18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present a petition from certain electors of Western Australia, in the divisions of Perth, Fremantle, Forrest, Kalgoorlie and Swan, the total number of signatures on which is 31,74.7, praying that no further steps be taken by the Government to nationalize the banking system in Australia without first taking a referendum of the people on the subject.
I point out that the petition was sponsored by the CitizensRights Association in Western Australia. The original intention of the association was to conduct a State-wide campaign, in order to obtain as many signatures as possible in the short time that was available to it between the 4th and the 10th October. Furthermore, it will be noted that each of the petition forms contains the roll number, name, address and signature of the elector. In most instances, the roll number of the individual has been attached, and his name has been struck through, on the master Commonwealth electoral rolls in the possession of the association, thus ensuring avoidance of duplication, and a check of the authenticity of the signatures. In this task, the association was somewhat hampered by reason of the fact that the Commonwealth electoral rolls in Western Australia are still dated August, 1946. It is understood that new rolls are to be printed shortly. Some of the names on the petition do not appear on the rolls in the possession of the association. Nevertheless, the association is certain, and it guarantees, that they are names of persons who have passed the age of 21 years and have become enrolled. Others relate to electors who have changed their addresses. I vouch for the signatures. I assure the House that the petition is respectfully worded, concludes with a prayer, and is otherwise in conformity with the rules and orders of the House. I have very much pleasure in moving -
That the petition be received.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) has presented a petition containing 31,747 names. If I understood you correctly, Mr. Speaker, you said recently that any member presenting a petition should be in a position to verify the accuracy of its contents. I should like to know how the honorable member is able to vouch with a fair degree of accuracy for the signatures of persons in many different electorates. Is not the presentation of a petition frivolous when an honorable member cannot say whether or not the signatures which appear on it are genuine? Recently, the honorable member for Calare presented a small petition from Trundle, in his division.
– Order ! There is only one petition before the House.
– I was merely about to point out that I checked that petition, and found that some of the signatures on it were duplications. How are we to know that that has not occurred many times in this instance?
– In regard to the authenticity of petitions, I have not at any time said that honorable members who present them should be able to ‘verify all the names that appear on them. All that I have said is that the House, out of courtesy, usually receives the petitions, and expects honorable members who present them to take reasonable precautions to ensure their genuineness. That does not imply that an honorable member must peruse over 30,000 signatures.
– Is it permissible to speak on the motion for the presentation of a petition?
– I should like to take this opportunity to make one or two pertinent observations. It seems that the electors of Australia who are not represented by honorable members on this side of the House have no opportunity to present their views on banking to this Parliament otherwise than by the method adopted by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton). I have seen in the newspapers published in the electorate of the honorable member for Martin -
– Order ! The House is now considering a petition received from Western Australia, not one from the division of Martin.
– No, but I am pointing out-
– The honorable member may not point it out. He must restrict himself to the petition under consideration.
– I am doing so. The electors of Australia have no opportunity, except through the good graces of honorable members on this side of the House, to express their opinion on banking to the House. Electors of constituencies represented by Government supporters have tried by every means in their power to have petitions presented, but without avail. Their own representatives refuse to present their petitions, leaving them no alternative but to act as have the electors whose petition the honorable member for Swan has sought to present to-day.
– I rise to a point of order, and ask for your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether debates should be allowed on the motion for the presentation of a petition. May’s Parliamentary Practice, fourteenth edition, from which you yourself often quote, states at page 802, on the subject of the presentation of petitions -
It is to the representatives of the people that petitions are chiefly addressed, and to them they were sent in such numbers that restrictions have been necessarily imposed upon the discussion of their merits. Formerly, the practice of presenting- petitions had been generally similar to that of the House of Lords; but the number had so much increased (/), and the business of the House was so much interrupted by the debates which arose on receiving petitions (g), that Standing Orders dealing with the matter were adopted in 1842 and 1853 (Standing Orders Nos. 75-79). In accordance with these orders, a member, on the presentation of a petition, may read the prayer and make a statement as to the parties from whom it comes, the number of its signatures and its material allegations.
Therefore, according to established parliamentary practice, no debate is allowed on the motion for the presentation of a petition, and I take the point that further debate on the present .motion is out of order.
– Our only obligation to look to the procedure of the House of Commons for guidance is when our own Standing Orders are silent or do not exist. Our Standing Orders provide for the restriction of debate on certain motions. Where no restriction is imposed under the Standing Orders on a debate I have always ruled, if a ruling were required, that the debate should ensue. I propose to allow the debate to proceed.
– I would not have made a comment on this-
– I rise to a further point of order.
– I refer you, Mr. Speaker, to Standing Order 89 -
– Order ! The honorable member for Fremantle-
– I refer you to Standing Order 89-
-Order ! The honorable member for Fremantle has the call.
– I would not have intervened in this debate but for the statement by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) that a petition presented by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) included the signatures of certain electors of the division of Fremantle.
Mr. Holt interjecting,
– The honorable member for Fawkner must be careful or he will be removed from the chamber.
– The honorable member for Wentworth stated that the electors must use Opposition members in order to secure the presentation of a petition to this House, conveying the clear innuendo that petitions have been presented to Labour members from Western Australia. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I have not received any petition to present to this House from the electors of Fremantle. Petitions from electors of other electorates have been directed to mc and to the Prime Minister. There was, I think, an intention on the part of the honorable member for Wentworth, to create an impression that it was necessary to use the good offices of the honorable member for Swan for this purpose because of some failure on our part. I assert clearly that I have not received from the electors of Fremantle any petition on this matter to present to the House.
– Like the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley)-
– Mr. Speaker-
– Order !
– Mr. Speaker-
– Order ! The honorable, member for Hindmarsh is addressing the Chair.
– I would not have risen to speak on this matter but for what was said by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and a statement which I read in a newspaper circulating in my electorate, that an honorable member opposite had presented a petition from the people of my electorate.
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled at this stage to discuss a petition from the electors of South Australia. The question before the Chair is whether a petition from certain electors in Western Australia should be received.
– I agree that all petitions should be received. In reply to the allegation of the honorable member for Wentworth that Government supporters will not present to the House petitions on the subject of banking and the statement in the press that an Opposition member had to do so in their stead, I affirm that no person in my electorate has ever sent to me a petition or other matter that I have not been willing to present to the House.
– Order ! The honorable member must address his remarks to the question whether a certain petition from Western Australia should be received.
– I deprecate the statements made by the honorable member for Wentworth, particularly the allegation that when petitions have been presented by honorable members opposite they have been ridiculed by honorable members on this side of the House. I make my own position clear. I have never raised any objection to the presentation of a petition on behalf of any people no matter whence they come. I can only say that I have no objection to petitions, and that any petition sent to me for presentation to the House will be presented if it is in order.
– I desire to raise a point of order on the Standing Orders themselves. Standing Order 89 provides -
Every petition, which according to the Rules of the House can be received, shall be brought to the Table by the member presenting the same, and no discussion upon the subjectmatter thereof shall be allowed.
– That is correct.
– The point of order that I ask a ruling upon is this : Once a petition, which according to the rules of the House can be received, has been brought to the table, can discussion then proceed upon the matter ? Secondly, if, in accordance with the Standing Orders, a motion is moved, is any discussion permissible, having regard to this standing order?
– The standing order is very clear. As I pointed out earlier to-day’ we refer to the House of Commons rulings and Standing Orders only when we have none of our own to cover a situation. Standing Order 89 provides -
Every petition, which according to the Rules of the House can be received, shall be brought to the Table by the Member presenting the same, and no discussion upon the subject-matter thereof shall be allowed.
These petitions relate to banking. It would be absurd for the Chair to allow a discussion on banking or the Banking Bill 1947 under cover of a petition about ‘banking, but, if any honorable member were in a position to challenge the authenticity of a particular petition, he could do. so, or any honorable member might take the view that the continual petitioning of the House was intended to unduly influence honorable members and protest against any petition being received. I give that merely as an illustration. The House, having been asked to receive a petition, has the right to debate whether it should receive it or not, ‘but the subject-matter of the petition cannot be debated. I think that is quite clear.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I understand that during my temporary absence a petition was presented from people in my electorate, and that the statement was made, or the inference conveyed, that it had to be presented by the honorable member who presented it because I was unwilling to present petitions. I have two comments to make. The first is that the honorable mem’ber who presented the petition from my electorate has a hig enough job to represent his own constituents and will have a bigger job to continue to represent them.
– I did not imply anything about the honorable member.
– Secondly, no petitions have come to me for presentation to the House. In fact, from correspondence I have received, I have formed the strong suspicion that the petition in question was prepared by the honorable member who presented it. “Whether inside or outside this chamber honorable members will find me a ready contestant.
– I, too, desire to make a personal explanation.
– The honorable member may take part in the debate. He has no need to make a personal explanation in order to do so.
.- The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) recently made a charge against the people of Trundle, a town in my electorate. He said that their signatures were duplicated on petitions presented to the House. That is utterly false. If the honorable member for Martin has not the decency to apologize publicly to the people of Trundle, who are not accustomed to, and resent, his allegations, would you, Mr. Speaker, direct him to write to each of those people whom he has slandered apologizing to them ?
– I am afraid that is not within the power of the Chair.
– I rise to order. When the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) was presenting a certain petition he mentioned that the document contained signatures from the electorate of Forrest. I quite believe that that is true. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) then rose, and stated that the honorable member for Swan had been compelled to present a petition which contained the names of persons residing in the electorate of Forrest, which I have the honour to represent, because I would not present the petition to this House. The statement that I had received petitions and would not present them to the House is untrue. I have not received a. petition to present to the House or to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). The only petition which I received contained about eight signatures, and was addressed to me. Further, the statement that I had refused to present petitions to the House is a reflection on me, and I ask that the honorable member for Wentworth withdraw it.
– The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) has complained that an insinuation by the honorable member for Wentworth is offensive to him. I ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– May I be permitted to explain, Mr. Speaker-
– No. The honorable member must withdraw or apologize.
– I refuse to withdraw, unless it is at your immediate direction.
– It is.
– “Very well. So that there shall be no further repercussions, I withdraw the statements. I have no desire to be suspended for a month this time.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) implied to-day that I had received petitions, in relation to banking, which I would not present to the House. In common with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) and the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), I have never received any petitions to present to this House, and, consequently, have not refused to do so. Further, I suggest to the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) that he check the list again before he makes insinuations against me, and ensure that he presents to the House accurate information.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Before I move that the petition be read, must I bring it to the table?
– For the benefit of the honorable member for Swan, I shall read Standing Order 89 again -
Every Petition, which according to the Rules of the House can be received, shall be brought to the Table by the Member presenting the same . . .
Motion (by Mr. Hamilton) agreed to-
That the petition be read.
– I suggest that, in future, honorable members would be well advised not to pay undue attention to the Standing Orders in this respect because of possible repercussions.
– I rise to order. It appears that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) has only delivered to the Clerk about half the signatures on the petition. Do you not rule, Mr. Speaker, that he should also deliver the remainder to-day?
– The petition bearing 46,000 signatures which I still hold is addressed to the Prime Minister.
Other petitions in relation to the nationalization of banking in Australia were presented as follows.: -
By Mr. ADERMANN, from certain electors of the division of Maranoa.
By Mr. BERNARD CORSER, from certain electors of the division of “Wide Bay.
By Mr. DAVIDSON, from certain electors of the division of Capricornia.
