18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I rise to make a personal explanation.
– On what subject?
– On matters arising out of happenings in this House yesterday. I desire to make a personal explanation because I was grievously misrepresented.
– I shall give the honorable member the first call ‘ when the Banking Bill is called on, as that would bo the first appropriate occasion on which he could make a personal explanation.
– I crave the indulgence of the House, under Standing Order 258, to .make .a personal explanation now.
– The honorable member claims that he was misrepresented in a debate. Were that debate concluded, I would not have had the slightest hesitation in hearing him now, or at any other time, but the debate is not yet finished. I suggest that ho should seek an opportunity during the course of the debate, which will be continued today, to make a personal explanation. At this stage he can do it only with the indulgence of the House. Should one honorable member dissent, he could not make his statement now. I have offered the honorable member the best advice, and I ask him not to take too much notice of false counsellors. Is leave granted ?
Leave not granted.
– That does not deprive the honorable member of the right to make a personal explanation later.
– I have received an urgent telegram from Mr. Ferguson, the general manager of Richards Industries
Incorporated, distributors of the Chrysler-Dodge range of motor vehicles and also motor body builders in my electorate, stating that the company has 661 motor bodies on the wharf in South Australia awaiting shipment to other States. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping consult with his colleagues with a view to action being taken to enable these. bodies to be shipped?
– I know that it is extremely important to the South Australian motor body building industry that assurances be given that bodies for motor vehicles when built shall be shipped to the other States as promptly as possible. As I mentioned in this House recently in answer to a question, I understand that the Commonwealth Government no longer controls interstate shipping. I am sure, however, that the Minister for Supply and Shipping and the shipping authorities will do their utmost to ensure that facilities will be provided for the shipment of motor vehicle bodies from S’outh Australia to other States. I shall take the matter nip with my colleague immediately.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction by stating that many exservicemen who desire to settle on the land in northern Victoria are unable to do so, and it would appear that they will have no chance of doing so for some time, because there is no system of group land settlement in their districts. I am aware that single-unit farms can be ‘ purchased, but under the Victorian scheme, an exserviceman has to provide at least 10 per cent, of the cost of the farm whereas a successful applicant under the group settlement scheme can acquire land without the payment of a deposit. As on several occasions, the Minister has said that he is in accord with the States providing single-unit farms, I now ask him -
– A fairly long statement would be necessary to explain fully the implications of the matter raised by the honorable member. No doubt he is aware that soldier land settlement is the subject of an agreement between the Australian Government and the State Governments. Under that agreement which has been ratified by this Parliament, the States initiate land settlement schemes. Such schemes can relate to the sub-division of large estates - and I take it that that is what the honorable member has in mind when he refers to group settlement - or the States can put forward single farm propositions if they so desire. The main concern of the Australian Government is that the ex-serviceman shall have an area sufficiently large to enable him to make a fair living, whether as a single farm unit or as part of a subdivided estate. That is what concerns the Australian Government most. The Government does provide 50 per cent, of the money for the settlement of exservicemen generally.
– Has the Prime Minister seen an item in the Brisbane Telegraph of yesterday in which the Vice-Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Moon, is reported to have said -
The people of Brisbane should know that there is not the slightest truth in the Prime Minister’s statement that the Lord Mayor has been successful through a number nf bunking companies in New York, against which legal proceedings were being taken by the American authorities, in floating a loan to the Brisbane City Council. ls the statement attributed to Alderman Moon correct, and has the Prime Minister any comment to make on the matter?
– What I said in reply to the honorable member for
Bourke on the 4th November was that the firms of Morgan, Stanley and Company, and Kidder, Peabody and Company, had acted on behalf of Australian governments, and on behalf of the Loan Council, in connexion with the conversion of Australian loans held in the United States oi America. I also said, if I remember aright, that the Brisbane City Council, through the Lord Mayor, had been negotiating a loan conversion for the Brisbane City Council. I did not say that the loan had been converted through one of the firms mentioned. I do not know whether the Lord Mayor of Brisbane dealt with either of those firms, but he was making inquiries in the United .States of America regarding the conversion of a Brisbane City Council loan. The operation was not proceeded with at the time ‘because it was made clear to the Lord Mayor that I. as chairman of the Loan Council, and acting for it, had indicated that it was not desirable that loans of that kind should be negotiated before the conversion, on behalf of the Loan Council, of loans which were falling due. I shall look up what was previously said on the subject, and let the honorable member have the exact facts.
– A week ago I asked the T Treasurer the following question : -
Has the Treasurer seen a press announcement by the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Chandler, that the City of Brisbane and the Sydney Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board would have been successful in negotiating loans in the United States of America had the Commonwealth. Government allowed them to go on the New York market? Alderman Chandler is reported to have stated further that, since the Australian Loan Council insisted on no competition, it must realize that the exercise of its authority implied acceptance of responsibility. If those statements are correct, does the Commonwealth Government intend to take over outstanding loans in the United States of America of all local authorities, compensating them for the lower rates of interest they could have obtained in New York? If the Government does not intend to do that, will the Treasurer indicate the Commonwealth’s policy towards the flotation of local authority loans in the United States of America?
Since I asked that question, the Treasurer has been good enough to make a series of half-statements.
– Order! The honorable member cannot abuse question time in that way.
– “When oan the Treasurer undertake to give me the information I have sought, and which he promised he would give to me?
– The honorable member for Moreton is becoming rather confused about the subject. First, I have not seen the statement to which he referred. Secondly, the Australian Government has nothing to do with the conversion of loans. All decisions in respect of the conversion of loans overseas, and, in fact, the flotation of loans in Australia, are made by the Loan Council, and that .body is not under the direction of the Australian Government. As honorable members know, the Loan Council was created under special legislation and is charged with that responsibility, just as the National Debt Sinking Fund Commission is not in any way responsible to the Australian. Government itself. It is true that, as the representative, of the Australian Govern^ ment, I am the chairman of both those bodies.
– The right honorable gentleman has issued statements on the subject,
– Any statement which I have issued on the subject, I have issued as chairman of the Loan Council and not as Leader of the Government. Matters dealing with loans and the conversion of loans are npt deters mined by the Government, but are deter-: mined in consultation with the Premiers and Treasurers of all the States. When anything is done in regard to such masters, and I believe that the terms are favorable, I merely make my recommendation, by telegram if necessary, to the State Premiers.
– What recommendation has, the right honorable gentleman made in this case?
– As chairman of the Loan Council my recommendation in respect of the Brisbane City Council loan and the Sydney Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board loan was ti at it waa not an appropriate time for those bodies to go on the market. That is not a decision of the Government because it is not the province of the Government to give consideration to such matters. As I have already said, those matters are considered by the State Premiers, or Treasurers, sitting as the Loan Council. I cannot give to the honorable member any more information on this subject. It was believed that it was inappropriate for those bodies to compete on the market at a time when much larger loan transactions on behalf of the Commonwealth, and abo the States, because the States are vitally concerned in this matter, were being handled.
– Is the right honorable gentleman recommending compensation for the loss in which these bodies are involved?
– The answer to that is definitely “ No “.
ExpORTS TO FRANCE,
-Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen in this morning’s press a report that France, unable to obtain wheat from Russia, is to seek wheat from Australia? Hae the Australian Government yet been approached by the French Government on this matter? Would export* of wheat to France jeopardize in any way our exports to ‘Great Britain?
– The Australian Wheat Board has approved of the making available of considerable quantities of wheat to France. The supply of that wheat will not in any way jeopardize the supply of adequate quantities pf wheat to Great Britain. 3ja addition, we have also almost completed an arrangement to supply to France substantial quantities of oats.
– Is it a fact that Ernest Thornton, Communist general secretary of the Ironworkers Federation, is leaving Sydney to-day by flying- boat to attend the World Trade Union Congress in Paris. Is it a fact that he proposes to. visit Iraq, and, if so, for what purpose? On. how many occasions has Mr. Thornton been abroad since 1943? Is the Government aware of the dangers of Communist international fraternization at this congress for the purpose of planning support for the foreign policy of the Soviet? In view of his past record, have any precautions been taken against Mr. Thornton’s participation in such activities ?
– I am not aware that Mr. Thornton is leaving Sydney to-day, though somebody intimated to me in a personal conversation that he was to leave at about this time for the World Trade Union Congress. He is not leaving Australia under Government sponsorship. No doubt, he holds a passport to which he is entitled, in common with other people who have complied with the necessary qualifications, and obtained the necessary clearances from the appropriate authorities, irrespective of his political philosophy. I believe it is also necessary, in the case of married men, to obtain the permission of their wives. I have no knowledge of the intention of Mr. Thornton to visit Iraq, nor have I any knowledge, either official or unofficial, of his proposed movements.
