18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the fact that when the Parliament approved of Australia’s commitment to the International Monetary Fund it was stated by the Government that the contribution by Australia would be met from loan funds, will the Treasurer give to the House the reason for charging this year’s budget with more than £10,000,000 out of revenue for the current contribution? Is not the payment of this contribution actually a capital investment, available for withdrawal by Australia in certain circumstances ? Has the payment been made in this form to assist the Government in concealing a record budget surplus? What is the constitutional provision concerning Commonwealth surplus revenues and the payment of such revenues to the States ?
– There has been no concealment of the financial position in the figures published in the budget and in the financial statements issued by me on behalf of the Government. I read a statement in the Parliament a few day.”; ago indicating the amount required to be paid into the International Monetary Fund from revenue. As that statement if recorded in Hansard there can he no suggestion that any attempt has been made to conceal the true position. “When the Bretton Woods Agreement was before the House the honorable member for Barker asked some Questions about the power of the Australian Government to borrow the moneys to he paid into the fund. I then indicated that provision had been made to enable the Government, if necessary, to borrow the requisite moneys. During this financial year the revenue position has been such that it has been possible for the Government to meet all its commitments in this regard from revenue. I have read in the press a great deal about an alleged surplus of £43,000,000.Reference to the existence of such a surplus apparently arises from the inability of the writers of the press reports correctly to understand the figures contained in the financial statement. Provision was made in the budget for the raising of loan moneys to meet an estimated deficit amounting to £32,000,000. It has been found possible to avoid that deficit without resorting to borrowing.
– The Government borrowed £35,000,000.
– The right honorable gentleman knows that a good deal of that money has been borrowed on behalf of the States.
– The £35,000,000 to which I referred was not borrowed on behalf of the States.
– If the right honorable gentleman is referring to the last loan, I remind him that, of the amount of that loan, £23,000,000 was borrowed on behalf of the States.
– I was not referring to the last loan.
– Order ! The right honorable member for Darling Downs may not debate the matter at this stage.
– It is true that £10,000,000 was paid into the International Monetary Fund and that that money may be used in certain circumstances, but will not be available for use at any time. In other words, it is frozen’, except in special circumstances. The amount of £46,000,000 that has been talked about as the surplus will probably show as an actual surplus in the budget of less than £2,000,000 after taking the amount of £10,000,000 into account. That entirely disposes of the assertion that there will be a surplus of about £46,000,000. In regard to the constitutional position mentioned by the Acting Leader of the Opposition, there is a provision, which is well known to honorable members, that any revenue over and above that for which budgetary provision has been made becomes surplus revenue. Unless this Parliament makes provision for the use of such sums in some way on behalf of the Commonwealth they must be handed over to the States. I think every Treasurer has at some time made provision for such surplus revenue to be allocated for Commonwealth purposes. There is nothing unusual about that.I have done so in every year since I have been Treasurer, and I have no doubt that other Treasurers, in the years when there were Commonwealth surpluses, which is a long time ago, did likewise in order to overcome the constitutional disability mentionedby the Acting Leader of the Opposition in relation to the handing over of surplus Commonwealth revenue to the States.
Quotations from Documents - Rebroadcasting of proceedings.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker. In this House on the 6th May, the Minister for Defence read what purported to be the full contents of a letter addressed to the Prime Minister by Dr. J. E. Atcherley, of the Prices Branch. In that letter, Dr. Atcherley denied that he was a Communist and made a personal attack upon me. I have since made application to examine the letter, but find that it was not left in the custody of the House. Whilst the Minister was able to have the contents of what purported to he a letter placed in the records of this House, there is no way of verifying the authenticity of the letter as read. I also understand that the Minister now states that he is no longer in possession of the letter. As I have reason to believe that, in reading the letter, the Minister omitted certain words that would have seriously affected a very important member of the Government, and in view of the fact that a certain public servant has just been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for altering the contents of an official document, will you, Mr. Speaker, issue directions as follows: - (1) that the letter in question be returned forthwith to the custody of this House; (2) that, in future, when letters are read in this chamber, and especially when they contain attacks on members of this House, such letters be tabled immediately; (3) that before letters are incorporated in Hansard, they shall be made available to Hansard for checking in order to ensure that the official records of this chamber are a true record of documents ?
– I am not aware of the circumstances referred to by the honorable member, and I shall have to give very careful consideration to the matter of documents that are quoted from time to time in this House. I am certainly not going to turn myself into a private inquiry agent in order to determine where documents go after they leave the House. The only guidance that we have in this matter is in Standing Order 317, which states -
A document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister of the Crown, unless stated to be of a confidential nature or such as should more properly be obtained by Address, may be called for and made a public document.
– Standing Order .43 is relevant.
– Yes, but this document was not, I understand, laid on the table. Standing Order 43 reads -
The custody of the Journals, Records, and all Documents whatsoever laid before the House, shall be in the Clerk, who during a Session shall neither take, nor permit to be taken, any such Journals, Records, or Documents from the Chamber or Offices, without the express leave of the House, or during recess without the leave of the Speaker.
I do not think a letter quoted in this House by any member, whether he be a Minister or not, comes within the meaning of “ Journal, record, or document “.
– When the Minister read the letter, he said that he would place it on record.
– I am not aware of that fact. However, it would hardly he practicable for the Chair to record all documents quoted in this House, and keep track of them. I shall look into the matter and furnish the honorable member for Reid with a reply as soon as possible.
– I address this question to you, Mr. Speaker, in your capacity as Chairman of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee. Yesterday the honorable member for Herbert addressed a question to the Minister for External Territories on a matter upon which I had questioned the Prime Minister last week, namely, a copy of a telegram sent to me by the Council of the Combined Public Service Associations of Papua-New Guinea, which voiced certain grievances. The honorable member’s question and the Minister’s answer were both intended to cast doubt on the accuracy of the message. Afterwards, I made a personal explanation and read the complete telegram, which was a rebuttal of the allegations made by the Minister. I also mentioned that a copy of the telegram had been sent to the Leader of the Opposition as well as to the Prime Minister and certain other honorable members including myself.
– Order ! What is the question?
– The question is this : My statement was omitted from the rebroadcast of questions last night, hut the question by the honorable member for Herbert and the Minister’s answer were broadcast, after which further questions on other matters were rebroadcast. I believe that that is the usual course, but I point out the disability under which an honorable member who is attacked is placed if his reply to that attack is not re-broadcast when the attack itself is given such publicity. Will you take up with the Australian Broadcasting Commission the question whether both sides of a matter should not be re-broadcast in such circumstances, which you can do in your capacity as chairman of the committee.
