18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Petitions in relation tobanking in
Australia were presented as follows : -
By Mr.ADERMANN, from certain electors of the division of Maranoa.
By Mr. ANTHONY, from certain electors of the division of Richmond.
Petitions received and read.
Mr.CONELAN. - In view of the like lihood of further restrictions being imposed on imports from dollar areas, will the Prime Minister state what is the policy of the Government or the Treasury in regard to the granting of licences for the importation of goods or machinery from dollar areas if the exporter is prepared to supply the goods or machinery to its Australian house without the requirement of payment in the future ?
– As the honorable member knows, a close examination is being made of the whole question of dollar expenditure. Because of the need to establish industries, particularly those which would save dollar expenditure, the Government is anxious to assist as far as possible in the provision of capital equipment, such as machinery and plant for the manufacture of goods which normally would come from the dollar area. I gather that the honorable member desires to know whether, in the event of a firm receiving something for nothing, in which event no dollars would have to be provided, an import licence would be granted. I admit that such a situation would be a temptation which any Treasurer would find it hard to resist. The fact is, hovever, that many of the proposals which are submitted for consideration, involved only a temporary avoidance of dollar payments. Each case is examined on its merits. If the honorable member has any particular cases in mind, I shall be glad to examine them personally.
– The question of coal supplies is constantly the subject of discussion with the Minister for Supply and Shipping and, of course, between the Minister and the Joint Coal Board. During recent weeks the miners have worked much more continuously than for a long period, and T am glad to say that their organization is taking steps to maintain discipline and to ensure that there shall be no unauthorized stoppages. I shall try to obtain precise information for the honorable member, but I understand that for some time the production of coa] has been satisfactory. There have been some losses due to stoppages by other organizations, such as those in which deputies and shot-firers were involved, hut not because of action by the miners themselves. I understand that the Minister for Supply and Shipping is hopeful that, should the present rate of production be continued, it will be possible for the miners to have their holiday and for sufficient stocks of coal to be available to meet the Christmas demand. I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister for Supply and Shipping at ‘ our next dis cussion, and I hope to let the honorable member have a written outline of the position soon.
– In August last, a conference was held in Adelaide with the Minister for Supply and Shipping regarding coal supplies to South Australia, and an allocation for South Australia was agreed upon. Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping inform me what quantity of coal has been delivered to South Australia since the 6th August? If the allocation agreed upon has not been fulfilled, can he take action to have any deficiency made up before the coal-miners take their Christmas holidays?
– I realize the importance of supplying adequate coal to South Australia. However, as I am not familiar with the details sought, I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Supply and Shipping.
– Has your attention, Mr. Speaker, been drawn to a statement in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, that the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Com mittee forbade the Australian Broadcasting Commission to re-broadcast an incident that happened in Parliament yesterday? Have you noticed that a member of the committee has discussed the deliberations of the committee with representatives of the press? If so, will you say whether the committee’s deliberations are properly the subject for such discussion by members of the committee? .Will you explain to the House the conditions governing the committee’s deliberations, with which I am proud to have been associated?
– My attention has been drawn to a statement which appears in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on ‘ this subject, but I have not had an opportunity to study it thoroughly. I noticed first an editorial in the Daily Telegraph, ‘ from which T quote the following passage : -
Last night the “ free and. independent news service “ of the Australian Broadcasting Commission was censored.
The Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings forbade the Australian Broadcasting Commission to rebroadcast an incident which had happened in Parliament.
That statement is completely untrue. This committee has no power to deal with the news service of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. What the committee did was to exercise the authority given to it by the Parliament to deal with the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings. In the act under which the committee operates, it is provided that the committee shall lay down general principles for submission to the Parliament, and that those principles, on adoption by the Parliament, shall he acted upon for the guidance of the committee. The consolidated general principles as set forth in the committee’s first, second and third reports were adopted by both Houses of the Parliament on the 15th July, the 17th July and the 15th November of last year. The relevant principle, upon which the committee acted in the matter under discussion, is number 4, which is as follows : -
Re-broadcast of Questions and Answers. -
Within the limits of time available, the following parliamentary proceedings shall be re-broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission between 7.20 p.m. and 7.55 p.m. on each sitting day: -
Senate proceedings - Questions without notice and on notice and answers thereto;
House of Representatives proceedings - Questions without notice and answers thereto.
Yesterday, 25 minutes of the normal time allotted for questions without notice, which are re-broadcast in the evening, was taken up by statements on leave by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), and by a personal explanation by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). None of those statements comes within the definition of questions. Therefore, the committee carried out not a decision primarily of its own, but a decision made by this House. I propose to go further into these newspaper reports; because, after all, the press has no right here. The only right the press enjoys here is the privilege bestowed upon them by the Parliament. If that privilege is abused by the publication of false reports. on what a committee of this House has done, I am prepared to take very strong action. I propose to examine all the newspaper reports, and if they are such as I suspect they might be, the newspapers concerned will remember the action I take.
– Mr. Speaker, I desire to make a personal explanation–
– The honorable member is not involved.
– In the question asked a direct reference was made to my action in making a statement to the press.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay did not mention the honorable member as being the “ leak “ to the press.
– I ask for leave to make a statement.
– Is leave granted ?
Government Members. - No
Leave not granted.
– As the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is aware, the poultry industry has recently protested against the low price being paid to producers for eggs, having regard to the high cost of production. Apart from any redress that may be given through the Prices Commissioner, will the Minister consider the possibility of obtaining an increased price for export eggs?
– I have heard of some dissatisf action in the poultry industry with respect to the present price being paid for eggs. The fixation of the price of eggs is largely a function of the Prices Commissioner. However, if the egg boards of Australia would back more substantially the decisions of the Commonwealth Egg Controller, a greater proportion of unwashed eggs than of washed eggs would be available for export. To-day, eggs exported represent approximately 70 per cent. of total production. Unfortunately, owing to the insufficient quantity of eggs produced as unwashed, only 30 per cent. of the 70 per cent. surplus is available for export to Great Britain at the higher price fixed for unwashed eggs. That means that the other two-thirds of the surplus production ha3 to be pulped and sold on the overseas markets at a lower price than that fixed for eggs in shell. The poultry industry will, I feel sure, respond magnificently within a reasonable period to the requirements of the United Kingdom for unwashed eggs and there will be a marked change in the situation that exists to-day. It is hoped that it will be possible to export over 50 per cent, of our surplus production of eggs in shell, thus bringing about great prosperity in the poultry industry.
Loans to Women Applicants
– It has been brought to , my notice that women wishing to borrow . money for home-building through the State assistance schemes are told that it is necessary for them to have a male guarantor before the money can he made available. It is claimed that this is one of the conditions under which the Commonwealth makes money available to the States for home-building purposes. I ask the Prime Minister if this is, in fact, a condition governing the lending of money to women. If it is, will the right honorable gentleman take steps to have the condition removed as it constitutes both an embarrassment and an injustice to a considerable number of persons in the Commonwealth?
– I understand that applications for such loans are dealt with on their merits. I have not heard of any case in which, subject to other conditions being suitable for the granting of a loan, any woman applicant has been required to furnish a male guarantor. I shall make inquiries and give the honorable member a reply as soon as practicable.
– The New England tablelands constitute one of the largest maize-growing areas in Australia. I received a telegram yesterday and I have received previous telegrams drawing attention to the desperate position of maize-growers in that area and in other parts of Australia. The growers of grain sorghum are also in a desperate position, the two grains competing against one another with the result that there has been an acute glut in the market and farmers are forced to accept unpayable prices. The telegram I received yesterday was addressed from Glen Innes, and reads as follows: -
Any move lift export ban? Local maize position becoming desperate.
As several departments are involved, will the Prime Minister examine the matter with his Ministers in order to ascertain whether action can be taken rapidly to lift the ban on the export of maize from Australia ?
– This matter has already been the subject of discussions with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Only last night the honorable member for Maranoa drew attention to the position in relation to grain sorghum .and the export of maize from Australia. The subject has been raised in many quarters and I have discussed it previously with the Ministers concerned. The most I can promise the honorable member at the moment is that I shall again discuss the subject with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
Bricks foe Construction Purposes.
– I refer to a statement reported to have been made in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly yesterday, regarding the alleged failure of the Department of the Interior to supply 312,000 common bricks from Canberra for the building of hospitals at Cooma and Queanbeyan. I ask the Minister whether there is any truth in the statement. Does any responsibility rest on the Commonwealth Government in this matter, or is this merely an attempt to “ pass the buck” owing to the failure of the New South Wales authorities? I should be glad also if the Minister could give me some information regarding the supply of bricks from Canberra for the construction of houses and other buildings in Queanbeyan.
– It is not the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government to supply bricks for construction work anywhere except in the Australian Capital Territory. However, it is my desire to assist building activity in towns adjacent to the Australian Capital Territory whenever possible by supplying materials that we hold in excess of our own requirements. The matter of the Queanbeyan hospital was brought to my notice eight or nine months ago. At that period, the production ofbricks in Canberra was at its lowest level for many years, due to the complete cessation of manufacture during the war. However, even at that time I did guarantee to the Queanbeyan hospital board sufficient faced bricks for the new hospital, provided the board itself would make some effort to obtain concrete bricks for internal walls. That would have enabled the building of a hospital with a uniform appearance. However, the hospital board did not avail itself of my offer. I also undertook to review the position from time to time, hut until now I have not been requested to make such a review. However, I am pleased to say that the entire brickmaking plant at Canberra is operating, and that the output is higher than ever before. Therefore, I am prepared to make available the full quantity of bricks required for the Queanbeyan hospital, if the hoard is prepared to make a request in this regard. I am prepared also to give consideration to any request for assistance in the provision of bricks for the construction of cottages in Queanbeyan, having due regard, of course, to the output of the Canberra brickworks.
– Some time ago, the Minister for External Territories stated that a survey of commercial timber was being undertaken in New Guinea. I should like to know whether this survey has been completed, and whether timber leases will be made available to companies for the development of New Guinea resources and the provision of timber for use onthe mainland.
– The survey has been completed. The report is in the hands of the Government and is being considered. An early statement, will be made regarding the position.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Immigration been drawn to a statement published in the Sydney newspapers, at least, referring to an article by the American columnist Drew Pearson, stating that there was too much “bally-hoo” about American exservicemen migrating to Australia ? Pearson is also reported to have quoted the American Ambassador to Australia, Mr. Butler, as saying, “ The Aussies want our migrants and are friendly to Americans, but the unions resent outsiders “. Will the Minister say whether the same system of exchanging union tickets that applies to British ex-servicemen also applies to the “ G.I.” Americans, or whether there is any other plan under which the unions accept Americans in this country?
– I have read the statement referred to by the honorable member for Parkes. I cannot believe that the American Ambassador to Australia, Mr. Butler, would have been so undiplomatic as to make the statement attributed to him by Mr. Drew Pearson, who generally writes with a poisoned pen. Mr. Butler has given every evidence of friendship with Australia during his term as Ambassador, and I can only surmise that the statement has been wrongly attributed to him. In any case, there is no truth in the charge that the Australian trade unions are hostile to migrants from any country. We have an advisory council on immigration which includes representatives of the Employers Federation, the Chamber of Manufactures, the Chamber of Commerce, and two representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. The honorable member for Parkes is the distinguished and able chairman of the body. The reports furnished to me on every matter that I have referred to it have been unanimous. No hostility has been expressed by either employers or employees to migrants from Great Britain or any othe country.
– Tell us about the trade unions that have closed their books to Australians.
-Order! The honorable member is not entitled to be told anything at this stage.
– I have not the slightest intention of telling him anything. The Australian Council of Trades Unions did arrange with the British Trade Union Congress for an exchange of membership with British trade unionists coming to Australia, but no arrangement has yet been made in respect of American migrants. The trade union, set-up is somewhat different in America, but every facility and help are given by the Australian trade union movement to American ex-servicemen, Dutch ex-servicemen and the exservicemen of every Allied country who make a home in Australia.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government is sending two well-known Communists named Lewis and Medworth to represent Australia at the Unesco conference at Mexico City.
– .The conference of Unesco will be held at Mexico City. Certain gentlemen have been nominated to attend; I think five in number. I do not remember Mr. Medworth’s name, but I do remember the name of a Mr. Lewis, who represents the Teachers Federation, as one of the delegates. I have no knowledge of his being a Communist, if he is the gentleman referred to by the honorable member. Again speaking from memory, I think Mr. Medworth is some State librarian. A colleague tells me that he is to be one of the delegates, but I will clear up the point. I know that Mr. Lewis is president of the Teachers Federation, but I have no knowledge of his political philosophies or those of Mr. Medworth.
Sale to New Zealand
– Does the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture agree with the reported statement by the Minister for Industries and Commerce in New Zealand that no concession was given by New Zealand to Australia in return for the low price of 5s. 9d. a bushel at which Australia has agreed to sell wheat to New Zealand ? With the rapidly rising price of wheat on the world’s markets, what is the estimated cost to the Australian taxpayers this financial year of the agreement with New Zealand?
– I have no official or other authentic information to the effect that the New Zealand Minister mentioned has made the statement attributed to him. When the report is authenticated, I shall be in ,a position to make a statement about it. The estimated- cost of supplying wheat to New Zealand during the current financial years is about £2,000,000. In the final year of the agreement, the scales may possibly be weighed down in the opposite direction.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to assent to an alteration in the Royal Style and Titles of His Majesty the King.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide for an alteration of the Royal Style and Titles consequent on the change effected under the India Independence Act 1947 cf the United Kingdom. Under an amending royal proclamation dated the 13th May, 1927, a copy of which is published in Gazette No. 71, of the 30th June, 1927, the Royal Style and Titles were as follows : -
George the Sixth, by the’ Grace of God of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India.
It is the royal practice to prescribe the Royal Style and Titles in both the Latin and the English tongues. The bill now before the House provides for the omission from the Latin version of the words ” Indiae Imperator” and from the English version of the words “ Emperor of India “. As set out in the bill, the Parliament of the United Kingdom included a provision in the India Independence Act 1947 providing for this change in theRoyal Style and Titles. The Australian Government, in reply to a cablegram from the British Government in June, 1947, referring to the position which had arisen and the action proposed so far as Britain was concerned, indicated that it did not object to the proposed change of title, but. that it would be some time before the appropriate legislation could be introduced into the Australian Parliament.
Advice was subsequently received from the British Government that, pending the passing of the necessary legislation in the other British Commonwealth countries, it was considered that the proper course was to defer the issue of a formal royal proclamation bringing the change into effect. His Majesty the King, however, approved a proposal that for all official documents issued in respect of the United Kingdom after the 15th August, 1947, the day on which the new Dominions of India and Pakistan were established, the words “ Emperor of India “ should be omitted and that the King’s signature should be “ G. R. “ and not “ G. R. I.”. Information available to the Australian Government indicates that the necessary legislation has been passed by the Canadian and New Zealand parliaments. The position in regard to the Union of South Africa has not yet been advised to the Australian Government. It is proposed that the date on which the omissions shall become effective shall be notified by the Prime Minister by notice published in the Gazette. This action will be taken as soon as advice is received of the issue by His Majesty of His Royal Proclamation under the Great Seal of the Realm.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That Order of the Day No. 1, Government Business, be postponed until a later horn- this day.
. -Will the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) indicate to the House what he has in mind by this motion, because on the question “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair “, honorable members normally have the right to discuss grievances or other matters. The Prime Minister has moved that this order of the day be postponed until a later hour this day. Has the right honorable gentleman submitted this motion because he proposes first to complete some other business and then allow honorable members an opportunity to voice their grievances?
– Does the submission of this motion really mean that honorable members will not have an opportunity to voice their grievances this week?
– That is so.
– Well, the right honorable gentleman has a majority in this House. Personally, I have no grievances; but, no doubt, some of my colleagues entertain grievances and they have a perfect right to expound them.
– I am greatly averse to private members being deprived of their right to express grievances.
– Has the honorable member any grievances ?
– I should like to meet the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) when I have no grievances. To-day, the opportunities that honorable members have for asking questions is, to a certain degree, limited. For instance, I have several questions which I have attempted to address to Ministers this week, but so far, I have not succeeded in getting the call from the Chair. I also desire to mention certain matters which strictly cannot be raised at question time. Therefore, I should appreciate the opportunity to bring to the notice of “Ministers subjects which are not merely matters of public administration in the strict sense of the word, but which have certain political implications that should be revealed. For that reason, I am greatly averse to honorable members being deprived of their opportunity to voice their grievances. If they have no grievances, it stands to reason that the motion, “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair “ will be negatived. The opportunities of private members are being reduced year after year. Government business monopolizes the time of the Parliament, and, in the circumstances, the Government should provide proper opportunities to allow honorable members to express their views about certain matters which they cannot raise on bills or other motions before the House.
.- I oppose the motion, because I, in common with many other honorable members, desire to raise matters at this opportunity - perhaps the only suitable opportunity which we are likely to have for a considerable time - to discuss grievances which we believe should be aired. I desired to raise an important subject affecting the privileges of private members of this Parliament. Earlier to-day, I. sought an opportunity to clarify my own position in a matter determined yesterday which involved the rights and privileges of honorable members generally. At that stage, I was denied that opportunity. No doubt many honorable members who denied me the opportunity of doing so at that stage had in mind that there would be a later opportunity to discuss our grievances. If private members are to be deprived of their opportunity to discuss such matters, there is little hope left for the sane and democratic conduct of the proceedings of the Parliament. The parliamentary system will degenerate into a one-party monopoly, the voice of only one party will be heard, and minority voices will be stifled. An important matter of privilege was involved in the issue which I desired to raise, and, in addition, my own conduct had been called in question by a private member of the Parliament.
– Hear, hear !
– The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), who chimes in now, would be one of the first to deny me the opportunity to make an explanation. That is the stage to which parliamentary government has come. I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw his motion so as to permit honorable mem’bers to exercise the opportunities for explanation that are given to them by the Standing Orders.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks contain the essence of a reflection on a decision of the House. If he accepts some fatherly advice from the Chair, he will not persist in endeavouring to explain what he said to the press-
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-The honorable member should not press the matter too far.
– I still desire to make a personal explanation.
– Very well, then, the honorable member may proceed to make one.
– You, sir, have implied that an honorable member who serves on one of the statutory committees of the Parliament is not entitled to comment publicly on decisions of that committee.
– That is so.
– Then that is entirely out of keeping with the practice of the Parliament. There are three statutory committees mentioned on the notice-paper. They are the Broadcasting Committee, the Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings, and the Public Works Committee. Within my parliamentary experience, it has frequently happened that members of committees who have submitted minority reports have stated publicly the reasons for their reports. The committees to which I have referred are public committees, composed of public men elected by the people to discharge a public duty. There is no “ hole-and-corner “ process about their proceedings, nor should there be. Since this is a matter affecting the privileges of members of the Parliament,
I ask by what authority you proscribe honorable members from exercising the democratic right to state publicly their views. You, sir, have called in question my conduct in this matter, and I believe that I have the right to state the reasons for my action. I assert that right now in order to protect the rights of members of all political parties to comment upon the report of a committee which is opposed to the precedent and practice of that committee. The adoption of that report would have the effect of restricting the rights of members to state publicly their explanations of matters, even when they have been misrepresented, and, indeed, publicly slandered. For that reason, I considered that the report of the committee should be debated, and I proposed to take the first opportunity available to me to debate it. I have tried to confine my remarks to the subject of privilege, and I believe that a most important point arises. If the Parliament is to surrender the rights of its members whenever any one in authority attempts to challenge them, then there will shortly be no parliament in this country. As a private member of the Parliament who possesses some rights, I assert that there is no authority for your statement that members of statutory committee have not the right to comment publicly on the reports of committees of which they are members.
– The honorable member has asked for it, and I shall give it to him. I quote from May’s Parliamentary Practice, fourteenth edition, Chapter VIII., “Breaches of Privilege and Contempt “, which, under the heading “ Premature Publication of a Committee’s Proceedings or Evidence “, at page 118, reads -
By (lie ancient custom of Parliament, “no act done at any committee should be divulged before the same be reported to the House “.
That is quite clear. No report has yet been made to the House. The quotation continues -
Upon this principle the Commons, on the 21st April, 1837, resolved “That the evidence taken by any select committee of this House, and the documents presented to such committee, and which have not been reported to the House, ought not to be published by any member of such committee or by any other person “. Where the public are admitted this nile is usually not enforced. The publication of proceedings of committees conducted with closed doors or of reports of committees before they ure available to members, will, however, constitute a breach of privilege.
Therefore, both the honorable gentleman and the press have been guilty of a breach of privilege. I hope that he is now satisfied. ,
– I protest against the proposal by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to withdraw from honorable members the privilege of “Grievance Bay”, in order to give priority to government business.
This procedure has become established by the right honorable gentleman. Whenever “ Grievance Day “ arrives, and it does so only once a month, as regularly as the tides rise and fall, he proposes that the business of private members shall give way to government business. “ Grievance Day “ was instituted for a particular reason. The Government has complete control of the House on every other day. For that matter, that applies also on this day. When it was inaugurated, the intention wa9 to give to private members an opportunity to bring before the House, and the country, matters which concerned them and their constituents in their electorates, and needed an airing in the Parliament. Apparently, the Prime Minister has deliberately set out, month after month, to stifle the discussion of private matters on “ Grievance Day “. It is more important that the practice of “ Grievance Day “ should be observed on this occasion. During the discussion of the budget and Estimates, honorable members consider that they are entitled to discuss in Committee of Supply any matter that relates to the various government departments. I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that the Prime Minister applied the “guillotine” to the Estimates, and the time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for each of the various departments averaged only about 35 minutes, which time was divided among the whole of the members of the committee, although expenditure involving millions of pounds was involved. That resulted in even the Prime Minister, himself, in the final stages, being prevented by his own instrument from concluding his speech because the time allotted had expired before he was able to complete what he had set out to say in regard to Land Sales Control. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) also was the victim of the Government’s “ guillotine “. I am not expressing any great regret on that score. The fact remains that that honorable gentleman, because of the operation of the “guillotine”, did not have the opportunity to reply to certain criticisms of his administration, particularly in the territories of Papua and New Guinea. At the time, he expressed the wish that he might have a further opportunity to continue that debate. If “Grievance Day” had been observed today he would have had the opportunity to make his reply. If the Prime Minister wants the Parliament to be reasonably free, and to discuss openly matters that are of vital public importance, he can do so by permitting honorable members to have the privilege of “ Grievance Day “.
– In reply - The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has rather given the impression that “Grievance Day” has been entirely eliminated because of motions that I have submitted. I resent that, because,as honorable members will recall, the whole of last “ Grievance Day “ was devoted to the ventilation of grievances.
– That was only because the Government changed its mind.
– Grievances were so few that they were disposed of quite early in the evening. I had thought that ample opportunity for the discussion of matters which honorable members wished to raise had been afforded during the debate on the budget and the first item of the Estimates on which no time restriction was imposed. That debate concluded quickly because, apparently, the grievances were not sufficiently numerous to warrant further time being devoted to it. The committee stage has been reached of a measure which the Government wishes to pass immediately. We should have been pleased had it been possible to send a couple more bills to the Senate this week, because it proposes to adjourn for some time as this House if not passing legislation sufficiently fast to keep it occupied. I had the impression, also, that the Leader of the Opposion (Mr. Menzies) desired that this eveningshould be devoted to the debate on the Bonking Bill rather than to grievances. Those were the reasons which actuated me in the action that I took.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 22nd October (vide page 1172).
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 - (1.) Section four of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead:- - “ 4. - ( 1 . ) For the purposes of this Act, there shall be an Australian Dairy Produce Board. (2.) The Board shall consist of -
two members to represent the dairy farmers of Australia;
) one member from each of the States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania to represent the co-operative butter and cheese factories in each of those States ;
two members to represent proprietary butter and cheese factories and privately owned butter and cheese factories of Australia:
one ‘member to represent employees of butter and cheese factories; and
one member to represent the Commonwealth Government. “ (9) Themember appointed to represent the Commonwealth Government shall be Chairman of the Board and shall hold office for such period as the Governor-General directs:
Provided that the Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the Minister, remove the Chairman from his office for incapacity, incompetence or misbehaviour.”
.- I move -
That, in proposed new section four, subsection (2.) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following sub-section: - “ (2.) The Board shall consist of -
one member (in this Act referred to as ‘ the Government representative ! ) who shall bo appointed by the Governor-General as the representative of the Commonwealth Government :
one member who shall be appointed by the Governor-General upon the nomination of the Australian Council of the Australian Institute of Daily Factory Managers and Secretaries ;
two representatives elected by the owners of proprietary butter and cheese factories and privately owned butter and cheese factories:
two representatives of co-operative butter and cheese factories in each of the States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, and one representative of co-operative butter and cheese factories in each of the States of South Australia. Western Australia and Tasmania, elected as prescribed; and (el one representative of each of the States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania elected by the producers in each of those States.’’
I have discussed the amendment with several members of the Opposition, including members of the Australian Country party, and it meets the wishes of the parties on this side. I ask the Minister (Mr. Pollard) to accept it in the interests of the dairying industry. The Australian Dairy Produce Board was first appointed 23 years ago, and it has worked harmoniously and “well ever since. What is urgently needed is an increased production of dairy products, and the proposals in the amendment will do more to attain that objective than those in the bill submitted by the Government. The present board has materially increased the price of dairy products generally by sales overseas, because the prices realized in other countries have affected the homeconsumption price and enabled producers to receive higher prices. The proposals in the bill will not have that effect. If the amendment be accepted, the good work done by the existing board in reducing freights and insurance charges on dairy products that are exported will be continued. The first chairman of the board was Mr. Plunkett, M.L.A., of Queensland, who was first appointed about 23 years ago, and has been reelected at every subsequent election. Many of the other members of the board have been re-elected time after time. The spirit of harmony which has prevailed among members of the board is an example which other boards would do well to emulate. In addition to assisting the dairying industry, the proposals contained in my amendment would assist the administration of the act.
I draw attention to paragraph e of the proposed amendment, which, reads - . one member who shall be appointed by the Governor-General upon the nomination of the Australian Council of the Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries.
I am at a loss to understand why the Minister, in his reply to the secondreading debate, was indifferent to the representations made by honorable members on this side in connexion with this proposal, particularly as the Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries is composed of men qualified in the preparation * and marketing of dairy produce, not only as the result of their long experience, but also by reason of their having passed the required examination laid down by State governments in order to ensure high standards for Australian dairy products. If at any time Australian butter should reach overseas markets in anything but the best condition, no better advice could be sought than that which could be given by members of the institute. For that reason, I hope that the amendment to provide that one member shall represent the institute will be .accepted. The refusal of the Minister to include a representative of the Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries will make the board unacceptable to the great bulk of dairy producers throughout Australia. The proposal to add to the list of representatives on the board one representative each from South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, instead of- only one representative for those three States, will encourage production, and keep those States familiar with developments in the dairying industry and in its export problems. I strongly recommend acceptance of the amendment.
Mr. ADERMANN (Maranoa) [11.36 1. - I agree in principle with the amendment of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). I advocate the retention of the provision that a majority of the members of the board shall be genuine producers, elected by the dairy fanners themselves. Last night I advocated the inclusion of a representative of the Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries. I fear that the amendment of the honorable member for Moreton may overload the board, and that his objective could be achieved by fewer representatives than his amendment envisages. I agree that the representatives of the producers should’ be elected by the producers themselves rather than bo appointed by the Minister from a panel of names submitted to him by the associations representing dairy farmers. In his reply to the second” reading debate the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) said that a representative of the institute would be a representative of a cooperative factory.
– I did not say that that would happen, but that it could happen. In the past it has happened that the representative of the institute was also the director of a factory.
– The Minister’s statement appears to be rather evasive. I should like a definite assurance that there will be such a representative.
– I cannot give that assurance.
– I shall not repeat what was said last night when a comparison was made with the clerk of a shire council. I accept the Minister’s assurance that he appreciates the services of these men, and I know that his outlook is genuine, but to rob the factories of one representative is not the way to overcome the difficulty. The manager of a butter factory comes within the category of persons covered by paragraph d of clause 4 and could be appointed through that channel. However, I do not think that it would overload the board to accept an amendment to add one representative of the Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries, even if the Minister desires to retain all those whom he has enumerated. What I intended to convey last night was that if only the States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, which are the major producers of dairy produce, were given representation, that might be unfair to the other States. The position might be met by allowing the States of South Australia and Western Australia to combine in electing a representative to serve on the board. I emphasize the need for the appointment of a representative of ‘he institute. I.’ agree in principle with the amendment moved by the honorable member for Moreton, though if accepted it might have the effect of over-loading the board somewhat. I insist that a majority of the members of the board should be direct representatives of the producers, and elected by them.