Petitions received and read.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the press report that Mr. W. Teeling, a member of the British House of Commons, who has just completed a tour of Japan, believes that the Japanese should be allowed to send their excess population to Dutch New Guinea? Does the right honorable gentleman believe that any such development could possibly meet with the approval of the relatives of the thousands of Australian soldiers who died fighting against the Japanese, or of those ex-prisoners of war who suffered badly at their hands? Will the right honorable gentleman indicate the Government’s views on Mr. Teeling’s statement, and, if they are opposed to what Mr. Teeling is reported to have said, will he protest to the British Government against such statements being made, or such ideas being put into the minds of the Japanese ?
– I noticed last night a press reference to a statement that had been made by a member of the British House of Commons. The Government has received no official intimation of any proposal such as that mentioned. Naturally, it has never considered the matter. I do not think it was suggested that the Japanese should be permitted to enter Papua and New Guinea. In my view, that would be most unwise, and certainly would not have the consent of the Government.
– Throughout country districts in my electorate, various shire councils are carrying out an extensive programme of electricity supply extensions for the benefit of primary producers. The estimated cost of the extensions at Tumut is £53,000. Delay is being caused by the shortage of such materials as transformers, copper cables and insulators. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping take the matter up with the State authorities in New South Wales, with a view to having the necessary equipment made available at the earliest possible date, and thus assist to give a necessary stimulus to the speeding up of primary production, as well as the provision of this much desired amenity?
– The question relates to the activities of my department rather t han to those of the Department of Supply and Shipping. The allocation of certain materials is undertaken by the secondary industries division of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, but it applies only as between States and does not extend right down to individuals in the different States. I fully appreciate the need for the provision of electricity supplies in rural areas, and assure the honorable member that I shall take the matter up with the New SouthWales authorities in order to see whether supplies can be made available expeditiously for the purpose mentioned.
Flight of Aircraft from Laverton to Canberra.
– Recently, I asked the Minister for Air a question, and he requested me to supply further particulars. With that request I now comply. Was aircraft A65-123 flown from Laverton to Canberra on Wednesday, the8th October ? If it was, was the instruction given to the Royal Australian Air Force that “very important persons “ were to be flown in it to Canberra? What are the names of the persons who travelled in it, and what was the reason for their visit? Did the crew fly the aircraft back to Laverton without any passengers? How much petrol was used on the forward and return journeys? In view of the frequent ministerial statements emphasizing the importance of conserving petrol, and the further rationing recently imposed, how does the Minister justify the flight of this aircraft?
– On the date mentioned, an aeroplane was flown to Canberra because, on the previous day, another aeroplane on which I was to have travelled was found to be defective upon my arrival at the airport. The replacement was made, not on my instructions, but in compliance with orders that were issued by the Royal Australian Air Force. It was flying empty to Canberra. It carried my wife and the wife of my private secretary, who otherwise would have travelled by Trans-Australia Airlines, with which airline my wife had been booked to travel. In consequence, the aircraft that was returned was that which flew me to Canberra, not that which has been referred to in the honorable member’s question, and in an article that was published in a weekly journal which has not a reputation for truthful ness in the allegations that it makes, but on which the honorable member apparently relies. It is, therefore, clear that an aircraft was not flown for the special purpose of bringing any person to Canberra, and that the aircraft which brought the persons I have mentioned was not returned empty to Melbourne. The quantity of petrol consumed was that which is customarily used on a flight of that kind. The flight of the aircraft to Canberra was due entirely to a defect in the machine that was intended for my use. I had to use another machine in order that I might reach Canberra in time to attend a Cabinet meeting. On occasions, the honorable member has taken advantage of the opportunity to use aircraft to travel between Canberra and Melbourne, yet he apparently objects to Ministers using them for official purposes.
– I address a question to you, Mr. Speaker, concerning privilege, and the forms and orders of the House. Yesterday, you made some comments in regard to gross misreporting by a certain newspaper and the subject of privilege, and said that you would take certain action. I now ask you whether you have taken that action and, if you have, with what result ? Have you read to-day’s newspapers, particularly the Sydney Daily Telegraph? In view of the assault that was made on the privilege of which you spoke, will youhave the subject-matter that appears on page five of to-day’s Sydney Daily Telegraph read to the House, or would it be possible to have it incorporated in Hansard, so that it may become a permanent record?
– In fulfilment of the intention that I expressed yesterday, I scanned all the daily newspapers, in order to ascertain whether any other journal had offended to the degree to which the Sydney Daily Telegraph had. . I confess that I was unable to discover that any other journal had so misrepresented the position. So that there will be no misconception, nor any speculation as to what I have done in the matter, I propose to read the letter which I forwarded to the representative of the Sydney Daily Telegraph. It was in these terms -
My attentionhas been drawn to a frontpage editorial, appearing in the Daily Telegraph of to-day’s date, under the heading “ They cannot censor us - yet “, in which the following appears : -
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 re-broadcast an incident which happened in Parliament.
In my view only one interpretation can be placed upon the abovementioned statement, and that is that the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings was responsible for certain incidents not being broadcast in the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news service. The suggestion is completely untrue and, in my view, a gross reflection on the abovementioned committee.
The Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings acted strictly in conformity with a principle adopted by both Houses of Parliament, the principle being - “ (4) Re-broadcast of questions and answers. - Within the limits of time available, the following parliamentary proceedings should 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.”
Your paper, in common with other papers, enjoys certain privileges in the Commonwealth Parliament, not enjoyed in any other parliament in Australia, and the continuance of the enjoyment of those privileges in the House is a matter entirely at the discretion of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
I have consulted with the President, and he concurs, that your newspaper should be given 24 hours to completely refute the imputations contained in the abovementioned editorial ; otherwise the privileges enjoyed by your staff will be immediately cancelled.
That letter was forwarded to the representative of the Sydney Daily Telegraph. and a statement was submittedto me of which I did not entirely approve in the first instance. It was amended to my satisfaction, and was properly presented to the public to-day in a very prominent part of the newspaper. I am satisfied that there has been a complete retraction of what was unquestionably an untrue statement.
Real Estate Transactions : Land Sales Control - Import Licence: Far Eastern Exchange Proprietary Limited
– I have here an answer which I have just received to a question which I placed on the noticepaper on the 15th May last, concerning the cost of administration of Land Sales Control, and the answer contains very debatable matter. On the 26th September last, I asked a question concerning an import licence for the Far Eastern Exchange Proprietary Limited, which was not answered until after the Estimates, on which this matter might have been discussed, had been passed. That answer also contained highly debatable matter. Will the Prime Minister explain the reason for the delay in answering those questions? Is it due to the fact that the Government desired to withhold answers to questions of a touchy character until an opportunity to debate them during the consideration of the Estimates in this House had passed ?
– The honorable member for Wentworth and other honorable members may accept my assurance that no delays have occurred in answering questions, except those caused by the physical difficulty of preparing the answers. Some questions involve a great deal of investigation by departmental officers in preparing answers. The officers are often overworked in an attempt to prepare answers to questions which are sometimes, I confess, asked only in the hope of making political propaganda out of them. The instruction to departments is that, subject to carrying out other necessary work, officers shall prepare answers to questions as soon as possible. What other Ministers do is a matter for themselves to decide, but so far as my department is concerned, I am not going to take away from their duties senior officers who may be engaged on urgent work, such asthe preparation of bills for presentation to the Parliament, so that they may spend days delving into statistics to answer questions. Subject to that provision, all questions will be answered as soon as possible. In regard to the question mentioned by the honorable member, no attempt was made to delay the preparation of the answer. I spent part of Saturday afternoon going through the file associated with the subject-matter of the second question mentioned by the honorable member before I approved of the answer, and that is a practice which I try to follow whenever possible. However, I may be delayed by important work, and that probably applies to other Ministers, also.
– Further to my question yesterday regarding the appointment of Mr. S. P. Lewis as a representative of Australia to the Unesco conference in Mexico City, will the Prime Minister inform the House whether he is aware that Lewis is a notorious Communist, and holds an important position in the inner Communist organization in Australia? Is it a fact that Lewis has indicated that he proposes to visit France, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Greece, in addition to Mexico, Canada and the United Kingdom? Have vouchers for his expenses been approved by the Department of External Affairs, and to what amount? Has the Prime Minister considered all reports that have been received from the Commonwealth Investigation Service regarding Lewis’s activities, and is it a fact that Lewis is going to head-quarters of the Comintern in Europe, as a direct representative of the Communist party of Australia? Will the Prime Minister give an assurance to this Parliament that, in view of the serious disclosures regarding Communist subversion, no Communists will be permitted to represent Australia at international gatherings? Will the Government cancel Lewis’s credentials and passport forthwith?
– The Minister for Postwar Reconstruction will answer the question.
– The activities of Unesco in Australia come under my department. When the matter was raised in this House recently, I got in touch with the Director of Education, Professor Mills, and I have received from him the following telegram: -
Mr. Medworth was recommended for membership of the delegation by the National Cooperating Body (Visual Arts) and by the co-ordinating committee of National Coordinating bodies.
Mr. Lewis was recommended for membership of the delegation by the Australian Teachers’ Federation, which represents State school teachers of all States except Queensland, a membership of 21,000. Both Mr. Medworth and Mr. Lewis are officers of the New South Wales Department of Education. The DirectorGeneral ofEducation, New South Wales, informs me there is no information in the records of the department as to what political views are held by Mr. Medworth or by Mr. Lewis, and there has never been any complaint raised to the department that they have attempted to introduce any political views into their work within the department.
The Government has no information whatever as to whether either of these gentlemenbelongs to the Communist party. The delegation was selected on the basis that there shall be a representative of the teachers’ union, and the union has approved of Mr. Lewis. The Department of Education in New South Wales will, I hope, agree to make him available for that purpose. The Australian Government will bear the cost of the delegation, which consists of five members, to the conference in Mexico City. Whether Mr. Lewis or Mr. Medworth will be able to visit other countries rests almost entirely with the Department of Education of New South Wales. If it grants them facilities and leave to visit other countries, that is the business of the department. It has nothingto do with this Government. The delegation has been chosen in the only democratic way possible.
– But my question has not been answered.
– What about dollars for the trip?
– On a number of occasions, I have pointed out that an honorable member may, subject to the Standing Orders, ask a question in any way he likes. In the same way, a Minister may reply in any way he likes, provided he conforms with the Standing Orders. He may even refuse to answer the question at all.
– Dollars are being provided for the journey as far as Mexico City only.
Ban on Inspection.
– I have received a letter from the headmaster of a school at Kalangadoo in my electorate who states that he proposed to take the children on a visit to Adelaide, some 300 miles away, and while there to give them an opportunity to inspect the premises of the Advertiser newspaper office. A letter was written to the office of the newspaper asking for permission to inspect the premises, and the following reply was received: -
Respecting your letter of the 15th instant asking permission for children from your school to make a visit of inspection to view the printing of * paper and the running of our plant. The ban which was imposed during the war period prohibiting parties from seeing this operation has not yet been lifted, and we are unable at this juncture to extend to your members the necessary invitation.
Should, however, the restriction be cancelled at a later date, we will be pleased to grant the desired permission for a visit by your pupils.
Will the Prime Minister state what earthly good purpose is served by prohibiting people from looking over a newspaper plant?
– I was unaware of the existence of the ban to which the honorable member has referred. I have no knowledge of any regulation which might have prevented such a visit being made. It is possible, however, that some wartime regulation remains which was taken advantage of by the newspaper to refuse the request. It -would appear that the continuation of such a restriction, if one exists, is unjustified, and the necessary arrangements will be made to remove it. There may be another side to the matter. After all, I have heard only the side presented by the honorable member. He may rest assured, however, that the matter will be looked into sympathetically.