– I do not mind calling the joint committee together again to reconsider this matter, but I point out that any alteration that it may make would be subject to the approval of the Parliament. In the first place, the act requires that the joint committee shall lay down general principles and that those general principles shall be submitted to the House.
On acceptance by the House, those general principles are acted upon by the committee. On the 15th November, 1946, the committee made a report to the Parliament laying down general principles with regard to the. broadcasting of the parliamentary proceedings and those general principles were adopted by the House and therefore they became a guide to the committee. Amongst other principles laid down was this: -
Re-broadcast of Questions and Answers.
Within the limits of time available, the following parliamentary proceedings shall ‘be re-broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission between 7.20 p.m. and 7.55 p.m. on each sitting day: -
Senate proceedings - questions without notice and on notice and answers thereto.
House of Representatives proceedings - questions without notice and answers thereto.
On the 22nd October, 1947, the joint committee re-affirmed this general principle providing for the re-broadcast of questions and answers only. In so reaffirming the general principle, it was specifically decided that certain statements by leave and a personal explanation made in the House that morning during the first 35 minutes of the question session should not be re-broadcast. On the following day the deletion of the statements and personal explanation was referred to in the House in connexion with press reports of the committee’s proceedings. I quoted the general principle and referred specifically to the interpretation placed upon it. Honorable members will realize that under the act the committee has an obligation to the Parliament to lay down general principles, which, of course, are subject to the approval of the Parliament. They were approved by this House not only on the date mentioned but also on a later occasion. After a discussion which arose out of the excising of certain matter from a re-broadcast, they were again reaffirmed by the committee.
– In what manner were they approved by this House? Was it by resolution?
– They were approved by resolution of the House.
– On this occasion there was an attack on me, and my reply to it was cut out.
– That was unfortunate. I have tried as well as I could to preserve one of the greatest privileges enjoyed by rank and file members on both sides of the House; that is the right to question the Executive. On certain days, questions asked in the House are re-broadcast for 35 minutes. I endeavour from day to day to give as many honorable members as possible an opportunity to ask questions during that period. I think honorable members will agree that difficulties sometimes arise, as in the case of the honorable member for Balaclava. As a general principle, however, I do not think the House would approve of the all-important question time being taken up by personal explanations which might have no relevance at all to question time.
The hours of duty of lighthouse keepers, as of other Commonwealth public servants, are determined by the Public Service Board. Following on the introduction of the 40-hour week in industry generally, the Board is reviewing the hours of light-keepers, and it is expected that an early decision on the matter will be made.
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel inform the House whether the payment of overtime rates will be made retrospective as from the 1st January, when the 40-hour week was first introduced?
– The question as to whether payment of overtime to lightkeepers shall be made retrospective is entirely a matter for determination by the Public Service Board. When the decision has been arrived at by the board, I shall furnish the honorable member with a full reply.
Mr. Daly having earlier addressed a disallowed question to the Prime Minister,
– A few moments ago, Mr. Speaker, you ruled out of order a question which I desired to direct to the Prime
Minister, and I should like an answer from you on this point: Is it in order for such a question to he ruled out of order, while one of our daily journals - making due allowance for its low grade of journalism - has seen fit to print in detail, the series of charges associated with the same matter that I. wished to discuss? I was ruled out of order. Am I out of order in asking a question on a matter which has received public prominence through the press of this country?
– I think that there should be a difference in the standard of ethics observed by the press and the Parliament. We are here to make laws, not to break them. Whilst [ am not a lawyer, and, consequently, am not perfectly sure on this point, it is my impression that if the press publishes any comments on a pending trial, as a result of which it might be guilty of contempt of court, it must accept full responsibility for any penalties which may attach to such action. I do not propose to allow, in the Parliament, discussions either for or against any person of a nature that may prejudice a pending trial. Neither do I propose to allow discussions in the Parliament to Joe made a vehicle to protect other people from the consequences attached to contempt or libel. If the law is broken in this Parliament, and the proceedings here are faithfully recorded in the press, surely the press should not then be prosecuted for contempt of court or libel.
– Did not the Prime Minister, during the recent referendum campaign, while urging the people to grant permanent power to the Australian Parliament to control rents and prices, claim that these controls were essential at the present time? As the Opposition, during the referendum campaign, repeated its decision to continue to concede necessary temporary controls to the Administration, why has the Government decided to relinquish the controls in the near future? As the electors’ resentment of the banking legislation was also reflected in the vote against the Government’s referendum proposals, will the Prime Minister now abandon his plan for the nationalization of banking?
– I informed the honorable member for Balaclava yesterday that I had previously answered a similar question asked by the Acting Leader of the Opposition, and at that time I gave some of the reasons why the Government believes that if the States are to control rents and prices the transference of the responsibility to them should be made as soon as possible. In the interests of the community, and in view of the present economic position of the world, it is eminently desirable that there should be some control over our national economy. The Government believes that the States should take over the staff and the necessary equipment required for exercising the controls as soon as it is phsyically possible for them to do so. I do not pretend to be able to read the minds of the, justices of the High Court, as members of the Opposition profess to be able to do, -but my own view is that at any time, the High Court may consider that the regulations are no longer valid, and, therefore, the control of rents and prices would have to be transferred overnight from the Commonwealth to the States. It would be physically impossible for the States to assume this responsibility as rapidly as that. The Government considers that the States should be helped in every possible way, first, by enabling them to retain the existing staff, and, secondly, by giving to them such administrative assistance as is desirable, to enable a smooth transition and ensure that the national economy shall be preserved,’ as far as it is possible to preserve it with six authorities operating in different fields and under different legislation. However, the best must be made of the present position. It would be highly undesirable to ask the High Court to express an opinion from time to time on these matters. Five or six cases relating to prices control are already before the court, and an undue responsibility would be placed on that tribunal if we were to ask it to consent to the Commonwealth’s retaining these powers, no matter what the Opposition may think, until we consider that they may be relinquished. The latter portion of the honorable member’s question related to the Banking Act. In that legislation, the Government has expressed its views on banking, and has acted on the assumption that it possessed complete constitutional power to pass it. As I am one of the defendants in that particular case before the High Court, it would be most improper for me to engage in any discussion of the matter at this stage. I shall take the liberty, however, of saying that the Government has no intention of desisting from proceeding with this legislation, and E hope that the honorable member for Wide Bay will excuse me, as one of the leading defendants in the case, from making any further comments on the matter.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the New South Wales Coal, Shale and Mine Workers Pensions Act, which was passed in 1941, provided that the widow of a mine worker who was killed in a mine should be debarred from receiving a mine workers widows pension until such time as she had exhausted the compensation at the rate of 30s. a week for maintenance? Does the act also provide that child endowment shall be assessed against the widow for pension purposes? Ls it now a fact that since the establishment of the Joint Coal Board, the Australian Government is supervising the Coal, Shale and Mine Workers Pensions Act, and the chairman of the board, Mr. Cameron, is acting as chairman of the pensions tribunal? Does the Government of New South Wales desire to amend the legislation so as to provide that if a widow has legally utilized the compensation for the purpose of buying or discharging a mortgage on a house, or meeting medical expenses, the period of disqualification for the pension shall be reduced, and also that child endowment shall not be treated as income for pension purposes? Has a deputation from the pensions tribunal interviewed officers of the
Treasury with a view to having such amendments made, and have those officers refused to agree to them?
