18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2:30 p.m., and read prayers.
– According to a report in to-day’s press, the federal secretary of the Communist-controlled Waterside Workers Federation, Mr. Healy, told the Stevedoring Industry Commission that, “ Notwithstanding any order of the commission- or any’ law, and despite the fact that the Queensland Government has sovereign rights, the federation intended to defy the Queensland Government and see that no cargo could he moved out of or into Queensland “. I ask the Prime Minister whether any more open defiance of authority by Mr. Healy is needed to induce the Australian Government to take action under the Crimes Act?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable gentleman referred, but I shall certainly have inquiries made into the matter, and supply an answer as early as possible.
– Has the Prime Minister any fresh information on the industrial dispute in Queensland? Is’ there any prospect of an early settlement ?
Mi. CHIFLEY- At the. moment, I alii- not. able to. report amy more favorable Medication* of a settlement. This’ morning; I had a brief telephone conversation about the matter with the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, and I understand that’ he will meet certain of the parties to the dispute. The Minister for Supply and Shipping and the DirectorGeneral of Labour and National Service, Mr. Funnel], proceeded to Queensland by air early to-day for the purpose of ascertaining whether they can take any action, on a Commonwealth basis, to assist in settling this trouble. So far, I have not received any report from them.
– This morning I received from the Gladstone Chamber of Commerce the following telegram : - - Will Federal Government treat Delamere ns food relief ship? Fully loaded Brisbane 2,000 tons foodstuffs Gladstone ‘Rockhampton.
This- food is needed to relieve a serious food shortage in the country districts of Central Queensland. Delamere is a Commonwealth-owned ship at present under charter to John Burke Limited. Its sailing from Brisbane and discharge of cargo at ports is prevented by the ban imposed on Queensland shipping by the Waterside Workers Federation. As practical support by the Australian Government to the Queensland Government in its fight against the forces of Communism, will the Prime Minister take immediate steps to help, either by declaring Delamere a food relief ship, or by any other means he deems necessary to ensure the delivery of this urgently needed cargo ?
– Mention has not been made to me of the particular 6hip to which the- honorable member has referred, but I shall have inquiries made this afternoon, if possible, to see what the position is, and whether any assistance can be given. 5fr. SPENDER.- The present industrial disturbances in’ Queensland have now assumed or threaten to assume an interstate character, and certainly invoke the jurisdiction of the. Commonwealth. Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Australian Government has considered whether the Executive is adequately armed by this Parliament to deal efficiently, and effectively with the prob lem created by these industrial disturbances? Is the Government satisfied that it possesses sufficient authority to deal with the matter? If not, will the Prime Minister introduce such legislation as he deems necessary to arm the Government with adequate power ?
– I was not aware, when the House met, that an interstate dispute existed.
– It certainly threatens.
– I quite understand that. According to “information which I received last evening, there is a possibility of en interstate dispute, resulting from certain action by railway employees. I shall arrange for the other portion of the honorable member’s question to be examined by officers of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department.
– ‘Will the Prime Minister first obtain an answer to the questions which I directed to him last week and again yesterday on the same subject?
– I owe an apology to the Leader of the Australian Country party. I hope to be able to supply this afternoon an answer to those questions. However, the matter raised by the honorable member for Warringah will be examined, arid certainly when the occasion arises, it will be considered.
– In reply to a question that I asked in this chamber recently, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture explained that the Government’s guaranteed prices for dairy products for the next five years allowed farmers 3£ per cent, on their equity in their . properties. I ask the honorable gentleman now whether interest on dairy farmers’ mortgages to financial institutions was also taken into consideration when calculating production costs. If so, what rate of interest is allowable? Has. that rate also been reduced to 3£ per cent. ?
– The Government’s decision to guarantee 2s. per lb. for commercial butter, and 2s. 5Jd.’ per lb. for butter fat, for five years is based on a calculation of 3$ per cent, interest on the equity, of farmers in their properties.
But it would be quite wrong to allow only 3-i per cent, on money owed by farmers on mortgages. The Government has accepted the calculation of the .committee which permits the actual interest rate paid by farmers on money borrowed on their dairying lands.
– Is it a fact that regulations permit pastoral companies to charge 5 per cent, on advances made by them, whilst the Commonwealth Bank is allowed to charge only 4$ per cent, on moneys advanced by way of general overdraft? If that be so, why is it that farmers are allowed only 3J per cent, in determining their equities for the costing of butter?
– The matter of the charge of 3i per cent, has just been explained by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Because of the expense entailed in -carrying out administrative work associated with the supervision of investments in cases in which advances are .made by pastoral companies, they have been allowed by successive governments to charge a higher rate, of interest than either trading banks or the Commonwealth Bank. The maximum rate which can be charged by trading banks is 44 per cent. It has been claimed that certain organizations which make advances to borrowers, such as building societies and pastoral companies, are involved in more expense in supervising their investments than other organizations, and that is why they are permitted to charge a higher rate. However, that has nothing to do with the other, aspect of the honorable member’s question, which was explained by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in his answer to a previous question.
– To-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, quoting what it describes as the “ highest authority from Canberra “, reports that the position- in Europe is becoming increasingly serious. Can the Prime Minister tell the House who is the “ highest authority “ referred to ? Does the Prime Minister confirm the report? Is it a fact, as alleged by this newspaper, that official cablegrams received by the Government from abroad indicate a marked deterioration of the international situation? In these circumstances, and having regard to the serious industrial trouble which, whilst centered in Queensland, lias Commonwealthwide repercussions, will the Government recall to Canberra the right honorable member for Barton who, a3 Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs, is directly concerned with these vitally important problems?
– I should not, of course, have any idea of the identity of the “ highest authority “ referred to by the honorable member. The term “ Europe “ is extremely broad, but I can say that it is generally thought that the political position has deteriorated. On the other hand, it is believed that the economic posititon, including production, has improved somewhat, -although the improvement is very slow. The Government has no intention of recalling the Attorney-General from the duties upon which he is now engaged in Melbourne.
– I preface my question to the Prime Minister by pointing out that the Commonwealth Grants Commission, at its inception, had a more or less specific function, but that time and changing circumstances have caused it to evolve to a body .of authority and direction - a role never envisaged by those responsible for its appointment. Recent evidence indicates that at the direction of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, a sovereign Parliament has had to repeal legislation that has been passed by both Houses. In view of this development, and the present public prominence of uniform taxation, will the Prime Minister give consideration to the need for a full-dress debate on alternative methods for State-Commonwealth financial relations, not just to criticize the work of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, but rather to appoint a new body with more modern powers and functions? If such a debate is considered inappropriate or inopportune, will the Prime Minister give consideration to altering the constitution of the Commonwealth Grants Commission to provide for the appoint ment of parliamentary representatives on that body. As it appears that if the claimant States had adequate finance for their normal development much of the existing dissatisfaction would disappear, I ask the Prime Minister whether the policy of any Commonwealth Government operating under the uniform taxation system will be to ensure that the States shall have a balanced budget in each year following legitimate developmental expenditure by the States? Will the Government consider the replacement of the Commonwealth Grants Commission by a parliamentary committee to report to this Parliament upon State finances in each financial year?
– I did not know that the functions of the Commonwealth Grants Commission had changed very greatly over the years. It is perfectly true that the commission was appointed to determine the needs of the so-called claimant States so as to enable them to have proper financial resources for development, and I think it is true that changing methods have ‘been applied to the work of the commission over the years. Generally speaking, honorable members devote very little attention to the annual reports of the commission when they come before the Parliament or to the appropriation measures which provide for grants to the States. Usually there is very little debate on these subjects. The annual reports of the commission are amongst the most informative documents ever presented ‘to this House, but I have a belief that very few honorable members read them. They contain all of the information that honorable members could wish about the financial needs of the less populous States. The answer to the suggestion that a parliamentary committee be established to take the place of the Commonwealth Grants Commission is “ No “. That would not be desirable. In answer to the question whether a debate should take place in the Parliament on the subject of the financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States, I point out that the tabling of the commission’s reports and the presentation of appropriation measures providing for grants to the States give honorable members full opportunity to discuss that subject if they wish to do so.
– In view of the fact that secret Communist agents in Canada sold their country’s vital secrets to the Russians, that Communists in Australia extend a greater loyalty to a foreign power than they deem necessary to render to their own country, played a traitorous role in Australia during WorldWar II. before Russia was attacked by Germany, and would do so again if war should come between Russia and the western countries, I ask the Prime Minister whether it is true that Communists in Australia propose to organize obstruction to the guided weapons testing range project in Central Australia. If so, does the Government propose any longer to treat the Communist party as an ordinary political group? If it does not propose to do so, will the Prime Minister immediately reimpose the ban that was applied to the party in Australia during World War II. but which was lifted in 1942 by the Labour Government then in office?
– No evidence at all has been produced by the Commonwealth Security Service of any organization having been established to oppose the development of the guided weapons testing range in. Central Australia.
– That is not what the Attorney-General said.
– What the AttorneyGeneral said and what I say now is that certain people - whether they were Communists or non-Communists I do not know - threatened to interfere with, or to place a black ban upon, work at the testing range. Legislation was introduced at the time to take care of that. Apart altogether from Communists, I understand that some very reputable members of the community entered strong protests against the construction of the rocket range. Constant scrutiny of all persons associated with national and governmental works is exercised by the Commonwealth Investigation Service. With regard to the second part of the honorable member’s question as to whether the Government intends to declare the Communists an illegal body, the Government has previously indicated that it does not propose to place bans on any class of political philosophy or thought.
– But this is treason; this is not political philosophy.
– The Government’s view is shared by many people who do not belong to the Labour movement. Consideration will not be given to imposing a ban.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the statement, emanating from Auckland on Tuesday, to the effect that the communist menace in the trade unions had been fully discussed by the New Zealand Parliamentary Labour caucus and the Cabinet and that it had been decided to adopt a much stronger policy against recalcitrants? The statement added that the Government was determined to prosecute industrial lawbreakers. Has he seen the statement in the press this morning that the National Executive of the British Labour party declared yesterday, “ Communists are the enemies of all who will not surrender unconditionally to them”? Since the Socialist parties of New Zealand and Great Britain have now at least clearly stated their hostility to communism and in view of the Australian Communists’ serious threat to the Australian economy and way of living, will he now consider similar firm action by the Australian Government to counter their foreigninspired efforts? .
– I have not seen either statement. For years the Australian Labour party has made it perfectly clear that it is entirely opposed to the political philosophy espoused by the Communist party. It still is. I think that is all I need to say.
Hospital Fees - Radio-active Iodine.
– In view of the difficult financial situation confronting the public hospitals of New South Wales, will the Minister for Repatriation direct the Deputy Commissioners of the Repatriation Commission in the various States to pay the accounts of ex-servicemen who are treated as repatriation patients in public hospitals, as soon as possible after their discharge? I ask this question at the request of hospital boards in my electorate, whose members have informed mo that considerable delay occurs in the payment of fees by the Repatriation Commission in respect of ex-servicemen treated in their hospitals. I received to-day particulars of a case in which the hospital board concerned has been waiting for over five months for payment of fees for an accepted repatriation patient, and I am prepared to supply them to the Minister.
– If the honorable member can furnish me with details of any cases in which inordinate delay has occurred in the payment of accounts, I shall take the matter up with the Deputy Commissioner concerned. Generally speaking, repatriation patients in New South Wales enter the Repatriation Commission’s hospitals at Concord and Randwick, and I believe that very few cases are treated in other hospitals.
– In view of favorable reports received from the United States of America concerning a new preparation known as “ radio-active iodine “, which is administered to sufferers with malignant growths, can the Minister for Repatriation inform me whether the Repatriation Commission has (1) made any inquiries concerning this preparation; (2) made any plans for including it in the treatment of repatriation patients of the kind I have indicated?
– Inquiries are being made by the Repatriation Department and the Social Services Department to ascertain whether radio-active iodine can be obtained from the United States of America. As this substance deteriorates in strength if kept for any period, it is difficult to ensure that on arrival in Australia it will be sufficiently strong to be of use for the relief of cancer sufferers. If it proves to be possible to import radioactive iodine in a suitable condition, it will be used in cases where it is considered desirable to do so.
Communications with United Kingdom Government.
– Has the Minister for Immigration written to the Secretary of
State for Commonwealth Relations in the United Kingdom Government proposing the transfer of persons and factories from Britain to Australia on a substantial scale? If so, can he give the House any further information with regard to the suggestion and say what has been the reaction of the British Government to it?
– With the concurrence and permission of the Prime Minister, I wrote to the right honorable P. J. Noel-Baker, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations in the United Kingdom Government, a letter dealing with the question of the transfer of population and industries from Great Britain to the Dominions. In the absence of the Minister, the letter was opened by an official of the Commonwealth Relations Office. Mr. Noel-Baker was attending a conference at Lake Success in America at the time and returned to England only a week ago. Part of the contents of the letter was disclosed to the press by this official, who said that the questions to which it referred were of major importance and that a decision upon them could be taken only at the highest level, namely, by the British Cabinet. I did not disclose thatI had written the letter. I have not yet received a reply from Mr. NoelBaker, but I am anxiously awaiting it so that I may discuss the matter with the Prime Minister and take it to Cabinet. It is unfortunate that even a part of a letter of such importance should have been disclosed to the press, before I had an opportunity to discuss it with my colleagues in the Cabinet. I assure the honorable member that the matters are of great importance, but it would be improper for me to disclose the contents of the letter until a reply has been received from the United Kingdom Government.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a report from London that the Minister for Immigration has been writing direct to the Secretary of State forCommonwealth Relations, Mr. Noel-Baker, and not through the Australian High Commissioner in London ? Is that report correct ? If so, is it the intention of the Government to permit all Ministers to deal directly with British Cabinet Ministers without going through the High Commissioner? If that be so, for how long is it intended to maintain the office of High Commissioner? Has the High Commissioner any jurisdiction over officers of the Departments of Information, Immigration and Commerce and Agriculture and other government officials stationed in London, or have they all autonomous status ?
– All official communications from the Australian Government to the United Kingdom Government are signed by myself, in many cases, in the form of a letter. “Whilst many go through the British High Commissioner in Australia or through the Australian High Commissioner in London, it is also true, of course, that I, myself, have personal communications with the British Prime Minister, or other leading Ministers of the British Cabinet, on various matters. It is not intended that individual Ministers in Australia shall address official communications to individual Ministers in the United Kingdom. The practice that has been followed for many years will continue. The letter referred to was, in effect, a private letter addressed with my approval to Mr. NoelBaker by the Minister for Immigration. It made certain suggestions and asked him to think them over. Its purpose was to get his reaction. No official proposal was made to the Government of the United Kingdom, and I do not think anything wrong was done.
– It must have been an official letter in those circumstances.
– The honorable member can put it that way, but there are many kinds of letters. Many that I write are marked “ private and confidential”, and I do not regard them as official. Anyway, it is not intended to discontinue the practice under which letters from the Australian Government to any other government go through the ordinary channels.
Douglas Aircraft - Overseas Services - Fares - Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited - Launceston Service
– I understand that some Douglas D.C.3 aircraft that were intended originally to carry only 21 passengers have been licensed to carry 28. Can the Minister for Air say in how many cases this has been done? Is it considered that these aircraft can safely be used for the carriage of 28 passengers ? Have aircraft of this type recently been involved in accidents? What check is made on their loading? Are the passengers weighed in order to ascertain the exact load carried ? In view of the fact that less petrol can be carried with the heavier load, will the practice of licensing these aircraft to carry 28 passengers be continued?
– At the present time, three aircraft are licensed in Australia to carry 28 passengers. One is owned by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and two by Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited, which is also having another Dakota aircraft converted to carry 28 passengers. These 28-passenger aircraft comply with the safety provisions of the regulation, which are based on the all-up weight carried. In the 28 seaters, the seats are lighter and less comfortable than in the 21-passenger aircraft, and so a greater number of passengers may be carried. It is true that 28-passenger aircraft cannot fly such long distances without refuelling, and must, therefore, descend at more frequent intervals. It is not now the practice to weigh passengers before they embark. It has been found that the average weight of passengers is less than 170 lb., and this has been accepted as a working figure in most parts of the world. Thus, allowing a weight of 170 lb. for each of 28 passengers, and allowing also for their luggage, the total all-up weight of the aircraft is still below 26,200 lb., as allowed by the regulation. Therefore, there is no authority for preventing the conversion of aircraft to carry 28 passengers. I believe, as I have said before, that if there should be a mishap, it would be more difficult for passengers to get out of a 28-passenger aircraft than out of one fitted to carry only 21 passengers. The accident at Mildura has been investigated, and, although I have not received the final report, I understand that the accident is believed to be due rather to an error on the part of the pilot than to any defect in the machine. Thus, so long as 28-passenger aircraft comply with the safety regulations, they may continue to operate.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether the Government has refused anapplication by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to conduct an air service between Australia and San Francisco? Does this refusal apply to the company’s applications covering three separate routes, namely -
Sydney - Fiji - Canton Island - HonoluluSan FranciscoNewYorkNewfoundlandIrelandLondon ;
Sydney - Fiji - Canton Island - HonoluluSan Francisco-Mexico CityHavana - Bermuda - The Azores - London ;
Sydney - Fiji - Canton Island - HonoluluSan Francisco?
Is it a fact, as stated by Air Marshal Williams, that the Government will not approve any trans-Pacific service from Australia unless it is government-owned ? If so, is not this refusal a deliberate frustration of the development of a. major Australian industry and an admission that the Government is not sincere in its statements about using all methods of. transportation to bring migrants to Australia ?
– It is true that the application of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for permission to operate a service over the routes named has been refused, and it is our intention to continue to refuse it. There is no justification for some of the suggestions contained in the right honorable member’s question. It has been stated publicly that the policy of the Government is that international transport services operated by Australia shall be nationally owned. The additional trans-Pacific service between San Francisco and Sydney which Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited wishes to operate is covered by a bilateral agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the UnitedStates of America. The agreement stipulates that each government shall provide the necessary capacity which might be reasonably considered as its share. The only agreement between the Governments of Australia and of the United Kingdom, the countries concerned with the terminals of the other two services applied for, provides for a regular service between those countries to be operated by companies already nominated. While an international agreement gives transit rights in many of the countries through which permission to operate is sought, such an agreement does not confer traffic rights. Attempts made to conclude an international agreement on traffic rights have so far been unsuccessful. Although these companies are not operating over the whole of the route now proposed by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, the question of the route does not alter the Government’s decision as to policy, that is, that it will not nominate for international services, nor accept applications to operate those services, from other than its national airlines. The Government has nominated British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines as its operator, and it is our intention that that operator shall develop whatever capacity is considered necessary, having regard to the whole of the traffic offering. As to the suggestion that the Government is frustrating the efforts of certain Australian companies to establish airline services, the right honorable gentleman knows very well that if more services are provided than the traffic warrants, all operators must suffer some loss. It may be the desire of some people to see Australian Government airlines go out of business, but the Government will prevent that.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation seen a statement in the journal Aircraft regarding an application by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited to operate an international service, in which the managing director of the company said -
Wo hope to carry the Australian flag into all parts of the world. . . . The Government has asked industry to expand. . . . Here is our contribution. It will cost you nothing - either in possible losses or in subsidy. . . .
All we ask is that the Australian Government should approve our applications and submit them through the Australian Embassy as theUseaa requires. We will do the rest.
As government-sponsored airlines, whether Australian or British, with one exception, namely, South American Airways, have been responsible for great losses of the taxpayers’ money, how does the Minister reconcile the Government’s policy of reducing taxes to a minimum with its rejection of this opportunity to enable Australian aviation to play its part throughout the world and so attract desirable migrants to this country? Is he prepared to look at this subject again? Did he issue the order to the Department of Civil Aviation to refuse to grant this application ?
– I did not give any instruction of the kind mentioned in the last part of the honorable member’s question ; but the Director-General knows the policy of the Government and, naturally, he applies it. I did not read the article appearing in the journal Aircraft, but I read a somewhat similar statement which was published in the daily press. Many flamboyant statements are made from time to time with regard to this matter; and the honorable gentleman has committed himself to one such statement in respect of what is happening in connexion with airways being operated by the United Kingdom. He asks me to reconcile that with Australia’s policy. I made known the Government’s policy when replying to a question asked earlier to-day. With respect to the losses incurred by two of the three lines operated by the United Kingdom, I point out that in the days when Imperial Airways operated, when, air traffic was much less than it is to-day, that organization was given large subsidies which enabled it to operate without a loss, whereas to-day the equivalent of the subsidies is regarded as a loss.