.- The amendment moved by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) incorporates all the desirable features of the old board, which functioned very efficiently and harmoniously for many years, and did much to develop the export market. It seems a pity to interfere with the constitution of a board which has functioned so well. The producers will have faith in the board only if it controls, the industry efficiently and without friction, and 1 believe that if the board is constituted in the way proposed it could do much to raise the status of the industry from its present position as the Cinderella of the primary industries.
– I support the amendment, and particularly paragraph d of the proposed new sub-clause, because I believe it reflects the opinion of most of those engaged in the dairying industry. As a matter of fact the proposal in paragraph d is somewhat in line with the suggestion which I made last night. In order to clarify my attitude, I propose to read the following resolution agreed to by the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation:
It is the considered and unanimous opinion of the Australian Dairy Farmers’ Federation that in the reconstitution of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, a majority of the personnel should be producers. Accordingly, it is recommended thai on the proposed board of twelve members seven producers be appointed, and that in such appointments provision be made for representation from each of the States of the Commonwealth.
It will be seen that paragraph d is in line with that resolution in that it proposes that there shall be on the board a direct representative from the producers of each State. There can he no doubt that that is in accordance with the wishes of dairymen’s organizations throughout Australia. Such a method of representation is eminently desirable, and the Minister (Mr. Pollard), could accept it without loss of face or prestige. It is not strictly true to say that the representatives of co-operative butter and cheese factories are also representatives of the dairy farmers. The directors of co-operative factories are, first of all, representatives of the factory, and the fact that they happen to be also producers means that their loyalties are divided,
The Minister might well accept the proposal contained in the amendment, and allow the board to make decisions and recommendations to him, even though he is to retain the final say. This would be better than that his representative on the board, the chairman, should have the power to veto any proposal not in accord with government policy. The Minister should, where such differences occur, consult with members of the board, and point out where their proposals conflict with government policy, and why the government cannot accept them. That would make for harmonious procedure. I believe that the board, .as it is proposed to be constituted, will be regarded by the producers as a useless organization not in accordance with their desires. It would be better if such organizations as the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation and the Australian Primary Producers Union were allowed to feel that they had some say in the appointment of the board, which is to control the dairying industry.
.- I support the amendment, because it proposes to restore to the new board a desirable feature which was associated with the old one. The great fault with the constitution of the new board is that the number of producers’ representatives is to be reduced to only two. That is out of proportion to the interest of the producers in the industry. I believe that the proposal that each State should be represented on the board is sound, and I hope that the Government will accept it.
Paragraph e of the proposed new subclause provides that there shall be appointed to the board a representative of the Council of the Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries. When drawing up the constitution of the new board, the Minister omitted this representative, and in his place proposes to put a representative of the employees, to be chosen from among those who work in butter and cheese factories. I have no objection to a representative of the employees being on the board. I believe that it would be a good thing. I do not consider that such a representative could add much to the value of the board’s deliberations, either from his knowledge or experience, but I believe that on boards of this kind, and on the directorates of private enterprises, a representative of the employees should be included. This would enable such representatives to see what is going on, to offer helpful advice if they can, and, in any case, to carry back to their fellow employees the knowledge that they gain. I cannot see, however, why the most expert knowledge available in the industry is to be excluded by the failure to appoint a member of the Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries. Such a representative could bring very valuable knowledge to the board’s deliberations, and increase the value of the advice which it would be able to offer to the Minister. I trust that the Minister, even if he will not accept the whole of the amendment, will at least accept that part which proposes to appoint a representative of the institute.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), because I believe that it is essential to have additional producer representation on the Australian Dairy Produce Board. When I was a member of various boards of this kind, before I was elected to the Parliament, I found that the producers were always intently concerned about what the boards were doing for the disposal of their products. If only two representatives of the producers are appointed to this board, they will find it to be practically impossible for them to acquaint producers in all States of what takes place at the board’s meetings. Necessarily, the two producers will return to the two States in which they live, and they will have no means of contacting producers in the other four States to inform them of the business transacted by the board. All of the producers which a board of this kind represents are entitled to know exactly what business it transacts, and how it proposes to dispose of their hard-won products. Consequently, I support the amendment. I also support the suggestion made by the honorable member for Moreton that the representatives of the producers on the board should be elected by producers in the various States. We were told that the panel system of election achieved the same result. Under that system, a panel of names is submitted to the Minister, who selects the persons whom he thinks best suited to fill the positions. But that is a very roughandready system. It is like picking an SO to 1 outsider just because there is some adornment about the horse or the jockey that one likes.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).Order ! The honorable member must confine himself to the clause.
– I am confining myself to the clause.
– I ask the honorable member to resume his seat.
– I hope that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) will not accept the amendment, because I believe that the clause meets the wishes of the producers as a whole. It is a case of tweedledum and tweedledee, and further proof that the Opposition opposes every measure no matter how carefully it may be drawn in order to serve the industry concerned. This provision will give true representation to the dairying industry of Australia. The clause provides that the hoard shall include two members to represent the dairy-farmers of Australia. One could not get more effective representation than that.
– Australia is only 3,000,000 square miles in area.
– To be logical, the honorable member should say that the board should include dozens of representatives, and that each locality should be represented. If such representatives were selected on the basis desired by the Opposition, New South Wales and Queensland would be given disproportionate representation, to the disadvantage of the other States. Provision is made for the selection of a representative of the co-operative butter and cheese factories in each of the States. The industry throughout the Commonwealth will thus be completely represented. The co-operative factories are truly representative of all sections of the dairying industry. I have visited various co-operative factories. I recall that the butter factory at Beaudesert, in the electorate of Moreton, is a model factory. No one would deny that its management is truly representative of the dairy farmers in that district. The same can be said of all co-operative factories. The co-operative organization provides full representation for dairy-farmers throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
– The Minister said that the Beaudesert butter factory was truly representative of butter factories in Australia. Can he tell me why the chairman of directors of the company, Mr. Plunkett, who was the manager of the board, has been removed from that position under this bill ?
– So far as I know, no one has been removed from any position. No one has a higher regard for Mr. Plunkett’s ability than I have. His name stands high in the dairying industry throughout Australia. All I know is that the Minister will select as chairman of this board the primary producer who he believes will be truly representative of the dairying industry. During my six years in office as Minister of Commerce and Agriculture, my association with the leaders of the dairying industry was all that could be desired. The Minister has a thorough knowledge of the dairying industry, and I urge him, as I believe he will, to reject the amendment.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). I do so because I believe that it provides for far more effective representation of the dairying industry than will be achieved under the clause as drafted. The dairying industry is carried on throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. We know that conditions, climatically and economically, vary in different localities, even in individual States. For instance, the conditions under which the industry is carried on in southern Queensland are markedly different from those pertaining in northern Queensland. The requisites for proper management in the industry also vary in different localities in individual States. The same observation applies in respect of transport. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) knows, as his predecessor, the Vice-President of the Executive
Council (Mr. Scully) is aware, that conditions in the industry in one locality are not common to all localities even in the one State, let alone throughout the Commonwealth. That is true of Western Australia as well as of Queensland. Consequently, provision should he made to give the widest possible representation of dairy-farmers on this board. Under the clause that representation will be very restricted. The honorable member for Moreton had all these factors in mind in moving his amendment. Undoubtedly, the constitution of the board is most important. It is generally agreed that the problems which will confront the dairying industry in the future will be of such a magnitude and character that the very best available representatives should be selected. The first foundational requisite of the board is that it shall consist of men who have a thorough knowledge of the industry under all the varied conditions existing throughout the Commonwealth. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the continuous valuable service rendered to this great industry by Mr. Tom Plunkett, who has had the honour to be re-appointed time and time again as chairman of the Australian Dairy Produce Board. It is hoped that his qualifications, experience and background will be availed of by the Minister in the administration of the new board. I ask the honorable gentleman to consider on its merits the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Moreton, which is designed to give the widest and most appropriate representation to primary producers in the control, management and safeguarding of their very important industry.
– If anything were needed to make honorable members on this side of the chamber dissatisfied with the proposed composition of the board it was the speech of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully). The honorable gentleman sought to assure us that two representatives of the producers on the board would be ample to safeguard the interests of those most vitally concerned in the industry.
– I said that the representatives of the co-operative butter fac tories also represented the primary producers.
– The biggest out in the composition of the board has been made in the representation of primary producers. The success of this board will depend to a large degree upon the maintenance of the goodwill of the producers. If provision be made for inclusion on the board of a representative from each State, the State representatives would be. able to attend meetings of the various branches of the dairymen’s associations to explain the decisions of the board, which would make the task of the Minister very much easier. A good deal of criticism may be expected from people who do not understand the facts upon which decisions are based. If they were given an opportunity to approach a State representative they would be much more satisfied. They would accept his explanation. The Minister would act not only in hid own interests but also in the interests of the industry if he accepted the proposed amendment. The honorable gentleman said last night that he is aware of his very grave responsibilities in this matter; anything that can be done to make his task easier by enabling him to secure the advice of practical men from every part of Australia must be in the interests of the industry as a whole. For that reason I ask the Minister to consider seriously the acceptance of the amendment.. If the amendment is accepted the dairymen, who feel they are being more or less ignored by this proposal of the Government to cut down their representation on the new board by 50 per cent., will be satisfied.
.- Honorable members opposite have contended that the representation of the dairymen has been reduced on the proposed new board. I do not agree with that contention. I do not think the representatives of the co-operative butter factories can be said not to represent the primary producers. They would not be flattered to think that, in the eyes of honorable (members opposite, they would not adequately represent the primary producers. In a board consisting of twelve members, two are to represent the dairy-farmers and six to represent the butter factories. Thus, the producers will virtually have a representation of eight out of twelve members. Unlike many other boards which are charged with the responsibility for marketing products on behalf of primary producers, the Australian Dairy Produce Board will be paid for dairy products by the Government which, in turn, will accept responsibility for their subsequent sale. The bill as drafted provides adequately for the interests of the dairy-farmers.
.- Everybody admits that the bill provides for reasonably adequate representation of the dairying industry generally. The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) is designed solely to improve the representation of the dairy-farmers. The board will be largely an advisory body as it will have no power to make firm decisions. Majority decisions of the board which are not acceptable to the Minister may be subject to his veto. The numerical strength of the board in relation to the various sections of the industry represented on it is important, notwithstanding the fact that the Minister is not prepared to allow it to conduct its own affairs. The existing board has fulfilled its functions to the great satisfaction of the industry generally. Paying a tribute to the great success of co-operative enterprise, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) instanced the successful operation of certain factories in the Beaudesert district from whence came Mr. Tom Plunkett, who has been chairman of the existing board for many years. Any losses sustained by the co-operative concerns were borne by their members. They operated without government subsidy and any moneys borrowed by them from the Government were repaid. The dairying industry has been responsible for the establishment of valuable cooperative concerns throughout the length and breadth of Australia. This bill continues a co-operative system of control which has proved successful in this country. The more widely co-operative concerns are established for the handling of primary products the greater will be the return to the primary producers. It is regrettable that, although, this measure provides for the establishment of a board representative of the various sections of the industry it is to be prevented from conducting its own affairs.
An adequate system of control of the export of dairy products exists to-day. Why upset it? Why does the Minister seek to make of the Australian Dairy Produce Board a government concern, in fact if not in name? It is true that the Board will include representatives of the producers, but in the event of disagreement the decision of the Minister will predominate. I am sure that even members of the board will not be satisfied that the organization is truly co-operative. At least, members should be permitted to elect their chairman, and I suggest to the Minister that even at this late stage he should withdraw the proposal that the chairman should be a government nominee. The Minister has said that the chairman will possess all the qualifications necessary for his job; but this, I submit, could be better ensured by leaving the choice of a chairman to the board itself. I have no doubt that a government nominee would possess all the necessary qualifications, but he would also be required to be subservient to the Minister. In fact, he might be a quisling representative of the dairying industry. I am afraid that the Government will be able to exercise complete control over dairy products through a political chairman of the Australian Dairy Produce Board. The Government should be generous enough to permit the representatives of the dairy-farmers to elect their own chairman, and thus give some measure of confidence to dairy-farmers, who are probably working harder than any one else in the community. No miner or waterside worker has as great a grievance as the dairy-farmer. This bill, we all hope, will improve his conditions, but I am. not satisfied that the Minister’s right to veto a decision of the board is in the interests of the dairying industry generally. In view of the deterioration of conditions in the industry and the vastly increased production costs which already are eating up the belated increase of the price of butter announced by the Government, I hope that the Minister will permit members of the board to exercise the democratic right of electing their own chairman.
. I cordially support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) that the number of primary producers’ representatives on the Australian Dairy Produce Board be increased to six. I do that because ever since 1935 when the dairy-farmers were given direct representation on the board, in addition to the representation that they had through the co-operative butter factories, there has been a very much better feeling throughout the industry. Dairy-farmers have been able to obtain closer knowledge of what has been going on. As the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has said, the co-operative butter factory representatives are mostly dairy-farmers; but they are busy men and usually have not the opportunity to attend meetings of primary producers, with the result they are unable to keep themselves as well informed as they might wish to be. In view of the difficult situation facing the dairying industry today, I believe that the more information that can be made available the better. In any case, why is there a need to change the constitution of a body that has done such good work? One does not need to turn to the dairying industry to find commendation of the board’s activities. I have here the official history of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in “World War II. This is what it says in regard to the dairying industry -
There were doubts concerning the disposal of export surpluses, but, in comparison with most other primary producers, the dairying industry was fortunately placed . . . the industry had been organized within Australia for some years on an efficient and experienced basis and the ground work for a comprehensive war-time control was firmly established and well tested before hostilities commenced.
The board consisted of representatives of the primary producers as well as of the butter factories, both proprietary and co-operative, and in addition, there was a government nominee and a representative of the Australian Institute of Factory Managers and Secretaries. At this atn o;e, I should like to pay a tribute to the work of Mr. Proud, the former repre sentative of the Australian Institute of Factory Managers and Secretaries on the board. I am sure that the Minister will agree that this gentleman’s services during the twelve or thirteen years that he held office, were of incalculable value. His practical knowledge was of great assistance, and his death was a blow to the industry.
– I am happy to inform the honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that Mr. Proud is not dead. He is very much alive.
– I had not heard of him recently, and I understood that he had died. However, I am glad to be able to pay this tribute to him while he is alive, because most people, probably including myself, only receive tributes after they are dead. Unquestionably, Mr. Proud’s practical knowledge of dairy farming has been of the greatest assistance to the industry, and I urge the Government to consider the reinstatement on the board of a representative of the Australian Institute of Factory Managers and Secretaries. In 1935, when the question of appointing representatives of dairy-farmers was first raised, a request was made that there should be one representative from each State, but after a great deal of discussion, and in view of requests from the dairying industry all over the Commonwealth, it was fully decided that as the development of the industry in Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia was not nearly so great as in the other three States, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, it would be reasonable to have one representative for the former three States and one each for the latter, making four in all. At that time, as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I gave a definite undertaking that if as time went on there was an appreciable increase of dairy production in Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia, consideration would be given to having a representative of each of these States on the board. The Minister may verify that statement by examining the departmental files. We said to them, “ When you have production proportionate to that of the other States, your claims for direct representation will be considered “. Since then
I understand South Australia has become practically self-sufficient in butter production. I speak subject to correction because I have not seen any recent figures. I understand that Western Australia also produces all its own needs. I do not know the position in Tasmania. If that be so, I suggest that those States are entitled to representation on the board. If each State were represented by one member, it would be of great advantage to the board itself. To be completely successful the board must meet with the approval of all the people engaged in the industry. I have received letters from all the organizations of dairymen in Australia asking for what the honorable member for Moreton seeks in his amendment, namely, not restoration of the number of the dairy-farmers’ representatives from two to four, but one representative of the dairy-farmers in each of the six States.
The Minister should know from experience the difficulties associated with collecting money under the stabilization scheme from the producers in the nonexporting States. The reason for that difficulty is the failure of dairy-farmers in those states to appreciate the value of the equalization scheme to every dairyfarmer, whether his product is used in the manufacture of butter for export or not. No better way exists of letting the dairy-farmers know exactly the worth of equalization than for them to have their representatives regularly meeting the controllers of the butter manufacturing industry so that they shall see what is being done month by month in the various States about production, the manner in which it is handled and the reason why certain principles are determined. A. great boon would be conferred on the States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, which may be described as backward as far as the production of dairy produce is concerned, if they were represented on the board. If representation of the dairy-farmers is limited to two members instead of four as hitherto, only two of the three eastern States, which are the great butterproducing States, each of which produces about the same quantity of butter, will have representation. In fact, if representation were given to the other States, those three States would have only one representative, and that would be an injustice, because the problems of dairy production vary as between Queensland,. New South Wales and Victoria, making it necessary that each should be represented to present the point of view of their dairy-farmers. In order to appreciate the need for that, one has only toremember that in Victoria, which haswinter rains, the producing season is in, the winter, whereas in northern NewSouth Wales and Queensland, which depend on autumn rains, the season is in the autumn. In the interests of the efficiency and harmonious working of the board, representation of the dairyfarmers should be as sought in the amendment of the honorable member for Moreton. A good reason existed for the representation of the dairy-farmers on the original board. The Minister says that the proposed new board will have the handling of £250,000 for the purpose of improving the internal conditions of the dairying industry. The Australian Dairy Council, which existed before the Dairy Produce Control Board was established, was designed to deal with thespecial problems of the dairying industry. In 1925, when the rural credits department of the Commonwealth Bank was established, the Bruce-Page government directed that one-half of the profits of that department be expended on research into and development of agriculture.
– Order ! I think the right honorable member is straying from the clause before the Chair. He must confine himself to the clause.
– I am dealing with the clause. I am setting out reasons why the dairy-farmers should be given more representation on the board. The bill provides that the dairy-farmers shall have two representatives. I am setting out reasons why there should be six representatives of the dairy-farmers, one from each State. Surely that is relevant and surely I am entitled to give reasons why it is relevant. So long a time has elapsed since the board was originally set up that it is well that I should recall the facts to the minds of the honorable members. If it was necessary then that the dairy-farmers should be represented in adequate numbers to assist the board in making recommendations to the Minister on the expenditure of money for research and development and the improvement of dairy-farms and herds, it is more necessary to-day to have the maximum number of representatives of dairy-farmers on the board. Any extra cost involved in increasing the number of members in the manner suggested would be amply repaid by the goodwill that would be established throughout the industry, increased production, and a better knowledge of the industry where it is needed the most, namely, in the dairying districts themselves.
.- I assure the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) that the producers in the dairying industry will be very dissatisfied with the composition of the Australian Dairy Produce Board and with the powers that are to be conferred upon it, but which are subject to the veto of the chairman and complete destruction by the Minister. Those powers will be quite useless in the event of a clash of interest between the producers and the consumers. There are, in my opinion, serious anomalies in the bill. The bill proposes that the Australian Dairy Produce Board shall consist of, inter alia, two members representing the dairy-farmers and two members representing the proprietary butter and cheese factories and privately-owned butter and cheese factories. There are no proprietary or privately owned butter and cheese factories in Queensland and very few in Victoria and New South Wales. The co-operative factories control most of the output of butter and cheese and the dairy-farmers, the producers, own the product. It may be acquired by the Government but that does not entitle the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to talk glibly about the £15,000,000 that the board will handle. It is not the Government’s money. It belongs to the producers. It is unjust to give the proprietary factories exactly the same measure of representation as is given to the producers. Such an unfair distribution of power is almost beyond conception. At least the farmers should be allowed to have one representative of each -of the three great butter-pr educing States on the board. I consider that the growers of each State should hare an elected representative, and therefore I agree with the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). We do not know how many producers will be included in- the panel to be submitted to the Minister. He may ask for a list of 100 names from which to select the farmers’ representatives. Nothing will convince the producers that men selected by the Minister from such a panel will represent their interests adequately and hold themselves fully responsible to the producers as would elected representatives. Apparently, the Minister is determined to have complete control over the board. He will appoint a government representative as chairman, and this man will have the power to veto any decision of the board. In effect, the chairman will have complete control of the board and the Minister will have the power of veto in matters affecting the dairying industry. It seems to me that the Minister thinks there may be another stupid deal, as- there was in relation to the contract for the sale of wheat to New Zealand, and hopes to have some apologist like Sir Louis Bussau - Mr. C. Everett.
– Order ! The honorable member must deal with the clause before the committee.
– I am doing so. I am dealing with the appointment of the chairman of the Australian Dairy Produce Board and speaking of the kind of man who may be selected for the position. The growers are entitled to select their own representatives. They would choose men of experience whom they could trust and who would act in the interests of the producers
The clause provides for the appointment of six representatives of the cooperative butter and cheese factories, one from each State. I have no objection to providing strong representation for the co-operative factories. They have clone wonderful work in Australia and have done a great deal more to advance the interests of dairy-farmers than many experts have done. I concede that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has done much to assist the dairying industry, as well as many other industries, but I believe that the cooperative butter and cheese factories are responsible for the fact that the dairying industry is almost the greatest, primary industry in Australia to-day. I hope to see the day when proprietary factories will go out of existence and when cooperative factories will be permitted to handle and market dairy products with very little interference from the Government. We should aim for that goal. The less interference there is by government officials and boards the better it will be for the industry. That view is held not only by the men associated with the cooperative factories but also by the remainder of the industry. The time has come when the people of Australia should be expected to pay more for their butter than they have paid in the past. They have been very fortunate in recent years in being able to purchase butter at reasonable prices, which have been maintained under the system of wartime economic controls. Under wagepegging and other forms of control there was little competition.’ But we cannot have it both ways. The growers should be strongly represented on the board so that they can fight for their own rights. If dairying costs should rise sky high, they should be allowed to get at least something near the world parity price for their product. Dairy-farmers work longer hours than do men in any other industry, and they do so under very unpleasant conditions. Anybody who talks about introducing a 40-hour week and other modern industrial provisions in that industry knows nothing about the matter. If such conditions were introduced, the people of Australia would have to pay 7s. 6d. per lb for butter fat or the industry would go out of existence. E hope that the Minister will be reasonable and allow the proposed board to select its own chairman. I realize that the honorable gentleman must have some measure of control over the industry in these days, but he should allow the board and its chairman to have reasonable power over the industry. He should not allow some “ bird “ who has been employed by the Prices Branch, and who possibly does not know whether to milk a cow from its horns or its udder, to become chairman of this body. Many such ignorant individuals are in theemploy of the Government. One man who was sent to the Wimmera to fix theprice of hay asked why hay could not be cut after the crops had been stripped. It is almost incredible that such a thing could happen, but it is typical of the ignorance of some men in the service of the Prices Branch. Unless the Government gives the producers a fair measure of control over their own products it. will be helping to destroy the industry.
– The Oppositionseems to be having a field day on the subject of the measure of representation on the Australian Dairy Produce Board that is to be granted to the dairy-farmers. In, this instance, the Government is adhering to the policy that it has laid down in regard to these matters, which is to give an industry control over its own affairs. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has given a great deal of consideration to the vexed problem of the allocation of representation on the board to the various interested, parties. I believe that honorable members opposite will appreciate the difficulty of establishing a basis of equity upon, which every section of the industry will be adequately represented so that the board will be competent to control theexport of dairy products. Whatever we do, we shall have great difficulty in satisfying every section of the dairying industry. The Minister has been criticized because he proposes to reconstitute the existing board, and alter the method’ of appointing the members of that body. I emphasize, however, that the board will control only the export section of theindustry. The dairying industry has its own representation which will protect all” phases of production. What does theMinister propose? The bill provides that the board shall consist of -
two members to represent the dairyfarmers of Australia;
When we are considering the constitution of a board which will control an industry on an Australia-wide basis, our first concernistodecide what size it shall be. A large, unwieldy board would produce all the problems that are associated with a big committee. Honorable members should accept as axiomatic that the Minister’s desire is to select the representatives of the dairy-farmers from a panel of names, and not an over-large panel at that. Surely that principle is not new. In the Repatriation Department, for example, I, as Minister, select men from a panel of names which is submitted to me. It is not a large list. Surely the wishes of those who submit the panel of names to the Minister will be respected.
Regarding the Australian Dairy Produce Board, the Minister will be given a list of names of persons who, it is thought, will represent efficiently the production side of the industry. The Minister should be given credit for honesty of approach in this matter. His desire is to ensure that the industry shall have a board which is thoroughly representative of all phases of dairying. Whatever honorable members opposite may say about the size or composition of the board, I do not believe that any one will cast aspersions on the Minister’s honesty of approach in this matter.
– We have some doubts about the Minister since the wheat agreement with New Zealand was signed.
– The wheat agreement seems to be germinating in the mind of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin). I urge him to think for the moment about the export of butter and to stop worrying about wheat. This is not the proper time to talk about wheat. In my opinion, the proposed board will be quite competent to control the export of dairy produce, and I do not see any reason why the Minister should abandon his proposal.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis). That amendment embodies certain principles which I advocated yesterday in speaking on the motion for the second reading of the bill. Subparagraph d of the proposed amendment provides for one representative of the dairy-farmers of each State to be appointed to the board. I think that it is important that there should be a representative of the dairy-farmers of each State on the board, although I realize that two States, New South Wales and Queensland, are more directly concerned in the export of butter than the other States. However, very different conditions obtain in the several States in regard to the production of butter and cheese, and for that reason I think that there should be a representative of the dairy-farmers from each State on the hoard. The board proposed to be established provides for the representation of proprietary butter factories on the same level as the dairy-farmers. That is sufficient to demonstrate the inadequacy of the representation proposed to be given to the farmers. The bill proposes that only two representatives of the dairy-farmers shall be appointed, and that the same number of representatives of the proprietary butter factories shall be selected.
The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) used the specious argument which I forecast would be used by honorable members opposite, namely, that the representation given to cooperative factories can be regarded as providing additional representation for the dairy-farmers. Of course, that is not the case at all, and the dairy-farmers are entitled to direct representation on a board of this kind. Issues frequently arise between the dairy-farmers and the butter factories, and for this reason the greatest possible number of direct representatives of the dairy-farmers should be appointed to the proposed board. For that reason I cannot accept the Minister’s explanation thatthe appointment of six representatives of the co-operative butter societies to the proposed board, in addition to the two direct representatives of the dairy-farmers, is tantamount to providing eight representatives of the dairyfarmers.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) raised objection to the method of appointment embodied in the proposed amendment. He alleged that honorable members on this side of the chamber were demanding that the representatives should be elected by the dairyfarmers themselves and not chosen by the Minister from a panel submitted, and he suggested that there would be practical difficulties in the way of dairyfarmers electing their representatives.
– There has not been any such election for the last 25 years.
– The same conditions operate in the dairying industry as in other industries which have been properly organized. For many years past elections have taken place annually to appoint representatives of farmers and primary producers, and I can assure the honorable member that there will not be any practical difficulty in Queensland. In that State elections are held under the authority of the Primary Producers organization and Marketing Act to make appointments to varions bodies concerned with primary produce. No difficulty would arise, therefore, in the election of representatives of the dairy-farmers, because such election could be held in conjunction with the election of representatives to other primary producers organizations. I submit, therefore, that ‘.here is no substance in the contention of the honorable memler for Hindmarsh. I , poke yesterday on the motion for the second reading of the bill, and I content myself now with saying that the amendment proposed is a most desirable one. It makes provision for the election of one representative of the dairy-farmers from each State, and it provides that such representatives are to 1)0 appointed by the dairy-farmers and not by the Minister.
