18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. 7. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. HAMILTON presented a petition from certain electors of Western Australia in relation to banking in Australia.
Petition received and read.
FARES and Freights - Intra-State Services- Victorian Racing ‘Carnival.
– Has the Minister for Air seen the leading article published this morning in the Canberra Times, in connexion with an increase of air fares and freights, particularly in regard to the attitude of Ansett’ Airways Limited, which is not at the moment controlled by the Government? Is the honorable gentleman prepared to make a statement about the matter?
– I have issued a statement to the press, and believe that it has had some publication. The Canberra Times, in its leading article to-day, which I have read, has exhibited a complete misconception, of the position. A conference of airline operators decided that a 20 per cent, increase of fares was necessary. Ansett Airways Limited participated in the’’ conference. It has since suggested that it be allowed to operate a second-class or inferior service at a lower rate of fares. Until quite recently, when it was. withdrawn, Ansett Airways Limited had received from the Government a subsidy of more than £20,000 a year, even though it -was in ‘competition with other -airline operators, including Australian National Anrways Limited .and Trans-Australia Airlines which were not receiving a subsidy. The principle of regulating fares and freights’ is in operation in Canada, the United States of America and the United Kingdom. That control is essential, particularly in relation to airline operators, who, while benefiting from a subsidy, claim that .their fares Are the cheapest in the world.
– Recently an interdepartmental committee made certain proposals for the development of’ air services within Australia. When is it proposed to establish these services, particularly those to Bourke, Cobar and Broken Hill in my electorate?
-A report was presented by the inter-departmental committee recommending the establishment of air services in three States, including services to the areas mentioned by the honorable member. The recommendations were placed before the respective State governments for their information and comment. -Certain proposals arising out of -tho recommendation were submitted, in the first instance, to the conference .of Commonwealth and ‘State Ministers, at which two .States indicated that they .were disposed to do something about the - matter. Arrangements have not yet ‘been finalized .and it is not the intention of the Government to .proceed further until the respective State governments, in this case the Government of New .South Wales, have indicated to the Commonwealth what they desire to ‘do in the matter.
– What instructions have been given .by the Department of Civil Aviation to Ansett Airways Limited concerning the fares to be charged by that company? What reply has been given by lie company? Is it the policy of the department to prevent all competition by the airways companies, with TransAustralia Airlines?
– I have already dealt with the general subject of the honorable member’s question. I can only say, in addition, that Ansett Airways Limited was. a participant in a conference of airline operators which decided to recommend an. increase of 20 per cent, in the -fares charged throughOUt Australia. That -conference was held as the result of increases in costs about which .the -airline operating. .companies -had complained.
– ;Was it -a -unanimous decision?
– The report of the conference indicated clearly that Ansett Airways Limited ‘had joined in the recommendation. ‘Upon the adoption of the .recommendation the companies were notified “of the .20 per cent, increase in fares. Since then the- company mentioned has decided to submit proposals to the Government, notwithstanding - and I emphasize this point-that. it advertises that it charges the cheapest fares in the world and is still endeavouring to obtain subsidies from ‘the Australian Government.
– Have any special arrangements been made for air transport from Tasmania to Melbourne during the .racing carnival in Victoria next week? Special travelling arrangements for this purpose would add to the quantity of petrol normally used by air services. If such arrangements have been made, will Trans-Australia Airlines participate in the extra .allocation of petrol, and to what extent?
– There will be no special air services, either in Tasmania or elsewhere, for the racing carnival in Victoria.. Therefore, there will be no extra petrol consumption. The position is that, the airline companies will endeavour . to re-arrange their time-tables in all States without running special services so -as to accommodate the needs of people who want to visit Victoria for the racing carnival: There will be no special flights from Tasmania, and no extra petrol will be used for the purpose mentioned.
M-r. HARRISON.- With- reference to what has become known as “ the Keane trunks mystery “,. can the Minister representing the. Minister acting for .the Attorney-General give the date’ on which the first appeal, was made by’ Mr. Goldberg; the reason- for the adjournment of the hearing; the number of adjournments granted to Mr. Goldberg; the- reason for those adjournments ; the date on which the case is listed for hearing, and when it is likely to be heard?
– I know nothing 0 any “ Keane trunks mystery “, but I do know that a man named Goldberg was convicted for some customs evasion and that he- . gave notice of his intention to appeal. Arrangements had been made to hear his appeal when his solicitors asked for an adjournment. They have continued to do so. I do not know the reason for the request. As they are making the appeal, ifr. is not the function of any other person or body to hasten proceedings in the circumstances. The delay in hearing the appeal is not in any way due to action by the Government.
– Does it meet with the approval of the Government ?
– There must, be no reflection on these proceedings.
– Will the Minister ascertain when the appeal is. likely to be heard ?
– I shall make inquiries and let the honorable member know.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services say whether it is correct, as stated in the press some time ago, that an alteration has been made in regard to the payment of sickness benefits, whereby a period of six weeks is allowed in certain instances to enable applications. for benefits to be made? Has effect been given to that decision, and, if so, will the Minister take steps to give publicity to the altered arrangement., so that those entitled to apply for these benefits may do so?
– The law which was in operation prior to the passing of the consolidated social services legislation provided that incapacitated or unemployed persons must claim the benefits within seven days and in the event of the claim being granted payment would date from the seventh day .of .the incapacity or un employment. The Government found that, in practice, that provision operated harshly in some instances, and so provision was made in the consolidating measure to extend to six weeks the period in which application may be made. That is- the period authorized by the existing law. If a- claim is lodged within sis weeks, full payment is made back to the seventh day of the period of incapacity or unemployment. If, however, the claim is made after six weeks, the payment operates only from the date of making the claim. As it is understood that the new arrangement operates harshly in some instances^ the Director-General of Social Services has- been instructed .to treat each case on its merits. There is now nothing to prevent any person from receiving payment for any period, provided that he can show good reason for the delay in applying for assistance. As the result of representations made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and others, the Minister has given instructions that all officers shall be notified, so that the administration shall be uniform.
Wedding Gift from Australian Government.
-Has the Prime Minister seen in King’s Hall the wedding present which the Australian Government proposes to give to the heir apparent to the throne of this, nation on the occasion of her marriage? Is he aware that it consists of two silver cake baskets and two silver salvers? If so, does he not think that it- is a mean and paltry gift, which is not representative of the products of the Commonwealth, and is not worthy of the loyalty and devotion of this nation to its future Queen?
– I have not seen the articles comprising the gift, but I was shown a number of designs, and I know what the chosen design is like. I think that the gift is suitable. After consultation with a number of jewellers, in different parts of Australia I realized that it would he difficult to get anything more appropriate. It is the spirit behind the gift, more than the gift itself, that counts in these matters. I propose to view- the gift: this morning in company with the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom. Very close inquiries were made as to what would be suitable, and after consultation with those competent to express an opinion, a choice was made. However, I emphasize that the nature of the gift itself in no way affects the friendship and goodwill that go with it from the Australian Government.
Government Members. - Hear, hear.!
– I desire to ask the Minister for Air a question arising out of a question on notice by the honorable member for Swan, which appears on the notice-paper for to-day. I ask the question, although I have never been to a race meeting in my life-
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to ask a question arising out of another honorable member’s question on the notice-paper.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether a report has been received from the Australian representative who attended the recent meeting of the International Monetary Fund? If so, is it intended to table the report in this House? Has any information been received as to the amount of the loans made by the International Bank, the terms of such loans, and the amount of Australia’s contribution to them
– Yes, a complete report has been received from the Australian High Commissioner in London, Mr. Beasley. The report contains many voluminous documents bearing on the work of the conference. I have had time to read only part of the report so far, but when opportunity offers I will complete my perusal of it. The report is of such a kind that it requires very careful study. I cannot promise at this moment that the report will be tabled in the Parliament, but if it contains matter of a kind which warrants this being done I will consider the honorable member’s request.
– In this morning’s issue of the Canberra Times there appears a report that it is proposed toestablish a voluntary oat pool, and I compliment the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture upon having brought this about, because it should prove to be of great benefit to the growers. The report also states that growers may have to hold their oats for some time so that preference in transport might be given to wheat and barley crops. The oat crop is ready three weeks before the wheat crop, and I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the oatgrowers will be permitted to rail their oats before the trucks are needed for the carriage of wheat?
– It is quite true that the Government has decided to establish a voluntary oats pool. The Australian Barley Board has been charged with the responsibility of receiving the oats into the pool. The conditions of receival are that the oats will be received when trucks are available and the board is able to receive the oats. As soon as the board has trucks available, or can indicate that trucks can be obtained by suppliers, and suitable storage at sidings is available, the oats will be received. I am hopeful that the Barley Board will be able to make arrangements to enable ‘ it to receive a considerable volume of oats before the railways are cluttered up with wheat transport, because, of course, wheat must receive :a very high priority.
Uniform Taxation - Proposed Conference
– On the 21st October I asked the Prime Minister what was the attitude of the Government towards the proposal by the States to return to the. dual -system of taxation, and whether a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers would be summoned to deal with the subject. The right honorable gentleman informed me that uniform taxation would be retained, and that he knew of no proposal to summon a conference. ‘ I now ask him whether he is aware that the Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Cosgrove, has announced that a conference of State Ministers and two Commonwealth Ministers will be held early next year to discuss Commonwealth and State financial relationships? Is he aware that, according to Mr. Cosgrove, the decision to hold this conference was reached at the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and that Mr. Cosgrove has said that he is sure that the Prime Minister has no intention of departing from that arrangement? Was that arrangement made? If so, why did the Prime Minister ten days ago disclaim knowledge of it? Has he received any communication on the subject from the Premier of Western Australia, Mr. McLarty? If so, what information has he given to Mr. McLarty?
– I believe that I made it clear on a number of occasions that the. Government did not intend to depart from the system of uniform taxation. It is true that at the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers a motion was submitted by one of the State Premiers that a conference be held next year for the purpose mentioned by the honorable member. Of course, the honorable member will realize that a conference cannot be held unless both parties are agreeable to hold it.
– Did the right honorable gentleman veto it?
– It is true that when the motion was submitted, I, on behalf of the Commonwealth, voted against it. So far as I know, nothing has been done about the matter since. I have no recollection at the moment of having received any correspondence from the Premier of Western Australia on the matter, although some correspondence of that kind may have been sent to me. I do not deny that possibility. It is true that conferences took place between officers of the Commonwealth and State governments with regard to Commonwealth and State financial relationships; and, no doubt, talks will be held on that matter. Personally, I saw no advantage at all in calling together the State Premiers for a talk about something which could be discussed at an ordinary conference of Commonwealth . and State Ministers. I cannot see the * value of holding a conference of Ministers, whose report would have to be submitted later to a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and should such a meeting recommend some change in the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States such recommenda tion would certainly have to be approved by the Commonwealth. However, should some of the State Premiers be anxious to hold a conference on the subject, 1 shall have a look at the matter; but at the moment I cannot see that any purpose would be served by holding such a conference.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen a statement by Mr. Conde, chairman of the Overseas Shipping Representatives Association, that between now and Christmas, 1,000,000 cubic feet of shipping space provided by Great Britain must either remain empty or carry general cargo, because Australia, is unable to provide food for refrigerated space? Is it correct, as stated by Mr. Conde, that ships have been diverted because Australia is unable to fill them, and that the shortages included lamb, which should be provided from the Southern parts of Australia, and pork and eggs from Queensland? If this statement is correct, what action does the Minister propose to take to augment the supply of perishable food supplies for Great Britain?
– I have not seen the statement attributed to Mr. Conde. It may be true that some shipping space for lamb and meats provided by the United Kingdom Government has arrived in Australia at the period when heavy shipments are normally made; but, due to the variation in the seasons and the very good season we are now experiencing, graziers, instead of marketing their lamb at the normal peak period, are naturally holding their stock in order that it may- accumulate heavier weight. That is a situation that neither this Government nor any other government can overcome. In the final result it will mean that the people of the United Kingdom will receive larger supplies of meat than would have been the case had the season been such as to have made desirable the immediate shipment of the meat.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that in New South Wales there are a number of railway tunnels now disused because of the duplication or re-routing of lines? “Will he ask the Australian Wheat Board to examine the possibility of using the tunnels for the storage of wheat?
– I appreciate the honorable member’s suggestion. I shall have this question referred to the Australian Wheat Board for examination; but I am afraid that the problems created by the presence of moisture in tunnels would be most difficult to overcome.
– Under an agreement between Australia and Canada, Australian canned pineapples have been admitted to that country duty free, and the Canadian market has absorbed So per cent, of Australia’s exports of that product. Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether negotiations have been conducted between the two dominions with the object of continuing this valued agreement, and thus permitting the marketing of the largely increased production of the Australian pineapple industry?