– I ask the Minisfer for Civil Aviation whether Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited charges t’l 4s. 6d. less than the fare charged by Trans-Australia Airlines for a single air trip from Sydney to Brisbane. If that is so, will public servants be compelled to use aircraft operated by Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited in accordance with the instruction that they must use the cheapest possible route when travelling on official business?
– On the SydneyBrisbane route, Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited offers what may reason ably be termed a second-class service, for which it desires to charge less than is normally charged. The comparison of the fares charged by Ansett Airways Proprietary Limited with those charged by Trans-Australia Airlines could equally be made with the fares charged by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. It is not intended to ask public servants travelling on official business to use second-class services.
– As there is an evening air service from Launceston to Hobart enabling passengers by the afternoon aircraft from Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne to reach Hobart by 8.30 p.m., will the Minister for Civil Aviation place before the Australian National Airlines Commission the demands of Launceston for a service, three nights a week, leaving Melbourne about 5 p.m. or 5.30 p.m., thus providing Launceston with a service similar to that which Hobart enjoys?
– From time to time, I have stated that the time-tables which are arranged by Trans-Australia Airlines and other airlines operators are entirely a matter for themselves. They govern the kind of service which they operate in any part of Australia. I recognize that the honorable member’s claim deserves consideration, and I shall ask the Australian National Airlines Commission to examine it.
Free Medicine Scheme
– What was the estimated per capita cost of the New Zealand free medicine scheme, and what was the actual cost of operation ? Is the NewZealand experience likely to have any influence on the Government’s free medicine scheme, and, if so, to what degree?
– I am not able offhand to furnish the honorable member with figures relating to the cost of the New Zealand scheme. I shall endeavour to obtain them. Inquiries made in New Zealand, principally by the Dominion Government, indicated that the scheme there was being greatly abused, though it was not suggested that these abuses and the consequent increased cost could be attributed generally to the failure of the medical profession as a. whole to carry out its responsibilities. Our advisors in New Zealand recommended that we should not adopt the principle of either medical payments or of hospital medicine payments as applicable to the New Zealand scheme. The Government thereupon decided to adopt a -different scheme from that operating in that Dominion. I do not believe that what happened in New Zealand will have any effect on the principles laid down for the application ofa free medicine scheme in Australia.
– A statement published in yesterday’s Sydney press under the “heading “Money for Rocket Range Plan “, contained the following statement : -
Development of the guided weapons range project includes bringing from England 200 scientists.
I ask the Minister for Defence whether all, or some, of the scientists required for this project could not have been provided by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research; and if so, why have not steps been taken to obtain the services of Australian scientists through that body? Can the Minister say how many Australian scientists, if any, are engaged on research work in respect of the guided weapons testing range?
– I do not know where the press got the information that 200 scientists are coming from Great Britain for the purpose mentioned by the honorable member. I assure him that the figure published is quite inaccurate. The number of scientists who will be coming to Australia for that purpose will be much fewer than the number quoted. There is a grave dearth of scientists throughout the Commonwealth and, indeed, throughout the world. Every country is finding great difficulty in obtaining scientists to undertake the research activities in dozens of fields of inquiry where their services are required at present. As many scientists as can be found to undertake this work in Australia are engaged on the guided weapons testing range. Should the honorable member desire further information on the matter, I shall be glad to supply it to him privately.
– Was the Minister for Air correctly reported as saying that thousands of ex-Royal Australian Air Force men would be registered for Citizen Reserve forces? If so, what are the broad conditions of service in this reserve with regard to the period of training, the type of training, and numbers to be registered? Will the Minister supply details of the reserve plan?
– The answer to the first portion of the honorable member’s question is in the affirmative. I shall supply the details which he has requested.
. I move -
This problem is of such a nature and magnitude that, obviously, it will not be possible for me, in three-quarters of an hour, to adequately discuss the whole subject. Therefore, I propose to deal largely with the declining birth-rate. My remarks will be on a strictly non-party basis, and I hope that other honorable members who participate in this debate will follow my example. The problem is far beyond the scope of the operation of any one political party. The policy formulated must be on a national basis, and cover certain phases relating not only to the future but also to the past. We cannot afford to neglect the general development of our resources, nor the encouragement of immigration, but, above all, we must promote in Australia conditions which will tend to increase the birth-rate.
In the words of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), our birth-rate is now alarmingly low. The decline is not a new problem, and is not peculiar to
Australia. At present, the whole of western civilization is confronted with it. En Australia, the problem has become acute for several reasons. Our population is small, and in a world which is now experiencing so much distress and poverty, has a moral obligation to make the best possible use of the large area that we control. The gravity of the position was stressed recently by certain figures which the Minister for Immigration issued in connexion with the various age groups. From 1861 to 1945, the papulation figures for Australia showed an almost continuous decline. In the five-year period beginning 1861, the birth-rate per 1,000 of the population was 42.44. .In each successive five-year period it declined, until, in 1901-05, it was 26.35. In 1915,’ it had risen slightly to 27.78, but in 1925 it had fallen again to 25.36. In 1940, the figure was 17.53. During the latter part of World War II., aud particularly since the cessation of hostilities, the birth-rate increased slightly, but. in general, the decline has been almost continuous for the last 80 years.
Earlier, I stated that the gravity of the situation had been stressed in figures relating to various age groups. That, of course, has a close bearing on certain policies of social services which we in Australia have adopted. According to these statistics in 1901 the number of persons per 1,000,000 over 65 years of age was 39,761; but in 1946 that number had increased to 78,870. At the same time, the birth-rate continues to fall, with the result that an ever-increasing number of aged and incapacitated people must be maintained by an ever-decreasing number of producers. This position is further aggravated by the fact that modern methods of organization, which mean that fewer members of the community can be actual producers even within the normal age-group. Social services to-day, in my opinion, stress the repair of our social fabric rather than the laying of foundations for a. new fabric. The social services that we do provide to promote family life and to ease family burdens do not help the large family to the same degree that they assist the small one. I have in my possession a copy of a lecture delivered in Tasmania by a woman who is herself a mother of several small children, and also apparently a woman of some humour. Dealing with this problem, she points out that it is the first and second children of a family who benefit from social services such as welfare institutions and so on. Beyond that number, she says, the benefits become increasingly difficult to obtain by the mother. The lecturer expressed this view -
The child endowment she will receive after the birth of her second child will really be financial help, since it is not unreasonable to expect a woman to be able to look after home, husband and two children. She will have the leisure to visit the ante-natal clinic (and what is the benefit of this if she does not intend to have more children?). She will take her babe off to the baby health centre, to have it weighed every week, and will fret herself into a nervous state if it loses $ ox. Then she will lose her natural milk supply, and will be advised to give it Karilac. She will come home and give it Lactogen, and proceed to deceive the clinic until heT baby is on solid food.
This woman apparently has had some rather unhappy experiences with a public health clinic, although she has managed to treat the general situation with considerable humour. She continues -
From the third child onwards, extra help is essential, and this necessity is aggravated with each additional child. Child endowment covers the financial strain of providing this extra help, and this leaves no actual financial gain of 7s. lid. per week, as it does to the small family. The 30s. per week received by the mother of five children will pay for twelve hours’ help per week at 2s. Gd. per hour. Twelve hours’ help in her weary drudging 112- hour week.
The woman goes on to say that the mother, with her extra hours of labour and reduced time of leisure, will have no opportunity to fake her children to a clinic and will not in actual fact derive the same benefit from the institutions provided for her assistance as will the mother of a small family. I would suggest therefore, that our institutions at present do not in actual fact give that degree of encouragement and assistance to larger families that they give to families in which there are only one or two children. We must, therefore, if we wish to increase our birth rate appreciably, give more protection to the larger family and overhaul a great many of the institutions which at present we accept as part of our economy. We must, then, I believe, look for . the reasons for the decline of our population. It so happened that when I first placed this subject upon the notice-paper, there came into my hands a book by a Dr. “Wallace of Melbourne, who has made in that publication, a splendid attempt to cover the whole problem from every possible angle. He has endeavoured to employ scientific methods of survey to ascertain the exact nature of the problem, what remedies can be applied, and which factors are operating against an increase of the birth-rate. I must confess that I find myself in distinct disagreement with some of his conclusions. His interpretation of certain aggregations of fact are a little outside the realm of reason; but, in general, I warmly commend this book, which is entitled Women and Children First, to all honorable members interested in the population problem. The writer lays the greatest stress, I consider, upon economic reasons for the declining birthrate. To a substantial degree he has my complete agreement in this regard, although I cannot help feeling that the economic aspect has been, and is being, greatly overstressed. The fact that the decline has been going on for so “ many v years would support that conclusion. In all ageing civilizations, the same process has taken place. This leads to a further bolstering of the opinion that I offer. History shows that primitive civilizations have, as a general rule, very high birthrates. Civilizations which are strongly religious also maintain a healthy birthrate. Parents who are not able to provide all the things that they would wish in this life look to the life in the next world for these things, or, on a more mystical basis, they say : “ The Kingdom of God is within us “. But in an age where physical well-being, comfort and other material standards have taken the place of those older standards, we must of course regard a declining birth-rate as absolutely inevitable. It stands to reason that, the larger the family the less can its members conform to the standards of comfort and entertainment of- present day life. I should suggest to Dr. “Wallace that although his survey is on the right lines, it has been confined to a doctor’s surgery where, inevitably, there must be a limit to the number of people with whom contact is made. He deals with people who seek his help rather than with those who are sought by an investigator. Dr. “Wallace suggests that the economic reasons advanced are purely valid in all cases. Possibly I am not accurately interpreting his views, but that is my impression of them. He says that those who suffered hardships naturally do not want hardship to be repeated in the lives of their children; that those who are comfortably off wish to give the same degree of comfort to their children; and that those who have achieved affluence do not wish to see- the heritage of their children divided into too many parts. That argument is true enough, but if we are to accept it as a valid reason, obviously we cannot get anywhere, because, those who are satisfied to-day with one standard of comfort will to-morrow demand another. Dr. “Wallace says that in his opinion the real reason for the higher birth-rate amongst the poor is the lack of knowledge of methods of contraception. Apparently the remedy that he would suggest for this situation would be to supply the poor with such knowledge. In actual fact, of course, the only constructive answer to the problem is not that these people should be provided with some means for the prevention of life, but rather that they should be provided with means to maintain the life that they will bring into the world and responsibility for which they are quite, willing to assume. He discusses the problem of contraception at some length. He says many people believe that this is a major factor in the declining birth-rate, and, to a degree, it must take a very large share of the responsibility for the immediate position, although the root causes no doubt go deeper than that.
– Much deeper.
– Tes. I suggest that, having eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, no ban imposed by any government is likely to take away from the people the potency of that particular weapon. However, I suggest that there is room for a reform by means of control of the traffic in these things. A ban could be placed on their sale to people not bearing some medical certificate or doctor’s prescription. This would have the effect at least of modifying promiscuity among the young, and would also destroy the frequent advertising campaigns which tend to promote the sale of contraceptive devices.
One other problem has a distinct bearing on this subject because it, too, relates to insecurity, though not to economic insecurity. It is the general problem of divorce. Anything which tends to make less stable the institution of marriage must, of necessity, make less stable the institution of the family. As the stability of the family declines, so, of course, its numbers must decline also. However, I suggest that the real reason why thereis a higher rate of birth in the lower income groups is that, in that section of the community, there is a less free acceptance of the artificial standards of to-day, and a greater appreciation of the simpler joys of home life. The problem can be solved, not by suggesting to the poor the use of means of preventing the coming of children, but by supplying them with the means wherewith they can lead happy and well-balanced home lives.
The whole current of modern life seems te me to have set definitely against motherhood and family life. First, there are the social customs of the day. Our methods of entertainment frequently take people beyond the home and generally involve the expenditure of money. There a re also the conditions which life in cities inevitably imposes. These conditions make it more and more difficult for normal family life to proceed. At present we have a tragic lack of transport facilities. One of the saddest sights in any city today is that of a mother coping with the inevitable daily problem of carrying to and from her home the commodities which must be consumed within it and the articles which must go out for repair from it, burdened with small children and fighting her way through crowds, often having the greatest possible difficulty in finding any means of transport at all. There is a lack of delivery services. These disabilities certainly arose from the war, but there seems to be very little prospect of services being restored now that war has ended. As one woman has put it to me, “ We act now a? unpaid staffs for our butchers and our bakers “. I am delighted to learn that, in New South Wales at least, there is to be some effort to impose upon retail traders in the cities some obligation to make deliveries to families.
There is also a tragic lack of housing. What can a mother do to make a home when she is sharing a house with many other people? I have said before in this House that more friendships are broken and more family relationships are destroyed in shared kitchens than anywhere else in the world. Many young people to-day are having the greatest possible difficulty in maintaining happiness in their marriage relationships because of the infringements and the constant pressure of frictions arising from living in a house occupied by many people. There is, further, a shortage of children’s clothing to-day. I have said that I have no intention whatever of making any criticisms of the Government as such, and I refer in all these instances to the effect of what I shall call national policy. Our present policy of price control is, in fact, operating against the family unit. Because of the system employed, manufacturers do not make clothing and footwear for children in such large, quantities as they do for adults. Prices are high in spite of all efforts to keep them low, and the quality is not good.
Within the last few weeks, I had occasion to buy a pair of shoes for a child eighteen months of age. I had topay 13s. 6d. for them. Probably, becausethey happened to be of fairly good quality, they will last longer than domost of the shoes that are sold for children to-day, although that price isnot unusual. However, .the child will have grown out of the shoes before they can give 13s. 6d. worth of wear. Thesethings are hitting very hard at family life. They make very difficult indeed thelot of the mother who is struggling to rear her family and to make her home aplace of happiness and rest.
There is a lack of domestic help. This is a far-reaching problem in relation towhich, in the course of a report to theMedical Research Council in 1944 in conjunction with Lady Cilento, I gavecertain suggestions for remedies. However, there is not only a lack of domestic- help. There is also a lack of the means to pay for such help, if it were available. I should like to know what has happened to the “ aunties “ and the “ grannies “ of an earlier day. Where are the kindly neighbours of other times? We are inclined to talk as though the world progresses always and, if selfishness is mentioned in connexion with this age, we laugh. But there was an unselfishness in the past which made the lot of mothers much lighter than it is to-day. Those who criticize might well lend a helping hand.
Then there is the curtailment of trading hours. Once more I may seem to encroach upon party political problems. In this regard I suggest that, whenever a reform is considered, it should be considered in its relationship to the family, and particularly the mother of the family, in view of the vital need for a population policy. The present method of fixing the trading hours of shops imposes a very great deal of hardship on many housewives, but not upon the housewives of the well-to-do. It is upon those who lack storage space and refrigeration space in their homes that the real hardship of keeping sufficient supplies to provide for a lengthy period really falls. In all measures .of reform sponsored by the industrial movement, the emphasis is on the improvement of the conditions of the worker in industry, while the worker in the home is overlooked. I freely admit that this is only natural, but the two needs really should be considered as one. In fact, because of the vital necessity for the family to be maintained, the conditions of the worker in the home should even be regarded as of the first importance. In making any adjustment of working hours, I suggest that the needs of the housewife receive official consideration, because I believe that such consideration is absolutely essential. Furthermore, the whole problem of determination of the basic wage still remains to be solved. Our present system must be overhauled, both in its theory and in its practice. The basic wage is at present determined on a theory which attempts to fit the family to that wage, instead of fitting the wage to the family requirements. The only satisfactory way to solve the problem is to ensure that the family wage is, in fact, a wage to maintain the family. We strike at the problem in various ways, and attempts have been made to solve it by the payment of child endowment. However, any effective attempt to restore the birth-rate by payment of family endowment must be based on an increased payment for each extra child in a family, otherwise the whole scheme degenerates into a mere palliative.
Tn all the respects which I have mentioned it is the mother of a family who suffers the greatest hardship. However much other women are handicapped and subjected to difficulties, the difficulties and worries of a mother are intensified at. least three or fourfold. She is the one who really “ feels the pinch “ ; and yet she is the one who is carrying the life of the nation in her hands. Let me quote from Eleanor Rathbone’s book, The Case for Family Allowances, in which she states -
Children are not simply a private luxury. They are an asset to the community. But the community can no longer afford to leave the provision for their welfare solely to the accident of individual income.
I believe that any approach to the problem of providing an adequate family wage must en visage each child born, not merely as a unit of a -family, but as a very necessary component of the whole community.
Furthermore, the mother of a large family to-day suffers from a sense of social inferiority. I once expressed that view to some one, who replied, “You do not appear to suffer unduly on that account”. Nevertheless, it is a fact. Of course, if one does things on -a grand enough scale one can get away even with murder. The fact remains that the mother of to-day who voluntarily sacrifices many material advantages in order to bring a family into the world, lays herself open to a charge of foolishness. Frequently, she is regarded with little sympathy; and that may be one of the reasons why she finds it so difficult to secure the neighbourly help to which I referred previously. We must endeavour to overcome that attitude by adopting means such as those which .1 have just indicated. Of course, there was a time when the mother’s place of honour was the greatest in the community, but T doubt if that is so to-day. The false standards of glamour which prevail now have robbed the mother of her rightful place. There can be no doubt that many a poor, foolish and misguided young woman to-day is led astray by the frothy reading matter presented in the daily press, magazines and books which suggest that the only way in which she can hold her husband’s affections is by endeavouring to maintain all the physical attractions of extreme youth. She knows that if she ventures on the path of motherhood she is likely to lose one or two of those attractions, but she does not seem to realize that there are still men who believe that a woman has attractions other than those provided merely by the accident of her age. I suggest to all young women that the gain which they make in their husbands’ affections when they embark on motherhood, even on the grand scale, more than compensates for the loss of physical attractions which are made to appear so completely essential to-day.
I believe that fear of the physical processes of childbirth is insidiously instilled in the minds of women, and that the medical profession must assume some share of the blame. Members of that profession overstress the dangers of childbirth. Whilst they are naturally conscious of those dangers and must be fully awake of the remedies and safeguards provided by modern science, nevertheless, they are apt to repeat too often the story of those risks, and many women are thereby inclined to overlook the important fact that by far the greatest proportion of births nowadays are quite natural, and that modern science has provided many aids and safeguards for expectant mothers. Of course, it is a fact that the mortality rate in childbirth cases showed no improvement for 30 or 40 years, and that it is only in the last year or so that it has shown a marked decline. In 1905, the mortality rate was 5.87, and in 1940 it was as high as 4.08-
– Per thousand or per hundred?
– Per thousand. However, in 1945, the mortality rate declined to 2.16 per thousand. Possibly the honorable member for Denison (Dr.. Gaha) can throw some light on thereasons for that decline. He may suggest that the improvement is due to theuse of newer drugs-
– That is so.
– However,, whatever the cause, considerable improvement has been made, and I emphasizethat the cause of that improvement is not primarily connected with the hospital accommodation provided for maternity cases, and that is a point which I havemade again and again. The provision of a home-nursing service is vitally necessary, first, to provide an atmosphere of naturalness and of family living, and,, secondly, to afford expectant mothers thebenefit of their home surroundings, wherethose surroundings are of a satisfactory standard. I know that there are difficulties in the way of achieving that end, and I do not propose now to go into thewhole subject. However, I am sure that” there are many cases where the provision of a home-nursing service would be a. wonderful boon. I am convinced that it can be achieved by a proper reorganization of our social services and the extension and improvement of our present hospital facilities.
What remedies are suggested to combat the decline of our birth-rate? I havealready said that, as part of an ageingcivilization, we are paying the penalties of all ageing civilizations. It is difficult toarrest the downward trend of a birthrate that has continued to decline for many years. The Australian birthratehas . shown such a decline under conditions which, speaking comparatively, were infinitely better than those obtaining in most parts of the world. Even if it were demonstrated that all these measures have noeffect in promoting the birth-rate in other - countries, I should still urge the institution of reforms such as those I havealready mentioned and others to which I shall refer later. At the very least, wemust ensure that justice is done to thosewho are prepared to undertake the responsibility of maintaining the life of the community. If only as a measure of justice, we must see that the production, of families for the maintenance of our- community life does not impose too great a hardship upon parents. I suggest, therefore, that those who have already shown themselves as willing and able to accept this responsibility should be given certain privileges that are at present not accorded to them.