– I make it clear that the miners’ pensions tribunal referred to by the Honorable member for Hunter, is not controlled by the Australian Government. It is true that the chairman of the Joint Coal Board is also the chairman of the pensions’ tribunal, but the other two members are a representative of the miners’ federation and the mine owners. The miners’ pensions scheme was instituted prior to the passing by the Australian and New South Wales Parliaments of the joint legislation with regard to the coal industry. In the preambles to those acts it is provided that the legislation covered by the agreement, which deals, among other things, with pensions, shall not be repealed or amended by one government except with the prior concurrence of the other. It is true that a number of suggested amendments have been submitted to the New South Wales Minister for Mines, and that I have had consultations with regard to them with the Minister and representatives of the miners’ federation and that discussions have taken place between officers of the pensions tribunal and officers of the Treasury. Some of the matters to which the honorable member for Hunter has referred have been the subject of discussion. Any amendment to the legislation has to be agreed to by both governments, and the practice has been for them to consider any representations that are made and to make a joint decision with regard to them. The Australian Government is only prepared to recommend the making of an amendment when its views and those of the State Government in regard to it have been reconciled. Rather than traverse now all the points raised by the honorable member, I shall arrange for an officer of my* department to consult with him. A written reply will be furnished to his question later.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs, in the light of his special knowledge, any comment to make on the reported statement of King Abdullah that the war in Palestine is likely to involve all of the powers?
– I told the House last week with regard to the Palestine position that the Government is in close consultation with the British Government and other dominion governments. At the present stage, with the possibility of a truce being negotiated, any comment on the statement referred to by the honorable member might well be embarrassing.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel with respect to the fact that Taroona will be off the Tasmanian run next month. I have received the following telegram from the Launceston Chamber of Commerce following its inquiries into the matter: -
Taroona turns around approximately 250 tons per trip including cars. Main imports affected are ice cream and fresh fruit. Exports cover sundry manufactures and wool. Draw back to air transport is high cost. Suggest best alternative is freighter of approximately 1,000 to 1,500 tons capacity with fairtly fast turnround to give continuity of cargoes and regular deliveries of second class mail.
In view of that information will the Minister endeavour to place an additional freighter on the Tasmanian run in order to obviate possible loss of trade and cargoes during the period for which Taroona will be off the service?
– The Government recognizes the difficulty which will confront Tasmania because of the withdrawal of Taroona for overhaul and repairs. I am sure that the Minister for Shipping and Fuel will do all he can to cope with the situation. I shall bring the matter to his notice.
Proposed Tour by Parliamentarians.
– Has the Prime Minister received a communication from the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, inviting a delegation of members of this Parliament to tour Queensland in order that they might examine at first hand the potentialities of the State? If so, has the right honorable gentleman given consideration to the invitation ?
– I cannot remember whether Mr. Hanlon wrote to me on that matter, but he certainly spoke to me about it. He indicated that his Government would be glad to arrange for a delegation of members of this Parliament to make a tour of Queensland as, I understand, the guests of the Queensland Government, for the purpose mentioned by the honorable member. I promised to consider the matter when the opportunity offered; but I understood that some honorable members had .already made such a tour. I understand that Mr. Hanlon will visit Canberra soon, and I shall discuss the question with him then.
Reconstruction Training Scheme
– Recently in Rockhampton a deputation comprising representatives of certain unions and of postwar reconstruction trainees presented to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction certain figures showing the present living costs incurred by these trainees, and requested that consideration be given to increasing the allowance to bring it into conformity with the recent increase of the basic wage resulting from the higher cost of living. The Minister promised to go into the matter and advise members of the deputation of the result. I should like to know now whether the honorable gentleman has given consideration to the representations made to him on that occasion, and whether he has made any decision?
– I did receive a deputation on this subject while I was in Rockhampton not long ago, but I pointed out on that occasion that this matter concerned reconstruction trainees not only in Rockhampton but also throughout the Commonwealth, and that the reconstruction training allowances were related to other allowances payable by the Commonwealth. I further pointed out that in my opinion, taking into account this relationship, the reconstruction training allowances were on a not ungenerous scale. I did promise that if any review were made of allowances of this type generally, it would include reconstruction allowances. I certainly did not promise that the request made by the deputation would be granted.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation whether it is a fact that doctors who have been approved by the Repatriation Commission and who may have been attending ex-servicemen for some considerable time, are prevented from treating or operating on their patients once they enter a repatriation hospital. Are only resident doctors permitted to treat patients in such hospitals? Does this ruling, if it exists, mean that the patients frequently are deprived of the service of doctors who are fully familiar with their case histories? If the ruling exists, what are the reasons for it?
– When patients enter repatriation hospitals they are treated by doctors employed at those hospitals, or whose services are available to the hospitals under an agreement with the Repatriation Department. In this regard, the practice followed in repatriation hospitals is the same as that which applies to public hospitals generally. Any patient who enters a repatriation hospital is treated by a doctor who is either a full-time or part-time officer of that institution. I see no reason for dissatisfaction with this practice. In repatriation hospitals to-day patients receive the best possible treatment. Indeed, this treatment is much better now than it has ever been because the ablest medical men in the country make their services available in these institutions.
– That has always been so.
– That is true; but the position is much better to-day because there is a greater field from which we can draw. Indeed, some of the Repatriation Commission’s medical officers are called upon to lecture to other doctors who require the advice and guidance of these eminent men. I regard the position as highly satisfactory and I see no reason why it should be altered.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Maranoa asked the Prime Minister whether the Government had considered amending the Commonwealth Electoral Act as was its intention according to a statement said to have been made by the Minister for Information, to remove the provision that a referendum must be carried in a majority of States. Is it not a fact that the alleged statement by the Minister for Information is not based even on a newspaper report? Is it not a fact that the Minister in his speech on the rents and prices referendum measure as reported by the press, said that the undemocratic provision in the Constitution, and not of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, requiring an affirmative vote in a majority of the States, was incorporated after the first referendum on the establishment of federation had been rejected by New South Wales? After explaining the effect of this on the other colonies, did not the Minister say that this provision would, at some future time, have to be altered by gome government after a referendum had been taken on the issue and an affirmative vote recorded? In these circumstances, can the Prime Minister see the slightest resemblance between what the press correctly reported the Minister to have said, and the extraordinary version of his statement given to the House in a question by the honorable member for Maranoa ?
