18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. FULLER. - Some wheat-growers -whom I have contacted are of opinion -that the high prices ( being obtained for wheat exported is not reflected- in their returns from the Australian WheatBoard. They believe, I think as a result of cunning propaganda-
Mr. SPEAKER. - Order I The honorable gentleman must not express an -opinion when asking a question. ,.:
Mr. FULLER. - Oan the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicate, approximately, the ultimate returns to growers from the 1947-48 harvest? What is the amount a bushel retained by the Australian Wheat Board for distribution to growers from wheat sold to the United Kingdom and India? When will the full amount be distributed to growers? What is the amount a bushel retained from export sales for the Wheat Stabilization Tax Fund?
Mr. POLLARD.- -Under the pooling ,system ;the : home-consumption price is equalized -with export wheat realizations. The estimated return to growers this year . is calculated - it is only, at present, possible to calculate the amount approximately - at from 10s. a bushel upwards. Approximately, between 10s. a bushel and 12s. a bushel would be a fair guess. It must be understood, however, that with respect to the contracts with the United Kingdom and India at 17s. a bushel and’ 18s. ,6d. a bushel respectively, both those- contracts are subject to any variation arising from any international wheat agreement should any such agrees ment be arrived at. From the sales of wheat to the United Kingdom at 17s.. a bushel, the Australian Wheat Board will retain for distribution to growers 14s. lOd. a bushel and 2s. 2d. a bushel will be paid into the Wheat Stabilization Fund. In respect of sales to India at ‘ 18s. 6d. a bushel the Australian Wheat Board will retain for distribution to the growers, 16s. 4d. a bushel and . again 2s. 2d. will go to the f und. The- amount ( of tax on all export wheat, namely, 2s. 2d. a bushel, averages over the whole of Australia’s production approximately ls. ld. a bushel. The proceeds of the tax are paid into a trust fund at the Treasury and will be available for return to growers. When the export price fall’s, and average pool realizations are not sufficient to return to the grower 6s. 3d. a bushel. The proposed period of opera- ti on of the plan will cover all seasons up to and including 1952-53. It must be clearly understood that this plan cannot be implemented in its entirety unless the State governments enact complementary legislation to enable the plan to operate constitutionally.
Mr. Archie Cameron. - The States have to provide the “ onions “.
Mr. POLLARD. - I do .hot know who provides the “ onions “ ; but we will provide a guarantee and any cash necessary to carry out the plan. I mean that in the event of the money in the stabilization fund not being ‘sufficient to permit a continuing return to the growers of 6s. 3d. a bushel, the balance will be provided from the Consolidated Revenue.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seek a convenient opportunity to make a statement, preferably to the House, on the position of the’ clover seed export industry, which is important in my State, as well as in others? The points on which the producers of the seed are in doubt are whether there was a carry-over of, in some oases; 100 tons last year, whether there is still in force an embargo on the export of the seed to New Zealand and the United States of America, and whether the Minister can explain why the price of the seed has dropped from 2s. 6d. per lb. last year to lOd. or ls. this year, a drop of about 60 per cent ?
– An embargo was placed on the export of subterranean clover seed to ensure that our own farmers, especially ex-servicemen, should be able to obtain that very valuable seed to sow on their properties. If the information conveyed by the honorable gentleman is correct - and I have no reason to doubt that he believes that it is- -we may have surplus quantities of the seed. If that it so, the embargo will be lifted. I will ascertain the facts and inform the honorable gentleman.
Tuberculosis - Passages on “Empire Brent “.
– Has the Minister for immigration seen recent press reports alleging that the incidence of tuberculosis among Baltic migrants to Australia is unduly high? To allay public anxiety, will be inform the House of the true position?
– I have seen press statements alleging that the incidence of tuberculosis amongst the first batch of Baltic immigrants is unduly high, and I have had investigations made with the result that I am able to say that the report is entirely erroneous. The: truth is that 843 Baits came to Australia on General Heintzelman They were all medically examined by an Australian medical team in Germany before they left. The examination was strict but . fair. When they arrived in Australia and were accommodated at Bonegilla camp they were further examined by officers of the Department of Health’.’ They were again X-rayed, because only microfilm X-rays could be made in Germany, and it was found that possibly twenty men ‘and six women out of S-13 persons needed to b& further tested to see whether they were’ suffering from the dread disease. As the result of further investigations in Melbourne, six men and one woman were told that they would have to remain in hospital a little longer. Dr. H. W. Wunderley made a statement in the press only the day before yesterday that it had been ascertained that only one man and one woman could bc said to have any trace of the disease in their systems. That , is a remarkably satisfactory state of affairs. As a matter of fact, when one considers that these people have been undernourished for years, the 843 persons are on an average much - healthier than a similar number of Australian or British people . chosen at random. Inaccurate press reports were published because a pressman telephoned the medical officer and asked him how many of the people being examined were bad cases. The medical officer said, using a technical term, that they all were ambulatory, cases. But the! pressman had never heard of “ ambulatory “, and made them “ ambulance “ cases. Having done that, he then, of course, made the further deduction that they were in an advanced state of the disease. That is how the story arose.
– Can the Minister for Immigration say whether it is a fact that Empire Brent, which is under the control of the British Ministry of Transport, is to sail at an early date from Scotland to Australia carrying migrants to all Australian States? If so, will the Minister state how many migrants the ship will carry, and how many voyages it is to make? Will the ship carry any migrants “to South Australia ?
– Empire Brent is to sail from Scotland about the 31st March, and will be the first ship, in the history of Australian immigration, to carry migrants direct from Scotland. The Scottish people are very good immigrants’. The ship will carry about 1,500 persons, and will, I understand, make four voyages a year. This means that 6,000 people will como to Australia yearly in this ship. It is owned by the British Ministry of Transport and will sail at about the same time as Asturias , which also carries 1,500 persons. Asturias will terminate its voyage at Fremantle; Empire Brent will call at Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney.
– Will it be able to take one or two persons back to Scotland?
– I have been asked that question by one or two other people, but for reasons different from those of my colleague. These are migrant ships and it is not intended that they be used as tourist vessels. If. they were used to transport people aw dlp from Australia, we would not show any balance in favour of our immigration plans. Empire Brent has been made available by the British Ministry of Transport and we are glad to get it. It is one of five vessels each, of which is capable of carrying 1,500 persons so made available. I assure the honorable member for Boothby that the needs of South Australia will be fully met. I regret that I am unable to inform him whether Empire Brent will carry on this trip any immigrants for South Australia, but I assure him that it will certainly do so in the future and that the needs of all the States will be taken into consideration.
– Has the Prime Minister yet conferred with the officers of the Attorney-General’s Department, as he promised me last Thursday and Friday that he would do, regarding the application of the Crimes Act to the instigators of the strike in Sydney last Friday? If so, what was the result of the conference? Is it equally applicable to persons in Queensland who are participating in a waterfront strike, which has resulted in paralysing interstate trade and commerce by sea?
– The question which the right honorable gentleman directed to me last week related principally to statements which were purported to have been made by Mr. A. G. Piatt, State secretary of the Road Transport Union. I have examined the matter, and I find that
Mr. Piatt was on vacation, at the time that the particular strike occurred. I am making a further examination of the position, and I hoped to be able to supply a written reply to the right honorable gentleman to-<lay. However, because of other work awaiting my attention, I was not able to check the reply before I came into the House, and I hope to be able to furnish it to him to-morrow.
– Has the Prime Minister been advised of a broadcast made by the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, on Sunday, in the course of which he said that the “ high command “ of the Communist party in Australia had invaded that State and was the spearpoint in promoting defiance of the law, which has now completely disrupted transport services in that State? The Premier also said that as the result of the industrial dislocation occasioned food supplies are running short in many districts, and people are threatened with hunger. Has the Prime Minister heard, read, or been advised that Mr. Hanlon used the following words : - “ It is a challenge now to democratically constituted government and has all the elements of civil war”? Does the Government support the Premier of Queensland in his efforts to preserve the authority of a constitutionally elected government, and if so, what action is it taking?
– The honorable member has not the advantage over me which he usually has at question time because I happened, quite accidentally, to hear the broadcast statement to which he referred. The Government warmly agrees with the statement made by the Premier of Queensland that industrial disputes should be settled by arbitration before the constituted authorities, and I have made similar statements myself _ from time to time. However, the present dispute in Queensland, which is most regrettable, is entirely a matter for the State authorities. The unions concerned work under State awards and come within the jurisdiction of the State Arbitration Court. Mr. Hanlon insists that the dispute should be referred to that court as the body which determines the men’s conditions of employment, rates of pay, and so on. Mr. Hanlon communicated with me on, I think, the second day of the dispute. He made certain requests for the provision of aircraft to carry food supplies to outlying places, and those requests were acceded to. I had no further communication from him until this morning, when he telephoned me and made one or two other requests of a minor nature. We are doing all we can to assist him by acceding to them.
During the last two days there have been further developments. The Waterside Workers Federation, not striking against a federal award, but apparently acting in sympathy with the Queensland strikers, has held up shipping at the port of Brisbane and other Queensland ports. That position is now being examined in order to see what can be done from the federal point of view in cases of delay caused by the action of unions, coming within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. I am unable to say anything further about that at this stage. Every endeavour is being made to see whether it is possible to help in terminating this regrettable dispute.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping to a report in to-day’s Adelaide Advertiser of statements made by Mr. J. W. Wainwright, Director of Building Materials in South Australia. According to the report, Mr. Wainwright stated that the outlook for roofing materials in that State is poor. He added that, despite promises, a large quantity of galvanized iron, &c, is still awaiting shipment from New South Wales to South Australia. He said that the transport of these materials is approximately 50,000 tons behind schedule. Will the Minister ascertain the exact position, and take action to ensure that the shipment of these supplies to South Australia shall be expedited?
– My department does undertake to allocate building materials of certain types between the various States, and the Department of Supply and Shipping assists, so far as it lies within its power to do so, to get the supplies to their destinations in the States. The Australian Government and the Department of Supply and Shipping relinquished a long time ago the control of interstate shipping. The only shipping which comes within the control of the Department of Supply and Shipping: is that which is owned by the Commonwealth itself, and that comprises only aportion of interstate shipping. Honorable members opposite continually criticize the Government regarding the exercise of control, but in this instance the Commonwealth exercises very little control, for the simple reason that the shipping, which is not owned by the Government, moves freely in accordance with the wishes of private enterprise. I assure the honorable member for Boothby that the Minister for Supply and Shipping is doing his utmost to ensure that shipping under the control of the Commonwealth shall call at ports in NewSouth Wales and take the allocations of building materials to the other States. I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Supply and Shipping, who, I am certain, will do everything possible to ensure that shipping shall be made available for this purpose.
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say if any agreement has been reached between theSecondary Industries Commission and the Minister of the New South Wales Government who controls the allocation of building materials within that State?’
I9 it a fact that the Minister will not grant permission for alterations to bemade to existing buildings, or for the erection of new factories that the Secondary Industries Commission considers should be built?
– There has been somedifficulty about obtaining allocations of building materials for new factorieswhich, in the opinion of the Secondary Industries Commission, are necessary if full employment is to continue .in New South Wales. Whether the need is sufficiently urgent to require these materials to be made available now is a matter of opinion. Discussions are taking placebetween the commission and the New South Wales Government, and it is to behoped that a solution of the problem will’ be found at an early date.
– In view of the increasing gravity of the world situation,. will the Prime Minister undertake to have prepared and presented to the House a statement upon international affairs, and permit honorable members to debate it without delay? I direct the attention of the right honorable gentleman to Order of the Day No. 5, which is a ministerial statement on the post-war defence policy of the Government. It is my desire that the statement on international affairs which I have suggested should be discussed in conjunction with Australia’s post-war defence policy. Will the Prime Minister also undertake to include in the statement on international affairs a reference to the Government’s policy regarding the Communist party? In particular, will he state whether the Government proposes to permit the- Communists to operate as the agents of a foreign power, for the purpose of destroying our democratic institutions and undermining the authority of this Parliament?
– A factual statement on foreign affairs has almost been completed for presentation to the House. I have arranged for its contents to be checked by the Minister for External Affairs, within whose province such a statement would normally come. I have not included in the statement any expressions of opinion on a number of matters. The statement is lengthy and I do not propose to read it. Instead, I shall table it in this chamber, possibly next week. The question whether or not the statement will be debated is a matter for determination by the House itself.
– I refer to a published statement by the Minister for Works and Housing that the Commonwealth had taken steps to ensure the manufacture and erection of Beaufort homes for the 70 ex-servicemen who have applied for them: Is it true that this statement applies only to homes for applicants who had lodged a cash deposit? If so, what is to be done about the claims of those men who have had approval from the War Service Homes Commission of their applications for war service homes of the Beaufort pattern, and who were (old that the value of their land was sufficient deposit? Is the Minister aware that ex-servicemen who have been waiting for Beaufort homes for a long time are now being informed that they are not on the list and therefore are not eligible as the scheme has been abandoned? If these men are to be provided with brick or timber homes, will they be able to obtain them at the lower price that they would have paid for a Beaufort home?
– The Australian Government has agreed to provide Beaufort homes for those ex-servicemen who expressed their desire for such a dwelling, regardless of whether or not they have paid deposits, provided they were informed that their land was a sufficient deposit. If Beaufort homes cannot be made available, we shall provide brick or brick veneer dwellings, of equal size and with the same specifications regarding internal fittings, at the cost of a Beaufort home. Beaufort homes, of course, are much cheaper than houses constructed in the ordinary manner, and some individuals may now say : “ I wanted a Beaufort home and would have taken one had it been available “, hoping to “ cash in “ on the Government’s offer to provide a home for every Beaufort home applicant who was informed that he would get a dwelling. The Government is1 not prepared to supply homes in such cases. The Government erected a test Beaufort home and anybody interested in purchasing a dwelling of that type was invited to examine it. All those who indicated to the department that they wanted one at the price then quoted will be provided with homes.
– In view of the perturbation that has been caused throughout flip democratic world by the destruction of the elected democratic Government in Czechoslovakia and its replacement by a Communist administration, will the Prime Minister say whether the Australian Government has received any communications from the British Government regarding the rape of Czechoslovakia? Does the Australian Government support the policy of the British Government as stated by the Prime Minister -Mr. Attlee, seeking defence co-operation in western Europe between Britain, France,- Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg?
If such support has not already been expressed, will the Australian Government, through its Minister at Moscow, protest to the Soviet Government against the destruction of the democratic regime in Czechoslovakia, pointing out that recent action in Prague is similar to that of the Nazis in the same country prior to World War II.?
– The points raised by the honorable member are of major government policy. I think it would be advisable for him to give notice of the question, and I shall see whether I can prepare at least an interim answer until all aspects of the question have had the consideration of the Government.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether a British Minister of State declared publicly within the last few days that the Communist parties in Britain and western Europe are committed to a calculated policy of sabotage? Has he seen reports of similar statements in several other European countries? What reports has the Government received about reactions in Europe to the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia? Has a sub-committee of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives in Washington issued a report calling on the United States of America to take the lead in fencing off Communist Russia from the nonCommunist world, as otherwise America will have to face a violent global revolution? Will the Prime Minister ask the Australian Ambassador in Washington to send copies of that report by airmail to Canberra for the information of honorable members? Is it intended that Australia shall join in the move to create an economically strong non-Communist bock? In view of the widespread industrial disruption being caused in Australia by Communist-led trade unions, as a part of the world-wide plan of disruption and eventual revolution, what action, if any, is the Australian Government taking to counter these moves ?
– The question asked by the honorable member, which was almost a speech, covers some of the ground covered by a question asked earlier by the honorable member for New England. I have seen some reports of the speech by Mr. McNeil, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and I have seen some newspaper reports about happenings in the Congress of the United States of America.
– The right honorable gentleman does not doubt that Communists are in charge of the dispute in Queensland ? The Premier, Mr. Hanlon, told him that they were. What is the Government going to do about it? That is the point.
– I ask the honorable member to put his question on the noticepaper. I will see what information can be obtained and what answers can be supplied at this stage.
– Has the Prime Minister been advised that at a public meeting in Canberra on Monday Dr. P. J. Ryan stated that there were Communist cells in Canberra and in every branch of the Public Service? Is that assertion supported by inquiries made by the Commonwealth Investigation .Service ? Are Dr. Ryan’s statements correct and, in any event, what action does the Government propose in view of the disclosures at the Canadian spy trial? Will the Prime Minister set up a royal commission, as was done in Canada, in order that the activities of these enemies of the people and enemy agents may be disclosed and they themselves isolated, whether they be in the Public Service or elsewhere?
– First, I have not seen the statement attributed to Father Ryan.
– I heard him make it.
– The honorable member will have to be careful. I am not aware of any cells in any government department. I am never sure what people think constitutes a cell. It has become a term used to define two or three or, maybe, half a dozen people with similar opinions. But there is no evidence on the records of the Commonwealth Security Service to indicate Communist cells in any government department. I will ascertain what information I can supply on the other parts of the honorable gentleman’s question.
– In view of the fact that Australia can truly be said to-day to be a nation running on rubber and that there is .a great demand for tyres, particularly for motor trucks, in Tasmania and on the mainland - a demand far greater than production, according to the manufacturing companies - will the Minister for Immigration endeavour to allocate skilled and unskilled migrant labour to the rubber companies so as to help boost production? Transport by motor truck is the life-blood of the trans-‘ port systems of all States to-day.
– Recently a deputation of representatives of Dunlop Rubber Australia Limited, the Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company (Australia) Limited and the Olympic Tyre and Rubber Company Limited waited on the Prime Minister in Canberra. I met the deputation in the lobbies of Parliament House, and the subject of labour shortages was raised. The Government has no power to direct British migrants to particular industries. However, if representatives of these companies in Great Britain - and Dunlop Rubber Australia Limited has representatives there - are prepared to recruit workers in that country and arrange for their accommodation in Australia, the Australian Government will do its best to provide shipping facilities. In respect of foreign migrant labour, particularly Baltic and Polish labour, I am prepared to do what I can to help the rubber companies if they will provide accommodation satisfactory to officers of Commonwealth departments for the housing of new-comers. I shall take the matter up with officers of the Department of Immigration and the Department of Labour and National Service and ask them to consult representatives of the rubber companies and do what they can to overcome the labour shortage in the rubber trade.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to press reports rf a statement made by the Minister for Supply and Shipping, who said that the coal output for the first six weeks of 1948 was alarming, that the loss of 353,950 tons for that period was due to “ continued daily interruptions of a trivial nature “, and that the Government proposed to appoint a committee of six to deal with this aspect of falling production. Does the Prime Minister really believe that the appointment of yet another committee will prevent such stoppages? Is he hot yet satisfied that these stoppages are part of a concerted Communist plan to wreck Australian industry ? If so, what is he going to do about the Communists?
