling away of Empire preference. The relative importance of the United Kingdom market is demonstrated by the figures relating to our exports in 1939, a fairly typical year. In that year almost 1,600,000 cases were sent to the United Kingdom, 53,000 cases to Canada, 80,000 cases to New Zealand, and only 36,000 cases to the rest of the world. That shows how vital is the United Kingdom market to the maintenance of this industry. The point I want to hammer home to the Government is that the Australian canned fruits industry is selling approximately one-half of its total production on the United Kingdom market in competition with exporters from the United States of America who market in the United Kingdom only from 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, of their annual production. It will readily be seen that the price which the Americans receive on the United Kingdom market is not a matter of vital concern to them, and that they are more concerned with the prices they receive on the ‘home market which are determined by the canners. It is the regular practice of American canners to clear their surplus production by selling it at whatever price they can get on the United Kingdom market. That being so, they could very well sell at a price which would result in our industry being completely destroyed because the canned fruits industry is sustained only by the United Kingdom preferential tariff. That is why I urge the Government to realize that any agreement to surrender wholly our preferential rights in the United Kingdom market, or to surrender so much of them as would enable American competition to destroy the Australian industry would vitally affect the economy of this country. I know that it is not within the power of the Australian Government to determine the rate of preference to be accorded to us, and that these matters are determined by bi-lateral or multi-lateral arrangements, in this case by a bi-lateral arrangement between the United Kingdom and Australia. If the United Kingdom Government arbitrarily destroys our preference we cannot, of course, do anything about it, but our canned fruit-growers want to be assured that the Australian Government will fight to the last ditch to maintain the existing preference. What is needed is a clear exposition of the attitude of the Australian Government on this matter. Does the Government believe that this industry should forgo some of its preference? If so, how much does it believe the industry can afford to forgo? Those engaged in the industry, including hundreds of ex-servicemen, are entitled to know where the Government stands on this matter. There are important towns in two States the very existence of which depends upon the maintenance of this industry. The great and growing towns of Shepparton, Mooroopna, Tatura and Kyabram in Victoria, and Leeton in New South Wales, depend entirely upon the canned fruit industry. I have been told by the Canned Fruit Growers Association that some 3,500 families are dependent on it, comprising 1,400 orchardists and 2,100 permanent employees. Their number is, of course,, augmented by thousands of seasonal workers who every year are engaged for months on pruning the trees, and harvesting the fruit, and by the additional thousands engaged in the transport and canning of the fruit. It has been calculated that the prices of peaches, pears and apricots on the United Kingdom market, for which, during the last twenty years, the growers have been paid from £10 to £15 a ton, are affected to the extent of £5 a ton by the preference. If this preference be lost it will mean that many growers will not be able to carry on because the industry will have to be restricted to the dimensions of one providing only for home-consumption needs. An orchard industry cannot be restricted as may a cereal crop industry. The only alternative would be to provide for the payment of a subsidy. It has been calculated that, in order to bridge the gap represented by the value of Empire preference, a subsidy of from £150,000 o £200,000 would have to be provided. I have been waiting for the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to return to the chamber, as I have something to say which affects him personally, but as the honorable gentleman is still absent, and as my time is getting short, I have no alternative but to mention it now. The canned fruit-growers have been greatly concerned by a statement made by an important member of the Labour movement, Mr. A. Richardson secretary of the Bendigo Trades Hall Council. In. its issue of the 19th September, the *Shepparton Advertiser states that Mr. Richardson made a broadcast over station 3BO Bendigo in which he is said to have stated that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction had told a meeting of the Geelong Trades and Labour Council that preferences for the canned and dried fruits industries would be sacrificed for the benefit of wool. A subsequent issue of the same newspaper carries a denial by the Minister of the statement attributed to him. Whilst I accept the Minister’s denial, the growers in the Goulburn Valley feel that Mr. Richardson must have had some substance for his remarks to have made a broadcast criticizing a member of his own party holding an important ministerial office. I expect the Minister to clear this matter up so that canned fruit-growers may know exactly what is the attitude of the Government and what course it is pursuing. How far is the Government prepared to go, if it is prepared to go any distance at all? Is it prepared to abandon Empire preference, or reduce it? This i9 a matter of such great public interest that it should not be shrouded in an atmosphere of secrecy. We shall not develop this country if the policy of the Government is to sacrifice important industries which have a special capacity in effecting closer settlement merely in order to sell a bit more wool to the United States of America. I speak now not as a canned fruit-grower, but as a wool-grower. The wool-growing industry . is enjoying prosperity at present, and I see no cause to believe that it is in any danger at all. A fatal blow will be struck at our capacity to develop the great Murray
Valley areas with the assistance of irrigation if we jeopardize the canned fruits, or fresh fruits, industries, merely in order to be able to sell a few more bales of wool to the United States of America. I again ask the Minister to clear up this matter and to be candid with the canned fruit-growers. During the week-end I was speaking with Mr. Young, of Ardmona, who is known to several Ministers and to departmental officials as a responsible man with extraordinary experience in the canned fruits industry. He is recognized by government departments to be the outstanding expert in Australia on the growing of canned fruits. But he told me that he has not been consulted at all with respect to this matter. We should not conduct negotiations for months overseas, simply through government officials who have not first-hand knowledge of the industries they are handling, and completely fail to consult with the leaders of the industries concerned. I am sure that whenever the Government engages in discussions affecting the life and livelihood of members of big trade unions, it does not hesitate for a moment to consult the members of those unions before coming to a decision on such matters. We expect the Government to follow the same procedure in conducting negotiations relating to primary industries. Particularly when the very existence of primary industries is thrown into the melting pot of international negotiations, surely the chosen leaders of those industries should be consulted. I ask the Minister to make a candid statement as to where the Government stands in this matter.
– I listened attentively to the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). He i3 in error in certain respects. First he said that the Government had not consulted with the representatives of the canned fruits industry.
– I said with the growers.
– We have a Canned Fruits Board, and I understand that the growers have representation on the hoard.
The industry was asked to select a representative which it did, and that representative went to Geneva and stayed there throughout the whole course of the negotiations. Insofar as it was necessary to discuss with him matters affecting the industry, that was done.
– He came back because he was not consulted.
– That is- not true.
– “Who was the representative ?
– Mr. Evatt. He was selected by the Canned Emits Board.
– A brother of the Minister for External Affairs.
– He was selected because of his expert knowledge of the industry. Therefore, it is untrue to say that the industry was not consulted in any way. However, as I have previously stated with respect to the negotiations at Geneva, and as the honorable member for Indi as an ex-Minister would know, negotiations of this kind are of a very delicate character. It is not possible to say to an industry that we are being asked to make a reduction of the tariff applying to it or of any preferential tariff enjoyed by it in the United Kingdom or in other dominion markets, and then make known to the world that we are prepared to go as far as the industry might suggest we should go.
– Is that not what the Americans do?
– No. In any case, this is a matter of balancing concessions we may receive against concessions that we may make. It would be quite easy for a delegation going from Australia to an international trade conference for the discussion of questions of tariff reduction and the elimination of trade barriers to say that so far as Australia is concerned we are not prepared to do anything at all. If every country took up that attitude no agreement at all would be reached. If one goes to a conference like that in Geneva, one must go, on the supposition at least, that we are prepared to bargain, that in return for benefits we receive we will grant concessions.
– But does it not follow that any industry sacrificed in that way should be compensated internally?
– As I said only yesterday in answer to a question asked by the honorable member for Indi, there is no question of any industry being sacrificed at all. I make that perfectly clear. It must be obvious that the Government at this stage cannot make public just what it is prepared to concede in return for benefits which it is proposed we should gain as the result of these negotiations. 1 assure honorable members that the delegation at Geneva has fought very hard on the various matters which have been discussed at that conference. It is well known that the representatives of the United States of America came to that conference for the express purpose of getting a reduction of tariff barriers in other countries and of making a breach in the Empire preferential system. So far as Australia is concerned, if we had been left to decide the matter for ourselves and had merely to take into account our own feelings and inclinations we,, probably, would have said at the conference that we would not make any reduction at all in the Empire preferential system. But we went into these negotiations in order to assist the United Kingdom to arrive at an agreement with the United States of America. If the net result of saying that we would not agree to any reduction in the preferential system was to he that the United Kingdom would find it impossible to arrive at any agreement with the United States of America, then the result would have been disastrous not’ only for the United Kingdom, but, possibly, in the long run, for Australia as well. I suggest that the only thing that the committee can do with regard to this matter is to exercise patience. In due course when the negotiations have been completed - even now they have not been completed, and no decision has been made at Geneva - the Government will give the complete picture of the negotiations with not only the United States of America, but also other countries with whom we have had discussions. Until such time arrives, it is premature to make public the negotiations with respect to only one industry. Parliament must have the complete picture before it can make a decision ;as to whether the negotiations have been “in the best interests of Australia or not.
– It will then be too late.
– I again emphasize that it will not be too late, because as I have repeatedly said, and I now repeat, no binding agreement is being arrived at at Geneva at all. The agreement will not become binding upon any one until such time as it has been approved by the Parliament. Therefore, the honorable member was quite wrong. I repeat that no agreement will be made unless it is approved by this Parliament. If the honorable member has a good case on behalf of a particular industry, surely he must be aware that the House will take note of his point of view and will not agree to any injustice being done to that industry. I assure him and other honorable members that the Australian delegation at Geneva fought very strongly to uphold the Empire preferential system. It -argued that the system should not be altered unless Australia obtained some very great advantage in return for any reduction of preferences that it might suffer, and that any such reduction should not be so great as to inflict any sacrifice at all on the particular industry affected. That is the basis upon which the delegation at Geneva has worked.
As for the report in the Shepparton newspaper, to which the honorable member referred, I can tell him how it came to be published. I am glad that the honorable member has accepted my denial of the accuracy of that report, which was published in tie same newspaper. These are the facts: In addressing a meeting of the Trades Hall Council at Geelong, at which a representative of the Bendigo Trades Hall Council was present, I indicated that there was a balancing as between the advantages Australia might receive in relation to the wool industry and the concessions that it might make. However, I made it clear, as I do now, that no definite agreement had been reached and that this Parliament would make the final decision.
Apparently the representative of the Bendigo Trades Hall Council who attended that meeting informed Mr. Richardson, the secretary of the Bendigo Trades Hall Council, of the purport of what I had said. In doing so he evidently became very much confused about the issues involved. Then Mr. Richardson made a radio broadcast from Bendigo, not as one who had heard my statement at Geelong, but as one who had been told it at third hand. In my opinion, Mr. Richardson acted very indiscreetly in stating that I had said certain things which he had not actually heard me say. I have cleared the matter up now. The newspaper mentioned by the honorable member for Indi has published a complete and emphatic denial that I made the statement attributed to me, and I am glad that the honorable member for Indi has accepted that denial.
– I want to speak about Empire trade preferences, with particular reference to their relationship to the dollar pool, in which Australia is vitally interested. First of all, however, I refer to the extraordinary statement by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who said that the canned fruits producers of Australia are being represented at the trade conferences at Geneva by Mr. G. J. Evatt. Mr. Evatt was a civil servant of long standing in the New South “Wales service. I understand that he was an irrigation engineer, and that he rose to his present position through the State Department of Water Conservation and Irrigation. What he knows about marketing or the interests of the growers of canned fruits it is very difficult to say. I am sure that the growers in the Shepparton Valley in Victoria-
– ;Mr. Evatt is a member of the Canned Fruits Board.
– The Minister is violently interrupting my speech although I refrained from interrupting when he was speaking. I do not stand for hooliganism by Ministers or any one else. Therefore, I say that it is most unjust of the Minister to try to howl me down when I point out, through Hansard, to the fruit-growers in the Shepparton Valley and elsewhere in Australia how badly they have been let down by this socialistic government, which depends on civil servants to represent primary producers overseas.
The position with regard to trade preferences is that, under the system of pre-‘ fferences which operates within the British Empire to-day, Australia has been largely dependent on the British market for the sale of many of its exportable goods. Consequently to-day many Australian exports are diverted to the British market although, in view of world shortages, they might be marketed elsewhere. Australia is vitally interested in the dollar pool resources of the whole Empire. An. examination of relevant figures shows that the approximate adverse balance of payments between Australia and Canada and the United States of America, allowing for everything except new United States of America capital investments in Australia, amounts to approximately ?15,400,000 per annum. I believe, that investments that Americans would be prepared to make in Australia if a better and less socialistically inclined government were in power here would not only cover the whole of that amount of ?15,400,000 but also would provide Australia with an invisible export which would give it a dollar balance in the United States of America far in excess of ?15,400,000. Australia is suffering to-day from heavy restrictions of imports from dollar countries because of what is taking place overseas. I have every sympathy for the desperate plight of the British public, but I have no sympathy for a government whose actions accentuate that plight more and more each day.
– Which government does the honorable member mean?
– I admit that I made a mistake in referring to only one of the two governments. The plight of the British people is being increased day by day by the acts of the two socialistic Governments of Great Britain and Australia. Honorable members on the Government side of the chamber may smile and laugh, but the position is that Great Britain, through its socialistic Government, has very largely wasted, during the last twelve months, the dollar loan which was made to it.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– I shall point out some of the things that are taking place in the United Kingdom to-day for the information of the honorable member. For example, coal is being imported into Great Britain and Europe from the United States of America. The landed,, price of American coal at Glasgow a,, fortnight ago was ?5 12s. sterling a ton., and I understand that the present price - is about ?6 a ton. I was amazed to read; in the London *Economist of the 2nd; August an item referring to the shipment-, of coal from the United States of America^ to Europe and Swansea, in Wales. Fancyimporting coal to Swansea, of all places in the British Empire!
-(Mr. Sheehy).- Order! The honorable member must connect his remarks willi the proposed votes before the Chair.
– I am linking them with the dollar pool, in which Australia is vitally interested. If Australia does not obtain its fair share from the pool, more and more restrictions on imports from Canada and the United States of America will have to be imposed. I believe that, if the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government would change their policies, such restrictions would be entirely unnecessary. These import restrictions affect not only consumer goods but also capital goods which are essential to the development of this Commonwealth and to the absorption of the stream of immigrants which the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) talked about only this afternoon. I shall put my proposition clearly to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I know that you are a man of great capacity and understanding and will immediately appreciate my point. If the British Socialist Government is wasting dollars, we are vitally concerned. We are vitally concerned when we find set out in the Economist that, in the year ended the 30th June, Europe received from the United States 25,500,000 tons of coal when, as the Economist points out, if the British miners had worked one hour extra a day or five hours extra a week, the $560,000,000 absorbed in the purchase of that coal would have been saved and Britain could have sent that coal overseas. So we are vitally concerned how the dollars are spent. “We hear a mightly lot in this chamber about the spiral effects of inflation. One honorable gentleman opposite said that he did not want Australia to get into the desperate position of the United States of America, but it is curious that every socialist government is sitting on the doorsteps of that country, with begging tins in hand, crying, “ Give us backsheesh “. “ Give us dollars “.
– Order! Unless the honorable member addresses himself to the proposed votes before the Chair, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– Great, Britain imported £140,300,000 worth of tobacco from the United States of America.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I ask the honorable member to indicate the proposed vote to which he is addressing himself.