I have already spoken of the need for an enlargement of our view of the purpose and final operation of child endowment. I propose now to say something about the marriage loan proposals. They are generally accepted as constituting an admirable scheme, and I believe they have a great deal to commend them. There is, however, a better scheme, incorporating the same basic ideas, to which I- believe preference should be given. The great need in Australia to-day is not for an increase in first or even in second births, although all births are desirable, and particularly the latter. The greatest need is for an increase in third and subsequent births.
– The marriage loans are planned specifically to encourage that.
– That is true, but they do not meet the needs of the situation as well as another scheme that I propose to mention. The figures in my possession show that the marriage rate in Australia has never declined, except for brief periods such as in the years of the depression of the 1930’s. It has remained fairly constant and would appear to give no cause for alarm. There has been a decrease in the birth-rate, and particularly in the rate of births of -children other than first and second children. I suggest that the proposals for a marriage loan should be altered to provide for a loan to be granted after the birth of the third child.
– Would the honorable member make it a loan or a gift ?
– I should make it a loan, given under certain conditions. It should be on generous terms, with provision for the remission of portions of it, on the birth of the fourth child subsequent children. In i.hat way I feel that we should be ^getting at the heart of the problem and encouraging those who have already demonstrated not only their willingness but their physical ability to produce further children. It must be realized that there are people who marry but who are physically incapable of producing children, and those people must always be considered in relation to a scheme such as this. I believe that a provision like that could have nothing but a good effect.
Home ownership is, I believe, essential, and this scheme would make it more easy of accomplishment. . Our system of education should be revised and a compulsory place given to the arts of the mother and the housewife. Most girls eventually become homemakers, but even if they do not they lose nothing by having some knowledge of those arts. I go farther and say that boys should have some knowledge of home-making and home-keeping. I feel that it is sadly needed in Australia. This question of family life should be part of the curriculum in all schools, so that the children may be prepared for what is, after all, the main business of life in any community. We must -try to achieve a degree of adult education and must attempt by means of propaganda on the radio, in the cinemas and in the press to reinstate family life to the position of honour it formerly occupied. Our medical services for women must be reorganized.
The scheme that I prepared in conjunction with Lady Cilento for the provision of maternity services throughout Australia was published in the report of the National Health and Medical Research Council for 1944. It was said -
For the purpose of ensuring the availability to all mothers of adequate maternity service, it is recommended that the Commonwealth be divided into districts, to be determined in extent and boundaries by population distribution, geographical features, and such other considerations as might be relevant to the efficient working of the scheme . . .
It is strongly recommended, however, that the maternity hospital be separate from the general hospital ; this for several reasons.
The maternity hospital would be a centre in each district provided with modern medical equipment that was available freely to all mothers, whatever their financial position and from whatever doctor they were receiving treatment. The head of the maternity centre would bc an obstetrical or gynaecological specialist, whose services as a consultant would be available to any doctor at any time, free of charge. The whole of the maternity services provided would radiate from there. They would he, first of all, the hospital block, providing for the antenatal and pre-natal periods, and for the period of confinement. There would be a clinic and a domiciliary midwifery service. In addition, provision would be made for a home nursing service and for an ambulance unit fully equipped to give blood transfusions and to deal with all the accidents that occur during confinement, and that are so well known to the medical profession. In districts where there was sufficient scope there would be a medical school for the training of obstetricians and a nursing school for the training of nurses. There would also be a domestic training school for home helps. On some other occasion I hope to lay before the House the whole of the details of the scheme, but I suggest that in the meantime the Government might well study it with a view to providing better maternity services and a better future for mothers, thereby promoting family life and a possible increase in the birth-rate within a comparatively few years.
– I second the motion, and reserve my right to speak later.
– I agree with the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) that there is no question confronting Australia of greater gravity than that of the national birth-rate, and I agree with her, too, that the stability of marriage is very much a factor in promoting a satisfactory birth-rate. For instance, in the United States of America, to cite only one country, the divorce rate has grown to such an extent that earnest thinkers there are appalled at the possibilities which the breakdown of marriages brings in its train. The honorable member spoke of the declining birthrate in Australia. It is not actually true to say that the rate is declining. As a matter of fact, it has risen in recent times. The improvement may not be permanent, but it is, at any rate, substantial as compared with the rate which prevailed from 1930 to 1940. There has even been an improvement as compared with the figures between 1940 and 1943.
– Has the percentage fallen?
– No, the percentage has risen, and the number of births has - increased. We are in thi9 fortunate position in Australia that on the figuresavailable - and I stress the qualification, about available figures because, owing, to the disturbed state of Europe, it is hard to get figures - Australia has the second best birth-rate of all countries in the world inhabited by people of European stock. The only country that has a better birth-rate than Australia is Holland. It will be observed that I make a comparison only with countries inhabited by people of European origin. Of course, some of the Asiatic countries have a much higher birth-rate. It is possible, also, that Russia has a higher birth-rate, but we cannot get reliable figures, or, indeed, any figures, from that country. The available figures show that we have a higher crude birth-rate than the United Kingdom, where the rate has been lower than that of Australia for some years. The Australian rate is also higher than those of Belgium, Denmark, France and Greece. It is substantially better than the birth-rate in those countries where the population was formerly noted for its fecundity, namely, Italy Poland and Portugal.
It is to be hoped that the Australian birth-rate will be maintained, though whether it can be is a matter of some conjecture. The information availableshows that in 1947, on the figures sofar to hand, the actual number of births in Australia was 180,000. Prior to that,, the greatest number of children born in Australia in any one year was in 1946, when the number was 176,379, representing a rate of 23.6 per thousand. That rate was the best since 1923 ; that is, for a quarter of a century, while the figures for last year were even better. The improvement of the birth-rate towards the end of 1946 can probably be attributed to abnormal factors such as demobilization and the withdrawal of women from industry, resulting in the taking place of postponed marriages. Until census tabulations of the female population according to age. conjugal condition, size of family and duration of marriage are available, so that a detailed analysis may be made, it will be difficult to form a reliable opinion as to the relative effects of the various causes underlying the present trend of the birth-rate in Australia, and to decide whether the pre-war decline of fertility has been arrested more than temporarily. The pre-war decline of fertility has been attributed almost entirely to the effects of the economic depression. During the depression, marriages had to be postponed, while people who ordinarily might have had children postponed their birth. The fact that the birth-rate has shown a decline in many countries in the latter part of 1947 is significant, but it would be impracticable, without further information, to indicate the likely level of fertility in 1948 and future years in those countries.
In December last, an item appeared in the Melbourne Herald under the heading, “ Big Europe Baby Crop Worries United States “. The item, which bore a Washington date-line, was as follows :-
Government statisticians are trying to reconcile the European baby crop with the American wheat crop, and are producing some startling figures.
The Population Reference Bureau shows that babies are being born at a record rate in sixteen Marshall plan nations, births having totalled 4,710,000 in 1946.
The statisticians estimate that this may add £13,500,000 to the new Aid Bill in the cost of wheat alone.
Why the birth-rate should increase in desolated Europe is one of those phenomena which statisticians cannot explain, which baffles sociologists, and which is even beyond the speculation of psychiatrists. However, it is a fact that, wherever people of European extraction have settled throughout the world, the birth-rate suddenly increased during the war. It is true of rich and of populous countries like the United States of America, of war-desolated countries such as those on the continent of Europe, of countries like the United Kingdom, struggling for survival and revival, and of countries like Australia, where conditions are good and food plentiful.
– That has been the experience right throughout history.
– lt would appear to be so, and then, when peace is restored, and people become contaminated once again by easy living, they forget their responsibilities to society and themselves, and the birth-rate falls again. However, the fact remains that the birth-rate has risen ; but, unfortunately, children take a long time to mature. When the birthrate declines, the effect is not felt immediately - not, indeed, for a number of years. Honorable members may have read in that excellent production of the Department of Information, Facts and Figures, No. 17, that in 1940 the number of people in the age-group between fifteen and nineteen was 644,100. Businessmen, professional men, and all other employers of labour are finding it extremely difficult - indeed, almost impossible - to obtain the services of boys and girls between the ages of fifteen and nineteen. But bad as the position is to-day, it will become worse. Next year there will be only 558,700. In 194)0, there were 644,100, but by 1947 the number had dropped to 582,000. In 1948, it will be 558,000. It will drop in 1949 to 545,000, and in 1950, to 525,000. We shall not reach the nadir until 1951, when, we shall have a total in that agegroup of 516,000.
– The inheritance of the depression.
– .That is so. In 1951, we shall have 128,000 fewer children in the fifteen to nineteen age-group than we had in 1940.
– What was the year of the depression?
– The honorable member should contain himself a little. I am speaking of the children in the fifteen to nineteen age-group who were not born between 1932 and 1939. Simple arithmetic shows that children who should have been born in 1932, but who were not born, will not be available in 1947, fifteen years later. I am saying that the decline in the birth-rate in 1932 was reflected in the number of fifteenyearold children in 1947.
– But not in 1951 ?
– The financial and economic depression lasted until 1939.
– Honorable members opposite may challenge the statement, but [ remind them that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), when he was Prime Minister in 1941, said that when World War II. broke out in 1939 there were 250,000 unemployed in this country. As long as unemployment existed the effects of the depression remained.
Opposition members intersecting,
– Order! The Minister for Immigration has the call.
– I cannot quote all the figures from 1931 to 1939, but I assure honorable members that we did not reach full employment in this country until Japan came into the war. The figures I am quoting now, as showing the reflection of the decline in the birth-rate, are such, that they must give anybody who wants to consider the problem seriously very grave food for thought. Even in 1956 we shall have only 578,000 children in the fifteen and nineteen years agegroups and, accordingly, we shall not then be in any better position than we had reached in 1933 or 1934. In the intercensal period between 1933 and 1947, the Australian population increased by 900,000, but some of the most vital sections of our people in the younger age-groups either did not show a proportionate increase or showed an actual decline. I am merely interpreting figures supplied to us by the Commonwealth Statistician, and I am not interpreting them in this way for the purpose of casting reflections on any one in connexion with the depression. Like the honorable member for Darwin, I take the facts as they are, examine them and form opinions on them.
The honorable member for Darwin appropriately spoke of the lack of domestic help in Australia to-day. The shortage of domestic help has been brought about partly because of the expansion of our industries, which have attracted more and more girls into textile factories, woollen mills, and the like, taking them away from domestic service, and partly by the fall in the female birth-rate, which has been as great as that in the male birth-rate. That is one reason why in our immigration plans we are trying to bring greater numbers of young people to Australia to take the place of those who were not born during the depression, and whose absence to-day makes our problems so greatly felt. I am trying to bring a number of young people from Europe to fill their place. On General Heintzelman, which brought displaced persons from Europe recently, the average age of immigrants was only 24. I hope that on the next ships bringing immigrants to Australia the average age will be equally as good. In these ships young women are greatly outnumbered by men, but we are hoping to attract more and more young females to this country. I hope that when we have satisfied the needs of all repatriation and general hospitals throughout Australia we shall be able to make assistance available to young mothers who need the services of domestics so that they may feel that their health will not suffer merely because they have performed a public duty in bringing children into the world.
The honorable member for Darwin has said that in many instances young women bearing children are scoffed at or made to feel their position. The first observation I want to make on that is that those who are most cruel to an expectant mother are other women, many of whom do not want children and will not have them. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, many of these people are “using the instrument of marriage as a form of legalized prostitution “. Motherhood should be ennobled and women with families should be as highly regarded in this country, and in this generation, as they were in earlier times. It was the spread of the doctrine of Malthus that nearly brought European countries to disaster in recent years. If honorable members seek an example of what a nation should not do in the matter of the birthrate, they have only to look at the unfortunate position of France. Had the Germans waited another decade or two after 1939 they need not have gone to war with France. They could . have spilled over the border into that country almost without opposition, because the German birth-rate was so much greater than the birth-rate in France. My second observation upon the fact that women who have children are made to feel that they have almost committed a crime against society because they have done their duty, is that men can play a great part in stopping that sort of criticism. Not only the ordinary members of society, but also State governments and municipal and local-governing bodies and other authorities could help mothers in many ways.
The honorable member referred to the burdens placed on the housewife by the struggle she has to undergo travelling in trams, trains and buses in order to pro. cure the requirements of herself and her family. There is nothing to prevent municipalities and State governments setting aside special buses, trains and trams, or portions of them, at stated times during the day, for women with children. In some States that is already being done ; but more could be done and more must be done to ease the burdens of mothers.
The honorable member also spoke of the shortage of housing. I do not want to indulge ‘in any criticism of the housing shortage on party lines. “We have the problem and we must resolve it. It is a legacy of years of neglect. It was a chronic problem as far back almost as 1910, and little, or nothing, was done about it. I do not believe that Australia became home-conscious until about 1938 ; and .even now we are not yet building sufficient houses throughout Australia to meet the ordinary needs of replacement. Not only must we build for those who are marrying, but also we have to overtake the lag which some who have studied the problem estimate to be approximately 300,000 houses.
– Militant unionism will not allow us to overtake the lag.
– Recently, the Public Works Committee, of which the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) is a member, had occasion to investigate the subject of bricklaying in Canberra. The committee was told that bricklayers were laying only 300 bricks a day, but, subsequently, officials of the unions concerned were able to prove that the reason bricklayers were not able to lay more bricks a day was because sufficient labourers were not available. Consequently, in many cases bricklayers themselves had to carry their own bricks. In other cases, shortages of materials held up construction and bricklayers very often laid only 300 bricks a day, not because they were “ going slow “, but because they were unable to get sufficientquantities of bricks. I do not excuse any one who “ goes slow “, and I have no sympathy with any one who does not work to the maximum of his, or her, capacity while on the job in order to produce the needs of the community. We shall not get out of our difficulty until everybody works at a reasonable rate throughout the whole of the period they are engaged at their work. That applies to persons who occupy high positions as well as to those in lowlier positions.’ This is a community problem.
The honorable member for Darwin also spoke about the lack of shoes and clothing for children. Nobody agrees with the high prices that are being charged for footwear to-day. Why the cost of footwear for children should be so high I do not know. I can speak on this matter as a father. My wife tells me that she has great difficulty in obtaining clothes and shoes for our children. Neither the Commonwealth nor the .State governments can be held responsible for this position. There is something wrong somewhere, and perhaps the explanation again is inability on the part of manufacturers to obtain sufficient labour to enable them to produce the quantities of footwear required to meet the community’s demands. I believe that if we could find more labour, conditions, would be better; but I say this to the honorable member for Darwin: To-day our people, have at least got boots and clothing. There was a period during the depression when they did not have the necessary money to buy boots and clothing.
– Or food.
– That is so. Much as we deplore what is happening to-day, relatively we are now much better ofl, although we are not so well off as we ought to be, or, as I hope, we shall be. But, at any rate, we have made considerable advances.
There are organizations in the community which for years conducted propaganda among working women and others urging them not to have children. They were told that if they had one child they could make him a university professor, ignoring the fact, of course, that in any community there can be room for only a certain percentage of university professors and that there must be a percentage of people to do all of each of the other classes of work to meet the needs of society. The effect of that propaganda was considerable; but those very organizations themselves are, to-day, alarmed at the success of their propaganda. They have even renamed their organizations. They now exist as societies for planned births. They tell women that they ought to have children, but not to have themtoo frequently, and that families should be limited in number.
The honorable member for Darwin also spoke about the shorter working week. I believe that the introduction of the shorter working week was a social and economic necessity, and the judges of the Arbitration Court, when they prescribed the 40-hour week, said that in most cases industry was making sufficient profit to be able to accept the shorter week. The fact is that a judgment of the Arbitration Court in this country established the 40-hour working week.
– Order ! This debate must now be interrupted under Standing Order 119. Does the Minister desire to continue his remarks at a later date?
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Passages on “ Strathmore “.
Debate resumed fromthe 2nd October, 1947 (vide page 442, volume 189), on motion by Mr. Lang -
That there be laid upon the Table of the House -
the papers relating to the entry of 200 alien immigrants who arrived from the Middle East on the Strathmore;
the original applications for permission to enter, together with the recommendations thereon; and
the text of the representations made through Australia House to the British Ministry of Transport which led to the withholding of 200 berths from passengers stranded in England in order to accommodate migrants from the Middle East.
.- This motion relates to a matter which arose in July, 1946. It is obviously an attempt at Jew-baiting, and the motion has been submitted by a man who has come to be known as “ Patterson’s curse “.
I move -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 8
– Yes. The honorable member forReid took the same point of order once before when the Prime Minister moved the closure after he had spoken, and I ruled then, as I rule now, that it is competent for an honorable member to make that motion at any time, whether he has spoken or not.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 384) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 2nd October, 1947 (vide page 446, volume 189), on motion by Mr. White -
That a Joint Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the following:
the inadequacy of the administration which hasbeen setup under the New Guinea Act;
the failure of the administration to maintain production of essential commodities ;
the lack of a policy for the economic development of the territories which could proceed hand in hand with a progressive native policy;
the unbalanced native policy and it’s adverse effect upon the natives and upon economic development; and
the unrest which exists in thePublic Service in the territories due to unsettled conditions and the failure of the Government to provide suitable living conditions, adequate classification, and to deal with the high cost of living.
.- in reply - Mr. Speaker-
– I rise to order. I am not sure whether I have spoken in this debate.
– Order !Iunder- stand that the honorable member has already spoken.
– As I revealed in my opening speech, conditions in New Guinea are generally unsatisfactory. This position is due largely to the Government’s muddling and neglect. Although hostilities ceased nearly three years ago in that territory, this valuable area is the plaything of a government department and the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward). When other honorablemembers and Ihave voiced from time to timecomplaints about con- ditionin Papua and New Guinea, the Minister has replied with abuse,and expressed his disbelief. He would not agreethat anything was wrong in the territories. Perhaps recent revelations will convincehim of his error.
The. administration which the Lyons Government set up in 1933 was suspended during World War II. That was natural, and the control of the territories was placed under the military authorities. However, local’ government should now be restored, in order that white settlers may have an opportunity to express their views upon the administration of their own affairs. At present, officials in Canberra control this rich and valuable area, and the settlers have many grievances. Unfortunately, they have no legislature in which their representatives could voice their complaints. Yet the white population of the territories is equal in number to that of the Northern Territory, which has a representative in this House and its own legislative council. Apart from the white settlers, there are. between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 natives in the territories, and we are responsible for their welfare. If we do not develop those rich areas, and govern them in the interests of the white settlers and the natives, we might ultimately lose them. The Australian Government asserts that its policy is designed to serve the best interests of the natives. I agree that the native population should receive the best possible treatment, but the Government has adopted the wrong approach. It believes that it is serving the best interests of the natives by increasing their wages by 5s. a week, and paying them compensation for their properties which may have been damaged during World War II. At that point, the Government’s practical interest in the native ceases. I shall give to the House some information which should startle- the Minister for External Territories out of his inactivity, that is, if he has not already been sufficiently startled by recent revelations.
It is possible that, at some time in the future, this territory will have its own native members in the local legislative council. Fiji, which has set an example to ‘the world in this respect, is a triumph for British administration. The standards of the Fijians have been raised from those of savages - they were the greatest cannibals in the world - to the point where educated Fijians now take their place in a colonial legislature. This consists of an Executive Council and a Legislative Council. In the Executive Council, there are five official and *wo unofficial members, including the Governor. In the Legislative Council, there are sixteen official and fifteen unofficial members. Three of the European members are elected and two are nominated by the Governor. Five of the Fijian members are nominated. Three of the Indian members are elected, and two others are nominated.