– The honorable member for Maranoa asked me a question yesterday which conveyed the impression that he believed that a statement had been made by the Minister for Information to the effect that either he or the Government was considering a proposal for the alteration of the Constitution in respect of the holding of referendums. I said in reply that the matter had not been discussed by the Government, and that I had not previously heard of it. Afterwards, I looked up the report which had, presumably, inspired the honorable member’s question, and I found that the Minister for Information had merely said that some day .some government might, or prob acy would, bring dawn a proposal to alter what he regarded as an undemocratic provision in the Constitution. He did not say anything about policy, nor did he express a personal opinion on the subject. Neither did he say that it had been .considered by the Government., or that the Government had formulated a policy regarding it.- Any suggestion that he did so is incorrect.
DELEGATION Op EDITORS FROM THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Information aware that the South African Government recently invited a representative delegation of editors of newspapers and magazines in the United States of America to visit South Africa in order to see something of the resources of the country, and to discuss its politics and economic problems with parliamentary leaders and other citizens? Has the Australian Government considered issuing a similar invitation to editors in the United States of America to visit Australia, particularly having regard to the lack of goodwill that has recently developed in the Netherlands East Indies and Malaya towards Australia?
– I understand that an invitation was issued by the Government of South Africa to newspaper and magazine interests in the United States of America to send a delegation to South Africa to study the resources and politics of the Union. As for inviting editors from the United States of America to. come to Australia, American newspaper men have visited Australia from time to time, and American newspapers are represented by newspaper interests here, when American newspaper men come to Australia all possible courtesies are extended to them by the Government, all information they want is supplied to them, and interviews with Ministers are arranged so that they may form impressions regarding what is going on in Australia.
– I have in mind a general invitation.
– My impression is that there is an over-supply of editors here now. Newspaper men who come to Australia are representative of American journalists, and, no doubt, of newspaper interests, also. I do not see any particular reason for issuing a special invitation, although if American editors come here they will be very welcome and all facilities will be placed at their disposal.
– In view of the misunderstandings over Australian immigration matters in Malaya and the obvious possibility of strained relations between Australia and Malaya, I ask the Prime Minister whether it would not be a good thing for the Minister for Immigration himself to visit Malaya to clear up the misunderstandings which press reports only seem to aggravate?
– Consideration has not been given to such a proposal. Apparently unfortunate statements hat* been made and misunderstandings have arisen, but I think I have made the position of the Government quite clear on a number of occasions. However, the matter will receive consideration.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to - That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the expenditure of the moneys standing to the credit of the H.M.A.S. Sydney Replacement Fund.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
When the cruiser H.M.A.S. Sydney was lost at the end of 1941, an Australiawide appeal resulted in the subscription of £426,000 towards its replacement. The moneys received were credited, for that purpose, to a trust fund styled H.M.A.S. Sydney Replacement Fund, in accordance with the provisions of the Audit Act. As the prospect of obtaining a further cruiser in the near future is remote, it has been decided that an aircraft carrier to be purchased from the United Kingdom Government shall be named H.M.A.S, Sydney. Although the purpose of the public subscriptions was to replace the cruiser, it is believed that the wishes of the subscribers will be met by utilizing the moneys towards the purchase of the aircraft carrier, provided that it bears the name of the lost cruiser. Nevertheless, as there is some variation of the purpose of the fund, parliamentary authority is necessary to permit the moneys to be so applied; hence the bill is submitted for the approval of honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harbison) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to repeal the Primary Produce Export Organization Act 1935 and the Primary Produce Export Charges Act 1935-1938, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill primarily repeals the Primary Produce Export Charges Act 1935-1938 under which exporters of eggs are required to pay a levy equivalent to 2d. for each case of 30 dozen eggs exported. It also repeals the Primary Produce Export Organization Act 1935 which makes provision for the distribution of the levy under the Primary Produce Export Charges Act. When these two acts were passed in 1935, there were no statutory boards to act for the egg and apple and pear industries in such matters as overseas publicity and scientific research. The Egg Producers Council and the Australian Apple and Pear ExportCouncil were organizations within those industries which by means of an annual conference and an executive committee provided means whereby departmental officers could consult with and secure advice from the producers concerned on matters affecting particularly the export of their products. In order to provide the organizations with funds, levies were imposed on exports, at first by regulation under the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act and later, in 1935, by the two acts to which I have referred.
In 1938, legislation setting up an Australian Apple and Pear Board was passed. The board was to be financed by a levy on exports imposed under the Apple and Pear Export Charges Act 1938, and the provisions of the Primary Produce Export Charges Act were repealed. The board was created in 1939, but the outbreak of war and the consequent dislocation of the export trade in apples and pears prevented action from being taken to give effect toany organized marketing plans. Under the amending act of 1947 the Australian Apple and Pear Board is being reconstituted to take over control of the industry when the Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board and acquisition cease. A maximum charge of¾d. a case exported is prescribed under the Apple and Pear Export Charges Act 1938.
With the cessation of war-time control of the egg industry, the Australian Egg Board has taken over the organization of the egg export trade, and will be responsible for overseas publicity and for scientific research into egg export problems. These were formerly among the functions of the Egg Producers Council, and will be transferred to the Australian Egg Board. The Australian Egg Board is financed by a levy equivalent to½d. a dozen under the Egg Export Charges Act 1947, and it is therefore desired to cancel the charge imposed by the Primary Produce Export Charges Act 1935-1938 to finance publicity and research carried out by the Egg Producers Council.Since the outbreak of the war publicity work has not been carried out, and the Egg Producers Council has accumulated funds for use in this direction when necessity arises. It is proposed to transfer this money to the Australian Egg Board for that purpose in accordance with clause 4 of the bill.
A small balance only was held in the funds of the Australian Apple and Pear Council at the end of 1939. This is still held pending reorganization of the industry, and it is intended similarly to transfer this to the Australian Apple and Pear Board.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the. transfer to the Commonwealth Service of certain employees of the Commonwealth, and for other purposes.
Bill presented by Mi-. Dedman, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Under the Constitution the Commonwealth has power to legislate in regard to weights and measures. In the report of the Commonwealth Royal Commission on the Constitution, 1930, attention was directed to evidence given to the commission urging that the Commonwealth should exercise its constitutional powers so as to provide foi- a uniform system of Weights and measures for Australia. It was pointed out in evidence that each State had established its own standards of measurement and that considerable difficulties had arisen from lack of uniformity in the provisions of State weights and measures acts. At a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in 1939, reference was made to a resolution agreed to at a similar’ conference in 1936 to the effect that if the Australian Government enacted legislation covering the establishment and maintenance of Commonwealth standards of measurement, the States would fully co-operate in regard to the adaption of such standards throughout Australia.