– -I am addressing myself to the proposed vote for the Department of Post-war Reconstruction and to international trade. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has been in Geneva discussing international trade with the representatives of the United States of America and I understand that he proposes to continue his discissions in the lovely air of Havana, in old Cuba. The Director-General of Post-war Reconstruction, Dr. H. C Coombs, is in Geneva conducting trade negotiations, and his salary is provided for in the Estimates. So I . have every reason for pointing out what has happened. I intend to link imports into Great Britain with the expenditure of dollars. I also intend to show the small percentage of imports into Great Britain from Australia compared with imports from the dollar areas. It is no credit to this Government that in the whole of Australia only 1,100,000 more acres were sown with wheat this year whereas in only one State of the United States of America, Texas, the “ Panhandle “, the increase was 2,000,000 acres.. The Economist lists wheat and flour, other grain and flour, meat, dairy produce, and fresh fruit and vegetables among the imports of Great Britain from the dollar countries. Many of those imports could have been obtained from Australia. “When we compare Great Britain’s imports from Australia with its consumption we realize what a sad and sorry story it is and how little Australia has done to relieve the trials of the British people. “We sent Great Britain no wheat or flour. “We sent 7 per cent, of its total needs of meat. Little New Zealand sent 3 7£ per cent. “We sent no bacon or ham. We sent 30 per cent, of its requirements of butter, and New Zealand sent 45 per cent. “We sent S per cent, of cheese, and New Zealand sent 36 per cent. “We sent no cooking fats. We sent, no condensed milk. We sent 3 per cent. of milk powder, New Zealand sent 5 per sent., and the United States of America 40 per cent. We sent 4 per cent, of its shell eggs. The contribution of home production was 80 per’ cent. We sent 9 per cent, of its dried eggs, and S5 per cent, came from the dollar areas. If the Australian Government had given a fair deal to the Australian agricultural industries, and encouraged production, as it should have, and as the United States of America has done, we should have been more readily able to help Britain. Instead, the Government has applied a policy of meddling and muddling. As the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) stated, it has meddled in other people’s business and muddled its own. It has meddled with the farmers. There is red tape everywhere. It is impossible to get spare parts for headers to take off the wheat crops. It is impossible to buy fencing wire. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) read a long list of company profits in Australia^ and deduced from it that there is great prosperity in this country, but he did not point out what those profits vividly illustrate, namely, the “ suppressed “ inflation in Australia, which is surging about, and that those paper profits are not producing goods. We have heard of paper profits in the United States of America, but do not forget that it is producing just under one half of the world production of coal. the output being 700,000,000 tons a year. Prices may have spiralled in the United States, but so have wages. There is increased production, and that is the true test of whether inflation exists or not. The policy of this Government is detrimental to national interests. It is preventing the development of the export of goods to the United Kingdom. If we had sent to the United Kingdom the goods that we might have, had we not been strapped down by a cursed bureaucracy, which, because of the socialistic theories that the Government is implanting, is riding the country to death, it would not have had a dollar problem, and the Australian workers, who denied themselves their needs during the war, would have been able to buy the commodities that they so badly need. They should have been able to buy the refrigerators that are so essential in our hot climate, and we should have had galvanized iron for roofing for the houses, that are being built. The sufferings of Great Britain are not to the credit of the Government. Neither is it to its credit that Australia is not permitted to use the dollars it should be able to use. In Geneva, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction talked about international trade. Reduced tariffs to get world trade moving was his theme. But back at home on the treasury bench Isis colleagues were putting quotas on goods obtained from the dollar areas and. stifling international trade. The Government consists of muddlers and meddlers, and the sooner the people of Australia are given the chance of throwing it out of office at a general election so that private enterprise shall have the opportunity of taking this glorious country through to prosperity the better. A year ago the Prime Minister talked about the golden age that this country was about to enter. Now, adopting the policy of the Communist, he is whining about a depression.
– Only one statement by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) requires refutation.
– The Minister cannot do it, any way.
– It is a pity that the honorable member, when he makes an affirmation, apparently does not desire to know the facts. The honorable member endeavoured to convey the impression that Mr. George Evatt, who was consultant at Geneva on behalf of the dried fruits industry, was not acceptable to the dried fruits industry.
– The Minister is “ off the beam”.
– Despite the interjection by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen)-
– It was the canned fruits industry.
– The honorable member for Indi and, I have no doubt, the honorable member for New England, know perfectly well that Mr. A. W. Fairley is probably the greatest figure that the canned fruits industry of Australia has ever known. He has rendered magnificent service to this industry, and the Government gave him the opportunity bo represent at the Geneva conference the producers of canned fruits. He was not able to accept the invitation, and, subsequently, with the full concurrence of the canned fruits industry itself, Mr. George Evatt, who is a distinguished member of the Canned Fruits Board, accepted the Government’s offer to him to represent the canners of fruits and the growers of fruits for canning. In respect of that appointment or selection there has not been one atom of criticism from any section of the canned fruits industry. Although the honorable member for Indi does not often agree with me, I am sure that he will admit the truth of that statement. For the honorable member for New England, by innuendo and inference, to allege that the Government, in appointing Mr. George Evatt as a consultant on canned fruits, did not do the right thing is, to put it mildly, putrid, and is evidence of the fact that the honorable member is a “ stinking fish “ artist.
The statement of the honorable member for New England that “ every socialist government in the world was waiting on the doorstep of the United States of America for a “ hand-out “ is another exaggerated, stupid and wild utterance by a man who should have a greater sense of responsibility. When he says such things, he indicts the Government of the United. Kingdom, regardless of the political views of those who constitute it. He knows that the Government of the United Kingdom has had to seek aid from America, not because it has a socialist government, or a Labour government, but because of the terrible sufferings and deprivations which the country and the people experienced during World War II. Regardless of the government which happened to be in office, the United Kingdom would have had to seek aid from America. Fortunately, that aid ‘has been forthcoming. The Australian Government has not sought aid from America, and this is not a socialist government. I should like to know who are the other socialist governments to which the honorable member referred ?
– The Government of Yugoslavia’ for one.
– Surely the honorable member, when he made his statement, was indicting the Labour Government of Australia and the Labour Government of the United Kingdom. He never had in mind indicting the Government of Yugoslavia. Now, he runs for cover. He desired to imply that the fact that the United Kingdom has a Labour government was the reason why it had to seek a loan, upon which it will pay interest, from the United States of America. I never heard such utter humbug and lack of responsibility from a representative of an important constituency. May I say, in retaliation f or his statement that he hopes that this Government will be swept from the treasury bench, that I am quite satisfied, on our record on behalf of the primary producers, of Australia, that we shall occupy the treasury bench for generations to come. The honorable member for New England himself is doomed to extinction the next time he faces his constituents. To-day I read in the Sydney Morning Herald that dairy farmers who attended the show at Lismore yesterday were so delighted that they were toasting the bright future of the industry as a result of the policy of this Government. Never before in my long association with the dairying industry, and in my parliamentary career, have I ever known an occasion where dairy farmers have been so happy and jubilant that they were toasting the bright future of their industry as the result of the activities of the Government in their interests.
-(Mr. Sheehy). - Order! The Minister is digressing.
– I did not intend to say so much, and I regret having contravened the Standing Orders. I leave my listeners to draw their own conclusions about the merits of this case.
.- I take this opportunity, on the estimates for the Department of Post-war Reconstruction and the Department of Transport, to make a few pertinent observations. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has delegated to the Emergency Road Transport Organization in Brisbane authority for issuing permits for the purchase of motor cars, lorries and light trucks. If control is necessary, I urge him to formulate a policy, and ensure that the organization shall observe it, in order that people who are urgently in need of motor vehicles shall be able to obtain them. I have made, or supported on behalf of many persons both in country districts and in cities many of whom are returned soldiers, applications for permits to purchase motor cars,’ lorries or trucks. However, this support on their behalf appears to be utterly futile. Invariably, I receive a stereotyped reply which expresses regret at the limited number of motor vehicles available, and indicates that when the position improved the organization will endeavour to meet my requests. Some of the many applications which I have supported have been outstanding. For example, some primary producers in remote districts have living with them elderly relatives, and they are doing a good pioneering job. Their only transport might be an almost broken-down truck nearly twenty years old. Some applicants have stronger claims for consideration than others, but to-day no applicant appears to have a claim sufficiently strong to satisfy the Emergency Road Transport Organization. In the circumstances, the Minister should examine this matter and formulate a policy for the guidance of the organization, so that it shall provide motor vehicles for applicants with outstanding claims. An extraordinary number of people who are engaged in primary production are having the utmost difficulty in getting their supplies to market, because their trucks are as old as the hills, they are unable to obtain replacement parts, and their vehicles are almost incapable of repair. I notice that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) is present. When the Parliament reassembled recently, I asked him to examine the problem of making available army vehicles to primary producers and those engaged in secondary industries who urgently require them. The honorable gentleman has been re-examining the position, and I hope that as a result of his efforts many more motor vehicles will be available for distribution to the public. Transport is the life-blood of the nation. The primary producer requires, in the first instance, motor trucks and lorries, and I appeal to the Minister to ensure that the limited number of these vehicles available shall be distributed on an equitable basis.
I propose now to refer to the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act. For a long time honorable members on this side of the chamber have emphasized the claims of country districts for a greater allotment of the proceeds of the petrol tax for the purpose of developing Commonwealth aid roads off our main roads. We have stressed that the States receive only a small percentage of the large sum which the Commonwealth collects. We stressed that over the years during which the federal aid roads scheme has operated, arterial roads and main roads have been provided in country districts, but feeder roads have not been constructed. This meant that in very wet weather, even producers who lived on properties not far off the main roads were not able to get their produce to market because the roads they had to travel over to reach the main roads soon became unuseable. We emphasized that there should be a special grant for the purpose of helping to develop feeder roads from rural properties to the main roads, so that pioneers and settlers generally should have a reasonable road to use to bring their produce to market. The Government yielded to the importunities of honorable members on this side of the chamber, as is indicated by the following extract from the speech of the Minister for Transport which I quote from page S47 of Hansard of the 19th March last -
In addition to the payments based upon gallonage, for general roads purposes, it is proposed to make available to the States, an amount of £1,000.000 per year for the special purpose of building and maintaining roads through sparsely settled areas, timber country and rural areas for which other transport facilities are not available. It will be prescribed that, in general, such roads will not include State highways, main roads and trunk roads, and it is intended that special regard should be paid to areas not served by railways.
The honorable gentleman enlarged considerably on that statement and we commended him for having yielded to our submissions. But what happened? Although money was intended by the legislature to be provided .for this purpose, communications which I have received from local governing authorities indicate that no funds at all have been made available. When the Parliament decides that funds are to be provided for a specific purpose, it is the duty of the Minister administering the department concerned to ensure that such funds are made available. To prove my point that the Government has not carried out the intentions of the act, I quote the following letter which I received from a shire council in my electorate: -
Confirming the Shire Engineer’s conversation with you at our Show, I have to advise you that when the Queensland Main Roads Commission was approached for a portion of this money, they advised that the State Government had taken the matter up with the Commonwealth Government.
The Commonwealth Government then replied that owing to 200 local authorities in Queensland, each wanting some of the money, the amount available for each local authority would be so small, and the cost of administration large in proportion, that they recommended that the grant to Queensland be absorbed unto its Main Roads Fund, and it is understood that this lias been done, and that no relief can be given on the lines originally intended.
There can be no doubt about the intention of the Commonwealth Aid Roads and
Works Act, for it is set out clearly in sub-sections 4 and 5 of section 6 of th measure in the following terms: -
An amount payable to the States under the last preceding sub-section shall be apportioned in accordance with sub-section (2) of this section and any such amount paid to a State shall be subject to the following conditions : -
Provided that the amount shall not. except with the approval of the Minister, be expended on any road declared by the State to be a State highway, main road or trunk road; (ft) that the State shall be responsible for the adequate maintenance of roads in the construction of which the amount is applied; and
The money which the Parliament intended to be used for this purpose had to be so used unless the Minister, in pursuance of the act, agreed to it being diverted to other purposes. I am advised by local governing authorities, however, that funds are not available. The Minister, therefore, does not appear to be discharging his duties in a proper manner. This is the more reprehensible because the honorable gentleman devoted about one-third of his speech to an explanation of the manner in which it was intended to provide feeder roads for main highways. I ask the Minister for Transportspecifically whether, in fact, he has given his approval to the use of moneys raised under the act for purposes which exclude those set out in the section which I have quoted. If he has done so, he should give the committee a full explanation of the reasons which prompted him to do so.
I desire to be brief in my remarks, for we are working under the operation of the “ guillotine “ ; but I must refer to certain aspects of the administration of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). What I have to say will indicate that the honorable gentleman’s department is due for a complete overhaul. I do not know of any exservicemen’s organization or of any group of exservicemen which is satisfied with the work that the department is doing. We have been told that, industry is unable to absorb trainees who become available through the reconstruction training scheme, and that this is due to a shortage of raw material, but the fact is that faulty administration is rendering the whole reconstruction training scheme ineffective. The Government seems to be quite indifferent on the subject, and young men and women who were promised that training facilities would be provided for them after the war are being left high and dry. We all ave well aware that when many of our young men and women joined the forces immediately they reached the age of eighteen years, and were thereby prevented from entering upon apprenticeships of any kind, they were assured that on their discharge adequate training facilities would be provided for them. Those promises have not been fulfilled. I a.m. indebted to a section of the Queensland press for a report of the result of a survey which it made which indicated a most unsatisfactory state of affairs. The report reads -
For every ex-serviceman awaiting entry to 1 post-war reconstruction ministry training school in Queensland in ten building a-nd allied trades then: ore six whose training has been deferred because industry cannot absorb them.
The report proceeds as follows: -
Figures released yesterday by the Deputy Director (Mr. E. F. Router) showed that in the ten trades 20-4 were awaiting vacancies in schools, while training of 1,250 had been deferred because the committee had decided that the “ absorptive capacity of industry “ had been reached.
Those awaiting school vacancies are expected to be trained with little more delay. There is no indication of when those deferred will bp trained. tu the ten trades where deferment is heaviest, bricklayers have only nine waiting to begin training as soon as there is a vacancy against 342 whose training has been indefinitely deferred
Figures for other trades are - Plumbers, 13 waiting for vacancies, 244 deferred; painters, 34 and 150; solid plasterers, 3 and 54; fibrous plasterers, 14 and 15; joiners, (! and 14; cabinet-makers, 20 and 254; french polishers, 59 and 54; stonemasons, II and 6; upholsterers, 9 and 38; wood machinists, 26 and 09.
All of those are trades that are associated with home construction and furnishing, yet the Minister is unable to do anything for those men. They all are required to stand by. It will probably be found that they will not stand by, but will engage in some other activity. That is what the Minister hopes will happen. In the carpentry trade, which is one of the most important of the building trades, one man in four has had his training deferred because the industry claims that it cannot absorb them. The building trades throughout the country are supposed to be crying out for men. We all know that something like 600,000 people in Australia need houses. Young men who offered their lives for their country are willing to be trained in the building trade, but the Minister will not give them an opportunity to do so. The time is long overdue for a complete overhaul of this department. J have discussed the matter with many men who are employed in the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, and they arp keenly disappointed about the position. The director-general, in statements that are published in the press from time to time, has made it clear that he is doing all that he can. These men are becoming brokenhearted because of the lack of definite policy. The trade union movement is denying to them the right to enter these trades. If the Minister has their welfare at heart, he will ensure a greater effort by the industrial committees to secure their absorption. I hope that he will call for reports from all the deputy commissioners. If he does, he will probably receive from them advice which, if acted upon, will lead to the absorption of a large number of young men who to-day are very dissatisfied, in the know ledge that they are wasting their lives while waiting to be vocationally trained in callings which they wish to enter. 1 appeal to the Minister to’ shed his complacency and self-satisfaction, and ensure that these young men, who offered their lives for their country, and are now anxious to learn trades for the benefit of the country that they helped to save, shall be given the opportunity to do so.
.- 1 wish, first, to answer the remarks of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), who, in a most impatient speech, which was not characterized by much reason, emulated some of his colleagues when he tried to paint another black picture of this country’s industrial and economic position in the world to-day. He referred to statements which I made last night in connexion with the remarkable advance which industry has made in this country, judging by the daily press reports of increased profits compared with those made on last year’s transactions, in spite of depreciation, and of the taxation which, according to him, is strangling this country. On the 30th September, there were 46 rises and 21 falls on the share market. That story has been repeated day after day in the press, and is an indication of the buoyant position of the companies concerned. Another indication of our economic and industrial expansion and progress is the wish of many British and American industries to commence operations in this country. Then, too, the savings of our people, deposited in savings banks, increased from £220,000,000 in 1939 to £661,400,000 to-day. That is indicative of increased earnings. The people have not been able to buy all that they have wanted, and consequently have been able to realize the benefit of saving. At the 31st August, 1947, there were 5,615,000 depositors in the savings banks of this country, many of whom have been able to save for the first time in their lives.
