18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
Lieutenant-general Percival’s Despatch.
– I desire to inform honorable members that there have been placed in the Parliamentary Library copies of Lieutenant-General A. . E. Percival’s Despatch on operations of Malaya Command from the 8th December, 1941, to the 15th February, 1942.
– Last week I asked the Minister acting for the AttorneyGeneral the reason for the ten months’ delay in the hearing of the appeal lodged by Joseph Goldberg against his conviction on a charge of haying imported prohibited goods. The Minister then denied that the conviction had anything to do with the.”Keane trunks case”. I now ask the Minister whether he is in a position to inform the House when the appeal is likely to come up for hearing ?
– I believe that I can set the honorable member’s mind at ease on this occasion. The appeal lodged by the representatives of Mr. Goldberg, the hearing of which has been held up largely because they themselves were not ready to proceed, has now been set down for hearing on the 22nd March next.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the appeal of the Malay Union to the United Nations Committee on Human Rights. to investigate the’ repatriation of Malays from Australia? Will Mr. William McNamara, the Australian member of the committee, be instructed regardingAustralia’s defence on these charges, or will he be a free agent to judge the Government’s actions upon the evidence presented to the committee? Will every facility be placed at Mr. McNamara’s disposal to carry out his functions? Will the Prime Minister table Mr. McNamara’s reports on his missions to New York and Geneva?
– The Minister . for Immigration will answer the honorable member’s question. -
– It is by no means certain that the matter of the repatriation of certain Malayan seamen will come before the Human Rights Committee, or any other committee, of the United Nations. Protests have been made from time to time by certain bodies in Malaya because some Malayan nationals, wartime evacuees to this country, have been asked, and obliged in a few instances, to return to their own country. If there is to be any criticism of the Government’s action it will be quite easy for the Australian Government to prove that in Malaya itself laws have been passed forbidding the entry into Malaya of Indians and Chinese ; and in the case, of Burma, a law came into operation on the 1st July of last year forbidding the entry of any more Indians into that country. So the Malayan people themselves have exercised a right which we claim to exercise, that is, to say who shall come and live among us permanently. The other matters raised by the honorable member concerning Mr. McNamara’s activities abroad are properly the- subject of inquiry by the External ‘ Affairs Department I will confer with the Minister acting for the .Minister for External Affairs, and he, no doubt, will give a reply to the honorable gentleman in due course.
– The Queensland Cotton Board has submitted to the Australian Government through the Queensland Government a request for an increase of the net return to the cottongrowers of 22d. per lb. of raw cotton in place of their present net return of 15d. per lb. The case submitted in support of the request points out that because of the increased production costs in the last couple of years the cotton-growers have received no appreciable increase of their net return since 194’1 and that imported cotton costs 30d. per Jb. as against the 15d. per lb. received by the Australian growers. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether a decision has yet been reached on the request, and if so, what is its nature ?
– I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs has that matter under review. No decision has yet been reached.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services whether boys and girls of sixteen years of age who pay social services contribution and become unemployed or ill arc ineligible for social service benefits. If that is so, will he have the anomaly rectified ?
– 1 do not know whether juveniles of that age pay the social services contribution.
– They are eligible for. benefit according to their incomes.
– The suggestion that’ the only reason for their ineligibility is age is quite wrong.
– It is not.
– The rates of bene- “fit are fixed according to their pay. There is no bar at all. The only teat is an income test; there is -no age’ test.
Land Sett cement of EX-SERVICEMEN : Kangaroo Island’ Transport Facilities.
– In order to- reduce the long delay in acquiring properties for land settlement- of ex-servicemen, which is causing delay in the allotment of blocks and serious handicaps amongst ex-servicemen, will the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction agree to a combined inspection, by State and Commonwealth authorities of properties offered for settlement?
– I do not admit any lengthy delay. The proposition made by the honorable member was put into effect in New South Wales many months ago.
– I desire to address to the Prime Minister a question relating to transport facilities between the mainland and Kangaroo Island. The matter arises from a decision to settle ex-servicemen on the island, and I doubt whether it comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Transport. Ft appeals that the Australian Government has given approval for the opening up of approximately 280,000 acres of suitable land on Kangaroo Island for the settlement of ex-servicemen. Transport facilities by sea to the island are hopelessly inadequate to-day, whilst travel by nil- has been- seriously reduced by the very vigorous action which has been taken by the Minister for Civil Aviation. I should like the Prime Minister to inform me- whether the Australian Government will ensure that when ex-servicemen are settled on Kangaroo Island, adequate transport facilities will be provided for them between the island and the mainland?
– I understand that the honorable member for Barker desires an assurance that adequate transport facilities by sea and air will be provided between, the mainland and Kangaroo Island when a plan for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the island is implemented ?
– Yes; transport facilities by sea and air.
– I have not heard any complaints regarding the matter, hut an the question involves the activities of several departments, I shall discuss it with the respective Ministers, and make inquiries for the purpose of ascertaining what facilities it is proposed to provide.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the Australian Government, as reported, intends to continue arrangements for the importation- of jute this year. What supplies are on hand? Are they sufficient to cope with the summer-grown crops about to be harvested?
– The Government has decided to continue the importation of jute and to handle jute in the ensuing season. A programme for importation has been laid down that, we believe, will be adequate for all requirements.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that in Melbourne recently the Deputy Prices Commissioner compelled certain bread retailers to increase the price of bread ? Does he approve of the Prices Branch’ functioning in that manner and increasing, instead of decreasing, the price of certain basic commodities? Is that action a fair example of what the people of Australia may expect should’ the Government receive by referendum permanent power over prices?
– On previous occasions, I have explained to honorable members that I do not propose to give lengthy replies to questions which contain propaganda. I shall inquire into the action of the Deputy Prices Commissioner in Melbourne, and inform the honorable member of the result.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether it is correct that the Australian Government is seeking financial compensation from the Victorian Government for the cancellation of the Beaufort housing contract? If so, what is the amount of compensation sought? As the cancellation of the contract was by agreement, how does the Prime Minister justify this action?
– Under the contract or arrangement for the manufacture of Beaufort homes, some of the dwellings were to be made for the War Service Homes Department, and others were to bt supplied to the State of Victoria. The contract has now been cancelled by the action of the State Government. I do not propose to discuss the legal aspects of the ease, but I have written to the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Hollway - I have not yet received a reply - requesting that the Government of Victoria make some compensation.
– Compensation for what?
– Compensation for portion of the considerable expenditure that the Commonwealth has undertaken and which will now be useless. It is considered that the Victorian Government should reimburse the Commonwealth for losses that it will incur as the result of the termination of the agreement.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation seen the report in “ Column S “ of to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald that the military barracks in Burwood, known as “ Broughton “, which building, according to the newspaper, has been empty for some months, is to revert to the Burwood Council ? Can the Minister give some information as to the ultimate use of this property?