– I have not seen the reports mentioned by the honorable member, but, naturally, I have been discussing with the Minister for Supply and Shipping the problems that arise as the result of these stoppages. The Minister for Supply and Shipping last week called together in Sydney representatives of the mine-owners, the miners’ federation and other unions to see whether some avenue could be found by which these petty and single stoppages, which sometimes affect a number of mines, could be prevented. I understand that the owners, the miners, and the other unions represented at the conference have agreed to the appointment of a committee to examine the problems which give rise to these stoppages. I do not know that there was any discussion of communism at that meeting. I have no record of any such discussion. I am unable to say whether each industrial stoppage has arisen because of Communist agitation. I have lived near coalmining districts all my life, and I know that long before any suggestion was made of Communist intervention in the industry stoppages were common. However, there was plenty of coal available in those days, and miners were, in many cases, unable to obtain work, with the result that no one worried how often mines ceased production. Of course, the situation has altered considerably since, and the needs of the community have increased most substantially. In earlier days no onecared how long the mines stopped- -
– That is absolute rot.
– That .is the truth. Without going any further into the matter. I can assure the House that every endeavour has been made by the Government to prevent cessation of coal production because of paltry and trivial disputes.
Payments to Mr. A. W. Coles and Mr. W. C. Taylor
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House what positions are held by Mr. A. W. Coles and Mr. W. C. Taylor on each of the following organizations: Australian National Airlines Commission, Trans-Australia Airlines, British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines, Qantas Empire Airlines, and Tasman Empire Airways? What amounts do they receive by way of directors’ fees from each of those organizations, and what was the total amount of expenses paid to each of them during the past twelve months?
– I am aware that Mr. Coles and Mr. Taylor hold positions on most of the organizations mentioned by the honorable member, but I am not aware of the sums drawn by them as expenses. However, I shall have an answer prepared for the honorable member setting out most of the details required.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that there is an acute shortage of cotton thread throughout Australia? Is he further aware that such a shortage penalizes not only the home dressmaker but also the mother of a family, who must do much household and clothing repair work? Will the Minister recommend to the Minister for Trade and Customs that future import quotas of cotton shall contain a higher proportion of cotton thread for the retail trade as compared with piecegoods?
– I am aware that there is a shortage of cotton sewing thread. I am also aware that the Minister for Trade and Customs has been cognizant of that fact for a considerable time, and that he is making every effort to secure adequate supplies. However, I shall bring to his notice the question asked by the honorable member. Cotton thread is scarce in the United Kingdom, and Australia is allotted only a proportion of the quantity that is available.
– The Minister for Com merce and Agriculture recently replied to a question asked by the honorable member for Wimmera regarding the export levy on rabbit skins. It was not clear whether the honorable member wished the levy to be put on or taken off, but, so far as I could understand, he might have wanted it taken off. In order to clarify the position, I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that the levy was taken off about two months ago ?
– It is true that the export tax on rabbit skins was removed about two months ago, and it is not likely to be imposed again for some time. I emphasize that the responsibility for clearing vermin from property rests upon the land-holders. In the case of Crown land, the responsibility rests upon the State governments concerned.
– In Victoria, 30,000 applications have been received for permits to buy new motor cars, and I assume that the proportion of applications in other States is about the same. I have been informed that motor car traders in many instances, though not in all, require the payment of a deposit of about £50 when an application . is lodged, so that motor traders must be holding several millions of pounds of money belonging to the public, although the orders in respect of which the money has been lodged are unlikely to be filled for a very long time. Seeing that would-be. purchasers are generally required to sign a document to the effect that their applications are irrevocable, I ask the Minister for Transport whether he will take action to restrain motor traders from demanding deposits from persons who lodge applications for the purchase of new cars?
– This matter was brought to the notice of the Commonwealth Transport Department some time ago, and was taken up with the motor distributors, who, in most instances, placed the responsibility upon over-zealous salesmen. The distributors assured the department that they would co-operate with it in trying to remedy the position. I shall call for a report on the subject, in order to find out what progress is being made. It may interest the honorable member to know that, in New South Wales, the issue of permits to purchase motor vehicles has now been taken over by the Commonwealth. The Victorian Minister for Transport, Mr. Kent-Hughes, has asked that similar action be taken in his Sta’.e. I hope that the change will be made in Victoria at an early date, and I expect that when the Commonwealth assumes control, there will be less cause for complaint.
– Is it a fact, as recently reported, that the sister Dominion of New Zealand has withdrawn its Minister to Russia, and that this action was based ou the assumption that any benefits that have accrued or are likely to accrue to the Dominion as a result of such repre- sentation were neglible? As the cost of maintaining Australian representation in Moscow is estimated for the current year at almost £40,000, does the Prime Minister consider that the continuance of such representation is advisable and worthwhile? Has the Government given consideration to the withdrawal of Australian representation in Russia and in other countries where it is obvious that little benefit will accrue to Australia from its continuance?
– What the New Zealand Government may do in connexion with representation abroad is entirely a matter within its own province. I would not comment on any action taken by another government in that connexion. I am of opinion at present, that some good may be gained by continuing Australian representation in Russia. I sh’all not go into all the reasons underlying that opinion. I merely say that at present advantages do flow from such representation. Furthermore, Russia is represented in Australia by a Minister. In reply to the second part of the honorable member’s question, an examination is being made of all external posts, not only those within the control of the Department of External Affairs, but also those administered by other departments, particularly of posts in the dollar areas, in order to ascertain whether .any savings can be effected. I hope that the Minister for External Affairs will shortly be available to discuss this matter with the Cabinet. I shall then be able to answer fully the question asked by the honorable member.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to a cablegram from Calcutta, reported in yesterday’s press, that the prominent communist. Mr. Sharkey, condemned the White Australia policy as reactionary, imperialist and an attempt to prevent international working class unity? Was Mr. Sharkey granted a passport to leave Australia? If so, in view of his attitude a,s disclosed by this latest utterance, what action does the Government propose to take in the matter?
– I have read in the press a statement attributed to Mr. Sharkey regarding the admission to Australia of coloured peoples. I have also seen press statements by representatives of certain churches, and, also, I might add, by a very prominent member of the Liberal party who was, as a matter of fact, a former Minister in this House, regarding the advisability of admitting coloured peoples. I refer solely to newspaper reports ; but I have not seen any denial of those reports. I am not placing any blame on any particular section of the community in this matter. With respect to the issuance of passports, I have made it clear on previous occasions that any citizen of this country who has not been convicted of any offence, who is not a member of an illegal organization, and who fulfils the necessary conditions with respect to the payment of income tax, is entitled, whether he be called a “ Fascist. “ by some people, or whether he be a member of the Literal, Labour or Australian Country party, to the privilege to which every citizen is entitled in this matter, and, in those circumstances, passports are issued without exception.
– In view of the inadequacy of the existing trunk-line telephone service between Hobart anr!
Launceston, resulting in delays, particularly during peak hours, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General recommend to his colleague that the department provide an adequate service between those cities ?
– I shall have very much pleasure in bringing the honorable member’s request to the notice of the Postmaster-General, who, I believe,is conscious of the fact that there is an insufficiency of lineage between not only Hobart and Launceston but also many other cities. Bearing in mind the shortage of materials and labour, the department is doing its utmost to effect remedies as quickly as possible. If the honorable member requests that priority be given to his claim for adequate service between Hobart and Launceston in preference to other cities, I shall make that request also to the Postmaster-General.
– I ask the Prime
Minister whether it is a fact that Australia’s petrol imports are allocated from an Empire petrol pool? Is the Government doing its utmost to encourage imports from non-dollar areas, such as the Netherlands East Indies? Is it a fact that Australia’s petrol imports from other sources will be reduced in proportion to the quantity imported from the Netherlands East Indies, should we be able to obtain petrol from that area?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - Every endeavour is being made to obtain petrol from sterling countries, that is, where sterling has to be paid. However, I point out that, even though sterling is paid for the petrol, there is still very often what might be termed a “ dollar content “, which, I understand, amounts to £stg.l50,000,000 a year. That is because of certain items associated with the provision of plant and tankers. Even though it is sterling petrol, certain dollar expenditure is incurred; and that dollar expenditure, I am informed on good authority, involves£stg.150,000,000 a year. Some days ago, I explained to the honorable member for Reid that, although we get a large percentage from sterling areas, ‘every gallon saved means a gallon less to be brought from dollar areas. That is due to haulage and the fact that the United Kingdom has to obtain the bulk of its petrol from dollar areas. The outstanding feature of this matter, I repeat, is that every gallon that can be saved in petrol within the British Empire area is so much saved in dollars.
– There is a serious shortage of sugar throughout the country areas of Victoria. In one town a co-operative society with from 400 to 500 regular customers has been allocated 78 bags a month, but it has not received any sugar for the last two months. The area to which I refer produces a great deal of fruit, and, consequently, residents of that area are being deprived of their ordinary supplies for jam making and preserving fruit. Will the Prime Minister order an investigation of statements that man-power shortages, industrial trouble and lack of transport are among the causes of the shortage of sugar? Will he also take whatever action is possible to remedy the present position ?
– I am not aware of the particular case to which the honorable member refers, but I know that there has been a shortage of sugar in many areas. Of course, the consumption of sugar throughout the Commonwealth has greatly increased. Prior to the war, the annual consumption of sugar was 350,000 tons, whereas I understand that it is now 500,000 tons annually. The increased consumption of beer alone, which has been considerable, has greatly increased the demand for sugar. It is true that there has been some delay in the carriage of sugar, due, in some cases, to industrial trouble; and it is also true that there have been some difficulties due to industrial trouble with respect to the refining of sugar. I understand that for jam making and beer making it is desirable to have refined, or partly refined, sugar. I shall he glad to examine the position in order to see whether anything can be done to case the shortage in the case mentioned by the honorable member.
– By way of preface to a question which I wish to address to the Prime Minister, I have been concerned that during the last couple of weeks there have been two revelations of wholesale racketeering in coupons. One youth was convicted in respect of the handling of coupons for 115,000 gallons of petrol and, more recently, another youth was convicted in respect of the handling of 103,142 meat, butter and tea ration coupons. Quite obviously, these cases reveal only a small proportion of the rackets arising from rationing. It also appears that these rackets could not be effective, or profitable, unless there was some contact between offenders and persons employed in the departments concerned. I ask the Prime Minister what action has been taken to effect a complete clean-up of these rackets in the departments involved ? If inquiries have been made within the departments as the result of the revelations arising from the convictions I have mentioned, what has been the result of. those inquiries?
– With respect to petrol and meat coupons, I indicated to the House previously that the Government was not satisfied with what has been happening, and in conjunction with the Ministers concerned I took certain action. There was a certain leakage of petrol through the garages. We have taken up that matter with the oil companies, which have since been very helpful hi checking any black-marketing through garages. There was also evidence of leakages of coupons between the point of issue, that is, the Note Issue Department of the Commonwealth Bank, and the post offices. In that respect, we arranged for officers of the Auditor-General and ‘ Commonwealth Investigation Service with the assistance of State police, to make investigations. We also instituted in the post offices a better check on the issue of coupons. Many things have been done which, I consider, will make petro] rationing watertight. We have obtained the co-operation of the petrol distributing companies. We were not at all satisfied with the conditions on which petrol was delivered to garages, but I hope that that has been improved. The Minister for Trade and Customs, who spoke to me about the matter, has instituted an investigation of the leakage of food coupons from the Rationing Com mission and other authorities. I am not yet able to tell the honorable member what the investigations ha Ve revealed, but I will tell him the full story when it is available.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether an order for the return to Singapore of a Malayan pearl diver, Samsudin Bin Katib, was cancelled last week by him, after representations from the Seamen’s Union and, if so, why? Was the Malayan in question a leading figure in recent industrial disputes at Broome, and had he been refused employment by pearling masters? Was his repatriation to Singapore being carried out as a part of the normal procedure applying to all indentured labourers who had not signed agreements with pearlers by the 14th February? Is the Malayan in question being allowed to return to Broome, and, if so, is he assured of employment there? What decision has been reached on the recent recommendation of the Minister for the Interior that Malayan divers at Broome and other centres should be allowed to bring their wives to Australia? What information has the Government received about the spread of communism among Malayans and others in Broome and other towns in north-west Australia?
– No order was made for the repatriation of a Malayan pearler whose name I cannot remember, but whose name the honorable gentleman made a gallant attempt to pronounce. The man concerned was employed as a diver, or at least employed in the pearling industry, at Broome for a number of years. There has been trouble in Broome this year over the rates of pay that divers should receive. There is no Western Australian tribunal that can determine these matters. When T first heard of the trouble, I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, who was acting for the AttorneyGeneral, to send a conciliation commissioner to Broome in order that some rate of pay might be laid down that would not be a rate determined by either the divers ganging up on the master pearlers, or the master pearlers forcing something on the divers that they did not want to accept. This Malay was taken to Perth without my authority because he was a leading figure in the trouble. We have not reached the stage in Australia at which people who agitate for better conditions must be deported merely because of their colour. I had this man’s record investigated and found that he had lived in Australia nine years, had joined the Australian Militia Force in the early stages of the hostilities and later transferred to the Australian Imperial Force and served overseas for 189 days. I thought that there was something in his favour and decided that he was not to be pushed out of Australia just because some interested people wanted him to be pushed out. The dispute was finally settled, and I directed that this man should be returned to Broome. He was told that he was not to lead defiance against the decision of the conciliation commissioner when it was given. I have heard of no trouble since his return or since settlement of the dispute in Broome. The Government is very anxious, of course, that as much pearl shell shall be obtained from the sea bed around Australia as possible, because pearl shell was selling in New York last year at £140 a ton. I think we got 1,000,000 dollars from the industry last year. The oyster beds had not been touched for more than six years prior to last year’s operations. I have not the slightest doubt that when peace comes to Indonesia Dutch and Americans will operate vessels from. Indonesian or Dutch-Indonesian territory and that a lot of pearl shell that we should ordinarily get will be got by other people. We are most anxious to employ as many as possible under proper conditions for as long as the pearl shell is available. The matter of bringing Malayan women to Australia just because their husbands are working here is not viewed favorably by the Government. An allegation has been made that the Malayans molest native women. We are now having that matter investigated. The Malayans work only during the pearling season. In the layoff period, they can remain where they are employed. The season for gathering pearl shell begins about the 1st March and concludes some time in November.
If the Malayans desire to return to their own country during the lay-off season, they are entitled to do so, but we insist t hat none of them shall be allowed to come south of latitude 27 degrees if they continue to reside at Broome, because we do not want them to come into contact with our own communities in Perth or elsewhere. We are trying to control this industry in the best interests of Australia, and without offence to the native peoples who are employed. I believe that if the honorable member had known the whole of the facts, as I have given them to-day, he would not have asked the question about the man whose repatriation was allegedly ordered and which was later cancelled by me. I prevented the repatriation of that man for the reasons which I have given.
Debate resumed from the 27th February (vide page 307), 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.
.- The subject of tariffs and trade, which we are now debating, is exceedingly difficult, not only because of the uncertainty of many matters relating to world affairs, but also because the trade conference at Havana is still in progress, and many details have still to be completed. Seventeen nations, including Australia, have already signed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, copies of which have been supplied to honorable members. The agreement is provisional for a period of six months, but if this Parliament ratifies it, Australia will be bound by its terms for a further period of three years. A number of conferences preceded the formulation of this agreement. In 1945, the United States of America invited fourteen important trading nations to participate in negotiations, with the object of establishing a charter to govern international trade and arranging mutually advantageous agreements on trade. Then followed an inter-Empire conference and a preparatory conference in London. After those discussions, the Geneva conference was held, and that has been followed by the Havana conference.
At all these world conferences on trade, Australia has been ably represented, and honorable members on this side of the chamber congratulate the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and his assistants on the advantagous outcome of all these proceedings. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) informed the House during this debate that one of the conditions of the original lend-lease agreement was that at the conclusion of World War II. nations should reduce, tariff barriers. As a condition to the granting of the American loan of 3,750,000,000 dollars, Great Britain also agreed to reduce its tariffs and eliminate trade preferences. Australia has at all times been aware of this agreement between Great Britain and the United States of America. Great Britain needed the American loan, and made a bargain with the United States of America as a condition to its being granted. Members of the Opposition have attacked the General Agremeent on Tariffs and Trade. They claim that we should adhere to the system formulated under the Ottawa Agreement, and retain a trade bloc within the British Commonwealth of Nations. They assert that we should not enter into world trade arrangements. Obviously, they have not learnt anything from World War II. They still live, as they- have generally done, in the past. They fail to under1 stand the changed circumstances which have overcome the United Kingdom, and they do not realize the impracticability of conducting trade as we did before the outbreak of World War II.
I shall briefly describe the position. Great Britain bore the whole weight of the war against Hitler for a’ long time while the United States of America and Soviet Russia were arming themselves. During that period, the- United States of America in particular organized its industries to a remarkable degree of - efficiency. For some time, Great Britain had to pay cash for all the materials which it received from the United States of America, and in order to do so, was compelled to dispose of its overseas investments and incur huge indebtedness abroad. In London to-day, there are sterling balances to the credit of Egypt, India, Australia and other countries, and those balances also add to the financial burden of Great Britain. Honorable members will recall that last year Australia made a gift of £25,000,000 to Great Britain.
Before the outbreak of World War II., Great Britain had to export sufficient goods to pay 55 per cent, of its total bill for imports. Payment for the remainder of the. imports was met from its investments overseas. To-day, the position has altered completely. Great Britain must pay, by exporting goods, for 90 per cent, of its total imports. In other words, it must increase by 65 per cent, the value of its exports in 1938. In the mean-time, the United States of America has lent to Great Britain 3,750,000,000 dollars. But the heavy increase of prices in the United States of America since the granting of the loan has greatly reduced its value. Nearly all the loan has been exhausted, and Great Britain’s position grows desperate. Its basic industries lack modern equipment. They are handicapped by worn-out and obsolete machinery. Much of the organization destroyed by German air attacks must be rebuilt.
I have given a brief outline of the position of Great Britain, and honorable members on this side of the chamber are dismayed by statements like those which tfe honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) make, that Great Britain’s plight at the present time is the fault of the socialist government. Compared with many European countries, Great Britain- -is in a fairly good position. Large parts of Asia have been devastated, and their trade has been dislocated. On. the other side of the Atlantic is the United States of America, a selfsufficient country with all the resources for which any nation could wish, a highly developed system of mass production, and industries expanded by war-time activity. The output per capita in that country is two and a quarter times that of Great Britain. Also, America’s population is increasing rapidly whereas Great
Britain’s is declining. It is against that background and our desire to help Britain that we must consider our trade relations and the need for an international trade organization. The American market is the greatest in the world, but formerly high tariff walls impeded the entry of Australian goods. Our traditional market for primary produce has been Great Britain and western Europe, but these areas now have a falling population and are producing more primary commodities themselves. Even before the war it was obvious to traders in this country that the British and western European markets were absorbing as much of our primary produce as they were ever likely to take. So, it has become necessary for Australia to look around for new and wider markets. Australian primary products, principally wool and wheat, must be disposed of abroad, and we require to import from other countries large quantities of raw materials and industrial equipment for our secondary industries. To-day the whole world is short of dollars and dollars can be acquired only by exporting goods to the United States of America. We must sell our products to America to obtain dollars because by increasing our dollar resources we can be of great assistance to Great Britain in its present economic difficulties. In addition, we must have dollar credits to import from America commodities essential to the development’ of this country. Australia will derive great advantage from the trade agreements that we are now considering. Eventually our wool, butter and meat will find a place on the American market, and our wool will be able to offer keener competition in its fight against rayon and other artificial fibres. The concessions that .Australia will make in return are not very great. The reduction of preference margins enjoyed on Empire markets will be negligible.
