18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Nationalization: Petitions: Attitude of INDUSTRIAL Organizations ; SALARIES or Officers of Private Banks.
– I have received petitions from the electorate of Eden-Monaro protesting against the nationalization of banking, and seeking a referendum. Whilst a number of them are not properly addressed for presentation to the House, others addressed to you, Mr. Speaker, are couched in courteous and respectful language, concluding with a prayer, and, so far as I can judge, are otherwise in conformity with Standing Orders. Furthermore, I have, as T considered it is my duty, taken steps to have those petitions investigated to ensure their authenticity. The results of these investigations show whole pages of signatures which, in the opinion of hand-writing experts,’ have all been written by the one person. A number of people to whom these signatures have been referred’ have stated that the signatures are not theirs, and that they would like to prosecute the individuals who forged them. The investigations have also revealed that more than 10 per cent, of the signatures on the petitions are those of juveniles, 15 per cent, are the names of persons who cannot be identified in the districts for which their addresses are given, and, furthermore, that the signatures, include a number such as “Adolf Hitler”, “Benito Mussolini”, “Josef Goebbels”, who, whilst they would probably have been against the nationalization of banking,, cannot be accepted as electors of EdenMonaro. For those reasons, I have no intention of presenting the petitions.
– Can the Prime Ministersay whether it is a fact that the Victorian branch of the Australian RailwaysUnion, which is controlled by J. J. Brown, the well-known Communist, decided last night to organize economic and industrial action against the Governments of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia should those governments persist in their intention to challenge the validity of the Banking Bill? Is it also a fact that the Victorian branch of the Australian Railways Union has asked the Australian Council of Trades Unions to summon an immediate conference in order to combat “by any means considered necessary” any action taken by those governments against the implementation of the Banking Bill? Did Mr. Brown make pointed reference to the dependence of Victoria and South Australia on New South Wales for supplies of coal? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the miners’ federation and the Seamen’s Union are reported to favour the proposal made by the Australian Railways Union? Does he approve of industrial action intended to thwart the proper and constitutional activities of the-Victorian Government, which was elected only a few days ago by an overwhelming majority of the people of that State ? Will the Prime Minister condemn the reported attitude of the unions mentioned, and take such action as he can to prevent the adoption of sectional, “ stand-over “ tactics of that type ?
– I have no knowledge of what resolutions have been passed by the Australian Railways Union or of what requests it has made to the Australian Council of Trades Unions. Nothing relating to the matter which the honorable member has raised has come to my notice.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the result of an application to Industrial Commissioner Mr. Justice de Baun, in which he granted a salary increase amounting to from £30 to £60 a year to officers of private trading banks, such increase to apply only to officers with eighteen years’ banking experience? Can the right honorable gentleman say whether that increase will bring the salaries of the officers affected into line with the salaries now paid to officers of the Commonwealth Bank, and can he say whether the increase will have any bearing on the salaries that will be paid to bank officers when the private banks are nationalized?
– I have not seen any report of the particular matter to which the honorable member has referred, but I am aware that the salaries paid to officers of the Commonwealth Bank have always been regarded by the officers of private banks as a standard which they should endeavour to get the court to grant to them. The Commonwealth Bank has set the standard for salaries in banking institutions. I understand that some officers of private banks have approached the State Industrial Court for increased remuneration. The bill now before the Parliament provides that where an existing award grants certain advantages to officers of private banks such officers shall not lose anything when the private banks are acquired.
Tampering with Mails - Stamp Allowance of Members of Parliament.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. Yesterday in answer to a question that I asked regarding the opening of mail matter by a Minister of the Crown to whom it was not addressed by me, the Minister for Information-
– I rise to order. I should like to know whether the honorable member forWentworth is in order in making a personal explanation when the business before the House is “ Notices of Motion “.
– The honor able member for Wentworth is making a personal explanation arising out of an answer to a question that he asked yesterday, and I consider that question time is the most appropriate occasion on which to make such an explanation.
– The Minister for Information said -
When it comes to making investigations, I remind the honorable member that we could make a lot more . . . and we may do it some day. We do not need an investigation into one fact that has come to our notice recently and that is that the honorable member has used his stamp allowance to pay his account at the Government Printing Office.
These observations by the Minister had nothing to do with the question that I asked, but they inferred that I was doing something illegal or improper in my capacity as a member of this chamber. In refuting this insinuation, I should like to say that I, in common with other honorable members, have had copies of speeches that we believed might interest electors, printed by the Government Printer for a certain fee. Although it had been customary for me to make payment for these speeches by way of cheque, on one or two occasions I used stamps to pay small amounts. I did so because, although I had not previously taken advantage of this privilege, I understood it was permissible to do so, and that it was a customary privilege exercised by honorable members. This assumption was borne out, in fact, by the acceptance by the Government Printer of the stamps I tendered to meet those small accounts on the one or two occasions I have mentioned. After the statement made by the Minister, which I have quoted to the House, and which I believe was calculated to besmirch my character and standing as a member of this honorable House, I telephoned the accountant, Mr. McIntyre, at the Government Printing Office, who stated that, although he now had instructions to discontinue the practice of accepting postage stamps in discharge of honorable members’ accounts, this privilege had been used recently by members, and, indeed, it had been the custom for years. To show that it is customary for speeches of honorable members to be paid by the Commonwealth, I direct attention to a letter I recently received from the Minister acting for the Attorney-General, Senator McKenna, in answer to a query by me, stating that a certain pamphlet was issued by the Attorney-General in his ministerial capacity at the expense of the Commonwealth. Those facts must have been known to the Minister for Information, and, therefore, I can only look upon his insinuation as an attempt to intimidate me and prevent me from asking embarrassing questions.
– I, too, desire to make a personal explanation. The Sydney Morning Herald reports the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) as having interjected when I made the statement about which he has spoken in some such words as these, “ The same as you pay your telephone account “. I flatly deny the insinuation. I do not pay my telephone account out of my stamp allowance. The custom for many years has been to permit private members to do that, but, as a Minister, I do not do that sort of thing. Had the honorable member not insinuated all sorts of things against the PostmasterGeneral’s Department keeping dossiers and operating a censorship, and had he not besmirched the splendid character of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), I should not have needed to retaliate.
– I, too, desire to make a personal explanation.
– Arising from what?
– The charge made by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) yesterday and repeated to-day.
– I made no charge. I asked for an inquiry.
– I want to be fair in this matter. The honorable member distinctly made some implication about the Minister for Transport opening letters.
– I asked for an investigation to ascertain whether he did.
– The honorable member also referred to another instance in which the Minister for Transport was alleged to have been involved.
– The honorable member for Wentworth yesterday charged me with having opened a letter that belonged to him. After he made the charge, I made inquiries in my office, because the letter had never been placed in my hands. It came in the general mail, which is opened in the office by a member of my staff. Immediately he realized that the letter was not addressed to me, the officer who opened it returned it to the box of the honorable member for Wentworth. The letter was not in my hands at any time. The honorable member implied, by referring to a previous incident some years ago, that it was my practice to open and read letters belonging to other people. He was relying on the lapse of time since that other occasion to which he referred to delude the people into believing that that is my practice. That letter was addressed not to the secretary to the then Treasurer, Mr. Casey, but to Mr. Casey himself. In order that the public may judge where the blame should rest in regard to that incident I merely relate the salient features of it. At the time a royal commission was inquiring into banking operations in this country. That royal commission was constituted as the result of a motion by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who had expressed great dissatisfaction with the activities of the private banks in Australia. The commission was at that time taking evidence. Dr. Roland Wilson, the Commonwealth Statistican, was to go before the commission the following week to give evidence. On the day when the letter came into my possession, the Labour party then being in opposition, a special messenger arrived at Parliament House with a letter in an envelope addressed to Mr. R. G. Casey, the then Treasurer. The messenger had been given instructions that the letter was to be placed in the hands of “ Mr. Ward and nobody else “. Whoever gave the instructions failed to tell the messenger which Mr. Ward was intended. At that time Mr. Casey had a private secretary having the same name as myself. When the special messenger arrived at Parliament House he insisted, because he thought that the letter was for me, t that I should take it. At the time I was speaking in the House. An ex-member for Reid, Mr. Gander, wanted to take the letter and promised the messenger that he would deliver it to me when I resumed my seat. However, the messenger insisted that he must give it to me personally, so important was it. When the envelope was finally handed to me I noticed that it was addressed to Mr. Casey and I immediately handed it back and said, “ This is for the Treasurer”. The messenger said, “ Take no notice of the name on the envelope. My instructions are to deliver it to you personally “. Then I opened the letter. I shall now tell the honorable member for Wentworth something that he has never at any time seen fit to tell to the public of this country, namely, what was contained in the envelope, which was of the utmost importance. The public was being asked to bear the expense of holding a royal commission to inquire into banking operations and Dr. Boland Wilson, who was to give evidence before the commission the following week-
– I rise to order. A member is entitled, when making a personal explanation, to reply to any imputations made against him. The Minister has told us how a certain letter came into his possession. He is now proceeding to state the contents of that letter, which I submit is not competent in a personal explanation.
– The Minister is in order.
– That envelope contained a copy of the evidence which Dr. Roland Wilson proposed to give before the royal commission the following week. With that copy was a letter from Dr. Wilson to Mr. Casey in which he stated : “ I have also submitted a copy of my proposed evidence to Mr. Sheehan” - who was then Secretary to the Treasury - “ and no doubt Mr. Sheehan will blue-pencil much of it”. I regarded that as an effort to “ doctor “ evidence that was to be given before a royal commission. When I tackled Mr. Casey about the matter in this Parliament, he said that no significance was attached to the contents of the envelope because it was merely a private joke between himself, Dr. Wilson and Mr. Sheehan. The public of Australia can judge as to whether I did the proper thing. I had to consider whether by divulging the contents of the envelope ray own position would be misunderstood or whether I had a public duty to perform, and I decided that my public duty must come first and that, when a royal commission had been appointed to inquire into a particular subject, no government official, or Minister, should be permitted to “ doctor “ evidence to be given before that commission. First. I tell the honorable member for Wentworth that his filthy insinuation that I am accustomed to opening letters addressed to other people and that there is something sinister about the delivery of a particular letter to my office has no foundation at all. The envelope was never even in my possession, and the Minister for Information acting for the Postmaster-General is now conducting inquiries in order to ascertain how it was misdirected. Secondly, when the honorable member wants to refer to any incident in which I am involved I suggest that, as I have nothing to be afraid of, he should relate the whole of the circumstances surrounding it.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House. :it its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to inform the House whether honorable members will be given an adequate opportunity to discuss the Banking Bill in committee. No honorable member will object to his proposal that the House shall meet to-morrow at 10.30 a.m., but I should like to know whether the “ guillotine “ will be applied to the bill. Many honorable members desire to speak on a number of clauses, and make their attitude clear to the country. Therefore, I hope that we shall have ample opportunity to do so.
– in reply - I have already supplied to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) a schedule showing the allotment of time proposed for the committee stage of the Banking Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Has the attention of the Minister f or Labour and National Service been directed to a report stating that it is believed that the Joint Coal Board has directed the coal-miners of New South Wales not to take the extra five days’ annual holidays which was to be granted to them over the Christmas period on condition that they provided a reserve of 550,000 tons of coal for the purpose of supplying the requirements of industry during the holiday season? If so, has this decision been taken because strikes have made it impossible for this target to be reached? Has the Minister’s attention also been directed to the reported statement of a leader of the coal-miners in Sydney that, “ You can take it from me, we will have our three weeks holiday “ ? If so, does this represent defiance of the decision of the Joint Coal Board? What action does the Government propose to take for the purpose of ensuring that industry and the public shall not be denied essential coal supplies over the Christmas period?
– I have not seen any of the statements to which the honorable member referred, but I am certain that the Minister for Supply and Shipping has in hand the matter of the supplies of coal for all States during the Christmas period. In fact, we discussed this subject only this morning. However, I shall draw the Minister’s attention to the statements made by the honorable member.
Australian Visit - Broadcasting of Wedding Ceremony
– Has the Prime Minister received any information to the effect that Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten will visit Australia early in the New Year ?
– I have not received any such information. Of course, the Government would welcome a visit from Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten should they find it opportune to come to Australia.
– As I understand that the wedding ceremony of Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten is to be broadcast to the world, can the Prime Minister say whether there will be an opportunity for members of the Parliament to hear the broadcast ?
– I must confess that I have not given any thought to honor able members hearing the broadcast of the wedding ceremony, but I shall giveconsideration to the matter. I proposeto consult the leaders of the Opposition parties with a view to sending to theroyal couple through His Majesty theKing a message of congratulations fromthe Australian Parliament.
Cornsacks - Stock Feed
– I have received a. letter from Mr. Edwin Tyrie, Bullenbong South, The Rock, New South Wales, referring to twostatements which appeared on the same page of a recent issue of the Wagga Advertiser. One report stated that theMinister for Agriculture of New South. Wales, Mr. Graham, said that the delayin importing cornsacks was caused by lack, of shipping, and that, in order to avoid confusion, farmers should store about 25,000,000 bushels of wheat on their farms. Mr. Tyrie points out that theadoption of such a course would result in great confusion on wheat farms. Thesecond report stated that a ship is expected to arrive in Fremantle early in December, bringing 860 immigrants from Balticcountries, and that it was proposed to send a naval vessel to Fremantle to transport them to the eastern States. Mr.. Tyrie wishes to know whether it wouldnot be possible to accommodate the immigrants temporarily in a staging camp at Fremantle, so that the naval vessel could proceed to Calcutta to transport a consignment of cornsacks to this country.. He suggests that the naval vessel could,, on its return to Fremantle, transport theimmigrants to the eastern States. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture confer with the Minister for Immigration to ascertain whether some sucharrangement could be made?
– I shall be glad to explore every possible avenue in an endeavour to make available to wheatfarmers the maximum number of cornsacks.
– In view of the reports concerning shipping arrangements to lift the wheat harvest, and statements that supplies of cornsacks delivered are sufficient to handle only a fraction of the wheat crop, when may I expect an answer to my question on this subject which appears on the notice-paper?
– I regret that the honorable member has not yet received an answer to his question. I shall take steps to ensure that the answer is expedited. I point out, however, that the AustralianWheat Board is now very busy and that answers to questions submitted to it are, in consequence, somewhat delayed.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen a statement by Mr. Bulcock, Australia’s delegate to the “World Food Council, that Australia could not continue to cut its own stock economy if wheat withheld from Australian live-stock were used to feed stock in other parts of the world? Will the Minister inform the House what assurances, if any, the Government has received from countries to which we export wheat, that such wheat is used solely for human consumption?
– I have seen some reference in the press to a statement supposed to have been made by Mr. Bulcock in the United States of America. I have no information as to whether he actually made the statement or not. Once we export wheat to any country it is sold unconditionally, and we then have no control over it. That must be apparent to everybody just as it is clear that any other country has no control over goods after it exports them to Australia.
– Is it a fact that the World Advisory Food Council of the United Nations, under the chairmanship of Viscount Bruce, recently stated that wheat and cereal grains for human food should be reserved for that purpose and not fed to livestock? Is it a fact that in exporting wheat from this country the Australian Government makes no provision to ensure that wheat sold overseas is reserved for human consumption and is not fed to livestock?
– I have seen a statement which was attributed to Viscount Bruce along the lines mentioned by the honorable member. The honorable gentleman will appreciate that, in the absence of an international agreement on the subject, it is impossible to force upon wheat purchasing countries a condition that they will use Australian wheat only for human consumption and not for stock food purposes. He may rest assured, however, that the Australian delegates at the international food conferences are asking - as is illustrated by the statement attributed to . Mr. Bulcock, DirectorGeneral of Agriculture - that Australian wheat shall, in the main, be used for human consumption.
Alleged Statement by Mr. Lee.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that during the course of the recent Victorian election campaign the Liberal party candidate for Preston, Mr. Lee, referred to the Labour member, Major W. Ruthven, V.C., who was subsequently re-elected, in the following terms : -
I’ve got nothing against Ruthven, but yon can pick up medals in any pawnshop?
However, another Victoria Cross winner, Mr. W. M. Currey, who is a member of the New South Wales Parliament, and a supporter of the Labour Government of that State, spoke in support of Major Ruthven during the campaign, and answered the gratuitous insult which had been offered to the winner of the Empire’s highest decoration for valour. Is it a fact that his reply was not published by any Melbourne daily newspaper? Does the Prime Minister know whether the press and members of the Liberal party have made any protest against the outrageous remarks made by a Liberal party candidate? Does he know whether the Australian Country party has dissociated itself from Mr. Lee’s unfortunate remarks ?
– I have not seen in any newspaper a statement of the kind which the honorable member mentioned, but I was informed, in course of conversation, that such a statement had been made. However, I have not received any verification of it, nor do I know of any protest having been made.
– In view of the fact that exports of butter to the United Kingdom in 1946-47 were nearly 3,000 tons less than in 1945-46, and to other British countries 637 tons less, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture explain why exports of butter to Palestine in 1946-47 were nearly three times those of 1945-46, to Egypt nearly three and a half times greater, and to other foreign countries nearly four times greater?
– Under the agreement into which the Australian Government has entered with the United Kingdom Government Australia sells and exports to the United Kingdom the whole of its surplus butter production, other than a token quantity of 500 tons, which is utilized for export to those markets which took large quantities prior to the war. It is true that Australian butter is sent to Lebanon, Egypt,’ Malaya, Hong Kong and a number of other markets, but that is done at the request and, in fact, the direction of the United Kingdom Government. That Government, as the honorable gentleman knows, has arrangements in respect of garrisons, British residents and quite a number of other factors. These arrangements require that Australia shall ship butter to those various destinations, at the direction of the United Kingdom Government.
– To foreign countries also?
– It may be that a portion at least of the 500 tons which Australia retains out of approximately 60,000 tons which it has for export has found its way into markets in Egypt and Lebanon.
– In view of the increasing gravity of the food situation in Great Britain as disclosed in the most recent reports from that country, will the Prime Minister reconsider his refusal to agree to an all-party committee to review Australian food rationing with the object of increasing the supplies of food sent from Australia to Britain.
– This matter has been dealt with in replies to earlier questions, when I have pointed out that Australia is practically the only country that is continuing war-time rationing in order to send greater supplies of food to Great Britain. As the subject is constantly under review by the Government, particularly by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I cannot see that any good, purpose would he served by appointing such a committee.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that although the number of Commonwealth employees has increased by 134 per cent, since the beginning of the war, the number of employees in manufacturing industries ha9 increased by only 40 per cent., whilst the increase in the building industry has been 6.8 per cent, and only 05 per cent, in agricultural industries? In view of the importance of primary industries to the national economic structure, will the Prime Minister institute inquiries into the root cause of the small increase of the number of persons employed in the industries that I have mentioned, and, at the same time, will he take appropriate action to enforce rigid economies in the Commonwealth Public Service ?
– On other occasions I have intimated to the House that a close scrutiny is being maintained over the staff of the Commonwealth Public Service, and I have spoken to the Chairman of the Public Service Board with a view to ensuring that instructions to that effect are carried out. I assume that the figures mentioned hy the right honorable gentleman have been obtained from statistics published by the Commonwealth Statistician. I imagine that the number of employees in the various industries mentioned by him exceeds the number of employees in the Commonwealth Public Service.
– That is so.
– That being so, thepercentage figures do not reveal the actual number of persons engaged since thebeginning of the war. The right honorable member for North Sydney and other honorable members referred someyears ago to the declining numberof persons employed in primary industries as compared with secondary industries. It is true that the number- of persons employed in primary industries has not kept pace with the increased volume of primary production, but that is due to the introduction of machinery. In some instances a machine worked by one man is able to do the work formerly done by a dozen men. However, I shall look into the matter raised by the honorable member.
– In the Melbourne press of yesterday there is a report from which I quote the following: -
The Federal Secretary of the Australian Labour .party, Mr. J. J. Kennelly, who lost his portfolio as Victorian Minister for Transport and Electricity Undertakings as a result of the Victorian elections, has advised members of the executive that there will be correspondence before them from Mr. Chifley.
The report mentions that the Federal Executive of the Australian Labour party will meet in Canberra on Monday, and that this executive is the governing body of the Australian Labour party between triennial conferences of the party. The report continues -
The attitude of the Prime Minister, Mr Chifley, to the immediate nationalization of insurance companies, coal mines and transport, including shipping and airways, will be revealed to the meeting.
Has the Prime Minister placed his. views in writing on the nationalization of insurance companies, coal mines and transport? Have those views been submitted to the Federal Executive of the Australian Labour party, and if so, are they an expression of the Prime Minister’3 own opinion or are they the opinion of the Parliamentary Labour party? Are the views reported to have been placed in writing by the Prime Minister in agreement with the pledge signed by all members of the Labour parly that they will work for the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange ? When, if ever, are those views to be placed before the public of Australia?
– Except as an act of extreme courtesy I should not even have bothered to answer the honorable member’s question. I have previously made it clear that I do not propose to answer at length questions asked purely for propaganda purposes.
– Mr. Kennelly said it.
– I have not seen any statement from him on the subject. No doubt, correspondence has passed between me and the Federal Executive of the Australian Labour party since its last meeting here, but I cannot remember writing any letters on the subject mentioned by the honorable member. Representations have been received from various unions regarding the nationalization of coal mines and the iron and steel industry, and in reply to them I have pointed out that the Australian Parliament has no power under the Constitution to nationalize those industries, even if the Government wished to do so. Therefore, it is sheer nonsense to talk of the Government’s plans for nationalizing such industries. I know that the Federal Executive of the Australian Labour party will meet in Canberra next week. I do not know what it intends to discuss with me, and when I do find out I do not propose to tell the honorable member for Balaclava.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping seen an announcement in the press that 30,000 books will be submitted for sale at auction by the Disposals Commission at Rozelle, in the electorate of West Sydney, on Friday next? Have the books been checked in order to find out whether they include rare text-books, with a view to ensuring that books of this kind shall not be sold to jobbers for re-sale to students who, because of the dollar shortage, cannot buy books through the ordinary channels?
– I know that there is some difficulty in connexion with textbooks. I shall take up the matter with the Minister for Supply and Shipping.