– During World War II., “ Broughton “ was used to accommodate certain members of women’s army organizations. At the end of the war it was handed over to the Repatriation Department for certain accommodation purposes. I have made a personal inspection of the property and a deputation from the Burwood Council was introduced to me by the honorable member In regard to its use. I have decided to accede to the request of the honorable member and of the council that the property should revert to the council.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in accordance with the promise that he gave yesterday, he has conferred with the Attorney-General on the question of whether prosecutions in respect of the Sydney transport strike are possible under the Commonwealth Crimes Act. If so, what was the result of this conference ?
– I have not yet had time to confer with the Attorney-General on this matter, but I shall carry out my promise.
Immigration of Japanese
– Has the Prime Minister seen reports that an influential section of General McArthur’s advisers is pressing for a migration scheme for Japan under which migrants from that country will be settled in New Guinea and other Pacific islands? Has the Commonwealth Government any confirmation of these reports, particularly of the suggestion that the proposal will be raised at the Japanese Peace Conference ? Has any action been taken to prevent the development of this scheme?
– I have not seen the reports to which the honorable member has referred, and no official or unofficial advice of any such proposals has been received.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is a fact that the prices received for sheep skins overseas is greatly in excess of that which can be paid by local buyers because of the pegging of the prices of their manufactures from sheep skins? Es the Minister in a position to say whether any quota of sheep skins has been established at a fixed price for the local market?
– I believe it is a fact that prices for sheep skins on overseas markets are substantially higher than local prices. As far as I know, no quota has yet been fixed for the local market.
– In the absence of the Attorney-General, I ask the Prime Minister whether he has any information as to the alleged disappearance of Mr. Ainslie Auburn Kingsford, a bank clerk who, in a recent court case, produced documents relating to visits paid by Mr. E. J. Ward, M.P., to his safe deposit at the Bank of New South Wales. Will the Prime Minister consider the employment of officers of the Commonwealth Investigation Service to assist in ascertaining Mr. Kingsford’s whereabouts ?
– I shall have the question examined rand will let tho honorable member have a reply.
– I ask the Minister foa- Commerce and Agriculture whether any decision has yet been reached regarding payment of a subsidy of 4d. a gallon on whole milk for human consumption as requested by the- Government of Tasmania. If a decision has not been reached, when is one likely to be made? The indecision is causing general disquiet in the dairying industry.
– I am not aware thai any decision has yet been made. I know nothing about the matter apart from what I have read in the press. This matter is being dealt with by the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Prices Commissioner, and I shall refer the question to my colleague and endeavour to obtain a reply.
Promotions and Allowances
– When the Prime Minister refused our plea for the payment of a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day to former prisoners of war, the right honorable gentleman said that he would review the decision if any fresh evidence were produced. In view of LieutenantGeneral Percival’s report that . the defenders of Singapore were ill-organized and ill-equipped and the fact that medical men throughout Australia are continually reporting that the health of former prisoners of war is deteriorating, will the Prime Minister give the matter the further consideration that he promised?
– I really cannot see the connexion between all the matters mentioned by the honorable member. What medical officers throughout Australia are reporting and what LieutenantGeneral Percival has reported do not seem to me to have anything to do with the substance of the request that was made for the payment of subsistence allowance. That request was rejected not by the Government but by a vote of this House, although I realize that the Government opposed the motions that were submitted by the honorable member and others on the subject. I am not aware of any new evidence affecting this matter, but if there is any I shall be glad to examine it.
– During last sessional period I directed a question to the Minister for the Army regarding the recognition for pay and other purposes of rani gained by Australian troops both before and during captivity by the Japanese. Higher rank involved heavier responsibility and often heavier punishment, particularly in the case of non-commissioned officers of the Australian Army Medical Corps. The Minister promised that an investigation would be made. Will he now tell me what is the present position?
– I regret that the inquiry has not been completed. I informed the Military Board last week that I desired it to be completed in the very near future so that I could make a statement to the House.
Deportation of Stowaway
– Has the Minister for Immigration received a telegram from the secretary of the Seamen’s Union in Western Australia, Mr. Hurd, asking that Joaquim Anay, a stowaway who is now in the Fremantle gaol awaiting deportation, should be permitted to remain in Australia? Has he given a decision on this matter yet and, if so, is this man to be allowed to remain here?
– I did receive a telegram yesterday from a Mr. Hurd, who styled himself “ Secretary of the Western Australian Branch of. the Seamen’s Union ‘, in which he requested me to allow a Spanish seaman, who had been arrested as a stowaway and was being detained by immigration authorities in Perth, to remain in Australia permanently. After he had despatched he telegram to me, Mr. Hurd apparently gave copies , , of it to various newspapers, because last night I received a number of inquiries from press representatives as to what was happening. I am dealing with the matter in the ordinary . way. The request has been -referred to officers of the Department of Immigration for investigation and report, and when all the facts have been ascertained a decision will be made.
– In the absence of the Minister for External Affairs, will the Prime Minister inform the House what time will elapse before the Government initiates discussion on the Palestine situation and the decision made by the ad hoc committee in regard thereto?
– I have given consideration to the advisability of making a statement in the “House in regard to current international affairs, and I have discussed the matter with the Minister for External Affairs, who is, as the honorable member is aware, at present busily engaged elsewhere. However, I have 11 Ot considered particularly the issue of a statement concerning Palestine. I do not know whether a discussion on the subject at the present stage would assist matters in that country, where a very tense situation prevails, However, I shall consider the matter further.
– Will the Prime Minister inquire into a report which appeared in the press to-day that two government motor cars, one belonging to the Australian Government and one to the Victorian Government, were driven from Melbourne to Adelaide to convey persons to a road safety conference? Is it a fact that when the two motor cars have returned to Melbourne they will have travelled -2,000 miles, which is the equivalent of eight months’ petrol ration for a privately-owned motor car of medium size? Following the critical comments recently made by the Auditor-General concerning the misuse of government motor vehicles, has the Government taken any action to conserve petrol in the operation of its motor vehicles? If it has done so, does the Prime Minister consider that further action should be taken in respect of the matter which I have just mentioned?
– I notice that the report referred to by the honorable member mentions the use of ,a State govern- ment motor caj-. I have written to State Premiers asking them to economize in the use of petrol, and I h;ave received assurances from all of them that they will do their utmost to conserve petrol. I do not think that I have any right to inquire into the action of a State Government in regard to the operation of its motor vehicles. However, I shall certainly have inquiries made concerning the allegation that an Australian Government motor car was driven from Melbourne to Adelaide. I shall also endeavour to inquire into the use of the State Government motor car mentioned pre,viously. ‘
– Has the Australian Government had any consultations with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the International Monetary Fund concerning .the unilateral action taken by the French Government in returning to the gold standard ? If there have been any repercussions following the action of the French Government, will the Prime Minister make a statement to the House on the matter at a convenient opportunity?
– The position arising from the devaluation of the franc is well known to most honorable members. It was generally agreed by overseas authorities who had considered the matter that the French Government was fully justified in devaluing the franc.