In 1933, the Lyons Government set up in the territory a similar administration, but did not consider that the natives at that time were sufficiently advanced to take their place in the legislature. The Chifley Government, which pretends to be most democratic, has abolished that form of administration, and the Minister is practically the dictator of the territory. With a few officials, he controls the whole destiny of the territory. White settlers, many of whom served in World War I. and who were evacuated when the Japanese threat became serious, have not been permitted to return there. For all the average Australian can learn about the local conditions, the territory might well be Siberia, Tibet or one of the countries behind the Soviet’s “iron curtain “. The Minister promised that he would visit the territory. I wonder what has delayed him. He certainly made a fleeting visit some time ago, but he did not continue his journey into those regions where most of the trouble is occurring. A cordial invitation awaits him whenever he decides to proceed there, and to the timber districts. Perhaps he will inform the House, after his visit, what is happening in the timber industry in New Britain. I shall not refer here to another matter which might be sub judice. Recently, I received a letter from a resident of Papua, who has spent most of his life in the territory. He is highly respected by every section of the community, and greatly loved by his native employees. He wrote -
It is time the people of the Commonwealth of Australia wert warned regarding their policy in Papua and New Guinea, and the possibility of an invasion of the Indonesian communistic peoples in the near future.
I do not deny that the peoples of Asia should be given self -government. After centuries of rule in India., Great Britain has magnanimously granted selfgovernment to Pakistan, India, Burma, and Ceylon. In Java, which is only one day’s flight from Northern Australia, a civil war has been raging, and the conflict has been accompanied by torture, cruelty and misery. This overcrowded island, containing millions of people, is almost contiguous to our territories of Papua and New Guinea. Consequently, the possibility of a movement of population from Java to our own territories must always be kept in mind.
– There is civil war on “ the Brisbane line “.
– The Minister for External Territories is ubiquitous. He is just as much at home among certain people, whether in Russia or in Australia
– Order ! The honorable member should not be led away from his subject by interjections.
– The fear has been expressed that Indonesians might move from Java to our own territories, and that danger should be obvious to the Minister, even if he does regard some of them as his own comrades. The letter continues -
It is with the utmost difficulty and only after a lot of “ red tape “ that an old resident of the territories is allowed to return to his former home, or what is left of it, yet, a real red Communist is allowed a. permit, and has taken up residence with the natives of Hanuabada and is teaching them the ways of Communism and how to become a nuisance, which will eventually lead to inter-tribal war, as the small minority of natives at Hanuabada are thoroughly disliked by the other Papuans, lt is very much like the situation in Indonesia, where you have a small minority of semieducated natives, trying to lead a large population of uneducated, but happy people, into socialistic or communistic ideas, when already these large populations have their own social systems established hundreds of years ago. It is to be hoped communism will not spread to Government House as it is only a few hundred yards from Hanuabada.
I pause there in order to report to the House on activities around the model native village of Hanuabada. This, is the most sophisticated village in Papua. That it is to be re-constructed now at a cost of £118,000’ does not compensate for the fact that natives around Rabaul are dying because of lack of attention. This “ posh “ village, with modern conveniences, is not required. Natives from this village are being employed in the vicinity of Government House and at Port Moresby. They are carried by motor truck to Port Moresby, where they “ potter “ around the gardens. The unfortu nate result is that they are neglecting their own horticultural and fishing activities to such a degree that they now depend on tinned foods from Australia. I have received this information from a prominent resident of the territory who lives near the model village of Hanuabada. These facts show how the Government believes in “ petting “ the natives instead of encouraging them to do the work for which they are best suited. This policy is spoiling them, and is making us ridiculous in their eyes. My correspondent continues -
Also it is time the people of the Commonwealth were informed of the “ raw deal “ the natives of Papua and New Guinea receive from this “ Golden Age “.
This Government is hypocritically telling the people of this country that it is doing something for the New Guinea natives that has not been done in any other part of the world. Honorable members will recall that during the debate on the New Guinea Administration Bill in 1945, those budding Wilberforces on the Government side of the chamber told the Parliament how the Labour Administration was releasing the natives from slavery. They were unaware, obviously, that for many years the native population working for Europeans in those tropical areas had been well cared for under strict laws administered by the late Sir Hubert Murray, whose qualities as an administrator were second to none. The Minister for External Territories will say, no doubt, that he has given the natives an increase of 5s. a week in their wages. He probably has, and no doubt he is also organizing trade unions amongst waterside workers and other natives in those territories. I understand that something of that kind is going on. But what does all that mean to these people? What they require is paternal care. The letter further states -
During the war, the natives of these territories adopted European foods, as most of them were employed by the army, their rations were on a generous scale and free, and even after the departure of the Australian and American forces, there was an abundance of ration foods at a normal rate. The natives are now paying excessive prices due to export taxes imposed to bolster up Commonwealth prices arid production and to give bounties to producers of rice, flour, wheatmeal, sugar. &c: Thus the natives of Papua and New
Guineaare being indirectly taxed to support Europeans in Australia.
Before World War II, Papua had a substantial export trade in copra, pearl shell, rubber and other commodities. The mandated territory of New Guinea also had a large export trade, amounting to approximately£3,000,000 a year - equal to that ofFiji. The main export of the mandated territory was gold, but next on the list was copra. To-day, many copra producers are leaving their plantations andreturning to Australia, according to information that I have received fromauthentic sources. In this regard the letter states -
What is the attitude of theCommonwealth
Government to the producerof copra and rubber in these islands?
The copra producer is forced to take a price farbelowworld’s parity for his copra, in order to providecheapmargarineandsoapforthe public of Australia; coconut plantations owned by natives receive the same treatment.
So, what the Government has given to the New Guineanative with one hand - a few extra shillings a week - it is taking away with the other. Here again, the Papuan and New Guinea natives are being indirectly taxed. Apparently the rubberproducers are in an even worse position than the copra producers. In 1937 I went to New Guinea for the Lyons Government to try to encourage rubber growers toextend their plantations. That was doneand Australia was able to take all the rubberthat they produced, but I am informed that to-day most of the rubber plantations are beingabandoned largely through Government frustration and the unsympathetic treatment accorded to planters. In thisregardmy correspondent states -
Rubber producers are in a worse plight, as lately thepriceofferedin Australiais well below the cost ofproduction. Again, wehave the Papuan and New Guinea producer pena- lized to compete with the Malay States, where the conditions and rationscale for natives are not nearlyso exacting asthose introduced recently by the Commonwealth Government.
Although theseterritories arepartofthe
Commonwealth, theyaretreated as ifthey werea foreign country. This ismore astonishing whenourmillers inAustralia advise the export tax bringsPapuan-milledwheatto about 14s. 9d. perbushel.
I hope that members of the Australian Country party will bear that in mind.
Wheat is being sold to New Zealand at 5s. 9d; a bushel, but the Government is charging the Papuan natives and white settlers 14s. 9d. a bushel. The letter continues -
As an instance of inflated prices due to Commonwealth export duties, I give below a comparison of wholesale prices in July, 1945, and at present date -
To the above wholesale prices,the merchant ortradestoreaddsaconsiderablepercentage, allowed by thePrices Commissioner,the resultbeingthatthenativesoftheseterritories a re being taxed to a greater extent than any other native race, although we are led to believe, whenlisteningtotheAustralian BroadcastingCommissionbroadcast and from speeches by the Labour party, thatthe natives of these territories are livingina”golden age “ with FatherChristmasastheadministrator.
Then wecometo the treatmentof Europeans -
If you takethe Europeansideofthequestion,it is justasseriousand unfair - government officials and other Australianson salaries arein debt and cannot live ontheir salaries nor put by anything fortheirleave, and, as conditionsinregardtohousingaredeplor- able, there ismuch unhaippinessanddiscontent.
Whilst writing this article,I find another attack bytheCommonwealthGovernment on thewelfare of the native - the introduction of a cotton levy of1s. 8d. per lbon allmade-up cotton goods shipped to these territories.This is a further tax of 6d. on every singlet purchased by a native.
So, the Minister for External Territories - thedictator of this great dependency - is takinganother1s. 8d . per lb . on cotton goods from the natives, which meansa tax of 6d. ona native’slap-lap or singlet. There is much more that Icouldquote from the same letter., but I havegiven enough to acquainthonorablemembers ofpresent-day conditions, and theGo- vernment’sneglect of the natives. I also have here a letter from a resident of Rabaul, who, by extending a cordialinvitation to the Ministerto visit that area, promises him a reception committee should he do so. The letter states -
It is very difficult to get those matters made public when you are dealing with Ministers and administration officials who answer your criticism by deliberate falsehoods - the facts ure all here and speak for themselves. But, so far, neither the Administrator, nor the principal official, nor Ward have had the guts to come here and see for themselves. It looks as if either their policy is definitely to drive hh out or else they are not game to come up and meet us and have a discussion. My facts as presented to you are, if anything, understated. Until yesterday there had been no fresh food at all, nor any bread. There is still no milk, no baby food, no benzine, lubricating oil distillate, copra sacks, &c.
I come now to something that must be staggering, even to the Minister himself. Again I emphasize that my correspondent is a man who is favorably known throughout the whole territory, and T trust that the Minister will investigatethe matter to which attention is drawn, even if only for humanity’s sake. This is not a political matter. The letter states -
The Tobar Island Group, off the east coast of New Ireland, had 2,400 inhabitants when we took it back from the Japanese, in 1945. To-day it has only 1,200 - of those that are gone, 500 have died in the last six months of a dysentery epidemic. The Administration was unable to cope with this, as it had neither the medical personnel nor the transport or supplies.
In the Bainings area, west of Rabaul where there is not a large population, 508 natives have died in the last two years, and this is mainly due to lack of medical attention. Yet the Administration is planning largely and spending a lot of money to make the native a peasant farmer and producing all the goods of the territory without any white settlers. It. has placed the Agricultural Department on first priority, not realizing, apparently, that if the natives die off there won’t be any peasant farmers. The only logical plan for the native races is to concentrate upon their health first, with hygiene, sanitation. Sc., and an increasing birth-rate.
This man is one of those who are leaving the territory because of the disgusting treatment that he has received. Another letter to which I shall refer comes from the wife of a settler. Both these people have given a great deal of time and energy to the development of the territory. T remind honorable members who live in comfortable city residences, and whose only contribution to the development of this country is the making of speeches, that these people live in areas where little comfort and few amenities exist. They could easily return to Sydney or Melbourne, where, even on an ordinary wage, they could live in greater comfort than is available to them in New Guinea. They prefer, however, to fight the hard battle in the territory, where in the past the Australian flag has been carried with great lustre. I point out, too, that most of the men were members of the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles and fought there and elsewhere for that territory during the war. If the Government allows them to leave, they may not be replaced because its policy is not encouraging to settlers. A man cannot go there without first obtaining a permit from the Minister and without having the promise of a job on arrival. All sorts of frustrations and difficulties beset the young pioneer, the man of enterprise, who wants to go to the territory. The letter that I have mentioned states -
No one seems to care. Nothing is being done. Truly it is a terrible state of affairs. This vast and beautiful country and so little interest taken by the Australian Government. Thousands of people could be settled in up here, if they are not afraid of work. The native labour is chaotic.
There is much more in the same strain.
I have spoken of the inadequacy of the administration, the policy regarding native labour, and the lag of production. Copra production has declined very considerably although the world is crying out for f at3. Great Britain’s greatest need is for fats. It needs them even more urgently than it needs meat. Animal fats have preference, but vegetable fats are also welcome, both in the United Kingdom and in starving Europe. A little more consideration by the Government and a greater measure of co-operation with New Guinea residents would enable copra production to be increased to a very high level in that great territory. The Government is giving the copra producers very much less than is their due. The Minister has explained that the Government takes a certain percentage of the price paid to the producers and pays it into a fund. Instead of doing so, it should give every encouragement to these men to increase production at this time of urgent need so that they could help the peoples of Great Britain and Europe. I could say much more on this subject.
I have here a letter from a man in Lae who also extends a cordial invitation to the Minister to go to that locality, which he has not yet visited. I assure the honorable gentleman that the miners at Lae would welcome him. This correspondent states -
This morning I sent two natives to W.R. Carpenters and Messrs. Burns Philp and Company with the usual note requesting how they stood as regardsthe commodities mentioned. These are rough notes in pencil. This was to obtain their official comments regarding the commodities asked for, and was not a “ put up “ job between myself and the firms concerned, but a straight-out request such as they receive daily from the public. I enclose these original slips with their comments, as an assurance to you that conditions are as indicated by the comments thereon by the firms concerned. The trouble is Ward and Company are approaching the Administrator on matters of shortage of commodities, and we consider him no authority on the subject in view of the fact Port Moresby seems well supplied. Even beer may be obtained at hotels.
He then gives the following list of articles that are required -
Lactogen, sugar, milk, soap, tobacco, flour, corn flakes.
The comment of the storekeeper is in pidgin -
This is the place of no-got.
If the Minister does not know what that means, the translation is -
This is the place of “nothing in stock”.
This man, who has lived in the mining fields for the greater part of his life, and who has no antipathies against individuals, tries to be helpful. He writes -
This seems to be the set-up as regards “ information “ -
Ward receives letter of complaint.
Ward refers to Administrator at Moresby, who knows absolutely nothing other than local affairs.
I do not wish to be critical of the Administrator, but I consider that he is too complacent and too obsequious to the Minister. Consequently he is pinned down at Port Moresby and has not seen the other parts of the territory. The region is new to him, and he should be given every opportunity to travel and investigate.
Too little notice has been taken in this Parliament of conditions in the mandated territory, and that is why I have moved for the appointment of a joint parliamentary select committee to inquire into and report upon the matters which I have mentioned. Such a committee could take evidence from the Administrator and from other residents of the territory. I am prepared to give the names of between twenty and thirty correspondents who could substantiate my statements. The committee could take evidence from them at some convenient place, or it could move about, as committees of the House of Commons in Great Britain travel, in order to elicit information. The affairs of this great territory, the size of Victoria, should not be directed from Canberra by a Minister and one prominent official. Even if the Minister were some heaven-sent benefactor of mankind - which nobody will agree that he is - he could not control the territory in that way with equity to its residents. The letter from which I was quoting also states -
That is probably what the Minister will say when he speaks. He will abuse everybody who dares to criticize this preserve of his. The letter continues- -
Now as a resident of this territory for 27 years, I assure you I am convinced the Minister himself does not knowreally what is going on here.
Those are the comments of a man whose name is favorably known in the territory. He does not believe that the Minister knows what is happening there. His letter continues -
Candidly, I cannot believe that any human being would take the attitude they do in the “ House “ if they really knew facts.
Here is another letter from New Guinea -
Some one should be sent to investigate this comic circus. I think it is a very admirable thing to give the native his own country and teach him to govern himself, but the method nowbeing adopted is not only going to be very costly but may end in disaster for the teachers.
There are, no doubt, among the old timers many men altruistic enough to agree with the principles of the Government and willing to advise it how to carry out its policy; but so far as I can gather the minions of Mr. Ward would rather employ theorists.
That is the trouble. New-chum theorists are sent to New Guinea. There were four applications for the position of Chief of Police, there from men of repute who had served in the territory, but the successful applicant came from Adelaide. Men with little knowledge of the requirements of the territory are too often appointed to responsible positions there. “We all know about the poor deal that has been given to’ the aborigines in Australia. By comparison,, the treatment given to natives of New Guinea in the past was extremely good because we had great administrators in charge of the territory. Sir William McGregor, the Administrator of Fiji, who laid the foundations of that British colony in a way which set an example to the world, was brought to Papua as administrator by an early Australian government. He did excellent work. Later, Sir Hubert Murray continued in the same tradition. Now this class-conscious Government - a fellow traveller with people whom it is afraid to denounce and who cause discord throughout the world - is entrusted with control over the lives and destinies of New Guinea residents and the development of that great land. While I am talking in this House, the Minister is chatting idly with those around him, as is his custom. I suppose that, as usual, he will make an abusive reply with complete indifference to what is . happening in .the territory which he is supposed to administer. I also have here a letter from a man whose record in New Guinea has been one of great distinction and whose son also had a distinguished career with the Royal Australian Air Force in the territory. This man is still living there, although under great protest because he sees things wrong all around him. His letter is written in a helpful way, and I wish that the Minister would heed these comments -
To sum up and if Papua is to be again placed on an economic basis then the following are absolutely necessary: -
The Administration to give up devising grandiloquent plans for the long-distant future and to come to earth and commence on something concrete to lead to the realization of those plans when the native is ready for them and to give more attention to medical services throughout the territory for the immediate benefit of the native. It has been in power seventeen months and yet in Papua there are only two practising doctors - one in Port Moresby and one in Samarai. This in spite of Canberra’s much vaunted promises of repayment to the native for his services by giving him up-to-date medical attention all over the territory.
That the native be encouraged to seek work with private enterprise and particularly on plantations, where he is well treated, well fed and cared for and taught many useful things agriculturally and technically.
The one-year indenture be again extended to two years.
Although it may seem to those who have no knowledge of conditions in New Guinea that the shortening of labour contracts will be of great benefit, actually it is detrimental both to the natives and to the planters, especially to the small planters. The big planter who can buy a flying-boat and use it to bring natives to his property from distant parts is able to prosper. Small planters whose plantations were selected because the land was arable and would produce coconuts, can only engage native labour often from distant districts for a term of one year. Just as the natives are becoming of use, their term of engagement expires and the planters’ labour forces are dispersed. The shortage of labour is so acute that a number of small planters have already left New Guinea and returned, to Australia. .Some of the larger employers find that they cannot obtain native labourers who are prepared to sign contracts of service and are therefore engaging natives as casual labourers. When those labourers fall ill they are not then a charge on their employers. Nevertheless, most employers take them in and look after them. The paradox of the Government’s plan to improve the lot of the natives is that it is working exactly the other way. Instead of employers having the full charge over their native employees, they are not officially responsible for their welfare under these circumstances. The consequence is that natives are not receiving the medical treatment and the attention which is necessary if they are to advance tn the stage which we wish to see them attain. -My correspondent makes a specific recommendation in the following terms: -
That an adequate shipping service be provided for the whole coast, or if the Common<wealth cannot provide this, then such services to be allowed to revert to private enterprise.
I can quote dozens of cases of planters who have had to wait many months for the arrival of shipments of essential goods, but my correspondent mentions the following particular cases : -
Woodlark Island - We were without a boat for fifteen weeks and before that for eleven weeks and two days. Boys’ food was done and we were without flour for ten days.
Kitava - Well, we are having a replica of last year, remember last February, 1940, we were about five months without a boat. The Mirigini left here 20th February, 11)47, and to-day in June 15th. and she is still about Samarai and nothing been here in the meantime. We are hoping to get her about July some time.
Trobriand Islands - Eight weeks since the Mirigini was here and it will be some weeks yet before she arrives. Gone on the slip at port so you see we are again marooned here, every one short of stores and tobacco as usual.
Governments fail when they attempt to operate simple services such as those; they cannot operate either local shipping services between island ports or major air services. My criticism applies to governments of all political colour. Government enterprise does not provide the incentive to service and efficiency which actuates the pioneers, who strive to succeed, and thereby create work and employment. It was that incentive which actuated the pioneers of Australia, but, unfortunately, the development of that spirit in the pioneers of New Guinea is being frustrated because of the attitude and activities of the present socialist Government. The Government labours under the old-fashioned idea that there can be an equal distribution of everything, notwithstanding that its members and supporters know that there is no such thing as a dull level of ability amongst human beings. They know that it does not exist even amongst themselves. Yet, they are satisfied to encourage in their caucus the continuance of the herd instinct, the sheep mind, which believes that a simple native or cannibal is on the same level as the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt). Of course, I do not agree with that. Honorable members opposite want to “ liquidate “ - a word used by their fellow travellers, the Communists - private enterprise. Of course, they have learned that that theory will hot work, but they still persist in their efforts to bring about a socialist world, one which would not be too “ red “, but something in between the socialist state and the present order.
– Has not the Government got anthropologists to advise it?
– That is the trouble; it has too many who are merely theorists. Another member of the Government, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), believes that he can solve any problem at all with the assistance of his “ planners “.
-Order! That has no relation to the motion.
– Similarly, the Minister for External Affairs perambulates the world-
– Order ! The honorable member has already covered a very wide field.
– I was simply pointing out that although the Minister for External Affairs has travelled the world, offering advice to the nations on the settlement of their problems, he cannot settle the trouble on the Australian waterfront. Similarly, the Minister for External Territories believes that he can solve the problems of New Guinea in the Sydney Domain-
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– In conclusion, I trust that a committee will be appointed to go to New Guinea to examine the situation.
That the motion [vide page 385) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 2nd October, 1947 (vide page 441, volume 189), on motion by Mr. Spender -
That Standing Order 280 be amended by adding thereto the following: - “or (4) by leave of the member speaking, to address a question to such member “.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That Notice of Motion No. 2, General Business, be considered forthwith.