I pass on to the Department of Transport. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) spoke of the difficulties which primary producers encounter in their efforts to purchase motor cars. I do not often agree with the honorable member, but I do support his contention that primary producers should be given special consideration in this respect. Last August, I had a conversation with Mr. Newton, who is in charge of the Transport Department in Hobart and handles the distribution of motor cars for the State, which is the agent for the Commonwealth. He told me that he is receiving so many applications for motor cars that he has had to divide the distribution into groups - primary producers, business men, ministers of religion, doctors, and commercial travellers. There may be one or two other categories that I have forgotten. He said that there had been 300 applications in Hobart for the Chevrolet motor car alone, and that there was only one car of that make on a boat which had arrived just prior to my interview with him. He asked me: “ What could I do in such a situation but divide the applications into groups, and distribute the cars as equitably as possible among the groups that I have mentioned ? “ His position is very difficult. 1 do not think that many of us envy these men their task of allocating the distribution of motor cars. I am not saying, or even inferring, that Mr. Newton is not doing his job as it should be done. He is doing really well in most difficult circumstances. Some members of the Opposition may claim, that “ graft “ is associated with the distribution of motor cars. I can honestly say that, as far as I know, there is nothing of that sort in- Tasmania. There has been criticism of the fact that bookmakers appear to be able to purchase beautiful limousines. I, too, criticize that aspect of distribution. If a bookmaker and a primary producer applied to me for authority to purchase a car, I know which would be given it if I had the task of making the allocation. I do not regard it as fair that men who live long distances from rail-heads or from the cities should be denied an equitable share of the cars that are distributed. In fact, they should be placed in a. much higher priority than bookmakers, who can use other means of transport to travel to the races. Cases similar to that cited by the honorable member for Indi could probably be cited by other honorable members. We all realize that men who are battling in primary production in this country deserve to be afforded adequate means of transport. I stress that, even though I know that perhaps not very much can be done, except by those who have the task of allocating cars. I know that doctors are practically at the top of the priority list. Primary producers ought to be given second position. Commercial travellers and business men have other means of travelling round the country, such as buses and trains, and, nearer to the cities, extended tram services. Primary producers who have to travel far from railheads in isolated districts deserve special consideration.
I wish to pay particular tribute to the work that has been done by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). The publication This is Australia, which was recently distributed by the Department of Information, in co-operation with a number of private firms, is one of the best productions of its kind. It is a magnificent publication. I only wish that it could have been produced’ cheaply enough to be bought by everybody, but I hope that copies will be available to the public in the libraries. There was a great to-do in this Parliament not long ago about the publication, and the Minister for Information made a resounding reply to his critics. Australians have had for too long an inferiority complex. Until the establishment of the Department of Information, we were looked upon by people overseas as merely occupying a big piece of land somewhere in the Pacific. It was remembered that Australians had fought at Anzac, but apart from that, Australia was known only as a place that produced kangaroos, wallabies, koala hears and blackfellows. I pay a tribute to the Minister and his staff for the effective way in which they have advertised Australia. I know that not all honorable members opposite are opposed to the Department of Information and its work, although they may be opposed to some phases of its activities. I maintain that the results achieved by the department amply justify the expenditure, which this year is only £3,452 more than last year, the total being £333,900. This, considering the immense scope of the work done, and its impact upon the outside world, cannot be regarded as excessive. Expenditure on some items lias ‘actually fallen - namely, on temporary and casual employees, office requisites and equipment, stationery and printing, short-wave services, film production, and incidental items. The largest increase’ was f or publicity material and services, and the largest decrease was for film production. The increase was £11,721, and the decrease £10,769, so that the one practically cancels the other.
The services of the department are more and more becoming known and availed of by people who. coane to Aus, tralia, or who seek information about Australia. I have in mind particularly the film section. Recently, instances have been brought bp my notice of the way in which the department can give, and is willing to give, assistance to film enthusiasts. The department is sponsoring the production of documentary films on educational and scientific subjects for export, overseas. I have been informed by officers of the department that seventeen countries are receiving the department’s films, and showing them in commercial theatres, and making them available to libraries for exhibition to the public. The effect of the, exhibition of Australian films in this, way is very good. The film production section is paying for itself by the export of films to other countries. It maintains a tremendous library in Australia, from which films may be obtained on loan or hire by public libraries, churches and other cultural organizations and institutions. “ Know Australia First “ is a good maxim, and perhaps we all need to. know something more about our own land.
There is in Tasmania a group of young people who call themselves The Australian Cine-League. They are an Australiawide organization with branches in all capital cities. It is a nonprofitmaking organization, but obtains, its funds by public subscription and donations. Its purpose is to train young enthusiasts in the art of films and in voice production - in fact, in all phases of dramatic art, as well as in the commercial and technical sides of film production. The idea is that they shall make Australian documentary films for exchange with similar organizations in many other countries throughout the world. The Australian organization isreceiving assistance ‘from the Government, mainly through the Department of Information, which has agreed to allow a few of the principal members of the organization to work in theBurwood studios outside Sydney, so that they may acquire training in theediting of films. The department has also arranged to- allow a few members of the league to work for as long as they likein the department’s laboratories at Toorak where the developing and printing of films for the Department of Information is done. Not content with that, the department has agreed to allow one or more of its cameramen to go on location with the department’s film unit, either in Victoria, or Tasmania, so as to give them the benefit of their practical experience. The league already has about a dozen technicians of its own, but this will be a fine opportunity for them to acquire more technical experience under expert guidance. The Director-General of .the Department of Information, Mr. Bonney, has been most helpful, and has given this assistance to the league free of charge. That is something which we can all appreciate.
– Who pays for it?
– The people of Australia pay for it, and surely no one can quibble over the fact that the Department of Information is helping us to help ourselves. I pay a tribute to . the Minister for Information for the co-operative way in which he is performing his duties in his new and growing department.
– Some criticism has been levelled at the Department of Transport. It seems rather strange that honorable members opposite who have constantly pressed for the lifting of government controls should ask that the control of the distribution of new motor vehicles not only be continued but also that it be more rigidly applied. Tremendous difficulties arise in the distribution of new motor cars. Having no desire to add unnecessarily to expense, the Australian Government sought the aid of the State governments during the war in controlling the distribution of new motor vehicles. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) said that, besides laying down a general policy on this matter, the Government should rigidly supervise the control. I point out, however, that most of the States, being anxious to hand this control back to the Commonwealth, would resent most strenuously any interference with their public servants in the carrying out of their functions on behalf of the Commonwealth. I have no reason to believe that the States are not adhering to the policy laid down by the Commonwealth in this regard. It is impossible to establish a rigid priority list for the allocation of new motor vehicles because the supply is so small and the demand is heavy. If medical practitioners were given priority over all other users, they would quickly absorb all the new motor cars arriving in Australia. That is also true of all categories of users. For that reason, we indicated to the States the particular classes of people to whom we thought special consideration should be given, including among them doctors, ex-servicemen rehabilitating themselves, and primary producers. There has been a lot of loose talk about people who are not entitled to new motor vehicles, being able to secure them. I do not claim that there have been no such instances, but I am sure that investigations would prove that such cases are relatively few, and arise in almost every instance as the result of the issue of a permit obtained upon misrepresentation of facts to the authorities. There has also been some loose talk about bookmakers and other members of the public having their limousines outside race-courses when meetings are in progress. It is true that great numbers of cars are to be seen at race-courses, bowling greens and sports arenas. They do not necessarily belong to people engaged in non-essential industry. I am sure that mo.«f, of them belong to people engaged in essential industries who are indulging in some form of outdoor recreation or exercise. If honorable members opposite will cite specific examples of the wrongful acquisition of new motor cars, investigations will be made. Every complaint that has been made to the Department of Transport has been fully investigated. In most instances where a complaint has been made that a person has improperly obtained a new motor vehicle it has been found .that the vehicle was purchased second hand, and, as honorable members are aware, no control is imposed over the distribution of second-hand motor vehicles. To the best of our ability, we have used the facilities possessed by the States- to ensure the equitable distribution of the comparatively few new motor cars coming into this country. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) made representations- on behalf of a person in whom he is interested suggesting that a permit should be granted. The honorable member for “Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has also supported the claims of certain primary producers. The claims of all applicants are fully considered, but because of the trickle of motor vehicles coming into Australia it is impossible to grant all applications. To-day the number of unsatisfied applicants is approximately 72,000. In many instances it is difficult to differentiate between the claims of those whose qualifications appear to be approximately equal. Persons who in normal circumstances would be regarded as having a strong claim for the issue of a permit find that their claim is rejected because of the small number of motor vehicles arriving here. The honorable member for Moreton referred also to the distribution of lorries. I assume he was referring to lorries of the heavy type. For some time no control has been exercised over the distribution of lorries of the heavy type; and among utilities only those of low carrying capacity are controlled. Those above a certain capacity have not been controlled for some considerable time. It is evident that the complaints made by the honorable member in that connexion cannot be sustained. Another complaint made by the honorable member for Indi was that the Commonwealth had delegated authority to the States, which, in turn, had passed it on to the motor vehicle distributing companies. That is not true. Import permits for motor vehicles are issued by the Department of Trade and Customs. When motor vehicles arrive in Australia they are distributed by the motor vehicle distributing firms through their various agents to those possessing permits. The motor vehicle distributors have no say as to the issue of permits, ft is very easy for honorable members to say, “ I know a certain individual in the community who should have a motor car “. I, too, know many people who 1 believe are in great need of a motor vehicle. It would be ridiculous to grant an unlimited number of permits when there are not sufficient cars to meet the demand.
The honorable member for Moreton also referred to the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act. Here again the statements of the honorable member were inaccurate. No approval has been given by me for the use of funds provided under the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act for purposes other than those for which they were granted, namely, the construction of roads in sparsely populated areas. Nor has any authority been given for the absorption of such funds into the general revenues of the States. At the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) specifically stated that all such funds must be kept separate from other funds and be used solely for the purposes for which they were allocated by the Commonwealth. The Department of Transport expects the States not only to carry out the wishes of the Commonwealth in this respect, but also to render an account of the expenditure of these funds.
– Will the Minister remind them of that?
– We shall do more than that; when it is available we will submit a report to the Parliament showing how the funds were expended by the States. Honorable members will then discover that there was no basis for the complaint made by the honorable member.
– Only one activity of the Department of Labour and National Service has been criticized in this debate, namely, the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme, which, strangely enough, is one of the most efficient activities in the department. The scheme is under the control of the Director of Reconstruction Training, Mr. Eltham, whom everybody praises for the splendid manner in which he has carried out his task. Prom the initiation of the scheme - the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) had something to do with it in the early stages - up to June last, no fewer than 119,000 exservicemen have been trained and placed in satisfactory employment. That is altogether apart from the special building industry training scheme which the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) criticized, recklessly I think. To the 30th June, 1947, 17,732 men had been enrolled for training in bricklaying, carpentry and joinery, painting and decorating, plumbing, plastering, cabinetmaking and wood -machining, and other trades, of whom 9,393 had completed their training and were in employment, leaving 7,470 still in training at the end of the period; but I know that hundreds have since passed through the course. I direct special attention to those figures because of the inaccurate figures quoted by the honorable member for Moreton. Associated with the re-employment of exservice men and women, there is a special re-employment payment which has no relation to the unemployment benefit and is in no way to be regarded as charity. All those eligible ought to know all about it, for it has been well advertised, and there is no need for any former trainee to be without income if not employed in a trade or profession. The re-employment payment is payable to ex-service men and women until they are fitted into positions that satisfy them. Although I do not believe that the figures in respect of Queensland referred to by the honorable gentleman are anything like accurate, I concede that Queensland, has presented difficulties generally in the matter of employment of ex-service men and women. As soon as this debate ends I will make inquiries into the situation in Queensland. Recipients of the re-employment allowance in Queensland in the week ended the 4th October numbered 54. The only criticism that could be offered is that, some men have applied for training in courses the quotas for which are full. They have to wait until new courses open.
That does not mean that they are unemployed. They are working, but there are particular trades or professions that they desire to make their permanent vocation. When the opportunity offers they will be trained as they desire.
– According to the newspaper from which I quoted, the Deputy Commissioner in Brisbane is alleged to have given that information.
– I will check that, but I stake my reputation that the figures are hundreds out. We are very proud of the way the scheme has developed. It has the approval of the various ex-service men’s and women’s organizations, which are associated with it. The honorable member must not forget that, in the interest of the exservicemen themselves, we have to -ensure that training courses shall be properly balanced so that we shall not train more in any particular calling than that calling will carry.
– The Minister does not claim that the building industry is overladen with men.
– Just now it is. I do not claim that we have more men than the industry needs, but there are more than can -be supplied with raw materials, and, until we are sure that the industry will carry more, we will not encourage men to enter training in any of the courses associated with the industry. One of the difficulties is not so much that we have not enough men - indeed we could use a lot more - as that we must balance our requirements. We are trying to use the resources we have in the right way so that we shall get the things we need most.
– I want to complete the record on the publication entitled This is Australia, which was published by a Sydney firm with the collaboration of the Department of Information and which was the’ subject of a debate in this chamber last Thursday week. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) tried to prove that it was an official publication, and he said that an article on the trading banks was the view of myself or a government department. In the course of his remarks, he claimed that what that article contained was my view of the post-war job of the trading banks. He also asked who was responsible for the inclusion of the article on trading banks in the publication, and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), who knew nothing about the subject, said that the Minister for Information was responsible. I. refuted the charge of the honorable member for Barker. I think I dealt with him effectively. I did, at any rate, to my own satisfaction, to the satisfaction of my colleagues on the government benches and, maybe, to the satisfaction of a number of other honorable members. However, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), who heard my explanation, did not have the excuse, a poor one, no doubt, that the honorable member for Barker had. The honorable member for Barker did not know when he rushed in head first what the facts were. The honorable member for Wentworth who heard my explanation subsequently proceeded to distort the facts and pervert the truth, as did the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), in an attempt to justify what the honorable member for Barker had said. I have before me a letter from Mr. Oswald L. Ziegler, editor of the publication. I desire to read it to prove conclusively that the allegation that the story about the trading banks was a product of a government department was erroneous and the charge unfair, and that the assertion of the honorable member for Wentworth was deliberately untrue. The letter from Mr. Ziegler is addressed to me under the date of the 7th October, 1947. It reads -
On Friday morning last I read with interest, but with a certain amount of concern, the press reports of the debate that had taken place in the House the previous evening, during which reference was made to my publication This is Australia.
My concern was that certain criticisms had been levelled at your good self that were entirely unjust. Should the matter be brought up again at any future date, I would be glad if you would take this as my official statement, for the information of anybody who might be interested.
From the time when I first made the suggestion to you that I might publish a comprehensive book on Australia that would provide authentic and interesting information on practically every relevant subject, for the use of people in all parts of the world, you indi- cated your interest and promised to give me whatever assistance might come within the scope of your department. As my work developed I became increasingly grateful to you for your enthusiasm and whole-hearted support, and the success that I believe has already attended the publication is due in no small measure to your kindly co-operation.
With regard to the trading banks controversy, I wish to confirm the statement you made in the House, namely that I endeavoured to reproduce a comprehensive picture of banking in Australia. This picture included the operations of the Commonwealth Bank, certain representative State savings banks, rural banking, and the trading banks.
All this material was provided by the organizations concerned. The story of the trading banks was written by the economic adviser of the Bank of New South Wales, acting on behalf of all the trading banks. The article was intended to be comprehensive from the trading banks’ point of view and 1 subedited it in a way which I believed would present a fair picture. Similarly, the story of the Commonwealth Bank’s activities was supplied by the publicity officer of that institution and the same applied to the other banking organizations mentioned.
Tosuggest that you or your department was responsible for the writing of any or all of these articles is entirely wrong. If the statements made are notin accordance with the Government’s policy or views, then in no way can you or your department be held responsible.
I should like to commend to other members of the House, should they at any time be faced with a similar situation, the broad and openminded view that you consistently displayed during our many discussions as the production of my book progressed.
With kind regards and best wishes,
Oswald L. Ziegler.
I think that the record is now appropriately complete.