– I do not think the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) properly understands what I. intended to convey in my remarks concerning the election of two representatives of the primary producers to the board proposed to be established. The criticism which I offered of the suggestion made by the honorable member yesterday is that the election of two additional representatives of the dairy-farmers to the proposed board could only be made after a vo’.e taken of all farmers throughout Australia who are concerned in the production of butter and cheese. The practical difficulties in the way of holding such an election are obvious. I think that the adoption of the Minister’s proposal will give primary producers every opportunity to bring matters affecting them before the board. It is not necessary to appoint six dairyfarmers to the board, as the honorable member has suggested, in order to have on that board six persons representing the interests of the farmers. I should like to know, from honorable members opposite who are so closely connected with co-operative butter factories and establishments, who comprise the members and directors of those societies. Are the members of those societies the farmers who actually produce milk and butter, or are they people who have no interest in the industry other than a financial one? I have always understood that the membership of co-operative butter factories is composed of the farmers who actually produce butter and cheese. When those concerns appoint people to be the directors of those undertakings, I have always believed “ that the directors were men actually engaged in the industry. However, if that is not the case, the responsibility for such a state of affairs rests upon the dairy-farmers themselves. But I believe that the directors of the various co-operative societies are members of those societies, and are themselves dairyfarmers. Each State is to elect one representative from the co-operative butter factories in that State, and I should like to know whom honorable members opposite suggest should be appointed to represent the co-operative factories. It is entirely wrong for honorable members to contend that the primary producers are not afforded adequate representation on the board proposed to be appointed. The hill provides that the dairy-farmers are to elect six representatives, one to be chosen by the dairy-farmers of each State to represent the co-operative butter and cheese factories, and the Minister is to select two additional representatives of the dairy-farmers from a panel of names placed before him by the primary producers’ organizations. The adoption of that proposal will give primary producers eight representatives on a board of twelve members
It has been claimed that the proprietary factories should not be entitled to elect two representatives to the board. However, the proprietary factories are handling butter for farmers who are not representee! by the -co-operative societies. Of the eight representatives to be appointed, six are to be elected directly by the primary producers in the manner prescribed in the hill. In reply to the contention of the honorable member for Capricornia, it seems quite clear to me that the co-operative butter and cheese factories cannot prevent their members from selecting the representatives whom they individually desire. The position will be met by the dairy-farmers being given fair representation. It was suggested earlier that Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria should have one representative each, and that there should be only one representative of Tasmania. South Australia and Western Australia.. That intention was altered, and it is now proposed that there shall be one representative from each State, elected by the dairy-farmers. The bill proposes that the board to be constituted shall have on it six representatives of the dairy-farmers who are members of cooperative butter and cheese factories. Why that should be altered, I do not know. An enlargement of the board to one of sixteen members would not help the position very much. According to my understanding and knowledge of boards, the bigger they are the greater is the power of the chairman and secretary in their administrative functions, with the result that the work done by individual members becomes less. A board of twelve members will be big enough to handle this matter. All that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) proposes is that the board shall be one of sixteen instead of twelve members, and that the Minister shall have no control over it, as he will have under the proposal, in the bill. The committee would not be justified in assuming that under the bill the dairy-farmers will be denied the right to elect representatives to the board. I challenge those honorable members opposite who object to the proposed board to show how the representatives of the co-operative butter and cheese factories will be elected if not by the dairyfarmers. If they can do that, I shall then invite them to say whether or not the dairy-farmers who are members of a co-operative butter and cheese factory really control it and determine whom their officers will be and what policy will be followed, or whether an outside authority can exercise any control. I do not admit that the board proposed to be constituted under the bill will be ministerially controlled. It may be argued that whatever may be the power of the board, the Minister will be able to render it nugatory. In practice, the decisions of all boards over which the Minister has any control must ultimately receive his approval. It has been said that the member of the board who wil’ represent the Commonwealth Government will act as a “ pimp “. As one honorable member put it, “ he will go to the Minister like a ‘cry baby’”. That is not my understanding of the position. That member of the board will be able to report to the Minister any decision which he considers is not in accordance with general policy in the marketing of dairy products, and the Minister will be able to decide whether or not it should be approved before it is given effect. A Minister would be a brave man who would reject anything that was .in the best interests of the dairy-farmers and the country generally. In the circumstances, the committee will be well advised to retain the clause as it stands and reject the amendment.
Question put -
That the sub-section proposed to be left out (Mr. Francis’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mk. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . 13
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That, in proposed now section four, subsection (9.) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following sub-section: - “ (9.) At the first meeting of the Board which shall be held at a time and place notified in the Gazette by the Minister, the Board shall appoint one of its members to be the Chairman of the Board.”.
Although the committee rejected my previous amendment, I hope that the Minister (Mr. Pollard) will accept the one now before the Chair, because I regard it as necessary if the bill is to be salvaged. I protest at the cavalier treatment of the committee by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Notwithstanding that a great many members addressed themselves to the previous amendment, the
Minister was so indifferent to their representations that he did not deign to reply. Clearly, he was unable to do so. I hope that he will give more consideration to this amendment. Earlier in the debate the Minister said that it was imperative that the committee should have as chairman a man appointed by the Government so that he would do whatever the Minister told him. He said that was necessary because £15,000,000 of public money would be under control of the board.
– I made no such statement. I object to such misrepresentation.
– That is the effect of what the Minister said.
– I said no such thing.
– The £15,000,000 which will be under the control of the board will be money provided by the producers. It belongs to the dairying industry. As soon as butter shipped from Australia arrives in Great Britain the United Kingdom Government will pay for it. The money does not belong to the Australian Government. In this connexion I draw attention to clause 8 which peeks to amend section 10 of the principal act by providing that - (5a.) If the Chairman or other person pre siding at any meeting of the Board dissents from any decision of the Board at that meeting and signifies at that meeting to the other members present in person his intention to bring his dissent to the notice of the Minister, and, within twenty-four hours after the close of the meeting, transmits to the Minister notice of his dissent together with full particulars of the decision, the decision shall have no effect unless the Minister approves of the decision (whether with or without variation), and, if the Minister approves of the decision subject to a variation, the varied decision as so approved shall be deemed to be the decision of the Board.
No industry would be satisfied with a board of that kind. I again remind the Minister that for over twenty years the board has functioned well under a chairman appointed by its members after each election. Mr. Plunkett, M.L.A., of Queensland, who has held the office of chairman for many years has rendered invaluable service to the industry and the country. Under the proposal of the Government, his good work will no longer be recognized, and I doubt whether he and some other members of the board will continue as members. Does the Minister wish to destroy confidence in the board, and end the goodwill that has existed between it and the dairymen for the last 23 years? The Government might just as well have introduced a short measure containing a provision for the appointment, by the Government, of a chairman whose views will predominate over those of all members. Under the bill, should the chairman disagree with all the other members of the board and should his action be endorsed by the Minister, the board in effect will be wiped out. Such a provision is not acceptable to the dairying industry.
.- I support the amendment, which is in line with the arguments advanced by me last night. In the circumstances, no good purpose would be served by reiterating the views which I then expressed. I wish, however, to draw the attention of the committee to the following telegram which I have just received from the Leongatha Butter and Cheese Company Limited -
This company urges that you strongly combat amended legislation Dairy Produce Export Act particularly power of veto given to Minister if chairman disapproves with majority decisions of board, which is most undemocratic, also clause providing power for purchase and sale of all export butter and cheese.
No doubt other honorable members have received similar communications from dairy-farmers signifying their disapproval of the provision to give dictatorial powers to the chairman.
.- I want to hear from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), why he insists upon appointing the chairman of this board, instead of allowing him to be appointed by the board itself, as is usual. The Minister has been too much disinclined to reply to questions. For instance, during the debate on the legislation relating to the acquisition of apples and pears, it was only by the greatest perseverance that honorable members were .able to induce the Minister to answer their questions. It would make for efficient and harmonious working if the members of the board were allowed to elect their own chairman.
– The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) is always very reasonable when he speaks. He asked why the Government was insisting upon appointing the chairman of this authority, and of others of the kind. As a matter of fact, this Government is merely following the precedent set by previous governments of a political complexion that meets with the approval of the honorable member. Those governments insisted upon appointing the chairman of the Central Wool Committee, and handpicking a man for the job. They handpicked the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, and the chairman of the Australian Repatriation Commission, as well as the Chief Justice of the High Court. In the same way, we believe that it is desirable that the chairman of the Australian Dairy Produce Board should be chosen by the Government. The board will have more responsible duties to perform than had its predecessor. Subject to the policy of the Government, the board will be authorized to buy dairy products with which to fulfil contracts made with the Government of the United Kin’gdom. The nature of the marketing of our products overseas has changed since before the war. Then, individual firms and merchants in the United Kingdom bought dairy produce from individual factories and merchants in Australia. To-day, under the agreement entered into with the Government of the United Kingdom, dairy products are bought directly by that Government from the Australian Government. This makes it necessary that we should have a competent authority to assist and advise the Government, and to assume the responsibility of buying butter and cheese from the factories. Therefore, having regard to the responsibility which the board must bear, and the amount of money involved, the Government believes that it should choose the chairman of the board. A similar view was held by the Menzies Government, the Lyons Government and by other preceding governments, and I think it is a correct one.
.- The Minister spoke of the large amounts of money involved as if it were government money, but this is not so. It is the money of the producers.
– It is the money of the people of the United Kingdom which is paid over to the Australian Government for dairy products.
– Yes, of which this Government has pocketed a considerable amount.
– The honorable member is a purveyor of falsehoods.
– I am nothing of the kind. I am telling the truth.
– The honorable member must address himself to the clause.
– I am doing so. This is an attempt by the Government to cover up the fact that it is not prepared to pay to the producers anything like world parity prices. It is making contracts with the Government of the United Kingdom to sell Australian dairy produce, and is then going to pay the Australian producers any price which it sees fit. The owners of the produce will not have any say in the matter. This is merely a piece of trickery, of political dodgery, by a government which insists upon exercising arbitrary power.
.- The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) is either too thick in the head to understand the position, or he is deliberately trying to confuse the issue, as members of the Australian Country party habitually try to do. The fact is that the dairy-farmers are paid for their produce when it is delivered to the factory. Some of that produce is consumed in Australia, and the surplus is exported to the United Kingdom, and paid for by the Government of the United Kingdom. This is done in accordance with an agreement entered into between the Australian Government and the Government of the United Kingdom, and the Australian Government has to take the risk, under this agreement, of whether world prices rise or fall. If they fall, the Australian taxpayer must make up any loss incurred. Therefore, it is not the money of the producers, but that of the taxpayers, which is really involved.
Question put -
That the sub-section proposed to be left out (Mr. Francis’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 -
Section ten of the Principal Act is amended - (&) by inserting, after sub-section (5.), the following sub-section : - “ (5a.) If the Chairman or other person presiding at any meeting of the Board dissents from any decision of the Board at that meeting and signifies at that meeting to the other members present in person his intention to bring his dissent to the notice of the Minister and, within twenty-four hours after the close of the meeting, transmits to the Minister notice of his dissent together with full particulars of the decision, the decision shall have no effect unless the Minister approves of the decision (whether with or without variation) and, if the Minister approves of the decision subject to a variation, the varied decision as so approved shall be deemed to lie the decision of the Board.”.
.- I move -
That paragraph (b) bc left out.
The effect of the amendment would be to take away the power of the Minister to veto or amend a decision of the hoard. Having to accept the position in which the Government ha9 determined that it will appoint its own chairman, there is no reason why the board should not be responsible for its decisions. As the clause stands at present the chairman may, if he dissents from any decisions of a majority of the members of the board, transmit to the Minister notice of his dissent, whereupon the Minister may vary the decision, the decision so varied being deemed to be the decision of the board. It is apparent that before the chairman attends a meeting he will be acquainted with the Minister’s viewpoint as to what decisions should be made. If a majority of the members of the board reach a decision contrary to the wishes of the Minister the chairman will immediately refer the matter to the Minister, who will vary it in accordance with the policy of the Government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has indicated that dairy-farmers will receive 2s. per lb. for butter sold to the United Kingdom. In the past they did not receive full payment from Great Britain.
– That is completely false, and the honorable member knows it.
– It is not false. They did not receive full payment in respect to the contract made prior to July, 1946.
– On the contrary, every penny of the amounts due to dairyfarmers under the contract made prior to July, 1946, has been distributed.
– That is not so.
– Every penny of it was distributed.
– In reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) some time ago, the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. Scully, stated that the amount received under that contract exceed £3,300,000. The producers did not receive that amount
– They received every penny of it.
– The question and the Minister’s reply will be found in Hansard. If, as we believe, the extension of the contract with the United Kingdom forecast by the Minister is agreed to, and it provides for the payment of 2s. per lb., no guarantee will be required, because there will be no deficiency to meet. Consequently, there is no need for the provision in the bill enabling the Minister to over-ride the decisions of the board. If the board’s powers are to be curtailed in the manner proposed, no self-respecting person engaged in the dairying industry would be keen to serve on it.
– I support the amendment. Honorable members on this side of the chamber questioned the Minister (Mr. Pollard) with regard to the period of operation of the guaranteed price. The Minister has since indicated that what was meant was that a basic price of 2s. per lb. would be guaranteed.
– Order ! This clause deals only with the powers of the chairman of the board. I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause.
– I was dealing with the powers of the chairman and the board in relation to costs and prices.
– Costs and prices are not relevant to the debate.
– Well, I leave the subject.
.- I wholeheartedly support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann). The Minister has told us that the Australian Dairy Produce
Board is to have wide powers. Some of its powers stem from the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924-42. That act provides -
The Board shall, with respect to any dairy produce placed under its control, have full authority to make such arrangements and give such directions as it thinks fit for the following matters: -
The handling, marketing and storage of the dairy produce;
) The shipment of the dairy produce on such terms and in such quantities as it thinks fit;
The sale and disposal of dairy produce on such terms as it thinks fit; (d)Theinsuranceagainstlossesofany such dairy produce either in the Commonwealth or in transit from the Commonwealth and until disposed of; and
All such matters as are necessary for the due discharge of its functions in handling, distributing and disposing of the dairy produce.
The bill proposes the following additional power : -
Those powers exist only on paper because they are subject to so many restrictions and limitations that the board will have no real powers at all. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will have power to veto or vary decisions of the board and another provision is that he shall also have power to make all authority exercised by the board or directions given by it subject to any direction given by him, which means that the board will not be able to do anything except with the approval or by the order of the Afinister. One asks oneself why he has bothered to set up a board at all. Everything that the board will do could be done more readily and cheaply by the Minister himself or his agent. He may desire advice from the dairying industry, in which event he could set up a board in an advisory capacity. Why, on the one hand, set up a board and clothe it with powers and, on the other hand, denude it of those powers? The proposed board will be a sham and a fraud. That is why I support the amendment.
.- I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment moved by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann). Section 10 of the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924, the original legislation, provides -
Subject to this act, meetings of the board shall be held at such times and places within the Commonwealth as the Board from time to time determines.
It also provides -
All questions before the Board shall be decided by a majority of votes.
The original board had power to function as a free entity, but the bill provides for the amendment of section 10 of the principal act by inserting, after sub-section (5.), the following subsection : - (5a.) If the Chairman or any other person presiding at any meeting of the Board dissents from any decision of the Board at that meeting and signifies at that meeting to the other members present in person his intention to bring his dissent to the notice of the Minister, and within twenty-four hours after the close of the meeting, transmits to the Minister notice of his dissent together with full particulars of the decision, the decision shall have no effect unless the Minister approves of the decision (whether with or without variation), and, if the Minister approves of the decision subject to a variation, the varied decision as so approved shall be deemed to be the decision of the Board.
The amendment moved by the honorable member for Maranoa would restore control to the board, whereas the bill provides for the taking of control out of the hands of the board. It jeopardizes the £15,000,000 worth of dairy products produced by the hard toil of the dairyfarmers in the heat of Queensland and the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales and the winter cold of the New England tableland and Victoria exported annually from Australia, because control of the export is thrown into the hands of, not a board of experts, but the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who may be an irresponsible man without any knowledge of the problems of the industry. Even conceding that the Minister will not he irresponsible, I point out that, as the Commerce and Agriculture portfolio is so complex, the Minister will have to lean on the advice of bureaucrats in the department, and the more one sees of departmental advisers the more one realizes that they are theorists with little practical knowledge of the industries whose destinies they desire to shape. It is most dangerous to remove from the nominees of the dairy-farmers, the factory managers and other interests represented on the present board the control of the export of the products of the industry. As the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) pointed out, the amendments of section 20 of the principal act proposed in the bill make the power of the Minister over the board absolutely watertight. As proposed to be amended, section 20 will read -
The Board shall, subject to any direction of the Minister, with respect to any dairy produce placed under its control, have full authority to make such arrangements and give such directions as it thinks fit for the following matters: -
The matters are set out thereunder. The Minister has two binding powers over the hoard. The first is his power of veto or variation of any decision of the board, and the second is his power of direction of the board. That makes the board a farcical creation. I hope for the sake of thousands of dairy-farmers in Australia that the Minister will see the wisdom of allowing them to retain control of their products through the board instead of the Minister and his bureaucrats, whose knowledge of the industry and sympathy with the men engaged in it are limited.
– I rise to correct some misleading statements made by several members of the Opposition. This is purely a machinery clause relating to the powers of the chairman of the board, the power of veto and subsequent appeal to the Minister. A similar provision is contained in the legislation relating to two of the principal boards in existence in Australia. From the standpoint of finance these authorities are far more important than the Australian Dairy Produce Board. I have particularly in mind the Central “Wool Committee and the Australian Meat Board. The chairman of each of those authorities has the same powers as this bill will confer upon the chairman of the Australian Dairy Produce Board. The fears which members of the Opposition have expressed are without foundation. The Australian Wool Realization Commission and the Australian Meat Board are functioning most satisfactorily. They represent a greater number of producers and a larger volume of capital than the Australian Dairy Produce Board, but no one associated with those two industries has complained about the operations of those two authorities. That is a sufficient answer to the spurious fears which members of the Opposition have expressed.
The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) mentioned my name in this debate. If his statements had not been so untrue, I should not have taken the trouble to object to them. However, the fact is that during World War II. the Australian Government paid to dairy-farmers a higher price than the contract price payable by the Government of the United Kingdom for our butter. Accordingly, I sent a cable to the British Ministry of Food, asking for the payment of a price commensurate with the price which the Australian Government was paying to our dairy-farmers. In reply, the British Ministry of Food asked the Australian Government to continue to pay this subsidy, and stated that at a given date, it would recoup the Australian Government for the subsidy which it had paid on the quantity of butter exported to the United Kingdom. To state that the Australian Government pocketed one penny of that money is misleading and untrue. Such an allegation is not made by the leaders of the dairying industry.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).Order! The remarks of the VicePresident of the Executive Council are hardly relevant to this clause.
– I am replying to allegations made by the Opposition.
– Those allegations were false.
– In 1942-43, the amount of the subsidy which the Australian Government paid to dairy-farmers was £1,186,306. In 1943-44, the amount was £5,906,541, and the Government of the United Kingdom repaid £1,439,579. In 1944-45, the subsidy which we paid was £2,693,191. In 1945-46 we paid £6,373,511 and received £1,654,692. According to an estimate, we shall pay in 1946-47 £6,250,000. In all, the Australian Government has paid to butter producers £22,1S0,672. Shortly before I ceased to be Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I was entertained in Sydney by the representatives of all the dairy organizations throughout Australia. This representative gathering met under the chairmanship of our estimable friend, Mr. Plunkett. During the afternoon, many speakers thanked the Australian Government for the manner in which it had treated the dairying industry. They declared that the industry had been treated most satisfactorily, and had no cause for complaint. Yet, in this chamber, for political reasons, honorable members opposite endeavour to misrepresent the whole position.
– Some of their statements were false.
– Their statements were absolutely untrue and misleading. That is why I rose to refute such serious allegations, which should never have been made.
.- Have I your permission, Mr. Chairman, to reply categorically to the remarks of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully)?
– No. The matter has already been carried far enough. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) was out of order in attacking the administration of the Vice-President of the Executive Council on this clause, and the honorable gentleman was entitled to reply. We shall now consider the incident closed.
– I can prove, anyway, that the statements of the honorable member for Maranoa were not untrue, and I ask your permission, Mr. Chairman, to do so.
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to carry the debate on that subject any farther.
– Shall I be in order in replying to the remarks of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) by referring to a statement made by a member of the Australian Dairy Produce Board in which the actual contract prices are given ?
– Order ! The honorable member had no right to raise the matter in the first place.
– If you, Mr. Chairman, will allow me to proceed, 1 shall be able to answer the remarks of the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– Order ! The Chair has ruled that the honorable member had no right to raise these matters. They were outside the scope of the clause ; but as the Vice-President of the Executive Council was attacked, I allowed him to reply. I shall not allow the debate to go any farther on those lines.
– I rise to order. If the honorable member for Maranoa was out of order in discussing that matter, why did not the Chair call him to order?
– Unfortunately, the Chair cannot anticipate what an honorable member will say. I allowed the honorable member for Maranoa to develop his argument. The Chair cannot make speeches for honorable members. By the time I had allowed the honorable member for Maranoa to develop his argument, I found that his remarks were outside the scope of the clause.
– Since I am not. permitted to proceed in that way, I desire to say, in passing, that I can substantiate every statement which I made by reference to the remarks of a member of the Australian Dairy Produce Board.
– And I want the honorable member to understand that I can counter them.
– I can produce the contract figures. The reasons why I submitted the amendment are justified by a statement of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) when we were discussing the previous amendment. There is no justification for the Minister, or the Governmentappointed chairman, who will be his henchman, having this overriding power. Accordingly, I press the amendment and urge the committee to accept it.
Question put -
That the paragraph proposed to be left out (Mr. Adermann’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 16 - by leave - considered together.
.- I have received a telegram from representatives of the butterfactory interests protesting against the provision in clause 12 under which the board is to be given the exclusive power to buy and sell dairy products for export. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has stated that this power is essential to the hoard because a long-term contract has been made with the United Kingdom Government, and that Government desires to deal on a government-to-government basis. I desire the Minister to enlarge on that statement. “Why cannot the dairy products that we have available for export be purchased from an organization of producers? Why should governments he brought into it ? In my view, the purpose of the Government is to bolster up its socialistic activities. The dairy-farmers strongly object to this procedure. I cannot understand why, more than two years after the cessation of hostilities, it should be necessary to continue a procedure that was considered necessary to meet war conditions? Perhaps the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. Scully, can explain the reasons, for the Minister in charge of the bill has not done so. I regret that I was not permitted to reply to the statements made a few moments ago by the former Minister. The honorable gentleman in charge of the bill has alleged that a longrange contract has been entered into, and that an alleged guaranteed price has been secured ; but in our view nothing of the kind has been done. I therefore desire the Minister to explain . the position more clearly. I have no wish to do anything that will be inimical to the best interests of the British people, but surely the Australian dairy-farmers are entitled to a fair price for their butter. The rate of 2s. per lb. for commercial butter has been fixed, we have been told, provided that production costs remain stationary; but it is wall known that our butter could be sold for 3s. or 4s. per lb. In the circumstances, we are entitled to a further statement from the Minister on the subject. In particular we should be informed why an organization answerable to the dairyfarmers themselves should not be permitted to sell our exportable products on the world’s market. I do not desire to oblige the British people to pay a price for butter which is inconsistent with their economic situation, hut we must be fair to all interests concerned in this matter. The Government cannot expectus to regard the action that it is taking as a magnificent gesture in the interests of this industry, because it is well known that our butter could be sold at a higher price than is being obtained for it. The butter factories of Australia strongly object to the proposal that, in effect, the Government itself shall have the sole power to buy and sell our dairy products for export. The people engaged in this industry wish to return at once to normal business procedure, and they desire to sell their products in the most satisfactory market that is available. It will be no answer for the Minister to say that our products are being purchased with British money. I cannot conceive of the United Kingdom Government requesting this Government to purchase for the United Kingdom a few pounds of butter here and a few pounds there. If a long-term agreement has been reached, what price has been decided upon for butter? Why cannot the people who will provide the butter be told what they will receive for it.
– They know what they will get.
– I do not know the price, nor do the members of the committee; but, of course, we are merely members of Parliament. I protest against the dictatorial powers to be conferred upon the Minister under clause 12. I see in these provisions an attempt by the Government to strengthen the socialistic “ set up “ for which it is responsible. It is not necessary to equip the Government with such powers. Are we to return to free enterprise, and the right to export our own products?
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), has said that he does not know what price is being paid by the United Kingdom Government for Australian butter. The honorable gentleman should know that some time ago in this chamber a full statement was tabled, in which was given the f.o.b. price payable by the United Kingdom Government for Australian butter. For the honorable gentleman’s information, and so that there will no longer be any misapprehension or suggestion of secrecy, I shall quote the f.o.b. prices. This letter, dated the 6th August, 1946, was received from the Ministry of Food, Whitehall, London -
I am very pleased that the contract negotiations for the purchase of butter and Cheese from Australia have been satisfactorily concluded.
It has been agreed, I understand, that the existing Heads of Agreement should remain in force subject to an exchange of letters between us setting out certain modifications which are to be taken in conjunction with these Heads of Agreement and which I now outline: -
Price. - It is agreed that in respect of all shipments from the production season commencing 1st July, 1940, and ending 30th June, 1947, the following prices should be substituted for those in the Schedule Part I. and Part 11. of the Heads of Agreement: -
and so on.
– Those rates applied up to June of this year.
– The information that I am about to give will confound my critics, and the critics of the Government. Throughout this debate, the honorable gentleman and other .members of his party have alleged that the Government has not been generous to the dairying industry in having raised the price of commercial butter from ls. 8d. to 2s. per lb. They have said “ You have a contract with the United Kingdom Government for payment at that price. You are not taking any risks “. As a matter of fact, we have not, at the moment, any contract with the United Kingdom Government other than that contract. We are negotiating with that Government. Those are the prices that we are receiving from it, and there is no evidence that we are likely to receive more. We have indicated that we shall pay the 2s. per lb. for commercial butter retrospectively to April, 1947. We are, of course, living in the hope that a higher price will be paid by the United Kingdom Government, and I have no doubt that the honorable gentleman trusts that our hope will be realized. We have given the guarantee to the industry that we shall pay 2s. per lb. for commercial butter, when we have not a firm contract at that price. Therefore, all the allegations of honorable members opposite, of lack of interest in and consideration for the dairying industry in this country, fall completely to the ground. They are false, unfair and unjust. It could and may be that the United Kingdom Government will refuse to give to the Australian Government, on behalf of the dairying industry, the price that we have guaranteed to the industry for five years. Honorable members opposite may now be more fair in this respect than they have shown any disposition to be so far during the debate.
– It is not unfair to say that Australian butter would realize more than that price on the open market.
– The honorable member has produced a telegram from certain butter interests in Gippsland, indicating that they would like to revert to the “good old days” and to have an “open go “ on the markets of the world. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was responsible for the initial contracts with the United Kingdom Government. From the outset, the primary producers of Australia have been mighty grateful to the United Kingdom Government for having accepted responsibility for the marketing of Australian primary products in England, thus removing from the market the speculators who had hitherto held the producers of this and. every other country in their hungry grasp. The honorable gentleman has claimed that if we were to revert to the “ good old days “ of open sales on a trader to trader basis, possibly the producers would get world parity. What the devil is world parity to-day? Who knows what parity might be in the United Kingdom if the United Kingdom Government were not the sole purchaser? The honorable gentleman knows that, with the world, and particularly the people of the United Kingdom, in a hungry state, it would be possible for the avaricious merchants of Tooley-street and of England generally, who have dabbled in the dairy producers’ butter for ages, to form a ring, huy from the butter factories in Australia at a certain price, and then shockingly exploit the unfortunate consumers of Great Britain. When I hear this sort of thing, I can only express thankfulness that the expression “get back to the good old days of an open market “ is not the expression of primary producers generally, and of dairy producers in particular. I desire to be quite fair and non-partisan, and to give credit where it is due. The dairy producers of Australia are grateful to the Government that was led by the present Leader of the Opposition, for the contracts for which he was initially responsible. The present Government is continuing the contract system, in contrast to what was done after World War I. by the governments of those days. I should be very astonished to see any move hy the dairy producers of this country towards a reversion to the wicked systems that were in operation prior to the inauguration of the present arrangements. I hope that my quotation of prices, and my statement of facts, will clarify the doubts and remove the anxieties which, either genuinely or falsely, have been disturbing the minds of honorable members opposite.
.- The final statement of the Minister (Mr. Pollard) - that if the clauses under consideration were not passed the butter industry would be “thrown to the wolves “, in other words to the private speculators - is the most arrant nonsense. Ever since the original act of 1924 was passed, no one has been able to export butter from Australia without a licence from the Australian Dairy Produce Board. The fundamental features of that act have been continued, and we are now considering an addition to the powers that it conferred. No one questions the necessity for acting in this way.
I wish to reply to the Minister’s statement in regard to prices. He may he able to answer a question that is of very great moment to the dairy producers of Australia. Am I to understand that whatever moneys are received from overseas will be equalized with the home consumption price by the equalization committee, as is being done at the present time, and that there is no suggestion of an alteration of handling methods?
– I am glad to have that assurance from the Minister. I point out, in connexion with the various contracts that have been made, that the British Government has been very good indeed to Australia. Not only has it spontaneously increased prices, but in addition it has made their operation retrospective. The first increase, I believe, dates back to 1943. I think the late Mr. Curtin was Prime Minister when the second increase was made. He pointed out, early in 1945, that a new and more generous contract had been made by the British Government with Australia. In 1946, the present VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) told the Parliament that the British Government had voluntarily increased, by 2d. or 3d. per lb., the price that had been asked for by the Australian delegation.