– But the action ta.ken by the French Government represents a violation of the international agreement to which it was a signatory.
– I agree that the devaluation of the franc was something which should have been undertaken only with the approval of the International Monetary Fund, but I am not aware of any objection which that body may have had to its devaluation. However, the governors of the International Monetary Fund were not very happy about the method adopted to effect the devaluation, namely, the institution of what might be termed the “ double franc “, whereby half the proceeds of France’s external sales were given to the French National Bank and half left in a free market for the purpose of purchasing dollars, gold and Portuguese currency. I take the view, which is, I think, shared by most people who have interested themselves in the matter, that that will not be a good arrangement unless strict exchange control is exercised by the French Government. The United Kingdom and, I think, the International Monetary Fund, entertain grave doubts as to the wisdom “f introducing the double franc. I car say that there were discussions with the International Monetary’ Fund regarding the whole question. The latter portion of the honorable member’s que? tion relates to certain dangers that, might arise as a result of this action by the French Government. I shall cause a statement to be prepared explaining the sort of things that could happen but which could possibly be avoided if strict exchange control were exercised.
– On a recent visit to Innisfail, in North Queensland, I was informed that there is a government order that all first-class timber grown and milled in North Queensland must be exported to the southern States, and that the only timber available for home building purposes there is of inferior quality. Building contractors are unable to purchase first-class timber, and that is the excuse given by the saw-millers and the timber merchants. Does the Minister for the Interior know of the existence of such an order? If ,iso, will he ensure its immediate withdrawal and thus eliminate an injustice to the inhabitants of that area?
– I know of no such order. An inquiry will be made and the honorable member will be given the information for which he asks.
– Has the Prime Minister made any decision regarding the necessity for the maintenance of Australian Legations in South American countries! The right honorable gentleman assured the House some months ago that he would consider whether it was desirable to terminate their existence and thus save many thousands of pounds* a year.
– I have considered the matter, and discussed with the Minister for External Affairs Australia’srepresentation in various countries, and: the status of our representatives. Dueto the lamented death of Sir GeorgeKnowles, there is at present a vacancy in South Africa, and other vacancies maysoon occur elsewhere. We decided not toask Cabinet to deal with the matter until the position in regard to these postswas cleared up. I hope that when the Attorney-General returns shortly a final decision will be made.
– About six months ago, I introduced to the Minister for the Army an Army nurse, Sister Oram, one of the survivors from a prison camp. I think the Minister will recall the incident because he very courteously took her to afternoon tea. She explained, that for twelve months past, nurses who had been released from prison camps had been asking the department to compensate them for the loss of equipment. The Minister was sympathetic, and said ho would look into the matter. W.ill he now :ay whether anything was, in fact, paid to the nurses as compensation, and, if so. how much?
– I recollect the incident to which the honorable member has referred. In examining the claim of Sister Oram I discovered that there are many other similar cases. As a result of a report which was furnished to me on the subject I have directed that the question of the payment of compensation to sisters who suffered losses similar to those of Sister Oram be fully investigated.
– How many are affected?
– I believe that so far the number is 120. I trust that in the very near future a final decision will be made in relation to the compensation to be paid. I assure the honorable member that I have the greatest sympathy for Sister Oram and the other sisters who suffered losses in similar circumstances.
Queensland Strike: Unemployment Benefits
– Is the Prime Minister able to indicate the latest position in connexion with the Queensland railways strike ? Is the right honorable gentleman in a position to give me a specific answer to the question I asked yesterday, as to whether railway employees compulsorily stood down by the Arbitration Court as a result of the strike are eligible for payment of unemployment benefits? The Prime Minister referred yesterday to a statement he had issued on the subject. There is nothing in that statement dealing specifically with the position of these men.
– As I indicated yesterday, the statement covered the types of cases in which unemployment benefits will be paid. I remind the honorable member that this is a very complicated matter as 22 unions are involved in the Queensland railways strike. The Government sent a special officer, Mr. Humphries, to Queensland to investigate it. Mr. Humphries’ report, which I read yesterday morning, indicates that there are varying circumstances in respect of the different unions involved. The members of eleven principal unions are on strike or are definitely sponsoring the strike. Some other unions are sponsoring a partial strike on the part of their members. Generally speaking, the employees of only one or two branches of the Railways Department are eligible for the poyment of unemployment benefits.
– To what employees does the right honorable gentleman refer?
– They cover a long list of callings. It would be impossible to cover them all in answer to a question without notice. I shall arrange for an officer to explain the position to the honorable member.
– by leave - In September, 1944, Cabinet introduced National Security (Disposal of Commonwealth Property) Regulations No. 87, which set up the Commonwealth Disposals Commis sion for the purpose of disposing of all property, equipment, stores and supplies acquired or used in connexion with the defence of the Commonwealth and which were no longer required. I shall show that in this connexion, the Department of the Army has played a very prominent part.
Although this statement mainly covers disposals on the mainland, I should like to state that Army’s activities also covered the disposal of stores and equipment, located in the following areas, where the Australian Military Forces had functioned- New Guinea and Papua, Borneo, Balikpapan, and Morotai. Disposals in these areas netted many thousands of pounds for the Commonwealth through the sale of equipment, which, owing to the lack of shipping for its return to the mainland, may have been a considerable loss to Australia. In addition, its release helped considerably with the re-establishment of production and industry in the islands and the release of army man-power for return to the mainland for rehabilitation.
As was inevitable at the conclusion of a national crisis, there were large quantities of stores of all kinds in hired buildings, as well as in drill halls, and other buildings, which had, in war, no activities of the kind for which they had been built, namely the assembly, training and administration of Citizen Force units. To-day, not only have all hired premises been returned to civilian owners, but also the disposal of surplus goods has enabled complete installations to be cleared and sold. Other installations have been reduced in capacity, and the space cleared by disposal utilized for transfer of stores for post-war retention, with particular emphasis on armaments, technical stores, and motor transport vehicles, for which at the conclusion of hostilities there was open storage only. Although I have not included amounts in the figures which relate solely to Australian Military Forces disposals, I should like to mention that the Department of the Army was charged with the processing for disposal of a large number of United States of America camps, hospitals and installations, chiefly in Queensland and New South Wales. Further, when the United States forces ceased activities in Australia, appreciable quantities of stores were handled on their behalf by the Australian Army salvage organization, and it is of interest to note that in Brisbane alone, some 35,000 tons were taken over from the United States Navy.