– I wish to direct a question to the Prime Minister with regard to the instructions alleged to have been issued to the Commonwealth Bank at Rabaul that advances were not to be made to planters in respect of copra that could not be forwarded to the Production Control Board. Yesterday, the right honorable gentleman stated that he had no knowledge of complaints that the Commonwealth Bank had refused accommodation to such planters. Is it not a fact that lie received information about at least one case from Colonel Allen who quoted a letter from his partner, Mr. H. R. Read, stating that when the manager of the bank was informed of their plight and that stocks of undelivered copra were accumulating on their plantations, he said that his instructions were that he “ could not advance on anything like that “ ? I also ask the right honorable gentleman whether he will ascertain whether such instructions were issued to the Rabaul branch of the bank, and if so, will he lay a copy of the instructions on the table of the House? Finally, I ask whether the Prime Minister had any knowledge of this case, and if so, will he explain why he said that he had no knowledge of any such case?
– Last week, the honorable member for Richmond asked certain questions arising out of statements made by Colonel Allen. At the request of the honorable member, I agreed to interview Colonel Allen in company with the Minister for External Territories. We did so last Friday afternoon, although I do not remember at precisely what time. The honorable member for Richmond was also present. Colonel Allen made certain requests concerning matters in the territory. One of these related to advances to copra producers who, due to lack of transport facilities, were unable to have their copra carried from the plantations to the ports for loading.
– To the Production Control Board.
– To certain points, at any rate. Prior to that, in view of a certain statement reported in the press and purported to have been made by Colonel Allen, the Minister for External Territories had gone to the trouble of finding out whether or not the statements was correct, and he was able to tell Colonel Allen that it was not correct.
– I think that Colonel Allen said that he had personal knowledge of the matter.
– I am coming to that. I do not want to be unfair. The Minister for External Territories said that he had made inquiries of the bank and that the statement was not true; that advances had been made in a number of cases. Colonel Allen, I think, did say that advances had been refused, but I have no recollection, nor has the Minister for External Territories, of any specific name being given. I do not think that the honorable member for Richmond can recollect a name being mentioned either.
– Colonel Allen gave his own case.
– I have no recollection of anything like that.
– Has the right honorable gentleman received a letter from Colonel Allen?
– As the honorable member for Richmond knows, the discussion was quite amicable.
– It was amicable all right.
– Order! The honorable member has asked a question, and he must hear the answer in silence.
– I do not remember any name being mentioned at all. I think that Colonel Allen did agree to obtain some further particulars. The Minister for External Territories and I undertook to make inquiries to ascertain the facts of the matter, and to determine whether or not advances had been refused in some cases without justification. The honorable member for New England asks whether some instruction was issued to the bank. I remind the honorable gentleman that instructions are not issued to banks in such cases.
– To the hank manager.
– Not from me. I never issue such instructions.
– I did not suggest that.
– I did not issue instructions to the bank about any of these matters. I have never, as Treasurer, issued instructions.
– I did not suggest that.
– What the honorable member is suggesting, perhaps, is that the Governor issued instructions to the manager.
– Yes,, that is what I want to be produced.
– I have no knowledge of the matter. As honorable members are aware, I do not interfere in the affairs of the bank.
– Could the right honorable gentleman ask for it?
– In view of the promise given to Colonel Allen in the presence of the honorable member for Richmond, we shall examine the whole matter to see whether there is any justification for more liberal advances to particular planters whose cases are brought specifically to our notice.
Trawler “A. R. MCCULLOUGH “.
– At an inquest held on Monday into the drowning of a woman who fell from the trawler A. R. McCullough into Sydney harbour it was stated that there had been a drinking party on board. I ask the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research whether the trawler A. R. McCullough is owned or controlled by the fisheries section of the council. Ti so, is it in the public interest that drinking bouts, such as this one, which resulted in a fatality, should be permitted on government owned or controlled vessels? Has the Minister received a report on the matter? If so, what action has been taken or is to be taken as the result of the report ?
– I know nothing a,bout the matter referred to by the honorable member, but I will ask for a report on the whole incident and advise the honorable gentleman later of the result.
– I have received the following telegram from the Farmers Union of Western Australia : -
Gravely concerned over diversion to eastern States large quantity cornsacks consigned to Western Australia fear this will create chaos particularly in potato and barley market and super, deliveries.
If cornsacks consigned to Western Austraia have been diverted, what does the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture intend to do to ensure that they shall be replaced in order to avoid the chaos foreshadowed in the telegram’.
– The honorable member knows that the wheat crop is under the direction of the Australian Wheat Board and he has repeatedly objected to its being handled by any one else. I “will, however, if it becomes necessary, ensure that cornsacks shall be directed to points where they are most urgently needed. If they are more urgently required at one point than another they willbe so directed. The Australian Wheat Board will forward corsacks to places where they are most needed.
Report on Production Costs.
– I have repeatedly asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture for the right to peruse or obtain a copy of the report of the Dairy Industry Production Costs Advisory Committee, which was presented to him some time ago and upon which subsidy payments are allegedly based. The Minister has persistently denied me access to that report. I ask him the reason for withholding the report.
– The honorable gentleman’s question is rather offensively worded, but my promise holds good. As soon as it is practicable to make the report available to the Parliament, it will be released. It is not possible to make it available just now because the committee has to revise the report to be thoroughly sure that it is in a condition to be presented to the Parliament. The honorable member also said that the Government’s decision was allegedly based on the committee’s report. It is not a matter of its being allegedly based on the report; it is based on the report.
– When moving the second reading of the Defence (Transitional Powers) Bill, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction said that the refrigerated space for apple and pear crops was inadequate and that apple and pear acquisition regulations had to be continued to protect the growers. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether this can be taken as a precise and definite decision to continue the acquisition scheme? If so, when is it expected that the terms and conditions of the scheme will be a nnounced ?
– No statement made by anybody can be taken as a statement that acquisition will be put into operation again. That is a matter of government policy. As soon as it is quite clear that there is a need for a continuance of the acquisition scheme the Government will make a decision.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Interior regarding the reported discovery of radio-active minerals in central Australia. Does the Minister know the name of the prospector working the deposit where the minerals have been found ? If not, is he prepared to make an announcement to reassure all such prospectors that, if they discover deposits of radio-active substances, such deposits will not be commandeered under National Security Regulations covering defence projects. Will he assure them that, if they report discoveries to the Department of the Interior, they will be given not only a reward claim but also sufficient recompense in money to induce them to assist the Government?
– The location at Hart’s Range where radio-active minerals have been reported is alreadybeing examined by the Director of Mines at Alice Springs. He has gone to the area for the purpose of making a survey, and when his report is received an announcement will be made to the Parliament. The honorable member can be assured that prospectors who locate radio-active minerals will be treated in accordance with the policy of the Government, which is that they shall receive fair and honorable treatment and just recognition for the services which they render to the nation.
– During the war, a Perth dentist, Mr. Gilbert Henderson, perfected a cine-plastic hand and appliances for the use of men who had the misfortune to have their forearms amputated.Since his discharge from the forces, Mr. Henderson has voluntarily trained men in the use of this device and has devotedmuch of his valuable time to bringing the invention to the attention of the Repatriation Commission. At the moment he is unable to obtain dyes and equipment necessary for its manufacture, and has handed most of his stocks to the Repatriation Commission. Will the Minister for Repatriation investigate this appliance, which has been of untold benefit to men who lost arms during the war? Will he ascertain what if. being done to have the device made available to all men who need it?
– I have not heard any details of the semi-plastic hand to which the honorable member referred, but if he will give to me the name and address of the gentleman who has taken an extraordinary interest, apparently, in this matter, I shall have inquiries made for the purpose of ascertaining whether anything can be done to adapt this type of appliance to exservicemen who have suffered the loss of a hand. The Repatriation Department has taken a thorough interest in appliances for persons who were unfortunate enough to lose a limb during their war service. Indeed, we are going a little further than that, because we make these appliances available to the public generally. In some instances, Ave have been able to lead the world in the manufacture of modern appliances for disabled ex-service personnel. I shall be glad to have this matter investigated, and inform the honorable member of the result.
– I have received letters from two ex-farmers. One of them was forced to leave his farm as the result of illness, and the other was forced from his property by a government bank in Western Australia. Both these men have been contributing to the Australian Government’s Wheat Stabilization Fund. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me whether there is any possibility of these gentlemen obtaining from the fund the amount which they have paid into it, so that they may have some capital to enable them to make another start, or at least maintain them until they find other employment?