The words “weights and measures “ are often thought of in their restrictive historic sense relating to the weights and measures used in commercial transactions; in fact, however, they apply to the standards of measurement of all physical quantities with which commerce, industry, and science are concerned, 511 et as mass, length, time interval, volume., area, pressure, density, electrical current, electrical power, illumination, temperature, quantity of heat, and so on. These standards are necessary for such diverse measurements as those required in many manufacturing operations, for the sale of land, for the blood temperature of a patient, for the supply of electricity, for scientific research, and for the sale of innumerable materials by measurement of weight, length, area, or volume. The provision, maintenance, and use of national reference standards of measurement constitutes the recognized foundation for all modern industry and commerce and for scientific and technical activities. Australia must follow the example of other countries in providing facilities to ensure that measurements are what they purport to be, and in giving legal sanction to its national standards of measurement. The Government has already taken the necessary steps for the provision of the various standards of measurement which are required. A National Standards Laboratory has been established in Sydney under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and its divisions of electrotechnology. metrology and physics have provided the necessary staff and facilities for the maintenance of the Commonwealth standards of measurement of various physical quantities. The time is now ripe for these standards of measurement to be given legal sanction, and that is the purpose of the present bill.
One of the functions of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research specified in the act under which the council was constituted is “ the testing and standardization of scientific apparatus and instruments and the carrying out of scientific investigations connected with standardization of apparatus, machinery, materials and instruments used in industry “. For ordinary commercial purposes a very high degree of accuracy in the standards of measurement is not necessary, but that is not the case with respect to standards for scientific and technical work and for many industrial requirements. The need for measuring instruments of a very high order of accuracy for scientific work is obvious. Moreover, frequently it is only by accurate measurements of one kind or another that the processes of manufacture can be controlled so as to maintain efficient and economic production. One of the obvious examples of this is in the mass production of components, which is of course possible only if manufacture io controlled within very fine limits of accuracy, and in which such marked progress has .been made possible in Australia during the war, largely as a result of the facilities accorded by the Munitions Supply Laboratories and the National Standards Laboratory for accurate measurement of length and for the design of gauges. Gauges and other measuring instruments are, of course, subject to changes with time and use and must therefore be calibrated periodically. ‘For such purposes a factory requires to have master gauges with which the working gauges used in the shops can be checked. These master gauges must, however, in turn be calibrated periodically against gauges of a still higher degree of accuracy. These are called substandards, and the accuracy of these must again be checked from time to time with the primary reference standards maintained at the National Standards Laboratory.
The preceding remarks relate to requirements with regard to measurement of length, but a similar position exists in relation to other units of measurement. For example, there is an urgent need for legally recognized reference standards for electrical units. “When it is realized that there are vast numbers of electrical measuring instruments in Australia which form the basis for many determinations, both technical and financial, and that there is no authoritative Commonwealth court of appeal as to the accuracy of these instruments, the importance of establishing legalized national electrical reference standards is obvious. In relation to optics, thermometry, and other branches of physics which affect a number of industries, a similar state of affairs exists, with a corresponding need for national reference standards carrying the force of law. In exercising its power under the Constitution Act, the Commonwealth could take over complete control throughout Australia of the administration of weights and measures, or it could arrange for the administration to be carried out through the existing State instrumentalities. The latter course has been followed in this measure. The bill provides for Commonwealth standards of measurement which will be the ultimate reference standards throughout the Commonwealth; provision is made for existing State standards of measurement to be calibrated against the Commonwealth standards and thus given legal validity. This will ensure that all measurements will ultimately be referred back to one set of standards - the Commonwealth standards of measurement maintained in the National Standards Laboratory of the Council for Scientific and Industrial “Research.
– I rise to order. Is the bill with which the Minister is dealing covered by the motion, which referred to the transfer of certain officers? It seems to me that that subject is not mentioned anywhere in the Minister’s speech.
– The House is now dealing with the “Weights and Measures (National Standards) Bill. The Minister was given leave to introduce this bill last Friday.
– In drafting the bill, consideration has been given to discussions at present taking place in the United Kingdom which will probably result in the amendment of British legislation. At present, British legislation sets out, in the various acts concerned, precise definitions of the standards of length, mass, volume, and several other standards, and the methods to be followed in realizing these standards in practice. Advances in scientific method have made much of the technical material included in the acts obsolete, and it is now considered that in future such technical details should be omitted from the acts and incorporated in regulations. In fact, this procedure has already been adopted in British legislation covering the electrical standards and many others, decisions as to the precise form of the standards and the methods of realizing them in practice being left to the Board of Trade.
Finally, the State governments hare been consulted in regard to the details of the bill and are in agreement with its proposals for the establishment of Commonwealth standards of measurement to replace the standards provided- under existing ‘State legislation. The bill provides for machinery whereby these State standards may be calibrated against the Commonwealth standards of measurement and thus become recognized working standards having full legal validity. The existing weights and measures administrations of the States will then function as at present in regard to the protection of the public against unjust trading practices involving the use of measures of length, volume and weight. Tn short, all authorities concerned in the matter, both Commonwealth and State, agree that the time is ripe for action along the lines proposed and believe that such action can do nothing but help the national well-being. I commend the bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned
Debate resumed from the 3rd June (vide page 1611), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill provides for an appropriation of £19,000,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for war pensions for the forthcoming year. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) briefly explained in his speech that there has been an upward trend in the volume of pension payments. We all know that. He also stated that expenditure from the proposed appropriation will be divided almost equally between commitments arising from World War I. and World War II. In discussing this monetary measure one cannot, of course, debate the subject of anomalies in war pensions, such as the inadequacy of the war widows’ pension and the fact that a means test is still applied to the dependent parents of servicemen. However, it is a great pity that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) has not taken action to have the annual reports of the Repatriation Commission brought up to date. The latest available annua! report of the commission is for the year 1944-45, and it is signed by the present Minister’s predecessor, If honorable members examine that report they will see that over 281,000 persons are receiving pensions as the result of the two world wars. That may seem a large number to those who do not analyse the situation, but the fact is that Australian casualties in both of the wars were heavy. I emphasize the fact that the amounts paid to these people are very small indeed.
– Order !
– I do not suggest at this stage that pensions be increased, because I would be out of order in doing so. However, I point out that the average fortnightly rate of pension over the whole range of recipients is £1 12s. Id.
– Order ! The honorable member began by informing the Chair that he knew that he could nol discuss pensions. Now he proceeds to discuss them. He is obviously out of order.
– I am analysing the latest report of the Repatriation Commission.