– Following upon the question asked last week by the honorable member for Grey indicating that some thousands of tons of galvanized iron awaiting despatch to South Australia are being held in New South Wales because of the shortage of shipping, I have received a letter from the Wine Makers Association of South Australia stating that, unless something is done to expedite the supply of black iron for cutting into strips for use by coopers engaged in mak ing wine casks, the export of wine from South Australia will be seriously affected. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping discuss with his colleague the desirability of arranging for an early shipment of galvanized and black iron so that the threatened hold-up in the export of win* may be averted?
– It is true that some little time ago there was an accumulation of galvanized iron in New South Wales, including certain supplies that should have gone to South Australia had shipping been available. In the meantime, however, steps have been taken to allocate some of that surplus to the Australian Wheat Board in New South Wales for the building of bulkheads for wheat, and additional supplies have also been allotted to New South Wales for building purposes. Whilst I am certain that the Minister for Supply and Shipping is doing his utmost to ensure that shipping facilities are made available to take supplies of galvanized iron to South Australia, I shall again draw his attention to the great necessity for ensuring that this be done expeditiously.
Reduction of Strength : Manus Island
– Is the Prime Minister in a position either to affirm or deny press statements to the effect that the British Government is withdrawing its Pacific Fleet and drastically reducing the Home Fleet? If the statements are correct, will the right honorable gentleman indicate whether the Government has given consideration to the future of Manus Island in the light of these developments?
– I have seen certain press statements regarding the reduction of the size of the British Fleet. I heard very briefly early this morning that Mr. Alexander had made a statement in the House of Commons indicating that the press reports were incorrect. The Australian Government has had no official information from the British Government in respect of this matter;’ Manns Island has been discussed not only with the Government of the United States in regard to stores and supplies there, but also with the Defence Council. In addition, two Ministers have visited the island to examine the installations there. The general question as to whether- Australia should accept some responsibility in regard to the maintenance of the installations at Manus Island has been discussed. Just how much can and will be done there I am not in a position at the moment to say. The honorable member may, however, rest assured that; the matter is well in hand.
– Under the Social Services Consolidation Act the term “ widow “ seems to be fairly elastic in order’ to achieve the humanitarian purposes of that legislation. With this in mind, will the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Social Ser vices indicate whether, in his opinion, the Australian wives of Indonesians who have been detained in Australia and are still -recognized as Australian citizens may be classed as widows under the Act? If so, can arrangements be made to have the widows’ pension given to these women so that they can pay for rent and food during the time they must remain in this country ? If the existing requirements of the act will not allow this, is it in the power of the Minister to extend the provision in order to meet these special circumstances ? Has the Minister’ discretionary power to enable him to do so?
– I did not clearly understand the category of women referred to by the honorable member in the first part of her question. Power is vested in the Director-General of Social Services to ‘treat all applications for widows’ pensions on their merits. I feel sure that the women referred to by the honorable member will be treated just as sympathetically as are deserted wives of overseas ex-servicemen who, in common with deserted wives generally in Australia, are granted pensions, provided that their applications conform with the requirements of the act. Difficulties exist in some cases in defining the domicile of deserting husbands. The Director-General of Social Services has, however, been directed not to withhold payment of the widows’ pension because of legal difficulties associated with the domicile of a deserting husband. I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister for Health and Social Services and furnish her with a full report.
– Is it a fact that owing to the Government’s failure to notify the farmers of Australia of vital information relating to the supply of cornsacks, namely, as to the quantity in stock in Australia, the number of bales on the water and the approximate dates of deliveries in Australia, the extent of the orders placed in India and the approximate supply dates in respect of those orders, great confusion and dissatisfaction exists among the farming communities? Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicate whether it is a fact that he will not disclose this information because the position is so deplorable that he is afraid to do so?
– I shall be very glad to make a statement in the House at a very early date outlining every step taken in regard to providing adequate supplies of cornsacks and other means of handling the forthcoming wheat crop.
.- I have an urgent motion of privilege to submit to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House, in these terms -
That it is not a breach of privilege for an honorable member to discuss ‘the decision of a statutory committee exercising an executive function when such a decision is not required by statute to be reported to the House.
The motion is, I think honorable members will agree, one raising an important question of not only principle, but also practice affecting the conduct of the statutory committees functioning within the Parliament. Yesterday, in respect of a matter that had arisen, you read the following extract from May : -
By the ancient custom of Parliament “no net done at any committee should be divulged before the same be reported to the House “ (j), 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”.
On that reading from May, you declared that !., acting as a member of a statutory committee, and disclosing the grounds upon which I had dissented from a decision of that committee, had been guilty of a breach of privilege. That is a serious charge to be levelled against any honorable member of this House, but my own personal position is not of so much importance as is the grave restriction that a ruling of that kind would place upon the operations of many parliamentary committees, which cannot be compared in their functions with the select committees of the House of Commons, on whose practice you, Mr. Speaker, drew in making that ruling. I direct the attention of the Parliament to the specific terms of the statute under which the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings Committee has .been appointed. In 1946, the Parliament passed the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act, and, by section 14 of that act, the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings Committee is given power - I emphasize the word “ power “ - to determine the conditions in accordance with which a rebroadcast may be made. The full text of the section is as follows : -
Honorable members will see that the committee is not required to make a finding, report that finding to the Parliament and then await the action of the Parliament in respect of its finding. The committee is given the express power, in fact the responsibility is thrown upon it, of determining the conditions under which a re-broadcast shall be made. So there is no occasion under either that section o:r any other part of the act for the committee to report to the House the decision that it makes. I allude to recent events and the decision that the committee made. The question arose as to whether certain proceedings in this place, which had occurred in the time normally devoted to the asking of questions and the giving, of ministerial answers, should be rebroadcast. That was a question of the type that the committee was charged, with the responsibility of determining, and Mr. Speaker very properly called the committee together to give a decision on that matter. A discussion took place and a decision was given. Far from any report being required from the committee to the Parliament before action could be taken, both in the express terms of the act and in fact, action was taken immediately upon the decision that the committee gave, and Mr. Speaker, as chairman of the committee, put in train the action that the committee had taken. He, as a member of the committee and without any express direction from the committee, but presumably exercising his rights as a. member of the committee,, which had reached a decision and proceeded to implement it, made a statement to the press. The statement appeared in at least two newspapers.
– Has the honorable member any verification of that?
– I have seen the statements in the newspapers.
– Can the honorable member vouch for their accuracy?
– I have been informed by representatives of the press that they interviewed you, Mr. Speaker.
– That is totally untrue. I assure the honorable member of that before he goes any farther; but he can proceed if he likes.
– I have the press interview before me and can refer you to it.
– Who gave the honorable member the information?
– I will say who gave it to me.
– I wish the honorable member would. I will then deal with him.
– The representative of the Sydney Daily Telegraph told me that he had taken a statement from you, Mr. Speaker, and that the statement was subsequently taken back to you so that its accuracy should be checked.
– That is totally untrue. The only statement that I verified was the apology in the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
– I rise to order. It is the rule of the House that a member shall not be interrupted when making his speech. Is it competent for you, as Speaker, when a matter affecting your own interests, or the discharge of your duties, is being debated, to interrupt ? Is not your proper function to reply at the end of the speech and not interrupt the speech ?
– What is the honorable gentleman’s point of order?
– Do you not think that the rules of debate laid down by you in this House should not also apply to you?
– As a matter of fact, the honorable member for Richmond does not do the case presented by the honorable member forFawkner any good by intervening.
– I am taking a point of order.
– If that is so, I rule that a question of privilege is not involved.
– Are yon ruling my motion out of order?
– Yes, as not being a question of privilege. It is not a direct question of privilege. Further, it is an abstract motion that should be put on the notice-paper for debate at some other time.
– On a further point of order–
– Order ! I call on the Clerk to read the list of papers to be tabled.
The Clerk having read the list of papers to be tabled,
– I object to your ruling and now submit in writing the following objection : -
That the ruling of Mr. Speaker - that the motion proposed to be moved by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) was not a motion of privilege - be disagreed with.
– This is one motion of dissent on which I will speak.
– But you will not allow any one else to speak.
– In accordance with the Standing Orders, the debate on the honorable member’s motion will be adjourned until to-morrow. The Clerk will call on Order of the Day No. 1.
The Clerk having called on Order of the Day No 1, Banking Bill 1947, and Mr. Williams having risen to address the House,
– Mr. Speaker, I have taken a point of order. I asked for a ruling from you as to the functions of Mr. Speaker in debate. You did not reply to it. You simply ordered the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) to resume his seat. I now ask you for a ruling on my point of order.
– The honorable member again intervenes. Very often he does so and gets his colleagues into trouble. When the honorable member for Fawkner made charges against Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker corrected him because he did not want him to be misled and be responsible for something that he could not prove. If anything, I was trying to help the honorable gentleman. I had been considering all along whether or not his motion was in order. Now that he has raised the question I will repeat it. I ask honorable members to notice the wording of the question : “ That it is not a breach of privilege for an honorable member to discuss “ - not divulge - “ decision of a statutory committee exercising an executive function when such decision is not required by statute to be reported to the House “. In my view, that is not a motion of privilege, but a question of which notice should be given in the proper way. The Chair was very tolerant. It allowed, in my view, too much tolerance. The Chair has always the right to determine whether or not privilege is involved. I have decided that it is not. I have ruled the honorable gentleman’s motion out of order, and the honorable member for Richmond has not been helpful to him.
Debate resumed from the 23rd October (vide page 1305), on motion by Mr.
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Undoubtedly, this bill is creating great interest in the minds of the people of Australia. The exaggerated nature of the advertisements of the private banks in their campaign against the bill, and the inflammatory speeches which are being made in the electorates in opposition to it, have considerably alarmed some of the people, who are inclined to accept as true what they hear alleged against the Labour party, and what they read in the newspapers. The founders of the Commonwealth Constitution were wise men. Surely they did not write into the Constitution powers which they thought the Parliament of the Commonwealth would never use. Some people assert that the Government is acting wrongly, and has no power to nationalize banking and that, in any event, it should ascertain the views of the people, by way of referendum, before it proceeds with this legislation. With those views, I cannot agree. It is the duty of a government to lead the people, and to carry out courageously without fear or favour the policy which it considers will be beneficial to the great majority of the people. The Government must also stand up to any person or group of persons who exercise power against the people’s welfare, and ensure that ordinary justice and economic welfare shall be maintained in the country.
Regarding the referendum, which the Opposition contends the Government should hold, I remind the House that when the Commonwealth Bank Bill was before this Parliament in 19.12, opposition t.o the measure then was just as fierce and strong as it is to-day. Had a referendum then been held to determine whether the government of the day should proceed with the Commonwealth Bank Bill, the proposal would have been defeated, and Australia now would be without the great Commonwealth Bank that has done so much to assist in the development of our country. Now, the Parliament of the Commonwealth has no special power to legislate with respect to the maintenance o! full employment, and no direct power to legislate with respect to the economic prosperity and welfare of the people of Australia. The State governments aru the ordinary governments of the country.
The Parliament of the Commonwealth has power for particular purposes. It has what have been described as “ enumerated “ or “ selected “ legislative powers. The High Court, which is regarded as the guardian of our Constitution, has held that there is no legal obstacle to the Government using the Commonwealth Bank as a means of aiding government policy with respect to employment and economic conditions. This is the policy which this Government intends to pursue.