– If the honorable member will give to me the two letters and the names and addresses of the men to whom he referred, I shall examine the matter. As the honorable gentleman knows, the Parliament has not yet passed any legislation providing for the distribution of the money in the Wheat Stabilization Fund, but the information conveyed in the letters will give an indication of the type of case which we hope to be able to provide for in the future.
– I have received from the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The necessity for -the cancellation of the credentials and the revocation of the passport of Samuel Phineas Lewis as Commonwealth Government delegate to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Conference at Mexico City.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I submit this motion on the ground that Samuel Phineas Lewis is a notorious Communist. This Government is most unfortunate in its dealings with the Communists. One Minister told the House recently that he could not see the difference between communism and the teachings of Christianity. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has appointed Communist leaders to important government missions overseas, and has issued to them government credentials. One three occasions I asked specific questions of the Prime Minister regarding the appointment of Lewis as an Australian delegate to Unesco, and on each occasion I was given an evasive reply. I then placed eight specific questions on the notice-paper. More than a week has elapsed, but I have not received a reply. In the meantime Lewis has been representing the Government, and, what is more important, Australia, in Mexico City. There can be only two explanations for the Government’s attitude; either it is ignorant of the identity of Communist traitors in the community, or it is sheltering them. In 1939 the Communists proved themselves to he traitors to Australia, and in the event of another war they would prove even more dangerous. It is of vital importance that the lints with the Comintern should he broken ; yet Lewis has been given a passport to go to Belgrade, the headquarters of the Comintern. If the Government is unaware that Lewis is one of the key members of the Communist party in this country, then the Commonwealth Investigation Service must be completely ineffective. If it is true that it does not list a man as a Communist unless he announces himself to he a member of the Communist party, then the Commonwealth Investigation Service is a joke. If the Prime Minister is still unaware of Lewis’s real background, I propose now to disclose a few facts concerning his activities in the Communist party.
Samuel Phineas Lewis was born in Sydney on the 15th June, 1901. He joined the Education Department of New South Wales in 1920, and first became associated with the Communist party in 1932. During that year he attended a Communist “ study group “ at Coogee, and became secretary of the Coogee branch of the Communist party. Shortly afterwards he was appointed secretary of the Educational Workers League, which was composed of teachers, and later secured the affiliation of that body with the Communist Internationale through a subsidiary body of the Communist Internationale in Paris. In February, 1933, Lewis represented South Sydney at a district plenum of the Communist party. He was selected as organizer for the “militant minority group “ in the Teachers Federation, and was closely associated with Wright, Sharkey and other well-known Communist leaders, whose head-quarters were then at No. 395 Sussex-street, Sydney. He again attended the district plenum of the Communist party in December, 1934, and reported on his activities among the school teachers in New South Wales. At that time the Stevens Government began to make inquiries about
Lewis, and so at the No. 1 district conference of the Communist party held on the 29th November, 1935, Lewis turned up under the assumed name of Samuel Curtis. He has gone by that name inside the Communist movement ever since. Meanwhile, Lewis was extending his grip on the Teachers Federation, and succeeded in ousting the moderate secretary of that body, Mr. W. J. Hendry, in favour of one of his close associates named Norington. In 1936, Lewis and Dixon, whose real name is Walker, and who was a porter at the Lithgow railway station, moved at the No. 1 district conference that all Communists should link up with the Parents and Citizens Association for the purpose of capturing that organization. That move succeeded, and at the 1937 Communist conference Lewis congratulated women members of the party on their victory. Still under the name of Curtis, Lewis was elected to the district committee of the New South Wales Communist party at the State conference held at the Buffalo Hall, Regentstreet, Sydney, on the 16th July, 1938. That is the body that controls the Communist party in each State in which it exists. In 1939, Lewis, alias Curtis, conducted study classes for the Communist party at its head-quarters. He reported that the Communist party was making rapid headway among school teachers in New South Wales. Two other prominent members of the Communist executive of his organization were Mrs. Hetty Ross, or Hetty Weitzel, and William Gollan, who is now a member of the Communist party executive. Lewis also acted on the editorial committee of the Tribune, the Communist official organ.
When the Communist party was banned by the Menzies Government, Lewis was among those selected to join the Heffron State Labour party. Other Communists were Edgar Ross, Rupert Lockwood, W. A. Wood, J. R. Hughes, of the Clerks Union, and H. B. Chandler, from the electorate of the present Prime Minister. The Communists captured the State Labour party conference and carried the notorious “ Hands off Russia “ resolution. Then the leading Communists were expelled, and Lewis joined the Communist State Labour party. He was a candidate for Barton, and later for Randwick, in the State elections. In July, 1940, he married Ethel Nelson Teerman, a school teacher and fellow member of the Communist party who came from the Cessnock district. She had helped to organize the Australian Labour League of Youth, formerly known as the Young Communist League. Later, it became the Eureka Youth Movement, and Mrs. Lewis remained one of its chief organizers. Lewis also took part in the Legal Rights Committee and the Communist moves for peace with Hitler. He linked up with Ernest Thornton, and other Communist trade union leaders in that campaign.
When the Communist party emerged into the open again after the ban was lifted, Lewis attended the celebrations in the Sydney Town Hall on the 29th January, 1943. He was elected as a delegate to attend the State conference of the Communist party in the following March. He ‘ has attended all Communist conferences since then. Meanwhile, he was elected deputy president of the Teachers Federation and became the real power in that body. When challenged with being a member of the Communist party, he evaded the question. Finally, the Communists, through their cell movement, captured the organization completely. Lewis became president, and conducted the affairs of the Teachers Federation according to instructions issued by his superiors at Marx Hall. At the Australian Council of Trades Unions conferences, he has followed the Thornton line. He has been one of the directors of the People’s Council of Culture and other Communist organizations. To-day, Lewis is one of the key figures in the Communist hierarchy. Those are only a few of the facts; but they should help the governments of other countries which desire to know the kind of person who is travelling within their borders. If the Australian Government allows Mr. Lewis to remain abroad it must accept responsibility for everything that he does.
– The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) has recited a number of matters regarding the history of Mr. Lewis which, apparently, ha.ve come to his notice. I am sure that the honorable member for
Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) will be green with envy that the honorable member for Reid has been engaged in some witchhunting of which he has had no knowledge.
– Why bring me into the discussion? If the right honorable gentleman wants me to speak to the motion I shall he happy to do so.
– The fact is that Lewis was a member of the New South Wales Education Department when the honorable member for Reid was Premier of that State. I notice that the honorable member quoted a particular month in 1932. I do not remember the exact date, but it is a curious thing that that is the same year in which the honorable member for Reid lost the Premiership of New South Wales, Mr. Lewis’s association with the Education Department in New South Wales, and perhaps his preliminary training, if not his active association, with the Communist party - whatever it may have been called in those days - goes hack to the time when the honorable member for Reid was Premier. I had not heard anything about Mr. Lewis until he was mentioned in this House by the honorable member for Reid. I accept in general terms what the honorable member has said about Mr. Lewis - that he has given a fair recital of the position. I do so, because I hope he has not introduced into this House under privilege an absolute libel of anybody associated with the delegation.
– I would not do that.
– Therefore, I assume that what the honorable member has said is correct, and, apparently, he claims to have verified it. The position regarding Mr. Lewis, as I know it, is that he was appointed delegate to attend a meeting of Unesco in Mexico City. Australia’s representation at this meeting was discussed at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. The matter involves State and Commonwealth governments, and suggestions were made by the National Co-operating and Advisory Committee, which includes representatives of education departments, radio, films, libraries, museums, music, social science and literature. The conference reached the conclusion that a limit should be placed upon the number of delegates to represent Australia at the conference, in Mexico. Various organizations, many of them were cultural, nominated representatives. The Teachers Federation, by a vote of executives in all the States, selected Mr. Lewis as its representative. It then became the task of the National Co-operating Advisory Committee to make a choice of delegates from all the nominations submitted. Thus, not only was Mr. Lewis nominated by the Teachers Federation, but later he was chosen ,by the National Co-operating Advisory Committee as one of the delegates to attend the conference. The fares and expenses of all the Australian delegates to the conference are being paid as far as Mexico City and back. As for any other travelling which they may do in America, in Great Britain or in Europe, that must be paid for by somebody else. In the case of Mr. Lewis, it would be paid, no doubt, by the Teachers Federation, or by the Government of New South Wales. I have not been in communication with them, and so do not know what they propose to do in the matter. The honorable member for Reid has suggested that Mr. Lewis is a member of the Communist party under another name. That is not an uncommon thing, l.t is done, not only in political circles, but also in racing circles. Men decide for some reason not to use their own names. I am offering no criticism or comment on that.