Incentive Payment to Workers
– I point out to the Prime Minister that, when the Government’s representatives abroad return to this country, members of the Opposition parties, at least, are given no opportunity to ascertain from them at first hand conditions existing in. the countries in which they were stationed. I refer in particular to the return recently of Mr. “Joe” Alexander, who was for three years First Secretary at the Australian Legation at Moscow. I desire to ascertain conditions existing in Russia in respect of the system of incentive payment, particularly the operation- of what is known as the Stakhanovitch system, under which workers are paid according to output. I, and other honorable members on this side of the chamber, desire this information in view of the opposition by Communists in this country to the principle of incentive payment. Can the Prime Minister arrange for Mr. Alexander to make available to honorable members, not diplomatic information, but commercial information relating to conditions in Russia?
– On a number of occasions I have arranged for officers of the Government, upon their return from abroad, to address honorable members when such officers had information of particular value, or explanations regarding matters of great concern to impart to honorable members. In that respect, I have in mind Dr. Coombs and Mr. McCarthy. I have made that arrangement either at the request of party leaders or with their consent. However, I do not propose to give to every officer of the Government on his return from abroad the opportunity to express his views to honorable members generally. I can see no purpose at all in arranging for Mr. Alexander to address members of the Labour party, or any other party. I have been informed that he is now writing a book about his travels abroad; and I shall suggest that he might let the honorable member for Richmond have a first edition copy.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture noticed that the price of ‘bread has been increased in New South Wales during the last few days? Can he confirm information which has been given to me that since the Australian Government signed & wheat agreement with the Government of New Zealand, the price of bread in that dominion has been reduced by a half-penny a loaf?
– I have not noticed that there has been any increase in the price of bread, in New South Wales. If there has been such an increase, it has not been associated in any way whatever wi th the New Zealand wheat agreement.
– I have received letters from a constituent protesting against her inability to obtain cake tins with lids for the purpose of sending provisions to members of the occupation force in Japan, and also from a manufacturer to the effect that cake tins with lids are not permitted to be manufactured. Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction indicate whether such a ban exists? If so, who gave the order that such tins should not be manufactured, and what is the reason for the ban?
– It is obvious that if such a ban exists it is related to the very great shortage of tinplate in Australia. The question arises as to whether available supplies of tinplate should be used for the canning of fruits and vegetables or for the purpose which the honorable member has outlined. I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping, who controls tinplate, to look into the matter.
Proposed Award of Decorations
– Has the Australian Government refused permission for a Chinese decoration to be given to an Australian citizen who has done excellent work in fostering Sino-Australian understanding? If so, what are the grounds for such refusal?
– A case has come to my notice in which representations were made that a Chinese decoration be conferred upon an Australian citizen in recognition of certain cultural achievements. The objection to the grant of such a decoration is in conformity with the general rule that foreign decorations shall be limited to those conferred for operational services. I shall furnish the honorable member with a full statement on the subject.
– by leave - I wish to inform the House of the decisions of the Government on proposals communicated by the Government of the United States of America for the award of American decorations to members of the Australian Defence Forces. The Government received 229 proposals for the bestowal of American awards on Australian service personnel which required extensive examination and correspondence with the service departments, and cablegrams to the United Kingdom, in the light of the rules governing the acceptance of foreign honours. The Australian Government has not drawn up rules of its own to govern the acceptance of foreign honours. It has applied to the Australian forces the rules which were adopted by the United Kingdom Government and communicated to the Australian and other British Commonwealth Governments in 1942. One of the rules was that the scale of acceptance of United States awards by .members of the Australian forces should, in general, be one acceptance for each British award granted to American forces in the South-West Pacific Area. The Government represented to the United Kingdom authorities that it would bn loath to contemplate the wholesale rejection of awards sponsored by our American ally for operational service for no other reason than that they would involve a departure from a numerical balance. Further, by virtue of the close association of the American and Australian forces throughout the war in the South-West Pacific Area, the Government believed that it was fitting that acceptance of awards for operational service should be permitted on a generous scale for the final series of recommendations to mark the end of hostilities. The United Kingdom authorities have agreed with this view, and consideration of the proposals has proceeded without regard to any of the limitations which would have been imposed if the one for one rule had applied.
The Government has accepted 102 American awards for gallantry or heroism, or for outstanding service directly in, or associated with, operations in an operational area. They include awards for Allied Intelligence Bureau parties which landed in enemy territory, for intelligence patrols, heroism and good service in action, coast watching in enemy territory, operational flights and strikes against the enemy, the rescue of survivors of crashed aircraft in enemy territory, and many other instances of gallantry and outstanding service in operations. The Government has expressed its appreciation of the offer of the American Government for the bestowal of the American awards in these cases and its pleasure in accepting them. The Government regrets that it is unable to accept American awards in the following cases, and for the reasons stated : -
The total number of awards which, for the reasons already stated, cannot be accepted, is 67. In certain cases, the proposed United States awards have been deferred for further examination by the services as to whether or not the service for which they are proposed was operational. There are 60 cases in this category, most of them being for service with general head-quarters, the greater proportion of which was on the mainland of Australia.
The foregoing decisions have been communicated to the American Embassy, Canberra, which has been asked for advice as to when the United States authorities will be in a position to announce the names of individuals for whom awards have been accepted, in order that arrangements may be made for a simultaneous announcement by the Australian Government.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
– The effect of this motion, if carried, will be, first, to prevent notices of motion appearing under the heading” General Business “ from being discussed to-morrow and, in view of the period of the year, I have no doubt that these notices of motion will be excluded from discussion altogether during the rest of this period of the session. In these circumstances, I wish to direct the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to notices of motion Nos. 2 and 3 in particular. The first of these stands in the name of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and is as follows : -
That the ruling of the Speaker - that the motion proposed to be moved by Mr. Holt was not a matter of privilege - be disagreed with.
It is not my desire, nor is it within my power, at this stage, to discuss the merits of this motion, but merely to say that it is an important matter concerning the privileges of members of this House, and one that should not be allowed to remain undetermined indefinitely. Notice of motion No. 3, standing in the name of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), concerns the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain). That motion, too, is a matter of great concern to members of the House, and one on which they should have an opportunity to express an opinion at the earliest opportunity. I say to the Prime Minister, that it should require a most extraordinary case of urgency to dispose of two matters of this kind in such a way that they will not be discussed during this period of the session, and possibly not for many months, if at all. I submit, therefore, that the House should proceed with private members’ business to-morrow. The only possible effect that this course could have upon the Government’s timetable would be to postpone the termination of the present sessional period for one day. The alternative is the postponement of discussion of these two important matters, perhaps indefinitely. There can hardly be any difficulty in making a choice between the courses.
– Whilst agreeing with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) on these questions, I wish to make my protest as a private member. I had proposed to take advantage of the opportunity offered by private members’ business to deal with certain matters, three of which I shall name : The first is the delay in the payment for land acquired at Puckapunyal early in the war ; the second is the injustice of provisional tax deductions, and the effect of these deductions upon primary production ; and the third is the necessity for immediate action by the Government to organize our machinery resources for the harvesting of wheat and oats. In regard to the last-mentioned matter, I have a plan that I proposed to outline to the House. As the House rose last Friday at 1 p.m. and is, I understand, to rise next Friday at the same time and rises on other sitting days at from 11 p.m. to 12 midnight, when many honorable members are absent, we are not able satisfactorily to take advantage of the motion for the adjournment of the House to raise matters of importance to the community. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) should preserve, not destroy, the privileges of private members. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, to allow private members to raise to-morrow matters with which they are concerned would only mean an extra sitting day this sessional period. The duty of honorable members is to try to do what they can for the people, not to hasten away from the Parliament as soon as they can. I do not know what all the hurry is about. Ever since I have been a member of this House, I have contended that the Parliament should sit throughout the year if necessary to deal with matters of urgent public importance. The motion submitted by the Prime Minister is unjustifiable. On the last occasion on which private members should have been able to exercise the privilege of moving and debating motions standing in their names they were not allowed to do so because of the passage of a motion similar to this, and, on the previous occasion, it was only because a certain debate did not last so long as the Prime Minister expected it would that honorable members were able to exercise their privilege. The Prime Minister claims that he has the constitutional right to proceed with the Banking Bill. Surely honorable members have the constitutional right to raise on the day set aside for that purpose matters that affect them or the people generally. I know that the Prime Minister has the necessary numerical strength behind him to force this motion through, but I do not think he ought to use that power against honorable members who want to raise matters like those I intended to raise, or that referred to in the notice of motion of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), which seeks the convening of a Committee of Privileges to deal with charges made against the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), with whom 1 was associated for a long while. I appeal to the Prime Minister to withdraw the motion so that honorable members shall be able to debate matters in which they are interested.
– I oppose the motion submitted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) particularly because, if it be carried, it will prevent debate on a motion on the notice-paper in my name seeking an opportunity for the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), whose reputation as a man of honour and a gallant soldier has been impunged in this House, to clear his name. Not only do I regard it as important and urgent that that motion should be debated by honorable members, but my belief is widely supported my many others. Other honorable members and I have received many communications on the subject. One I received from the secretary .of the Prisoners of War Association of South Australia reads -
My association disgusted with accusation against Blain-
– Order ! The honorable member is discussing the merits of the question.
– I do not seek to discuss its merits.
– Regardless of who sends telegrams, the honorable member is not entitled to read them at this stage.
– I merely wish to point out that I am not the only person who regards the matter as important and urgent. Ex-servicemen are deeply concerned that there should be .an opportunity in this Parliament for it to be debated. Normally the Standing Orders would provide the opportunity to-morrow for honorable members to decide whether the honorable member for the Northern Territory should have the chance of clearing his reputation of a dreadful accusation. The motion moved by the Prime Minister is within the ambit of procedure, of course, but it is designed to alter the normal course laid down in the Standing Orders. The effect on the honorable member for the Northern Territory of being without an opportunity of clearing himself of this accusation is serious. The slurs cast upon him that he improperly used his gold pass in order to get preferential treatment from the Japanese, and is a man of low mentality and the lack of an opportunity to have such statements refuted mentally distress the honorable member. His distress is shared by thousands of decent and honorable Australians. I recall the ancient legal maxim that justice delayed is justice denied. To delay justice to the honorable member is to deny him justice. He was a gallant soldier and is a man of the highest ethical standards. His loyalty is unquestioned. He volunteered his services to his country in two wars. He has shown his probity and honour in this House. It will be to the eternal shame of the Government if it delays for months his opportunity to clear his name. This man endured torture at the hands of the Japanese, Is he to receive mental torture at the hands of the Australian Government? Are his own colleagues in the Parliament to deny him the opportunity of refuting scurrilous reflections cast upon him? He has received communications from his commanding officer, who says-
– Order! The honorable member may not go into the details of this matter. He may protest against the delay. He has had a pretty fair “go”.
– I realize that I should not be in order in quoting the letters he has received, but they provide evidence that his commanding officer is prepared to appear before a Committee of Privileges in order to clear his name. I ask that he be given the opportunity of having his name cleared,
– I support what was said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) in opposition to the motion submitted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). I particularly endorse what was said by the honorable member for Indi, because I seconded the motion standing in his name on the notice-paper. I should be recreant to my trust as a member of this Parliament and a re>turned soldier of World War I. if I did not say something about the circumstances that gave rise to the honorable member’s motion in support of one of my colleagues who has been grossly maligned, in this House. The most precious thing a civilian can possess in our democracy is his good name. He will always resist any attempt to besmirch it. How much more would a fighting man, a gallant soldier, who was prepared to lay down his life for his country in two wars, resist attacks upon his character. My colleague, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), has been foully maligned and no opportunity is given to him-
– Order! The honorable gentleman is clearly out of order. The motion of which notice has been given by the honorable member for Indi seeks an inquiry as to whether the honorable member for the Northern Territory has been maligned. The honorable member for Wentworth is prejudging the case and debating its merits.
– I do not propose to prejudge it; but I point out that no opportunity is to be given to the House to make a decision on this matter so that the honorable member may be cleared of the base insinuations that have been levelled against him. I am also concerned about another matter which, strangely enough, reflects upon the standing of a member of this House, namely, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). You will notice, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has given notice that he will move -
That the ruling of the Speaker - that the motion proposed to he moved by Mr. Holt was not a matter of .privilege - bo disagreed with.
This also is of a highly personal character. Honorable members on this side of the House particularly find that they must protect their good name from time to time, and here we have an honorable member accused of a breach of privilege.
– Order ! That is noi the question at stake at all.
– That is not the question upon which the motion of dissent is based.
– No, sir, but your ruling with regard to the question of privilege would ‘be under discussion if this motion were permitted to proceed. If matters of a personal nature are stood over in this House so that we have no opportunity to resolve them, then that is a gross reflection upon the members of this House who are denied the right to stand up for their own privileges. The Prime Minister may find such motions very embarrassing to him because they are of a personal character and affect the good standing and prestige of members of this House. However, that should not deter him. Surely honorable members have privileges, and surely it is incumbent upon the right honorable gentleman to give them the opportunity to clear themselves of accusations that have been made against them. I ask the Prime Minister, notwithstanding any embarrassment to himself, to give us an opportunity to proceed with the business set out on the notice-paper.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the questionbe now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S.Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S.Rosevear.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr. Hollow ay, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
This bill extends the principal provisions of the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act 1946 to the trades in the boot, shoe, sandal and slipper manufacturing industry which were subject to the National Security (Boot Trades Dilution) Regulations. During World War II., as I explained to this House in July, 1946, when the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Bill was introduced, the Australian Government and representatives of the employers and unions, in order to meet the exceptional demand for munitions and other essential supplies, entered into agreements whereby existing trade customs and practices in the skilled engineering trades were relaxed to enable semiskilled and partly-trained workers to perform work normally performed by fully qualified tradesmen. However, it was part of these agreements that the employment rights of recognized tradesmen should not he permitted to be prejudiced through the creation of a new class of added or dilutee tradesmen, and this principle was given clear expression in the Dilution Regulations, which were subsequently made under the National Security Act.
In addition to the dilution schemes in the engineering trades, the Australian Government in June, 1942, after negotiations with representaives of employers and the Boot Trades Union, issued the National Security (Boot Trades Dilution) Regulations and thereby established a dilution scheme in the boot and shoe manufacturing industry. When the Government wa9 negotiating with the parties concerning the liquidation of these war-time dilution arrangements, the representatives of the boot and shoe manufacturing industry arranged to have further discussions concerning the future of this particular scheme, as their postwar problems arising from the operation of the National Security Regulations were not affected, as the engineering trades had been, by the trade training and experience which men had received whilst serving in the forces. Accordingly, the boot trades were not covered by the
Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act and the National Security (Boot Trades Dilution) Regulations have continued in force by virtue of the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act.
The Government has now completed discussions with . representatives of the employers and the union following representations by the union that the Government should restore normal trade practices in accordance with the dilution agreement. In making these representations, the union has agreed to the inclusion of provisions for the training and employment of suitable ex-servicemen in the boot trades, and their acceptance as recognized tradesmen upon completion of a satisfactory probationary period. I am happy to be able to inform the House that the principles which are embodied in the present measure are supported by both employers and the union representing the industry.
The bill adds to the act another pari and schedule, and makes amendments consequential thereto, so that recognized tradesmen in the boot trades shall be entitled to the same priority in employment in their trades as recognized engineering tradesmen receive in the engineering trades. That is to say, in the case of engagements, by the provision in section 43, an employer may not employ on tradesmen’s work a person other than a recognized tradesman if a competent recognized tradesman is available and offering for employment; and in the case of dismissals or retrenchments, by another provision in the same section thai a recognized tradesman shall be the last to go unless a local committee otherwise permits and subject to an employer exercising his award rights regarding summary dismissal.
The bill also provides for ex-servicemen to qualify as recognized tradesmen by a probationary period of training in employment under the supervision of a local boot trades committee. These probationary tradesmen will receive the full tradesman’s rate of pay during their probationary period. Applications by ex-servicemen for authorization of their employment as probationary tradesmen must he made, unless there are special circumstances, within six months after the date of discharge from the forces ot the same period after the coming into operation of these amendments, whichever is the later.
– Has the Returned Sailors, Soldiers- and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia been consulted, and, if so, did the organization approve this proposal ?
– I shall deal with that in committee.
– The Minister cannot Bay.
– I can. The control and overseeing of the scheme is exercised by a central and, in each State, a local boot trades committee, similar in composition and functions to the committees of union and employer representatives which administered the dilution scheme. It is proposed that the representatives who are at present members of the committees appointed under the National Security (Boot Trades Dilution) Regulations should continue as members of the committees established by the bill. As the bill arises from the Government’s desire to honour the Commonwealth’s undertakings in regard to the restoration of trade practices and customs in this industry, I commend it to the House as a measure to be accepted by all parties.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. Pollard, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide for the constitution of an Australian Egg Board to regulate and control the export of eggs and egg products from Australia. In July, 1943, responsibility for the stabilization of egg prices and control of the marketing of eggs was assumed by the Commonwealth Egg Control organization, constituted under the. National Security (Egg Industry) Regulations, and continued in force under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act 1940. When this control ceases on the 3.1st December, 1947, responsibility for mar keting of eggs will revert to State egg boards, which will be responsible for stabilizing prices and marketing the production of their own States at prices more than 50 per cent, higher than the previous highest figures which obtained under their control in 1942-43. The anticipated surplus of production in excess of local requirements is such that the Government has been impelled to encourage the establishment of an Australianwide egg marketing organization. However, the creation of such an organization is only possible if the proposal receives the support of every State government. It is now apparent that such an organization cannot be established in time to take over from the Commonwealth Egg Control organization on the 1st January, 1948. The Australian Government recently concluded a long-term contract with the Government of the United Kingdom for the purchase of Australian eggs in shell, egg pulp and egg powder for the seasons 1947-48, 1948-49 and 1949-50. The prices to be paid for those products until the 30th June, 1949, have been agreed upon, but those for 1949-50 are to be discussed in January, 1949. To assist in the orderly marketing of the anticipated surplus, and to ensure that the conditions of the longterm contract are fulfilled, the Government has decided to establish an Australian Egg Board, which will supervise the disposal of that portion of surplus production which is of suitable quality for export.
Clause 13(e) of the bill empowers the proposed board to buy and sell on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, eggs and egg products intended for export which comply with the provisions of the Export (Dairy Produce) Regulations. In addition, the board is authorized to deal with all matters relating to the export of eggs and egg products from Australia, to make such experiments as are likely to lead to the improvement of the quality of Australian eggs, and to promote their sale overseas. The export, and distribution after export, of Australian eggs will be controlled by the board which will issue a licence to any person desiring to export eggs from Australia. The licence will be issued subject to such conditions and restrictions as are prescribed.
The bill provides for the establishment of a board of ten members, who will represent the following interests: - Egg producers of Australia, one from each State, 6; persons with commercial experience, 2; employees engaged in the handling, grading and processing of eggs, 1; Australian Government representative, 1; total, 10. The egg producers who will be represented by six members on the board of ten will have a definite majority.
Provision is made for the election of representatives of producers, but time may not permit of the members of the first board being elected. For that reason provision is made in the bill for the selection of members after consultation with representatives of producers’ organizations. Members are assured, however, that wherever possible elections will be held.
During the operation of the long-term contract for the export of eggs and egg products, the board will handle each year Government finance of from £4,000,000 to £6,000,000 and for that reason the Government considers that it should have the right to appoint the chairman.
The bill gives the person presiding at a meeting the right to dissent from any decision of the board. This is necessary because of the Government’s financial interest in the conduct of the board’s operations. It is essential that the chairm an should have the right to bring to the Minister’s notice immediately any resolution which he thinks may affect the Government’s policy or its finances.
The remaining clauses of the bill are purely machinery in character, and their inclusion is necessary to give effect to the major clauses, to which reference has already been made.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 30th October (vide page 1500), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Members of the Opposition offer no objection to the bill, because we agree that it is necessary to remove certain anomalies in the present act. The provisions of the bill are, in the main, of a machinery character, and are designed to “ clear the decks “ for adjustment of the present tariff schedules in conformity with decisions reached at the International Conference on Trade and Employment. For that reason the Opposition welcomes the introduction of the bill and offers no objection to its passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 30th October (vide page 1500), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is complementary to the Customs Bill 1947, which has just been passed. Members of the Opposition do not intend to oppose it, but I should like an assurance from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) that wheat exported from Australia to New Zealand will not he re-exported to Australia in the form of flour.
– I can assure the honorable member that that will not happen.
– I am glad to have the Minister’s assurance. The Opposition offers no objection to the passage of the bill.
– Before making my remarks on the bill, I think that something should be done regarding the microphone placed between myself and Mr. Speaker. That instrument often prevents us seeing each other.
– I do not think the honorable member is so thin that . I cannot see him !
– I should like anything that comes between us removed. The honorable member for
Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) mentioned a most important matter when he referred ro the re-export from New Zealand to Australia of goods shipped from this country. I have had a look at the hill, and also have before me the act of 1924. The Minister is reaching the stage when he ought to explain some of the things which he has not attempted to explain in answer to questions that have been asked by members of the Opposition, in regard to the position of the Australian wheat industry and the re-exports of wheat in manufactured form by the Dominion of New Zealand. If the Minister will undertake to give those explanations, preferably now, or if not immediately at some future stage in the proceedings, I shall be quite happy to resume my seat. But I put it to him that an explanation is long overdue, particularly as we have information of a reduction of the price of bread in New Zealand, accompanied by an increase of its price in Australia. The matter takes :i little piecing together. I have never token on the task of solving a jigsaw puzzle. The Minister must be fairly proficient in that respect, otherwise he would not have “ got away “ with the wheat contract with New Zealand for as long as he has. If he will give US the information that we seek, I shall be deeply indebted to him, and every wheatgrower and flour user in Australia will share in my appreciation.