The Government has steered Australia through the troubled times of war. It is a great thing to win a war, but it is a disastrous thing to lose the peace. The Government has brought victory in arms. lt must now protect all the people against disaster in time of peace. The war has made, not only great changes in a physical sense, but also changes in the minds of men. In the few years since the outbreak of World War II., we have been thrust forward many decades. This Government ha3 sacred obligations. For instance, it has a sacred obligation to use all its powers, to make a better country and a better way of life for the people of Australia. In all these discussions, the one word which haunts the minds of nl any people is “ security “ - security against want and old-age, security for wives and children, security in employment and in the home. Wha’t security can any one obtain from a private bank? Bank loans are repayable on demand, and interest charges and conditions of lending are on a “ take it or leave it “ basis. But a wise government can give to the people security by a proper direction to the Commonwealth Bank - the people’s bank. By the judicious use of the credit of the country, we can encourage and maintain full employment, assist people to buy their homes by advancing them money at a very low rate of interest, and help the States to develop education, and build and maintain hospitals. The privilege of taking possession of the people’s money and having the power to use it for private gain has always seemed to rue to be a. privilege so great that it should not pass from the government of any country. In addition, the accumulation in one private bank of the deposits of thousands of people, who have no voice in determining its policy, becomes so great that it lends itself to abuse. I refer honorable members in this connexion to the following statement which appears on page 197 of the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems: -
A decrease in the supply of money results in some people having less ability to buy goods and services than they had before. They Are forced to spend less, which results in a reduction of the incomes of the people from whom they usually purchase. This lessened demand is thus transmitted through the community, and results in some restriction of the total volume of ‘production, and in some unemployment of nien and resources.
An increase in the supply of money results’ In some people having greater ability to buy goods and services. If these people spend their increased incomes, the increased demand for goods is transmitted through the community. So long as unemployed men and resources are available, the increased demand for goods will result in some increase of production, with some consequent increase in the employment of nien and resources.
An investor has no say and no influence on policy or conduct of the private trading banks, but such an investor will, as ian elector, have some influence on the policy of a government bank. Why should we tolerate a position which allows the strong hands of private financiers to control and regulate the business of the country by retarding or loosening credit and thereby becoming a power greater than the Government itself? Those who mind the people’s money should so conduct themselves that their every action is in the public interest. We therefore maintain that the Government has not only a right but also a duty to assume control of the private banks of this country. Let us see how that is to be done and whether any injustice will result to anybody, or whether anybody will be placed under any disability as the result of the assumption of the control of the trading banks by the Commonwealth. The average citizen will not be adversely affected in any way. He will still be able to go to the branch of the bank with which he has been dealing and consult its staff and manager. The bank building, the bank staff and the bank procedure will be maintained as in the past. All procedure with which the client is familiar will be maintained for years. Any change will be effected in a gradual manner and banking facilities that now exist will continue to be available. The aim will lie. to improve banking facilities for the people. In this connexion, I quote the following observations by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in his secondreading speech : -
I would emphasize that under this measure there will be no interruption or disturbance of the usual banking facilities available to the Australian community. The bill provides that the private banks shall maintain their services until they are taken over by the Commonwealth Bank. As the banks are taker, over, either through the acquisition of their shares or of their assets, they will he kept in operation as going concerns. ‘ Customers will not notice any difference after the control of the bank with which they have been dealing has passed to the Commonwealth Bank. They will be able to continue their hanking business without change or interruption.
The Commonwealth Bank will be expanded and its methods improved. Any retarding influences will be cut away. Local bank managers will be empowered to act quickly and on their own initiative. In short, anything that the managers of the private banks can do now, the managers of the branches of the Commonwealth Bank will be empowered to do. The managers of the private banks, as a matter of fact, will still be in their places. They will still be able to see their clients and carry on their business as they do now. Prompt financial accommodation will be available.
It has been said that the freedom of the people will be lost under this legislation. I disagree with that statement. Of course, we all are aware that all reforms and all laws must affect somebody. When we curb free action by the trading banks to batten upon the public we stop the individual from running from one private bank to another; but the banks will continue to function as they do now. We should remember, too, that State banks will continue to function. Long ago governments began taking away the freedom of the people in one respect or another. Every one to-day has to go to a government post office or to travel on a government railway. All this talk of loss of freedom in relation to banking has been much exaggerated, and it will not bear examination. It has also been said by those who are opposed to this measure that a governmentbank will expose all business transactions to government departments. But the Commonwealth Bank is to-day just as strict in guarding and protecting the interests of its clients as are the private banks, and in the future business transactions will be just as carefully protected. In this regard I direct the attention of honorable members to clause 11 of the bill, which reads -
It will be the duty of the Commonwealth Bank -
to observe, except as otherwise required by law, the practices and usages customary among bankers and, in particular, not to divulge any information relating to, or to the affairs of, a customer of the Commonwealth Bank except in circumstances in which it is, in accordance with law or the practices and usages customary among bankers, necessary or proper for the Commonwealth Bank to divulge that information.
In regard to the divulging of information, it must be remembered that private banks are required, under existing conditions, to divulge information in certain circumstances. They may be required to divulge information to a court of law, or, in proper circumstances, to the Commissioner of Taxation. The Commonwealth Bank, under this legislation, will divulge information only in accordance with the law. By and large, it is an established legal principle that there is a contractual obligation existing between a bank and its customers. Honorable members may rest assured, as may the general public, that the Commonwealth Bank will act strictly in accordance with the law in this regard. The bill provides that it shall be imperative for the Commonwealth Bank to treat as strictly confidential the affairs of its customers. It has been argued that the Commonwealth Bank authorities may act in a slow and tedious manner, as it is said that certain government departments act, and that prompt fi nancial accommodation will not be available to customers. I can only repeat that the staffs of the private banks will still Be retained in their employment at the same work and they will still follow the same banking practice as hitherto. Surely it will not be suggested that these efficient officers will change their attitude to their clients for the purpose of sabotaging the people’s bank. The officers of the private banks will be maintained in their jobs, and will be fully protected in respect of all their rights. In fact it seems obvious that their positions will be improved. Thebank employees are safeguarded in the bill against any worsening of their conditions, and they will gain all the added advantages of the Commonwealth Bank service. Provision is made in the bill for the appointment of committees to ascertain the terms and conditions of employment. Subclause 4 of clause 47 of the bill reads -
Where the committee finds that, under any of the terms and conditions of employment of a person as so ascertained, a benefit is, in accordance with the practice of the private bank concerned, or of the trustees, managers or administrators of a provident or superannuation fund of that private bank, a benefit which is, or would have been, granted but that there is no legally enforceable right to that benefit, those terms and conditions of employment of that person shall, for the purposes of this Part, be deemed to include a legally enforceable right to that benefit.
The bill provides that they shall now have those matters legally guaranteed to them. In that regard, the officers of private banks could not be worse off, and in all probability, will be far better off than they are now.
It has been alleged, too, that this measure is favoured by the Communists, and that it is an attack upon the right of private ownership, for which reason it should he shunned by all right-thinking people. It is said that we are the dupes of the Communists, and are only doing their work. That, we deny. No political party has fought the Communists so hard as has the Labour party. At election time, we are opposed by the Communists. Because the Communists also believe that the nationalization of banking is right, that does not prove that it is bad for the nation. The Communistsbelieved that we should fight nazi Germany. Does any honorable member opposite suggest that on that account we should have discontinued the struggle against Germany? That theCommunists also believe in the nationalization of banking is quite beside the point, and has no relevancy.
It has been said that the bill is an attack on the right of private ownership. It is not On the contrary, it provides that the right, privilege and power of hanking shall reside with the people, and not with small, powerful groups.
Let us see how private banking interlocks with powerful business groups and monopolies. I could refer to the directors pf all banks, and their connexion with other companies in the business community, but I shall content myself with a reference to one or two. Mr. E. R. Knox, chairman of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited, is also a director of Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, United Insurance Company Limited and Perpetual Trustee Company. Mi. Orwell Phillips, vice-chairman of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited, is also a director of Tooth and Company Limited, North Coast Steam Navigation Company Limited and United Insurance Company Limited. Mr. E. W. Fairfax, a director of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited, is also a director of Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, and John Fairfax and Sons Proprietary Limited.
Take, now, some of the directors of English, Scottish and Australian Bank Limited. Lord Aldenham is a partner in Antony Gibbs and Sons, bankers, deputy chairman of Westminster Bank, chairman of Australian Pastoral Company, a director of Commercial Union Assurance Company Limited, English, Scottish and Australian Bank Limited, and other companies. Sir Olive Baillieu is a director of English, Scottish and Australian Bank Limited, Dunlop Rubber Australia Limited, Imperial Smelting Company Limited, Zinc Corporation, Midland Bank, Trinidad Leaseholds, &c. Sir George Schuster is a director of Westminster Bank, Westminster Foreign Bank, Commercial Union Assurance Company Limited, Southern Railway Company, English, Scottish and Australian Bank Limited, Bank of New Zealand, New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company Limited and East India Coal Company, as well as chairman of Allied Supplies and Home and Colonial Stores. One could continue indefinitely reciting the names of directors of banks, and showing their connexion with other companies. It is obvious that the Australian trading banks are completely interlocked with all the great capitalist institutions in the country. That adds to their tremendous power. We are not holding against these gentlemen that they have been so successful as to become directors of banks or insurance companies. I mention the matter merely in-order to show the real power which they wield and the influence that they have on economic conditions in this country. Public ownership of banks will strike a blow for the rights of the average citizen. It will give him a share in the huge profits of the banks, as well as in the privilege of banking. It will free him from the grip of the financial barons and international financiers.
We are not taking away the freedom of the people, as has been suggested by some persons who are addressing meetings in the electorates, but are adding to it. For too long have the private banks dictated the policy . of governments in this country. Let us consider what happened when Australia was “ on its knees “ in 1931. Sir Alfred Davidson, general manager of the Bank of New South Wales, then laid down policy for the guidance of the governments of that day. This is what he said -
As a first stop towards economic recovery it is recognized that the loss of national income should be spread as widely and equitably as possible. The loss in the national income has, up to the present, been borne by the primary .producers, the recipients of profits, the unemployed and incomes from rent and interest in the degree by which they have been reduced or forgone. The reduction of 10 pur cent, in real wages and the increase in exchange rates have already spread the loss more evenly throughout the country, and when the full effects of these measures have worked themselves out, the process of spreading the loss will have been nearly completed. A further measure working in the same direction is the increased tax on incomes from property levied in the last budget. The net effect is to leave one group of incomes only unaffected by the national crisis. These are incomes to Public Service officials and recipients of pensions and other allowances from the Commonwealth Government. Unless reductions are made in these payments on a scale corresponding to the fall in national income, members of the community in receipt of such incomes will be placed in a specially privileged class.
Honorable members will recall that that gentleman succeeded in having effected a reduction of pensions, allowances, Public Service salaries and so forth.
We must remember that the Commonwealth Bank has had remarkable success, and has financed Australia in two wars, notwithstanding that it has been hamstrung by the policy of conservative governments. When established, it was under the control of a governor. But in 1924 the Bruce-Page Government set up a bank board, without a mandate from the people, and appointed to it influential men who were interested in many concerns that were allied with the private trading banks. In that way, the Commonwealth Bank was “ throttled back “ and sabotaged. As a matter of fact, matters became so confused that the effect was that the trading banks, through their friends on the Commonwealth Bank Board, dictated the financial policy of the government of the day. Reference has previously been made to a letter that was written by Sir Robert Gibson, chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board at the time, to Mr. Theodore, then Treasurer of the Commonwealth. I shall omit from it those parts which I consider it is not necessary to read. He said -
Subject to adequate and equitable reductions in all wages, salaries, and allowances, pensions, social benefits of all kinds, interest and other factors which affect the cost of living, the Commonwealth Bank Board will actively co-operate with the trading banks and the Government of Australia in sustaining industry and restoring employment.