– In view of the International Trade Organization negotiations, I can only say to the honorable member, in the words of the late Lord Asquith, “Wait and see”.
– In view of the grave shortage of sugar in the southern States, due mainly to the scarcity of labour for the refineries, and in view of the bulk selling of available stocks by merchants as distinct from sales by retailers, will the Prime Minister say whether the Government is considering the reintroduction of sugar rationing to permit a fairer distribution of sugar than at present? Many people have approached me in regard to this matter, and have’ favoured the re-introduction of rationing.
– It is not long since sugar rationing was abolished, and no consideration has been given to its reintroduction. I do not see any possibility at the moment of this being done.
– Has the Prime Minister yet seen Colonel H. T. Allen, who hopes to give the right honorable gentleman first-hand information concerning conditions in New Guinea? If so, did Colonel Allen inform him, as he told the annual congress of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, that Australia could not hold New Guinea if the administration continued its present policy ? If so, will the Government carry out a scientific review of the present administration, and accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Balaclava that a select committee of members of this Parliament should visit New’ Guinea as soon as possible?
– The honorable member for Richmond has asked me to interview Colonel Allen in regard to certain other matters, and I have promised to do so as soon as the opportunity offers. I have not seen the general statement to which the honorable ‘member for Deakin refers; hut I understand that the Minister for External Territories will make a personal investigation of the position in New Guinea during the forthcoming parliamentary recess. . No thought has been given to the appointment of a select committee of this Parliament to visit New Guinea; but the matter will be considered.
– I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether there is any truth in a newspaper report that the Australian Government is sending an Australian scientist, Mr. W.Hartley, senior plant production officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, to wander in the wilds of the Amazon region through Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and northern Argentina, searching for a wild peanut plant. The article states -
Many miles will be covered on horseback with South American guides. Australia needs peanut oil. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has been told to find a. wild peanut plant believed to exist in remote South American areas. . . .
Is that report correct, and if so, what is the basis for the decision by the Council for Scientific and Industrial
Research? Is there any evidence that such a peanut plant, if crossed with other varieties, will he beneficial to the industry ?
– It is deplorable that the honorable member for Maranoa should endeavour to ridicule the efforts of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
– I did not.
– Order ! The honorable member asked his question in his own way, and the Minister is entitled to answer in his own way.
– The council has done valuable work in assisting primary producers. It is true that an officer is to be sent overseas to discover whether plants indigenous to other countries can be transferred to Australia and grown for the benefit of primary producers. Much valuable work has been done in that regard. I visited a plant- introduction station operated by the council near Rockhampton, where plants found in other countries, particularly countries with latitudes similar to Australia, are being grown under Australian conditions to determine their suitability. That is valuable work out of which great advancement may be made in relation to herbs and other plants beneficial to Australian primary producers. That is the purpose of this visit. I think it is a purpose of which every honorable member will approve.
– I have received letters from housewives in Brisbane complaining that it is almost impossible to buy washing soap and difficult to buy toilet soap. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture ensure the despatch of soap supplies to Brisbane to relieve the position?
– I have heard from the honorable member that there is a shortage of soap in Queensland. It is essential that housewives should be washed and that they should indulge in washing. In those circumstances, notwithstanding that the Australian Government does not possess the power to manu facture soap or to direct manufacturers as to the quantity of soap they shall make, the manufacturers are ever ready to co-operate with us. I have put inquiries in train on the honorable gentleman’s representations. I am hopeful that something can be done with the co-operation of the manufacturers to ensure that housewives in Queensland shall receive supplies.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the 5s. a ton increase of the price of coal in New South Wales will also operate in Queensland and what additional cost will be involved in public utilities in Queensland if there is an increase? How is the extra cost of 5s. a ton to be apportioned between the employers and the employees in the industry?
– I will arrange for the Joint Coal Board to provide me with written details for transmission to the honorable member.
– Has the Trea surer seen a report in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph that the Commonwealth Bank has transferred two accounts from its Sydney office to a country branch without the permission of the depositors? As the Banking Bill has not yet become law, does the Treasurer consider it proper that the Commonwealth Bank should take the banking affairs of private citizens out of their own hands? Will he ascertain whether this is the general practice of the Commonwealth Bank in this connexion?
– I have not seen the statement. So many “ f urphies “ in regard to the Commonwealth Bank are published these days for propaganda purposes that I am usually very suspicious of such reports. However, as the honorable member seeks information, I shall endeavour to obtain it for him by asking the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank what substance, if any, there is in the statement.
Report of PublicWorks Committee.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1930, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred tothe Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to the House the result of its investigations: - The erection of permanent administration offices, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory.
This proposal was fully explained to the House on the 16th May, 1947, vide Hansard, pages 2532 and 2533, when I moved that it be referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. Briefly, the proposal provides for a building approximately 425 feet in length, 212 feet in width, and of a total height of 100 feet. It will comprise a full basement, lower ground floor, ground floor, first, second, third and fourth floors, with minor floors on the fifth and sixth floor levels, covering a section only of the building area, to provide for cleaners’ rooms, recreation room, fan room, lift motors, &c. The total floor area will be 450,000 square feet, of which the net office accommodation will be 250,000 square feet. This will provide for an approximate accommodation of 3,000 people. The building will be one of the largest permanent structures in Canberra. It will be constructed of reinforced concrete, with concrete floors throughout and will be faced with Hawkesbury sandstone. The estimated cost is £1,500,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 30th October (vide page 1574), on motion by Mr. Chifley-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I do not consider that I have provided for myself quite the appropriate background for discussing this bill in the detail that it deserves, because I should have in front of me a pile of thick, weighty tomes con taining the opinions of all the learned authorities on banking. Then I should have been able at any time to refer to their views in order to counter any criticism which has been levelled against thebill. Not having made those preparations, I propose to devote my time towhat may be described as the more practical aspects of the bill, in an endeavour to point out to the people the manner in which I view this legislation.
One can say with certitude that this bill is the most important piece of legislation which has been introduced in theParliament of the Commonwealth since federation. It is important for a particular reason, but that reason is different from that which was expounded my members of the Opposition. It is important because it hasstirred the people of Australia from their dreams of ease, and from their lethargy, and it will make the working class watchful that Australia, in future, shall gradually move towards the attainment of the democratic ideal. I refuse to believe that Australia is a democracy, orat any. time in its history has ever fought for democracy. When I make that statement, I refer to fighting, not in themilitary sense, but in the legislativesphere, because the whole trend since the inception of responsible government in Australia has been to put over theelected representatives of the people an authoritarian, totalitarian, fascist or even nazi body that can disregard as it pleasesthe will of the people; yet not one word of protest has ever been offered by members opposite in condemnation of this situation.
I have always been an impartial observer, I hope, and if need be, I havealways said the unpleasant thing. Often in my pronouncements I have been, fifteen or twenty years ahead of my time. In this debate, I shall say unpleasant things, if necessary. Personally, I consider that it would be quite wrong for me, as a person who has always transacted my business with the private trading banks, to turn around and denounce them at this juncture. I have no desire to do that, but, unfortunately, in this debate, it becomes necessary to contrast public banking with private banking, and, consequently, I must make some criticisms. I shall not do so out of any personal animus towards the private trading banks, because my relations with them for many years have been most cordial. Having said that, I express the view that the Australian people, as the result of developments during the last few years, have evolved beyond the need for private banks. That is all I nave to say on that aspect, but ‘honorable members should not construe those remarks as a condemnation of private banking so far as it has served the people.
No member of the Opposition has ever uttered one word of criticism about the totalitarian behaviour of upper houses in Australian parliaments. If any person in this House has had a wide and practical knowledge of them, it is I, because I had the most unpleasant experience of being the leader of the government in the Legislative Council of Tasmania for ten years, and for the greater part of that time I was “ my own majority “. If private banks have committed a grave blunder they did so when they created conditions that resulted in the introduction of this bill. After all, we are grown men, and we have accepted the responsibility of participating in the government of this country. We must learn to lead the people by telling them at all times the truth as we see it. Do honorable members mean to tell me that the Melbourne City Council, which, is a corporation, cared greatly whether it banked with a private bank or with the Commonwealth Bank? Of course, it did not. The action taken by that corporation was inspired by certain interests in this country, and those of us who are “ in the know “ realize that that is so. Did it matter to members of the Melbourne City Council as such whether the council banked with the Commonwealth Bank? In deciding that matter the members were not considering it as individuals, but were acting as members of a corporation. However, the plain fact is that they were under the influence of the private banks and that is why they took upon themselves the responsibility of bringing this matter before the High Court. I shall have something to say about that later. The result of their action in having the matter litigated was that section 48 of the Banking Act 1945, was declared invalid. Honorable members opposite profess to be business men and to represent business men. Is there one business man in this country who would have jeopardized 90 per cent, of good business for 10 per cent, of government business? When it introduced the banking legislation of 1945 all that the previous Labour Government desired was to strengthen the Commonwealth Bank, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), when he introduced that measure, made it abundantly clear that its purpose was to strengthen the Common wealth Bank as a central bank. Where would one expect to find the strength of such a bank? Naturally, a big part of its strength would lie in government and semigovernmental accounts, and that is something which one would expect to occur in the ordinary process of banking evolution. However, that was not the intention of the trading banks, who acted mainly on the advice tendered by their lawyers. The banks’ advisers must have foreseen the legal consequences if litigation in the High Court resulted in part of the act being declared invalid, and the bankers themselves realized that the political consequences to the Government would be most serious. What were those, consequences ? The Government was confronted with three alternatives. The first course open to it was to “ take the knock”, and carry on as though nothing had happened. But what would the people of Australia have thought of a government which they had elected which had tamely submitted to the dictates of nine bank boards and a judgment of the High Court? Would not the people, irrespective of their politics, have been convinced that the bank boards were more powerful than their elected representatives? Since it could not afford to suffer in silence, the Government had to choose between the two remaining alternatives. It could nationalize the banks or it could destroy them slowly by competition ; and I do not know that I should have chosen the course adopted by the Prime Minister. At the time he made his attack on the banking legislation of 1945, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) predicted that that measure would be used to bring about the destruction of the trading banks by a process of slow strangulation. His observation then becomes significant in the light of the present controversy. The fact is that the trading banks have been slowly strangling one another for years. That process began in 1917, when there 23 trading banks. .Now, by a process of strangulation called “commercial enterprise “, their numbers have dwindled to nine, and two of that number are contemplating a merger now. As I say, the Government had ‘to choose between nationalizing the banks and destroying them by competition. Personally, I believe that it would have accomplished .more, and destroyed them more effectively, if it had chosen the competitive process, and I shall show how that could have been accomplished. We have evolved since 19.45. The war is over. The world .is torn by internal dissension, by economic upheavals. The great producing entities of .the world have been flattened by bombing. Those people have to be picked up, resuscitated, and revived, if western Europe is to survive. My personal opinion is that western Europe cannot recover. I do not tie my ideals to the great god Mammon. There are far more important things than Mammon in the social structure. Opposition members have tied themselves to that juggernaut, and this is where we fundamentally differ. But I believe that, in a Mammon-mad world, we have to use the instrument of Mammon to try to revive the western world. If any one tells me that the world of 1947 is the same as was the world of 1939, I say that he is a madman, because the last six or seven years have brought tremendous social and scientific changes into the world, and all of us have to gear, not only our social life, but also, and more particularly, our economy to them.
Let me refer to another matter, which is very interesting in connexion with this observation of mine. In the early part of this year, we passed a bill giving £125,000,000 - an amount which, I suppose, would buy all the private banks in Australia twice over - to the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank, under an agreement described as the Bretton Woods Agreement.
– We did not give anything.
– There is another political, financial trickster. That is how they get their money - by trickery. We gave £125,000,000. That is what we committed ourselves to by the bill. And we were so democratic that, in return for that £125,000,000, the value of our vote on that international body is 3 per cent. When that legislation was brought into this House, no person was more eloquent, and none displayed more international zeal .or enthusiasm, than did my right honorable friend the Leader of the ‘Opposition (Mr. Menzies). He was supported by the Leader of .the .Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). They did not mind handing over to the international financial ‘crowd in this world £125,000,000 worth of Australian assets, or commiting Australia to provide £125,000,000, .for which we received a 3 per cent. vote. Yet they object to the Australian people, who have the right to decide every three .years, by means of a free franchise, the composition of their parliamentary institutions, having this more democratic right. That is the position to which they have brought themselves. They have no compunction about giving £125,000,000 to the International Monetary Fund, over which we have no control, but they object to the private banks being handed over to public control, .even though the Australian people, every three years, can reject any government of which they disapprove.