– The ‘ honorable member knows that this bill merely provides for the transfer of an amount of £19,000,000 to a trust fund. That- is all that is being considered.
– If one cannot speak on it at all-
– I did not say that, but the honorable member cannot discuss any matter that he wishes.
– May I refer to a point, from the commission’s report on thi? matter that will interest the Minister for Repatriation?
– Order ! I remind the honorable member that another bill will be debated later, when he will be able to discuss such matters.
– Very well.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 3rd June (vide page 1612), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now rear! a second time.
– This bill makes provision for appropriation, transfer, or a recasting of the budget estimate as at the 30th June next in the light of what has transpired up to the present. There has been a surplus of revenue of £46,000,000 beyond what was estimated for the present financial year. As against that, there has been an increase of £6,000,000 in expenditure of an administrative nature. In addition, estimated expenditure of £10,000,000, that it was hitherto intended to finance by loan - which is the correct method of financing it - is to be financed out of the buoyant revenue available. There will, therefore, now be no necessity to finance the gap of £30,000,000 previously expected in the year’s finances. Instead of that, we find there will be a balance as between revenue and expenditure, because of the methods utilized by the Government. There will be ample scope during the forthcoming budget session for a complete examination of financial policy, and consequently it is not necessary to deal with the matter in detail now. But it is necessary at this stage to make a few pertinent observations on the trend shown by the incomplete accounts presented by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) in his second-reading speech on this bill.
A most striking and outstanding feature is that last year’s budget was completely unreliable and misleading as a financial guide to this House and the people. The estimates of receipts then presented to the Parliament failed completely in their main purpose, namely, to forecast with any degree of accuracy the financial position as at the end of the financial year 1947-48. It is obvious that taxation revenue, both direct and indirect, will now be far higher than last year, and the Treasurer has admitted that in estimating taxation receipts he was astray by no less than £44,000,000. Expenditure on defence and post-war charges is greater than is accounted for by payment under the International Monetary Agreement by £10,000,000 - a payment that was budgeted for and expected to be necessary out of loan raisings. By its very nature, that payment should have been financed by loan raisings. A disquieting feature of increased expediture beyond the estimates, is that appearing under the heading of “ Departmental Services “. That amount is £6,000,000 higher than the extremely high figure of £259,000,000, which was so stringently criticized when last year’s budget was before this House.
On the revenue side, the Treasurer’s margin of error was about 12 per cent. In other words-, he based the whole of his planning for the 1947-4S financial economy of Australia on a grossly incorrect assumption with regard to the revenue capacity of the country. For every £100 which he expected to collect in revenue, he now finds that he has received almost £112.
On’ the expenditure side, whilst the error is not quite so great, the figures indicate that no real effort has been, or is being, made to curb extravagant departmental expenditure, or for a proper businesslike administration of the country’s affairs to be exercised. Serious errors in budgeting have a profound effect on economic conditions and, indeed, form one of the main factors in retarding postwar recovery, ‘by causing rising apathy, under-production, and a tendency towards inflation. A treasurer guided by unsound estimates of both receipts and expenditure is in a position somewhat similar to that of a pilot of an aircraft who is flying blind because his instruments are faulty. The real position, from time to time, cannot be ascertained with accuracy, and there is every risk of a crash.
I say, advisedly, that in next year’s budget, both direct and indirect taxation can be reduced, by proper financing and administration, by £50,000,000, without impairing the national financial structure. In fact, the result would be more than beneficial because of the resultant increased production, and the Commonwealth Treasury revenue receipts would not be so adversely affected as the present Treasurer imagines. There is an axiomatic taxation law called “ the law of diminishing returns “. It merely means that an administration can tax so heavily that revenue starts to dry up, instead of increasing and expanding. The reverse of that law holds good, too, but the Treasurer does not appear to have heard of it, and has certainly not practised it. If he were to examine returns of indirect taxation of all kinds, from 1944-45 onwards, he would see how that law has operated. Despite reductions of individual items, the aggregate receipts from these sources have risen from £120,000,000 in 1944-45, to £137,000,000 in 1945-46, £166,000,000 in 1946-47, and it is estimated that the figure for 1947-48 will be £179,000,000.
Surely such signs, factors, and features cannot be overlooked, if the maxim am degree of taxation which this country should be asked to carry is to be decided upon wisely and having regard to the present circumstances and the potentialities of the future.
These are flat rate taxes, and their incidence is heavier on the lower ranges of income. Tobacco is regarded as sufficiently important tobe includedin the items upon which the basic wage is determined, yet it is overtaxed. Tht Treasurer is an unwelcome guest wherever workingmen gather to enjoy their small pleasures. They know that in his official capacity, the Treasurer, by means of indirect taxation, takes the equivalent of six cigarettes out of every packet of ten purchased, over half of every 2-oz. packet of pipe tobaceo purchased, and one full glass out of every bottle of beer purchased. He scoops out of every box of face powder bought, the equivalent of one-quarter of its contents, whilst business girls and others who regard the use of cosmetics as essential, know only too well that he clips off the equivalent of one-quarter of every stick of lipstick purchased.
– Is he worried about that?
– He ought to be. In the direct taxation field, the Treasurer is equally unsympathetic. On the 5th September, 1946, at Brisbane, during the federal election campaign, the Treasurer who now occupies the treasury bench made the very definite promise that he would review federal accounts from month to month, in order to ascertain what additional taxation cuts could be effected. We now find that, although monthly accounts have been available for the Treasurer’s perusal, he has completely disregarded the buoyant trend of tax receipts, and the necessity for reducing taxes from time to time. In view of the promise which he made at Brisbane, no excuse can be offered for the retention throughout the year of high’ taxes. Collections will exceed the budget estimate by approximately £44,000,000.. Most of that money should have been returned long ago to the Australian public. Had it been returned to taxpayers in a wise manner, it would have been employed through various channels for increasing production and expanding private business. That, in turn, would have expanded the aggregate field of taxable capacity, and increased collections of tax.
As I have stated repeatedly, increased production is the only safeguard against inflation, but the Treasurer will not heed my advice. He will not give any consideration to increasing the incentive to produce. The obvious way to increase production is to allow taxpayers to retain the largest possible part of their income by keeping taxes at a sensible level. In 1938-39, the last financial year before the outbreak of World War II., total tax collections of every description in Australia, direct and indirect, amounted to only £74,000,000. That figure has now increased five-fold, and collections this year will reach an all-time record of £400,000,000, which will be £15,000,000 more than last year’s figure, £47,000,000 more than in 1945-46 and £62,000,000 more than in 1944-45. Those figures show how empty was the Treasurer’s undertaking in Brisbane that he would reduce taxes when the financial commitments of the country, as revealed by his monthly reviews, permitted.