So we see that the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board at that time w:i; lining up with the trading banks of thi;, country and telling the Australian Government, which had been elected by the people, what financial policy it should adopt. For the most part, the private trading banks are controlled by shrewd, hard financial heads, who are actuated by the selfish instinct of making their companies pay the highest dividends. In the conduct of their business, they have no particular concern for the general state of the nation. We consider that thi-; great privilege and power which the banks have to exercise so much influence on tha economic conditions pf the country should be in the hands not of private men but of the Government, in order that the people may be protected. When we consider some of the conditions that existed in this country up to World War II., we must admit that they were a disgrace to a”.l governments. Poverty, want, fear, slums and malnutrition are conditions of which we have no reason to be proud. It would be difficult to recall one law for which honorable gentlemen opposite have been responsible that has made any marked difference on the course of this nation’s history. The need for post-war reform, in my opinion, is so manifest that it must not be too long delayed. Prosperity if now at full tide. Some honorable members consider that, for that reason, we should adopt the philosophy of doing nothing. But we on this side of the House are political realists. We realize the wisdom of improving the economic system, by destroying the abuses that have crept into it. Australia is fortunate indeed in having a Prime Minister and government with the courage to do the right thing, even though that means forcing on ourselves a conflict with the most powerful influences in Australia to-day.
Mr. white (Balaclava) [12.15].- It appears that the mild-mannered honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) was put up to speak so that it may be thought that the bill is. an innocuous affair. Indeed, he seems to have deluded himself into that belief. He told us how much better off the employees of trading banks would be when they were transferred to the Commonwealth Bank, and how the customers would not know the difference after the trading banks had been nationalized. He sought to convey the impression that the Commonwealth Bank would be a kind of home away from home - that the Government was providing, in effect, the modern equivalent of the bread and circuses with which the Roman emperors sought to propitiate the people of Rome in the declining days of the empire. Unfortunately for the argument of the honorable member, I have here a resolution passed by the United Bank Officer? Guild, which says -
We resent being turned into a mob of civil servants, run on red tape and a book of rules, simply to be pushed around by a Prime Minister bent on a socialization plan. .
The honorable member referred to the great success which had been achieved by the Commonwealth Bank. The Commonwealth Bank is a central bank, and there should be such an institution in every country. It should be given control over certain aspects of a nation’s currency and credit, and the Commonwealth Bank has already been given all the control needed in any civilized community. Under this bill, however, the private banks are to be liquidated. What is the record of success of the Commonwealth Bank as compared with the trading banks? In his secondreading speech on the bill, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) made a mistake to which reference was drawn by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) . 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 woman. To-day it has a far greater number of depositors than -the whole of the private banks taken together. At the end of April this year the number of deposit accounts with the Commonwealth Bank and the- Commonwealth Savings Bank was about 3,S0O,00O, whereas the number of deposit accounts with the trading ‘banks was approximately I. .250,000.
That statement, made in the Parliament, and broadcast to the country, was deliberately intended to mislead the people. The Prime Minister knows very well that the trading banks do not have savings bank departments. If we subtract the number of savings bank accounts held by the Commonwealth Bank we find that the number of trading accounts which it has is only 223,000, and among the total of accounts is included all those which were taken over from the New South Wales Savings Bank. No doubt, the Commonwealth Bank will also take over the Government Savings Bank in Victoria, if the Government wins out. This bill, designed to destroy our commercial banking system which for generations has been essential to our economy, is a major instalment of State socialism. This is actual national socialism, on the Nazi model, and of a kind never previously inflicted upon any English-speaking people. Hitler originally called his party the National Socialist Labour party, which stood for the centralization of all power. In the same way, this Government proposes to centralize all power in Canberra. Power should be decentralized, particularly in the case of banking so that the local bank manager may be the friend of the farmer, and his adviser and helper in time of trouble. Socialists in our midst may approve of this action by a government with no mandate for such a policy, but the spontaneous upsurge of democratic feeling shows that the people as a whole will not be flouted. I propose to quote the opinion of the deputy PrimeMinister of New Zealand, a man with some honour in his own country, Mr. Walter Nash, who is a Labour man, and the Treasurer in the Government of New Zealand. This is what he said -
There has been some argument in our party about taking over the trading banks. Personally, I think these banks are doing a better job than we can make of it.
The Bank of New Zealand is a national bank, and is necessary for the economy of the country. The views stated by Mr. Nash, when speaking at a Labour conference against the proposal for the nationalization of the trading banks, are interesting -
Under the present system customers who are dissatisfied with one bank can take their business to another bank.
Under a State-owned system they could not do this.
That should be obvious. There is an association among the trading banks, but no monopoly, yet the Prime Minister advanced the specious argument that the private banks tended to become a monopoly, and therefore should be abolished. There have been socialist signs and portents by the Government for a considerable time. Although we sought to have a referendum taken on this vital proposal, it has been refused. We moved a vote of no confidence in the Government, but the debate was “ gagged “. Honorable members have received scores of petitions bearing many thousands of names protesting against the nationalization of banks. They have also received thousands of letters and hundreds of telegrams to the same effect from people who believe that the nationalization of banking would constitute an affront to the democratic way of life. To all such protests, however, the Government has turned a deaf ear. I have received letters from farmers telling me, that in time of drought, one of the trading banks hascome to their help with a timely overdraft. In other instances, bank managers had tendered valuable advice. I proposeto quote the opinion of Archdeacon
O’Donnell on this issue. Honorable members opposite may claim that this is an attempt to raise the sectarian issue, but it has already been raised and I maintain that, in a crisis of this kind which affects the fundamental liberties of the people, every one is called upon to state where he stands. The archdeacon said that. if Senator McKenna, the Prime Minister’s right-hand man, could prevail upon the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) to make way, he would contest the seat on this issue against Senator McKenna, but so far the challenge has not been taken up. Speaking in Hobart in August of this year Archdeacon O’Donnell said -
Nationalization of the trading banks, to the Communists, is a great gift … It would injure many business firms. It would be .the first step towards making Australia a totalitarian State, and its people slaves.
There has undoubtedly been a trend towards socialism, and how could it be otherwise? The honorable member for Robertson remarked with unction that the Labour Government had guided Australia through the war. It is, he said, a great thing to win a war. I really believe that the Government thinks that it had something to do with winning the war, rather than that victory was achieved by the strong arms of our fighting men, and by our association with a great Empire. However, it was necessarily a total war. and so the Government assumed control over .practically all activities in the country. Now, Ministers have become power-crazed, and will not relinquish their power over the people. It is only necessary to recall how the Government has acquired city property, and evicted the tenants. The Department of Civil Aviation has turned people out of Henty House.
– The honorable member is getting away from the subject-matter of the bill.
– I am speaking of the steps which have been taken by the Australian National Airlines Commission, which, has had £4,500,000 allotted to it-
– Order! The scope of the Banking Bill is sufficiently wide to enable honorable members to discuss it for the full length of their speeches without introducing extraneous matter. The Chair does not intend to allow a discussion on the airlines, or on evictions from city property.
– Very well, I will not touch upon the other socialistic tendencies of the Government. Perhaps they are too well known to the people already, and everybody has been affected in some way. The introduction of this bill is a vital step, and bears every mark of the true totalitarian technique. The Government’s proposal amounts to economic and industrial conscription. It does not merely affect shareholders in the trading banks. Their shares will be acquired, and if they go quietly the Government will reward them with remissions of taxation. Otherwise, their shares will be taken in any case, and paid for, perhaps, with inflated currency. In April, 1917, Lenin made this statement -
We are all agreed that the first step towards communism must be such measures as the nationalization of banks - one State bank, as huge as possible. That is already nine-tenths of the socialist apparatus.
I have already referred to what will happen to the employees of the trading banks. They are uneasy in the knowledge that they are to become public servants. However, the Government’s proposals affect every person in the community. Some people may think that they are safe because they have no account with a trading bank, but . wageearners may be affected if a government monopoly bank refuses to advance to an employer sufficient money to pay wages on Friday night, merely because the employer is not persona grata with the manager of the local branch, or because pressure is brought to bear by a trade union to declare his business black. It seems to me that the only industry which can be expected to thrive under the proposed system is the form-filling industry. Apart from that, the change will produce only frustration with people standing in queues, and the general fruits of totalitarian methods of government. This springs from the foul Communist creed which originated in the mind of Marx when he tried to improve on socialism. The followers of Marx believe in perpetual revolution, and in playing down to the worst instincts of men. The Government is playing their game, and how it will all finish we can well imagine. It all fits in with the Fascist conception of the State as expressed’ by one whose name is well known to all of us -
The Fascist conception of the State ,is allembracing; outside of it no spiritual or human values can exist, much less have value.
That statement was made by Mussolini, who held that the individual existed for the State, and the mild-mannered member for Robertson said practically the same thing. I prefer the philosophy of Abraham Lincoln, who, when urging the people of his country to finish the work which was begun by the soldiers who died in the battle of Gettysburg, asked them so to direct their efforts that “ government of the people, by the people, for the people should not perish from the earth “. Lincoln’s papers were put aside at the date of his assassination in 1S64 and, by his instruction, were not opened until 1947. After his papers had been opened this year his son gave this statement to the world, a statement that we should cherish as a dictum for all time, and it has particular reference to this bill -
The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all- or cannot so well do for themselves in their separate and individual capacities.
In all that the people can individually do for themselves, government ought not to interfere.
– “Why does not the honorable member quote Lincoln on banking?
– Lincoln stood for freedom and was bitterly opposed to people who, like the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), were only too willing to become the submissive slaves of communism and its twin brother, socialism. The so-called Australian Communists, the servants of Russia, the profiteers in discord and traitors to their native land, support the Government’s proposal. The Communist Workers’ Voice, as far back as the 10th August, 1934, revealed the revolutionary activities of the fifth column conspirators in a two-page seditious manifesto headed in big letters with the slogan, “ Raise higher the banner of Lenin and Stalin for a Soviet Australia “. The means by which nationalization was to be achieved wereset out as follows: -
The first acts of such a revolutionary government would be to immediately proceed to expropriate without compensation all banks, insurance companies, large enterprises, railways, big departmental stores, and convert them into socialist property.
That was followed by this treasonable declaration -
To conclude a fraternal alliance with theSoviet Union and Soviet China, arm all toilers and create a mighty revoluntionary Red army..
These were the aims of men in Australia, who are the allies of the Government to-day. Honorable members opposite say pitifully, “ These men opposed me at the elections “, knowing full well that the Communists had no chance of winning seats in this Parliament. The Communists are members of a minority party in Australia, just as they are in every other country; but they acquire power because of their revolutionary activities.
– That is not so.
– As the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) knows, in New South Wales, something like twenty unions are dominated by Communist union leaders who call the tune at union meetings. Questions were asked only to-day about the expenses of Communists going abroad being paid by the Government, and Ministers agreed that that was so.
The Government has no mandate to introduce this measure. It is true that nationalization is included in the platform of the Labour party, the objective of that party being stated to be the nationalization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. We all recall that momentous conference in 1921, which was presided over by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who later became Prime Minister, in which the party laid down its platform as including the socialization of all sources of production, the nationalization of banking and of all the principal industries. At that conference were some members of the Labour party who are now in the Cabinet. I instance theMinister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) and the fact that he was a signatory of the infamous manifesto that was issued from the conference. Also present as chairman was the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) who told us recently how Christian communism was and who has been the grand appeaser in labour problems throughout the years, giving way inch by inch to the demands of his Communist friends. Sitting alongside him as secretary of the conference was his aide-de-camp, “ Jock “ Garden, who to-day occupies an office in the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney as the aide and liaison officer of the Minister for Labour and National Service. But, although, nationalization has been included in the platform of the Labour party since 1921, it has never been a part of the party’s policy. It is idle for the Prime Minister to say that it is. To prove that it has never been part of the party’s policy, I quote the essential words of the policy speeches made by labour leaders throughout the years. In 1911, Mr. Fisher said -
The Commonwealth Bank was not to displace, but to compete with private banks.