The Minister has said that the Government is now negotiating with the British Government. According to my information, the Government of New Zealand is negotiating with the British Government on the basis of 247s. per cwt. Australian or New Zealand - they are practically the same - which represents 2s. 3d. per lb. What I wish to learn from the Minister is, whether that price is to be retrospective in its incidence. I am certain that it will be, in the light of the three instances of increases that I have mentioned. I want to make certain that the whole of that increase will go to the dairy-farmers of Australia; that it will not be claimed that it exceeds the cost of production, and that, therefore, the balance will pass into the pool. The budget for this year shows that two-thirds of the subsidy has been found by Britain and one-third by Australia. I want to be assured that the whole of the additional amount obtained will go to the dairyfarmers of Australia, and that they will also receive it retrospectively if it be made retrospective in its incidence, as have been the three increases that have voluntarily been made by the British Government in the last five years.
.- The statement of the Minister (Mr. Pollard) is only partly correct. The contract prices that he read are accurate. 1 tried to ask him what was to become of the voluntary contribution which Britain has made in addition to the contract prices. According to a statement that has been made publicly in the Queensland Parliament by a member of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, Britain has made a voluntary contribution in addition to the contract prices. He went on to say -
We are told that the Government gave the industry £27,000,000. That is not in accordance with facts. In 1043-44, the overseas contract price was 130s. a cwt., and the extra £1,439,579 to which I referred, added 34s. a cwt. to the price, making 170s. a cwt. altogether. The equalized price in Australia that year, with subsidy, was 153s. and the difference in favour of the overseas price was 17s. a cwt.
In 1944-45 the contract price was 136s. and the extra 50s., or the £2,093,191 to which I referred, brought the overseas price up to 192s. a cwt.
– What is the honorable member talking about when he refers to a voluntary payment?
– The spontaneous payment by Britain in addition to the contract price.
– That was made under the terms of the agreement, and represented a refund of the subsidy that had been paid by the Australian Government.
– It was Britain’s contribution to the payment for our butter. The Australian dairymen did not receive all that was paid for the butter by the British Government. The Minister is, in effect, admitting that it was the Australian dairymen who paid the subsidy which enabled the consumers in this country to obtain cheap butter. It is admitted that the price received was 192s., while the equalization price was 153s. per cwt. Therefore, it is clear that the dairymen did not receive all that was paid by the British Government for Australian butter.
.- The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) said that it was obvious that part of the money received from Britain for the purchase of Australian butter had been used to pay a subsidy to enable consumers in Australia to obtain cheap butter. As a matter of fact, the Australian consumers have been buying butter at a price which is a long way less than the cost of production. The Government cleverly pretended that it was paying a subsidy to the producers out of Consolidated Revenue, but it was actually paying a subsidy to the consumers. The dairy-farmers want our surplus butter to go to Britain. “We are not, as a body, demanding the full pound of flesh, as Denmark is prepared to do, but the world parity price of butter is 4s. per lb. That is what Russia has paid.
Air. Pollard. - Does the honorable member want Britain to pay us 4s. per lb.?
– No, but Britain is demanding world parity prices for everything we buy from that country.
– Then the honorable member thinks that Britain ought to pay us 4s. per lb. for butter?
– I do not, and the Minister cannot put words into my mouth. Britain has suffered enough from its enemies without suffering now at the hands of its Dominions, but 1 believe that Australian dairy-farmers are entitled to the cost of production, and a bit more. I am not confident that they will receive this under the administration of the board which it is proposed to set up. A committee was appointed to inquire into the cost of production in the dairying industry in December, 1946, and when it brought in its recommendations the Government very cunningly decided to make the increased price available, not for the lush season from December to April, but only for the winter season, from April onwards. Even then, it paid a price which was 1-Jd. per lb. less than the committee recommended. The producers are not satisfied that the board will properly conduct the affairs of the industry. They are not satisfied that a chairman, appointed by the “little Hitler “ of the dairying industry, can be relied upon to protect their interests.
– From the time the first agreement was made with the British Government for the purchase of our dairy products, the dairy-farmers have been treated fairly in that every penny of the British contract price has been paid to the producers. This has been made clear over and over again to the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann), hut he is a glutton for punishment, and is one of the most stubborn men I know.
He keeps on coming back for more. The fact remains that every penny received from the British Government has been paid over to the Australian dairying industry. At one time the Australian Government was paying the dairymen a price higher than the British contract price. When this was pointed out by me to the British Ministry of Food, the British Government suggested that, rather than raise the contract price at that time, it would, at the end of a specified time, reimburse the Australian Government for the subsidy which it had been paying to the Australian producers. We had been selling to the British Government below parity prices, but at the end of the prescribed time, the difference was refunded by the British Government. Thus, it is not true that the Australian producers paid a subsidy to the Australian consumer, and the facts as I have stated them completely refute the allegation that money was improperly withheld by the Australian Government from the Australian dairy-farmers.
.- The effect of the statement just made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), seeing that the subsidy received from Great Britain was paid into the Treasury, is that the Government insisted on keeping the price to the dairyfarmers down to 136s. a cwt., and pocketed the rest. The Government cannot hoodwink the dairymen into believing that it paid them the full amount of 196s. a cwt. which it received from the British Government. It is evident that the extra money received from the British Government did not go into the dairymen’s pockets, but into the Treasury.
– It is desirable that this point should be cleared up. I have the figures before me, and it is clear that not one penny piece received from the British Government by way of contract price for Australian butter was withheld from the dairy-farmers. From the 1st July, 1944, to the 30th June, 1946, the f.o.b. price payable to the Australian Government by the Government of the United Kingdom was 147s. 9d. sterling or 184s. 8¼d. in
Australian currency, but the objective value accepted by the Australian Government as a fair cost of production at that time was 200s. 8d. a. cwt. Th Government made a grant to the industry of the difference between the f.o.b. price and the effective value, and represented to the British Government that it should refund the amount of this grant to the Australian Government, but only on the proportion of Australian butter exported to Britain under contract. Therefore, it is outrageous for the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Alder.mann) to try to convey to the dairymen, and to the public, that the Australian Government gave to the dairymen something less than it received from the Government of the United Kingdom. What the Australian Government did was to pay to the producers out of Consolidated Revenue a price higher than it received from the British Government, and subsequently it was recouped for this extra outlay by the British Government.
At a later stage, just about the time that I became a Minister, the Government of the United Kingdom indicated that it would pay an additional lis. 5d. a cwt. for butter. The Australian Government did not immediately disburse that additional payment to the dairyfarmers. It said that it would like to hear from the representatives of the dairying industry whether they would like an immediate distribution, or whether they desired that the money should be placed in an equalization fund. I met the representatives of the industry in Sydney, and they told me that they would like the extra money, amounting to id. per lb., to be distributed. I reported this to Cabinet, and it was agreed that the money should be distributed. Thus, it can be claimed that, for a brief period, the Government did not pay over to the dairy-farmers the additional lis. 5d. a cwt., but when the representatives of the industry asked that the money be paid, this was done, and payment was made retrospective to the time when the additional price was first received from the Government of the United Kingdom. I have on record an expression of appreciation from the representatives of the dairy-farmers for what was done. I regret very much that the position should have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Maranoa.
.- The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) suggested that, because of certain remarks which I made a few minutes ago, I was advocating a return to open speculation on a catchascatchcan market. That is absolutely wrong, and1 the Minister should not attempt to convey that impression to the listening public. What I have to say to-day would be said even if our proceedings were not being broadcast. What I meant to convey was that a producer board could enter into contracts just as capably as could the Government. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) states that the excess price of 16s. 2d. a cwt., provided by Great Britain to meet the cost of production of the Australian farmers, amounted, between April, 1943 and the 30th June, 1945, to £3,340,000. That amount was not paid to the farmers; it was held in revenue.
– That amount was paid out before we actually received it.
– It was held in Consolidated Revenue. The Minister claims that it was kept there as a recoupment for the subsidy paid.
– I claimed no such thing.
– The honorable gentleman said that it was paid to the producers as a subsidy. When the war broke out, and the Government pegged wages, it had to impose ceilings on prices in order to enable those on pegged wages to buy butter and other commodities. In order to meet the costs of production of the primary producers, which increased in spite of the imposition of ceiling prices, the Government had to provide subsidies, in the case of dairymen a better price for their butter, but also a subsidy to the consumer in order to keep the price of the butter within the ambit of the pegged wages.
– The producers also got increased prices.
– This Government told the people of Great Britain that the Australian dairy-farmer, by selling them butter -at ls. lid-, did not get the cost of production. The people of Great Britain, magnanimous as they always are, said, “We shall give you an additional 16s. a cwt.” The proceeds of that payment, however, were retained by the Government as a recoupment of the subsidy payments. It is dangerous at times to keep documents, but I have before me a carbon copy of an original letter, signed by the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. Scully, in which the subsidy question was raised. An exserviceman lost everything in an attempt to fulfil a contract with the Government. Blight intervened and took all his crop. On behalf of the exserviceman, I submitted the case to the Minister, requesting that a subsidy be paid. I said to the man, “You cannot expect the Government to pay you for something you cannot deliver; but the Government allows you a subsidy to enable you to produce. It may be possible for the Government to give you a subsidy”.
– The honorable member is referring to the subsidy on potatoes.
– Order ! The honorable member for Gippsland is straying beyond the ambit, of the clauses before the Chair.
– This matter is relevant to the clauses under consideration. If the chairman does not think so he may stop me.
– Order! The Chair does not wish the debate to continue on an irregular plane.
– I am dealing with the subsidy. If I am not permitted to furnish the details of this case I shall give them to the press and say that I was prevented from announcing-
– Order ! The Chair has ruled that the debate must be confined to matters covered by the clauses in the bill before the committee. I have allowed a debate in relation to prices because clauses 12 and 15 embrace tint subject-matter. Honorable members will not be in order in bringing forward matters relating to the subsidy on potatoes and other primary products.
– I defy any member of this chamber to say that I mentioned the word “ potatoes “.
– The honorable member will appreciate that his remarks had no relation to the clauses before the Chair.
– Am I not to be allowed to answer the Minister’s statement in regard to the subsidy?
– Order! The honorable member is aware of the ruling of the Chair.
– Then I shall fix this up in my own way. The subsidy paid for butter was provided for the benefit, not of the producer, but of the consumer. It benefited the purchasing public. It is absurd for the Minister to contend that the Government had a right to retain the excess amount paid by the British people for Australian butter. As the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) has said, the Government, in effect, forced the producers of butter to pay a subsidy to the consumer.
.- I can understand the chagrin and disappointment of the members of the Australian Country party. During the whole of the debate on this bill they have been apologizing for their neglect of the dairying industry during the years in which they held office. When they see what the present Government, through the efforts of the former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. Scully, and the present Minister (Mr. Pollard), has been able to achieve they are naturally upset. Some of them are leaving the chamber; obviously they do not like to hear these things. During the debate today they have reiterated the false arguments with which they sought to mislead the people when they went around the countryside telling the dairy-farmer how the Government had robbed him, how it had withheld moneys belonging to him. They have reiterated this false statement so often that they have begun to believe it to be true. After hearing that statement rebutted time after time, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) continues to repeat it. I can understand their reasons for that. They say that the subsidy was paid to benefit not the primary producers but the consumers. How would the primary producers have managed without it? A rise in price from ls. to 2s. per lb. represents a considerable increase. Since the anti-Labour government vacated the treasury bench, the overall increase in the price of butter has amounted to 112 per cent. Surely that is sufficient to rebut the contention of honorable members opposite that this subsidy has not benefited the butter producers.
.- The extraordinary statement made by the honorable member for “Wannon (Mr. McLeod) is not in consonance with the facts. Mr. Twohill, secretary of the Equalization Board, has furnished me with the figures in the official report which prove conclusively the contentions advanced by honorable members on this side of the chamber. These figures indicate that in 1947 the English price f.o.b. was 216s. 10^-d., the Australian price 1.66s. 10d., and the equalized price 205s. Id. a cwt. The equalized price was made possible by the payment of a subsidy of 20s. a cwt. The Government has claimed that it has been providing 4d. or 3d. per lb. for the butter industry when the facts indicate that this year the British Government is paying lis. 9d. a cwt. more than the price received at the Australian butter factories. In 1946 the English price was 184s. 8-^d., the Australian price 166s. lOd. and the equalized price was 200s. 8d., which meant a subsidy of 33 s. Sd. a cwt., or approximately l(»d. per lb. over the whole of the production in Australia. Can any one say that the British people are not supplying a large part of the subsidy for butter consumed in Australia? The budget figures for 1947-4S disclose that last year an amount of £5,300,000 was provided for assistance to the dairying industry. Why that payment should he termed “assistance to the dairying industry”, when similar assistance granted to all other industries is termed “ subsidy for stabilization “, 1 do not know. Of that amount the British people paid £3,500,000. In the previous year they paid approximately £3.500,000 out of ‘a total of £6,000,000. We contend that producers are entitled to at least world parity price for everything that goes oversea.1?. For as long as I have been in this Parliament until two years ago, the Australian price was above world parity. During the depression, when the overseas price was approximately 7d. or 8d. per lb., the price in Australia was approximately ls. per lb. This higher home consumption price was made possible by the control exercised by the board, the wise administration of the powers that we” gave to it and the establishment of an equalization board operating under the 6d. per lb. tariff protection. The equalization price has invariably been higher than world parity price. That position obtained when war broke out. The Australian price was then 154s. 5d. a cwt. and in the last eight years, notwithstanding the enormous increases in the prices of other commodities, it has increased by only 12s. a cwt. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) recently cited figures in this chamber showing that the cost of certain commodities had increased by 300 per cent, and that, in a wide range of commodities which he mentioned, the average increase had been 100 per cent. Notwithstanding those tremendous increases, the price of butter has advanced by only 12s. a cwt.’ or Id. per lb., during the last eight years. When the war broke out the United Kingdom price was 121s. 7-Jd., the Australian price was 154s. 5id.. and the equalized price was 136s. 3.5d. a cwt. It is absurd to suggest that during the last few years the people of Australia have not received benefits from the dairying industry. Those engaged in the industry should now be compensated by giving them an assured price above the actual cost of production. That is what we have contended. I hope that the new board will read the debate that has taken place on this measure and that its members will ensure that the price they recommend to the Minister will be approved by him. I do not believe there should be any question of dissent from the majority decision of the board on this matter. Any group of twelve fairminded men must inevitably realize that if there be general increases in prices the dairy-farmers are entitled to receive them irrespective of what their costs of production may be. This Government is providing subsidies for home manufactures of various kinds-
– The people engaged in these industries are able to get world parity prices for their products.
– Order ! If the right honorable gentleman continues to speak when I call him to order, I will ask him to resume his seat.
– If that is the policy of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Puller).
– Order ! The right honorable member for Cowper must resume his seat.
.- Let us examine the prices paid to the dairyfarmers when the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was Minister for Commerce.
– Tell us the costs as well.
– i win.
– -Order ! If the right honorable member for Cowper does not remain silent, I will deal with him.
– Had the dairyfarmers had no costs at all, their returns would have been small. The 1946 report of the Queensland Farmers Co-operative Association Limited states -
From 1934 to 1938, when the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was Minister for Commerce, the position was worse for suppliers for the Queensland Cooperative Association Limited. They got a raw deal. Their returns were as follows: -
It is interesting to note that when the right honorable member for Cowper was Minister for Commerce production fell, because of drought conditions, to 40,740,000 lb. The right honorable gentleman is never generous to the Government, because he continually ascribes the fall of production last year to the bungling of the Government instead of to the drought. What a predicament the dairy-farmers were in in those days when they had to suffer, not only drought, but low returns. The following table sets out the returns of the dairy-farmers since the Labour party has been in power : -
When the Curtin Government took office in 1941, the Prime Minister ordered an inquiry into the costs of production in the dairying industry, as a result of which the dairy-farmers were granted an increase of Id. per lb. In the five years in which the right honorable member for Cowper was Minister for Commerce the average return to the dairy-farmers was 10.9d. per lb. When the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, it was ls. 6.3d. per lb., an increase of about 74d. per lb. or 70 per cent. The price has again recently been increased. I can easily understand why the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues try to mislead the dairy-farmers into the belief that they are not benefiting under the Labour Administration. They are frustrated and disappointed, but they are foolish to give Government supporters the opportunity of telling the primary producers and the people generally the facts. Australian Country party supporters gain no advantage by trying to confuse the issues by charging the Government with having robbed the dairy-farmers, because the industry has never been in a sounder position, with its future guaranteed for five years, than it is to-day.
– I should not have risen but for the blatant and tediously repeated assertion of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) that the dairy-farmers have received the difference between the price paid by the United Kingdom for Australian butter and the price paid to the dairy-farmers. The facts are to be found in official documents. In 1944, the British Government found that ls. 9-Jd. per lb. was the minimum price at which profitable Australian butter production could be assured, and the whole of Britain’s requirements guaranteed. It therefore paid the Australian Government ls. 9Jd. per lb. for all butter purchased. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture claimed that the Australian producers had received every penny of the difference between the ls. 9$d. per lb. received from the United Kingdom and the ls. 7-Jd. per lb., plus the subsidy, which was then paid to the Australian producers. Theoretically that is correct. The producers have received it, but the manner of their receiving it benefited the budget. That is proved by reference to page 42 of the budget, 1946-47. Under the heading “Assistance to the Dairying Industry” it is shown that £6,802,197 was paid as a subsidy to the industry. That amount included £1,659,325 recovered from - the Government of the United Kingdom. So the Australian Government found £5,152,872 of the subsidy and the United Kingdom Government £1,659,325 to bring the return to the dairy-farmers up to ls. 7½d. per lb. In the budget for 1947-48, on page 93, under the heading of “ Assistance to the Dairying Industry”, I find that in 1946-47 the sum of £5,223,469 was paid. There is a footnote that that amount includes £3,484,729 recovered from the United Kingdom Government. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has the audacity to say that about £5,000,000 received from the United Kingdom Government, which constitutes the difference between the price paid by the United Kingdom Government for Australian butter and the ls. 7½d. per lb. paid to the Australian producer, has been entirely passed on to the Australian producer, whereas no such thing has occurred. The money has been used to relieve the budget. If that is not true the budget is not true, but surely we must accept as truthful the financial statements of the Government.
.- The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is a qualified accountant and he should be thoroughly ashamed of himself for having tried to misrepresent the facts. Members of the Australian Country party are so ashamed of their record as members and supporters of a government that had the power to help the dairying industry but did not use it that they are trying to decry and belittle the efforts of the Labour Government to give dairy-farmers a decent standard of living. One has only to compare the prices paid to dairyfarmers when honorable members opposite were in power and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was Minister for Commerce with the prices paid to them since Labour has been in power to see that their record was indeed poor. Returns to the producers were - 1934, 8.8d. per lb.; 1935, 9.45d. per lb.; 1936, 11.18d. per lb.; 1937, 11.82d. per lb.; 1938, ls. 1.41d. per lb. In 1942-43, when Labour was in office, the price paid was ls. 5$d. per lb. At that time the Government ordered an inquiry into the costs of production and the cost of ls. 5£d. then determined was regarded as the cost of production. No inquiry was made to determine the cost of production when the right honorable member for Cowper was the Minister. He had the power to subsidize the producers, but it never entered his mind to do so, because members of the Australian Country party are not really concerned with the interests of the dairy-farmers, for every one knows that that party represents big business interests and does not represent the farmers at all. Let me continue my story. I know a great deal about this matter, because the decision to pay a subsidy to the industry was taken in 1942 by the Production Executive of the Cabinet of which I was chairman. An inquiry was held into the cost of production and it was decided that it amounted to ls. 5½d. per lb., which was the amount per lb. paid to the producers in 1942-43, compared with the 8.8d. per lb. paid in 1934 when the right honorable member for Cowper was Minister. In doing that the Government said, “ We do not want the cost of living to rise and we will pay the subsidy out of general revenue”. The taxpayers paid £1,186,306 that year as a subsidy to the dairying industry. The producers received that money. There is no question about that. Their return was at the rate of ls. 5½d. per lb. In the next year, the Government decided that the cost of production was ls. 6d. per lb. and ls. 6d. per lb. was paid in that year. It is entirely wrong and misleading to say that it was no more than a subsidy to consumers. The price that the Government decided was the cost of production was actually paid to the producers. That is all that concerns them. However the subsidy was paid, it had to be paid by the taxpayers. In 1943-44, the price paid to the producers was ls. 6d. per lb.; in 1944-45, ls. 7.3d. per lb. ; in 1945-46, ls. 7R per lb.; and in 1946-47, again ls. 7id. per lb. The returns to the producers at those prices per lb. during those years were paid by way of subsidy. The total subsidy paid to the dairying industry throughout those years was £27,968,000. That money was provided from general revenue, because the government of the day had ordered an inquiry into the cost of. production, and, recognizing that the dairy-farmers were entitled to a reasonable standard of living, had their incomes raised accordingly. The comparison between this Government and the government in which the right honorable member for Cowper was Minister for Commerce is clear. The right honorable gentleman did not take any steps to order an investigation of the costs of production in the industry. He did not make any provision for the payment of a subsidy to dairy-farmers for the purpose of ensuring that their return should cover the cost of production. This Government has done both those things, and has paid to dairy-farmers subsidies amounting to nearly £28,000,000. It is true that as this money was raised from the taxpayers of Australia in order to pay the producers of butter fat, the Government considered that the taxpayers should not pay the subsidy on butter consumed in Great Britain. Therefore, the Australian Government asked the United Kingdom Government to recoup it for that portion of the subsidy on the quantity of butter consumed in Great Britain. That amounted to £5,700,000. Subtract that from £28,000,000, and the result makes it clear that the Australian Government has paid to dairy producers approximately £22,000,000 in the form of a subsidy. Although the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) endeavoured to mislead the public in regard to this matter, any one who examines the figures must realize that the Labour Government has collected £22,000,000 from the general taxpayers of Australia and has paid it as a subsidy to dairy-farmers in such a way as to ensure that they shall receive for their product a price which is equal to the cost of production, and which will enable them to enjoy a reasonable standard of living. That is something which governments prior to the Labour Government never did.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is traditionally strictly accurate in any statement that he makes to this chamber on finance. His statement this afternoon will bear any investigation to which the Government chooses to subject it. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) must have been in a most amusing mood when he referred to members of the Australian Country party as representatives of “ big business “ and if he went into the former electorate of Upper Yarra stating that he was wooing the people there on behalf of the Australian Country party as a representative of “ big business “, it was no wonder that he lost his deposit. Now, before that, he was a member of the United Australia party-
– There is no truth in that statement.
– I have heard that the honorable member’s name was on a plebiscite at one period.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to address his remarks to the clause.
– The Minister was allowed to deal with this matter, and it is a most tempting subject. However, I propose to examine some of his statements. He declared that this Government had provided for the dairying industry subsidies amounting to nearly £28,000,000. The honorable gentleman should have examined that section of the Auditor-General’s report for 1945-46 relating .to this matter. I shall read it to the honorable gentleman, who apparently has never heard of the Auditor-General’s report, and what that official remarked about the financing of the dairying industry. On page 69, the following passage appears : -
In terms of an agreement between the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom Governments for the purchase of surplus Australian butter and cheese for the four years ending on 30th June, 1948, claims were rendered to the United Kingdom Government for reimbursement of subsidy paid by the Commonwealth to suppliers on account of products shipped overseas to the order of the British Ministry of Food. The same arrangement applied also in respect of condensed milk and spray full cream powder shipped overseas after 1st April, 1944, under similar order. Amounts received by the Commonwealth from these sources to .?0th November, 1940, amounted to £3,989.956, of which £1,059,012, plus miscellaneous collections totalling £313, was offset against subsidy disbursed during 1944-45 and £131,155 against 1945-40. The amount of £131,155 offset during 1945-46 represents increased proceeds from sale of butter exported to the United Kingdom from South Australia and Western Australia prior to these States joining on equalization plan operative as between the other States, and subsidy adjustment in respect of dairy produce exported but manufactured prior to 1st April, 1945. The effect of this offset was to reduce the gross disbursement of £6,504,000 to a net charge of £0,373,511 for the financial year. Further claims rendered on the United Kingdom in respect of subsidy paid by the Commonwealth on dairy produce exported are in course of recovery.
In accordance with provisions contained in the purchase agreement between the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom Governments referred to previously, prices to be paid for butter and cheese exported under that contract for the twelve months commenced 1st July, 1940, have been increased in respect of all butter and cheese manufactured on and after that date and shipped to the United Kingdom or elsewhere on British Ministry of Food order.
On page 70 of the report, the AuditorGeneral has set out a summary of the financial assistance granted to the dairying industry since 1942. He shows for the financial year 1942-43 a sum of £1,186,306. For’ 1943-44, the amount was £7,346,120, and for 1944-45 £5,152,872. Then the Auditor-General made this significant entry -
Reimbursements by the United Kingdom and other credits during 1944-45, £1,059,325.
That included £313, to which the AuditorGeneral referred earlier. For 1945-46, the total amount received from the United Kingdom Government was £6,375,511. The next entry, which is for 1945-46, is “Credits, £131,155”. The total is £21,849,2S9. I have no doubt that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has added the figures for the years succeeding 1945-46 on which the Auditor-General has reported. Those figures are not available to members of the Opposition at this stage, but when the Auditor-General furnishes his report next year, we shall have the information. In addition, I am sure that in his budget speech last year, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) estimated that the United Kingdom Government would pay £4,000,000 of the total subsidy of approximately £6,250,000. Now, ‘the Australian Government is trying to tell honorable members that it is treating dairy-farmers most generously. “What the Government has not told us is that during the last two or three years almost every penny of the subsidy granted to Australian dairyfarmers has been paid by the people of the United Kingdom. According to the Auditor-General’s report, the Government has not even disbursed 20s. in the £1 which it has received from the United Kingdom. I am aware of the saying that figures can lie-
– And liars can figure.
– The honorable member for “Wannon (Mr. McLeod) may be an authority on that, but I am not. “When any doubts are expressed in this chamber about the accuracy of figures, the statement of the Auditor-General is usually accepted as authoritative. Until a Minister is able to produce evidence to show that the Auditor-General has misled the Parliament and that the budget is also a misleading document, the Australian Government stands impeached on its own documentary evidence of not having told the full story to Australian dairyfarmers.
Clauses agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) on the ground of ill-health.
Debate resumed from the 19th September (vide page 122) on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I do not desire to detain the House very long in discussing this bill. The purpose of the measure is to increase the salaries of certain heads of departments, and designated persons who occupy high offices in the Commonwealth. With any measure which is designed to bring the remuneration of those gentlemen into line with modern requirements, I am entirely in agreement. The only comment I desire to make for myself is that it is regrettable that there should be included in the one measure provision for the re-adjustment of the salaries of these civil servants and provision also for the adjustment of the remuneration of those who occupy judicial offices. There is a disposition in various places, though I know that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) does not share it, to treat the members of the judiciary, and particularly the members of the High Court, as though they were civil servants. They are not civil servants; they are not in any way acting on behalf of the Government; they are not in any sense servants of the Government. To prove this point I have only to remind honorable members that in the very Constitution under which this Parliament was created we find, in section 1, provision for the creation of the Parliament, in section 61, provision for the creation of the Governor-General and the Executive Council, and in section 71 provision for the creation of the judiciary. The judiciary, it will be seen, was created by the very instrument that created the Parliament. Although it is true that those who sit on the Bench are appointed, of necessity, by the Executive, it is plainly recognized by those who give any thought to this subject that judges are not the servants of the Executive nor are they the servants of the Parliament. They exercise a specially designated function in the life of Australia. In these circumstances, I should have felt happier had the salaries of the judges been made the subject of a particular measure and not been included in one schedule with the salaries of members of the Public Service, excellent as those servants may be - and I have a very warm admiration for the officers mentioned, for they are in the true sense civil servants. It is on this point of procedure, which is a point of propriety, that I speak, because I have always resisted the view that when we discuss the judiciary we discuss a branch of the civil service, as if their work was work of a like kind to that performed by the civil service.
As to the substance of the bill before us, I welcome it. I indicated in a previous debate that I considered that the salaries of the judiciary were long overdue for adjustment. If I were in order in so doing, I would express the pious hope that the example now being set by the Australian Government will be followed by the various State governments, so that we shall not have any more anomalies than we can avoid in salaries of the judiciary. I support the bill.