– Why not bring General Calleghan here, and be done with it? He could give some information on the point.
– I have a great respect for the courage and the valour of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), but I have very little respect for some of the remarks which he makes in this House. His present suggestion is positively silly. The policy to be followed by Australian delegates at the conference in Mexico City will not be determined by Mr. Lewis, or any other delegate from this country. An indication is given to the delegates of the views of the Government on the various items to be discussed by the conference. The Australian delegation includes a number of other distinguished and cultured .persons. I do not think that there is anything more I can add for the information of the House. The charge is that Mr. Lewis is a Communist, or has Communist sympathies.
– That he is a traitor.
– That is the statement of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), but I do not think that the honorable member for Reid said that. He did say that Mr. Lewis was an active Communist and, of course, communism in Australia is a philosophy which it is legal to profess.
– The Opposition ought to make up its mind on this point, because members of the Australian Country party say one thing, and members of the Liberal party say something else. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who speaks for the Opposition, has never advocated the placing of a legal ban on communism.
– He advocated the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into communism.
– I did not suggest that the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition on this issue betokens any sympathy with communism, hut, apparently, he believes that it is better to have the Communists out in the open than to have them underground. However, the leaders of the Opposition parties ought to get together, and decide to say the same thing about communism. There should be some unanimity among them as to whether communism ought to be banned, or permitted to exist.
– We all know where the Prime Minister’s party stands.
– I think my record in the public life of this country will compare quite favorably with that of the honorable member for Wentworth in the matter of honesty and political integrity. It is very easy to make slanderous statements. To my own satisfaction, I could say some very hard things about the honorable member for Reid.
– The right honorable gentleman can say them; he is entitled to say them.
– I am merely mentioning in passing that what my views might be about the honorable member for Lang have nothing to do with the point at issue. I repeat that Mr. Lewis was elected by the Teachers Federation of Australia as its representative, and that he was also recommended - it was a double-barrel recommendation to the Government - by the co-ordinating committee of the national co-operating bodies, which are not composed of public servants but are representative of all interests involved. That’ fully explains why that recommendation was endorsed and why Mr. Lewis has gone to Mexico City to attend this conference. He was not selected by the Government, but by the bodies I have mentioned.
Motion (by Mr.Chifley) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 6th Novem ber (vide page 1839), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Does the honorable member claim that he has been misrepresented ?
– Yes; I claim that I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain). Yesterday afternoon, while I was addressing myself to the B,anking Bill, the honorable member continually interjected. While I was referring to a speech made some time ago at Wellington, New South Wales, by Lieutenant Wilkins, a one-legged “ Digger “ from World War I., the honorable member for the Northern Territory ascertained that that gentleman had passed away, whereupon he said that I should be ashamed of myself. I am not ashamed of anything I said yesterday about the late Lieutenant Wilkins. I know his family very well. To the honorable member’s statement that I should be ashamed of myself, I retorted that Lieutenant Wilkins had not shown his pass to the Japanese while in their hands in order to obtain any privileges. The honorable member then said he himself had shown his pass to the Japanese in order to save his life. It was his privilege to do so, and a very great one, too.
– What did the honorable member for Lang imply?
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) had better keep quiet.
– I advise the honorable member not to be drawn into that aspect of the matter or I shall have to rule him out of order. Notice of motion has already been given that that matter be dealt with by the Privileges Committee.
– If the honorable member interjects again I shall have to say something.
– The statement I made yesterday was confirmed by the honorable member for the Northern Territory.
– I regret that it was necessary for me to make that retort to him. I have the greatest admiration for anybody who enlisted in the Army, and I have the greatest sympathy for those who suffered during the campaign against the Japanese, particularly those who were unfortunate enough to be captured by them. Since the honorable member for the Northern Territory has been a member of this House, members of the Labour party have been very generous to him because of his low mentality-
– Order ! The honorable member is getting into deep water.
– This is shameful.
– Order! The honorable member would not be permitted to “ get away with it “ but for the fact that yesterday he was called a mongrel by the honorable member for the Northern Territory. On balance we shall let it pass.
– This is not a personal explanation.
– The Chair will decide that.
– I believe that the honorable member for the Northern Territory was not much hurt by the incident yesterday, but that his advisers have induced him to keep this thing going.
– Is that a personal explanation?
– That is my statement. What I said in the House yesterday was confirmed by the honorable member. I do not care what the House may decide in relation to calling the Privileges Committee together. I welcome an inquiry into this matter. It might not disclose exactly the same story as the honorable member-
-I ask the honorable member not to make insinuations.
– I wish to make a further explanation. The honorable member misrepresented my interjection. When I asked the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) where Lieutenant Wilkins was now, he said, in effect, “ He has passed over the ‘ Great Divide ‘ “. I immediately quoted the Latin maxim, De mortuis nil nisi bonum - speak nothing but good of the dead. The sole reason why I interjected was because Lieutenant Wilkins was no longer capable of answering anything honorable members may have said about him. I trust that the House is satisfied about the matter. The other remarks made by the honorable member for Lang are beneath contempt.
– Everybody is satisfied.
-Since this debate began it has ‘become quite clear that there a re two methods of approach towards this bill for the nationalization of banking. The approach from the Labour side of the House is that of humanity, the approach from the Opposition side is that of big business, or property. For my part, I am glad to be associated with a bill of this kind for the introduction of which most people like myself in the Labour party have waited for many years. The position has now been reached when the opportunity presents itself to the Parliament and to the people to make a decision as to whether they are prepared to give the Labour party a chance to put into operation its political programme on a practical basis. Of the speeches delivered by honorable members opposite some have been capable, as one might expect from the calibre of the men sitting in opposition; others have been characterized by outrageous statements. When one hears suggestions of bribery, corruption, fraud and misrepresentation falling from the lips of a man like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), it indicates a state of desperation because it has been left to the Labour party to introduce this measure.
The intemperate language used by honorable members opposite indicates that they are prepared to resort to the most desperate tactics in order to try to mislead the people as to the facts of this proposal to-day. The private banks are spending a colossal sum of money on publicity in a futile effort to overthrow the Government. It is evident that a large sum of money, believed to be the greater part of £1,000,000 is being devoted to this campaign, which aims at placing large numbers of people under a hypnotic spell. Phrases are being dinned unceasingly in the ears of the people by the paid radio and the press is full of them. The banks, with the aid of their allies, are spending on the campaign large amounts of money belonging to their shareholders. This, too, without taking a referendum of their shareholders on the question. Amateur and professional publicists are having a field day at the expense of the banks’ shareholders. The press, the radio, and the pamphleteers are concentrating their attention on the Government like a magnifying glass focussed on one spot. They are blaring out the frenzied propaganda which they wish the people to accept. They are doing this insistently every day to almost the entire population. The newspapers have not made an intelligent rational criticism of this great national question. They have attempted to stampede the people by frightening them. In this country, most of the big newspapers are controlled by about a dozen men who employ the newspaper executives who determine what shall be published and- what shall be left out. How they hope to succeed in this campaign is illustrated by Hamilton Fyfe, a distinguished veteran newspaper-man of London, who said -
Nothing likely to induce thought must be set before readers. The news must be of the surface of life. It must arouse surface interest, stimulate shallow emotions.
Mr. Hamilton Fyfe’s description certainly fits the shallow propaganda appearing in many Australian newspapers in opposition to the control of banking by the people. Recently, the Melbourne Herald published an article by Professor Walter Murdoch supporting bank nationalization. In this case, however, other newspapers which usually print Melbourne Herald syndicated articles on current problems did not publish Professor Murdoch’s article on banking. In reply to the question, “ Do you approve of nationalizing the hanks ? “ Professor Murdoch wrote, “ Tes, I do, most heartily.” He stated the existing banking system seemed to him to be completely crazy, and that currency and banking were the concern of the nation. He added -
We talk of responsible governments: If there is one thing a responsible government ought to be responsible for it is surely banking.
I shall not quote the whole of the article. It has ‘already been recorded in Hansard. It was a valuable contribution to the question that is so much agitating the public mind to-day. I agree with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition in this House, on the 18th September, that -
You can have no true democracy unless you have a powerful Parliament, a free Parliament elected by a free people.