In 1931, the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) said -
The Commonwealth Bank was intended to be a trading institution, and to operate freely in competition with the private trading banks.
Again, in 1934, the right honorable member for Yarra said -
The bank will be free to enter upon a policy of vigorous competition with the private banks.
The honorable member for Robertson spoke of a letter from Sir Robert Gibson, chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, in which Sir Robert recommended the making of certain “ cuts “ in expenditure, both governmental and private. After that proposal had been accepted by the Labour Government, the then Prime Minister, the right honorable member for Yarra, re-appointed Sir Robert Gibson to his post as Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board for a further period of seven years. The present Prime Minister, as a Minister in the Scullin Government, also agreed to the Premiers plan, which is so trenchantly criticized to-day. In 1943, the late Mr. Curtin said -
The Labour party will not socialize any industry during the war.
The present Prime Minister, speaking on the Commonwealth Bank Bill of 1945, said -
The Government is also convinced that active competition by the Commonwealth Bank with the trading banks and other financial institutions will ensure that these services shall be supplied to the people of Australia adequately and cheaply.
When introducing the Banking Bill of 1945, which now effectively controls banking, the right honorable gentleman said -
The bills which have been brought down are designed to adapt the banking system . . to provide the Commonwealth Bank, as leader of the banking system, with adequate powers to serve the national interest.
Why, then, is the right honorable gentleman now seeking these confiscatory powers? Speaking as a member of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, which sat during the depression, the right honorable gentleman said -
There is no justification for the view that the trading banks, in order to enlarge their profits, deliberately expanded credit to produce a boom and then contracted so as to produce a depression.
What hypocrisy has been demonstrated in the Parliament by Labour members in their attempts to foist upon the country this confiscatory measure! I come now to a statement made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). I feel sure that the electors of Corio will not be pleased at his subsequent change of face. The honorable gentleman said -
I turn now to what I consider to be the structure of the banking system in this country. I consider that it ought to have at its apex a central bank, under which there should be functioning the various banks that undertake trading activities. The alternative method would be, of course, to have only one bank undertaking the activities of the central bank and monopolizing the whole field of trading banks as well.
– Hear, hear!
– But listen to what the honorable gentleman then said -
That could perhaps be described as nationalization or socialization of the banking system. The Government has not selected that system, but proposes an alternative which it thinks is better fitted to this country.
– The Government at that time selected the alternative.
– No sooner had the honorable gentleman returned from his socalled activities at Geneva than he gave a press interview in which he said -
Certainly the Government could do banking more efficiently than the major banks.
The honorable gentleman, who is custodian of the long-haired boys who advise the Government, said that the Government could take over the banks and run them with 5,000 fewer clerks.
– I have denied that.
– -He must have got into a serious row with his chief over that. That attitude might explain why there are to be found, dotted all over the Commonwealth, employment offices and staffs, involving a pay-roll amounting to more than £500,000 per annum ! Obviously, these officials are waiting for the grand time when conscription of labour again comes into force. I propose to quote the Minister again, because his words provide very much better arguments for the Opposition than they do for the Government. At the recent by-election at Collingwood, in Victoria, the honorable gentleman, changing his political coat from the one he wore two years before, said -
Nationalization of banking will control money in all forms.
The working man will know what that means very shortly!
Something has been said during this debate about secrecy and the inviolability of the private affairs of the customers of the banks. At the commencement of his second-reading speech on the bill the Prime Minister said - lt will he the responsibility of the Commonwealth Bank under this legislation -
There has come into my possession a communication which throws some light on the Sound Finance League, namely, an extract from a letter sent by the manager of one of the trading banks to his chairman of directors in England.
– Did the honorable gentleman obtain that document as the result of the exercise of censorship.
– This document came into my possession quite legitimately, and not through the censorship. It reads - “ My idea is that something in the nature of an expanded ‘ Sound Finance League with a properly equipped staff, including a competent publicist and economist of note, should be heavily subsidized by the banks. This body would publish articles and broadcast them, through the press everywhere, by radio, &c. It would enter into any controversy, newspaper or otherwise, and by extensive propaganda endeavour to educate public opinion.”
He went on to explain that this bank manager-
– I invite the honorable mem’ber to read on.
– Notwithstanding that to do so will take up some of my valuable time, I accept the honorable gentleman’s invitation. The Minister said this was what the bank manager had written to his chairman of directors in England -
The idea is that it should be purely in the national interests - our selfish interest is interlocked with this. The cost may be £20,000 or £30,000 a year, or even more, but spread among the banks that is nothing if it means our survival as independent trading banks.
If they used their organization for advertising on the radio and in other ways they were perfectly within their rights in doing so. The Minister invites me to read on, as he knows there is mention of himself
It is noteworthy that the most outspoken attacks on the banks were made by Dedman, who has made some study of economics and finance. He should not be underestimated.
I knew that bank manager, because he happened to be a neighbour of mine. He told me that he had dictated the letter to his typist and that no one but himself and the typist knew of its contents. He posted it himself. Yet, strangely enough, it came into the hands of the Minister. It is obvious that the correspondence of the private banks was being scrutinized,. even in 1945. “We can easily foresee what will happen to the accounts of thousands of people who will be forced to bank with the Government monopoly bank. One has only to consider the type of men who were selected by this Government for appointment as conciliation commissioners recently to visualize what will happen should this iniquitous proposal be given effect. In my view, of all the new appointees, only one impartial conciliation commissioner was appointed, namely, Brigadier Blackburn, V.C. All the others were men who have paid tribute to this Communist-socialist Government. As soon as the Government takes over the affairs of the private banks the Gestapo will begin their work in earnest. The people of victoria are the only ones who can pass judgment on this infamous proposal, which is being bludgeoned through the Parliament. They should defy this legislation by all the means within their power, and show their contempt for such perfidious collaborators as the Prime Minister and the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Cain, and all the chicanery that has been associated with this proposal. Labour candidates will be defeated at the Victorian election, and the new Victorian Government will be able to establish State trading banks if it chooses to do so. Victoria must be the bastion in the fight and make an example of this Government.
What is to be the effect of this legislation? It is untrue that the private banks have been monopolistic. The Minister for Air used that allegation as justification for the establishment of a governmentowned airline, unfortunately with success, but with tragic results to the community generally. As the result of the nationalization of banking that competition will be eliminated, business will be on a political basis, with pressure from the unions, and pressure will then be exerted on the press, radio and other means by which public opinion is expressed. One has only to consider the threats against the press, made in” this House during the last 4S hours, to visualize what is in store for them. Forced loans and capital levies will be the order of the day, and if a loan fails it will be the people with accounts in the monopoly bank who will be called upon to make up the leeway. There will be economic conscription and interference in almost every walk of life. I gave reasons why the bill should never have been introduced.
Sitting suspended from 12.U5 to 2.15 p.m.
– I have pointed out how closely the banking bill follows the ideology of nazi-ism, fascism, and communism, and that ultimately the Labour party, which is so interlocked with the Communist party, and is driven hither and thither by it, will lead Australia into the condition into which dictators have led European countries and make it a slave state. I have shown the flimsy pretext of the Prime Minister as to why the banks should be nationalized. The figures he gave are misleading. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) showed, he lumped together the Commonwealth Bank’s savings bank and trading bank figures and professed to show thereby that it was doing great business, whereas the reverse applies. Because it is not doing the business that he would like it to be doing, he proposes to force the people to bank with it. I have shown how shareholders will be dealt with and how the employees, particularly the clerks, have protested against being forced to become public servants. I have referred to the extravagance of the Government in contemplating spending more than £100,000,000 to buy bank shares and properties at a time when we are so heavily taxed and when taxes ought to be substantially reduced to the benefit of the general community. There is no need for such extravagance. The Government is merely hoaxing the working men if it leads them to believe that they will in any way benefit from the banking monopoly which will be the product of a totalitarian Treasurer. Honorable members opposite harp on the depression. That seems to be their stock in trade. Last night the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) referred to the nineties and to the people who lost their savings. That has as much to do with to-day as the South Sea Bubble of over a century ago. I regard the Prime Minister as largely to blame for the introduction of the measure. It is the child of his melancholy. He has a depression mania. He has referred over and over again to the misery of the ‘thirties. All the repressions of his youth are now in full play. When he was defeated for the Macquarie constituency, we appointed him to the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems. We did not know whether he knew anything about banks or anything. He proved to be out of step with the other members of the royal commission. By the turn of the political wheel he became Treasurer, and then, with the lamented death of Mr. John Curtin, became Prime Minister. That has enabled him to relentlessly pursue his vendetta against private banking and the capitalistic system. He now proposes to destroy what was set up by generations of men who knew commerce, trade and banking. The essential fact is that this is an attack upon our liberty. The ordinary citizens of Australia will be deprived of their freedom to work at the kind of job they like. If the right honorable gentleman has his way, Australian men and women for generations will be deprived of freedom to live their lives according to their own desires. Their lives will be planned for them by the economists in whom the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) reposes so much faith, and who, he thinks, by the application of pen to paper, can solve any social or economic problem. He and his advisers think they can guide people’s lives better than they can themselves. Freedom of the individual is to go. With the passage of this legislation, I say advisedly and without exaggeration, people will be subjected to every kind of economic conscription. The controls that the Government achieved over the people during the war it is reluctant to part with. Men in power, few of whom have had success in their own lives, propose to set themselves up as arbiters of the destinies of others. This totalitarian Treasurer, with his vendetta against capitalism, does not appeal to me or to most of the Australian people. The Australians have not yet been indoctrinated with the theories of the Communists, the near-Communists, the reds and the pinks and pseudo-intellectual9 who would standardize the lives of Australians as lives were standardized by the Nazis of Germany and the Communists of Russia. This bill is unjust, unnecessary, and un- democratic. It shows that the discredited Government, which for so long under the title of “ Labour “ has hoaxed the workers, is contemptuous of the people. It is high time that the people rose against it. The history of the English people shows that they have resisted tyranny from without and within. They have risen against the enemy without and against the enemy in their midst. We, too, will obstruct the enemy within. We are not going to take this quietly. The ultimate aim of complete socialism that dominates the minds of the Prime Minister finds support from other “ futile fuhrers “ on the Government benches. Doubtless the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) will take this opportunity of giving expression again to the famous ideas that he expressed in 1930 and 1931, when he said, “ Get the printing presses busy and print notes to pay off internal debts. Debase our currency “. That is the way to take money out of the hands of the workers. That is what was done in Germany in the ‘twenties. That is how Germany wiped off its internal debt. That is what will be done by this Government under this proposal. The honorable member for Werriwa will inveigh against the banks and talk about managers sitting like crows waiting to profiteer in depressions. I anticipate the honorable gentleman who will say that the private banks did little or nothing to help this country out of the depression. It is easy to say that they did wrong, but any one who dealt with them in those days knows that the reverse is true. In 1928, the trading banks advances amounted to only £222,000,000 compared with £239,000,000 in 1931, when the depression was at its greatest depth, an increase of £17,000,000. although deposits had fallen from £273,000,000 in 192S to £259,000,000 in 1931, a fall of £14,000,000. The people must not allow themselves to be misled by statements emanating from honorable gentlemen opposite, who seem to have developed a depression in the cranium. The issue of nationalization of banking is being fought in Victoria, the only place where the people can speak. I am certain that they will speak against nationalization in no uncertain tone. I conclude with an extract from a speech of that great democrat whose efforts were directed towards ensuring world peace, Mr. Woodrow Wilson - “ Freedom exists only where the people take care of the Government”.