This matter refers to the ruling of Mr. Speaker that the motion proposed to be moved by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) was not a matter of privilege to which ruling I gave notice of objection.
– I second the motion.
– The Government is not inclined to agree to the motion moved by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). Honorable members usually have the right on this day to debate matters affecting their constituents. The view of the Government is that the business of the House should follow the normal course and should not be interrupted by discussion of the motion proposed to be moved by the honorable member for Warringah.
– I can see no reason why the Government should not agree to the motion just submitted by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). The business on the notice-paper, which would normally occupy the House until 9 p.m. has finished and private members’ grievances can be heard after 9 p.m. on the motion “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair “. It would be of benefit to all concerned if notice of motion No. 2 were cleared from the notice-paper immediately. It has been set down for some time and might well be disposed of whilst the House has the time in which to do so. It must ultimately be discussed, and I put it to the Minister that it would be an act of grace and a help to the House in the discharge of its duties if he agreed to this motion.
– I join with the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) in protesting against the attitude adopted by the Government in this matter. The motion proposed to be moved by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) arises from a ruling of Mr. Speaker. This motion has been on the notice-paper for some time, but consideration of it has been postponed because, up to the present, Government business has properly taken precedence. Now, however, the opportunity presents itself for a debate, seeing that Government business will not be called on before 9 o’clock this evening. Therefore, the attitude of the Government is very difficult to understand. I should have thought that the Government would be glad to clear the item from the notice-paper by affording the honorable member for Warringah an opportunity to discuss the matter.
Motion (by Mr. Sheehan) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That Notice of Motion No. 2, General Business, be considered forthwith.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
SUPPLY. (“Grievance Day.”)
Northern Territory: Administration; Alleged Cattle Stealing - The Parliament: Speech at Parramatta by Mr. R. G. Menzies, M.P. ; Increased Membership ; Members’ Pensions and Allowances - Rail Transport . Queensland Strike - Communism - Shipping Delays.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into a committee of supply.
indicates that all is not well there. We know from the reports of the Advisory Council of the Australian Capital Territory, where bureaucratic ordinances are promulgated, that all is not well in that Territory. It needs no words of mine to indicate that the Northern Territory is the Cinderella area of the Commonwealth. I bring to the notice of the House a case which demonstrates the need for a revision of the administrative policy adopted in the Northern Territory. Some time ago, the owner of Beswick station in the Northern Territory sold his property to the Commonwealth through the Native Affairs Branch for use as an aboriginal station. His neighbour claimed that some of the cattle sold with the station, which were subsequently branded with the government broad arrow, were his and not the property of the seller, and that accordingly they could not become the property of the Commonwealth. It is repugnant to me to have to read correspondence dealing with the affairs of two cattlemen in the Northern Territory, but it is necessary to do so in order to place the facts before the House. I also propose to read a letter written to the complainant by the Administrator, who is Commissioner of Police in the Northern Territory. The case originally came before the court at Darwin. The aggrieved cattleman lost the case and appealed to the Administrator, who must have obtained legal advice on the matter before he replied. The first letter I propose to read was sent to me by the complainant, one of my constituents named Mark O’Connor, formerly a policeman, who acquired a station near Marranboy, 60 miles from Katherine. The letter reads -
T wish to bring to your notice and make application for you to bring to the notice of the House the following facts in addition to the letter from the Administrator, Mr. Driver, which I have already placed in your hands.
Early in January of last year I reported to the local policeman at Mata ran ku (Constable Burman) that I had caught a half-caste named “ Campfire” who was employed on the Beswick station illegally mustering my country and being illegally in possession of some of my , cattle. I also reported to him that another half-caste named Teddy Little, also working 3for the Beswick station”, had attempted to get into my tent to give me a bashing.
Constable Burman refused to take any action in either case and I have since learned that he was instructed not to have anything to do with cattle stealing cases whatever and not to have anything to do with assault cases unless he actually saw the assault committed.
This illegal mustering and thieving still continued and twice more during the following months I again caught them red-handed. “However, eventually the Beswick station was sold to the Native Affairs Branch and they commenced bang-tailing and crossbranding.
Immediately, my cattle, which had been stolen and were being kept in Beswick bullock paddock, were cross-branded with the Native Affairs brand and let go out of the paddock; they came back on to my country again where they had been stolen from.
As the police had previously refused to act, I was compelled to go to Darwin and engage a solicitor and the case was heard at Mataranka about the middle of September last. The former owner of Beswick station-
I shall not mention his name - - was charged with illegally “ using “ seven head of cattle and also causing them to be illegally branded.
The magistrate threw the’ first charge out on the ground that the word “ stock “ used in the act under which the charge was laid did not mean ordinary bullocks or horses, hut mentioned working bullocks or working horses and therefore there was no charge to answer.
Not since 1870, when the overland telegraph line was under construction, have working bullocks been used in the Northern Territory. The letter continues -
He threw thu second charge out on the grounds that the persons who used the branding irons may not nave known that they were doing wrong and therefore would not he illegally branding them as far as they were concerned, and that although the late owner of Beswick ordered them to muster them out of his paddock and bring them to the yard and put the government brand on them, he was not guilty of causing them to be illegally branded for the simple reason that he had been able to put it over these aboriginal stockmen to do the branding and they were innocent that they wore doing wrong.
That reminds me of how the Japanese used to “ pass the buck “ to their superior officer. The letter continues -
He said, even though the bullocks were tin their way to the boiling pot, that the person who caused it to be done was not guilty of an offence if he was able to put it over the persons doing the work and they were ignorant of the fact that he had no authority to order them to do it. The Crown Solicitor (Mr. Johnson) came all the way from Darwin to watch the case in the interests of the Government. Why, I do not know, as I had assured them I had no intention of taking any action against any one except the person who f believed had stolen them. The fact of the Administrator sending the Crown Solicitor nl] that way to watch the interests of the Crown would suggest that he thought if the present owner of Beswick was convicted that the Native Affairs would also be liable to an offence for buying them. I always knew ir was no good trying to fight the Government., but this also taught me it was no use fighting any one who was able to put it oyer the Government. So, after 32 years in tinNorthern Territory, I sold out in disgust and left it. I am afraid many more will be doing the same under the present circumstances.
Mr. O’Connor addressed that letter from Sydney. In order to make the position quite clear, I shall read his letter to the Administrator of the Northern Territory, dated the 25th October last. It is as follows : -
I respectfully wish to bring before you a few facts you may not be fully aware of, in the hope of finding out why such a state of affairs does exist.
First of all, I would like to know why it is that I am told by the police that they have nothing to do with cattle cases and that when 1 find cattle thieves illegally mustering my cattle and stealing them, that I must take civil action. 1 have tried this procedure and found it u complete farce.
I had plenty of evidence that my cuttle were being constantly stolen and some of them were eventually found in the Beswick bullock paddock; taken to the homestead yard and Cross branded with the Native Affairs brand. The previous owner of Beswick Station was charged with illegally using these bullocks, but the magistrate said there was no case to answer as the act was only intended for working bullocks and that having bullocks in the paddock iui’1 droving them to a yard for the purpose of receiving payment for them was not illegal! v using them. ° ‘
Now the position is this: The police inform me I must take civil action j I engage a solicitor and he charges me 30 guineas to conduct the case. The magistrate throws the case out and orders me to pay the previous owner nf Beswick Station’s solicitor 20 guineas. Th, trip to Darwin cost me about another £10. Sn that I have actually been fined over £00 - because the previous owner of Beswick stole my cattle and gold them to the Native Affairs Branch.
The remainder of that letter recapitulates the facts which Mr. O’Connor submitted to me in the letter I read previously. T shalt now read the letter which he received ;. om the Administrator of the Northern Territory, who is also the Commissioner of Police in the territory) dated the 25 ih November last. It is as follows : -
Veur letter of the 25th October, 1047, has been thoroughly investigated, and I find th.-it the police appear to have given you all reasonable assistance and, although you produced hil available evidence in the case, the magistrate decided that the case should go against you. If you still consider the magistrate’s decision is erroneous, then you have the right of appeal to the Supreme Court. I suggest, however* you do not appeal, because, on all evidence,: it does seem as though you are on a losing case.
I draw the attention of honorable members to the following paragraphs, which are the “ sweet meats “ :- 7t has been the policy of the Police Branch not to prosecute where allegations Ure made regarding the subject of your litigation, am) I am in entire agreement With this policy. !f tha police prosecuted on all occasions, neighbouring pastoralists would only be making a convenience of the police to settle their private differences, and, in any case, I do not consider it is part of the duties of the police force to prosecute for unlawful entering and illegal branding, &c.
The letter concludes -
Without going into full detatils, Mr. Newell (your solicitor) was given all possible assistance, but the case was not strong enough, and I do not see how we can go any further.
J agree with you. it does seem hard that you had to pay £60 from your own pocket, but the magistrate has ordered it and I cannot interfere.
I urge the Government to institute a full inquiry into this matter, and thus help to place the administration of the Northern Territory on a satisfactory basis.
Sitting suspended from 6 to S p.m.
.- I regret that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. .Menzies) is not present, because I propose to comply with the requests of some residents of New South Wales who live in my electorate, that 1 complain about and criticize a speech made by him last Monday night in the electorate of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale). Certain statements were made by the Leader of the Opposition to which exception was widely taken. I personally strongly object to them. Ruffling the lace at his wrists in true cavalier fashion, the right honorable gentleman took New South Wales to task and made a jibe at members of the Australian Parliament by referring to them as a lot of cheap Jacks* When we com’ pare what he said in that speech with what he said previously, we can readily decide who is the cheap Jack. The honorable member for Parramatta, who was present at the meeting which the Leader of the Opposition addressed, will agree I am sure, that the following report of the speech is accurate, because it was published in the Sydney Morning Herald -
Speaking at Parramatta last night, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Menzies, attacked the salary increases granted to members of Parliament. “ I aril told that caucus is on the point of announcing to an astounded world that there is a pension scheme for us - £500 a year for life after six years’ service “, said Mr. Menzies.
Mr. Menzies continued : “ Isn’t it amazing - one term of six years and then £500 a year for life. And you should see some of the people we get into the Senate. . . .
The commanding reason for the caucus decision to increase the size of Parliament, said Mr. Menzies, was because members knew that the Chifley Government was on the way out.
A statement like that could have been made only in Parramatta, whose representative in this House, has a sense of humour in inverse ratio to his ability and even he burst out laughing.
– I thought the honorable member was attacking my leader, not me.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Parramatta retracts.
– Recants, perhaps. The best way to determine where the cheap Jack jibe lies is to read not what the Leader of the Opposition said on
Monday, but what he said on-the hustings in his policy-speech on the 20th August, 1946. In his most pontificial manner, he said -
There are two matters which we will have promptly investigated if you return us to office :
The first is the size of the Federal Parliament, which has the overwhelming share of the responsibility for government in Australia, but which is nevertheless much smaller in numbers than the Parliament of New .South Wales. I point out to you that an effective democracy requires that Parliament should be fully representative; that members should not lie so immersed in matters of detail as to be unable to devote full consideration to major matters of policy, and that there should be thu widest possible area of choice nf the Ministers who have to accept the ultimate responsibilities of administration. We are not wedded to any particular proposal, hut we believe that early in the new Parliament the problem should be specially investigated on its merits.
The right honorable gentleman went on to refer to the method of electing, the Senate. But I pause to remind the House that in his speech at Parramatta, he criticized the Senate to the point of saying: “ And you should see some of the people we get into the Senate “. He reminds me of the dux of the school saying to his admiring parents and neighbours : “ Look how bright I have been there, but you ought to see the boys I have to mix with “. The Leader of the Opposition sat on the high pontifical throne giving out words to the Liberal faithful, who are a diminishing number.
– The honorable member will have to eat his words after the next general elections.
– I hope that the honorable member never becomes a punter, because his prognostications are wild and terrifying. The Leader of the Opposition, in his policy speech, went on to say -
The second matter is the method of electing the Senate. In view of the fact that only half of the senators are voted for at each general election, there are serious difficulties about introducing new methods oi voting. But it is, we believe, true that the present system, under which all the candidates elected iii any one State are inevitably of one side of politics, is basically unsatisfactory. Thus, at the present election it happens that every Liberal party and Country party senator retires. To secure a majority in the Senate as a result of this election, we will need to have a complete victory in every State.
The Senate election resulted in the defeat of the Liberal party in every State.
– No, it did not.
– No, the exception was Queensland. The right honorable gentleman continued -
It is because of the difficulties of the problem that we believe that an early attempt must be made to devise some new method of Senate election, and some way of making the introduction of the new method fair to both sides of politics, and to electors of all shades of political opinion.
Where there is Tweedledum there will be Tweedledee. -The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) went on record on the 3rd September, 1946, to the same effect. I have my own views on the proposal to increase the membership of the Parliament, but I resent a responsible leader of a political party making such conflicting statements about the proposal as were made by the Leader of the Opposition. I nail down the Leader of the Australian Country par’.y in advance by quoting the following passage from his policy speech : -
I cordially agree with Mr. Menzies-
That is news in itself - with respect to the increase of membership of the Parliament. As the only way it can be carried out under the Constitution is by increasing the number of senators we believe that such increase will give a new opportunity for putting into practical effect a continuous policy of proportional representation for that chamber.
– Did he say that?
– He said more; he was in full spate. He said -
An increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate will increase the number of advocates for rural development and proper balance in national life. Ultimately, this course will lead to great national economies.
I am sure the Prime Minister and Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) will be thrilled to hear that at last the Australian Country party will present him with a plan that will benefit the national economy. I do not wish to delay the House, but I must say that the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition in visiting New South Wales is one of high disdain. He steps arrogantly over the border to put us in our .place. We are becoming tired of hia snobbish approach, which lets us know that he is in the State only temporarily and that he regards its people as a lot of pickpockets from whom he wishes to escape as quickly as possible. “ Let me talk to as great a number of ladies in the win-the-women campaign as possible, and let me get back as soon as I can to our more salubrious climate,” his manner implies. Liberal publications have announced in reasonably good English that the Liberal party stands for an increased membership of the Parliament. So the right honorable gentleman should recant what he sneeringly said at Parramatta. He reminds me of the famous leader of the French Revolution who said : “ I like people, but I do not like the people “. He keeps his nose high in the air as he talks about the suggestion that there ought to be pensions for politicians. As the leader of the rump of a once great party and a man of distinction, he displayed an amazing lack of ethics. The committee dealing with this subject has not yet made an official announcement, and its findings have not yet been placed before any properly constituted authority for examination. Consequently, the Leader of the Opposition was prepared to accept a rumour published in the press, gathered from God knows where, in order to make a statement which, he thought, would tickle the’ ears of the groundlings in Parramatta. “When I look at the honorable member for Parramatta, I am convinced that there must be a considerable number of groundlings in that constituency.
The matter of pensions for ex-members of this Parliament should be considered on the basis of the necessity of the occasion. Those honorable members possessing considerable financial resources which they accumulated over a number of years, may be able to speak disdainfully of a pension; but honorable’ members on this side of the chamber consider that the labourer and the Labourite is worthy of his hire. In due course, I shall be vociferously in favour of any proposal to grant a pension to me when I become eligible for it, because I have attempted to perform my parliamentary duties as efficiently as possible. The Leader of the Opposition attempted to whip up public opinion on this matter, and referred, in a most contemptuous manner, to a subject which a considerable number of his own followers will, no doubt, support. If they are sufficiently courageous, they will support a pensions proposal from their places in this House. They will support it, I am sure, in their own letter-boxes at the end of each month, as they supported the increase of the parliamentary allowance last year.
The Leader of the Opposition also made disdainful references to the increase of the parliamentary allowance. This is an economic problem. Some honorable members experience the greatest difficulty in fulfilling their parliamentary duties honorably and efficiently without demanding what Labour has always unashamedly asked for, namely, a fair rate of pay for the work undertaken. Some honorable members opposite, full of windy phrases, righteously vowed that they would not rob the public. From an examination of the kind of service which some of them have rendered to their country for nearly twenty years, I believe that they have fallen strangely from grace. They fulminated in this chamber in no uncertain terms against the proposal to increase the parliamentary allowance, and the Leader of the Opposition also “ pontificated “ to his constituents upon this matter, saying that the increase was disgraceful. Although some honorable gentlemen opposite were opposed to the increase while the Parliament was in session and the press was actively using the proposal as a subject for headlines, their degree of intolerance of the position diminished with the waning of publicity. A person of an inquisitive turn of mind would probably find that three months after the parliamentary allowance was increased, the little fish were nibbling again. They were darting around the worm dangling in the water before their eyes. The Auditor-General’s report, in due course, will, no doubt, reveal that all of them reluctantly - oh, so reluctantly - yielded to the temptation to accept the increase, while feeling that their hearts and souls had been torn that these things should be. They all have taken the increase.
– That is not so.
– Some honorable members opposite have accepted the increase. I said that the little fish are nibbling.
– The honorable member should not say that all members of the Opposition had accepted the increase when he meant that some of them had accepted it.
– The honorable member for Wimmera has misunderstood me. I said that the little fish were nibbling, and were swimming around the bait. The worm is still dangling there, and the honorable member is still here. The evidence is irrefutable. It has happened before, and I believe that it can happen again. There are various reasons why the honorable member has not needed to bother about accepting the increase. During the debate on the Parliamentary Allowances Bill last year, he was very sharply reminded by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that he should not make a virtue of those reasons. Members of the Opposition eventually came down to earth, and got the increase “ the back way”. It is of no use to beat about the bush. The same thing will occur in regard to pensions for defeated members of Parliament. Some honorable members opposite will be full of pious wrath, and will be almost shaken to the tips of their toes about the proposal. Speaking in New South Wales on the subject, the Leader of the Opposition explained that he had learned confidentially that caucus was on the point of announcing to an astonished world the introduction of the pensions scheme. The right honorable gentleman described the proposal as amazing. He pointed out that after a person had been a member of Parliament, for six years he would be eligible, if defeated, for a pension of £500 per annum for the remainder of his life. I believe that, in secret, the Leader of the Opposition smacked his lips over the proposition. I am certain that a number of his followers did. Let us put an end to this hypocrisy in politics, especially among the leaders of the political parties represented in this House. In this chamber, they are within wrestling grip of each other, and have dignity to uphold. Certainly, it ill becomes the Leader of the
Opposition to speak as he did at Parramatta. He is a stout Victoria! instead of a stout Australian. He hates the people of New South Wales. Whenever he goes to that State, he makes a statement which dismays its people. The determination of members of the Liberal party of New South Wales some time ago to exclude the right honorable gentleman from participating in their election campaign was a wise one. Later, they let down the slip rails, and the right honorable gentleman galloped into New South Wales, and once more perpetrated a “ bull “. He insulted the people of New South Wales, describing them as “ cheapjacks “.
The proposed parliamentary pension scheme will help to solve the problem of a man with young children who is prepared to serve his country in the political sphere. I even consider that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who appears to be disturbed, Will look favorably upon the scheme in due course.
– Is the honorable member dangling a worm?
– I do not suppose that even the Scottish theological training of the ‘honorable member for Barker will enabie him to understand a little allegorical conversation. I should be sorry to waste a worm of any calibre, colour or size on the honorable member. He already has so much of the constituency of the worm in his political make-up that it would be an act of cannibalism if I tried to do so.
The hypocrisy of the Leader of the Opposition, and his cohorts who are supporting him in his absence, is regrettable. Particularly is it regrettable on big issues which should be debated in a non-party spirit. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) said this afternoon, in reference to another matter, that she hoped that some subjects could be discussed in this House on a non-party political basis. The welfare of men who enter the political sphere in order to serve their country to the best of their ability should .be so treated. However, some honorable members opposite, particularly the honorable member who lives in the .salubrious city of Parramatta, have used the subject for personal and political reasons, and I object most strenuously to it. This criticism does not redound to the advantage of the Leader of the Opposition. I believe that the miscalling of the mother State, and its people, is a dangerous thing. Another remark which the Leader of the Opposition made was that we had lost our sense of moral revolt and of being amazed at anything. Personally, I am revolted, annoyed and dismayed by the speech which the right honorable gentleman made to some of the people of Parramatta last Monday.