The Australian people have overwhelmingly endorsed the policy of the Australian Labour party, which for many years has had inscribed on its banner “ Government control of banking in the interests of the Australian people “. This Government, freely elected by a free people, will govern in accordance with the principles of true democracy. Probably the Australian Parliament is a nearer approach to a truly democratic institution than any other parliament in the world. It cannot even extend its own life as the British Parliament can, and as has been done in some of the State Parliaments in Australia. Yesterday, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) quoted from section 28 of the Constitution, which lays down that there must be an election every three years so that the people of this country shall have an opportunity to say whether or not the measures brought forward by the government of the day are acceptable. In that sense, this is really a democratic Parliament, and the Labour party is a democratic party. It is bringing forward measures which, to my own knowledge, have been in its legislative programme for many years. Even in this debate, no honorable member opposite has sought to show that the nationalization of banking has not always been a feature of the Labour party’s platform. The main argument advanced by the Opposition is that the proposal should have been submitted to the people by way of a referendum. That contention has already been dealt with adequately.
If the electors of this country do not like the policy of the future people’s bank, they will have the power to change it, democratically, by changing the Government; but if they do not like the policy of the private banking ring - and many thousands had ample reason to dislike it in the depression - they have no remedy because they cannot sack the directors of the private banks. Aus tralian citizens will have an opportunity to say whether or not they approve of this legislation after they have had sufficient time to consider it, in the absence of the passion, heat, cant, and humbug that is so much in evidence to-day. There is nothing dictatorial in the transference of power from the private banks to the Government of the nation, as this bill proposes. The Leader of the Opposition threw accuracy to the winds when he claimed in this chamber on the 18th September that this measure was equivalent to “ the crowning point of European dictatorship “. On the 21st June, 1945, the right honorable gentleman, speaking in condemnation of the Government, said that he knew definitely that its policy was to nationalize the banks. How then can it be claimed now that this measure is being sprung on the people of this country without warning? The Government’s policy was no secret, and the people overwhelmingly endorsed it at the polls. The clamour for a change of banking policy is not something new, nor is it peculiar to this country. In 1931, Sir William Beveridge, when director of the London School of Economics, said, in delivering the Halley lecture -
If you look back in history you will see that from the earliest times the making of money - of purchasing power - has been a thing which men have thought should be controlled by the authority of the State: It should not be entrusted, to many authorities or private caprice.
Under this bill, control of the banking system will be in the hands of the Government itself - the Government elected by the people. If the nationalization of banking is dictatorship, then the Postal Department, our railway systems and our water and electricity supply systems are Nazi institutions. The charge is absurd. The Australian Country party decries this legislation, but relies on government control of the marketing of primary products, and begs for it whenever producers are in difficulties. The real dictatorship in the banking history of this country was the dictatorship exercized during the last depression over the elected government of the people by the Commonwealth Bank Board, which the Liberal party wants to restore to its original power. This dictatorship was starkly revealed in a letter from the then Treasurer and chairman of the Loan Council, Mr. E. G. Theodore, in reply toff letter written1 by the late Sir Robert Gibson, then Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board. Sir Robert Gibson’s letter has been quoted several times in this debate, andIshall repeal; it now. However,MrTheodore’s reply, written on the 15th April,1931, was as follows : -
The Board now intimates t6 the Government that it will not provide financial accommodation to the Commonwealth or State Governments beyond’ a point which will he reached in a week or two.
The attitude of the Board . . . can only be regarded toy the Commonwealth Government as an attempt on the part of the bank to arrogate to itself a supremacy over the Government in the determination of the financial policy of the Commonwealth - a supremacywhich, I am sure, was never contemplated by the framers of the Australian Constitution and has never been sanctioned bythe Australian people.
That describes the position exactly. The financial dictatorship exercised by the Commonwealth Bank Board, and the general policy of the trading banks, helped to deepen the depression which by that time had reached our shores.
The’ Leader of the Opposition stated in 1945 that if his party were returned to office, he would appoint to control the financial policy of this country a bank boardofthesametype as was appointed in 1930. I am confident that the people of this country do not want the Commonwealth Bank Board to be revived. They will never forget what happened in the days when that board governed the monetary policy of Australia, nor will they forget the notorious letter of the then chairman of theboard Sir Robert Gibson. It will be remembered that when the 1945 legislation was before the House, dismal, predictions were made by members of the Opposition, who not only suggested that the alterations would bring dire consequences to Australia, but also promised that they would repeal that legislation and reconstitute the Bank Board. Honorable members will recall the dramatic attitude of the Leader of the Opposition, who, thumping the table, said -
I say not only to . the members of this Parliament, but to thepeople of Australia, that I and my party will fight this legislation to the last ditch and my party will at the first opportunity repeal these amendmentsand replacethe Board and the act back to where is was before this legislation was introduced.
The prophesies of terrible consequences were not, and, indeed, will not be, fulfilled. On the contrary, the financial position of this country, whether viewed from the domestic, the national’ or the international standpoint, was never so well regulated or in such a healthy condition as it is to-day. It was noticeable, at the last elections, that the Opposition did not repeat its promise to restore the Com- monwealth Bank Board. In his speech in this debate, the Leader of the Opposition claimed that he was not concerned about the banks, because they would get their money; but he was concerned about the people, most of them poor people, who had deposits in the nine trading banks. He said that there were 1,250,000 depositors in these banks. Let us accept that ; but what about the depositors in the Commonwealth Bank and State government basks? How do their numbers compare with the l,.250,000 mentioned by the Opposition ? The right honorable gentleman emphasized that he was concerned about these 1,250,000 depositors, but he failed to point out that there are more than four times as many depositors in government banks. Let us look at the figures. In 1939, before the present Government was in power, there were 2,340,002 depositors in the Commonwealth Savings Bank, with £146,000,000 in deposits, or an average of £69. In June, 1947, there were 3,583,683 depositors and £435,000,000, or an average of £121. Can it be said that this reflects fear of the government bank? While the present Government has been incontrol in Australia, depositors itf the Commonwealth Bank alone have increased by a greater number than the complete total of the 1,250,000 in all the private banks put together. That by no means completes the picture, for when we add the depositors in the State government savings banks we reach a remarkable figure. The total number of depositors at the 30th June, 1947, in all government savings banks was 5,593,000, with an aggregate amount of deposits of £660,645,000 and an average over all of £118 each; These Treasury figures show that four out of every five in the total of our population have their money deposited in the government savings hanks and, as the present hill is confined exclusively to private trading banks, the position of nearly 6,000,000 people’s banking business remains, absolutely unchanged. The Leader of the Opposition did not mention that Side of the picture plainly because it makes the 1,250,000 look small as far as the number of depositors is concerned. There is no need for the 1,250,000 people who now trade with the private banks to fear because they can be assured that their banking business will be just as competently handled as is that of the 5,593,000 people who already do their business with the Commonwealth and State Government Banks.
When the right honorable member stated that he was not concerned about the bankers because their assets would be quite safe, he paid a tribute to the honesty of the Government. His opinion does not seem to have been shared by many on his side of the House. He said he was concerned about the small depositors. The past history of these enthusiastic defenders of the private bankers causes doubt about their sincerity, and the cause of their hysterical defence of their rich friends, I feel sure, will be found in the following figures. In the fatal years from 1931 to 1935, when so many of our people were suffering from malnutrition due to unemployment, the nine private banks distributed the following dividends : -
or a total for those five depression years of £10,900,025 - a yearly average of £2,180,005.
That is the real reason why hundreds of thousands of pounds are being injected into this last-ditch effort to prevent any encroachment upon the right of private bankers to continue to extract such colossal sums from the people of Australia in the event of another depression. Let us here compare the dividends that were paid in each of those five years with the amounts that Were spent from Government Revenue upon unemployment relief in the same years : -
Thus it will be seen that while the shareholders, 50 per cent, of whom reside overseas, received nearly £11,000,000 in dividends, the people of this country were being taxed to provide £47,758,000 from revenue sources alone. I could use much more weighty figures than these if I included money spent for relief purposes from loan sources, but at that might create some element of doubt, because some was for public works, on which people were employed in the same years, I do not stress them. I merely mention that the Statistician’s figures show that in those years that sum amounted to £88,938,000. There is a total of £136,000,000 expended on unemployment relief, sustenance and work for the unemployed, which a spineless government would not tackle in the proper way and thus helped to deepen the depression. At the same time about £11,000,000 was paid in dividends to bank shareholders; and the Australian people were being taxed about £48,000,000. That shows how little shareholders in private trading banks are affected by depressions which gravely affect the majority of the people. I rely upon those statistician’s figures for unemployment relief and sustenance paid for from revenue and desire to contrast the position of thousands of workers either living on the dole or getting parttime work for very low wages with that of the shareholders whom the right honorable leaders of the parties who combine to make the Opposition are so deeply concerned about, and to show how little regard their parties had for the great body of the people when they were in power and the depression was at its deepest in Australia.
This talk of human freedom comes strangely from private bankers. In some banks, clerks are forbidden to remove their coats on even the hottest day.