During the period under review many thousands of individual declarations of stores, equipment, &c, for disposal by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission have been made. In addition, stores to the value of many millions of pounds have been assigned to other dominions and service departments, necessitating much unpacking, checking, accountancy, re-packing and disposal by Army personnel who, ever since the cessation of hostilities, have been constantly decreasing in numbers, the loss of technically trained personnel being foremost. During this period the army depots have had to carry on with the maintenance supply of the forces, including the forces in Japan, and it is estimated that a gross dead weight tonnage of 140,091 tons has been handled, packed and shipped by the Army. Throughout the Army’s declaration, special attention has been given to items in urgent civil demand, particularly those which it is considered will be readily procurable when the present civil demand has abated. The following will give an indication of the large volumes of stores, &c, involved, and the approximate initial cost of the various categories of stores declared to the commission : -
The disposal of such a great quantity of stores has assisted towards the regeneration of industry and commerce on a post-war basis, as will be. seen by the following’:-
103,432 vehicles, &a, have been disposed of; and
The Department of the Army, knowing the shortage of motor vehicle spare parts in the civil market, gave an undertaking to -assist in the conservation of dollars by perusing the major automotive companies overseas orders and supplying what motor vehicle parts were available from Army stocks. From this, it will be deduced that from an early stage the Army action has resulted in savings in the dollar exchange and this has been increased since the sale of 103,347 vehicles, together with the value shown above of spare parts to the extent of £3,285,000.
– How many more vehicles still remain to he disposed of?
– There are still minor declarations in motor transport vehicles, but in the matter of motor transport spares and accessories it is estimated that approximately an additional 8,500 tons are being declared to the commission as a result of the lowering of the Army’s motor transport holding from 25,000 to 10,000. This figure, added to approximately 9,000 tons which are already in the hands of the commission, shows that it is possible to make considerable additional dollar savings in the future. It is anticipated that all bulk declarations except for certain lines at Bandiana in motor transport stores will be in the hands of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission prior to the 31st March, 1948. When these declaration? are completed, there will remain only surpluses arising from changes in policy and in war material to be further dealt with. The storehouse accommodation has been contracted to the same degree with the sale of goods declared, and it will bo appreciated that once all the declared stores have been sold, the Army storehouses and vehicle depots will contain only those items required for the postwar Army.
I emphasize that the forces of to-day are much more in need of technical equipment than even in 1941 when Japan entered the recent war, and that the Citizen Forces, which will still form the larger component of the Australian Military Forces, must have the latest equipment in sufficient quantities to make the training interesting and the Army effective. Motor transport vehicles are included here as .technical equipment for two main reasons: First, it will be impossible to buy W.D. type vehicles for some years to come; and, secondly, the Army is more and more dependent on mechanical means of transport with good cross-country performance; and it is axiomatic that sufficient motor transport must be available for the training of drivers and the haulage of the modern equipment with which a modern army must be supplied. In conclusion, I invite attention to the co-operation of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission with the Department of the Army, with advantage to both. With the wide range of commodities and stores, many of no apparent civilian use, it is easily understood that there was difficulty in placing lines unattractive to the general community. During the last twelve months, however, there has been considerable movement and such items are now being cleared.
– Will the Minister move that the paper be printed?
– Yes. I now lay on the table the following paper : -
Army Disposals Activities, September, 1944 - January, 1948 - Ministerial Statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Proposed Charter of International Trade Organization
Debate resumed from the 26th February(vide page 268), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the following paper be printed -
United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment - Second Session of Preparatory Committee - Ministerial Statement.
– This debate is the outcome of motions for the printing of papers read by three Ministers. Honorable members have mainly centred their arguments on trade agreements, and the matter of employment has not arisen to any degree. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) paid unwitting compliments to the Ministers whose reports are being debated by refraining from going into the merits of the cases presented in them. The Leader of the Opposition confined himself to the question of which were the better - bi-lateral or multi-lateral agreements? The Leader of the Australian Country party confined himself to production in Australia. His speech consisted of what may be regarded as good propaganda for the Opposition to put before the people. I refer first to what both right honorable gentlemen described as the drift from primary production to secondary production in the metropolitan areas. The Leader of the Australian Country party charged the Government with having concentrated its attention on the distribution of products and neglected the production side. One would think from what the right honorable gentlemen said that the drift from the country to the cities in Australia is unique, but I propose to cite a few figures to prove otherwise. Honorable gentlemen opposite would have the people believe that that drift has been accentuated by the policy of the Australian Labour Government, but the figures that I shall cite, which are supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician, give the lie to that contention. In 1921 37.35 per cent, of Australia’s population lived in rural areas. In 1933 the percentage was 35.91, and in 1947 it was 31.06.
Statistics for the United States of America show a similar decline of its rural population. I am not able to cite exactly comparable years, but the periods are sufficiently comparable to prove my point. In 1920 48.8 per cent, of the population of the United States lived in rural areas. By 1930 the rural population had dropped to 43.8 per cent, of the total population. So, in ten. years, from 1920 to 1930, the rural population of the United States of America fell from 48.8 per cent, to 43.8 per cent., a drop of 5 per cent., whereas, in twelve years in Australia,, from 1921 to. 1933, the drop was from 37.35 per cent, to 35.91 per cent., a drop of 1.44 per cent. The figures disclosed by the next Australian Census of 1947 show that the rural population dropped from 35.91 per cent, in 1933, to 31.06 percent, in 1947. The latest figures available in the United States of America are those for 1940, when the rural population was 43.5 per cent, of the total. So, from 1921 to 1947, a period of 26 years, Australia’s rural population dropped from 37.35 per cent, to 31.06 per cent., a drop of 6.29 per cent., whereas in twenty years from 1920 to 1940 the rural population of the United States of America dropped from 48.8 per cent, to 43.5 per cent., a drop of 5.3 per cent. That shows that the implication that a socialistic or Labour government in Australia is responsible for the drift to the cities is entirely unfair and erroneous, because, in the United States of America, where there never has been a Labour government, and where the government has always been of the same brand or has had the same ideas as the Opposition parties in this Parliament, whether it has been Republic or Democrat-
– The honorable member does not understand the principles of the Democratic party in the United States of America. The honorable member could look in the Democratic party mirror and see himself there.
– Whether I saw myself or not, I should not like to think that the Australian Labour party could be put on the same plane as many democrats in the United States of America. Admittedly, many of them are like Australian Labour men, but many more have. principles that are far from those for which we stand. The figures that I have cited cover the population generally. I now turn to figures relating to employment in rural industries. Usually, the percentage of people engaged in rural industries in relation to population is fairly constant from one country to another. In 1921 in Australia, 25.75 per cent, of the people employed in industry were employed in rural industry. By 1947, only 18.96 per cent, of the total number of employees in industry were employed in rural industries - a drop in 26 years of 5.4 per cent. I propose to compare those figures with figures for Canada, another British Dominion, in which it will not be contended that a Labour or socialistic government has held office. From 1921 to 1941, the percentage of employees engaged in rural industry declined from 38.2 to 31.7, a drop of 6.5 per cent, in twenty years. Those figures may not be related to the tariff policy, but they are an answer to arguments advanced by the Leader of the Australian Country party. In England, in 1911, 1,007 of every 10,000 persons employed in industry were engaged in rural industry. In 1921, the ratio had dropped to 877 to every 10,000, and, in 1931, the latest year for which figures are available, it was only 757 to every 10,000. Those figures demonstrate that when members of the Opposition accuse the Government of being responsible for the decline of primary production they are ignorant of the general world trend. The number of persons working in rural industries is governed largely by the alteration of methods of production. For example, a farmer, instead of using an 8-horse team and ploughing five or six acres a day, uses a tractor and covers three times the area in the same number of hours. A comparison of production under methods in use 25 years ago with production under present conditions is unfair.
