18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. A. M. BLAIN, M.P.
Mr. MENZIES. - I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that the third notice of motion under the heading “ General Business “ stands in the name of the honorable member for Indi, and relates to certain allegations made by the honorable member for Lang as to the wrongful use by the honorable member for the Northern Territory of his parliamentary privileges. I am sure the Prime Minister, like myself, feels that this matter ought not to stand undetermined on the notice-paper when the House rises. I therefore ask whether he will agree to make time available for the discussion of this motion before the present sittings end.
Mr.CHIFLEY.- The Government is desirous that some opportunity should be given to discuss this particular matter. It is not proposed that there should bo a long debate. Normally it would come up for discussion next Thursday, which is private members’ day, in the order in which it appears upon the notice-paper. There may be other ways by which provisioncan be made for a brief discussion. I assure the right honorable gentleman that the Government does desire that there should he some opportunity afforded to debate the subject prior to the end of the present sittings.
– Has the Prime Minister been informed that Laura Gapp, of 3 Ocean-street, Bondi, New South Wales, a member of the Communist party secretariat, and a paid Communist organizer, has been issued with a passport - No. A.267918 - for the purpose of visiting England, South Africa, France, Czechoslovakia, Singapore, India, Malta, China and Soviet Russia? Is it a fact that the said Laura Gapp has been a Communist organizer on the following organizations : Congress for Friendship and Aid to the Soviet Union, Civil Rights Defence League, Australian-Indonesia Association, People’s Council for Culture, Medical Aid to Russia, Youth Council, and numerous others? Is the Government in possession of any information that key Communist organizers are being called to the headquarters of the Com inform for briefing on the policy to be pursued in the event of further international trouble? Is it a fact that the avowed objective of the Communist party is the overthrow of constitutional government in Australia? In view of the present position in France, has the Government given any consideration to the problem created by these visits of Communist agents to their spiritual and financial headquarters, particularly in relation to Australia’s future defence security?
– I have never beard of the woman mentioned, and I cannot say whether a passport has been issued to her. If she is an Australian citizen and conforms to the regulations relating to the issuing of passports, she will, no doubt, obtain a. passport.
– “Where would she obtain the necessary dollars?
– Order! The honorable member for New England is noi entitled to interject when the Prime Minister is replying to a question asked by another honorable member.
– I did not bear the honorable member for Reid mention that the woman proposed to travel in the dollar area. I listened carefully for that information. However, I do not know whether a passport has been issued to her. or any details of her proposed visit, but I shall make inquiries into the matter. The honorable member asked me whether I am aware that the avowed objective of the Communist party is the overthrow of constitutional government in Australia. I do not know that; but 1 do know that the Commonwealth Security Service, which is a branch of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, maintains a <-arefi.il watch over all people in Australia who may be guilty of any such action, whether they be Communists or members of any other political party. I shall examine the questions the honorable member has asked and endeavour to supply an answer.
– This morning, I received from the committee directing fruit marketing in Queensland, the following telegram : -
Canada lias placed prohibition on importation canned fruits and limitation on juice. Pineapple industry expanding rapidly and relying upon Canadian market. Wo estimate packing for Canada in next three years minimum 550,000 cases canned pines, 450,000 cases juice. Understand prohibition due Canadian desire reduce dollar expenditure and her observance nondiscrimination principles I.T.O. charter. If this correct a grave danger to Australian industry is evident in charter. We asking all Queensland members make representations for re-opening Canadian market for Australian canned pines and elimination restriction on juice. Appreciate your assistance.
I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to inform the House whether the charter has been used in the direction indicated in the telegram? As the Australian pineapple industry, like many other of our export industries, has been “‘through the hoops” and suffered severe reductions under the recent Geneva trade agreement, will the Minister take every possible action to have the Canadian market re-opened to Australian canned pineapples.
– The information which I have received to date indicates that the Canadian Government has found it necessary, in view of its dollar shortage, to impose severe restrictions upon the importation of certain products which previously were granted entry to the dominion. Contrary to the information contained in the telegram which the honorable member read to the House, the restrictions which the Canadian Government has imposed for the purpose of protecting its economy have no relation whatever to the decisions of the International Conference on Trade and Employment at Geneva regarding preferential tariff on pineapples or any other product. From the speech which the honorable member delivered last night, I am sure that he has perused the report on the decisions of the Geneva negotiations, and the tariff agreement. The report clearly indicates that the Queensland pineapple industry has been amply protected. In effect, it has lost nothing.
– It has lost 33 per cent.
– The Queensland pineapple industry has been amply protected. The Australian Government’s representatives at Geneva took particular care in respect of the pineapple industry, the tropical fruits industry, .and others in which Queensland is especially interested. I assure the honorable member that in relation to matters that are not associated with the International Conference on Trade and Employment, the Australian Government is making urgent representations to the Government of Canada to ensure that, so far as possible, that Government will not take any action which will have a deleterious effect on the Queensland pineapple industry.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service seen a report in yesterday’s Melbourne Argus under the heading, “ Women asked to seek part-time work “? As the paragraph is short, I shall read it for the Minister’s information -
Employers were asked by Mr. Holloway, Minister fur Labour. ‘to investigate the possibilities of part-time employ ment, and women were asked to offer their services for such employment. Mr. Holloway said that there were vacancies in the clothing and textile trades for 15,000 women.
Has the Minister made that request, and if so, in view of the fact that most of the women likely to engage in part-time work will be young women, will the Minister take such steps as are practicable towards the establishment of proper nursery and kindergarten facilities, either in the textile factories, as is done in other countries, or by endeavouring to obtain from the Commonwealth Government such increased grants of money as would enable the State governments to improve the whole field of pre-school activity? Is the Minister convinced that 15,000 women will readily go into the textile factories unless some reasonable provision is made for their young children ?
– I shall answer the last portion of the honorable member’s question first. I am not convinced that 15,000 women, or any considerable proportion of that number, will go into the factories and work unless proper facilities are provided for the children of married women and for the women themselves while on the job. On the general question, I can inform the honorable member that employers have been asked to co-operate with the Commonwealth Employment Service and that they are doing so. The Commonwealth Employment Service has offered to co-operate with employers in organizing a roster system which will make it possible to obtain extra labour in the textile factories. We have asked employers to arrange their work to suit the convenience of the women as far as possible. Experienced officers say that that can be done in many factories in a way that will not interfere with machine operations. A good deal of isolated work can be performed by people working a limited number of hours daily without interfering with the genera.1 work of the factory. Employers and the expert advisers of my department who are m consultation on this matter hope that additional labour will be obtained.
– Announcing further drastic restrictions of dollar imports last night, the Prime Minister said -
It is clear that the cancellation of licences will interfere with some production programmes in Australia, and the decision hasbeen taken with the greatest .reluctance.
Has the Prime Minister considered the possibility or advisability of contracting in the United States of America a small dollar loan that would enable us to import items essential to our economy to tide us over what we hope will be only a temporary dollar difficulty?
– I have .already indicated the seriousness of the shortage of dollars and that further restrictions will have to be imposed on the importation of goods that have to be paid for with dollars. Before it was decided to impose the restrictions, the whole matter was given the closest consideration so that hasty action should not be taken that would unnecessarily disrupt Australian industry. In the next week or so, the Cabinet will re-consider the position, but at the moment I see no other way of meeting it than by restricting dollar imports. Our dollar earnings are not sufficient to meet our dollar commitments on the existing scale of trade with the dollar area. We have had to purchase dollars from the United Kingdom, but its supply of dollars is being rapidly depleted and it will not be in a position to sell us dollars except to a limited degree. Cabinet has not given any thought to borrowing in the United States of America. I understand that the Government of Canada borrowed 300,000,000 dollars from the American Export Bank in an effort to tide it over, but I am not favorably disposed to negotiating a loan in the United States of America. It would probably have to be raised on unreasonable terms and, in the final analysis, it would add to our troubles rather than alleviate them. When the time came for repayment for conversion, the terms would probably be even more unreasonable. I would rather face our difficulties than try to side-step them by the means suggested by the honorable member. However, my colleagues have not had a full opportunity of examining the position in detail and, when the Cabinet meets to consider it, I will mention the honorable gentleman’s proposal, even though my mind is* at the moment, against acting on it.
Shortage of Essential Supplies at RABAUL
– Is the Minister for External Territories yet able to tell the House the result of -his inquiries into allegations by the honorable member for Balaclava that there is a desperate shortage’ of supplies at Rabaul ?
– The inquiries are not yet complete, but information to hand shows that the honorable member for Balaclava grossly exaggerated the position. The shortage of essential supplies at Rabaul is not desperate. The interruption of the shipping services led to a shortage of supplies of certain fresh foods but Montoro is expected to sail on the 2Sth November for Port Moresby, Lae and Madang. Malaita is expected to sail on the 5th December for Samarai, and Rabaul and to arrive ait Rabaul on the 16th December. River Mitta is expected te- sail on the 20th December for Port Moresby, Lae and Rabaul. Montoro was last at Rabaul in August and Merkur in October. Montoro was in dock in Sydney for six weeks. River Mitta was delayed in Sydney awaiting a berth. Burns Philp and Company Limited states that it has not been advised of any acute shortage of essential supplies at Rabaul. The company was in communication with its Rabaul office this morning and the only items for which early shipment was requested were copra sacks and native meats. No reference was made to any other shortages. ‘ The shortage of fresh food is unavoidable. Wayanna is now on its way to Port Moresby, Lae and Rabaul with a cargo of fresh meat, butter and fish.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Order ! The honorable member may not make a personal explanation on a matter arising from a Minister’s reply to another honorable member’s question.
– Mr. Speaker-
– Resume your seat!
– Mr. Speaker–
– Order! I know what the honorable member wishes to raise. The mere fact that a statement is controversial is not a ground for a personal explanation.
– Has the Prime Minister seen in to-day’s Daily Telegraph a statement by Mr. E. J. Wauchope, a planter at Madang, relating to the statement of Colonel H. T. Allan? By the way, my reference to this matter was made when I was speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House. I did not bring it up as a question as was stated by the honorable member for Parkes. Mr. Wauchope is reported to have stated -
Everything Colonel Allan has said about the shortages is true. . . . Conditions at Madang are .better than at Rabaul. People nt Rabaul are in a pretty bad way.
Seeing that the Minister far External Territories is merely abusive when representations are made to him,- and tries to discredit any statement-
– Order ! The honorable member may not refer to the Minister in that way.
– Well, he attacked Colonel Allan last night, and again in the press. Will the Prime Minister see that the Minister for External Territories looks into the situation in New Guinea, and sees that food is flown into the territory?
– All sorts of state- men!’* have been made regarding the position in New. Guinea. Ninety per cent, of them have been proved to be wholly inaccurate, and some have been made by entirely irresponsible persons.
– That does not apply to the person who made this statement.
– Irresponsible persons are sometimes found to be occupying what might appear to he responsible positions.
– This man is one of the biggest planters in New Guinea.
– I am not reflecting on the gentleman. I do not know him. The Minister for External Territories and I gave a considerable amount of time to Colonel Allan, in company with the honorable member for Richmond, when Colonel Allan was in Canberra. We listened carefully to his statements, and the Minister was able to show that many of them contained little or no substance. Others required to be examined, and we promised that this would be done. Since then. I have received a letter from Colonel Allan making certain suggestions regarding the Commonwealth Bank. If the honorable member will obtain specific details, and supply them to the Minister, I have no doubt that a close examination of them will be made. If particulars of the matters referred to by Mr. Wauchope are placed before the Minister, he will look into them.
– Has the Minister for Information seen a statement in the Melbourne press by Mr. Leo Buring, a prominent person in the Australian wine industry, that a film on wineproduction in this country, produced by the Department of Information, is so inaccurate that it would be ridiculed abroad? Did the department seek technical advice in the preparation of this film, and if so, who was the advisor? Does the department intend to exhibit the film abroad? If so, will action be taken beforehand to have it reexamined to ensure that it shall not contain technical absurdities that might damage the development of the Australian wine export trade?
– I have not seen the press comment to which the honorable member refers ; but I have been informed that there has been adverse comment of the nature quoted by him. I have not seen the film yet - its title is Makers of Wine - but people who have seen it privately describe it as a very interesting production. I understand, however, that some wine experts who were given a preview of the film recently, consider that there are some inaccuracies in the commentary and have suggested amendments. Their suggestions have been passed on to Mr.. Noel Monckton, who produced the film on contract for the Department of Information. If the criticism is sustained, steps will be taken to have any necessary corrections made. I can assure the honorable member that when the film is released for public exhibition it will be both accurate and entertaining, and will do credit to our important winemaking industry.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in a position to state whether it is proposed to abandon price-fixing on pelts? Is it a fact that the present price-fixing formula is seriously affecting the fellmongering industry in Australia, and is also having repercussions in the tanning and boot and shoe manufacturing industries? Is it true that heavy shipments of sheepskins are leaving Australia because of the operation of price fixing in this country?
– I am not in a position to say whether prices control will be lifted from pelts produced in Australia. As the result of a deputation introduced by the honorable member for Cook, I have asked officers of my department to confer with the prices authorities to ensure that employees in the fellmongering industry and the tanning industry shall be assured of maximum employment. I am not able to say whether sheepskins are being exported to the detriment of the Australian fellmongering industry. Allegations to that effect have been made, but I shall furnish the honorable member with further information when the conferences to which I have referred have been held. I may say that the problem involved is rather difficult.
– In view of the statement in the Hobart Mercury yesterday to the effect that calls for seamen to man the Bass Strait steamer Nairana have failed to produce sufficient volunteers, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping give to this House and particularly to the people of Tasmania an assurance that every effort will be made to secure crews for this vessel in order that the already greatly depleted transport service between Tasmania and the mainland may be improved?
– I know that the vessel, which had been lying idle at a Melbourne wharf for some months waiting to be repaired, has been shifted in order to enable it to be placed in commission for the Christmas service to Tasmania’. There was, I believe, some dispute over the moving of the vessel ; but I do not know whether that is affecting the volunteering of seamen to man the vessel. I shall consult with the authorities in Melbourne as early as practicable to-day and ascertain if it be possible to overcome the difficulty so that the ship may be manned for the Christmas traffic.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture given further consideration to the request for permission to export limited quantities of maize from southern Queensland and northern New South Wales consequent upon the earlier representations made by one on the subject? As continued rains have ensured- ample feed for stock, and as there is no local market for the greater part of the crop, will the Minister now permit the export of reasonable quantities of maize? Is the honorable gentleman aware that maize held in Queensland through the next two or three months will undoubtedly become weevil infested under the humid conditions that prevail in the north, and that, consequently, there is necessity for an immediate decision on this subject?
– The issue of licences for the export of maize is still under consideration. When a decision is made different from that which already prevails, I shall be glad to notify the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation a long-range plan for the development of Cambridge Aerodrome this year or at some not remote date?
– Consideration is now being given to the desirability of providing an airport for Hobart other than the one now established at Cambridge. Inspections are being made for the purpose of ascertaining the suit.ability of another site not far distant from the Cambridge Aerodrome. Even when a decision is arrived at it will not be possible, however, to do anything in regard to the matter for a period of at least from twelve to eighteen months.
– Press reports on the announcement made by the Prime Minister last night indicate that the value of importations of motor cars and parts is to be reduced from £8,000,000 to £5,000,000. Because of that, tens of thousands of users of motor cars will be compelled to carry on with old vehicles.
In reviewing the restriction to be placed on imports of motor ‘vehicles, will the Prime Minister bear in mind the necessity for importing sufficient parts?
– In the announcement which I made last night in regard to restrictions to be placed on imports from dollar areas, I said that licences for the importation of a great many items would have to be cancelled, but I made no specific reference to the importation of motor vehicles from the United States of America. Separate consideration is being given to restricting imports of a number of other items, but the items to which I referred in the statement will be considered by Cabinet on Monday next. In reply to a similar question asked by the Leader of the Australian Country party, I replied that that matter would be kept clearly in mind.
– By way of preface, I refer to a report which appeared in the Leeds Yorkshire Post of the 4th September, 1947, of a statement made by Sir Myles Thomas, vice-chairman of the Nuffield organization, who said -
South Africa is being flooded with American cars, shoes, women’s toilet articles, engineering products and other consumer goods. There is no restriction on dollar exchange.
Can the Prime Minister inform me whether any efforts have been made to purchase dollars from the Union of South Africa? Is there an Empire dollar pool into which the Dominions can place their surplus dollars for the purchase of goods urgently required by other Dominions and the Mother Country?
– I would not be justified in dealing with the policy adopted by other Dominions in this matter. The gold production of South Africa, which is very considerable, is purchased by the Bank of England. That arrangement war made during the war, and I understand that it still continues. In addition, South Africa has very large gold reserves. Therefore, I have no doubt that South Africa is in a much better position to obtain dollars than Australia or New Zealand. Large quantities of goods have been purchased by South Africa and Canada from the dollar area, although I understand that the Canadian Govern ment has now taken action to reduce imports from dollar countries. In order that the honorable member may be as fully informed as possible on the subject, I shall obtain for him the information which he desires.
– Has Australia made any effort to purchase dollars from South Africa ?
– Dollars held by South Africa are always regarded as part of the Empire pool and, generally speaking, they have been available to all the Dominions. I do not think that I can add anything further at this stage for the enlightenment of the honorable member but I will make a statement later.
– Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen a report in the Queensland press that the Potato Controller in that State has decreed that only five bags per acre per week will be accepted from growers? As growers already have to sign a government contract, or go out of business, and have to grade, and brand potatoes, and dust them against insect pests, does the Minister think it is reasonable that they should be compelled to find storage space for substantial quantities of potatoes? Does this limitation apply in other States?’ Will the Minister introduce a more satisfactory marketing scheme?
– The grower contracts with the Government to supply his potatoes. Under the terms of the contract, the potatoes are to be delivered when and as required by the Government through the Potato Controller. The grower knows quite well that he is under that obligation. In those circumstances, I am sure that the right thing is being done. Immediately .the Potato Controller requires heavier deliveries he will call for them. I know something about potatoes. It is not a great hardship to store potatoes on the farm until they arecalled for. Under the old system of marketing, the farmers had to carry their potatoes for many months and, frequently, had to sell them at a substantia! loss. That position will no longer obtain.
Should the potatoes not be delivered at all the farmer is assured of the guaranteed payment.
– Some considerable time ago, I asked the Minister for Air if he would restore to a number of airmen deferred pay which had been taken from them as the result of the retrospective operation of an Air Force regulation. The Minister expressed his sympathy with the request. Subsequently, he told me that the matter had been referred to the Treasury, and that he was awaiting the Treasury’s decision. Is he able to give the House a final determination in this matter?
– The answer to the honorable gentleman’s question is “ No “.
Australians in Japan.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question involving a matter of administrative policy affecting members of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force returning from active service in Japan. I refer to the official statement to troops in Japan that they could withdraw money from their pay-books for the purpose of purchasing goods which they desired to bring back with them to Australia. I have been informed of the case of a soldier who bought goods in Japan and sent them through the post to his home in South Australia. In that case there was no attempt to evade customs. After the goods have been held in bond for many months, he has been served with a notice explaining that they were held in order to save dollars. The dollars have been spent. However, he has been told that he can bid at public auction for the goods which he purchased and posted to Australia. The goods include two pairs of pyjamas, one dressing gown, one scarf, six pairs of stockings, handkerchiefs, and a necktie. I ask the Prime Minister whether he will have a look at that class of case to ensure that members of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force returning from Japan are not victimized in that way, and certainly are not asked, after having purchased goods in Japan, to purchase them again in competition with other dealers in order to obtain their own goods.
– If the honorable member will let me have particulars of the case I shall examine it. I am not raising the question of bringing goods from Japan and other countries; but this practice has caused a good deal of trouble to the Customs Department, whose officers are obliged to police it carefully. This involves the taking of special measures to ensure that the law shall be observed. I, personally, shall examine the matter.
– I desire to inform the House that at the close of business to-day Mr. Kenneth Binns, Parliamentary Librarian, will retire from the service of the Commonwealth. Mr. Binns has served the Parliament well for 36 years since he left the service of the Fisher Library at the University of Sydney,which he attended as a student. During that time he has so developed the resources and services of the Parliamentary Library that to-day it has much of the national significance in Australia which its model, the Library of Congress, has in the United States of America. While its primary responsibility is to serve as an information and reading centre for honorable members and honorable senators, its resources are available to all agencies of the Australian Government. Its collection of Australian history and literature and other materials illustrating Australian life and development is fast making the library a centre for Australian research.
Mr. Binns’s position and his special capacities have enabled him to serve the Government in a variety of ways. For fifteen years he was the Australian representative of the International Institute for Intellectual Co-operation, the body which preceded theUnited Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Since 1937 he has been a member of the Commonwealth Book Censorship Committee, and during the war he served on the Book Sponsorship Committee, established to determine what books were necessary in the national interest. He has also been intimately associated with the administration of the Commonwealth Literary Fund, and has been a member of the Australian National Film Board since its establishment in 1945, and of the Commonwealth Archives Committee since it was set. up :in 1942.
I can say on behalf of the Library Committee, of which I am the chairman, and on behalf of all me..1 bers of both Houses, how sorry we are to lose the services of so competent an officer.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– by leave - Speaking personally, as well as on behalf of the Government and honorable members associated with it, I desire to pay tribute to the efficient work of Mr. Binns as the Parliamentary Librarian and. to the great courtesy with which he has performed his important duties. Apart altogether from the great services he has rendered to all honorable members, I owe him a debt a gratitude for the helpful way in which he has always assisted me on any matter in which ] was interested. That remark applies both to literature of good quality and to literature of not such good quality. I join with you, Mr. Speaker, in saying how very much we all regret that the time for Mr. Binns’s retirement has arrived. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of and Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and myself, as members of the Commonwealth Literary Fund, have been able to appreciate, perhaps even more fully than other honorable members, the very wide range of literary knowledge possessed by Mr. Binns, whose whole life has been devoted to his work. On behalf of the Government and the Commonwealth Literary Fund, I desire to pay the warmest tribute to him for the services he has given to the Commonwealth.
– by leave - I desire to associate the members of the Opposition with what has been said by Mr. Speaker and by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). I confess to having been surprised to discover that Mr. Binns had reached the age of retirement, because he shows no obvious signs of it. Like all other honorable members, I deeply regret that we shall no longer have the advantage of his services. He has been an outstanding officer and a very distinguished librarian. He has brought to the service of the library in this place an uncommonly wide range of reading, enormous enthusiasm and sound taste and judgment. As the Prime Minister has said, he and I have had a good deal of particular association with Mr. Binns in the administration of the Commonwealth Literary Fund. Nobody could sit there with him without realizing not only that he has devoted the ordinary working period of his life to the service of literature in this country, but also that he has abiding enthusiasm for his work; so that at all times he may be said to have been it? servant as well as the servant of the people who assemble in this place.
He carries with him into his retirement the good wishes of all honorable members of this House. I hope that his years of retirement will be very many and, for him, very pleasant.,
- by leave - I desire to associate the members of my party with the sentiments that have been expressed on the occasion of the retirement of Mr. Binns. He has rendered long and valuable service in a specialized field of activity. To have given 36 years of one’s life to a particular work is in itself a valuable contribution and one which must be appreciated by everybody. On behalf of my party, I expreSS our appreciation of the expert and valuable service of a national character given by Mr. Binns, not only to this Parliament but, as a consequence, to the nation. I wish him a long life and well-earned happiness in his retirement.
Mr. BLAIN (Northern Territory).hy leave- - I feel that the leader of the smallest party in this House, the Independent party, would be failing in his duty if he did not join in the well deserved encomiums of Mr. Binns. I wish to bring to the notice of this House the remarkable work he has done in the establishment of circulating libraries in the outlying territories. Shortly after I was elected to this House twelve years ago, I felt that a circulating library throughout the Northern Territory should be started. It is a matter of history that the Carnegie Institute set up a library at Borroloola, ina most isolated part of the territory. When I approached Mr. Binns upon the matter I found that he was well ahead of me; he had already visited New Guinea and the outlying territories and had started circulating libraries there. He agreed to my proposal and set up circulating libraries at Alice Springs and Darwin, with a base library or a reference library from which books could not be removed. From the bases at Alice Springs and Darwin the books were circulated throughout the Northern Territory.
Mr. Binns has now informed me that, on the eve of his retirement, he is bringing from Western Australia a young man with a. Bachelor of Arts degree who will train here for six months so that Darwin can be supplied with a library and a staff for the important work necessary to be clone there. On behalf of those in the outlying territories and the Northern Territory, I thank Mr. Binns for the work he has clone in those areas.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That Standing Order 70 - eleven o’clock rule - be suspended until the end of next week.
Debate resumed from the 21st October (vide page 999), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr.RYAN (Flinders) [11.23].- The Opposition supports this bill. It is perhaps worthwhile to recall that bounties have been paid on tractors for the last 25 years, provision for their payment being made by the Iron and Steel Products Act. The rates of bounty now proposed are those which have been operating since 1931, and it is perhaps somewhat remarkable that, although the value of the £1 has depreciated considerably since then, the amounts paid to encourage the production of tractors have not altered. For tractors of twelve horse-power the rate is £22 ; for tractors of from eighteen to 25 horse-power it is £40; for tractors of from 25 to 35 horsepower it is £56; and for tractors from 35 to 60 horse-power it is £72.
These seem to be quite reasonable rates of bounty, but: the fact remains that since they have been in operation apparently the encouragement thereby given has been very small, because the production of tractors in this country has been very low. The peak was reached in 1937-38, when the country produced 455 units. The average annual production for the four years prior to the war was only 335 units, whereas during the same fouryear period there were imported no fewer than 5,479 tractors per year. In 1941, when we were at war, production dropped considerably, and only 41 tractors were made. That is understandable, because factories, which, in peace-time, manufactured these machines, were diverted to the production of armaments. Before the outbreak of World War II., there were only two manufacturers of tractors in Australia. They are still in operation and now three additional companies are proposing to enter the field. The following is the estimated production of tractors during the next four years : -
In this bill, provision is made for the appropriation of an amount to pay the bounty on this estimated production. In Australia there will be a substantial demand for tractors. As I said earlier, the average annual importations in the four years preceding the outbreak of World War II. was 5,479 tractors, but after the commencement of hostilities our importations rose considerably. In 1943-44 we imported from the United Kingdom and the United States of America 4,429 tractors. That number was below the pre-war average. In 1944-45 the number increased to 10,300. Despite this large number of importations, the country is still suffering from a serious shortage of these machines. The estimated number last year was approximately 12,000. I am certain that the demand for tractors will continue, and is likely to increase. During World War II., and since the cessation of hostilities, Australian farmers have engaged in mechanized farming on a large scale. The whole trend of modern agriculture is towards increased mechanization, and that implies an increased demand for tractors.
One matter which concerns Australia as a country, and our farmers, is that of cost. The majority of tractors which we import are manufactured in the United States of America. Last year, out of a total number of approximately 10,000 of these machines which were imported, no fewer than 9,000 came from America. This position -creates two big difficulties, first, dollar” exchange, which is acute, and, secondly, price. Figures show that the prices of tractors in the United States of America are considerably below the prices of the same machines in Australia. I refer, by way of example, to three types of one particular make. For the first, the price- in the United’ States of America is £A.550 compared with the local price of £A.750; for the second, the respective prices are £A.590 and £A.760; and for the third, the respective prices are £A.670 and £A.900. In other words, an Australian agriculturalist pays 50 per cent, more for the same tractor than an American farmer pays. That imposes a severe burden upon our primary producers who must sell their products in an unprotected world market. Although the demand for primary produce- to-day is unlimited, we shall find that, as time passes, we shall meet increased competition. That will mean that we shall have to reduce the cost of production to the greatest possible degree.
The principle of the bounty is sound, because it will not raise the price of trac- tors in the same way as a protective duty would do. However, our object must be to reduce our local price to that of similar tractors in those countries which are our potential competitors in the markets of the world. I do not see why that should not be done. Our factories are most efficient. They manufacture agricultural machinery of all kinds, which compare most favorably in price and quality with similar machines made in other countries. If we can do that with ordinary farming implements, we should be able to do it with tractors. It is certain that the mechanization of farming must continue, and even increase. Farming in the United States of America is largely mechanized, and we have only just begun to follow in the footsteps of America in this respect. The food which we produce to-day is required by almost every country. While I do not know the view which the Government takes regarding the production of food in Australia, I do know that the world is, as it always has been, in dire need of food. The present shortage has not occurred since the end of World War II. Some countries, particularly those of western Europe, which formerly were well fed, no longer have sufficient food. But considering the world as a whole, we find that during the last 100 years masses of the world’s population has been undernourished. If we can overcome the problem of the distribution of food, our markets will be assured for many years.
The way in which we can produce more food, and. at the same time, improve the amenities of those employed in the primary industries, is by an increase of mechanized’ farming. The population of the world is approximately 2,000,000,000 persons and’ only two acres of productive land are available for each man. That area per capita is small, so the productivity of the land must be utilized to the fullest possible extent if sufficient food is to be provided for those teeming millions. That can be done only by increased mechanization. For that reason, we support the bill, and hope that the result of the bounty will be an increase not only of food production but also of the manufacture of tractors in Australia.
– In principle, I support the bill, which provides, for the payment of a bounty on the manufacture of tractors in Australia. However, I consider that the Government has not given sufficient encouragement to firms to manufacture, in Australia, the tractors which this country requires. Of all industries, probably none needs more nurturing than does this industry, which is basic to the -agricultural production of the Commonwealth. In our early history, farmers depended on bullock teams. Then they progressed, and used horses. Later, they employed huge horse-drawn teams to pull the multiple-disc and multiple-mould board ploughs. Then came the tractor. Nearly every country to-day, which has manufacturing capacity, makes its own tractors. The greatest production is in the United .States of America, but that there ha? been a considerable development of the tractor industry in Britain was evidenced at the Royal Agricultural Society’s exhibition held in that country recently. Any one who has studied the catalogues associated with that exhibition, and has seen the different types of tractors which were exhibited, will realize that not only British tractors, but also tractors of French, German and Belgium manufacture were displayed. It is essential that the Australian tractor industry should be developed to the fullest possible extent. The speech of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) showed that about 12,000 tractors were imported into Australia in 1945-46. Every person connected with Australian rural industries knows that the tractor absorptive capacity of those industries exceeds the number of tractors available. In his second-reading speech the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) said that the bill appropriates for bounty payments the sum of £80,000 for the financial year 1947-48, £225,000 for the following’ year and £300,000 for the financial year 1949-50, and also £100,000 for the period from the 1st July, 1950, to the 23rd October, 1950. He went on to- say that the anticipated Australian production would rise from 1,558 tractors in 1947-48 to a maximum of 8,500 tractors in 1950-51. In respect of engines with a brake horse-power not exceeding eighteen, but exceeding twelve, ran the amount of bounty will be £32. There is a graduated scale, until in respect of a tractor exceeding 35 brake horse-power, but not exceeding -60 brake horse-power, the amount of bounty will be £72.
The amounts to ‘be paid by way of bounty will not, however, have the effect of inducing Australian manufacturers to produce a greater number of tractors thao at the present time. When -we consider the prices charged for tractors imported from the United States of America which, as the honorable member for Flinders pointed out, are sold in Australia at 50 per cent, above the American price, even after .allowing for exchange, and reflect that the price of a, wheeled tractor is between £600 and £700, and that a caterpillar tractor of 220 brake horse-power equipped with logging gear costs as much as £10,000, we shall realize that the amount of the bounty is so small in comparison with the value of the tractor that it will not have the effect of accelerating production in the Commonwealth to the degree .hoped for by the Minister. In view of the tightening that is. taking place in regard to dollar exchange, and the fact that industries established in the large centres of population are a great deal more vocal than are rural industries which have not such large representation in this House, and of the further fact that those engaged in rural production have not the time to attend deputations to put their case, because they are working not 40 hours a week but from daylingth to dark, in order to produce food needed by starving people throughout the world, every encouragement should be given to the production of tractors on a scale .much larger than is envisaged by this bill. Instead of providing a binding sum for the ensuing five years, rising to a peak of £300,000 for the financial year 1949-50, the bounty should be reviewed annually. Should experience prove that the output of tractors in Australia is not accelerated because the bounty is not sufficient to induce manufacturers to increase production, the amount of the bounty should be re-considered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Rill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 23rd October (vide page 1233), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
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 12th November (vide page 1945), on motion by Mr. Holloway -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.This bill adds another chapter to the legislation introduced by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) in August, 1948. As I understand the measure from my .reading of the Minister’s second-reading speech, it does not contain any new principles, but it does propose to bring into the operation of the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act certain tradesmen in the boot trades group. I shall not make a long second-reading speech on this measure because the views of the Opposition were expressed at length when the original legislation was before the Parliament in 1945. It will be sufficient to remind honorable members that at that time we on this side directed strong criticism against that legislation. We did so, not because we had any desire to avoid the obligations that we had incurred under the original dilution agreements, for we desired to honour those obligations to the full; but the Minister introduced legislation at the time telling us that it was designed to honour the obligations under the dilution agreements, and was also designed to operate as a rehabilitation measure. We then showed that the legislation went a great deal further than honouring the obligations under the dilution agreements, and that it created, in effect, a close preserve for the members of the trades that came under the legis lation, and we expressed the opinion that, far from proving a rehabilitation measure, the effect of it would be to exclude many worthy ex-servicemen from the opportunity of entering the trade for which they had received a certain amount of training before the war, or in which they desired the training after the war. We pointed out - and I stress it again - that the constitutional validity of legislation of this character depends primarily on its being a rehabilitation measure, but, instead of creating an opportunity for ex-servicemen, it had the effect, as we demonstrated forcibly at the time, of restricting their opportunities.