– in reply - The honorable member knows that I cannot, under the Standing Orders, furnish any information on the subject of the sale of Australian wheat to New Zealand. This bill simply deals with duty on goods not the produce of New Zealand. Naturally, I cannot undertake to engage in a debate as to whether wheat or wheat products sent from Australia to New Zealand are likely to be re-exported. Not by the wildest stretch of the imagination could it be conceived that New Zealand, having imported Australian wheat, would re-export it to Australia in either its natural or in a manufactured 9tate. I am su re that the honorable member will agree with me in that respect. A debate on the wheat contract with New Zealand, the price at which New Zealand received Australian wheat, or any allied subject, could not be brought within the ambit of the provisions of this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Will the Minister tell vis exactly what is meant by paragraphs a. b, c, d. and e of clause 3, which proposes to add and to omit the word “ and “, and to omit certain paragraphs, from sub-sections 1 and 4 of section 3 of the act. The act has been in operation since 1924, a matter of 23 years, yet up to now, apparently, it has functioned very well in its present form. The honorable gentleman very carefully evaded a direct explanation of a question that I put to him a little while ago. Now that we are in committee, he should be able to give us the fullest information as to the reason for the proposed amendments of the act.
– The amendments provide for the abolition of the statutory duty of 10 per cent.
.- I should like to know the type of goods which it is suggested might come within the category listed. We are at a disadvantage in studying the bill, because no information has been given as to what is meant by the proposed amendments. We have become somewhat accustomed in this chamber to matters being not altogether what they seem to be. We have noticed in certain legislation that is before the Parliament at the present time that certain definitions have been taken, which are not the definitions accepted by those who originally saw that particular measure. The Minister has told us that wheat will not come within that category.
– I have said that it is unlikely.
– We know that New Zealand is getting our wheat at 5s. 9d. a bushel, and that the world value of that wheat is about 17s. a bushel.
– It is 18s. 6d. a bushel.
– I am corrected by my wheat-growing friend. Therefore,
New Zealand is buying our wheat at about 12s. a bushel below world value. According to the budget estimate for this financial year, that will cause a loss to the Australian taxpayer of £2,000,000, and will represent a subsidy of that amount to the New Zealand Government and consumer on wheat grown in Australia. Under this measure the New Zealand- Government might, under given conditions, re-export certain goods which it has obtained from Australia. Wheat is the commodity which we are sending in largest quantity to New Zealand, at a loss to the Australian taxpayer of £2,000,000 in this financial year, under the terms of a contract that was entered into by either the Minister or his predecessor, a contract that was frequently denied, but was subsequently admitted when the matter was pressed. That is really a gift from the Australian taxpayer to the New Zealand Government. It has been suggested that there are certain precautionary provisions. Wheat is worth in Australia to-day very much more than the 5s. 9d. a bushel which the New Zealand Government is paying for it. I do not know who buys Australian wheat in New Zealand. The Minister might tell us. Is it the New Zealand Government; and, if it is, what does that Government do with it? It does not, of its own accord, process it into flour and bread, but must sell it to various millers and manufacturers throughout the country. What is there to prevent any of those manufacturers who receive from the New Zealand Government cheap Australian wheat, from re-exporting it to somebody in Australia, and making a profit of about 12s. a bushel, less the cost of transport each way? At what price is the New Zealand Government selling Australian wheat to the New Zealand miller? If it is selling to the miller Australian wheat which it has bought at 5s. 9d. a bushel, what authority can it exercise to prevent the re-export of that wheat? Those are questions that we are entitled to have answered. In the matter of the sale of Australian wheat to New Zealand, we have had a series of denials by the Minister and his predecessor of any contract having been entered into, and there were no disclosures in this Parliament until those gentlemen were pressed by
Ifr. Anthony. the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) into making certain admissions. I remind the committee that those disclosures came about only as the result of a member of the New Zealand Cabinet having given certain information to the New Zealand Parliament in regard to the terms of the contract with Australia. Up to that time, we who sit in the Australian Parliament did not know anything about the matter. I am certain that it was intended that the Australian wheat-grower should be the loser as the result of the contract having been made at a price which is now about 12s. a bushel below world value.
– That is a deliberate misstatement, and the honorable member knows it.
– It is not a misstatement. The facts prove it to be correct. I challenge the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) to state the facts before an impartial judge.
– I shall produce the facts.
– I am confident that it was the intention of the Australian Government to involve the Australian wheat-growers in a heavy loss.
– That is a deliberate lie.
– As “ soon as the nefarious scheme was brought to light, the Government said that the wheat-growers of Australia would not lose. What has happened i3 that the loss will be borne by the Australian taxpayers. The budget papers which were before us a few weeks ago showed that a loss of £2,000,000 was expected in this financial year as the result of that deal in wheat, which was negotiated under cover by the present Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) and/or his predecessor.
– What has this to do with the bill now before the Chair?
– The bill provides an opportunity for speculators in New Zealand who are able to get Australian wheat at a low price to re-export it to Australia at a profit. What safeguards are provided against that kind of thing happening? The Minister at the table says that he cannot conceive of any circumstances arising which would render it likely that Australian wheat would be re-exported from New Zealand to Australia, but what is more likely than that New Zealand millers, who can buy wheat at 12s. a bushel less than the world price, should re-export it at a profit? I want to know what safeguards are provided against such things happening. I am not satisfied with the hill without an explanation. My experience of the lack of candour on the part of Ministers of the present Government does not justify full confidence in them.
– Unfortunately, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and a few other honorable members opposite have a flair for attributing to other honorable members statements which they have not made. The honorable member for Richmond said that I denied that there was a contract for the sale of wheat to New Zealand. I did deny it, because at the time of my denial no contract had been entered into. And so I fling his accusation of lying back in his teeth. The honorable member has resorted to misrepresentation on a number of occasions, but never has he indulged in greater misrepresentation that he has to-day. There is no foundation in fact for his statement. This is a bill designed for no other purpose than to adjust the method by which ad valorem tariff duties are imposed on products which may be re-exported from New Zealand to Australia. The bill does not alter the incidence of tariff duties, but only the method by which they are calculated. For the information of honorable members who have taken this opportunity to discuss an agreement about wheat, I point out that there are no ad valorem duties on wheat.
.- Other goods and commodities besides wheat are affected by this bill. Not long ago clothing made in New Zealand from Australian-made piece goods, which were exported to New Zealand at a time when such goods were in short supply in Australia, were brought here from New Zealand. Suits made in New Zealand of Australian piece goods costing £3 a suit length were re-exported to Australia and sold to- Australians at £26 a suit. I am convinced that the majority of the people of Australia would not object to the export of goods required by New Zealand, but they would strongly object to their re-export to Australia under those conditions. “We on this side are concerned that this bill may provide an opportunity for a repetition of such happenings, and enable certain people to make profits to which they are not entitled. Although the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) may see fit to say that at a certain time there was no agreement for the sale of wheat to New Zealand, he cannot even convince himself that an agreement did not exist. The fact is that wheat waa sold to New Zealand at 5s. 9d. a bushel before it was admitted that an agreement had been entered into.
– That is not so.’
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) knows that the statement made in the New Zealand Parliament by a Minister was not without foundation. It may be that. the agreement had not been signed, sealed and delivered when its existence was denied, but the Minister cannot deny that a member of the New Zealand Government said that if the Labour party were returned to power in that dominion the people would be able to have a cheap loaf for four years, whereas, if the Government were defeated, they would probably have to pay as much as ls. 9d. for a 4 lb. loaf. Whether or not the agreement had actually been signed matters little, when the fact is that the agreement had been entered into many months earlier. Wheat is not the only commodity that can be re-exported to Australia. The bill constitutes a danger to Australian interests.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker)
T4.28].- Section 3 of the New Zealand Re-exports Act 1924 deals with classes of goods which since the date of their exportation to New Zealand have increased in value in the country from which they were exported. That certainly is the position in connexion with wheat. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) can clarify the situation once and for all if he will table a copy of the agreement entered into with the New Zealand Government in respect of -wheat. Although he may say that there was no agreement there was at least an arrangement; and it was of such a hard and fast nature that the Australian taxpayers will he called upon to part with £2,000,000 this year. We ought to have clear and specific information from the Minister as to the terms of the arrangement. Were those terms set out in writing, or were they part of an arrangement similar to that which might have existed between the Australian Government and the Government of Victoria in connexion with the recent election campaign in that State?
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– I could understand an arrangement of that nature not being set out in writing, but when the Australian taxpayer is asked to part with several millions of pounds we are entitled to know the full meaning of this bill, and also what fluctuations have taken place in the price of bread in New Zealand since Australian wheat was sold at a low price to the Government of that dominion. We are also entitled to know the comparative rates paid by New Zealand stock-breeders for Australian wheat ‘used to feed their animals.
– What about flour ?
– I have been told that 1,500 tons of New Zealand flour passed through Sydney recently consigned to Manilla, and it is pretty certain that that flour was made from Australian wheat. Honorable members should demand from the Government an explanation of the .agreement with the New Zealand Government for the sale of wheat, and if this Government had any sense of responsibility it would allow the leaders of the Opposition parties to see the agreement, if it has been reduced to writing. Then the leaders could inform the members of their parties regarding its contents. However, if the agreement is one of those friendly family arrangements - which generally end up with somebody paying somebody else - we should be informed just what kind of an arrangement it is. At any rate, it must be a pretty binding arrangement when the
Minister for Commerce and Agriculture asks for a few million pounds to be appropriated in the terms of that arrangement. This debate should not be allowed to terminate until the Government supplies honorable members with the information which they seek. There is a record wheat crop in sight this season, and bow are we to know, as representatives of wheat-growing districts, whether the Government proposes to commit the country to some other agreement for the sale of wheat overseas ? I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who generally expresses his opinion with considerable vigour, whether it be right or wrong, to supply the information asked for.
Mr. ABBOTT (New England) [4.33J. - The agreement with the Government of New Zealand for the sale of wheat to that country was apparently reached after an exchange of letters and telegrams, and the terms of the agreement have never been disclosed to the wheatgrowers, to the Parliament, or to tinpeople. The first inkling that we had of the existence of the agreement was when certain statements were made on the subject in the New Zealand Parliament.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member is out of order. This bill deals with the fixing of a<! valorem duties, and the adjustment of such duties. Wheat is not subject tn duties of that kind, and, therefore, it doe? not come within the scope of the measure.
– According to the bill, this legislation may be cited as the New Zealand Re-export Act 1947, and in it reference is made to the New Zealand Re-export Act 1924. I assume that the word “ re-export “ means exactly what it says.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member has been ruled out of order. He must not defy the Chair.
– Then I shall open up another subject with which you, sir, must be familiar, namely, the export of cloth to New Zealand at a time when the people of Australia are unable to get suit lengths for their own use. Many hundreds of thousands of yards of cloth have been exported to New Zealand, to the disadvantage of the people of Australia, including ex-servicemen. I, myself, have been attempting for weeks past to get a suit length for a suit of clothes so that I might go about without a patch on my pants.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.What is the connexion between that and the bill?
– It is connected with the export of cloth from Australia to New Zealand, and the manufacture of that cloth into suits in New Zealand, and their re-export to Australia, where they are subject to an ad valorem duty. If cloth manufactured in Australia is sold in New Zealand, the effect is to deprive Australian tailors of work - and I am not interested only in the tailors of Tooley-street ; I am also concerned for the welfare and prosperity of tailors in Australia, and I believe that we should make cloth available to them so that they may make suits for the people. It tends to raise the price of clothing in Australia when cloth is sent from here to New Zealand, made up there into suits, and then re-exported to Australia. The result is that one has to pay us much as £26 for a suit of clothes. No doubt, there are other items, also, which, are re-exported to Australia, and on which high duties have to be paid. For instance, I understand that wheat is exported from Australia to New Zealand, where it is made up into breakfast foods, dog biscuits, &c, and sent back here.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member has been ruled out of order on that point. Wheat is not covered by the bill.
– Well, let us get back to clothing, because, after all, man does not live by bread alone. It is most unfortunate that the people of Australia should not be able to get clothing at a reasonable price. I suggest that the bill be withdrawn, and the whole of the schedule examined with a view to reducing the duty on suits coming into Australia. I also suggest that suit lengths should not be exported from Australia for the benefit of tailors in New Zealand, while Australian tailors are idle for lack of cloth.
.- This bill is complementary to another measure, and makes certain consequential amendments, but it is appropriate that certain tilings should be said while the bill is under consideration, because debates on customs matters are now rare. I wish to refer, in particular, to woollen textiles. I have asked many questions in this House, some on notice and some without notice, seeking to find out the quantity of textiles exported from Australia. While I believe in the development of international trade, it should not be carried on to the detriment of our own people. I was amazed to be inf ormed, in answer to a question, that such a huge quantity of cloth had been sent to Russia, and that New Zealand came next on the list. While it is desirable that we should trade with New Zealand as much as possible, it should be remembered that our trade balance with that country has always been favorable. In fact, the New Zealand authorities have asked us to buy more from New Zealand. Apparently, however, in accordance with the policy which has dotted the world with Australian trade commissioners, we are virtually forcing our goods upon New Zealand. Naturally, the trade commissioners want to show good figures. I believe that we have been over-generous in the granting of export permits. It is impossible to obtain a suit of clothes in Melbourne within six months of the time of ordering it.
– The subject which the honorable member is discussing is outside the scope of the bill.
– The bill has to do with ad valorem duties.
– I have examined the 1924 act, which this bill proposes toamend, and find that it deals only with the method of fixing ad valorem duties. Therefore, the honorable member must confine his remarks to the method of fixing such duties.
– Honorable members are at a disadvantage in discussing tariff matters, because the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) is a member of the Senate, and discussions o,f this kind must place his representative in this chamber, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), at a great disadvantage in handling the many matters of technical character that arise. Honorable members are obliged to go through a somewhat tortuous process in order to place their views before the Minister for Trade and Customs. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to discuss the suggestion I have made with his colleague in order to ensure that the home market shall not be starved as the result of the Government’s anxiety to increase our export trade.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
The bill is to approve the supplementary sugar agreement made on the 17th October last between the Australian Government and the Government of Queensland. Under this agreement the Australian and Queensland Governments agree to amend the existing sugar agreement to provide for an increase of £4 2s. 8d. a ton in the wholesale price of refined sugar of 1A grade, and for the prices of sugars of other grades as at present fixed under the Sugar Agreement Act 1946 to be increased commensurately. The new maximum prices compared with the existing prices will be as follows: -
The effect of the increase of £4 2s. 8d. a ton on the wholesale price will be to raise the retail price of refined sugar by £4 13s. 4d. a ton, that is, by £d. per lb. The new retail price in capital cities will therefore be 4£d. instead of 4d. per lb. The remaining clauses of the present sugar agreement will remain intact. The only purpose of the supplementary agreement is to increase the prices set out in clause 5 of the existing agreement. The decision by the Government to recommend to the Parliament the amendment of the existing sugar agreement to provide for the increased prices was made after consultation with the Queensland Government, which had requested the price increases on behalf of the sugar industry, and after a close survey of the present position and future prospects of the sugar industry. When the present agreement with the Queensland Government was signed in October, 1945, the Commonwealth Government gave an assurance to the sugar industry that, if during the currency of the agreement cost levels in Australia increased substantially, it would be prepared, on representations from the Queensland Government, to give consideration to instituting an inquiry into the industry’s position in relation thereto. However, the Government has been increasingly aware of the difficulties the industry has had to face during the war years and since, and is now convinced that because of the urgent nature of the industry’s need for assistance immediate action to provide a stimulus to the industry is necessary.
Australia, in pre-war years, was one of the major sugar exporting countries of the world, its export quota of 400,000 tons under the international sugar agreement being exceeded only by Cuba, the Netherlands, the Philippines and the British Colonial Empire. Australian production was then about 800,000 tons per annum. However, owing to unavoidable circumstances brought about by the war, production fell considerably during the last seven years. In 1943 the total output fell to 523,000 tons, which was the lowest since 1927. Production since 1943 has also been well below normal. Last year the crop yielded only 548,000 tons and this season’s yield will be about 575,000 tons, which is still 225,000 tons below the pre-war average. As a consequence exports fell consider ably. It is essential that the total production be restored to its pre-war level as quickly as possible, not only in order that we may export as great a quantity as possible to the United Kingdom to meet that country’s present needs, but so that we may at least maintain our export quota when the international sugar agreement is being reviewed.
The sugar industry in recent years has suffered not only from a serious fall in production but also in a number of other directions. The net return from sales of sugar on the domestic market has always been recognized as the major stabilizing factor in the industry’s economy owing to increased costs of transport jute sacks, refining and selling, the net return available for distribution by the Queensland Sugar Board to growers and millers from sugar consumed in Australia has declined from £24 a ton in 1939 to £21 18s. a ton in 1946. The Premier of Queensland has estimated that if the price of sugar is not increased the return to the industry for the 1947 season’s crop would be lower again. In addition to the higher costs borne by the industry on sugar after it has been milled, growers and millers have also had to meet much higher production costs on the sugar during the growing, harvesting and milling stages. Labour costs are a big item in production of sugar and an indication of how these have increased may be given by a comparison of the wages of representative employees. For instance, the wages of field workers employed on cane farms increased by 43 per cent between 1932 and July, 1947, over the same period the wages of mill hands increased by 48 per cent. Wages are now higher than in 1.930, when the retail price of sugar was 4½d. per lb. Prices of materials used by both farmers and millers have also risen sharply. The cost of farm materials, including fertilizers, horse feed, oils and repairs have risen by approximately 40 pei* cent. Mill materials have risen by varying amounts, the principal items, coal and firewood, having varied by over SO per cent, and 33 per cent, respectively. Prior to the war the Australian sugar industry was amongst the most efficient in the world, and the industry was justifiably proud of its high productive efficiency, with high yields of cane and sugar per acre. Under war-time conditions, however, the efficiency of the industry declined owing to factors beyond its control, such as shortages of man-power, fertilizers, materials and shipping. The result of this was the lengthening of the crushing season, deterioration of sugar due to long delays in milling and transport of sugar to refineries and reduced yield of sugar per acre. The average tonnage of cane per acre fell from an average of 21 tons in 1936-38 to 16 tons in 1947. The sugar industry is highly mechanized. In the cultivation, harvesting and milling of the cane the machinery is heavy and complex and represents a large portion of the final cost. For the past six or seven years the industry has been required to “ mend and make do “. Replacement and repairs have now to be undertaken at greatly increased costs. The industry, having strained its resources in the past, cannot now find from current profits the increased costs demanded. The combined effect of all the factors I have mentioned has been to increase the industry’s overall costs by between 40 per cent, and 50 per cent. These have had to be carried notwithstanding a fall of £2 2s. a ton in the net return from home-consumption sales. Admittedly, export prices have risen, but this has been of little benefit to the industry because of the substantial decline in the quantity of sugar exported. The industry cannot be expected to carry on under these difficulties without compensation.
The increase of £4* 13s. 4d. a ton in the retail price of sugar will enable the industry to bear these increased costs and will facilitate its rehabilitation. It will encourage a return to pre-war production levels. Although the retail price of sugar will be increased by £4 13s. 4d. a ton, the growers and millers will not benefit to that extent. Out of this amount an additional 10s. 8d. a ton will be paid to retail grocers, and an additional ls. 8d. a ton will go to sugar wholesalers. These increases are proportional to the margins already received by retailers and wholesalers. In addition, the sugar industry will no longer receive the benefit of the subsidy of 10s. a ton allowed on coastal freights. This subsidy will be withdrawn as from the date of operation of the new prices.
The effect of these reductions will be to lower the amount payable to growers and millers out of the increase of £4 13s. 4d. a ton to £311s. a ton of refined sugar. The actual return to the industry, however, would be in terms of raw sugar produced. Conversion to a raw sugar basis would reduce the net return to approximately £3 7s. a ton. However, in order to arrive at the net return to the industry for future production, it would be also necessary to take into account further increases in costs. It is calculated that the price increase will raise the net return to growers and millers from homeconsumption sugars of the 1947 crop by approximately £3 a ton of raw sugar. I might mention that not one penny of the extra moneys resulting from the increase in price will accrue to refiners, the object of the increases being primarily to raise the returns to growers and millers of sugar. The amount of assistance to the fruit industry will not be altered. The new price of sugar to manufacturers will still be amongst the lowest, if it is not the lowest, in the world. The price to manufacturers in New Zealand is £53 a. ton; in the United States of America the lowest price is £51 10s. a ton ; and in the United Kingdom it is £60 a ton.
During the war, Australian manufacturers of products containing sugar have been immune from the violent fluctuations in sugar prices overseas. In many countries the prices of sugar rose to fantastic heights, and in some countries these prices still prevail. Exporters of manufactured products will continue to be protected by paragraphs in the agreement providing for the payment of export sugar rebates in the event of the world parity price of sugar falling below the equivalent Australian price. Australian consumers have also received the benefit of retail prices, which have been amongst the lowest in the world, and which have remained constant at their present level since the reduction of½d. per lb. was made in January, 1933, in accordance with the principles of the Premiers Plan. The new retail price of 4½d. per lb. will still be generally lower than that in any other country. The prices in certain other countries, expressed in Australian currency, are as follows: -
From the foregoing honorable members will notice that it is obvious that Australian consumers of sugar are in a much more advantageous position than in other countries. Further, Australian consumers have not only been supplied with sugar from local sources when it would have been impossible to have obtained supplies from other countries, but they have also been safeguarded against the very high world prices which existed during the war and still obtain. The measure of assistance now proposed is fully justified and will assist in rehabilitating the industry to its former level, and will maintain for Australia a virile white population in the vulnerable coastal areas of North Queensland. It is unnecessary for me to reiterate at any length the immense strategic value of the industry in that part of Australia. The events in the last war proved that very clearly. I commend the bill as one worthy of support.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Declaration of Urgency.
Mr. OHIFLEY (Macquarie- Prime
Minister and Treasurer). - I declare that the Banking Bill 1947 is an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the bill be considered an urgent bill.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . , . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed - That the time allotted in connexion with the bill he as follows: -
For the committee stage -
PartsI., II. and III., until 9.30 p.m. this day.
Part IV., until 9.30 p.m. on Thursday, 13th November.
Part V., until 1 p.m. on Friday, 14th November.
Parts VI. and VII., until 11 p.m. on Tuesday, 18th November.