At the Geneva conference, excellent work was done. In the statement which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) made to the House on tariffs and trade, reference was made to Empire preference. The principle argument which members of the Opposition have used in this debate is that the
Government has surrendered some of the Empire preferences which were so beneficial to Australia. I desire to make .a few observations about that contention. The leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) stated that Australia should have retained the bilateral system of trade agreements. I remind the right honorable gentleman that the bulk of Australia’s bilateral agreements have been made with Great Britain. In deciding whether these bilateral agreements should be retained, Australia would not have the sole voice. The British Government, as the other interested party, could not be disregarded. The Leader of the Opposition implied that if Australia had adopted a firm attitude against any alteration of Empire preferences, they could have been retained. The fallacy of that contention should be exposed. Empire preference and the Ottawa Agreement went into the melting pot when international trade was disrupted by “World War II. At the Geneva conference, Great Britain was in a different position from that which it occupied when the Ottawa Agreement was made. After the deadlock had occurred at the Geneva conference regarding the proposal of the United States of America to increase the duty on its importations of Australian wool, the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and Dr. Coombs, Australia’s leading economic advisor at the conference, returned- to Australia for the purpose of explaining the position to the Government. At the time, many people who are deeply interested in Empire preferences and international trade generally, feared for the fate of Empire preference. For my part, I felt an anxiety that if Australia stood firmly for the retention of Empire preference, Great Britain would be forced to announce that it must be abolished. Despite those events at Geneva, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) have informed the Parliament and the people that the Government was weak, and had not acted in the best interests of Australia. In my opinion, the contentions of both right honorable gentlemen were extremely weak, and will not bear a close examination. Their condemnation of the Government for the adoption of multilateral as against bilateral agreements was not worthy of them.
Most people in Australia, and, indeed, throughout the world, had reached the definite conclusion that conditions of trade should be freed from the germs of war. In the past, wars have been caused because of restrictions placed upon the freedom of. trade. Indeed, one of the greatest causes of international disruption has been the inability of some countries to trade with others. That position was created principally by bilateral agreements between countries. When we in Australia speak of an agreement regarding tariffs and trade, we must realize that many of the countries represented at the Geneva conference were not so much concerned about tariff barriers affecting foodstuffs and primary produce generally as they were about manufactured goods. America is not concerned with the export of foodstuffs to this country. Our imports of foodstuffs from America are very small indeed compared with the quantity of other commodities that we receive from that country. America’s great concern is with the export of manufactured goods. Twenty years ago, protracted debates took place in this House on the question of giving protection to Australian secondary industries. A country imposes high tariffs for one of two reasons: either it is seeking revenue, or it wishes to protect its own industries. It is inevitable that in any discussion of international trade by representatives of 18 nations the thought uppermost in the mind of each will be the welfare of his own country, and it is only natural that in this debate the viewpoint of the Australian people should be expressed most forcibly. Consideration must be given to the question of how these proposals will affect this country. The main argument against them is that they will necessitate the abandonment of the Ottawa Agreemen and Empire preferences generally. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), in his statement in this House, said -
Firstly, there is the future of Imperial preference, which is, for us, a question of hard economic reality. The effect of Article .16 of the Draft Charter is to preserve intact the existing British preferential system. There is no obligation anywhere in the Draft Charter to reduce or eliminate any margin of preference except by agreement nf all the parties concerned. It is clearly envisaged that any such action will only be taken in return for equivalent tariff concessions by other countries as part of a mutually advantageous bargaining process.
That is what happened at the international conferences. Obviously, there was no chance of inducing America to agree to a reduction of its tariff on Australian wool if we were to insist upon retaining all the benefits of Empire preference. Canada, after all, is almost a part of the United States of America, and the American viewpoint in regard to this matter can be well understood. The Minister further said -
British countries (and others .already operating preference systems) may thus continue to enjoy differential trading advantages in each other’s markets and even barter them for tariff concessions, while only in very exceptional circumstances can other countries start new systems -between themselves. The creation of mutual preferences by other countries which would discriminate against British trade and thus arouse our resentment, just as the discrimination applied by us arouses theirs, would he quite a likely future development in the near future unless the Draft Charter comes into operation and prevents it. The attitude of the representatives of certain other countries at Geneva clearly revealed this possibility.
That statement is a clear exposition of the international trade position. Just as we view with mistrust the collaboration of other countries to exchange trade preference, so other nations of the world mistrust Empire collaboration for the same purpose. Members of the Australian delegation to the trade conferences believed that whilst it was essential to protect so far as possible what we had achieved in the past, it was also necessary to discuss the future with the representatives of other countries in a spirit of reasonableness. I make it clear that I still believe firmly in a proper measure of. protection for Australian industries. I still believe also that we should make the best possible arrangements with other countries which produce goods that we require, and which want goods that we produce. I should not like anybody to think that I am advocating free trade. I realize that such a policy could only be to our detriment. It is clear that we cannot jettison entirely the tariffs “that we have imposed in the past; but we must not lose sight of the fact that with world trade turned topsy-turvy by the war, and with the allied countries insisting upon depriving our former enemies of their right to regain their former industrial greatness, tariff equilibrium has been upset. Honorable members opposite who, in this debate, have sought to cast doubt upon the integrity of the Government and of the Minister who represented this country at the international discussions, are rendering a great disservice not only to themselves but also to Australia. It is gratifying indeed that our delegation approached this difficult problem with a much wider outlook than that exhibited by some members of the Opposition in the past few days. In the attitude of our representatives there was no evidence of the old desire to get all they could for themselves whilst ignoring the rights of other nations. It is all very well to insist upon having the best end of the :stick .all the time, but it is clear that if *e are to have improved economic conditions throughout the world we must approach this question of tariffs in the spirit in which it has been approached by our representatives at Geneva.
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction.
– I rise to order. I. ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether a speech by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction at this juncture will close the debate on the matter now before the House?
– The simple position is that no other honorable member rose or indicated that he wished to speak. The debate cannot be prolonged if that is. so. If any other honorable member wants to speak now, I shall certatinly not call upon the Minister to reply at this stage.
– It is not customary to ask whether other honorable members want to speak before giving the call to a Minister. The speech which that honorable gentleman intends to make may provoke another honorable member to speak. Surely we are not going “to establish a practice which will make it necessary for honorable members to indicate, at an early stage in :a debate, whether they desire to speak or not. That would cut across the whole principle of debate. Surely the whole purpose of debate is to provide an opportunity for the making of speeches and replies to speeches. I certainly do not intend to contribute to the establishment of a practice by which it would become necessary for us to indicate early in a debate whether we desired to speak at a later stage. That would completely abrogate the rights of honorable members. The question I ask now is whether a speech at this stage by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction will be regarded as terminating the debate and so denying to other honorable members the right to speak later. It appeared to me that this matter was cleared up by you, Mr. Speaker, in reply to a point of order raised last night by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). I merely ask now for confirmation of what I understood to be your clear ruling.