– I share with the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) a great admiration for the publication This is Australia, even the article on the private banks, which, I believe, adds considerably to the value of thebook. I do not know whether the Minister is a humorist, conscious or unconscious, but I desire to draw his attention to one small incident “which, hitherto, has not been brought to his notice. When this publication was mentioned, a few minutes ago, he may have seen that I hurriedlylooked around for some one to find me a copy of the book, if one still remained in Parliament House. My own is at home in my library. The reason I wanted it was that, in my usual careful manner, I desired to check a certain point, because it so happens that in the section “War”, and particularly on page 318, under the heading “ Women”, in the copy supplied to me - one of the two women members of this House - there is a complete blank beneath the word “ Women “. I was particularly anxious to know whether every other copy had a similar blank, but I found that in the copy which has been handed to me and, I imagine, in probably all other copies, the page headed “ Women “ is filled in with some fine photographs of women at work during the war. So it seems to me that either the Minister for Information selected that book for me, or a mere happy chance put it into my hands, because it does point a moral.
In the policy of this Government, and - I say it with extreme reluctance - in the policy of most governments which preceded it, women were for all intents and purposes a blank. In all the schemes which are enunciated to-day for the improvement or supposed improvement of conditions here, the position of women is rarely considered. Let us take the latest so-called reform, the introduction of the 40-hour week. It may be a reform. Indeed, it is one of the things which, I believe, for a long time have believed, should have been introduced, although I feel that at this moment there may be some grave arguments against it. There have been great jubilations everywhere, but how is this in any way improving the lot of the vast majority of Australian women ? As a matter of fact, most things which are considered in this Parliament to be a great improvement frequently operate against the interests of the vast majority of Australian women. Many of the matters which have been trotted forth during this discussion as being great achievements on the part of the Government have borne, in actual fact, very hardly upon the housewives of the community. For example, there are living costs. These are the things which really affect Australian women.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Any one with anything at all like a sober judgment who has listened to this debate during the last few days must have felt some concern, and, indeed, not a little fear, for the future, because, on all occasions when members on this side of the chamber have spoken, either their criticisms have been lightly regarded and slightly answered, or the whole matter has been treated as though there is nothing at all wrong with the national economy and, indeed, that everything is right with Australia, at a time when, as most people know, a very great deal is wrong with it. If I may paraphrase Browning, the attitude adopted by Ministers and honorable members opposite has been, “ Labour’s in office, all’s right with the world “.
Government Members. - Hear, hear!
– I hope that every listener to-night will appreciate that everything that I have said so far has received the approbation of honorable members opposite.. I point out that all of those honorable members opposite who regard the Australian economy as being in a healthy condition to-day receive very little backing from the women of Australia.
Before 1 received the call, four ministerial supporters in succession had preceded me, in spite of the fact that honorable members on this side of the chamber had risen to speak. They were: the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), and the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). The honorable member for Wilmot spoke to-day, as he did lastnight, with high approval of the flourishing state of the Australian economy. Ho referred to the increased profits of company after company. But what he failed
Vo speak about was the enormous increase of gambling, the tremendously increased expenditure on liquor, tobacco and all the luxury goods in this country.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).Order! The honorable member is entitled to speak only to those estimates that, are before the committee.
– May I point out that I am replying to a speech, that, was made by the honorable member for Wilmot on these particular estimates?
– Order ! The Chair has the deciding voice. The honor able member will have to address herself to the estimates of the departments that are before the committee.
– May I, then, point out that I am proceeding to address myself to the Department of Post-war Reconstruction ? I speak now of the reconstructed Australia, as we see it to-day. According to the honorable member for Wilmot, we have a very flourishing state of affairs indeed. But again I draw attention to the fact that we have, 1 believe, trebled our expenditure on liquor, we have enormously increased our expenditure on tobacco, and gambling in this country has increased out of all proportion. Yet, according to the honorable member for Wilmot, this is a healthy economy! At the same time, in this reconstructed Australia, one may go into any of the larger emporiums in the cities and find ordinary evening dresses and clay frocks priced as high as £30, £40 and even £70 and £80.
– Order ! The Chair has no wish to interrupt the honorable member’s speech. She is quite familiar with the Standing Orders.
Sir Earle Page interjecting,
– Order ! If the right honorable member for Cowper does not remain silent, I shall name him. The departments whose estimates are before the Chair at the moment are the Department of Labour and National Service, the Department of Transport, the Department of Information and the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. The debate must be confined to the items in those departmental estimates.
– May I draw attention once more to the fact that I am speaking on the reconstruction of Australia, which in my opinion has been very poorly carried out up to the moment. That is the opinion of most women in Australia to-day. I shall attempt to keep strictly within the Standing Orders, although I must confess that there seems to have been a great deal of haziness about the Standing Orders, as well as the privileges and customs of the committee.
– Order! The honorable member is not entitled to reflect on the Chair. If in what she has said she has done so, she must withdraw it.
– I did not wish to reflect on the Chair. If what I have said is so regarded, I withdraw it, in deference to your ruling. Since I find it very difficult to make my views on reconstruction conform with those that are prevalent, I shall now address myself to the Department of Labour and National Service. I presume that, under that department, I am entitled to discuss the employment figures in Australia. These, we understand, have reached an all-time high. That, of course, is a matter for congratulation. But I again draw the attention of the committee to the fact that, in spite of those high employment figures, we are still suffering from what appears to be a very unusual and unaccountable shortage of many goods which now should be in fairly full production. Goods which should be in constant use are being asked for every day, but they cannot be ‘supplied. In spite of the fact that all of -those people who were in the services during the war are now out of them and are engaged in civilian production fields, and that all the people who were in munitions production during the war are now producing civilian goods, we are still a very long way from having recovered from the shortages which prevailed during the war. May I point out to honorable members opposite, and to members of the Government, that there is more to be considered than having people in nominal employment. If there is not a reasonable output per man pen- ‘hour, then this country is not, in the true sense of the -word, either fully or profitably employed. I speak in my electorate, as I suppose .most honorable members do in theirs, with representatives of every section of the community. Recently, I was in a mining area which I represent. I talked there, day after day, with miners, members of unions, who told me quite frankly that men are not giving, to-day, a full and proper return in their labour. That is not confined to people who work with their hands. But it does affect every section of the community, and so far this Government has failed to .recognize the fact, or at lea.-t to give proper voice to its belief if it agrees with me on that point. There is no doubt whatever in my mind that had the Government, being a Labour administration, insisted from the very beginning that the return from those employed was not sufficient to meet the commitments of the Australian economy, instead of having fastened upon the high employment figure, then it would have been doing its duty.
Trouble in the stevedoring industry threatens to hold up a large section of Australian shipping. On a number of occasions I have referred to the legislation designed to control the stevedoring industry as probably the most dangerous passed by this Parliament because, in effect, it means industrial conscription in this country - at a price. Recently, the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) supplied information which revealed that the attendance money paid to waterside workers in the various ports of Australia from the 1st January to the 1st September of this year amounted to £231,181. When that legislation was before the House I said that I could conceive of a scheme to pay attendance money under proper safeguards which would be perfectly justifiable; but when we realize that nearly a quarter of a million pounds has been paid in attendance money to men whose output per man has fallen from 20 tons -to 11 tons a day it will be seen that the Australian people are not getting a fair deal. Those engaged in stevedoring have sold their birthright to a free open labour market for the mere pittance of 12s. a day attendance money. The Government is taking step after step in the direction of regulating matters affecting every person, in the community. It “should not deceive itself into believing that the people are satisfied with such action. Almost daily I get numbers of letters, as I suppose other honorable members do also, from persons who previously supported the Labour Government, but now can find little to commend in its actions. Honorable members will recall that not long ago there was a strike of engineers. Although many people knew at least a month before the strike actually occurred that it was likely to take place, things were allowed to go on as if no threat existed. But when the time came for the strike actually to begin, measures were taken which led to a settlement within 24 hours. That is a mystery which I should like the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) to clear up. These things have a tremendous effect on the lives of the people, and unfortunately they are not isolated instances. As I pointed out before the suspension of the sitting those who are hit hardest by these things are the women of Australia. They are the people most affected by the high cost of clothing, particularly children’s garments, which in addition to being costly are in short supply. I shall conclude by quoting from a speech delivered by the Honorable Solon Low in which he said -
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging production. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help small men by tearing down big men. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot lift the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred. You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money. You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man’s initiative and independence. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.
– The time allotted for the discussion of the proposed votes for the Department of Labour and National Service, Department of Transport, Department of Information and Department of Post-war Reconstruction has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) put -
That the bill be now read a first time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the second reading of the bill being moved forthwith.
– I oppose this motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders because it is calculated to create in the minds of honorable members, and of the public generally, . the impression that some urgency is associated with this bill. I contend that a bill of this kind, which aims to alter entirely the way of life of the people of ‘ Australia, should not be dealt with hastily, or with the suggestion that it is urgent. Indeed, the utmost consideration should be given to it, and the proper procedure followed. We have already had an indication of the Government’s idea of urgency in connexion with the Government’s application of the guillotine to the discussion of the Estimates in a way that outrages the ideas of honorable members as to the proper procedure in this House.
Mr.SPEAKER. - That is a reflection upon a decision of the House.
– I do not propose to pursue that topic farther. I maintain that, by no stretch of imagination, can the present bill be regarded as being “urgent. We are now being asked to vote upon a motion for the suspension of theStanding Orders to permit of the second reading to be moved forthwith of a bill which, in my opinion, is directly opposed to the will of the people of. this country. The Government has no mandate to introduce such a bill at this time. Least of all, has it a mandate to introduce what may be described as a revolutionary measure, and to proceed in the manner of totalitarian regimes all over the world.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the second reading of the bill being moved forthwith.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to empower the Commonwealth Bank to take over the banking business at present conducted in Australia by private banks. State banks and savings banks will not be affected.
It will be the responsibility of the Commonwealth Bank under this legislation -
to provide, in accordance with the conditions of normal banking business, adequate banking facilities for any State or person requiring them;
to observe, except as otherwise required by law, the practices and usages customary- among bankers and, in particular, to maintain strict secrecy within the law as to the affairs and dealings of its customers.
The bill also envisages the development, under public ownership, of a comprehensive banking service that will strengthen and assist the growth of the Australian economy and provide facilities adequate to its rapidly expanding and changing needs. ,
Modern Policy on Banking.
I feel that I hardly need to argue here the importance of money and credit in a modern economic system. As the means by which resources are brought together in production, good9 are bought and sold, and prices, wages, contracts and debts are determined, it plays a part as vital to the economic body as the blood-stream to the human body. No single factor can do more to influence the welfare and progress of a community than the management of the volume and flow of money. Mismanagement of money, on the other hand, has contributed to the greatest economic disasters of modern times - booms and slumps, mass unemployment, waste cf resources, industrial unrest and social misery.
Because these facts are recognized, there is very wide agreement to-day as to the purposes which a monetary and banking system should serve in a modern economy. In that connexion I quote the views expressed in 1937 in the Report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems in Australia -
The general objective of an economic system for Australia should be to achieve the best use of our productive resources, both present and future. This means the fullest possible employment of people and resources under conditions that will provide the highest standard of living. It means, too, the reduction of fluctuations in general economic activity. Since the monetary and banking system is an integral part pf the economic system, its objective will be to assist with all the means at ite disposal in achieving these ends. (Para. 510.)
Those views as to the place and functions of money and banking in Australia were subscribed to by all members of the commission, even though there was some difference of opinion as to ways of achieving them.
The Labour View.
The Labour party has maintained for many years that, since the influence of money is so great, the entire monetary and banking system should be controlled by public authorities responsible through the Government and Parliament to the nation. On this principle the Labour party has held further that since private banks are conducted primarily for profit and therefore follow policies which in important respects run counter to the public interest, their business should be transferred to public ownership.
For this view the strongest reasons can be stated. In the absence of control, private banks can expand or contract the volume of their lending and so vary within wide limits the supply of money available to the public. They can also determine when and where they will lend and upon what terms ; and in these operations they are guided primarily by the interests of those who own and control them. - Whatever regard they may claim to pay to the wider concerns of the nation, their policies are dictated in the last resort by the desire to make profits and to secure the value of .their own assets. Experience of the past has been that private banks increased their lending in good times and contracted it in bad times, lent always where the profits seemed largest and most assured, and charged the highest rates they could obtain for their loans and general services.
Since trading banks have handled practically all commercial lending within Australia, ‘their influence on the state of business has been enormous - indeed dominating. Moreover, the number of banks has been progressively reduced through amalgamations, of which twelve have been carried through since 1917. Two more were announced this year and had they been completed the number of major private trading banks in Australia would have been reduced to seven. By this means the great power of private banking in Australia has become concentrated in the hands of boards of directors comprising a relatively few men who are responsible for the exercise pf their powers not to the nation but only to a limited number of people, some here and some abroad, who have invested money in bank shares.
Time and again the policies of the private banks have run counter to national needs for steady growth and high levels of employment. To go some years back it is correct to say that the banks fed the boom and promoted unsound development in the ‘twenties. When the depression came the banks as a whole restricted new lending and called in advances. Between December, 1929, and March, 1932, their advances fell by approximately £45,000,000. The effect of this was to accentuate the contraction of business and the unemployment of those years. They helped but little in recovery during the thirties, waiting rather for improvement to come from other sources instead of taking the initiative and helping to promote recovery. They followed these courses because it seemed best and safest from the stand-point of their own interests.
Labour policy on banking has envisaged that, together with the elimination of private banking, the Commonwealth Bank would be strengthened to give it adequate control of monetary and credit conditions within Australia and its services would be extended to meet the needs of all sections of the people. The Labour party has in particular advocated the reduction of interest rates which, in the absence of control, were maintained at excessively high levels.
The Commonwealth Bank.
The Commonwealth Bank was established in 1911 by the Labour Government as a national bank, intended primarily to compete with the private banks upon their own ground and break the monopoly they held over the business of banking in Australia.
Despite bitter opposition from private interests and many prophecies of failure, the Commonwealth Bank rendered great service to the nation and grew rapidly during the First World War and the succeeding years.
In 1924, however, the government of the day reconstituted the bank and placed it under a board comprised predominantly of representatives of private industry and commerce. This board was mainly interested in turning the Commonwealth Bank into a bankers’ bank and its policy was to forbid the bank from competing actively with the private banks for general banking business, thus restricting its expansion and defeating the key purpose for which the bank had been established. That fact was clearly demonstrated in evidence before the banking commission. The late Sir Ernest Riddle, who was then Governor of the bank, stated that even if the bank had funds available over and above those deposited with it by the trading banks it would not use those funds for advances to people who wanted to transfer their accounts from trading banks to the Commonwealth Bank. That kind of situation prevailed until the Labour Government took office in 1941.
Moreover, the Commonwealth Bank Board, as constituted by the Bruce-Page Government, alined itself with the private banks during the crisis of the early thirties in attempting to force upon the Government a policy of monetary deflation and curtailment of wages and social service payments. That policy was stated in the following extract from a letter addressed by the chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, Sir Robert Gibson, to the then Treasurer, Mr. Theodore, on the 12th February, 1931, which read -
Subject to adequate and equitable reductions in all wages, salaries, and’ allowances, pensions, social benefits of all kinds, interest and other factors which affect the cost of living, the Commonwealth Bank Board will actively co-operate with the trading banks and the governments of Australia in sustaining industry and restoring employment.
Thus during a critical time in Australia’s history the bank was used by reactionary interests for a purpose directly opposed to the welfare of the Australian people and in opposition to the will of the Government of the day.
In spite, however, of conservative management under a board for many years, the Commonwealth Bank, including the Commonwealth Savings Bank, has made remarkable headway. At the 30th June last it had 377 branches spread throughout the length and breadth of Australia, as well as branches in Papua, New Guinea and in London. Total employees exceeded 9,000 and total assets, apart from those held in respect of deposits of the private banks, were almost £900,000,000. It has nearly 4,000,000 accounts and is unique amongst the banks of the world in that it provides comprehensive banking facilities for business and personal needs through its General Bank, Savings Bank, Mortgage Bank, Rural Credits, Industrial Finance and Housing Departments.
In both wars the bank made advances against primary commodities to enable the producers to be paid promptly despite serious delays in sea-borne trade. These advances exceeded £350,000,000 during the six years of the last war.