Part VIII., until 4 p.m.on
Wednesday, 19th November.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong- Leader of last, it has been quite clear that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) would have to choose between two courses - one to bow to public opinion, which would be the democratic course, and the other to face up to the implications of last Saturday’s events, and hurry on with the bill and get it over in the expectation that the sooner it is over the sooner somebody may forget about it. The right honorable gentleman has chosen the second course. The time schedule now before the House covers a total period of approximately 24 hours. In other words, we have approximately 25 minutes in which to discuss each of the 61 clauses in this most important hill. In spite of some expressions that I have heard from the other side of the chamber, that provision is grossly inadequate. The Prime Minister himself will be the first to realize that this is an extremely complicated measure, and that it is not possible in a second-reading debate on a matter of this magnitude to go into the details of the bill itself. The committee stage, therefore, is the first and only opportunity that we shall have to do that. In these circumstances, the time that has been allowed is grossly insufficient.
I also point out to the Prime Minister that this business of applying the “ guillotine “ to debates could, if we were to follow our existing practice, produce some curious results. The “ guillotine “ Standing Orders refer always to the allotment of time for items in the Estimates, for a second-reading debate on a bill, for the committee stage, and so on, and they explain what is to happen at the expiration of the allotted time. I should have thought that the intention was that the time allowed for consideration of an item should be fixed, not as a period expiring at a certain hour, but as a total number of hours, so that if it were intended that the committee should have six hours in which to discuss a certain group of clauses, then six hours should be the time indicated. I realize that there has been some variation of the practice on this matter,but I point out to the Prime Minister that if the time limitation is to beas in the motion now under discussion, namely, a period expiring in the case of the first group of parts of the bill at 9.30 p.m. to-day, and in the case of the second group at 9.30 p.m. to-morrow, then the Government may completely frustrate that proposal by intervening with other legislation, consideration of which will eat into the time allowed, so that the “guillotine” may ultimately fall after little consideration has been given to the business in hand.
.- The motion provides that the discussion of parts one, two and three of the measure shall conclude at 9.30 p.m. These parts contain eight clauses, and it is in this section of the measure that I wish to move two amendments that I foreshadowed some time ago. I should like to know whether the eight clauses may be discussed together, thus giving mc an opportunity to move my amendments; otherwise, discussion of prior amendments may occupy the full time allotted for the consideration of the eight clauses, thus debarring nic from moving my amendments.
– -I have great difficulty in satisfying the furiosity of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), which is based no doubt, on sound grounds. However, the honorable member will realize, from his knowledge of parliamentary practice, (hat the Chair Las no knowledge of what happens in committee.
– This is the only chance that Ave shall have to discuss it.
– The House has the “ guillotine “ in its hands, and it is far the House to decide whether or not this schedule is adequate. Should the schedule he adopted, the House will go into committee, when proceedings will be in the hands of the Chairman of Committees and, of course, by time honoured precedent, the Chair has no knowledge of what happens in committee. The committee is responsible for its own actions, and 1 think that the right time to discuss the matter the honorable member for Reid has raised is when the committee stage if= reached.
– I oppose the motion. After one of the most searching and prolonged second-reading debates for many years, honorable members are asked to consider the 61 clauses of the bill in the totally inadequate time of about 24 hours. W<shall have only about 2i hours to consider Parts I., II. and III., which contain the eight basic clauses. That time is also totally inadequate. The timetable has been decided upon by the Government because it considers the measure urgent. The Opposition, and, I consider, the majority of the people of Australia, certainly of Victoria, believe that it is not urgent. It is a revolutionary measure that the people of Australia have not been allowed the opportunity of deciding whether they want or not.
– The measure is being forced upon them.
– Order ! The question is whether the time schedule is adequate, not whether the people think there should be a referendum or anything else.
– Yes. The time provided is inadequate and badly allotted. The Australian Country party agrees wholeheartedly with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that a measure of the importance the Government claims for this ought not to be considered in the brief period proposed.
Mi-. HOLT (Fawkner) [5.12].- You have pointed out, Mr. Speaker, that although the Prime Minister, without giving any reason, has declared this bill urgent, we cannot debate whether it is or not, and I do not propose to do so.
– Order ! Quite clearly I did not point out anything of the kind. All I said was that the only debate could be on the adequacy or otherwise of the time proposed to be allotted.
– That is so. Although we have been told that the measure is urgent, we have not been told why the Prime Minister considers the time he proposes to allot for its remaining stages is adequate for a searching examination of the bill. Seventy-one honorable members spoke almost invariably for the 45 minutes allowed by the Standing Orders on the motion for the second reading of the bill. The Prime Minister spoke at length in moving the second reading and closing the debate. So about 60 hours must have been occupied in the second-reading debate. Yet only 24 hours are to be allotted for the committee and the concluding stages. It cannot be claimed that honorable members on this side abused their rights during the second -read ing debate. Government members took their full time. Every honorable member who thought he had something to contribute to the second-reading debate may also desire to contribute to the committee discussion. There are 61 clauses. So each honorable member will have only about twenty minutes to debate all or any of the clauses. What justification does the Government claim for the proposed allotment of time? We have not been given any special reason why the bill is so urgent. No financial or national crisis makes imperative the passage of the bill in the time proposed. The time schedule, is the latest example of the Government’s contempt of the Parliament’s right to a full discussion of important matters. It is time that the Parliament and the public realized the depths into which the institution is being plunged by the Government.
.- The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) always uses occasions like, thi? to cast aspersions of undemocratic sentiments on the Government, but if he pursues this line he can claim little regard for democracy and none for constitutional- practice. He has had our respect, but the line he has taken recently and things he has sought to defend place him in grave danger of losing it. Because the bill is urgent the time for its consideration is to be limited. The “ guillotine “ is not new. It has been applied and accepted through the years. Even honorable members opposite have told me that it is the most democratic way of ensuring the reasonably speedy passage of legislation. When the “guillotine” has been applied before honorable members opposite have indulged in endless and tiresome repetition. The time proposed to be allotted is reasonable. If the Opposition parties organize their speakers and confine themselves to the essentials, they will find the time adequate. Democracy is endangered by the paltry approach of the honorable member for Fawkner for the sake of party advantage.
– In spite of the unctuous sermon of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke), the only name for this motion is “ the gag “. It will prevent the Opposition from voicing its opinions of the details of the bill. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has lip-served the traditions of the Parliament. He has proclaimed and will proclaim that he gave ample time during the second-reading debate for honorable members to express themselves. But what is a secondreading debate other than an opportunity for honorable members to talk in general terms about a measure? In committee they analyse it clause by clause. Yet “the gag” is to be applied to our consideration of the remaining stages of this bill. We are becoming accustomed to the application of the “gag” by this Government, and particularly by this Prime Minister. He adjusts it with very pleasant words, and with a nice smile on his face; but, nevertheless, it is as effective as though it had been forced upon us with a bludgeon. 1 want to show exactly what this motion means. There ure 61 clauses in the bill. the most momentous measure ever presented to this or to any other Australian parliament. The Leader of the Opposition has shown that only 24 hours of discussion will be allotted to the 61 clauses. There are 75 members of this House. The allotment of time will give 25 minutes for the discussion of each clause, or less than half a minute for each member.
– Yes, perhaps ! On previous occasions, when the “ gag “ has been applied, Ministers have risen and stone-walled, using time that might otherwise have been availed of by Opposition members. There is a clause in the bill dealing with employees of the private hanks. We shall have half a minute per member to discuss that! There is a clause providing for the establishment of a Federal Court of Claims, which, in essence, represents a departure from the principle of the High Court.’ We shall be allowed half a minute per member for that! To put the matter in another way, with only 25 minutes allowed, on the average, for each clause, one member on each side of the House will be able to make part of a speech on each clause. That is the kind of democracy that we have under this Government. The Prime Minister discounts any suggestion that he is a dictator wielding totalitarian power. I have looked at the records of the Nazi party, but I cannot recall anything done by the leader of that organization which exceeded the deeds of this Government in the suppression of the voice of Parliament.
– Look at the records of the Bruce-Page Government, the Lyons Government, and the Menzies Government.
– Did any enactment of the Bruce-Page Government or of any other government in Australia have the significance of this measure? The people have demonstrated their views on this subject very forcefully. Over the recent week-end, even the Prime Minister, in spite of his implacable attitude, must have been impressed by the force of public opinion on this issue. As a member of the Opposition, I can only voice my protest. That is all that we on this side of the House can do under the Constitution.
The time has arrived when there must be a protest, not only in this House, but also outside the Parliament.
.- It is always amusing, when the “ gag “ or the “ guillotine “ is applied, to see Opposition members make use of the incident for propaganda purposes, and, taking advantage of the fact that proceedings of the Parliament are now broadcast, to suggest that such things were never done before. There was one famous occasion, as I have seen in Hansard, when the “ gag “ was applied 89 times in one day by honorable members opposite when they were in power. The proposed allotment of time, which provides for discussion of the Banking Bill to expire on the 19th November, is adequate when one considers how thoroughly the issues of the measure have been canvassed over the last two or three weeks. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) asserted that during the second-reading debate honorable members could discuss only general principles, not the clauses of the bill. Of course, that was completely untrue ! It is perfectly true that windy generalization was a characteristic of Opposi tion speeches, and that there was no analysis of the bill except by a very few members, such as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who dealt with many clauses. However, because the Opposition has been mainly concerned with the Victorian elections for the last two weeks and has, therefore, raised bogus issues, it has no right to say that adequate time has not been provided for discussion of the measure. The clauses of the bill will be analysed by honorable members according to their interests. Therefore it is absurd to suggest, as the honorable member for Richmond did, that every honorable member is likely to discuss every clause so that the allotment of time will work out at an allowance of half a minute for each honorable member on each clause. I have no doubt that, with the usual false emphasis which the press gives, that absurd statement will be recorded as a very striking truth. Usually, only two or three honorable members speak on any particular clause, and, therefore, the “guillotine”, which will allow this bill to be discussed from the 12th November to the 19th November, is adequate. By the standards applied to many measures which honorable members opposite introduced when they were in power, it is even generous.
.- If there is one thing that characterizes the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) above all things, it is his selfsatisfaction. He sits down with great pleasure in himself and smiles benignly, having convinced himself that the Government’s procedure is democratic. He believes that the meagre allotment of time proposed for the discussion of the most revolutionary bill brought before this Parliament is adequate. The honorable member talked about broadcasting. I hope that his voice was heard in Perth, because the electors there will not be able to hear him much longer. The allotment of time proposed is quite inadequate. The fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) pursues his dictatorial course shows his obtuseness. The time available for discussion of the bill in committee will be even shorter than was indicated by the right honorable gentleman. The Chairman of Committees will recall that, when the Estimates for 1947- 4S were being discussed, although there was an allotment of time for each item, and although millions of pounds of the taxpayers’ money was involved, votes for entire departments were whisked through the committee without a word of discussion because Ministers rose at various times and spoke for an hour on end.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to whether the time proposed for the discussion of the Banking Bill in committee is adequate.
– Although you will not be in the Chair when the bill is being discussed in committee, Mr. Speaker, you may perhaps be able to enlighten honor.able members, and myself particularly, us to whether the ruling given by the Chairman of Committees during discussion of the Estimates that a Minister may speak for as long as he wishes to do so in committee, is correct. If so, the proposed allotment of time is more than a “ guillotine “, and we might as well say that this is no longer a” deliberative assembly, but is a mere “ talking shop “ in which futile “ f fuhrers “ may have their dictatorial way.
– The honorable member himself holds the record for moving the “gag”.
– The Prime Minister rarely pays me a compliment. 1 remind him that the occasion to which he refers was the debate on the Ottawa Agreement, which lasted in this Parliament for almost a year, during which whole items of the tariff were debated. I took action to expedite the discussion only when certain of his friends, then in the left of his party, were completely obstructive on trifling items of tariff. As the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has said, there has never been an enactment of such significance as the Banking Bill debated by this Parliament. The Prime Minister, declaring that the people are just shouting for this kind of socialization and defying the democratic waves in Victoria, has ordered the tide to turn back. Therefore, the tide must turn back in the next few hours. He proposes to allow us only a few hours in which to discuss a matter that concerns the destiny of every citizen in Australia. He is condemned by his own action. What is the urgency in this matter? Was the right honorable gentleman so scared by events in Victoria that he feels that he must hasten and have this measure discussed quickly in the hope that the people will forget it? They will not forget. The Prime Minister may cut it as short as he likes ; hut the people will remember this infamy, and shortly, he and his Government will be sent packing as was the Cain Government in Victoria.
.- Whenever a motion to limit the duration of a debate is submitted to this House, honorable members on this side of the chamber are obliged to listen to the same arguments as those which have been advanced to-day by members of the Opposition. We hear always how unreasonable the Government is in making the allotment of time, on the ground that the period allotted for the consideration of one division of the bill is disproportionate to the period allotted for the consideration of another division.
-Order! The time allowed for the discussion of the motion has expired.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 1955), be agreed to.
The House divided. i Mk. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 11th November (vide page 1929).
Clause 1 (Short title).
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).If it is the wish of the committee, the bill may be considered in divisions according to the time-table. For instance, Parts I. to III. may be considered until 9.30 o’clock this evening. This section includes clauses 1 to 8; they all might be considered together.
– A vote will noi be taken on amendments unless they have been put from the chair. At 9.30 o’clock to-night the question, that clauses I to 8 be agreed to, will be put. On any amendments which have been submitted at that time, a. vote will be taken. If amendments have not been moved, a vote will not be taken on them. However, the committee itself must decide this matter of procedure. If honorable members desire clauses 1 to 8 to be considered together, the Chair will adopt that course. If any objection be raised to this proposal, each clause must be considered separately.
– 1 am not perfectly clear as to what you, Mr. Chairman, meant. For example, I propose to move an amendment to clause 2. If, at 9.30 o’clock to-night, when the allotted time will expire, no division has occurred on my amendment, will a vote be taken on my amendment?
-Yes. If the amendment has been put from the chair, a vote will be taken on it. If honorable members have not submitted their amendments to clauses 1 to 8 by 9.30 p.m., it will then be too late for the committee to consider them.
– I ask you, Mr. Chairman, whether an honorable member will have an opportunity to submit an amendment which will be subsequent to amendments first moved under this proposal.Will you inform me whether an honorable member would then have the right to speak ?
– Only one amendment may be discussed at a time. An amendment must be disposed of before another can be moved.
– On a further point of procedure; does the Chair propose to entertain amendments to clauses of the bill irrespective of the numerical order of the clauses proposed to be amended ?
– The amendments will be taken in the order in which they would appear if they were incorporated in the bill. For instance, if there is an amendment to a clause prior to that which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) now proposes to amend, that amendment should be moved first. However, if the first amendment proposed is the amendment of clause 2 proposed by the Leader of the Opposition it will be taken first, and any other amendment to clause 2 of which notice has been circulated will be moved after that. Amendments should be moved in the order in which it, is intended that they should, if adopted, appear in the bill.
– If the Prime Minister would state whether or not he is prepared to consider amendments, the position would be clarified.
– I understand that honorable members can speak to any of the clauses which are being taken together provided they receive the call. When honorable members receive the call they could foreshadow their amendments and move them later. I suggest that that is the only practicable course open to the committee if we decide to take the first three parts of the bill as a whole, andI think that that course would meet the wishes of honorable members, insofar as that is at all possible under the Government’s proposal.
– I understand that clauses 1 to 25 are to be disposed of by 9.30 p.m. and that no further amendments may be moved to those clauses.
– Clauses 1 to8 must be disposed of by 9.30 p.m.
– I understand that amendments proposed to the earlier clauses of the bill are to be disposed of first. If honorable members take too long in discussing them, or if the Government wishes to “ stone-wall “, it may prevent altogether consideration of later clauses.
– Amendments proposed to later clauses cannot be moved until amendments proposed to earlier clauses are disposed of. The matter rests entirely with the committee, whose members must make up their minds whether clauses 1 to 8 are to be taken as a whole or separately. Is it the wish of the committee that clauses 1 to 8 be taken together ?
Honorable Members. - Yes.
Clauses . 1 to 8 - by leave - considered together.
– I desire to move an amendment to clause 2. The clause reads -
This Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.
I move -
That the following proviso be added: - “ Provided that it shall not be presentedto the Governor-General for the royal assent unless -
a ) not less than one month nor more than six months after its passage through both Houses it shall have been submitted in each State to the electors qualified to vote for the election of members of the House of Representatives; and
a majority of the electors voting shall have approved it.”
In substance, that amendment proposes that the bill shall not come into operation on the day it receives the Royal Assent, unless it has received the approval of the people as expressed at a referendum. I do not need to labour the argument. In the last few weeks there has been a great deal of discussion as to whether the Government has any mandate to introduce the bill and as to whether it has any popular approval or backing for the bill. We have long since realized that the Government does not pretend to have an express mandate; but honorable members opposite have devoted a great deal of energy, and a certain amount of ingenuity, in an endeavour to establish that in reality the people of Australia are behind them. It turns out that they are miles behind them; but supporters of the Government have been trying to convince us that the people are on their side. It is remarkable how much energy has been expended in efforts to persuade the people of Australia, to say nothing of members of this chamber, that the agitation against the Government’s proposal is a bogus one, that the petitions which have been presented are faked, that they are the result of pressure applied by the banks, and so on.
Government Members. - Hear, hear!
– Honorable members opposite say, “ Hear, hear “, although 1,000,000 voters in one of the principal States of Australia gave an emphatic answer on Saturday last to all the nonsense they have been serving up.
Government members interjecting,
– I am familiar with this technique. Even my friend, the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), is able to present a somewhat sickly smile, although there must be a lot of trouble at home.
-We rose above that before.
– That is all right;I have risen above it myself. I point out, however, that when Labour scores a sweeping victory it claims that its victory is a triumph for clear thinking and justice, and is in the best interests of mankind. However, when members of that party get the “father and mother of a hiding”, as they did in Victoria on
Saturday, they say, “ That is bogus ; the people have had their legs pulled “. That is their contention. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), the self-appointed “ brains trust “ of the Government, explained to us that if we analysed the Victorian election figures, and calculated how many votes were required to secure the election of a Labour candidate, and compared them with the number required to elect a member of the Australian Country party, we would realize that the result of the elections represented merely the operation of a rotten electoral system.
– Hear, hear !
– And the taciturn Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) agrees with him. However, let me dispose of that fallacy by pointing out that at the elections the Australian Labour party candidates secured a total of 475,000 votes against 597,000 secured by the Opposition parties’ candidates; notwithstanding that the only three seats which were not contested were held by members of the Opposition. Therefore, the votes secured by three Opposition members are not included in the total. All the ingenuity in the world-
Mr. Conelan interjecting,
– All the ingenuity in the world - and that remark does not, of course, include the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) - will not overcome the fact that up to that stage there was a majority of voters against Labour of 122,000, a majority which will be increased as further votes are counted. If honorable members will give themselves the trouble to have a look at the record of the last federal election, in the State of Victoria, held only twelve months ago, and will cast up the Senate figures, they will find that, in the same State and with the same voters, the Labour Senate team had a majority of 127,000. That majority has now been replaced by. a minority of 122,000. All the sophistry in the world - and of course it is mere pretence - will never get rid of that, because it is the most crushing reversal of form in the political history of Australia. Never before in the political history of Australia has a government with the enormous majority which this “Government secured in the State of Victoria, in gross abandonment destroyed it so utterly in twelve months by the introduction of one measure, which has inspired public indignation and public resistance to this Government. The reason why the Government rejects a referendum is that it knows - and every honorable member sitting on the other side knows; the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) knows; they all know - that if we were to have a federal election next week, half the members sitting on the other side would “ lose the number of their mess “. Because of this tremendous expression of opinion by the one body of voters given a chance to express their opinions, it is imperative, if the decencies of democracy are to be observed, that this bill shall go to the people for their approval before it goes to the Governor-General for the Royal Assent, f do not propose to labour the matter; others want to speak about it. This is the clearest case that could possibly be presented to any parliament for taking the opinion of the people, and abiding by that opinion when it has been received.
.- The amendment before the Chair, moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), quite obviously is based upon Hie result of Victoria’s recent election. Whatever the right honorable gentleman may say in regard to my views, I am competent to and do express them myself, leaving him to express his and to take responsibility for them, as I do for mine. With the fullest confidence, I say that honorable gentlemen opposite, and the bankers who, I believe to their discredit, have used them in this bitter fight, know very clearly that only in the heat of political feeling have they a chance of defeating the Government, or of reversing the move which we have begun. Harsh things can be said ; I do not propose to say them. But I draw the attention of this Parliament and the country t.o the fact that other men in other countries have pursued a similar line. Hitler could have had an election in Germany shortly before he gained power. The election would have been held in comparative calm, in which atmosphere the German people could have voted to decide what their government, their rulers, indeed their fate, should be. Hitler did not trust the people in a period of calm, so he organized the burning of the Reichstag. In Victoria, a year at the most would have elapsed before an election would have been held. By that time, there would not have been the feeling which was deliberately stirred up in the most vicious and discreditable campaign which this country has known. In a year’s time the issues would have been calmly considered. But that is not what was wanted. The Speaker of the Victorian Parliament was a member of the Liberal party and a titled gentleman, who presumably is a democrat and cares for the welfare and freedom pf the people of this country. He had only to leave the position which he occupied, and the election would have been held as soon as it could have been organized. There were two independents who kept the Government in power. They, too, opposed the views of this Government on banking. But they did not precipitate an election. So, when it was found that the democratic processes could not bc used to force an election in a period when tempers ran hot because of the discreditable and distorted case that, had been put up, the undemocratic processes of the Victorian Upper House were used, just as the arch-dictator of all time staged his election, knowing that, in a period of calm, he would not come to power in Germany.
There are other issues which must be faced. I have had letters sent to me. 1 received one to-day, in which a gentleman whom I do not know from Adam informed me that he has never been a Labour supporter. He has set out his views on banking and other matters. In it he has stated that he lives in a year of terror, this year of 1947, and he has asked me not to disclose his name. Honorable members opposite laugh. They know that these things are going on. If they want proof, I have rend that letter to a representative of one of the most influential newspapers operating in this Federal Capital.
– There must have been a lot of terrified people in Victoria.
– The Government does not subscribe to the view that a referendum is necessary. Powers are given under the Constitution which enable the Government to put through this legislation.
We have had quoted the views which eminent men have expressed on an issue such as this. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) in the course of his second-reading speech, read the views of an eminent lawyer and a leading public figure, who said that issues like this, in which pressure politics reared its ugly head, were the seeds from which would spring that which would cause freedom and democracy to perish. Honorable members know very well that that quotation was made from a book that was published by the Leader of the Opposition.