I regret that the Minister did not give to the Parliament, when he introduced this latest instalment, an explanation of what has happened in the operation of the legislation since it was introduced in 1945. I regret that the Government of which he is a member has shown reluctance, in bringing legislation before the Parliament, to give details of what has transpired since the earlier legislation of a similar type was introduced. It would surely be of advantage, when considering subsequent legislation, to know just what has been the effect of the previous act, and the Minister could have done a useful service to the Parliament had he told us how the legislation has operated, had he given us some idea of the number of ex-servicemen who have applied for entry to these trades, and had he told us to what extent the trades covered by this legislation have shut their doors to the entry of further trainees from the ranks of ex-servicemen. It is quite clear that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction in the ranks of the organizations that represent the exservicemen of the Commonwealth. I have noted a reference in the State Secretary’s Diary, of the New South Wales branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and there is a significant passage in the annual report of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia for 1946, to which I propose to direct the attention of the Minister. I hope that, before we conclude the consideration of this legislation, he will tell us something of how he proposes to overcome the difficulties that have been instanced by the spokesmen for the league. They claim that, in the first instance, the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme broke down badly in 1946 and needs a complete overhaul. There is a reference in those terms in the annual report of the league, and the State Secretary’s Diary, issued on Wednesday, the 15th October, this year, contains the following passage on the first page under the heading, “ League Determines to Arrest Drift in Training Scheme “ : -
No question is causing the league more concern at the present time that the undoubted drift in the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. Yu all States there is irrefutable evidence that it has broken down badly, but Federal Executive is making a determined effort to save the scheme before it is too late.
Apparently, the league’s representatives on regional committees were asked recently to submit reports and recommendations to that executive dealing with certain aspects of the operation of the reconstruction training scheme, and one of the important .aspects to which the attention of the regional committees was directed is -
The non-absorption of 40 per cent, efficient men in industry and the effect this has on applicants awaiting training: the method of placing trainees; the absorptive capacity of industries affected by training; the reason for delay in placements; the effect of contract and piecework on absorption:
Here is a very important item to which I draw the attention of the House - trades closed to trainees; the system of assessing efficiency; what trade openings are available by exchange between States; the effect nf the 40-hour week; and any other matters affecting trainees generally.
It is clear that the Parliament should have had a great deal more detailed information from the Minister before it is prepared to give its endorsement to further legislation of this character. Then, coming to the tradesmen’s rights legislation itself, we find this reference in the annual report of the league, and I quote from page 13 of the report -
It is disquieting to see the number of trades being suddenly closed to trainees. It appears that employers are too prone to guard against over-production and this, of course, militates against placements and favours the men who stayed home and clung to safe jobs.
The league is aware that the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme has .functioned with some measure of success but feels that an overhaul is essential.
Then it goes on to deal with the refusal of the Government to accept a vital amendment that was moved by the Opposition when the legislation was previously before the Parliament. It says that it - records with regret the refusal of the Commonwealth Government to make a vital deletion from the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulations Bill. This legislation was introduced to provide for admission to specified trades of exservice personnel whose army trade experience will enable them, after further training, to reach the standard of skilled tradesmen.
The league was deeply concerned at the provision that a local committee must be satisfied that a member of the forces, during the period of the war, had training and experience in the forces in a trade.
It goes on to point out -
This provision debars many who always worked in a particular trade but did not work therein while in the forces. We asked for the deletion of the words “ during the period of war “ and the words “ in the forces “. I sent a telegram to the Prime Minister pointing out that it was grossly unfair that a tradesman who gave up his trade to join the services in any capacity should not have the same right as a man who practised his trade while in the forces. It was also stressed that the provision would affect thousands of ex-service personnel. However, the Government would not budge and the words remain. One result is that many suitable applicants for training in the important metal trades have been rejected.
I think the Minister should give the House some statement as to what has happened in this connexion. We pointed out. at that time how grossly unfair it was that men, having experience in a particular trade, who fought in a combatant unit, should be prejudiced as against men who, having had similar experience in that trade, went into the forces and served in that trade. The man who actually did the fighting is being placed at a disadvantage compared with the man who had the good fortune to be placed in a trade in which he had gained some experience before the war. We stressed this disparity at the time, and protested as vigorously as we could. Our protest was supported by the representations of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia-. Now, apparently, what we then predicted has come to pass. One inevitable result has ‘been that many suitable applicants for training have been rejected. The Minister should tell us how many applicants have been rejected, and how many have been admitted as a result of the operation of this legislation. It was brought before the House as a rehabilitation measure but we analysed its provisions and showed that only ai fraction of those who had experience in a particular trade in the services during the war would gain admission, and that those who had experience before the war in » particular trade and who subsequently served in combatant, units would be rejected altogether. It is a travesty of language to describe something which creates a close preserve for certain tradesmen as a rehabilitation measure. Therefore, strong protests have been made. The matter cannot be left where it stands at present. In addition to the information that I have already requested, the Minister should tell us what trades ave closed to ex-servicemen who have had training under the reconstruction training scheme, or who desire to enter these trades by normal channels. Presumably they would be considered too old to. undertake apprenticeship courses and if that is the case, then other provision should be made for them. However,, there is nothing to, be gained by delaying the Minister’s reply or by merely reiterating what was said by so many members of this House when the original legislation was before us, and I hope that before this measure is adopted by the Parliament the Minister will make a genuine attempt te meet the criticisms that have been raised and to deal with those matters mentioned by the Returned. Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in its annual report.
– in reply - ‘The honorable member for- Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has introduced something- into this debate which has no relation to the measure under consideration. The matters he has raised are very important in their right place,, but this bill does not deal with the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme at all’. It deals with- the hundreds- of thousands of ex-servicemen who have now been trained. It relates specifically to the five trades in which dilution was permitted during the war. The honorable member for Fawkner himself had something to do with the negotiations with the unions for the introduction of dilutees into these trades. He -has quoted the syllabus of items for discussion ait the annual conference of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. It was noticeable that even in the league’s report, which the honorable member read, he came across something that be would rather not ha’ve introduced. He said that the league was complaining about employers closing their doors and objecting to the introduction of too many tradesmen.
– To show the Minister how unfair he is, I point out that in the report from which I have quoted I have heavily underlined the passage to which be refers. I did that so that I could state a fair proposition.
– The league has admitted that the difficulty is not only with the unions but also with the employers. The employers, like, the unions affected by the dilution scheme, have a responsibility to ensure that too many men shall not be trained having regard to the needs of a. particular industry. In the interests of the exservicemen, proper proportions must be observed. I repeat, however, that this measure does not relate to the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. Its purpose is to amend the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act. which was introduced in accordance with the bargain that the Government made with the trade unions when the dilution of certain trades was necessary in the interests of the war effort. Under the dilution agreement 40.^0.00 additional men were admitted to- the five trades concerned. The unions were promised that when the period of emergency had ended normal practices would be restored..
– Dilutees showed a great sense of self-preservation.
– Many of them were in the older age groups, and had sons in the. fighting forces. Others, complained bitterly about being refused- permission to enlist. Their services were, of more value in the munitions industries. The dilution agreement was made by the then Government with the concurrence of the Opposition.
– We have not attempted to repudiate that.
– All that this bill does is to add a sixth trade, namely, the boot and shoe industry, to the five already specified. This industry has gone further than the others, and it is to be commended rather than condemned for its efforts. It has been pointed out that members of that industry who volunteered for war service could not be given any training while they were on service because boot manufacturing machinery was not in use in the services. So, the industry agreed to ex-servicemen who did not have any training while they were on war service coming in under this scheme. That is in addition to the original provisions. I appreciate very much what has been done by this industry. The five trades originally provided for in this legislation are the engineering, boilermaking, blacksmithing, electrical and sheet metal trades. The honorable member for Fawkner has asked me to get some figures. I have here a table showing the number of men taken in by the five metal trades. The difference between these men and the men who did not have training in the services is that they come in on full pay whereas the others who have had no experience at all are trained under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme for three or four years during which they receive the reconstruction training allowance. When their training has been completed they go out into the industry as subsidized tradesmen. The table is as follows: -
Forty thousand dilutees were taken into the five industries covered by the agreement. When they joined these industries they were given full pay and had the assistance of tradesmen to train them, andin return they signed a statement indicating that they would not regard themselves as eligible for preference in employment should the industries at any time find it necessary to dispense with the services of tradesmen. In other words, they acknowledged the right of recognized tradesmen to be kept in employment. Fortunately, however, because of the great amount of work offering, none of them has had to be sacrificed in that way.
– A dilutee is given preference over an ex-serviceman.
– If an exserviceman is 40 per cent. efficient, he is given preference over a dilutee. In the boot and shoe industry every ex-service man or woman who has attained 40 per cent. efficiency may become a recognized trades man or woman. In that respect those entering that industry will be much better off than those engaged in other industries.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- The Minister might be able to tell us whether the members of the committees operating under this legislation include exservicemen. The honorable gentleman will recall that when the principal act was under consideration honorable members on this side of the chamber sought to incorporate in it an amendment to provide that at least one of two nominees of the employers and the employees appointed to these committees should be a member of an ex-servicemen’s association. The honorable gentleman then expressed the opinion that in view of the large proportion of ex-servicemen in these trades it was likely that at least one of the representatives of employers and employees of each committee would be an exserviceman, and he refused to accept the amendment. I should like the Minister to tell us whether there is effective representation of ex-servicemen on these committees.
, - I know that at least some of the members of the committees are exservicemen, but I have no figures indicating their number. There is nothing to prevent all of . them being ex-servicemen if men with suitable qualifications are available. No special representation has been given to other than employers and employees because these bodies have been appointed to examine applicants who desire to engage in the industry and to assess their efficiency. They deal only with ex-servicemen, and accordingly there is no need for a nominee to represent the interests of ex-servicemen.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 12th November (vide page 1946), on motion by Mr. Po r. la kd -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill deals with the control of the export of eggs. It is no exaggeration to say that it comes as a complete surprise to the poultry industry. I am at a loss to understand why that industry was not consulted before the bill was drafted. I am aware that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) consulted with the Australian Agricultural Council, and that this bill is the result of family discussions that took place during the proceedings of the Council. It is one thing to draw up a bill to control the export of an industry; but it is quite another thing to work out how that control is to be administered. It is only reasonable that the people most concerned with the control should be consulted, at least as to the details which it is proposed to incorporate in the bill. That was not done in this instance. The poultry industry is to-day our fourth largest primary industry, and it should have been given some voice in the determination of the methods by which its products are to be controlled by the Government. This bill follows the pattern of many other export control bills introduced into this House. The theme song of the bill is “ If the Minister pleases “. The same old song has been sung in relation to many proposals that have come before us relating to export of meat, the control of wheat, apples and pears and other primary commodities. In all of these measures provision is made for the establishment of a board, but the Minister invariably reserves to himself power not only to veto the decisions of the board but also to amend or modify its decisions in any way he likes, and such amended or modified decision becomes the decision of the board. The Minister describes that as producer control. That is what he considers to be pure democracy. These boards have no power over the products of the industry concerned; that power rests entirely with the Minister. In respect of the poultry industry, and particularly in respect of the export of eggs, the Minister is again to be made virtually a dictator.
It is true, I freely admit, that the bill provides for representation of producers on the board, consisting of one representative from each State, who are to be chosen eventually by the industry itself. Two additional representatives with commercial experience are to be appointed, one to represent the employees and the other to be a Government nominee. The powers vested in the board are illusory. Sub-clause 8 of clause 9 provides that if the chairman or other person presiding at any meeting of the board dissents from any decision of the board - and the chairman is the alter ego of the Minister and will obey his instructions to the letter - he may report his dissent to the Minister, and unless the Minister approves of that decision the decision shall have no effect. Thus power is taken away from the board is such a way as to render it nothing more than an advisory body. This matter has been mentioned several times previously and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has invariably replied to criticism in similar terms to those which he employed in moving the second reading of the bill. On that occasion he said -
During thu period 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.
As we know, the chairman of the board proposed to be established will be the direct representative of the Minister, and through him the Minister will exercise complete control of the board. Of course, the Minister contends that because the proposed board will handle large sums of money advanced to it by the Government, the Government should be represented upon it. My reply to that is that although the rights of taxpayers must be properly protected, the history of marketing boards on which there have been no government representative shows that the fear that the public revenue will be endangered is completely unfounded. Many boards whose members consist entirely of producers’ representatives have handled large sums of public money, and their administration has been beyond criticism. They have been as responsible and as conscientious in the discharge of their functions as any one could wish, whether their administration be viewed from the standpoint of taxpayers or of consumers. There is no reason to suppose that if a similar board was constituted for this industry its members would display any less sense of responsibility in regard to the discharge of this aspect of their duties.
However, there is another consideration which calk for comment. When we recall the notorious transaction which has come to be know as the “New Zealand wheat deal “, we realize that, when the Government assumes control of the disposition of primary produce, through the instrumentality of a board which it dominates, it may exercise its powers in ai way which is inimical not only to the producers concerned, but also to other primary producers. For example, such a board may decide, at the instance of the Government, to make a substantial concession to some country by selling the product which it handles at a very much lower price than it would comm’and in the markets of the world. The danger involved to the countryman in the operations of government-controlled boards is even greater because of the recent international trade agreements into which the Government has entered. Those agreements will control, more or less rigidly, the disposal of Australia’s primary produce, which is to be sold under arbitrary conditions which have no regard to the price which it would command in the free markets of the world. It is possible for the Government, through the operation of boards of this type, to acquire a particular product at a certain price and then to sell it abroad at a. much higher price, retaining for itself the profit which it has made.
– No government would do such a thing.
– But that is precisely what this Government has already done. Of course, it might also decide to sell a particular product at a very much lower price than it should, in return for some concession which it wishes to obtain for the benefit of some other section of the community. We have only to look at the New Zealand wheat deal–
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– It is important that the Government should explain the powers with which it seeks to arm itself. The operation of the board proposed to be constituted may result in a repetition of that which happened in the New Zealand wheat deal–
– Order ! The honorable member cannot proceed on those lines. This bill relates to the marketing of eggs, and he must not refer to the marketing of wheat.
– I was pointing out that the board proposed to be constituted for the marketing of eggs may act similarly to other government-controlled boards. Eggs sell in Australia at a very much lower price than they would command in the markets of the world, including those of Great Britain. As I mentioned, the board proposed to be established might, at the direction of the Government, decide to sell eggs to some country at a reduced price in return for some quid pro quo. It seems to me, therefore, that the poultry industry is running a grave risk in having to submit the marketing of its products to government control. Under the present proposal the Government will act as an agent for the producers. The produce which the proposed board will handle will not be the property of the Government, and the board’s only real function will be to sell the produce of the poultry farmers on their behalf, and to return to them any profit which it makes. However, if the Government pursues a similar policy to that which it pursued in the sale of another primary product to New Zealand, when it accepted a price far below the proper one, it will not do its duty towards either the producers or the taxpayers of this country. I am not allowed to mention “wheat”, but because of our experience of the Government’s control of marketing, I repeat that the country is running a grave risk in conferring a power of this kind on the Government. The poultry industry, in particular, stands to suffer considerably. Responsibility for the policy to be followed by the board proposed to be established should rest with the producers’ representatives on that board, and an express provision to this effect should have been included in the bill.
The poultry industry has expanded considerably since before the war, and it is now the fourth largest primary producing industry in Australia. In 1936-37 it produced eggs and egg products of a total value of £10,000,000; in the following year the value of the production decreased to £7,000,000; but in 1943-44 it increased to £12,000,000 and it has increased considerably since then’. In 1938-39 Australia exported 10,000,000 dozen eggs, and it is estimated that it will export this year approximately 30,000,000 dozen eggs of a total value of from £4,000,000 to £6,000,000 according to the Minister’s own statement. The Minister and some of his supporters have indicated that they hold a doubtful view of the prospects of the industry, and look upon the present expansion as being unjustified. However, the prospects of the industry are good-
– I did not say that they are not.
– The Minister has always given me the impression that he does not take a favorable view of its prospects. I repeat that in my view its prospects are quite good. We have in Australia a substantial market, although the local consumption of eggs and egg products is small in comparison with other countries. The average consumption of eggs per head of population in Australia is only 130. In Canada the average consumption is considerably higher. If every man, woman and child in Australia were to eat three more eggs per month, we should be able to consume practically the whole of our exportable surplus amounting to 30,000,000 dozen. I believe that the industry has an assured future. The bill is a very important one, and its effect upon the export side of the industry will be far-reaching. The bill deals mostly with the export of shell eggs, but every year there is a large surplus of inferior eggs which are turned into powder and pulp.
– Are they edible?
– They can be used in the making of cakes, &c. During the winter, some of this stored pulp and powder is used in Australia, and the remainder is available for export. I should like to know who is to say what proportion is to be kept for the home market, and what proportion is to be exported.
– This bill provides controls for the export of eggs from Australia. The poultry-raising industry has expanded sensationally in Australia in recent years. In the Tamworth district alone, over £500,000 worth of eggs are produced and sold each year. Some of the eggs are sold on the local market, and some are exported.
– Why is the price of eggs so high?
– If the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), and other metropolitan representatives, knew the costs which had to be borne by the poultry-farmers, they would realize that the farmers are carrying on at a loss. The real beneficiaries are the people who live in the cities. This is a rural industry which men can enter without much capital. If they receive fair treatment, they can later expand their operations into other avenues of primary production. Mono-culture, or the production of only one sort of crop, is the curse of Australia.
– Putting all their eggs into one basket, as it were.
– It could be expressed in that way. Farmers should go in for mixed farming as much as possible. The bill exhibits all the worst features of recent marketing legislation introduced by the Government, particularly since the end of the war, although the same tendency was becoming apparent even during the war. The poultry-raisers are complaining of the way in which the price of eggs is fixed, and they are rejoicing that, under the Constitution, the Commonwealth cannot control their industry, so far as production for the home market is concerned. However, even the home-consumption price is tied up with the overseas price. For the year 1943-44, the value of the eggs produced in Australia was ?i2,000,000. This year, 30,000,000 dozen will he exported, valued at something between ?4,000,000 and ?6,000,000. I quote the following press statement by Associated Poultry Farmers of Australia : -
Mr, Pollard’s statement that poultry farmers should not receive a price for their eggs based on the cost of production because of the varying costs between farm and farm and between State and State, is a very good argument as to why Federal control of eggs and egg prices should be abolished.
If those are the sentiments of the Minister, this bill will give him power to fix the sale price of eggs exported overseas, and will rob the Egg Producers Board, upon which sit representatives from all States, of the right to decide the price that it is prepared to accept on behalf of the producers. Sub-clause 8 of clause 9 of the bill states - (8.) If the Chairman or other person presiding at any meeting of the Board dissents from any decisions of the Board at that meeting and signifies at that meeting to the other members present in person has intention to bring his dissent to the notice of the Minister and, within twenty-four hours after the close of the meeting, transmits to the Minister notice of his dissent together with full particulars of the decision, the decision shall have no effect unless the Minister approves the decision (whether with or without variation) and, if the Minister approves the decision subject to a variation, the varied decision as so approved shall be deemed to be the decision of the Board.
That is a very dangerous provision, indeed. We have protested against such power before, but the Government seems to include a similar provision in all its marketing legislation. I have just been reading a book called J Chose Freedom, by Mr. Kravenchko, who rose to a high position under the Soviet Government, and then went on a buying expedition for that Government to the UnitedStates of America. While he was-: there, he chose freedom. Mr. Kravenchko pointed out exactly the same sort of thing happening in the Soviet that this bill attempts to do. Subclause 8 of clause 9 establishes a. kind of spy system. Under it the Minister will have his spies on the board, just, as the Soviet has its Cheka, and he will use them to give him information. The provision is made so that there may be dissent from a majority decision of the board. It does a,way with majority decisions by the board, that is, decisions of the representatives of the owners of the product. The producers, not the government, own the product; but we are reaching a state of affairs when the farmers are being led to believe that they are not the owners of their product. The sooner we get back to a realization that those who produce the eggs are the owners of them and should be given a say in the disposal of their eggs, either through their representatives on boards, or individually, the better it will be for the Commonwealth.
But the Minister may vary decisions of the board, or dissent from them, simply because someone on that board - it need not be the chairman - may say that he will not abide by the decision of the majority but will take it to the Minister and have it altered. Clause 13 provides that the board may make recommendations to the Minister in relation to the making of regulations to regulate the export of eggs ; and it empowers the board to make any arrangements, either on its own behalf or in collaboration with any other board, or authority, for any experiment which is likely to lead to the improvement of the quality, or the prevention of deterioration, before or during transport from Australia, of eggs produced in Australia. I have no objection to that provision. But clause 14 provides for the making of regulations “ prohibiting the export from the Commonwealth of any eggs except by persons who hold licences issued by the Minister or by a person thereto authorized in writing by the Minister to do so, and subject to such conditions and restrictions as are prescribed after recommendation to the Minister by the board “. What magnificent control that clause gives to the Minister over the disposal of these eggs !
There seems to be a blind belief on the part of the Government that, because a control is set up under a bureaucracy in Canberra, it has some extraordinary method of finding out better markets for the disposal of surplus Australian products than any other agency can find. In view of our experience during the last few years, I do not believe that these government bodies or bureaucrats have anything like the experience, or knowledge of private individuals themselves in discovering new markets for our surplus products. The poultry industry is expanding rapidly, due, among other things, to mechanization. Not so long ago I visited a poultry farm in Canberra where the hens were accommodated on what I understand is the Victorian system. It was a saw-tooth egg factory, occupying only a small area, but producing many thousands of eggs per annum. That development is being intensified throughout the Commonwealth. Consequently, we must find new markets. Who is better fitted to find them than the commercial representatives of private enterprise throughout the world? They are better able to find new sources of consumption than bureaucrats can find in text-books in libraries.
The Minister is to be given the power to grant licences. Should an exporter disagree with the Minister, or express the view that the Minister’s policy is wrong, for how long will he be permitted to bold a licence ? The board is not given power to grant licences without the consent of the Minister. Further, we have block contracts made with shipping firms for the handling of eggs and the freighting of them overseas. Probably, because of the fact that, to-day, Ministers are only nominally heads of their departments, mere rubber stamps whose names appear at the bottom of documents, I notice that there is a common arrangement among the bureaucratic gentlemen who really govern this country that when they make these contracts for overseas freights they very often go to the monopoly and never endeavour to find out whether there are other shipping bodies who would handle. the eggs on more favorable terms. For a long time, wheat freights were arranged under the tramp system of tonnage. Under that system, as the price of wheat rose or fell, wheat freights varied accordingly. At certain times the chartered rate for wheat in London was remarkably low, but we then found that other companies, operating under what was called the “ loyalty rebate “ system, made no variation of their freights. The former system, of course, was of great advantage to producers when the price of their product fell on the overseas market. The egg producers of Australia should regard this measure with the greatest suspicion. I trust that when this Government is removed from office and a government which stands for freedom succeeds it, obnoxious clauses of this kind in various bills which are alleged to give control to producers through their commodity boards for the handling of their products will be removed, and that control will, in fact, be given to the owners of the products and not left in the hands of a Minister and his bureaucratic advisers who can have only very distant association with the producers when they peer with long-distance glasses from Canberra at an industry which is established throughout the Commonwealth.
Sitting suspended from 12.43 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate (on motion by Mrs. Blackburn) adjourned. .
Debate resumed from the 19th November (vide page 2312), on motion by Mr. Holloway -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill is a bill for an act to amend the Constitution. It seeks to confer upon the Commonwealth permanent authority - and I emphasize the word “ permanent “ - that is to say, an authority which this Parliament has not previously had, to make laws with respect to “ rents and prices, including charges “. The first thing I want to do is to look at the nature and extent of the proposed power. On the face of it, the power includes the right to control the price to be paid for the use of property - which is one way of expressing the word “ rent “ - the price to be paid for the acquisition of goods, the price to be paid for money and the price to be paid for services. All these things - and I have selected the major ones - are included within the ambit of the proposed power.
These in their turn, as we now know as a result of judicial decision, include the right to control profits, because, as I remind honorable members - .and I say “ remind “ because there was some discussion on this matter in the course of the last sittings - that is what is called the Daveney case, the High Court, by a majority, upheld the right of the Prices Commissioner to control profits as incidental to the regulation of prices. Therefore, in relation to all prices of the kind I have described and to all profits relating to those matters, that power will operate if the bill is passed through the Parliament and if the people approve of it by the appropriate constitutional referendum. When these proposed powers are added to the bank monopoly now created, the result will be, in the central government, an enormous power to control all industry - to control it through the instrument of the banking monopoly and through powers of the kind to which I have just briefly referred. This is abundantly clear. Therefore, if this bill were to pass and this referendum were to succeed, what would happen would represent the perfect state of affairs for the central planner, who is, after all, the vital element in the socialist, or, as I would prefer to call it, the servile state. In brief, this bill represents, not the innocent thing that the second-reading speech might have made it out to be but a further spectacular bid for power made by this Government.
It is not reasonable to assume that the people want it; indeed, it is most reasonable to assume that they do not. On that, I merely refer to two matters. The first is that there was a referendum in 1944. In 1944 the Government passed and submitted to the people a constitutional alteration relating to post-war reconstruction and democratic rights. All honorable members will recall it. It set out a series of amendments, and the operation of those amendments was expressed in the measure itself to be for five years from the date of the cessation of hostilities. The exact expression was “ from the date upon which Australia ceases to be engaged in hostilities in the present war “. The powers were sought on that occasion for a period running approximately to September, 1950. They included one over profiteering and prices. It is quite true - and I recall it somewhat wryly - that there was an exception in favour of prices or rates charged by the State or semi-governmental or local governing bodies for goods or services. It is curious to note that exception because, as we now know, the decision of the High Court on section 48 of the Banking Act of 1945 ‘that States and local governing bodies were by constitutional law excluded from the Commonwealth power over banking, is now regarded as the whole cause of the bank nationalization proposal. On that occasion in 1944, the Government itself, in asking for power over profiteering and prices, excluded prices charged by State or semigovernmental or local governing bodies. It will be observed that, although in 1944 the people rejected the proposal for a temporary power over prices, the Government is now undertaking to prove to the same people that a permanent power over the same matter is desirable.
The second matter to which I refer as bearing upon the attitude of the people on this question is, of course, to be found in the result of the recent Victorian elections. However, the Government will no doubt pass this bill and no doubt a referendum will be held. It is, therefore, worth noting that by force of the
Constitution the Government cannot take further powers without popular approval, though it has just demonstrated to everybody how ruthlessly it can exercise existing power without any regard for public opinion at all.
I want to address myself at once to a most important question. Should the Commonwealth power over prices be temporary or permanent? That, after all, ls the real issue here. It is not whether price control should cease to-morrow morning but whether the Commonwealth control over it should be temporary or permanent. The war has provided the perfect example of the circumstances which justify Commonwealth price control. During the war there was a diversion ,of resources, both of manpower and of materials. That diversion meant reduced production, and that reduced proeduction went side by side with an almost inevitably increased purchasing power. In those circumstances, without control there would be exploitation ; there would be £ rapidly rising price level because there would be no competition among sellers, production being down, hut there would be keen competition among buyers, purchasing power being up. A terrific pressure upon the price level i3 therefore an inevitable phenomenon of modern war. It occurred in the course of the first world war and its basic causes were even more present in the second world war because of the much more far-reaching economic re-arrangements that had to be made. Because of that, the control of the price level is no doubt an instrument for the effective waging of war. All that has been very clearly recognized on both sides of this House. It was the Government which I had the honour to lead that introduced price control a few days after the commencement of World War II., and my colleagues and I have supported it in principle, because we believe that one of the first functions of government is to protect the people against exploitation. The courts have recognized the same thing, as I shall show later, because I propose to make some necessary reference “to the decision of the High Court on this matter. But one of the greatest menaces of modern times is not confined to the possibility of exploitation during a war and during temporary circumstances. One of the greatest menaces is the tendency, which all people have observed, for the exercise of emergency powers to become so long continued that those powers become permanent, and for temporary departments to perpetuate, not only their species, but also themselves. The indefinite prolongation of war-time controls - war-time prices control - would be fatal, for profit control, which wartime prices control has now primarily become, has proved an encourager of inefficiency and a raiser, not a lowerer, of prices. I do not need to elaborate that, because all honorable members are familiar with what has been happening. If we have prices control by determining that the profit shall be a certain percentage of cost, which has been the whole disposition of the administration, then it follows that the greater the cost, the greater will be the actual sum of money that will be received from a fixed percentage of profit.
– It is the cost-plus system.
– It is the old- costplus business in a different way. If, through inefficiency, one man produces an article for £100 and another man, through efficiency, produces a similar article for £80, and each is allowed 10 per cent, as his gross profit - just to take an arbitrary figure - it .follows that in £.s.d. the inefficient man gets a greater sum of money in his profit margin. That means that the procedure is followed into the retail stage3. The greater the price to the retailer, the greater the sum of money that he will get on a fixed markup. If the retailer’s- fixed mark-up on his wholesale price is 50 per cent., of course it will suit him to have the 50 per cent, on a large sum rather than on a small sum.
– The retailers do not get that to-day.
– That does happen, because there are differential prices established in relation to the same commodities, as the Daveney case very plainly showed. At the time of full production, when there was competition among sellers, and competition among sellers is the best protection that any consumer can have, competition would, in the ordinary course of events, lower prices; hut when goods are scarce, and, therefore people want to buy them at almost any price, there is no competition, and so differential prices are paid and the premium continues to go to the inefficient man as the result of profit control as it has been worked out. What is needed in this country, and I say this not to engage in tedious repetition because everybody in the House except the Government, has faced up to it at one stage or another, is more vigorous production; and side by side with more vigorous production, continued selective prices control - genuine prices control - over scarce goods, and particularly over goods such as building materials and equipment which enter so much and so importantly into the normal life of the people. Those controls, as I shall show without difficulty, can be employed by the Commonwealth or by the States without any constitutional change whatever.
There is another feature of the question. The more a war-time control gets out of harmony with public opinion, the more the law comes into contempt. We have only to look at two examples to realize that fact most vividly. Let us consider land sales control. In my wanderings around Australia I have not found anybody with first-hand knowledge of the operation of land sales controL, who did not tell me at once that the overwhelming majority of land sales to-day take place, in effect^ on the black market* In other words, land sales controls have become a burden upon a few scrupulously honest people, and have meant nothing whatever, except a loss of their own moral fibre, to a great number of people engaging in transactions. It is also notorious, and nobody can be found to deny it, that there is practically no business in second-hand motor ears except on the black market.
In what I have just said, I have been discussing as briefly as possible the question whether the powers which we are considering should be temporary or permanent ones. Therefore, it becomes most important to have a look at the foundation of these temporary powers, because if I were examining the problem from outside the Parliament, I should be most interested to know that, at any rate, temporary powers should be available to deal with a temporary problem. So I desire to have a look at the foundation of the temporary power which the Commonwealth has been exercising ever since 1939. I do not desire to make this examination in a legally erudite way, but as far as possible to make it clear and simple. Nearly all the war-time controls in Australia have been established on the basis of the defence power of the Commonwealth - the simple words, “ Naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and of the several States “. That power is extremely farreaching and what is more, as the people should be reminded that power has received an extremely liberal interpretation consistently from the High Court. I took the opportunity to look at a speech which I made on the Constitution Alteration (Post-war Reconstruction and Democratic Rights) BDI 1944, and, although it is an ill business for an honorable member to quote his own words, I crave the indulgence of the House to make two short references to what I said on that occasion. The first of them was this -
The fact is that you do not unwind the war effort and then set about winding up the peace effort.
That was an expression that had been used -
It is the unwinding of the war effort which constitutes the winding up of the peace effort. They are identical processes. I shall be most astonished to bo told by the court, by any authority, a year, two years, or three years after this war that everything that is done under the defence power just drops as soon as the war finishes. It would bc a monstrous power. It would not be a defence power in those circumstances, but a destruction power.
Again in the same speech I said -
For some period after the War prices must unquestionably remain subject to control. To remove control suddenly would be to produce hopeless confusion. I am not concerned to advocate the removal of all control as soon as fighting ceases. I believe that many departmental activities will continue for some time after the war. I believe that- we must convert the nation from a war to a peace footing with infinite care, and with as much skill as possible.