The Government achieved power by deception. Although nationalization of banking has been a plank of the Labour party’s platform for many years, it was not mentioned in the policy speech of the Prime Minister at the last general elections. Therefore, the Victorian people will be the first section of the people to express their voice on the policy. Let the people of the rest of the Commonwealth speak at the first opportunity. If we are not to have a referendum on the subject, let the people fight a delaying action until the Government is forced to face the country again and can be turned out of office.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) last night, in opening the case for the Opposition, was the perfect paid advocate. He had no case, and, having no case, he followed the practice of many lawyers in the law courts, and used guile in order to fuddle the jury so that they should not be able to approach their verdict with a clear mind. I was amazed by the loose language of the right honorable member when he talked of “ a monopoly of money “. By implication, he supported something that I have been advocating for 35 years. I propose to give figures to prove that the private financiers of this country have usurped the functions of government in issuing currency in the form of illegal cheque pounds amounting to nearly 90 per cent, of the total currency. The only legal money in this country, I inform the right honorable gentleman, who used the phrase “ monopoly money “ on three or four occasions, is notes, and silver and copper coins issued by the Government, which has the only prerogative to issue currency. When the right honorable gentleman said that the Government was trying to achieve a monopoly in money, he forgot that we already have it. Every one knows the. penalties inflicted upon counterfeiters of notes and coins. If the right honorable gentleman’s words meant anything, they meant that we are going to take from the associated banks the right that they have practised for years by issuing illegal cheque pounds to usurp the Government’s prerogative to issue currency.
– Does that mean that the Commonwealth Bank will not be able to use the cheque system ?
– That interjection is as stupid as most of the honorable gentleman’s interjections. When the Commonwealth Bank issues a cheque it does so as a national institution on behalf of the Government and in exercise of the Government’s prerogative. I leave the right honorable gentleman’s speech at that point, but there are one or two other matters which I wish to deal with before I come to the actual details of the legislation.
There has been a great deal of publicity in articles and letters in the press about this proposal. There 1 are squeals that the Government has no mandate for it, and that it should be submitted to the people at a referendum. I remind the Leader “of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and all other honorable gentlemen that during the last general elections the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) stated no policy. He asked the country for an open mandate. Honorable gentlemen opposite and the press they represent said that if the people returned the Chifley Government, the Prime Minister would be able to do as he liked, and, when the election was over, honorable gentlemen will remember, they told the people of Australia, “You have put Chifley back as Prime Minister. You have given him an open mandate. He can do anything he likes in the next three years. He can sit down and do nothingor do anything he likes, and you will have no right to squeal.” That is what (honorable gentlemen opposite told the people. Now they have changed their tune and are howling all over Australia for a referendum. I support the bill with all the enthusiasm at my command. It is a dream come true. I am not ashamed to say I have dreamt of and hoped for this legislation all my adult life.
– Did the honorable gentleman ever dream that he was walking the plank?
– I shall not walk the plank. I make no apology for supporting the measure. I support it not because of some immediate urgency or possible contingency, but because my heart and intelligence tell me it is the only safe thing for the country to do. It is undeniable that the nation alone should possess the power that should never have been allowed to pass into the hands of private people. Because I have believed, and still believe, that that is so, I welcome this measure more than I have welcomed any bill which this Government has presented to the Parliament. I contend, and I shall quote figures to prove it, that the power of private financial institutions to expand and contract credit by granting or calling up overdrafts enables them to play “ ducks and drakes “ with the purchasing power and currency needs of the people, for their own benefit and to enforce their policies, not only in Australia, but also in many other countries. That is the history of the moneychangers from the day when’ Christ whipped them out of the Temple with knotted cords. They toil not, neither do they spin. They do not give any service. They do not give anything to the people, but, all the time, they are drawing off profits from the people’s own resources and the national resources.
I propose to refer to the transactions of private banking institutions in 1938, a year of peace-time economy. I shall not refer to war-time years, when the national credit was enormously expanded. War always causes inflationary tendencies, because a country must use its goods, services and materials for the purposes of destruction, and does not place anything on the credit side to offset this expenditure of ‘money and energy. All the figures which I shall quote are taken from the bankers’ own balance-sheets, which are published in the Commonwealth Year-book. In 193S, the total amount of legal currency - notes, and silver and copper coins - in Australia was £59,000,000. Of this sum, the banks held £29,000,000. The remainder was in the hands of the people. Against that £29,000,000, the banks held the people’s deposits amounting to £324,000,000. The banks put through their clearing houses for the capital cities of the Commonwealth alone an amount of £2,600,000,000. The total bank transactions amounted to £3,236,000,000. This formed a pyramid, as it were, on the legal currency holding of £29,000,000. This information which I am giving to the House will dispose of the argument that when a bank provides a farmer, pastoralist or industrial concern with credit, it necessarily issues currency to that amount, simply because cheques drawn on the credit account can be exchanged for currency. In 1938, the associated banks owed on call to their depositors £120,000,000. The law provides that the banks must surrender money in current accounts on call as soon as cheques are presented across the counter. The banks do not pay interest on money in current accounts, and actually charge the depositors for keeping their accounts. So, the banks had £120,000,000 in current account on call, which the people could demand at any moment, but they never held more than £29,000,000 to meet it. It is well known in banking practice that cash deposits are usually greater than withdrawals, because between 95 per cent, and 96 per cent, of the economic exchanges in Australia are conducted by cheque. We know that from our own experience. The amount of currency that a man carries with him is small, unless he is an idiot, because he is likely to be robbed by a footpad or lose it by other means. So the banks could meet demands for only £29,000,000, although it was possible that they would have to meet demands for £120,000,000. Banks also lend considerable sums which they hold on current account on which interest is not paid, and receive interest on these loans, although they charge their depositors for keeping those accounts. Some years ago, a banker estimated that the banks lent on an average 17s. in the £1 of the money at current account. This being so, we get the fantastic financial trick of banks owing their depositors £120,000,000 and holding only £1S,000,000 to meet this indebtedness. The amount of £1S,000,000 is calculated on the basis of advances of up to 17s. in the £1 of the total amount held in current accounts.
I have in my hand a copy of an advertisement, which was published by the Bank of New South Wales. One statement contained in this advertisement is a plain, unadulterated deliberate lie. It states -
One hundred and thirty years of stable banking.
The advertisement does not mention the bank crash, or the depositors who were compelled to take bank shares and debentures instead of their money. It also does not mention that financial stability began to be restored in New South Wales only when the State Government made the bank notes of the Bank of New South Wales legal tender. Furthermore, no mention is made of the years that the bank took to reconstruct itself, and all the years when the depositors did not have access to the whole or a part of their money. If this advertisement is correct, we should be living to-day in a financial paradise. Instead, we are living in a world which is like a financial mad-house. This bill when implemented will help ‘ to solve the muddle. Last night, the Leader of the Opposition made a number of excuses for the financial and economic depression of the ‘thirties. Similar excuses are advanced by economists and bankers. One talks of dollar exchange, another about hard currency, and a third about sterling, and out of the whole whirl and muddle, we find that the countries of the world, through financial reasons and not through physical reasons, are not able to exchange their goods at reasonable prices. The world is now in financial chaos. Honorable members opposite will doubtless say to me, as they said during the financial and economic depression, that this condition of affairs is world wide, and that no one is responsible for i t. In reply, I repeat what I asked about the financial and economic depression: If this chaos is not man-made in the interests of some individuals, will you blaspheme and say that God made it? Of course man is responsible. It could not have been created in any other way. The reason is that the money changers are carrying out their buccaneering business, as they have always done. In this crisis which is afflicting the homes of almost every person in the civilized world to-day, the money changers are having the time of their lives, and are raking off profits which they never raked off before.
I propose to recall a few historical facts in order to show what the heritage of the people, is to-day as the result of private banking. In these remarks, I shall refer to the British Commonwealth of Nations, because. I am dealing with this subject in a dominion parliament. Prior to the establishment of private banking, Great Britain did not have a national debt. For a thousand years, Britain fought internal and external Avars - wars of aggression and wars of defence - but whether despotic kings or some other influence caused those wars, those responsible had to finance the struggle. However tragic were the effects of the war on the people involved, the cost had to be met as it was fought. That was the experience of Britain for 1,000 years. Then came a time when the Stuart kings left an empty treasury and on the crowning of William of Orange as King of England, France declared war, and the country had to have money to finance the struggle. From that necessity was born the Bank of England. This institution was empowered to print tank notes, and it lent the Government £1,200,000 at 8 per cent. So far as I can ascertain from my reading of history, no additional currency was created, but when the war ended, Britain had a national debt of £25,000,000. The money was owed to the Bank of England, and is still owing, and the Government is still paying interest on it. So we have an unholy economic trinity created of private finance, national debts, and wars. Now, the original national debt of £25,000,000 has become tens of thousands of millions. That indebtedness is not meant to be repaid. It never can be repaid.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who is known as the “ tragic Treasurer “, devised what he described as a sinking fund with a view to paying off Australia’s national debt. Speaking from memory, although I have referred to this subject so often that I am practically sure of my facts, he repaid £2S, 000,000 of war bonds bearing interest at 3^ or 4 per cent., and added to our indebtedness £98,000,000 of new borrowings a t 5 per cent.- That is the experience with every national debt. All the time, the indebtedness is increased. If the Bank of England had from its inception been a national institution, and if the Commonwealth Bank, which did a wonderful job in financing our participation in World War I. and World War II., had been the only bank in Australia, rates of interest would never have skyrocketed as they did during World War I. Anyhow, the indebtedness of the people to the bank through the issue of credit could have been paid off in the future by the creation of wealth to offset it. Interest rates would be so low as to meet only the costs of conducting the institution. Some say that would be inflation. I have never heard such stupid statements in my life.
Every kind of war finance is inflation, of course, but when does the inflation occur? It occurs when the money is actually spent. It does not occur when the Government borrows or when the bank issues credit. It occurs when the money is poured into the economic life of the community. Whether the money is raised by loan or otherwise - and I am not arguing against the policy of this Government - it does not matter, because the inflation occurs when the money is spent. Under a loan-raising policy the people draw on their savings bank accounts or from money they have on fixed deposit, or they renew their contributions to previous loans; but inflation only occurs when the money is spent by those who purchase goods and services. I am not arguing against the fighting of a war at the moment - I may say something about the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) in that connexion later. I am simply saying that inflation occurs when borrowed money is poured into the economic life of a country. Whenever honorable gentlemen opposite speak about financial reforms, we hear the same stupid nonsense about the issuing of notes from the printing press, like sausages come from a sausage machine. Honorable gentlemen opposite who know anything at all must know that no advocate of financial reform in any part of the world, so far as I know, except the advocates of the Douglas Credit system, and I discard their theories as fantastic, contend that credit can be made available by the mere printing of bank notes. Such statements are pure stupidity.
– The Government uses the bank note pretty well.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), if he had any intelligence, which I doubt, would know that the use of the printing press has never been advocated hy us. Large financial transactions are conducted by cheque, not by bank notes. In any case, no honorable member on this side of the chamber would dream of advocating the issue of national credit through the Commonwealth Bank, except for the carrying out of public works intended to assist in the creation of wealth in this country. The proposition in this regard is simple, whether it be applied to railways, waterworks, irrigation schemes, or hydro-electric schemes. Let honorable gentlemen think for a moment of the construction of the railway from Sydney to Melbourne. That work has been paid for three times over in interest, yet the principal is still owing. The interest rate was less than 2-J per cent, in some instances. The money was made available from Great Britain. The great engineering firms of England knew that, if the railway were built, they would be able to sell to Australia their rollingstock and also the steel rails required for the permanent way. Consequently, an interest rate of 2^ per cent, on the money loaned was regarded as satisfactory. Later the rates increased to 5 per cent. No smoke-screen that the Leader of the Opposition or his colleagues can raise can obscure the simple proposition that, if the money for such public works were obtained through a government banking institution, the nation would be infinitely better off. This method could be applied with great advantage to an undertaking such as the diversion of the waters of the Snowy River to the Murrumbidgee or Murray Rivers, or to irrigation works in New South Wales or Queensland, or to public works elsewhere. Let us imagine for a moment that £30,000,000 was made available by the Commonwealth Bank at a redemption rate of 3& per cent, for the Snowy River work. The debt would be redeemed in 33^ years and the nation would have a valuable public work to show for it free of debt. When money is borrowed ‘under such conditions from a public instrumentality like the Commonwealth Bank, it is paid to workmen, who receive wages for the services they render.