– It is a good book.
– I do not doubt that. I have asked the Minister to let me have it.
– It is in the Parliamentary Library, and the honorable member will have no trouble in getting it.
– I frankly confess that !’ did not know that there were a number of volumes available, otherwise I should have obtained one of them. The views of eminent men have been expressed in the legal and political spheres, indicating that in such circumstances it is the duty and responsibility of a government to bring forward its legislation, and to accept its responsibility to the Parliament, and to the people when next an election is held. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly), in a very fine effort last night, quoted from a leading financial figure in this country, who had 3aid on another occasion that an issue so technical as banking should not be submitted to the people of Australia. So we have the Leader of the Opposition, at a time when he was the recipient of pressure politics, recording his view as a democrat, a public figure, and a leading constitutional lawyer, that a government which would succumb to pressure politics would be false to its trust to the people.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– It is said that the people’s demand for a referendum was demonstrated clearly by the result of the Victorian elections last Saturday. I have compared the action which precipitated them with the action of certain people in the republic of Ger many in whom democratic tendencies were not prominent. There is an amazing similarity between those two instances which must cause every real democrat and every true Liberal - if such a person exists - grave disquiet. Different opinions regarding Hitler are held throughout the world. Some say that he was a patriot who, fired by a love of Germany, was forced by inexorable circumstances to pursue a policy which led to the ruin of not only Germany but also manx other countries. There is a lesson to be learned by honorable gentlemen opposite from the experiences of Hitlerite Germany. They would do well to consider seriously before they precipitate the democratic system of government into a state of chaos, or before they subvert constitutional practices associated with true democracy. A man who occupied the responsible office of Speaker of the Victorian Parliament kept in office a government to whose policy he did not subscribe by refusing to precipitate an election. That was his democratic and political right, but a reactionary chamber, an anachronism in a democratic country, forced an election. But its members did not have to go to the people to see whether they supported its actions. The policy and actions of Sir George Knox, the Speaker of the Victorian Legislative Assembly, was justified. If Sir Prank Clarke really believed in democracy and was a true democrat, or if he believed in constitutional government, his way was clear and his duty plain; he should have stood for election. He might have challenged the Premier of the State, whom he sent to the country, in the Premier’s own electorate. If he was not willing to do that, he could have tested public opinion by contesting a doubtful seat, thereby showing whether or not the people of Victoria supported his action. We on this side do not agree that a referendum should be held.
Is the Government’s proposal a far step from existing banking practice? Those who believe that it is should read the history of banking in England from its inception in the 17th century to the present time. I invite honorable members to study the works of the great economists and the flood of literature on banking which has been published in recent times. If honorable members read what has been written in an earnest desire to learn the truth, and not merely to find support for conclusions already reached by them, they must agree with me that, far from being a radical or revolutionary step, this is merely a logical step in the long evolution of the banking system into a publicly owned instrumentality. The history of banking bears out that contention. Developments during the years have shown that the banking system has grown from a large number of unit banks until to-day banking is conducted by great institutions which wield enormous powers. Instead of being an organization entirely free to follow its own ideas and to pursue the policies of its directors, a bank to-day is, either by practice or by law, bound by the most rigid rules and forced to do the will of the elected people. That is true in all countries, especially in what is said to be the citadel of private enterprise - the great republic of the United States of America. Banks in that country are bound by rules to a degree that does not exist in any British country. On evidence provided by recent happenings in Victoria, a state of chaos and agitation is the only situation in which those who demand a referendum will put their faith to the test. I have shown that the Leader of the Opposition and the chairman of the Associated Banks, Mr. McConnan, do not believe that a referendum should be held in regard to technical matters, or in response to pressure groups. By references to the history of banking, the development of the banking system, and the state of affairs that exists to-day it could be demonstrated that from the 1945 act to the nationalization of banking is merely a brief, but logical, step. No referendum is required because the Government has a mandate to control the banking system.
– I support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). All the arguments that have been used by the Opposition, and particularly the argument used by the electors of Victoria last Saturday, show clearly that the people believe that a referendum should be held to determine whether the private banks should be nationalized. During the debate, we have heard a good deal of the Commonwealth Bank being the people’s bank ; but I submit that all the banks are the people’s banks. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) said that when a bank is taken over by the Commonwealth it becomes a publicly owned instrumentality. We could say the same of the taxation branch of the Treasury Department. Once a public instrumentality is instituted it comes under the control of the government of the day, not of the people. We have heard many wild statements about the depression; Government supporters have claimed that there will be another depression if the control of finance is left in the hands of the private banks. They argue that the private banks created the last depression, but they appear to have forgotten that that depression was world-wide. I have frequently heard Labour supporters say that the depression in Queensland was due to the actions of the Moore Government in that State, but now it would appear that the banks caused it. Would they go so far as to say that the private banks of Australia created the world depression? That the private banks helped Australia during the depression has been affirmed in this House by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who said that those institutions had played a great part and had helped the Government. I ask honorable members who helped the primary producers of Australia if it was not the private banks? If, during the last depression, the private banks had not existed, the primary producers would not have obtained the increased return of 30 per cent, on the sale of their products due to the imposition of the exchange rate on Australian money as compared with sterling. The Opposition claims that these proposals should be submitted to the people at a referendum, because they realize the falsehood of the Government’s claim that it must have control of the banking system so as to ensure that the people shall have spending power in the event of another economic depression. The fact is that the Commonwealth Bank has full power to create and control credit to-day, and the Government controls the Commonwealth Bank. The private banks have no power to create credit at the moment.
– At the moment.
– The private banks have no power under the law to create credit. In this respect, the private banks are under the control of the Commonwealth Bank. The Commonwealth Bank also has authority to fix the interest rates charged by the private banks, and in tins way the Government, through the Commonwealth Bank, can control the profit made by the private hanks. Thus, there is no force in the argument that the private banks are in a position to exploit the people by charging high rates of interest. In spite of this the Government, and its irresponsible supporters outside the Parliament, including the Communists, say that the Government must assume control of the private banks, the available assets of which are set down at 400,000,000. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) proposes to standardize railway gauges at a cost of £220,000,000. The Government has all -sorts of fantastic ideas for spending large amounts of money. Where is all this money or credit to come from? The Government seems to think that if it seizes the private banks it will have unlimited resources. True, the Government will assume control of available assets not already invested on long terms and valued at £400,000,000, but it will have to make an immediate outlay of £100,000,000 in order to obtain them. The Commonwealth Bank already holds deposits from The private banks valued at £267,000,000, for which it. pays only 10s. per cent, interest. Some of that money was probably lent to the banks on long terms at a low rate of interest, and when it comes into the possession of the Commonwealth Bank, that bank may have to pay a higher rate of interest for it. Leaving out of consideration for the moment these available assets of the private banks valued at 400,000,000, let me point out that the Government, by taking over the private banks, will destroy their business and goodwill - something to which the Government, apparently, has given no thought whatever. It will destroy the expert knowledge, and the contacts, and the business associations which have enabled the private banks to foster the development of the great rural industries of Australia, to assist in the construction of harbours and wharfs and the development of secondary industries. Thesegreat enterprises were carried through by private individuals who risked their own. assets and, in addition, were able to call on the private banks for what assistancethey needed. It was such people, assisted by the private banking institutions of Australia, who established and developed the great iron and steel industry of Australia; yet those people, and the institutions which assisted them, are now regarded by the Government as the enemiesof the people.
It would appear that the Government is just as determined to take over thegreat life assurance companies of Australia. The Government wants to get its claws on to the great assets which have been created by those companies,, although those assets belong to the persons who have assured their lives with the companies.
– Order ! The honorable member is now discussing life assurance, something which is outside the scope of the bill.
– The Government claims that this bill is necessary in order to prevent another depression, and to preserve the spending power of the people, but we know that the effect, of the measure will be to deprive the people of the choice which they now enjoy of giving their business to this bank or to that. It will destroy the competition which now exists between the banks, and which ensures that the public shall receive a fair deal.
When the Government has destroyed the private banking system, with assets totalling £400,000,000, it will also have destroyed the business which those banks are now carrying on. This will prevent the free flow of money, and will destroy the confidence of those who might want to invest money in the country’s industries. No longer will people believe themselves to be in a position to reap the reward of their own pluck and industry. The nationalization of the banks will also tend to discourage people from overseas who would have been prepared to come to Australia to invest capital, and to work in the development of industry. Australia has an area as great as that of the United States of America. The Government proposes to abandon the banking system which was responsible for the development of the United States of America, the greatest country in the world to-day, and one which was developed entirely by private enterprise, with the assistance of the private banking institutions. The United States of America continues to adhere to that policy; and so do Great Britain and all the British dominions. They are turning away from socialism in order to preserve freedom of private enterprise and utilize the assistance of private investors, which has made possible our development up to date. We must turn to the United States of America in this respect, because we must rely upon that country to a great degree until, at least, the Mother Country has fully recovered. But this Government is turning towards Russia, and following Russian ideas without having any mandate from the people to do so. I support the amendment, because we must be guided in this matter by the vote cast hy the people of Victoria in the recent elections in that State. That was a vote against this legislation; but had this issue been submitted directly to the people of Victoria, the vote against the Government’s proposal, which is estimated on the final count to show a majority of 200,000, would have been even greater. F repeat that had this matter been submitted directly to the people of Victoria that majority would have been much greater, because many people who voted for Labour candidates did so because they were persuaded by Government supporters that the issue at stake in the Victorian elections had no relation to this legislation.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I can quite understand the dismay which exists in the ranks of the Opposition parties at the determination of the Government to proceed with this measure. It is quite evident that the private banks are now occupying the condemned cell, and that nothing can save them. Actually, the
Opposition parties are fighting a delaying action. They hope to delay the implementation of this legislation until the next general elections take place in 1949, because they know that once the people experience the benefits that will be bestowed upon them under this measure they will have no hope then of arousing the fears which they have engendered at the moment with the assistance of their great organs of propaganda. The Labour movement has declared itself in favour of this policy, and is determined to proceed with it. There may be temporary reverses and delay.-, but the ultimate result is obvious, although, unfortunately, there have beer, occasions in the history of this country when the people have been only prepared to learn the hard way. Only after they have been obliged to line up for hand-outs of food relief, and suffer privation due to unemployment, have they paid heed to the voice of those who warned them of what lay ahead of them.
There is no doubt in the mind of any member of the Labour party that the proper thing to do at this stage of our history is to nationalize the private banks. A proposal that this legislation should be submitted to the people at a referendum would be rather strange at any time; hut when it comes from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) members of the Labour party, at least, must be amazed at his audacity. During the second-reading debate, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) quoted from a. book written by the right honorable member, in which he expressed his own opinion with regard to what he called “ pressure politics “ in this country. We have heard a great deal about petitions lately; and honorable members have received numerous letters from constituents on this subject. However, I have discovered that the private banks are intimidating their employees to make them assist in the collection of these petitions and in organizing mass communications to members of Parliament. The public should be informed that the private bank officers themselves are not unanimously opposed to the Government’s proposals. As a matter of fact, were a secret ballot taken among the bank officers, I believe it would disclose a majority in support of this legislation. I have in. my hand a circular which shows the manner in which the banks are intimidating their employees in this matter. Operating among the bank officers is a body known as the Bank Nationalization Committee. It consists nf bank officers who are supporting the Government at great risk to themselves, because they know that so long as the private banks remain in control they will face victimization in their employment. This circular was handed to me by a bank officer who is a member of that Bank Nationalization Committee. It has been distributed by the National Bank of Australasia Limited, Adelaide, and I propose to read it in order to expose this “ spontaneous protest “ referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. The circular states -
We must take every opportunity to see that written protests are sent to the appropriate member of the House of Representatives and senators. As it is unlikely that many will write individually to six senators, one letter can be jointly addressed to the three Labour men, and another to the three LiberalAustralian Country party team, a separate letter being, of course, addressed to the member of the House of Representatives.
A suggestion for ensuring a high proportion of letters is to get a number of interested persons to accept responsibility for the despatch of an arranged number. Ten such helpers securing five recruits would mean 50 letters and so on.
Tn the rush which we know this extra work has entailed, members of the staff must not forget to lodge their own protests, and this, of course, applies to girls as well as mcn. . . Leading articles in opposition to the proposals have appeared in Melbourne and other capitals including one in the Adelaide Advertiser, of the 16th instant, and in the dear future wc hope there will be a leader in the News.
The concluding paragraph of the circular reveals how the banks aim to victimize any officers who dare to express opinions favorable to the Government’s plans. That paragraph reads. -
We shall bc interested to receive reports of progress made from time to time, including activities of individuals or committees, and naturally evidence of imagination, initiative and enterprise will be greatly appreciated.
Thus the banks ask those of their officers who support the opposition to this legislation to spy upon their workmates, because all officers are invited to report to their local manager any colleague who is favorably disposed to the Government’s proposals. If the private banks are so anxious to have this matter submitted to the people, why do they not arrange a properly conducted secret ballot among their own officers in order to see where those officers stand on it?
The Constitution provides that this National Parliament can obtain additional power only with the consent of the people expressed at a referendum; and that is the only method that would be adopted by this Government if it required additional power. But in this matter the Government is exercising a power already conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament under the Constitution, and no reasonable argument can be advanced why a referendum should be held on this subject. I put this to honorable members opposite: Why should a referendum be held particularly on this proposal to nationalize the private trading banks? In the past innumerable questions have been submitted to the Parliament of the utmost importance to the people of Australia, but the Opposition never demanded that a referendum should be held on any of those matters. Only recently honorable members opposite talked about the expense involved in this proposal, stating that the people should be consulted before they are committed to an expenditure of £100,000,000. The International Monetary Agreement, which was supported by honorable members opposite, involved an expenditure of £125,000,000-
– The legislation was introduced by the Labour Government.
– The Internationa] Monetary Agreement involved an expenditure of 25 per cent, more than is contemplated in the proposal for the nationalization of the banks.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Did honorable members opposite then say that the people should be consulted before the agreement could be ratified?
Opposition members interjecting,
– There is far too much interruption. The Minister must be heard in silence.
– I am not surprised that honorable members opposite are interrupting me. It must be a terrible thing to belong to a party which has no future.
– -The Minister should know all about that.
– Order !
– Under the Premiers plan pensions were slashed and wages were cut, but there was no demand on the part of the Opposition for a referendum before it was put into operation. Was there a demand for a referendum on the proposal to extend the area in which our conscripted military forces were to fight? The crippling of the Commonwealth Bank in 1924 as the result of legislation establishing the Commonwealth Bank Board was also a matter upon which the people were not consulted. What would be the position in this country if, on every occasion when protests were made against a measure or somebody was dissatisfied with it, a referendum had to be held? We should have a succession of referendums, the people would be confused and the expense incurred would be colossal. Every measure introduced into the Parliament has its opponents; no measure satisfies everybody. Is it suggested that a referendum should be held whenever groups in the community write to the press or petition the Parliament protesting against some piece of legislation. Should there be a referendum on this issue merely because honorable members opposite, who are the mouthpieces of the great private banking and financial interests in this country, at the bidding of their masters demand it? In his book, The Forgotten People, the Leader of the Opposition expressed disapproval of the use of pressure politics, but he has had to swallow his words in this discussion because he has received his marching orders from his political masters in what he was pleased to call the second battle for Australia. As the commander-in-chief of the reactionary forces he has to obey, and has now to fall back on arguments completely different from those which he advanced in his book.
Honorable members opposite can derive what satisfaction they can - it is only a temporary satisfaction - out of the result of the Victorian elections. Nobody attempts to disguise the fact that it constituted a defeat for Labour. The Leader of the
Opposition sought to imply that Labour regarded those elections as having resulted in a Labour victory. Not one member of the Labour party does so, but we do say that Labour, having polled approximately 48 per cent, of the votes in the Victorian elections, was entitled to receive more than 25 per cent, of the representation in the new Parliament. As the result of the gerrymandering of the electorates Labour has been unable to secure adequate representation in the new Parliament. Honorable members opposite have used the Victorian election results as an argument in favour of the holding of a referendum on this proposal. I am not at all convinced that the Victorian people are opposed to the banking proposals of the Government. Likewise I am unconvinced that the majority of the people of Australia would be against it if they had an opportunity-
– Why not give them an opportunity?
– Order! If members of the Opposition wish to receive the call from the Chair they must remain silent. They must not endeavour to make speeches by way of interjection.
– I am not at all satisfied that the majority of the people of Australia are against this proposal. In any case, the people will be given an opportunity to pass judgment upon the administration of this Government at the elections in 1949. Had we taken notice of the claim by honorable members opposite in 1945, that the banking legislation would not be supported by the people, what would have been the result? Notwithstanding that that legislation was made an issue during the 1946 elections, the Labour Government was returned to office. Had a referendum been held in 1945 in connexion with the Government’s banking legislation the people would have recorded their endorsement of it. Honorable members opposite now contend that the people should have the final say in this matter. In the 1946 elections the people showed conclusively that they approved of the Government’s banking legislation of 1945. But what did the Opposition, parties, the private banks, and the wealthy financial interests do? Did they accept the judgment of the people? Not at all. They successfully challenged the validity of a section of the Banking Act of 1945 in the High ‘Court, but that judgment was contrary to the wishes of the people as expressed at the 1946 elections. Never in my experience of the Labour movement have I seen such unanimity and solidarity among its members as there is to-day in regard to this proposal to nationalize the private banks.
In their campaign against this bill, honorable members opposite and their masters, the private banks and financial institutions, are going to extraordinary lengths. The honorable member >for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) told us of a letter signed and circulated by Mr. Frank Browne, a personal friend of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), in which he advised members of the Opposition that the only place to defeat this legislation was on the floor of the Parliament and the way to secure its defeat was to procure twelve members of the Labour party who would be prepared to cross the floor and vote against the decision of their party. If ever a proposal would bring discredit to parliamentary government, surely that would. The proposal was that by offering a bribe an attempt should be made to induce twelve members of the Labour party to bring about the defeat of this hill.’
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- We have heard a characteristic classconscious speech by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). Here is the answer to the statements made hy the honorable gentleman in the course of his secondreading speech as reported in the Melbourne Argus of the 25th October last, by Mr. G. W. Sneddon, chairman, and Mr. W. E. Mawby, vice-chairman of the Bank Employees Protest Committee: -
The dupes in the Chifley Government’s fight to deprive the people of financial and other freedoms are Mr. Ward and hi? fellow Ministers and members, not the banks officials. We are fighting to earn our living free from regimentation .by .political organizations. All Mr. Ward is doing is talking, and he will eventually vote as he is ordered by the gang who have determined to take away our jobs and then make us industrial conscripts, lt is false to say the trading banks do not refund superannuation .payments to employees who resign. Ite degree of inaccuracy is the measure of the value and fact content of Mr. Ward’s outburst.
Here is a telegram from a bank official on the subject -
As member Bank Officers Association, take strong exception to Honorable E. J. Ward description as dupes of banks. Esteem it » favour if you can convey strong objection to Minister on my behalf.
I have pleasure in handing the telegram to the Minister for his closer perusal. Whatever arguments the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and his Government had to offer when the proposal for the holding of a referendum was originally raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) on a want of confidence motion - which, as is so often the case in this Parliament, was “ gagged “ - have been effectively answered by the electors of Victoria, in importance, the second largest State in Australia, with the greatest diversity of production and density of population, when on Saturday last they rejected the Cain Labour Government. The people of Victoria knew only too well that Mr. Cain and the Prime Minister worked hand in hand. Mr. Cain had no hesitation in using the taxpayers’ money to oppose the case in the High Court in which the Melbourne City Council successfully challenged the section of the Banking Act 1945 which was designed to force municipal authorities to bank with the Commonwealth Bank. It is unfortunate for the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) that he chose to cite what has happened in Victoria as something akin to what has happened in Germany. What happened in Germany was that the unfortunate people there allowed their centralized control to be put in the hands of Hitler. That is what this Government, without the criminality, but also without the efficiency, is asking the people of Australia to do now. In this insular world of Canberra honorable members opposite are out of touch with the Australian people. The Victorian election results should be a reminder that the will of the people cannot be flouted indefinitely.
In his reply to the second-reading debate last night, the Prime Minister advanced some interesting theories. He related, for instance, the story of a hoy who had passed his leaving certificate examination, but had been unable to obtain a job in the Commonwealth Bank. The Prime Minister apparently is going to alter all that. I have received the following telegram’ from somebody who evidently was listening to the right honorable gentleman’s speech.: -
Sobbed bitterly story leaving certificated boy unselected bank job during previous administration. Under present administration defeated politicians took External Department appointment from high qualified civil servants.
The sender could have gone on to show how defeated politicians also received appointments as trade commissioners. The story of the boy who failed to obtain a job in the Commonwealth Bank was actually put forward, by the Prime Minister of this great country as one reason why the trading banks should be nationalized. The right honorable gentleman has a. phobia regarding finance. He speaks of the ‘thirties as if the word were actually graven on his heart as a Queen Mary of old said that the word “ Calais “ would be found on her heart. The great events of history such as the two world wars have left the right honorable gentleman unmoved. He claims that the depression is his reason for taking this action, although nothing of this kind has ever been done before by an English-speaking people. The right honorable gentleman pointed out that the Bank of England had been nationalized. That is true. It has been made a central bank; but the joint stock companies and the trading banks in the United Kingdom have not been touched. The Government of which the right honorable gentleman was a member was defeated in 1932 because it proved itself incapable of solving the problems that confronted it and the task of restoring Australia’s economic stability was left to subsequent anti-Labour governments. The depression was world-wide and was due to the fall of the prices of basic commodities. It was not the creation of the banks here or anywhere else.
This legislation is unnecessary, unjust and undemocratic. It is unnecessary because it is wasteful. It will cost this country approximately £100,000,000.
That money could be expended in many beneficial ways such as the provision of houses. The measure is unjust because it means economic and industrial conscription. It will affect the livelihood of every man and woman, and every household. Its repercussions will be felt not only by those who have accounts with the private trading banks or are shareholders in those institutions but by everybody. I have received the following telegram from an ex-member of the Royal Australian Air Force whose name I recognize: -
Consider present banking bill designed eliminate individual effort of small people first banks second heavy industry (small shareholders) third primary industry (people who feed us) fourth small businesses and traders (people who try hard) are likely to be absorbed by government stores please defeat Communism and Labour.