Looking back on those statements, I still find them substantially sound, and those statements have been abundantly justified by the whole current of decision in the High Court since the war ended, or, at any rate, since actual hostilities ceased. The point that I emphasize is that Commonwealth powers over prices to the degree that the prices are those of goods the scarcity of which have been created by the war seem to be beyond serious argument. To show that, I shall quote a few characteristic passages from recent decisions given by the High Court. I think that honorable members will not suppose, as some people do, that because I am quoting judgments of the High Court I am endeavouring to convert the problem before us into a purely lawyer’s problem. The people are entitled to have an answer to the question : “ Unless we vote for the referendum, will control over prices become impossible to-morrow morning?”. That is one of the things that they will be told in some quarters; but if they are told that, they will be told something that is not right. In October of last year the High Court decided two cases - the Dawson case and the Miller case. Those cases were decided more than a year after hostilities had ceased. I gave myself the interesting task of going carefully through the printed judgments in theCommonwealth Law Reports in order to ascertain whether there was any real difference in the approach of High Court judges to the problems that they were considering. I found none.For instance, honorable members will be interested to know that the learned Chief Justice,Sir John Latham said -
In view of some of the arguments used upon the hearing, I desire to add that it is not the duty or the function of the court itself to consider whether in its opinion such regulations are “ necessary “ for defence purposes. Questions of legislative policy are determined by the legislature, not by the courts. If it can reasonably be considered that there is a real connexion between the subject-matter of the legislation and defence, the court should hold that the legislation is authorized by the power to make laws with respect to defence. The control of the use of money for the purchase of land, or of stocks and shares, or of goods or for other purposes, is a control of finance and trade which, as Griffith,C.J. said in Farey v Burvett, “ may be the most potent weapon of all “ in conducting a war. It is not for the court to inquire into “the degree of its necessity”: a determination of that question belongs to the legislative and not to the judicial sphere.
That, I venture to say, is an entirely liberal statement of the correct approach to this matter. In reply to the question, “ What happens when the fighting is over “, the learned Chief Justice went on to say -
The defence power does not cease instantaneously to be available as a source of legislative authority with the termination of active hostilities or even with the end of the war.
He was speaking in a technical sense -
The power is not cut off as with a guillotine. The defence power includes not only a power to prepare for war and to prosecute war, but also a power to wind up after a war and to restore conditions of peace - gradually if that is thought wise, and not necessarily immediatelyby the crude process of immediate abandonment of all federal control.
He went on to say -
The fact that the regulations have been in operation itself creates an economic condition which may reasonably be thought to require their continued operation for some further period in order to bring about a gradual return to what might be called more normal conditions.
– Is not the period the essential thing?
– No one can pretend to be definite about the period. The fixing of a definite period would be to the disadvantage of the country. If we define a period, we may still have, when that period ends, war-created conditions and not be able to deal with them. The approach of the court is wise. It says, in effect, “So long as we are satisfied that these conditions, which are controlled by these regulations, are conditions which are the creature of war and of the circumstances of war, then so long will the defence power operate to enable us to deal with them “. I shall give one further quotation from the judgment of the learned Chief Justice -
This period should not he held to have expired until a. stage has been reached when “ it would be beyond reason to allege that the continuance of a particular war control, not within Commonwealth powers in time of peace was necessary for defence purposes “.
Sir George Rich stated a similar view when he said -
The court should therefore be slow to hold Commonwealth legislation or action to he beyond that power, unless it is reasonably plain that it is. Inmany cases the line may be hard to draw and if thematter challenged is in dubio it should, I think, be resolved in favour of validity.
Sir Hayden Starke spoke in similar terms. In the course of the judgment of Sir Owen Dixon in, I think the Miller case, as reported on page 183 of the Commonwealth Law Reports, the learned judge said -
But it is up parent that the change back from n war economy to an economy appropriate to peace is a task calling for further measures of a legislative nature and the defence power, in my opinion, is not insufficient to authorize laws for that purpose. The power must, by consequence, also extend to sustaining for some .reasonable interval of time the laws and regulations in force at the end of hostilities so as to enable the legislature to proceed with the task. The whole edi/ice does not collapse at once simply because the necessities which call it into being have passed. Further, among the things that are incidental to the power must be the fixing by the legislature itself of some reasonable time during which the regulations adopted for war ave to continue in force.
Mr. Justice Williams, interestingly enough, made a specific reference to the problem of prices control. Referring to share sales, he said -
For thu reasons already given the legislation under discussion, unlike legislation to control the prices of commodities which will continue to bc scarce for some time after the conclusion of hostilities, is not legislation which is likely to remain within the ambit of the defence power for any considerable period.
If it were a law to deal with the prices of scarce commodities, remaining scarce after the cessation of hostilities, in the nature of tilings the power would continue for a substantial period.
I have not actually made quotations from the judgment of Mr. Justice McTiernan, because in respect of each matter he concurred with the views expressed by the learned Chief Justice. Honorable members will see that the unanimous view of the members of the High Court Bench is that these powers do not die off; that so long as we have circumstances which are the product of war a’.nd which cause a scarcity of goods, thereby throwing pressure on the prices structure, the Commonwealth power as now exercised will continue to operate. I have referred to those passages from the learned judges because it is important to establish that the question is not whether prices control shall end tomorrow, but whether prices control by the Commonwealth shall continue as a temporary power on the foundations that
I have described, or is to become a permanent power written into the Constitution for all time. The Government and its advisers are not strangers to the proposition that I have just referred to. On the contrary, the Government has acted on those propositions, and, because the Government accepts those propositions, it has passed, since the actual cessation of hostilities, two pieces of legislation. It passed the National Security Bill 1946, which provided a terminal date for the principal National Security Act. It passed, a year ago, the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill, which continued those controls and has been the authority for those controls during the last twelve months, and it has introduced into this Parliament a bill, which is on the notice-paper, entitled the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill 1947, to continue those controls until the end of 1948. I say right away that the Opposition will support that legislation, because we want those controls to be able to be carried on during that period. We do not want to see prices control terminated overnight. Nobody on this side of the House, nobody, I believe, in Australia, except a few extremists, would want prices control to be terminated overnight. But we do believe that in the hands of the Commonwealth it ought to be a temporary power and function, and we believe that as soon as may be, by progressive stages, it should go back into the hands of the States, because, as I will show shortly, the States have abundant and unqualified power to attend to those matters. So we will support the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill, because our objection is not to the use by the Commonwealth of temporary powers, but to the assumption by the Commonwealth of permanent powers over what must properly be regarded as a temporary problem. There has been some disposition to suggest - I do not know that I have heard it suggested in this House, but I have heard it suggested elsewhere - that the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill, which will be before us in a few hours, is so dubious legally that only a referendum can save Australia from chaos. If that submission is made, I proclaim it at once to be nonsense for the reasons that I have given. The excerpts that I have read will satisfy any reasonable person that the High Court is at least as conscious of the need for progressive and sensible de-control as is any honorable member, and, so long as it can be shown that there is a reasonable relation between continued controls and the circumstances of war, or the dislocation produced by war, such temporary legislation by the Commonwealth will be upheld.
The Opposition believes that the people must be protected against exploitation, particularly when the occasion for that exploitation is the sacrifice made by the community in war. “We therefore pledge ourselves, if pledge be necessary, to do all in our power to prevent exploitation, to keep down costs and prices and to do all those things that are heeded for a proper community life; but, at the same time, I point out to the House that if and when some day the Commonwealth power over prices comes te an end because it is found to be no longer related to war dislocation, that will be not only pretty good evidence that the normal state of affairs has been restored, but also >a clear signal to the Commonwealth to abandon its emergency authorities and to allow the States to attend to those matters, which, after all, the Constitution of this country entrusted to them.
That means that at this stage I should say a few words about the position of the States. It is sometimes forgotten that power over prices and rents does not suddenly come from nowhere when war breaks out and, in some mysterious fashion, attaches itself to the Commonwealth and, when the Commonwealth loses it, dies away altogether. It is not one of those curious powers. It is a power that resides fully in the individual States, and it has been exercised by them, as we all know. Honorable members representing Queensland electorates will be familiar with the fact that there has been effective prices legislation for many years in that State. Similar legislation exists, or is foreshadowed, in the other States. Indeed, in most of them it exists. Various States-, if not all the States, now have control over rents., either through fair rents courts or by other means. The only reason why, at the outbreak of war, the Commonwealth, under its defence power, decided tq deal with these matters, was that, with the war coming upon us, it was desired, in the shortest possible time, and in the special emergency that arose, to secure prompt and uniform action; but, if the Commonwealth, in the next year, two years, three years, four years, or whatever period it may be, ceases to control rents and prices, it will not mean that they will be uncontrolled or uncontrollable. All that will be involved will be recognition of the fact that the normal federal constitutional position has resumed operation. That is not a bad thing; on the contrary, it is a very good thing. Most people, witnessing the enormous centralization of power during recent years, and knowing the delays, uncertainties and occasional absurdities of remote control, will not. share the Government’s passion for centralized planning. Most of us, whatever our theoretical views in the past may have been, have been convinced by the experiences of the last few years that genuine freedom is inconsistent with over-centralized power, and that we must get back to the true spirit and practice pf the Federal Constitution. Does any one, for example, to take the homeliest case, suppose Canberra can control rents in Carlton or Paddington better than the Parliament in Melbourne or Sydney, or the administration in Melbourne or Sydney can? Rents do not contain any interstate element, and, in the case of prices, of course, some people fear individual treatment by various States of prices of goods will produce anomalies; but, surely, the answer to that is that variations of the price levels would, after all, stimulate competition of a kind from which the consumers would most certainly benefit. It is thus to be emphasized that the questions raised by this bill do not at all resemble the one that the Government, in effect, is propounding. The Government has said, or will say, to the people, “ Do you want control of prices and rents +o end suddenly? In our view, i-f you do not, you must support the amendment “. We say that that is not the question. First, we are prepared to support the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill, which will carry on the controls to the end of 1948. Secondly, we point out that all the States have ample power to deal with these matters. There is no difficulty whatever about their machinery. Therefore, we say that the real questions before the people are these: “Do you want to give further extensive permanent powers to the Australian Government, remembering, as you do, how it has been recently exercising one of its existing powers against your will and in contempt of your opinion? Do you believe that the Commonwealth Administration is handling prices control, and, for that matter, rent control, more successfully than the States would handle those things, which are things that normally belong to them ? Do you realize that what the Chifley Government is trying to do is to persuade you, by arguments of a purely temporary kind that relate te the post-war reconstruction period, to give it a power that is not temporary at all, but will represent a permanent, addition to the authority of the Government, which is already loaded with power?”
In addition to what I have just been saying, there are two. things that ought to be clearly remembered by the Australian people. The first is that we now say that the federal principle, that is the principle on which the powers of government are divided between two sets of authorities that act independently of each other, is vital to human freedom in Australia. I say at once to the Ministers at the table that honorable members opposite can save their time and trouble in looking up former speeches I have made on this subject. I shall provide them with copies of them with the greatest pleasure in the world. I say quite plainly that there are speeches of mine to be found in which I have advocated a system in which there would be a great centralization of power with an effective decentralization of function. But the events of the last few years have changed all this. I say quite plainly that the present trends of government and of Labour socialist policy in Australia are such that I Would view with horror the prospect of concentrating all power in this Parliament. After what has happened in the last six months in particular, I do not hesitate to say to the Australian people, if I might borrow a phrase from my distinguished colleague, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), “ No more permanent powers for the Chifley Government “. The federal structure is already profoundly weakened. The capacity of the States to do their important work is already seriously impaired hy Commonwealth overlordship. If we are to add to the banking monopoly the enormous controls that would be involved in the permanent powers now sought, we could say goodbye to the States already. That is the first point I emphasize. The second is that the true socialist programme of action ha9 now been discovered. The pattern of authoritarian government is being woven before our eyes. I say “ authoritarian “ because, with highly centralized power, remote control from Canberra, and a government which pays no attention to public opinion, socialism becomes dictatorship - not, I agree, by one man; but by a powerful group.. Of course these latest proposals are, as one might expect, accompanied by soft words. With a rubbing of the hands, the Government says to the people, “ Give us these powers. We are merely desirous of protecting you from the wicked traders,, just as, when we nationalized the banks, we did it merely becausewe wanted to protect you against the exploitation of the wicked bankers “. The people will not be deceived by this any more than they were by the banking proposals. They are coming to realize that it is a poor bargain to abandon liberties in favour of universal government control, because they are beginning to have a shrewd idea that private citizens can manage their own affairs much more competently than a collection of utter theorists, steadily becoming more intoxicated with their own power, at Canberra.
We believe that the Commonwealth, by the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill which we are supporting, and some reasonable further extension which we will always be prepared to consider, possesses all the control it needs in the post-war period. We believe it will be progressively found that the States can resume these controls to the great benefit of administration, to the advantage of the taxpayer by the cutting down of mushroom departments, and to the advantage of the consumer. We believe that controls of this kind are misrepresented and falsified by the specious arguments that if the Commonwealth does not do the job there will be no control whatever. We believe that the immediate battleis not between control or no control, but between temporary control and permanent control. Finally, we believe that the ultimate battle is between the basic democratic conception of a free community and the socialist conception of a community which takes its orders from the central authority and enjoys only such freedom as its masters permit.
– We are certainly indebted to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) for a declaration of where the Opposition stands, at least in this day of November, 1947, in regard to the exercise of power by this National Parliament. The right honorable gentleman has made another declaration of political faith - he has made quite a number in his time. Speaking for himself and all his supporters in the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, he now says that they want no more power to be conferred upon this National Parliament. They want the destinies of Australia to be guided, as far as they can arrange it, by the State parliaments, dominated in four instances by reactionary Upper Houses and elected on a most restricted form of franchise by only one-third of the people who vote for the popularly elected Legislative Assembly. All of these Legislative Councils have equal powers to those of the Legislative Assemblies to initiate and amend legislation except in respect of the introduction of money bills.
– And not game to allow the people to decide whether their franchise should be extended.
– The honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha), who for ten years was the leader of two or three Labour representatives in an Upper House of eighteen, knows precisely how reactionary these bodies can be. The declaration of political faith by the Leader of the Opposition to-day means that henceforth the Australian people will recognize every member of the
Liberal party and the Australian Country party, politically speaking, as stone-age men. The right honorable gentleman has changed his views, not since the days of 1 938, when he delivered excellent speeches for the need of increased powers, but even since the last election campaign. In the policy speech which he delivered in 1946, and which was subsequently printed on beautiful paper - paper that we in the Australian Labour party could never afford, and for the printing of which the best type fount that bank money could buy was utilized - the right honorable gentleman said this -
Let me, speaking for the Government which introduced price control within a week of the outbreak of war, give the lie to those whisperers who tell you that a Liberal victory will mean an upward leap in prices. We stand for the control of prices.
Those words were uttered with no qualification as to the transitional period and with no reservation as to any period of years during which they should apply. His statement, “ We stand for the control of prices, is clear and unequivocal. The right honorable gentleman made a definite statement because he feared that the Australian people, realizing that if prices control were lifted, either in 1946 or in the then immediate future, they would be the victims of the activities of the profiteers and racketeers, who in this community, as in every other community in the civilized world, attempted to take advantage of the people during and after the war, and to accumulate profits for themselves.
When he introduced this bill the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) stated its objects in plain and very simple language. He said -
To safeguard the Australian people from inflation and depression and to keep in check the profiteer and the racketeer, are nationwide problems.
He went on to say -
The object of the bill is to give permanent, nation-wide protection to every tenant, every income-earner, every housewife, anxious about what her weekly budget will buy, to every user of services and, indeed, to every purchaser as wellas to primary producers dependent on unsheltered markets.
– Who said that?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service said that in introducing this measure. But the Leader of the Opposition now says, “ Ah; since the last election yon passed the ‘bill to nationalize the banks, and with that, and with these additional powers you will be able to destroy the liberties of everybody in the community”. This is not a bill to destroy the liberty of anyone; its object is to protect the interests of everybody in this community against the very things that are happening to-day in other parts of the world. Every manufacturer in this country needs protection in regard to the prices he will have to pay for commodities to be used in the manufacture of articles for the Australian people. Primary producers will need protection. If there is no control over rente, prices, and so on, the spiral of inflation will bring this country to the same unfortunate condition as it has brought other countries, powerful and weak alike, and we shall pay the same price in suffering that they have paid. It is because we want to protect everybody against the evils that always occur in communities when the supply of goods does not equal the demand, that this bill is necessary. Honorable members opposite recognized this fact when the Parliament was considering the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill. Speaking on the 4th December, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said -
I do not see how such controls as those over prices, wages, capital issues and land values could be removed without precipitating an economic crisis. … I. realize that the problem of economic controls is not an easy one to solve. To remove controls is always a popular cry; it is never popular to continue them. For my part I have no desire to see this country experience what has been experienced in the United States of America.
He was right then, but he agrees to-day with the leader of his party who says, “ Away with all Commonwealth controls! Let us get back to control by the States, with their Upper Houses.” In order to show that the honorable member for Warringah did not change his mind, even if his leader has publicly announced his cwn change of mind, I quote what the honorable member for Warringah said on the day following his previous statement on the subject -
All I have said in no ‘way cuts down my sup port, of the control of prices. I do not ally myself to the critics who say that price con trol may now be removed. If price control ceased to exist the most disastrous results would follow.
That was only a year ago, and the honorable member was right then. He was not the only honorable member on his side of the House who held a similar opinion. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), speaking in the same debate, said -
I make it (perfectly clear that my experience drives me to the conclusion that there must be a continuance of price control for the time being. That does not mean that I agree with the continuance of the present method of price control. I mean that I am satisfied that there must be a continuance of some degree of price control.
This is the statement of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) -
Price control . . . has to be continued while goods are scarce and until production overtakes demand, otherwise prices will rocket and some of the things wc have known to happen in Europe and to a certain extent in America recently may prevail. There is no quarrel. I believe, among political parties or the public generally in regard to the necessity for some measure of price control.
All this bill provides for is some measure of prices control. Now the honorable gentleman from Balaclava has had an afterthought, and says that he meant only temporary control, but he did not say so at the time. This bill asks for permanent control, and what the honorable member said last year is not inconsistent with the provisions of the bill. About the same time, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said -
I appreciate the necessity for the continuance of some form of prices control.
And they were not the only opponents of the Labour party who held similar views. Various tories in other places were also thinking in that way. Foi instance, the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, stated on the 3rd December, 1946-
The Commonwealth Government therefore has to face the possibility that some of the regulations which are now deemed necessary for economic stability may sooner or later be held to be beyond its powers. If this should happen, it is quite -possible that confusion would follow. One can easily imagine that the sudden relaxation of the control of prices or evictions would have serious repercussions and would cause not a little hardship and economic disorder . . .
I think the great majority ofmembers know, in their own hearts, that if we wiped out all controls to-morrow, without a word of warning, unprecedented hardship would be caused inmany homes. If, with goods in such short supply and so much money in circulation, price controls were lifted, inflation and hardship would inevitably result. America is a good example of that. I believe that the fewer the controls the better, but I also believe that it is a physical impossibility to change overnight from a system which was absolutely necessary in war-time.
Honorable members opposite have argued that, in a year or so, the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act will expire, and after that the States can take over the control of prices, and handle the whole situation quite effectively. They say that they will support the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill 1947, which will, according to them, remain effective for another twelve months; but how can any one tell what the High Court will say, if that act is challenged? No one can read the minds of the members of the High Court. Indeed, I am reminded of the words of St. Paul-
How incomprehensible are His judgments, and how inscrutable His ways!
However, honorable members opposite say that if the act is declared to be unconstitutional, it will be just too bad. The people, in other words, will have to put up with it, and, anyway; after 1947, the State legislatures can attend to the matter. The State legislatures may not be disposed to act in regard to the control of prices. The State Legislative Councils may not be prepared to consider legislation introduced even by Liberal Premiers in the lower houses. There Was the instance in the Parliament of South Australia when the Premier tried to nationalize an industry, and was checked for a time by his own Upper House. In Tasmania, the Upper House would not even agree to read a bill a second time to transfer powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. The Legislative Councils of four of the Australian States have greater power than was possessed by the House of Lords, even before 1911, and they exercise that power ruthlessly in the interests of big business. So far as they are concerned, nothing can be done in the interests of the people. The Legis lative Council of Victoria is no exception, as its recent conduct indicates. The House of Lords, by comparison with the Legislative Councils of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, is a collection of red revolutionaries. The political troglodytes who dominate the Upper Houses of four Australian States will do nothing to protect the people in the matter of prices. It may be argued that in regard to bread, milk and rent, t he State parliaments can pass legislation to control prices. No doubt they could effectively control the price of bread and milk, but rents are in a different category. Speaking of rents in this debate, the Leader of the Opposition said -
Rents do not contain interstate elements.
But rents do contain interstate elements ! Until the housing shortage is overcome, rents will be affected by that very shortage. Only Commonwealth action can control the prices of materials that are produced in one State and transported interstate. If the housing problem cannot be handled by the Commonwealth, it cannot be handled by any of the States. If some State governments have effective control of prices of materials, and other State governments have no such control, it will be found that the people in the States where prices are controlled will not be able to get anything because the manufacturers will send their materials to the States where they can get almost any price they wish. In that way, States without any control over the cost of housing materials would be able to benefit at the expense of the other States. It is obvious, therefore, that theCommonwealth must in the interests of all Australians exercise control over housing materials. It is equally obvious that only the Commonwealth can maintain effective control over housing.
This housing problem is not a war-time creation. It Gould not be argued successfully in the High Court that the housing problem confronting the Australian people to-day is an outcome of the war or that it is in any way associated with the defence power. We are in trouble in respect of housing only partially because of the war, during the period of which homes were not built. The housing problem was acute twenty years before World War II. occurred. The problem which confronts all governments in Australia to-day is a legacy of neglect hy anti-Labour governments, both Federal and State, for 40 years before World War II. broke out. Not one anti-Labour government, either Federal or State, gave any real consideration before World War II. to the task of effectively and properly housing our people.
– The Government of Victoria was spending £10,000 a. year on housing before the war.
– That is not so. In the light of the facts that I have stated, it is obvious that we must have control over housing materials for a number of years to come. It may be very easily demonstrated to the High Court that the housing shortage is not in any way related to the war situation or the defence power generally.
– Or to prices.
– Prices of materials used in the building of houses are equally uncontrollable by State parliaments. Anything that is produced in one State and transported to other States must be controlled by the Australian Parliament or it cannot he controlled at all. That is the fact. Should prices control be removed, the Australian people will experience much the same dire consequences as the American people experienced when the Office of Price Administration was abolished by the United States Congress.
Only a few days ago we were informed in the daily press that President Truman had summoned a special- meeting of Congress to do two things. The first was to consider the granting of urgently needed aid to Europe, and the second was to re-impose, if he could persuade Congress to do so, controls to meet the situation caused by the high prices and the inflation which are ruining the United States of America. The President outlined the following legislative programme to Congress: -
Consumer rationing of scarce products basically affecting the cost of living.
Extension and strengthening of rent control.
Re-imposition of price and wage ceilings.
Control of scarce commodities basically affecting the cost of living and industrial production.
Restoration of control over hire-purchase, -and the restraint of inflationary bank credit.
I hope the honorable member for Balaclava is listening -
Regulation of speculative trading on grain and other commodity exchanges.
Measures to control marketing of livestooland .poultry, to conserve grain.
Extension and strengthening of export controls, which normally would end next March
Is it not an extraordinary paradox that in the United States of America, where prices controls were discontinued, statesmen are seeking to reimpose those controls because of the need to protect the American community? Is it not extraordinary, too, that the Parliament of New Zealand recently passed a Control of Prices Bill ? In the main, that bill represents a consolidation of emergency regulations dealing with prices controls and certain other regulations and acts. While the Governments of these two Pacific powers are doing these things, the Australian Government is being asked by the Opposition to make the mistake that was made in the United States of America and discontinue prices control !
Honorable members opposite are frankly dishonest in their approach to this subject. They say, “ Leave it to the High Court to determine whether the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act 1947 is valid. If it is not valid, well that is just bad luck”. After 1948, they would ask the State Parliaments to do something that they cannot do and, in fact, would not do, even if they could. That is the attitude of honorable members opposite. They are not prepared to face the people frankly and say, “We want the removal of controls to help our friends “. They are not prepared to say, “We want to lift controls from everything in order to promote unemployment so that we can use the reservoir of unemployed to force down wages “. They are not prepared to say, “ We want to abolish all controls so that, once there is a reservoir of unemployed, we can make the worker work harder for longer hours and for lower wages so that we can get greater profits for ourselves “.
Other countries as well as the United States of America and New Zealand are reimposing controls. Canada is doing so in respect of certain foodstuffs, because of prices increases during recent weeks. The Parliament of Ireland has passed a bill dealing with prices controls. That measure, the Industrial Efficiency and Prices Bill, will take the place of the existing Control of Prices Act and impose much more drastic provisions than have hitherto been employed. While all this is happening in other parts of the world, because of the evils that uncontrolled prices can bring when goods are in short supply, honorable .members opposite pretend that everything will be all right if only we leave it to the High Court to make a favorable or satisfactory decision. Not everybody in this community outside of the Labour party thinks as honorable members opposite think. The Adelaide News recently declared -
The Government is right in proposing to hold a. referendum to obtain .power for a continuance of price and rent controls. The power sought should be granted, so long as an assurance is given that the controls will be removed at a suitable time.
And the controls will be removed at a suitable time! They will be removed by this Parliament, but the power will remain so that it can be reimposed at any time when it is necessary to do so. No government in any country would maintain controls once supply had overtaken demand. There would ‘be no need for control in such a situation. We cannot write certain powers into the Constitution for a limited time. Expert opinion on that subject is that either of two things would happen if we attempted to do so. Either the High Court would declare the referendum invalid because a time limit had been set, or it would disregard the time limit and make the power permanent. We do not deal dishonestly with the people.
– Then why did the Government ask to be granted a power for a period of five years when it submitted a proposal by means of a referendum to the people in 1944?
– We have learned a lot since 1944. I advise honorable members opposite to learn a little, too, instead of continuing to live in the past. If ever there was a collection of political bourbons in Australia who learn nothing and forget nothing, it is the Opposition in this Parliament.
The Leader of the Opposition says that prices control increases prices. The right honorable gentleman also says that prices control promotes inefficiency. In effect,, he desires us to return to the old system of laisser faire, to the tenets of Gladstonian liberalism, and the economics of Adam Smith of an earlier period. He says, “ Let the law of supply and demand determine everything”. But we live in the days of a social service state. Honorable gentlemen opposite may sneer and call it a servile state, but our reply is that we are concerned with making provision for those sections of the community who are most needy, and those who are least able to protect themselves. Our purpose is to distribute the available wealth where it is most needed, and on the most equitable basis; but our methods apparently do not have the support of honorable gentlemen, opposite. If they were returned to power they would abolish child endowment and cut down all social services. They would very quickly introduce another Premiersplan to cut down social services. They say they desire the abolition of war-time1 departments. Would they abolish our social service departments which were brought into existence in war-time ? I hear an honorable gentleman behind me interject that the Opposition would pauperize pensioners. I shall not enlarge on that subject at this stage, for time will not allow me to do so. The arguments advanced by the Leader of the Opposition and by the big industrialists of this country are prompted by the desire to make more profits for themselves but they are not supported by those who have made a careful study of the problems that face us. In this connexion I direct attention to recent statements by Professor Wilfred Prest, Professor of Economics at the Melbourne University, which have been published in the newspapers. Professor Prest is not a member of the Labour party. I do not know whether he is a member of any political party. He is not a propagandist; he is an economist. He occupies the chair that was formerly occupied by Professor Copland. He said -
Industrial leaders advocating removal of controls here forget the American lesson that with rapidly soaring prices came acute industrial unrest and prolonged stoppages.
It was always claimed that abolition of restrictions by stimulating production would reduce prices, but in the United States, it had had exactly the opposite effect and prices were still climbing.
Just how much prices have climbed in America by now, I cannot say ; but I was in that country recently and I learned that a housewife was required to pay the equivalent of 28s. for the week’s roast of beef, and that a man who went into a hairdressing saloon anywhere in America for a hair cut and shave was charged the equivalent of11s. 9d. in Australian currency.
– Wages are correspondingly high.
– That is not so. The purchasing power of the Australian £1 is higher than the purchasing power of the American dollar. But even if the interjection of the honorable member were true, it would merely prove that wages are following prices in an upward spiral and must sooner or later reach the inflationary break. The same evils are present with inflation as with deflation. The result in either ease is mass unemployment and a great deal of undeserved human misery. Here are a few comparisons of prices in Australia and America -
I dare say prices have mounted another 20 per cent. or 30 per cent. since that time. Those are the conditions that occur if prices are left uncontrolled. If no legislation on this subject is in operation in this country or is permitted to operate, and if the whole matter is left to chance, we shall experience the kind of thing that is occurring in America and the economy of the country will be destroyed, or conditions will at least deteriorate to those that prevail in America, France and some other countries to-day. All the evidence before us shows that prices control is needed in Australia, and that the Australian people want it. If we can have prices control written into the Commonwealth Constitution, and if the power runs concurrently with similar power within the authority of the State parliaments, what harm would accrue to Australia ? The National Parliament must he national in every sense of the word. It is not often that I quote with approval passages from the daily press in support of actions proposed to be undertaken by this Government; but only a few days ago the following paragraph appeared in a leading article in the Sydney Morning Herald : -
President Truman has taken a bold and courageous step in presenting to Congress so formidable a list of demands as a means of implementing the foreign aid programme and of stabilizing the domestic economy of the United States.
The stabili zed economy of Australia is the soundest in the world. I have been in a number of overseas countries recently, and I know that everywhere abroad there is uncertainty as to prices, and uncertainty as to the future. Everywhere Australia is held up as an example to be followed. Australia has successfully ridden the storm through both war and its aftermath in connexion with prices control, and is regarded overseas as the only country which is emerging successfully from the period of transition from war to peace. There is a good deal still to be done in Australia. Not by the widest stretch of the imagination can it be claimed that we have emerged from the transitional period. The Government must be clothed with additional power to meet the needs of the Australian people or else we must, in effect, throw up our hands and say, “ The problem is out of control “. No wartime problem was beyond the control of the Australian Government. Every problem that came along was effectively tackled. This Government can be depended upon, during this transitional period, to do everything necessary to protect the interests of the Australian community, and it may be trusted to exercise impartially the additional political power entrusted to it following the carrying of the proposed referendum. This Labour Government mobilized the moral, physical and material resources of the nation so as to ensure our survival during the war years. It can be trusted to discharge its responsibilities in time of peace.
– Any one who has listened to the speech of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) must have fully appreciated that it was prepared in inaccurate anticipation of the speech which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) would make. The Leader of the Opposition made the position of honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber crystal clear. What the right honorable gentleman said was that we were not opposed to prices control, but were opposed to the methods by which this Government desired to apply such controls as are indicated in the bill now before the House. The right honorable gentleman said that it was necessary to recognize that some continuation of prices control was essential to cushion conditions from war to peace, activities, in order to obviate economic chaos that might otherwise arise.
The Minister for Information attempted to lead the House to believe that the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber are strenuously opposed to prices control, whereas what they oppose is prices control for an unlimited period in the terms of the measure now before us. The Minister said that it would be unconstitutional and politically dishonest to ask the people to write these powers into the Constitution for a limited period. I remind him that if that be true the Government of which he is a member was guilty of political dishonesty in 1944, when it sought additional powers from the people under fourteen headings, on condition that they should remain in force for a definite period of only five years. Despite the assertions of the Minister, this bill will not create any new power that is required to continue prices control in Australia. The necessary power already exists. The object of the bill is .to transfer permanently to the Australian Government the existing sovereign rights of the States to control prices and rents. In that respect, it must be regarded as a measure to transfer from the States to the Commonwealth their inherent rights, which were embraced in State constitutions long before federation, and which were left with the States when the federal Constitution was drafted at the beginning of the century..
During the last few years, Labour Governments have stressed the temporary nature of government regimentation. Prices control, centralized in the Australian Government as a war measure, has been advocated as a temporary necessity in the transition period, because of the absence of those economic conditions which are fundamental to the operation of a free price. The referendum in 1944 dealt with profiteering and prices as one “ head “ of the fourteen powers desired by this Government. During that campaign, the Australian Country party issued the following statement : -
Those opposing this referendum are not opposed to the continuance of prices controls of a reasonable kind during the period of transition from war to peace. They believe, and rightly, that such controls will be authorized by the defence power. They suspect, and rightly, that the object of putting this expressed power in this bill -is to pave the way for permanent prices control in Australia, with all its implications of official regimentation and with all its possibilities of general socialization.
That prophecy has now been vindicated. But apart from that, the referendum in 1944 sought powers for a strictly limited time. The proposal was that the Commonwealth power should expire five years after Australia ceased to ‘be engaged in hostilities. Even in the midst of war, then, this Government believed that it required the transfer from the States of the prices power for a temporary period only. Even under such conditions, and in the atmosphere of war, the referendum was lost. However, the Government was able to retain its power over prices to the end of 1947 by virtue of the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act. Its subsequent extension, with the consent and cooperation of the States, until the end of 1948 will be ensured by the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill, which the House will consider in the near future, and which, as the Leader of the Opposition stated, will have *he support of the Opposition. We agree with the
States that, although hostilities ceased more than two years ago, a further cushioning period is required during which prices control will be necessary to ensure financial stability, to keep prices at reasonable levels and to eliminate any possibility of exploitation of consumers. The matter can be reviewed at the end of that period, in the light of the economic conditions then prevailing, to determine1 the actual date of re-transfer to the States of the prices power surrendered’ to the Commonwealth during the war and the transition period.