– This measure should be called the “ Tall Poppies Bil] “. Its provisions are limited to a few special public servants. There is no question here of any arbitration and there is no known basis of computation. For these special few, the Government has waived all wage-pegging regulations. For these individuals an increase of from £750 to £1,000 a year each appears to be the standard rise. For most members of the Public Service a salary of £1,000 a year is a very far-off objective. Recently the middle salary group of public servants applied to the Public Service Arbitrator for an adjustment of their remuneration to enable them to cope with the increased cost of living. The Public Service Arbitrator conducted a protracted hearing of the claim, and decided to grant an increase of 25 per cent. in their margins.For most of these officers that would probably amount to an increase of about £1 a week. In his determination the Public Service Arbitrator indicated that these officers were badly underpaid, and he practically invited other similarly situated employees to submit claims for increases. What happened after the determination was made? The Public Service Board decided that the increase was too much, and it requested the Public Service Arbitrator to review his determination. In other words, it lodged an appeal against the determination. The proof that this appeal was in accord with government policy is contained in a letter written by the Public. Service Board to the Public Service Arbitrator under the date of the 3rd September, 194.7. That letter was written when the Government was considering increases of salaries to members of the Public Service Board. In the letter we have enunciated the views, not of the Public Service Board, but of the Chifley Government. The board was not concerned about dispensing justice to its employees. It was concerned with the protection of the Chifley Government’s budget. The board’s letter read -
The hoard is particularly concerned with the following matters of highly important principle in connexion with the determination : -
the fact of the very substantial general increase in rates of pay on all classifications over £504 on the board’s ability for the future to carry out a progressive system of reclassification ;
the serious difficulties of applying the determination equally to positions reclassified from entirely new organizations provided since 1939:
the level of salaries in the Commonwealth Public Servicce in comparison with other employing authorities;
the general economic position and the budgetary effects of the determination.
Those four points were amplified by the board. For example, in regard to point three, the board touched upon the very principle raised by the Prime Minister in submitting this bill to Parliament. In this connexion its letter read -
The board observes that one of the reasons underlying the Arbitrator’s determination is “the desirableness of officers and employees in the Commonwealth Service having a financial status not lower than that of employees in comparable employment in other undertakings”.It notes further that, in the body of the award, reference is made to the desirability of the Commonwealth taking a lead in salary fixation. The board is in some doubt which of these two principles has most influenced the Arbitrator in making his determination. The board doubts the practical ability of applying either principle to general salary fixation within the Commonwealth Service, but would like the opportunity to submit evidence which would establish that where comparisons can be made they demonstrated that salaries in the Commonwealth Service, if adjusted on the basis proposed by the board, are not unfavorable in relation to rates ruling elsewhere.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), in his second-reading speech, said that the Government was increasing the salaries of these “ tall poppies “ to provide that they would be on a financial basis not lower than that of employees in comparable employment in other undertakings. Yet the Public Service Board, acting on behalf of the Government, opposed the application of that general principle to other bodies of government employees. It will be seen, therefore, that what was good enough for members of the Public Service Board was too good for the board’s employees. The Government attempted to apply two diametrically opposed principles to two sections of its employees. For the “ tall poppies “ it was a. case of “the sky is the limit”; for other employees it was the case of “ the irreducible minimum “. In relation to point four the board came right out into the open. It admitted that it was appealing against the Public Service Arbitrator’s award, in the interests of the Chifley Government’s budget, by making the following very specific statement : -
The application of the principles outlined in the determination are likely to have farreaching effects which impinge directly on government budgetary and economic policy. The Commonwealth Government was under attack at a recent Premiers’ conference on the general effect on State government jobs of the policy of salary and conditions of service already adopted by the Commonwealth Go vernment. The application of the determination could only intensify this attitude.
The letter continued -
The financial inter-relation between the States and the Commonwealth is such that increased State costs have a direct bearing on Commonwealth expenditure.
The board even dragged in against its employees references to the international position. Its letter in this regard stated -
The economic instability in Europe and other parts of the world has a direct bearing on the economic, position in this country, and the board desires to bring additional evidence to the Arbitrator on this point, and also on the effect of the determination from budgetary and general economic aspects.
The letter, though written by the Public Service Board, was expressing the policy of the Chifley Government. In fact, it reeks with “’ Chifleyism “. The Public Service Board tried to apply the Government’s wage-pegging policy to its own employees, even though the Public Service Arbitrator had stated that the officers who had applied to him for a determination were grossly underpaid. That is a most damning indictment of the Chifley Government. The letter might well have been written <by reactionary obstructionists. Even an anti-Labour Government would have hesitated to take such action. Only a government of hypocrites would have had the audacity to f.-r.i round and introduce a bill like that now before us, to grant increases to the “ tall poppies “ while it was, at the same time, appealing against an increase of pay to its lower salaried employees. The Public Service Arbitrator had given his decision on the evidence. But the Government appealed against the umpire’s decision. Its action was opposed to every known principle of Labour policy. That action by the Public Service Board represented Government policy and direction. Now what do we find? The Chairman of the Public Service Board, under this measure, is to have his salary raised from £2,500 a year to £3,500 a year, whilst members of the very board that protested and appealed are to have their salaries raised from £2,000 a year to £2,750 a year. Increases of a paltry £50 to £100 a year were apparently too much for the rank and file of the employees of the Public Service. On the basis of the board’s appeal against its own employees, those increases to the “ tall poppies “ of £1,000 a year to the chairman and £750 a year to the members of the board, are far too excessive. The rank and file of the Public Service have to meet the rising cost of living in exactly the same way as have the members of the
Public Service Board. They have to pay higher rents, and more for clothes and food. If they want apples for their children they, too, have to pay 6s. a dozen, just as have the households of their more exalted superiors in the Public Service. If wage-pegging was right for the underpaid officers, then it must be right for the “ tall poppies “. The Public Service Board is only the mouthpiece of the Government. The Government can issue a direction to it. All the itme, the Government tries to hide behind either the Public Service Board or the Public Service Arbitrator. If it were a Labour government, it would first have tackled the problem of the dreadfully underpaid employees who belong to the permanent section of the Public Service. Those men and women have been thrust into the background by the “ Johnnycomelatelies “ of the new bureaucracy, who have been given special salaries and special jobs. If it were a Labour government, it would have seen that the letter carriers, telegraphists and other employees in the Postal Department, the clerks in the Department of Trade and Customs, and even the personal staffs of Ministers themselves, were given decent wages and conditions. If it were a Labour government, it would not have waited for the decision of an arbitrator, but would have granted its employees a 40-hour week immediately, in accordance with Labour policy.
– Order! The honorable gentleman is getting on to the matter of hours.
– So the appeal went to the Public Service Arbitrator. Under the act, he is the sole arbitrator. He hears appeals against his own decisions. Then came staggering proof that the Chifley Government was behind the Public Service Board in this attack on the principle of arbitration and on the wages of its own employees. When the matter came before the Public Service Arbitrator, the Public Service Board was supported in its appeal by a representative of the Minister for Supply and Shipping, a representative of the Minister for the Navy, and a representative of the Minister for Munitions. They argued against the increases, and supported the economic arguments of the board. They went there, those representatives of Ministers in a Labour government, to support the Chifley budget. A member of the Public Service Board, appointed by this Government in January of this year, Mr. A. V. Langker, also appeared personally to oppose the increases that had been granted by the Public Service Arbitrator, and gave evidence against the employees. The Public Service Arbitrator, Mr. Castieau, very properly refused to be influenced by the economic arguments that were advanced on behalf of the Government. His determination, No. 72 of 1947, should be studied very carefully by every member of this House. He upheld his own decision and rejected the appeal. He decided that he had been right on the first occasion. He refused to be swayed by the Government’s specious pleas. So the public servants are to get their increases, despite the Government’s attempt to rob them. Their increases are on margins only, and will be nothing like the percentages that are provided for in this bill. Those public servants will still be far below their comparable 1939 level, measured in terms of purchasing power. But they have the satisfaction of knowing that they were able to defeat the Government’s dastardly attempt to deprive them of any increase at all.
Et has been suggested that some of the “ tall poppies “ mentioned in this bill could earn higher salaries in private enterprise. It is not in human nature to pass by opportunities for advancement. Of course, some of them may have rejected offers because of their belief in security of tenure in their present positions. What proof is there that they could satisfy the demands of an entirely different kind of executive office? It is no answer to suggest that some highly paid officers have already gone outside. Of these, a few had high administrative ability, and they exercised the right of every individual to make his own choice of livelihood. There are others who were taken up by private enterprise during the war, not because of their capacity as executives suitable for private enterprise, but for their contacts within the Government and their knowledge of the bureaucratic way of life and of the im- print it has left on industry. With millions of pounds in Commonwealth contracts at stake, it is only natural that some firms should look within the Public Service for executives with a knowledge of that class of contract.
But these are not arguments justifying a general inflation of top administrative salaries by as much as 50 per cent. If a particular individual is worth £3,500 a year, then he should receive it. But he should not receive it merely because he happens to be occupying a particular position.
If the Government is right in the schedules to this measure, then it must admit also that we have inflation already with us. If it be right for the “ tall poppies “ to be paid 50 per cent, higher salaries, then obviously there has been an all-round depreciation of money values in this country. If the Government argues that a salary of £1,S00 a year prior to the war was equal to a present- day salary of £3,500, then it admits that there has been at least a 50 per cent, inflation. Why, then, does it not give relief to those sections of the community that are least able to bear the burden of this inflation? Why does it reserve its relief for the “tall poppies”? Why does it still cling to the remnants of wage-pegging? If it is correct in this bill, then it is wrong in its attitude towards the lower-paid workers in this country, as well as towards the war widows, pensioners, and its own superannuated employees.
The Government is starting at the wrong end of the scale. It apparently believes that because Ministers have had their salaries increased by £800 or £900, their chief advisers also should be brought into line. But what will happen with the passing of this bill ? This is what will happen. The Government will widen the gap between the upper hierarchy of the Public Service and all the rest of its employees. The problem is riot one that can be tackled piecemeal. It must have actual relation to money values. Or is it that the Government is reserving its “ golden age “ for 20 or 30 favoured bureaucrats ?
The bill also provides for substantial increases for members of the Commonwraith judiciary. The cynics in this community will probably say that those increases are well timed, and are most opportune for the Government. But for the Government to increase the salary of a judge after his appointment is opposed to all recognized principles of judicial practice- If we believe in the purity of justice, then we must ensure that nothing shall occur which can be considered as tainting justice. For that reason, the judges of our courts should neither have anything to fear nor any favour to expect from the Government. Under the Constitution, it is a function of the High Court to hold the balance of justice and to interpret the constitutional powers of the Government. Therefore, no government should be in a position to threaten or reward members of the judiciary. Under the terms of this bill, a judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory is to be paid a salary of £3,000 a year. His duties are little different from, and certainly not as onerous as, those of a stipendiary magistrate in the City of Sydney. They are more like those of a magistrate in a large country town of New South “Wales. The judges of the Arbitration Court are also to receive an extra £1,000 a year. Apparently, Judge Kirby was gifted with a most intelligent anticipation when he surrendered his £1,500 a year district judgeship in New South “Wales for the promise of what will he a £3,500 a year job on the Arbitration Court. The High Court is in a different category from any other court in Australia. It is most important that the judges of the High Court should not be dependent upon any government. At the same time, it is equally wrong in principle that they should be subject to effective salary reductions brought about by government action through taxation. The members of the High Court should he beyond salary increases and salary reductions. The constitution of the United States of America, which is very similar to our Constitution in principle, provides for such a contingency. It deliberately kept the Supreme Court out of the political arena by making the judges exempt from all taxation. In 1920, the Supreme Court of the United Stales of America decided that this provision was necessary in order to safeguard its independence of action and judgment. Chief Judge Marshall said on that occasion-^ 1 now refer to the duties of a judge, flc has to pass between the Government and the man whom the Government is prosecuting; between the most powerful individual in the community, and the poorest and most unpopular. It is of lasting importance that in the exercise of these duties, he should observe the utmost fairness. Need I press the necessity of this? Does not every man feel that his own personal security, and the security of his property depends upon that fairness? The Judicial Department comes home, in its effects, to every man’s fireside; it passes on bis property, his reputation, his life, his all. Is it not to the last degree important, that he should be rendered perfectly and completely independent, with nothing to influence or control him but God, and his conscience?
President Woodrow Wilson once said -
It is also necessary that there should be a judiciary endowed with substantial and independent powers, and secure against all corrupting or perverting influences; secure also, against the arbitrary authority of thu administrative beads of the Government.
We come back to President Hamilton who, speaking on the same subject, said -
Next to permanency in office, nothing chu contribute more to the independence of the judges than a fixed provision for their support.
If we were to exempt members of the High Court from taxation we should merely be adopting the same principle. If it is right for the Governor-General to be exempt from taxation, it is equally right for the High Court. judges to he exempt. When a judge accepts office, he should do so in the knowledge that he is completely immune from all government interference, and the prospect of all goernment rewards. I say that this hill does not provide the w.ay in which we should seek to correct the anomalies that have been brought about by war-time taxation. It is a wrong approach to one of the most critical problems in our system of government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 19th September (vide page 123), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- In the course of his budget speech, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) said that proposed sales tax concessions were estimated to reduce revenue from that source by £2,SOO,000 during a part of this financial year, and by £3,500,000 for a full financial year. The purpose of this bill is to give detailed effect to the Government’s proposals in regard to sales ‘ tax concessions. Before passing on to a detailed examination of some of the items covered by the bill, it would be useful - since this debate provides the annual opportunity for reviewing the legislation - to consider the place which sales tax occupies in the revenue field, and the extent to which collections under this heading have increased. The sales tax is a. form of indirect taxation, and indirect taxation in all its forms provides a substantial proportion of the total revenue collections by the Government. The Lender of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), in his speech on the budget, pointed out that State and Commonwealth indirect taxation, despite repeated promises of remissions, together provide very much more revenue now than they did during the war years. In 1944-45, indirect taxation yielded £120,000,000; while the estimated yield for 1947-4S is £16S,000,000, an increase of £4S,000,000. One might well pause to ask what validity there is in the repeated claim of the Prime Minister that the Government, in recent years, has given tax remissions to the value of £70,000,000. The fact is that total collections of taxes have increased year by year. Back in 1943-44, one of the war years, the total revenue from taxation amounted to £302,000,000, while last year it amounted to no less than £374,000,000, an increase of £72,000,000, and the estimate for 1947-48 is £356,000.000. Thus, despite the assurances of the Treasurer that taxation has been reduced, the per capita collections have shown a continuous increase. The Leader of the Australian Country party also stated that approximately £20 per head would be collected this financial year in indirect taxation, which is an amount very much in excess of the average collections during the war years. Neither can we accept the Treasurer’s estimate of what is likely to be collected in the form of indirect taxes for the ensuing year. Last year, he said that the estimated returns from this source were £31,000,000, but, in spite of remissions, the amount actually collected was £36,000,000. In the previous year, the estimated return was £28,000,000, while the actual collections were £33,000,000. Thus, when he tells us that remissions for the ensuing financial year are expected to be £3,500,000, we can only be guided by the experience of previous years, when the estimates proved to be remarkably conservative, and the actual collections were considerably more than was expected. We can imagine no reason why this experience should not be repeated. The estimate for the ensuing financial year is £29,000,000, but we can safely assume that a considerably greater amount will be collected. There are obvious reasons why this is so. I am sure that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) would resent most strongly the suggestion that production is likely to decline in the months ahead. He would resent any suggestion that the purchasing power of the people is not likely to be maintained at its present high level. Consequently, if production is to increase end the purchasing power of the people is to remain high, while the present demand remains unsatisfied, we may confidently assume that sales tax collections are likely to increase. We are also- entitled to take notice of the fact that the Treasurer apparently contemplates that the return from indirect taxation is likely to remain permanently at a level more than 50 per cent, higher than in pre-war years. Let us assume that the present standard rate of sales tax is 10 per cent. Many items are taxed at 25 per cent. In fact, those items which are taxed at 25 per cent, return about one-third of the total revenue collections from sales tax. However, for purposes of argument, I assume that the standard rate of sales tax is 10 per cent., while, before the war, it was Gi per cent. Sales tax bears most heavily on the family man, and thus Ave are asked to accept the fact that sales tax is to be continued at a rate which, before the war, would have .been regarded as exorbitant. T emphasize the fact that this bears heavily on the man with dependants. The Treasurer has himself directed attention, with- some pride, I gather, to the fact that he has remitted income tax in respect of those who receive an income of £6 a week or less. If the family man with £6 a week has a wife and a couple of children, then the sales tax reflected in the purchases the family is required to make for its domestic needs will cause hi in to make a substantial contribution in. indirect taxes to the revenues of the country. It cannot be claimed that the burden bears equitably in that direction; but it does not appear that we can look for any marked relief in this particular field. The Government has settled clown to permanent peace-time expenditure amounting to approximately £400,000,000 per annum. Thus, approximately one-third of the national income of the people of the Commonwealth is to be collected as a permanent peace-time exaction by the present Government, and by governments of the same political colour pursuing the same objectives. We have directed criticisms to what is involved in that, but I would not be in order in pursuing them in detail in n debate on this bill. I merely say, in passing, that, as long as the Government maintains expenditure at an inflated war level, and, in respect of many departments, a level greater than that reached during the war period, as long as it continues its headlong rush into socialism, embracing more and more measures of a. socialistic character, the people may abandon any hopes they may have had for substantial reductions of taxes.
I como now to an examination of some of the items covered by the present measure. I note that, broadly, the measure has the effect of bringing into the 10 per cent, field a number of items which formerly were in the 25 per cent, sales tax classification. Perhaps the most important of them are those which come under the heading of confectionery and advertising and other printed matter. I comment firstly on the item relating to confectionery and the various details which come under that heading. Presumably, the Government has decided to make the reduction in the rate of tax on the items in this category, principally for two reasons. Firstly, confectionery may be regarded as a kind of luxury foodstuff which is freely consumed by some of the less wealthy members of the community, particularly those under the age of sixteen years. The children who suck their “ lollipops “ and ice creams are to get some relief from the rapacious grasp of the Treasurer. The second reason is that the Government is anticipating the increase that is about to take place in the price of sugar. It has already been announced that the retail price of sugar will rise from 4d. to 4-Jd. per lb., an increase of 12^ per cent. Had not the Government decided to bring about this reduction, presumably there would have, been a consequential increase in the price of items that include a good deal of sugar in their composition. That is one of the reasons which actuated the Government to reduce the sales tax on confectionery. I am at a loss to understand why it did not carry that same principle through the range of foodstuffs that still remain subject to the tax. The sales tax on foodstuffs has been considerably reduced over recent years, but it still yields approximately £2,000,000 per annum to the Government. In many of the items which still remain in the classifications subjected to the 10 per cent, rate of tax a considerable quantity of sugar is used. If there is to be an increase in the price of sugar very shortly, as we are told, these items will have to rise in price in consequence if that increase is to be absorbed. The Government might have considered exempting foodstuffs from sales tax altogether. I hope that the Government will give immediate consideration to that aspect of our sales tax. I shall have occasion to make more detailed reference to it later. The Treasurer does not like accepting amendments of the sales tax legislation at the committee stage, feeling, quite rightly, that when anomalies are sought to be remedied there is a danger that sometimes the proposed remedy may create additional anomalies if it is not fully explored. I make a recommendation in respect of this item, and one other which I shall bring to the notice of the Government, that during the interval between the passage of this legislation through this chamber and its introduction into the Senate the Government might give them some further consideration. I hope that it will be able to amend the legislation before it comes back to this chamber.
The removal of advertising and other printed matter from the 25 per cent, range will be welcomed because this category includes items used extensively in industry and commerce, the tax upon which represents a heavy burden on commercial users. One item which was brought to my notice in my own electorate, and which will perhaps have a wider interest, is umbrellas, both beach and garden. A letter has been sent to me by Windsors Proprietary Limited, a company conducting a manufacturing business in my electorate, forwarding a catalogue dealing with beach umbrellas, and explaining that this is a new industry in Australia. The firm, after expressing great disappointment that these umbrellas were left in the 25 per cent, group, states-
Wo ure of the opinion that they cannot be classed as a luxury line, as mothers and children, in addition to older people, cannot be expected to remain in the beach in glaring sunshine without some protection.
The company requests that beach and garden umbrellas be brought into the 10 per cent, group. I regard the request as one which might reasonably be explored. The sales tax on furnishings generally has been reduced over recent years. These umbrellas might very well be included in that category, I express the hope that when the Treasurer has had an ‘Opportunity to consider the submissions I have made he will find it practicable to carry out the reductions I have indicated and to extend very much wider the number of items brought into the lower tax range, and although I regard this as a somewhat forlorn hope, give some consideration to the general reduction of the standard rates of sales tax.
.- The sales tax returns to the Treasury a considerable amount of money, but it bears heavily on the industrial life of this country, and has a big influence on the high cost of living. Accordingly, even the small concessions made by the Treasurer in the bill now before us will be welcome. I should like to see them very greatly extended. There are two items which I should like to bring to the notice of the Treasurer in the hope that he will be able to do something about them in the interval between the passage of the legislation through this House and its presentation to the Senate. An examination of this bill reveals that sales tax is to be reduced from 25 to 10 per cent, on a large number of items which may be described as luxury goods. Looking through the list one finds that practically everything associated with photography, including the apparatus and equipment necessary for the taking and printing of photographs, albums, folders, stereoscopic apparatus, mounts, plaques and medallions, is to be included in the lower range. One item has, I think, been omitted through an oversight, namely photo frames. I have received a letter from a firm in my electorate which is engaged in the making of these frames, pointing out that it is manufacturing a new type of photo stand which it patented some time ago, in respect of which SO per cent, of the cost of manufacture is represented by labour. The manufacturer states that when he sells inter-state the only handicap to his business is the 25 per cent, sales tax imposed on the article, upon which retailers are allowed to charge an additional 50 per cent. I believe that photo frames might very well be included among the other items to which the lower rates are to apply. The manufacturer states that if a sufficiently wide sales field is opened in Australia he will have a great opportunity to develop, an export market for his product. I commend this request to the consideration of the Government.
The schedule of sales tax exemption item9 lists in Division I. - Agricultural machinery, implements, equipment and materials - many machines and implements that could be horse-drawn or tractor-drawn. No differentiation is made between them. The only differentiation made is between motor or tractor-drawn and horse-drawn trailers, the latter being exempt from tax and the former taxable.
– The honorable member is poaching the preserves of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull).
– I am supporting him. No reason exists for the differentiation. A constituent of mine, who has no horses because, like hundreds of other farmers, his farm is completely mechanized, will have to huy a horse costing £40 if he is to buy a trailer free of sales tax. No reference is made to trailers in the schedule, but the last item provides for the exemption of -
Attachments (being machines, implements or apparatus) of any goods (being machines, implements or apparatus) covered by any item or sub-item in Division 1. in this schedule, if those, accessories are of a kind ordinarily sold with (hose goods.
In other words, an attachment to a machine bought free of sales tax should be free of sales tax regardless of whether it is horse-drawn or tractor-drawn.
– Would the honorable member apply that to all forms of trailers ?
– I will explain if the right honorable gentleman will listen. I understand that the Treasurer himself has said that tractor or motor-drawn trailers cannot be exempted because they could be used for other purposes on roads. I maintain that that excuse - I deliberately call it an excuse - has no substance, as the list of items exempt from sales tax because of their use for agricultural purposes contains many that can be used on the farm or elsewhere. Tractors can be used on the farm and on the roads, but :hey are exempt from sales tax.
– We have been too generous.
– Glass used for horticultural purposes i9 exempt from sales tax, but a farmer could buy glass free of sales tax, ostensibly for that purpose, and use it for another purpose. Hessian for use in an agricultural industry is similarly exempt, but could be used for many other purposes. Many items can be equally used on the farm or elsewhere.
– It is unfair and discourteous of the honorable member to refer to a logical argument as an excuse.
– Knowing that the. right honorable gentleman has a logical mind, I find it hard to understand why he refuges to include motor-drawn or tractordrawn trailers used for agricultural purposes in the list of exemptions. A great many farmers are affected because their farms are mechanized and they use no horses. I should be one myself but for the fact that I already have a trailer. Why they should have to pay sales tax on trailers because they have no horses I cannot discover. I hope that the Treasurer will give further consideration to this matter before this bill reaches the Senate.
.- The list of exemptions from sales tax contains some interesting items. Frills for cakes, ice blocks, pop corn and the like are to be exempt from the tax, but motor cars and motor car parts, which are very necessary to not only business men but also medical men, are heavily taxed. Certain building materials and house fittings are still to be taxed. T think all items associated with homebuilding and furnishings ought to be exempt from sales tax. It is no answer to say that the tax was imposed in the depression.
– The honorable member has had a “ go “ at it since then.
– Yes. A tax specialist was brought here from Canada to show us how to increase our tax revenues. The sales tax is merely a turnover tax. It was first imposed at the rate of 2£ per cent. It went to 10 per cent, and then to 25 per cent. It is being reduced by degrees, but I fail to see why it should not be entirely removed from essentials like house fittings and furniture. The tax on furniture is still 12i per cent. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) said that that was the best thing about some furniture but I do not agree. Exservicemen furnishing homes for their brides ought not to be required by this means to pay an inflated price for their furniture. The tax will disappear ultimately;- why not now? I advise the Treasurer to bring down another bill soon to exempt from the tax the items that I have specified.
– I should like to say a few words in explanation of the matter raised by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) about the sales tax on trailers. I have placed that matter before the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), who has pointed out the difficulties associated with the removal of the sales tax from them. We must realize that a trailer to be motordrawn is built tobe motor-drawn and that a trailer to be horse-drawn is equipped with shafts. But once a farmer buys a trailer he can do whatever he likes with it. There is no law to bar him from buying a trailer equipped to be horse-drawn and immediately using it behind a tractor or a motor vehicle. That is why we have been striving to induce the Treasurer to make the exemption uniform. Many of my constituents have spoken to me about this matter. They do not want to break the law, but do not like paying about £40 in sales tax on a tractor-drawn trailer if their neighbours are able to buy supposedly horse-drawn trailers tax free and then draw them by tractors or by whatever means they like. It is only fair that if a horse-drawn trailer is exempt from sales tax a tractor-drawn trailer should be similarly exempt. I think all will agree with that.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– In the interests of ex-servicemen, sales tax on materials required for home-building should he substantially reduced. I cannot understand why any government in any country would desire to impose an excessive rate of sales tax on the materials that exservicemen require for their rehabilitation after years of war service. The Government should take that matter into consideration. The costs of homebuilding is rising rapidly. Recently, honorable members were informed that the cost of erecting a cottage had increased from £1.250 to £1,750 in approximately eighteen months.
– What building materials are still subject to sales tax?
– I realize that the sales tax does not represent a substantial amount in the cost of erecting a home, but when home-building is so expensive any relief that the Treasurer can grant will be appreciated by those who served this country so well in war-time, and who now desire to re-establish themselves in civil life. In every possible way, the Government should endeavour to assist exservicemen. While they were absent on war service the prices of many materials rose by from 100 per cent. to 200 per cent., and even more. If any section of the com munity should receive consideration from this Government it is the ex-servicemen whose efforts in the fighting forces enabled Australia to resist invasion. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to ask the Treasurer to give to this matter earnest consideration. Ex-servicemen’s organizations throughout Australia, which have the welfare of ex-servicemen at heart are advocating a reduction of sales taxon materials required as adjuncts to home-building. No sectional interests would protest against this relief. The Treasurer need not fear that the adoption of my suggestion will provoke dissatisfaction among the public. Every one supports the removal of this impost.
– What impost?
– If the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) objects to my proposal, let him declare immediately that he is not a supporter of ex-servicemen. His interjections, when I am speaking on their behalf, appear to be in opposition to their interests. With the approval of the Treasurer, these reductions can be made, the whole of Australia will support the action and exservicemen will greatly benefit from it.
.- In preparing this bill, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) overlooked one important point, namely item 124, relating to baby carriages. This item now reads -
Baby carriages, including perambulators, strollers, pushers and go-carts, perambulator mattresses and cuddle seats.
The Treasurer might not be aware that spare parts of baby carriages, such as wheels, are still subject to sales tax. While this is not a matter of great national importance, it is of some concern to working-class mothers in my electorate, who must have their perambulators repaired because they are not able to purchase a new one for every new baby. Therefore, I urge that the spare parts of perambulators be exempt from sales tax.
Debate (on motion by Mr.Francis) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 15th October (vide page 809), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a. second time.