That is the bracket that is behind it all. Honorable members opposite have not the courage to stand up to the Communists. Instead, they seek to impose this infamous legislation on a democratic people. I say deliberately that nothing but a federal election or a referendum - and that is the purport of the amendment which I strongly support - will stop the present wild financial extravagance by incompetent administrators, and the appalling waste of the resources of our people. This bill is undemocratic; it is totalitarian; it is a piece of national socialism, and this government, marching blindly along, taking no cognizance of what has happened in Victoria, is marching to its doom. It would be much better if the Prime Minister were to show himself as a man who can take notice of events, by saying, “ I shall put this measure aside until the people have had an opportunity to speak on it”. So far, only the citizens of one State have expressed their opinion. Let the people of the whole of Australia say whether or not they support this proposal. If they approve it, then the Government need have no hesitation in proceeding. In refusing to hold a referendum, the Prime Minister is acting as a dictator, and his administration is a dictatorship.
– If the measure now before the committee becomes law. and there is no doubt that it will become law, all the things that have been said by the Opposition parties as to the dire consequences that will follow, will be falsified by the course of events. Every time, honorable members opposite have opposed democratic legislation, they have said much the same thing as they have been saying to-night and for the past three or four weeks, and as their supporters and money-masters - the bankers - have been saying outside the Parliament ever since the Government announced its intention to introduce this beneficial measure. The Opposition is not only fighting the 1947 proposals; it is also fighting the 1945 legislation over again. Honorable members opposite have never indicated honestly where they stand in regard, to the 1945 act, which the last Parliament passed, and which the people endorsed when they elected the Eighteenth Parliament, and all the things that they, and the bankers, are saying now were said in the respect of that measure. I draw the attention of the committee to what was said in 1945 by Mr. McConnan, who, as most honorable members are aware, is one of the heads of the National Bank of Australasia Limited. In fact, he is the “ big shot “. He is the man who directs the whole policy of the banks. He said -
Government control over the banking system, which means control over the people’s money, would permanently give the Government vast powers over industry and substantial control over the individual.
He added -
This would place in the Government’s hands a powerful control not only over industry as a whole hut over the economic and financial ambitions of every individual.
But the public, taking cognizance of what Mr. McConnan said in 1945, voted this Government back to office in 1946. What more can our opponents say about our legislation in 1947 than they said in 1945? And if the people returned us in 1946, after all that had been said in 1945, what is the use of having a referendum? What good purpose could be served by going back to the people and saying, “ Have you changed your minds ? Have you thought things over again? Do you want’ to turn this Government out?” I have not the slightest doubt that if the next elections are fought, and I am cer- tain they will be fought, on this Government’s actions in regard to banking, thi1 Labour party will again be returned to office.
Let us consider the Victorian election figures. Honorable members opposite can derive little solace from the final results when they realize that, in spite of the atmosphere of extraordinary heat, all the abusive argument, the wild speculations and dire prophecy, the uninformed criticism and unfounded charges, and the amazing recourse to any other sort of villainous argument that could be used against the Labour party, Labour candidates still secured the votes of 48 per cent, of the people. It is true that the Labour party has only fifteen members in the new Victorian Legislative Assembly, but look at the set-up in Victoria ! Under the worst form of gerrymandering obtaining in any Australian Parliament, there are 33 members representing country electorates, each having 10,000 electors, and 32 members each representing approximately 25,000 voters in metropolitan electorates. If we divide the total number of votes cast by the number of seats obtained, we find that every Labour man in the Victorian Parliament represents 32,000 electors, and every anti-Labour man represents 12,000 electors. So, when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) uses the Victorian election results, in an endeavour to prove that the people as a whole are opposed to the nationalization of banking and want a referendum on the subject, he is resorting to specious, false, and mendacious arguments. I am certain that if the leaders of the Victorian Labour party had taken the advice of some people in the federal sphere, and fought the election on banking instead of avoiding this issue, they would not have lost as they did. However, the circumstances were such that they had no real control over the issue. Every newspaper in Australia has “ ganged up “ against the Government on this legislation. No matter what is said by opponents of the legislation, never a word is published in disavowal or criticism of the most extraordinary remarks made by them in this free community. A man who within a few days may be a Minister in the Victorian Government so far forgot himself as to say over radio station 3DB, one Saturday evening recently -
If the nationalization of hanking becomes a reality the only way back to normal life and activity is through the path of ‘bloodshed!
Mr. T. Heffer, one of the heads of the private banks, not one of the irresponsible members of the Liberal party, who can be counted in their thousands, or the Australian Country party, who can be counted in their tens of -thousands, said -
If the Commonwealth Government nationalizes private trading banks, it will mean a revolution.
A bloodless revolution it may be for a start, but I do -not doubt that later blood will flow, because men will fight for freedom.
Imagine the howls of indignation that would arise from Opposition members and t’he Australian press if a -Communist had said that. Imagine the indignation that would have welled in the breast of the honorable -member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), who does not like totalitarianism, if a Com-mu-nist had used >those words. But -not one word of protest -or -condemnation has come from honorable members opposite or any one else opposed to Labour in Australia against -those incitements to treason and bloodshed. Imagine .dividing Australia in bloodshed over nine “lousy” banks. Imagine ‘breaking Australia, a job that the Japanese could -not do, to sa-ve the £0.00,000/0.00 -needed ito huy out a few banks about whom no one has a good word ‘-to say. ‘The honorable member for Indi >(Mr. McEwen) .once counted up -the votes cast for Liberal :and Australian Country party .candidates in -order to prove (that d.,800,,000 people in Australia wanted banking reform. He said that the hanks had .no friends. They have not ,any friends now and .never have had any. They have always (played a rotten role .in the history of Australia.
I have not the slightest doubt that the Opposition ‘Can score -electoral victories «on false .issues. Last Saturday in Victoria, the Liberal party and the Australian -Country party .provided another Zinoviev letter stunt and gave us another burning «of the Reichstag ,in -miniature. About -two years ago, we should have lost a few seats -over :the Yoisuki -incident had the election .then been ought in the .next week. Then the honorable .member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) ;rose from -his seat in great indignation and said, “ The sights I have seen in connexion with the repatriation of these unfortunate people have made me sick “. I remember saying that the only thing that made him sick was the sight of so much cheap labour being repatriated before he had had a chance of exploiting it. As Abraham Lincoln said, “ You can fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time “. No matter how many millions of pounds the banks may spend in this campaign - and they spent about half a million in Victoria to get what they achieved last Saturday - they still cannot withstand the tide. The private banks are finished in this country as they will soon be finished throughout the world. Every country is moving towards nationalization of banking. The Bank of France is nationalized, the Bank of England is nationalized and the Bank of New Zealand is nationalized.
M-r. Holt.- And the Bank of Russia.
– The Bank of Russia was always nationalized. It was a national institution -before the Bolsheviks came -to power. When honorable members opposite talk about nationalization of banks in Russia, they ought to remember that the Rank of Russia nationalized in Czarist days before the Kerensky revolution of February, 1917, or the Bolshevik revolution of :October, 1917. The people of this country have the right to determine financial policy through their elected representatives, as tariff and taxation policies are determined. They do not allow the Taxpayers Association to determine how much tax they will pay or the manufacturers or importers to determine the tariff policy. Why should a few people who conduct trading companies called banks be allowed to assume or to arrogate to themselves the right to determine -financial policy? The making of monetary and credit policy ought to reside in the National Parliament and is not a -question for a referendum. Why should about 60 bank directors determine that which should be determined -by the ‘75 elected representatives of the people asssembled in the House of Representatives. I -cannot imagine why honorable members opposite spend so much time and energy in trying to prevent a development which is inevitable. Even if this Government were defeated before it brought this policy to fruition, it would come back at a subsequent election endorsed by the people and do the thing that we want to do now. Before honorable members opposite press their claim for a referendum, let them be honest with the people and say where they stand in regard to the 1945 banking legislation. Do they accept that or not?
– Why did they not say so when they had the opportunity in the second-reading debate. They dissembled and hid their real opinions. They hope to gain power by subterfuge in order to repeal the 1945 legislation. Once they did that there would be no protection against a return to the conditions of 1931. They want to return to the days when the bankers ruled and sent orders to every government in Australia, Commonwealth and State, directing the number of people they should employ, the wages they should receive; and what pensions they should pay, in fact, directing the whole parliamentary life of the nation. All the parliaments had to submit to conditions laid down conjointly by the privately dominated Board of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank and the directors of the private trading banks. The case put forward by the Opposition is based on falsity, misrepresentationand mendacity. It has nothing to commend it. It is an insult to the intelligence of the Australian people. I have no doubt that when eventually the people decide this issue, as they will two years hence, they will return this Government and that posterity will bless those who, when the vote was taken on the second reading of the bill last night, voted against the forces of reaction and for real democracy and progress.
.- If the electors of Victoria who cast their votes on Saturday against the Victorian Labour Government could have witnessed, as well as heard, the performance of the Minister for Information (Mr.Bagwell), they would have felt that their votes had not been cast in vain. He danced around the table, he threw his hands about, he screwed up his mouth, and he shrieked all sorts of maledictions upon his enemies. The complaint of the Minister for Information, and the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) is thatthe people of Victoria have spoken. They would have denied them the opportunity to express their views. The Minister for Information did his utmost to draw red herrings across the trail during the election campaign. I pay him this tribute, that he had the courage to go to Victoria and try to save the ship. The Prime Minister (Mr.Chifley) would not do that. Although he could go to Melbourne to attend the races on the day of the poll, the right honorable gentleman would not raise his voice on behalf of this measure, which he has described as being of transcendent importance to the people of Australia. I shall not follow the scent of the red herrings used by the Minister for Information and the Minister for Transport. The issue is very simple. It is this : Are the people of Australia entitled to vote on an issue that will have a revolutionary effect upon their lives? Honorable members on the Government side of the chamber, who are nervously counting the days until the next Commonwealth general elections, have said that the vote in Victoria represents nothing. The Minister for Transport has said that it did not reflect opinion on the banking issue. I shall cite the results of voting in some of the Victorian electorates.
The Essendon electorate was represented by the son of the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford). He won at the 1945 election by 6,000 votes. He lost this this time by approximately 300 votes. How do Government supporters account for that swing? Oakleigh had been represented for twenty years by Mr. Reid. At the previous election he won by 5,600 votes. This time he was defeated by 500 votes. Dandenong was represented by the Deputy Premier and Minister for Education, Mr. Field. At the previous election he won by 500 votes. This time he was defeated by 3,000 votes. Dundas had been the stronghold of the AttorneyGeneral, Mr. Slater, for 30 years. At the previous election he won by 3,700 votes. This time he lost by 1,500 votes.
The Wonthaggi electorate, in the mining district of Victoria, returned the Minister for Mines, Mr. McKenzie, at the previous election, by 2,000 votes. This time he was defeated by 2,000 votes. The Labour candidate for Mildura, Mr. Garlick, was returned by 200 votes at the previous election. This time he was defeated by 1,400 votes. Those are the figures for a few electorates selected at random. The result in every part of the State, including the metropolitan area, was the same. Yet Government supporters have the audacity to say that this was the result of propaganda and pressure applied by the banks. Did they not have the same opportunity to use propaganda as had the banks? They put their case to the people, and now they quarrel with the referee’s verdict and say that it is not fair. They will not submit this measure to the people by referendum because they know now, if they did not know before the Victorian elections, what the result of a referendum would be.
I, and other members of the Opposition, have been presenting petitions from electors in relation to banking for weeks past. I have submitted petitions from uo fewer than 27,000 people in the Richmond electorate. Other honorable members -have presented petitions signed by hundreds of thousands of citizens. Slurs have been cast upon these petitions by Government supporters, who claim that signatures have been obtained under duress and that some of the signatures have been faked. Was the ballot in Victoria faked? There can be no doubt on that issue. Nevertheless, they attempt to excuse themselves by saying, “But that is a gerrymandered State “. Have they ever heard of the State of Queensland, and have they considered the Upper House of this legislature, the Senate, in which 33 senators represent 51 per cent, of the electors and three Opposition senators represent 49 per cent, of the electors? The proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) is that, before this bill is given the Governor-General’s assent, not less than one month nor more than six months after its passage through both Houses of the Parliament, it shall be submitted in each State to the electors qualified to vote for the election of members of the House of Representatives. In other words, the right honorable gentleman asks for a referendum. Is it beyond the capacity of the Government to grant this request? The Government has already given notice of its intention to introduce a bill providing for a referendum on prices in January or February next year. That is only two or three months hence. Would it add to the cost of the referendum to place on the ballotpaper an additional question on the banking issue? The only extra cost would be that of the printer’s ink.
The Minister for Transport declares that this is a fight on behalf of the trading banks to prevent the nationalization of those banks. This is a fight to prevent the nationalization of the liberty of the individual in Australia! That is the issue, and that is why tens of thousands of people in Victoria have changed, in a period of about twelve months, from support to opposition of the Labour party. We know very well that the Prime Minister was the originator of this proposal. It is evident that he has dragooned the whole of his party. The Minister for Transport said that he had never seen such solidarity in the Labour party. I have never seen such fear on the faces of men as I now see on the faces of Ministers and their supporters. It was evident from the way in which the Minister for Information carried on earlier this evening that he was actuated by the most deadly fear. It was not fear of what might happen to the poor and the needy; it was fear of losing his private car, his trips around the world, and all the other privileges which Ministers enjoy.
– Order ! There must be no discussion of a personal nature in this debate.
– Those are the privileges that Ministers and their supporters are fighting for, not those of the common man as we have been told. The common man is merely an instrument by means of which these folk create their privileges. . There is nothing to prevent the Government, if it be a democratic Government, and if it desires to consult the wishes of the people, from putting this matter before the people by means of a referendum. Its supporters say that in two, years’ time there will be an opportunity for the people to express their wishes. But did not. the Prime Minister say that he intended, to “scramble these eggs, so that nobody could ever unscramble them”? Is that the honest way of submitting, a scheme tq the people ? He proposes to present them with an accomplished fact which, in his view, can neverbe altered. Is that honest and decent? The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition provides the Government with an opportunity- to. give the people, the right to voice their opinion on this issue, arid I” heartily support it.
.- -I am rather surprised at the tactics of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), in moving- an amendment, pf this character,, because by this, action, he. is. preventing the committee, from, debating- those parts of- the bill for. which time ha,s: been allotted up; to 9*30 p.m. “ ‘
M’il- HOLT - But three Ministers, have ha.d the call from the Chai*.
The CHAIR-MAN- Order!’ If the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) wants the Chair to call him, he must remain silent.
– The honorable member for Fawkner knows, that the time allotted for the consideration of the first three parts, of. this. bill w,ill expire at. 9.30 p.m., and one would imagine, from his interjection,, that Ministers, and honorable members on this side of the cham-ber had no right to reply to statements by the Opposition.
– They have no right to monopolize the time.
– The honorable member’s interjections show his bias in this mattei:, because this debate has not been one-sided’* Government speakers have alternated- with Opposition speakers, as they are entitled to do. Any suggestion that- this is unfair- tactics shows the bias of the honorable member for Fawkner.
The amendment- is- wasting the time o£ the committee, because honorable; members opposite recall that this matter, was debated at great- length on a motion of want of confidence which the Leader- of the Opposition launched against the Government about three weeks ago. Every aspect was. discussed on that occasion. Matters upon which it was appropriate to have a. referendum, when a referendum was. justifiable, and referendums which had been taken since federation were then thoroughly debated, and the Leader of theOpposition, in raising the matter again this evening, is simply wasting the time of the committee. This time could have been used to better advantage in discussingthe three parts of’ the bill which should’ be considered before 9.30 p.m. The Government pointed out on the last occasion that the matter of a referendum on the banking proposals was raised, but it will bear repetition, that it was- very doubtful whether there was any constitutional basis for a referendum of this kind. We showed that only once before in the history of federation had’ a referendum been taken on any subject other- than that of the alteration of the Constitution itself.
-What about the referendum on conscription for- military- service ?
– I said that there was one exception.
– =Two referendums, were held; on the conscription, issue.
– Both of: those referendums! were on the same subject, and!, incidentally, they were defeated. The. fact that two. referendums of this kind have been taken on matters no.t relating’ to. an alteration of the Constitution itself’ do.es. not prove that there is any constitutional basis for holding- a referendum, on a subject other than an alteration of theConstitution. In fact, I believe that it. would, be unconstitutional’ to hold a referendum on the Government’s bankingproposals.
Mr. Archie Cameron interjecting-,
-Oder ! The honorable member for Barker- (Mr– Archie Cameron) must not interject.
– Neither- the: honorable member- for Bar-ker nor any. otherhonorable member- opposite, can point, to any provision- in the- Constitution which suggests, that- there is power to take. a-, referendum on- any, subject, other- than, an alteration of the Constitution itself. I believe that if we did take a referendum on the Government’s banking proposals, we should be breaking the Constitution. Apart altogether from that, I am one of those who believes, as I have said frequently in this chamber, but, again, it will bear repetition, that a government is elected to do anything and everything within the Constitution that it thinks fit in the interests of the people of Australia. Since this Government is convinced that this legislation is in the best interests of the people of Australia, there is no need for it to take a referendum on the subject.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) pointed out last night, when replying to the second-reading debate, that the BrucePage Government was asked by a minority of its supporters to hold a referendum on a certain matter.When the Bruce-Page Government refused to do so, it was defeated in the House on the issue. In asking for a dissolution, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, writing to the Governor-General, made it quite clear on behalf of the then Leader of the Country party, Sir Earle Page, and himself, that there was no constitutional basis for a referendum on any subject other than an alteration of the. Constitution. Therefore, we have clear proof that one who purported to be a great leader of a political party which was a forerunner of the present Liberal party - it was called by a different name in those days, but that is nothing new for political parties opposed to the Labour party in this Parliament - took the same attitude on this matter as I am taking to-night. There is no constitutional basis whatever for holding a referendum on any subject other than an alteration of the Constitution.
The honorable member for Barker has expressed some interesting views on this matter. Speaking on the Parliamentary Allowances Bill 1947, he said -
Perhaps some persons would like a question in the following terms: -
What in your opinion, is a fair price to pay per annum for the services of men in the Parliament who can give honesty and integrity to you?
The answers would he almost as numerous as the voters. When discussing the proposal that this matter should be submitted to the people by way of referendum, I suppose that I shall commit more indiscretions, but one of them is not original. About twenty years ago, I heard referenda being discussed by a person who, at the time, was prominent in South Australian politics. He stated that a referendum was an appeal from those who knew or who ought to know, to those who did not know and who could not possibly find out.
One has to be perfectly fair in this matter, and point out that the honorable member added -
I am not sure that I entirely agree with that expression of opinion -
– I rise to order. Is not the Minister quoting from a copy of Hansard for the current session?
– There is no point of order involved.
– Apparently you, Mr. Chairman, did not properly hear the point of order which the honorable member for Barker took.
– Order ! Honorable members must remain silent. If they continue to interject, I shall deal with them.
– I am sure that you, Mr. Chairman, did not properly hear my point of order. I asked whether the Minister is quoting from what is obviously an issue of Hansard for this session. I can see from where I stand that it is. I do not mind my remarks being quoted-
– Order! The Chair has no knowledge of the source from which the Minister is quoting.
– The honorable member for Barker, when speaking on the Parliamentary Allowances Bill, added these words -
I am not sure that I entirely agree with that expression of opinion-
The honorable member did not say that he did not agree with it - but I do cast it, like a water lily upon a pond, to some honorable members opposite, in the hope that they will derive some satisfaction, if not some profit, from this matter.
Water lilies are beautiful flowers. This quotation from a speech by the honorable member for Barker, relating to whether referendums should or should not be held, is most appropriate to the present debate. I have always held that a government is elected to carry out its legislative programme in order to benefit the people who have elected it. At the time of its election it is given a complete mandate to use in the interests of the people all the powers available to it under the Constitution. Any government which was so weak-willed as to place an issue such as thi9 before the people, when its members knew in their own hearts that it was the right thing to do, would be guilty of a breach of the trust reposed in it by the people. I cannot perceive any logic whatever in the argument that a referendum should be held simply because the Victorian elections went against us. If one were to accept that as justification for holding a referendum, all the vested interests would have to do to defeat any progressive legislation would be to get a reactionary body such as the Legislative Council of Victoria to cause some disturbance to precipitate a local election. That is exactly what occurred when the Victorian Legislative Council withheld supply from the Government of that State. It is quite obvious that action of that kind is the very antithesis of democracy.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) suggested, because the elections in Victoria went badly for the Australian Labour party in that State, that the people thereby expressed quite clearly an adverse opinion on the question of nationalizing the banks. The plain fact is that the nationalization of banking was not the issue before the electors; the real issue was the refusal of supply by the Legislative Council. It is true, of course, that honorable members opposite endeavoured to make the nationalization of hanking the principal issue. but it was not accepted by the people as such. Logically and constitutionally, the nationalization of banking was not in issue before the electors at all. It may be a fact that a large number of people in Victoria voted against the Australian Labour party because of the misleading propaganda disseminated by members of the Opposition parties which suggested that the nationalization of hanking was the main issue. The fact remains, however, that no opportunity was given to advocates of the nationalization of bank ing to put their side of the question to the people.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Did I hear some one say, “ Why did we not accept the nationalization of banking as the issue “ ? That i9 rather a ridiculous suggestion. Because an issue is raised in a State Parliament and the Legislative Council of that Parliament withholds supply from the Government, thereby forcing the Government to an election, is that to be taken as putting in issue before the people a proposal of the National Government? If that were so, any reactionary body which chose to precipitate a State election at any time could argue that proposals of the National Government had been placed before the people of Australia for their verdict. Obviously, that would reduce responsible, democratic government to a mere sham. It is completely illogical to suggest that the National Government should accept the nationalization of banking as the issue on which the electors of Victoria voted merely because the Legislative Council of that State so desired. Therefore, I do not accept the contention of honorable members opposite that the result of the election in Victoria expresses the considered opinion of the people of that State on the Government’s present proposal. Furthermore, I believe that if the nationalization of banking had been placed fairly before the people as the real issue, and the people had been afforded an opportunity of hearing the other side of the story, the result of the election would have been very different.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- We have just listened to typical speeches from the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). The utterance of the Minister for Information was an hysterical one; in fact, it was more hysterical than usual. So far as the specious arguments of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction are concerned, we have listened to them before, and they do not carry any weight. The honorable gentleman whom I have mentioned endeavoured to argue that a referendum was unnecessary and unconstitutional because no specific provision is made in the Constitution for a referendum to be taken on matters such as the present proposal. However, I remind the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction that referendums were taken, not once but on two occasions, in regard to conscription, a matter which is not mentioned in the Constitution at all. I also remind the honorable gentleman that the people of this country have expressed a very definite desire that a referendum should be taken. Honorable members opposite have contended that the result of the Victorian elections cannot be regarded as a verdict on the Government’s present proposal. The fact is that the issue before the electors was perfectly clear, although members of the Australian Labour party did seek to divert the attention of electors to consideration of the continued existence of the Legislative Council of Victoria. Indeed, that topic was introduced by practically every Labour speaker. Nevertheless, the result of the election showed quite clearly that the electorate considered that it was voting on the National Government’s proposals for the nationalization of banking.