In these circumstances, the only possible reason for a permanent transfer of power from the States to the Commonwealth is a political one. Permanent power to control prices is required by the Government, not to protect Australian citizens’, as is pretended’, but as a step in the Labour party’s plan for the unification and socialization of Australia and the consequent undermining of the federal system of government. That basic fact cannot be denied’. The Government is asking’ the people to- believe that it must obtain these powers, because they do- not exist in any form in Australia. I emphasize again that these are not new powers’. Indeed1, they have resided in the States- from their inception as sovereign entities. I propose to examine the position- in order to ascertain whether, under this legislation, the Government is seeking political power, or desires to be granted authority to provide a proper economic safeguard in the interests of the people, as it pretends.
The- policy and platform of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party in 1945-46 contained a new schedule- of methods to- develop tha policy of socialization of industry. These include, first,, nationalization of banking and credit, and, secondly,, the establishment of a national planning council for the following purposes: - (a) to- plan the volume and direction, of production and distribution; (&) to coordinate the remaining private: section of industry with die nationalized section, and- (fi) *0, con~ tral prices. In the light of this statement,, it: appears that prices control, which, by their constitutions, is within the province- of the States, in peacetime is. no longer solely a method of ensuring adequate distribution of scarce commodities and checking inflation. Instead, it is a weapon of political policy, which the Australian Government finds necessary to assist in implementing its socialist platform.
According to established economic theory, the market price was both an index of the demand for a particular commodity and also of the conditions of supply. If certain goods were scarce, their price rose, new capital and enterprise were attracted to that industry and manufacturers were encouraged to expand production. Competition ensured that the supply was adequate and that prices reflected efficient production and the lowest possible costs. Freedom of enterprise and employment of capital in new industries effectively prevented exploitation.
The Labour party’s plan is to substitute for this automatic and efficient regulator of economic activity a completely centralized system of permanent, direct control and. administrative regulation to order the whole business of life,, including the financial resources of the country.
If there is one lesson which we should have learned from the experience of recent years, it is the proved incapacity of the centralized bureaucratic control of economic affairs. Delay,, rigid interpretation of. regulations, inefficiency, waste, uncertainty, and ignorance of local conditions are inevitable. This enforcesstagnation in primary, commercial and industrial activity, causing reduced output and ultimately lower- living standards-.. Commonwealth control of prices, as of banking and industry, rests upon- the assumption that government advisers will continue to have superior information regarding future trends to that available to the States or to private enterprise. Consequently, the argument is that Canberra theorists will be in the best position to judge the level of prices and determine what should or should not be produced by individuals and by States. This is a dangerous assumption, very close to the fundamentals of dictatorship.
Permanent centralization of prices: control in Canberra would result in grave anomalies and inequities- among the States. The very idea of centralization also denotes uniformity throughout Australia. Conditions vary widely, and the State authorities themselves are the most competent to determine State and intrastate requirements. If the national economy is so disrupted that the abandonment of prices control would result in chaos, then the States themselves and not the Commonwealth, are the logical authorities to administer that power within their own jurisdiction. The States can now protect their citizens with respect to prices, rents and other charges against exploitation. That protection is already guaranteed under State constitutions. In fact, at least two State governments have exercised these powers very effectively in the interests of their citizens. For instance, in Queensland a profiteering prevention act has operated since 1920. This empowers the State Prices Commissioner to determine maximum prices for food, drink, clothing, fuel, public utilities, light, heat, power, freight and transport, pharmaceutical goods and such other commodities as he might determine from time to time. Queensland has had the benefits of the services of sound, independent prices commissioners, who interfered as little as possible with private enterprise, and did not endeavour to engraft a political policy on to their administrative functions. The balance between undue exploitation by the unscrupulous, on the one hand, and the stifling of production by a too rigid adherence to rules, on the other, was well maintained in that State as the result of the intimate knowledge of the local requirements possessed by the prices commissioners, who were free from the direction of an over-riding Canberra secretariat. The administration of this act in Queensland could well provide the model for other State authorities. The system has operated since 1920. and has had the desirable effect of keeping prices within economically sound limits. In addition, the Queensland Fair Rents Acts provided full protection against exploitation in the matter of house rentals. These acts proved completely successful under the economic conditions prevailing long before the outbreak of “World “War II. I admit that, at that time, there was no housing shortage as there is now.
The Minister emphasized the difficulties of the housing situation and used the general unsatisfactory position as an argument in favour of administration by a Commonwealth authority. That israther ironical, because the Government has handed to the States the physical
Control of building materials. This week, the House passed a bill to appropriate £13,000,000, which will be advanced to the States to finance the construction of homes. They did not provide for “ protected persons “ as such, nor did they give tenants quite such wide immunity from ejectment as do the Commonwealth Landlord and Tenant Regulations. However, pre-war needs were different and simple amendments to the States acts themselves could readily be made to provide the safeguards contained in the present Commonwealth regulations. Many other States have similar fair rents acts, and these also would, no doubt, need amendment to cover the changed conditions of the post-war era.
Apart from these considerations, however, it is suggested that the Commonwealth could, under the proposed legislation, fix minimum prices as well as maximum prices, and thus a homeconsumption price for primary products would be ensured. The implications of theInternational Trade Organization decisions, in conflicting with such a policy, are by no means clarified. Furthermore, there is no lack of State legislation in this field also. Before the war, the Queensland Primary Producers Organization and Marketing Acts 1926-1932 and orders in council provided for a system of collective marketing for butter, embracing a price-equalization scheme for export and intra-state sa’les. That scheme was upheld by the Full Court as valid and not in conflict with section 92 of the Constitution. That was just about as far as State legislation could go, unless section 92 was amended. The Lyons Government attempted to amend itin the 1937 referendum, but Labour effectively prevented implementation of orderly marketing schemes by supporting and carrying a “ No “ vote on the vital section 92. Labour was refused power over the organized marketing of commodities by referendum in 1944, and again in 1946, although neither of these proposed amendments would have been effective, because of what the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) described as the “ perpetual menace of section 92 “. The present Constitution Alteration (Rents and Prices) Bill can scarcely bring the matter further by implication, especially as section 92 will still remain unaltered. One State government, at least, has had power to fix maximum prices since 1920. The States do not lack the power to fix minimum prices. However, the Commonwealth purports to have grave doubts about its present authority to pay subsidies to maintain minimum prices. This is another instance of fear complex propaganda, such as we had in the 1944 referendum campaign as regards child endowment, when mothers were frightened into believing that if it were defeated child endowment would end. The Chifley Government’s policy is to withdraw subsidies, as has been instanced by tobacco, basic wage adjustment, clothing material, &c, in the past few months. In any event, if the Government is genuine, who would be a likely plaintiff in an action to declare such subsidies invalid? The grower or producer who received the government subsidy would not be the one to complain. The consumer, who would benefit by paying lower prices through subsidy payments, would not be likely to question the matter. Surely, it would not be the Commonwealth Government, because, in that case, it would condemn itself. This year, millions of pounds are being paid as subsidies. If doubts exist as to the legality of such payments, the Attorney-General should certainly not have allowed such an important question to remain undetermined for so many years. However, if the Government i.3 sincere, it does not need to rely on such practical though non-legal grounds. The Commonwealth now makes numerous grants to the States, including those for tax reimbursement. If any State found it necessary to subsidize the maintenance of a minimum price to producers, or to keep down prices to consumers, the Commonwealth should accept the responsibility of reimbursing that State correspondingly by grant under the Constitution. Finally, under sections 51 (iii.) and 90 of the Constitution, the Australian Government has the exclusive power to grant bounties on the production or export of goods. A bounty is merely a grant from revenue. Consequently, I should like to know what would prevent the Commonwealth from using that power, in conjunction with the State authorities, to maintain minimum prices and, in effect, to subsidize them, so far as the production of goods is concerned?
I have established that the States have adequate powers over the subject-matter of this bill. The further question to be determined is whether the Commonwealth authorities have shown such superior administrative qualifications as to warrant the permanent transfer to them of these State powers. Land settlement of ex-servicemen and housing have been two of the most difficult post-war problems in the administrative field, but the Commonwealth, after some initial bungling, was very happy to transfer administration to the States, and to confine itself merely to rendering financial assistance. . Will it be more successful with prices than it was with houses? In the field of prices control itself, the Commonwealth Government has not been particularly successful. Its early attempts to introduce a 4 per cent, profit limitation by economic organization regulations had to be withdrawn because of inherent foolishness and unsoundness. However, that did not deter its officials from subsequently enlarging the field of prices to include profits as well. As a responsible political party, we stand second to none in our vigilance over profiteering and economic abuses which have a tendency to cause inflation and lower living standards. At the same time, we recognize that the most effective and natural prices control is a plentiful supply of goods in public demand. This means adequate production. Competition begets production, and both in co-operation are the greatest safeguards against inflation and prices abuses. To secure production, however, there must he an incentive to produce. This is the factor which, unfortunately, the Government has overlooked. The automatic prices reduction encouraged by a free market, ample goods, and open competition is farther away than ever and more and more controls are necessary to prevent the nation’s economy from getting completely out of hand. Thus, we get the vicious circle of more prices control, less incentive to produce, less production, less competition, more black markets and more prices control. Commonwealth war-time prices control has been completely unsuccessful in many respects. There is conclusive evidence that an extensive black market exists in second-hand motor car sales. Pew vehicles change hands at pegged prices, and, owing in part to the difficulty in policing the regulations, there seems to be little hope of early rectification. There is a similar black market in house and land sales. Even when evidence of a breach of the regulations is obtained, prosecution and conviction are generally so long delayed that the deterrent effect is negligible. Consequently, this Government’s administrative record regarding these controls leaves so much to be desired that there is no room for confidence that a permanent transfer from the States would effect any improvement. I make it quite clear that 1 am not advocating the immediate abandonment of prices control. The ideal is a free competitive market brought about by full production. That ideal will never be achieved through socialization. So if we must have prices control, then let it be -State control. The change-over could be effected smoothly during the operation of the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act. The States could take over a number of the Commonwealth-trained men in their own areas, as the Commonwealth took over die State taxation employees under the uniform tax legislation. States would compete with each other to attract new post-war industries by providing more freedom from irksome controls than its neighbour States. There would be a gradual return to a free market economy. And, at the same time, each State would naturally safeguard its citizens from exploitation by the unscrupulous. It is very difficult to achieve economic stability by legislative direction or administrative control. It flows more readily from efficient, low-cost production and marketing. Furthermore, permanent control of prices by this Government is a companion weapon to the nationalization of banking. By the joint use of these two powers, the Government can and will direct both the nature and scope of production and the distribution among and consumption of goods by various income groups.
Government incursions into the field of production during the war were conspicuously unsuccessful. It spent, more than £2,000,000 on wheat acreage restriction in Western Australia, and had to abandon the policy when it found that the world was crying out for bread. It restricted the potato acreages by licence to 75 per cent, of areas previously sown, and the next season there were repeated potato shortages. It took control of the distribution of wheat, and made an export agreement with New Zealand which will cost the Australian taxpayer up to £10,000,000 for subsidies to undo that economic blunder.
While price control is only a part of the socialist policy laid down in the 1946 New South Wales Australian Labour party platform, the Government will have to find a third control to implement its policy of planned direction of production and distribution - that is control over wages which will be necessary to carry out its policy concerning prices and production. As prices control limits profits in accordance with Government policy, so will the Government have to hold the wage level steady. If the Government wants prices control to prevent inflation and regulate economic fluctuations, then it will be forced inevitably to adjust wages in conformity with the same policy. Of course, in peace-time, this is a political impossibility, but so, in a free society, should be control of the nature of production and distribution of goods to ensure conformity with the Government’s conception of the individual’s needs. In war, ideals of individual freedom must be sacrificed to the overriding purpose of military victory. The complex controls which are then necessary cannot be terminated abruptly, but they should be tapered off as rapidly as possible. It would be tragic if, after our military defeat of Germany and Japan, they yet triumphed over us in their totalitarian way of life and in their system of economic thought and social organization.
The Opposition parties will strongly oppose the permanent transference to the central Government in Canberra, which has muddled and bungled its authority and has abused the powers already resident in it, powers which have their natural habitat in the States.
Mr. LEMMON (Forrest- Minister for
Works and Housing) [4.6] . - It was strange, indeed, to tear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) accuse the Government of endeavouring to engender in the minds of the people a fear complex as to what dire happenings may follow the removal of control over rents, prices and land values. After doing so, .both right honorable gentlemen exhausted the rest of the time available to them in endeavouring to instil in the minds of the people a fear as to what would happen if control over these things were permanently vested in this National Parliament. They dealt with what they termed the socialist policy of the Government. They spoke of Commonwealth bureaucrats and the authority they would exercise if power to enforce these controls were conferred on this National Parliament. I should like them to explain to the House how they reconcile these conflicting statements. They said that they were in favour of control over these matters being continued by the States. What possible difference can there be between the exercise of such controls by a head of a Commonwealth department and their exercise by the head of a State department? If the principle of these controls be established it cannot matter by whom they are administered. If the exercise of these controls connotes dictatorship and places the , people in the power of bureaucrats the stigmas remain whether the controls be exorcised by Commonwealth or State officials. In a further attempt to instil fear in the minds of the people, the Leader of the Australian Country party said that we do not know what is talking place at the International Conference on Trade and Employment at Geneva, nor how the discussions of the conference may affect stabilization.’ schemes that have been adopted in Australia, for the benefit of primary producers. As a. member of Ish© Cabinet sub-committee which inquired into these matters’, I can assure (the right honorable gentleman that there is nothing in the international trade agreement, and that -nothing- has been provided in the agreements we have made with other countries, which will affect any stabilization scheme now in operation or likely to be introduced. The right honorable gentleman has attempted to convey the impression that there is something sinister in these trade discussions and that the primary producers will be disadvantaged by them. That is not so. He then said that the Australian Government had abandoned land settlement of ex-servicemen and home construction. That statement is equally untrue. At the cessation of hostilities in August, 1945, the Australian Government desired to continue control of the distribution of building materials in Australia, but every State Premier opposed the request. Evidence of that is to be found in the official record of the discussions which took place between Commonwealth and State Ministers on the subject. It was only to effect a compromise that the Commonwealth reluctantly continued to control the distribution of certain building materials produced in one State but not in others. As to the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land, it was the desire of the Australian Government to implement a complete land settlement scheme; but here again the jealously of the States was manifested and, as the result, we have divided control in this field. These mis-statements by the leaders of the Opposition parties are to be regretted.
I propose to deal in the main with land control, because that control has come under my administration during the past twelve months. It is conceded on all sides that the system of fair rent determination and1 eviction safeguards should be continued, not only because of the great hardship to many people which would follow any substantial! modification, but also because that control is providing- a useful service to the community. The value of that service is being increasingly recognized by all sections of the communi’ty. Experience has shown that the Australian Government would be failing in ite duty if it did not persist in re-enacting’ the Landlords and Tenant Regulations under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act. There is no guarantee, however, as to how fong such a course may be effective. If the regulations- were: successfully chad.lenged in the High Court - and already the secretary of the Property Owners Association has declared that his association is prepared to challenge them - the Government’s power to retain rent control would immediately cease. At the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in August, 1946, it was resolved that controls over rents and evictions should continue to be exercised, but in view of the limitations of the Commonwealth’s power, such continuation should be subject to the passing of appropriate Commonwealth and complementary State legislation. Subsequently, draft legislation was prepared by the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department and was submitted to the legal officers of the several States for their consideration. Legislation to give effect to the decision of the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers was eventually passed by all State parliaments. However, the period for which the measures were expressed to remain in operation varied from State to State. In Victoria, the relevant act expired on the 30th June, 1947. Therefore, that State relies entirely on the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act for rent and evictions administration. Owing to the attitude adopted by certain Legislative Councils, it is, to say the least, very doubtful whether adequate complementary legislation will be forthcoming, particularly if past experience be taken as a guide. I could cite many instances of the failure of Legislative Councils to pass such complementary legislation. A recent instance of that is provided by the experience in connexion with the wheat stabilization plan. “When the Premiers met in conference they agreed that the wheat stabilization legislation should be re-enacted. Some of the State governments re-enacted it, but others refused to do so, and in some States overriding clauses were inserted in their legislation which made the plan impossible to operate. Again, when the Premiers met in Canberra to discuss proposals to submit to the people by way Df referendum certain proposals to transfer additional powers to the Commonweal’, h every Premier then stated that he regarded as absolutely necessary the fourteen heads of power then sought to “be transferred to the Commonwealth for a specific period. I well remember the
Leader of the Australian Country party at the conclusion of the conference making very gracious remarks about the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, and complimenting the Premiers on the great work that they had achieved in giving the referendum proposals their united blessing. When they returned to their own States, however, some were able to pass the complementary legislation through State parliaments, and most of them failed to have the legislation endorsed by their Legislative Councils. When the Commonwealth’s proposals were put to the people, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country par’.y were the most vocal advocates for their defeat. It would be wrong for us again to depend upon complementary legislation being passed by the State governments. The Government has therefore decided that the only practicable solution of the problem is to ask the people to authorize power to control these matters to be incorporated in the Constitution.
It is scarcely necessary for me to remind honorable members of what has happened in the United States of America consequent upon the lifting of rent control, nor would it be suggested that if controls were lifted in Australia those things which happened in America would not happen here. I propose to outline briefly the history of the Commonwealth’s association with rent administration and to give an account of what has been achieved. Prior to the outbreak of the war, the only States which had passed legislation controlling rents were Queensland and Victoria. However, shortly after hostilities commenced, a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers resolved that all States should co-operate with the Commonwealth in setting up the necessary machinery. In order to provide a basis for action in those States which had no rents control legislation, the Commonwealth, on the 27th September, 1939, issued the National Security (Fair Rents) Regulations under its emergency powers. The power taken by these regulations was accepted by Queensland, Victoria, and Tasmania, but in the other States steps were taken to introduce State legislation to govern the matter. The next move took place on the 28th November, 1941, when, shortly after the change of government in the Commonwealth sphere, new regulations under the title “ National Security (Landlord and Tenant) Regulations”, were broughtinto operation with the general object of extending security to tenants in States where, in the opinion of the Government, local legislation was inadequate. The provisions of those regulations relating to termination of tenancies, recovery of possession and ejectment of tenants, were expressed to apply to each State and Territory of the Commonwealth. The rental provisions of those regulations wore applied later at different dates to all States except Western Australia and South Australia. Those regulations were repealed and the present regulations came into force on the 2nd July, 1945. The principal new feature of the amended regulations was to provide for the appointment of a Commonwealth Rent Controller with power to fix the rents of rooms and other shared accommodation. The determination of rents and other premises was left with the Fair Rents Boards. Subsequently, on the 30th December, 1946, the Commonwealth Rent Controller was given power to fix the rents of all types of accommodation, with the right of appeal from his decision to a Fair Rents Board. That is how the position stands at present.
In dealing with the results which have been achieved by rents control, I confine my comments to the activities of the rents control section during the first nine months of this year. As I have already mentioned, the regulations were amended at the end of last year to extend the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Rent Controller to all types of prescribed premises with the right of appeal to the Fair Rents Board. Hitherto, his jurisdiction had been limited to premises known as “ shared accommodation “, such as rooms and apartments. For all other classes of premises fair rents were determined by the Fair Rents Board from whose decisions there was no right of appeal. This extension of the Commonwealth Rent Controller’s functions was followed by a large increase in applications for rental adjustments, indicating clearly the public response to the change and its appreciation of the assistance afforded to the community by the Commonwealth rents authority. I believe that this has been brought about in the main by the removal of rents determination from the court atmosphere of Fair Rents Boards where parties could be, and often were, represented by counsel. Prior to the amendment of the regulations a landlord could employ a lawyer or an agent who had a far wider knowledge of court procedure than could possibly be possessed by a layman. Thus, the tenant would be at a disadvantage, unless he, too, employed counsel. The result was that tenants often paid increased rents, which were not justified, rather than go to court and incur the expense of engaging counsel. Now, the tenant can go to the Commonwealth Deputy Rent Controller. His case will be recorded, and the deputy controller will write to the owner of the property asking him to submit his case. Then, on the facts submitted by both sides, the deputy controller will make his decision.
– But either party may appeal to the court.
– Tes, but the determination is first made by the deputy controller. It is true that either party may appeal, but if the property owner appeals against a decision of the deputy controller, that official will appear in the court in support of his determination. Thus, there is no charge to the tenant. This can also apply to landlords. The arrangement has worked very smoothly, and practically the same number of applications have been made by property owners as by tenants. Many owners adopt the attitude that all they want is a fair rent, and rather than create difficulties, and embark upon arguments, they say, “ Let us submit the matter to the Rent Controller, and get a fair determination “. In an overwhelming number of cases, there has been no appeal by either party from his decisions. The following figures cover rent control activities for the nine months ended the 30th September, 1947 :-
Shared accommodation - 3,499 applications were received. Other accommodation units covered by determinations numbered 9,933.
Complete units consisting of houses, flats and business premises - 10,208 applicationswere received, and 7,728 determinations made.
In the corresponding period of 1946, the fair rents hoards dealt with only 3,669 complete units and business premises. Thus, more than twice as many cases have been dealt with under the new system. Available figures indicate that the number of applications will continue to increase. I emphasize that the figures contained in the foregoing do not represent applications for rent determinations submitted entirely by tenants. On the contrary, experience is showing that the landlord, who is fair and reasonable, recognizes that the system is rendering to him a valuable service.
One of the aspects of fair rents procedure to which I direct the attention of honorable members is the vigorous action which is being taken to enforce the provisions of the regulations. Since the beginning of this year, 242 cases have been referred to the Deputy Crown Solicitors for prosecution ; 229 convictions have been recorded, resulting in fines totalling £2,671. These figures clearly indicate that a certain section of the community is prepared to take advantage of the existing shortage, and to exploit persons who are in need of accommodation.
I quote some of the convictions which have been recorded : -
A fine of £80 imposed an the landlord for requiring goods to be purchased before tenancy granted. In this case the Magistrate said, “ 1 ian satisfied the defendant is one of the class of persons who are to-day too common; who capitalize on the housing shortage and the extremes to which people will go when they have to get homes “.
In three other cases, fines to the total of £60 were imposed upon one man, and he was required to refund a total of £900 for requiring a sum of money, other than rent, in consideration of the transfer and extension of the lease. The instances were as follow : -
Fined £20 with £3 3s. costs and ordered to refund £300.
Fined £20 with costs £3 and ordered to refund £150.
In. a third case, a fine of £150 was imposed for overcharging of rent; in a fourth, a £50 fine was imposed for illegally evicting .a tenant. While it is unfortunate that we have persons of this type in our community, it is the Government’s responsibility to endeavour to protect the people from their nefarious practices.
Of very great interest and significance in connexion with the ‘Commonwealth’s decision to ask for permanent powers to administer rents and eviction procedure is the experience of other countries in this matter. In Great Britain, some form of rents control has been in operation ever since 1920, although the control was gradually relaxed from 1933 until the beginning of the last war in 1939. However, on the outbreak of the war, it was found necessary to impose a much more comprehensive control, and this control has been extended since the war ended in 1945.
In the United States of America, the position is of even greater interest. On the outbreak of war in Europe, certain areas of the country experienced a sharp and alarming rise in rents and evictions, consequent upon the movements of workers and others engaged in defence contracts and preparations for war. Legislation was enacted in 1942 covering all residential rental properties, hotels and rooming houses. This position obtained until 1946, when Congress decided to lift all control. Immediately, rents were increased by from 15 per cent, to 50 per cent., and in some cases by several times the rates ruling when rents control was in operation. The results proved so disastrous that control was restored within a few weeks, and has continued ever since. Control on a federal basis is due to expire in February, 1948, but the belief that control in some form will continue, and be -necessary for some time, is widely accepted..
From reports recently received from overseas and extensively featured in the daily press, it is abundantly clear that President Truman is regretting the premature lifting of economic controls in the United States. He has asked Congress for authority to re-impose a number of controls, including that over rent9. In asking Congress lor this special authority, President Truman referred to the danger of inflation, and the necessity for meeting the danger by the imposition of a series of controls. He said -
We cannot abandon foreign aid, nor can we abandon our own people to the ravages of unchecked inflation. We cannot allow this nation’s strength to be wasted and our people’s confidence in our free institutions shaken by an economic catastrophe. ‘We shall be inviting that catastrophe unless we take steps now to halt the runaway prices.
If we neglect our economic ills at home, and if we fail to halt the march of inflation, we may bring on a depression from which our economic system, us we know it, might not recover.
In Canada, rents control was first introduced in certain areas in 194’0, and by 1942 was general throughout the country. Since the end of the war, there has been a small measure of de-control, although the vast majority of rental residential properties remain uncontrolled. There is no indication at the moment of any intention to abandon the control.
In New Zealand, rents control has been in operation continuously since 1936, and there is no indication at the moment that it is intended to abandon control in the near future.
In South Africa, rents control was first brought into operation in 1942 in respect of all residential properties, and was later extended to cover hotels. No definite information is available as to the future of the control, though it appears that, while the housing shortage continues - and it is still very acute there - the continuance of rents control is regarded as necessary for the safeguarding of tenants.
One might well ask why the Government is seeking power to deal with rents, prices and charges on a Commonwealth basis. The reason is that the problem, in essence, is a national one, and grave doubts are entertained as to whether it can be dealt with effectively on other than a national basis. The present Commonwealth control has operated effectively and justly, and no one in this House would claim that co-operation between the States, however sincere, could have achieved the same satisfactory results and uniformity which have marked the administration of these antiinflationary controls.
Another reason is that, as conditions improve, the necessity will arise to implement a gradual system of de-control, and it is obvious that, in order to avoid anomalies and discrepancies between one State and another, de-control must be carried out on a uniform and national basis. In this connexion, I draw the attention of honorable members to a statement made by the Attorney-General . of Western Australia during the debate on a bill to continue rents control in Western Australia. He said -
There is the further consideration that if we are to pay any regard to the conclusions of the Premiers’ Conference in 1940, we should realize that the view of the Premiers appeared to be that this’ legislation should be reviewed by the States in consultation with the Commonwealth and on a uniform basis, or as nearly as possible to a uniform basis.
As previously mentioned, rents represent approximately 20 per cent, of the cost of living, and it is apparent that if one State relaxed or abandoned rents control there would almost certainly be economic reactions in the remaining States. If, for example, there is to be a review of rents pegging, it should be on a uniform basis throughout Australia. As recently as the 12,th November, 1947, a move was made in the South Australian Legislative Council to amend South Australian legislation to provide for a 15 per cent, increase in the rent of dwellings. If rents were permitted to be increased on a certain basis in one State, and on a different basis in another, there might be variations in wage levels, particularly in the federal basic wage, which would te detrimental to the best interests of the industrial economy of the country.
The desirability of retaining Commonwealth control over rents as against local, municipal or State control, has been also the subject of consideration in the United States. During proceedings of the Senate Banking and Currency Committee last year, an argument was advanced that rental housing was a local problem, and that even though State control proved to be ineffective, or resulted in a very substantial rise of the rents level within the State, the effects would not extend beyond the borders of the State. The comment made by the Deputy Administrator for Bent, Mr. Ivan D. Carson, in regard to this argument is of considerable interest. Mr. Carson said -
As the largest item in the average family budget, a drastic rent rise in one State would have repercussions on the whole stabilization front. Workers in that State would, of necessity, demand compensating wage adjustments which in turn would require price relief for their employer. These increases could not be isolated but would vitally affect our overall economy and spread far beyond State borders. With our whole production and price structure in tenuous balance rent control is a national, not a local problem and uniformity of control is of great importance.
There are other reasons why it is highly desirable that control should continue on a Commonwealth basis. First, under the National Security (Landlord and Tenant) Regulations, the Commonwealth has built up a highly efficient organization to deal with rental determinations and complaints. The staffs employed in the various Deputy Rent Controllers’ offices are by now well trained and expert in their jobs and, what is more, they enjoy the confidence of the public. The work of the various State offices is co-ordinated by the Commonwealth Rent Controller, and this has proved of considerable value in ensuring uniformity of interpretations, administration and decisions.
This Government does not, and never did, wish to fetter the people of Australia unnecessarily, but it is convinced that two things are of paramount importance. First, there must be an orderly transition from war to peace, and, secondly, there must be power to mitigate the consequences of any economic recession which might arise from disturbed world conditions. The powers being asked for now can ensure that both of these objectives shall be achieved, and both of them go far beyond questions of party politics or State boundaries. It cannot be successfully argued that there can be any solution of problems such as I have mentioned except by action on a national and uniform basis. Only the Australian Parliament is in a position to take such action. Action by the Government to obtain additional constitutional powers in the spheres mentioned has been taken with the object of preventing the chaos, hardship and misery which would inevitably result from the Commonwealth’s powers to control rents and evictions being challenged successfully in the High Court and from lack of adequate legislation in all States. I need hardly point out that, if such a condition of affairs should result from the failure of the Go- vernment to obtain these powers, the responsibility for the consequence could only be laid at the door of the people who oppose the granting of the powers in question. The disastrous consequence which followed the lifting of control in America should be a salutary warning to the opponents of this measure.
Furthermore, the four main British countries - Great Britain, .South Africa, Canada and New Zealand - have full power vested in their Parliaments to deal with and legislate on prices and rent controls on a national basis, and, in fact, they have exercised this power. Only Australia at the present time, by reason of the form of its Constitution, has no power in its central Government to deal with such matters. No one questions that Australia’s .part in assisting the world to recovery is an important one. To play this part fully, it is elementary that Australia must first have full and effective control over its own internal economy. As far as rents control is concerned, the citizen has not been interfered with. The object of the Landlord and Tenant Regulations has always been to assist to control inflation by stabilizing rents and to curb the exploitation of the public by those who are willing to take advantage of the situation resulting from war conditions. Almost all of the work carried out by the rents control offices in the various States has arisen from applications by either lessors or lessees seeking fair rent determinations of their premises, or from complaints concerning breaches of the regulations. No attempt has ever been made to go through the country making rents determinations or interfering with the . normal tenancy arrangements between landlords and tenants. A great majority of the Australian people agrees unhesitatingly that control over rents and evictions has been necessary and is necessary, and that the regulations have been administered with complete impartiality and with the minimum possible interference to citizens.
It has been said that this is yet another Commonwealth encroachment on the rights of the States. That is a very narrow view and one which completely fails to take cognizance of the national character of the problem. No one would suggest that the war could have ‘been prosecuted to a successful conclusion, on any other than a Commonwealth basis. Can it be any more truly claimed that the economic and social problems with which Australia, in common with the rest of the world, is now faced, and which are a direct aftermath of the war, are any less matters of national import and concern? The problems facing the world as a result of the recent war are much more far-reaching than those which followed World War I., and uniform and undivided action by those nations able to afford any degree of help is a debt which they owe to humanity. Any lessening of that help, which would surely be caused by the loss of the advantages of the Commonwealth rents authority and the consequent serious effects of divided control or lack of uniform effort, must be strenuously avoided.
.- This is a bill to confer upon the National Parliament power which it at present enjoys under war-time defence provisions. Surely honorable members opposite agree that this Parliament, elected on a system of universal adult franchise, is at least as well fitted to exercise such power as are the parliaments of the several States, consisting of lower houses elected by popular adult franchise and of upper houses elected by restricted franchise! Nevertheless, in spite of the numerous declarations that have been made over the years by leading members of Opposition parties of the need to vest wider powers in the National Parliament, we find, once again, that the Opposition persists in making a. smallminded and narrow approach to an enlightened proposal submitted by the Government. Honorable members opposite seem to be haunted constantly by a fear that this Parliament, elected by a democracy to function as a democratic instrument of government - the only fullyfledged parliament of this character in Australia - will do something detrimental to the interests of the people. This attitude shows quite clearly that they, or the forces which dictate their policies, fear the untrammelled expression of democratic rights and will fight relentlessly to ensure that democracy in this country shall not be given a chance to function in its fullest sense. There can be no other explanation of their conduct, because, as I have said, this is a parliament elected by all citizens who have a right to vote, and there can be no real danger in giving it the power which the Government proposes to seek from the people at a referendum. It is idle of honorable members opposite to talk of their faith in democratic ideals when they seek to perpetuate a system under which parliaments which are not elected on a fully developed democratic basis enjoy powers which this legislature cannot exercise. We are entitled to doubt the sincerity of their protestations when they refuse, lime after time, to allow democracy to be practised, and seek to withhold from the only legislator* in Australia which represents democracy in its absolute form, powers which they are prepared to reserve gladly to State parliaments, in which privilege and power for vested interests are the governing considerations in matters of State policy, and, collectively, in matters of national policy.