Motion (by Mr. Harrison) proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) from concluding his speech without interruption.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of members of the House present and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I rise to speak to-night with a very heavy sense of responsibility. It is my duty, and, I do not mind saying, my pride, to open the debate against the most far-reaching, revolutionary, unwarranted and unAustralian measure introduced in the history of this Parliament. Beyond question, the Banking Bill is the most important measure of a domestic kind ever to come before us, or before our predecessors, in this House. On the face of it, the bill will merely transfer to the public ownership, something like £100.000,000 worth of business assets and trading enterprise, and that is all; but in truth and in substance it will do several things. It will wantonly destroy the system of trading banking which has been intimately associated with the whole of the economic development of Australian business and production. It will create in the hands of the ruling’ political party a financial monopoly, with unchecked power to grant or withhold banking facilities or bank accommodation in the case of every individual citizen. Because no productive or business enterprise, great or small, can be carried on without money, the proposed political money monopoly will be able to exercise dictatorial controls over all production and business. These controls can be exercised irrespective of normal constitutional limitations, for no constitutional doctrine can prevent a government monopoly bank from applying to customers, or proposing customers, discriminations based upon their politics, based, if you like, upon their religion, based upon the nature of their business or occupation, or based upon any consideration in the wide world. I want to say a variety of things about this bill, but, first, I shall undertake the easy task of demonstrating that the proposal in it is an. attack on democracy itself.
This bill goes far beyond banking. It will have an operation and effect far beyond the business of money changing. This bill will be a. tremendous step towards the servile State, because it will set aside normal liberty of choice, and that is what competition means, and will forward the idea of the special supremacy of government. That is the antithesis of democracy. Democracy rests upon the view that the people are the rulers as well as the ruled ; that the government has no authority and no privilege beyond that granted by the people themselves; thai while sovereignty attaches to the acts of the parliament, that sovereignty is derived from the people and has no other source. Fascism and nazi-ism, against which the free peoples of the world have just waged a bloody war in which millions suffered bitterly, both rejected the democratic idea as I have just defined it. Their basic philosophy was that the State itself was the source of power; that the popular will was irrelevant; that individual freedoms were not inherent, but were temporary and, therefore, withdrawable concessions by the Government to the people. There we have a philosophy which is utterly the reverse of the whole philosophy of the democratic world. The whole history of democracy which, we should be proud to say, is still primarily the history of the English-speaking peoples, is one of struggle for the control of government by the people, not for control of people by the government - for that freedom which can exist only when the powers of government are limited, when legislators and administrators are responsible to the people, and when no great changes in the material structure of life can be made without popular mandate and approval. That is what the history of democracy illustrates to us, if we take only one moment to consider it and read its lessons.
This bill makes revolutionary changes. It will, of course, by weight of numbers, be passed, but it will be passed without mandate and, I assert, without popular approval. Outside of this Parliament, there will be but one vote during the currency of this debate, and that will be a vote which the people of Victoria will enjoy. They alone, of all the people in Australia, will have the opportunity to cast a popular vote upon this revolutionFry change. During the last two weeks, we have had occasion to debate with the Government whether it has a mandate, and to condemn it for having proceeded behind the people’s backs, because that is what it means, and the answer was made that “If the people do not like it, they can defeat the Government at the next elections “. That is, of all retorts, the most utterly idle. What is the point of saying that, if the people do not like this bill, they can reject the Government at the next elections? This Government plans to defeat that judgment in advance by completing the work of destroying the competitive banking system before the next elections. The Government believes that the deed cannot be undone, and, therefore, the public will be utterly frustrated. The very notion that the verdict of the people at the next elections can be an effective verdict at the right time and on the right subject is a notion which the Government itself has condemned out of hand by its action in producing this revolutionary change two years before the elections are due. The scheme is, in consequence, the product of totalitarian thought, and must be hateful to all democrats. It, therefore, becomes the duty of His Majesty’s Opposition, and every member of it, not merely to oppose this measure in Parliament with all the force of the arguments at their command, but also to exhaust every effort to rouse the people outside the Parliament to a tremendous defence of their own liberties and rights. If this means, as of course it does mean, a division of the people at a time like this, and in circumstances which will give rise to bitterness and weaken the national effort, the sin will rest grievously upon the heads of Ministers and nobody else. For I warn the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that the Australian people, once roused, will not lightly surrender those principles of free government, and, indeed, of free living, for which, twice in this century, they have passed through the terrible ordeal of war.
This is a bill to provide a banking monopoly. What is the practical effect of a banking monopoly? I turn to ti: is problem because there are still some people who have persuaded themselves that a banking monopoly which may affect Jones, Brown and Robinson will not affect them. There may be a tendency for some people in Australia who have savings bank accounts to say, “ A trading banking monopoly is no concern of ours “. The answer is that there are hundreds of thousands of savings bank depositors who are themselves employed by, and dependent for their work upon, men and women who are included in the 1,400,000 customers of the trading hanks. In any event, I say that whatever affects those employers will affect their employees. This affair will concern all who are engaged in production. In any event, in view of the introduction of this banking nationalization scheme, twelve months after every implication and every election promise was against it, I ask what reason have savings bank depositors to assume that this Government will not take over the savings banks if it can?
– Only the Constitution.
– The eminent constitutional authority, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard), who has interjected, will do very well to remember that the Commonwealth has taken over the savings banks of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia. I tell the honorable gentleman, though he knows it very well, that a socialist government fir.ra.ly entrenched in Victoria could hand over the Victorian Savings Bank to the Commonwealth the week after it assumed office.
– As a government did in Western Australia.
– It is of no use for the honorable gentleman to talk vaguely about the Constitution. I tell him, and I tell everybody interested in this problem, (hat anybody that accepts a promise of this Government that nothing will be done about the savings banks is a fool, and literally a fool, for his money.
Whatever affects the man who gives employment must also affect the man who is employed. The private builder who to-day has a choice of trading banks for the securing of the advance which he may need for the construction of two or three cottages, may well be told by the government monopoly bank, “ Oh no, sir, we will not finance you. “We prefer building to be done under government housing schemes, and therefore there will be no finance for you or for other private builders “. If this puts the man out of business, the employees will pay the penalty as well as the employer. The Prime Minister referred to this very point in his second-reading speech, when he said that persons engaged in private enterprise were actuated by the profit motive, ff the private builder be put out of business, his employees will also be affected, though they may have nothing to do with trading banks and may deposit their money in savings banks. Every time an employer is ordered about, every time his business is restricted by a bank decision, every time the “ planners “ who will use the monopoly bank as their instrument, make decisions that there are too many milk distributors, or tobacconists or grocers in this place or that, the employees who are not themselves customers of the trading banks will be directly affected by the decision and their liberty will be affected. I refer to this matter because there seems to be a misunderstanding in some quarters. Of course, this merely illustrates the basic truth that nobody really enjoys freedom in a totalitarian State, slavery being a disease that infects whatever it touches.
The effect of the banking monopoly was described in precise terms by the learned Chief Justice of the High Court in the recent banking case, in words which, though they referred particularly to the Melbourne City Council, are plainly of general application. His Honour said -
The council cannot compel the Commonwealth Bank to accept its business. The effect of the specifications made by the Treasurer is therefore that the Melbourne City Council will lie compelled to do its banking business with the Commonwealth Bank upon terms which are acceptable to the Commonwealth Bank; or alternatively that it cannot conduct general banking business with any r.mk at all. there being no State bank in Victoria doing general banking business.
So it will be seen that the effect of the monopolistic power to grant banking accommodation or even ordinary banking facilities must be the complete control of the customer’s affairs, insofar as those affairs cannot practically be conducted without banking transactions. The complete control of the affairs of customers and intending customers is at stake in this matter. If there is no competition, and that is the Government’s objective, of course there will be no choice. Even the Prime Minister was pressed to say something about this situation. Even he, in the preparation of his second-reading speech, felt that there would be something not quite right about the well-being of thousands of individual citizens if the determination of the matter was left to the mere whim of some individual in an office. So he said in his speech that there was to be provision for an appeal to a “ regional committee “ in the event of a disagreement between the local branch manager of a bank and his client. I notice, however, that there is nothing about that in the bill itself. Presumably, therefore, it will depend upon a completely unenforceable administrative rule made by the Commonwealth Bank. Any one who has had any practical experience of the special relationship that exists between a bank manager and his client will know that this provision will be unworkable. As a practical provision in the workaday banking world such an appeal is, of course, in the realm of fantasy. It would involve cumbersome machinery which would not be in any sense satisfactory. 1 turn now to the problem of the banking monopoly itself, for there is a problem. What case can be made out for this bill? This is what the people are interested in, and it is the reason why 1,000,000 of His Majesty’s subjects in this dominion listened to the speech of the Prime Minister last week. The question, “ What case can be made out for this bill?”, is one to be answered; it will not be answered in the division lists. No case will be made out for the bill by the voting at the end of this debate. The question the people want answered is, “ What is the substance of the real argument on which the Government justifies doing this thing to us ? “ In this connexion it is necessary to examine the secondreading speech of the Prime Minister. Before I proceed to do so, I wish to make one reference ;o a very remarkable statement recently made by the Prime Minister by way of answer to the allegation that the measure now before us is of a totalitarian kind. The right honorable gentleman said that, so far from Hitler and Mussolini nationalizing the banks, the banks actually financed them, and that therefore, nazi-ism and fascism were fostered by the banks. That was the syllogism to which the right honorable gentleman treated us. But he omitted to point out that the only two countries in which the banks have been nationalized are communist Russia, and fascist Argentina. “What did the right honorable gentleman mean by the statement anyhow? Does he suggest that a single nationalized bank in Germany would have defied Hitler, or that a single monopoly bank in Italy would have opposed the Duce? The whole argument, as a matter of fact, is crazy. Wherever dictatorship exists it is obvious that it would be forwarded very much more by a single politically-established monopoly bank than by all the competing banks operating separately. In the future, before the Prime Minister accepts, and in fact invokes, current Communist propaganda, he should seek to regain his sense of logic, which I regret to say he seems unfortunately to have abandoned of late.
Wi’.h those preliminary remarks, I turn to the right honorable gentleman’s second-reading speech. I do not desire to read it all again, but I wish to deal with it fairly and, I hope, effectively. I shall select key passages in the speech and will quote them, and then proceed with my argument. I shall do this in every case except one, and in that instance, as honorable members will realize when I come to it, the procedure would not be practicable. In that case I shall make a summary of the right honorable gentleman’s words. The first quotation I make reads - £ince the influence of money is so great, the entire monetary and banking system should bo controlled by public authorities responsible through it. the Government, and Mie .Parliament, to the nation.
I hear Government members say “ Hear, hear “ ! I ask them to read the sentence again. Now let me put it this way: Sub- statute for the word “ money “, the words “ primary production “. The sentence would then read -
Since the influence of primary production is so great, the entire system of primary production should be controlled by public authorities responsible through the Government and Parliament to the nation.
Honorable gentlemen opposite may laugh, but that will not get rid of the argument, and let me remind honorable gentlemen that it is the argument of the Prime Minister and that it was made in a speech which was carefully prepared - a speech in which words were not loosely used. The speech was prepared with such loving care, in fact, that it was printed and placed in the hands of honorable members while the Prime Minister was reading it. “ Since the influence of transport is so great “, “ since the influence of leisure is so great “, “ since the influence of opinion is so great “, they, too, should be similarly controlled. There we have the entire totalitarian concept. Totalitarians in Europe proceeded by exactly the same logic. They said, “ Here is something which has a great influence on the community life; therefore, the Government must control it “, and they went step by step, so that, in the long run, they controlled everything, right down to opinion, that could be found in the four corners of their lands. But of course the sentence ends with a pious reference to “ responsibility to the nation “. That pious, reference comes cynically from one who, as I have shown, is resolutely determined that the nation shall not be consulted, until, as he hopes, it will be too late.
I take another passage from the right honorable gentleman’s second-reading speech. In it he said -
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.
There is the whole argument, naked and unashamed. If it is a true argument, then all private business ought to be “ transferred to public ownership “. The basis of it is that private profit must run counter to the public interests. If that is right, then there is no room left in this country for private business of any description, great or small, and the government monopoly must ‘be complete. It is nonsense, it is pernicious nonsense, to talk about private profit being an excuse for public ownership. The assumption, of course, is that profit-making is either improper or anti-social. Yet I remind the House that, without the chance of profit and the search for profit - the search for a better payment and a better reward, because that is what the search for profit is - the whole of the industrial expansion of the Englishspeaking world since the beginning of the nineteenth century would never have been accomplished; and that expansion was accompanied by an amazing increase of population and a great rise of living standards. Nor, sir, without that search, would Australian land settlement have occurred, or Australian manufacturing; or, for that matter - and I remind the House of it - the Australian trades union movement. All of those things have been intimately associated with the search - the proper, the decent search - for a better payment and a better reward.
It is curious to look back, as honorable members are fond of doing occasionally, and to peruse the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, and at the dissenting view therein expressed by the Prime Minister himself, because he said this -
In my opinion, legislation should he passed providing that the profits of trading banks should not exceed an amount equal to o per cent, .per ann nin on shareholders’ funds, or S per cent, per annum on paid capital, whichever is the less.
That was the right honorable gentleman’s view, and he stated it. The simple truth is, and the public should be reminded of it, that neither of those rates of profit has ever been reached by the banks since the date of the report of the royal commission. The net profits of eleven trading banks for the financial year ended in 1946 amounted to £2,803,000, or 4 per cent, on shareholders’ funds. The dividends that were paid were 3.7 per cent, on shareholders’ funds. In the same year, I turn aside for a moment to point out, the percentage of profit earned on the capital fund and the reserve fund of the general banking division of the Commonwealth Bank was 8 per cent.
Of course, this reference to profit is always associated with the cant phrase, which has been well known in socialist circles for many years : “ Use, not profit”. It is merely an echo of Karl Marx. If we want to get the real historical foundation of this bill that is before the Parliament and the people to-night we must go back to Karl Marx, to the Communist Manifesto.
– -Back to “Billy” Hughes.
– Long before “ Billy “ Hughes, the honorable member will be glad to know. I may tell my constant friend from Griffith that this is what was said in the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels -
The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.
What is the distinction between that and this masterpiece of reasoning that I have just been referring to? Without private profit, can one have private property? Of course not. Therefore, the Communists said, “ Abolition of private property “ ; and when they came, later in the Manifesto, to the specific measures that they were going to advocate, No. 5 on their list was -
Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
It seems singularly modern, does it not, although so many years have gone by, because here it finds its ultimate statutory expression through a socialist government in Australia, and long after the Communist Manifesto. Just in order to show that the line has not swerved, the Communist International, of happy memory and recent resurrection, was formed, and produced this manifesto -
The dictatorship of the proletariat does not in any way call for partition of the means of production and exchange; rather, on the contrary, its aim is further to centralize the forces of production and to subject all production to a systematic plan. As the first steps - socialization of the great banks…..
The third passage that I select from the right honorable gentleman’s argument, or apology, for this bill, is this -
Experience of the past has been that private banks increased their lending in good times, and contracted it in bad times.
He was on familair ground with honorable members opposite when he used that sentence. He then went on to say, and I hope that it will be remembered for a long time -
Between December, 1029, and Mardi, 1932, their advances fell by approximately £45,000,000.
That, sir, was a scandalously misleading statement. It was a statement which did the utmost discredit to the Prime Minister and the country. For a start, it was a comparison between a month of high lending - December - and a month of low lending - March. In other words, the comparison was. from the outset, a false comparison. If the right honorable gentleman had taken March of 1929 and March of 1932, and so had compared comparable months, he would have found that advances to ordinary customers fell from £239,000,000 to £225,000,000; that is by £14,000,000, and not by £45,000,000. But even then the picture would have been a false picture, because, in making his statement, the right honorable gentleman left this out - that, in addition to advances to ordinary customers, the trading ‘banks over that period of time were called ‘upon increasingly to make advances to governments. In order to see fairly what the true movement of deposits and advances was, we must total these things. That, of course, is quite evident. Totalling them, I show this: In 1929, the banks deposits were £2S7,000,000 in March and £275,000,000 in December. Their advances were £256,000,000 in March and £2S 3,000,000 in December. In other words, their advances increased during 1929 by no less than £27,000,000. In 1932, their deposits were at about the same point - they had, in fact, fallen by a few millions of pounds at that time - and their advance? had gone up. The figures were: In March. 1932: Deposits, £2S1.000,000; advances, £262,000,000. In December, 1932: Deposits, £273,000,000; advances, £2S1,000,000. So that, over a period of time in which, it has been alleged by the right honorable gentleman, there was a dramatic reduction of advances by the banks, it turns out that their advances had so grown that they were advancing more than 100 per cent, of their deposits at the end of that time. In other words, advances did not fall ; on the contrary, they rose slightly on the average for the year. They rose beyond 100 per cent, of deposits. At one time they rose beyond 105 per cent, of deposits. All this argument was fresh fifteen years ago. This nonsense was trotted out and was rejected by the Australian people fifteen years ago. I should like to remind the Government that, that argument having been put forward, it was specifically dealt with in a paper by an economist who has enjoyed the privilege of being an economic adviser to a non-Labour government, and then to a Labour government in the last few years, who has had the responsibility of being in charge of prices control, and who has enjoyed, I think I may say, the admiration of both parties for his work in that capacity - Professor Douglas Copland. Writing about this very matter in 1931, this is what Douglas Copland said-
Owing to the heavy decline in export prices, and in general prices, the value of securities against which advances have been made have declined. If overdrafts had been partially adjusted to this fall in value, the decline in advances would have been very large. But advances are even now higher than they were in 1927 and 192S, before the depression. This fact should dispose of the common fallacy- and mark now the echo of the right honorable gentleman’s fallacious speech - that credit has been severely contracted, and that banks have accentuated the difficulties of the depression by enforcing a restrictive policy.
So, the right honorable gentleman’s allegation of a restriction which, according to him, created or accentuated the depression, turns out to be utterly false, and utterly discreditable to the whole case that he was endeavouring to present.
The next passage that I select from the right honorable gentleman’s secondreading speech is this -
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.
He was referring to the Commonwealth Bank. This is another impudent claim. It is based on an extremely convenient forgetfulness. The right honorable gentleman has forgotten that, in spite of the hard words now spoken against the memory of the late Sir Robert Gibson, it was the right honorable member for
Yarra (Mr. Scullin) who, in 1931, reappointed him for another seven years as chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board. He has forgotten, surely, that when the people got their chance in the elections of 1933, and 1934, and 1937, Labour was heavily defeated. More accurately, the opponents of the Premiers plan were heavily defeated by the very people who knew most about depression, its effects, and (he steps taken to produce recovery. It is popular now to cry stinking fish about what was done here, but I know from my own experience that the rest of the world greatly admired what was done in Australia, although a great number of Australians are now succumbing to the propaganda that at the time a complete mess was made of the business. The Prime Minister himself supported the Premier’s plan. After all, why not? What was the alternative? I need not deliver a lecture on the last depression and its causes. It has been accepted by everybody for years that the depression in Australia was produced by two main factors - the complete cessation of overseas borrowing, and a calamitous fall in the prices of our export commodities. Between the two of them, almost overnight, they reduced ihe national income of Australia so much that urgent adjustments had to be made. Now, we have a llew theory that monetary inflation and monetary juggling in Australia would have prevented our feeling the effect of those two major f actors, but if that he so, we can only conclude that our overseas trade does not matter, and that the level of overseas prices does not matter. If the Government believes that a deficiency in our export trade can always be compensated for by the working of the monetary machine at home, why the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), and why Dr. Coombs and the Geneva conference? The Government has seen fit, very properly, to take steps to adjust our economy to world conditions, and to maintain the volume of international trade which we enjoy.
The fifth point made by the Prime Minister I mention merely to underline it. He said that, in spite of conservative management of the Commonwealth Bank under a board for many years, the bank, including the Commonwealth Savings
Bank, had made remarkable headway. He said it, apparently, more in sorrow than in anger. I hope to break through his sorrow at the prospect, by reminding him that the whole development of the Commonwealth Bank as a central bank took place under the management of a board, and that no new development has followed the abolition of the board. There is no suggestion that, under the board, anything was not done which could or should have been done. No hint has been given that, under the system of competitive hank trading, some disaster has arisen, or is threatening, that would not otherwise have arisen. The right honorable gentleman’s whole argument is divorced from reality. It is pure, doctrinaire socialism - socialism for its own sake. Then, having recorded the gloomy progress of this mis-managed concern, the Prime Minister said -
Together with its associated institution, the Commonwealth Savings Bank, it has become pre-eminently the bank for the average man and woma.n. To-day it has a far greater number of depositors than the whole of the private trading banks taken together. At the the end of April of this year the number of deposit accounts with the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank was about 3,S00,f)00, whereas the number of deposit accounts with the trading banks was approximately 1,250,000.
I pause to say that if that remarkable statement, that detestably inaccurate statement, was made with any purpose at all, it was made to persuade people that there was no need to preserve other banks ; that the people had already given their acclaim to the Commonwealth Bank, and their support to it, and that all the talk of referendums and votes was so much nonsense. The real test is, do the people patronize the Commonwealth Bank or not? The Prime Minister’s argument is grossly misleading. Of the 3.800,000 deposit accounts, 3,6S0,992 were in the Commonwealth Savings Bank. Thus, comparing like with like, the Commonwealth Bank, in its trading bank division, had 119,008 accounts as compared with 1,250,000 - or, as I am informed. 1,400,000- held by the trading banks. To put that statement into terms which will be readily carried in the mind, of every twelve trading accounts in Australia, the Commonwealth Bank holds one, and the trading banks eleven. Even the figure of 3,680,992 does not afford a true comparison, because State savings banks were absorbed by the Commonwealth Bank in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, so that in those States the Commonwealth Savings Bank now has substantially no savings bank competition. However, in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania that does not apply. Therefore, we shall have a look at the position in those three States. In Victoria, where there is competition, the State Savings Bank holds, on the last available figures, 1,325,000 accounts, and the Commonwealth Savings Bank 407,000. In other words, out of every four savings bank accounts in Victoria, three are held by the State Savings Bank, and one by the Commonwealth Savings Bank. In South Australia, the State Savings Bank holds 460,000 accounts, and the Commonwealth Savings Bank 114,000; or, to put it in another way, out of every five sayings bank accounts, the Commonwealth Bank holds one, and the State Savings Bank holds four. For Tasmania, without quoting the gross figures, I may say that the proportion of accounts held by the Commonwealth is one in three. In that State there are two trustee savings banks, one in Launceston and one in Hobart, which, between them, hold twice as many savings bank accounts as does the Commonwealth Savings Bank. In the face of these striking figures, the claim that the Commonwealth Bank “ has become pre-eminently the bank for the average man and woman” is sheer rubbish. The true position is that, wherever in Australia a choice has existed for customers for either savings bank or trading bank business, that choice has been exercised overwhelmingly against the Commonwealth Bank, and in favour of a diversified banking system.
The next argument of the Prime Minister was stated as follows : -
There must be public control of the banking system in order to prevent secondary inflation.
When the Banking Bill was passed in 1945, we were told by the Prime Minister that sections IS to 22, which provided for the making of deposits with the Commonwealth Bank by the trading banks, gave the Commonwealth Bank effective control over credit. Are not sections IS to 22 still in the Banking Act? Are they not still operative? Have they been challenged? In spite of the eloquent silence that greets those questions, the Prime Minister says, in effect, “ Well, on second thoughts, I have come to the conclusion that sections IS to 22 may some day prove to be a broken reed “. I do not now propose to discuss the legal implications. They are for other people and other places, but since the Prime Minister rests his whole case upon some possible weakness in the operation of the deposits sections of the Banking Act, let me point out that the legality of those sections was not challenged in the case brought by the Melbourne City Council. Their legality was not even challenged in the writ of that case. No one in the Government’s own legal department has expressed the slightest doubt of their validity. What happened in the Melbourne City Council case is worth mentioning. The council had put down in the writ - a copy of which I have before me - that sections IS to 22 amounted to a law imposing taxation, and because they were a law imposing taxation, the rest of the act would be invalid, unless enacted as a separate measure, because, under section 55 of the Constitution, it is not permissible to include taxation provisions in a bill which includes other matters. That is why there is introduced into the Parliament, year after year, an income tax assessment bill and an income tax bill imposing rates. Two separate bills are necessary. When attention was drawn to the fact that this argument had been advanced, the Melbourne City Council said that it was not going to proceed on those lines, because, if it had succeeded, it would not invalidate sections. 18 to 22. The only effect would be that the Government would have to redraft its legislation so as to introduce it in two sections, and this would merely delay matters. The Chief Justice said -
The only result if such an argument were successful would bo the enactment of the legislation in a different form.
Therefore, I say that this allegation that sections IS to 22 of the act are under challenge is a bogus allegation. It is entirely without foundation. I say, with no hesitation at all, that no lawyer of any description has inspired, through any words of his, any doubt in the mind of the Government on that point. Yet now, casting round for some excuse for this destruction of the great banking system, the Prime Minister says, “ I am a little unhappy about it, because it would he disastrous if sections IS 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 “. Let us agree that it would be disastrous. It would also be disastrous if the Income Tax Act were held to be invalid, and if lots of other acts, which are unchallenged and utterly unchallengeable, were held to be invalid. But when the Prime Minister comes into this House and says, without a shadow of foundation, “ These sections are doubtful “, when they are not doubtful and have never been challenged, and are not susceptible to challenge, I say that he is constructing a foundation which is as false as it is discreditable.
The next thing the right honorable gentleman said was that at the 1946 elections a majority of the people endorsed the 1945 legislation, and approved of its purpose. He described its purpose as “ To give the Government full and effective control over monetary and banking policy in Australia “. He was driven to that argument by the powerful contention made repeatedly by honorable members on this side of the House that there was no mandate for this hill. In order to get over that, the right honorable gentleman said, “Well, they endorsed the 1945 legislation and that is a good enough mandate for me “. Let us assume something, let us assume that the electors in 1946 recollected the terms of the 1945 legislation and deliberately passed judgment in its favour; they must also be taken to have known that the control over monetary and banking policy therein set. up was to be effected through a central bank and the trading banks, and not through a single monopoly bank. And so, if they endorsed the 1945 legislation, they utterly condemned the 1947 bill. How can it be said that by approving of a system in which trading banks were an essential part they can be theated as having approved the destruc tion of the trading banks and the creation of a single monopoly?
The right honorable gentleman went on to develop a grievance which he appeared to have about section 4S of the Banking Act, now gone from among us. Section 4S, as honorable members will recall, in effect, compelled the State governments and instrumentalities and local governing bodies to take their business to the Commonwealth Bank when they did not. want to do so. That is the point: They did not want to do so. Had they wanted to take it there nothing was to prevent them from doing so. Section 48, in effect, said, “ Whether you want to or not, you must take your business to the Commonwealth Bank”, and the High Court held it to be invalid, because it was an interference with the functions of the State governments. In other words, all that case decided was that in a federal system the States cannot be controlled by the Commonwealth in the exercise of their own functions. The right honorable gentleman, of course, is horrified by that; but most people nowadays do not share his single-minded enthusiasm for the concentration of all power at Canberra. Hundreds of thousands of the people are beginning to have a shrewd idea that in some division of governing power rests the ordinary citizen’s only real hope of a decent measure of freedom. Then, the Prime Minister went on to say -
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.
Let me repeat that, for the sake of emphasis : “ The Government must have the necessary powers over banking and monetary policy”. What powers does it not possess now? That is a pointed question, and the answer is one thing and one thing only - it cannot compel the .State governments and their instrumentalities to use the Commonwealth Bank. This power is not open to the Government, not because of the malice of men, but because it was not given the power by the Constitution, and it will no more have that power after this bill has been passed than it had before the bill was introduced. If the right honorable gentleman asks for power to control the banking operations of the State governments, let him go to the people and ask for an amendment to the Constitution; let him appeal to the people by the method he dislikes so much - by a referendum. But of course he will not do that; that is the last thing he proposes to do; lie hopes to achieve his purpose outside the Constitution by destroying the trading banks and so making it very difficult for the State governments to bank elsewhere. I say, and I repeat it with due deliberation, that after the nationalization of banking the Commonwealth Government will still not be able to compel the State governments to use the Commonwealth Bank, nor will it be able to prevent them from establishing State trading banks on their own account if they so desire. Having in that fashion put up what was supposed to be a case for this remarkable scheme, the right honorable gentleman went on to say something which I sincerely hope is without precedent in the history of any British parliament. He said -
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, lt is further provided in the bill that shareholders of the bank will lie exempt from taxation on any dividend or distribution which directly results from the payment received from the Commonwealth Bank under (he agreement.