There is another significant angle, and it is this : I have never heard any frightful yowl from the other side about the steel monopoly in this country oppressing the people. I have never heard any cry from ‘them about the glass monopoly in this country oppressing the people. I have never heard one word of protestation by them against the sugar monopoly. Yet, when the matter is one of banking in this country, they can produce .all the shibboleths, all the terror tactics, all the frightening implications of totalitarianism and fascism, which are part and parcel of the political lift of this country, and always have been since the .great days of the early ‘fifties.
There is a second point .that I want to emphasize ; and I shall try to follow the lines of- the Opposition. We have- been, here during this sessional period for six or seven- weeks. There- has- not been one. day during- that- period on which my friends: opposite have not dragged out the old. bogy of communism, facism, or other tyrannies throughout- the world. I want: to do a little psycho-analysis of- the Opposition* I do not know whether’ you are aware; Mr. Speaker, that man- must’ have- something to love and something- to hate, as a< pa>rt- of his- conflict with hisown ego. He must be- able to fasten his hatreds -upon somebody or something; I have- been- told that, in the late ‘eighties and early ‘nineties in this country; we used- to fasten all our sorrows on to. agitators. That was followed by a- period during -which we went through socialism. Then, in the early part of this century,we had Russia and the “yellow peril “ on to which to fasten all our sorrows. Thenthere were some upheavals on thecoalfields, and we went back to leg-irons and “ isms “. I believethat it was “Wadeism” in thosedays. Then we lived through a war, and we. did. not have much time for “isms”, because we- were fighting for our lives. When we came out of that war we had the “ ism “ known as “ I.W.W.”. A little later, we had “ Langism “ - with all respect to my friend on my right. I remember the occasion on which a veryserious Labour man said to me, “ I wonder whether we could get this bloke Lang shot? “ I have since seen- the manto whom he referred, and have come to know him rather well, and I do not thinkthat he would make a very-good corpse at all. I think that he is a very nice, quiet man, really. After we had got over that, they tried to bring- in my friend the present Minister for Transport (Mr; Ward) ; but there is something wrong with his physiognomy, and he lasted only a very short while. Then we reached the position at which we stand to-day - communism. So, right through the period, we had to have some “ ism “ upon. which to fasten all our evils.
Let us. assume that my right honorable friend the Leader of the Opposition, is perfectly right in what he says, and that there is grave danger in this country. It is. a danger of which I have heard ever since I was a boy, namely, that somebody was going to take something from somebody else; Let us. assume that he is correct, and that there, is danger of totalitarianism in. this country; We have heard, of it week, after week- in- this House. Have we heard one. word fromthe other side about other than the worst form of- government repression.? Have* we heard one remark as to the right and. proper way of solving- the problem.? Let me show just what has happened in thiscountry during the last few years. I have a. nasty habit of asking questions occasionally. I asked to-day to be provided by the- Commonwealth Bureau of Census- and Statistics- with -figures’ show?ing’ what the position was– in. 1939 in? relation to the basic wage in. the -six- Aus. tralian capital cities. I was- informed’ that the basic wage was £3 19s. in 1939– and £5 6s. in June, 1947’, or an increase of 33 per cent: The whole of the- Melbourne newspapers, on Monday or* Tuesday of this week, were’ splattered with big headlines announcing’ that thecost of building in- this country had increased by 100 per cent. How in the name of all that is decent, can one expect a man to own his own home- when his. living expenses and building costs have gone up by 100 per cent., and the basic wage by only 33 per cent.?’ His chances are dwindling- all the time. That is the cause of the disruption and unrest in the world. If this legislation is to do any good, the first thing necessary is to make money available, to enable people to own their own homes. Would that not be a more sensible way - a more Christian way - to treat them than the use of repressive measures ? Have honorable members ever studied the history of repressive measures? I was reared in an. atmosphere of . repression. I. know what happened in Ireland in 1916, when men were shot on the slightest pretext. Within six years Ireland had home rule. In other words, repressive measures accomplished in six years. more than had been gained inthe previous century. Honorable members know the story of the Eureka Stockade. Do they recall that within five years of that historic happening Victoria was given responsible government? I. believe that the Leader of the Opposition loves liberty, and therefore I was astonished to hear him refer, in his speech : on this bill, to the second battle for Australia. I know that the right honorable gentleman is a master of words, and that on that occasion he may have been indulging in ambiguities and rhetoric. I should not mind .if the second battle for Australia were merely a battle of words - and I hope that the Leader of the Opposition meant nothing else - but if he means a battle involving bloodshed, then let us forget all about it.
– That is not what the honorable member has just said.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), with his third-class mind, is capable of distorting anything. I have been speaking of the effects of respressive measures, and of shooting people down. I have said that when people were shot down the things that they were after were gained more quickly than if other methods had been used. If we were to shoot down the Communists in our midst, there would be a Communist government in Aust ali a within five years. I favour dealing with the Communist problem and other problems by intelligent methods. If this Banking Bill is to do anything worth while, it will be by putting roofs over the heads of the people, and giving them homes that they can call their own. There would be no more danger of communism in this country if every family owned its own home.
Let us discuss this measure from another angle, and consider the results of the various referendums on which the people have been asked to vote. I am told on the highest authority that “ referendums “ is the plural of “referendum”, and I must accept that as being correct. I believe that about 23 referendums have been submitted to the people of Australia, and that of that number a negative vote has been cast on about twenty occasions. Not understanding the problems submitted to them, the people naturally voted “ No What have been the effects of referendums of the courts of this country ! I am not a man to “ slather “ any individual or any institution; in common with those who devote themselves to the betterment of Australia, I want to see this country progress. I have a great respect for our institutions, and among them I include the High Court of Australia. But I believe that the justices of the High Court Bench are human beings, like other persons in the community, that they have three meals a day, and require rest and clothes. I believe, moreover, that they hold opinions on social, religious and moral questions, the same as other members of the community. The Opposition has suggested a referendum on the nationalization qf banking, and, therefore, it is interesting to recall what happened when section 48 of the Banking Act of 1945 came before the High Court. The decision of the court was against the Australian Government. I believe that it was based on some question of discrimination, but I shall not enter into a legal argument about something of which I know nothing. The country has accepted the decision of the High Court, and I believe that the learned justices gave their decision in good faith. But what worries me is the thought that time may prove that the decision was based on political rather than on legal grounds. Let us consider what happened. In 1945, legislation dealing with banking was passed by this Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition then predicted dire consequences for the Government that introduced that legislation. Subsequently, general elections were held in 1946. I emphasize that the legislation of 1945 was then on. the statute-book and in operation. One effect of that legislation was to strengthen the Commonwealth Bank. That was made clear during the debate in the Parliament. And so we can say that when the Government which introduced the banking legislation of 1945 was returned to power in 1946, the people gave their approval to that legislation. But did the High Court accept the decision of the people? I understand that all political parties regard the decision of the people at a referendum as binding, but their decision on the occasion to which I have referred was not regarded as binding when the legislation of 1945 came before the High Court. In the light of the refusal of the High Court to accept the pronouncement of the people in regard to section 48 of the Banking Act, how can we expect the court to accept the decision of the people given at a referendum on the nationalization of banking? It is only beating the air to say that there should be.a referendum. There was, in effect, a referendum on section 48 of that act, but the decision of the people was not accepted by the High Court. The same ‘ thing may happen again. Why have a referendum when that is likely to happen? ‘If I thought that the private banks were even a little concerned with the true development and expansion of Australia - I am not talking about the expansion of business but of the good of the common people - I might adopt a different attitude. For twenty years I have thundered from many platforms on the subject of population trends in Australia, and I have emphasized the need for proper housing if our population is to increase. I was, therefore, interested to read in a recent issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, the most conservative journal in Australia, that it regards population trends seriously. It has taken that journal twenty years to realize the seriousness of the situation. I do not believe that the western world can recover. The population disturbances there have been so great that the recovery is impossible. I do not believe that any migration programme which Australia is capable of putting into operation will enable this country to recover, because recent statistics indicate that population trends in Australia are worse than ever. . believe that the only way to stimulate the social life of Australia and extend its population is to improve conditions, so that the people will be in a position to rear families under proper conditions. [ challenge any honorable member to show that a man can live according to modern standards and rear a family of two children on the Australian average basic wage of £5 6s. a week. That is the problem that we must face. How are we facing it ? . There was a third method open to the Prime Minister. He could have destroyed the private banks and made it possible for them to be taken over practically for a song. If the Government made money available to the people at low rates of interest to enable them to build homes and to acquire farms we should get somewhere and many of our political- problems would be overcome. In the early years of World War II. the Leader of the Opposi tion used bank credit for national purposes. On inquiry from the Treasury, I ascertained that treasury-bills amounting to £1,700,000 were in circulation in the last years of the Menzies regime. During the currency of the war, bank credit amounting to £400,000,000 was made available to save Australia, but if any one to-day were to suggest that £400,000,000 of bank credit should be made available for reproductive undertakings, such as the building of houses, the people of Australia would have fits. Yet they did not mind doing it in the desperate days of the war. I know that if we printed £400,000,000 worth of money it would affect very considerably the small investor and the various superannuation funds, but I also know that if we were to expend £400,000,000 on the expansion of agriculture and the provision of homes for the people, we would begin to get somewhere. And now, what is the real objection to this proposal? I will tell honorable members, and it is a very ugly story. In those States controlled by totalitarian upper houses - and I refer to Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia - only property owners have the right to vote f or the upper houses. Thus, every person who owns a house gets a vote for the election of the upper chamber. In other words, he becomes a little bit more democratic. Yet, when we ask for cheap money to enable the people to get homes, we are accused of being totalitarians Actually, the provision of homes for the people is the best antidote to communism, and, incidentally, it gives to the people the right to vote for the election of the upper houses in four of the States. Of course, it is sheer nonsense to suggest that this bill is in the nature of totalitarian legislation. Those of us who have had some experience know the significance of the opposition to the measure.
– The Government proposes to take something away from somebody.
– If anything has been taken away, it was taken from the workers when they were asked to live on a basic wage of £5 6 s. a week. The honorable member has no reply to that. He shuts up quick and lively when the hooks are put into him. In the early years of this century the basic wage was 36s. a week. In the Harvester award, the basic wage was designed to cover the needs of five people - a man, his wife and three children. .By 1943, as a result of sneaking tactics, the basic wage was designed for the needs of a man, his wife and one child. It is no wonder that the population has not increased. Those are facts, as any one can see by reading the decisions of Mr. Justice .Higgins in the Harvester award. Because they are good Labour utterances, honorable members opposite do not want to hear them. Recently, I came across a remark that interested me greatly -
The real question is, not who shall be my banker but who shall be my ruler.
It is a question of sovereignty. When the bankers say’ that the power to control banking is too great to be entrusted to any government, they have not the wit to see that this is the very power which they themselves have wielded .for too long. They condemn the proposal that this power should reside in the hands of the -elected representatives of the people, but they have no objection to its being wielded by bank boards.
Since this legislation was first mooted, many people have approached me objecting to it on the ground that they want liberty. My reply to them was, “Did you .have any liberty in the years between 1929 and 1933? Did the banks press you then ? “ They did not want to hear those questions. -They only wanted to hear something in support of what they believed. Economic trends in Australia, -and, indeed, all over the world, have.made it clear that private banking is- outmoded, and that public control of banking must come. This is inevitable, as the writings of all informed people show.
I wonder why the good tories in the Victorian upper house tossed out the legitimate government of the people. They had no quarrel with the Government. There was no grave national or economic crisis. It cannot be argued that they tossed out the Government in order to influence the Commonwealth Parliament, because they knew very well that this legislation was going through, irrespective of the result of the Victorian elections. They knew that it would be passed by, this chamber, and also by the Senate, and they knew that it would eventually teach the High Court. Was their action a sinister attempt to influence, or even to intimidate, the High Court? If so, it was a dirty, ugly reason. If a Liberal government is returned in Victoria, will that have any effect on this legislation? .No, because the legislation will inevitably go to the courts in any case. Thus, I can think of no other reason for the action of the Victorian Legislative Council than that it was a sinister, dangerous move for the express purpose of trying to intimidate the High Court by a specious and irrelevant .action.
– And to inflame the minds of the people.