In this debate, the leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) fell short of the high standard which he had previously set in discussing questions of national importance and Australia’s constitutional problems. Time after time he has pointed out that, since our Constitution was created, the very effluxion of time has made necessary an altered distribution of the powers that it apportioned between the State parliaments and the Australian Parliament. He has said repeatedly that the growth of federal responsibility has been continuous and that the development of Australia from what were six separate colonies into one great nation is inevitable. Yet to-day, when the Government proposes a slight development of this Parliament’s constitutional power - a power that has been proved to be vital in time of war and which has been proved in other countries to be essential also in time of peace - the right honorable gentleman diminished his stature, at least in my eyes, as a man of outstanding knowledge of constitutional law by attempting, by means of subterfuges and miserable excuses, to find some reason why he and the party which he represents should oppose the proposal. Members of the Opposition would have distinguished themselves more, in my view, had they definitely made up their minds that in this matter they would serve Australia’s best interests by helping to preserve the balanced’ economy which was established during the war and by giving of their best to ensure that this vital legislation, the principles of which must be acceptable to every thoughtful person, should have the full support of a united National Parliament, no matter how much opposition it might arouse amongst selfish vested interests. The right honorable gentleman also said, “ the socialistic programme of this Government has now been discovered”. Those, I believe, were his exact words. Butt, in effect, what the Australian Government is seeking to do is to hold prices in this country to prevent inflationary spirals such as have arisen in almost every other country in the civilized and, indeed, the uncivilized, world. In seeking to prevent such a desperate situation from arising in this country it is said by the Leader of the Opposition that the Government is pursuing a socialistic policy and applying some terrible scheme by which the Australian people will be enslaved and the future of the country jeopardized. Does the right honorable gentleman look so narrowly at the problem that exists throughout the world to-day? Does he not realize that in Prance, and, in fact, in the whole of Europe and in Asia, and, to a developing degree, in America, a rising tide of crises in regard to prices is challenging existing institutions? Rising prices in Prance threaten the future of the French governmental system, and also threaten chaos throughout Europe in both belligerent and non-belligerent countries. In these countries the existing systems of government will be overthrown unless the problem of rising prices can be solved. It is the problem of rising prices which finally, spiralling into inflation, brings ruin to governments. This is true of the democratic form of government as well as of other forms. The policy which honorable gentlemen opposite would have us pursue would bring into’ disrepute our own democratic form of government. For that reason, the Australian Government is seeking to obtain from the people a measure of control which will enable it to deal with the prices situation which may even yet face the nation. We must do everything possible to keep prices from rising inordinately, and so reducing the value of the savings of the people. The value of the people’s savings will be ruined if we allow a run-away price structure to develop. If wages continually chase prices, and if the value of wages is thereby destroyed, the savings of the people must undoubtedly bc jeopardized. That was what happened in Europe after World War I., and rising prices are to-day again bringing Europe face to face with ruin. Rising prices in France have brought about a critical situation.
– That is due to lack of production.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) says that lack of production is the cause, but it is not lack of production that has brought into being the crisis of rising prices. We have a great volume of production in Australia which must be paid for in Australia, ‘but the production must be applied also to supply the starving people of other countries with food. Lack of production does not cause our problem here, but high production in the export industries does. Increased production creates extra purchasing power, but we face the fact that although certain foodstuffs are in bountiful supply in Australia, there is a shortage of other commodities. It is necessary for us to export a great volume of our surplus foodstuffs. That increases the supply of money but reduces the volume of goods available. Our export industries are booming to-day, and production is at record levels, but there is still a danger that our price structure will become uncontrollable. It is for that reason that the Government is seeking this additional power. It is idle for honorable gentlemen opposite also to talk about the socialistic programme of this Government causing the problems that face us. Honorable members who support the Government realize the urgent need to prevent inflation. We must enable the Government to stem the rising tide of prices which otherwise will threaten the stability of our country. If our present form of government is not able to meet the situation, history shows us that some other form will take its place. It was because the existing forms of government in Germany and Italy after the last war failed to meet the needs of the people that the Nazi and Fascist forms were able to come into power, notwithstanding that they involved serious losses of liberty by the people of those countries. “We must surely be sufficiently alert to realize that we must stem the rising tide of prices and remove the dangers of inflation or else some other form of government will come into being, lt is for this reason that the Labour party is proposing the present increase of constitutional power.
Ever since its inception the Labour movement has worked in Australia, and, indeed, in other countries, to promote the cultural, physical and spiritual welfare of the whole community. “We believe in wider freedom for the people. This Government desires to lead the people of this country not into servitude and slavery, as suggested by honorable gentlemen opposite, but into liberty and freedom. Our movement is always on the side of humanity. “We desire to lead the people of these modern times into ever-increasing liberty of spirit and action, yet, every time we attempt to raise standards and to improve the lot of the ordinary man, we are accused by honorable gentlemen opposite of a desire to restrict freedom. The Labour movement has one dominant desire and one motive, which is the welfare of the people, but our programmes are always assailed by vested interests, and there are always individuals who can be found to twist our true intentions and to tell the people that our design is not liberty and freedom but slavery. I believe that the people will recognize these accusations for the hollow shams that they are, and will dismiss them.
It was said by the Leader of the Opposition that the High Court would uphold authority to control prices and that the Government could safely exercise such power practically without challenge for the next few years. It has also been stated that it would probably be bettor for this power to be exercised with a certain measure of indefiniteness about it than under some specific authority. I doubt whether the right honorable gentleman is in a position to speak with any authority concerning the views of the majority of the justices of the High Court. But, even more important than the determination of a constitutional issue by the court at this time is the taking of action by this Parliament, which truly represents the people. In any case, it would not be fair to leave the responsibility of decision in this matter to the High Court. In fact, the High Court would probably be quite justified in declaring that the Parliament should deal with the situation. The High Court could probably meet an emergency if it arose, but it might well expect that when ample time existed, that the views of the people might be obtained, instead of the decision becoming the responsibility of the court. For that reason, we prefer to approach’ the court direct on the subject at this stage. If the people decline to clothe this Parliament with the power that is being sought - a decision which I would greatly regret - it would be a serious matter.
It has also been said from the benches opposite that State authorities could deal with price-fixing and profiteering in scarce commodities more effectively than could the Commonwealth, and that sufficient power resides in the State parliaments to enable them to refer to the Commonwealth additional power if that should be necessary. This matter was discussed at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held at Canberra on the 20th and 21st August, 1946. In the course of the discussions at that conference it was made very clear, once more, that considerable difficulties existed in obtaining uniform legislation on any matter from the State parliaments. Reference was made to the occasion on which the States were invited to refer certain powers to the Commonwealth. We know that on that occasion the various acts that were passed contained different provisions on the same subjects, and different periods of time were enacted during which certain powers should be exercised by the Commonwealth. The Parliament of one State flatly refused to pass any legislation on the subject. What chance would there be, therefore, of obtaining effective uniform legislation on this subject?
Honorable members on both, sides of the chamber agree that some measure of power over prices should be vested in the Commonwealth, but the Opposition says that it should be done by legislative enactment through the State parliaments. I emphasize that this Government is not seeking any glorification of the Commonwealth Parliament through the Government, but is simply seeking a means to meet what may become a serious crisis - a crisis of the kind which has arisen in very many countries throughout the world. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) apparently holds the view that effective legislative action could be taken through the State parliaments. I bring to his notice the following statements made by Mr. Playford, Premier of South Australia, at the conference to which I have referred. Mr. Playford said -
It is desirable to have action taken on a Commonwealth-wide basis. And as difficulty is always experienced in getting uniform action by the parliaments of the States, the suggestions are the most practicable.
The suggestions he referred to were the suggestions made by Commonwealth representatives at that conference, after consultations with various State and Commonwealth authorities. Mr. Playford a little later said -
The Commonwealth Parliament could pass legislation which would apply in such States as accept them. Then if any State held out, there would be a complete absence of power in the States.
His observations show first, that our experience is that we are unable to secure uniform legislation by action through State parliaments; and, secondly, that a non-Labour Premier in at least one State is satisfied that if it became vital to take immediate action in regard to prices it would be extremely difficult to do so by action through State parliaments.
That brings me back to the world situation in regard to prices. The United State9 is a country of enormous productive potential. This potential was undamaged during World War II. In fact America’s productive capacity was vastly increased during that war. In America, in the days immediately following the cessation of hostilities, prices control measures were relaxed following upon fierce political clamour. But the President of the United States has recently been forced to summon a special session of Congress to re-introduce legislation to control prices. Such power may be obnoxious to people in all freedom-loving countries, and it is obnoxious to people in the United States. Yet the urgency of the situation is so great in America that the President felt it imperative to summon Congress for the purpose of re-introducing measures for the control of prices. If such action is so essentia] in the greatest, richest and most powerful country of the world to-day, surely honorable members of all parties in this country must realize the desirability of retaining power to control prices here. Prices cannot be controlled simply by productive potential, and the control of prices in America is not being left to action by 48 individual States. It has been considered essential to summon Congress to take action in order to control prices and reduce the risk of inflation. It is essential that similar action should be taken through the National Parliament in this country, or the prospective dangers to our price structure may materialize. Heeding economic warnings of danger, the Canadian Government proposes to reintroduce prices control. The most challenging problem to statesmen and legislative institutions, and the one that is most fraught with danger, is the inflation of prices which, if unchecked, will bring down those governments and destroy those parliamentary institutions. The people of Australia have the right to expect the National Parliament to give to them the protection which has been found necessary, not only in Australia, but also in every other country. The bill provides that subject to the approval of the people the Commonwealth Constitution shall be altered by inserting after paragraph xiv. of section 51, the following paragraph : - (xiva.) Rents and prices (including charges.
At this time, that constitutional alteration is not only desirable but also essential. If, in norma] times, the forces to which the Opposition has referred bring about a vast increase of production and a new spirit in industry provides reasonable charges for goods and services, the power residing in this Parliament will still be a useful addition to the Constitution. If such a situation should arise, it might not be necessary to use the authority to control rents and prices, but the National Parliament should have the right, which is granted to the most elementary legislative institutions, to ensure the maintenance of reasonable price levels in the interests of the Australian people. 1 find it difficult to believe that political parties, with a proper sense of responsibility, and realizing the economic dangers which confront the civilized world, can seriously argue that Australia’s Constitution should not now be altered by giving to the National Parliament authority to control prices and rents. This is only a limited measure of vital power. Two years hence, a general election will be held. For weeks, honorable members opposite have professed to welcome the opportunity to have an election because, they said, they would be returned to the treasury bench. Members of the Labour party will also welcome the next elections because we know that this Government will be returned. Our confidence is immeasurably strengthened by the views which honorable members opposite have expressed on this bill. Obviously, they fear to give to this Parliament, not to this Government, and the government which will assume office in 1949, these vital powers. Honorable members opposite could not make a more frank confession of their certainty that, because of their ineptitude when they were in power, they will never again be returned to the treasury bench in the National Parliament.
Their fear is demonstrated by their approach to this referendum proposal. In Australia, as in the United States of America, a referendum is extremely difficult to carry. In the 47 years of the history of the Commonwealth, only three or four referendums have succeeded. Many others have been rejected. This record makes it doubtful whether the referendum on rents and prices will succeed. Because of the urgency to confer these powers upon the Parliament of the Commonwealth, every thoughtful man in the Parliament and in the Australian community should give of his best endeavours for the purpose of ensuring the success of the referendum, and thus protect the people from the economic difficulties which are now arising, and from a prices situation which might easily develop beyond all bounds. The States cannot be left to control the situation. In my opinion, State governments would welcome the Commonwealth’s intervention to control the position. As the States are unable to provide the necessary safeguards, the Australian Government now proposes to ask the people for the necessary authority. Some people believe that this power, if conferred upon the Parliament of the Commonwealth, may be abused. Power carries with it responsibility, so to that opinion, I reply that it is rank cowardice to refuse to accept the responsibility. The only conclusions which we can draw from the attitude of honorable members opposite are, first, that they do not believe that the Labour Government will be defeated in 1 949, and, secondly, that they are afraid of any power which carries with it responsibility.
.- This referendum proposal is different from all previous referendum proposals. It has only one purpose. The aim is to make this present Canberra despotism a permanent part of our existence. That would spell the death-knell of our federal system of government. It would entrench the economic dictatorship that exists in this city. We should have to accept bureaucratic supervision over almost every microscopic detail of our daily life. How and where we live, how and what we eat, how we clothe ourselves our entertainments and our means of livelihood, all can be controlled once the bureaucrats get these powers. If honorable members like, they can call it national fascism or a totalitarian system. It is dictatorship in its truest sense and in its worst possible form.
The Australian people are already in revolt against the system. Already two State Labour governments have fallen, because they failed to defend their people against this dictatorship. For the same reason, the shadow of impending defeat is over this Government. The people want and will have their freedom restored. They are fed up with being pushed around by the Canberra popinjays. There is a world-wide reaction against this twentieth-century totalitarian revolution. The Truman Government in the United States of America was the first to experience the swing against the rule of bureaucrats, professors and so-called experts. Then came the revolt of the British people and the staggering defeat of the British Labour party at the municipal elections. Notice was served on the Attlee Government that industrial conscription, Whitehall regimentation and the many tyrannies of petty officialdom had no place in the platform of the Labour party and in the administration of a Labour government. That warning should have been sufficient to the Chifley Government, which has fashioned itself upon- the outlook of the Attlee Government. It has adopted the same regulations, the same codifications and the same exhaustive intrusion into the private lives of its citizens. There is an identical betrayal of Labour in both countries.
By tradition and experience, the Labour party has believed in democracy, and in the decentralization of power. Those beliefs have been thrust aside by the new totalitarian approach to the problem of government. This new approach is that the people cannot be trusted. Therefore, an attempt is made to regiment their lives in every particular. But the people have no desire to be regimented. Now that they are resisting, they are calling to account governments that persist in trying to force them into this economic serfdom. It has already happened in the United States of America, France and Great Britain, and there are signs that it is happening in New Zealand. It has already happened to the former Labour governments of Western Australia and Victoria. If this Government persists with its present policy of subservience to this form of despotism, it also will fall.
At first glance, the proposal to be submitted by referendum to the people asks for a simple alteration of the Constitution for the purpose of empowering the Commonwealth to control prices and rents ; but the truth is that it is the bludgeon used to establish and maintain despotism. Prices control means the right to control every business at every stage, and dictate methods of production. It means the right to enforce profits control, direct the size of labour forces engaged in particular industries, impose inefficient standards on efficient industries, and protect monopolies against competition. Prices control, as practised in Australia, means that ambitious young bureaucrats have the right to demand full technical and financial information regarding any and all directorates. That information can provide them with back- ‘ ground, they can leave the office of the prices controlling authority, find positions in private industry, and sell their talents and information.
Prices control means the right to fix minimum prices as well as maximum prices. If this referendum were carried, it would be lawful for the Government to empower the prices control authorities to fix minimum price levels. A monopoly could be protected against competition. The corner grocery store which sold a cake of soap at 3d. when the price was fixed at 3½d. would be guilty of an offence. Prices control means the continuation of the present system of a special federal court, which is the equivalent of a modern star chamber. If we examine any list of cases before such a court, what do we find?. Elderly superannuated public servants, who are trying to eke out their meagre pensions by running small corner shops, are caught red-handed in traps set by th* so-called prices inspectors. Let us examine a recent list of cases tried by Mr. R. C. Atkinson at the Special Federal Court at Kempsey. The prices inspectors had raided the small seaside hamlet of South West Rocks. What happens? The investigator goes into the shop and orders a long, involved list of goods. When the shopkeeper has added up the cost, the investigator discloses his identity, produces his bulky official prices list and checks to the last halfpenny.
So we find Thomas Snow, of South West Rocks, pleading guilty of having overcharged 2£d. for a parcel of groceries. His solicitor pointed out that he was an elderly man, who knew little of the business. He was fined £10, with £3 costa. Next, the owner of a small goods shop was fined £15, with £3 costs, because of an overcharge for some china cups and saucers. The owner of a South West Rocks cafe was next. He was charged with having sold two lots of lollies for 6d. instead of 4d. He also made an overcharge of Id. on a drink. He was another elderly gentleman. He said he had been unable to get a ruling regarding the correct price for the drink mixture. He was fined £20, with £3 costs, on the first count; £5, with £3 costs, on the second count for the lollies; and £3, with £3 costs, for the drink.
That is the typical list from any sitting of the Special Federal Court. Perhaps it may be a new method of raising revenue, but it is too much like what happened in European countries under fascism to satisfy Australians.
Every Gazette contains page after page of new rulings by the Prices Commissioner. Nothing is too trivial. Luxury items, such as champagne goblets, take up the time of the prices experts, and every brand of bird-seed requires a separate assessment. It is a system that invites corruption. It leaves the door wide open for blackmail and black marketing. Casual employees were brought into the department without any adequate safeguard being taken to inquire into their previous background. Entirely new standards were introduced in the Public Service. The result has been to undermine the public esteem, in which the entire Public Service was previously held, because a few crooks have infiltrated into these special activities that provide them with such opportunities.
The Australian people are now to be asKed to perpetuate this system. The proposal to be put before the people means a permanent change of the Constitution. When the power is given to the Commonwealth Government, it will be most difficult to take it away. It would require another referendum. There will be no protection against the abuse of the power. Under cover of the proposed amendment it would be possible to make sweeping changes in the economic life of the country. Any government intent on introducing economic conscription could do so under cover of the prices adminis tration. In England, the Attlee Government resorted to issuing conscription notices under a direction of labour regulation. But a government with absolute control over prices administration would have no necessity to resort to such regulations to conscript industry. It could apply all the pressure it needed against particular industries by reducing prices. Regulations under prices control could interfere with the management of any industry. There are no restrictions on the powers sought. Already we have seen, how the distribution of goods can be held! up while awaiting the approval of thaPrices Commissioner. By withholding ai price, any firm can be forced out of business. These controls are to be placed in, the hands of theorists. The entire structure was conceived by Professor Copland,, author of the Premiers plan. Many of’ the chief administrative officers were Copland appointees from the Melbourne School of Economics. They have all been brought up in the same economic philosophy. They all have a complete faith that it is their mission in life to regulate the affairs of this nation down to the smallest detail. The Australian people are to be asked to saddle themselves with this system permanently. If the referendum is carried, then we will have the “ crackpots “ and the theorists with us for all times. It will be an end to freedom. In the hands of a reactionary government, these powers can be used against organized Labour. .Such a government could impose a programme of deflation, similar to the Premiers plan, without consulting the States. At any time, a government could entrust the affairs of the country to an economic dictator, who would have unchallenged authority to impose his will. That is already happening in England. It could happen here if the referendum were carried.
Those are some of the risks that the country is being asked to take. What has happened in the past under prices control is only an indication of what might happen in the future. We have the scandal of Land Sales Control. We have seen how the machinery has been corrupted. We have seen how success in conducting a business no longer depends upon what you know, so much as whom you know. That is why some of the largest business enterprises in this country have taken highly placed public servants into their private business. They think that is the quickest way to get to know the right people. The more you centralize the government the more you place a premium on political favoritism, and political preferment.
What is the alternative to altering the Constitution ? The power to control these things would revert to the States. The State governments have every right to control prices, to control rents, and to control property values. The States would exercise those powers if the need for such controls were established. The State Government in New South Wales controlled the price of milk for the metropolitan area, long before the war, through its Milk Board. It can control the price of fruit, bread, meat and other staple commodities. But it is quite unlikely that the State Government would ever think it necessary to control prices of luxury goods. It Ls quite unlikely that the States would ever deem it necessary to create such intricate machinery as that established by the Commonwealth. The Government’s only case appears to be that some State government might refuse to control prices. That is quite unlikely, as the State governments have shown themselves far more sensitive to public feeling than a central government isolated in Canberra. The States are more in touch with the daily lives of their citizens. They are accustomed to handling the bread and butter problems of life. For them, government is not an abstract science of abstruse mathematical formula, such as that indulged in by the Canberra bureaucracy. Their job is to satisfy the human needs of their people. Remember, it was a State government that first created and maintained fair rents courts. Until the war, the Commonwealth had no function in determining the rents. The States have much better machinery to police rents than the Commonwealth will ever have. Any suggestion that the Commonwealth requires power to control rents is sheer humbug. It is a duty that the States have never shirked. We have heard much cant about secondary inflation. The real threat to this country is secondary government, not government by the elected representatives of the people, but government by the hidden dictatorship of Canberra bureaucracy. The secondary form of government is far more powerful than the elected government. Even honorable members who sit in the caucus no longer exercise a determining vote in moulding Government policy. Government policy is determined on the higher bureaucratic level. Honorable members have a right to record their vote, to have the right to mould the legislation for which they are voting. If the Australian people are to free themselves of this vicious development, it will be necessary for them to take a strong stand on this issue. At the 1942 Constitution Convention, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) sought similar powers to control prices in peace-time; but he then added a very important reservation excluding State governments from the proposed Commonwealth controls. That reservation read -
But not including prices or rates charged by State or semi-governmental or local governing bodies for goods and services.
Why has that reservation been dropped on this occasion ? Is this another attempt to obtain a further strangle-hold over the finances of the States and semigovernmental bodies? Railway fares, water rates, and even the price of totalisator tickets would come under this proposal. The State governments would have to secure the approval of the Prices Commission er for every petty charge they desired to make. They would have to wait on the doorstep at Canberra, even after their, own Parliament had approved of a charge, before they could give effect to it. There is a. reason for this important omission. If the Attorney-General regarded its inclusion as essential in 1942, in order to protect the States, then its deletion on this occasion must be for the purpose of depriving the States of such protection. There is no room for State governments in a totalitarian system. Instead of moving outright for unification, the present Government prefers the indirect approach of robbing the States of their financial independence. This is just another step in that direction. I opposed the Financial Agreement when it was submitted by the Bruce-Page Government. Subsequent events proved my contentions then to be right. It prevented State Labour governments from fighting the financial and economic depression, and was the first step along the road to the establishment of the Canberra despotism. I oppose this measure on the same grounds as I opposed the Bruce-Page measure. Both proposals were hatched in the same incubator. Both were designed to rob the people of the benefits of democratic government by substituting secondary government for responsible and direct government. A vote for this bill is a vote for totalitarian,- bureaucratic despotism and I intend to oppose it.
.- On the bill now before the House there have been two speeches made in the space of the last couple of hours from different sides of the chamber. They are significant in that one speech was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), and the other one was made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). They have this much in common and very much in common, that they show the dominance of State-righters in a federal house. This question of the amendment of the Constitution is one upon which we would expect elected members of this House to have at least a federal outlook. I can sympathize with the difficulties of the honorable member for Reid, who was thrown out of his State House and the State, and, like a cuckoo in the nest, sits on this side of the House where we do not want him and utters the ultra-liberal, ultraconservative views which have become so oldfashioned to honorable members on this side of the chamber. We find the honorable member being specious and mendacious about this proposed amendment of the Constitution, flouting every angle of honesty so far as it relates to this bill, making the old-fashioned and stale utterances of which he is capable, and drawing a red herring across the trail. Nothing was discussed, nothing was analysed in his speech, about the humanity of this proposition. All the old bogies were set up again, the old frightening “ Langisms “. He spoke of the interference of the popinjay at Canberra, who happens to bo an Australian taxpayer - the Canberra bureaucrat. It is the poor little Liberal .man with the comer shop who will lose his profit about whom the honorable member is most concerned. These are the people who are said to be terrifying us and drawing us away from the real conflict that we are facing in relation to this proposed constitutional amendment. Surely, as the former leader of the great Labour movement in a great Labour State, the honorable member must have heard of the imposition of rent on the people of this country. Surely we cannot be frightened about what happened to a little Liberal storekeeper, who, by some sheer coincidence, always charged a penny over, but never a penny under the fixed price for lollies he sold to little children. He is always harassed by these bureaucrats, these inspectors sent out by the Prices Branch, who are always right. The honorable member spoke of the troops of inspectors from the Prices Branch. If ever an infamous troop of men was created at an infamous time in our history, that troop wa3 created by the honorable member for Reid when he brought into existence the dole inspectors whose names still stink in the nostrils of every honest Australian. He speaks of the Gestapo, of inspectors and their devious ways of looking into the activities of men and women. If he has any charge to make, let him make it. He himself was the father of all that kind of snooping long ago. We find him to-day in happy company with the Leader of the Opposition, who also made a specious and mendacious speech about this proposition. The Leader of the Opposition mingled a little constitutional law with a considerable amount of ham acting, and then left the chamber. The public may wonder why member after member of the Labour party has risen in his place, with no assistance from honorable members opposite, so that the debate has become, in effect, a proposition almost solely discussed by honorable members from the Labour side. The reason is not far to seek. After having faced up to their specious line of argument that these controls would be better handed back to the States, it would not take an intelligent observer long to realize that we had hoped to-day, as we did so vainly in the past, that this proposal to hold a referendum would not be treated entirely as a political issue. Emboldened by the fact that the southern part of Australia has become Liberal by small and great majorities, and strenthened by the fact that £50,000 is waiting to be expended in opposition to this proposal to secure for the Commonwealth power to control prices, honorable members opposite are prepared to fall down on their jobs in this House, hoping that the people who whipped up the banks’ anger in the disreputable set of circumstances surrounding the Banking Bill will be pleased to do the same job for the referendum. The first reason for the silence of honorable members opposite, and the most important one, is that they have friends who will attempt to smother the referendum proposals by the expenditure of another £500,000 on a campaign, which, undoubtedly, has already been planned. The other reason is because their brief is such a shocking one that even the Leader of the Opposition is ashamed of it.
J.et us analyse, against the constitutional knowledge of the Leader of the Opposition, the proposition that the :States can better handle the control of
S rices, rents and charges. Having borne i<e burden of the ignominy, the obloquy of having to impose these controls during the war, having had to bear the brunt of all the criticism that has come from the people because of them, hoping that some fine day it would be possible to relinquish them, it would be unfair to the Government and the people if these controls have to be removed merely because of some constitutional difficulty, and because appeals are made by ardent Staterighters for the preservation of State rights. Let me remind honorable members opposite that there is applause outside this chamber for the job the Australian Government is doing. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that the States, with their equipment for price fixation, can quite properly well look after these things. Let us look at the constitutional position in the light of the political situation in Australia to-day. Let us see what might happen in southern and northern Australia. Are we to contend that we should again cut up this country into States, and think entirely in terms of States, and permit a South Australian, living in a Liberal State, which, I am sure, is subject to pressure from the landlords, to be subjected to pressure from big business which can fix charges in that State in such a way as to so dis- commode and cripple every rent-paying worker even before he starts to live? Contrast the position of the South Australian worker with that of the worker in New South Wales, where there is a Labour Government and where, because of the philosophy of the Australian Labour party and its regard for the worker, every effort is made to ensure that rents are fixed at a reasonable level. If we discussed the question of rent control on that basis there would be no more of this specious reasoning. To cite a hypothetical case, a South Australian might have to pay a higher rent than a resident of New South Wales merely because his Government was vulnerable to pressure.
– But rents are much lower in South Australia.
– Order !
– This Government is fast becoming a hypothetical government, as the honorable member well knows.
-Order! If the honorable member for Barker does not cease interjecting, his presence in this House will be purely hypothetical.
– The issue, as I ses it, is to keep what we have won firmly, slowly and democratically. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to blow hot and cold. Either they stand for a stronger federation, or they are against it. They are .prepared to be influenced by any political consideration which may win them a seat here or there, or bring them closer to their dream of ‘bv coming a government once again, but this should be matched against the progress which the country has made during and since the war, and which is destined to make of this land the Britain of the south. That condition of affairs, however, cannot be brought about while federal powers remain limited.
This issue should not be divorced from its human aspect. It concerns rent and prices, which are intimately related to the welfare of the Australian people. We, as a people, tend to pass too lightly over our own performances, and to look otherwhere. We are apt to overlook the magnificent achievement of the Government in the control of rents and prices.
To listen to the honorable member for Reid, one might be pardoned for thinking that all controls were malevolent, yet, the honorable member, among others, is enjoying the ‘benefit of a balanced economy, which is the envy of the world. As a pressman, who has had a varied career, I have interviewed people who have come here in ships, and for a long time past I have sensed the eagerness with which they are determined to investigate this country, and their amazement at its development, and future prospects. Since the war, I have heard many tributes from people from the United States of America, Canada, Britain and Europe to the way in which -the Australian economy has remained so steadfast, so that money means something to the wage-earner here. The whole purpose of the bill is to see that our standards remain unaltered. What would any one say of a man who was prepared to swop horses while crossing a stream. The economic controls have worked well, a fact which is admitted even by the Opposition. No one can say with certainty when the regulations under the defence power will begin to lose their strength, and disappear. Therefore, is there any reason why we should not ask the people for .additional power ? Having shown how we can exercise controls beneficial to the nation, why should we not ask that the powers exercised under the defence power should become a permanent part of the reserve powers of the Commonwealth, and why should it be said that these powers should be retained by the Commonwealth for only three years or five years? During the last referendum campaign, the Leader of theOpposition said ‘it was .ridiculous to ask for an altera tion of the Constitution conferring powers for a limited time. Indeed, that was one- of his strongest, arguments against the Government’s .proposals; yet to-day he suggests that a time limit should be fixed to the enjoyment of these additional Commonwealth powers.
During my recent trip -abroad, when I was commissioned to conduct .certain investigations, I received impressions very tragic and vivid regarding what can happen when prices go ‘” haywire “, and when governments have not courage enough to clamp down on dangerous economic trends. I saw the black market operated by those ‘scoundrels who always lurk on the fringe of society. In the United States of America, I saw how the authorities were trying to wrestle with the -problem of prices. To the man who stays at the best hotels, and takes passage on the best trains or by the best airlines, there will appear evidence of overwhelming national richness, but the man who walks in the side streets, who goes through the Bowery in New York, or who turns aside from the boulevards in Chicago, will see evidence that there are in the United States of America millions of underprivileged people, who lack even a voice to complain of their conditions. They are battling against capitalism supreme - rugged individualism. They are sick at heart, and have been utterly defeated by the war. So many of them gave all they had in the war to defend democracy. Those conditions can exist in a nation that is embarrassed by its riches. In the United States of America, a man must pay a dollar for a haircut, and give a tip of half a dollar. For a meal, for which the fixed price in Australia is 4s. 6d., he will pay the equivalent of £1 Australian, and give a tip of anything from 3s. to 5s.
When a man crosses the Atlantic to Europe, he can visit countries which are suffering the -most amazing terrors of inflation. Let us look at La Belle France to-day. There, the workers, persons on what used to be a moderate income, and pensioners are suffering because .prices have got out of control, in the first instance, ‘because of the war. and, later, because of the.inability of the Government to do anything effective to control them. It is a tragic picture. In the Rue des Halles, the “Paddy’s Market” of -that area, I saw women ,turning over cabbage leaves in the hope of finding .a few eschalots or onions with which to flavour the -thin soup which forms so large a part of the diet of the people. I have seen women scrambling .for a few grapes in the water with which the stalls were washed down. Those are the tragedies being enacted day by day in many parts of ‘Europe, and when one has seen them one will not talk of the little seaside tradesman who is prosecuted for overcharging ‘by a halfpenny for some commodity. The honorable .member for Reid, in his speech, was off the point. This issue must be “fought out on human grounds. The issue is that we must hold rents from rising. Many thousands of people pay rent; many of them have paid too much in rent in our time. Rents have been economic only while controlled by the Australian Government. The vulnerability of State rents courts is obvious. When pressure is brought to bear, rents have been increased. The finest thing standing to the credit of this Government is that rents were pegged at the 1942 level, so that the workers have been able to get some real value for their increased wages, and from the prosperity of the country.
If we fight on the issue of rents, and do not heed specious arguments such as that the Commonwealth has too much power already, we must win. The European scene is most significant, and we cannot too of:en stress the difference between the prosperity of this country and the misery overseas. Why does this difference exist? The cause is partly economic, and partly the result of the war, but war damage can be repaired so much more quickly than can a nation’s damaged economy. Shell holes can be filled in, bridges can be built, transport can be restored, and governments set up.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, I was about to comment further on the attitude towards this bill adopted by the Leader of the Opposition and by the honorable member for Reid. Both of them overlooked the human tragedy that would occur if controls, .particularly over rents, were removed. I draw attention to the fact that, in the period from 1918 to 1929, when rent controls were exercised, by the States, more or less drastically and adequately in some cases and in a manner that left much to be desired in other cases, the graph qf rent charges ascended by about 30 per cent. During World War II., the firm fixation of rentals resulted in the value of the workers’ wages being consistent. The honorable member for Reid made a most extraordinary speech, in which most of his asseverations were unbalanced and had nothing to do with the bill. He launched on a tirade against the “ panjandrums of prices “ and talked about upstarts and the isola tion of Canberra. Perhaps the isolation of Canberra refers to his own personal political isolation. The mere fact of the Australian capital city being separated from the more populous cities has nothing to do with isolation. Canberra is in close contact with the rest of Australia, and all the old slogans, the hatreds and the side issues poured out by the honorable member were intended, not to establish a case, but to keep us apart from an honest and sober discussion of the purpose of the bill. I recollect that in private life the honorable member is a land agent. That may or may not explain why he decided not to keep to his muttons in this debate, but to talk a lot of guff about civil servants. I resent such attacks on them and have given expression to my resentment on other occasions. They are Australians, and they do a good job. Officers of the Prices Branch have done miraculously good work within the limitations of the political economy. I referred earlier to the tragedy of Europe, with its careering inflation, and spoke of the sufferings of the people, particularly the low-paid workers, the pensioners, and the retired persons with small fixed incomes. They have been the starving people of Europe since 1945. God knows what will happen to them this year, when bad weather is expected, crops are failing, governments are being defeated and no formula has emerged from any statesman except the mere desire to control prices and prevent inflation;
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) recently declared in this House that controls should be removed from industry. In his own flamboyant way, he referred- to the example set by the United States of America, the supreme democracy, the outstanding, rugged, adventurous, capitalist State where, he said, a man gets paid for his ability to make money and where the situation is quite different from that in the socialist States. He asserted that the so-called socialist States were cringing to the United States of America because it had found the solution to all its economic problems and, after the war, had said, “Let us away with all controls. Never mind about rents and prices of commodities. Let these things find their own level and everybody will be happy “. The tragic stories which are coming from the United States of America to-day tell us that everybody there is unhappy. The reason for this is given in an article published in the magazine Pix of the 13 th September, 1947. When price controls in America were dramatically released, the gesture was hailed throughout the world by those whose policy is, “ Let those who can make profits do so, and let the workers do without “. When price controls were imposed in 1939, there was an ascending spiral due to certain causes which could not ‘be adequately controlled. There can be no such thing as an iron clamp on prices, but there can be adequate restriction. In the graph published in Pix, the curve was at an index level of 150 when President Truman lifted price controls in America. Within three weeks it had reached the record level of 210, and was still soaring when he decided to reimpose controls.