– As I understand the procedure in this debate, the Leader of the Opposition requested that Orders of the Day Nos. 1, 2 and 3 be debated as one item, as they all relate to the international trade organization. For the purpose of facilitating the debate, the House agreed that the three items be taken as one. The practice in this Parliament is that, when three subjects are being debated together, the Minister in charge of the. business closes the debate when he speaks in reply. That practice has been well established. The motions involved are put to the House separately, but the debate is terminated by the speech of the Minister whose department is affected. There is no question of asking honorable members whether they intend to speak later. They have the opportunity to speak now. If they do not wish to do so, the Minister must rise and speak in reply or a vote will be taken on the motion without him speaking. If the Minister rises to speak, he concludes the debate.
– The general rule, I submit, is that where a motion submitted by a Minister stands on the notice paper to be debated, the Minister, when he speaks for the second time, closes the debate. We happen to have three motions before us at the present time. One was submitted by the Minister for
Post-war Reconstruction, one by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and one by the Prime Minister. Last night, when the _ Prime Minister rose to speak in this composite debate, a question was raised as to whether he, as the mover of one of the motions, would close the debate, lt was ruled that he would not. I submit that, on that ruling, it is equally clear that if the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture spoke he would not close the debate, although normally he would do so.
– But some Minister must have the right to close the debate.
– “Well, I do not know that he has. If the Prime Minister has not done so, and if the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture would not do so, by what right may the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction close the debate ? After all, we are debating three motions.
– Did not the Prime Minister indicate that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction would close the debate ?
– No, he did not.
– I recognize that the mal; er is one of some complexity because we happen to be debating three motions. Unquestionably, if they were debated separately, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction could close one debate, the Prime Minister could close another, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture could close the third. But as we are debating them all together, on what principle is one Minister selected as having the right to close the debate?
– Any complication that has arisen is the result of the decision of the House to take the three items together, or rather to allow the debate to cover the three items. By general consent it was decided that this debate would terminate the debate on all three items. The honorable member for Reid raised a point of order last night when the Prime Minister rose to speak. Of course, the Prime Minister could have claimed then that he rose to speak on only two of the items aand not on the motion which he had submitted, and that therefore he would not close the debate. The position as I see it is that if there are any further speakers offering-
– There are.
– The honorable member for Deakin may have the call.
– I should like to have your ruling first.
– My ruling- would be that the honorable member could proceed with his speech. There may be a way out of the difficulty if the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction is agreeable to allow the honorable member to move for the adjournment of the debate.
– I am not agreeable to that.
– We must untangle this situation. With regard to the point raised by the honorable member for Indi, he need not be concerned as to whether an honorable member intimates at an early stage in a debate whether he intends to participate in it or not. That is a matter of personal tactics in which the Chair does not want to become involved. The simple position is that if no honorable member rises to speak on the motion before the House I must put the motion or call on a Minister to reply. That is the situation in a nutshell. It cannot be avoided. The Standing Orders clearly indicate that when no honorable member rises to speak either the question must be put or the mover of the motion must be given the right to reply. If no honorable member wishes to speak, I shall have to put the motion.
– If no honorable member on this side of the House rises, undoubtedly the call may go to a speaker on the other side of the House. I understood that, nobody having risen on this side of the House, the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction offered himself and was entitled to the call. However, I submit with respect, that that is not the question. The question is whether, the call being given to the Minister, his speech would conclude the debate. In the norma] course of debate, when he sat down an honorable member might well rise on this side of the House and ask for the call and be entitled to receive it. The real question Ls this : Would a speech by the Minister for Pf Bt-war Reconstruction at this stage close this debate although the speech by the Prime Minister did not?
– It would definitely close the debate on the motion that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction submitted, and that would limit future debate to Orders of the .Day No. 2 and No. 3. Despite the fact that the House is debating the three motions at once aa matter of- convenience, they must btput to the vote separately. If the Minister replies to this debate, he will close tb,discussion of Order of the Day No. 1, and the motion in relation to that item will be put. This would not prevent the Minister from debating the other two items.
– Or anybody else.
– -That is’ so.
– As I now understand the position, you, Mr. Speaker, have rereversed the decision of last night in which you ruled that the Prime Minister’s speech would not necessarily close the debate on this motion. That being so, I should like to know on what grounds you have done so.
– I point out to the honorable morn her that there was nothing to prevent the Prime Minister last night from saying, in conformity with the decision of the House, that he was speaking on Orders of the Day No. 1 and No 2, but not on Order of the Day No. 3.
– But he did not do so.
– Let us not he too strict on this matter. A great deal has been said about all three items. Does any honorable, member desire to speak?
– Yes, I do.
.- The reason why I was prepared to wait my turn to speak in this debate is appreciated by other honorable members on this side of the House. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) spoke yesterday, he said that the tariff agreements which have been discussed in this debate cannot be regarded as having been concluded until the results of the Havana trade conference have been announced. We are therefore compelled to debate the matter somewhat in the dark. The document placed before us is certainly a large one, and it is of the utmost import ance because it will determine, to a considerable extent, the part which this country is to play in the trade of the world. I should like the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who has recently returned from Havana, to have spoken on the matter before I made my contribution to this debate. How can we appreciate the implications of this document until we know more of what transpired at Havana? I understand that so far as the proceedings at that conference affect the decisions reached at the previous conference at Geneva all is not well. It seems that the hopes entertained earlier for the full and free development of world trade on the lines of Geneva may not be realized because of the reactions of some of the nations which were represented at Havana. Many of them believe that the general agreement reached *at Geneva is not, practicable. The Minister may be hMo to clarify some of the matters on which we are at present in doubt, but he has not yet made his speech. In an effort to inform my mind I have examined this extremely lengthy document, which contains innumerable provisions and “ escape “ provisions. It impresses me as a queer mixture of ideology, practical aims and utter nonsense, and that is the only way in which I can regard it.
The history of world diplomacy from World War I. until now indicates the existence of a tendency on the part of victorious nations to endeavour to remove the causes of war by eliminating trade barriers, which are a constant source of international -friction. That tendency is evident in the document now before us, but I do not think that those who drafted this document conducted a proper research into the nature and history of the problems confronting the world. After World War I. the situation which emerged was in many respects similar to that which is developing now. The United States of America, which had previously been a debtor country, emerged from that war as a. large creditor nation, whereas Great Britain declined from its position as one of the principal creditor nations to that of a country with only limited credit balances. To any one who interested himself in world economy at that time it was obvious that the United States of America could only continue to maintain its position as a large creditor nation by making substantial loans to nations in financial difficulties, and by reducing its tariff barriers so as to encourage the entry of goods produced in other parts of the world. Certainly some attempt was made to implement those policies, but it was only a half-hearted one. In the years preceding “World “War II. the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Cordell Hull, was empowered to lower America’s tariff barriers to a limited extent, but the exigencies of the times demanded the adoption of a much more liberal policy. Earlier the American Government had been incapable of combatting the long series of difficulties which developed, culminating in the world economic crisis. It was that situation which resulted to a great extent in the emergence of Europe’s dictators. Any one who is familiar with recent European history knows that Hitler’s rise to power was almost entirely on the votes of Germany’s unemployed.