, - All honorable members will appreciate the value of the homily of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) last week, when he urged honorable members to maintain a high standard of debate. But the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) introduced into his speech a few minutes ago subject-matter which could very easily have been omitted. Later, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) will deal most effectively with the right of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) to go into electorates in any part of Australia. That the right honorable gentleman’s visit to New South Wales should cause the honorable member for Parkes some political uneasiness is regrettable, but necessary.
I rose to take this opportunity to direct attention to what all honorable members and discerning people in Australia, particularly in Queensland, will regard as the apathy and absolute lack of responsibility of this Government in connexion with, the industrial crisis iii Queensland. This deplorable disturbance has now reached such grave proportions that its repercussions have extended far beyond the borders of that State and the Australian Government cannot divest itself of all responsibility. The Prime Minister has sought to wash his hands of the whole affair, but there is an obligation upon his Administration to co-operate with the Government of Queensland. Everybody will recognize that the Queensland Premier has taken a most determined stand. The issue is clear - the upholding of lawfully constituted authority and the enforcement of the laws, or the sanctioning of the revolutionary methods that are being introduced into industrial life not only in Queensland but also, throughout Australia by the Communists. It is useless for this Government to endeavour to evade its share of the responsibility. The dispute, I emphasize, is now interstate, and for reasons that I shall now give, this Government cannot continue to ignore it. Certain unions, which have now instructed their members to cease work in sympathy with the original strikers, are subject to Commonwealth and not State awards. I refer particularly to .waterside workers and seamen, whose participation in the strike has paralysed the carriage of goods by sea between States as well as intra-state. That in itself is a matter of Commonwealthwide importance. Also, a large number of unionists, who have been stood down from their employment through no fault of their own, have applied for and are receiving unemployment benefits which are financed by the taxpayers of Australia as a whole. Consequently, it is in the fiscal interests of Commonwealth taxpayers generally that the strike should be terminated as soon as possible. But what has this Government done? In reply to questions, the Prime Minister has informed us that he has had a short conversation with the Queensland Premier and is co-operating with him. We gather by inference that the degree of this co-operation is to make available sufficient air transport to carry essential supplies to remote areas of Queensland which have been isolated by the strike. But there is another reason why the Australian Government is definitely and directly concerned with this dispute. Should civil violence occur in Queensland on a large scale, the Australian Government will be bound to assist the State Government to protect the civil population should the Premier of Queensland requests such assistance. The Crimes Act provides for the issuing of a proclamation should >a serious industrial disturbance threaten trade or commerce amongst the States. When such a proclamation is issued, action can be taken by the Commonwealth against any one who incites strikers or encourages the continuation of a strike. Section 30j of the Crimes Act reads - (1.) If at any time the Governor-General is of opinion that there exists in Australia a serious industrial disturbance prejudicing or threatening trade or commerce with other countries or among the States, he may make a Proclamation to that effect, which Proclamation should be and remain in operation for the purposes of this section until it is revoked. (2.) Any person who, during the operation of such Proclamation, takes part in or continues, or incites to, urges, aids or encourages the taking part in, or continuance of. a lockout or strike -
And what are the birth-places of some of Australia’s leading Communists who are causing industrial dislocation and upsetting the standard of living of good Australian citizens? Most of them are not Australian-born. Therefore the Commonwealth has ample power to deport them. I venture the opinion that if only a few of them were deported, there would not be enough hollow logs to hold the rest of them. Section 30k of the Crimes Act states–
Whoever, by violence to the person or property of another person, or by spoken or written threat or intimidation of any kind to whomsoever directed, or, without reasonable cause or excuse, by boycott or threat of boycott of person or property - (a.) obstructs or hinders the provision of any public service by the Commonwealth or by any department or public authority under the Commonwealth;
obstructs or hinders the transport of goods or the conveyance of passengers in trade or commerce with other countries or among the States ; shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: Imprisonment for one year.
It is clear, therefore, that the Australian Government has ample authority to cope with the situation existing in Queensland and in the other States. If ever there was a situation that demanded the invoking of the Crimes Act it exists now in Queensland. The Crimes Act is still on our statute-book. . It has not been repealed by this Government. I emphasize that every member of this ch amber, including, of course, members of the Chifley Government, has sworn to carry out the laws of this country as and when required without fear or favour. Consequently, it is useless for the Prime Minister to pursue the tactics that he has adopted during the past few days when answering questions. First, the right honorable gentleman said that he has not had time to look into the matter. Then, in reply to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who asked to-day whether the Government had sufficient power to give effect to the regulations relating to industrial dislocation, he said that he would look into the matter and advise the honorable member in due course. Answering a question that I asked a few days ago relating to the application of the Crimes Act to those engaged in this transport strike, the right honorable gentleman said that he would confer with the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) on that matter. Nobody will be deceived into believing that the Prime Minister does not know of the existence of the Crimes Act and its provisions. The act is explicit. It was enacted for the very purpose for which I now advocate - its use which is the bringing about of a better state of industrial affairs.
Let us examine the available evidence of Communist influence in the strike in Queensland. There is plenty of such evidence, and it is indisputable. The Queensland Premier, Mr. Hanlon has stated in no uncertain terms that communist influence is responsible for this upheaval, the effects of which are extending to other parts of Australia. He declared, too, that the Communists were responsible for the meat-workers’ strike in Queensland some months ago. It appears that only the Prime Minister refuses to recognize the existence of Communists and their white-anting tactics aimed at the disruption of peaceful industrial life and the well-being of decent Australians. On Monday, the national secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Union and the federal president of the Australian Railways Union interviewed the Prime Minister to urge the payment of unemployment benefits to members of unions sponsoring strikes. A statement made by the assistant general secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Union, Mr. McPhillips, provides further evidence, if such evidence be required, of communist influence in the dispute. He said, “ I am one of those to whom Mr. Hanlon has referred as a muttering M’olotov, a budding commissar come from the south to take charge of the strike “. Instructions have been issued by the communistcontrolled Waterside Workers Federation to all Queensland waterside workers to refuse duty until the strike ends. That is further evidence of communist influence. Mr. Hanlon made clear in a broadcast statement that the Communist party was largely responsible for the strike. He declared that, since the dispute began, the high command of the Communist party had invaded Queensland. Leading Communists from Victoria and New South Wales went to that State and actually took control of the disputes committee. A well known Communist has been appointed organizer of the disputes committee.
What has this Government done? Has it made any declaration of support for Mr. Hanlon and the definite attitude which he has taken? Has it made any declaration condemning the strikers and the Communists? Has it issued any warning to these people, who are inciting the workers to impose an economic ban by tying up the transport system of Queensland, that the Crimes Act will be invoked against them ? Of course, it has not done so. I put it straight to this Government that the time is over-ripe for it to make a pronouncement in unequivocal terms that, if the Crimes Act is contravened, its provisions will be invoked in order to bring about peace and goodwill in the industrial life of this community. It should take a leaf out of the book of the Premier of Victoria, Mr. “ollway, who recently enacted a special State law in order to discipline strikers.
As a consequence of his determination and intestinal fortitude, the strike dissolved like ice cream in the sun. The men went back to work and the Communists were defeated. Mr. Hanlon is endeavouring to do likewise. On the statute-books of Queensland is an emergency act designed for the purpose of creating harmony in industry and enforcing observance of the principles of arbitration and conciliation. When the strikers refused to adhere to those principles, he invoked the act and its provisions are being implemented in Queensland to-day. Yet the Crimes Act, which is the key to the general industrial situation to-day, simply remains inoperative on the bookshelf of the Attorney-General. It is not even looked at, much less invoked, by this Government.
The time has come for the people of Australia to recognize that this Government is not prepared to carry out its own laws, which its members have sworn to implement without fear or favour. This Government must declare where it stands in relation to communism.. It must declare whether it believes in the British way of life and constitutional authority or not.’ The Hanlon Government of Queensland has stated its position in no uncertain manner. Mr. Hanlon has thrown down the gauntlet. He ha3 stated that the present dispute in Queensland is a fight to decide whether the laws enacted for the people shall- be carried out or whether the industrial life’ of Queensland shall be controlled by a coterie of Communists, which has been reinforced by Communists from other States. As Mr. Hanlon has said, leading Communists from other States recently invaded Queensland, and took control of the strike. What practical steps has this Government taken to co-operate with the State Government and to render assistance to it? It has failed to declare its attitude towards the Communists and the strikers, and has disregarded the existence of the Crimes Act, which its members have sworn to implement in the interests of the people.
– We have heard what appears- to me to have been a very earnest dissertation by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). I was amazed to hear him ask this question: “What has the Chifley Government done to back up Mr. Hanlon?” What has it done?
– Tell us.
-I have here a copy of yesterday’s issue of the Melbourne Herald, which carries a big black headline - “ Chifley backs Hanlon on Queensland Strike “. I do not think that any honor-able member opposite will claim that the Melbourne Herald supports this Government, the unionists, or the Australian Labour party in any way whatever.
– Give us the reply that the Prime Minister gave to me. not what the Melbourne Herald says.
– If I were answering questions asked by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), he would get some much stronger replies than those he gets from the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley).
However, I am not here to reply to the honorable member, but to speak of grievances, and my particular grievance to-night relates to the eagerness with which the Leader of the Australian Country party, and those who surround him, want to bring the Crimes Act into force. Honorable members opposite showed what they thought about the Crimes Act and punishment when the Commonwealth Conciliation and Aribtration Bill Was being debated in this House last year. They waged a great fight in favour of the inclusion of provisions for severe penalties. I have no illusions about the attitude of honorable members opposite. I know very well that the spirit that has always been behind the opponents of the workers throughout the years is still behind them and their schemes.
I agree that the strike in Queensland should not have occurred. I do not pretend to uphold anything that I believe to be wrong, and that Ls why I deplore the strike. . However, I say to honorable members opposite that, if they try to enforce the Crimes Act, they may find themselves in the position of a government of their own political colour, which tried to invoke that act, or some similar legislation, in order to deport Walsh and Johnson. Most honorable members opposite can remember the sorry experience of the Bruce-Page Government. It is all very well for the Leader of the Australian Country party to advocate to-day that people should be deported, but to-morrow he and his colleagues will be complaining that the Government is ignoring the rights of men. However, when a person whom members of the Opposition do not like is involved, he has, apparently, no rights. I say that the people have every right-
– The country men have their rights, too!
– I know what people in the cities have had to suffer and what my own school mates have had to suffer over the years because of the enactment of vicious legislation like the Crimes Act. I know, too, something of the part played by the ship-owners. Honorable members opposite say, “ What has the Government done? What is it doing about this dispute?” In reply, I ask, “What have they done about it?” One of the principal causes of the present industrial unrest is the industrial legislation enacted by the Opposition parties when they were in power. This is not the first time I have declared in this House that the political parties to which honorable members opposite belong did a great deal to create the spirit of unrest in industry which has resulted in the emergence of communism.
– But the men involved in the present dispute are employees of the Queensland Government, which is a Labour government.
– I know that. The Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, is handling this matter, and he has declared that the dispute must be resolved in thu State Arbitration Court. That court was created by a Queensland Labour government many years ago, in order to deal with, disputes of this type; yet the Leader of the Australian Country party, with the support of members of both Opposition parties, suggests that the State law should be abrogated and a Commonwealth statute invoked. Surely honorable members opposite realize that if the Crimes Act ‘ were invoked, and a few men were thrown into gaol, it would not assist in the settlement of the present dispute. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr.
Adermann) referred by interjection to the plight of country people. As One who has had years of experience of men engaged in industry, I can assure him that to invoke the Crimes Act would not benefit country people in Queensland.
– I was referring, nol to the country people, but to the traitors, the irresponsibles who can do what they like.
– The honorable member suggests that I am defending traitors. He is at liberty to interject in that way– - -
– Neither the honorable member for Maranoa nor any other honorable member is entitled to interrject
– Under the Standing Orders he is not permitted to do so, but, so far a9 I am concerned, he is quite at liberty to do so.
– Order ! The Standing Orders will prevail.
– 1 believe that the honorable member for Maranoa is anxious tn do the best lie can for the people of Queeusland, hut adoption of the course suggested by members of the Opposition will certainly not assist towards finding a solution of the problem. Does any honorable member opposite imagine that if he told a meeting of Queensland miners tomorrow that the Crimes Act had been Invoked, and that their leaders would be thrown into gaol, they would return to work? If I know the miners at all, they would certainly not run counter to the interests of members of other unions by assisting to force them back to work. That is not done, and it is contrary to the history of industrial disputes.
Honorable members opposite have complained of shipping delays, alleging that waterside workers are not doing sufficient work to enable ships to be turned around quickly. I know of dozens of cases where hold-ups and delays have been caused deliberately by the shipping authorities. Only a few weeks ago a vessel arrived at Outer Harbour South Australia, for unloading. At 5 p.m. only a few motor bodies remained to he unloaded, and the waterside workers were quite prepared, on payment of the small amount of overtime involved, to complete the un loading of the vessel. However the shipping authorities decided that the job was not to be completed, but that the men should return for ah hour’s work On the following . day. The vessel could have sailed that night except foi’ the attitude of those in authority.
– What was the name of the ship ?
– I cannot furnish it now, but I can in a day or two. Unfortunately the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has such a suspicious mind that he imagines I would make a false statement on a matter of that kind. When I make a statement such as that I know that what I am saying is correct, and that. I can produce evidence to support it. However, whether the honorable member accepts my assurance or not does not worry me, because I know that he is not concerned at all about the welfare of waterside workers. He may make out that he is, but the only concern which he has for them is to discover how much they can earn for the shipowners iri return for the wages paid to them. There are fair-minded men amongst the shipowners who are anxious to do the right thing, just as there are fair-minded members amongst those opposite. However, there are honorable members opposite who are just as unfair as the Communist industrialist leaders of whom they go often complain. One thing which my long experience of industry has taught me is that although there are men of extreme views amongst employers and employees, it is usually possible for representatives of both sides to arrive at an agreement in conference. Nevertheless, one usually encounters some one who is so biased and unfair that even his own colleagues have to restrain him. I was in Melbourne twenty years ago assisting a union in its negotiations with a body of employers, who were very’ fine men. However, one of their number was so unfair and objectionable that I had the pleasure of hearing his colleagues argue against him and in favour of mv contention. That particular conference achieved a great deal because, with the single exception which I have mentioned, we were ali prepared to approach the difficulties confronting us from a realistic point df view. We Were prepared to deal reasonably with the matter and to have regard to the opinions of both parties. If that attitude had been adopted during the last twenty years, Communists would not now occupy influential positions in some trade unions. 1. agree that that is the present position, and I deplore it as much as honorable members opposite, but I feel it would be wrong to attempt to alter it by the methods they suggest. Undoubtedly, the waterside workers are in a militant frame of mind, but that is due to the fact that when conditions were bad for them their employers were militant. Those employees did all that they could to hold on to the “ best end of the stick “. They were prepared to sacrifice the Australian workers and to employ foreigners. There was no outcry by honorable members opposite about the slow turn-round of ships when the maritime strike occurred in 1928. At that time, the shipping companies gave preference to volunteers and employed Italians who had just arrived in this country. Those men had no experience of stevedoring and consequently took much longer to turn a ship round than experienced waterside workers would have done. The ordinary waterside workers were denied employment in their industry and were issued with tickets entitling them to some 5s. worth of goods a week, whilst men who did not know how to do the work properly and who had only recently arrived from foreign countries were employed at good wages. It is that sort of thing that has created the present situation. Honorable members opposite should be reminded of that fact because they are saying continually to the people of Australia that the workers are always wrong. I agree that many of the hold-ups taking place at the present time should not occur. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1947 provided a means by which the men could have their claims dealt with in a proper manner, and I agree with the Prime Minister that disputes should be dealt with by the Arbitration Courts. “When discussing the present dispute between the Premier of Queensland and the militant unions in that State, it should not be forgotten that some of the conditions for which the men are asking are fair and reasonable.
– We agree with that.
– It is a matter for arbitration.
– I suppose it will also be agreed that- when the cases are eventually dealt with by the Arbitration Court the men will be granted most of the concessions for which they have asked. If honorable members opposite say that some of the claims are fair and reasonable, I am sure the Arbitration Court will agree that that is so.
– It is not fair and reasonable to penalize the whole team in order to give one man a “ free kick “.
– I agree that it is not fair and reasonable to hold up the whole State, but my point is that the Opposition wants a return to the old state of affairs; it wants to get back to the use of the “ big stick “ and the Crimes Act. 1 have probably spoken somewhat strongly on this matter. For many years, I was president first of a local branch and then of a State branch of a trade union. During the whole period I was employed in that industry I did not lose a day’s pay owing to a strike. Honorable members opposite will therefore appreciate that I did my best to see that work continued whilst negotiations for awards were in progress. The workers in Queensland and other States should rely upon arbitration and should not indulge in continual strikes. If these frequent stoppages continue the public will ultimately lose confidence in the men, and we must try to make them understand that.
Honorable members opposite often tell us how we should help Great Britain. Although they profess to be anxious about the sterling position, they have sent Mr. Casey, the leader of their political organization, to England to appeal to the employees there for £100,000. This Government, on the other hand, has informed Mr. Attlee and Sir Stafford Cripps that, in order to help Great Britain, Australia is prepared to freeze the funds it has in that country. It is said that this sum of £100,000 is needed to fight the Communists here, but, in my opinion, it is intended only to help the
Opposition to defeat the Labour party and to assist in the spreading of propaganda designed to invoke hostility against this Government. The Australian people will not be misled. The Labour movement won its greatest victories in the face of intensive propaganda. I am amazed to hear honorable members opposite say that they favor arbitration because some years ago some of them went to the country with a proposal to abolish arbitration. Lord Bruce, as he now is, was defeated in his own district by a great margin of votes because of his desire to. do away with arbitration. We in the Labour movement will do all that we can to get the men to refer disputes to the arbitration courts and to work in the interests of the people of Australia.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon.j. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 3rd March (vide page 356), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
T hat the following paper be printed : -
United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment - Second Session of Preparatory Committee - Ministerial Statement.