The referendum proposed in this bill will be a referendum of the workers and the housewives, the men and women who are most affected by small, but sharp, rises of commodity prices, particularly rental charges. Events in the United States of America should be a grim warn-, ing to them, because it is the greatest capitalistic State and, despite its flair for inventiveness and dropping an idea which does not work in favour of another on?;, it is in trouble because controls were lifted too soon. As the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) said this afternoon, the central administration in the United States of America tried to let the States and provincial authorities deal with price fixation but found that system inadequate and decided that federal control was necessary. The comparison of American and Australian prices published in Pix is of interest to the Australian housewife. It shows values as at February, 1947. At that time, a rib roast of beef in Australia cost lOd. per lb. In the United States of America it cost the equivalent of 3s. 5£d. per lb. in Australian currency. One dozen eggs cost ls. 7-ld. in Australia and 2s. 4d. in America. A 2-lb. loaf of bread cost 6d. in Australia and ls. 5-iki. in America. Butter in Australia cost ls. 9d. per lb. and 4s. 9d. per lb. in America. Potatoes cost 8-id. for 7 lb. in Australia and 1f>. 10-ld. for the same quantity in America, which is a dramatic vindication of the policy of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) in relation to the potato bounty. Bashers of prime bacon cost ls. lOd. per lb. in Australia and 4s. 3£d. per lb. in America. Milk cost 7id. per quart in Australia and ls. 2-^d. per quart in the United States of America. Since that time, prices in the United States of America have risen still higher.
There is a grave danger that we might regard this bill as a political issue. I appeal to the Opposition to think instead in terms of the future of Australia. The Government has made the very moderate request that the people should allow it to write a reserve power into the Constitution so that, if our present economic difficulties should arise again, they may be dealt with by means of that power. There is nothing tricky about that. The proposal was explained reasonably in the second-reading speech ‘of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who left no doubt as to what would happen if prices and charges were allowed to go unchecked. It is interesting to consider the position of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) in relation to this proposal. From my own observations, I know that he was not opposed to the Government’s proposals in relation to the powers referendum. However, he made an interjection during the speech made by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) which seemed to indicate that he thought the present trouble in France was due to lack of production. That leads me to assume that he is falling back into laisser-faire capitalism and is ready to support the Opposition viewpoint in relation to the referendum proposed in this bill. If I am wrong, 1 should be pleased to be corrected. The position in France is only partly due to the cause attributed by the honorable member for Warringah. His remarks in this House upon legal and constitutional matters have been very informative to me, and I should be very sorry if. at this stage, he surrendered that constitutional flair for the sake of a problematical political advantage.
I refer now to certain points concerning the proposed referendum which are closely associated with the policy of the Labour party. Because money has value in Australia, certain things must remain, certain things must be done, and certain tilings must be sustained. Banking reform, for instance, is part of a long-range policy of the Australian Labour party. Another such policy is to spread a mantle of social security over the whole country so that the lowest-paid and most underprivileged citizens may receive the greatest consideration that the finances pf the country will permit. Banking reform, the key policy of full employment, social security to an adequate stage so that those who are in need may be cared for, and prices control - are nothing less than essentials if this country is to remain at the level of prosperity which it has achieved. The consequences of loss of control are too drastic even to contemplate. Consider the case of our’ pensioners. Until prices controls were imposed, a particularly vicious and horrible racket was perpetrated against the most vulnerable people in the community, the old-age pensioners. Many of these unfortunate citizens lived in rented rooms, and when governments increased the rate of pension from time to time these pensioners found that the increase was taken from them immediately by means of an increase of their room rent. In our capital cities there are many aged pensioners who are infirm and lonely and who have drifted away from their families. They eke out a meagre existence in rooms in tenement houses. In the past, rapacious landlords waited until the benevolent government increased the pension and then took a rake-off of 50 per cent, of the increase by means of an extra charge for rent. We must consider the welfare of the victims of such rackets in relation to prices control. That represents the lowest common factor in this matter. If we do lift controls, we shall have the same mad merry-go-round as the people of the United States of America had, and we, too, will then be forced to re-impose controls. Next to pensioners, the people who suffer most - and the Opposition should pay attention to this or it will be sharply reminded of the fact by those electors who still remain faithful to it - are midd’le-class citizens with fixed incomes. If money is to have a lower value than it has now, if prices controls are not to make the purchasing power of the £.1 a Stable unit, the middle classes will be starving behind the stucco gates of their rather elaborate villas* They, too, are vulnerable people. Many of them cannot take advantage of social benefits because they are debarred by the means test. If controls on prices and rents are removed, there will be a very depressed community of middleclass people who will feel the impact of rising costs just as drastically as will pensioners.
Finally, I come to the workers who, with their regimen under the basic wage, will be absolutely swamped by the rising prices of commodities. Honorable members opposite talk about increasing production. We shall increase production only when the workers are confident that the future holds a modicum of security for them! I hear stories about go-slow tactics in industry, about bricklayers laying only 200 bricks daily although the average once was SOO bricks daily. Honorable members opposite blame this state of affairs on the alleged inborn hatred of the worker for work. We should analyse the situation another way and consider whether this state of affairs is not a legacy of the depression, which we have discussed so much to the distaste of honorable members opposite. The workers are influenced by fear of the future. We want freedom from want to be more than a mere ideal written into the Atlantic Charter. We want it to be a reality so that people may live and be free, produce children and help the country towards its destiny. All the talk from the Opposition about the workers being disinclined to do anything but loaf, about lack of production, and about hours of work being too short, is false propaganda. The fact is that once the workers get a basic idea in their minds they will not let it go. The workers to-day believe that, unless there is some indication of real security for them in future, they will watch the position in relation to production because - and let us face this - they can over-produce and. work themselves into another depression. I am sure that they will not be so foolish as to do that. By the policies which this Government has sought to put into operation, including banking reform, social services, prices control, and its No. 1 plank, full employment for all, it is seeking to give complete expression to the principle of freedom from want within the next century, and perhaps within the next ten years; foi1 the plan is emerging which, if we can adhere to it,, will take us to the great goal that we have set before us. Honorable gentlemen opposite however want to hark back to. the bad conditions that existed in 1939. If they succeed, they will introduce into the economy of this country a spirit of bitterness which would be utterly deplorable. It is most regrettable that organizations such as the Chambers of Manufactures, which owe their very existence and the development of our great manufacturing potential to the help of the Scullin tariffs, are doing their utmost to defeat the Government’s objective under this bill. The fact that these organizations are making large profits at present because of the assistance given to them by Labour governments is in no way hindering them, from spending huge amounts in order to defeat the referendum. Representatives of Chambers of Manufactures and similar bodies are talking absurdly about the throwing off of all controls. If there is any adverse result from this madness, it will be a sad commentary on public affairs, especially as we have before us the American picture. For political reasons these individuals are tugging at the coat tails of the Government in order to make it uneasy in office.
This subject is of the gravest significance to all the people. We are not dealing with a political issue, for if there were political kudos to be won in this matter honorable members opposite would be adopting quite a different attitude. The fact is that they have shown by their absence from their places to-night that they are ashamed of the course that they are taking. The Government is concerned with the welfare of the people as a whole, and this measure has the highest humanitarian principles behind it. I desire to make it clear both inside and outside of this House that the standards adopted by the Opposition, as revealed by their spokesmen, are not in the best interests of the people. A thinly veiled antagonism is being voiced by honorable gentlemen opposite because of pressure that is being brought to bear upon them, but they have shown by their attitude that they are not positively opposed to the Government’s measure. The bill has been attacked on the ground of constitutional law, but I point out that the measure is designed for the simple purpose of empowering this Parliament to make laws “ with respect to rents and prices (including charges) “. This power is just as necessary for the purposes of reconstruction as it was for war purposes. Something has been said about giving the people “ a fair go “ ; but honorable gentlemen opposite seem to be concerned to secure the removal of controls so that prices may be freed of all supervision, with the result that depression, inflation, misery and unemployment will be our lot. When the Opposition can enforce conditions which will result in the establishment of a large reservoir of unemployed men and women, when they can see queues standing outside workshops and factories and even banks; when they can witness rampant unemployment throughout Australia they may be satisfied, but the Government is determined that these disasters shall not overtake us. I believe that the good sense of the people will prevail on this subject. Yet there is a grave danger that publicity campaigns throughout the Commonwealth against an affirmative vote at the referendum may bring about the defeat of the proosals. The people should not be misled y propaganda. The simple purpose of this bill is to ensure the continued control of rents and prices. I am confident that the electors will exercise their sound common sense and will vote, when the opportunity is given to them, so as to prevent increasing inflation. I hope that they will authorize the Government to clamp down on those who would apply a policy which would lead to inflation. This is necessary for the peace and comfort of our people. Because I do not desire the people to be afflicted with serious economic disorders, and because I do not wish to have their hard-won benefits filched from them, I shall support the bill.
.- The House is considering “ a bill for an act to alter the Constitution by empowering the Parliament to make laws with respect to rents and prices (including charges)”. Those are simple words, but they cover a vast field. I agree with the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) that the bill should be considered in an atmosphere free from misrepresentation and false issues; but that is the only point on which I agree with him on this matter. The honorable gentleman’s speech has followed the traditional lines. He addressed himself to this vital issue in a way designed to make people believe that the Opposition in this Parliament desires to see unemployment in Australia on a large scale. He said that we are opposed to all controls and, in his usual glib way, he asserted that we represent vested interests in this country. Such statements have been made in the past in this Parliament by Ministers on the treasury bench, and also by honorable gentlemen on the back benches. The people of Australia should, therefore, be reminded of two important facts. One is that no person in his senses wants to see unemployment or depressed conditions, for no matter what his station in life may be he must know that such conditions will react adversely on him. The second is that the Government should be reminded that although it has been stated that the Opposition does not believe in prices control, and that it wants all controls thrown to the dogs, the truth is that prices control was introduced in this country by the Government led by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies).I was a member of the Ministry at the time an approach was made to Professor Copland, at the outbreak of the war, to secure his services as Prices Commissioner. The Menzies Government placed a blanket over prices immediately war was declared and it gave to Professor Copland complete control of prices throughout Australia. So far did it remove prices control from political pressure that it gave no right of appeal to the Minister. The prices control machinery that was established at that time has been continued ever since. In these circumstances, the charge that the Opposition is in favour of no controls can be rejected out of hand. In point of fact, this Government inherited its prices control machinery from the Menzies
Government. Although I have at time: attacked certain phases of prices control I wish to make it quite clear that I consider that the officials of the Prices Branch in Australia did a very good job during the war.
But that is not the issue that arises under this bill by’ any means. Nor is the issue whether or not prices have spiralled in France and the United States of America. We are not concerned about the searching of gutters for food in France, or other parts of Europe, nor arewe concerned about the cost of certain commodities in the United Statesof America. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) referred to this subject, but he said nothing about the relation of salaries and wages to prices in America. France, we should bear in mind, has had socialist governments in office for a long time, and their administration has brought poverty, misery and degradation to the French people. The French Government has been administered under militant Communist influences, with the result that the economy of France has been ruined, and production has fallen to an alarming and disastrous level. It is of little use for the honorable member to quote the price of a few commodities in America without also stating the wage position. Byadopting that course, he simply showed his ignorance or bis desire to misrepresent the true situation. The honorable gentleman could have told us, but did not, that even girl secretaries in the middle ranges in the United States of America are paid as much as 140 dollars to 300 dollars a month. What I have said shows how little notice should be taken of the commodity prices quoted by the honorable member.
It seems to me to be wise to determine what are the real issues in this case, and what is in dispute. That should be made quite clear. There is no dispute as to whether certain controls should be continued. What is in dispute is whether the controls should or should not be continued by the Government as the result of a permanent grant of power. The Government desires this power, apparently, so that it may continue to apply controls in any circumstances. It has beer stated that Opposition members who resist the application of controls by the authority of the Australian Government are not good Australians. It is about time that we all realized that we live under a federal system in this country. People who believe in a federal system are being branded as anti-Australians. That shows how far the debate has departed from the true issues. I believe, and I shall give reasons for my belief, that the sooner we get back to a. true federal system of government the sooner we shall get back to democracy in this country. The centralizing of power in the Australian Parliament is not true federalism. There oan be no doubt that in many respects we have departed seriously from the federal system. It is time that the powers of the Parliament were i (-viewed, but nor with the object of extending them. 1 believe that the time has come when there should be written into the Constitution, not additional powers, but safeguards against the abuse of power by the Parliament. The Minister for Information saw fit to quote certain statements that I made last December on the subject of controls. I stand by those statements. I have been opposed to those who have sought the removal of all controls in this country. I have set my face against that, course. Tiose are still
Tuy views. But it does not follow that because I believe that certain controls should be continued that I also believe that they should be exercised under permanent powers vested in this Parliament. In the nature of things the present controls must be regarded as temporary expedients and not, as a permanent feature of our economy. If I am asked why I have changed some of the views that I expressed some time ago on the centralization of power in this Parliament, my reply is that I have always been a believer in democratic processes. I believe that when a political party goes to the country on a declared policy and is returned to power on that policy, it should give effect only to that policy and to matters strictly incidental to it. Apart from its declared policy, it should bring in no measures other than those which urgent circumstances make necessary. I have always believed in the democratic process. I have believed that matters of great substance not covered by the policy submitted by a political party at an election but on which action is desired should be referred back to the people from whom all power should flow. I have changed certain of my views on centralizing power because I have come to realize in the past few weeks and days that a government may use its power irrespective of the wishes of the people. Such a government is not worthy of support. A government which will not apply democratic processes, but which proceeds to apply a policy for which it has no mandate whatever from the people, and on which the people were never consulted, should not. be trusted with any additional power whatsoever. If there is one reason more than another why I have adopted the view that the centralization of power must be discontinued, it is because this Government has shown a complete indifference to democratic processes. This has been indicated, may I say in passing, by the manner in which it has forced its banking legislation through the Parliament. The Minister for Information was foremost among those who said that before the Government approaches the people again it will have so completely destroyed the private banks that no subsequent government could ever restore them. I believed that, under the Consituation, the people had complete control over governments; that every three years a government must go to the people ; and that the people could cure abuses of power by rejecting that government at the following elections. But abuses cannot be cured when an act of the government destroys for all time the right of the people to express their views.
– That can be applied to the House of Commons.
– I am applying it to this House. I deal with Australian affairs in accordance with Australian conditions. That alone justifies the views that I hold. It is important to examine what this power, if granted, means. It means that, for all time, there will be given to the Parliament of the Commonwealth, concurrent with the States, power to fix rents and prices, including charges. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) drew attention to the degree to which prices control can operate. Any honorable members who are acquainted withthe decisions of the High Court know perfectly wellthat, in interpreting the prices regulations which this bill would give authority to continue, the HighCourt said, in effect, “ You can fix prices in respect of any goods or any person by relation to any standard “. So, the Government can control not only profits, but also the services of the ordinary journeyman, and the wages of any person in the community. They all are factors that go with prices. In short, the Government can control every industrial activity and personal activity in terms of money. The same applies to “ charges “, which it was made quite clear, was intended to cover charges of any description. Indeed, it is so extensive that, combined with the banking legislation which has just received the approval of a part of thisHouse, it gives a complete power to this or any other government to socialize the industries of Australia. The people are completely opposed to this policy.
If the Government can fix prices in respect of any given product, fix the profits of any concern by relation to any standard and fix the profits of one concern differently from those of any other concern, as clearly under the decision of the High Court it may do, it has in its hands the complete instrument to impose a socialist will upon the people. I venture to saythat what I have stated upon that aspect is not capable of refutation, because it is the result of the decisions of the High Court on the prices regulations. We have only to look at the recent decisions ofthe court which theLeader of the Opposition quoted to establish that fact. So, it is well to bear in mind the extensive nature of these powers; the permanent nature ofthese powers; and their nature when taken in conjunction with the banking legislation.
To sum up on that aspect, it means that the Government is seeking an extreme power in this legislation to control the industrial activity of the country, both interms of companies, private entrepreneurs and individuals. What is the argument advanced in support of thispolicy ? It does not show any reason for granting permanent powers. The argument which sofar has beenraised is this : If you do not have controls, prices will increase, the value of incomes will shrink and poverty and unemployment will stalk through the land.
– Hear, hear! That is so.
– This is the only stuff that we ever hear from honorable members opposite upon any subjectmatter, whether it be wool, wheat, rents or prices. In the circumstances, it is rather important for us to examine the grounds, if any, on which the Government contends that the granting of permanent power is necessary. In my opinion, it will be of assistance if honorable members will examine a report made by Professor Copland, who was economic consultant to the Prime Minister and Prices Commissioner during the greater part of World War II. I read from his report on economic conditions in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada, at page 36 -
No country expects a sudden cessation of control, even though they may be preparing for the production of civilian goods.
No honorable member in this House expects that, but what we on this side of theHouse do expect is that the Government will indicate that it is prepared to relinquish, not retain, controls, and that it has a plan ultimately for decontrol. We believe that controls with respect to prices must be continued by thisGovernment, and subsequently by State governments, until some degree of normalcy returns. But to argue from that, that power should be granted to this Parliament permanently to control prices is a complete non sequitur. Professor Copland’s report continues -
Three forms of control will be required in the transition period if the stability of the war-time economy is to be continued during the disturbances of the transition from war to peace. These essential controls are -
Priorities in essential materials, and
Professor Copland expressed the view that three controls should be continued. The Government to-day explainedthat the States are incapable of acting. The States, I rather gathered, althoughthey have sovereign Parliaments and have administered their own affairs for longer than this Parliament has administered national affairs, are incompetent to deal with any subject such as prices, and, I assume, building materials and priorities relating to them. If the argument is good in respect of prices, why is it not good in respect of building materials? Why is it that the powers relating to priorities in essential materials, which Professor Copland said should be continued during the transition period, are not to be continued by the Commonwealth? Why is this power being exercised, in so far as it is being exercised, by the States? That seems to me to be as strong an argument as one can advance, when honorable members opposite say that the States cannot do anything in these matters, and that chaos would result if they attempted to act. In addition, the Government has not made any statement about investment control. Professor Copland proceeded -
None of these controls will he necessary in the long run when the economy is again functioning normally. They will be necessary during the transition period because demand for consumer goods, demand for essential materials for production and demand for capital will be in excess of supply.
Now we have very clearly a proposition that none of these controls is required permanently. Then what reason is advanced for them, except that the Government desires to grab more power in the way in which I have indicated? Professor Copland said that there is a transition period when, following the consequences of war, we are seeking to place the economy upon a normal and stable footing. Our view has been made plain. We do not object to the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill which will extend until the end of next year the powers of this Parliament to legislate with respect to prices and many other matters. Indeed, we have said that we have no objection to extending those powers beyond that date if circumstances warrant that action. The judgments of the High Court make it clear that there is ample authority in the defence power of the
Commonwealth to enable this Parliament to deal with all the transitional problems which arise. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) interjected earlier that “ this is somewhat indefinite “. If the Government wanted these powers only for the purpose of tiding this country over the transitional period and restoring the economy, why has it not inserted in the bill a time limit for terminating the power ?
The Minister for Information advanced an extraordinary proposition on this subject. He said that after the people had rejected the referendum, in 1944, it was found that there was great doubt as to whether the Constitution could be altered so as to give to this Parliament power over any subjectmatter for a limited time. I do not know where the Minister heard about that doubt. Obviously, he was confusing that issue with doubts as to whether a State could, under the Constitution, surrender any of its powers to the Commonwealth for a limited time. However, that was an entirely different proposition. There is doubt about that, hut I need not discuss it now. However, the question was raised as to whether the States could surrender to the Australian Parliament, for a limited period, power over any particular subject-matter. Over alterations of the Constitution, no limit is placed. If honorable members opposite will examine section 128 of the Constitution, which I need not repeat here, .they will find that, with certain limitations with respect to altering the representation in this House and the Senate, plenary power is given to the people to alter the Constitution, No valid reason has been advanced as to why a limitation in point of time should not now be placed in this bill. If the Government were prepared to insert such a provision, my approach to the bill would be entirely different from what it is. I want to know why the Government desires the power for all time. Nothing has been said to indicate the reason. It is said that the States themselves have no real power to deal with these matters.
– No effective power.
– Real or effective power ! I accept -the distinction, if any. Let us examine this proposition. Does any honorable member imagine, even apart from the means for collaboration which has developed between the Commonwealth and the States during the last ten years, that one State would pursue a policy of prices fixation quite out of harmony with the policy of other States. Obviously, circumstances would determine that there must be harmony between the States on these matters. Indeed, there is ample machinery in’ the present administration to deal with all those problems. Professor Copland himself drew attention to it. He pointed to the fact that, under our federal system, the Australian economy was better geared to meet the impact of war, and the problems which would arise at the end of hostilities, than were, for example, those of either Canada or the United States of America. One of the reasons was that Australia ha3 only six States, compared with Canada, which has nine provinces, and the United States of America, which has 48 States. In addition, we had developed a means of consultation between the States and the Commonwealth that rendered any fears of a breakdown because of State administration quite illusory. Has the Labour party so little confidence in itself that it does not imagine that at any time it will not have control of at least one State parliament? If a ‘State parliament that it controlled adopted a means of price fixing that gave the people of that State a better run than was given to the people in the other States, does the Labour party not imagine that the other States would fall into line? It is important to have regard to the bearing of the present system on our problem. Professor Copland said that, the federal system provided a sort of double check on the development of government policy. He said that there was argument in favour of controls by the central authority and the State authorities; the balance was a matter for determination by other than he. One important fact that he drew attention to was that administration by the States gave particular attention to local conditions, which was beyond the competence of any centra] administration, fie also drew attention to the Conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers, which have now become almost an integral part of the Constitution, the Australian Loan Council, the Commonwealth Works Council, the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the Australian Agricultural
Council and other governmental bodies that during the war, in respect of matters that were not within the exclusive authority of the Commonwealth, worked out a common policy for Australia. The control of prices and rents would be resolved in exactly the same way under the system that we suggest. Professor Copland’s summary shows that the federal system is quite capable of meeting all the impacts of the next couple of years. I quote it in full -
The federal system of Australia is well equipped to implement a progressive economic and social policy. The machinery of frequent conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers is more fully developed in Australia than in other federal systems. It affords an opportunity of discussion at the highest level of the problems common to the Commonwealth and1 the States in their joint responsibility for economic development and social progress. The Australian Loan Council is a body unique in modern federations and is capable of play ing an important part in promoting and controlling a sound policy of public investment. The Australian Works Council is an agency through which developmental projects can be continuously planned. In the Commonwealth. Grants Commission the Australian federal system has an agency through which financial adjustments may be made between the States and the Commonwealth. In its brief history the Grants Commission, has already broken new ground in determining the basis upon which the Federal Government should assist the State governments. The Australian Agricultural Council has increased its prestige- during the war and is capable of developing into an important agency for the discussion’ of long term agricultural policy. The increasing scope of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has developed a more uniform wage system than in other federations, and the established practice of adjusting wages to the cost of living relates, more closely the movements of incomes and prices in Australia than in most other countries. With this machinery the Australian federal system is well equipped to develop a progressive economic policy after the war.
That from the mouth of the economicconsultant to the Prime Minister is asstrong support as one could find for our point of view. We say there should be de-control, but we agree that prices control must not be lifted in respect of articles in short supply. We say that if the Government started to plan now, by the end of twelve months, it would be a long way along the road to de-control.. If it refuses to surrender to the States, the. powers that they previously had vested in them, its course will be towardsthe destruction of the federal system.
One of the classic conflicts of human minds is that between authority and freedom. There is no simple solution. There is no absolute freedom for any of us. I am certain, though, that the Australian people, in the end, regardless of for how long the Government seeks to impose autocracy upon them, will rebel against autocracy. I have come to the conclusion that the democratic processes of this country can be steadily destroyed by a government prepared to set at nought the federal system and democratic institutions. I see in the banking legislation a determined attempt by the Government to so destroy existing institutions that, irrespective of public will, they can never be restored. So I have lost my confidence in the brake that we could otherwise rely en in a democracy - the provision in the Constitution that the Parliament must face the electors every three years. I believed that that was a sufficient brake because I did not believe that any government would so flagrantly disregard public will as to pursue a course in defiance of the public that will effect a change in the economic structure of Australia which will be beyond restoration when the people are consulted again, two years hence. I believe that the time has come to place safeguards in the Constitution in favour of the people. So I oppose this legislation. The States are capable of controlling prices and rents under their existing powers. Great power tends to corrupt otherwise good Australian citizens. Centralization is destroying the federal system of this country. It is not an answer to our contention to try to put over that we do not believe in controls and are seeking to destroy living standards - the sort of diatribe that we are accustomed to. I know that in the course of this debate we shall hear little other than that in justification of this measure, which would give to the Parliament, if passed by the people, the most extreme power over their lives and destinies. I do not think controls will need to be exercised by the Commonwealth to protect the people against rapacity and greed after the passage of twelve or eighteen months from now. It is because I believe that we should return to th e federal system with power exercised by the constituent part of the federation that I oppose the measure.
– We have seldom had such a display of dishonesty and hypocrisy from any political party as that displayed by the Opposition members on this measure. They say they can anticipate some of the arguments of supporters of the Government. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender.) said that. I say to him that there has never been an occasion in the Parliament when he and those associated with him have not risen and claimed to be believers in the democratic form of government. There is nothing more untrue than that statement, because they have a totalitarian outlook. From their remarks in this debate any one would imagine that the Opposition were anxious to let the people know their point of view on- the control of prices and rents, but they are really anxious that not too much should be said in this debate, because they endeavoured to arrange with the Government that there should be only two speakers on each side, after which the debate would -be closed. Opposition members want to close the Parliament down and get back to the electorates. They are not anxious to let the people in this country know their attitude to the control of prices and rents. That appears to me to be evidence that they are not so democratic in their outlook as they claim to be. When we examine their actions, it is rather significant that, although the Government announced some time ago that it intended to ask the people for the power to control prices and rents, they could not make up their minds on whether they would support or oppose the proposal and they kept back their pronouncement that they would oppose the referendum until after the general elections in Victoria. Had the electors in Victoria known exactly how these representatives of the exploiters of the community and vested interests would act when this measure was placed before them, the result of the elections would probably have been different. It would be interesting to know exactly what business connexions Opposition members have and whether they are not speaking with their tongues in ;heir cheeks. Estate agents are interested in the control of rents. The honorable member for Warringah is interested in some private companies that will no doubt be affected by this legislation. Therefore, if we cared to examine the individual members of the Opposition, we should probably find that many of them are opposing this measure because it will not benefit the companies that they are interested in. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said, “ We are not opposed to prices control or rents control “, but he has not indicated for how long Opposition members believe that those controls should continue. He further said that he was adopting his present attitude because the Chifley Government had misused the powers it already possessed. But the honorable member for Warringah, who changes his arguments and his party frequently - he has been an independent and in and out of the Liberal party so often that it is difficult to know from week to week exactly what party he does belong to - said, “Why does not the Government seek powers additional to those over rents and prices?” He wants us to ask for more powers, but his leader says, “ No more power to the Chifley Government ! “. That slogan of the Leader of the Opposition is heartening to us, be<awe he evidently believes that we shall be in power for a very long time. If he were as confident as he claims to be about the result of the next general elections, he would not be worrying about more power being given to the Chifley Government. But he knows he is in a dead-end job, that he can go no further and that he is the permanent Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives.
When Opposition members talk about the need to refuse the Government additional power because it has abused the powers it has, I ask what does the bill propose? We shall not decide by our votes whether the Government should have that additional power. We cannot do that. We ask that the measure be passed so that the people shall have the opportunity of saying whether the Parliament shall have the power. It is significant that when private hanking was involved honorable members opposite day after day presented petitions asking us to let the people decide. Control of prices and rents is an issue closer to the people than is the control of banking. It is necessary that a referendum be taken to decide whether or not the Australian Parliament is to be given this additional power, but the Opposition wants to reject the measure. It says, in effect, that the people should not have a say at all. How hypocritical they are !
– That is not so.
– When the vote is taken it will be seen whether or not there is any truth in that argument. If members of the Opposition vote against this measure they will, in effect, vote not against the extension of the powers of this Parliament, but against the right of people to determine whether the power of this Parliament to control rents and prices shall continue. After saying,.
We will not give the Chifley Government any more power “, the Leader of theOpposition said, “ We shall do everything in our power to prevent exploitation “. What could a government led by the right honorable gentleman do to prevent exploitation unless it had powerto regulate rents and prices? Honorable members opposite say that we should leave this matter to the States. Do they contend that members of the State parliaments are of different calibre from members of the Australian Parliament? Members of all the Stateparliaments are drawn from .the samecommunity and, consequently, all aremore or less alike. The only reason whyhonorable members opposite want thispower to remain with the States is becausethey know how impossible it would be for the States to exercise it. Everybody with experience of conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers knows that in respect of some matters there is a better chance of getting agreement with theBalkan States than with the State Premiers. If this matter be left to the States it will mean that no control will beexercised at all. The honorable member for Warringah asked, “Does the Labour party believe that the time will arrivewhen not one State Parliament will’ be controlled by the Labour party?” “ A Labour administration in any State,”’ he says, “ could legislate to regulate rents and prices and force others to takesimilar action.” Of course, in actual’. practice, such a State government would quickly discover that its goods would flow to those States where prices remained uncontrolled, with the result that there would be great shortages in the State where prices were regulated. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) will recollect that not many years ago, when he was Premier of New South “Wales, and he introduced a shorter working week the other States did not follow its example. Victoria continued to work a 48-hour week when New South Wales had adopted the 44-hour week, and because production costs in New South Wales as a result were somewhat higher, all the business went to Victoria with the result that many workers in New South Wales were thrown out of employment. This idea of one State compelling the other States to come into line is only so much “ hooey “, as the honorable member for Warringah well knows.
The Leader of the Opposition has said the power to control prices should continue until normal conditions have returned. The right honorable gentleman, however, did not tell us what he regarded as normal conditions. Opposition members always refer to conditions as being normal when unemployment does not exceed a certain figure or percentage of the available workers. The honorable member for Warringah said, ““Surely nobody suggests that any person in his sane senses believes in unemployment “. During the debate on the Banking Bill I quoted from an article written by the financial editor of the Sydney Morning Herald in which he referred to the great advantages of another depression, and how it would restore discipline in industry. In New South Wales the Sydney Morning Herald is regarded as the official organ of the anti-Labour parties. The financial editor -of that journal appears to think that the workers to-day have too much independence. That belief is shared by the honorable member for Warringah and every other honorable member opposite. They ‘long for a depression because “they believe it will again give them an opportunity to resume their control over the lives of the workers. Is it not -rather remarkable “that the Opposition parties, which claim to be democratic in their outlook, should say that they will support the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill, the purpose of which is to extend all of the remaining war-time powers including that over rents and prices for a further period of twelve months? Who will determine whether the powers should be exercised for twelve months? Not the Parliament, not the Government, but the High Court. Statements that have been made by members of the High Court on a number of occasions must raise serious doubts in the minds of honorable members as to what attitude the court would adopt if the right of the Government to continue such powers were challenged. I have not the same confidence as have honorable members opposite in the ability of the members of the High Court to make completely realistic decisions, having regard to the state of development of this country. If honorable members will examine the list of the decisions made by the High Court during the war period, they will be able to trace the history of the war. When the war was at a critical stage the right of the Australian Government to use the emergency powers for any purpose which it declared to be essential remained unquestioned; but as soon as the war position eased arguments were raised in the High Court that the Commonwealth was exceeding .its powers. I do not for one moment say that the members of the High Court, in their judgment, during this period, have not made honest decisions, but the right to make policy decisions in my opinion, should be vested in the elected representatives of the people. As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) said in introducing this measure, the Government does not propose to exercise these powers, but wishes to have them so that it can use them should the occasion warrant their use. When I said that the honorable member for Warringah was associated with certain private concerns in this country I merely stated a fact. That is true also of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), who was interested in a firm which was charged with a breach of the Prices Regulations. Therefore, it must be evident that these gentlemen to-day are talking with tongue in cheek when they refer to the necessity for the Government to relinquish entirely the control of prices. I do not say for one moment that prices control is as effective as we shall like it to he, but I do claim that it is more effective in Australia than in any other part of the world in which a prices control system is or has been in operation. I could probably suggest quite a number of improvements to tighten up our prices regulations. If prices control were abandoned, in spite of what honorable members opposite say about competition being restored and the consumer being thereby benefited, chaos would result. The workers of this country know how they have been protected by these regulations. I was Minister for Labour and National Service when regulations to control rents were first promulgated, and I had something to do with their preparation. At that time wealthy people finding it difficult to obtain other outlets for the investment of their money, were buying whole terraces of houses in the industrial suburbs of our principal cities. Upon acquiring the houses they served notices to quit on the tenants on the ground that they wanted to carry out renovations and alterations, but their real purpose was to get the tenants out of the houses so that they would be able to charge much higher rents to the incoming tenants. It was because these things were happening, and because of the resultant unrest and dissatisfaction among the workers, that the Government decided to introduce regulations controlling rents. These regulations have operated fairly successfully. They have certainly given to the workers of Australia greater protection than they possibly could have obtained had they been governed by the anti-Labour parties.