In another field the bank has administered controls over banking, interest rates, the note issue, foreign exchange and gold and has developed the full functions of a central bank.
In all, the record of the Commonwealth Bank stands as a great justification of publicly-owned banking and demonstrates beyond question that a public banking institution is capable of being highly efficient, progressive and adaptable.
In another respect also the bank has largely fulfilled the intentions of its founders that it should be a bank for the people. Together with its associated institution, the Commonwealth Savings Bank, it has become pre-eminently the bank for the average man and woman. To-day it has a far greater number of depositors than the whole of the private banks taken together. At the end of April this year the number of deposit accounts with the Commonwealth Bank and Commonwealth Savings Bank was about -3,800,000, whereas the number of deposit accounts with the trading banks was approximately 1,250,000.
Assisted by the existence of the Commonwealth Bank, the Labour Government has been able to make notable progress in carrying out its policy of lower interest rates. After the 1914-18 war the interest rate on government loans reached as high as 6^ per cent. At the outbreak of the last war, the rate for long-term government loans was almost 4 per cent. It is now 3 J’ per cent. The treasury-bill rate is now 1 per cent, as compared with a rate of 6 per cent, in 1930. The maximum overdraft rate has been restricted to 4-J per cent., as compared with rates of 6 per cent, and higher some years ago. Substantial reductions have also been made in the rates at which semigovernmental bodies are able to borrow, and in many other rates.
The experience of the war years emphasized the vital importance of public control of the banking system. Through governmental expenditure for war purposes, the liquid resources of the tradingbanks - and hence their capacity to expand credit - .increased rapidly. To prevent “ secondary inflation “ arising from such an expansion of credit, even the then Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) felt that someaction was necessary, and, in 1941, he obtained an undertaking from the privatebanks that they would inform the Commonwealth Bank of the amount of surplus investible funds they held from time to time and would deposit with the Commonwealth Bank such amounts as were determined by that bank.
On assuming office in November, 194.1,. the Labour Government carefully examined the arrangements made by the- previous Government and decided that it was necessary to introduce the National Security (War-time Banking Control) Regulations. These regulations greatly strengthened and increased in scope the arrangements agreed to by the previous Government. They also ensured that the private banks would not make unreasonable profits out of the war and implemented certain recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems.
Legislation of 1945.
In the light of experience gained in the administration of these regulations, the Government decided in 1945 that the main principles on which they were based should be embodied in substantive legislation. At the same time the Government decided to reconstitute the Commonwealth Bank and to assume greater powers over banking policy.
The main objects of the system of control provided by this legislation were -
The Commonwealth Bank Board wa abolished and management of the bank was entrusted to the Governor, assisted by an advisory council.
Opposition to 1945 Legislation.
This legislation was very strongly opposed by the trading banks, by some sections of the business community and by the Opposition parties. It was said that the legislation would hand over the banking system to political control, that it was “ nationalization on the cheap “, and that it would open the way to the general socialization of industry by indirect means.
In his second-reading speech on the legislation, the Leader of the Opposition made a pledge that, if he and his colleagues were returned to office, they would restore the former method of control of the Commonwealth Bank by a board and would hold themselves obliged instantly to review the working of the legislation.
Legislation Endorsed by Electors.
In spite of the sectional clamour against the legislation and the prediction of dire consequences to follow from it, the Government was returned to office at the general elections last year.
It may, therefore, he said that a majority of the electors have endorsed the Government’s 1945 . banking legislation and have approved the purpose for which it was enacted, namely, to give the Government full and effective control over monetary and banking policy in Australia. That object was made clear to Parliament and to the country.
The Banking Act of 1945 was framed on the best constitutional advice and the Government felt confident that it would withstand any legal challenge that might be directed against it.
For example, it seemed quite clear that Parliament had made a law with respect to banking, and had thus acted within the scope of the powers conferred by section 51 (xiii.) of the Constitution, when it enacted section 48 of the Banking Act. This section prohibited trading banks, other than State banks, from carrying out banking business for a State or any authority of a State, including a local governing authority. The provision was regarded .by the Government as an important part of the legislation. It embodied the principle that the banking business of all public bodies should be reserved to publicly-owned and controlled banks. Further, in most other countries it has long been accepted that all government banking business should be conducted through the central hank so as to give the central bank added strength to control the supply of credit and to enable it to take action in time to offset any disturbance to credit conditions resulting from government operations. In the aggregate the banking business of State governments and State authorities is large and -so are some of their individual transactions. They have an important bearing on current financial conditions. It was the Government’s view that the powers of the central bank should be strengthened by making it as far as practicable the banker for public authorities.
When challenged in the High Court, however, section 48 was held to be invalid on the grounds that so long as private banks existed States and State authorities could not be denied the use of their facilities. The decision showed that full public control of banking as sought under the 1945 legislation could not be secured without public ownership of banking. The decision forced the Government to re-examine all the circumstances, constitutional and otherwise, surrounding the legislation of 1945. In particular, the Government has had to reconsider the constitutional basis of sections IS to 22 of the Banking Act which required the private banks to make deposits in special accounts with the Commonwealth Bank ;and also the attitude of the private banks towards those sections.
The special accounts are the crux of the control of credit given to the Commonwealth Bank by the Banking Act of 1945. The necessities of war-time finance greatly increased the base of liquid reserves on which trading banks normally build a superstructure of secondary credit. In order to prevent secondary inflation with rising prices it was necessary to immobilize some part of the banks’ deposits in special accounts with the Commonwealth Bank from which the banks were not allowed to withdraw any amounts, except with the consent of the Commonwealth Bank. If the amounts in these special accounts were freely available to the trading banks, they could, by increasing their advances, build up a secondary credit expansion of formidable dimensions. Added to the spending power already available to the public, this might easily produce a dangerous inflationary situation. It would be- disastrous, from the point of view of the people of Australia and the prospects of economic stability, if sections 18 to 22 of the Banking Act were held to be invalid and the consequent loss of control over the banking system led to an inflation of credit, with all the loss and disorder which inflation entails.
These sections necessarily severely limit the freedom of action of the trading banks. This was their intention. The Government was determined that the control of the Commonwealth Bank in this field should be absolute and beyond dispute.
While the precise form of special accounts provided for in the Banking Act of 1945 was peculiar to Australia, the essential features of the control of credit by this means are to be found in operation in the United Kingdom, Canada and a number of other countries. The same conditions which made a control of this kind essential in Australia have forced governments elsewhere to adopt similar measures. They are to-day an accepted part of central bank technique in many parts of the world.
The private banks in Australia, however, have always bitterly resented any attempt to place restrictions on their power to create or restrict credit. When the 1945 Banking Bill was before the House they fought these provisions with all the means at their disposal. Towards the end of 1945, when the bill had become law, they were required to transfer their war-time special deposits to the special accounts established under the new legislation and to make their first monthly lodgment to these accounts. The private hanks, obviously acting in concert and on legal advice, made it clear at that time that, while they were submitting to the legislation for the time being, they were reserving the right to challenge it at a suitable opportunity. The following reservation was made by one of the banks in a letter to the Commonwealth Bank :-
We are most anxious to co-operate with your Bank to ensure the continuance of our present harmonious relations, but you will appreciate that our duty to our shareholders compels us to have regard to our legal position: therefore, we feel it necessary to advise you, with all due respect, that acquiescence or compliance on this Bank’s part with any request or directions from you is not to be taken to import any contract with your Bank in the terms of the” Act.
Statements to a similar effect were made in letters sent by six of the other banks. These reservations were brought to the notice of the Commonwealth Government at the time for legal consideration.
This indication of the attitude of the banks assumed greater significance when the special account system was challenged in the statement of claim made by the Melbourne City Council in connexion with the section 4S case - even though eventually the challenge to sections 18 to 22 of the Banking Act was not pressed, [t assumed still greater significance when the High Court decision on section 48 made it clear that, although the Commonwealth Parliament had by the Constitution been given power to legislate on banking, nevertheless a law which was clearly a law with respect to banking could be held invalid on other constitutional considerations.
The position which confronted the Government was that while doubts had arisen as to the constitutional validity of its banking legislation, there was evidence that the private banks were maintaining their hostility towards- this legislation and were biding their time against a suitable opportunity to challenge it in the hope of throwing off the restraints they so strongly disliked.
Uncertainty or Economic Outlook.
With economic difficulties increasing overseas the Government must be in a position to act with certainty and effectiveness to ensure fulfilment of its policy of full employment and the maintenance of economic and financial stability. During the war and since its conclusion the Australian economy has been kept more stable than the economy of any other country in the world. It must be remembered that an important part of the machinery for maintaining that stability has been the control over the banking system exercised under the 1945 banking legislation and that an essential part of that legislation is the special account procedure.
The difficulties of the transition from war to peace are far from over. In fact, in some directions they are increasing. The rapid exhaustion of the United States loan to the United Kingdom has confronted the sterling area - and many other countries as well - with serious balance of payments problems and this is only one aspect of a. general situation which is highly unstable.
To deal with the economic and financial problems both of the transition period and of the following years, the Government must have the necessary powers over banking and monetary policy. Fluctuations in business activity and employment are not solely due to monetary causes, but they are certainly greatly influenced by financial policy. The Government would not be justified in gambling on the outcome of possible threats to the 1945 legislation.
The structure of banking based upon the legislation of 1945 went part of the way towards the objectives which the Labour party has long advocated in regard to banking. At the same time it offered to the private banks the opportunity to co-operate within a national system of banking, subject to overall control by the Commonwealth Bank, as they had, in fact, done during the war period. That position was never accepted without reservation by the private banks and now that the legal foundations of the system have been challenged the Government has decided to proceed with its long-standing policy of full public ownership.
Provisions or Bill.
The bill which is before the Housegives effect to the Government’s decision. Before the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) left Australia, he gave close attention to the legal and constitutional aspects of the bill, and laid down the main lines on which the preparation of the measurehas proceeded.
I would emphasize that under this measure there will be no interruption or disturbance of the usual banking facilities available to the Australian community. The bill provides that the private banks shall maintain their services until they are taken over by the Commonwealth Bank. As the banks are taken over, either through the acquisition of their shares or of their assets, they will be kept in operation as going concerns. Customers will not notice any difference after the control of the bank with which they have been dealing has passed to the Commonwealth Bank. They will be able to continue their banking business without change or interruption. .
The bill imposes on the Commonwealth Bank an obligation to conduct its banking transactions in accordance with the practices and usages customary among bankers particularly in regard to the non-disclosure of information concerning the affairs of its customers.
The confidential nature of the relationship between banker and customer is well established in law; and, subject to certain exceptions sanctioned or required by law, bankers are under an obligation of secrecy with respect to their customers’ affairs. The bill specifically provides that this position will he preserved.
Methods of Acquisition.
Differences between the constitutions of the various private banks and the fact that some are incorporated in Australia and some overseas make it desirable to provide alternative ways in which the Commonwealth Bank may acquire their business. Accordingly the bill provides for two main processes of acquisition, viz. : -
Under the alternative process, the shares of a private bank may be com pulsorily acquired if the Treasurer is satisfied that the majority of its shares are registered in Australia. This process would be applied only to banks incorporated in Australia, and would be the initial step towards an eventual transfer of their businesses to the Commonwealth Bank.
Acquisition of Assets.
As a preliminary step to the acquisi- sition of the business of a private bank, provision is made for the Treasurer, by due notice, to invite the private bank to make an agreement with the Commonwealth Bank for the transfer of its business on a specified date, which must be not more than two months later than thedate on which the notice is given.
If an agreement for the transfer of the business of. a . private bank, which is willing to negotiate, is not completed by the specified date, the Treasurer may extend the currency of the notice until agreement is reached. Agreement must, however, be reached - if there is to be agreement at all - before the notice expires. Once the notice expires, the assets of the bank concerned forthwith becomes vested in, and its liabilities are assumed by, the Commonwealth Bank.
There is, of course, nothing in the bill to prevent the Commonwealth Bank from reaching an agreement with a private bank for the acquisition of its business before any notice is issued at all ; but all agreements, whether made before or after notice is given, will be subject to the approval of the Treasurer.
The bill also includes a provision whereby the Treasurer may, after the business of a private bank is acquired by the Commonwealth Bank, require that private bank to cease carrying on further banking business in Australia.
If a private bank enters into a voluntary agreement for the acquisition of its business by the Commonwealth Bank, it will be entitled to receive an exemption from taxation on the amount paid to it in pursuance of the agreement. It is further provided in the bill that shareholders of the bank will be exempt from taxation on any dividend or distribution which directly results from the payment received from the Commonwealth Bank under the agreement. These concessions will not apply in the case of a compulsory acquisition.
The exemptions referred to will not relieve the private bank from liability for any tax payable by the bank in respect of profits derived in the normal course of its business but upon which the ordinary tax liability has not been met. The bank and its shareholders will still be liable to taxation in relation to profits earned after the year of income ended on the 30th June, 1947, or any accounting period substituted therefor, and before the date of transfer, or in relation to any interest which may become payable under the agreeement
Acquisition of Shares.
If shares are acquired by voluntary purchase, the price paid by the Commonwealth Bank must not be less than the market value in Australia of those shares at the 15th August, 1947. These prices have been carefully ascertained and are specified in the Second Schedule to the bill.
The provision made for the compulsory acquisition of shares will apply only to the shares of private banks incorporated in Australia, which are the institutions referred to in Part I . of the First Schedule to the bill. Where the majority in number of the shares of any of these banks are situated in Australia, the bill provides that the Treasurer may, by notice published in the Gazette, declare that the shares in the bank concerned shall be vested in the Commonwealth Bank on a date specified by th Treasurer; and on that date the Commonwealth Bank will, by force of the legislation, become the holder of the shares and a member of the bank in question.
Management of Private Banks.
It is provided that the directors of an Australian private bank, the shares of which have been compu’lsorily acquired by the Commonwealth Bank, will cease to hold office on the date on which the compulsory acquisition becomes effective. The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank will, with the approval of the
Treasurer, thereupon appoint directors, including a chairman of directors.
The directors appointed by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank will have full power to manage the bank in question, to dispose of its business in Australia to the Commonwealth Bank and to dispose also of the bank’s business outside Australia : but any arrangement for disposal may only be concluded if approved by the Treasurer after he has received a recommendation from the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank.
For all property or shares of the banks, compulsorily acquired, fair and reasonable compensation will be payable. The compensation payable may be determined by agreement, approved by the Treasurer ; or, failing agreement, the amount payable will be determined by the Court of Claims to be established under the proposed legislation. The bill sets out the procedure to be followed in reaching agreement or, alternatively, in referring claims to the court for determination.
Federal Court of Claims.
The bill provides for the establishment of a Federal Court of Claims consisting of a Chief Judge and such other judges as are appointed. The court may, if it thinks fit, appoint two assessors to assist it.
The court will have jurisdiction to hear and determine claims for compensation arising under this bill. Regulations may be made under other acts also to confer jurisdiction on the court to determine claims arising out of the operation of those acts. The jurisdiction of the court in respect of compensation under this bill must be exercised by not less than three judges. Jurisdiction may, however, be exercised by less than three judges by agreement between the parties concerned.
A determination of the court will be final and conclusive and not subject to appeal to the High Court.
The bill makes provision for the protection of officers of private banks in respect of continuance of employment, salaries and conditions of service.
The bill provides that when the Commonwealth Bank proceeds by way of acquisition of the shares of a private bank, the salary and general conditions of service of officers of the private bank will not be disturbed, and will be secured to them. Similarly, when the Commonwealth Bank takes over the assets of a private bank, including the assets of a bank whose shares have previously been acquired, each officer of the private bank who was employed in the service of that bank in Australia will be entitled to be employed by the Commonwealth Bank at the salary and on the general conditions of service applicable to his existing employment.
The Commonwealth Bank will be obliged to appoint each such officer, being a British subject, to an appropriate position in the Commonwealth Bank service. This will be done as soon as practicable after employment commences with the Commonwealth Bank. Special provision also is made to enable that service to absorb all officers stationed outside Australia whose duties are connected with the Australian business.