The figures relating to direct and indirect taxes, which the Treasurer has given, indicate that the Government is still extracting an excessive amount of money in taxes. The inevitable result is restriction of production, because people have little incentive to work harder and earn more. The Treasurer attributes increased tax collections to high wages, full employment and the accelerated rate of the issue of assessments. The Federal Treasurer has certainly cashed in on the higher wages resulting from inflationary tendencies in Australia. Increases of the basic wage, which are intended to compensate wage-earners for the higher cost of living, have largely been withheld from them and their families, because every increase places them in a higher income group for tax purposes. Every honorable member has heard complaints by individuals that when their wages are increased by 2s. a week to meet the higher cost of living, almost the whole of it is absorbed by an increase of tax. The real beneficiary of higher wages is not the wage-earner but the Treasurer. For years, the Australian people have been overloaded with heavy taxes, which have been unduly prolonged. By this method, the Government has been steadily accumulating readymoney resources. That has not been accidental, but is the result of a deliberate policy designed to provide money for the Australian Labour party’s programme of socialization in the future, and for meeting anticipated losses on socialist enterprises such as Trans-Australia Airlines and Commonwealth ships, and for providing accumulated funds to make a spectacular splash just before the next general election.
The Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, indicated a net increase of £3,000,000 under certain heads of civil expenditure. Of that amount, £2,000,000 was alleged to have been absorbed by the Postmaster-General’s Department. I should like the House to take particular notice of this method of accounting. The statement is curious when it is coupled with the fact that the accounts of the Post Office show a surprising lack of frankness, particularly in regard to the distribution of revenue from mail surcharges. The extra 3d. a half ounce on airmails, if appropriated by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, would have gone a long way towards meeting the additional expenditure of £2,000,000 to which the Treasurer has referred. However, the exorbitant profits from airmails are handed over by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to the Department of Civil Aviation, and credited to its revenue. We can imagine the public outcry if the Post Office showed in its accounts the enormous profit made from the carriage of airmails. Indeed, most of Australia’s first-class mail could be carried by air at a profit without the surcharge of 3d. a half ounce. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department paid the Department of Civil Aviation £1,169,000 for the conveyance of mails last year, exclusive of £16,000 paid by the Services. However, it cost the Department of Civil Aviation, according to its accounts, only £833,000 for subsidies, so the carriage of such mails provided a profit of £852,000, or well over 250 per cent. This money was credited to the revenue of the Department of Civil Aviation instead of the Postmaster-General’s Department, to which it rightly belonged. In other words, the exorbitant profit was concealed by a fictitious transfer from one department to another. Is it any wonder that, in the circumstances, the Treasurer can show increased expenditure by the Postmaster-General’s Department and thus justify the continued imposition of exorbitant airmail rates ?
Despite the Treasurer’s assurance thai the rate of issue of income tax assessments has been accelerated, I am not convinced by any means that the secret reserve, which was created under this heading, has been substantially reduced. Security loans have been floated in order to bridge a budget gap which does not exist, or, alternatively, have been used to curb inflation. No one can complain at that, except when he realises the alternative that is available. It is the height of absurdity to leave in the hands of the spending public unassessed taxes estimated at between £70,000,000 and £100,000,000. If the assessments had been issued more promptly, this sum, now outstanding, would have been collected. The bulk of the money should be now in the Treasury, and, in that event, would obviate the necessity for using loans on which interest is payable at the rate of 3J per cent, to write off or reduce treasurybills which bear an interest rate of 1 per cent. Why does not the Treasurer assist to curb inflation by paying off twice the amount of treasury-bills by collecting overdue taxes? I have always said that if one fraction of the effort and the spectacular display which are put into the raising of loans were devoted to the issue of assessments and the collection of arrears of tax, our finances would be better administered. It is useless to talk of safeguards against inflation when spending power in the shape of taxes that have not been collected is allowed to remain in the hands of the public. The Treasurer has many other secret reserves hidden away under different headings. There is no doubt in my mind that some of them have been “ salted away” so that they may be used at the appropriate time to finance the Government’s objective of a completely socialized Australia. It appears to me that unduly heavy taxation has been maintained in post-war Australia, first, to provide the money for a spectacular pre-election “splash” - designed to secure the reelection of the Labour party; secondly, to provide the finance for future socialization, and thirdly, to destroy incentive to such a degree that the public will become discouraged and will embrace socialization without a struggle. That last aspect of the problem must not he treated lightly by the Australian people.
In general, taxation revenue, both direct and indirect, is higher than it was last year and is higher than is necessary. War expenditure is not declining, and administrative expenditure on government departments is mounting. Hidden reserves for the next election and for socialization purposes are still being built up. Last year’s budget was completely unreliable in that it was an inexcusably inaccurate forecast of the position at the end of the financial year 1947-48. Relief from heavy taxation, both direct and indirect, is more than overdue, and the incomplete financial returns show no excuse whatever for the Treasurer’s obstinancy in refusing to carry out his 1946 election promises. At that time, when referring to the proposals for a reduction of taxation advanced by the Opposition, the right honorable gentleman said that they were fantastic, dishonest, and amounted to a confidence trick. He said that, having been in charge of the finances of the country, he was fully acquainted with all the difficulties and was prepared, with a view to reducing taxation, to review the country’s financial resources and capacity each month. Does the evidence now before us prove that the Prime Minister has in any way honoured that promise?
.- The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), in presenting a scathing indictment of the Government and its policy of overtaxation of the people, in no way exaggerated the position. The right honorable gentleman, who has the capacity to analyse figures and who was once’ the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, has shown that millions of pounds of theproceeds of this heavy taxation which is bearing the people down are being squandered. There is great waste in numbers of socialistic experiments undertaken by the Government. One example is the nationalized air service. The Leader of the Australian Country party has shown that there has been a juggling of the books of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The surcharge for the carriage of airmail is to be transferred and will no doubt be used to bolster up the loss of £525,000 which was incurred by TransAustralia Airlines in ten months of trading. Private enterprise carried airmails on the basis of ,a microscopic fee for each mile, .but the Government-controlled company will doubtless be paid on a bounty basis, and money taken from the’ people in taxation will be used to balance its books. Millions of pounds are to be spent on the Government’s free medicine scheme, which is calculated to destroy the prestige of the medical profession in Australia. The scheme is similar to the one that has failed in New Zealand. It is not wanted in Australia and has caused much resentment among men in a profession that is held in high esteem in this country. Over taxation discourages production, enterprise and initiative. - Not only does it affect employers who find that they cannot expand their businesses or get the capital equipment they require and are harassed in every way, but it also affects employees. The wages of employees, although they may appear to be high, have been inflated by reason of the shorter hours that are now worked; the increases that havebeen granted have not been sufficient to compensate for rising costs. The fact that workers have to pay large amounts each week as taxes is partly responsible for much of the present industrial disturbance and turmoil, which encourages Communists to come into the trade unions and make further trouble. I believe that all this is part of the Government’s plan of socialization by taxation. If, owing to heavy taxation, private individuals give up in despair and go out of business, more and more business will pass into the control of large corporations. They are easily managed by the government and ultimately, as in the case of the banks, can be grabbed by means of legislation passed by the Parliament. I ask honorable members to contrast that wasteful expenditure with the meagre pittances that are paid by the Government to those who fought to preserve democracy. I refer to the expenditure on repatriation benefits. On one occasion I pointed out that there were 281,000 ex-members of the services and their dependents in receipt of pensions. Although a large amount of money may seem to be involved, it is small in comparison with the sacrifices that were made, and actually the average pension amounts to only £1 12s.1d. per fortnight. If a soldier is killed, his widow receives a pension of only £2 15s. a week, which is inadequate. A long campaign has been conducted by the War Widows’ Craft Guild for better pensions and some minor amelioration has taken place, but widows’ pensions are still inadequate. I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) to use his best endeavours to ensure that this matter shall not be shelved and that better consideration will be given to it.