The honorable member for Warringah endeavoured to ridicule some of the arguments advanced by honorable members on this side of the House as to what has been happening in the United States of America as the result of the relinquishment of prices controls. Speaking from memory, the honorable member said that secretaries were receiving as high as 140 dollars a week. He did not tell us, however, the wage of the lowestpaid labourer in the United States of America to-day. According to figures which I received from the Labour Department in Washington, the lowest-paid labourer gets 60 cents an hour or 4.80 dollars for a day of eight hours. Having regard to commodity prices in the United States of America, how people can exist on that wage is nothing short of amazing. At one of the hotels at which I stayed, a woman who was employed cleaning the rooms told me that, although both she and her husband were working, she could not remember when they had been able to afford to buy a joint of meat. It is quite true that people on high salaries are not seriously affected by high prices. The real effect of high prices is felt in the homes of the workers, because practically the whole income of the lower-paid worker is expended on commodities required to enable him and his family to exist. The abandonment of prices control would be a tragic mistake. We have seen what happened in the United States of America when prices controls were lifted, and how that country has now been compelled to move to restore them. That country is administered by a government which, by no stretch of the imagination, could be regarded as a Labour government, or one which honorable members opposite choose to refer to as a Socialist government. The anti-Labour parties are fond of referring to all Labour governments as Socialist governments. If honorable members looked up the records they would probably discover that a similar term was used to describe the government responsible for the abolition of child labour in the mines in Great Britain, the Australian Government which passed measures to prevent the exploitation of women in this country, and governments which abolished the conditions which enabled employers to compel children to work for six months in the “ rag “ trade before they paid them any wage, and then after the expiration of six months to pay them only 5s. a week. The protection which the workers in Australia enjoy to-day, and their standards of employment have not been made possible by the parties in opposition but by the industrial strength of the unions and their political representatives in the parliaments of Australia. The workers know to whom they should look for support and protection.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) referred to the allegation made by honorable members opposite that workers engaged in the building industry had slowed up. What will happen in regard to building materials if prices controls are removed? As surely as one State attempts to fix the price of building materials such materials as are produced in that State will go into other States where no prices control obtains, and obviously the cost of materials will increase enormously. Our experience after World War I. shows what can happen if prices are uncontrolled. Between 1918 and 1929, rents increased by 50 per cent, because no attempt was made to control them. I do not contend that some of the States governments have not on some occasions used their powers to control prices effectively, but their control is limited to locallyproduced commodities. Reference was made during this debate to the prices control organization established by the Queensland Government. At the commencement of World War II., that organization consisted of one man and a few girls and control was limited to but a few locally-produced commodities. I believe that there is great scope for concurrent action by the Commonwealth and the States and that if the Commonwealth has an overriding power in this matter some of the States will be more prepared to help. Let us consider for a moment the control of monopolies. What power rests with the States to control monopolies? The activities of monopolies extend beyond the boundaries of one State, and obviously no State, acting alone, could control a monopoly by the use of its price-fixing powers. Such control could be exercised only by the Australian Government. If power to control prices is left in the hands of the States, there can be no effective control of the prices of commodities produced by monopoly concerns. Honorable members opposite claim that the prices regulations have been used for profits controls. It is important to keep in mind that, although honorable members opposite have never mentioned it, what they are seriously concerned about are the limitations placed upon monopolies and big commercial interests which prevent them from exploiting the community in order to earn exorbitant profits. When the National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations were promulgated, it was said that the Government proposed to control everything, not only the wages of the workers, but also the profits of the employers. It was then suggested that profits be limited to 4 per cent. What happened? Honorable members opposite immediately set up an agitation suggesting that this form of profits control should not be made operative. They argued the matter in this Parliament and I regret to say that the Government abandoned the idea. Now they suggest that the control of prices is being used to regulate profits. I ask them what factors do they believe should be taken into account by price-fixing authorities? Surely they must pay some regard to the profits earned in determining whether prices are fair and reasonable. However, the Opposition will not admit that. They know that immediately controls are removed there will be a general rise of prices, accompanied by further exploitation of the community.
The right honorable ‘ member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) said that he was not opposed to controls of a reasonable kind, but he did not say what he regarded as reasonable. The honorable member for Warringah mentioned what was happening in France, where, he said, there was a Socialist government, which he blamed for the state of affairs there. I am not so sure that there is a Socialist government in France. We know that in Germany there was a National-Socialist party, which ultimately took over the government, and regarding which some honorable members opposite spoke in very favorable terms. 1 do not believe that there are many socialists, except in -name only, in the French government to-day.
There are many examples of what can happen to the workers in any community where inflation occurs. In China, for instance, the stage has been reached when one might say that a person needs a truck to carry his money, and a basket to bring back his purchases. Prices have sky-rocketed, although there is no Socialist government in power. China is being financed by the United States of America, a country which cannot be charged with favoring Communist policy.
Some honorable members opposite argue that the powers which we are seeking should be given to the Commonwealth Parliament for a limited period only, but they have not suggested what period they favour. They argue in one way, but they will act in another. When a vote is taken members of the Opposition will line up against the Government’s proposal. The Opposition says that the Government is seeking power to set up a totalitarian regime in Canberra, but, of course, the Government does not propose to do anything of the kind. Actually, the Opposition is becoming alarmed because they know that at last there is in power a Labour Government which is determined to implement Labour policy. What has disturbed members of the Opposition is the decision of the Government to nationalize the private trading banks, and they say that at any cost, and as soon as possible, this Government must be destroyed.
If the States were to resume the powers in question, there is no guarantee that they would be able to exercise them. Even if a Labour government were in power in each State, it would not be possible to obtain effective action, except in Queensland. It would not be possible to do so in New South Wales until the Labour party obtained a majority in the Legislative Council, which we believe it will obtain at an early date. In the other four States, where there are Legislative Councils elected on a. restrictive franchise,, no effective action to control prices could be taken. We know that Sir Frank Clarke, a member of the Legislative Council in Victoria, who is also a director of the National Bank, used his privileged position in the- council to hold up the passage of the Supply Bill, which was necessary to pay public servants, in the hope that he might embarrass the Australian. ‘Government in its attempt to put through the Parliament legislation in the interests of the people. It is easy to visualize what would happen in that Legislative Council to a measure designed to control prices. Members of the Opposition know that once the control of prices is taken away from the Commonwealth Parliament the “exploiters of the people can run riot, and can charge what prices they like.
As for the propriety of the Government’s proposal to hold a referendum, surely no honorable member opposite, who presented petitions to this Parliament day after day asking that the people should be allowed to express an opinion on the banking legislation, would deny the people the right to express an opinion about prices control?’ As a matter of fact, I think honorable members oppositeoverestimated the effect of the campaign of mis-representation in regard to the banking legislation, but whatever doubts there may be about the people’s opinion of that legislation, honorable members may rest assured that the people will certainly vote in favour of the Australian Parliament having control of prices and rents. If controls are removed prices will sky-rocket, and there will be a wave of industrial unrest, because the workers will want more wages in order to catch up with increasing prices, and thiswill begin a spiral of rising costs and’ rising wages. Of course, that is what the Opposition is hoping for, and what it hopes by its opposition to this measureto achieve.
During the war nobody questioned the right of the Commonwealth to control rents and prices, and for years this power was exercised, for the welfare of the community. However,, although the people recognize that the economic difficulties which now face us are the legacy of the war, there is no certainty that the judges of the High Court would reach the same conclusion if they were asked for ani opinion. Indeed, their opinions are difficult to follow and their actions areimpossible to predict. For that reason,. I believe that the people will readily agree that the proper course to follow is to give the Australian Parliament the powers which . are asked for. The people will later have an opportunity tojudge whether the powers are misused.. Under the Constitution, every threeyears, whether we like it or not, thepeople have the right to pass judgment on the Government.
The Government wants these powers to keep down the cost of living. I know- that costs have risen despite the controls, and so have profits, despite all the talk of destroyed incentive. The Opposition used this argument about destroying incentive to contest the Government’s proposal to limit profits. The Opposition now says the same thing about prices control. Actually, we should provide an incentive for the workers who produce the- goods, not for the financial interests, or for those who control industry. If we can keep down living costs,- and improve living, standards; there will follow an- increase of. production, and this will be followed by an era of prosperity. I have no doubt that when the people are given an opportunity to pass judgment, they will express confidence in’ the Government, and agree to’ confer’ upon the Australian Parliament the powers we seek.
Mr. ABBOTT’ (New England) T9.26]. - We have heard from, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) one of his typical addresses which begins with abuse, continues with abuse,- and ends with abuse. One would think that he and the member’s of his party were the only democrats in the House; yet what he is doing in New Guinea to-day is not democratic. He is trying to create there a totalitarian state, where ex-servicemen, who’ suffered in the war, are treated most harshly.
– Order! New Guinea has nothing to do with’ the bill.
– The Minister has refused to extend the moratorium in one of the territories under his control. The Moratorium was in force up to 1942, but he has prevented its continuation, although the country was occupied by the Japanese during the war.
– Having made that statement, the honorable member must come back to the bill.
– The Minister charged the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) with having private interests outside this Parliament^ and with having, by their efforts in the Parliament, attempted to benefit themselves financially. I remind honorable members that during: last week, and during, the previous sessional period, the Minister most willingly voted himself an increase of his parliamentary and ministerial allowance. TheMinister said that the Opposition, in opposing the. bill, was seeking to deprive the people of the right to. express an opinion on. the Government’s proposals. That statement is- deliberately false; Weare opposing the right of the Commonwealth to control rents and prices, including, charges. We say that this ‘ power should be exercised by the States, as in the past.
-. - Why should not the people decide- the matter?
– When the- matter goes before- the- people, their reply will’ be- as effective- and as resounding as was the reply of the people in Victoria recently. The Minister described the action of the Victorian Legislative Council as undemocratic; yet it merely took action to give the people an opportunity to pronounce judgment on an; important issue. Is there anything- undemocratic about that ? Is the Minister afraid to go before the people? Of course he is, because he knows that his party will receive a shattering blow when the opinion of the people is given.
The Minister also spoke of the Opposition longing for another depression. That, of course, is complete nonsense. It is not the workers alone who suffer during a depression, but every section in the community. The Opposition fights, not in the interest of one section of the people only, but for the people as a whole. He then said that prices control was more effective in Australia than anywhere else in the world. I have very grave doubts indeed about the truth of that assertion. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) also spoke in terrible terms of the present state of affairs in the United States of America. They talked about soaring prices there and the sufferings of the American people. That was all humbug and hypocrisy. I shall quote from the Yorkshire Post of the 4th September last, which published a statement made by Sir Miles Thomas exposing the direful effect upon the people of Great Britain of the activities of a. Socialist government like this Government. Sir Miles Thomas had just returned from South Africa, where he had attempted to place British goods on the market. He said -
The export situation in Africa is not altogether comforting. Concern is felt by overseas buyers at the comparative prices of British and American goods.
He went on to say that the South African market was being flooded with American consumer goods and that, although overseas buyers normally would pay 10 per cent, to 15 per cent, more for British goods than foreign goods, the margin was now so much in favour of American goods that the United States of America - which this Government says is in a whirl of inflation - was underputting Great Britain in the Empire protected market of South Africa. Consequently, I say that many of the statements made by the Minister for Transport and his colleagues are completely untrue. The Minister told a story about labour in the United States of America and said that men on the lowest wages received 4 dollars SO cents a day. That is about £1 13s. 4d. a day in terms of Australian currency, and many Australians are working for much less than that. The honorable gentleman might have continued his story, and added that .Soviet Russia, which he and the honorable member for Parkes regard as their spiritual home, has 16,000,000 citizens in slave camps who are paid nothing at all for the work that they are forced to do. That is the kind of “ democracy “ that these people want to create in Australia and impose upon our free people!
The Minister continued and, revealing a complete lack of knowledge of his subject, declared that the States had no power to control monopolies within States.
– Hear, hear !
– “ Hear, hear!” says the echo from Melbourne. I say that the States have the power to control monopolies and that they have exercised it for many years. I have here a copy of the Queensland Profiteering Prevention Act 1920. It contains provisions for the control of combines, and has sections dealing with refusals to deal, legal monopolies and so forth. I also examined the legislation of other States in relation to monopolies. South Australia has had a monopolies act in operation for many years. It gives power to fix the prices of goods produced by monopolies if such prices are considered to be disadvantageous to the people. This paragon of truth, the Minister for Transport, who makes such rash statements without having any warrant for them, is proved to be not only untruthful but also ignorant, because he has failed to examine State legislation in order to see what it provides.
The Government has been trying to terrify the people for some time with the threat of a whirling inflation should prices controls be removed. One honorable member this afternoon referred to the inflation that already exists. If it does exist, who is responsible for it? We were told by the Government in 1945, when it introduced its banking legislation, that that legislation would give it absolute power to prevent inflation in Australia. Then, if Australia is now in the midst of a suppressed inflation, the people who created it are the members of this Government. They are the people who, on their own admission in 1945, have full power to deal with inflation but who, apparently, have done nothing about it. The Minister declared that the continuance of prices controls would not involve the centralizing of controls in Canberra. He ignores events that have occurred already. Surely he does not imagine that he can fool all of the people all of the time ! I refer him to a famous statement made by that great democrat, Abraham Lincoln, whose memory no doubt is alien indeed to the Minister, because nobody in a sane state could ever call the honorable gentleman a democrat. Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time “. The people of Australia will not be fooled by the sophistries of a Minister who tells them that the controls which the Government seeks power to impose by means of this bill will not mean remote centralized Canberra control.
What happened in the Lush inquiry? One case brought to light was that of the Gill estate at Tamworth, in which the delay caused by the bureaucrats was appalling. On the 22nd November, 1946, six farms in the estate of the late Mr. Gill were sold. Particulars were forwarded to the Land Sales Control authorities on the 27th December, 1946. Nothing further was heard about the transaction until the 13th February, 1947, and a departmental valuer left to inspect the properties on the 19th February. He returned on the 3rd April without having inspected them. The department declared that his failure to do so was due to his inability to obtain accommodation at Tamworth. There are seventeen licensed hotels at Tamworth and that man would have bad no difficulty in obtaining accommodation during the long period of his absence had he wanted to do so. When I brought the matter before the head of the Land Sales Control Office at Canberra, Mr. Balmford, a complaint against my action was made by Mr. Lush, of Sydney, who declared that I had tried to use political influence. I was the only member of this Parliament who had the courage to give evidence before the royal commission which inquired into land sales transactions. The commissioner said -
I feel it appropriate to observe not only that Mr. Abbott, M.H.E., did not act improperly in making representations on behalf of constituents, but also that in doing so he was performing a very necessary duty.
Yet we are told that the sort of administration exposed at the inquiry is ideal ! I also mention the case of the Wood estate at Tamworth - no doubt the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) is fully cognisant of that transaction - in which the sale was passed through the Land Sales Control Office at the price of £85 an acre while the price fixed by the Valuer-General one year before, was £55 an acre. This is the sort of maladministration that the Minister for Transport wants to burden the people of Australia with in perpetuity.
The Minister said, that States in which there were Legislative Councils would not be able to give effect to prices control. I point out to him that prices control has been in force not only in the State where there is no Legislative Council - I refer to Queensland - the Profiteering Prevention Act has been on the statute-book of that State for 27 years, and was probably put there before the Upper House was abolished-
– No, it was not.
– I shall concede the point, but I point out that New South Wales has a Land Valuation Act which was passed in 1916 and which permits the Department of Land Valuation to value land officially. There is also in New South Wales a Fair Bents Act, which was passed through Parliament without any a! tempt at obstruction by the Upper House. The New South Wales Fair Bents Act was used as a model for the Queensland legislation, which is still in operation. The Minister for Transport has made false statements to the people, and the people, when they vote at the referendum, will deal as harshly with the Government’s proposal as the people of Victoria did with the Labour Government in that State, because they realize what Labour governments are to-day. They are not the old type of Labour government. They are drenched with communism from head to foot, and are following in the footsteps of their master, Lenin, and trying to establish centralized control in the Commonwealth in order to tike away the liberties of the nation.
A very simple set-up is provided for in section 4 of the New South Wales Fair Bents Act of 1915. It gives power for a court under a stipendiary or police magistral to determine and fix rents. The same power is granted by the Queensland legislation, which was originally copied from the New South Wales act.
– What about the other States?
– We find similar legisla:ion in Victoria.
– No, we do not.
– The Minister for Information should be more accurate. There have been many complaints about the sort of information that he gives out. Only to-day complaints were made in this House about a film dealing with the wine industry which he sponsored. Under cross-examination, the Minister had to admit that the film gave a completely untrue presentation of the story of the wine industry.
– I did not do anything of the sort.
– In South Australia there is a Pair Prices Act, and in Victoria there is a Pair Rents Act which was passed in 1938.
– That is all. There is nothing dealing with control of monopolies.
– I am talking about the Fair Rents Act. The Minister denied that there ‘was such an act in Victoria.
– I did not deny it.
– The Minister is continually interjecting in an attempt to break the thread of my argument, because lie knows that my comments are utterly destructive of the future existence of this Government.
I refer now to other remarks made by the Minister for Transport. He showed his usual contempt for the High. Court of Australia and said it was right that the people, and the people alone, should decide what should be done under the Commonwealth Constitution. He is deliberately trying to break down the rule of law in this country, as he has done from his youth. The Minister knows as well as I do that the justices of the High Court are placed in positions of trust hy the Parliament of this Commonwealth, not to make laws themselves, but to interpret the laws of the Commonwealth as they have been made under the Constitution, which was- prepared by the fathers of the Federation at the conventions of 1S91 and 1S97 and as amended by the people. Yet he criticizes the justices because he says they are not bending to the will of the government in power. Of course they should not do so; they are not marionettes, placed on the High Court Bench to do whatever the government of the day desires them to do. They are the trustees of the Constitution. In that position it is their duty to interpret the law faithfully, and to see that the provisions of the Constitution are observed. The Minister then raised the bogy that if the referendum was not carried there would be absolute chaos in regard to prices throughout Australia. The Opposition has never advocated that the people should be subjected to any .risk of this nature. We believe in the decentralization of prices control, rents control, charges and the like. Under section 10 of the Profiteering Prevention Act of Queensland, passed in 1920, there is provision for the declaration of maximum prices and the fixing of prices in relation to all sorts of commodities and services including transport. The only people in Australia who would be left to the mercy of landlords if Commonwealth control of rents were removed would be the tenants of Commonwealth and State governments. These unfortunate individuals would have no redress whatever if they were being subjected to unreasonable rental .charges. I was a member of a parliamentary committee which investigated the brutal treatment that the wife of a prisoner of war was subjected to by the present Australian Government in Canberra. This unfortunate woman’s husband was held a prisoner of war by the Japanese in Malaya, but at that very time she was served with an eviction notice by this Government. The committee which inquired into the case heard evidence from the officer in charge of rents and. properties in Canberra, and he told .a story of lack of sympathy. He said that he did not consider it right that a householder should be required to pay more than 2.5 per cent, of his wages in house rent. Yet this hypocritical Government was screwing the very last penny possible out of its tenants and charging them more than this. There was no fair rents court to which its tenants could go. The tenants had no redress whatsoever, for the principle that the King could do no wrong was being applied. When this unfortunate woman protested against the treatment to which she was being subjected her personal character was assailed and she was denied redress by a Minister of the Crown. The Government would give her no relief whatever. The various States have adequate rent control machinery available to put into operation as soon as Commonwealth controls are lifted, and these controls are applicable by local administrations in remote districts as well as in metropolitan areas. Under the Commonwealth administration citizens who seek redress are dragged to Canberra at great cost, and very often their complaints are not rectified. This Government does not seem to be interested in granting relief to workers on the basic wage. But to the captains of industry, the great industrialists and the monopolists, against whom it always wages a sham fight, it is always willing to lend a sympathetic ear. It will never clip their wings. To them it will sing a sweet song, and things can go merrily on their way. If Commonwealth controls were lifted State machinery would be put into operation without delay, and people could obtain redress without travelling great distances and without suffering the inconveniences and delays that are inevitable in the congestion of Canberra. . There can be no effective argument against a return of the control of these matters to State authorities. If the State governments are given a year in which to oil and grease their machinery it will move for the convenience and benefit of the public. The State legislation on these subjects is much more flexible than that of the Commonwealth.
– And the machinery is available almost at the doors of the people who need it.
– That is so. Section 10 of the Profiteering Prevention Act of Queensland provides that the commissioner may declare maximum prices at which any commodity may be sold. He may fix different maximum prices according to differences in quality or description or in the quantity sold, or “ in respect of different forms, modes, conditions, terms or localities of trade, commerce, sale or supply “. In short, he may deal with this problem on a much more effective basis than is possible under Commonwealth control. But this socialist Government desires to retain all power in its own hands. It has been claimed that the Government is acting for the benefit of the people.
– Hear, hear!
– The Minister for Information may say “ Hear, hear “, but that does not after the facts. What is happening to-night in Sydney? Accord- ing to the press to-night, the second white city of the Empire is blacked out, not through the imminence of war, but through the maladministration of this ^Government. By poking its nose into the affairs of people with whom it should not be concerned, and by its interference in industry, this Government has so irritated the men employed in the Bunnerong workshops that they have walked off their jobs, and so Sydney has neither light nor power to-night. What is to happen in regard to coal over the Christmas holidays? According to a report by the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner which was published yesterday, there will be a shortage of coal over Christmas because the week-end production by the miners, which was intended to provide reserves for the Christmas season, has not yielded the quantities of coal that were expected. This has happened under the control of this Government. But what has the Government done? It has simply gone howling to Mr. Hanlon, the Premier of Queensland, with a request that he should make available 268,000 tons of coal which is at grass in Queensland.
– Order! The honorable gentleman had better return to the bill.
– I am speaking to the bill. I am showing what centralized Commonwealth control means. However, I shall not enlarge upon the Government’s maladministration and misdeeds except to say that we should use our utmost energy in order to protect the people, and to ensure that this Government, by putting forward terrifying arguments, which are untrue, does no* convince the people that it is necessary to introduce this control, this centralized control, at Canberra. The people of Australia should eliminate the curse of Canberra control, which is a control exercised by visionaries and theorists, influenced by this remote capital. The people of Canberra live in a kind of blissful heaven in this beautiful place, and know nothing of the sorrow? and difficulties of men and women struggling for existence in the States, because they are too far removed from reality.
.- The bill before us provides for a referendum to be held to decide whether an alteration should be made by writing into section 51 of the Commonwealth Constitution the words, “ Rents and prices (including charges) “. It is different from all other bills brought before tho House, in that it provides for the measure to be enacted by the King, the Senate and the House of Representatives, “ with the approval of the electors “ ; in other words, it is a referendum bill. The arguments of members of the Opposition were first advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) himself this afternoon, and they have been repeated, with much less capacity, by some of his followers. Summarized, the arguments advanced against the bill are : First, that it seeks to write a permanent power into the Constitution, whereas the power to fix prices should only be temporary; secondly, the States can exercise the power of price-fixing, if it should be necessary; and, thirdly, that we are in a transitional period in which it is inevitable that we should have production difficulties, and that after that transitional period has ended the control of prices will no longer be necessary. Let us examine those arguments. First of all, let us consider the contention that the States can exercise power to control rents and prices. With astonishing effrontery the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) repeatedly quoted from an act passed in Queensland to prevent profiteering, as an example of the way in which the States can safeguard the interests of the people in regard to prices, and entirely omitted to mention that in the case of MacArthur v. State of Queensland the High Court pronounced that act to be null and void, and declared further that the States have no power to fix the prices of any goods which move interstate. The judgment was that of a large majority of the High Court, and was based upon section 92 of the Constitution which provides that -
On the imposition of uniform duties of customs, trade, commerce and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free.
When the Government of Queensland attempted to fix the price of interstate goods offered for sale in that State the
High Court declared, in effect : “ The power sought to be exercised by the State will enable it to discriminate against goods coming into it from another State ; in other words, it is virtually seeking power to place a tariff on goods coming into Quensland from another State, and is therefore null and void, because that would contravene section 92 of the Constitution “. Imagine the great bulk of goods that are moved across a State border! Large quantities of timber are exported from Western Australia to South Australia, but the Government of Western Australia cannot fix the price of that timber, because it moves interstate. If shirts are brought from South Australia to Western Australia, as they arc, the Western Australian Government cannot fix their price, because they move interstate. There is only one government which can exercise control in such a way that the High Court could not hold that it was discriminating as between States, and, therefore, contravening section 92 of the Constitution, and that government is a national government.
Members of the Opposition assert that the power to control prices should not be permanent, and with the slather of emotional words to which we are now accustomed, they go on to say that the present Government “ is lusting for _ power “. Nobody imagines that any Australian government is a permanent one. The provisions of the Constitution must be observed by every Australian government, although the powers conferred by the Constitution may be exercised by different governments in different ways. For instance, the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth is vested in the Australian Government by section 51 of the Con’tituition. A Government could exercise that defence power by imposing compulsory military training, or by introducing a “ volunteer “ system ; in other words, according to whatever government is in office, any power contained in the Constitution is liable to be exercised, or otherwise, according to the inclination of its members. If the power to fix rents and prices should not, in the opinion of members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, be exercised, then that power will not be exercised by them, if and when they form the Government of Australia; it will simply remain in abeyance, in the same way as the constitutional power conferred on the Commonwealth to legislate for matters relating to marriage and divorce remains in abeyance. The latter is, of course, a power which no Australian Government has ever exercised. Therefore, to pretend that the writing into the Constitution of the words “ rents and prices “ means the permanent exercise of rents and prices control, is completely dishonest. Indeed, a very grave doubt exists, which the Leader of the Opposition himself pointed out during the referendum campaign in 1944, as to whether Parliament is entitled to write into the Constitution amendments of temporary effect; and there is a very grave doubt as to whether the States can legally cede their powers to the Commonwealth for a limited period.
The first point which I wish to make is that if prices control is not effective, then it should not be exercised. Secondly, if members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party object to the exercise of the power - and they assert that they are going to form the Government in 1949, which is only two years hence - they can abolish the whole structure of prices control, whether it be written into the Constitution or not. For that reason any amendment made to the Constitution must be a permanent one. I reiterate the point which I made, previously, namely, that the States cannot exercise the power of prices control over goods moving interstate.
Honorable members opposite have referred frequently to the subject of transitional powers. The whole structure of prices control is at present under the administration of the Australian Parliament. One of the sub-sections of section 51 of the Constitution vests in the Commonwealth power over the naval and military defences of the Commonwealth Of course, the High Court has, from time to time, contradicted itself. In the case of Fairey v. Burvett, Sir Samuel Griffith, then Chief Justice, decided that the words, “ naval and military defence of the Commonwealth “ confer on the Commonwealth Parliament in war-time power to fix the price of bread. However, in the case of Attorney-General of Victoria v. the Commonwealth, Sir John Latham, Chief Justice, decided, in 1943’, that those words do not give the Commonwealth Government power to control lighting in an arms factory. Therefore the interpretation placed upon the words, “ naval and military defence of the Commonwealth may vary from time to time according to the conception of the justices of the High Court, and according to their estimate of the situation. But although honorable members opposite have pointed out that the present power to fix prices is exercised under the defence power, within the next week Parliament will pass bills to ratify the treaties of peace with Hungary, Finland, Bulgaria, Roumania, and Italy, and in January next an international conference will be held to determine the terms of the peace treaty to be made with Japan. But not one of them had the honesty to admit that there is not the slightest guarantee that when the treaties I have mentioned are made, the High Court will not say : “ A state of war no longer exists, therefore, the naval and military defence power of the Commonwealth no longer covers even transitional powers.”
In the most recent case arising out of economic controls which went before the High Court, and which involved some aspects of land sales control, Their Honours were equally divided, and the validity of the regulations remained only because among the justices affirming that the defence power covered these economic controls was the Chief Justice, Sir John Latham. Three other justices dissented from .Sir John Latham and his two learned brethren. So, no honorable gentleman opposite can definitely inform the Australian public whether prices control can continue for another year after the ratification of the final one of a series of peace treaties. Even should it continue, no honorable gentleman oppo- ° site can tell us how the High Court will interpret the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill.
The whole question of how long the transitional period will last, and how long we are to have economic dislocation, has been dishonestly discussed by the Opposition. It is not just a question that for seven years ordinary building activity virtually ceased in this country. That is a situation which could be remedied within two or three years. The most decisive cause of inflation to-day lies outside of Australia. The most decisive cause of inflation in the United .States of America lies outside that country. Let us examine the situation which has arisen. I accept the argument that if there were a glut of goods in the Australian economy or in the American economy, there would be a natural downward movement of prices, and prices control would no longer be necessary. But will there he a glut of goods? To-day, we have in London a sterling balance of £200,000,000. That sterling balance has arisen because we have exported to the United Kingdom £200,000,000 worth of goods in excess of the value of goods which we have received from the United Kingdom. In addition, Ave have made a gift of £25,000,000 to that country. For some years to come, the United Kingdom will not be in a position to supply Australia with large quantities of goods. We shall continue to supply the United Kingdom with goods. Let us survey that economic situation, and ask ourselves whether it presupposes the need for the continuance of prices control.
Every year, Ave move out of our economy towards the United Kingdom approximately £100,000,000 worth of goods. The value of the goods which Ave receive in return is not anything like that figure. When we send those goods abroad, the Commonwealth Bank is paid in sterling in London, and that sterling is, for the time being, useless. We can not buy goods in the United Kingdom with it, since its Avar-crippled industries cannot supply them. We generate incomes for our primary producers With our exports, because although the Commonwealth Bank accepts sterling, it pays to our exporters Australian currency, and the sterling balance in London is nothing more nor less than an IOU. In other words. we shift the goods out of our economy, thereby reducing the volume of goods in circulation here. For the time being we exempt the British from paying for those goods with other goods, further reducing the volume of goods in circulation here. We pay the
Australian exporters. We are financing our own export trade, and generating money incomes. In other words, we are increasing the volume of money in circulation, and decreasing the volume of goods. If we were utterly selfish, consumed all our own butter and meat, and placed an export embargo on clothing and other goods, which we allow to leave the country, Ave would not have an inflationary situation here. We could stand back, and let Europe starve. We need not make a gift of £20,000,000 to Unrra, or continue to give to the United Kingdom Government a credit to the extent that we h ave done. But for humanitarian reasons and for reasons of highest, policy, we must continue to sustain those countries which are normally our good markets. In those circumstances, this inflationary situation must continue.
Honorable gentlemen opposite frequently complain about the shortage of production. They frequently inform the House that production is falling. They never recognize that the shortage of goods in circulation in Australia is largely due to the fact that there has been a fall in the volume of imports, because a major country from which Ave once drew imports, namely the United Kingdom, is no longer in a position to supply us. If honorable members will examine the goods manufactured in our internal economy, as set out by the Commonwealth Statistician, Dr. Roland Wilson, they will find that Australian production has substantially increased. Giving the monthly averages, the Commonwealth Statistician shows that in August, 1947, 35,300 tons of sugar were produced, compared with an average monthly production of 28,200 tons in 1938-39. In September, 1947, the production of ingot steel was 115,400 tons, compared with a pre-war monthly average of 97,500 tons. Honorable gentlemen opposite are authorities on coal. They are always lecturing us about the decline in coal production. Well, in August, 1947, the production of black coal was 1,393,000 tons and in September, 1,372,000 tons, whereas the monthly pre-war average was 1,018,000 tons, or 300,000 tons less. During September, 1947, 126,000 cycle tyres were made, compared with a pre-war monthly average of 70,000. In September, 1947, 153,000 other pneumatic tyres were made; the pre-war average was 113,000. The production of bricks in 1946-47 was 51,600,000. While that is below the prewar average of approximately 60,000,000, the Commonwealth Statistician comments that the manufacture of cement, cement sheets, fibrous plaster sheets and roofing tiles was well above the pre-war figure.