It will be seen that during the period necessarily elapsing between the date of acquisition of a private bank, either by way of shares or assets of the private bank, and the date when an officer of that bank is appointed to an appropriate position in the Commonwealth Bank service, he is fully safeguarded. He will continue to be employed with salary, pension benefits, and sick and long service leave at least as favorable as when in the employ of the private bank. When later appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Service, he will enjoy all the rights and privileges of an officer of that service, with protection in respect of existing salary, pension benefits, and sick and long service leave.
Service in the private bank, continuous with service with the Commonwealth Bank, will count as service with the Commonwealth Bank for purposes of promotion, leave and pensions.
In order to establish an officer’s present entitlement to pension benefits and sick and long service leave, the bill provides for the appointment of a committee in respect of each private bank affected, consisting of a judge, or a person qualified to be a judge, an officer of the Commonwealth Bank, and a representative of the bank officers concerned, to ascertain the benefits which are, or would have been granted in accordance with the practice of the private bank concerned, or of the superannuation fund of that bank. The findings of this committee will then become a legally enforceable right in respect of the future employment of these officers even though they may not have at present any such legal protection.
The industrial awards now governing the employment of persons in private banks will continue in force until appointment to the Commonwealth Bank service is made. Further, during this period, officers will continue to have the right to apply to the appropriate tribunal for variations of these awards. Upon appointment to the Commonwealth Bank service, they will have the same rights in respect of industrial matters as are now enjoyed by officers of the Commonwealth Bank.
The Commonwealth Bank is recognized as a good employer. On the whole the genera] conditions of employment in its service are at least as good as, if not better than, those generally provided by the private banks. Its employees are given special legal protection as to promotion, dismissal and disciplinary action. Under Part XIII. of the Commonwealth Bank Act promotion and disciplinary appeal boards have been constituted. Those boards, which are under an independent chairman and include representatives of employees, are empowered to give final decisions on appeals relating, respectively, to the promotion and to the punishment, dismissal or reduction in status of officers. Such rights of appeal are not at present enjoyed by employees of the private banks.
The changed conditions of the expanded Commonwealth Bank service mil, of course, render it necessary to examine the provisions of the Commonwealth Bank Act relating to the Commonwealth Bank service, and any amendments considered desirable to meet the position will be brought forward at an early date.
With regard to former officers of the private banks who have retired on pensions from the private banks’ services, their position, as well as that of dependants of deceased officers, is also fully safeguarded. The Commonwealth Bank will assume responsibility for the payment of pensions in accordance with existing rights, which will be converted into legally enforceable claims.
As the Commonwealth Bank is required to assume liability for pensions, both in respect of retired officers and officers now serving, it is necessary that an appropriate amount of the superannuation funds established in association with the private banks to meet these obligations should be transferred to the Commonwealth Bank. The bill contains the necessary provisions to give effect to this requirement.
There will be no necessity for a parliamentary appropriation to provide for compensation. In acquiring the business of the private banks the Commonwealth Bank will also assume the liabilities of these institutions. The amount of compensation payable will necessarily have regard to this factor and it will be well within the capacity of the Commonwealth Bank to meet the payment from its own resources. The Commonwealth Bank will make payment in cash or government bonds as desired.
Advantages of Public Ownership.
As I have said before, the Government believes that a publicly owned and controlled banking system, in which final responsibility for policy i3 in the hands of a government directly responsible to the electors, conforms much more closely to the requirements of a democratic community than the system advocated in 1945 by the Leader of the Opposition, who with his party is pledged to restore control of banking and monetary policy to a body having no responsibility to the electors.
In most advanced countries there has been during recent years a strong trend towards public ownership of key public utilities. This trend has not been confined to governments representing particular political parties. Such projects have been brought forward both in Australia and elsewhere not only by Labour governments but also by non-Labour governments who recognized that in the circumstances of the case the balance of’ advantages from the community standpoint lies in national rather than private ownership and control. But if any service fits the description of a key public utility it is banking. As I have said earlier, no element in the working of our _ economy has a greater influence for good or evil upon economic, and social welfare than the management of money and credit. (Extension of time granted.] I thank the House for its courtesy.
The Government is convinced thatunder public ownership the banking system will have immense opportunities for serving Australia. It will have the backing of the entire credit resources of the nation. It will be free from the cramping limitations of sectional private ownership which bid the private banks to serve this interest but not that interest, and to judge all business from the narrow standpoint of maximum- profits for the smallest outlay. It will be able to take longer-term views of projects requiring finance and, since the whole Australian economy will be its field, it will have the widest scope for initiative and for the spread of its investments.
Essentially the task of the new organization will be to provide a financial mechanism appropriate to the needs of our rapidly growing economy. Australia is destined to see great developments in the coming years and this process, which is already under way, must be promoted by every means possible. There will be. a great increase in our population. Industries will expand in all fields and we must extend our markets abroad. The basic services of transport and communications, water supply, power, housing, health and education must be enlarged to meet the needs of a larger economy working at higher levels of technique and productivity. The stress everywhere will be upon new forms of enterprise, new methods of production, and new uses for the resources of this country.
Finance must co-operate and take the initiative in this progress. As new types of industry are developed, new types of finance will be required and the banking system should anticipate these needs and be in the field with the right kind of facilities to assist and encourage such developments.
Moreover, there can be no doubt that a bank should be more than a mere money lender. A banking system created to serve the welfare of the community can aid industry by the quality of its advice and the incidental services it renders as well as by the financial accommodation, it provides. Hence the Government sets particular store on the development of these ancillary services. It has in view the building up of a highly qualified staff that will enable the Commonwealth Bank to give skilled advice as part of its banking service. Secondary industries, for example, will be able to turn to the bank for the assistance of production engineers and cost accountants to help them with their problems. Primary industries will have the aid of agricultural experts. I contemplate, too, that the bank would establish, at least in the capital cities, departments of advice which would help individuals with their daily financial problems. “Whether any charge would have to be made by the hank would naturally depend upon the circumstances of each case but as far as possible these facilities would be provided freely as part of a strengthened banking service.
But if the financial system is to meet these requirements it must be comprehensive, strong and flexible. It must be alive to the requirements of the times and be capable of seeing ahead. It must have one goal for its policies and one standard for its work - the service of the nation in all its interests, great or small. The Government believes that only under a national system of banking can this ideal be approached. Only under such a system will finance be a real servant of industry and not its master.
Fears are being spread by opponents of this measure that the people will lose an advantage by reason of having only one bank to deal with instead of a choice between several banks. This brings up the question of competition between the private banks - how far it exists and what it has been worth to the community and to customers of the banks.
The Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems went into this question of competition at great length. It found that the private banks did not compete in any serious way as regards interest rates and other charges but sought rather to attract customers by offering various other inducements. In general, they behaved in the manner of semi-monopolistic institutions which stood in fear of ruining their own market. There was certainly nothing like the all-out rivalry to give the public the widest and cheapest services which we are asked to suppose exists between them.
Amalgamations on the other hand have reduced the number of banks, so accentuating the monopolistic character of those that remain. There are to-day really no more than eight trading banks doing a nation-wide business where 30 years ago there were twenty, and we have no reason to suppose that this process would not go further if private banking continued. The average man, I suggest, will find it hard to believe that fewer banks mean greater competition.
We recall how the former Commonwealth Bank Board, which considered itself to be conducting a bankers’ bank, prevented the Commonwealth Bank from competing with the private institutions. We have the admissions of private bankers that competition between themselves is of a limited kind. We have seen the number of banks dwindling over the years, each amalgamation removing one or more possible competitors from the ring. It is a fair conclusion, I think, that from the stand-point of benefit to the community, banking competition has meant little for some time past and would probably have meant less as time went on.
On the other hand, I may point out that the Commonwealth Bank is charged under the legislation to be strictly impartial as between customers and to avoid all discrimination. A system of appeal will be provided so that a person who considers he has not had reasonable treatment from a local manager will be able to refer his case to a regional authority for reconsideration. Special arrangements will be made to ensure that this reconsideration is given without delay.
In view of these considerations, therefore, it appears to me that the advantages of having a choice between several private banks as compared with a single national bank are largely illusory.
The proposal to take over the banks is being condemned in some quarters in recklessly extravagant terms ; all kinds of hidden purposes are being wrongly ascribed to it from the same sources. The simple truth is this - the reasons and motives for this measure and the uses to which it can and will be applied are no more and no less than I have stated.
Mr. White interjecting,
– Order! If the honorable member for Balaclava interjects again I shall name him. That will mean suspension for a month.
– The opponents of hanking change seem always to have fought against new developments whilst belatedly approving such changes as have been made and which they had originally opposed. In 1937 they criticized the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems and defended the old system. In 1945 they nailed their colours to the report and resisted implacably the legislation of that year. Now they seem disposed to make the 1945 legislation their rallying cry whilst preparing themselves once again to die in the last ditch against a new, logical and necessary development. Their predictions of calamity will prove just as groundless as those they have expressed so many times before.
There has been no political interference in banking under the 1945 legislation and there will be none under the new system. In not one instance since that legislation was passed has the Government intervened in the administration of the Commonwealth Bank. Within the framework of the broad economic and financial policy laid down by the Government the bank has carried on its work successfully and harmoniously. On broad policy issues it has in turn advised the Government and been advised by the Government. Conflict has not arisen at any stage. It is timely to record that under section 9 of the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945 the Government cannot interfere in the internal transactions of the bank. Its power is limited to the laying down where necessary of the broad lines of monetary and banking policy.
Business people and private citizens will have all the safeguards as to the conduct of their banking business which can be given by law and by the long and honorable administrative tradition of the Commonwealth Bank.
On acquisition of a bank, shareholders are assured of just compensation, bank employees are protected, depositors are guaranteed and business will be carried on without interruption.
Full public ownership of the banks will ensure control of banking in the public interest. It will enable effective steps to be taken against the dangers of secondary inflation. It will assist us to stave off depression and to avoid a repetition of the miseries of 1930. Beyond this, it willopen a long-locked doorway to the development of a monetary and banking system truly adequate to our national requirements and wholly devoted to the service of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed (vide page 796).
Defence and Post-war (1939-45) Charges -
Defence and Service Departments
Proposed vote, £65,782,000.
Proposed vote, £9,248,000.
Proposed vote, £300,000.
Re-establishment and Repatriation
Proposed vote, £30,959,000.
International Relief and Rehabilitation
Proposed vote, £4,025,000.
Proposed vote, £26,050,000.
Proposed vote, £2,384,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- I propose to say a few words on the item Joint Intelligence Organization on page 87. The amount of the proposed vote is £298,500. It is not my intention to deal with the philosophy of communism, or to dig into the past history or the political graveyard of other parties in this Parliament. The matter that I want to discuss is the security and defence of our country, Australia. Before authorizing the proposed expenditure, we must be satisfied that the methods to be employed will be sufficient to cope with the problem with which the organization has to deal. It is not, on my part, a matter of discussing the pros and cons of communism. I am not concerned as to whether we have in this country certain people who believe in communism, fascism, atheism or any other “ ism “. What does concern me is whether such people are in positions in which they can endanger the defence and security of our country. Certain Communists are definitely in that category. This is not the time to play with words. We should forget such terms as “fifth column “ and other soft niceties. These Communists are either traitors or potential traitors to this country. They are anti-Australian. They are prepared to serve a foreign country. They are willing to betray the defence secrets of Australia and to sabotage the defence of our country. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has issued a pamphlet in which he has made these charges. I put it to the committee: why talk about it? This Government cannot evade its responsibilities. If it knows and believes that these people are traitors, then it should deal with them accordingly - take action ; stop talking. If we wait until it is too late, then the Government must accept full responsibility for whatever happens. Banning of the Communists, I admit, would only drive them underground. The holding of a royal commission, as has been suggested in this committee, would only be a farce and a waste of time. If the money that is being expended by this Joint Intelligence Organization is not being wasted, then the investigation and security officers of another department should have all the information which a royal commission or any other form of inquiry would be likely to obtain. That inf ormation should be acted upon. It should not lie in pigeon-holes in offices in Canberra. The Canadian royal commission that we have heard so much about was established only for the purpose of holding people who were suspect while evidence was being assembled for the launching of criminal proceedings. The position in Australis is entirely different at this stage. The Attorney-General having been given by this Parliament all the powers and machinery that he has said that he needs, the rest is up to him. He must be judged, not on his promises hut on his results.
But there is also a preventive aspect of this problem. The attitude of the Government appears to be that it is prepared to wait, and while it is waiting to admit that these people are potential traitors. If this country found itself at war again, the Government would put all the Communists behind barbed wire; that would be the f ate of all of those whom it has on its list, if war broke out. The Government would then consider that it had done everything that was necessary. That is based on its convenient theory that you can never do anything about your enemies until they start shooting. But once you admit that yon have traitors in your country, you should not wait until the worst happens; you must make certain that they are not in a position in which they can do any damage. During the early stages of the last war. when Communists were advocating peace with Hitler, and were trying to help Russia to carry out the terms of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, local Communists did everything in their power to sabotage the war effort of Australia. The Government cannot deny that. How much more dangerous would the same Communists be in the event of a conflict between the western democracies and the new Russian Empire ! The first step that should be taken by the Government is to sever all the Communist links with the work of government in this country.
A few days ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) asked in this House whether he was doing any wrong in receiving certain well-known Communists as members of a deputation representing the Australian Council of Trades Unions. I say definitely that he was doing wrong in receiving them. The right honorable gentleman must face the facts sooner or later. It is better to face up to the problem now than when it may be too late. The Prime Minister has given official recognition to these Communists because of their position in the trade union movement. He says that he cannot deny recognition to trade unions. That is crass evasion in its worst form. By giving Communists official recognition the Government is building up their industrial power, whereas by taking a strong stand it could destroy them over night as industrial figures. But what do we find ? The word of Mr. Elliott is law with the Maritime Industry Commission. Mr. Healy has been allowed to dictate to the Stevedoring Industry Commission, tie holds a Government commission as representative of the employees on a. board appointed by the Government. Just as the Maritime Industry Commis91 on is dominated by Mr. Elliott, so the Joint Coal Board is unable to move without the sanction of Idris Williams who decides how much coal shall be mined in the Commonwealth. If coal supplies cease, this country’s security is immediately undermined. Mr. Ernest Thornton, the national secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia, has gone abroad several times since the present Government has been in office to consult with members of the previously dormant, but now very much alive, Comintern. On each occasion he took with him credentials provided by the Government, and his fares were paid either from government funds or from those of the trade unions. Transport can be held’ up by men like Brown in Victoria, and a former Communist, Lloyd Ross, is the Government’s principal apologist today. Even the conservative Amalgamated Engineering Union has been captured, and it is now controlled by Communist nominees. When the Government has an industrial problem it calls the Communist trade union leaders together. These men know more about the actual policy of the Government than is ever disclosed to this Parliament. They have duped the leaders of the Government into accepting them on the basis of personal friendship. They never have to wait when they want to see a member of the Government. By controlling coal, transport and the metal trades, Communists hold the key to the security and defence of Australia. They could wreck our security to-morrow.
The first step is to ensure that no Communist shall have access to the Government, and no Communist should be allowed to remain a member of any government board. No Communist should be allowed to hold any position in the Government service in which he could have access to any material likely to affect the security and defence of this country. In Canada some of those convicted had penetrated right into the heart of the Government, and even into the British High Commissioner’s office. By refusing to recognize Communists as trade union leaders the Government would quickly find that the trade unions would take steps to ensure their proper representation, but the Government has given no lead to the unions in this matter. It has given to them only its own bad example. The Government should carry the fight into the camp of the Communists and into the trade union movement. There can be no doubt as to the result if that were done. All that the Government has to do is to provide the rank and file of unionists with the facts and the machinery to enable them to put their own house in order. If that were done, the unionists would soon finish the job. Instead of appeasing- Communists the Government should take off the gloves to them.