– Of course. I have no personal quarrel with the private trading banks. I am not going to spend my time directly abusing them. I did so indirectly, because I could not help it. Actually, our economy has evolved beyond the stage of private banking. We have spent the last 50 years educating our people, and we cannot ask them to accept a lower economic standard than what they have been taught to appreciate. The position must be improved in some measure; by enabling the people to own their homes and by providing cheap money for the construction of homes. .1 am told that a house which would have cost £1,000 to build in .1939, would cost £2,000 to build to-day. For this, I have no better or worse authority than the Victorian press of the last day or .so. Whereas in 1939, at H per cent, interest, a homebuilder paid .£45 a year in interest, he would pay to-day, in respect of a home of the same type which now costs £2,000, £90 a year in interest. Whilst the interest charge on a home has doubled, the basic wage, as I have shown, has increased by only 33 per cent. Therefore, the possibility of a greater -.number of our people being enabled to purchase homes is less than it was in the past. We must concentrate on this problem. Instead of making this issue a war about the private banks, we should .say to the people, “ Our object under this legislation is to stabilize and increase production, and to help more people to go on the land by offering money at the lowest possible rates of interest for industries of all kinds “. If Ave do that, all the talk about Communists which emanates from the Opposition parties must cease. If we” want to bolster up our declining morality, a matter to which the Chancellor of the University of Sydney recently referred, we must establish a new order. This measure will enable us to do so. The archaic system supported by the Opposition is strangling our people. Our fathers came to this continent many years ago, and from virgin country hewed out a productive land. Ever since I was a boy, I have heard people say that Australia is deteriorating. Yet, the fact is that to-day we are a greater and better country than we have ever been before. We now have more wealth than we ever had before. It is our duty to go ahead and build up an economy which will be to the benefit of the people, and so move on to national greatness. Finally, I suggest that this legislation should not be regarded as ending private banking merely for the sake of ending it, but rather the beginning of a system of public banking, heralding a new era commensurate with the changed condition of affairs in this country and the higher level of intelligence of our people as the result of a first-class educational system.
– The honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) made a very helpful speech from the point of view of members of the Opposition. I shall not deal with all phases of his remarks, but I shall answer certain points he made. He commenced by saying that this legislation had stirred the people of Australia from their slothful ease. I agree. Unless the people of this country awake from their apathy in respect of fundamental political issues their freedom will vanish overnight. The honorable member then said that he had been a client of the private banks all his life. Apparently, therefore, he has not yet had any inducement to become a client of the Commonwealth Bank. He said that he did not condemn the private banks. Are they, therefore, to be slaughtered for no crime at all ? Then he launched a tirade against the Legislative Council of Victoria, a subject to which he again reverted towards the end of his speech. The only notable incident that has happened in recent months so far as upper houses in the States are concerned is the action taken by the Legislative Council of Victoria to combat this legislation. The honorable member said that so far as that assembly was concerned, no grave economic policy was involved, but honorable members will recall that he commenced his speech by saying that this measure was the most important bill dealing with economics that had been introduced into this Parliament since federation. What is the heinous crime that is charged against the Upper House in Victoria? It is simply this: In this Parliament the Government took a course of action which can, and will, transform the whole economic life of Australia. It will alter the relationships between man and roan and between the citizen and the Government. The Government is taking this action while refusing to consult the people at all on the matter. This is the most dishonest, immoral political act yet committed in any democratic parliament. In Victoria, the State Government allied itself with this Government in this action. That State Government was consulted on the subject by the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) as to the form of this legislation. The Premier, Mr. Cain, openly gave his blessing to the measure, and again, without consulting the Victorian people, used their money to intervene in the proceedings before the High Court when the Banking Act of 1945 was challenged. He, therefore, became a partner to the Chifley crime ; and the Legislative Council of Victoria said simply, and correctly, “Look, this is not honest politics. This is not playing the game with the people of Victoria. How about you going out and consulting your masters on it?” In other words, the Upper House in Victoria assumed the mantle of the champion of democracy. It saw that the Government of that State had betrayed its trust by doing something about which it had not consulted its people, and it simply forced that Government to consult its masters, the people. That is all that the Upper House in Victoria did. If that be a crime, I wish that the same crime would be committed in the future by upper houses in other States because it is by such action that democracy will be preserved.
The honorable member for Denison dealt also with housing. I agree that there is nothing needed more by the people than houses. Thousands and thousands of people wish to become “ little capitalists “ and to enhance their dignity and value to the community by possessing a deed to a little plot of land and a home. Our people are badly in need of homes. But does the present banking system prevent this Government from doing more about housing than it is doing? After all, there is the Commonwealth Bank, which has a trading section, an industrial section and a rural section. And, as we know, under the Banking Act of 1945, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) can, and will, command the funds of the Commonwealth Savings Bank, if he so desires, for industrial purposes. Further, as this House knows, but not the people, the Treasurer can control the policy of the Commonwealth Bank, because if a dispute arises between the bank and the Treasurer that dispute must be settled to the satisfaction of the Treasurer. The Commonwealth Bank, in all phases of its operations, is subject to the political control of the Treasurer of the day. If the Government desires to do more about housing and to reduce interest rates further, it already possesses full power to do so. If it has failed to do so up to date, let the honorable member for Denison indict the Treasurer in this House and before the people of this country. I leave my friend with these few words of criticism. Possibly he would do well to consult his mind regarding them.
I believe the introduction of this bill to be one of the most dishonest and immoral acts ever committed in any parliament in the British Empire. I do not believe it to be wise to hark back to what was said 10, 20, 30 or 40 years ago, as did the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) ; but I do think it is wise to remind the public of certain pledges given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) in comparatively recent times. I shall read them to the House, because I think they have great value. On the 27th November, 1946, but a little way back in the corridor of time, the Prime Minister said -
The principal powers of the trading banks to create credit have been brought under the control of the Commonwealth Bank by the provisions of the Banking Act 1945, which gives the Commonwealth Bank authority to lay down the advance policy to be followed by banks and to control the purchase of securities by banks. The Government does not consider that it is necessary to impose any further control.
On the 23rd March, .1945, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction is reported in Hansard .to have said -
The alternative would be, of course, to have only one bank undertaking the activities of the central bank and monopolizing the whole field of trading banks as well. That could, perhaps, be described as nationalization or socialization of the banking system. The Government has not selected that system, but proposed an alternative, which it thinks is better fitted to this country.
These are the words of the Prime Minister and a senior member of his Government. As the honorable member for Denison said, *he 1946 elections were fought around the Banking Bill of 1945. We heard nothing from the Prime Minister or the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to the contrary. How, then, can they have the “hide” to walk into this House and say to the people of this country, “ We shall eat our words of yesterday; we shall scrap the pledges we gave to you and to the Australian people ; we shall take the first step towards socializing this country”. According to the honorable member for Denison, it was after the High Court had decided in favour of the municipalities and against the Commonwealth that the Prime Minister, apparently in a fit of pique, decided to take this step. The right honorable gentleman refused to be “knocked” by the High Court. After all, is not the High Court the only interpreter of the Australian Constitution? Is not the Constitution only the expression of the will of the people of this country? Is there anything wrong with a government bowing its head to the will of the people ? Suppose this legislation is declared invalid by the High Court; what will be the procedure then? Will the Government refuse ito take the “ knock “ or will it “embark upon forceful measures in order to put its programme of socialization over the country? I do not think that the Prime Minister or his Ministers should be pardoned for what they have done. I say with a full knowledge of the implication of my words that I can never again accept a political pledge given by the present Prime Minister, nor do I believe that the people will do so. My colleague, the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), referred recently to the decline in public morality. I believe that the decline has been very serious. When the political history of Australia in the last two- years is written, the members of this Government will be portrayed as the greatest golddiggers and tourists ever to occupy the treasury bench. Surely the culminating peak of public immorality has been reached by the introduction of this measure ! It may be true that the Prime Minister embarked upon this proposal in a moment of pique. If so, he had reached a crisis in his political life and, once having determined upon a certain course of action and crossed the dividing line, he is determined not to stop until he has completely socialized this country. The nationalization of banking is, as the right honorable gentleman has said, in line with a plank that has been included in the platform of the Labour party for many years. It seems almost fantastic, almost unreal, that any political party in this land, with all the traditions of British democracy, all the struggles for the institution of a free Parliament and a free people behind it, should go to Europe for its prophet and to Moscow for its draftsman. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) read to the House excerpts from the manifesto of the Communist party issued in 1919 and from the platform of the Labour party as adopted by the 1921 conference, which established clearly that many of the objectives set out in the platform of the Labour party in 1921 were taken holus-bolus from the Communist party manifesto of 1919. If, as the honorable member for Denison hope’s, this legislation will awaken the people of this country to the real position confronting them, so much to the good. The people have little realization of the fundamental differences between the philosophies and policies of the three political parties represented in this House. They should begin to learn what these differences are before it is too late. I have not heard any spokesman for the Labour party in any election campaign say in definite terms, “ These are our objectives ; this is where we are going “. They intend to move gradually towards their goal of socialization and this is the first big step they have taken. On the other hand, at election time, the Opposition parties present their policies clearly and frankly before the people, endeavouring to portray the kind of country they want Australia to be. If this measure brings home to the people the fundamental differences that divide the political parties represented in this Parliament, it will at least have achieved some good purpose. If the people choose to support this first instalment of socialization they would do well to view with clear perception the end of the road upon which they elect to travel. The objective of the Labour party is complete, not partial socialization. Honorable members on this side of the House stand for some form of socialization. They believe in the provision of amenities that will help the individual citizen; they believe in government ownership of railways and the provision of national water conservation schemes and the like; but they do not believe in any measure which will have the effect of destroying human initiative, which is the great driving force of progress. One has only to turn to the craft unions to see how far- the Labour party has travelled along the road to socialism. Nearly all the craft unions have already been absorbed by the big industrial unions-
– Order! I ask the honorable member to discuss the bill.
– -The matters to which I am now referring are points in the Labour party’s policy to which the Prime Minister should have directed attention when introducing this bill. But the right honorable gentleman made only a brief reference to Labour’s policy, and apparently I shall not be permitted to make more than passing references to it. However, I have a right to say this to the honorable -member for Denison: The unions to-day are largely in the hands of Communists.
– Order ! If the honorable member attempts to evade the ruling of the Chair, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I have no intention pf doing that, Mr. Deputy Speaker.. If I am not allowed to deal with subjects that have been raised time and time again in this House even to reply to what has been said by honorable members opposite - n-
-Order! The honorable member is not entitled to canvass the ruling of the Chair or to comment upon it. The Chair has given a ruling, and it must be observed. If the honorable member is not prepared to do that, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I think that I am right in saying that I can discuss the 1945 banking legislation and certain other points that have been brought out in the course of this debate, particularly in relation to happenings during the depression, and the part played by the banks in those days. I wish to bring forcibly to the notice of honorable members the powers conferred upon the Treasurer by the 1945 act, because by so doing, I can demonstrate the falsity of nearly all the arguments that have been offered ‘by honorable members opposite, including the Prime Minister himself. It has been alleged that during the depression the Commonwealth Bank Board was under the control of private trading banks and commercial interests in this country. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has made it clear that it was the then Prime Minister, Mr. Scullin, who re-appointed Sir Robert Gibson as chairman of the board - and for a very good reason. The Prime Minister was afraid of the reaction of the extreme element of his party if he failed to re-appoint Sir Robert Gibson. Another member of the Bank Board at that time was Mr. M. D. Duffy, formerly secretary of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council, and the representative on that council of the Geelong Trades Hall Council. . These gentlemen supported all steps that the Soullin Government ultimately had to take. The question of bank advances, has been raised, but .the part played by the private banks in assisting the governments in office during the depression years has not been clearly shown. Figures have been quoted relating to advances to individuals; but in an examination of the complete picture some attention must be given to other aspects. I find for example that in March, 1929, with deposits of £287,000,000, the banks advanced to individuals and governments £259,900,000, or a ratio to deposits of 89.1 per cent. In March, 1934, advances including treasury-bills totalled £280,500,000. In only one year, 1931, did advances drop slightly below the level of March, 1929, the figures being £255,900,0.00 in March, 1929, and £255,300,000 in 1931- a difference of only a decimal point. On every other occasion bank advances were higher. In fact, at times so much did the banks strain the ratio of advances to deposits, that in the year 1930, in the very depth of the depression, the ratio was as high as 103.6 per cent, and even 103.7 per cent. Any one with a knowledge of banking will admit that such a ratio was dangerously close to unsound banking practice. We have every reason to congratulate ourselves that in those difficult years we had a banking system that did not collapse as did the American system, but, on the contrary, was able to play a big .part in the rapid recovery that this country made. Many quotations have been made in the course of this debate but I shall quote only one man whose words will have an echo in many homes - the late Mr. J. A. Lyons, who was the pilot that weathered the storm. He said -
Had it not been for these- institutions, we should have been faced with complete and absolute collapse . of everything worth while in our country. The banking institutions were the sheet anchor of this country during that period (depression). They saved us from absolute and complete failure.