More than half of the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) had little to do with the points at issue. The right honorable gentleman endeavoured to switch the discussion to production. He is always at his best when he has an opportunity to make an attack upon the workers of this country. We have not forgotten his reference in the last Parliament to the workers of Australia as a rabble. Recently, at Parramatta, in his best snobbish style, he referred to the representatives of the workers in . this Parliament - Labour members and senators - as “ cheapJacks “, and it is not long since he described the people of Tasmania as descendants of convicts. We on this side of the chamber are constantly attacked by the Leader of the Opposition because we insist upon watching the interests of what he himself has sO often described as the “ common people “, and protecting them from the class in the community that he represents. The workers are not good enough to associate with him, but he seeks their votes at election times. He constantly refers to loafers among the workers of Australia; but it is quite safe to say that for every loafer in the ranks of the workers ten can be found in the ranks of the individuals that the Leader of the Opposition represents. It is all very well” for members of the Opposition and for the press of this country to decry the workers of Australia; but I remind the House that in times of peril, when the same workers don a service uniform, they become heroes, and the Opposition and the press ride on their backs. If production is lagging in Australia it is no use abusing the workers as if the responsibility lay entirely with them. The employers must share the responsibility. I believe sincerely that the average Australian worker will always conscientiously do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. The Leader of the Opposition gains little credit for himself or for his party when he speaks as he does .of the workers and their representatives in this chamber.
Honorable members opposite have spoken also of incentive. My view is that if the growers of our main primary products, including wool, wheat and meat, have no incentive to production to-day, they never will have any incentive. Australian production and the prices of our primary products to-day astound the world. Recently the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) issued a statement which is worthy of some attention by every citizen of this country. The Minister pointed out. that prevailing high world prices for agricultural and pastoral products, combined with the favorable seasonal conditions experienced in most parts of the Commonwealth, were expected to result in an increase of 27 per cent. - from £308,000,000 to £390,000,000- in the value of Australia’s exports over last year’s figures. These figures were prepared by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The bureau’s estimated total value of £390,000,000 for exports during 1946-47 represents not only &n increase of 27 per cent, on the previous year, but also is an increase of no less than 182 per cent, on the average figures for the five pre-war years ended June, 1939. The Minister said that wheat was likely to make the largest individual contribution to this increase, the estimated value of exports of wheat and flour during the current year being £90,000,000 compared with £28,900,000 for 1946-47 and an average of only £19,900,000 for the five pre-war years. The Minister referred also to wool, and pointed out that exports during the 1947-48 period were expected to be worth £133,000,000, compared with £126,800,000 in 1946-47, in which year considerable shipments were made from stocks accumulated during the war. The Minister added that a comparison of prices with the estimated average of 35d. per lb. greasy basis for the current period showed that, for 1946-47, the return was 23d. per lb. and for the five pre-war years an average of only 13£d. per lb. Similar increases have taken place in regard to butter, meat, cheese and eggs. I shall not weary the House with the details, but T commend the Minister’s statement to honorable members. How can honorable members opposite reconcile with these figures their statements that production in this country is decreasing substantially? They show the true state of production in Australia to-day and the prices that the producers are getting. I have quoted them in order to show that all of the talk about lack of production and the country going to rain is just so much humbug on the part of the Opposition. However, Australia would be in a much better position if the Opposition parties, when they were in power, had not disbanded the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers and given away our ships. Had the line continued in operation, we would have had ships that we badly need to remove our products. Although honorable members opposite talk constantly about the lack of shipping, they are guilty of having practically given away ships that belonged to the country.
This trade agreement is a definite step to aid Australia, and it has been made with the knowledge and approval of the British Government. It represents an earnest attempt to rid the world of trade wars and, consequently, of fighting wars. It has been entered into in a spirit of friendliness, not of rancour. It represents an honest attempt, under the auspices of the United Nations, to secure world peace, harmony and security. The introductory words of the agreement must make a great appeal to every person of high ideals. They must give to the peoples of the world some confidence for the future conduct . of human affairs. The signatories to the agreement have said that they recognize that their, relations in the field of trade and economic endeavour should be conducted with a view to raising standards of living, assuring full employment and a large and steadily growing volume of real income and effective demand, developing the full use of the resources of the world, and expanding the production and exchange of goods. Every member on this side of the House hopes that this sincere attempt at collaboration between the nations of the world will be crowned with success.
– This International Trade Organization is national suicide. Under it we are no longer a self-governing nation. We forfeit our sovereign powers, we surrender our economic independence, we abandon our fiscal autonomy, and we no longer have the right to decide the degrees between free trade arid protection. Summing it up, we become a minor satellite in a system dominated by the major powers of this world. This Parliament will no longer have the right to determine a tariff policy. It will no longer have the right to negotiate on tariff matters as a free agent. It will become subservient entirely to an outside body.
This International Trade’ Organization is pa:rt of. a major plan. Another integral part of the plan is the International Monetary Fund:and another as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Then there are all the subsidiaries that are supposed to fit into the master jigsaw that is known as the United Nations. The master plan is the concoction of the new rulers of mankind - the professors, the bookworm economists and the upper-crust bureaucracy. lt is a bastion of the idea of a superstate to ‘be -created in this world to be conducted by supermen. These supermen ‘gather in Geneva, Brussels, Washington or Havana, and they plan the destiny of ‘the world. On paper, all is perfection. There is not a single flaw in the design. Theoretically, the world can be controlled according to the plan by a super-bureaucracy manned by supermen. These supermen are above the State. They are servants of the new internationale. That international offers one inducement -that the other Internationales overlooked in previous undertakings. It provides jobs for which salaries are paid in dollar currency free of .tax.
This International Trade Organization is. typical of the new. inter nationalism. It will create a new army of international bureaucrats. It will have its own directorgeneral. He will have his deputy director-generals. It will, have an annual conference. .In addition, it will have a permanent executive board. It will have the right to establish all kinds of commissions. Also, it will have a tariff committee and a general administrative staff. This is what article 85 of the agreement states -
The responsibilities of the Director-General
Mid of the Staff shall be exclusively international in character. Tn the discharge of their duties they will not seek or receive instructions from any government, or from any authority external to the Organization.
Therefore, if Dr.’ Coombs takes a position with this organization, he will no longer be an Australian. He will be an internationalist of the new order. He will no longer be subject to the direction of the Australian Government. That is the theory of the new economic order; but how does it work out in practice ? Already the world has returned to the dark ages of power politics, ‘and is- in the midst of a new .war, namely, the struggle to survive’ yet. another economic cataclysm. The world is still divided between the “ haves “.and the “ have nots “. The International Trade Organization proposed to .be established will merely perpetuate the present system ; it will not replace it with: another system designed to eliminate the conflict between the “ haves” and the ‘ba.ve.no.ts “. Already it has been demonstrated that the major powers think only in terms of economic, military and political . strengths. If a major power like Russia disagrees with any part of the new order it simply “ walks out “ ; and, unless the other major powers play the ;game to suit the minority, the minority will not play -at all. That is what has already happened to the United Nations, and its assembly, and it will happen to the International Trade Organization. ‘Soviet Russia has no intention of becoming a member. How is it possible to organize international trade without Russia ? That country dominates more than half of Europe, . and a lai;ge segment of Asia. How can the elaborate machine proposed to be created function when the countries which comprise almost one-third of the world’s population do not belong to it? Is there any guarantee that the other major powers will observe the rules if they disagree with the decisions reached by the organization proposed . to be created? That organization is to be complementary to the International Monetary Fund. “What happened when France decided to devalue the franc? Under the terms of the ‘Bretton “Woods
Agreement, France should have approached the International Monetary Fund with its proposal; but what did it do? It simply made its own decision, without consulting the. international body. In a time of crisis, France took the only possible course open to it to safeguard itself. It could not. afford to wait for the internationalists, but took prompt action and then informed the International Monetary .’Fund of what it had done. Of course, the International Monetary Fund could not do anything about it then.
No major power will be prepared to allow its economic destiny to be decided by an internation al, body. That. is-why,i in the last analysis, the proposed international scheme will not function- effectively. To believe that it will is simply to delude ourselves. But, whilst the United Nations cannot discipline any major power or force it to accept its decisions, it can be used to coerce the smaller nations. The smaller nations are regarded as the “ have nots “. No suggestion is made that they should become equal partners in the venture, and that is why so much “ monkey business “ has gone on in regard to voting powers every time an attempt has been made to draft a charter. That is why one group supports the application of “ Formula A “ whilst another supports the application of “ Formula B “. If “Formula A” were applied Australia would receive a voting power of 1.4 per cent; - just a little higher than the percentage to be given to Albania and Austria, and a little less than that to be given to Italy. If “ Formula B “ were applied Australia would be allowed a voting power of 2.8 per cent., which is less than that proposed to be allowed to Sweden, Denmark, India or Switzerland. Why should this country hand over its sovereign powers to a body of internationalists, when we know that the major powers will dictate to it the rules which it is to follow and the decisions which” it is to reach? Australia can only remain a self-governing country while it retains the right to determine its own economic policy. If we accept the charter of the proposed International Trade Organization, we hand over both those powers to an outside body. Under the Commonwealth Constitution, the Parliament has been charged with the responsibility of determining duties of customs and excise. It -cannot delegate those responsibilities to any international body, any more than it can delegate its powers to the State parliaments of Australia. Australia’s tariff is a bastion of national defence.
At the beginning of the century the existence of the tariff and the White Australia policy saved us from becoming a coolie country and enabled us to build up secondary industries which, in turn, became the nucleus of our national defence. In 1931, the tariff imposed by the Scullin Government not only saved Australia’s industry in the depth of the depression, but it also prevented the world’s surplus goods being dumped on our markets. The tariff protected Austtralia from the attempts made by Japan to destroy the economies of other Pacificnations by the wholesale dumping of textile and other factory-made goods. The tariff has provided this country with a bargaining weapon; it has enabled Australia to maintain a high level of employment and a high standard of living by protecting its industries from competition by countries with much lower standards. Further, the tariff has become an integral part of our taxation machinery. That is not bad in itself. If people prefer a foreign commodity to an Australian-made article, they should be prepared to be taxed for that preference. It is a much more equitable form of tax than many others that are in operation to-day.
In addition, there are several other considerations to be taken into account. The tariff is a main instrument of monetary defence. While the Government retains complete control of the tariff, it can prevent “ sharpshooting “ arid downright thieving by other nations through the manipulation of their currencies. If we surrender any part of our control over tariffs, we lose the means of national defence. In considering the International Trade Organization, we must not accept what the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction ‘ (Mr. Dedman) has done at either of the conferences, whether at Geneva or in Havana, the playground of American millionaires, as representing the full extent of our commitments; it represents only the beginning. When the confidence man begins to entice the “ suckers “ he does not disclose his full hand or reveal the whole of his purpose. That is why it is necessary to pierce the camouflage of these 120,000 words and discover the real meaning in terms of the cost to this country. The final objective of this agreement is international free trade. Despite ail he wordy reservations, that is the avowed purpose. The presumption is that a tariff is a barrier to world trade, as set out in Article 1 of the charter. Therefore, our preferences and internal price subsidies become forms of trade discrimination, and must also be eliminated. I submit that the question of preference should not be viewed solely from the point of view of Empire preference. There were substantial reasons why such preference should have operated in the past. “When Germany was flooding the world’s markets prior to its wars of aggression, would it have been sound economic policy to admit German goods into this country under the same conditions as British goods were admitted? Would it have been sound policy for Australia to help Germany to prepare for its wars by building up German heavy industries, chemical industries and perhaps aircraft industries ? Is there any reason why similar conditions should not prevail in the future? May not this country in the future desire to enter into trade agreements with some other country in the Pacific as part and parcel of a major defence scheme ? Under this agreement, that would not be possible; we should be committed to extending to our political and national enemies the mostfavourednation treatment, irrespective of all considerations of political realism.
Article 17 commits us to the ultimate destruction of the Australian tariff wall. If we refuse, we shall be opposed by a combination of other nations which will have the backing of the International Trade Organization in the adoption of what will amount to economic sanctions. It would suit the major powers to reduce Australia to the status of a nonmanufacturing country. Article 18 directly interferes with the taxing authority of this Parliament. This Parliament could not levy taxes on imported motor cars, films or other commodities unless similar taxes were levied on the Australian product. Conversely, it would appear that no bounty could be paid to an Australian product that would give that product any advantage, in its own natural market, over the imported article. How is it possible to eliminate discrimination unless there is in existence some super body that can legislate for uniform wages, hours, living conditions and costs throughout the world? Where is that authority? Who is going to force the Americans to accept Australian pounds instead of American dollars? Otherwise, the elimination of discrimination becomes in itself a. form of discrimination against ourselves. Does this Government believe that it will ever be able to go without some form of quantitative restrictions unless some form of international exchange is devised? If such a system were devised it could have no relation to gold, to dollars, to pounds or to any other national currency. It would have to be world-wide.
Even the safeguards proposed in Article 21 will not help to maintain a stable international system. Those safeguards must, in their turn, be subject to the determination of the controlling body, and that is the negation of national autonomy. The International Trade Organization would not be prepared to allow a member to make its own decisions as to the extent such restrictions might be necessary to safeguard its balance of payments. If it did there would be chaos. In any case, there is provision for a complete review of the position at the end of two years, so that two years is the full extent of any latitude that may be expected. There is also to be a general rule that there must be no discrimination between nations. Therefore, if Australia decides to restrict the importation of American motor cars, it must also restrict the importation of British motor cars. That rule has, under the Anglo-American loan agreement, already seriously affected Australia’s exports to Great Britain. It has even affected Australian books. There is provision- in Article 23 for making the decision of the organization paramount after a certain date in cases where exemptions may have been granted. Thus, while the document makes provision for a length of rope, it would not be very long before Australia would find itself, in effect, dangling at the end of the rope.
The provision regarding subsidies cuts right across the interests of Australian primary producers. How could the sugar industry survive during a world glut without a fixed home-consumption price? How could it stand competition on the Australian market from sugar grown by coloured labour? Why, the existing sugar interests could grow sugar in the South Pacific with coloured labour, and thus eliminate the use of Australian labour altogether, with the result that vast areas of Queensland would ‘be depopulated, and a vital factor in Australia’s defence would be destroyed. It would be most difficult for Australia to substantiate its case for homeconsumption prices before an international body consisting mostly of hostile interests. If there should be a world glut, what will be our position in regard to butter, wheat, sugar and other commodities which are at present being directly subsidized, or in regard to which a home-consumption price has been fixed? Are we going to sacrifice those industries? What possible benefits can we obtain from such a policy? In every instance, the final judgment in marginal cases will remain with an external body. I shudder to think what is going to happen if ever the International Court has to decide the meaning of some of the clauses and the reservations. We shall not be able to help ourselves even though we had an army of lawyers abroad.
This Government has abdicated its responsibility. It is prepared to hand over control of vital elements in our economic defences to some body or bodies sitting at Geneva, in Havana, or perhaps in Patagonia. We are to have commodity control councils handling our wheat, our wool, our sugar and our dried fruits. Voting power on those bodies will be in accordance with Formula A or Formula B. Whichever it is, we shall have no further say in what is going to happen to our products once the commodity council gets its hands on them. We shall be completely at the mercy of the big trading powers.
The International Trade Organization is the baby of the bureaucrats. It has never had the endorsement of the Labour movement. It is alien to Labour thinking. It is totally opposed to Labour doctrine. The Labour movement in Australia has always believed that Australian standards can be improved only under a policy of protection. That policy must be initiated and implemented by an Australian government. The agreement represents a repudiation of that basic Labour doctrine. Labour has always been protectionist. The agreement will make the present Government a free-trade government. Its logical outcome is the abandonment of the White Australia policy, and that, too, is anathema to all sound Labour men. * Extension of time granted.’)* I trust that members of the Government, when they endorse this strange, ‘ fantastic document, are fully aware of the pitfalls ahead. I trust that they realize they are embarking upon a programme of national self-destruction, trust that before they allow the Minister to go a step farther they will consider the entire question in an Australian perspective. There is still time to abandon this sorry project. As Australians, that is the only course we can and must take.
.- The subject-matter before the House is one which I hope to approach from an objective viewpoint. It deals with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and it is a matter of very vital importance to Australia. It is not my purpose to go through the agreement provision by provision, and to show the extent of the effect of its operation upon the economy of this country. That has been very largely dealt with by preceding speakers. It is sufficient for the purposes of my discussion of the matter to say that the agreement is one which presupposes a condition of exchange equilibrium, or of substantial equilibrium. It does not deal with trade between the nations upon a short-term basis; it is designed to deal with the relations of one nation with others over a long period of years. I concede that the agreements made during the war, the Atlantic Charter and the Mutual Aid Agreement, committed us to consider ways and means of making trade between the nations easier. Looking back over the last two decades before World War II., we find that one nation after another closed its economy and adopted a kind of supernationalism which preconditioned world events. It is said that this agreement will, along the lines of the Atlantic Charter, facilitate trade between the nations and remove the danger of war, or at least assist in so doing. To the degree that it is likely to do so, it will receive my approval. I am not one who wants to condemn this agreement outright. On the contrary, I believe that if and when - and that is the great qualification to my approval of this general proposition - we obtain exchange equilibrium, then, if we also have regard to the resources of the Empire and the need to stimulate trade between Empire countries as a portion of the total economy of the world, the agreement may do a great deal of good. But I am compelled to say that, in our desire to find some agreement of an international character, covering most of the nations of the world, there are two important factors which we must bear in mind. The first is that having regard to Russia’s approach to all these problems, this agreement can deal only with one portion of the world, namely, that portion which is not under the dominion of Russia. The second factor-and it is perhaps more vital from the viewpoint of Australia - is that to-day the great problem facing the British people is how best to do what is necessary to enable Great Britain to recover its position as a leader among the nations. It seems that no regard has been paid to that in this general agreement. The views I hold lead me to criticize the actions of the British Government. I believe that the British people have been shortsighted in the approach to the problem of their own recovery. The general purpose of the agreement is to provide that tariffs shall be progressively reduced and that there shall be no discrimination as between nations, subject to existing Imperial preferences - already reduced - and subject to the further reductions of Imperial preferences which are certain to take place. In short, the agreement is designed to facilitate trade between all parties to the agreement, treating each part of the British Empire as a separate although a component part. The problem which faces this country is a very definite one. Our economy is directly interwoven with the economy of Great Britain. Our strategy is interwoven with the strategy of Great Britain, and our future as a white people depends still upon the survival of the British people which, in turn, depends on Great Britain being able to re-establish itself as a leader among the nations. Great Britain and the United States of America are the two great exporting nations of the world, for differing reasons, it is true, but particularly, in the case of Great Britain, because exports are the lifeblood of its economy. Great Britain’s need to export is so well known to honorable members that it does not need to be developed by me. Indeed, it may be well said that Great” Britain must export in order to live, and it must export much more than it is at present able to produce if it is not rapidly to decline as a major nation of the world. It is because that expansion of exports is the most urgent and pressing problem that I am profoundly disturbed. There appears to he no lead made by the Government to indicate how best we can re-establish Great Britain’s position as a leader among the world, not only because of our ties to Great Britain, but also because the continuance of our own economy and national existence so largely depend upon it. I have said that Great Britain -and the United States of America constitute the two major exporting nations of the world. The fact is that Great Britain, vis-a-vis the United States of America, has in the last two years shown an annual unfavorable trade balance of f stg. 600,000,000. On the other hand, the United States of America has enjoyed a favorable trade balance with the world amounting to £stg.3,000,000,000. When considering this agreement, the question that presents itself to me is: How is the agreement designed to correct that disequilibrium of exchange? It must be clear that, if the disequilibrium is to be removed, some positive steps must be taken to remove it. If this agreement be implemented, it will only perpetuate the disadvantageous position in which Great Britain is placed. The agreement is designed to place all nations upon an equal footing in respect of trade. It is true that certain Imperial preferences still exist. It is equally true that some Imperial preferences have been bargained away, not by us, but principally by Great Britain. It is also true that such preferences as remain could be bargained away, and I believe that if this agreement be implemented they unquestionably will be bargained away.