Regulations dictate at which salary level a clerk may marry. A hanker is an absolute monarch! Many great democrats have criticized the private banking interests in language far more trenchant than that used here by supporters of the Government. Mr. David Lloyd George, Britain’s famous war-time Prime Minister, speaking of the peace negotiations in 1919 after the first world war, said -
The bankers swept statesmen, parliamentarians, jurists and journalists all on one side and issued their orders with the imperiousness of absolute monarchs who knew that there was no appeal from their ruthless decrees.
Let me quote from views expressed by some of the most famous democrats the world has known. I begin with Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America -
The privilege of creating and issuing money is the supreme prerogative of government.
Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America -
The financiers are more powerful than the nominal rulers.
Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States of America -
I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.
Here are the clear expressions of other famous men well equipped to voice opinions on financial policy. Anselm Meyer Rothschild declared -
Permit me to control the credit of a nation a.nd I care not who makes its laws.
Vincent Vickers, an ex-director of the Bank of England, said -
Our democratic system and our existing financial system can no longer live together; one of them must give way to the other.
Professor Soddy, of Oxford University, an expert on financial problems, said -
There cannot be two heads in one State - and the people have to choose between Parliament and the financiers.
That is what this Government is asking the people to do. Can it truthfully be claimed that those men are Communists or Fascists, as honorable members opposite suggest? Leader writers for the bank-inspired newspapers are not expert on banking matters nowadays and never have been so. Here is the foolish statement made by the Melbourne Argus in 1911, when discussing the proposal of the
Fisher Labour Government to establish the Commonwealth Bank -
The whole scheme to establish a .Commonwealth Bank is conceived in idiocy, lt constitutes a malicious use of public funds to compete with private activities - activities that enjoy the full confidence of the public. There is not the slightest justification for it, and its failure from its inception is such a matter of certainty that the whole proposition will be abandoned after a few months of inglorious experiment.
The passage of time has proved this and similar prophecies to be false, and that is about to happen again. Equally caustic, prejudiced and misleading articles are being published to-day in the columns of the conservative newspapers. I do not say that every newspaper takes the same line. One or two of them, although they may be opposed to this bill, at least give a fair presentation of what takes place in this Parliament. However, most of them give very little space to what members of the Labour party say and a great deal of prominence to the statements of the honorable members opposite. Because this Government seeks to keep bankers out of control of politics, the banks have raised the catchcry of political interference! Yet there was a time in Australia, back in 1893, when only government interference rescued from complete chaos the tottering financial structure that the private banks had created. Opposition members have been strangely silent about the private banks’ boom and crash in 1893, when nearly all of their precious private banks suspended payment and only three of any importance kept their doors open. This tragedy could not have happened had there been Commonwealth Government control of banking, credit and currency. Banking is a business, not a charity, but the private banks have a sorry record from the business point of view so far as crashes are concerned. It is outside the ambit of logical discussion for members of the Opposition to expect the trade unions to accept reductions of living standards, to work overtime, to produce more and at the same time expect the exactions of the private money power to be left sacrosanct. The private banks cannot be allowed to play over again their role of 1893 and 1930. To put it in the vernacular, the best bank is the one that will not “ go broke “, and the bank is the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which is backed by the entire wealth of this vast continent.
Too many private banks have gone to i he wall and left the depositors lamenting. The first,, I think, was the Bank of Australia, which disposed of its assets by a lottery drawn on New Year’s Day, 1849. According to Mr. Noel Griffiths, in his Brief History of Australian Banking, in the five months from the 2Sth January, 1893, no fewer than 1,000 branch offices of private banks closed their doors. In Victoria, a bank holiday was declared on five consecutive days to enable the banks to pause for breath. That is one skeleton in the cupboard that the banks would like to forget- the financial crisis of 1S93. Almost every bank in Victoria collapsed in 1893. All of them reconstructed. Records of the Melbourne Stock Exchange show that, for a long time, £890,000 was owed to the people as a result of the 1893 crash of the private banks. No wonder that private bankers to-day want to be free of any sort of government control. In Victoria, twelve trading banks closed their doors, 100 land banks failed, 500 land syndicates collapsed and 48 building societies defaulted. Those twelve trading banks alone had liabilities of £104,000,000, of which £80,000,000 represented the deposits of the public. A reign of terror prevailed in Victoria because of the ‘panic among the private bankers. Thousands of people were ruined. Soup kitchens were opened to feed the impoverished multitudes who had lost their money to the privately owned and controlled banks. Many people became mentally deranged when the private banks could not pay back their deposited savings. This was the result of private banking control of finance.
This is what the Opposition stands for! This is the system that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party tell the people should be continued in Australia! And so was bom the idea that private banks should not be permitted to handle n job which is clearly the responsibility of government, and that there should be n people’s bank sponsored by the Commonwealth Government and backed by the whole of the enormous resources and the national credit of the Commonwealth of Australia. That is precisely what the present bill will achieve. Henceforth, responsible government will be solely responsible for banking.
It is no new thing for the anti-Labour parties to oppose legislation which is designed to serve the best interests of the masses of the people. When the then Prime Minister, the late Mr. Andrew Fisher, rose in the House of Representatives to move the second reading of the bill which brought the Commonwealth Bank into being, the then leader of the Opposition, Sir Joseph Cook, satirically cried, “ Sovereigns for every one ! “ The newspapers referred to “ Fisher’s flimsies “, and claimed that the paper currency issued by the Commonwealth Bank would be of very little value. The private banks, then, as now, made a din with their panic cries of “ socialist tiger “ and “ Red revolution “. If the opponents of Labour had had their way, there would have been no Commonwealth Bank to finance many of our great public works and our gigantic war effort. Yet, to-day, we have a critical situation in which the Tories now in Opposition acclaim the Commonwealth Bank, and say that it is doing all that is necessary in Australia. They do not want its powers to be extended. In fact, they opposed the Commonwealth Bank from its very inception, and have done their very best since then to damn it by propaganda in the newspapers. The private banks’ propaganda will have no more success on this occasion, when the truth becomes known, than it had on the occasion of the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank. The policy of the anti-Labour parties has always been to give a monopoly to private banks, with their small group of shareholders comprising only a tiny fraction of the Australian people. They have opposed every move by Labour to loosen the stranglehold that the private bankers have had for years on the nation’s financial throat.
The wealthy private banks have suddenly become concerned about the welfare of the workers. What a hollow sham their propaganda is ! Let us examine the role of the private bankers as generous employers, particularly solicitous about the welfare of the working class. The facts show that the private banks have never let an opportunity slip by to reduce wages. They fought, tooth and nail, the efforts of bank clerks to improve their inferior and unjust conditions. Victimization by transfer and dismissal has been rife. So has the black-list! On several occasions, the bank officers’ unions have had to engage as officials men who were not employed in private banks. Bankers never did like trade unionists! Just as the private banks propose to engage king’s counsel -to delay this bill, so have they, in the past, engaged king’s counsel, at high legal fees, to keep wages down to bedrock in Arbitration Court hearings. A typical instance is provided in the 34th volume of Commonwealth Arbitration Reports, at page 843. It provides very interesting reading. On one occasion, the private banks insisted that the industrial award should contain a clause delaying increments in salary for a whole year. So, from the 1st December, 1932, time was supposed to stand still for twelve months. In return, the banks agreed to cease retrenchment and rationing of work. Some bank spokesmen opposed paying as much as the basic wage to adult employees. For years there was no clause in the awards for bank employees containing a provision for cost-of-living adjustments in respect of the basic wage.
Although they are white-collar workers, having to bear the added cost of street clothing, bank employees were worse off than some unskilled labourers. Sir John Quick assumed in the Arbitration Court, on hearing the case put forward by the private banks, that an employee would be entering his sixth year of service at the age of 21 years. The rate for the sixth year was fixed at £220 a year, and the banks would not give a penny more. A man in his eighteenth year of service got £402 a year. In July, 1931, there was a wholesale reduction of salaries by 10 per cent. I happen to know something about this matter, because I appeared in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court as the representative of railway employees. The most eminent lawyers in Australia - leading king’s counsel - appeared on behalf of the railway commissioners and other big institutions in order to force down the standard of living. That was brought about by the action of the private banks and the Commonwealth Bank Board at that time in refusing to provide money for public works. When we could have undertaken national works, such as water conservation and the standardization of railway gauges which would have provided employment for thousands of people, the Government behaved like a spineless jellyfish and neglected the needs of the people. The Opposition in this Parliament has not changed.