I come now to an examination of the Banking Act 1945, and here I do not run any risk of defying your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I intend merely to quote from the seconds reading speech of the Prime Minister. What powers were, given to the Government under that bill? They are summed up on page 5 of the Prime
Minister’s printed speech - The coordination of banking policy under the direction of the Commonwealth Bank; control through the special account system of the volume of credit and circulation; control of bank interest rates and bank advance policy; control of foreign exchange and gold resources of the Australian economy; and of course control of the note issue. Surely these are all the powers that any central bank could conceivably require to cope with a financial emergency. I remind honorable members that most of these powers were handed over to the Commonwealth Bank voluntarily when the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) was Treasurer. Are they not adequate to enable any government to’ undertake whatever construction programme for houses, hostels, or public works it has in mind, or to take any appropriate action should this country again encounter a period of depression? What nonsense it is, therefore, for speaker after speaker on the Government side to say that in the event of economic adversity a government of this country would require the powers that are now being demanded. Every power necessary for a central bank is already conferred upon the Government by the 1945 legislation. Under this bill, the controller of the Commonwealth Bank will not be the Governor. As the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said, the Treasurer of the day will be the real controller, and the Commonwealth Bank, in future, will be the Chifley “Bank”. There was one power, I admit, that the 1945 act did not give to the Government, and that is personal control over the money of individual depositors. The 1945 legislation could not give that power, because there was still a competitive trading bank system - a system that ensured freedom of choice to borrowers, and, in fact, enhanced the very status of a borrower. A client to-day does not have to go to a bank as a mere suppliant, as he will have to go to the Commonwealth Bank when this measure becomes law. He goes secure in the knowledge that he is an esteemed and valued client whose business is wanted by the bank. He knows, too, that if one hank does not satisfy his needs, he can walk across the road to another and be received, in the great majority of cases at least, with the greatest goodwill and respect. The one thing left undone by the 1945 legislation was to deprive the people of their right to bank where they choose. Destruction of personal liberty is the only reason for the introduction of this bill, which is the first necessary step in the plan formulated in 1921 by the Australian Labour party for the complete socialization of Australia and the subjection of its people. Governmental control of money means control of every activity of Australian men and women. If it were not that the Australian Labour party wants to destroy individual liberty, it could achieve socialization of banking in another way. It could acquire the shares in and property of the private banks. It could say, “ We will allow all the banks and their branches to function under government control with different boards of directors, thereby allowing them to compete, within limits, and give to the citizens the right to choose where they will bank”. The Government would retain all the banks’ premises and staffs. But the Government would not do it that way. It wants one bank under one control - a political monopoly whose administration will be dictated from, perhaps, a room in thi9 building. This legislation will affect not only people who borrow money from banks, but also every person in the community, because political control over bank advances implies that not only will the business man or the farmer be affected by a curtailment of credit, but also his employees. The repercussions will be felt throughout the land. The danger in politically controlled banking is that of “ wire-pulling “. Any one with knowledge of what happened in Germany before the war is aware of the “wirepulling “ that can be done when finances are controlled absolutely from the top of the political heirarchy, as the Treasurer ought to be well aware. The low moral standards that have been complained of in Australia to-day will be high compared wilh the ebb they would reach should this legislation go through and Australia have but one bank, and that a politically controlled monopoly. Another grave danger is that of interference with individual bank accounts. That this danger will be intensified, for it is present to-day, is proved by the Lonagan ease. Lonagan was given certain money. It was to have been refunded, but he did not know that. Behind his back the Government sent its representative to the Commonwealth Savings Bank and tampered with his account, withdrawing from it the money that he was alleged to have owed. The first he knew about it was the arrival of his pass book, which showed that money had been withdrawn from his account on behalf of the Government without his consent or knowledge. Woe to any one who places his savings in the savings bank when this measure becomes law, because it is evident, that what people regard as their personal possessions are not beyond the grasp of the Government. Even some of the trading banks were coerced by the Government into handing money over to it from the accounts of its customers in circumstances similar to those of Lonagan. That makes it all the more necessary that there should be independent banks which will ensure that the savings of the people are not touched by any government without their knowledge and their approval.
The success of a socialist state depends on control of the individual and his activities. Honorable members opposite will agree that that was the objective of the referendum in 1944 on employment, which was rejected by the people. This bill is a move to achieve that objective by a roundabout method. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) recently referred with pique to the fact that in 1944 the people had refused the Government the necessary control of man-power. That the control of individual activities is aimed at by the Government is amply proved in other ways, but especially by the following passage in Post-war Reconstruction, copies of which are in the Parliamentary Library. This publication contains the speeches delivered at the Summer School of Political ‘Science in Canberra in 1944. On that occasion the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) said-
To-day, with the enormous development in industry and industrial organization, corporate control and finance, there is no longer a free right in every person to choose his own vocation in life. ‘ .
– Order ! What has that to do with the bill ?
– Everything ! Referring to the importance of money and credit, the Prime Minister in his second-reading speech said -
It plays a part as vital to the economic body as the blood-stream to the human body.
Control of credit and of the individual affairs of the people is control of employment. By withholding credit through its monopoly bank, the Government would be able to close down on industry, uproot hundreds of people and force them to look for work where credit was given. The personal likes or dislikes of the manager of the bank could bring about industrial conscription. The result of this legislation if passed by the Parliament will be that by withholding credit from an employer the Government will be able to affect, not only his life, but also the lives of his employees. That is the only omission from the 1945 legislation that this legislation seeks to repair. When this legislation has been passed, the Government will be able to dictate almost every phase of a man’s life - where he shall live, where he shall work, or, indeed, whether he shall work. The Communists knew that what the people refused to endow the Government with in 1944, namely, power over individual liberty, could be achieved by this means. So it has been adopted by the Australian Labour party.
The Prime Minister, in dealing with the compensation clauses of this measure, said that banks which voluntarily agreed to the acquisition of their business by the Commonwealth Bank would be exempt from income tax on the amounts paid to them in pursuance of the agreements. If that does not make bribery moral and legal, I do not know what does. But the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) contradicted the Prime Minister. He said that the banks that entered agreements voluntarily would be placed on the same footing as banks that were compulsorily acquired. In effect, the Prime Minister said to the banks, “ Go quietly and there is something in my hand for you “, whereas the
Minister for Post-war Reconstruction flatly contradicted him, saying, in effect, “ There is nothing in the Prime Minister’s hands “. Does any one imagine that those to whom the bribe is offered will sink to the depths of political immorality to which the sponsors of the scheme have sunk? I do not think so. The bill also provides for the establishment of a Federal Court of Claims consisting of a. Chief Judge and such other judges as are appointed. The members of the court are to be given pension rights. So I assume that instead of the court being an instrumentality that will decide matters affecting compensation’ within a few weeks or months, it will be a permanent body. This court of claims will determine what compensation shall be paid to the shareholders of the banks.
– Will that be immoral, too?
– I hope not. I notice that the Minister does not deny that the other offer was immoral. The court set up by the Treasurer will be the final judge. There will be no right of appeal against its findings. This is becoming a common feature of this Government’s legislation, but nevertheless it is significant that the most decrepit drunkard charged with some offence retains his right of appeal against conviction to the highest court in the land. Is this right, which is inherent in the British system of justice, to be denied to the small people who have invested their savings in bank shares? After all, a great majority of bank shareholders are people who have invested an amount of £500 or less. Are these people to be denied the right which is accorded to the lowest felon in the land merely because they have committed the “ sin “ of investing money in the banks ? This is a most curious procedure. I am reminded that even the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) recently appealed successfully against a conviction for an alleged traffic offence. Had he not been able to exercise the right of appeal, a member of this House would have had to carry a blemish, even if only a minor one, on his character. The Government has decided to take this right from the bank shareholders and allow a court of claims to be the sole authority as to what compensation shall be paid.
An alarming feature of this proposal is that it indicates the Government’s intention to go on with its scheme of socialization. In order to obtain complete power over the nation’s financial system, it must go on and nationalize the insurance companies and the big pastoral companies. Unless it does so, it will not have the measure of financial control which it wants. There is not a finer body of men in Australia than the employees of the various banks, but I believe that they face a serious risk of unemployment as the result of the enactment of this legislation. If their rights are to ‘be safeguarded by absorption into the Public Service, there will be a serious threat to the rights of postal employees and officers of other Commonwealth departments. There are many highly talented men amongst the banks’ employees, and if room is to be made for them in the Public Service - they cannot all be employed in the monopoly bank - some other section of the people must suffer.
This bill has been introduced not to meet any need but to give effect to a political philosophy. It is strange that an Australian political party which claims to be pro-British should have had to go to a foreigner for its inspiration and to another foreigner for the pattern of this bill. The Marxian doctrine has been mentioned in this debate. That doctrine has inspired every socialist body in the world. It spread over Europe from Italy to Moscow, bringing with it trouble, misery and death. Mussolini, in the early days of his career, was one of the great socialist revolutionaries of Europe. Of course, the purest form of socialism was created in Russia and the Australian socialist plan has been modelled on it. British political development, in marked contrast with that of Russia, has witnessed the steady but sure emergence of the individual as the controller of the State, and the creation of a decent standard of living based on- enterprise. We stand not for any “ ism “ but for the British system of democracy, a system which through the centuries has developed along the lines of common sense and good nature until it is now one of the finest forms of government known to the world. One thing for which the British peoples are famous is the art of good government. As a people, we prefer committees to dictators, elections to streetfighting, and talking-shops to revolutionary tribunals. The Labour party’s policy of complete socialization is the very antithesis of that. It is this difference of outlook on life, and the meaning of life, that distinguishes the political philosophy of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party from that of the socialist Labour party. One side favours the freedom of man to exercise his rights as a human being and to accept selfdiscipline through his own agency. The other side favours a servile being prepared to accept the planning and dominance of others, content to immerse his will in the will of others and to accept a form of so-called security that has been proved, and will be proved again, to be completely fallacious.
The socialist state is a slave state. As Churchill has said, it is a state where only the politician and the official count, and. where enterprise and thrift have no reward. Those wonderful words will live because of their truth. Expressed in colloquial Australian, the socialist state is a state where a certain privileged few get all the de luxe motor cars, all the taxi aeroplanes, all the trips overseas, and even all the Hollywood ties, and where the rest of us get “ damn-all “. We envisage an enterprising, vigorous and independent people controlling a state in which free men accept such regulatory measures as are necessary for the public welfare but in which human initiative and the hope of reward are ever the driving forces. If ever there was a time when free men and women should assert themselves, that time is now. Not only here, but also in Great Britain, socialist governments are pursuing policies which are foreign to the whole British conception of life. They pursue with fiendish glee “the dismemberment of this ancient and most noble monarchy “. They are slowly but surely, by all sorts of means, pauperizing the people. Had there been a socialist party in Great Britain 150 years ago, there never would have been a British Empire as we know it. If the socialist party is still in power in Great
Britain six years hence, the British Empire will have become a thing for history books, something that will live in the memories of those people who love it, but nothing more. “We in Australia face the same challenge. It is well that the people should be aware of the danger of this Government’s proposals.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The speech made by the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) followed very closely the lines of other speeches that have been made by honorable members opposite. The basic intention of all of them has been to arouse fear in the minds of the people. The honorable gentleman talked about socialism and the communist state. He indulged in cheap sneers at the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), the members of his Cabinet, and the Australian Labour party in general. Instead of giving us some real criticism of this measure, he endeavoured merely to create a fear complex amongst the people. “ The bogy man around the corner” was the theme of his speech. He talked about freedom “ vanishing overnight “ ! I ask : How can freedom in Australia disappear when the Constitution provides that elections shall be held at least every three years?
– The constitutions of Italy and Germany also provided for elections to be held, but totalitarian governments overrode the constitutions and destroyed the freedom of the people.
– I have not heard a suggestion that the Australian Constitution should be altered. In any event, it could, not be altered without the approval of the people at a referendum. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) knows that perfectly well.
The honorable member for Deakin described the Legislative Council of Victoria as a democratic institution which had forced the Cain Government to obtain an expression of the opinion of the electorates about the Australian Government’s banking proposals. But this’ so-called democratic institution, refused to allow the electors simultaneously to express their views upon the reform of the upper house, which is elected on a restricted franchise. That explodes any idea that the Legislative Council of Victoria is a democratic institution. The man who was selected to lead the Legislative Council’s opposition to the Supply Bill was Sir Frank Clarke, who is a vice-president of one of the private banks. In the circumstances, the honorable member’s endeavour to justify the action of that house of privilege has failed badly. I emphasize that the Victorian Legislative Council, which is elected on a restricted franchise, forced, the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly, which is elected on an adult franchise. The Victorian Legislative Council adopted this attitude because the Australian Government had decided in its wisdom to submit this bill to the Parliament. This legislation was not the immediate concern of the Parliament of Victoria. It certainly does affect the people of that State, although, in our opinion, it will not affect them adversely, as the honorable member for Deakin suggested. He described the introduction of the bill as “ this dishonest and immoral act of the Chifley Government “.