In other words, if the banks go quietly and make an agreement within the due date, if when they are presented with the alternative. “Your money or your life”, they pass out their money with reasonable expedition, they will receive a handsome taxation concession. But then the right honorable gentleman went on to say -
These concessions will not apply in the case of !i compulsory acquisition.
That very remarkable statement is designed, firstly, to extort property by threat; it is designed to extort property from the banks by threats of penalties if they do not voluntarily surrender it. 1 call that in plain terms extorting property by threats. In another jurisdiction it is well known and has put a few people in the dock. In the second place, this scheme is designed to buy off litigation about the Commonwealth r > In the third place, it is designed to penalize those who stick to their guns, those ill-advised citizens, as apparently the Government believes them to be, who think that they have some rights, who think that the Constitution has given them some protection and who desire to stand on their rights and say, “ If you take my property you must take it by a process of law “. That attitude of standing on their rights is the most admirable of all British characteristics, and has meant immeasurable good to us in our day and generation. Yet the Government says, “ You dare to stand on your rights and you will be penalized in total to the amount of millions of pounds because the taxation concession I have referred to will not be extended to you “. As a statutory provision in legislation made by a great national parliament it is mean, it is unjust, and it is grossly improper.
The Prime Minister went on to say that the Commonwealth Bank will have engineers, cost accountants, agricultural experts -and so on on tap - “ on tap “ i.s my phrase and not his - so that “ skilled advice “ will be given “ as part of its banking service “. That was designed to be a little sugarcoating around this nauseating pill ; it was designed to sound like generosity and good banking facilities ; but in reality, of course, it means a new kind of bureaucracy. If the almost infinite variety of agricultural problems in Australia are to be coped with, we shall need not one agricultural expert, but a large number. The same comment applies to engineers and accountants. Under this new bureaucracy the monopoly bank’s approach will inevitably be, “ Do what our expert ‘tells you to do and we shall finance you “. By those .means the Government which controls banking facilities by a monopoly will also establish - and .outside the general structure of the Constitution - a tremendous amount of control .over ,all productive activity. Let us make no error about this. Here is a machine designed to give to the Government, through its instrument, a monopoly bank, an enormous grip upon the whole -process of production in Australia. The Government seems .to have forgotten, perhaps conveniently, that when it asked for .such powers in the referendum, of 1944 the people of Australia rejected its proposals. Now, however, irrespective of that verdict, this indirect way of arriving at the same result comes into being. Then, the Prime Minister, feeling that the case so far presented by him was a sorry one, that it was an intensely vulnerable one, as I have shown, thought that he would fall back once more on a little bit of hate against the banks - that always being a profitable line and a matter about which we shall jio doubt hear a great deal from honorable members opposite in the course of this debate - and said that there is no real competition between the trading banks and that what little there is is being reduced by the process of amalgamation. lt is a grand thing to have been a dissenting member of a royal commission! One can always get an extract from a royal commission’s report that will suit one’s purposes; and why not, since one probably wrote it oneself? Having done that, one can put aside the majority verdict of the royal commission. But, with the exception of the right honorable gentleman, the members of the royal commission had this to say on this very problem -
It is commonly said that the trading banks do not compete with one another. It would lie more correct to say that the trading banks do not indulge in unrestrained or cut-throat competition with one another. . . . It is usual for all the trading banks to publish and quote the same rates for deposits-
I pause to say that they must do so now anyhow under the 1945 legislation - but they will in some circumstances compete for deposits . . . The usual form of competition, however, is not by cutting rates but by offering other inducements to the borrower. There is no evidence to suggest that there is any organization or association of the trading banks for the purpose of eliminating competition with one another.
That is what the members of the royal commission, with one exception, said on this matter. But, on the problem of amalgamations, it is very interesting to recall - and I hope that honorable gentlemen opposite will recall it- - that the most recently announced amalgamation, that between the National Bank and the Queensland National Bank, could not have taken place without the approval of the Treasury, and that approval was given by the Prime Minister himself. So, far from reducing the strength and significance of competition, any child would know that amalgamations, within proper limits - and nobody can say that they have gone beyond proper limits - by strengthening individual units, make competition all the more real.
– “What a fairy tale!
– Since the distinguished Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan) chooses to make a rather derisive interjection at that point, let me say to him that this is an argument that should appeal to him, because it is a curious proposition to me that the remedy for insufficient competition is to abolish competition altogether.
The last extract that I desire to make from the right honorable gentleman’s speech is this - and the significance of it will be seen very quickly -
It is timely to record that under Section !) of the Commonwealth Bank Act of 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.
As this power over monetary and banking policy now exists under the 19.45 legislation and can be freely exercised in relation to the trading banks, and is quite untouched by any decision of the High Court, that paragraph defeats the whole of the Prime Minister’s preceding argument. He says, “ “We relate our power to the broad lines of the monetary and banking policy “. He has complete power to enforce his broad lines of monetary and banking policy on the trading banks, but, when he says, “ No ; I am not stopping there. I am taking their business “, it must be because he does not want to confine himself to policy, but wants to be able to control every individual advance that will be made. “ Nationalization of the banks will not improve the Commonwealth Bank’s power to exercise policy.” That is all nonsense. It will destroy the banks to which directions would normally be given. The trading banks have been dealing with - and every one should recall this - what might be called “ the retail use of credit “ within the limits of the policy directions of the
Commonwealth Bank, and, therefore, the tn king over of their business by the Commonwealth Bank means that the Commonwealth Bank will be not only in control of policy, but also able to determine in the case of every individual customer whether he is to have either an account or bank accommodation.
Having angaged in an analysis of this speech, at, I am afraid, great length, but I hope with some result in the sense that it is a simple enough matter to demonstrate this speech as completely unconvincing-
Government Members. - This speech? Your speech !
– This speech. The Prime Minister may smile. He knows what speech I am referring to, and the people of Australia know what speech I am referring to. The result of the analysis is that the case for this bill is “ a thing of shreds and patches “. It is a farrago of allegations which are based upon inaccuracies and which proceed from false premises. There is, in brief, no case for this bill at all. The trading banks are sentenced to death, but for no crime and after no trial. They have asked for a jury verdict, and their requests have been swept aside. The jury is not to be allowed to speak. The attitude of the Government is : “ We are the rulers of the land. We know better than the people what is good for them “. That is the fascist mind. Success at the last two federal elections has given to Ministers in this place delusions of grandeur. Not for the first time in history, small men have been corrupted by great power. Let nobody suppose that these aspiring dictators will rest content with the destruction of the banks. That is merely the first giant stride towards complete socialization, which is to come partly by the ruthless exercise of such powers as the Commonwealth possesses and partly by close collaboration with socialist governments in the States, producing interlocking legislation and the establishment of government trading corporations with monopolistic powers. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and other honorable gentlemen on this side have had occasion to speak about that in relation to the air services in recent hours. It is because that colla boration has produced those results that the elections in the State of Victoria are so important. They are important because collaboration with the Government in one State can further measures that are concocted in this Parliament by socialist leaders. As a matter of fact, when this last step, this dramatic step that we are now debating, a step so callously contemptuous of public opinion, was first announced, it appeared to many people to have been taken in a fit of pique after the High Court’s decision on section 48. That was not an uncommon theory. At one stage it seemed an almost generous view to take, because it offered a plausible explanation of why nationalization of the banks was not mentioned in the Prime Minister’s last policy speech, only a year ago. So, it seemed generous to say, “ It has been suddenly decided because of the High Court’s decision “. But further consideration of the facts reveals that this socialization measure is no example of unpremeditated illegitimacy. It is, on the contrary, the normal child of longconsidered socialist policy which, in Australia, for the last 25 years, has been deeply influenced by Communist and revolutionary ideas. In June, 1921, the federal members of the Australian Labour party called a conference of trade unions to review the party’s objectives. One objective at least was rejected ; and that objective, singularly enough, was “ Development of an enlightened and selfreliant community “. That went. A new objective, quite the antithesis of selfreliance, was adopted : “ The socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange “. A special committee was set up to devise ways and means of bringing about the objective. The committee made recommendations. Among those recommendations were three: The first was “ nationalization of banking and all principal industries “. Do not let any starry-eyed optimist imagine that banking is the last step. Not at all ! The second was “ the establishment of an elective supreme economic council by all nationalized industries “, and the third was “ the abolition of the capitalist system “. Parliamentary machinery was to be used for the purpose of .achieving the objectives, though clearly - and I emphasize this - the elective supreme economic council would at first rival and ultimately replace the Parliament as we know it. The promulgation of that revolutionary plan had one result, at any rate. It guaranteed Labour’s defeat at the ensuing elections and kept Labour in the political wilderness for nearly a decade. But with the restoration of Labour to political power in both Houses in the last few years, the “ red objective “ has been brought out again. It is sometimes overlooked by those who do not care to look that communism, like fascism, because they are twin brothers, aims at a form, of dictatorship in which the Parliament is either kept as a mere shell or form or actually abolished in favour of supreme councils dominated by undemocratic elements. It is the recollection of this process which brings me to my final observation, which I commend to the House and to the Australian people as an observation of great gravity and, I believe, of fundamental importance.
The truly representative character of the Parliament as the great forum of the nation and the effective maker and controller of the nation’s laws and administration is vital to British democracy. Men have died for it before now. We shall lose our living faith in it at our peril. It is (he one precious element which dignifies the office of the private citizen, which ensures his ordered freedom, and which guarantees him protection against unscrupulous careerists and ambitious tyrants. This element is now under attack, conscious or unconscious, inspired by malice or assisted by negligence and indifference. When the law for the citizen is clearly set out in legislation that legislation, while it is a bill, comes under the scrutiny of parliamentary discussion, with its attendant publicity, and public opinion at least has some voice, and outlet. When the law for the citizen is made by regulation under parliamentary authority, that regulation must be tabled and may be disallowed by either House of the Parliament.
But when the law for the citizen consists of unfettered administrative decisions made in a host of individual cases by officials, not recorded in statutory form, not reviewable by the Parliament, not challengeable in the courts of law, liberty has ended and dictatorship has begun. It is for this profoundly important reason, beyond all others, that my colleagues and I have pledged ourselves to carry on an unceasing battle against a bill which is designed to put the lives and affairs of ordinary citizens into bondage. This debate, we passionately believe, begins a second battle for Australia, a battle in which victory will go to those who are not only brave, but alert and vigilant. As the great John Milton said, in his essay on “ The Second Defence of the People of England “ -
Unless that liberty, which is of such a kind as arms can neither procure nor take away. . . shall have taken deep root in your minds and hearts, there will not long bc wanting one who will snatch from you by treachery what you have acquired by arms.
Mx. WARD (East Sydney- Minister for Transport and Minister for External Territories) [9.31].- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) commenced his address by claiming that the proposal of the Government is un-Australian and undemocratic. I deny both accusations, and I hope that before I conclude my speech I shall have been able to prove that the right honorable gentleman has no claim to being a good Australian and certainly no claim to being a democrat. A reliable measure of the efficacy of Labour legislation is to ascertain those who are opposing it, and those who are prepared to pour out their money in order to defeat the legislation of a Labour government. So we find the private bankers, chambers of manufactures, chambers of commerce, and their satellites, the anti-Labour parties and some of their dupes, such as the Bank Officers Association, joining forces in a violent campaign against the elected Government of this country. So violent is the campaign that honorable gentlemen opposite have stated quite plainly that they will not depend wholly upon debate in this Parliament, but will try to arouse the people outside against the Government. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said that before this was finished blood would flow more freely in this country ‘than it is in India at the present time. These are the gentlemen who put themselves forward as good Australians. Millions of letters have been circulated, and petitions have been drawn up by paid organizers.
Deputations have waited on the Government. Only yesterday, we read in the press that 1,000 outraged housewives were to descend upon Canberra. Although the organizers were offering free travel to Canberra, they were able to muster only 400 women. When the 400 women arrived, this so-called nonpolitical organization, we discovered, was led by Mrs. Crawford Vaughan, who. not many years ago, was Miss PrestonStanley, an anti-Labour member for Bondi in the Parliament of New South Wales. At the meeting, a resolution was moved by the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) and seconded by Senator Annabelle Rankin. Both of those ladies support the antiLabour parties in this Parliament. These people, by their attitude, showed that this allegedly spontaneous, non-political campaign was full of politics, and that they were desperately anxious to destroy this Government.
The Leader of the Opposition stated that those who would be most affected were not the few but the many - the customers, the plain people, for whom the banks existed. Surely the right honorable gentleman is not trying to make the Australian public believe that this band of wealthy philantrophists met and decided to establish the private banks, not in their own interests, and not for the profit that they hoped to receive as a 7’esult of their investment, but because they wanted to help (he plain people ? Let us examine how they have helped the plain people. What is the opinion of some of the supporters of the Leader of the Opposition regarding the private banks? The right honorable member for Cowper was Commonwealth Treasurer some years ago, and I discovered that he is recorded as having said of the private banks -
Mindful of their own interests, they have no such regard for the public welfare as is undoubtedly required.
That is exactly what the Government now contends. I propose to give a few illustrations of how the private banks have acted in this country. No member of the Government has argued that any particular bank is not efficiently managed, and does not conduct its banking business satisfactorily. What we do contend is that a private bank operates for profit, and if public welfare interferes with its capacity to gain profits, then profits came first. Therefore, the Government considers that it is essential for the welfare of Australia that the private banking institutions should be nationalized.
Now, the right honorable gentleman did not make any reference whatever to the history of the banking crisis of 1S93. He might say, “ That is a long way to go back “. Of course, he had a motive in avoiding any reference to that subject, but let me tell the right honorable gentleman about the experience of depositors, the plain people, for whom, he said, the banks existed. Some of those who had deposited their money with the English, Scottish and Australian Bank were paid only last year £l,S00,00O. The payment was made after the matter had been exposed in this Parliament by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). Those depositors had been denied access to their money, which they deposited with that bank many years ago. The Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems, of which the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) was a member, referred to the bank crisis of 1893 in paragraph 216 of its report in the following terms : -
The depositors of these banks were requested, and, by force of circumstances, compelled, to agree to an extension of time for the repayment of the amounts owing to them.
There was no question then of allowing the plain people to decide. Certainly, the private banks had been unable to pay. They had insufficient liquid assets. But what were the conditions that they imposed upon their unfortunate depositors? They compelled them, in some instances, to take shares in the bank. To others they gave deposit slips which were to be paid off in subsequent years. Those slips bore a very low rate of interest. Some of those depositors, I repeat, had to wait for 50 years before they secured access to their own money.
– Most of them were dead.
– That is true. Most of the unfortunates who suffered in this way had passed on. The English, Scottish and Australian Bank was an
English bank, with English registration, and not being satisfied with the imposition of a low rate of interest upon its dispossessed depositors, it used its influence with the British Tory government to secure the passage of legislation further reducing the rate of interest. In Australia, the unfortunate depositors concerned held meetings of protest. They even went to far as to send a deputation to England to appeal to the directors of the bank for some consideration. Sir Josiah Symon, K.C., of Adelaide, an antiLabour ex-senator, who took up the case on behalf of the depositors, remarked -
It is the duty of the directors in the present overflowing prosperity of the bank, paying its shareholders 12£ per cent., to give to the debenture and stockholders a more just participation in the profit.
Yet the Leader of the Opposition says that the private banks exist for the plain people. The depositors sent to London a Melbourne solicitor, Mr. B. J. Parkinson, to represent their interests, and eventually, he received a letter from the London manager of the bank. Let us examine whether the bank put public welfare before its own interests. The letter stated -
To ask shareholders to give up rights to which purchase of shares legally entitles them in the interests of people who have no possible claim on them, is not, it appears to the board, a reasonable business proposition.
That is exactly what the Government has been saying. Whenever there is a conflict between the interests of the bank and public welfare, the profits of the bank come first.
Honorable gentlemen opposite, on previous occasions, have made reference to the closing of a government bank. I can anticipate their arguments, in which they will say, “ Did not the Government Saving Bank of New South Wales close?” Of course it did, but anybody who cares to examine the facts will admit to-day, as the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems admitted, that the bank was closed as a result of a conspiracy between anti-Labour political parties and wealthy interests in this country. They deliberately engineered a “ run “ upon the bank. They commenced a whispering campaign, telling the people to withdraw their money. Let us see what the Royal Commission, on the
Monetary and Banking Systems said about this incident. Paragraph 357 reads -
The cause of the failure was political rather than financial, and the responsibility must be borne by those whose conduct created apprehension in the minds of the depositors.
The late Sir Robert Gibson, whom the Leader of the Opposition has quoted, said in a broadcast -
The fact of the matter was that the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales was in a perfectly sound position. There was no good reason why it was compelled to close its doors.
Because of the closing of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, many unfortunate people, the dispossessed depositors, suffered greatly and a few, in desperation, committed suicide. All this distress was the result of deliberate action on the part of the anti-Labour political parties and their supporters. Now, the Leader of the Opposition said that the Labour government has no mandate for what it proposes to do. Then he answered his own contention by stating that it has been the policy of the Australian Labour party for many years. This policy has not been kept secret. What the Labour government stood for and what we believed was inevitable in this country has been announced to the world. Let us examine this plea for a referendum. Does the Leader of the Opposition sincerely believe that a referendum should be held on every major matter that is submitted to the Parliament of the Commonwealth? On former occasions, when vital matters were under consideration in this Parliament, we have never heard a cry for a referendum. Not so long ago, the Parliament passed legislation dealing with the establishment of the International Monetary Fund. This was a far-reaching measure, affecting the very livelihood of the people of this country, but we heard no demand from the Opposition for a referendum. Not many years ago, we passed a measure extending the area within which conscripted military service could be demanded, and the Leader of the Opposition did not ask then for a referendum on the subject. The right honorable gentleman has expressed his fear that this bill will lead to industrial conscription. When the National Security (Economic
Organization) Regulations were promulgated, he did not demand a referendum before the introduction of industrial conscription. The right honorable member for Cowper, when he established the Commonwealth Bank Board, did not ask for a referendum. In 193S, the then Treasurer, Mr. R. G. Casey, introduced legislation which proposed to give to private capital an opportunity to participate in the profits of the Commonwealth Bank, hut he did not ask for a referendum on it. Under the Premiers plan, pensions were cut, and wages reduced, and great suffering was imposed upon the people, but no referendum was sought before the introduction of that plan. The right honorable gentleman advances a new argument when he demands a referendum on the banking proposals. When the Commonwealth Government seeks additional powers for the Parliament of the Commonwealth it must proceed by way of a referendum. However, no one has to my knowledge, previously raised any doubt regarding the power of this Parliament to legislate on financial matters. If the Leader of the Opposition really believes in the supremacy of the vote of the people, let him cast his mind back to the recent decision of the High Court, which declared invalid section 48 of the Banking Act of 1945. Why did he express such great delight at the decision when he knew it was in direct conflict of the will of the people? The right honorable gentleman himself declared before the last elections that if he were returned to office, he would introduce legislation to repeal the act of 1945, and re-establish the Commonwealth Bank Board. That proposal was made an issue at the last elections. By no stretch of the imagination can it be argued that the interests which are opposing this legislation were favorable to the Commonwealth Bank. Speeches made from time to time by honorable members opposite would suggest that they approved of thu existence of the bank, but the anti-Labour elements in the community in 1911 when the bank was established used precisely the same arguments against it as the Leader of the Opposition has used to-night against this bill. They said that the bank would be run by politicians who would make ad- vances only to their friends, that it would be impossible for the bank to succeed, and that the bank would be inefficiently operated. They always say, of course, that government instrumentalities are inefficiently managed. But would any honorable gentleman opposite declare that the Commonwealth Bank is an inefficient organization, or that it has not been successful? Why has the Commonwealth Bank succeeded, and why have some other government instrumentalities not achieved the kind of success that honorable gentlemen opposite call success? There is a good reason for the bank’s success. Strange as it mi ay seem to honorable gentlemen opposite, the bank began, operations without any private capital whatever. The management did not have to worry, therefore, about setting aside a considerable proportion of its income to meet interest on private capital. A careful examination of the history of government instrumentalities will show that many of them have not been as successful as they might have been because large amounts of the income has had to be paid in interest on the private capital borrowed at the time of their establishment. This is a salient fact that should not be overlooked. The Commonwealth Bank is an efficient and successful undertaking.
In 1924, when the right honorable member for Cowper was Treasurer, he was not prepared to repeal the Commonwealth Bank Act, but he set out to destroy the usefulness of the institution by more subtle methods. He was responsible for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board. One of the first acts of the newly appointed board was to increase interest rates and this affected primary producers very seriously. Yet the right honorable member for Cowper masquerades as the friend of the primary producers. In the 1924-25 season, the first after the establishment of the board, primary producers were called upon to pay £7,000,000, in round figures, in bank charges. In the preceding year they had. to pay only £3,000,000. In the first year that the hank was operated by a board, therefore, the primary producers had to pay an additional £4^000,000 in bank charges. The year after the bank board was established the Western Australian wheat-growers formed a voluntary wheat pool and applications were made by it to the private banks and to the Commonwealth Bank for financial assistance. Because the Commonwealth Bank was dominated by private financiers sitting as members of the Commonwealth Bank Board it declined the request of the Western Australian wheat-growers for financial assistance, and no such assistance was forthcoming from the private banks. The wheat-growers therefore obtained aid from the Co-operative Wholesale Society in England. That society paid money into the London branch of the Commonwealth Bank, arid the Commonwealth Bank handed the business of transmitting it to Australia over to the private banks. The result was that the wheat-growers of Western Australia were charged £60,000 for the mere telegraphic service provided by banking authorities between England and Australia. That charge of £60,000 was equivalent to 3£d. a bushel on the wheat that was handled by the pool. To show how exorbitant the charge was it is only necessary to inform honorable members that the cost of shipping the wheat handled by the pool was only ls. a bushel.
In 1936, when the private banks raised interest rates on fixed deposits, the Commonwealth Bank, being under the domination of the private banks, through the Commonwealth Bank Board, had to follow suit. The Melbourne Age had something to say about this action which is worth calling to mind. I quote the following paragraphs from the Age of the 22nd March, 1936-
Whether the reasons are sound or not, the fact that impresses and startles the community is that in matters of such vital importance the Federal Government can he a mere cypher, and the great institution which is owned by the people - the Commonwealth Bank - instead of making policy, is forced to follow a policy dictated by others. If the National Government deliberately excludes itself from all participation in the making or changing of monetary policy, obviously it cannot govern except in a secondary degree.
It is perfectly true that anti-Labour governments cannot govern except in a secondary degree. I have only to refer to the amendments to the Commonwealth Bank Act that were proposed in 1938 in order to show that both the Commonwealth Bank and the Government of the day were under the domination of private banking institutions. The policies of anti-Labour governments are always dominated by these interests. In this connexion, I quote the following extract from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 31st March, 1938:-‘
The Federal Treasurer, Mr. Casey, said last night that the meeting of bankers over which he presided in Sydney had been very useful. There had been a very frank exchange of views, but obviously he could not divulge the nature of the discussions. The conference was arranged to discuss the report and recommendations of the Royal Commission on Banking, with the object of assisting the Federal Ministry in framing amending banking legislation.
On the 7th April, 193S, the same newspaper published the following statement -
The Federal Cabinet has agreed to compromise on certain of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Banking to meet objections by the private banks to the form of the new banking bill.
Did the anti-Labour government of 1938 consult the people about the amendments it intended to make in the Commonwealth Bank Act at that time? Of course it did not. Yet honorable gentlemen opposite are arguing that we should consult the people on this occasion by referendum. The cost of a referendum would be more than £100,000. As we know full well that only a minority of the people are taking any notice of that arch deceiver, the Leader of the Opposition, who is demanding a referendum, whereas the majority of the people are quite satisfied with both this Government and the legislation it is introducing, we do not propose to hold a referendum.
Before the provisions of this bill were announced the Leader of the Opposition started an outcry about the welfare of the officers of the private banks. It was said that the staffs of the trading banks would lose their employment, and would be thrown on the mercy of a cold hard world. The right honorable gentleman, when he made these statements, did not know what provisions this hill would contain, but be did not hesitate to attempt to whip up the people into a state of agitation in the hope that it would be possible thereby to prevent or delay the introduction of this measure. He knew that it would be of no use to appeal to the people in the interests of the shareholders or the directors of the banks. Such appeals would leave the Australian people cold. The honorable gentleman did not say anything about the manner in which the private banks had dealt with depositors in the days gone by, but he concentrated his attention on the circumstances of the bank employees. Let me tell honorable members something about how officers have been dealt with by the private banking institutions. These banks have always opposed the demands of their employees for decent conditions. They opposed the formation of a bank officers’ union. Officers of the private banks who first suggested that a union should be formed were victimized by being transferred to inferior posts, or they were even dismissed. When the bank officers union was first established bank officers used to attend the meetings in disguise and under assumed names, because they knew the banking institutions might have their “ stooges “ at the meetings who would act as informers. The banking institutions opposed the registration of the union, but when it was eventually established a secretary had to be found who was not an employee of the private banks. Had such an individual ‘been appointed secretary he would have been instantly dismissed. When the application for registration was made to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, the private banking institutions opposed it on the ground that employees of the banks were not engaged in an industry within the meaning of that term as defined in the act. When established they did everything possible to destroy the organisation. The private banking institutions paid miserable wages to their employees right up to the time when they were forced to pay higher wages fixed under Arbitration Court awards. It was only after the union was established that these officers obtained improved conditions and, even now, whenever applications are made for a variation of the awards applicable to the officers of th: private trading banks the higher pay and better conditions operating in the Commonwealth Bank are quoted. The private banks will not permit employees on low wages to marry without the approval of (he manager; they have refused proper classifications to employees; and they have resisted all applications for long-service leave. Promotions are often based on favoritism and not always on merit. And. if a man should be dismissed he had no right to appeal. As a matter of fact, his name goes on a black list. We have been told that there is no monopoly among the private banks, but, we refuse to ‘believe it, for we know very well that if a bank officer is dismissed he is obliged to leave the industry, for no other bank will employ him. Dismissed officers or those who resign lose all their contributions to superannuation funds. Officers of the Commonwealth Bank, in marked contrast, enjoy higher salaries than officers of private banks, they are given six months’ long-service leave after twenty years’ service, they have a proper classification list under which promotions are made, and they have a promotions appeal board ‘and a disciplinary board. Commonwealth Bank officers who resign or are dismissed receive back all their contributions to the superannuation fund, plus 4 per cent, compound interest, except officers dismissed for defalcations.
This bill makes it clear that the officers of the private banks will not only be guaranteed future employment under conditions which apply to Commonwealth Bank officers, but will also have their periods of service with the private banks taken into account in regard to promotion, long service and the like. The Government has also accepted responsibility for the payment of pensions to officers who have already been retired by the private banks. What more generous treatment could be expected by the employees in any industry than the Government is guaranteeing to the officers of the private trading banks? The Leader of the Opposition did not say one word on this subject to-night, although he saw fit to enlarge upon it before the intentions of the Government were announced.
I turn now to the important subject of the supposed competition among the private banks. The Government is quite certain that no such competition exists. The private trading banks have their association on which they are all represented, and that body determines rates of interest on fixed deposit and upon advances. All such matters, in fact, are determined in consultation. While the Commonwealth Bank was under the domination of outside financial interests it also was involved in the arrangements made by the private trading banks in regard to deposits and advances and the like. In 1940, which is not very long ago, the Archbishop of Perth said -
The banks are so closely allied to each other that they are virtually a monopoly.
That is the view of this Government. According to reports published in March, 1940, twelve directors of two Sydney banks were directors of 25 other companies, including the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, BritishAustralasian Tobacco Company Proprietary Limited, and brewing, newspaper, shipping, insurance and woolbroking companies. In these circumstances, how can it be contended that the banks are concerned about the welfare of the ordinary people of this country? The chief business of these institutions is to look after the interests of hig business. I point out also that seven directors of a Melbourne bank are also directors of 24 of Australia’s largest companies. These are the individuals who are uniting in order to try to defeat the proposals now before us. It is interesting to learn that the Melbourne Argus owns three broadcasting stations, 3 SE, 3UL and 3YB, and has shares in station 3UZ. Its chairman of directors is Mr. J. B. Aitken, a director of the North Broken Hill Mining Company. The chairman of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is Mr. Harold Darling, of the National Bank Board. One of the most prominent members of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited £-. “p :s Sir Olive Baillieu, who is also a director of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank. The Herald, Sun and Weekly Times owns radio stations 3DB and 3LK, and the vice-chairman of that company is Mr. H. D. Giddy, of the National Bank. The Age owns radio stations 3HA, 3FH and 3TR, and has shares in 3 AW, and is owned by the Symes, who have shares in the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. In Sydney, the Fairfax family owns the Sydney Morning Herald. Associated Newspapers Limited, which .publishes the Sun, Woman, Pix, &c, holds 150,000 shares in Australian Consolidated Press, which publishes the Telegraph, Women’s Weekly, &c. The Macquarie Radio Network is linked with the Sun. These are but few of many instances which show that there is a system of interlocking directorates throughout the length and breadth of Australia. These people want to retain control of the financial policy of this country because of the great power which it gives to them over industry and the economy of the nation.