– We have before us a subject about which I shall not say very much because, in common with other honorable members, including the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction(Mr. Dedman), who participated in the negotiations, I do not know very much about it. I am reminded somewhat of a huge rabbit warren into which you chase a rabbit. From a distance you do not know into which hole it went, and you are quite certain that you cannot possibly know where it will come out. The Minister has placed before us a mass of documents. I wish to get down from the high level of debate about history and international affairs, and examine what the Minister says he has achieved. I propose to discuss the tariff concessions, and how they will affect Australia’s trade and commerce. Two different sets of documents have been submitted by the Government, and both are voluminous. One set deals with the concessions which were offered to us by certain countries. I cannot understand why so much paper was used to tell us so little. In these documents there are pages and pages of items upon which tariff duties have not been changed at all. An example of this is furnished in the arrangement entered into with Czechoslovakia. This arrangement is of particular interest because of the very doubtful state of affairs in that country. I am not sure just what will be the result of the trade negotiations between Australia and Czechoslovakia, or what effect they will have - whether Czechoslovakian trade will be carried on under what might be considered normal conditions, or whether we shall have to enter into new negotiations with the new government there. According to the Minister’s statement, the negotiations with Czechoslovakia covered certain items, and at the head of the list we find apples. That is reasonable enough, I suppose, because, if it had not been for the apple, none of us would be here to-night. We are informed that the tariff on Australian apples imported into Czechoslovakia is to be reduced from 300 crowns per 100 kilograms to 75 crowns. The apple-growers, looking at this concession, might be disposed to think that they are being well treated, but statistics show that our total exports of apples to Czechoslovakia during the two full years before the war amounted to 3,061 bushels in 1937-38, and 24 bushels in 1938-39. We turn then to’ skins and hides, raw, green or dried. They were always admitted to Czechoslovakia, free of duty, according to the Minister’s own documents; yet he informs us that from now on they will be free. Another item is tallow, raw and rendered, but our trade in tallow with Czechoslovakia was never great. During 1937-3S, it amounted to only 15 tons, while in the following year it was 95 ions. Tanning extract is given a special place. The duty on this item was previously thirteen crowns, and now, since the making of the agreement, it is still to be thirteen crowns. The amount of tanning extract we sent to Czechoslovakia was so small that it does not even appear in the customs export records. On opals- the duty was 3,000 crowns per 100 kilograms before the Minister went to Geneva, and it is the same since he came back. I turn now to France, a country which does a considerable trade with the Commonwealth. The duty on beef, chilled or frozen, has been reduced from 50 to 40 per cent., and on mutton and lamb by 15 per cent. On rabbits - but they must be wild, frozen and not truffled - the reduction is 5 per cent. We come now to eggs of poultry in shell. We are not exporting emu eggs at present as far as I know. For eggs of poultry in shell the reduction is 5 per cent. Sausage casings, dried or salted, are still free as also are horns of cattle and mother-of-pearl shell. On apples, according to the time of the year in which they happen to be exported to France, the reductions vary from 7 to 3 per cent. Acaroid gum - whatever that is - is free now and used to be free before the Minister went to Geneva. Next we have eucalyptus. That is still free, notwithstanding the Minister’s exertions at Geneva. We come then to sheep skins, in which we have a considerable trade. Sheep skins were made the subject of an embargo by the former member for Capricornia, Mr. Forde, who, with one stroke of the pen, completely wrecked the sheep skin market in Australia for a considerable time. The Minister’s efforts are still praiseworthy because sheep and lamb skins are still free of duty. For zinc, so long as it is in lumps, ingots, pigs or slabs, the reduction is 5 per cent. For lead in lumps, pigs or slabs, the reduction is 2 per cent. Incidentally, there is a chance that some of the lead we send to Czechoslovakia might bo heaved back at the Minister. I make that remark now because I recall what happened to some of the scrap-iron we sent to Japan. On tallow the duty is reduced by 5 per cent. Hides and skins, raw, green or dried, still remain free, notwithstanding the Minister’s exertions at Geneva. Then, we come to the French colonies, on the goods of which purely revenue duties of 1 or 2 per cent, are imposed, and in some cases as little as one-half of 1 per cent. It is true that the Minister has succeeded in getting some of these customs tariffs reduced. The duty of 2 per cent, still remains on wheaten flour if it goes to French establishments in Oceania. If it goes to other French possessions, no duty is imposed. There is a 1 per cent, reduction of duty on potatoes going to French Oceania. As this item has been given a separate line in the document, apparently the Minister has given it full consideration. We pass on now to French Indo-China. Only eight items are listed and only two changes have been made. For wheaten flour the reduction is 3 per cent. A reduction of 15 per cent, is made in respect of fresh apples sent between April and June. For apples sent at other periods of the year the duty remains the same.
I turn now to the United States of America. For his efforts there, the Minister is entitled to some commendation. Dealing with our trade relations with the United States of America, the honorable gentleman said -
Of all the bilateral negotiations conducted at Geneva, those with the United States of America are considered to be by- far the most important. A substantial agreement with the United States of America is vital to a successful outcome of the whole project from the Australian point of view.
Imports from the United States of America to Australia cover a considerable range of manufactured and unmanufactured products, the principal items being motor chassis, lubricating oils and petrol, tobacco, machines and machinery, timber, textiles, paper and stationery and industrial chemicals.
Before these documents, or some of them, were tabled in this House, or at least before copies were made available to honorable members, the Government had already availed itself of one of the many escape provisions in Chapter XXII. of the agreement to impose certain restrictions through dollar exchange. Does it not stand to reason that if those penalties are imposed by unilateral action, without consultation with or agreement by the United States of America, there will be a tendency for the United States to go rather slowly on concessions which it may contemplate granting to us?
– Not at all.
– .Splendid ! I accept the Minister’s assurance for the time being, carefully index it, and put it away to see how it works out in due course. Of the concessions which the honorable gentleman says we have received from the United States of America, one of the most important is in regard to butter, because it represents one-half of the duty. Another is the admission into the United States of America of Australian wool at a lower rate of duty, but not at as low a rate a.i one might have expected, considering that American wool does not come into competition with Australian wool. The Americans grow a different class of wool from that grown here. By an action arising out of exchange control, on the
Minister’s own showing we have virtually destroyed an agreement arrived at with the United States, and thus very largely the foundation on which this whole international trade organization is built. As far as Australia is concerned, it crashes to the ground. I shall not weary the House with a long recitation of other items - not one or two, but dozens, from this document. We should look at what the Minister has achieved in the way of reciprocal reductions from other countries associated with the International Trade Organization at the discussions at Geneva, and, no doubt, later on, at Havana, where the Minister spent some time. One of the main matters at stake in these negotiations was the continuance of Imperial preference. It is interesting to note that, in some instances, the Minister has been able to maintain certain preferences as far as amount is concerned. In other instances there have been slight reductions. In still others the preference has disappeared altogether. . I cannot understand why there was any necessity for a first-class, full-dress “all-in” conference at Geneva to make some of the concession? which are listed here. 1 need not go beyond foodstuffs and clothing in order to make my point. First on- the list - and I do not know why they arc placed first - are alcoholic liquors, in respect of which a reduction of 5s. a gallon applies in the United Kingdom and France. A similar reduction in favour of Benelux has been made in respect of gin. A concession in respect of rum amounting to 4s. a gallon has been made in favour of France and Cuba. There are no records of any rum imports form Cuba in the reports I have been able to secure from the Parliamentary Library In respect of bitters, there is a reduction of 2s. a gallon in favour of Benelux, and in respect of liqueurs a reduction of 2.>. a gallon has been made in favour of France, the British preference being reduced accordingly. Then we have this delicious item, “ Perfumed spirits “, provided they come from France - a reduction of 7i per cent. Primage duty on “ ethers and chloroform “, provided they come from France, is reduced by 5 per cent. We find that we may obtain champagne from France at 3s. a gallon “ less. Then we have another gem relating to aerated waters, in respect of which we find one hitherto unpublished concession made by the Government to Communist opinion. “Whilst new .rates of duty, involving reduction of from 7£ per cent, to 15 per cent., are to apply to such aerated waters as “ Contrexeville, Evian, Pander. St. Galmier, Vals and Vittel” the one French aerated water which is not mentioned is Vichy water. That is a well-known export from France, and I suppose that it was fear of Communist influence that prompted the Government to exclude Vichy water from that concession. No alteration has been made in respect of tobacco and cigarettes. The duty on cocoa from Benelux countries is to be reduced. Our imports from China during the last two years were valued at £2,466 and £2,771, respectively, but in the schedule, duty on egg albumen imported from China is to be reduced by ls. 9d. per lb. One would have thought that we could produce in Australia all the egg albumen that we could possibly want. The duty on banana flour imported from Brazil, and that on asparagus tips imported from the United States of America, is to be reduced by 10 per cent. The duty on Petits Pois and mushrooms is listed. Why the French term is given for one article and English for the other T do not know, but duty on imports of these items from France is to be reduced. The duty on ginger, unground, is unchanged. Then we have this delicious item : So 10ug as lark pates are imported from France the duty is to be reduced. The schedule has something to say also about an item which I understand is “ fat goose’s liver “, on which t]ie ‘duty is to be reduced if it be imported from France. The duty on duck paste also, so long as it be imported from France, is to be reduced. The primage duty on walnuts and rice from France is to be reduced by 10 per cent., whilst that on sago and tapioca, if imported, apparently from the Netherlands East Indies^ is to be reduced, by 10 per cent. Likewise the primage duty on sausage casings imported from the United States of America is to be reduced by 10 per cent. Then we find another item which no doubt will set the French mercantile marine rushing in our direction - soap - toilet, fancy or medicated on which duty is to be reduced by 2¼d. per lb. A most interesting lot of spices is catalogued, including: chillies and pepper, on which primageduty is to be reduced by 2 per cent, if imported from India. Duty on clovesimported from France is to be reduced by 2i per cent., and the duty on cinnamon imported from Ceylon by 10 percent. The duty on mace, nutmegs and pimento is not reduced at all, whilst aniseed will be admitted free if it be imported from Syria-Lebanon. Then, as though the seal had to be put on everything, we find that waxes - carnauba,. ouricury, or licury - if imported from Brazil are also to be admitted free.
These are typical of the duties which we are asked to approve in respect of items which are set out in 170 pages of typescript ; but in respect of many of them no variation of duty at all is to be made as the result of the Minister’s visit overseas. One thing I should like him to explain is why in respect of several items the word “ exempt “ is crossed out in ink and the word “ free “ substituted therefor. What is the difference between “ exempt from duty “ and “ entry free of duty “ ? According to this document there must be some reason for that alteration. Turning now to clothing I find that the duty on neck ties for human wear, provided they come from France, is to be reduced. What neck ties are imported other than those for human wear? We find also that concessions in duty on rabbit skins imported from China are to be made. Those concessions, no doubt, will help considerably to stiffen up the Chinese against Communist aggression from the north. Then I find the interesting heading “ Socks and stockings for human attire “. I have seen a few animals and birds in my time, but I have never seen any wearing socks and stockings. What is the difference between neck ties for “ human wear “ and socks and stockings for “human, attire”? We find also the word “ apparel “ creeping in. No doubt, in negotiating international trade arrangements in relation to these items we have been obliged to make some fine distinctions. “ Wear “, “ attire “ and “ apparel “, apparently, mean three different things, because the three terms are included in the one document in three different places. I shall not worry the Minister about that technicality. So long as one has a sense of humour and can spend a week-end in Canberra going through documents of this kind one can be highly amused without having to pay amusement tax, and that is a consideration in these days of high taxes.
I now wish to make a few remarks on a very serious note. One criticism which has crept into this debate inclines me to the belief that certain honorable members are determined to go on the rampage against the United States of America. I have been a. critic of the United States of America on many occasions. In 1943, when speaking in this chamber, I said that when the war we .were then waging was over the world would face an economic dictatorship by the United States of America such as it had not seen since the days of the Roman Empire. I believe that that dictatorship is here now ; and we in British countries must accommodate ourselves to the new set of world conditions which include new world trade conditions. But I see very little indication on the part of the Australian Government and still less on the part of the Australian Labour party to make such a move. First, once and for all, and the sooner the better, we must get to an understanding as to whether we are going to remain part of the British Empire. That term seems to be a misnomer to-day when we see the Union Jack being hauled down in so many countries. Other honorable members prefer “ the British Commonwealth of Nations “. But, we must decide whether in trade, political and diplomatic matters we are going to act as one family; and there is not very much indication of that in these agreements. On the other hand, if we are not going to act as part of that family then we must come to a very much closer arrangement with the United States of America than is indicated in these documents. There is no other course of action open to the Commonwealth that I can see. I shall declare my own position, if it is necessary to tell the Government what my position is. I consider that our duty, interest and everything we have and hold should lead us to the closest possible arrangement with all other British countries. There is a very good reason for that. We have all sorts of difficulties ahead of us with which, owing to the limitations of this debate, I am not now. allowed to deal; but before very long there must be a conference not at Geneva, but at some town, or city, in one or other of the British countries. I am speaking of the English-speaking British countries. Great Britain, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, because. I think that, for all practical purposes, India and Pakistan can be counted as being virtually outside the Empire, notwithstanding the Minister’s great achievement, according to these documents, in securing a reduction of the duty on bacon and ham into Moslem Pakistan. I looked through the documents to see whether Mecca, Iraq, Egypt and other Moslem countries are mentioned, but they are not. I should congratulate the Minister if he can arrange for the export of bacon and ham to Mecca. But, from the viewpoint of practical politics and speaking of the real trade difficulties that lie ahead and of the financial and currency difficulties with which we have to reckon, I say that a meeting between the representatives of Great Britain, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia is overdue. The greater the degree of freedom of trade that we can get between those British countries the better it will be, not only for ourselves but also for every other part of the world, the future of which depends to a very large degree upon the strength and stability of the British countries. So far as: the United States is concerned I shall make one or two observations, I hope in a kindly spirit. The United States has suddenly found itself, I think in many respects unexpectedly, in the position of being one of the two greatest military and economic powers in the world. It has probably the greatest productive and military potentialities that the world has ever seen, but it has neither the experience nor the training that a far-sighted democracy requires. But democracies are never far-sighted ; they live from day to clay, and it is only dictatorships that look ahead. In due time, however, the United States of America will learn that there are certain things that can be done, and others that cannot. The dollar crisis, I believe, results from the fact that the United States of America has not learned that a country that is an international investor must have an unfavorable trade balance. That is its trouble. It has a. great industrial potentiality that it wants to use. It wants ti: invest overseas and to have the surplus production of its great factories overflow onto the market in other countries; but it does not want to be paid for those goods with the goods and services of those other countries. Out of that, and nothing else, arises the dollar shortage that confronts the rest of the world. No agreement at Geneva, no trips ro Havana or anything else will solve the dollar crisis except the method that I have mentioned. The United States of America must accept the goods and services of other countries in payment for the goods it sells to them and as the interest on the principal it has invested in them. We see the United States of America spreading out its investments, but with Great Britain the opposite process is at work. No one with any understanding of the position could view with other than grave concern recent statements in the press that Britain has had to sell £115,000,000 worth of its investments in railways in Argentina. It had to sell those investments to Argentina in order that the people of Great Britain may live; The same process is at work in Uruguay. The United Kingdom’s overseas investments are drying up and the United Kingdom that we wore brought up to think of before, during and after World War I. has gone. That is history, and there must be a re-alinement of the English-speaking countries outside the United States of America if we are to maintain our position in the world as a family, and if Great Britain, is to maintain its position on the western borders of Europe in any way comparable with its principles and history. Having said that, I simply ,?.ay of the Minister’s negotiations that the Australian Government has, rightly or wrongly, entered into all sorts of obligations in connexion with the United Nations, without any assurance, in my opinion, that it is capable of carrying out the purposes for which it was created. Its objectives are not worth the paper they are written on. I do not think we shall get from the United Nations anything more than we got from the League of Nations in the nature of effective international security, international currency or international trade arrangements. Only recently, we had a debate on what is commonly called the Bretton Woods Agreement, which is intimately related to the proposals that we are now discussing. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) disappeared from the chamber in a great hurry when that debate took place. Already we have seen France, one of the most important signatories to that agreement, repudiate its signature. I am not a financier or the son of a financier, but my estimation of the financial set-up of the world to-day is that we are approaching the point at which other countries will have to follow very closely in the footsteps of France. Currency is undoubtedly related to trade. Only two things in the final analysis matter in value when the printingpresses are set to work, as they have been in every country. Internally a country . has land and gold. Externally you have gold. Weare trying to establish a trade organization on a gold basis which says that we shall sell gold at £10 15s. 3d. per 07… when every man jack of us knows that on the market gold is worth much more. Even in France, if newspaper reports areto be credited, United States gold dollarsare selling for three times as much ssUnited States paper dollars. I haveonly newspaper information, which may be astray, but conditions of complete chaos, in international finance are the basis on which the Australians Government has committed Australia in an international trade agreement. I simply say that I do not think it will bemany years before the Government will be seeking radical amendments tothe agreement.
Mr. ABBOTT (New England) [9.37% - This debate is on a document presented by the Preparatory Committee of theUnited Nations Conference on Trade and Employment in August, 1947. The wholedebate has an air .of unreality, because weare dealing with something that occurred about nine months ago, and on which discussions have been proceeding at: Havana since the 21st November last..
Very little has been published in the Australian press about what has taken place there, but the English press reports considerable disagreement and dissension. For instance, the London Times of the 14th February, under the heading “ World Trade Charter “, reports disagreement on the 12th February as to the number of nations that should sign the Charter of the International Trade Organization before its implementation. It was intended at first that when twenty countries had ratified it, it should be brought into effect, but Mexico and Uruguay have proposed that a majority of the 58 nations represented should ratify the charter before it comes into operation. It was also pointed out, in discussion among smaller countries, that, under their constitutions, they would be unable to ratify the agreement before the end of 1949. So T say that we are dealing with something that cannot be. operative until probably 29 nations have signed it, and it may be greatly amended in the future. It would have been much better had the Government issued a White Paper bringing our information up to date. ‘The draft charter is one of a series of documents designed to improve world conditions, and rehabilitate the damaged economies of war stricken nations. It was also allegedly drafted to assist world trade and the people of all nations. This series of documents began with the Mutual Aid Agreement, and particularly with Article VII., which brought to the notice of the people of the British Umpire the matter of the lowering of tariffs and the elimination of Empire preference. Article VII. provides for -
The elimination of all forms of discriminatory treatment in international commerce and the reduction of tariffs and other trade harriers.
The next development was the granting of the American loan to Great Britain. Some of the conditions which the United States of America imposed were particularly harsh. I am not one of those people who believes that the United States of America is dealing oaf airly or unjustly with the world. During World War XL, and .since the cessation of hostilities, it poured oat enormous wealth and rendered incalculable .assistance to many countries.
In the last two years of war, it provided 400,000,000 -dollars, and since the conclusion of the waa’ it has made available about 5,000,000,000 dollars in goods, gold and credits. Consequently., I do not see why the United States of America should be .blamed in any way. If we did not desire to sign the agreements, there was nothing to compel us ;o do so. We exercised freedom of choice, and entered blindly into -entangling agreements. Ultimately, many of them will detrimentally affect the economy and -development, not only of Australia, but also of the British Empire. The ninth condition governing the loan to Great Britain reads-
If either the Government of the United States of America or the Government of the United Kingdom imposes or maintains quantitative import restrictions, such restriction* shall he administered on a basis which doe* not discriminate against imports from the other country in respect of any product.
The fatal nature of that provision is shown by the fact that Australia has been prevented from exporting its goods to such countries as Palestine and British East -Africa, because those countries have been obliged to restrict the entry of similar goods from the United States of America. The effect of this provision can be shown ‘by specific instances. Three firms in New South Wales lost an export market in Palestine valued at £171,©00, and two other firms in the same S’ate lost ari export market in British East Africa rained at £6%-Q0Q. This provision is responsible for ian extraordinary condition of affairs. Whilst Great Britain is trying to reduce its dollar expenditure, Australian markets are flooded with Virginian tobacco purchased from Great Britain. This tobacco had f© be paid for originally in dollars. However, the position can be easily understood when one examines the ninth provision of the American loan to Great Britain. If Great Britain desires to reduce its imports of Virginian tobacco, it must, at the same time, .reduce its imports of tobacco from Rhodesia and other Empire ‘countries. These rigid provisions are detrimental to the whole economy of Australia .and the British Empire.
The next document in the series to which I have been referring was the Bretton Woods Agreement, involving the establishment of the Interna tiona!
Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. After the Bretton Woods Agreement came the draft charter of the International Trade Organization. All these agreements contained a common ingredient, namely, the recognition of a considerable degree of interference with the internal affairs of the signatory powers. In becoming a party to these international agreements, we have largely signed away our freedom as Australian citizens, and restricted our power to develop our own resources. The Bretton Woods Agreement fixed semi-rigid international exchange rates. A small degree of flexibility is provided. The futility of this attempt to dam Niagara as it were, was referred to to-night by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). One of the most powerful signatories of the Bretton Woods Agreement, France, has already broken the international exchange rates by the devaluation of the franc.
– The honorable member strongly supported Australia’s becoming a signatory of the Bretton Woods Agreement.
– I supported the Bretton Woods Agreement at the time, but I spoke against the rigidity of the exchange provisions. I believed then, that as every ‘ other important country proposed to sign the agreement, Australia had nothing to lose and might have something to gain from doing so. At the time, I expressed considerable doubt and hesitancy over the matter. , .
In the January issue of the Readers Digest appears an article by Henry Hazlitt. an American economist, entitled, “Will Dollars Save the World?” Referring to the elimination of exchange controls, he wrote -
The first step toward resumption of free and normal international trade is the removal of all prohibitions on the rate at which the existing paper currency is bought and sold.
Mr. R. G. Hawtrey, the noted British economist, in a letter . published in the * Economist* on the 3rd January last, analysed an earlier article in the same journal, and pointed out that it did not suggest that Britain should follow the American example to “ let things rip “ and trust to demand ultimately being adjusted to supply. He added -
Yet it has nothing to say as to the “ muddlemindedness” of committing ourselves to this very course by linking the pound to the dollar at a fixed rate of exchange. The rigidity of the exchange which all we signatories imposed upon ourselves with our eyes open, is one of the causes preventing the trade of Great Britain from developing as it should. The fixation of rigid exchange rates means that if the internal value of the currency alters and the purchasing power is reduced, as is the case in Great Britain to-day, the country is not able to place its goods in the markets of the world in competition with those of certain other countries. Consequently, this rigidity in relation to the dollar is probably injuring the whole Empire.