– The honorable gentleman ought to know that it is.
– Order ! The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) should know that he is not in order in interjecting.
– The honorable member for Deakin proceeded to refer to the moderate socialist outlook of ihe Opposition. I ask: What authority has the honorable member to speak either for the Opposition as a whole, or for one section of it? The Opposition consists of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. The honorable member has no authority to speak for the Opposition. There is a very broad line of demarcation between those two political parties.
Silting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– The honorable member for Deakin observed that the parties now in opposition were semi-socialistic. I do not think that such a statement would be supported by the leader of his party, because not very long ago the Leader of the Australian Country party said that every one knew what the policy of his party was, that it was “ No “ to everything.. Therefore, the honorable member for Deakin is obviously not authorized to speak for the Australian Country party.
Consideration of a measure such slS the nationalization of banks, must inevitably produce a conflict of opinion in the community. There are people who see great merit in the Government’s proposals, and others who profess to see no merit whatever in them. But that applies to almost all legislation introduced into any parliament, and the composition of Parliament is expressly designed to enable supporters and critics of measures to voice their opinions. However, the position in regard to this measure is that the minds of the people have been inflamed by propaganda disseminated by opponents of the Government’s proposals, and a considerable amount of fear has been engendered in the minds of the people. I propose to say something with regard to the action taken by the banks themselves. A newspaper which circulates in my electorate, in the course of a report which it published of a meeting held to protest against the nationalization of banks, stated -
A meeting of residents, convened at the request of Associated Banks, to protest against the Government’s proposed legislation for the nationalization of banks, by a large majority passed the following motion: . . .
The resolution protested, “ in the name of democracy “, against the Government’s proposals and used language of the kind with which we are now so familiar. The report concludes by stating -
About 30 residents attended the meeting, which was held in the Mechanics Hall on Wednesday night, . . .
The manager of the local bank appears to have been the principal speaker, and he informed the meeting that -
He believed the people should be given the opportunity to either accept or reject the proposal. The trading banks were wrongly accused, by some people, of causing the last depression, but he doubted if legislation could 1e enacted which would make a depression completely avoidable.
Of course, his views may be quite sound; but the point which I am making is that the controversy has been aroused mainly by the trading banks, which have a vested interest not only in private banking, but also in retaining for themselves the power which they exercise as bankers. A wireless broadcast at lunch-time to-day contained- an important announcement regarding control of banking in another country. It stated that the AttorneyGeneral of the government of that country is taking action against seventeen banks which are alleged to exercise control over 69 per cent, of the country’s securities. It is suggested that this control has been improperly obtained, and that the methods by which it has been secured are such that the government ought to take action against the banks concerned.
Out of the welter of discussion aroused by the introduction of this measure only three or four points of real importance emerge. The first is the doubt expressed by opponents of the Government’s proposals that the traditional secrecy which characterizes the relationship of banker and customer may be abused by the Commonwealth Bank. However, the Prime Minister has promised that adequate precautions will be taken to ensure a continuance of the confidential nature of that relationship. He has assured us that customers’ accounts will be regarded as being just as confidential as information officially obtained by the taxation authorities. There is absolutely no justification for the fear expressed that inquisitorial methods will be adopted by the Government when the Commonwealth Bank acquires the business of the trading banks.
It may be as well to state the facts with regard to the secrecy at present observed by bankers in handling customers’ affairs. The law recognizes that there is a contractual duty of secrecy implied in the relationship between banker and customer, and that view prevails in all democratic countries. However, there are certain exceptions to that general principle when the duty of secrecy cannot operate, as, for example, where there i3 compulsion of law. An obvious instance of this occurs when a banker has to give evidence in legal proceedings. Bankers may also be required to disclose information regarding their customers’ affairs under laws relating to taxation, bankruptcy, lunacy, &c. In such cases banks, including the Commonwealth Bank, do not give information unless the Commissioner of Taxation or some authority is able satisfactorily to identify the particular account in respect of which he requires information, and serves an order under the relevant law on the bank. For many years banks’ in Australia and elsewhere have been subject to laws which require them to reveal information in such cases. Another exception to the principle arises where there is a duty devolving upon the bank to disclose information in the public interest, as when a customer’s dealings indicate that he if-‘ trading with the enemy. There are times when the interests of the bank itself require disclosure to be made. Should a bank sue on an overdraft it must disclose the state of the customer’s account. Of course, on occasions bankers’ references may be given, either with the express or implied consent of the customers. That is the legal position so far as trading banks and the Commonwealth Bank are concerned. Therefore, the argument advanced by members of the Opposition that the financial affairs of citizens will be open to unauthorized examination by government officials at any time is entirely without foundation. The nationalization of banks will make no difference whatever to the legal relationship of a bank and its customers. That is something which cannot be altered except by legislation, and, as we know, legislation requires the consent of both Houses of Parliament to become effective.
Another important matter which has been mentioned is the stability of bank officers’ employment. The position in this regard seems to have been made perfectly clear by the speech of the Prime Minister, and the bill affords ample safeguards to persons at present employed by the trading banks. Not only is their employment safeguarded by the bill, but their present rights, privileges and tenure of office are also guaranteed.
The provisions with regard to loans, advances and overdrafts also seem to me to be important. Again, the position is quite clear. It is claimed that the present system enables a dissatisfied client to go from one private bank to another for accommodation. That claim would appear, on the face of it, to possess some merit, but in actual fact the banks have always regarded their operations as a close preserve. Although they have made advances freely in times of prosperity, they have not followed the same policy in times of adversity, when money is much more needed by the people. It is not correct to say that at such times applicants for accommodation can obtain it from one bank after having been refused it by another. My mind goes back very vividly to the days of the depression. Business people who were then operating in a small way have told me of the practices of the private trading banks with which they had dealings. Those institutions sent for them and told them that they had to reduce their overdrafts. That meant a diminution of the employment which they were providing. Having reduced their overdrafts, they were required to make a second reduction. That vicious practice continued until a large number of men and women, who were able and willing to do the work that could have been provided by means of the resources that were available, became unemployed. Although credit was badly needed for the expansion of industry, it was contracted.
It was truly said not many years ago, that >the banks are like the friend who will lend one an umbrella when it is fine, but take it back when it is wet. We say that that sort of practice has to end, that when the economic system tends to break down our credit structure should be used in such a way as to take up the slack of unemployment, and that instead of paying doles or unemployment relief, we should keep our people fully employed, increase the productive capacity of the country, and thus make more prosperous, not only the business community, hut also the individual wage-earner. In my view, that aspect of the banking legislation is well framed, and the community need have no fear on that score. It is not true to say that the private banks operate in competition with one another. Only nine private banks are -operating to-day, whereas a few years ago there were many more. If those who control the existing institutions were permitted to exercise their own sweet will, the number would be fewer than nine in less than a year. All the time there has been a contraction into a smaller and stronger group, which has been in a position to impose’ its will on the community. If it were uncontrolled, there would be less freedom of choice in the future than there is to-day, if, indeed, there is any choice.
It is true that over the years the outlook in regard to banking and banking practice has changed. The contraction of private banking has been proceeding, and there is a growing feeling among the peoples of the world in favour of the control of banking and credit being in the hands of the sovereign power, namely, the Government.
It is interesting to ‘recall what was said when the Commonwealth Bank was founded. Those of us who remember the Fisher Labour Government’s fight to establish the first Commonwealth Bank in 1911 can also recall the bitter controversy that then raged, and .the dire predictions of many newspapers and bankers as to what would happen to Australia’s economy. Those features have again been in evidence since the Prime Minister made his announcement of the intention to introduce this legislation. In 1911, .Sir Joseph Cook, one of the leading antagonists of the government, said -
As far as the great masses were concerned, the proposal was another piece of Dead Sea fruit. Those who would benefit from the proposed hank would be the capitalists who were engaged in trading concerns as speculators.
He went on to shed “ crocodile tears “ for the poor workmen who would suffer. He did not elaborate upon how they would suffer. Certainly it would not be at the hands of the people’s bank. He also referred to Australian notes as
Fisher’s flimsies “, and declared that they would not be worth the paper they were printed on. He was supported by Mr. Massy Greene, who said that the bank was totally unsuited to Australian conditions, and that it would not result in benefits for our people or provide any increase of revenue. That both of those gentlemen were wrong, has since been demonstrated. The control of the note issue alone, up to the period of
World War II., enabled a profit of over £28,000,000 to be made on it, whilst the profit of the bank itself was more than £20,000,000. If we add to this the great advantage which the people received from the operations of the Commonwealth Bank in the financing of public undertakings and progressive developmental works, we have some indication of the value of the bank. The Government under Andrew Fish er. while steering the legislation through the Commonwealth Parliament, was subjected to the greatest campaign of vilification that had ever been experienced in connexion with the presentation of any legislation. That compares with what has happened in the last few weeks. Since I have been in this Parliament, and I entered it at the same time as the Leader of the Opposition, I had not heard that right honorable gentleman use previously such extravagant language as he employed in connexion with this measure. .When he has to resort to abuse, and the use of extravagant language, he must be devoid of sound argument.
During the period of World War I., the Commonwealth Bank was the factor which was responsible for our primary industries being enabled to keep the Allied armies in the field. It was instrumental in paying to our producers during that period the huge sum of. £437,000,000. When private shipping monopolies were charging ruinous freights for the carriage of foodstuffs, it immediately made available in London £3,500,000 for the purchase of the Aus. tralian Commonwealth Line of Steamers; The first period of the history of the people’s Commonwealth Bank is indeed filled with grand achievement, so much bo that, upon, the advent of a non-Labour government to power, the. bank was singled out for special attention. With Labour in opposition, the anti-Labour forces at the beck and call of the private trading banks set about the drastic curtailment of the power of the Commonwealth. Bank and the limitation of its operations. They saw to it that the people’s bank should not carry on ordinary banking business in competition with, the private bankers. In 1924, the Bruce-Page Government “ gagged “ through this Parliament a bill making the people’s Commonwealth Bank a banker’s bank, that, at the time, being the policy demanded by all the large financial interests. All of that is history.
I propose now to refer to a pamphlet that was issued at the time, in order to illustrate the vicious attacks that were made on the proposal to establish the Commonwealth Bank. I have before me a cartoon that was published in the Melbourne Punch on the 7th December, 1912. It depicts a large tree, in front of which stand two men who purport to represent Fisher and O’Malley, with masks, on their faces and guns in their hands. Approaching the tree is a man carrying, a bag containing, so it is made to appear, the people’s savings. Wearing a top hat, and with his free hand in his pocket, he looks a very prosperous individual indeed. Accompanying, the cartoon is the caption “ The Grabbers “. Then there is the explanation, “ In the Banking Bill the Labour party proposes to take over the State banks’ deposits, amounting to £60,000,000”. Underneath, this appears: “Fisher - ‘My! What a haul we can get here, O’Malley. We must grab this, as we have spent all our last raid”’. What a vicious attack on honest men who were attempting to do a good job for the people of Australia!. .If we compare what is being said and done to-day by those opposed to this measure with those attempts to vilify public men we can well imagine ourselves living in 1911 or 1912. However, the people to-day are more enlightened. I am confident that they will not be so easily hoodwinked by the propaganda of the Opposition as1 were the people of those days. But of all the things that were said in those days the gem was contained in the following leading article in the Adelaide- Register of the 17th November, 1911 :-
If a Commonwealth Bank is not required, it will be an expensive encumbrance fraughtwith possibilities of serious mischief to Australia.. The proposal to create the bank unjustly conveys an implied reflection upon the business capacities of Australians, because it is undeniable that the banking facilities in existence are- excellent in character and ample in scope. In the circumstances, the unnecessary introduction of a powerful rival institution, unfairly backed by political support, would be calculated to damage public credit and produce confusion and bickering. In explaining the- savings bank, clauses in the. bill, Mr. Fisher indicated that his party- in spite of the referendum decisions - cling to their ideal of bureaucratic concentration.
To-day the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) used almost precisely the same words concerning this measure. The extract continues -
They evidently intend and hope that the savings banks, which are doing such splendid service for the wage-earners throughout the Commonwealth, will eventually be swallowed up by a federal rival. On this question the State Governments, as well as the citizens affected, ought make their voices heard. In all States the savings banks sometimes render help to the local administrations by purchasing, as the Treasurers need money, parcels of Government bonds. Obviously, if the savings of the people are to be diverted to federal purposes, the State Government will be gravely handicapped. Their difficulties in floating loans will be increased, and subsequently higher rates of interest will be demanded. The Federal scheme may also lead to a material increase in the interest rates for accommodation on mortgages and other securities, and thus involve loss to the whole community.