On the 15th February, 1934, an agreement was made under which a number of banks paid £180 a year for the sixth year, and £375 for the eighteenth year. In 1932, the banks in New South Wales secured from the court a general cut in wages, including a reduction of the child allowance. However, while the bank employees were “ getting it in the neck “, the private bankers were not doing too badly for themselves. Financial statements produced to Chief Judge Dethridge showed that in the depression year of 1930, most of the large banks disclosed a rate of profit from 9.2 to 18.1 per cent, on paid capital and as high as 8.4 per cent, on total shareholders’ funds. Small wonder that many bank employees to-day are looking forward eagerly to the day when they will no longer be working for the philanthropic private bankers, but will be working for the Australian people on the staff of the Commonwealth Bank !
A small coterie of officials in the Bank Officers’ Association in New South Wales is basking in the sunshine of their bosses’ smiles. Recently, this group organized in the Domain a meeting which bank clerks were urged to attend. This small coterie really organized & meeting to protect the interests of 71,000 shareholders of the private banks, 35,000 of whom live overseas. Many have never seen Australia. Thirty-nine .per cent, of the share capital of these banks is held by 87.5 per cent, of the shareholders, while the remaining 61 per cent, is held by only 12.5 per cent, of the shareholders.
Last Wednesday, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) drew attention to clause 48 of the bill. He pointed out, correctly, that where the Australian shares of a private hank were acquired by the Commonwealth Bank, that clause provided that the staff should continue to be employed upon their usual terms and conditions. He then pointed out what will probably take place when the directors appointed to that private bank by the Government will dispose of its undertaking to the Commonwealth Bank. He claimed that the employees of the private bank were left at that point without any protection under the bill. In fact, his exact words were -
I defy the Government to point out one provision in the bill which gives them any protection after that date.
The date to which he referred was the date upon which the business of the private bank was sold to the Commonwealth Bank. I am amazed that a gentleman with the legal reputation of the honorable member should issue such a challenge. It is obvious that he has not applied himself to a close consideration of the terms of the hill. Under sub-clause 5 of clause 22, it is provided that a private bank may agree with the Commonwealth Bank for the taking over of its business. That covers the case to which the honorable member has referred. If he will now refer to paragraph b of sub-clause 1 of clause 49 he will find complete protection for the staff of the private bank in these circumstances. That clause provides that each person employed in Australia by a private bank, which has made an agreement with the Commonwealth Bank under clause 22, shall be employed by the Commonwealth Bank as from the date of the taking over of the business of the private bank. I have now taken up the honorable member’s challenge. He defied any one to point to one provision protecting the officers. I invite his fuller consideration of the two provisions to which I have just referred him. The officers have exactly the same protection as those employed by the Public Service Board. Yet the honorable member for Warringah, who has high legal talents, misrepresents the position in a way which is intended to impress bank clerks that their position will become insecure. As employees of the private banks, they do not enjoy the same conditions as they will in the Public Service. They will become public servants, when this bill becomes law.
The honorable member for Warringah also drew attention to section 169 of the Commonwealth Bank Act, which provides, broadly, that if an officer’s position becomes vacant, he may be transferred to another or even a lower position, and that if no position is available, he may be retired on one month’s notice. He claimed that that section put the transferred bank officers in an invidious position. I say at once that it puts them in a much better position than they are in in their present employment.
I say also that the honorable member is seeking to create a mountain out of a molehill. Section 20 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, which applies to far more individuals than does the Commonwealth Bank Act, is in exactly similar terms to section 169 of the Commonwealth Bank Act; and yet not one officer in the Public Service has been declared surplus to requirements and retired on that account since the years of the depression.
When this bill becomes law, there will be a great expansion of banking facilities and business. A reduction of staff will not be necessary. The expansion will absorb the employees of the private banks, and give to them opportunities of promotion, and, in my view, will obviate the need for the amount of overtime which many of them have had to work during and since the war. No bank officer will be deceived by the honorable member’s gloomy forebodings. Having regard to the vast expansion of business enterprise in this community and to the plans for expansion of the Commonwealth Bank, it is certain that appropriate positions will be found in the Commonwealth Bank .Service for every member of the staffs of the private banks, and, in fact, many more will be required.
This completely disposes of the extravagant allegation that the Government has been guilty of a most disgraceful sham.
There are many other features of this bill with which I should like to deal. All the arguments which honorable members opposite have advanced can be torn to shreds. I do not claim that the bill is faultless - how could it be? - but it is an honest attempt on the part of the Government to protect the community against economic and financial depressions in the future. The standard of living will be not only maintained but also improved. Members of the Opposition have not advanced any constructive suggestions for banking reform. All they want to do is to retain the old order. The new order, which we were supposed to be fighting for in World War II., is not eventuating under the old system of financial dictatorship. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), whom we see now and then in the chamber, is the man, who in 1911, attained the peak of democracy. Ever since, he has been on a glacial slide down into the mud of conservatism. In the early days, he fought a good fight. To-day, he is not fighting for the same ideals. Many honorable members opposite are prepared to yield to the pressure which is put upon them by business interests in this community for the purpose of retaining a condition of affairs which most people believed would be abolished after World War II. The Labour party has honestly faced realities. It has submitted to the Parliament this bill for banking reform. The suggestion has been made that the Labour Government, when this bill becomes law, will no longer be able to shirk its responsibilities. To that assertion, I reply that the Government does not desire to shirk its responsibilities. Its object is to promote the welfare of the people, and I am satisfied that, if it is given the opportunity to put these banking proposals into effect, the people will never desire a return to the old order.
– Order! The Minister has exhausted his time.
– I remember very vividly the occasion, 36 years ago, when I heard the news that the legislation to establish the Commonwealth Bank had been enacted by this Parliament. At that time I was a very young man, and although I did not enjoy the franchise, I took a keen interest in the proceedings of this Parliament. I welcomed most gladly the announcement that a Labour government had decided to establish a bank for the people. At that time, every advanced thinker, every progressive economist, and every Laboursupporter believed that the creation of the Commonwealth Bank would result in that hank becoming, in a short time,, the sole banking institution in this country. Unfortunately, many unforseeable factors intervened, and it has remained until to-day for the Australian Labour party to complete the work which it began so long ago. It is true that the measure which was introduced in 1911 to establish the Commonwealth Bank was enacted without any prior intimation by the Government of its intention to do so, and it is also true that the opponents of that measure atacked the government of the day on the ground that it had no mandate for introducing such a revolutionary measure. However, the Fisher Government was not deterred from proceeding with its proposal, and it was passed by the Parliament. At the general elections held in 1913, the people endorsed the action of the Fisher Government. I remember very vividly the occasion when I stood alongside my father in Collinsstreet, Melbourne, to watch the “ numbers go up “ after those elections. During that campaign every daily newspaper in Australia opposed the passage of the measure. The press resorted to the use of every device, fair and foul, which it could conceive to defeat the Australian Labour party’s policy. However, their efforts did not defeat the proposal, and I prophesy that exactly the same thing will happen at the next general elections.
I regret that throughout this debate members of the Opposition have chosen to depart from discussion of the merits of the bill and have indulged in utter irrelevancies. They are employing the old propagandist tactic of introducing some “ ism “ in an endeavour to frighten the people. In the time of the Fisher Government the tactics employed by the Opposition were exactly the same. In those days the “ socialistic tiger “ was the favorite bogy, and we heard quite a lot about children being taken from their parents and placed in some national institution where they would be entirely removed from parental control. Similar illogical arguments are being employed by opponents of the Government to-day. I t is said that Australians will be robbed of the freedom for which they fought; that the present proposal is only part of a Communist, totalitarian scheme, which the Government is conspiring to implement.
Let us look for a moment at the history of “ socialism “ in Australia. The State of Victoria has probably introduced more socialistic legislation than any other. Of course, the remarkable thing is that most of the socialistic schemes which have been introduced in Victoria have been introduced by anti-Labour governments. The reason for that, as we all know, is that the propaganda disseminated by the Labour movement for years compelled antiLabour governments to move forward. One has only to consider the achievements of one of the so-called “ socialistic venture “ to realize that. I refer to the State Electricity Commission. The legislation which established the commission was introduced by Sir Harry Lawson, a former senator, who was then Premier of Victoria. The successful functioning of that organization over many years supplies an adequate answer to all the criticism that we are now hearing of State ownership and control of undertakings. Of course, it was “ socialism “, and it deprived citizens of their “ freedom “. No citizen of Victoria is permitted now to exercise his “initiative” to establish an electrical power station in some country town. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and other enterprising people were deprived of that “ right “ away back in 1918. Yet honorable members wax eloquent when they speak of “ citizens being deprived of their freedom “. There are numerous other illustrations of citizens losing their “ freedom “. Away back in the last century a tory government of Victoria decided that private enterprise was utterly incapable of constructing and maintaining the vast railway systems of that State. What did that Government do? It decided that from that time forward no citizen should be permitted to operate independent railway lines. Not even the honorable member for Wentworth would be per mitted to construct and operate a railway line. The State decided that no one should be allowed to “ exercise his initiative” to build a railway line from point A to point B and run a locomotive over it. Yet people like the honorable member have the effrontery to declare to-day that such a state of affairs is shameful ; that the people have been robbed of the freedom for which they fought on the battlefields of Europe ! As I say, the answer to their contention is supplied by the fact that Sir Harry Lawson, who was the head of an antiLabour government, created the Electricity Commission of Victoria, which has resulted in the magnificent undertaking at Yallourn. To-day, that commission exercises a monopoly over the generation and supply of electric power in Yallourn, and no one else is permitted to produce and retail electric power. In fact, no one is permitted to sell a “ permanent wave “ or even a pot of beer.