The actions of Hitler and Mussolini resulted in further barriers being erected to obstruct the free flow of world trade. x Germany under Hitler was simultaneously applying a trading policy and an economic policy which were intended to make it self-sufficient when war came, and Italy was doing likewise. This situation developed largely because the United States had failed to play its proper part in the reconstruction of the world’s economy after “World “War I., and because of the attempts of some countries to develop their trade at the expense of other nations.
The aftermath of World War II. has witnessed a number of idealist attempts to evolve a new world order, the principal object of which is to eliminate the causes of war. Some people think that by bringing all the nations together international trade may be made to flow more freely; but their efforts are handicapped by the failure to realize the reasons why trade is not flowing freely to-day. The document before us reveals the presence of this hopeful ideology in the minds of its authors. Certainly, it does give expression to some ideas, but those ideas seem to be mainly the advantage of one nation. The United States of America emerged from World War II. as a tremendously powerful nation, economically and diplomatically. Whilst it did not suffer the ravages of war, it certainly profited handsomely from the needs of the Allies for material for operations in other parts of the world. Furthermore, the war resulted in most of the world’s gold being concentrated in the United States of America. Before the United States of America entered the war, it was necessary for the British Empire to deliver vast quantities of gold and securities to the United States in order to obtain the wherewithal to finance its armament programme. Today the United States of America is in a superlative position and has become, in some respects, the virtual dictator of the world. Towards the end of the war I think that those in authority in the United States foresaw that the economic decline of the British Empire in the postwar world required that America should assert itself, if it were to maintain the pre-eminent position to which it had attained. I do not make these remarks about American policy in any unfriendly spirit; indeed, I welcome the fullest cooperation with America. At the same time, however, I suspect that that country has always been jealous of the trade of the British ‘ Empire, and when its leaders determined to consolidate the position of pre-eminence which their country had won during the war, I believe that they did so without realizing the role which the United States would be called upon to discharge. The policy which they should have adopted is identical with the one which should have been adopted after World War I.; but Americans do not seem to have realized that. They thought that if America could continue to export on the same scale as during and immediately after the war even higher standards of living would be created for their people. We know that that is a fallacy and that trade cannot flow freely in only one direction.. I think the aim of the United States of America in these negotiations was to make permanent its superiority in regard to its role in world affairs and the standard of
Hying -of its .people without due consideration to international re-actions.
In the main, this .document contains little sense. In order to bring together the .representatives of 3i0 or 40 nations with different aims .and sentiments and in varying .stages of development, and to expect them to prepare a document containing non-discriminatory clauses applicable to all of them, it is necessary to asume that a new world has been created, containing new people and fresh physical and economic features. I cannot visualize .an organization such as is proposed ever becoming a reality or of permanent benefit to the world.. Undoubtedly when the representative of the nations met together they desired ,to establish certain basic principles for the freeing of the channels of trade and the creation of a better standard of Jiving for the peoples of the world. Having come to conclusions on general principles, they were then faced with the practical difficulty of drafting provisions to meet the differing requirements of the various nations, and as ,a result there are in this document reservations and “ escape “ provisions, some of which are so vague and worked in such an extraordinary manner that I defy any honorable member to say what they mean. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) is trained to interpret intricate documents, but lie admits without hesitation that he finds it almost impossible to decide what this document means. One gentleman, representing a large, trade organization in Australia, has said that he handed the document to a barrister friend in Sydney and asked him to interpret certain provisions of it, whereupon the barrister looked at it. turned it upside down, thought of a number, added another number, subtracted the number of which he first thought, and at last said that all he could think it meant was that bottled beer could not be sold in Sydney after 6 p.m. I defy any one to say that he fully understands some of these provisions, yet some international organization will need to interpret the document as it affects all the nations that signed it. So far as I can see, the intention is that some international organization - some new bureaucratic growth - shall tell this country exactly what its policy is .to be, without having any real knowledge of its state of development, .and its difficulties. I foresee nothing but failure if that is to be done.
Something to the advantage ,as well as to the disadvantage of Australia has emerged from these discussions. There has been a reduction of the rate of duty imposed by the United States of America on imports of Australian wool. That reduction was of more assistance to the United States than the maintenance of the duty at the previous high level. It is well known that the additional cost to the American people caused by the previous high rate of duty imposed on Australian wool amounted to more than the total value of the American wool clip. I do not accept the proposition that the new duty on wool could not have been arranged by means of a bilateral agreement. Other proposals constitute a grave danger to certain Australian industries. Some of the non-discriminatory proposals menace our sugar and cotton industries as well as certain allied industries. Any instruction given by this proposed organization in respect of the sugar, cotton or tobacco industries of the world could result in the collapse of those industries in Australia. Though capable of expansion in present conditions, their exposure to direct competition from Japan or other Eastern countries could well sound their deathknell. Whilst there is something of value in this agreement, there is also much that is dangerous to many of Australia’s primary industries and to the secondary industries depending upon them. I have come to the conclusion that the set-up envisaged is impracticable. If the agreement is impracticable because it cannot meet the individual needs of a particular nation, it must fail. If it fails, all that has been done is to create a barrier to world trade at a time when it is vitally important that world trade should recover. The leader of the Opposition made a good point, when he said that what was needed was not a scheme for distribution but a scheme for increased production. The right honorable gentleman pointed out thai; Australia was importing and exporting less, on a tonnage basis, than in 1939. The figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician show that since 1939 the number of persons employed in factories and rural industries has increased by 50 per cent, and 1 per cent, respectively. There has been a drift from one set of industries to another. In one case the increase is small and in the other case it is large, but we are exporting and importing less. What the world is searching for to-day is a solution of the problem of securing increased production. If production is increased, many of the problems connected with distribution may disappear, or, if they do not, a more practical approach may be made to them in the light of experience.