The right honorable gentleman who leads the Opposition said, “ This will place great power in the hands of the Labour Government. It will give to it the opportunity to use its powers in a way that would bc detrimental to the wellbeing of the Australian people, without safeguard and without appeal “. That, of course, is utter rot, and he knows it.
Let me give one more illustration, in order to show the power of these people. A gentleman with whom I am acquainted was employed as an advertising agent by a well-known city firm. He decided to advertise through the Labor Daily, when it was being published in New South Wales. He was immediately called in by the general manager of the company, and was told that he was to give no more advertising to the Labor Daily. The general manager said to him, “ I have been told by my banker that I must give no further advertising to the Labor Daily “. That illustrates how these people are exercising their great authority.
The right honorable gentleman made use of the word “fascism”. His audacity amazes me. I well recollect that, prior to the commencement of the last war, after he had had one of his frequent visits abroad, had called upon Hitler, and
Mussolini, he came back to this country, and there was nobody higher in praise of fascism than he was. He denied that the banks financed Hitler, and then said to the Prime Minister, who contests (hat point, “ Are you arguing that, if there had been a government bank, it would have refused to assist Hitler?” Let me tell honorable members opposite that, in my opinion, the history of Europe would have been considerably different had there been a government bank in those countries, because the private banks first helped to destroy the democratic governments in them. Had those democratic governments not been destroyed, had they been supported by the. financiers, there would have been no dictatorship. It was because the private banks refused to assist the democratically elected governments that eventually Hitler rose to power. It must not be forgotten that it was not only the banks in Germany, but also the Bank of England, which was then under private ownership, which financed Hitler. This is what. Mr. Montagu Norman said in 3939, just on the eve of the outbreak of hostilities, when a loan of £50,000,000 to Hitler was being considered -
Wo will have to give Germany a loan of £50.000,000. We may never be paul back, but it will lie a less loss than the fall of nazi-ism.
Does that indicate that the private banks are opposed to nazi-ism, and to that form of government?
Then we have what occurred after the war had commenced, in connexion with Czechoslovakian gold. When a German invasion was imminent, the gold was taken, out of Czechoslovakia, and reposed in the vaults of the Bank of England. After the Nazis had overrun and occupied Czechoslovakia, they made an application to the Bank of International Settlements, on which the Bank of England had a representative, for the return of the gold. The Bank of International Settlements instructed the Bank of England to transfer the gold holding of the Czech National Bank from Loudon to the Nazis, and that was done with the approval of the representative of the Bank of England, a representative of private finance. When the workers’ representatives became aware of what had been done, and began to attack the Tory Government of the clay, this amazing statement was made in the House of Commons on behalf of that Government -
The Bank of England representatives were in no way responsible to the Government.
It is about time the banking institutions became responsible to the Government. They put out a smoke screen, and say, “ This will lead to the regimentation of the community, to the establishment of a totalitarian state. It is going to interfere with the individual liberties of the people”. That is false propaganda. The Leader of the Opposition has even tried to play upon sectarianism. He has said that the attitude of the Commonwealth Bank may be determined according to the particular religion to which an applicant belongs. When a political party in this country stoops to the introduction of sectarianism in our political life, it becomes a real menace, and the people will know how to deal with it when they get the opportunity to do so. It is true that governments interfere by law with certain liberties of the subject. They prevent the sale of harmful drugs, the adulteration of food, and the employment of young children. All of those things may be regarded by Opposition members as an interference with the liberty of the individual. Honorable members opposite, in their endeavour to create an atmosphere of fear have suggested that the homes of the people are in danger, and say, “ This will not stop with the banks; they are going eventually to take the homes of the people. You will have no personal possessions at all “. Is it not a fact that, if any organization or political movement in this country can claim to have made it possible for workers to own their own homes, it has been the Labour movement? We are not opposed to the private ownership of personal property. It is our hope that all Australians will have the opportunity of owning and occupying their own homes, and that they will be able to have other personal possessions. We are not like anti-Labour parties, which argue that the wages that are paid to the workers are excessive. We want the workers to get higher rates of pay, so that they can provide themselves with homes and the other amenities of civilized existence. We are opposed to the private ownership, not of personal property hut of public property. We believe that so vital is financial policy to the welfare of this country that it is essential that all banking institutions shall be under government ownership and control. Surely there is nobody in this country who is so foolish as to believe that we want these powers in order to create a state of anarchy ! Are we not Australians? No matter what happens we shall fight this matter out. We shall not be like the Leader of the Opposition, -who said at a meeting that he addressed in the Sydney Town Hall, “ If I were a younger man, and the Government were able to do what it proposes to do, I should pack up and get out”. That is the gentleman who said to-night that he is going to “ fight to the last ditch”. Why do we need these powers? It is because we want to have a stable currency. We want to ensure that when the workers get an increase of pay it will lie a real increase, and not one that can be filched from them overnight by a devaluation of the currency. Mr. McConnan, the Chief Manager of the National Bank of Australasia in Melbourne, has said that 80 per cent, of the business of the community is done by cheque. He has thus admitted that the private hanks can of their own free will, inflate the currency when they believe that to be necessary in their own interests.
I turn now to one of the most important reasons for our having sought this power. We have pledged ourselves to >a policy of full employment, and that carries with it the responsibility that the Government shall place itself in a position to prevent private individuals from creating a state of unemployment and of depression when they believe it to be in their interests to do so. There may be some members of this House who may say, “ Who is against a policy of full employment ? “. I tell them that the Leader of the Opposition is opposed to a policy of full employment. The records of the Parliament disclose that, on a previous occasion, when he was criticizing the Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) because of certain things which that gentleman was doing at a conference that was being held at San Francisco he said -
I turn now to the third matter, namely, an International Agreement in relation to full employment “.
The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) interjected, “ The right honorable member does not believe in it “. The Lea.der of the Opposition replied, “ I do not believe in the agreement “, and went on to say -
The representatives of the Government are battling for the inclusion of a specific obligation on the part of Australia in this International Agreement because of the known views of the Minister for External Affairs that if Australia enters into such a specific obligation the Parliament at Canberra will have power to give effect to it under the External Affairs power of the Constitution.
That was a clear admission of his realization that we were trying to get power to implement a policy of full employment. The right honorable gentleman confessed that he was opposed to such a policy. There are many anti-Labour people in this country who long for the days of depression, because they want to put the workers in what they regard as their proper place. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 28th March, 1946, published an article by its financial editor, headed “ Unrest in Industry. Is Depression Necessary?”, in which he said -
Despairing reference to prevailing indiscipline and the difficulty of conscientious work, all too frequently conclude with the remark that only depression will restore industrial efficiency and output. Admittedly, depressions have had the redeeming feature of restoring efficiency, to set against the misery of the unemployed.
These people would not object to a depression, because they want to create fear in the minds of the workers, and make the workers more susceptible to threats against their conditions and wages by anti-Labour forces. There is need for great changes to be made in this country. The Australian worker wants a brighter era to prevail, with better living and industrial conditions. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), addressing the Millions Club prior to the 1937 elections, said this -
Forty per cent, of the 2,000,000 children in Australia, of and under school age, were suffering from malnutrition.
The 1933 census disclosed that there were 480,000 unemployed; that 270,000 Australians earned less than £1 a week, and that 72 per cent, of the working population earned less than £4 a week. Those were the conditions that exist ed when anti-Labour governments had control in this country.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the private banks were not responsible for the depression. What did the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems say in connection with this matter? I quote this from its report -
The trading banks must bear some responsibility for the extent of the depression. In some cases they caused hardship by forcing realization of assets and by refusing credit to some credit-worthy borrowers.
Time will not permit me to tell, at the moment the full story of the disgraceful way in which an ex-member of the Country party in the Parliament of New South Wales was treated. I refer to the late Lieutenant Wilkins, ex-M.L.A. for Bathurst.
Mr. Holt interjecting.
– The honorable gentleman who has interjected has never attempted to explain the treatment by a private bank of this one-legged exserviceman. In order to get its “ pound of flesh “, it actually took possession of his wai’ pension - the war pension of a limbless ex-serviceman.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
– Last week when the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) gave notice of hie intention to introduce this bill, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) interjected from the back bench that he had his speech prepared for twenty years for this occasion. We all realize that he spoke the truth in that, at least; Over the years, we have heard that speech time and time again, and he delivered it to-night with only a few variations. We listened once more to his hymn of hate against any one in the community who is doing anything useful. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) expressed in his speech sentiments which will find an echo in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of Australians, and it is an eloquent commentary upon the weakness of the Government’s position that it was compelled to choose as a speaker to answer the potent arguments of the Leader of the Opposition a Minister who opposed the Government’s own plan in respect of the Bretton Woods Agreement. The Minister for Transport told the Government that, by entering the Bretton Woods Agreement, it would be handing Australia over to a gang of international financiers. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister overruled him, though admittedly only after he had obtained the approval of an Australian Labour party conference. The Minister for Transport made many quotations in his speech, but they were unsupported by documents. He quoted what Mr. Montagu Norman was supposed to have said, but the record of the Minister is such that we are reluctant to accept his statements unless supported by incontrovertible evidence. We remember he made certain statements on the subject of “ the Brisbane line “. The Prime Minister, whom he supports, appointed a royal commission to inquire into his allegations, but when it came to the point the Minister took refuge in the fact that, as a member of the Parliament, he could not be compelled to give evidence, and he refused to testify. The commission, referring to the Minister’s allegations said that there was no such thing as a missing document, and that no officers of the Navy, Army or Air Force had ever heard of “ a Brisbane line “ other than through press reports of the Minister’s statement. That is what the royal commission thought of the Minister who was selected to-night to answer the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, a speech which, step by step, analysed and controverted the speech made by the Prime Minister in moving the second reading of this bill. The Minister for Transport bolstered up his arguments by alleging that the private banks had been guilty of usurious practices in Western Australia in 1924. The fact is that the discount rate on sterling in 1924 was 3$ per cent. There had been heavy sales of wheat to Great Britain, and a balance had been built up in London. The price paid for the wheat was £25,000,000, and the discount amounted to 3-J per cent., or 3d. a bushel. That is the truth of this matter to which the Minister gave such a sinister twist. At the end of his speech, the Minister referred to the sad story of Lieutenant Gordon Wilkins. That story has been told all over Australia, and I have no doubt that the Labour party will make it its stock-in-trade at the next elections. The story was used in the Gwydir by-election in 1937, and it was told again in the elections of 1945. At that time, the private bank was not able to reply, because it respected the confidence that exists between a bank and its customers. Recently, however, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) sent out letters to his constituents in reply to protests against the proposed nationalization of banks, and in these letters he referred to the Wilkins case. The matter having been made public that way, the bank was free to reply. It has now become clear that the bank did not take Lieutenant Wilkins’s pension, but that he agreed to pay into the bank £2 10s. a week by way of reduction of his overdraft. There was nothing compulsory about it. He was at liberty to cancel the arrangement at any time and, in fact, he did cancel it later. Finally, Lieutenant Wilkins, on the 30th August, 1947, wrote the following letter to the bank concerned : -
Referring to my position as a guarantor to the bank for the above company (i.e. Abel Wilkins Motors Limited) and to the negotiations that have occurred as to my liability, [ am willing to pay the bank £150 in full settlement of all claims if I can obtain a transfer of the securities now held by the bank. A settlement on these lines would be entirely satisfactory to me and would be regarded as putting an end to all controversy on this subject.
Let it be noted that Lieutenant Wilkins’s town property was mortgaged, but nothing was done to that. His farm property was mortgaged, but nothing was done to it. The financial arrangement referred to was in respect of another matter. The settlement proposed was accepted, and the bank lost £800 on the transaction. That, briefly, is the story of Lieutenant Gordon Wilkins, but I shall return to it later.
The speech of the Minister for Transport had very little to do with the Banking Bill. If the trading banks are as rapacious as the Minister says, something [-t.il ought to be said about a booklet of about 80 pages which was recently issued by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon). It is very well prepared, and is issued under the authority of Mr. Nelson Lemmon, M.P., Minister for Works and Housing. It bears the crest of the Commonwealth, and was printed by the Government Printer, Melbourne. It is an official document. It contains articles which tell home-seekers how they may finance the building or purchase of a home. If the home-seeker is an exserviceman, he may work through the War Service Homes Department. The booklet also mentioned insurance companies and State housing schemes, and it gives full particulars of how homeseekers should proceed to obtain financial accommodation from the trading banks. In chapter S of the booklet there is an article on the trading banks, from which T quote the following : -
Although a bank overdraft technically is repayable on demand, this right is exercised only in those rare cases of failure on the part of the borrower to co-operate with his banker, and then only after all other means of obtaining reductions in the loan have been explored. A borrower who conducts his account satisfactorily need have no fears of his loan being called up. Rather, a good deal of latitude is given in cases of genuine difficulties . . . The personal element is regarded by the banker as important in deciding how much he will lend. A person known to be trustworthy is likely to be able to borrow a higher percentage against his securities if need be. Dearer houses can therefore be financed than by any other means.
That booklet was issued in April of 1947, just before the Banking Bill was introduced. The references to the personal relations between a banker and his client makes it clear why the people are so perturbed at the proposal that this relationship should be destroyed by the Government’s banking monopoly proposal. Can we imagine that a State banking monopoly is going to pay much attention to the personal character of the client, or regard it as one of the main factors in deciding whether money shall be lent? I think not, and neither does a majority of the people.
– That is a very weak argument.
– If the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who has just interjected, will remain in the chamber I shall have something to say about him later. I had hoped that a considered reply would have been made to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. The speech of the Minister for Transport was in strong contrast to the sober anxiety which was evident in the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who realized that he held the life of his party in his hand. The Prime Minister spoke more like a man delivering a. funeral oration than as one ushering in the “ golden age “. He said that he had told the simple truth about the reasons, purposes and motives of the bill; yet he did not say one word about the full socialization policy of which it is the first instalment. He was either concealing the truth, or he did not intend to he faithful to the socialization pledge which he had taken. He spoke, not the simple truth, but “ truth “ for the simple. Either he must renounce his socialization pledge, or admit that this bill is but part fulfilment of the pledge that binds him. I say deliberately that the Prime Minister’s pledge, and the pledge given by the Minister for Transport, are flagrantly politically dishonest. They are camouflage and trickery. I use these terms in the full sense of their meaning. No language could be strong enough to attack the chicanery and pretence behind this legislation. Both the bill, and the manner in which it has been presented, are contrary to democratic principles. Neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister for Transport was courageous enough to explain exactly what is the purpose of the socialization pledge. Not one member of the Labour party is man enough to recite in this House the pledge to which he solemnly put his signature before he was selected as a candidate for election to this Parliament. I go much further, and say that honorable members opposite have sought invariably to conceal from the public their socialist policy. They are trying to do so now. They have often discussed it in semi-secret party conclave, but reports of it have been published from time to time, and bit by bit the story has been pieced together. Now wo: have a complete set of documents which convict the Government and its supporters of the most grave political trickery. To-night, the Leader of the Opposition exposed the bill as the first of several steps to introduce the full socialization of industry. That is why the Prime Minister refused to explain publicly either this socialist bill or his proposal. That is why he did not mention it in his policy speech before the elections in 1946. The right honorable gentleman and his followers were afraid of the anger of the people, who have been tricked. Honorable members opposite had a very good reason to be afraid. The Leader of the Opposition has already proved that, and I shall produce documents to prove up to the hilt the charge which he has made.
First, let me illustrate what socialization means, so that we all may realize exactly the extent of the Government’s socialist programme. The Minister for Transport has told us, for the “ umpteenth “ time, the sad story of a farmer who was allegedly dispossessed of his property. I have given the answer to that story; hut, for the purposes of his argument, let us assume that the facts are as he stated, notwithstanding that every time he tells the story to us it bears less rela tionship to the story as he first told it. The essence of the story is that a farmer was dispossessed of his farm because he could not pay his debts. This Banking Bill, which the Minister so ardently supports, is the first step in a sinister scheme under which not one farmer but every one of the 250,000 farmers of Australia will ultimately be dispossessed of their farms and “liquidated “, not because they are insolvent, not because they have broken any law, but merely because the Minister for Transport and the Labour party have decided that the time is ripe for the implementation of the monstrous socialist policy to which every member of the Labour party for more than twenty years has pledged his support. This is the pledge in the official platform of the Labour party which is signed by every Labour candidate who stands for election to Parliament -
I also pledge myself to actively support and advocate at all times the party’s objective of the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange.
That pledge is never printed in the party’s political advertisements or pamphlets, mid is not stated in personal appeals made by Labour candidates. It has not been given as the reason for this bill. Yet tile Prime Minister has signed it; the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has signed it; the Minister for Transport has signed it; the Minister for Labour and National Service has signed it; and so, too, have the honorable members for Perth (Mr. Burke), Grey (Mr. Russell), Wannon (Mr. McLeod), Hume (Mr. Puller), Riverina (Mr. Langtry), Robertson (Mr. Williams), Parkes (Mr. Haylen), Martin (Mr. Daly), Lilley (Mr. Hadley) and many others. What is more, the former Labour Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McKell, signed it. That pledge is perfectly plain; is means not only socialization of banking, but also socialization of all industry, including rural industry, and all production, including rural production. It means the ultimate dispossession and liquidation of all farmers - nothing more and nothing less - just, as was done in Russia under socialization twenty years ago, when the Minister for Transport says he was busily engaged in writing his speech on this subject. The honorable gentleman shed crocodile tears about one farmer who allegedly was dispossessed of his farm, but he said nothing about the 250,000 solvent farmers.
If honorable members opposite were really honorable, as honest people understand the meaning of the word, they would have told the electors last year that they proposed to implement the socialization pledge, and explained what the pledge means. They well knew that had they done so, very few of them would be in this House to-night. It is useless for them to deny that nationalization is not identical with socialization, or say that banking and industry are separate things. The policy of their party is headed “ Socialization of Industry “. Paragraph 3 of the policy actually combines nationalization of industry and all principal industries into one and the same thing. What is more, the Prime Minister, on the first page of his printed speech, which he delivered when moving the second reading of the bill last week, admitted that money, credit and banking play a part “’ as vital to the economic body as the bloodstream to the human body “. In saying that, he admitted that he was trying to divert the arterial bloodstream of all industry. He knew that if this bill is ever implemented no other acts of Parliament will be needed to implement his policy of socializing all industry. Already, in his capacity as Treasurer, the right honorable gentleman has sole ultimate control of the Note Issue and all currency. By the Banking Act of 194.”i he became the political head of the Commonwealth Bank. This bill will give to him sole ultimate control of all the money and credits in the accounts of every depositor with every trading bank in Australia. In short, the Prime Minister now wants to make himself financial dictator of all Australia. If he succeeds in that, he can proceed at leisure to socialize ail industry by regulation.
The fight will not be finished with the passing of this bill. If it is in the power nf the Opposition to prevent it from becoming law, we shall utilize every means that we have, both inside and outside the Parliament, in a constitutional way, to arouse the people to the dangers that menace them and their liberty. But why all this duplicity and concealment? Let me tell honorable members what the Prime Minister and the Minister for Transport have to conceal. They have to conceal the fact that they are implementing a policy designed by the Bolshevik Communists, the worst and most poisonous faction of all the Communist factions. Already, the Prime Minister is arguing with the Australian branch of the Communist party as to who invented the socialization policy. He is indignantlydenying the right to the Communists to “ horn in “ and help him “ put it over “. It would be really funny if it were not so ghastly. Recently, the Prime Minister claimed in this House that socialization has always been a cherished article of the Labour party’s faith. The fact is that socialization of industry, commencing with banking, first became an objective of the Australian Labour party in 1921. It can be proven that it was derived slavishly, item by item, from a Communist manifesto published by the Australian branch of the Russian Communis: party, from Rawson-place, Sydney, in 1920, which was based on a Communist Internationale manifesto dated March, 1919, issued by Rakovski Lenin, Trotsky and Zinoviev. Lenin is dead ; Zinoviev was executed; and Trotsky was murdered in Mexico. Time marches on for the Communists, too. In sixteen ra’bid pages, this revolting document incites revolutionaries in all countries to set Tip a proletarian dictatorship. It invites them to proceed by the method of expropriation of private property through socialization. For this purpose, it urges the adoption of one of two methods, either revolution by force, or revolutionary use of the Parliament. The Banking Bill constitutes the second method. The Minister for Labour .and National Service nods his head in agreement. Its affect would te to make the Treasurer the financial dictator of Australia. The Communist manifesto, in these words, advises its members how to proceed -
The proletarian dictatorship must carry out . . expropriation . . . and convert the means of production and distribution into the common property of the proletarian state.
The first steps, it then says, are to be the socialization of the great banks, the socializing of all branches of production, and the socializing of agricultural estates. The so-called Australian Communist party was at least honest enough to give it credit for this technique. The Prime Minister and his followers claim that this hoary stuff is true-blue Australian policy, redolent with the smell of wattle and gum leaves. It is no more Australian than the hammer and sickle is the emblem of Australia. “When the Prime Minister claims the policy as his very own, one may give credence to the rumour that last week, in the Red Square at Moscow, where Lenin’s mummified body lies in a glass coffin in a beautiful mausoleum, the coffin was found shattered by a violent upheaval and Lenin’s body was found over-turned. The Prime Minister can, of course, bring evidence to prove the Australian origin of this policy. He can refer the doubtful to the Minister for Labour and National Service, who, as Mr. Holloway, president of the Australian Labour party executive, not as Minister for Labour and National Service, was president of the AllAustralian Trades Union Congress held in Melbourne in June, 1921.
– Yes, I am very proud of that.
– The Minister expresses his pride! That congress lifted this socialization policy, without acknowledgment, straight from the Communist manifesto. He had it adopted by the conference of the Australian Labour party in Brisbane, moving Mr. Theodore, who was Premier of Queensland, to remark publicly, “ The Labour party might as well change its name to the Communist party and be done with it “. The present Minister for Labour and National Service, who was then plain Mr. Holloway, can truthfully say that not one Russian was at either conference and can point to the fact that the prime leaders were Mr. Beasley, our High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, Mr. Makin, our Ambassador in the United States of America, and the Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford), who was then just Mr. Drakeford, all, like himself, honorable Ministers or recently honorable Ministers in the Chifley Administration. He will probably not say that he had with him throughout - and I say this now with all seriousness - Mr. “ Jock “ Garden, founder of the Communist party in Australia, which had been founded and had already published the first Australian edition of the Communist manifesto from Moscow. The Minister will, of course, say that he did not get this policy in 1921 from the manifesto issued by Lenin in 1919 and published in Australia in 1920.
– Did he think of it himself ?
– The question is, who thought of it if Lenin and Trotsky did not? All Australia is waiting for an answer to that. It is true that we are a simple, trusting people, but we are not so simple as to believe that the Minister’s conference in 1921 thought of the same plan and policy for the nationalization of banks and industry as was conceived by Lenin and Trotsky only a year or so before. Those are the dates and those are the facts. Mr. “ Jock “ Garden is the only Australian Communist who has sat with Lenin, on the executive of the Third Internationale at Moscow. I asked the Minister in the House last week a few questions about Mr. Garden. I asked him. “Where is Garden now?” The
Minister, who said that communism was Christian ethics, said, “ Oh, Garden, he is now employed by my department- on the 8th floor of the Commonwealth Bank Building in Sydney. He has an office in the department that I administer, an office of his own “ - and it may be to the point that that office is cheek by jowl with the office of the Minister for Transport; - “ and he acts as my liaison between the employers and the employees, and he is doing a good job “. Mr. “ Jock “ Garden, the founder of the Communist party in Australia, the only Australian who has ever been a member of the executive of the Third Internationale, is now employed by the Minister as his key man. Perhaps significantly, his office is in the Sydney premises of the Commonwealth Bank, by which the acquisition of the trading banks is now being debated. There may be no significance in that, but many Australians may think there is.
There is one organization in Australia that is fighting the Communist menace, and I take this opportunity of giving credit to it. I have a booklet issued by the Roman Catholic bishops of Australia. It is issued under the authority of Cardinal Gilroy, of Sydney, the Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr. Mannix, the Archbishops of Perth, Adelaide, and Hobart, and the Bishops of Maitland, Ballarat, Goulburn, Wagga and Toowoomba. It is entitled Peace in Industry. A copy should be in the hands of every Australian regardless of his denomination. This is what the Roman Catholic bishops say in the manifesto issued by them -
We have drawn attention to the fact that in the present battle to preserve the democratic liberties of the Australian people, the trade unions are the key to the situation. So long as the Communist party enjoys a strong influence in the union movement, so long is orderly government impossible. The apathy of the community at large has allowed the cancer of communism to grow until it has disordered the nation’s economy, challenged its parliamentary institutions - threatened its freedom. [ do not belong to their faith, but I give them credit for being in the forefront of the fight to preserve our democratic freedom against the infiltration of the Communist element. The Minister for Labour and National Service sits on the treasury bench, the confessed employer of “ Jock “ Garden, the leader of the Communists of Australia for very many years. He is not now a professing: Communist, but Communists all turn, their coats when the need arises, and they will just as quickly turn them back again when the opportunity occurs. The honorable gentleman defends the Communists because, he said, they practise Christian ethics. Is the practice of Christian ethics within the capacity of men who are destroying religion in every country in which they have been able to establish themselves? 1 do not propose to go farther into that subject, because my time will not permit.
I support the great speech made by the Leader of the Opposition to-night. It has been said that dissension and differences of opinion exist between the Country party and the Liberal party. The differences of opinion are more a matter of propaganda from the other side than fact. But, on this issue, we are completely united. We stand as one party. My colleagues and I in the Australian Country party give our allegiance to the Leader of the Opposition in the fight that he is carrying through the length and breadth of Australia to prevent nationalization of banking from being fastened on to our freedom-loving people. A referendum has been refused and 25,000 or 30,000 names on petitions that I have presented have been received and then ignored. The will of the people is being disregarded. A Gallup poll revealed that 63 per cent, of the people are opposed to nationalization of the private banks and only 23 per cent, in favour of it. That means that of every 1,000 people only 230 have signified their approval of the measure. Yet. in spite of the fact that all the evidence shows that the will of the people is against it, the Government proposes to give effect to its policy. If it destroys the private banking system and socializes this country before the next general elections, we pledge ourselves to get back into office by whatever means lie within our power and undo the damage that the Government will do if its banking proposals become law.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Williams) adjourned.
Message received from the Senate intimatingthat Senator O’Sullivan had been appointed to the vacancy now existing on the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment -Department of Health -R.J Preiss.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act -Ordinances - 1947 -
No.8 - Industrial Board.
House adjourned at 10.56 p.m.
The followinganswers to questions were circulated: -
Mrs.Blackburn asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Have advertisements appeared in the press for two months asking for four reserve naval medical officers?
Is it a fact that only two applications have been received ?
Is the four-year term required by the Navy the stumbling block preventing applications being made or are the general conditions too poor tobe attractive?
Is the new rate of pay. with bonus, in effect, : 5s. a day less than the rate of pay previously operating, on the basis of46s. per day (for a man with wife and child), plus bonus of £500 after four years, compared with the previous payment of41s.6d. per day plus bonus of £1.000 after five years?
Did those students who entered the medical schools in our universities during the war, and who received assistance, understand that they might be required to give some service on their graduation?
Are there now 700 of these graduated persons, and is it a fact that none has been called on to fill the positions declared vacant?
Is it a fact that at Flinders Naval Base there are six medical officers to attend fewer than 140 beds, and that half of the occupants have common colds only, needing no skilled attention and providing not more than two hours a day in work for the medical officers? If so, why are men being refused theirdischarge after giving service?
Do the same conditions exist at the Rand wick Base?
Mr.Riordan. - The answers tothe honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.. Advertisements have appeared periodically since the 23rd August, 1947, inviting applications for four years’ short service as medical officer in the Royal Australian Navy. The number required was not. stated.
n asked the Minister fur Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. Trans-Australia Airlineshas not converted or equipped any aircraft for the special purpose of carrying racehorse. Removable stalls, capable of being installed for that purpose in its Douglas-type freighter aircraft, have been tested.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 October 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19471023_reps_18_194/>.