The propaganda which members of the Opposition are directing at the community is something in which they do not themselves believe. However, we all know that they are pushed on by the interests which they represent. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has himself extolled public enterprise. According to the Melbourne Argus of the 24th July, 1944, he stated-
Few people should have any quarrel with government control of railway, tramways or water supply, orsuch other great public utilities.
Does the Leader of the Opposition deny that the control of banking facilities, which involves the granting and withholding of credit, is not a great public utility? The entire argument put up by members of the Opposition is stupid and illogical. It was a conservative government which established the State Savings Bank of Victoria. That is another “ socialistic enterprise “. Of course, the government which established the savings bank was a little more cautious, because it did not prohibit any one else from conducting a savings bank.
When honorable members opposite talk about the dangers of political control in connexion with the present proposalof the Government, I remind them of the fact that the. directors of the State Savings Bank of Victoria are appointed by the Victorian Government. If honorable members care to consult the list of directors appointed to that bank they will find that tory governments have from time to time appointed individuals who shared their own political views; in one case, they actually appointed a member of the Victorian Government. The gentleman to whom I refer was an excellent citizen - the late Sir James MacKay, a former member for the Castlemaine district. He became a member of the directorate of the State Savings Bank of Victoria. I regret that the opponents of this measure have adopted that line of argument in voicing their objection to it. It is obvious that since the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) announced the Government’s intention to introduce this legislation there has been a tendency, not only in the Parliament but also outside, for those opposed to it to encourage violence as a means of expressing their opinion.
Honorable members will recall that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said in this chamber “ We will oppose this measure by economic, political and physical means “. When he referred to physical means, did he have violence in his mind? It is strange that the right honorable member for Cowper and the Leader of the Opposition, both of whom have attempted to justify violence in order to defeat this legislation, have the right to the title of “ right honorable “. It is strange also that each of them was once Prime Minister of this country. It is also strange that although they advocated violence not one newspaper in Australia, so far as I am aware, gave any prominence to that aspect of their opposition. It is proper, therefore, that I should tell the House of what happened when the Leader of the Opposition addressed a meeting at Ballarat on the 12th September, 1947. He produced and read to the meeting a letter which I had sent to the manager of a bank in the Ballarat district. I admit that it was couched in strong, but respectful, terms.
The bank manager had written to me informing me that he was opposed to the nationalization of banking, and stating that if I did not oppose it also he would take such steps as he saw fit to ensure that I should not represent Ballarat much longer. He was perfectly entitled to forward that letter to me. In it, he also said that he had no doubt that a great number of other residents of the district served by his bank were of the same opinion. Indeed, he said that he had not been able to find one person in the district who favoured the Government’s proposal. In my reply to him I said that his opposition to me and to the Government’s banking legislation did not matter at all. I was perfectly entitled to say that. I also said that I was probably right in assuming that the people whom he mentioned as being opposed to the legislation had overdrafts with the banks and could not afford to express their real opinions. That was a legitimate and pertinent comment for me to make to a person who had indicated his opposition to my views. I also told him that not many years ago bank employees were so disgracefully treated that they had to receive the consent of their boss before they were allowed to marry. That is perfectly true. It was fair comment on my part.
That was the letter which the Leader of the Opposition read at the public meeting at Ballarat. A report of the meeting was published in the Melbourne Argus of the 12th September. Referring to a paragraph in my letter, the Leader of the Opposition said, “ That statement is contemptible “. That was fair comment, and I take no exception to it. But he went further and said, “ That is a statement that would justify assault and battery by the man who received it “. Over a long period I have heard people say that if ever the day came when the Labour movement substantially reached its objective those opposed to it would not hesitate to resort to violence. I did not previously believe that they would do so, but recent comments by the right honorable member for Cowper and the Leader of the Opposition have forced me to the conclusion that there is something in the charge; that those opposed to Labour would act violently if ever their citadels were seriously threatened.
I was asked by a representative of the Argus to comment on what the right honorable gentleman had said, after the
Ballarat meeting, and my comment was published in the journal. In it I said that if the right honorable gentleman hadbeen correctly reported it appeared to be the effort of a disorderlyandunbalanced individual. I adhere to that statement. It is worth noting that the right honorable gentleman has never withdrawn the statement that he then made. He has never said that he did not mean that the receipt of such a letter as I had written was justification for resorting to assault and battery. It is evident that the right honorable gentleman is a disorderly revolutionary who is out to destroy by violent methods the constitutional legislation passed by this Parliament. The right honorable gentleman has taken refuge in a coward’s castle. It is evident that he believes that the recipient of a letter couched in strong terms is entitled, if a small man, to lie in wait for the writer some dark night and attack him with a sandbag. Of course, if the recipient of my letter is a bigger man than I am - I have not yet met him - it would be safe for him to meet me in daylight when, unless I was armed, he could probably “ beat me up “ without difficulty. The Leader of the Opposition did not say, that if the bank manager in question did not feel disposed to assault and batter me, he would undertake that responsibility himself. Soon after the meeting at Ballarat to which I have referred, the Melbourne Herald of the 14th October, 1947, contained the following: -
A Ballarat bank officer was beaten up by three men, who waitedfor him and bashed him when he was on his way home from the pictures, the chairmanof the Bank Employees’ Protest Committee (Mr. G. W. Sneddon) alleged to-day.
Does the Leader of the Opposition not notice a connexion between his advocacy of violence and that happening? Does he accept any responsibility for what occurred? It is strange that the bank officer who was “ beaten up “ did not go to the police station to report the happening, but refused to reveal his identity. These are the things that are going onin the community. Had the statements been made by any member of the Labour party, the press of Australia would have carried black headlines proclaiming a trend towardscommunism or revolutionary socialism, but no such headlines were used in connexion with these statements. Those who made the statements are protected. They are saved from their own indiscretions, but the people of Australia should be told of them. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Interior- M. Blakeway, W.R. Egan, R. D. Fitzgerald, M. C. Hall, G. F, Moor, J. Tyler, H. T. Vallender, W. J.E. White.
Supply and Shipping - J. J. Delany.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, Nos. 152, 153.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations - Orders - War service land settlement -
Victoria (dated 17th October, 1947).
Western Australia (dated 23rd October, 1947).
National Security (Prices) Regulations -
Declaration - No. 164.
Orders- Nos. 3115-3135, 3150.
Regulations- Statutory Rules 1947, Nos. 150, 151.
House adjourned at 12.55 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Coal: Australian Ikon and Steel Collieries.
Mr.Chifley. - In reply to a question on the 29th October by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) concerning the Conciliation Committee at the Mount Nebo colliery, I am advised that on the recommendation of the Goal Industry Tribunal (Mr. Gallagher) the board on the 15th October appointed a Mine Conciliation Committee under section 48 of the Coal Industry Act 1946 of New South Wales to operate in respect of Mount Nebo colliery owned by Australian Iron and Steel. The committee included two employees of Mount Kembla colliery with whom the colliery superintendent of Australian Iron and Steel, Mr. Hindmarsh, refused to deal in relation to industrial matters at Mount Nebo. The committee therefore failed to function. However, following negotiations by the Joint Goal Board and the Coal Industry Tribunal, the matter has since been satisfactorily adjusted. Representatives of Australian Iron and Steel have agreed to withdraw their former objection to the presence of Mount Kembla employees on the Mount Nebo Conciliation Committee and a meeting of the committee will be held as soon rs possible.
e asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n ‘ asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the acute shortage of window glass for housing, and of soda ash which is likely to restrict local production, are steps being taken to increase the quantity of Belgian glass imported into Australia under the trade agreement ?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the fallowing information: -
In view of the increased local demand for window glass, consideration is being given to augmenting local production with increased imports of Belgian glass.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 November 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19471107_reps_18_194/>.