I ask honorable members to note especially what followed -
From the standpoint of international law a Commonwealth Bank is open to objection - by no means merely academic - on account of being indirectly a menace to peace. Regulations under the Hague Convention expressly enact that “ private property cannot be confiscated “. They safeguard the moneys of a private bank, and enable its credit to endure, even through a military disaster; but they clearly show that the resources of a State Bank might be entirely confiscated by a raiding expedition. A successful invader of Australia could also legally appropriate the millions of golden sovereigns held as a reserve against the Federal note issue.
– The sovereigns are not there to-day.
– That is true. A government which the honorable member supported sent them- out of Australia. There may have been good reasons for that action. Let us take some further examples. Mr. Herbert Holden, a former director of the Bank of. England, when addressing a meeting df students at Oxford, said -
Every one- kno’ws1 what caused the depression. The- banks caused1 tile depression by following their- time-honoured’ custom of refusing advances and calling up overdrafts-.
An old friend of mine,, who i9 better known as a cricketer than as a conservative member of the Tasmanian- Legis lative Council - I refer to the Honorable “ Joe “ Darling - speaking on the Moratorium Bill in 1934, said -
I only found this out quite recently,- and as I represent the farming interests generally, 1 think it is my duty to expose this damnable agreement which forces the Commonwealth Bank from helping the people it is supposed to represent. This is another of those honorable agreements, which are a. curse on the community. Australia is doomed unless something is done to control these combines. The banks and shipping companies - two- of the worst.
Another’ interesting quotation comes in the form of “ Confessions of a Noted Banker “, Mr. Vincent Cartwright Vickers, who was a Deputy Lieutenant of the City of London and a- director of Vickers Limited for 22 years. He was made Governor df the Bank of England in 1910. He resigned in 1919, and died on the 3rd November, 1939, after a long illness. In his book, Economic Tribulation, some extracts from which appeared in the Mirror, he wrote -
The present order of our lives is governed and controlled by the governors and controllers of money; so that those who have developed the business of letting out strawberry baskets on hire now control the production and consumption of strawberries.
If an economist from Mars or a little child of ordinary intellect were told of .the present position they would rock with laughter’ at the blind stupidity of mankind.
Slowly but inevitably the old financial system is crumbling under the- weight of modern conditions and the better education of- the people; the sooner it crumbles the better and the sooner it gives way to a better and more modern technique the sooner will the world achieve goodwill and peace among men.
If once we can decide what it is that constitutes a barrier between the producer and the consumer whilst both remain dissatisfied, we- shall’ have discovered not only the main’ cause of the World’s discontent, and of the existing enmities and jealousies among nations, but at- the same time the true rood to the peace of the world.
Let- us discard all biased opinions and we shall find it possible only to arrive at one decision- that the health and welfare df the individual, the happiness tff the- community., the contentment of the nation and the peace df the world’ are mainly, if riot entirely; a monetary problem.
That leading banker expressed views similar to those- to which we listened’ this morning m- the masterly address’ of the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha).
It is well also to recall some of the statements of honorable members now on the Opposition benches. I entered this House in 1934 at the same time as the honorable member for Indi, and I recall that at that time he was a great monetary reformer. He spoke of little else, as a matter of fact. In 1934, when he was a private member, he gave notice of the following motion: -
That this House is of the opinion that it is desirable to appoint a royal commission to take evidence in public and report upon -
The operation of the Australian banking and monetary systems, with particular reference as to whether the Commonwealth Bank is operating in its ordinary trading activities upon as fully competitive a basis as is compatible with Bound financial practice; and
Whether it would be desirable to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act to direct that the Commonwealth Bank Board, when determining the exchange rate of Australian currency with respect to sterling, should confer with the Treasurer and give consideration to the need for maintaining Australia’s essential export industries.
The motion was debated very briefly in April, 1935, and during his speech the honorable member said -
There is a doubt in the minds of an overwhelming majority of the electors of this country as to whether the banking and monetary systems have kept pace with our social evolution and industrial progress.
There is not one of us who is not aghast at a condition of affairs in which production, increased beyond the dreams of our forefathers exists side by side with dire want. Many of our people, even the very people who are producing in such abundance, are ill-fed and ill-clad.
He said other things, but it is very significant that in November, 1935, the honorable member sought leave to remove the motion from the notice-paper. Leave was refused by the Opposition. The debate was gagged by the Lyons Government, and the item was discharged from the notice-paper on a motion which was carried by a party vote.
– Yes, but very soon after that item was discharged from the notice-paper the honorable member for Indi became a Minister, and that was the end of his agitation for monetary reform. On the subject of competition between the private trading banks, the following extract from the proceedings before the royal commission is interesting : -
– Do you say that your bank has never pressed its trading bank activities? Does that mean your managers do not try to take any accounts away from the other banks ?
Sir Ernest Riddle. As far as possible we do not interfere with the advance accounts unless we think the banks are not giving reasonable service at a reasonable rate.
– That has been the policy right along?
Sir Ernest Riddle. ; Yes
Sir Ernest Riddle. No; they have been instructed not to do so.
Sir Ernest Riddle. There is no definite undertaking that we will not do it, but as a general rule we will not.
Thus, it is clear that the trading banks never entered into active competition with one another, and for that statement we have the authority of no less a person than Sir Ernest Riddle, at that time Governor of the Commonwealth Bank.
Honorable members opposite have claimed that the Government’s banking proposals are immoral.
– I am glad to have that interjection, because I now propose to quote from the book, Money and Banking - a Christian View, by the Anglican minister, the Rev.W. G. Coughlan, B.A., Th.I. -
Is a “ Christian “ View Possible?
The manipulation of money by banking systems can cause and has caused immeasurable human misery and has opened the gate to all kinds of evil. Christians therefore, before all others, have not only a right but a duty to understand the essential facts and to make ethical judgments in the light of Christian beliefs and principles.
Priority of Values
Now one fundamental Christian belief and principle is that things are means, not ends; that tilings are made for man, not man for things! Money is a thing, and in God’s intention is to be used and manipulated for man’s welfare - for the satisfaction of his real needs. “Money serves a purpose aligned with the real end of man, only when it assists the distribution of those goods and services which satisfy genuine human needs “. Honey and Banking.
As one of the principles of the Christian Social Order Movements puts it : “ The economic, financial and industrial system must be the servant of man, not an instrument of gain. It must be such as will promote fellowship and foster democracy.”
One of the first and most important needs to-day is to remove from people’s minds the false notion that the existing monetary and banking system is an end in itself. That false notion is widespread. It is taken for granted in much of the propaganda being issued by the banks and their champions.
Another vital thing to realize is that in modern times the proper order has been reversed, and money has become the object of pursuit for its own sake. “ Instead of being considered as a mere feeder enabling a living organism … to procure the necessary material, equipment and replenishing, money has come to be considered the living organism, and the undertaking with its human activities as the feeder and instrument of money”. That is, from the Christian viewpoint, rank idolatry. Money, a Claim on Resources.
What, then, is the function of money in society, and why is it important? Money is meant to be a means of exchanging goods and services; a convenient instrument by which people can carry on those activities as producers, sellers and consumers which are necessary to individual and community wellbeing. A good monetary system is one which aims to make possible those activities with a due regard to the needs and claims of each and all. Money is a claim on the community’s resources. A good monetary system is one which helps citizens to make good their claims according to their needs. That is what makes a monetary system so important for society. As the report of the International Labour Conference ( 1937 ) said : “ If the depression has shown one thing more clearly than anything else it is that economic prosperity and social security are dependent more on monetary policy than on any other single factor “.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fuller) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I propose to refer to the refusal of the Government to lift the embargo on the export of grain sorghum and maize. There is in Queensland approximately 1,000,000 bushels of grain sorghum, which is unsold, and for which there is no market. Recently, we members of the Australian Country party waited upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), who admitted that an additional 270,000 bushels of grain sorghum was held by merchants in Brisbane. The largest buyer of this grain in Brisbane is the Poultry Farmers Co-operative Asociation, which reports that it has sufficient grain to carry through to the next crop. The crop will be harvested about March or April. In addition, the members of the association have a surplus of 20,000 bushels at Rockhampton which, they believe, they will be obliged to sell very cheaply. These growers missed a wheat crop last year, and, consequently, tried to grow a summer crop in order to earn some income to enable them to carry on. That, of course, involved them in additional expense in harvesting the grain sorghum crop. These growers approached the State Government for assistance, and found it necessary, as they desired an export market, to obtain permission from this Government to export the grain. In that request they were supported by the State Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Collins, who recommended to this Government that it should lift the export ban. Hoping that the recommendation would be accepted by this Government, the State Government recommended that the grain growers form a voluntary pool to handle the crop. The pool was formed, and it arranged for storage in Brisbane for 7,000 ba.gs so that advantage could be taken of shipping immediately it became available. However, rail transport is very limited. At the time of our discussions a fortnight ago, the State Minister for Transport informed the growers that the maximum rail accommodation he could assure them would be for 1,000 tons a week for four weeks. By the end of that period the wheat crop would be on the market and all available rail transport would be required to handle wheat.
In case it might be suggested that there is a market for grain sorghum in New South Wales, I point out that the Railways Department in that State intimated to these growers that it could not guarantee any rail transport in view of the fact that preference would have to be given to the transport of wheat. I do not quarrel with that; but the growers’ only alternative is road transport, and road transport in the districts concerned is penalized under the State Transport Act by a tax of 3d. a ton mile. Honorable members can readily imagine what a heavy impost that would be. However, having regard to the fact that the Queensland railways could not handle their grain, the voluntary pool approached the State Government, and the Premier intimated that the Government would reduce that tax from 3d. to Id. a ton mile. Even then, the cost of transporting the grain would work out at £3 10s. a ton mile as against 19s. 4d. a ton mile by rail. But the main point I make is this : Where is the market in Australia for this grain? The growers have thoroughly investigated the prospects in the capital cities, and have learned that merchants do not want grain sorghum, because they have wheat on hand and expect huge crops of oats and harley. Merchants in Sydney have advised that they are holding suitable stocks, which they purchased early in anticipation of a permit being granted for the export of this grain. At the same time, millers who were seeking grain sorghum as a substitute for bran and pollard are now discouraged from doing so. as they say sorghum has been found to be a poor substitute, and it is expected that bran and pollard will become available in the near future at £7 5s. a ton.
Another aspect is the inter-action of maize, oats and harley. The maizegrowers in Queensland approached the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who agreed to allow the Atherton Maize Board to export 3,000 tons of maize. However, he would not grant a similar permit to maize-growers in southern Queensland, although they cannot get an offer for maize. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) has asked me to say that he has been informed that a similar position exists in the New England district. The Minister’s attitude is that this surplus commodity of grain sorghum will be marketed in Australia, but oats and barley agents in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and even Queensland are looking for markets for those crops. , He stated that certain quantities have already been consumed since the crop was harvested. I accept that statement. His reason for refusing to lift the export ban on grain sorghum is that, according to his advisers, the crop will be absorbed in Australia. Perhaps it will be, if it is held long enough. But both the Minister and his advisers have failed to take into consideration the fact that that quantity has been absorbed since the crop was harvested six months ago, because of the disastrous drought experienced in Queensland and New South Wales. However, since August last, bountiful rains have fallen and good grass is now available, with the result that very few farmers require to purchase a bushel of any commodity for stock fodder. Therefore, we cannot expect that the market which prevailed during that period will be maintained until the next crop is harvested. Sydney and Brisbane are the only two capitals where there have been markets, and they are loaded sufficiently to meet requirements until the next crop is harvested. In view of that fact, the growers are wondering why the Minister will not permit them to take advantage of the overseas market.
I want the public to know the Government’s attitude on this matter. The Minister says that he could not grant a licence to the voluntary pool has been formed in Queensland unless he granted a licence in respect of all of the grain sorghum crop. That would be a fair decision, had he applied it to other commodities as well. However, whilst he gave a limited licence to the Atherton Maize Board, he refused to give a licence to maize-growers in southern Queensland. In a statement which he confirmed in answer to a question asked to-day, he said that the Government intends to grant a licence for the export of oats. That will not be a limited licence, but a general licence. Why is Queensland to be penalized in this way ? Why are the growers of grain sorghum, who failed to get a wheat crop last season and planted grain sorghum as a summer crop to tide them over, to be forced to carry this burden? The Minister said that the stocks on hand could be fumigated and held. For how long will they have to be held when no market is in prospect in Australia ? How will the voluntary pool finance the storage? The pool applied to the Commonwealth Bank to enable it to carry on in the meantime; and I have just received a letter from the secretary of the voluntary pool, stating that he received word yesterday from the bank which implied that the negotiations had practically broken down because the pool was not receiving any assistance from the Department of Commerce and Agriculture.