– And they can never be recovered.
– Once they are bargained away they will never be recovered. This great disequilibrium which is at the very root of the trouble in Great Britain to-day will, it seems to me, be perpetuated by this agreement, if for no other reason that all its provisions with regard to tariff duties and its nondiscriminatory provisions are designed to maintain in effect a status quo so far as trade relations with other countries are concerned. If the United States of America has a favorable trade balance of £stg.3,000,000 a year and Great Britain has an unfavorable trade balance of £stg.600,000,000 a year, surely it does not require any debate in this chamber to establish that if those two countries are placed on the same footing so far as international trading conditions are concerned we shall never be able to rectify the disequilibrium which now exists, and the problem of Great Britain will become accentuated. It seems to me that not only has this Government failed to give sufficient attention to the problem of Great Britain, but also that the leaders of the people of Great Britain have failed to understand how tremendous are the resources of the Empire, and that if we will only use those resources they will get out of their trouble. I should like to occupy the time of the House in qualifying a few figures to exemplify the point I am making. In relation to world- production, British Commonwealth production that is taking the British Empire as a whole, in respect of a few strategic commodities, is as follows: - Gold 57 per cent., nickel 85 per cent., silver 18 per cent, tin 40 per cent., zinc 30 per cent., copper 30 per cent., lead 36 per cent., and rubber 54 per cent. Those figures show the substantial proportion of world production of certain basic materials we have inside the British Commonwealth of Nations. Yet we have tied ourselves and the British leaders - and I say this in terms of criticism of them - have tied themselves by one agreement after another in such a way that we and they will find it very difficult, consistent with those agreements, to develop the Empire along the lines it ought to be developed.
We are living in a period of nuclear energy when the discovery of atomic power has revolutionized completely our approach to strategy. Strategy is directly tied up with trade. I often wonder whether it is realized that with the discovery of nuclear energy the Empire has taken on new strength because of the Empire’3 wealth and diversification of raw materials and resources and dispersion of population. That discovery has given us new strength. Yet Great Britain, as the result of its tremendous sacrifices during the war, is now in a desperate position. We cannot hide our eyes to that inescapable conclusion. From the beginning of the century Great Britain’s influence and trading prestige have progressively deteriorated, but this trend has increased very rapidly as the result of the tremendous sacrifices the British people made during the war. Previously, Great Britain, because of its vast overseas investments, did not need to develop its export markets to the degree it must now develop them in order to survive. We all know that during the desperate days, of 1940 and 1941 Great Britain was compelled to realize on a great proportion of its overseas investments, and certainly its most valuable investments, for the purpose of maintaining its armed forces and economy during that difficult period, As the result of those obligations, and, finally, as the result of the general impact of the recent war upon its people, it is now in a position that it must increase its exports in order to exist.
How is this agreement going to. aid Great Britain in that ultimate task? Without doubt, the terms of the agreement commit us to a policy which will progressively reduce our ability to aid Great Britain; and I hope that it is not yet too late to draw attention to the fact that if Great Britain does not recover its leading position in the world, it will be a very poor outlook, indeed, for this country. We can only place this agreement against the background of world events; and to-day we see the world moving into two massive aggregations of power, military as well as economic, and either Great Britain and parts of . the British Commonwealth are to become satellites of one or other of those powers, or the British people must recapture their former position and give some leadership to the world. It cannot recover its position except through the arteries of trade. In those circumstances it is well to have a look at the extent to which Empire trade preference may be affected by this agreement. My proposition is that this agreement will destroy Empire trade preference. Mr. William Clayton, the leader of the United States delegation at the International Trade Organization talks, in Washington on the 21st January last, used these words which ought to be indelibly imprinted on the mind of every member of this House -
British Empire preferences will eventually be completely eliminated. That will be the effect of the working liaison between the International Trade Organization and the Marshall plan to aid Europe. Britain was willing at the Geneva Conference to freeze all existing preferences and then dissolve them in the course of the next few years.
That is not a statement made by the leader of the United States delegation just offhand. That is his considered judgment of where this agreement leads. Are the British peoples, with tremendous resources throughout the world now going to throw those preferences away? I know that there has developed in this country among a large number of people the idea that Australia is able to “ paddle its own canoe “. 1 should be the last to desire in any way to weaken the attitude that we should have .complete freedom of movement in national and international affairs but I know, since I keep my feet upon the ground of reality, that not only is our economy interwoven with that of Great Britain but we are also dependent in many respects on other countries in respect of vital and essential raw materials. So,, in short, we must face up to this general line: Do we go the way of multi-lateral agreements such as this which applies equally to all nations of the world whether they be big or small, or do we, consistent with our place in the international comity and our desire to open up new avenues of trade as much as possible, give our attention first and foremost to developing the resources of the British peoples? I have no hesitation in saying where I stand on that matter; I have no hesitation in saying that if, in fact, we do not find the means of consultation between the constituent parts of the British Commonwealth to meet not only our immediate strategic problem but also the problem of developing our resources along the lines of some mature plan of development, then, ultimately, the British Commonwealth will disintegrate. There can be no doubt whatever about the impact of mass aggregations of power. Power politics is still the rule of international conduct. It would be sheer madness if we did not seek a common solution of the problems that beset the British people.
Leaving that aside for the moment and coming to our own country, I ask where has special consideration been given in this agreement to the development of new Australian industries ? I can find little in it to give me much hope that the Australian Labour party will be able to adhere to its platform of general protection of Australian industries, because its terms deal with economies as they are, and all the provisions with respect to anti-dumping and countervailing duties, tariffs not to be imposed except for the purpose of complying with the agreement, and non-discriminatory treatment will inevitably have an effect on the development of industries in this country. There can be no doubt about that. It is amazing that the Labour Government, one of the planks of whose platform is the development and protection of Australian industries, shows so little regard in an agreement such as this to protecting them at the source. So, if one looks at the pith of the agreement, one finds that it is designed at all times to go along the lines of progressively reducing tariffs in this country. I do not know what happened at Havana - we have not been given details of that in any way that would give us any lead on this matter - but there was no need for the Government to enter so hastily into a protocol in respect of this general agreement. It should have been brought before the Parliament and debated in order that we may have expressed our views upon it before binding obligations were entered into; but we were substantially committed before the matter came before us, not in any technical sense, but in a real sense. When I read the terms of the agreement, I am compelled to say that if, in entering into it, we intend to carry it out, we shall have not a little difficulty in developing future Australian industries.
I am content to make those observations before passing on to another subject. I believe that this debate gives me the opportunity of making some observations about Australia’s tariff policy in general. We need to review our tariff policy. I believe that tariffs should be imposed as an economic instrument and should not be used as a financial instrument, except to a minor degree. In other words, tariffs should be designed to protect the economy of the country. I do not say that in an absolute sense, because I know that many imposts are not levied for the purpose of supporting’ Australian industries but are essential in the interests of the revenue; but, in general terms, my. proposition is that we need to review our tariffs for the purpose of framing them in accordance with the idea that I have advanced, namely, that the tariffs should be used primarily for the protection and development of our economy. It is not a simple issue to deal with tariffs. The question is not one simply of free trade against protection. Free trade has many things in its favour in different economies. Protection has a lot to be said in its favour. The. truth is that the proper approach is to ascertain what industries in Australia really need protection. It is well that we should have our minds clarified on the effects of protection. Protection given to any industry undoubtedly assists it and the people in it, but every protection given is given at the expense of the rest of the community. From that there can be no escape. If the products of industry “ A “ are so protected from competition with imported goods as to enable it to charge more than similar imported goods could otherwise be bought for, the purchasing power of every person in the community is reduced. Every other producer and every person in the community pays the price. So, protection must be looked at very carefully. Indeed, in my opinion, the protection of many industries in Australia cannot be justified, others are sufficiently protected, others insufficiently protected. Our problem will present itself distinctly in the years that lie ahead, because of the industries that were established in Australia during World War II. Bearing in mind that protection given to any industry is given at the expense of the rest of the community, I think that certain industries ought to be clearly marked out for protection and that all other industries ought to be carefully screened to ensure that protection given to them shall not bear unduly on the rest of the community. The industries that ought to be marked out for protection are those of national importance. I need not develop that, because what I have precisely in mind will be apparent I should hope to most honorable members. The industries that require protection are those of national significance, those of economic and strategic importance and industries capable of developing an export trade as well as those which, protected in the initial stages, will ultimately be able to stand on their own feet without protection. If a man has to pay 5s or 10s. more for an article produced in this country than he would have to pay for an. imported article but for the duty, his purchasing power is reduced accordingly. The net result is that his standard of living is lowered, because the purchasing power of his money is diminished. I would be the last to say that there should be no protection and I must not be misinterpreted as not being in favour of giving the most adequate assistance to Australian industries which justify’ it. On the contrary, protection is needed, but it should be used more efficiently than it has been. Our tariffs should be reconsidered in the light of the principles that I have sought to enunciate, particularly at this time, when we are in a most favorable position to engage in tariff revision, because of our low costs of production in comparison with those of most other countries. The Government seems to be incapable of thinking in any other terms than restrictions, and it is constantly speaking of restricting imports. I am un- aware of anything it has done in recent times to encourage exports. It is idle to imagine that we shall develop export markets if we restrict imports. In the long run, our exports must bear a real relation to our imports, because, if we restrict imports, we ultimately restrict our exports, except at times such as now, when the world is clamouring for our primary products. We know very well, however, that that condition will not always prevail. We are living to-day in somewhat artificial circumstances, when we sell our wheat, wool and other products to the world at prices which, in my view, are unhealthy to the economy generally, although favorable to the producers. Those prices are bound to fall in one, two or three years, for it is obvious that the world cannot for long continue to pay those prices for our products. We have, of course, a very favorable trade balance, but no attempt whatever has been made to really develop the export markets that have fortuitously come to us. On the contrary, all that the Government is capable of thinking about is restrictions and more restrictions. That is the way of all Socialist governments. Our task, if we are considering the best interests of this country fifteen or twenty years hence, is to develop our export markets. Australia had a golden opportunity to do so at the conclusion of World War II., but because the Governmnent did not give a lead, it failed lamentably. Ever since, we have been bull-dozed “ by figures which have been designed to prove to the Australian people that our exports have risen very rapidly. Those figures have been expressed in terms of currency. If we compare in term9 of currency our exports in ‘ 1938-39 with those of to-day, the figures naturally show a huge nominal increase. The truth, however, is that the volume of our exports has declined. In a few moments, I shall read some figures which the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) will be able to check. If they are correct, they will speak for themselves. They refer to interstate and overseas shipping cargoes, and reveal some measure of the fall in Australia’s overseas trade, despite our vast increase of production potential.
According to the compilations of the Commonwealth Statistician, the average monthly loading of interstate cargoes in 1938-39 was 746,000 tons, and in 1946-47, 707,000 tons, a fall of nearly 40,000 tons. The latest information available is for August, 1947, and shows a total of 714,000 tons. I come now to figures relating to overseas shipping cargoes, which reflect very clearly the tonnage volume of our trade. The average monthly cargoes from overseas, discharged at Australian ports in 1938-39, totalled 533,000 tons and in 1946-47, 464,000 tons. For August, 1947, the figure was 486,000 tons. That is the latest figure available. The average monthly cargoes shipped from Australia in 1938-39 totalled 519,000 tons, and .in 1946-47, 371,000 tons. For August, 1947, the figure was 330,000 tons. Those figures are eloquent in themselves. No manipulation is possible.
So far, I have dealt with basic tonnages, and not with exports translated into terms of currency to-day. However, I propose, for the purposes of my comparison, to refer to exports in terms of currency. In 1938, the value of the total exports of merchandise - these are for the principal commodities - was £A122,543,000. In 1938-39 the prices index number was 821, and in 1946-47 it was 2,131. Therefore, the value of the total exports of merchandise in 1938-39, as adjusted on the basis of the index number for 1946-47, was £A3.18,074,000. The actual value of our exports of merchandise in 1946-47 was £A308,932,000. Exports, instead of mere restrictions, should be the basis of the Government’s policy, although I agree that some trade restrictions have been forced upon it by the dollar position. Unfortunately, when the war ended, the Government devoted too much attention to leading the people to believe that they were on the threshhold of a golden age in which a person could “ lift himself by his shoe-strings “. If people had not been taught that they could work fewer hours a week and be paid more for their labour, we would have developed our export markets, and increased the standard of living of the average worker. A false philosophy has been given to. the people of Australia. No emphasis has been placed on the necessity for increased production. In my considered judgment, the Government failed utterly to grasp its opportunity to expand our export markets at a time when the markets of the world were open to us. As the result of this failure, we are to-day a long way back in the race.
Let us compare our position with that of Belgium. Why is it that when a person travels from France to Belgium, he leaves a country where everything seems in short supply to enter a land where everything is in comparative abundance? To those who have taken the trouble to examine the problem the answer is not difficult.
– What kind of a government is in office in Belgium ?
– It is immaterial to this discussion whether it is a Socialist government or not. Definitely, it is not the same kind of Socialist administration as that of the Australian Labour Government. For years,- honorable members opposite have described themselves as firstname.lastname@example.org of the “ La’bour party ,l, but it is not a Labour party at all It is a Socialist-Communist party. [Extension of time granted.’] I thank the House for its: courtesy in allowing me an extension of time, and I shall not detain it unduly. Tha Minister for Post-war Reconstruction claims that the Government of Belgium is a Socialist administration. The Australian Labour Government endeavours to claim the benefit of the action of every Socialist government in any part of the world. Even if the Government of Belgium were the same as the Australian Labour Government - and any one with a knowledge of the subject would not concede that - the truth is that it, has displayed foresight, whereas the Australian Government has failed to do so. The result is that to-day, in Australia, prices are increasing, but the purchasing power of money is diminishing.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) spoke of the dawn of the golden age in Australia. The standard working week has been reduced to 40 hours, and production has declined by 10 per cent: Any one who paid attention to economic trends would have endeavoured to avoid the situation in which wages chase prices. Had the Prime Minister placed emphasis on increased production and taught Australians that there is no easy road to prosperity, and that only by work can anything be achieved, our position to-day would be vastly improved. All that we have is a number of international agreements. Apparently, the Minister believes, in economic matters, as the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) believes in the international sphere, that the signing of an agreement solves every problem. A similar situation arose with the adoption at San Francisco of the charter for the creation of the United Nations’. Honorable members on this side of the chamber pointed out in vain to the Minister for External Affairs that it was merely a charter, and that peace cannot be maintained unless certain fundamentals have been observed.
Similarly, economic prosperity cannot, be achieved merely by entering’ into agreements.
I do not see any objection to the general purpose of the agreement now under consideration, but’ we must deal with first things first. Australia has a population of approximately 7,000,000, and to the north are the coloured peoples of Asia numbering 1,000,000,000. Our primary task is to re-establish the British people throughout the world. That will be done only if we bring to fruition a mature plan of development, enabling us to utilize fully the vast resources of the Commonwealth, and increase the standard of living of our own people. By doing so, we shall provide the greatest possible safeguard to the future peace of thu world.
– The House is considering three documents, namely, that relating to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment, a memorandum showing the alteration of tariff duties, and that dealing with international trade negotiations. I would be understating the case if I said that this- debate is vital to Australia as a whole and to the Australian economy. I do not’ propose at this juncture to discuss the Havana charter, but I hope that we shall have an opportunity to do so when it has been completed. I trust also that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) will indicate at a later stage in this debate just, how far negotiations relating to the charter have progressed. Because of the vital nature of this discussion, the Parliament and the people looked to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) for’ a chronological and logical statement of what beneficial results he hopes will flow from the Geneva and Havana, agreements. But what did we hear? I listened with a great deal of interest to the right honorable gentleman and J have a few comments to make upon his speech. I do not propose to deal- with the charter in detail. That has already been done by Opposition speakers. I feel tint I should rather’ pursue the Prime Al motor’s line of thought because he, as the leader of the Government, should ct* the standard of debate in this House. But when I refer to the airy nonsense that he uttered as, to use words frequently heard from the honorable member for Werriwa **(Mr. Lazzarini), “ hocus pocus “, I am stating a fact. The right honorable gentleman chided the Opposition. He said that Opposition speakers had confined the debate to local issues, and had shown a total disregard for the great world problems that were involved. Those were strong words. The right honorable gentleman would have us believe that, whereas he has a broad concept of the debate that is now taking place, we on this side of the chamber are most selfish in considering first the interests of the British Commonwealth of Nations. But let us have a look at these great world issues. First, I shall quote from the remarks of Mr. L. S. Amery, a former Secretary of State for India, as published in the London Times. Dealing with the very matter that we are now discussing, Mr. Amery said -
The real motive, conscious or subconscious, is the desire of American exporting and financial interests to maintain a one-sided world hegemony by keeping the rest of the world broken up into small economic units, incapable of ever competing on equal terms with American production, and dependent on American finance to redress a continuously adverse balance of payments.
These, too, are strong words, and were uttered with a full knowledge of the action taken by the Government of the United States of America in regard to this vital question of international trade. Mr. Amery continued -
More particularly, it is to be feared, does this ambition extend to the economic and eventually political, domination of the widely scattered and individually weak members of the British Commonwealth; and this accounts for the peculiar virulence and determination of the onslaught on British Empire preference.