I am told that there is a danger of the Latin-American countries withdrawing from the Havana conference. I am also informed that there is great concern at the agreements made by Great Britain. That country has, I understand, made some sixteen or eighteen bilaterial agreements since these proposals were first put forward. That proves that the nations of the world are unwilling to abide by the genera] principles of the Geneva agreement. That is due to the fact that in the extremes nations have to do something to save their own economies. Thus, Britain has approached Denmark, Russia and other countries, and made trade agreements with them. The nations have found immediate action necessary in order to keep trade moving and to feed their people. Russia is not a party to this trade agreement, and yet the Russian land mass is rapidly becoming one of the greatest empires of all time. Within the last day or two, we have seen the Communist deluge engulf Czechoslovakia, which was quickly becoming an important factor in world trade. Now it will he pauperized, as every country has been that has come under Communist control. The effect may not be immediately apparent, but, eventually we shall note the gradual pauperization of the people of Czechoslavakia and the elimination of Czechoslovakia as a world trading nation. Wherever individual initiative, urge and drive, with the consequent stimulus of profit-making, are removed, production must decline, and living standards fall. Russia is closing to international trade a huge area of the earth’s surface, including some of the most productive parts of Europe. ‘ If the Latin-American countries are to withdraw from the trade agreement, if Russia is to stand out, and if many of the countries that originally signed the agreement are to make other agreements among themselves, I cannot see how the agreement that we are now considering will have any real value.
If it is proposed to put the agreement into effect, a great new bureaucracy will have to be created to control it. It has been stated that 5,000 persons will be employed at the head-quarters alone. World trade is suffering to-day, not so much from tariff restrictions, as from the bureaucratic control which manifests itself in such form as import quotas, export licences and currency restrictions. Apart from the difficulties arising out of the relation between hard currencies and soft currencies, world trade has to contend with the pettifogging interference of a host of officials in every country before goods can be moved at all. The channels of world trade are clogged with bureaucrats. Now it is proposed to set up a super-bureaucracy, which will impose its regulations upon the lesser bureaucrats operating in the various countries. Is there any prospect that this agreement will get the world out of its economic difficulties? I do not believe that there is. This attempt will fail, and the nations will revert to the more practical method of entering into bilateral and trilateral agreements. When nations know what they have to sell, and where the best markets are for their goods, they can readily enter into agreements to their mutual advantage.
It seems strange that, while we have sent Ministers to Geneva and Havana at great expense, no attempt has been made to bring representatives of the Empire countries together to talk over trade matters and discover how they can best help Britain and the Empire generally, as was done at the last Ottawa conference. I content myself with mentioning one phase of the Ottawa Agreement which affected tens of thousands of people in Australia, and had a marked effect on our economy. Before the agreement was reached, a fat lamb of reasonable size was sold in Australia for about 9s.; immediately afterwards the price jumped to 15s. We all are familiar with the effect of the agreement on Australia’s meat industry, and let us never forget that Australia’s main crop is not wheat but grass. The Ottawa Agreement brought about an increase of prices and raised living standards in Britain, Canada and Australia, and thus contributed to the recovery from the depression of those countries, and the world generally. I cite one instance. Our principal imports from the United States of America were petrol and motor cars. In the depth of the depression we imported only 4,000 motor cars in the year, a great number of which came from the United States of America. Then, because of the improvement of our living standards, mainly as the result of the Ottawa Agreement, we imported in a few years time about our normal quota of 60,000 to 70,000 cars. Our imports of other commodities increased correspondingly. That is an example of how action taken to improve the economy of Empire countries results in improving the economy of other countries as well. When two countries enter a trade agreement, which benefits them, the benefit extends to other nations. I am sure” that the making of bilateral or trilateral agreements will be found to be the surest and safest way of restoring world trade. In the meantime, we are wasting time and money by sending Ministers overseas, and by producing trade documents so complicated as to baffle the keenest legal minds; yet no attempt is made to bring representatives of the Empire countries together in an attempt to reach an understanding that will benefit the Empire and the world generally.
It is clear from the agreement before us that Empire- preference is to be, in part at any rate, eliminated. Trade leaders in the. United States of America have never made any secret of the fact that that is their objective. I do not believe that the elimination of Empire preference will benefit the world, and it will certainly be to the disadvantage of Aus- tralia, because the United Kingdom is still our principal market.
I cannot envisage Great Britain ever recovering the economic status which it possessed before the war. Great Britain’s wealth was made largely during the industrial revolution, when it manufactured goods and sold them to the rest of the world. In this way, its established credits were invested all over the world, and the standard of living of the people of Britain depended upon the income from those investments. I cannot see Britain ever reestablishing overseas investments of that kind. Great Britain has never been physically a very rich nation. It is rich in coal certainly, but the miners will not work properly. The country is rich in ideas and business initiative, but those qualities are being repressed by a socialist government. I cannot see that post-war Britain will ever regain its prewar greatness. Many of its securities have been sold. Its dollar securities in Argentina were sold only a few days ago. It can no longer feed’ its people. But all of this does not mean that the Empire has lost its glamour and glory. A new and reconstructed Empire will evolve with power and wealth more evenly distributed between the Old Country and the Dominions. If there be one bright spot in Empire relations it is the change that has taken place since pre-war days in the overseas investment of British capital. Before the war there was quite a flow of British capital to the Continent; now, British capital is flowing to the dominions. Is it not time, then, for us to begin thinking about this newly reconstructed Empire? If we are able rapidly to reconstruct and develop Empire trade, we shall find that it will be of - benefit not only to us, but also, to the peoples of the world. We have already had the lesson of Ottawa. That lesson must be repeated. Anything that weakens Empire ties and any nebulous movement of trade relations between the countries of the world must fail ultimately because of the practical realities of the situation.
We shall ascertain in a few months whether the Havana conference has been successful. If, as I am led to believe, some countries are already planning to withdraw from these agreements, and if, as has been said, the United States is insisting on multilateral agreements with non-discriminatory clauses, any attempt to make a worth-while world trade agreement must fail. I shall leave any further remarks along these lines to a. later date and until we shall have had the benefit of listening to the speech of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) on this subject.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Williams) adjourned.
House adjourned at 12.38 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the present position regarding re- conciliation of the total group certificates with cash actually received by the Commissioner of Taxation in respect of taxation receipts, and stated by the Auditor-General as being seriously in arrears?
– The answers to the honorable member’s question are as follows : -
In all taxation offices, reconciliations have been effected between cash received from group employers and group certificates issued by themup to the 30th June, 1946, with the exception of the group controlled by the Allied Works Council in Queensland in the years ended 30th June, 1943 and 1944.
Reconciliations for the year ended the 30th June. 1947, are well advanced and a reconciliation has already been effected in one State. This work is not regarded as being in arrears.
When group certificates are presented by employees to the Taxation Department, the certificates presented are matched with the duplicate copies held by the department and this is now carried out from day to day. The reconciliation referred to by the AuditorGeneral is a balance which is effected between, on the one hand (a) the presented group certificates (b) the unpresented group certificates, and on the other hand, the total cash received from group employers. The chief purpose served is a check of the unpresented group certificates.
These reconciliations have been effected, from time to time, in all taxation offices except the office in New South Wales. In that office a reconciliation has not yet been possible because of the inability of the department to obtain sufficient staff, and accommodation, to handle the large number of certificates involved.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: -
Papua and New Guinea: Proposed
n asked the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The Minister for Social Services has supplied the following information : -
Royal Australian Airforce : Use of Aircraft by Minister.
e asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 February 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19480227_reps_18_196/>.