However, some doubt appears to exist even now in the minds of honorable members opposite as to the real feelings of the people of Australia in regard to its proposal, and in order to dispel that doubt I propose to mention a few simple facts. In my own electorate there were, prior to the Victorian election, nine State electorates, of which six were represented by members of the Australian Labour party. Those Labour representatives have been swept away; as the Germans say, they have vanished without a trace. Their political disappearance is due solely to the Prime Minister’s drastic proposal, and they have gone, not to return for a very long time. In case any further proof of my contention is needed, I propose to examine the Victorian election figures closely. Various figures have been cited by honorable members opposite in the course of this debate which are quite wrong. Those figures were prepared without regard to a number of significant facts concerning certain electorates. In 1945, candidates put forward by the Australian Labour party were returned unopposed in eight Victorian electorates. In eleven other electorates the retiring Labour members were not opposed by non-Labour candidates either in this or the 1945 election.
– I rise to order. I invite attention to the fact that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) is reading a newspaper while a member of his own party is make a speech.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I do not wish to take up the time of the honorable member for Flinders; but I insist that he be heard in silence - there has been far too much interruption.
– The votes received by members of the Australian Labour party at the 1947 elections totalled approximately 460,000, which represents a decline of approximately 100,000 in the number of votes which they received at the previous election. In 1945 the votes received-
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of clauses 1 to 8 has expired.
Question put -
That the proviso proposed to he added to clause 2 (Mr. Menzies’s amendment) be so added.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question put -
That clauses 1 to 8 be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 9 to 25 - by leave - considered together.
.- The committee having disposed so briskly of the clauses which preceded the present bracket of clauses, owing to the operation of the “guillotine” imposed by the Government earlier to-day, is now required to consider almost equally expeditiously the next seventeen clauses of this measure. As those clauses are some of the most important in the bill, I shall indicate to supporters of the Government what they mean. They include a statement against discrimination against any depositor; provision for the acquisition of shares ; references to notice being given to the banks before shares are required; provision for appointment of directors ; and the notorious provisions granting a tax concession to those who are prepared to “ come quietly “. It is proper that some honorable member on this side of the chamber should point out what those clauses include because, obviously, supporters of the Government were in complete ignorance of the contents of the bill until it was presented to the Parliament. That great lover of humanity who addressedus last night - I refer to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) - the man who is so concerned with the wellbeing of the people that he will not let them say for themselves what they want to happen, introduced a bill providing for a most revolutionary change in our economic and commercial life without even letting the members of his own party know what was in it. No back-bench member of the party knew what was in the bill before it was presented to the Parliament.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has said that not one member of the Labour party knew the contents of the bill before it was introduced.
– There is no point of order.
– I submit, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that that remark is offensive to me because, as a member of the party that introduced this bill, I was well aware of its cc :i tents prior to its introduction. I knew what I was voting for. The honorable member for Fawkner has deliberately misstated the facts.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.There is no point of order.
– The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) claims to have some intimate knowledge of this measure ; but, at the time that consideration of it was proceeding among his caucus colleagues, he was imbibing knowledge at the expense of the Australian taxpayer in other parts of the world.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Fawkner has said that I was not here when the bill was discussed by caucus. I was present at every caucus discussion of the bill, and, therefore, the honorable member’s statement is incorrect.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Martin will resume his seat. There is no point of order. The second-reading debate was heard practically in silence, and I intend that the proceedings in committee also shall be orderly.
– I regret that the honorable member for Martin is so sensitive Until the bill was presented to the Parliament, and the printed speech of the Prime Minister was circulated, it was quite obvious that most of the members of the Labour party - I refer specifically to back-bench members - had not seen its detailed provisions. If any member claims that caucus had before it details of this bill before it was presented to the Parliament, I should be interested to hear him say so. If any member opposite, other than a member of the Cabinet, can say that he knew of the detailed provisions of this ‘bill before it was introduced, let him say so.
– Ve knew its general import.
– Of course. I give the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) credit for his interjection. He says that members of the Labour party knew the general principles underlying the bill. I do not deny that. We are required to compress into a limited period a committee discussion of seventeen important clauses of this bill, yet even members supporting the Government admit”, that they did not know what was in the bill before it came before them in this chamber. How can honorable members vote intelligently on the bill, and exercise judgment in doing so? The people who have been denied the right to vote on the general principles of the bill will have a fair idea of how the Parliament is treating the committee stage.
– The honorable member must refer to some of the clauses before the committee.
– I shall refer to several clauses, Mr. Temporary Chairman. Before you relieved the Chairman he informed us that the committee was dealing with a block of seventeen clauses. It is proper, therefore, to make some reference to the fact that the committee is required to deal en masse with a number of provisions that have not been considered in detail by any significant section of private members of this Parliament.
The first clause in this part to which I shall make specific reference is clause 11. I ask supporters of the Government to examine that clause carefully. I challenge any of them who possesses legal knowledge to say what authority resides in it. The marginal note reads, “ Commonwealth Bank to observe customary practices and usages of bankers “. That sounds reassuring, but let us consider the wording of the clause. It reads -
It shall be the duty of the Commonwealth Bank-
to conduct its business without discrimination except on such grounds as are appropriate in the normal and proper conduct of banking business.
That is all very fine and handsome, hut can any honorable member claim that there is any compulsion on the bank to observe that prohibition on discrimination? Is this not a mere sop to the feelings of the people? I defy honorable members opposite to point to anything in the clause which imposes a penalty on an officer of the Commonwealth Bank who might discriminate in the giving of credit. This is a most important issue. Labour men who have supported socialism in other countries have consistently opposed the creation of a State banking monopoly because of their fear of discrimination. The chairman of the Royal Bank in Canada, speaking after the Canadian Parliament had rejected a plan to nationalize the banks, said -
As we are organized to-day he said, a prospective borrower may go from one bank to another .if he fails to convince the first banker of his probity, ability and prospects. Under the socialistic system, unless the prospective borrower could convince the State Bank of the soundness of the project for which he sought to borrow money, and also that the transaction to be financed was in harmony with Socialist party objectives, he would be turned down, and would have no other bank to look to.
Very similar views were expressed by the New Zealand Minister for Finance, Mr. Walter Nash, in 1943, when addressing a Labour conference on the subject of the nationalization of banking -
There has been some argument in our party about taking over the trading banks, said Mr. Nash. Personally, I think these banks are doing a bettor job than we can make of it. . . .
Under the present system customers who are dissatisfied with one bank can take their business to another bank. Under a Stateowned system they could not do this. The resistance of the trading banks to the importunities of borrowers who want to commit themselves beyond their resources is a valuable bulwark to any government.
He went on to say how difficult it would be under a system of State-controlled banking to discriminate between the claims of John Brown and Tom Smith. When it came to an issue between the claims of one person and another, it was tetter, he said, that the decision should be made by some one other than a Cabinet Minister. Now let us come closer to home, and see what some of the Government’s own advisers have said on this subject. Professor Mills, and Professor Ronald Walker, both of whom hold high and responsible positions in the government service, collaborated in the writing of a book called Money. Professor Mills was a member of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, so he ought to know something of the subject. He is now Director of the Commonwealth Office of Education. In the early part of the war, Professor Walker was an economic adviser to the Government, and is now adviser to the Australian Legation in Washington. I quote the following from their book, which was written a few years ago -
It is clear that nationalization of banking might lead to discrimination between borrowers on various grounds, for example, to starve industrial monopolies of credit, or even to foster the growth of nationalized industries. And indeed, if a political party wished to transform society into a socialist State by the gradual nationalization of important industries, it would be wise, for obvious reasons, to start with banking.
The only protection which this bill purports to afford against discrimination is contained in the clause now before the committee, and this clause, when analysed, is seen to afford no protection at all. It is merely a bald statement of a point of view. There is no authority behind it, and it imposes no sanctions against an officer of the bank who may exercise discrimination. The clause is placed in the bill merely to delude those who might entertain a fear that the Government would use the legislation for discriminatory purposes. In every part of the world, where governments have assumed control of banking, such control has been used for political and discriminatory purposes. This is what happened in Russia, Germany, and Italy, and it is happening to-day in Argentina. We have no confidence that the present Commonwealth Government would not act as those other governments have acted, once this power is in its hands.
– -The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) referred to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in ironical terms as “ this lover of humanity “. I assume he meant this to he a slur upon the right honorable gentleman. If so, I throw it back in his teeth. The honorable member for Fawkner now warns us of the dangers of socialism, but a few days ago he told the House that he himself was a socialist until he was 30 years of age.
– -Rubbish ! I was in this Parliament at the age of 26.
– The honorable member said that in his earlier years he was a believer in the benefits of socialism.
– That is an utter lie.
– The honorable member reminded us that Bernard Shaw had once said that any man who was not a socialist as a young man had no heart, and that any man who was a socialist after 40 had no head.
– The honorable member has not even quoted the words correctly Shaw said, “ Any man who is not a socialist at twenty As I said, I was in this Parliament when I was 26.
– Does the honorable member want us to believe that he was in favour of regimentation until he was twenty, or 26?
– I was never in favour of regimentation.
– If the honorable member for Fawkner interjects again I will name him.
– Well, the honorable member for Burke is asking me questions.
– This bill represents a move by the Government to control the credit resources of the nation. Either the Government must control financial policy, or the private banks, in their own right, will expand and contract the credit of the nation. _ The honorable member quoted from a book entitled Money, written by Professor Walker and Professor Mills. His quotation was accurate; but I point out that those authors also said that it was no more important to nationalize banking than it was to nationalize the industry of bread baking. That statement, I submit, is obviously absurd. Banking by its very nature must be conducted as a monopoly; if it be conducted otherwise chaos must result, whilst in baking a monopoly is impossible. And we know that throughout the history of private banks, they have never engaged in competition. However, Professor Mills and Professor Walker, in a later edition of their book, showed that they had seen the light, because they stated that the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems recommended that private banking should be continued only . if the Commonwealth Bank was a powerful central bank capable of controlling the banking system. In that edition they revealed a very great change in the views they expressed in their earlier edition, when they declared that there was no greater need to nationalize banking than there was to nationalize the industry of bread baking. The honorable member for Fawkner dealt with a number of other matters, the principal of which was the provision in this measure compelling the Commonwealth Bank to refrain from discriminating between customers. The honorable gentleman pointed out that there was no way to compel the bank to observe that provision. That may he true ; but the simple fact remains that there is nothing in the wide world to-day to prevent private banks from discriminating among customers who apply to them for advances. Whether the provision in this measure can be enforced or not, the instruction conveyed to the bank in this legislation is a much stronger guarantee that discrimination will not be shown among customers.
– Competition now prevents discrimination.
– I repeat that hanking cannot be conducted on a competitive basis, because banking must, of its nature, be a monopoly. The report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems supports my statement that, banking cannot be effectively carried on on a competitive basis. The honorable member for Warringah .(Mr. .Spender), in his second-reading speech, said that there was no competition between the private ba<nks in respect of rates and charges, but that competition existed between them in respect of margins of security. Such competition is of the most dangerous type and cannot be justified in the banking system of this, or any other, country. The fact is that when the banks experience falling prices the margin of their collateral security disappears, and then, not because of any desire on their part, but .by force of circumstances, they are obliged to call in credits, hecause the values against which they made- advances begin to disappear and realization in all probability would not recoup them in respect of the advances. With widespread competition in respect of margins of security, banks are forced to lend on more risky ventures, and when prices fall the result of such competition so far as the people are concerned is much more severe than that of competition of any other kind. When honorable members opposite misrepresent aspects of the banking system they must be prepared to pay the penalty of having their statements exposed by honorable -.members on this side of the chamber.
. –Paragraph c of clause 11 provided that it shall be the duty of the Commonwealth Bank-
To observe, except as otherwise required by law, the practices and usages customary among bankers and, in particular, -not to divulge any information relating to, or to the affairs of, a customer of the Commonwealth Bank except in circumstances in which it is, in accordance with law or the practices and usages customary among bankers, necessary or proper for the Commonwealth Bank to divulge that information.
We have witnessed the spectacle to-night of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) revelling in the fact that he had opened a letter which came into his possession in error. The letter was not addressed to him, and, after reading the opening sentence, he must have realized that it was not intended for him. Nevertheless, he read the whole of the contents of the letter and its enclosures, and, knowing that he illegally possessed a letter intended for somebody else, he deliberately publicized its contents in this chamber, not on one occasion, but on several occasions, and even as recently as to-night. If that is the kind of indecency and dishonesty to be shown in the conduct of the Commonwealth Bank by responsible Ministers of the Crown, who, through the Prime Minister and Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), can instruct the bank what it shall do, and, bearing in mind that there will be no other bank in existence, such practice will be in accordance with the practices and usages customary among bankers, because it will be done by that single monopoly bank. On this point I wish to inform the committee of incidents during the war, with regard to the Commonwealth Bank, which will show to the people exactly how the bank used the censorship of communications within Australia in order to obtain information which had no connexion with the war or the winning of it, and then to hand this information on to those who were in no way entitled to have it. There was submitted to Mr. Ettelson, Controller of Post and Telegraph Censorship, by Mr. Rusden, officer in charge of Exchange Control, Commonwealth Bank, certain particulars required by the bank which it desired to have abstracted from letters written by members of the public. In those instructions - I quote from a statement issued to the press by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) - there appeared the phrase, “ In the interests of good government in Australia, or would be helpful in banking, finance or exchange control in this country “. Those were instructions regarding information to be taken out of letters of members of the public during the war for use by the Commonwealth Bank. Mr. Rusden said that the terms of those instructions were amended in April, or May, 1944. That was about one month after the appointment of the parliamentary committee which was appointed to inquire into censorship. Giving evidence before that committee, Mr. Rusden, under crossexamination by myself, said he could not remember whether the words, “In the interests of good government in Australia, &c”, were his words. He added -
I cannot see how I can avoid taking the responsibility for them. I admit they are peculiar words, and that boiled down they amount to a “blanket clause” which would enable us to ask Mr. Ettleson for information simply on the grounds that in our opinion such information was in the interests of good government in Australia or helpful in banking, finance and exchange controls.
The clause of the bill to which I am addressing myself contains instructions governing the conduct of affairs of the Commonwealth Bank. The bank i3 instructed, in particular, not to divulge any information except in accordance with law or the practices and usages customary among bankers. That will mean practices and usages laid down by the single monopoly bank, the Commonwealth Bank. Let us see what happened during the war. In one case, Mr. E. V. Nixon, who was one of the honoured advisers to the Commonwealth Treasury during the war, when he was Director of Finance, Munitions Department, giving evidence before the Parliamentary Committee on Censorship, said that he wa3 chairman of directors of Moulded Products (Australasia) Proprietary Limited, and that a formula had been sent to his company by the Monsanto Company, of America. That formula, which had nothing to do with security, was abstracted from the letter, and the company found enclosed, by error, in the envelope, which was marked “ Opened by censor “, a copy of a departmental letter instructing that a copy of the formula should be circularized in the department concerned. Mr. Nixon said that his company was not being obstructive in any way, and that if the Government had asked Moulded Products Proprietary Limited for the formula the company would have made it available, but that the company objected to it being taken without its knowledge. That is one instance of the improper use of the censorship. During the war there was published monthly by Colonel Ettelson, Controller of Post and Telegraph Censorship, a publication known as the Australian Military Censorship Summary, in which appeared extracts taken from letters of business firms. Copies of these summaries were circulated among the forces. Here is a typical extract -
I had Mr. “ X “ with me for a few weeks, and he is interested in a new dried milk process tried out by “ Y “ of the United States of America Army.
Apparently it went on to indicate what the process was. An extract was also made from a letter written by a firm in Australia to a firm in England giving a review of plant and machinery requirements for a five-year period after the war and the policy to be adopted by the Australian company. Other secret information was similarly extracted and disseminated widely throughout the services. We have heard the story of a letter dealing with banking matters which was stolen from the censorship and quoted, too, over the air-
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to deal with the clause.
– I am outlining the use made of secret information obtained through the censorship by the Commonwealth Bank and illegally used by members of the Government. A letter waa written by Mr. Goode, late general manager of the Union Bank of Australia Limited, to his board of directors in London indicating the policy of the bank in connexion with its fight against the nationalization of banking. Mr. Goode showed remarkable prescience of the Government’s intentions. That letter was typed by Mr. Goode’s confidential typist and the single carbon copy was filed in the general manager’s private safe at the head office of the bank in Melbourne.
– Mr. Goode told me that he posted the letter himself.
– That letter was quoted by Senator Fraser in a broadcast over the air in Western Australia and it was also quoted by the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman)-
– A good quotation, too.
– The Minister’s interjection is an indication of his lack of public morality. All he can say in defence of his action is that it was a shrewd quotation.
– I did not say it was a “ shrewd “ quotation ; I said it was a good quotation.
– The letter came into his hands improperly and should not have been used. I understand that a copy of the letter was sent to the Trades Hall in Perth. Before his death, Mr. Goode told me that the document bore a certain number. In evidence given on oath before the censorship committee Colonel Ettelson said that all of these extracts from letters bore identifying numbers so that they could be traced to the originals of the letters. I feel sure that when the people of Australia read the Hansard report of this debate they will not be enthusiastic to know that in war-time the Commonwealth Bank issued to the Chief Military Censor a blanket authority which Mr. Rusden, an officer of the bank’ who was in charge of exchange control, subsequently described as too wide. No doubt information relating to the accounts and personal affairs of depositors in the new monopoly bank will be divulged in the same way.
– This very important part of the bill affords me an opportunity to answer some criticisms that have been offered of statements which I made during the second-reading debate. Mr, Wilson, manager of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank Limited, published in the form of an advertisement a criticism of my remarks headed, “Ward Accused of Gross Distortion of Pact. Ignorance or Malice is Alleged Even the most casual reader must have noticed very great discrepancies in the statements made by Mr. Wilson. I merely give additional details to the committee so that honorable members may judge whether it is essential in the interests ‘ of the people that the private banks should be nationalized or whether they should be allowed to remain under their present control. Honorable members are aware of what happened during the bank crisis of 1893, when thirteen banks closed their doors and withheld payment from their unfortunate depositors. With the assistance and approval of the governments of the day, the banks made certain arrangements to recommence operations. The English, Scottish and Australian Bank Limited, which, as honorable members know, is registered in England, proposed that all deposits up to £50 be paid in cash, and that an amount of £838,000 due to governments and for note issue liability be also paid in cash. If evidence be required of the need for State and local government authorities to bank with a government bank that evidence is surely supplied by Mr, Wilson. He goes on to say that the banks were obliged to call up a sum of £900,000 from their shareholders to pay moneys, due to the Government and for note issue liability. Honorable members are aware that at that time the private banks issued their own notes and that when they closed their doors the notes were not worth the paper upon which they were printed. Mr. Wilson gave the terms of settlement of the balance as follows: -
Terminable deposit receipts 4 per cent, interest; 4 per cent, perpetual debenture stock; 4i per cent, perpetual preferred stock; 4J per cent, deferred stock. (Rate of interest on the two later categories of stock reduced to 3 per cent. - with the consent of the court.)
What I want Mr. Wilson to answer is whether it is not a fact that the English, Scottish and Australian Bank Limited, through its directorate, approached the tory government of the United Kingdom to have certain legislation passed which in the first instance gave it access to the court, and secondly, whether it is not a fact that the rate of interest was subsequently reduced to 3 per cent, as the result of the action of private banks. It is of no use for him to endeavour to protect his hank from criticism by arguing that this reduction was brought about by the court; it was definitely brought about by the action of the private banks. Mr. Wilson then said that the stock immediately became marketable, and that stock-holders could dispose of their stock if they wanted to do so. He said -
During the early years after reconstruction any issue of these stocks could have been disposed of by the holder if he had so wished at, or approximately 20a in the £1.
Why does he not give us the figures at which the stock could have been disposed of ? The words “ approximately 20s. “ may mean anything at all, as I shall indicate when I cite the exact figures. Mr. Wilson went on to say -
For many years thereafter, the Australian market value for debenture stock and deferred stock ranged from 20s. to a few shillings less for each £1. The preferred stock, in view of the reduction in interest from 4£ per cent, to 3 per cent., had a somewhat lower market value.
I have gone to the trouble of perusing old records and I have discovered that this stock was sold at one time for 8s. 6d., a reduction much greater than that indicated by Mr. Wilson. I have also discovered that when the value was lowest, the bank stepped, in and bought some of the stock itself. So, whilst, as the result of the action of the hank, the unfortunate depositors were deprived of access to their money, after the value of the stock had become depressed on the market, the bank took advantage of the position to reduce its indebtedness by purchasing some of the stock itself. Mr. Wilson then made a great feature of the fact that last year - approximately 50 years after the closing of the bank - it was able to discharge its last liability. He denied that this action had been taken because of criticism offered by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) during the discussion of the 1945 banking legislation. However, an article written by the finance editor of the Melbourne Herald - a journal which can hardly be described as a friend of the Government - contained the following admission : -
Now the bank is putting the issue beyond all doubt by paying off the £1,740,000.