Apparently, the Prime Minister believes that Empire preference is purely a matter of local importance. The Opposition has endeavoured to emphasize that these proposed agreements will completely destroy Empire preference. Lest there he any doubt at all in the minds of government supporters on that point, I shall repeat the quotation given by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) from a statement made in Washington by Mr. William Clayton, the leader of the American delegation to the International Trade Organization con- ferences. I remind the House that this statement was made on the 21st January of the year in which the discussions took place -
British Empire preferences will eventually be completely eliminated. That will be the effect of the working liaison between the international Trade Organization and the Marshall Plan to aid Europe.
That is the considered view of the Americans of the negotiations that are being entered into so blithely by the Australian Government through its representative the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, and these are the issues that have been raised by the Opposition. I should like to know from the Prime Minister whether he believes that these issues are purely local, or are they big enough to be regarded as of world importance. After all, they deal with the British world, and British world interests are part and parcel of Australia’s world interests. I for one am convinced that the abandonment of Empire preference, spoken of so glibly by Mr. Clayton as having already been accomplished by these agreements, would lead to an economic catastrophe, not only to Great Britain, but also to the British Commonwealth of Nations. If the Prime Minister assumes that the proposed tariff agreements will result in increased international trade and a wider and more, equitable flow of world goods, I am afraid that he will be sadly disappointed. How is it possible to open trade channels when every device of control and restriction is used to clog them, because that is the only possible effect of the agreements. As the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) has pointed out, this is the beginning of a world oligarchy of public servants to control the trade of all those nations subscribing to the charter. How is it possible to arrange for a more equitable distribution of goods when production lags so far behind demand to-day? The Government is putting the cart before the horse. The Government knows quite well that production falls far short of demands. It knows that to-day, with a scarcity of many commodities throughout the world, production will find its own method of distribution, while the Government is concentrating on the distribution of goods that do not exist.
How oan international trade be increased when the entire machineryevolved at Geneva and Havana is aimed at smashing of Empire preference and the breaking down of the economic framework of the Empire? This can only result in increased difficulty in trading with the United States of America, for the very good and vital reason that America cannot be paid for the goods that it is producing. America has a great manufacturing potential, of which the world is sorely in need to-day. It has cornered the world’s gold supply, and it has huge investments in other countries. For these reasons, America must realize that, if the economic balance of the world is to be preserved, it must release its dollars and accept goods in return for its investments. It must learn to buy more of the world’s goods than it is selling to-day.
How will this agreement affect Australia? In the long run, we must relate this question to our home market and to our dealings with other countries, particularly within the British Empire. The statement by the leader of the United States delegation to the Geneva Conference, Mr. Clayton, that Empire preference would eventually be eliminated, leads me to examine the importance to Australia of our trade with the United Kingdom and other British countries. If the United States of America is aiming at complete elimination of British preference, we must maintain some economic bond among the members of the Empire. From inquiries that I have made from the Commonwealth Statistician, I have learned that, during the first half of 1947-4S, Australia had more trade with the United Kingdom than with any other country. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction declared in his speech that Australia’s trade with the United Kingdom was diminishing, and was not nearly of such importance to us as people believe it to be. The figures which I have obtained confound that statement and give us the opportunity to examine the situation in true perspective. During the period I have mentioned, our imports from the United Kingdom were valued at £A.49,500,000, and our exports to the United Kingdom were valued at £A.67,500,000. Our imports from all
British countries were valued at £A.86,75(L000, and our exports at £A.114,50b,000. Our exports to all countries in the same period were valued at £A.160,000,000. That illustrates the cohesive effect of Empire preference. Honorable members will realize, in the light of those figures, that Australia’s trade with Empire countries is its very lifeblood. It is our major economic trading weapon, and I cannot understand the Minister’s assertion that our trade with the United Kingdom is diminishing. On the contrary, the fact is that it is a major part of our world trade. Compare the volume of our British trade with the volume of our trade with the United States of America, the country to which this Government bows the knee and promises to eliminate Empire preference. Our exports to the United States of America for the period under review were worth only £A.14,000,000. That shows clearly that this Government is selling Australia’s Empire birthright for a mess of international pottage. When a Minister seeks to justify actions that the Government has taken or is contemplating he should at least be factual. I have given the House an indication of the real effect that the scaling down of Empire preference is likely to have on Australia’s overseas trade. I doubt whether there will be any appreciable increase of the relatively slight volume of our trade with the United States of America.
Silting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, I was quoting statistics to indicate the benefits received by Australia from Empire preference, and comparing them with those which we are likely to receive if and when Empire preference- is abolished. I had directed attention to the fact that during the first half of the financial year 1947-48 exports from Australia to all parts of the world had amounted to £160,000,000, of which £114,500,000 represented goods exported to British countries, and £14,000,000 goods exported to the United -States of America. If the proposed charter is implemented we must ultimately lose the benefits which we at present enjoy under the system of Empire preference. It seems to me that in order to compensate for that deficiency we must increase .our exports to the United States of America and other nonBritish countries by an amount of approximately £100,500,000 a half year, because that figure represents the difference between the total value of goods which we are at present exporting to British countries and the value of those which we are exporting to the United Sta tas of America. Yet, despite that obvious fact, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) dared to say that the contribution made to this debate by members on this side of the House had been confined to the discussion of local issues, and that important international issues had been completely disregarded. He went further and sought to find excuses for the gross betrayal of Empire preference, and be said that Empire preference was a bugbear to the United States of America. Those were the words which he used. In any case, we know that Empire preference was a bugbear to the United States of America. One has only to recall the lengths to which that country went to connive with Japan in order to “ break down “ the effect of the Ottawa Agreement. The Prime Minister asserted that President Roosevelt and other American leaders had to “ rel “ the idea of aid to Britain to the American Congress by offering the American people something. What did President Roosevelt offer the American people in return for their acquiescence? He offered them the complete elimination of Empire preference, and the economic dismemberment of the British Empire. If I might use a metaphor, he offered them John Bull’s economic head in a charger. The American people, who demanded something in return for dancing to the tune of reciprocal aid to the United Kingdom, were rewarded, as Salome was rewarded, by having delivered to them John Bull’s economic head in a charger. If the Prime Minister wishes to understudy Salome by carrying the head of John Bull in a charger to the American people then he is certainly going the right way about it.
The Prime Minister spoke as if the outcome of the recent war was not as vital to the United States of America as it was to the United Kingdom. What utter nonsense! It is true that in the early days of the war the British soldier was fighting America’s war, and was paid for that fighting with American equipment and goods, just as mercenaries were paid in the bad old days ; but it was good British blood and pluck that “ softened “ the enemy before the United States of America camo into the war. It paid that country well to keep the United Kingdom in the war, so let us forget all the nonsense uttered by the Prime Minister. The recent war was as much the concern of the United States of America as it was of the United Kingdom; and the offer of complete economic dismemberment of the British Empire in return for American aid in the post-war period was an offer which should never have been made, and still less acquiesced in by British countries.
I propose to deal with one further observation made by the Prime Minister. As I said earlier I look to the right honorable gentleman to establish a high level of debate in this House, but when we analyse his recent speech, we realize that he contributed nothing but a sort of sermon around the red “light on the hill “. He made passing reference to communism-
– The honorable member appears to have a profound knowledge of Salome and red lights.
– The remark of the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) in regard to the “red light” makes this particularly pertinent. The Prime Minister made some passing references to communism as a prelude to further remarks which I am about to quote. With a great flow of oratory, which unfortunately lacked sincerity, he said : “ The Labour party is just as concerned about production as is any other party.” Why he linked up communism with that observation I do not know, but I think that it indicates the trend of his thought. However, having mentioned the word “communism” he shied away from it like a brumby, and he was not prepared to say what effect communistic infiltration was having on production. Then he went on to say that the Australian Labour party - is actuated not so much by political motives as by a desire to satisfy the need of thu great mass of the people of Australia for essential goods and to make the utmost possible contribution to the welfare of other peoples of the world, many of whom, are starving. That is not a political creed; it is a humanitarian creed. .Our desire is to do the best we can to assist the world in the difficult position that it is in to-day.
Such a statement cannot be allowed to pass without some comment. It would appear that the Prime Minister is ‘satisfied with Australia’s present production, which he regards as sufficient “ to satisfy the need of the great mass >of the people of Australia for essential goods “. He suggests that since Australia has now reached a record production, it is only concerned with the distribution of that production. But let us look at the statistics. As the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) would say, “ Figures mean what they say “. Let us see bow the needs of the mass of the people are satisfied. The Prime Minister, like every other honorable member, is aware that production “ per man per day “ has decreased to an alarming proportion in every industry. Let me give an example. According to evidence tendered by counsel for the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, before the Full Bench of the Industrial Commission of New South Wales on Monday, the output of steel has declined very considerably. In the course of his address to the court he said -
Whilst the potential capacity of the _ Australian steel industry has increased over the past ten years, since 1941 production has decreased. ‘ Wo are years behind, No less than 450,000 tons are lost per year. At the present moment, approximately 59,000 tons ave awaiting transport in Newcastle. The production of steel has increased only from SO to 85 per cent, of the industry’s capacity.
The 59,000 tons of steel mentioned includes sufficient material to roof approximately 7,000 homes; yet the Prime Minister speaks as if production was at its peak and that we were only concerned with its distribution. Honorable members must be aware that before the war approximately 600 miles of wire netting was manufactured in Australia each week. The output to-day is only about 150 miles a week. Many examples can be given to show that in almost every instance production has decreased rather than increased. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) quoted figures showing the relative values of Australian exports at the present time and in the period before the war. They proved conclusively that production for export purposes of nearly every commodity has decreased to an alarming extent. The Prime Minister must surely be aware that this is due to communist influence. There is no need for me to remind the right honorable gentleman that recently the Prime Minister of England warned the British people that the fight between totalitarianism and democracy was on and that Britain was engaged in it. If the Prime Minister knows anything of current international affairs, he is aware .that there is a foul miasmic fog seeping across Europe and infiltrating into the democracies. The right honorable gentleman excused the Communists by saying -
I say in passing that the great struggle which democracy is having to-day to combat thu inroads of communism is due to the fact that the conservative interests of the world have fertilized the soil in which communism has grown over the centuries.
He made no attack upon communism. He excused the infiltration of Communists into Australian industry and the democracies of Europe. He condoned the things that _ are happening in our midst to-day. Who is responsible for the scandalous loss of production in Australian industry, for the slow turn-round of ships in our ports and for the complete destruction of our markets in the Netherlands East Indies? The Communists whom the Prime Minister excuses are responsible. The Minister for Labour and National .Service (Mr. Holloway) referred to this destructive ideology as “Christ-like”. How Stalin must laugh at our failure to check his efforts to sabotage our industries and at our almost indecent haste to liquidate the Empire economically.
In its annual report the Tariff Board emphasized the importance of coal production and referred to coal as “easily the most important first link in the chain of industry “. What body is better fitted to assess the value of coal than the Tariff Board, which inquires into the needs of all industries and recommends the imposition of duties for their protection?
Coal production in Australia is controlled by a trade union whose president is an avowed Communist. Every ton of coal that is lost means a decrease of productive effort in other directions, because without coal to supply the energy there can be no production by Australian industry. Coal is the lifeblood of industry, and it is the cause of the unrest in Queensland to-day. Queensland desires to develop open-cut mines so that it may be freed from the control of the communist-minded leaders of the miners’ federation, but it is encountering an organized attempt by the Communists to prevent the development of the coal resources within its boundaries. What is the Australian Government doing?
– Order! The honorable member is not entitled to discuss extensively the production position existing in Australia. He must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– With great respect to you, sir, may I point out - -
– Order ! I have ruled that the honorable member is completely out of order. I ask him either to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair or to resume his seat.
– I cannot see how it is possible to evolve a tariff schedule or to deal with matters affecting international trade unless our production is sufficiently great to allow . our products to be distributed through international trade channels. I wish to refer to the slow turn-round in Australian ports of the ships that carry our goods overseas.
-Order! The honorable member must not try to evade the ruling given by the Chair. The field for discussion is a very wide one, and he must confine himself to it. There will be an opportunity later to discuss the other matters to which he has referred.
– I draw your attention, sir, to the orders of the day under which this question is being discussed.
– The first question before the Chair is a motion for the printing of the ministerial statement made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction; the second is a motion for the printing of a memorandum showing alteration of tariff duties; the third is a motion for the printing of a paper dealing with tariff requests.
– The first and second orders of the day refer to trade and employment.
– Those are mere headings and have no reference to the specific matters before the House al the moment.
– I must bow to your ruling, sir. I assume that I shall be in order if I refer again to the second part of the Prime Minister’s speech. The right honorable gentleman said -
The Labour party is just as concerned about production as is any other party. . . . and to make the utmost possible contribution to the welfare of other peoples of the world, many of whom are starving. That is not a political creed; it is a humanitarian creed. Our desire is to do the best we can to assist the world in the difficult position that it is in to-day. [Extension of time granted.] Here we find an echo of the sermon on the “ light on the hill “. Let us forget all this airy nonsense and get down to facts. All the right honorable gentleman has to do in order to bring his statistical information up to date is to . consult one of his advisers. Let him forget this doctrinaire jargon to which we listened in the speech he made in this House last Thursday and apply himself to the facts. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) recently quoted a set of figures that is worth repeating. If it is true, as the Prime Minister said, that the Government wishes only to do what is best in order to feed the world’s starving people, we would expect to see that wish expressed in an effort to increase the production of food in Australia. Far from this being the ease, however, the truth is that food production has consistently declined during the regime of the present Government. I am indebted to the leader of the Australian Country party for the figures which I am about to cite, he having obtained them from official sources. The number of beef cattle declined from 9,300,000 in 1945 to 8,835,000 in 1947. The total area under crop was 2,500,000 acres less in 1947 than in 1938-39. In the same period the area under wheat decreased by 1,147,000 acres. Milk production in 1947 was nearly 128,000,000 gallons less than in 1938-39, and in the same period the production of butter - declined by nearly 60,000 tons. Since 1938-39, the monthly production of beef has decreased from 46,000 tons to 40,500 tons, while butter exports to Britain decreased from 120,000 tons to 50,000 tons. It is obvious that the Government i9 merely paying lip-service to the cause of humanitarianism.
Before the war, ships of the cargo-liner type were able to make three round voyages from Australia to Britain per annum, carrying beef, butter, wheat and other foodstuffs to Britain. Now, owing to delays in Australian ports, they can make only two voyages. In some instances, ships have spent anything up to three months on the Australian coast from the time of arrival at their first port of discharge until their departure on the homeward voyage. They are better fitted to-day than was the case in the past, most of them, having up-to-date gear for handling cargo, but the’ output per man-hour is only about half the pre-war rate. Work on the waterfront goes on now for only fifteen hours a clay, instead of for three shifts as was the case before the war. Apart from the loss entailed and the interference with trade, this reduced output necessarily results in increased freight charges. This may not seem important in times of boom prices for exports in a seller’s market, but when competition becomes fierce, and we are faced with the need to “ shade “ costs as compared with those of our rivals-, freight charges will play a big part. The slowing down of production due to delays in handling cargo was recently emphasized by Mr. Parry-Okeden, managing director of Lysaght’s Limited, Newcastle, who said that it now took fourteen days to handle on the Newcastle wharfs, the same quantity of cargo as was handled in eight days before the war. He was explaining the main reason for the hold-up at New.castle of steel sheeting valued at more than £1,000,000.
I have quoted from the Tariff Board’s report to the effect that coal is the main link between industry and production, but I was prevented by the ruling of the Chair from developing that argument.
– The ruling of theChair was correct. I heard it from afar..
– The Tariff Board is charged with the responsibility of recommending to the Government the degree of protection which Australian industry should enjoy, and itsrecommendations are reflected in the tariff schedule which is now before the Parliament. This important authority has made it plain that the loss of production on the coal-fields is largely responsible for a general slowing down of production in many other industries; yet I am prevented from discussing this phase of the matter because of the ruling of the Chair. In spite of all the talk by Government spokesmen about trade charters and hum anil arianism, the fact remains that industrial production in Australia is declining dangerously. Under the system of Imperial preference we sold to the United Kingdom goods to the value of £114,000,000 per annum. Now we are asked to give up Imperial preference, but our trade with the United States of America, which amounts to only £14,000,000 a year, is a poor substitute. The charter provides that there shall be no discrimination against one signatory a9 compared with another, but how is Australia to compete with countries where living conditions are lower if those countries are to enjoy equal trading rights under the charter?
The trade policy which the Government is sponsoring is a short-sighted one. Australia’s secondary industries cannot benefit, from the agreement as it stands, and who knows what is being “ cooked up’” for us at Havana? How do we knowthat our industries are likely to be preserved? All we can do is to accept the word of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, to listen to the arrant nonsense of the Prime Minister, and to hope that sanity has not been divorced entirely from the Australian legislature.
.- Times and conditions change, but the outlook of the Opposition is as conservative to-day as it was in 1932, when the Ottawa Agreement was signed by the Governments of Canada and the United
Kingdom led by reactionary leaders in the persons of Mr. Bennett in Canada and Earl Baldwin in the United Kingdom.
Mr. Gullett interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Henty is disorderly in interjecting and is aggravating the offence by interjecting from the seat of another honorable member.
– The honorable member for Henty does not have to accept my word that times have changed. On Monday of this week the Sydney Morning Herald, in its leading article, had this to say-
Not since 1932 when the Ottawa Agreement was discussed in the House has there been a full-dress debate on the schedules. The intervening period has witnessed revolutionary changes both in Australia’s internal economy and trading relations with the rest of the world.
Thus, an anti-Labour organ, admits that revolutionary changes have taken place; but the mind of the Opposition is Still the same as it was when the Ottawa Agreement was negotiated more than sixteen years ago. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), with ponderous delivery, rasping voice and wearisome eloquence slobbered about Empire preference. I venture to say that the honorable gentleman has neither read nor understood the agreement nor does he understand what is meant by Empire preference. People should know that Empire preference agreements have not been negotiated between all the members, of the British Commonwealth of Nations. For example, no preferential agreements exist between Australia and die Irish Free State, India or South Africa. .Notwithstanding that, some (Opposition members would have us believe that Empire preference constitutes the very framework of the economy of the British Empire. Australia has never been concerned with arranging tariffs or preference on such a basis. All that was done at Ottawa was to break the ground for a number of bilateral agreements which were later negotiated between Australia and Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, under which Great Britain and the two -Dominions extended certain preferences to u.s in consideration of our extending certain preferences’ to them. That is an entirely different conception of the meaning of preference from that held by some members of the Opposition. The United Kingdom ex-tends preference to us in respect of certain commodities, notably butter, meat and wool. In respect of those commodities the United Kingdom is really obtaining a preference from Australia because the best market for our primary products is certainly not the United Kingdom1. We have been moved to extend that preference, not by reason of any agreement negotiated years ago on a reciprocal trade basis, but because of our loyalty to the people of the United Kingdom. To say that we are receiving preference from the United Kingdom in respect of these commodities is to state the reverse of the actual situation. The United Kingdom is sorely in need of these commodities and we extend preference to it over all other nations which are competing in the most strenuous way for the right to purchase them. The honorable member . for Wentworth said - I wrote down his words as he uttered them -
If Empire preference were abandoned, that would mean the breaking down of the economic framework of the British Empire.