Another step that I urge is based on the experience of the Government of New South Wales. When the Government of that State was faced with the problem of a crime wave, it introduced what is known as a consorting act, under which it became an offence to consort with any known criminal. The New South Wales police soon found that they were able to cope with the crime wave most effectively by putting that law into action. Instead of banning the Communist party the Government should adopt similar procedure. It knows the Communists who could menace the security of this country. For that reason those known men are worse than criminals. Well, let the Government apply a consorting act to them. See to it that they are not allowed to consort with one another. Let them have all the freedom of ordinary citizens, but make certain that they are not allowed to consort with one another. Some of the so-called Communists leaders are only opportunists and mercenaries. The way to deal with them is to remove their opportunities and stop their pay. They will then quickly lose all interest in the Communist cause. At present, these opportunists are following the Communist line because it gives them control of huge trade union funds, and because it makes them persons of privilege, with access to the Government, and real power in the government of this country. The Government’s job is to strip them of all those things. It is not communism that is the danger ; it is the power that Communists have acquired because they are Communists. It is their allegiance to a foreign power that is the real danger. This Government has taken a defeatist attitude. It is passively waiting until the Communists obtain complete power over the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the industries of Australia. It is afraid that if it takes any positive action there might be a hold-up of industry. That is the attitude of a craven government. The Government’s job is to govern, and it cannot govern if it allows itself to be dictated to by an outside body. If it takes off the gloves to the Communist party it will have the support, not only of ‘the mass of the people generally, but also of the great mass of trade unionists in particular. This is not a problem that can be solved by recriminations; it can only be solved by positive action. It is a job that the Government can no longer afford to shirk and survive as a government. If this Government fails, then it stands convicted as an ally of communism. This money should not be voted unless the officers do their duty, and they are not doing their duty if they have not supplied the Government with the names of these criminals in our midst.
– I have a complaint to make about the administration of the land settlement scheme for ex-servicemen. It is generally conceded that an ex-serviceman, whether he lives in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria or any other State, provided he is eligible to take up land under this scheme, should have the right to ballot for land in any State. My first complaint concerns two ex-servicemen resident in Queensland who were approved by a Classification Committee under the War Service Settlement Act as qualified for ballot for grazing land in New South Wales; yet although their applications for inclusion in the ballot were rejected, they were not notified of the rejection until fifteen days after the ballot had taken place. Thus, they were even denied the right of appeal. Prior to. that, two ex-servicemen resident in Queensland had been debarred from balloting for land in New South Wales, but I was able to make representation on their behalf to the authorities in New South Wales, and they were eventually allowed to participate in the ballot. In the second instance, however, it would appear that steps were taken to ensure that there should be no appeal, and so they were not notified of the rejection of their application until fifteen days after the ballot was taken. It is impossible now to remedy the injustice which those men suffered, but I wish to ensure that others shall not be treated in the same way.
I have also a complaint to make about the way in which ex-servicemen are treated when they apply for financial assistance in connexion with land settlement. So far, only two grazing properties have been opened up in Queensland, under the post-war settlement scheme, both of them being in the Goondiwindi district. The two ex-servicemen who were successful in the ballot for land each applied for an advance of £5,000 from the Agricultural Bank, which is the State authority acting for the State Government, which is a principal for the Commonwealth Government. I have in my possession copies of the letters sent by the bank to the men in answer to their applications. They believed that they would receive a substantial advance free of interest for three years, but, in this they were disappointed. One man, who applied for a loan early in June, was advised as late as the 2nd of September that, instead of being advanced £5,000, he would be given only £2,332, of which £1,330 was for the discharge of a mortgage on the property which he took over. Of the remainder, £400 was allocated for a dwelling. I do not know what sort of a house the Government thinks can be erected for £400, but that is not the worst part of it. The man was advised that after he had spent £150 on the construction of a dwelling the work would be inspected, and if it was. approved the full amount of £400 would be advanced. How is a man, who is seeking financial assistance to develop a property, to obtain £150 to expend on the construction of a house, or what security can he offer so as to obtain timber and other building material, pending the receipt of the £400 which is to be forthcoming if the preliminary work is approved? It is time that the Minister examined the conditions being imposed by the responsible bank in Queensland which is supposed to be making full facilities available. The first of these two ex-servicemen was unable to accept the amount offered to him because it was inadequate to enable him to carry on the property which’ he had been successful in drawing in a ballot. He lost the opportunity to purchase any stock for the property because of the delay which occurred between the time he applied for the advance and when he received the bank’s advice. In that period there had been general rains throughout Queensland, but although he had then been offered 6,000 ewes at a satisfactory price he was unable to buy stock at any price by the time he received the bank’s advice. He was debarred from accepting the advance offered because it was not sufficient to enable him to carry on the property. But what happened ? As had happened in many other cases, that man applied to a trading bank for an advance and was immediately advanced the amount that he required in order to enable him to take up the property. The second ex-serviceman whom I have mentioned also applied for an advance of £5,000. He asked for sufficient to establish water supplies on his property, but this “know- all” bank decided that there was no need to provide additional water supplies on the property. Thus, the man of experience who was anxious to take up the property did not know anything at all, but the red tape artists in some office knew everything. It is time that advances were made on a practical basis. The present anomalies must be remedied in the interest of ex-servicemen about to settle, on the land. If the policy of the bank in Queensland to which I have referred is to he the policy of nationalized banks in the future, the country can well be spared of such institutions. But the pity of it is that ex-servicemen who areseeking assistance under the Government’s rehabilitation scheme cannotobtain either land or adequate financial; accommodation in the few cases in which blocks of land have been made available to them.
Last year a sum of £500,000 was appropriated in respect of the item “ Jute products for primary industries - Subsidies” whilst the sum of £991,771 was actually expended under that item. I notice that no provision is made in respect of that item for the ensuing financial year. The supply of jute products is of vital concern to our primary industries, many of which are suffering because of lack of such supplies. A shortage of bags is being experienced in every primary industry. In the peanut industry, intake was held up for weeks and crops were damaged because no bags were available. Now, with the prospect of a record wheat harvest, uncertainly exists as to whether sufficient bags will be available for the crop. I urge the Government to ensure that sufficient supplies of jute shall be available to meet the requirements of all primary industries in the ensuing financial year. Grain sorghum growers in Queensland are now unable to obtain sufficient bags even to bag the whole of their last year’s crop, and I understand that portion of that crop is still held ‘ in bulk. In view of the fact that during the next four weeks harvesting of the wheat crop will commence in Queensland, and the Australian Wheat Board is the sole distributing agent for bags in Australia, what hope have those farmers of obtaining sufficient bags for other than wheat products ?
At long last I notice that no provision is being (made in respect of the restriction of wheat acreage in Western Australia. Last year a sum of £5,000 was appropriated for this purpose, and of that amount £2,619 was actually expended. I hope that that is the “last of the Mohicans “ so far as the Scully tragedy arising from the restriction of wheat acreage in Australia, is concerned. No agricultural policy has ever done greater damage to this country, and Australia as a whole has never suffered greater loss, than as the result of the iniquitous Scully wheat policy. But now, when we have the prospect of a record wheat crop and have the opportunity to derive benefits from prevailing export prices, we find that not sufficient jute will be available for the handling of that crop, I again emphasize that the Minister should ensure that a sufficient supply of bags shall be made available for harvesting not only the wheat crop but also other summer crops in the near future.
A sum of only £11 was expended last year by way of subsidy for the tobacco industry. In view of the present shortage of tobacco, I deplore the fact that no provision is being anode to encourage the industry. Throughout the years, governments have made available advances to the industry, and they were not mean advances. However, the industry invariably has been denied the full benefit of those advances because the Government has failed to control the marketing of the product by appointing an independent appraiser and thus failed to guarantee to growers a reasonable return. Some improvement in the industry was achieved last year as the result of the trial made in the north of Queensland under the auction system. Having regard., particularly, to our shortage of dollars, which compels us to restrict import®, what better way could we help to offset that disadvantage than by increasing our production of tobacco for which there is an unlimited market in this country? For that reason alone, the tobacco industry should be encouraged to the fullest possible degree. Generally speaking, I am not an. advocate of subsidies to primary industries. Indeed, if the Government proposed- to grant a subsidy to the peanut industry I would throw back in its face the fact that we do not desire it to he a mendicant industry and, because I know that the peanut-growers realize that the future of their industry depends primarily upon the quality of their product and upon their own initiative. However, so long as the Government is prepared to grant subsidies to primary industries it should insist upon getting value for such expenditure. In turn, the Government would save dollars, and would not be placed in the position of having to restrict imports, thus losing customs revenue. I trust that the Minister will give particular consideration to my remarks concerning the rehabilitation of and assistance to primary industries, including the tobaccogrowing industry.
.- I propose to address my remarks to the subject of defence and to the service departments. I am sure that it will meet with your approval, Mr. Temporary Chairman, if I stress the Navy in particular. We all recognize that the United Nations is in a precarious position, and that Great Britain is struggling for its very existence. The British Government has been forced, through economic necessity, to withdraw its troops from India and Egypt, and will now probably withdraw them from Palestine and Japan. Obviously, Australia must shoulder a greater responsibility for defence, particularly in the Pacific. Through economic necessity, Great Britain has had to curtail drastically expenditure in Hongkong and Singapore which, before the war, we regarded ns the great bastions of the Pacific. We also hear reports that no ships of the Royal Navy will be sent to the Pacific for some time except in an emergency, or war. This virtually means that Great Britain is reluctantly withdrawing from the Pacific, and that Australia must take a greater share of defence in that zone. If the Empire is to have a strong defence policy, Australia and New Zealand, in close co-operation with the United States of America, must assume responsibility for the defence of the Pacific. We have not had full information as to what our defence commitments are under the Empire defence plan, but we can only assume that they will be considerably heavier than the Treasurer has contemplated in his budget. Instead of the Government boosting expenditure on defence it would appear that it is cutting it? provision under this heading by 35 per cent., for the budget this year provides for an expenditure of £74,300,000, which represents a reduction of nearly £49,000,000 on the figures for the last financial year. I do not propose to make an analysis of the budget allocations for defence but I feel impelled to refer to one matter which disturbs me. Of the total of £74,300,000 to be provided for defence, approximately £22,000,000 will he expended on arms, equipment and war material for the three services. Thus, only a small part of the total defence allocation is to be expended on naval vessels.
The Navy should be at its strongest at the outbreak of war. If war should break out it is hopeless for us to look around for some ship, leap aboard, put out to sea and hope for the best. It is impossible to commission a ship in a few days. We must have an efficient, wellmanned Navy, ready at the outbreak of hostilities to meet emergencies. The Navy has to meet the full impact of the enemy and, accordingly, it is essential that it be fully equipped and manned. The atomic experiments at Bikini Atoll have clearly shown that the navy is best able to meet r.he impact of the atomic bomb. Naval vessels are less vulnerable and present a smaller target than do land defences, and, owing to their new manoeuvreability, will have a better chance of surviving atomic warfare. The manpower requirements of the Navy are determined largely by the number of ships in commission. We must have an adequate number of ships to keep our naval personnel trained ready to meet any crisis; yet the Government proposes to expend only £6,000,000 on the purchase of one aircraft carrier and two “ Battle “ class destroyers. Realizing the cost of these destroyers, one gathers that the Government has been able to secure the aircraft carrier from Great Britain at a cut rate. I pay tribute to Great Britain for the fact that all through’ the war and, indeed, throughout our naval history, it has given us ships at substantially reduced costs. In fact, Great Britain has made us a present of some naval vessels. For instance we have H.M.A.S. Shropshire which was presented to us to replace one of our cruisers which was lost. “ Battle “ class destroyers are very expensive, and take a considerable time to build with our limited facilities. When I was in service with the Royal Australian Navy in England at the end of the war, many destroyers, sloops and corvettes were tied up, out of commission. We could perhaps purchase some of those destroyers from Great Britain now. The British Government might be glad to let us have them so that we could be more fully equipped. The problem that confronts us is how to man the ships. It is largely a question of money, but I assume that the Commonwealth Bank will provide unlimited credit for the Navy. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan) is fully aware of this problem. As a former naval man, I pay tribute to the honorable gentleman for the enthusiasm and conscientiousness he has displayed in his task. He will rapidly realize that the Navy must attract the best men and the only way to do that is to offer them good prospects and conditions, and also a good pension scheme. A man entering the Navy realizes that his term of service may be very limited. Admittedly, he will get his deferred pay at the end of his service, but a pensions scheme similar to that operated by the Royal Navy would be much more satisfactory. That scheme has proved its worth. It provides a member with a regular income upon retirement instead of a lump sum which he might invest in some business’ and lose overnight. The pension scheme provides him with a regular income upon which he can fall back in time of distress. Unless conditions in the navy are made very favorable, Australian men will naturally seek other employment.
Obviously, Australia cannot afford to maintain a big navy. It would be silly to imagine that we could support a huge battle fleet at the expense of the Australian public. That would be quite impracticable. We have not a sufficiently large population to bear the cost of providing and maintaining a large fleet, however much we might need one. However, we have sufficient money and resources to maintain an efficient reserve of officers and men. Such a reserve is essential for rapid expansion in the event of war. One has only to examine the numbers of reservists who served in World War II. in order to understand that the Royal Australian Navy would have been unable to carry on without those men, who stepped in when they were needed, trained rapidly in many cases, and did a very good job in close co-operation with the permanent force. With the scientific warfare that we may unfortunately have to face, it is essential that reserve members be kept up to date with modern developments and fully trained in technical warfare. This can be achieved only by devoting sufficient time and money to their training. I have examined the estimates for the Department of the Navy, but I have not been able to find any reference to an adequate amount for expenditure on reserves. Perhaps the provision is included in some division where it is not obvious. I see that an amount of £2,500 is set aside for pay and allowances for Royal Australian Naval reserves, but that will not be adequate. The cost of training one member of the reserve is 30s. a day, and the amount that I have mentioned therefore would provide for the training of only 122 reserve personnel. Consequently, it appears that the Estimates contain no suitable provision for the maintenance of a naval reserve. It is no excuse to say that we have trained men like you, Mr. Temporary Chairman (Mr. Sheehy), and others who could be readily called up for service, because the longer that men with naval experience stay away from the service the more acute becomes the problem of bringing them back to a state of efficiency. As time passes, members of the reserve become less efficient, they become out of touch with the service, pud, unfortunately, they become more liable to sea sickness. In order to maintain the efficient record of the Royal Australian Navy, which has been well-earned, we must call upon the large numbers of reserve personnel who are willing and eager to serve and who would give their time in order to be trained to a stage of efficiency which would enable them to work in conjunction with members of the permanent naval force. The Minister must encourage, assist and attract reserve members to return to the navy, for either full-time or part-time service, so as to make it an efficient unit. This problem is urgent. The world is in an explosive state, and who knows when some political consideration now unforeseen may set it ablaze? This is not a problem to be faced twenty, ten, or five years hence. I agree that we must plan for the future, but the problem must be faced now. Let us harness the large numbers of reserve personnel and keep them trained so that they will be ready to defend Australia.
– I was interested to-night to hear the speech of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) regarding communism in Australia. I speak on the subject of communism with reference to the Estimates for the Joint Intelligence Organization, the proposed vote for which is £298,500. I point out to this committee and to the people of Australia that the danger of communism in this country is one of the most deadly things that faces the nation to-day. The Communists are infiltrating everywhere. They have infiltrated the Australian Labour party itself and its organizations. I raised this matter in this Parliament earlier this year, when I referred to the Katoomba, branch of the Australian Labour party in the Prime Minister’s electorate. Very strong exception was then taken, by some of the gentlemen whom I mentioned, to my statements about them and only recently in this chamber, during my absence, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) referred to those statements and said that they had been made from the coward’s castle of this Parliament. To my mind, that seemed to be a very doubtful statement legally, as I believe that the privilege enjoyed by members of this Parliament derives from the ancient law of England - the Bill of Rights. However, I shall pass over the honorable member’s comment, having mentioned it briefly.