The Commonwealth Bank has investigated the possibility ‘ of finding markets in Australia, but ‘has not succeeded in finding an outlet for this produce. Consequently, it is unable to make advances to the growers to enable them to carry on their industry. Overseas prices range from £16 to £18 a ton. If limited export licences were granted to cover the unmarketed surplus held by the merchants, the situation could be greatly relieved. If the unmarketed produce on the farms is shipped overseas, the growers will get the benefit of the sales. I ask the Minister to state why he has insisted upon the maintenance of this prohibition. Within the last two days, I have received from maize-growers and merchants three telegrams to the effect that no market is available for this commodity, and asking the Minister to review his decision and grant export licences in order to clear the surpluses. If the Minister believes the imposition of the export restrictions to be essential, he should clearly state his reasons. I am at a loss to understand why this ban should be continued. Every State has experienced a bountiful season. Stock-feeders do not require the maize, und poultry-farmers state that shortly they will be able to get bran and pollard at from £7 5s. to £7 10s. a ton. Why should the growers be asked to bear the financial loss resulting from a restriction placed upon the export of their produce?
I have endeavoured to state the position fairly, and I appeal to the Minister to consider my remarks carefully and give a full reply. I trust that some measures can be evolved which will enable the growers to market their produce in one way or another.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– A few weeks ago, I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) for certain information about the oat acquisition scheme which was instituted last year. I forget the exact figures which I received in reply, but they made it plain that the authorities had a considerable quantity of oats from last year’s crop. This year we are blessed with one of the best grain harvests that we have ever known in the history of the Commonwealth, and we also have one of the best grass years that I have known, particularly in the outback and in marginal lands which, in the words of Omar Khayyam, lie between the desert and the sun. For a long time, other countries have been tragically in need of every type of grain that we can send to them. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and I had a difference of opinion last year in regard to the refusal of the Australian Government to allow oats to be shipped to South Africa, where supplies were urgently needed. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) has referred to maize and grain sorghum. A similar position exists in respect of barley. I do not know what the carry-over of barley was last year, but I believe there was, in the hands of the Barley Board, considerably more than sufficient to meet Australia’s needs. One of the first objectives of the Australian Government should be to ensure that as much grain shall be exported to other countries where it is needed as is consistent with our own desire to protect the interests of our own consumers. Certain areas of this country are always subject to dry conditions or droughts. The Minister would not know much about them, because he lives in a district blessed with a bountiful rainfall, almost like the Garden of Eden. We should always retain here sufficient grain to meet homeconsumption requirements until the next season, and also provide seed for the ensuing season. I have no reason to believe that the Government proposes to nationalize the pig industry at present, so there does not appear to be any need to retain here any large quantities of maize, oats and barley. It is all very well to say that we must watch the interests of the meat-producing industry. This year, because of the extraordinarily good season, there will be a comparatively small demand on our grain resources for the feeding of- livestock. I ask the Minister to look carefully into this matter, and, in due course, submit to the House a statement indicating the Government’s policy, and also its intentions for making available, within the next few months, our own surplus to meet the dire needs of Great Britain and other countries.
.- I trust that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) will be persuaded to give sympathetic consideration to the representations made by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) is also very interested in this matter. A grave injustice is being inflicted on farmers by the necessity for them to sacrifice their wheat. In many instances they are unable to find a market for it. In consequence, they are compelled to hold it. For how long will these reserves have to be held? If there is a responsibility to maintain national reserves for the ‘benefit of the people in order to meet bad conditions or shortages, that responsibility rests upon the Australian Government and not on the farmer. As a practical farmer, the Minister knows that it is beyond the ability of the great majority of the growers of maize, grain sorghums, and other cereal crops, to prevent the destruction of the grain by weevils.
I impress upon the Government that grain sorghum is used in India, both in Pakistan and Hindustan, as food for humans. In those dominions, there is every possibility that thousands, and even millions, of human lives will be sacrificed because of food shortages. On the score of justice to the farmer, and the need of human beings in other parts of the world, the Minister should thoroughly re-examine this matter. I trust that he will give some thought to it before he replies, so that an adverse decision shall not be made which he will feel in honour bound not to reverse. We have certain obligations not only to our primary producers, but also to the world in general. I hope that if the Minister wishes to satisfy himself further as to the actual statistical position regarding these crops in Queensland and elsewhere, he will make a further investigation, because I believe that such an inquiry is necessary in justice to everybody concerned.
– I fully appreciate the attitude that has been adopted by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann), the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), in regard to the problem of grain exports. Dealing first with the point raised by the honorable member for Richmond that sorghum was a grain acceptable to the people of Pakistan and India, I point out that one of the main reasons why the Government has laid down that there must be a maximum export of wheat to those countries is that they have a distinct preference for wheat as against sorghum. They are prepared to take sorghum if they cannot get wheat; but we have the wheat, and every extra bushel that is exported can be replaced in Australia by a bushel of sorghum for consumption by poultry, pigs and other stock. Surely, it is only right that human beings who express preference for wheat should be supplied with wheat if possible. The second point is that, in Australia itself, vast quantities of feed grains are required for stock, and if we do not insist on grains 11Ke sorghum being used as substitutes for wheat, there will be less Australian wheat available for the starving peoples of the world.
– Consideration must be given to the high internal freight charges on sorghum.
– The honorable member for Barker has raised the freight factor. That is best answered by the fact that Queensland members of this Parliament, and State authorities who have surveyed the crop, have estimated that the yield of sorghum in New South Wales and Queensland will be 3,500,000 or 4,000,000 bushels. Soon after the sorghum crop is harvested it will be absorbed on the local market with the exception of 1,000,000 or 1,250,000 bushels- probably it will be nearer 1,000,000 than 1,250,000 bushels. In any case, whatever the figure may be, it is clearly demonstrated that there is a market in this country for grain sorghum. It is true that that market could decrease to some degree due to the excellence of the wheat crop, and because of the belief of those holding accumulated stocks that they will have free access to the incoming wheat crop. But the Government has decided to continue to ration wheat ‘for stock feed in the forthcoming season, which means that, almost immediately, poultryfarmers and others will find that they have used their accumulated stocks, and will come into the market for substantial quantities of grain sorghum. The plain fact is that some months ago pressure began to be applied to the Government by people interested in the export of sorghum. Merchants in Queensland and in other parts of the Commonwealth discovered that they could sell grain sorghum to India at 16s. a bushel. Some of them had bought sorghum at rates exceeding the ceiling price, and they started to put the “ heat “ on the Government for export licences. The next pressure came from the growers themselves, aided, of course, by the Queensland Government - acting quite sincerely, I ‘believe. That administration, too, was subjected to pressure by merchants and growers who believed that it might be likely to succeed in persuading the Commonwealth Government to issue export licences. As soon as pressure for the issue of export licences began to be applied, sales almost ceased. The following are the actual figures of trucking, ex Wallangarra, of grain sorghum for five months: -
Honorable members will note that in early October, when the pressure became particularly heavy, truckings dropped sharply. Everybody was slitting tight on his stocks. After the Queensland Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Collins, assisted by the honorable member for Maranoa and others, had made strong representations to me, I made a final decision. On the 16th October - I ask honorable members to note the date - I sent the following telegram to the Minister, for Agriculture in Queensland: -
After full consideration Queensland grain sorghum position Government has decided not to issue export licences. Rationing of wheat for stock feed purposes is to be continued in respect of incoming wheat crop. Anticipated continuation will assist in absorbing grain sorghum as stock feed medium. United Kingdom and other markets require wheat in preference all other grains. In order to encourage merchants and others to sell on local market you may consider desirable to give this position widest publicity. It may be that New South Wales railways can assist in interstate transfer. Regarding maize am agreeable on application of Maize Board to grant board permit for export up to 3,000 tons.
We find then that, whereas from the 1st to the 14th October, truckings of sorghum ex Wallangarra amounted to 144 tons, from the 15th to “the 22nd October, they rose sharply to 408 tons. Merchants apparently thought - “ The game is up, the Commonwealth Government will stand pat. We shall have -to sell our stocks and transport them to the available markets “. I admit frankly that there would be transport difficulties in regard to the carriage of sorghum to New South Wales or even Brisbane if export licences were issued. Then there is this additionalfactor : During the last twelve months, the Commonwealth Government has been sending to Queensland hundreds of thousands of bushels of wheat for stock feed, on which it has been paying a subsidy of ls. 6d. a bushel out of Consolidated Revenue. Shipments of wheat to New South Wales and Queensland .to carry the States over the shocking drought period have cost -the Commonwealth £1,850,000.
Taking into consideration the priority given to wheat over other grains by people all over the world, we say that wheat must be rationed for stock feed in Australia and that other grains must fill the gap and be used as stock feed. It is quite obvious that, within a reasonable period, with the Australian Government standing firm, the stock-feeders will be applying - in fact, they are now - for grain sorghum. Only recently I received a deputation from the New South Wales Poultry Breeders Association, which complained that poultry breeders were short of grain sorghum. Naturally they were, because the grain sorghum growers in Queensland were sitting tight in anticipation of receiving export licences. I understand their attitude and do not blame them for it. I do not want to be a “ ‘ No ‘ artist “. But, taking into consideration all the factors, one must give priority to wheat for export. The honorable member for Barker will probably say that it is inconsistent, on the one hand, to allow some export of oats and barley and, on the other, to refuse to allow the export of grain sorghum. Oats is used in making oatmeal and barley in making, well, beer. I am not interested in beer.
– Neither am I. I am concerned that the Scotch shall get their oatmeal.
– I am coming to that. We should try to export as much grain as we can. The first emphasis is on wheat and then on oats and barley: Grain sorghum is not fit for human consumption. It cannot be said that the Commonwealth Government has been unfair to the Queensland sorghum growers; It announced before the last harvest that growers would be paid 3s. 7d. a bushel for grain sorghum at growers’ sidings. That is equivalent, when one takes into consideration the saving of freight, commission and other charges, to about 4s. 7d. a bushel. There was nothing in the world to prevent them taking advantage of that floor price. I am sorry about these things, and I want to do what is right; but, taking all the factors into consideration, I am convinced that what we have done is right. I am not in the happy position of the honorable member for Maranoa, the Minister for Agriculture in Queensland, or the grain growers’ association. I am satisfied, though, that the situation will work out and that there will be an adequate market available in Australia for all grain sorghum available. Except, perhaps, for a few small parcels all the grain sorghum crop in New South
Wales of 3,000,000 bushels has been absorbed. I am certain that in the next three or four months the whole of the 3,500,000 or 4,000,000 bushel crop, a large proportion of which was grown in New South Wales,will have been absorbed. I realize that the honorable member for Maranoa must present the story told to him by his constituents, but I must have a broad national outlook. I hope that my view will prove to be right and that all the sorghum will be disposed of as I expect.
– What about maize?
– We granted the Atherton Maize Board a licence to export 3,000 bushels of maize and then a licence to export a further 2,000 bushels. Atherton is isolated and does not have the shipping facilities of the New England electorate and Brisbane and Sydney. The growers in those districts are expected to supply their maize to the local market in which there is sufficient demand to absorb all they have. The granting of the licences to export 5,000 bushels to the Atherton Maize Board will take off the local market that quantity of maize which otherwise would have competed with the maize-growers in the more fortunately situated southern districts.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented
House adjourned at 3.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:-
e asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
N asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notices -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows- : -
r asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Textiles : WORSTED Materials.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs upon notice -
Is it a fact that owing to increased token shipments of worsteds to New Zealand there is a serious shortage of good quality cloth for suitings in Australia?
d. - The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– To answer these questions with any degree of accuracy would require considerable investigation of records in several departments. In view of the difficult staffing position in the State offices of the Commonwealth Stores Supply and Tender Board and in the Government Printing Offices in Canberra, and Melbourne, it is considered that the investigation cannot be undertaken.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
r asked the Minis ter 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 : -
Victorian Elections: Allocation of PETROL
– On the 28th October, the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) asked a question concerning petrol supplies for the Victorian election campaign. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has given a very definite assurance that no discrimination is ‘being practised in either the present Victorian State election or in any previous State or Federal election in the allocation of petrol to candidates. Each Victorian candidate who has nominated has been issued with coupons on the approved Beale for State elections. The special ration for metropolitan electorates is 100 gallons; for country electorates, 180 gallons. The ration in each case became available as from the date of closing of nominations, thus placing every candidate on a basis of equality. Certain parties made applications - for special rations for their canvassers, but in view of the very critical petrol position, the Minister for Supply and Shipping decided that the standard scale could in no circumstances be exceeded.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 October 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19471031_reps_18_194/>.