I have demonstrated clearly that in no case is the preference which exists to-day preference within the meaning of the Ottawa Agreement and such other agreements as arose subsequently from it. Had we. desired to sell our primary products in markets which would bring us non-sterling exchange we could have done so. Had we traded with the rest of the world on an insular basis, we would have achieved a favorable trade balance, which would, perhaps, have resolved our non-sterling or dollar difficulties. But that was nor the way of this Government. This Government was prepared to enter into certain agreements with the United Kingdom whereby the whole of our crops of wheat, barley and other cereals’ are sent to the United Kingdom, although previously the United Kingdom purchased them, not from Australia, but from dollar areas, such as Argentina. Notwithstanding that we previously did not enjoy the substantial bulk of British trade in those commodities, despite the fact that the United Kingdom extended preference to them under the Ottawa Agreement, we are, nevertheless, moved by a spirit of loyalty to make sacrifices in favour of the United Kingdom which in ordinary circumstances might not be warranted.
The honorable member for Wentworth began his speech by saying that the negotiations which gave rise to this agreement, were entered upon in a blithe manner. Nothing could be farther from the truth, as I shall demonstrate before 1 resume my seat. As far back as the 12th August, 1941, the fourth principle stated in the Atlantic Charter, which was referred to by the Leader of the Opposition in 1948, but not in 1941, as being a’ “ paper scheme”, provided as follows: - Fourth, they-
That is, the nations concerned - will endeavour, with due respect for their existing1 obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on- equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity.
Reference to- that point in the’ Atlantic Charter’ was made’ in the lend-lease agreement which was negotiated about a year later. I believe that all honorable members appreciate that in February, 1942,. when that agreement was signed, and also in 1941 when the Atlantic Charter was signed, Great Britain was sorely pressed in respect of its great military commitments. It can be said without beating about the bush, that had it not been for the lend-lease agreement which afterwards : led to the United States of America coming, into what the late President’ Roosevelt described as “ a shooting war “, Great Britain would have been knocked out economically much earlier than it was, and the result of the conflict would have been far different. By that I mean that economically Great Britain to-day is paying a heavy debt for the burden it carried during the war. Sometimes, as has been demonstrated in the recent war, a military victory does not mean that the peace which follows is won by the conquering nation. Article VII. of the lend-lease agreement states -
In the final determination of the benefits to be provided to the United States of America by the Government of the United Kingdom in return for aid furnished under the Act of Con gress df the 11 th March, 1941, the terms and conditions thereof glial] bb such as not to burden commerce between the two countries, but to promote mutually advantageous economic relations between them and the’ betterment of world-wide economic relati’ons. Tn that eM. they shall include provision for agreed action by the United States of America aud the United Kingdom, open to participation by nil other countries of like mind, directed to th§ Expansion, by appropriate international and domestic measures, of production, employment, and the exchange and consumption of goods, which are the material foundations of the liberty and welfare of all peoples; to the elimination of all forms of discriminatory treatment in international commerce, arid to the reduction of tariffs and other trade barrier^;. .
The’ remainder of the article merely refers to the Atlantic Charter which I have already read. That article makes it clear that these negotiations, combined with the fact that one condition of the AngloAmerican L6an in 1945 was a promise by Great Britain that in future it would support any proposal to “reduce tariffs, eliminate preferences, end quantitative restrictions on trade, and ban trade policies which meant selling goods overseas more cheaply than at home “. That shows quite clearly that the argument put forward by the honorable member for Wentworth that these negotiations have been entered upon lightly is absurd even in the light of the documents in existence, quite apart from the fact that he - and this is the’ real test of the attitude of the Opposition, is unwilling to face up to what was a firm promise and solemn agreement entered into at a time when we were in dire need of assistance. That seems to be the whole attitude of the Opposition parties. They want’ to repudiate something which was’ done in the darkest days of the war. I believe that these agreements are being’ made in the best interests of this country quite apart from our obligations in respect of assistance which we have been given in previous years. The outstanding feature of this debate is the attitude of the Opposition, which is to take every thing it can get from any source whatsoever, and then to repudiate every obligation in disregard of promises that have been solemnly entered into by this country.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), as I have said, referred to “ paper schemes “ ; and he now opposes the elimination of discriminatory provisions. He spent most of his time arguing about matters which could only be construed as being of domestic importance. He referred to “ increased production “. Heaven only knows how many times ministerial supporters in this chamber have to hear this old story about increased production. In order to show how nonsensical are the arguments advanced by honorable members opposite, I point out that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition compared the production of milk in 1946-47 with that in 1938-39, the year immediately preceding the outbreak of war. In 1946-47 this country incurred record expenditure in respect of drought relief. In that year our dairy-farmers lost 50 per cent, of their herds because of drought. Yet the Deputy Leader of the Opposition compared production in that year with the production in “a year in which we had a favorable season, and he selected an industry most seriously affected by drought, as a fair indication of the degree to which our production has fallen. In making such a comparison, the honorable gentleman is either palpably dishonest, or he does not know what he is talking about.
The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Wentworth referred also to the slow turn-round of ships, a subject which I submit, with great respect, does not appear to be relevant to the question before the Chair.
– Order! The Chair will decide that.
– However, as that subject has been raised, I shall reply to the arguments advanced in respect of it by honorable members opposite. Every honorable member knows that the kind of turn-round of ships effected when the Leader of the Opposition was leader of a government in this country was the kind which obliged men who had only their labour to sell to obtain a licence before they could sell that labour. That was done in pursuance of the provision of the Transport Workers Act, under which wharf labourers at Port Kembla were obliged to turn Dalfram.-
– Order ! The honorable member is digressing. That matter has no more to do with the question before the Chair than have coal strikes.
– The reference of the Leader of the Opposition to the slow turn-round of ships brings back poignant memories to those who recall his record as Attorney-General.
The draft charter, which has not been finally settled, because the representatives of the nations are still meeting at Havana, provides certain safeguards; but one would imagine, when listening to honorable members opposite, that the only negotiations which took place so far as Australia was concerned were all one-sided at the expense of this country. The fact is that the preferences which were surrendered either had never been implemented with the countries with which they had been negotiated - and I refer in thisrespect particularly to Canada - or they had not resulted in any appreciable increase of trade. Consequently, where preferences were to be relinquished under the draft agreement reached at Geneva, some other advantages were obtained in lieu of them, and, having regard to present-day conditions, such advantages are of far greater value to this country than the preferences abandoned which were, in effect, dead wood and had been negotiated a long time ago.
– Can the honorable member give instances?
– Yes, I shall be glad to.
– Start with the dried fruits industry.
– In a nutshell, the main preferences of importance to the United Kingdom, in particular, and to Canada are butter, meat and sugar, and, in the case of the United Kingdom, canned pineapples were left untouched, although it is true that some dried fruits were touched. The Australian people must decide whether the balance is in their favour or adverse. There is no question in m 71 mind, for I consider that the balance is overwhelmingly in their favour. Specific tariff negotiations have been concluded on an interim basis by seventeen countries. When the final agreement has been reached it will certainly be possible for it to be kept up to date by the participating countries.
The agreement will contain certain safeguards enabling the suspension of tariffs that create adverse situations. A specific escape provision to that effect is provided for in the draft charter. Another article provides that if a participating nation considers the completion of developmental projects is possible only by the suspension of a negotiated tariff that tariff may be suspended with the consent of the other countries.
– It is not likely that that consent would be given.
– It is difficult to say in answer to the honorable member just how the charter will work, hut I think it will be possible in the circumstances to obtain the consent of the other countries to the suspension of a negotiated tariff. Moreover, should the negotiated tariff result in a flow of goods from, say, a hard currency country that actually damaged an Australian industry or caused an unfavorable trade balance, the importation of those goods could be restricted or prohibited by limiting or withholding licences to import them, and another possible refuge available to a country adversely affected by the negotiated tari if s is to depreciate its currency, as was done recently by France. The question to be decided now is whether the House should approve of the specific tariffs that, subject to ratification within six months of their having been provisionally agreed to by the countries concerned, have been actually effective from the 18th November last. In addition to that matter, we are considering the preparatory “trade conversations that took place at Geneva and are now concluding at Havana. Australia did not send its delegation to either Geneva or Havana in the belief that it would be the victim of any “ horse deal “, because, in 1945, the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), in addressing the National Trade Council at the world trade dinner, in New York, said -
Australia’s Government is responsible to a democratic Parliament and a democratic people. Consider what our Parliament and our people in Australia would say if, without adequate guarantees for our oversea trade, we were to invite them to abandon their economic defences, their sovereign rights over their tariffs and over their own currency and exchange rates. Adequate guarantees are not to be found merely in the good intentions of various international bodies, which might well be dominated by the few Powers. Nevertheless, I believe that the Australian people might be willing to review the situation and assess all its advantages and disadvantages. We realize what the stakes are. We shall strain every nerve to achieve the common objectives of the United Nations. We shall’ play our part in peace as we have played our part in war.
That statement is as true to-day as when it was made. It presents the basic policy upon which the negotiations have been engaged in by the Australian delegation, and for the Leader of the Opposition to say that these are paper schemes is to beg the question, because the right honorable gentleman knows very well that his references to Empire preference are not in fact references to the real economy of the British Empire or any part of it. Empire preference is a political concept with no economic meaning. Whatever the ultimate result of the negotiations may be, the Government has only two aims - full employment and an improved standard of living for the peoples of all countries. If the surrender of Empire preference means that the British people will have a rising standard of living, let us surrender it. Opposition members hope for political gain from their references to Empire preference, but their statements have no relevancy to the true economic position of Great Britain, Canada, and New Zealand.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) declared that the Government, in negotiating tariffs, should endeavour to strike a proper balance or adjustment between free trade and protection. A former Secretary of Stale in the United States of America, Mr. Cordell Hull, who is a rabid free trader, injected into the whole subject of free trade and protection a consideration which has become pertinent only in recent years. It is apparent that some countries will not be able to wage war unless they have all the commodities which are essential. to the conduct of total war. If tariff barriers are to be progressively reduced, as is envisaged by the agreement which has been concluded and which is certainly envisaged by the International Trade Organization to be established under the charter, countries within the ambit of the agreement will probably concentrate on the goods which they can produce most efficiently. The effect of that will be to ensure the maintenance of peaceful relations between those particular countries. In the event of a war, the countries which have become allied in a military Hoc, will be capable of producing far more efficiently and making a bigger effort :han would be possible if production were itemized on the basis of individual units. The Mutual Aid Agreement, which was really the foundation of this particular charter, envisages a pool of the resources of the allied countries in order to obtain a maximum war effort. Whilst no person likes to talk about the possibility of a war in the near future, we cannot disguise the fact that certain trends in world events must cause all of us to examine what our positions will be in the event of a fina] “ showdown “. What has been done under the terms of the charter, and what is to be done under the more specific agreement, will bind, more closely, the countries which are likely to provide the largest part, if not the whole, of the opposition to other countries which wish to pursue policies foreign to those of the democratic nations.
The Leader of the Opposition stated that, although the draft charter provides that Empire preference shall remain as it is at present, and shall not be increased or expanded in any way, the duties leviable under the existing preference are for a fixed amount of money rather than on a percentage basis. Recently, when the tariffs of certain European countries were revised, what were previously fixed amounts of duty in monetary value were altered to ad valorem duties. That argument applies to the proposition advanced by the Leader of the Opposition. Some Empire preferences are related to ad valorem duty, and others are, as the right honorable gentleman stated, for a fixed amount of money. If a preference is to have any value, it must be of use when prices are low. That is the time when a fixed amount of money leviable as a duty by way of a preference would be of greater advantage than a percentage, because a percentage would be for a smaller amount, and afford less protection.
– Order ! The hon- orable member has exhausted his time.
.- I shall begin my speech in the same way as the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) began his, by saying that times and conditions changeWe all recognize the truth of that statement, but I was not able to follow the honorable member’s remarks beyond that point. I speak for every member of the Opposition when I say that, in spite of the changing times and conditions, we on this side of the chamber stand firm for loyalty and cooperation in the British Commonwealth of Nations. The honorable member for Watson quoted a passage from the Sydney Morning Herald, and an extract from a speech by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt). I do not propose to follow his example, but I point out that the honorable member endeavoured to draw a red herring across what may be termed “ the Empire trail “. He stated that Australia traded with only some parts of the British Empire, and he cited as instances certain other parts of the Empire with which Australia has not entered into trade agreements. While that may be so, I remind him that theEmpire consists of a number of parts, and one part trades with some, and not necessarily all the other parts. They cake up what has been described as the “economic framework “ of the British Empire. That is easily understood, and, therefore, I was amazed when the honorable member for Watson tried to draw that red herring across the trail. One part of the British Empire trading with some of the other parts contributes to the framework that helps to hold together the greatest Empire in the world.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), in his speech, expressed amazement that members of the Opposition had allowed the debate to fall to such a low level. He also said that he had hoped that party politics would not have intruded into this discussion. In my opinion, the subject of tariffs and trade is a vital party political matter. The important question to be resolved is whether the policy propounded by the Government, or the policy propounded by the Opposition, is right. Therefore, this matter must be considered on a party political basis. After the Prime Minister’s reproof, I wa3 amazed to hear the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) make an unwarranted attack this afternoon on the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) although that right honorable gentleman was absent from the chamber. I wondered what the Prime Minister’s thoughts were when the honorable member introduced party political bias into this debate on a great national and international subject.
The first question which all honorable members should ask themselves is : Have the international conferences on tariffs and trade been of any advantage to Australia? Ever since I have been a member of this House, I have noticed that the Government has sent abroad delegates to all kinds of conferences, and I am not able to ascertain whether any of these conferences have yielded results beneficial to this country. It appears to me that the Government has adopted a policy which works inside and outside of Australia. The policy may be briefly expressed thus : “ If you cannot lift a country or an individual, pull others down to that level”. Inside Australia, the Government recently announced the granting of increased social services. Outside Australia, the Government is fighting for smaller and larger nations which have a low standard of living. If we are unable to raise them to . the standards which countries _ forming the British Empire have attained, the policy of the Government seems to be that we should pull the Empire down to the lower levels in order to achieve equality.
The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) quoted authoritative figures to support his views on tariffs and trade, and the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) interjected to the effect that the right honorable gentleman had cooked some of those figures. Actually, the figures were compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician, and the interjection emphasized the ignorance of the Vice-President of the Executive Council about the subject. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said that Australians must now be eating sufficient for the first time. As the figures related to production, it would appear that the honorable member believes that the Australian people had eaten the food before it was produced. The honorable member for Watson said that the Government was sick and tired of. hearing about the need for increased production, and that the Labour party stood for two things, full employment and a higher standard of living. However, the honorable member did not tell us how these could be achieved. Full employment in this country has not led to greater production. In fact, production has fallen, and will continue to fall. The reason for this is really quite clear. Decreased production is largely due to the great, number of men and women employed in government departments, many of whom are distributing the small supplies available, when they should be engaged in a productive capacity. In effect, the honorable member for Watson has given us two sides of a triangle. The other side is hard work and increased production, and until the Government realizes that more incentive must be given to the people of this country, we shall not have greater production. No doubt this is all very amusing to the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who has yet to inform honorable members on the happenings at Havana. In the absence of that information we are working in the dark. The DirectorGeneral of Post-war Reconstruction, Dr. Coombs, addressed meetings of Opposition members and Government supporters prior to his departure for Geneva. Even at that stage we could see quite plainly that the intention was to barter Empire preference for a lowering of tariff walls by other countries. But what has happened in our trade relations with America? Are we selling more goods to that country? Have we been able to liberate more of the elusive dollars? Is there any evidence at al] of beneficial results ? We have heard all kinds of high-flown ideas expressed from the government benches. The Prime Minister said that Great Britain’s fate depended upon the acceptance of the Marshall plan. But a few weeks ago the right honorable gentleman said that Great Britain’s fate depended upon the Bretton Woods Agreement and the International Bank for reconstruction and development.
– He did not say anything of the sort.
– He said that Great Britain’s fate depended largely on the Bretton Woods Agreements and the International Bank, but we hear very little about them to-day. They have fallen by the wayside as do most organizations which depend on multilateral agreements. Only last week, Great Britain made trade agreements with Holland, Poland and Finland, providing, of course, for the supply to the United Kingdom of certain quantities of foodstuffs. Apparently Great Britain still believes in bilateral agreements, although Australia prefers contracts between all nations. The real necessity in this country is greater production. When we have achieved that, we may have more goods to send overseas and so be in a position to make agreements with other countries that will help this country in its present need.
Much has been said about the great prosperity existing in this country to-day. Only a few days ago, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction said that the Labour Government had done more for certain industries during its term of office than had been done by all other antiLabour administrations. Unfortunately, Labour governments seem to be able to legislate for a very short period only, and during that period they use up all the resources of the nation, thus paving the way for a depression. This Government is using up our resources in its pursuit of full employment which has failed to produce full production. Until full employment can be linked with full production little progress can be made. The Leader of the Australian Country party quoted a long list of Australian exports that had decreased over the past few years; but he did not mention exports that had- increased. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) himself drew the attention of the House not long ago to the fact that last year Australia received £6,000,000 for rabbit skins. That is what is happening in this country. Is it any wonder that we are falling short of our export quotas in beef, mutton, and dairy products, when a pest has been turned into an industry the product of which is our only increasing export? The Government’s economic policy is wrong from the foundation upwards. The Government believes that workers can go slow and the country still prosper, but that cannot be done, and until the purse-strings of this country are controlled’ by an administration that is prepared to legislate against strikes and industrial dislocations generally, particularly hold-ups such as that now occurring m Queensland, our prospects will not be very bright.
.- This is a debate on three subjects, and virtually a discussion of Australia’s trade relations for the next three years. The history of the matter, briefly, is this : Early in World War II. the Allied Nations, including Australia, entered into the Mutual Aid Agreement with the United States of America, which was not then at war. One of the terms of the agreement was that the United States of America would give lend-lease aid to certain nations including Great Britain and it recited certain post-war objectives, which were to extend employment production, distribution and consumption of goods, and to reduce barriers and eliminate discriminatory practices in international trade. The first of these objectives which I have mentioned, namely to extend employment, is sometimes called the positive side, and the latter, relating to the lowering of tariff barriers, is known as the negative side. The Mutual Aid Agreement was followed shortly afterwards by the Atlantic Charter, which pledged the United Nations to promote higher standards of living, full employment, conditions of economic and social progress and development, and to seek a solution of international economic, social, health and related problems.