– Why not use cowrie shells?
– The honorable gentleman knows so little about this subject that he should keep his mouth shut. A limited degree of inflation might occur under the system that I am advocating, because those who receive the money for the services they render would not create immediate consumer wealth, but they would be doing magnificent service for future generations. Inflation occurs when money is paid away for services which have no value; but we all realize that soldiers have to be fed and clothed during a time of war. However, if a loan of, say, £30,000,000 was raised through the Commonwealth Bank at a redemption rate of 3^ per cent., it could be repaid with an appropriate sinking fund in 33 years, and, if it had been spent on substantial public works, the whole nation would be better off, for such public works must inevitably have a permanently beneficial effect on the wealthproducing capacity of the people. I would be prepared to debate this subject w’ith the Leader of the Opposition, or anybody else, before an Australian audience anywhere, and I am sure that I would have the people with me. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) is interjecting, but he is one of those who does not want any change in the existing system. The honorable gentleman harbours a craven fear of change.
I make no apology for my support of this bill. I believe that a measure of this description is absolutely essential for the proper progress of the country and for the stabilization of our economic life. If the people of Australia are ever to enjoy freedom from want or fear, our monetary system must be altered. Unless that is done, they will not have a ghost of a chance of freedom from fear. Honorable gentlemen opposite, of course, are particularly anxious to protect the interests of the private trading banks, but such institutions are of no value whatever in a time of crisis. Whenever a crisis arises, the private bankers run away like curs. Honorable gentlemen opposite are very ready to flaunt their patriotism and to wave the Union Jack, but the Union Jack would not have waved at all in England in 1914 if the private banks had not been supported by the government. The private bankers ran away like curs from the issue that had to be faced ; they closed their doors in the face of the people, and caused a chaotic condition to arise” in England. It was only when a conservative United Kingdom Government made £350,000,000 in notes available to the Bank of England that the private banks recovered a degree of sanity. No security was provided for that money. The only security was ‘-the security of Britain itself. Yet a stupid conservative government which was in office at that time handed the notes to the Bank of England and borrowed them back with an interest liability. That is how affairs were stabilized. Moreover, there was being held in the banking institutions at that time waterlogged, unrealizable German securities of an alleged value of £400,000,000. The same stupid conservative government allowed that amount to be funded in the national debt. That is the way the private banks have always been supported in time- of crisis.
I wish to refer once again to the advertisement to which I have already called attention, and to its statement about “ One hundred and thirty years of stable banking “. Every one who has lived long enough knows that the private banks deliberately created both the land boom and the land burst of years ago, in which the primary producers of this country lost millions of pounds. It is well known that bounty after bounty has been provided by successive anti-Labour governments in order to assist primary producers, but it was never more than just enough to pay the bank’s interest. The producers have never been allowed to “ get ahead “ of things. In the days before banking institutions were forced to deal openly with properties on which they had made advances, it was the common practice for the banks to make a certain advance and when the land holder was unable to meet his payment to foreclose on the property without putting it on the open market. It is very well known that in numerous cases properties valued at £10,000, £15,000, or £20,000, in respect of which not even half the value had been advanced, were taken over by the banks, with a total disregard of the rights and welfare of the settlers. When I was a boy, living in the Young district, the youth of the country had their stamping grounds, their cricket and their football fields through Burrowa, Cowra, Temora and Cootamundra, where there was some of the finest sheep country in Australia. Every property of from 5,000 to 10,000 acres in that area was in the hands of one or the other of the private banks, and was in charge of a manager on behalf of that institution. In every instance, there had been a foreclosure, some times for less than half the value. That has been the history of “ sound “ finance for the last 150 years. It has been sound for the banker and his shareholders, no doubt, because of the profits they have made, but I should say that it has been very unsound for those whom honorable gentlemen in the corner seats opposite profess to represent but deliberately misrepresent.
The right honorable gentleman referred to the depression, which was world wide. He said that because we could not borrow and sell abroad there was a depression in Australia. But what caused the depression in America, Britain, Holland, Sweden and Europe generally? I suppose the causes in each instance were different. I am not arguing that it was made deliberately; but it was man made,- because, as God did not make it, nobody else could have done so. t quote the testimony of one of the greatest bankers in the world, no less a person than Sir Herbert Holden, at one time a director of the Bank of England, and I believe a. director of the London and Westminster Bank to this day. Addressing students at Oxford in 1937, he asked what had caused the depression, and answered the question himself by saying -
Everybody knows what caused the depression. It was caused by the hankers of the world carrying out their time-honoured policy of refusing advances and calling up overdrafts
I could quote a hundred similar expressions of opinion, but I shall not weary the House. In New Sou.th Wales, just as the depression was striking us, we witnessed the spectacle of the private banks pouring out hundreds of thousands of pounds for the building of palatial picture theatres in Sydney which, once built, gave no employment except to a few ushers, and others who worked the films. While they were pouring out money for those things which were useless to the nation, they were calling in the overdrafts of every manufacturer and primary producer in the country. I shall mention again, on this historic occasion, an incident which I have mentioned previously. As most honorable members know, I was in the softgoods trade before I came into this Parliament. I had dealings with a man named Bond, when he was an importer of American goods. He came to this country, and established the cotton industry. I suppose he employed 10,000 persons in his factories at Wentworthville and Camperdown. I called on him one day, on behalf of a friend of mine, to see whether I ‘could obtain employment, for his son. He said to me, “Mr. Lazzarini, I am sorry “. He took me out on the balcony and said, ‘” You see that structure, and the one that we are standing on; both of those have gone up since I had a £500,000 .accommodation with the associated banks. I have my Wentworthville show as well. My assets are worth from £150,000 to £200,000 more to-day than they were then. I wanted further accommodation of £50,000 or £60,000 in order to purchase my requirements of the Queensland cotton crop, and they said, ‘No, Mr. Bond, there is no more accommodation for you. We want £100,000 off your overdraft’”, that man, because of private finance, had to put 1,000 bales of Australian cotton on a ship, take them over to Liverpool, and bring them back, 12,000 miles each way, in order to obtain accommodation for his office in London, because the British banks would accept merchandise as collateral security, but it had to be “ sighted “ in England. That is the .sort of thing that threw thousands of men and women out of employment in this country, and was the real cause of the depression. Nobody, without deliberately lying, can contest that argument and challenge that contention.
I come now to the last thing about which I want to say a word or two. It may seem trivial in comparison with the other matters I have mentioned. The right honorable gentleman tallied about prying into people’s business, and into the bank accounts of private people. That, again, is an attempt to get the fear complex into people who, perhaps, do not understand much about banking practice. The bill provides deliberately and specifically that that cannot be done. I wonder whether any one has ever considered the confidential character of two-thirds of the business that is done by our great Postal Department ! If it be a terrible thing to have a national monopoly in banking, why is it not just as terrible to have a national monopoly in postal business? Every day, matters of the most confidential character pass through the post offices of Australia. No banking account could be so confidential as are some of the confidential telegrams and telephone calls that pass through our post offices; yet, through all the years, therehas never been a serious complaint of any official having disclosed information relating to matters that had come under his notice. Why is it not contended that we should have private railways, irrigation, and all the rest of it? This legislation is attacked because the banking structure is the citadel upon which rests the power of the money interests. It is an instrument which they hope to be able to useto hamstring governments which they do not like. It is an instrument which has been used against the people and against national interests, from the day on which it was created until to-day. Its history is a sorry one. It has left behind it a trail of woe and desolation wherever it has operated. It will be a bright and sunny day for Australia when this legislation passes through the Parliament, and the whole of our banking business is under the control of the great Commonwealth Bank, which is the only bank for the nation. Then this Government will be able to do those things that will ensure to the people of Australia freedom from want and freedom from fear.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Bowden) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without requests -
Appropriation Bill 1947-48.
Without amendment -
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1947-48.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Scully), read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Scully), read a first time.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Shipping Act - Commonwealth Shipping Board - Cockatoo Island Dockyard - Balance-sheet and Liquidation Account, together with Auditor-General’s report thereon, for year ended 28th February, 1947.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Economic Organization ) Regulations - Orders -
War service land settlement - Victoria (dated 29th September, 1947).
National Security (Enemy Property) Regulations - Order - Persons ceasing to be enemy subjects.
National Security (Prices) Regulations - Orders- Nos. 3098-31.13.
National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Order - Prohibition of works near aerodromes.
River Murray Waters Act - River Murray Commission - Report for year 1946-47.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for the Australian Capital Territory for year 1940-47.
House adjourned at 3.12 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: -
l asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : - 1 and 2. The following exports of miscellaneous electrical fittings and wiring devices have been recorded. during the year ended 30th June, 1947: -
Cotton Yarn: Imports from Japan and India.
d. - On. the 9th October, the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) asked -
The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
– On the 14th October, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) asked a question concerning a recent shortage of sugar in Mildura. The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied the fallowing information : -
The Queensland Sugar Board and the refining companies are doing everything possible to ensure that sufficient sugar is available to meet the needs of consumers.
The shortages of refined sugar in certain localities have been due to the fact that refineries in some States at times have had to close down or to operate below normal capacity due to various causes, such as shortages of man-power, coal and lime, transport difficulties, and industrial troubles.
The distribution of sugar, including allocations to retailers, is carried out by the wholesale merchants, and I have been advised that £0 tons of sugar arrived at Mildura on the 11th October and this quantity should be adequate to meet the needs of the town for the present.
y.– On the 14th October, the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) asked the following questions : -
I ask the Prime Minister whether prices control is being used as a form of profit control. If «o, what percentage of profit is permitted? Does the same percentage apply to each industry or do rates of profit vary from Arm to firm and industry to industry?
Further to my promise to provide the honorable member with a prepared reply, I desire to inform him that a good deal has been said in the past about profit control, with the suggestion that it is some new factor that has been introduced into price control. There has been no fundamental change in the policy of using profits as one of the yardsticks for measuring the reasonableness or otherwise of a price. Some two years ago the Prices Commissioner, in an address to the Commonwealth Institute-, of Accountants, dealt fully with the relationship of profit to prices and explained all of the points covered by the honorable, member’s question. I am forwarding to the honorable member a copy of this address and invite his attention in particular to pages 3 and 4, in which the relationship of profits and prices, is clearly set out.
– On the 22hd October, the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) asked a question concerning the extension of the currency of petrol ration tickets.. The- Minister- for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
This matter has been raised by honorable members on a number of occasions recently, and I have given very careful consideration to the suggestion that the life of the current petrol ration tickets should be extended.
The Commonwealth Government at the request of the British Government recently accepted an obligation to keep its overall petrol consumption within a strictly limited quantity. This necessitates the Commonwealth maintaining a careful budgetary control over the petrol consumed from month to month md such control would be considerably weakened if coupons had a currency beyond the two months which at present obtains. In all the present circumstances I regret that I am unable to agree to the suggestion.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 October 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19471024_reps_18_194/>.