I shall make some statements now which should prove to the Government the urgent necessity for appointing a royal commission to inquire into the whole subject of communism in Australia in the broadest possible sense. I believe that, if a royal commission were appointed without limitation of its powers of investigation, the results achieved by it would be scarcely less startling than the revelations which were made to the royal commission which inquired into Soviet espionage in Canada. In the first place, I shall deal with communism in connexion with Katoomba. One of the gentlemen whose names I mentioned previously in this Parliament is Dr. E. P. Dark, who is now vice-president of the reconstituted Katoomba branch of the Australian Labour party. I shall quote from some of his writings in order to show how very close he is to the Communists, how he always takes the Communists’ line, how he admires the Communists, and what he has said about the Australian Labour party itself in contradiction to what he has said about Communists. In 1944 there was a municipal election at Katoomba for which five men were nominated by the Katoomba branch of the Australian Labour party. Their names are Milliss, Davidson, Pratt, Dr. Dark, and Toakley. I have seen sworn statements and the text of a letter written by a member of the Katoomba branch of the Australian Labour party to the genera] secretary of the party in New South Wales declaring that the writer of the letter had nominated in opposition to Milliss, Davidson, Pratt, Dr. Dark and Toakley because he believed them to be “ Communists prostituting the great Labour movement” for the Communist party’s ends. That is not my statement. It is a statement which I believe is in the text of a letter written to the general secretary of the Australian Labour party in New South Wales. I have seen statutory declarations that in 1943 the secretary of the Katoomba branch of the Australian Labour party, Mr. Butterfield, was frequently visited by Mr. J. B. Miles, secretary of the Communist party in New South Wales, and Mr. Sharkey, the president of the Communist party, who went to Katoomba to address members of the Katoomba branch, but not at meetings of the branch; and that, on one occasion, “ Wally “ Evans, whom I take to be a Communist, addressed a full meeting of the branch. This gentleman states in his letter that the Communists got control in 1943. I have seen a sworn statement by an exmember of the Katoomba branch that Mr. Milliss was head of the Communist party in 1943. It is strange that he was a member of the Australian Labour party in 1946, when he signed letters as honorary secretary of the Katoomba branch. These things are serious and should be investigated by the Government. I now quote from a pamphlet issued during the Katoomba municipal elections of 1944 by Mr. Walford, the exorganizer of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in the Macquarie electorate, who was expelled from the Australian Labour party for his opposition to communism -
By adopting their customary tactics of infiltration, they had themselves elected to all executive offices in Katoomba Labour League.
Where are the grand old stalwarts of Labour who carried on for a lifetime in Katoomba? Pitched overboard by a gang of highly organized Reds who mould their political outlook entirely on Russia.
After I spoke in the House previously, Dr. Dark complained bitterly when he was said to be a Communist, a secret sympathizer, a fellow traveller, an underground worker, or whatever he may have been. I propose to quote from some of his writings to show how closely he is alined with the Communists. Last year, he wrote a book entitled Who are thiBeds? in which he supported all the Soviet puppet governments, including those of Poland, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, and complained bitterly that Great Britain had prevented a Communist coup in Greece.
– The honorable member is not competent-
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is always one of the most stalwart defenders in this chamber of communism.
– On a point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman, can you advise me if the honorable member for New England is in order in discussing party affiliations and writings in a book? I should like to know the section of the Estimates to which he relates his remarks.
– He indicated at the outset that he proposed to talk about defence and security.
– The proposed vote for the Joint Intelligence Organization.
– I am relating my remarks to the total proposed vote for the Joint Intelligence Organization, and I am directing attention to the writings of Dr. Dark in. order to show his affiliations with the Communists. On local issues he followed the Communist party line. He wrote -
Tt, is a lie that the Communist party is responsible for ‘the present industrial unrest. Apart from the constant pleas for avoiding strikes in their press, at meetings-
– [ rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. The Joint Intelligence Organization has nothing whatever to do with the discovery of communism in Australia. It is an organization for obtaining intelligence from overseas. The honorable member for New England is apparently confusing it with the Security Service, which comes under the Attorney-General’s Department.
– The Minister has said that the Joint Intelligence Organization is concerned with happenings overseas. The royal commission in Canada disclosed that money reached New York through a Swiss bank to finance Soviet espionage in Canada. T am exposing here men who may be agents of the Soviet, as were certain Canadians. They may not have had party tickets, but they wore associated with the Communists.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the point he has raised.
– I am trying to do so by showing the political opinions of Dr. Dark as disclosed in his own writings. He went, on in a postscript -
Unions interpreted employer’s tactics as a determined effort to break their power and worsen the conditions of the workers. Whether such was the intention of the employers is irrelevant; -the only relevant fact is that the union leaders believed it. . . . These, 1 think, are adequate reasons for the change of policy by the unions under Communist and radical leadership, when it was no longer necessary to avoid strikes in order to defeat fascism.
This is his description of his association with Communist leaders -
I had many Communist friends and acquaintances among the party leaders. . . . 1 am certain of their complete moral integrity, their kindness, their humanity, their passionate wish for the happiness and well-being of all their fellow men …. They had talked to mc freely about the aims anr] methods of their party.
I remind the committee that the Communists were opposed to the war right up to Germany’s attack on Russia. On the 20th January, 1946, Dr. Dark wrote a signed article in the Sunday Telegraph, which was of such a nature as to be headlined -
His final sentences, which refer to the Australian Labour party’s refusal to adopt the Communist strike policy, are worth quoting -
These Labour reactionaries have the sami? role as reactionaries everywhere: they artobstructing our advance to a real civilization. Compared with them Judas was a gentleman.
Despite all that and all the evidence in sworn statements and the views expressed by members and ex-members of the Katoomba branch of the Australian Labour party that Dr. Dark is a Communist, and thai; the five members of the branch nominated for the municipal elections in 1944 were Communists, I find that on the 5th September this year the same Dr. Dark, although defeated for presidency of the Katoomba branch, was apparently appointed as one of the vicepresidents. The Sydney Morning Herald on the 4th August stated that Mr. Milliss had been expelled from the Australian Labour party. The article contained the following passage: -
Mr. Mill iss said yesterday that, following his expulsion, he had applied for admission to the Communist party. His application was accepted and he was’ now a member of the Katoomba branch.
Yet I have seen sworn statements that Mr. Milliss was leader of the Communist party at Katoomba in 1943. In view of these revelations it is the duty of the Government to appoint a royal commission with the widest possible terms of reference to inquire into the whole matter of communism in Australia.
– Order! I have been persistently calling the honorable member to order for the last few seconds. If he continues to defy the Chair I shall deal with him.
– I apologize to you, sir. L did not mean to do that. I now propose to deal with a few matters affecting the proposed, vote for the Army and the Navy in reference to Manus Island. 1 believe that the state of the world today is such that war is likely to break out at any time. The world is almost as unstable as the atomic bomb, and yet we find that the Government has rejected the offer of the most powerful nation in the world to exercise guardianship and trusteeship over the defence of this country. The Subcommittee on Pacific Bases of the Committee on Naval Affairs of the United States House of Representatives published a report, which I understand expresses the views of the American high command which lays down as a sine qua non that America must be responsible for the defence of Australia in order to protect its own Pacific position. One of the matters emphasized as essential in that report is that Manus Island should be maintained as a great bastion of defence in the south-west Pacific. The United States Government spent approxi- 71,000,000 dollars on the provision of naval defence at Manus Island, and yet the Australian Government refused to accede to that Government’s request that its forces be allowed to remain on Manus Island. The report to which I have referred stated, in part, “We cannot permit any link to be in the hands of those who cannot or will not defend it “. However good our intentions may be it is impossible for us, with our limited resources, to defend Manus Island.
– What is the date of the report to which the honorable member has referred ?
– The report is an official United States document published in Washington in 1945. As I say, that report has evidently been adopted by the American Chiefs of Staff, and it. goes on to state -
The United States will assume the task of preserving peace and preventing any aggressive action in the Pacific area;
This function will require the United States to maintain in the Pacific, adequate strategic bases and forces in condition of readiness prepared to execute such necessary measures as the situation demands, with clearly defined limits within which control by the armed forces of the United States will be necessary and proper ; and
The United States will maintain a fleet superior to that of any other nation.
The Government has told the Parliament that it proposes to allow the United States to have access to Manus Island in time of war and to allow American forces to use the facilities which we shall provide there. In view of the fact that we have only a very small naval force and that the Government is pledged to the maintenance of an army comprising only 10,000 regular troops, supplemented by a volunteer force of 50,000 troops, which to-day exists only on paper, it is obvious that Manus Island cannot be developed as a. defence base, nor will it have the necessary fortifications and service’ establishments for the naval, military and air requirements of the United States. To he properly fortified it should provide adequate docking facilities for naval vessels and aerodromes, airfields, guided weapon launching platforms and runways, and numerous other modern installations. Only if the base is so equipped can it be used effectively in a battle for the defence of Australia. It is entirely wrong for the Government to have taken this island out of the control of the United States of America.
I know that honorable members opposite take little interest in defence matters, that the political party to which they belong has never done so since the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia, and that the only interest which members of the party have ever displayed has been in the time of war. This country bad a very close call indeed in 1941, and the late Mr. John Curtin, who was then Prime Minister, said that he spoke with no inhibitions in seeking aid from the United States of America. I speak with no inhibitions to-night. There is evident in this chamber a spirit of querulous and unreasonable criticism of the United States of America, and we have had evidence of it even in the course of this debate. We are told that we should not seek to duplicate in this country any of the political features of the United States of America, and that that country is adopting a harsh attitude in its financial dealings with other nation. The fact remains that in the time of real peril the late Mr. John Curtin was impelled to turn to the United States of America for help, just as the socialistic nations are to-day turning to it for financial assistance. Australia is in the greatest possible danger until the forces of the United States of America are linked in the defence of this country. Honorable members opposite may contend that Manus Island would not have been defended by the Americans in any case because they were curtailing the finances for their defence programme; but if we had allowed the Americans to remain in possession of Manus Island when they wanted to do so, they would have been committed to it and the security of this country would notbe in the perilous state in which it is to-day. This Government cannot escape responsibility for the folly of its action in allowing this Gibraltar of the Pacific to be denuded of the forces of the United States which held the island, the very force which was intended to be used for our protection.
House adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - 1, What was the total staff of the Commonwealth Public Service stationed in Canberra at the end of December, 1941?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The Public Service Board has revived its practice of obtaining a check on any criminal record or adverse national security report in regard to persons applying for clerical or other office employment in the Public Service.
n asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as f ollows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows : -
Roads : Damage by Military Vehicles.
Mr. Edmonds asked the Treasurer, upon notice ;
Has further consideration been given to the application of the Townsville City Council for compensation for damage to roads caused by heavy military traffic during the war years?
y. - The answer to the honorablemember’s question is as follows : -
When the Minister for the Army visited Townsville during July last, the Townsville Council made representations to him that compensation amounting to ?20,000 should be paid for damage caused to roads by military vehicles during the war years. On the evidence available at the present time, it would appear that the claim for such an amount is not justified. However, arrangements are in course for the claim to be investigated in Townsville and, when this investigation has been completed, the claim will be finally determined.
On the 19th September, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) asked a question relating to responsibility and compensation for damage done by military vehicles to roads. I now inform the honorable member as follows : -
To the best of my knowledge, no public announcement has been made that the Com monwealth accepts responsibility for damage done by military vehicles. On the contrary the Commonwealth has always maintained that it does not accept the principle that it has any liability for the repair and maintenance of State roads. In any instance where action for financial assistance is initiated by local authorities, the application is carefully examined by service engineers in conjunction with the engineer of the shire or council concerned. If it is substantiated that excessive damage has been caused by special type defence vehicles or by heavy defence traffic concentrated in isolated or sparsely settled areas, claims for financial assistance towards the cost of repairs and maintenance of such roads are carefully examined and are dealt with by the service department concerned, and Treasury according to the merits of the individual cases. The number of electorates which have benefited from claims for road repairs is not readily available. Contributions by the Commonwealth to local authorities in the various States during and since the recent war in respect of specific claims are as follows: -
Two hundred and eighty claims were received, of which 230 were approved in whole or in part. Examples are -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e askedthe Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In each of the last ten years, what was the amount of (a) gross income, (6) administration costs, and (c) interest paid to depositors, and what was the (d) average rate of interest paid on deposits and (e) average earning rate on investments, in the accounts of the Commonwealth Savings Bank.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - (a), (6), (c), (d) and (e). The Commonwealth Bank advises that it is not practicable to furnish the reply precisely in the form requested. However, the attached table, it is thought, furnishes the information required by the honorable member.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
STATEMENT BY THIC PRIME MINI.ST.riK.. Poultry Industry : Koo Control.
Ex tension of the period of Commonwealth control over eggs to the 31st December, 1.947, was approved in May, 1947. to facilitate the formation of an Australian side egg marketing organization.
The Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) reported to Cabinet to-day on recent discussions of the Australian Agricultural Council. Cabinet approved the distribution of surplus fund” resulting from the .operations of the
Commonwealth Egg Control scheme up to the 30th June, 1947, to the States, in the ratio in which egg producers in the various States have contributed them, for the purpose of investment in the proposed Australian Egg Equalization Committee Ltd. to provide the margin of security necessary to finance the scheme; in the event of no Australian-wide company being formed, the distribution of these funds to be further considered; and providing the respective State Egg Marketing Board with some working capital and subject to a careful review of the financial position, the sum of £100,000 is named for this purpose. Cabinet also approved the transfer of any profit made by the Controller of Egg Supplies during the period the 1st July-31st December, 1947, to such authority (Australian Egg Equalization Committee Ltd.) or authorities (State egg boards) which have the responsibility for the marketing of Australian egg production subject to such funds being utilized for the maintenance of egg prices between January and June, 1948. If the transfer is to be made to State egg boards, the funds are to be allocated on the basU of production for the period the 1st July-31st December, 1947.
Cabinet also approved of the preparation of a bill to be submitted to the Federal Parliamentary Labour party to establish an Australian egg board with powers to control exports, to buy and sell eggs, and to ensure that the long term contract with the British Government is observed.
y. - On the 1st May, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked a question regarding the employment of prisoners on home building or on other work that would be of assistance to the national economy. After inquiring from the State Premiers I am able to inform the honorable member as follows : -
It would be impracticable and undesirable to employ prisoners, as suggested by the honorable member, for various reasons, lt is a cardinal rule that prisoners should not be allowed to associate freely with members of the community and it would be extremely difficult to achieve this in any outside work given to prisoners. Then again it has been ascertained that there are very few skilled tradesmen in prison at any one time and any such prisoners are employed to the fullest possible extent within the gaol precincts or farming institution boundaries. Prisoners are also employed on useful gaol industries. It is always necessary to maintain these industries to provide for the prisons’ own needs of clothing, boots and maintenance work. It would be merely transferring demand to outside industries if men were taken from these industries for use on building construction or furniture making.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The honorable member will no doubt realize that it would be extremely difficult to furnish full information in regard to each of the questions asked by him. This would involve a study of records up to sixteen years old, and under the circumstances I cannot give any guarantee that the information required can be obtained. A considerable amount of detail has already been provided in answers to questions by the members from time to time and this will be available in Hansard If the honorable member desires to obtain details of any particular mission, however, I shall be glad to have an examination made and to furnish him with any information available.
British Commonwealth of Nations : Statement in “ Chicago Tribune “.
y. - On the 3rd October, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) asked a question in connexion with an article published in the press which quoted statements attributed to Colonel McCormick’s Chicago Tribune. The honorable member will no doubt be aware that Colonel McCormick’s newspapers frequently adopt an anti-British attitude and this bias is allowed for by all who are acquainted with his policy. As the press in the United States .of America is free from government control, no useful purpose would be served by protesting to the United States Government, but the article and the question asked in the House will be drawn to the attention of the Australian Embassy, Washington, which attempts to correct, by public statements, publicity and its general activities, any erroneous impressions which may be created bv such statements.
y. - On the 10th October, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked a question concerning the production of coal in New South Wales. I am now able to inform the honorable member as follows:-
In order to build up stocks of coal sufficient to cover the Christmas holiday period, it will be necessary to obtain an average production of 285,000 tons per week over the next ten weeks. This is on the basis that the present overall rate of consumption remains steady. The production targets fixed by the Joint Coal Board amount to 300,000 tons per week and since this rate was exceeded for the week ending 27th September, there is good reason to believe that an average of 285,000 tons may be attained in future weeks provided there are no widespread stoppages of the kind mentioned in my reply to the House.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 October 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19471015_reps_18_193/>.