In his speech in this debate, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said that these two documents imposed an obligation - he said first a contractual obligation and then he said a moral obligation - upon Great Britain and also upon Australia to become parties to an international trade organization. The United States of America in 1945 produced a draft charter for an international trade organization. It is clear that, in the preparation of the first United States draft, the draftsmen concentrated exclusively upon what I called the negative side of the mutual aid programme, that is to say the reduction of trade barriers and the elimination of preferences. That, in its turn, having been discussed by a committee, was followed by by what is known as the Geneva draft, which was based upon the United States draft. In that document also there was an extraordinary concentration upon the subject of tariffs and trade preferences to the exclusion of the “ positive “ side already referred to. Quite obviously, the document was aimed at Imperial preference and envisaged a reduction of tariffs to the advantage of the United States of America. Both in the United States draft and in the Geneva draft it is clear that the draftsmen also ignored entirely the altogether critical dollar problem, which even then was casting its shadow across the world. Following upon the Geneva draft, the Havana conference has been called to discuss the draft and to approve it. Concurrently, the general tariff agreement was entered into. That has already been signed by about ten nations and will take effect, if this Parliament ratifies it, as no doubt it will do having regard to the Government’s majority, in July, 1948.
I confess that I find this subject of international trade one of most extraordinary difficulty. I have spent my working lifetime in a field which does not include the matter of international trade. I do not think I do any injustice to other honorable members when I say that they, too, are in much the same position. I venture to suggest also that the officials who went from Australia to those conferences were themselves not in a very much better position. A second difficulty w7hich I find arises out of the terms of the two documents that we are discussing - the draft charter, which is also being debated at Havana at present, and the general tariff agreement. Both documents are extremely voluminous. Both of them are highly complicated in their terms and both of them are completely incomprehensible in many of their provisions. I am trained in the interpretation of documents yet I confess, if it be a confession, that I am unable to satisfy myself as. to what many of the articles of the draft charter mean. Again, I do not think that I do an injustice to other honorable members when I say that they, too, do not know what those provisions mean. I think it is probable that most members of this House have done their best with this extremely difficult subject. It is our duty to do so. In a matter of this sort, we are trustees for the people. Not many people in Australia will have an opportunity to consider these documents. Few, indeed would be able to understand them, if they were understandable. Therefore it is incumbent upon us very especially to do our best to make sense out of what is before us and to reach a wise and unbiased decision as to what we should do.
The Geneva, draft, which is being considered at Havana, and the general agreement, which is to come into force in July, 1943, have been discussed by several honorable members, and the Prime Minister has invited us to deal with them upon a high plane. He has said that this is a matter of importance which should be considered apart from mere party criticisms. I think most of us are responding to his invitation, but I trust that the right honorable gentleman does not suggest that we should refrain from criticism if we feel that it is justified. I think all of us agree that it is desirable to have agreement in matters of world trade if possible. If we lived in a stable world it might be possible to secure such agreement, although evan that is doubtful. In the world of 1948 it is not merely doubtful ; it is almost impossible. I hope that any criticism which we advance against these two documents will not be construed as implying that we disagree with the proposition that there should be agreement on world trade if possible. What we say is that any agreement which is made must be effective and beneficial to the people of Australia. Therefore, the question to be considered in discussing these documents is : Will they be for the good of Australia in the long run ?
I have said that many of the provisions of the draft charter are grotesque. They remind me very much of the Mad Hatter who, in conversation with Alice, was reminded by Alice that the words lie was using had not the correct meaning. He replied, “ W Words mean what I want them to mean “. Looking at these documents one is strongly reminded of that remark. The inference to be drawn is that the Australian Minister and officials who attended the conferences, and indeed the members of other national delegations, were rather like babes in the wood when it came to agreeing to some of the articles. I do not want to be construed as saying that their position was not difficult. I believe that it was extraordinarily difficult, for reasons which I shall state later.
I believe that if these two agreements, which are almost identical hi many respects, are carried through to their logical conclusion, they will mean the end of the British Commonwealth as we know it, and, in the long run, probably the end of this country as a strong economic unit. It has been said that the Socialist Government of Great Britain has been doing its best over the last few years to make an end of the British Commonwealth by some of its decisions. I agree with that, but perhaps that would be an uncharitable comment to make in relation to the International Trade Organization charter, because in these negotiations Great Britain was probably faced with a dilemma which it found to be inescapable. That is a matter for Great Britain, and perhaps it is not, our right to be too critical, having regard to the extraordinary economic difficulties of that country. But if these documents are implemented, then Imperial preference, as we know it, will disappear entirely. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) suggested that in reality there was no such thing as “ Imperial preference “ ; and that the only concession we enjoy at present is a kind of limited, partial preference. However, his view seems to differ, not only from that of the Minister’ for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), and of every honorable member who has taken part in the debate, hut also from those of all the writers on the subject - and I have read the views of a great many in the last week or so.
The proposal is intended to “ freeze “ some preferences, to reduce others, and to provide that no new preferences shall be conferred. Article 25 of the draft charter makes it clear that the subject of trade preference is to be reviewed, with the undoubted objective ultimately of disposing altogether of that policy. In what we must all agree was a very able speech, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) drew attention to the statement made by Mr. Clayton, who was a member of the United States delegation. Mr. Clayton said that Imperial preference would be “ dissolved “ ; and he is not the only one who holds that view. I have before me a handbook issued by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which contains the complete text of the draft charter, together with certain comments of the editor. That publication refers to an article written by Mr. A. C. Gilpin, which appeared in the Magazine of the Future in August, 1947. That article stated -
British opinion is unhappy about the International Trade Organization. On the left, socialists object to what seems undue interference with . the nation’s right to plan its trade; on the right, Imperialists foresee the Empire’s unity disintegrating before the assault on Imperial preference; in left, right and centre alike, there are fears that we are tying ourselves too closely to the powerful but violently erratic economy of the United States.
The Eight Honorable L. S. Amery, a very distinguished British statesman whose name is well-known to honorable members, in the course of an article which he contributed to the Times, stated -
The real motive, conscious or sub-conscious, is the desire of American exporting and financial interests to maintain a one-sided world hegemony by keeping the rest of the world broken up into small economic units incapable of ever competing on equal terms with American production, and dependent on American finance to redress a continuously adverse balance of payments. More particularly, it is to be feared, does this ambition extend- to the economic, and eventually political, domination of the widely scattered and individually weak members of the British Commonwealth; and this accounts for the peculiar virulence and determination of the onslaught on British Empire preference.
I had also intended to quote the views expressed by Lord Altrincham in the House of Lords, but I have not available to me at the moment his precise words. However, Lord Altrincham described the provisions of the draft charter as “ a treason to the British Commonwealth
Ike introduction to the handbook published by the> Carnegie Institute, to which I have gust referred, states -
There has been much criticism of the charter- a<nd I remind the House that the writer is am American. It goes on to state - (more in other countries than in the United States), stemming primarily from ‘the intolerable economic pressures under which most countries are living and fear of (a) extreme economic fluctuations in the United States which, without adequate safeguards, could quickly undermine efforts at economic planning and (.6) United States Competitive power. As pointed out above, the Charter gives maximum consideration to the extraordinary problems of the transitional period, so much so that many criticize it as a series of escape clauses tied together with very tenuous principles. There can be little question that because of our extraordinarily powerful position, the success of the charter will depend to an overwhelming degree upon our efforts as a nation to help restore a shattered world. Particularly it will depend upon the outcome of the reciprocal trade negotiations still in progress and the renewal of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act by Congress next June. Without a firm substructure of tirade agreements, the charter does become a complicated blueprint rather than the foundation for the building.
When the author mentioned “ the reciprocal trade negotiations still in progress “ he was referring to the general trade agreement subsequently entered into, to which I referred earlier in my speech. In expressing the view that the success of the charter will depend particularly “ upon the outcome of the reciprocal trade negotiations “, he confesses the failure of the. charter, because the general agreement follows very closely indeed the charter itself and contains nothing new to justify the writer’s hopes. Then there are the provisions to “ freeze “ and to reduce tariffs. For Australia to bind itself to such a system at a time when it . has such hopeless, adverse trade balances is, in effect, for it to hand itself over to the United States economy on a platter. That is a criticism which has been made, not only by Mr. Amery, but also by other authorities whose comments I have read. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to assert that Australia will obtain certain advantages, including a certain reduction of the United States tariff on our wool. It is true that after i having “ boosted up “ the tariff on wool immediately prior to the negotiations, apparently in order’ to create a proper atmosphere for the negotiations, the United States did make a reduction of that tariff. .However, the real value of that, concession must depend ultimately upon the quantity of wool which the United States purchases from us, which no one’ can forecast. All we know is that the United States itself is a large wool-growing country and that its production of wool is increasing.
The documents under consideration are unpalatable ones. It may be that the Socialist Government of Great Britain felt itself driven to acquiesce at Geneva in many of the terms, of the draft agreement because of what it considered to be its own inescapable economic position. But I cannot believe that a proper fight was waged, at least, by Australia’s representatives. For the moment I limit my criticism to Australia’s representatives, because it would be impertinent to criticize the representatives of other Empire countries. Having compared the d>raft document originally submitted by the United States delegation with the draft which was subsequently approved at Geneva, and with the tariff agreement which follows it so closely, I say that I do not believe that our representatives waged ‘he sort of fight which they should have, because, otherwise, we could have obtained better terms. Apart from the political members of Australia’s delegation, I do not know the names of those who represented us at the conference, but I take leave to observe that it should have been possible for us to have been served by harder heads and more experienced minds at the conference table, when the “ to and fro “ haggle was going on which culminated in this agreement. After all, if agreement is to be reached at a conference, those attending must be induced to agree, and I suppose that it was in the interests of the United States as much as in those of any other nation that agreement should be reached. If Australia, Great Britain and other countries had said that they would not agree, it is probable that better terms could have been obtained. One is led to wonder whether the United Kingdom fought the fight it should have done in this matter or whether the theorists were in charge, as they appear to have been in the case of this country.
That is the last criticism I think I ought to make. It must be agreed that Australia, in common with Great Britain, is in a dilemma. We have made what seems to be, on paper, a bad bargain, so far as one can construe the documents, but, if we had made no bargain at all we should then have been in the position of having excluded ourselves from, at any rate, an attempt to arrive at some sort of international agreement on trade, and to that extent to have excluded ourselves from the general comity of nations. My forecast is that this agreement will break down under its own weight. It willprobably collapse because its terms are woolly and nebulous. It contains “ escape “ provisions, ambiguities and gaps large enough forany nation to drive a coach and horses through if that is desired. That may well be the fate of this document, as well as of the Bretton Woods Agreement, which was entered into, at any rate by some nations, with such high hopes. I suggest that the lesson to be learned by Australia in this, and in all international affairs to-day, is that it should co-operate closely with Great Britain. I endorse all that was said by the honorable member for Warringah about this. Australia’s trade survival depends upon the survival of Great Britain. If we can do no more than send real delegations to Great Britain to persuade the Government of that country to enter into closer economic concord wth us, we shall have done much. I believe that it is only by entering into trade, political and defence agreements with Great Britain that the security of this country and of Great Britain itself can be achieved. I believe also that we should now make bilateral trade agreements wherever we can make them. Great Britain has apparently already concluded some sixteen such agreements, notwithstanding the multilateral draft charter to which it has subscribed, Australia should follow that example and proceed to do the same thing. We have goods to sell that the world needs. We are now - whether we shall be in a few years’ time is another matter - in a favorable position to conclude bi lateral agreements that will probably pay better dividends than the nebulous and unenforcible agreements we are now considering in connexion with the International Trade Organization.
Finally, I wish to say this, and although I have left the remarks which follow until the end of my speech, that does not mean that they are not the most important. We must settle down to the task of providing ourselves with a stronger economic bargaining power in the world. We can only strengthen our bargaining power by increasing the productivity of our industries and the amount of goods we can sell to other nations. I believe that production and more production is the only way in which our future trade security can be secured.
.- When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) spoke on this matter, he dealt with these complicated issues in a very able and realistic manner. He made a real contribution to the thought that should be devoted to these knotty problems. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) also made an important contribution to the debate when he pointed out the futility of discussing international trade and employment without full knowledge of the production and employment situation in our own country. How can international agreements on trade be successful unless they are founded upon a full knowledge by each delegate of the production of his own country? I was amazed when the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) rebuked the Leader of the Liberal party and the Leader of the Australian Country party for having, as he put it, reduced the debate to a low level. Those were perhaps not the words used by the right honorable gentleman, but that was the implication.
– Hear, hear!
– That I have correctly interpreted the meaning of the right honorable gentleman’s words is borne out by the interjection just made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). The Prime Minister said he had hoped that, for once, a debate would be conducted free from party politics, and raised above the level of local incidents. He went on to say that he thought this was surely an occasion when the tone of the speeches made by honorable members could be raised to the high level of our international responsibilities. The right honorable gentleman referred to the fact that the Leader of the Opposition had dealt with the slow turn-round of ships - and surely trade cannot be conducted without ships - and that the Leader of the Australian Country party had referred to the falling off in the volume of local production. For both of those matters the right honorable gentlemen blamed the activities of the Communists in Australia. The Prime Minister then proceeded to lecture the House and to rebuke the Opposition. Despite the lofty level of debate that he demanded from the Opposition, he said that the conduct of conservative forces through the ages had sown the seeds of communism. In his attack, the right honorable gentleman developed a thesis that, upon examination, can only be construed as a justification of communism in this country. The internal and externa] dangers facing Australia, which are of great magnitude, and which are associated with the growth of communism, derive con- .stant nourishment from statements pf that kind made by the Prime Minister and other Ministers. It ill befits a Prime Minister to rebuke members of the Opposition for lowering the level of a debate and then himself to introduce a bitter element of party disputation and to found bis argument in support of his charges upon the statement that what he describes as the conservative elements in the community had sown the seeds of communism in this country. If any honorable member lowered the level of the debate it was the Prime Minister himself when he chose to follow that line of argument. Having attempted in a “ snide “ manner to smear the Opposition parties, he turned away and said, in effect, that the proposed tariff reductions were inevitable because they were founded upon certain agreements entered into between the United Kingdom and the United States during the war. He made clear what, indeed, I already knew, that it would be of no use for any member of the Opposition to offer a constructive suggestion regarding any specific tariff admendment. Long experience of Labour administration has shown me that it is useless to offer constructive criticism of Labour policy once it has been decided upon. The Prime Minister was not enlightening me when he said that the matter was predetermined, but I take issue with him when he said, in effect, “ “Well, the game is up, anyway. What is the good of discussing it ? “ This attitude was supported by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) in his speech this evening. Thus, we have a tariff schedule before the Parliament containing hundreds, perhaps thousands of items-
– Yes, there arethousands of. them.
– We are supposed todebate intelligently, a schedule containing thousands of items to which there is nc index to enable us to turn, up an item in which we may be particularly interested.
– Honorable membershave had the schedule before them for four months.
– I have had thisschedule for less than two weeks. The Minister for Post-war Reconstructionknows that it was brought before theHouse only about two’ weeks ago.
– That is not true. It was tabled by the Minister for Commerceand Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) on the- 18th November.
– That was a different document altogether - one bound in a blue cover. I, for one, am not going toattempt to discuss individual items, but I propose to address myself to the general principle to which the Prime Minister devoted his time as being explanatory of the comprehensive provision of the tariff.. It shows quite clearly that this is at least the starting point for doing away with Empire preference.
– Not the starting pointIt was started a long time ago, when thehonorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was a Minister.
– I do not know whether the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction will attempt to justify the abolition of Imperial preference, but some of his- supporters’ have already done so, notably, the honorable member for Watson. However, there has been a conspicuous failure by most Labour members representing country constituencies to stand up in their places and’ defend- this beginning of the abolition of Empire preference. Those Labour members who hold their positions because they gained the support of the producers of meat, butter, dried fruits, &c., have not been game tojustify the Government’s policy.
– I justified it, and showed the advantages which the primary producers would obtain from it.
– The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) is a rare exception - the exception which proves the rule.
– The honorable member for Indi was not here at the time. He was running round his electorate.
– That is wholly untrue. The Prime Minister pointed out that the tariff revision had its genesis in the discussions between the Governments of the United Kingdom and of the United States of America in the desperate days of the war, and in the documents which were drawn up as a result of those discussions. One of them was the Atlantic Charter, an historic document of tremendous propaganda value at the time, but it was not a contractual agreement between nations.
– That remark shows that the honorable member does not know what he is talking about.
– If the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction is not sufficiently informed on the subject we are prepared to tell him where he can look up Mr. Churchill’s words to prove the truth of what I am saying. Of course, I have no doubt that the Minister will contradict Mr. Churchill. The Prime Minister based his policy on the contract embodied in the lend-lease agreement.
– That was not a contract.
– It was an agreement, and I accept it as a contract. The Prime Minister also based his policy on the provisions of the Anglo-American loan agreement, which I also accept as a contract. It is true that Article VII. of the lend-lease agreement contains an undertaking for a post-war general revision of tariff, and it was accepted by all parties that this meant a- downward revision. Article 6 of the AngloAmerican loan agreement contains provisions against trade discrimination, and others provide for the non-convertibility of sterling. However, the Prime Minister said more than he intended .when he quoted those documents as justifying the tariff revision. He said that the provision for non-discrimination was inserted in the lend-lease agreement at the behest of the then President of the United States of America. He added that, in respect of the loan agreement, the President of the United States of America had to “ sell “ the idea of the loan to his own people. That expresses, in better words than I could choose, how those provisions, which now weigh so heavily upon us. came to be inserted. The provision that the United Kingdom was to become a party to a downward revision of tariffs was inserted in the lend-lease agreement at the demand of President Roosevelt before the United States of America entered the war. It was a political device inserted for the purpose of “ selling “ the lend-lease agreement to the American people. President Roosevelt and his administration knew that the war in those days was their war and America’s war; but the American people did not know that. The President was constantly far ahead of his people. He had to “nurse them along”. In the words of the Prime Minister, he had to “ sell “ them the idea, as a salve for them to accept this gigantic conception of lend-lease. The Government of the United States knew that lend-lease would apply to a vast volume of armaments, munitions and appurtenances of war. The words “ lease-lend “ were never intended to convey the idea of leasing or lending anything; they were known to cover gifts, but as a salve to American business men, and the people of the United States of America, the idea was created that vastly increased markets would be available to- the American people after the war. President Roosevelt, in a message to Congress, said that out of this agreement, 60,000,000 additional Americans would gain employment through the lower tariffs that would be extended to American industry after the war. It was good politics. He commended the idea to the American people; but the ink was scarcely dry on the paper when the United .States itself was at war, as the President knew it would be, because the tragedy of Pearl Harbour had occurred. Then, for the whole of the American people, it was their war, and not the war of other people, as it had been, in their opinion, when the leaselend agreement was signed.
The Australian Government and the United Kingdom Government should have argued vigorously along those lines. They should have pointed out that the countries forming the British Empire should not have been held to what, I admit, was a written contract, signed in a moment of great stress, when Prime Ministers would have been entitled to commit their countries to almost any obligations in order to gain the advantages of America’s support.
– The honorable member is seeking to justify repudiation. ‘
– That is untrue. The whole history of the relationship of nations is a record of skilful diplomats pointing out to the representatives of nations with which they have had contractual obligations that circumstances had changed, and that it would be fair to vary the contracts in the interests of all parties concerned. The variation of the lend-lease contract would have been to the interest of not only the British people, but also of those of every country in the world. Perhaps no country would have gained more from the variation than the United States itself.