The draft charter and the International Trade Organization are designed to achieve full employment and raise the living standards of the people of the world. Whilst that objective is most desirable and estimable, the question which honorable members should ask themselves is: Will this charter achieve .that aim? According to the draft charter, the object is to be achieved by multilateral irade agreements, stabilized exchanges, the lowering of tariff barriers and the abolition of Empire preference, lt is a doubtful proposition to argue that multilateral agreements, with the lowering of protective barriers, is advantageous if the removal of those protective barriers means that the internal economy of Australia, for instance, and its primary, secondary and tertiary industries are to be destroyed by outside competition. It would have been much better had the Australian and United Kingdom delegates who negotiated these agreements studied the lessons of history instead of laying down the absolute theory that free trade is the best system for the world, and that no benefits or blessings can be derived from protective tariffs. Will anybody deny that the great maritime power of Great Britain was largely the result of the navigation laws passed in the days of Cromwell? Those laws, which were distinctly protective and restrictive, developed the fleets of Great Britain in the face of competition from other countries.
To-day, there is a great unevenness of manufacturing capacity throughout the world. Largely, this capacity is centralized in the United States of America. In these circumstances, there must be a flexible economic policy. No one oan say that free trade is the solution of world trade problems, or that the solution lies solely in protection. “We must select the economic policy most suitable to any nation at a particular time. I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether he thinks that the International Trade Organization would have built up the manufacturing resources of the United .States of America and Germany against tb , British industrial development in the nineteenth century. If honorable members will cast their minds back, they Wl recollect that in that century Britain stood in the same predominant position in the manufacturing world as the United States of America occupies to-day. By the invention of the steam engine, the power loom, and other manufacturing machinery, Great Britain had captured the world’s markets. At that time, the doctrines laid down by Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations as to the benefits of free trade were preached in exactly the same way as the delegates of the United States of America and the theoryridden delegates of our own and other countries to which free trade is not nearly so suitable as it is to the United States of America preached them at the international conferences held recently. In those earlier times, of course, Britain preached free trade because it held the world’s markets, as America does to-day. But there was another voice in the land, that of Frederick Lizt, who wrote in his National System of Political Economy that while free trade was an excellent doetrine for the British people, it was- not so good for countries which were lagging behind Great Britain in manufacturing capacity. He also pointed out that, under the famous Methuen treaty between Great Britain and Portugal, in the eighteenth century, Britain permitted Portuguese wine - afterwards known as port - to come in at a lower rate of duty than the wines of France, and that the immediate effect on the Portuguese manufacturing economy was that fourteen cotton mills in Portugal were closed down within two or three years, and all the cotton requirements of that country were imported from Great Britain. “While that may have been excellent for Great Britain, it was not so good for Portugal. If multilateral agreements are to whittle down Empire trade preference, we shalnever be able to restore Britain’s great manufacturing capacity to what it was in the nineteenth century and we shall always be the hewers of wood and the drawers of water for countries like the United States of America, which has the greatest manufacturing capacity in the world to-day. I remind the House, also, that America has within its own boundaries the greatest free trade area in the world. There are no tariff barriers between the States of that nation. There is, of course, the encircling tariff protecting the nation as fi whole. There is a difference in degree, but not in essence, between the position of the United States of America and that of the British Empire. “We have felt for many years that the manufacturing capacity of the Empire should be dispersed instead of being concentrated in one small island in the northern hemisphere. Consequently, Dominions erected tariff barriers to encourage the establishment of manufacturing industries in Canada and Australia. South Africa, too, is following suit. But, as an overall guardian, like the tariff of the United- States of America, we have the system of Empire preference which has dammed back the goods of other countries and enabled the nations within the British Commonwealth to strengthen their own industries, and in the case of the Dominions to attract industries from the United Kingdom itself. However, if these international trade agreements become operative all the work of the past will be destroyed. “We shall lose our great manufacturing capacity, and we shall never have an opportunity to restore it. Multilateral trade agreements are not the solution of our difficulties. ‘ Again I refer to the writings of Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations. He points out that the internal trade of a nation is of much more value to it than its external trade. Is it not of much more advantage to us to be able to supply our own requirements by manufacturing goods in this country? The turnover of capital and goods is much quicker, and clearly the finished! product must be much cheaper than it would he if the raw material had to be transported overseas at considerable cost, and the manufactured article returned to this country, again subject to a substantial freight charge. Multilateral trade agreements and the breaking down of tariff barriers can only paralyse existing industries, and prevent the development of Australian manufacturing capacity with its consequent scope for the employment of the many thousands of migrants that we must bring to this country. Before the revolt of the American colonies, the great. Pitt, Lord Chatham, said in the House of Commons that the American colonies should not be permitted to manufacture so much as a single horse-shoe nail. The result of the proposed world treaties may well be that. some, day another nation may say that Australia should not be allowed to manufacture so much as a single horse-shoe nail. I do not believe that there is any reason why our present dollar shortage must be solved by a system of restrictions within the British Commonwealth. I believe that if we were cut out of the Bretton Woods-. Agreement and also- the linking clause with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the exchanges of the world were freed, there would be a rapid development of international trade because the devaluation of the currencies,, which to-day are overvalued in terms of dollars, would have the effect of restricting imports of goods from dollar areas because they would become too- expensive. It would also, have the effect of encouraging exports to dollar areas from countries in which currency devaluation had taken place because the. goods exported would bo much cheaper in terms of dollars than they were before. There are only three methods by which dollars can be obtained’ - by the interchanging of goods, by public loans from the United’ States of America to countries which are clamouring on America’s doorstep for assistance, or by private investment by the United States of America in those countries desirous of securing assistance. I think that the best method of all is’ that, of private investment. In “ Can Dollars Save the World ? “ Hazlitt has written on this subject as follows: -
When international roans are made by private tenders, either to governments w to private firms or projects, the dilemmas posed by inter-governmental loans disappear. In private transactions commercial considerations arc certain to dominate. Loans will be made only if the lender believes that the borrower will’ be in position to repay. They will be made only for projects that promise to pay their own way. … Of course private lenders aru not omniscient. They do make mistakes. But when a private- lender makes a mistake in. lending he pays for it. himself. When . a government official mokes a. mistake iii Tending, the country’s taxpayers are forced te pay for ft.
Private lenders watch their investments and give technical assistance to enable the borrowers, to operate the factories established with the loans, at the highest possible level of efficiency. The International Trade Organization Charter seeks to- institute an entangling alliance. It cannot be helpful to Australia or to the British Empire. The idea of first tying down all preferences to the existing rates and ultimately wiping them out: - which is envisaged in these agreements- despite anything that may be said to- the contrary by members of the Government - is a suicidal policy that can baring nothing hut min to Australia and the. Empire
We have been told that Great Britain is bankrupt. An article published, in the London Economist of the 14th February declares -
Britain faces bankruptcy. That is the real significance of the Government’s latest White Paper.
Certain figures are quoted in order to show that, about the middle of 1948-, Great Britain will exhaust overseas credit resources. Then the article states -
To- translate the tables and’ figures- of the White ‘Paper into more homely terms, Britain; has been living like an improvident, family which, . failing to make both ends meet, first spends the accumulated’ capital of the past, then borrows from friends - from Americanfriends.,, from Canadian friends,, from South African, friends - and when their loans a.Fe exhausted, begins to pawn the furniture. How else can one describe the latest deal with Argentina* in which the whole capital assets represented by the British-owned railways is bartered away for eighteen months.’ supply of meat?
That expresses the view of a British economic journal of considerable standing, but I do not agree that Great Britain, or the Empire, is bankrupt. As the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) pointed out yesterday, British Commonwealth production of important commodities represents a very large proportion of total ‘world production. The figures which the honorable gentleman quoted are worth repeating. The following table shows Empire production, of certain commodities in terms of percentages of world production :; -
How can the Empire be bankrupt when it has these great resources? However, I say that neither in Australia nor in Great Britain are the people of all classes pulling their weight as they should do to increase production to a level that will enable us to overcome what is wrongly called the shortage of dollars. There are spivs and drones in every part of the community. They are not the monopoly of any one section of the community.
Figures quoted in an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 17th February regarding the costly lag in steel production in Australia are of particular interest. That article stated -
Insufficiency of coal and labour is costing’ more than 202,000 tons of steel at Newcastle, and 250,000 tons at Port Kembla.
Almost 500,000 tons of steel is being lost annually because of the coal shortage. The article continued -
While the miners federation ie scorning the target of 13,000,000 tons of coal this year, the coal-yard at the mammoth Newcastle steelworks of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is practically bare.
The reported loss in coal production because of strikes in New South Wales collieries this year is alarming. The loss last week was 33,109 tons, bringing the total lost on account of strikes in the first seven weeks of 1948 to approximately 372,790 tons. That is not helping to solve the problem of the dollar shortage. No matter what international trade charters or multilateral agreements are concluded, they will all fail if the people of the Empire will not increase production and unless we can increase production we shall simply disappear from history as a combination of great nations.
I also draw attention to the output of coal from British mines. I refer to the English technical journal Engineering, of the 28th November, 1947, which published a letter written by Mr. B. Cecil Smart. That letter stated -
In 1037, output was 240,000,000 tons, with want of trade (seventeen days lost) and 15 per cent, unemployment. To-day, the pits of this country are equipped as .never before for high output, over £20,000,000 having been expended on mechanization during the war period. The paltry output of 177,000,000 tons of coal in 1946 actually represents only a comparable pre-war output of 150,000,000 tons, as the percentage of dirt and incombustible material in coal raised exceeds pre-war figures by 27,000,000 tons.
Why has there been this catastrophic decline in coal output of 80,000,000 tons with a decrease in man-power of only 9 per cent.?
The writer pointed out that productivity should be of the order of 25 cwt. per manshift instead of 20 cwt. The output before the war was 23 cwt. per man-shift. lie then stated - -
Restoration of coal output would provide £2011.000,000 to £300,000,000 per annum from sales of export coal, rendering food cuts and the purchase of American and Polish coal unnecessary.
The gap in the dollar requirements of Great Britain that must be closed this year is about £600,000,000 sterling. If the collieries of Great Britain, a country which should not need to import coal, produced the 80,000,000 tons per annum that is being lost, the financial return to Great Britain would be about £stg.320,000,000, calculated at the present export price of about £4 per ton. This would go a long way towards balancing the deficit of £600,000,000 because, in addition to the actual monetary return, the necessity for purchasing large quantities of expensive American coal would be avoided, and other imports from the United States of America would be reduced because the commodities could be imported from Europe in exchange for coal, which is urgently needed on the Continent to-day.
Therefore, the solution of our problems does not lie in multilateral trade agreements. The signing of such agreements appears to me to be rather like trying to put a roof on a house before the walls, the floors, or the foundations have been constructed. The solution lies in increas- ing production and in bringing about a condition of prosperity amongst the members of the British Empire and the nations of the world. After that has been achieved and we have a comfortable surplus of exportable goods over our own needs, then by all means let us enter into multilateral trade treaties and agreements if they will prove advantageous to Australia and the British Empire. This wild, mad desire that we should enter into multilateral trade treaties so as to develop our foreign trade leaves me “s’.one cold”, because I believe that the happiness and prosperity of the peoples of the British Empire can be assured only by their own efforts. .That condition will certainly not be brought about by flooding our markets with manufactured goods.
.- This debate commenced on a very high plane, but it ha3 declined from the high standard set by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). However, it was left to the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) to dredge the very depths with the bucket of party politics in order to serve selfinterest. I say “ self-interest “ because whatever the honorable member for Watson has said or done since he has entered this House has been motivated by self-interest-
– That is unfair.
– The honorable member for Watson is unfair. In earlier times he used his membership of this House to avoid service with the military forces until such time as he could do so with relative safety. Later, when he was discharged from the armed forces of this country, this unfortunate “ digger “ had to get a permit to import watches in order to rehabilitate himself.
– What has this to do with the matter before the House ?
– I shall tell honorable members. In his speech last night, the honorable member for Watson approached the subject of international trade and Empire preference in exactly the same spirit. He denounced Empire trade and British preferential duties and accused Britain of greed and selfishness in its dealings with this country. I, for one, found his remarks particularly hard to listen to, especially since the honorable member, who trades with countries outside the Empire, dared to criticize an agreement which has served this country and the Empire so well. The point of attack on the Ottawa Agreement chosen by the honorable member was rather extraordinary. He said, in effect, that it was a foolish system, and one ‘ quite unworthy to be followed. The reason which he advanced to support this contention was that, while the Ottawa Agreement conferred certain advantages on Australia, it also benefited Great Britain. That is an extraordinary point of view. Apparently he objects to the Ottawa Agreement because it is a “ two-way “ agreement and he- is only accustomed to “ one-way “ contracts.
What are the merits of the Ottawa Agreement as compared with the merits of the nebulous scheme now before us? No one can point to any specific advantage to be gained by this country by its adoption of the proposed charter. I was very young when the Ottawa Agreement was signed, but I remember quite clearly the large number of cartoons and special articles which appeared in the press when its terms were announced to the country. One cartoon showed the delegates to that conference “ Bringing home the bacon “. It was typical of the Ottawa Agreement, which brought to Australia certain definite benefits in respect of beef, mutton, bacon, dairy produce, fruit and sugar. Because of the Ottawa Agreement markets were created to absorb our entire exportable surplus of primary produce. That was something tangible and definite. Therefore, I say that it is ludicrous for honorable members opposite to compare the Ottawa Agreement with the draft agreement now before us, which offers us absolutely nothing, whereas the Ottawa Agreement resulted in the development of the substantial overseas trade which we have enjoyed during the past fifteen years.
I do not set my face against international agreements and organizations as such, but only a fool would believe that the creation of those organizations will, in itself, confer benefits upon us. That comment applies equally to “ organizations set up for defence and the promotion of trade. Let us consider the history of some of those organizations. The League of Nations was, in itself, a most beneficial organization, and the mere fact that it existed enabled the leaders of the nations to meet together and to settle minor differences. However, as events proved, the League of Nations was quite incapable of averting a major conflict of any kind. The security of British countries rested entirely on. the strength of the British Empire, and their development and prosperity depended on the agreements which they were able to make amongst themselves and with their allies. The same comment might be applied to the United Nations. On the rare occasions when the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) - appears in this House he tries to lead us to believe that, because the United Nations organization is in existence, there is no’ need for us to pay attention to our defence or to the security of Great Britain and the Empire. However, when we review what the United Nations has accomplished, we realize that it has done very little. It was not able to prevent the recent occurrence in Czechoslovakia, and its intervention in Palestine has only succeeded in aggravating the unfortunate disputes in that country, which will presently culminate in a major tragedy. The same comment applies to the international body set up to manage world economics and finance. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which was established with such a fanfare of trumpets, was quite impotent when Prance decided recently to alter the basis of its currency. The French Government took action without the slightest consultation with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Exactly the same thing will happen when the proposed Inter national Trade Organization is established. As the Prime Minister said, that body is, in a nebulous way, a beneficial one, inasmuch as it is helpful to have in existence some organization of the kind in order to minimize the worst consequences of commercial Avar, such as the imposition of the restrictive tariffs. At the. same time, it must be realized that the creation of such a body will not by any means ensure that markets will be opened for our goods or that our economy will prosper. One has to be particularly gullible to believe in the benefits proposed to be conferred by this idealistic organization.
Australia’s representatives at the conferences which . resulted in the recommendation to establish the International Trade Organization have fallen into the trap of believing in the efficacy of that ‘body. Those representatives were, almost without exception, bureaucrats. They .believed in the efficacy of control by officials, and they thought that even international trade should be regulated by officials. They had no confidence whatever in the ability of people or of nations to make arrangements to ensure their own prosperity. By and large, I think we sent abroad men who were theorists, who lacked personal experience of these matters, and who accepted very easily the arguments put to them in favour of abandoning the concrete advantages of the British preferential tariff system, and accepting this shadowy scheme. If the International Trade Organization means anything at all, it must mean that other countries will have far greater access to the Australian market than formerly, and that we must be prepared to import far more than we do now. “We cannot afford to allow goods manufactured in countries with a lower standard of living to compete with goods manufactured here. The standard of living in Australia must ultimately be undermined by the importation of cheap goods. Honorable members opposite may deny my contention and say there are many provisions that will enable us to protect ourselves. That is quite true, because this agreement does not really mean a thing. Just as we can, on one pretext and another, prevent the entry of goods into Australia, so other countries can prevent us from exporting our goods to them. I see very little of concrete advantage that this agreement has to offer to Australia, and I can see a great deal that is distinctly to our disadvantage. We are already sufficiently weighed down with licences, officials, directors, deputy directors, commissioners and so on, but this agreement will transfer the existing regimentation from the national to the international sphere. Not only are we to have directions from Canberra at every hand’s turn, but apparently we are also to have them from the head-quarters of the International Trade Organization. The people who trade, produce goods and add to the nation’s wealth are to have upon their backs not only a national but also an international army of bureaucrats.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ryan) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.24 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
l asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. A recent survey of the position discloses that the following departments and sections of departments will eventually be transferred from Melbourne to Canberra: -
r asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The questions asked by the honorable member relate to matters which come within the jurisdiction of the State Government, but the following advice on the points raised has been obtained : -
r asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions -are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The honorable member’s question is a partial extract from the Auditor-General’s report, which ignores the explanation contained in that report. The report reads - “ Considerable difficulty has been experienced by the commission in the proper recording of plant and stock, due, it is stated, to the following factors: -
The whole of the stock and plant is subject to sound stores accounting procedure with periodic physical stocktake and internal check. The measures taken provide adequate safeguards for the property of the commission.
Australian Army : Training ; Permanent Force.
Mr.Gullett asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
How many days training are considered necessary to make an average recruit into an efficient member of the crew of an armoured fighting vehicle?
s. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
In the last war the time required to train an average recruit to be efficient to go into action as a member of the crew of an armoured fighting vehicle was approximately eleven months, divided up as follows: - (a) six weeks initial training (recruit); (b) 26 weeks armoured training (specialists) ; (c) twelve weeks further training in a regiment.
asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s.-On the 25th Feb ruary, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) asked the following question : -
Can the Minister for the Army inform me whether an order has been issued by Army Head-quarters to rifle clubs in New South Wales directing them to reduce their effective membership by 20 per cent.? This direction seems to be unreasonable, inasmuch as rifle clubs in that State have, for some time past, been limited to an overall membership of approximately 11,000, and in the case of at least one club, namely, the OrangeRifle Club, 80 per cent of the members are ex-servicemen. Will the Minister review the extraordinary direction issued by Army Head-quarters ?
I have investigated this matter and now inform the honorable member as follows : -
No orderwas issued by Army Head-quarters for a reduction of the membership of rifle clubs in New South Wales, but it has been ascertained that an instruction was issued by the local rifle club authorities in that State that the membership should be reduced in certain cases. A direction has been given for this order and any restrictions imposed in regard to the enrolment of new members to be withdrawn.
Vermin Destruction : Cyanogas.
d.- On the 25th February, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) asked whether consideration has been given to the representations made by the Primary. Producers Union and other farmers’ organizations for the removal of the restrictions on the importation ofcyanogas. The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information: -
During the recent review of import licences, it was ascertained that considerable quantities ofcyanogas were in transit to Australia. In view of this fact, the licences for these shipments were revalidated. However, in accordance with the necessity to reduce imports, from the dollar area to the indispensable minimum, import licences were cancelled in cases where shipment had not been made. The matter of granting licences for the importation of goods from the dollar area after the 30th June, 1948, is under consideration and it is not possible at present to’ indicate the quantities of rabbit fumigants for which import licences will be authorized for the year ending the 30th June, 1949.
-On the 26th February, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked whether licences have . been granted for the importation of the large tyres used on the earth-moving machinery engaged on the irrigation schemes in Victoria, Queensland and New South “Wales. The Minister for Trade and’ Customs has supplied the following information : -
Only one company has applied for licences to import large tyres for earth-moving equipment. The company is a manufacturer of such equipment and import licences have been authorized for sufficient tyres to meet its production requirements to the 30th June, 1948. A special inter-departmental committee is at present engaged in working out the quotas to be established for the year ending the 30th June. 1949.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 March 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19480304_reps_18_196/>.