Obviously, a doubt had been created by the speech of the Minister for Information, because, according to the finance editor of the Melbourne Herald, the matter was being put beyond all doubt by the hank agreeing to pay this amount. Then the bank endeavoured to create the impression that it was treating its depositors, or in most cases, the descendants of its depositors, generously, because, according to Mr. Wilson, it paid off this stock on the 1st July, 1946, at 26s. 3d. in the case of the debenture stock, and at 25s. 9d. in the case of the preferred stock. Mr. Wilson endeavoured to convey the idea that the bank had actually paid more than the face value of the stock, but surely regard must be paid to the relative value of money when the deposits were made, and when the stock.holders were repaid. According to the Statistician’s figures, £1 in 1893 when the money was deposited with the bank, would be the equivalent of 42s. 3d. to-day, so that, allowing for the depreciation of the currency, what Mr. Wilson’s bank actually did was to pay these people, in the first instance at the rate of 12s. 5d. in fi, and, in the second instance, 12s. 9d. in the £1. By juggling figures. Mr. Wilson endeavoured to show that the individuals concerned had been treated generously. But it is rather remarkable that in his advertisement, he did not make any reference to what the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems b«d to say on this question. The report of the commission states -
However described, all these interminable securities had two features in common. The first was that they were payable only at the option of the bank; the second, that the low rate of interest fixed was not subject to revision. In effect, this converted them into fixed capital, entitled only to a low rate of interest. The conditions described are open to adverse criticism on the ground of rigidity. The rate fixed may have been fair at the time and in the circumstances, but it became definitely inequitable in later years when higher rates of interest prevailed and the banks concerned earned large profits.
The royal commission went on to say -
The depositors of these banks were requested and by force of circumstances compelled to agree to an extension of time for the repayment of the amount owing to them.
By merely reading the advertisement and not inquiring any further into the matter, the impression could be gained that there had been no dissatisfaction amongst depositors; but the fact is that protest meetings were held and the depositors even went so far as to send a Melbourne solicitor, Mr. B. J. Parkinson, to London to appeal -to the London directorate on their behalf. Mr. Parkinson received a reply from the directorate stating -
To ask shareholders to give up rights to which purchase of shares legally entitles them, in the interest of .people who have no possible claim on them, is not, it appears to the board, a reasonable business proposition.
The protest from the Australian depositors was supported by the Australian Mutual Provident Society, the Grand United Order of Oddfellows, National Trustees Limited, the Australian Natives Association, and the Perpetual Trustee Company Limited. So, it is evident that there was great dissatisfaction over the treatment by this bank of its depositors. The Bishop of Newcastle lent his support to the protests, and the late Sir Josiah Symon, K.C., of Adelaide, a former antiLabour member of the Senate, wrote to the people concerned in the agitation in the following terms : -
I thoroughly agree with you that it is the duty of the directors. in the present overflowing prosperity of the bank, paying its shareholders I2i per cent., to raise and give to the debenture and stock-holders a more just participation in the profits, which are largely due to the small rate of interest, which for the last five and twenty years has been paid upon depositors’ money represented by the debentures, &e. In fact, as you point out, for all these years, the bank and the shareholders have had the benefit of all this depositors’ capital without fairly paying for it, and it must he remembered also that the contribution of the deposits in this way was compulsory upon the depositor.
Yet this hank manager has not one word to say in regard to the criticism hy these people of the treatment of the depositors. No doubt he is hoping that, over the period of years, the people concerned have forgotten.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) talked of letters that he had received asking for a referendum on the Government’s banking proposals. Since I made my statement in this Parliament, and publicly, I have received a number of letters from unfortunate people concerning the bank crash of 1893. Some of them have related the experiences of their parents, who have since passed away, and others, now advanced in years, have told of their personal experiences. Yet honorable members opposite say, “ Why go back so far ? “ When we refer to the depression days they say, “ Let us talk of events of to-day “. The people of this country should remember that antiLabour interests never change their policy
Or their tactics. They only await favorable opportunities to benefit themselves, even though it means striking at the welfare of the community. The private bankers to-day can dictate to antiLabour governments, and during the regime of such administrations they can secure the passage through this Parliament of any legislation that they desire. The anti-Labour parties are the political mouthpieces of the private banks. We could have another depression in this country, and should another depression come, it would not be these individuals who to-day are causing unrest in the community who would suffer, but the unfortunate people some of whom are falling for this antiLabour propaganda. They would learn of their mistake by bitter experience.
There are still in this Parliament certain non-Labour members who voiced no protest when effect was being given to the Premiers plan. They talked about the economic position of the country, but they did not worry about the great distress that was caused throughout the land. They had no vision and no faith in the future of this country. They did not recognize, as the Labour party has recognized, that idle resources, whether they be man-power, materials or equipment, are a national loss. We have embarked upon a policy of full employment, but the Leader of the Opposition does not believe in full employment. I recall the criticism that was offered in this Parliament when the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), attending the San Francisco conference as a representative of this country, sought to have provision for full employment incorporated in the United Nations Charter. The Leader of the Opposition said on that occasion that the Minister was endeavouring to circumvent the will of the people as expressed in the referendum of 1944, and that he did not favour the inclusion of the objective of full employment in the charter; I referred, in my secondreading speech, to an article by the financial editor of the Sydney Morning Herald about the great advantages of another depression in this country in order that discipline in industry might be restored.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- As usual, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) harks back more than 50 years to when the shareholders in some trading banks did not receive the full value of their shares. I do not know why the honorable member does not talk about something new. What he says would sound all right if delivered from a soapbox in the Sydney “ Domain, but it cuts no ice with people who can think for themselves. His argument is threadbare, and it is time he brought himself up to date. When he made his debut as a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, he was with the left wing of the Labour party, the section which was then called the “ Lang group “. It went by other names at different times. The Scullin Labour Government was trying to adjust difficulties and put people back to work. It failed miserably. The only bank that failed in those days was a government bank, the New South Wales Government
Savings Bank. The harrowing stories that the Minister for Transport tells of the ‘nineties could be repeated of those days, when advertisements appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald offering for sale New South Wales Government Savings Bank passbooks for 10s. in the £1. Paragraph c of clause 11 provides that it shall be the duty of the Commonwealth Bank -
To observe, except as otherwise required by law, the practices and usages customary among bankers, and, in particular, not to divulge any information relating to, or to the affairs of, a customer of the Commonwealth Bank except in circumstances in which it is, in accordance with law or the practices and usages customary among bankers, necessary dr proper for the Commonwealth Bank to divulge that information.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) featured that provision on the front page of the printed version of his second-reading speech, which was circulated among honorable members. But, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) referred to the existing lack of secrecy. He referred to the fact that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) read with delight a letter sent by the manager of a bank in Victoria to his principals overseas. According to Hansard of the 22nd March, 1945, the Minister said -
There has come into my possession a communication which throws some light on the Sound Finance League, namely, an extract from t( letter sent by the manager of one of the trading banks to his chairman of directors in England.
A member of the Opposition asked him how it had come into his possession, and he said -
This document came into my possession quite legitimately, and not through the censorship.
That bank manager, a neighbour of mine, told me that he had dictated that letter to his confidential secretary and had posted it himself and that no one else knew anything about it. How did it get into the Minister’s hands and why did he quote it with such satisfaction? Talk of censorship ! Every letter that was sent to me in the two years I was overseas during the war was censored. The letters were thrust back into the envelopes in any old manner. Evidence that they had been taken out, read and returned was pro vided by the marks of dirty teacups on them. If the Government wants to censor bank correspondence it can. I do not believe that even though the war is ended, censorship will not continue.
During the Victorian general election campaign I travelled in the city and the country and learned that the people there are affronted that such a policy as this should be even contemplated. I asked wheat-growers whether they believed that the private banks forced them off properties. Their reply was, “ No, on the contrary ! “ There is confidence between the customers and the private banks, especially in the country towns, where the bank managers are frequently able to advise their customers as to the buying and selling of stock, plant and the like. Even with the. best intentions in the world, a government institution, whatever government be in power, losses efficiency as compared with privately conducted ones. There is no possibility of secrecy in a government institution. A person seeking an advance has to answer a multitude of questions on various forms, which are then sent to the head-quarters. This legislation will disrupt the goodwill that the private trading banks have developed in this country in the last 130 years. Banking is an essential adjunct to commerce.
As to the possibility of there being secrecy in a government bank, there is no secrecy even about small accounts to-day. I have seen letters addressed to bond holders asking them to convert their bonds. The letters bear the bank account numbers of the people to whom they have been sent. So there is a close connexion between the Treasury and the Commonwealth Bank. Therefore, it is useless for the Government to try to lead the people to believe, by the insertion of that clause in this bill, that secrecy will be observed by the government monopoly bank. Secrecy is impossible in such an institution. Moreover, what possibilities for political pressure will exist ! This weakkneed Government will not be able to stand up to militant unions, particularly those dominated by the Communists, which, intending to call their members out on strike, demand financial accommodation so that they shall be able to pay strike money to them. The totalitarian Treasurer will not be able to refuse them. To-day the right honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) is Treasurer. To-morrow the Treasurer may be the .turbulent honorable member for East Sydney. He could not show the detachment necessary in banking affairs. It is likely that as he lives constantly in the atmosphere of class antagonism he would favour the claims of people who used pressure on him. He would vent in commercial transactions some of the spleen that he exhibits in the Parliament. The kind of banking that we know, which is in the British tradition and is the envy of other nations, is to go because the Prime Minister, nursing a grievance and brooding over the repressions of the past, suddenly decided that they should go.
It would be interesting to hear the result of a secret ballot of a Labour caucus on this matter. “We hear a lot about secret ballots of unionists, but a secret ballot in the parliamentary caucus would be splendid. “We understand that the Prime Minister declared for the liquidation of the private banks when the High Court, upset his plans and agreed with the Melbourne City Council that it should not be compelled to bank with the Commonwealth Bank. This bill is the denouement. The caucus sheep must follow the Prime Minister’s lead. It is provided that the Prime Minister may decide that the bank directors shall go. Ipso facto they are to be dismissed. He will be able to appoint directors to carry on. Who will they be? The Government pays lip service to preference in employment for exservicemen, but, as with the appointment of all but one of the conciliation commissioners, doubtless the directors will come from the ranks of union secretaries and organizers and various other - I was about to say hangers-on - people in that category. We have seen dumped in country towns prefabricated buildings for use as branches of the Commonwealth Bank. Actually, shopkeepers are being evicted to make room for further banks. I have already raised this matter with the Prime Minister, and the right honorable gentleman promised an investigation. These vital clauses, 18 to 25, which will get such cursory consideration to-night and which have to be disposed of early to-morrow will become law. The employees of the banks, who belong to a union over 20,000 strong, will become industrial conscripts and will be transferred willynilly to the Public Service; bank managers, who have risen to their positions through long and faithful service to the community, will be paid off by some nebulous body, and the shareholders possibly will be paid in inflated currency, because no provision has been made in the Estimates or elsewhere for the £100,000,000 that has to be found for this purpose. This is iniquitous. The whole bill is infamous and revolutionary, and the clauses emphasize how bad it is. I take the strongest exception to it. It is not democratic. In fact, it is quite contrary to democratic ideas, which means that many people, if not everybody in Australia, will suffer.
– It is unfortunate for the case of the Opposition that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) should have laid such stress in his early remarks on the fact that all the private banks flourished during the depression years. It is quite obvious that they made substantial profits during those years and that the sufferings caused by the conditions which existed then had to be endured by the mass of the Australian people. The very purpose of this legislation is to ensure that such conditions shall not recur and that the mass of the people shall not suffer while private profit-making financial institutions flourish. When the honorable member said that the columns of the Sydney Morning Herald in those days were full of advertisements offering Government Savings Bank passbooks for sale at 10s. in the £1, he conveniently omitted to mention that both the Sydney Morning Herald, which published the advertisements and profited from them, and the private financiers, who purchased the passbooks to the loss and suffering of those who were compelled to sell them, are to-day among the chief opponents of this measure, which will prevent such a condition of affairs recurring to their benefit and profit in future years. The honorable member was equally unfortunate in his reference to the failure of the
Government Savings Bank of New South Wales during the depression, which he mentioned with an air of satisfaction. That bank was compelled to close its doors because of a fact which is now on record and which the honorable member cannot successfully deny. It was perfectly sound and never should have been closed. It was closed only because the private financial institutions and private financiers were superior in power to the government of the country at that time, a state of affairs which will be ended by means of this legislation.
Clause 11 in particular is one of the most important in this bill, providing as it does assurances of adequate banking facilities, of banking facilities without discrimination, and of the exercise of secrecy in the conduct of banking operations in the future. It is most remarkable in my opinion that the Opposition, which has been so bold in its public attacks on this legislation-
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has just said that he is speaking on clause 11. The group of clauses including clause 11 was disposed of under the “ guillotine “ provisions at 9.30 p.m. I submit that the honorable member is out of order in discussing clause 11.
– The honorable member for New England, is hopelessly out of touch with the bill. The committee is- dealing with clauses 9 to 25 at the present time.
– The extraordinary point of order just taken by the honorable number for New England is most remarkable because he himself, within the last half hour, purported to speak on this very clause. Apparently he had little knowledge even of the number of the clause with which he was dealing, and nf the matters contained in it. That, indeed, was the point that I was about to make. All members of the Opposition have been bold on the public platform, where their statements could not be contradicted, in declaring that once this legislation became law there would no longer be any secrecy in banking, that inadequate banking facilities would be pro vided, and that discrimination could be practised. Yet, when the very clause which provides for secrecy, for adequate banking facilities, and for the prevention of discrimination is before the committee, the members of the Opposition who are put up to debate the matter are the honorable member for New England, who admitted that he did not even know which clause he was speaking about, and the honorable member for Balaclava, whose political responsibility at the present time is confused, since it is largely owed to the Australian Women’s National League, which is being so successfully white-anted by the Communist party. The fact is that the honorable member for New England, who is noted in this chamber for his unreliability-
– I rise to order. I object to the statement that I am unreliable, and I ask for its withdrawal.
– I ask the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to withdraw the statement.
– I understand that the honorable member objects to my statement that he is noted for his unreliability in dealing with matters in this chamber.
– The honorable member must withdraw the statement.
– I do most cheerfully withdraw the statement. There may be some honorable members who do not recognize his unreliability in these matters.
– I ask for a full withdrawal, Mr. Chairman.
– The honorable member must make an- unreserved withdrawal.
– I unreservedly withdraw the statement. I express my personal opinion that the views expressed by the honorable member for New England are unreliable. I trust that you will allow that, Mr. Chairman.
– I ask for a full withdrawal of the honorable member’s personal views, Mr. Chairman.
– There is nothing unparliamentary about that statement. It is quite in order.
–I am glad that I have at last succeeded in making a statement on this matter which is in order. The honorable member for New England spoke to-night in a more confused manner than he usually does. Although I listened to him -with considerable attention, I do not know whether any honorable member was able to understand clearly the points that he tried to make in connexion with military censorship or their relation to this bill. If the honorable member, or any other member of the Opposition, had wished to show that secrecy would not prevail in a public banking system, that there would be discrimination in the treatment of customers, or that there would not be adequate banking facilities for the people of Australia, surely he would have dealt with actual cases from his own experience and the experience of the Australian people in relation to banking. However, he seemed only to join with the honorable member for Balaclava in a protest, against the way in which military censorship was exercised. The view of the honorable member for Balaclava appeared to be that military censorship should not have been applied to letters which he received while he was overseas. I do not know on what ground the honorable member for Balaclava should consider himself to be superior to any one else in matters of censorship in war-time; but he did say that those who were in charge of military censorship decided which letters should be opened. I contend that if those authorities decided that all letters addressed to the honorable member for Balaclava should be opened, then no doubt they judged in accordance with the facts.
Censorship in war-time was a matter of military security. At that time, the security of the Australian people had to be placed above everything else. It has no relation whatever to the peace-time conduct of banking. The fact that the Opposition had to rely upon such members as the honorable member for New England and the honorable member for Balaclava to put the case on this important clause; the fact that they failed to produce any illustration of discrimination among the 3?800,000 customers of the public hanking system of this country; the fact that they have not been able to produce any examples of the breach of secrecy provisions in the conduct of public banking; and the fact that they have failed to show any lack of adequate facilities in the Commonwealth Bank indicate the measure of the success of public banking in the past, and the best assurance that the clause now under consideration has been suitably drafted; so as ‘to provide, in future, an assurance for the customers Of private banks which they have never previously been able to obtain. I ask: Will any honorable member in this chamber deny that the control of private banks has rested solely in the power of money to purchase shares ? A man might have absolutely no knowledge of banking and no sense of responsibility to the public, yet if he possesses a sufficient amount of money to purchase a controlling interest in a banking company, he can become the sole authority to decide its policy.
– To what bank does the honorable member refer?
– I refer to any private trading bank. The present directors of the private banks in Australia have other industrial and financial interests which can cause them to require discrimination to be practised by the managers and staffs of those banks against others whose interests in those industrial and financial matters may be in competition with their own. There has been no statutory provision, and no legal protection for the customers of those banks against the exercise of discrimination, and while no example can be quoted of discrimination in the conduct of public banking, examples were quoted during the second-reading debate of discrimination applied to customers of private banks, because the directors had financial interests in similar types of business to those for which advances were sought. This clause does provide for the Australian public a protection which it has never had before; a complete legal assurance both to the customers and to the staffs of the banks in carrying out their functions; and the observance of secrecy in conformity with the conduct of the banking profession, in such a way as to provide adequate banking facilities for the public.
Victorian Elections: Alleged Statement by Mr. Lee.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– It will be remembered that this morning a question was put to a Minister indicating that at the recent elections in Victoria, the Liberal candidate for Preston, Mr. Lee, was supposed to have given to a questioner an answer of a very offensive kind about his opponent being the winner of the Victoria Cross, as he was. Since that occurred, I have received from Mr. Lee a telegram which states -
Emphatic denial statement attributed to me at question time re medals. Questioner quoting totally untrue statement in last issue of Guardian newspaper.
That is the Communist newspaper. The statement that was attributed to Mr. Lee was one which I found great difficulty in accepting, because it was grossly offensive, and I am very glad to be able to put before the House at the earliest possible moment his refutation of that suggestion. I have no doubt, from my knowledge of him, that he would be the last man to make a remark so grossly untrue and so grossly offensive about his opponent, or, for that matter, about any man who had been decorated for gallantry on the field of battle.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1947 -
No. 83 - Commonwealth Telephone Officers’ Association.
No. 84 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Nineteenth AnnualReport of the Australian Wine Board, for year 1946-47, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
House adjourned at 10.58 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
e asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Real Estate Transactions: Issue of Passport to Mr. S. E. Parry.
y. - On the 24th September, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) asked me a series of questions concerning Mr. Stanley Evan Parry. I undertook to obtain further information in regard to these questions and now inform the honorable member as follows : -
A document of identity was granted on the 25th July, 1947, to Mr. S. E. Parry to enable him to proceed to New Zealand on business, accompanied by his wife. Subsequently approval was given for the grant of travel facilities to Fiji and America.
It is not compulsory under the Passports Act for a person to obtain a passport before leaving Australia, and it is the rule not to refuse the issue of a passport unless in very exceptional circumstances, such as where it is made known to the department that a person is seeking to evade prosecution.
Before the document of identity was issued, counsel assisting the royal commission was asked to advise whether there was any reason why the issue of the document should he withheld. Counsel orally advised that Parry had completed his evidence before the royal commission and that his presence would not be required again. Counsel further advised that Parry’s evidence before the royal commission did not disclose any offence against any law of the Commonwealth.
There is no record of Commonwealth funds having been expended on the “Victory Garden “.
– On the 30th October, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) asked a question concerning the effect of the projected cut in dollar expenditure upon the importations of university text-books. The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
In those instances where in a licence or accompanying it there is information clearly indicating that the books covered thereby are bona fide text-books prescribed by schools or universities it can be accepted that as a general rule the licence will be revalidated. In regard to the policy which is to operate when the issue of licences for imports from dollar areas is resumed, the Minister for Trade and Customs has stated that, although a limit has been placed on the amount of dollars which may be used for importing books, the sum allocated should be adequate to meet Australian requirements of the more essential type of books.
g asked the Prime Minister upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.Chifley. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
In August of this year, the executive of the miners’ federation and the Joint Coal Board reached the following agreement: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
n. - The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information: -
– On the 28th October the honorable member for Deakin (Mr.
Hutchinson.) asked a question regarding government subsidies to the coal industry and further to my promise on that occasion I desire to inform the honorable member that as at the end of August last, costs at an annual rate of approximately £3,900,000 were being incurred by the coal-mining industry over and above the costs of the industry when ceiling prices were introduced. On the 3rd November, the average price of coal was increased by 5s. a ton. This increase did not entirely remove the necessity for subsidy, which will be continued at the rate of approximately £750,000 a year.
Commonwealth Bank: Shakes in Trading Banks.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
When applying for transfers of shares in private banks to officers of the Commonwealth Bank, did anybody inform the directors of the private banks that the real purchaser was the Commonwealth Bank?
– The Commonwealth Bank advises that before the registration of the transfer of any shares wa9 effected the bank discussed with most of the trading hanks the question of transfer of such shares to the names of nominees of the Commonwealth Bank.
Postal Department: Mildura Mail Service.
l. - On the 4th November, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) asked the following question : -
Owing to the state of the railways in Victoria and the subsequent infrequent running of trains, the city of Mildura is without a daily mail service. I think the Minister representing the Postmaster-General will agree that a city of such importance should not be so inconvenienced. Will he direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to the urgent necessity of restoring a daily mail service to Mildura?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -
The Postal Department is fully aware of the adverse effect of the railway passenger train restrictions in Victoria upon country mail services, and it has been active in arranging supplementary services by road to outlying centres. As a result, motor vehicles on over 30 routes have been subsidized and the mail frequency to a large number of towns in Victoria has been restored to normal by this means.
The department is concerned that the populous and important Mildura area has been reduced to four mails weekly by train, but in the absence of a regular road motor servicebetween Mildura and any suitable connecting point, it has not yet been practicable to arrange additional mails. The honorable member may be assured, however, that the matter is receiving close attention with a view to effecting an improvement in the Mildura mail service at the earliest possible moment.
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 November 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19471112_reps_18_194/>.