Conditions of the same impossible kind were inserted in the United Kingdom loan agreement with the United States of America. The convertibility of sterling was a contractual obligation. The Minister accused me of wanting to repudiate our obligations. The United Kingdom repudiated the agreement in relation to the convertibility of sterling, because it was forced to do so. Did the Minister accuse the United Kingdom Government of repudiation in that connexion? The facts of the situation were too powerful for the United Kingdom Government to withstand. It became impossible for the United Kingdom to honour the terms of a signed contract agreeing that, after a certain date, sterling would be converted freely into dollar currencies. The United Kingdom Government declared frankly that it could not honour its obligations. It was recognized by the American people that they had imposed impossible conditions. After-events revealed how bad these conditions were. If bad conditions are included in an international agreement of this kind they will prove to be bad for the American people themselves.
Let us make no mistake about what this agreement means. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade had its genesis in the Mutual Aid Agreement. It represents the cutting up of the British Commonwealth. It gives effect to President Roosevelt’s promise to his people that there would be vastly expanded markets for American industry after the war. Where are these vastly expanded markets? Are they in Russia, in Czechoslovakia, in Hungary, in Bulgaria? Are they in France, in Italy, or in some other impoverished European country? Not at all. It is in the British Commonwealth that American goods are to be sold, to the detriment of British industry throughout the whole body of the British Commonwealth. This agreement represents something far more important than merely a trade agreement. The United Nations with all its hopes of ensuring peace on earth has already failed because one of the principal countries is not playing its part. We are now back at the point we started from. For 100 years the greatest force for peace was a powerful, strong and wealthy British people. There is room on this globe for a powerful, wealthy, progressive and expanding United States economy side by side with a powerful British expanding economy; but let the British Commonwealth dissolve into unimportance and there will he those who will say that there is room on this earth only for a powerful United States economy and a. powerful Soviet economy, and we shall be crushed between the upper and nether millstones. That line of thought brings me to the conclusion that if we help the British Empire to rebuild its strength we shall contribute as much to the’ ultimate happiness and security of the United States as to the happiness and strength of the British peoples themselves. These are the things which our representatives should have discussed in their arguments to prove that it was not good business to force upon the United Kingdom Government the objective of American businessmen to do away with Empire tariffs, and that it was not good business from any standpoint for Americans to destroy British industry in any part of the British Commonwealth. Heaven knows, we have examples ready made to-day to fortify us in that argument. The industries upon which this country is building its strength are those which provide our meat, dried, canned and fresh fruits, and dairy products, all of which were developed by Empire preference, and all of which are dependent on the maintenance of that preference for their continuance. What will happen should these industries be destroyed by competition? We have an example to-day of the kind of thing that can happen. To-day, with the British Empire, particularly the United Kingdom, reduced in economic importance and military strength, we have an example already of what is happening. The British have been driven out of the Suez Canal area. Does any one believe that it is a contribution to the maintenance of world peace that instead of a powerful British country holding the Suez Canal area, it should be in the hands of weak and quarelling little nations? Of course not! That is going on progressively. The British people are weakened economically, and as they are- weakened economically they will be weakened militarily. As the British become dependent upon foreign countries we shall see the jackals at work. Great Britain has suffered the humiliation of suffering a country like Argentina, which, throughout the whole of the recent war, sympathized with the dictatorship countries, occupying British territory; and Great Britain is impotent to do anything about, it. Is Great Britain impotent because it has not the necessary military strength to hold its own territory ;u the Falklands? Is that the reason?
Is it because the British have lost all their traditional strength of character and will not now defend what they have owned for hundreds of years? Of course not! The truth is that, to-day, Argentina is “ riding high “ on meat diplomacy. Great Britain is dependent upon Argentina for meat for the breakfast table, and should the British kick Argentina out of British territory, Argentina’s immediate reaction would be to deny meat to the United Kingdom. Because the United Kingdom has allowed itself to become dependent upon one of these little countries, it must suffer indignity.
If the result of these tariff reviews be to make Great Britain dependent upon the United States of America for canned fruits, upon the Levant for dried fruits, and upon other countries for meat and dairy products, we shall have a repetition of the experience with Argentina. It is not only dreadfully humiliating, but it has a very important military significance as well, because it needs no words of mine to call the attention of honorable members to the expanding imperialism of Soviet Russia. Are we to dream that the United States of America is not as interested as is Great Britain in making its contribution to the task of welding a western European bloc consisting of France, the Scandinavian countries and what remains of Italy and Greece ? Are we to pull our own legs and believe that the United States of America is not as interested as we are in that task ? What is the influence of Great Britain in attempting to weld together a strong European bloc when Great Britain itself can be pushed around by countries like Argentina, Chile and Guatemala? All these considerations come back to trade, and the trading strength of a country. That makes me say that the lend-lease agreement, made prior to the entry of the United States of America into the recent war and also the Anglo-American loan, were not economic agreements in their most important sense to the United States of America. They were strategic agreements with a recognizable military significance just as much as were the American loans to Turkey and Greece. It is foolish for Americans to think that they can achieve what they want to achieve by making a loan to Great Britain and then imposing upon Great Britain such tariff conditions as have within them the germ of destruction of the economic strength of the British Empire which, should it occur, must occur concurrently with the destruction of the military strength of the British Empire and to that degree throw the United States of America upon its own resources in facing the Soviet iconoclast. I believe that no people in the world should have been more vigorous and articulate in stating this point of view to the Americans than the representatives of the Australian Government, because, although fortunately, we were a party to lend-lease, and no doubt involved in the same literal contractual responsibilities, we know that our contribution to reciprocal lend-lease came within measurable distance of equalling the American contribution to us. Indeed, had our contribution been measured not in terms of money and currency but in terms of the relative value of the commodities supplied, Australia’s contribution under lend-lease might have equalled the American contribution to us. Therefore, we are free agents; our withers are unwrung. We, of all nations, are free to speak and say what we believe in respect of a document entered into before the United .States of America came into the war, especially as it had the effect of depriving all British countries of their sovereign rights and committed us to this downward revision of tariffs, thus imperiling our industries. “We say that this was an undertaking given in a moment of desperation virtually in clr.sumstances of duress and that no selfrespecting nation ought to. stand up today and ask for its full pound of flesh under such an agreement. That is what the United States of America asks for when it asks us to ratify this agreement. It asks for its full pound of flesh in order to expand further the American economy as the outcome of a. contract entered into in the darkest days of the war. That contract was not entered into really with sinister motives on the part of the United States administration of the day, but, as the Prime Minister has said, as a political device to enable that administration to “sell “ the idea of lend- lease and the idea of the Anglo-American loan to its people.
I ask the Government to realize how the “ squeeze “ is being put on the United Kingdom to-day by small unimportant countries which have never contributed anything to the fight for democrazy and the way of life which we and the people of the United States of America stand for. I ask the Government to recognize how the “ squeeze “ is being put on Great Britain in the Middle East and in Argentina because of Britain’s economic position. Upon examination, this agreement will be found to reduce still further the economic strength of all parts of the British Commonwealth. Such an agreement is bad, and it is our duty to resist it. I believe that the people of the United States of America would heed arguments put in those terms.
– The American Congress has still to accept the Marshall plan.
– I fail to see the relevancy of that interjection, but I have no doubt that it will be found, as has been the case throughout history, that the people of the United .States of America whose views are reflected in Congress lag behind their administration in their thinking.
– The United States Congress would “ toss out “ the Marshall plan if we abrogated this agreement.’
– I point out to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) that the principal motivating factor with nations through the ages has been self-interest and self-preservation. [Extension of time granted.] I also point out to the honorable member, who does not appear to have studied this matter very closely, that the Marshall plan does not arise from the generosity of the- American people as a device to help defeated Germany and the other European nations, but is a strategic conception, just as lend-lease and the loan to the United Kingdom were strategic conceptions. Although some of the American people may be aggrieved by what we may say, self-interest is ultimately the determining factor with them. The truth is that Mr. Truman and his administration know that they, cannot afford not to have the Marshall plan. It is true that they have to work to get it through the American Congress, just as previously American leaders ‘had to work to get lend-lease and the loan to the United Kingdom through, but they know that it is a strategic weapon that they must have. Even if one accepts world-wide tariff revision as having been conceived on a much higher plane than I have put it on, one must realize the truth of the observation that self-interest is now the dominant factor in the United States’ espousal of its cause. I do not say that there are not men who conceived it on a higher plane. Amongst them is that great former American .Secretary of State, Mr. Cordell Hull, who has always preached the doctrine of wider international trade. But the principal element of that doctrine was one world in which all trade would circulate freely. That factor, however, is no longer relevant, because we are not to have one world. Soviet Russia has decided that for us. We are not to be permitted in our lifetime to enjoy anything like Mr. Cordell Hull’s conception of one world. There are to be two worlds, one hidden behind what Mr. Winston Churchill described as “ the iron curtain “. So Mr. Cordell Hull’s conception cannot be achieved.
There are elements in these tariff schedules which I do not propose to attempt to discuss, but which involve grave threats to British industry. It would be simpler for me to talk about the threat to some of the industries that concern my party and my electorate; but there is a much wider danger than that to which I must direct my attention. One of the industries upon which Britain is depending to reconstruct its economic strength is the textile industry. We are to have the state of affairs in which a tariff concession given to one nation will be automatically available to all. In due course, Japan will be admitted to the comity of nations. Then it will be entitled to such tariff concessions as have been granted to other countries and thereby will be automatically granted to all. We have a fair conception of some of the peace terms to be imposed upon Japan. They have been agreed upon by the great nations. It is to have no armament industry, no aircraft industry, no heavy metal industry, no shipbuilding industry, no explosives industry and no chemicals industry with a war potential. What great industries are to be left to Japan other than the textile industry ? It is inevitable that the Japanese will concentrate their native skill on the textile industry, and, unless the British people are armed with the right to protect their textile industry against what I am ‘convinced will be a massive threat from the Japanese textile industry, the British textile industry will be ruined. That includes both the processing side and the raw materials side of - the textile business I utter a word of warning to the Australian wool-growers, who are bound, if they examine the situation, .to realize that if the Japanese monopolize the textile industry, they will be able to dictate what prices they will pay for our wool. So -dangers are implicit in this lengthy document, which if one had the time and opportunity to traverse it carefully, would be found to be most menacing. My thesis is that the general agreement is dangerous to the economy of the British people and that it was the responsibility of the A.ustralian Government .to realize the dangers implicit in it. Notwithstanding that contractual obligations were, I freely admit, entered into, it was above all the responsibility of the representatives of the Australian Government to point out that as circumstances in which they were entered into no longer exist they should not be enforced. Our representatives should not only have made it clear that, it was right that the British people should be allowed to arrange their own interchange of trade and to protect the reconstruction of their industries, but they should also have pointed .out that it would be ultimately in the interest of the United States of America itself that it should realize that it cannot afford to look forward to a world in which it will stand vis-a-vis the. powerful Soviet Union, with a tremendous cleavage in social conceptions, without there existing in the world a powerful British Commonwealth of Nations. I hope that it is not too late for the Australian Government to realize and act upon its responsibilities in this respect.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archie Cameron) adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1948 -
No. 3 - Association of Railway Professional Officers of Australia.
No. 4 - Australian Broadcasting Commission Staff Association.
No. 5 - Repatriation Department Medical Officers’ Association.
No. 6 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 7 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 8 - Postal Telecommunication Technician’s Association (Australia) and others.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - F. Barton, C. H. Hohne.
Commerce and Agriculture - A. G. Edmonds, P. T. Mitchell.
Supply and Shipping - L. W. Williams.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations - Orders - War service land settlement - Western Australia (3 dated 6th February, 1948, 10th February, 1948, and 11th February, 1948).
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (42).
National Security (Prices) Regulations -Orders - Nos. 3258-3269.
House adjourned at 10.28 p.m.
The following answers to 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 -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he inform the House of the quantity of printing paper consumed for government purposes - (a) by the Government Printing Office, Canberra, in the years ended 30th June, 1939, and 30th June, 1947; and (b) by private contractors and others doing printing work for the Government for those years?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
In view of the various grades of paper used by the Government Printing Office in Canberra, it would involve considerable overtime in that office to give the information sought under (a).
In regard to (b) it would be impossible to ascertain with any approach to accuracy the quantity of paper used by private contractors throughout Australia doing printing work for the Government. Others who do such work for the Government include the Government printing offices of the States, but staff difficulties in those offices preclude the compilation of data necessary to furnish the information desired. In the circumstances it is impracticable to supply the particulars asked for.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the total of loans and advances as at the 31st December, 1947, made by (o) the mortgage bank department; (6) the industrial finance department and (c) the housing loans department, of the Commonwealth Bank in each State of the Commonwealth (seriatim)!
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Loans and advances approved by the Mortgage Bank, Industrial Finance and Housing Loans Departments of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia to 31st December, 1947, together with particulars of amounts outstanding as at that date are as follows: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, House-to-house canvassing is carried out by the Commonwealth Loans Director as part of the routine duties of members of the staff of his organization.
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information requested is feeing obtained from Deputy Prices Commissioners in all States and as soon as this is to hand a reply will be given to the honorable member.
Royal Australian Navy: Medical
t asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) 6,9S2. (6) 29,819.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
Other building materials in respect of which quantities are not recorded (including locks, hinges, screws, bricks, insulation boards, wall and ceiling parts and roof covering) were valued at £1,750.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he consider providing for fishermen’s use at Beachport and other suitable places slipways for fishing boats, out of the petrol tax paid by fishermen on petrol used at sea ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Under the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act 1947, it is permissible for a State to expend an amount not greater than onesixth of the total grunt made available by the Commonwealth on works connected with transport, other than roads. The Commonwealth Government does not, however, make any portion of this grant direct to local authorities and the question of provision of facilities for fishermen at Beachport and other places is therefore one for consideration by the appropriate State authorities.
r asked the Minister for the Interior, 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 : - 1, 2 and 3. Lead concentrates are not subject to export control. Shipments to Antwerp during November, 1947, would be quite normal as Belgium is a well established and important market for lead concentrates. Records do not disclose any shipments of shell cases during November, 1947. The last-known shipment was from Melbourne on the 13th December, 1946, the quantity involved was 3,000 tons and the destination Chile.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. Yes.
e asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y. - On the 20th February, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) asked a question concerning the vacancy of the position of chairman of the Australian Wheat Board. In view of the negotiations with the States in regard to wheat stabilization, it has been considered advisable to leave the position vacant for the time being. The appointment of an acting chairman by the board has proved satisfactory.
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information: -
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information: -
The petrol consumption of Commonwealth vehicles is under the direct control of the departments who operate them. It is the responsibility of each department to see that its vehicles are efficiently and economically operated and petrol consumption kept to a minimum. No co-ordinated statistics are maintained which would permit of the preparation of the information asked by the honorable member, and a considerable amount of time and labour would be involved in preparing the statistics, which would not. be of any practical value. All Commonwealth departments purchase their petrol supplies under contract from the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, whose sales to Commonwealth departments at the present time approximate 600,000 gallons a month.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information: -
It is not possible to give the honorable member figures representing the total reserve stocks of petrol in Australia, as since Pool Petroleum Proprietary Limited ceased marketing operations the Department of Supply and Shipping has not received figures from the nil companies which would enable inland stocks to be calculated with any accuracy. It is estimated however, that these would be in the vicinity of 15,000,000 to 17,000,000 gallons and would not vary to any great extent from month to month.
As ration tickets are printed so that identical tickets are issued for two ensuing months, those issued in respect of the first month having a currency of two months, it is not possible to separate issues into individual months. As
May was the second month of the April-May period, figures for that period have been given. Distribution of tickets is made to many thousands of post offices throughout Australia and this necessitates distribution of tickets with a value in excess of licensed consumption.
n. - On the 25th February, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) asked a question concerning the quota of petrol allotted to taxi-drivers in country districts. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information: -
When petrol rationing was first introduced in 1940, rations for taxis were allocated on the basis of a percentage of the average monthly consumption for the previous twelve months. In the case of country operators the State Liquid Fuel Control Boards were assisted in making their assessments by the recommendations of local fuel committees, which had full knowledge of the special conditions operating in their particular areas. There was therefore a considerable divergence between the rations granted to taxi operators in different areas and in different States, but the general effect was that all received the same proportionate reduction in relation to their previous consumption. Since 1940, there have been numerous alterations in petrol allowances for taxis, due to increases or decreases in the general ration scale, changes in transport regulations affecting the operation of taxis in certain states and variations in local conditions in certain areas, but in the final result the position of country taxi operators in relation to city operators remains unchanged.I can also inform the honorable member that taxi operators in general, notwithstanding the reductions in ration allowances operative as from the 1st October and the 1st January last, are still in receipt of rations between 15 and 20 per cent. in excess of their rations during the war years. The honorable member can, therefore, be assured that country taxi operators have not been subjected to unfair treatment in relation to petrol allowances.
– On the 26th February, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) asked a question concerning the quota of petrol allotted to mail contractors in Tasmania. The Minister for
Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
The best method of achieving the Government’s objective to reduce petrol consumption is by spreading the reduction equally over all types of consumers and for this reason all consumers rations were reduced by approximately 10 per cent.It was realized that in certain instances this decision would cause some hardship and possible dislocation of certain essential services and provision was made whereby in these cases a special review would be conducted by the various State liquid fuel boards. Owing to the urgent need to restrict petrol consumption to a minimum it is not possible to make a general restoration of the cut to any group of consumers. However, individual mail contractors who find that their present petrol ration is insufficient to enable them to carry out essential operations may apply to the State Liquid Fuel Control Board in their State for a review of their allowance. If investigations show that an increase is necessary it will be granted. Such increase should not be applied for merely to compensate for the 10 per cent. cut, but only if essential services would otherwise have to be curtailed.
y. - On the 18th February, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked a question concerning petrol allowances made available to paid organizers of the Liberal party and the Queensland Peoples party. I have had inquiries made and have ascertained that paid organizers of political parties and trade union organizations who have motor vehicles at their disposal in connexion with their duties are issued with motor spirit consumers’ licences for business purposes by the Liquid Fuel Control Boards, in the same way as ordinary business users. Applications are assessed on a mileage basis, and come usually in classes 5 or 6. This practice is common to all States, and is not peculiar to Queensland. Preferential treatment has never been given to any political party.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. No Government authorities are given access to income tax files. However, under section 16 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, the Commissioner of Taxation is authorized to furnish information to certain Government authorities to the extent that such information is required in connexion with the functions exercised by those authorities. The authorities are: -
The question whether the Auditor-General shall be entitled to access to income tax files will receive the consideration of the Government.
y. - On the 26th February, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. BernardCorser) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I now supply the honorable member with the following information : -
(a) £7,520,000; (b) £3,497,000.
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research : Stock-taking.
asked the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice -
n.. - The answers, to the honorable member’s questions are. as follows s -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 March 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19480303_reps_18_196/>.