Therefore, the production crisis in Australia to-day is not a production crisis of any major commodities which are manufactured here. It arises from a failure to obtain cotton from India, steel and clothing from Great Britain, and goods from many of the devastated countries. I was never more disgusted than when I heard the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), a distinguished king’s counsel, draw his analogies regarding France. For six years, France was under. German control. It was then exploited, and its capital goods were confiscated, as a part of deliberate policy of the Nazis. Yet the honorable member told us that the inflationary situation, which France is experiencing, is an example of what happens under a Socialist Government which emerged after World War II., and an example of the inefficacy of prices control.
This transitional period will not be short. The devastated countries of Europe, which require our goods, will not he in a position to export goods to us for many years; and insofar as we must pursue a policy of financing our own export trade, we must face an inflationary situation. I believe that the critics of President Truman, in the Congress of the United States of America, were theoretically correct when they attacked his policy of prices control, and informed him that, if he removed all controls from production and allowed the laws of supply and demand to take their course, there would be a decline of prices in America. What those critics overlooked was that the United States of America was making a gift of six billion dollars worth of goods to Europe, and that it intends to make a further gift of one billion five hundred million dollars worth of goods to Europe; and insofar as America moves those goods out of its economy, provides the farmers and other exporters with incomes for those goods, and exempts Europe from paying for them, it is accentuating its own inflationary tendencies. So the whole of their belief a year ago, when they felt that the criticism of prices control was sound, has been falsified because prices have gone on rising, and will go on rising, so long as the United States of America pursues a policy of making gifts abroad, or giving long credits abroad, which is the only humanitarian and sane policy which the undamaged countries of the world can possibly put forward at present. These things are inescapable. They are hard facts. They are the realities of the world in which we live. And if the United States could be so damaged in its price structure because it was exporting and exempting its customers from paying for those goods with goods, how much more will this country be damaged, when we are, proportionately, a far greater exporter of goods than the United States of America, and are far more dependent upon the export part of our trade? Those who attacked the prices control in the United States of America included many misguided people, but they included some people who had a deliberate policy; and there are some in Australia who have a deliberate policy when they attack prices control.
Nobody but a fool would get up in this House and pretend that prices control has been 100 per cent, effective. It would have been amazing if it had been, when we consider that we held 1,000,000 men out of production and paid them wages while they were defending this country, or producing munitions, which were simply commodities which went up in smoke and could not be consumed. We were generating all those incomes which led to a rise in savings of £400,000,000 while, necessarily, reducing our production of goods; and the pressure on prices inevitably broke through the artificial barriers which we erected. But, although the argument was always advanced, as it was advanced for the lifting of prices fixation in the United States of America, that prices control is not effective, experience shows exactly how effective prices control was; because when prices control was removed in Canada, the United States of America, or elsewhere, notwithstanding all arguments about black marketing, the effect was a sharp rise in prices. The honorable member for Warringah tells us with the air of one advancing a profound truth that it makes no difference what the price structure was in the United States of America, because wages went up accordingly. That is very comforting to the Chancellor of the British Exchequer, who thought he was getting a loan of three billion dollars, but found before he got the loan that its value had been reduced by two-thirds because of the rise in prices. It will be small comfort to our neighbours, who depend on us for the purchase of many commodities, if we allow the prices of those commodities to bolt. I believe that by sustaining prices control over the long and difficult years of transition - it will be much longer than one year, because it will take more than one year to remedy the dislocation of world economy - we shall help to maintain good will abroad.
Let us look at the sinister aspect of this attack on prices control. In the United States of America, because a very large section of the people support a * laisser-faire* economy, and because the general structure of the capitalist economy in that country is not in dispute between the Republican and Democrat parties, there is a far franker discussion of these issues than ever takes place in this Parliament. One of the major purposes which led to the destruction of prices control in the United States of America, as is revealed in the Congressional debates, was the belief that by destroying prices control they had a powerful weapon for industrial discipline. It was pointed out that during the war servicemen had accumulated savings, and later, deferred pay, and later still, bonuses in the United States and in this country war gratuities. Industrial workers over the war years earned a great deal of money in the way of overtime. The result in Australia was that savings bank deposits increased from £239,000,000 to £695,000,000; and a correspondingly greater rise in the volume of savings took place in America. The immediate effect of that was that the old weapon of starvation, or lack of family income, could not be used as a weapon of coercion in the event of industrial dispute. The savings in the hands of industrial workers were so great that they could hold out for one, two or three months in the event of strikes. A large proportion of the £695,000,000 in savings banks in Australia represents overtime accumulated during the war and deferred pay, and has placed in the hands of industrial workers of Australia a capacity to resist in the event of strikes which they have not had before in like measure in the history of the Commonwealth.
Those who attacked prices control in the United States of America said, “ If you allow a runaway rise in prices you will tear into those savings and go through
To alter the Constitution by empowering the Parliamen t to make Laws with respect to Rents andPrices(including Charges).
Be it enacted by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, the Senate, and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, with the approval of the electors, as required by the Constitution, as follows: -
If the referendum is carried, that section of the Constitution will read -
The Parliament of the Commonwealth shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: - (xiva.) Rents and prices (including charges) :
We have had from the Opposition a lot of generalizations, and the same wearisome procession of abstract nouns and undefined terms - initiative, enterprise, bureaucrats, freedom and democracy. We have not heard from them why they believe that the international trade situation, which is causing inflation, is going to be shortly remedied. We have not heard from them any honest analysis of the implications of the case Macarthur v. the State of Queensland, in which the High Court ruled that States cannot fix the price of goods moving interstate. We have not heard from them any valid reason why the people of Australia should not decide one way or the other whether the Australian Government has exercised the power over price-fixing sufficiently well for it to be written into the Constitution. We shall not hear that from them. We shall continue to hear for the rest of the debate these volleys of abstract nouns that have been discharged upon us recently. This is not new. Fremantle was highly honoured two years ago by the visit of the honorable member for
Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). I looked up the files of the West Australian for August, 1945, when the honorable member visited Fremantle to support the candidature of Mr. Cleland, the Liberal candidate at that time, and, in his speeches then, he said that a fierce wave of discontent was sweeping all over Australia - discontent with controls, discontent with prices control. In 1945, two days after the Japanese had surrendered, he had come to the conclusion that the transitional period between war and peace was over and that the time for the abolition of prices control was with us. So we cannot believe, when he wished to hurry prices control to a premature grave so long ago as that, that he, owing to experience of prices control since the war, has only now come tothe conclusion that it should not continue. Like most honorable members opposite, he is an advocate of laisser-faire, a very good philosophy, no doubt, in times of great surpluses. It is a philosophy believed in by all businessmen, except when they ask for protective tariffs against foreign competitors. That philosophy would have validity if there were any likelihood of a glut of commodities ; but prices control must continue, in view of the utterly ruined state’ of European industry and in view of the fact that there are enormous future claims on the production of Britain that must be satisfied before we can receive from Britain goods in payment for the goods that we are sending to it now and will send in the future.
As my last thought on this matter, I ask the House to realize how great are the claims on future British production. Britain owes India £2,000,000,000, the United States of America £1,000,000,000, Egypt £400,000,000, Northern Ireland £300,000,000 and Australia £200,000,000. Those are enormous claims on its future production. I do not believe for one moment that those claims can ever be met by it. I do not believe that they ought to be met in full, in view of the circumstances in which many of those debts were contracted. But those claims on its future production are real. They are bound to act as an impediment to future world trade and to continue for a time that inflationary situation that, as I demonstrated, results from our at present unbalanced trade position. For those reasons, this bill, which seeks to give to the Commonwealth Parliament power, if it is disposed ito use it - there might be a Liberal government that would not be disposed - to control prices and rents, should be passed by the Parliament so that these proposals may be submitted to the people in May next year.
– When I listen to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), I feel a nostalgia for my schooldays. The honorable member is like a schoolmaster with the first primers on constitutional law and the ethics of economics lecturing his class of small boys; but, unfortunately, he never gets beyond the first primers. He always casts in shallow waters. Imagining that he is showing some erudition, he hopes to convince- his hearers that he is a man who makes weighty observations. That is the technique of all professors and school teachers. We have been nauseated by it. Let us examine some of this learned gentleman’s arguments. He told us something about the Constitution ; but, finding himself hopelessly out of his depth on that subject, he swung to the subject of economics, and tried to convince us that the production crisis in Australia is not our fault, but has been brought about solely by the fact that we cannot import essential goods from overseas. Did honorable members ever hear anything more absurd ! I propose to deal more fully with what the honorable member said in that respect later. In his speech he set up a number of straw men and proceeded to knock them down. He spoke of the sinister aspects of the attack on prices control, and then went to America to prove his point. He spoke of the debates in the American Congress, but he made no mention, of the sinister aspects of the attack on prices control in Australia, because there are none, although he tried to convince the unsuspecting public that there are. One needed to listen to him closely to understand that he was speaking about American and not Australian conditions. It appears that there is need to remind him that we formed the government that introduced prices control.
– It was a weak and anaemic control.
– No. No other Minister took such strong action as I took as Minister for Trade and Customs in the early days of the war to enforce prices control against some of the biggest firms in Australia. That is on the records. We were responsible for prices control, and we policed it. Does the honorable gentleman think that we should launch an attack on the principle of prices control when we found it necessary to establish it? It has served an excellent purpose. What it has grown into is what causes us concern. I propose to have something to say about that later. We have already announced, through the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), that far from opposing continuance of the control of prices and rents, we are prepared to support the extension for another twelve months after the end of the year of the controls that the Government claims are necessary, on the understanding that, in that period, those controls shall be allowed to taper off, and pass into the hands of the States, which have ample powers to look after things within their own borders. Having said that, I will dispense with his charge of a sinister attack, revealed in all its absurdity.
The honorable member said that this was an attempt to write into the Constition powers of control over prices, rents and charges, and he went on to say that that did not necessarily mean that they should be used. He said that if the Liberal party and the Australian Country party did not desire to use the powers that the Labour party considered should be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament, they need not use them if ever they occupied the treasury bench. That is not the point; the point is that we say we cannot trust this Government with those powers. It is not that we say we would not use them if they were in the Constitution; we say what the people have already said, namely, that we do not trust the Government with additional powers and that they should not be granted to it. That was said in Victoria, and it will be said again when the people vote on this referendum.
The honorable member then said that the Opposition was not honest enough to say that, after the peace treaties were signed, the defence powers would lapse. I do not know what he wished to infer by that statement. Does he mean that, if a thought occurs to him, and it is not uttered on this side of the House, we are not honest in our intentions ? Surely the honorable member still thinks he is addressing his class of schoolboys from the first primer, in this instance, on the ethics of good citizenship. If we wish to join issue with the Government on the question of honesty of intention, we can quote examples showing that it has never been honest in its intentions in the matter of treating the people of Australia as citizens of a democratic country. Honorable members opposite claimed a little while ago, when a certain measure was before this House, that they had a mandate from the people to introduce it. Was there anything honest in that claim ? Of course they had no mandate ; they had made no previous mention of it. There was no honesty whatever in their claim, [f honesty of intention is to be the test, I would not seek to take the word of the honorable member for Fremantle on constitutional matters; I would go to some one who really understands the Constitution - and who possibly understands it a little too well for our liking. I refer to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). On the 10th April, 1946, the Attorney-General, in his second-reading speech on the National Security Bill, which was designed to terminate the National Security Act by the 31st December, 1946, said he was convinced that it was preferable to terminate the act at the end of that year, leaving it to the Parliament to deal with any specific matters by way of legislation. Was the right honorable gentleman honest in that statement ?
– He is always honest.
– The Minister says he is always honest. If that is so, I expect the statement to be interpreted in an honest way. Let us have the legislation dealing with the specific matters; do not let us have another Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill brought before the House, in which it is sought to perpetuate the regulations which the Attor ney-General said should not be perpetuated.
The honorable member for Fremantle went further. He picked up the first primer on economics and said that the production crisis was not due to Australian production but to the failure of other countries to export. Those were not his exact words, but that was the intention underlying them and the meaning of the phrases he used. He went to some pains to quote the increase in the production of bicycle tyres in an attempt tc» satisfy the House that there was increased production in Australia. We all knowthat bicycle tyres are encasements forwind, and we know that the honorablemember is on familiar ground there ; but beyond that we do not know what effect, they are likely to have’ upon the demandsbeing, made by the housewife for th* commodities she requires. I should like the honorable member to tell the housewife that the shortage of woollen materials, which are manufactured in Australia, and shipped to Russia and to other countries by the hundreds of thousands of yards, is due to a failure to import from other countries the goods that are needed in our own households. I should like the honorable member to tell the housewife that the reason why boots and shoes are in such short supply in Australia to-day, although they are manufactured here from Australian hides by Australian workmen, is because we cannot import goods from overseas. Let the honorable member tell the manufacturers of sheet metal that the reason why orders have to be placed some eighteen months before delivery can be guaranteed is due to the fact that the metal cannot be imported from overseas. Let him tell those who work in copper sheet mills that the reason why soft copper sheeting cannot be obtained in any of the gauges desired under two or three years from the placing of an order is due to the fact it cannot be imported from overseas. What a lot of nonsense this is ! The honorable member, with his airy nonchalance, talks as the long-haired crystal-gazers talk. He has no practical knowledge of the matters that really affect the people; he lives in the rarefied atmosphere of professorial talk. He has no knowledge at all of the matters which are of real moment to the people.
I pass from that to deal with the remarks made hy the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward). The Minister said, “ Why not give the people an opportunity to vote on this bill ? “ He said we presented to this House petition after petition regarding the banks nationalization proposals, and asked the Government to give the people a referendum so that they might say whether they wished the banks to be nationalized. He went on to say that in this particular instance we were not prepared to give the people that chance. There is no parallel whatever between the two cases, and it only needs a moment’s thought to realize that this is just another instance of beating the air which is done so consistently by honorable members opposite, of whom the Minister is, of course, the arch priest.
In the case of the Banking Bill the people wanted a referendum and the Government refused it. In this instance the Government wants to hold a referendum and the people will refuse the powers which it seeks. The Minister for Transport said that he found no attempt on the part of honorable members on this side of the House to speak on the subject of rent control. I want to say something to him about that subject because I think something should be said. We have contended that as there is a federation of States in Australia the sovereign rights of the States should at least be respected. We have not yet reached a unified state in which all powers are centralized in the hands of the Australian Government in Canberra. The States have certain sovereign rights and should be permitted to exercise them. There is nothing strange about that. The Government has itself acknowledged the right of certain States to control rents. Honorable members, if they do not know, should be made aware that this Government does not control rents in South Australia and Western Australia.
– But rents are pegged in those States.
– That is so, but not by the Australian Government. Even in time of great crisis the Australian Government recognized the existence of the federation of States and it said, “ We shall allow the Governments, of South Australia and Western Australia to con-‘ trol rents within the borders of their States “. In all of the other States rent control has been exercised by the Commonwealth. Now the Government says, “Let us take full control over rents in all States “. The fact that rental rates in South Australia and Western Australia are considerably lower than in the other States demonstrates the efficiency of State control. _What has been the effect of this control on building costs, because there is the supreme test? In New South Wales the cost of constructing a home of two bedrooms in brick is £144 a square. In Victoria it is £135 and in Queensland, £131. In Tasmania, where buildings are of weatherboard, the price is £112 a square. In the four States in which full control of prices is exercised by the Australian Government, the lowest figure for the construction of a home of two bedrooms is £131 a square, and the highest, £144. But in South Australia and Western Australia where rents are controlled by the State authorities, building costs for a similar home are £96 and £91 a square respectively.
– The honorable member’s figures are all wrong.
– These figures were obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician, and if they are wrong in respect of South Australia and Western Australia, they must be proportionately wrong in respect of the other States, as they were compiled on the same basis. The honorable member cannot have it both ways. The greater efficiency possible under State rent control seems to be an overwhelming argument why as soon as possible we should hand back prices control to the States. What are the alternatives to the Commonwealth control of prices? Let us look at the prices angle because this is a fourfold bill. First, there is complete abolition of controls. I do not believe that at this juncture we should completely abolish controls over essential commodities.
– The honorable gentleman’s leader does.
– My leader made it clear that he was not in agreement with complete abolition. He said that controls should gradually be tapered off under Commonwealth control and be then taken up by the States themselves. The honorable member cannot twist that statement. The second alternative is progressive de-control by the Commonwealth until the defence power is deemed to have expired. The third is control, and subsequent de-control, by the .States. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of the need for a tapering off period. This period might well be directed by the Government to end within the twelve months for which it is asking under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act. That would allow the States to accept their several responsibilities in regard to the introduction and the policing of the necessary controls. The States have complete power for the enforcement of controls within their own boundaries.
– Not in regard to rents.
– I have already pointed out that the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia are now controlling rents.
– The control by the South Australian Government has to be implemented by Commonwealth action in order to make it complete.
– The South Austraiian Government controls rents absolutely.
– Only up to a certain point.
– The States have sovereign rights to control prices within their own boundaries, and prices include rents. Through its fair rents courts and price-fixing machinery, the New South Wales Government could immediately take full control if the Commonwealth were prepared to abandon controls. The State governments have a most intimate knowledge of the circumstances that prevail within their own boundaries; much greater knowledge than the Commonwealth could ever hope to obtain with its activities centralized in Canberra. If the Commonwealth had had full control in all the States I should not have been able to cite those extraordinary figures which show clearly how efficiently control of rent9 has been exercised in South Aus tralia and Western Australia. Those States would have been in the same category and in the same state of helpless confusion as the other States. If the States were allowed to develop their own systems of price control greater trading and trade competition would result in increased production, greater efficiency and the production of commodities of a higher standard than now prevails. Rising costs and enforced idleness of plant due to strikes have compelled manufacturers to recoup themselves by the unscrupulous me! hod of deteriorating their own production. Officers of the Prices Branch know this to be true. When manufacturers are forced by controls to do such things, a country has reached a very low state indeed.
I shall not delay the House much longer. I doubt that I should have risen at all but for the speech of the honorable member for Fremantle. We have heard a lot about the effect of prices control on keeping down the prices of essential commodities. Indeed, the Government preens itself on the success that has attended its efforts in this field. I admit that prices control has done a fairly good job, but, as we have heard so much about rent racketeering, I sought from the Government Statistician of New South Wales some evidence on the subject. In February, 1939, the basic wage for an adult male was 81s. a week. In August, 1947, it was 110s. a week, or a rise of approximately 35f per cent. The index figure in respect of clothing was 841 in September, 1939, whereas by June, 1947, it had risen to 1540, an increase of approximately 83 per cent. The respective figures for food and groceries were 936 and 1096, an increase of 17f per cent., whilst for miscellaneous items the index figure increased from 939 to 1187 in the same period, representing an increase of 26-J per cent. Rents, which were pegged as at the 31st August, 1939, have increased from an index figure of 1039 at that date to 1047 in June, 1947. That represents an increase of approximately one-half of 1 per cent. Property sales were pegged as at the 10th February, 1942. They are still pegged on the same basis, although subject to a possible maximum variation of 10 per cent. Those figures are a complete picture and show the true position. Costs of clothing, food and groceries and miscellaneous items have risen much more than rents have risen, yet supporters of the Government continue to talk of rent racketeering.
I admit that the figures in respect of rentals shows the effectiveness of the controls that have been exercised, hut the question still remains whether the position which exists is fair. If the Government permits the cost of some items to increase so greatly, whilst rentals remain almost unchanged, it means either that rents are being kept under strict control as in a vyce, whilst those who offer such goods as food and clothing to the people are allowed to go practically their own way, or, alternatively, that the control of prices has caused, black marketing. Where black marketing exists black-market prices soon become legal prices. There is an iron ;grip on rents all the time, whereas in other commodities there is black marketing. If the Government wishes to continue controls it should do so properly. That the Government has fallen down on the job cannot be wondered at, because Canberra is so far removed from the home life of the people.
– That applies also to rents.
– A home is something which cannot be removed. There can be no control over other goods such as I have mentioned after they are placed on the market because the control cannot be policed. The sooner the Government allows the States to take their rightful place in the federation the sooner it will regain the respect of the people. There was a time when I was a strong supporter of unification and believed in the centralization of power in Canberra, but I have learned that when a government is dishonest enough to introduce into the Parliament legislation designed to affect fundamentally the lives of the people without having a mandate to do so, there is danger of the loss of freedom. I am not prepared to allow powers to remain in the hands of a centralized authority to be so misused as the present Government has misused its powers, and therefore I am more strongly a federationist than ever before. So long as the States can be maintained in a federation some semblance of democracy can remain, but with power centralized in Canberra under a government that has no regard for the people, but is drunk with its own power, there will be a tendency for the rights of the people to be abrogated.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fuller) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Gold Tax Suspension Bill 1947. War-time (Company) Tax Assessment Bill 1947.
States Grants (Tax Reimbursement) Bill 1947.
Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2) 194-7. Parliamentary Allowances Bill (No. 2) 1947.
Sale* Tax (Exemptions and Classifications)
Loan (Housing) Bill 1947.
Without requests -
War-time (Company) Tax. Bill 1947.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Banking Bill 1947. Gold Tax Suspension Bill 194.7. War-time (Company) Tax Assessment Bill 1947.
War-time (Company) Tax Bill 1947.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) proposed -
The House do now adjourn.
– I draw attention to a matter of vital importance to the people of New South Wales. According to press reports an extension of the strike at Bunnerong to members of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association of Australasia to-day has caused almost a complete black-out in Sydney. Many factories have been brought to a standstill and hospitals have been thrown into con fusion. Thousands of stores were plunged into complete darkness and were left without the use of lifts. At St. Vincent’s Hospital, six patients who had been prepared for operations had to be wheeled back to their wards. The Crown-street Women’s Hospital, where twenty babies were expected, was without power or light and a number1 of children were born in candlelight. Many hospitals have been blacked out since S p.m. The secretary of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association was reported to have said today that engine drivers at other power houses would be immediately withdrawn if power from those power houses was fed into the Bunnerong line. Thus, it would appear that the union is endeavouring to take complete control of the whole City of Sydney, irrespective of the inconvenience, or even loss of life, which might be occasioned. The secretary said that the management had put whitecollar workers on the job, apparently to discharge, if possible, the obligation owed to their fellow mien, and that was why the other workers were brought out. The Minister for Labour, Mr. Baddeley, called a compulsory conference of the parties to the dispute. He said -
I took immediate steps to have this conference held because I regard the present situation as one of extreme gravity. Every possible effort must be made- we cannot have the city iri darkness.
The conference was held this afternoon, but nothing eventuated. It Was resumed at’ 7 o’clock to-night’, but no settlement has so far been reported, and it is threatened’ that to-morrow there will be a complete black-out. All the trams will stop running, and there will be no electricity for homes, factories or hospitals. Then we shall have in Sydney the same condition as exists in France to-day, where industry has been completely tied up by communist activity. This strike seems to have arisen over a matter which could easily have been adjusted. The dispute was precipitated to-day when 600 maintenance men and coal-shifters walked out after they had demanded that they should be allowed to eat in the power house cafeterias, instead of at the distributing, depots and on- the job. If the meal arrangements were not satisfactory, they should have been attended to long ago. At any rate, there is no reason why the public should be penalized and lives endangered, while the men’s own colleagues in other industries are thrown out of employment. The Bunnerong power house is a State instrumentality, and the State Government should look after its own employees. These men are responsible for the upkeep and overhaul of the Bunnerong plant. Fifty firemen also ceased work yesterday. At a meeting at 7 o’clock this morning,. 300 members of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association, who operate the plant, stopped work. We have seen how essential industries have been . held up by strikes in New South Wales and other States. In Victoria; for instance, there has been a transport strike. There has been’ a strike of employees in Metters Limited,- iri Sydney, and in the Austral Bronze ‘Company’s works; Most of the strikes are caused by the Communists pulling key men out. I do not know whether this most recent strike at Bunnerong power house is an effort by the Communists to’ paralyse the activities of the’ city, but it looks suspiciously like it. I do not know whether the compulsory conference will achieve any useful purpose’, but I know that a commission should be appointed to investigate the ramifications of the communist organization in Australia.- The matter in dispute at Bunnerong^ is not sufficient justification for causing hardships to the public’. The dispute has now become’ a federal matter and I want to’ know what action the Government proposes to take! ifr. SPEAKER’.- Is the matter before the court now?
– No, a compulsory conference has been called.
.- I wishto bring to the notice of the” Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) a’ letter I have received from one of my constituents about the conditions in New Guinea’. It would appear from remarks made by the Minister that he is not yet convinced that a situation of any great seriousness exists in the territory. Therefore, I bring this letter to his notice. I have no personal knowledge of the territory, or of the conditions there. However, this information has come to me, and I believe that it should be passed on to the Government. The letter is as follows : -
As our member I feel that you are the person I should write to in support of the article in the Argus this morning about New Guinea. I would say that it is an understatement. I have a brother on Bougainville, the owner of one of the largest plantations there and I know that from two letters received since he returned there over twelve months ago conditions are dreadful, and in a letter received last week they said that they bad no mails or supplies of any kind for eight months and supplies of everything were at danger level. No guns to shoot any extra food. My niece is expecting a baby at Christmas time and no extra comforts of any sort, and only a mission hospital - wonderful as far as it can be, but that isn’t very far. Another relative (a woman who is a widow of a planter lost on the boat with all those other brave New Guinea settlers) is living in a tent at Rabaul. The rains have started and all her clothes are being eaten by rats or else mildewed and only allowed, when she can get the labour to do it, to build a native thatch house.
You can ask Mr. Ward in the House if you wish, how he, a man living in the absolute affluence he has never had in his life before, would like to have to start again at 61 years of age and carry on, or try to, under such conditions as exist up in New Guinea.
Help is needed as urgently as it can possibly be sent. I can assure Mr. Ward it is heartbreaking to have one’s dear ones suffering such privations in a land of plenty like this is. I am quite certain that he will make trebly sure that he never has to live under such conditions - it makes one feel desperate.
Please exert every bit of your influence to sec that something is done at the earliest possible moment so that their Christms time may have a few pleasures for them.
That letter appears to confirm substantially the complaints that have reached other members of Parliament concerning conditions in New Guinea.
The other matter which I wish to discuss has to do with the administration of the Department of Air. Some months ago, I ‘brought before the Minister (Mr. Drakeford) the .position of several exservicemen who, while members of the Royal Australian Air Force, had, as a result of the operation of a regulation passed four years after they joined the service, been deprived of deferred pay accrued up to that time. The Government passed a regulation in 1943, and some of the men whose cases had been brought to my notice had enlisted as early as 1939. Under the term9 of ‘.heir enlistment, they became entitled to deferred pay at the rates prescribed. By a regulation passed in 1943, but having retrospective effect they were deprived of deferred pay from the time of their enlistment until the passing of the regulation. A test case was brought in New South Wales, and became known as the Walsh case. Judgment for the plaintiff, Walsh, was given in a lower court and some strong comments were made by the judge. The Commonwealth appealed. Finally, the case reached the Full Court of the High Court, and judgment was given for the Commonwealth. However, their honours made some pungent criticism of the attitude of the Commonwealth. They said, in effect, “ Our judgment determines that while the Commonwealth may have legal power to do this, the men concerned have a moral claim against it “.
I do not wish to go into details. The matter has already been brought to the notice of the Parliament by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), and myself, and I know that the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) has in his possession all the details of the case. I have good reason to believe that he himself is not unsympathetic. I also believe that the matter has already been considered by the Attorney-General’s Department, and that law officers have recognized the moral justification of the claim that these men have for a restoration to them of their deferred pay rights. Honorable members will appreciate the justice of this claim when I point out that those who were discharged from the service on disciplinary grounds received the deferred pay, and those who died on service during this period had the deferred pay credited to their estates. On the other hand, the men who carried on in the service for a longer period, were, as the result of this regulation, deprived of the accrued pay which they bad earned up to (he time the regulation came into force. No government could sustain that position with any sense of probity or justice. I understand that the Department of Air has responded sympathetically to the representations that have been made. That is true also of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. The matter now is with the Department of the Treasury, and the comment which I make at this stage is that it is high time that the Treasury reached a decision on it. I brought the case before the Government last June, and other honorable members had referred to it prior to that date. So there has been ample time for a decision to be reached. I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) to endeavour to secure from the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) a speedy decision on this matter.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). The letter that the honorable member has read confirms what I have said regarding the conditions of white settlers in New Guinea. I gave further confirmation this morning in the report of Mr. Walker, who bore out everything that Colonel Allan had said. I regret that the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) adopted the attitude that he did. If he makes his proposed trip to New Guinea, he will find that what we on this side of the chamber have said is correct. I trust that as a result of his visit he will take a broad view of the matter and endeavour to improve the position.
The other matter raised by the honorable member for Fawkner is one in which I am also interested. I have fought for the rights of these men for two years, but I have been unable to get any satisfaction from the authorities. The men are mainly flying instructors. The deferred pay that was due to them was withheld under a retrospective regulation. As the honorable member for Fawkner said, other men in the same category who were discharged, received the full amount, and the money was credited to the estates of those who died. I have been unable to get any satisfaction from the Department of Air. Unfortunately, the man whose case I pleaded in this House took his life. I do not suggest that that action had anything to do with the case. The men concerned in this matter include approximately 25 flying instructors and other personnel such as medical officers, legal officers, &c. One of the men took his case to the
Supreme Court of New .South Wales, and won, but the Commonwealth appealed to the High Court and had the verdict upset. However, justices of the High Court were most scathing in their condemnation of the Government’s action. Before going overseas, the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) assured me that an ex gratia payment would be made in respect of the flying instructors. I understand that no such payment has yet been made. Consideration of the position of the other personnel has been deferred.
– Payment should not be restricted to the flying instructors.
– That is so. They all should be paid. If employees in any industry were deprived of money to which they were entitled, honorable members opposite would be severely critical. This state of affairs should not be tolerated. Many of the men concerned were invited to join the Royal Australian Air Force. I hope that the matter will be settled without delay.
– In accordance with the wishes of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), I shall discuss this matter with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in his capacity as Treasurer to-morrow morning, and ascertain whether or not a decision has been reached. If not, I shall ask whether proceedings can be speeded up.
The Bunnerong dispute has upset me just as much as it has upset the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). He must be aware, however, that the Bunnerong power house is purely a State instrumentality run by the New South Wales Government. The matter is now in the hands of the appropriate State Minister, and it would be infra dig. for me to make any comments at this stage.
– The Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Union has come out on strike as well.
– The dispute has not yet become a Commonwealth matter. If the origin of the trouble is, as the honorable member has suggested, merely, a disagreement about where the men should have their lunch, surely it is too small to warrant a dislocation of these dimensions. Some satisfactory solution should have been found. I cannot say any more about the matter until I receive further information.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.23 p.m.
The followinganswersto questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When may the honorable member for Swan expect to receive the information regarding temporary public servants promised him on the 22nd October?
– In order to furnish replies to the honorable member’s questions certain details have to be obtained from each Commonwealth department and in turn some departments which have branches in each State have to seek information from those branches. Accordingly it takes some time to complete the information desired, but I can assure the honorable member that his questions have not been overlooked and that they will be answered as soon as possible.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and will be supplied to the honorable member as soon as practicable.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The purchase of property by the Commonwealth Bank for extension services is a matter of internal administration for decision by thebank and it is not the practice to disclose information concerning such matters. The bank advises that a site was purchased at Box Hill.
e asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– Such of the information desired as can be readily obtained is being compiled. When available it will be forwarded to the honorable member.
r asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The question is receiving the attention of the Minister acting for the Attorney-General, who will supply an answer to the honorable member’s question as soon as practicable.
n asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y. - On the 14th November, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked a question concerning the position in regard to taxation of amounts expended by primary producers on the erection of silos. The position is as follows : -
Section 54 of the act provides for the allowance to primary producers of deductions by way of depreciation on structural improvements, other than structural improvements used for domestic or residential purposes, on land which ia used for agricultural or pastoral pursuits. This provision would include silos erected for the purpose of storing wheat in the course of carrying on a business of wheatfarming.
The rate of depreciation allowable varies according to the estimated effective life of the unit, assuming that it is maintained in reasonably good order and condition. In the case of grain «Hos constructed of galvanized iron, the rate of depreciation -which has been fixed is 3 per »ent. per annum.
In addition to the deduction for normal depreciation, a special initial depreciation allowance is granted in respect of plant and other depreciable assets acquired by taxpayers during the period of five years ending on the 30th June, 11)50. This special allowance is deductible in the year in which the particular asset is acquired, constructed or installed. The deduction is an amount equal to 20 per cent, of the cost of the asset, and is allowable in addition to the normal depreciation, ‘ the latter being calculated on the balance of the cost after deducting the initial allowance of 20 per cent.
The act further provides that any loss ou disposal of depreciable assets, whether by sale, demolition or otherwise, shall be an allowable deduction. This deduction is allowable in year of disposal. lt will thus bc Been that primary producers who incur expenditure in the construction of silos during the current financial year will be entitled to the following deductions: - (a) a special initial depreciation allowance equal to 20 -per cent, of the cost of construction of the silo; b) normal depreciation at the appropriate rate; and (c) any loss sustained in consequence of the disposal or demolition of the structure.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 November 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19471127_reps_18_195/>.