– I assure the honorable member that it will not be shelved.
– One ofthe meanest actions of the Government is that it has not given to dependent parents of deceased servicemen the pensions that they should receive because of the loss of their sons. They are treated just as though they were age pensioners, and unless they can show that they are suffering from absolute poverty, a pension is not granted to them. This week I was told of the case of a woman whose pension was withdrawn because investigators discovered that she was the owner of property the value of which was slightly in excess of the amount allowed. I speak subject to correction, but I believe that if parents own property to the value of £400 or have an income of approximately £4 a week, a pension is not paid. I know of an instance in which two sons, prior to their death on active service, were practically the sole support of their parents. The parents were led to believe that a pension would be paid to them automatically, but, upon their financial circumstances being investigated, it was refused because it was discovered that they had some money coming in that was equivalent to the age pension payments. That is wrong. This morning the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked that the relatives of deceased miners who are buying houses should not have the value of their property taken into account in assessing their eligibility for a pension. The governments that preceded the present administration restored all the amounts that were deducted during the short regime of the Scullin Government except this one. I have raised this matter in this House previously. On one occasion when I moved an amendment in regard to it, I am glad to say that I received support from Labour members though not when a division was taken. The Minister should devote himself to this matter. Elderly people in their declining days should not have their pensions taken from them simply because they earn a little extra money.
The last available report of the Repatriation Commission is for the year 1944-45, and the figures and information in it are not up to date. We are entitled to receive more recent information. If an applicant is refused a pension by the Repatriation Commission, he may go before an entitlement tribunal, but in some instances the case is not heard for a year or more. It may happen that a woman whose husband died in some remote part of the Commonwealth applies for a pension. A certificate has been issued that the man died from natural causes, and on that ground her application is ruled out.
A soldier of the first World War, who had received severe chest wounds, died some years later in a public hospital. His widow applied for a pension, hut the application was refused on the ground that the man’s death was not due to war causes. There is a section in the Repatriation Act which provides that the onus of proof in respect of an application for a pension shall rest, not upon the applicant, hut upon the commission. In this connexion, I invite the Minister to read the report of the War Pensions Entitlement Tribunal No. 1, in which the following passage occurs -
Prior to 1940 the burden of establishing that the incapacity or death of an ex-serviceman came within the provisions of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act was borne by the claimant for a war pension. An amendment in 194.0 imposed on the Repatriation Commission the onus of disproving the claim, but this applied only when the claimant appealed to a Tribunal. In 1943 a vital amendment was made by the far-reaching provisions of section 47, which is framed in clear and emphatic terms.
That was in accordance with the recommendation of a committee of ex-service members of Parliament who considered the matter. The report continues -
That section entirely dispenses the claimant for a war pension from the necessity of furnishing any proof in support of his claim. It imposes on Repatriation Boards, which consider claim!) in the first instance, and on the Repatriation Commission, which determines appeals from the decisions of boards, the duty of establishing beyond any doubt, after drawing all reasonable inferences in the claimant’s favour, that the claim falls completely outside the provisions of the act. When, in the last r66ort, an appeal is brought to this Tribunal against the refusal of the Repatriation Commission to grant a pension, this onus must be discharged by the commission to the entire satisfaction of the Tribunal.
The full implications of this change in the law are not always appreciated by the commission’s officers including more especially its medical officers. This is reflected in the percentage of successful appeals to the Tribunal. This percentage is high considering that the claims have already been investigated and determined by the two preceding statutory authorities, namely, the board and the commission.
Only 31 per cent, of the appeals have been granted, and I do not think that figure is unduly high. We know how difficult it often is for applicants to get witnesses, or to produce evidence in support of their claims. Again, it often happens that the applicant is a very sick man. I have myself appeared for some of them, and I realize the difficulty encountered by a man who, perhaps, cannot express himself clearly, and is unable to produce witnesses to establish his claim. The report continues -
Closer attention to the requirements of section 47 would result in a considerable number of these claims being allowed without the necessity for an appeal to this Tribunal.
Inseparable from the question of the burdenof proof is the matter of representation of parties at the hearing of the appeal. For some reason, which is difficult to understand, the commission adopts a policy of avoiding representation before the Tribunal when the case is heard. The burden of proof imposed by the act requires something more than mere paper work.
In one case that came to my notice a man died leaving a widow and five children. The widow’s application for a pension was refused on the ground that the man’s death was not due to war disability, although it was afterwards shown that the doctors who ruled to that effect had never examined the man. They had given their opinions upon information supplied to them. But for the fact that two persons were available who had been prisonerswith him, of whom I was one, the application would have been refused again. However, because that evidence was available, the board reversed its previous decision, and a pension was granted retrospectively for some time. I ask the Minister to ensure that applicants for pensions may be represented at ‘hearings, and that relevant evidence shall be madeavailable. Otherwise, the appeal tribunals may just as well be abolished. In Great Britain, if an ex-serviceman is refused a pension, he can appeal to the ordinary court, and I am not sure that that is not better than our system.
– The Government of which the honorable member was a Minister appointed the appeals tribunals.
– I know that. It was done because of numerous complaints that the Repatriation Commission was not generous enough in its treatment of exservicemen. The tribunals were set upas an experiment, and, by and large, they have done good work. I do not advocate the abolition of the tribunals, but I maintain that there ought to be co-ordination between the various branches of the Repatriation Department. I do not criticize the Repatriation Act. It is a good act, but it could be improved in the light of changing circumstances. Care should be taken that regulations prepared outside this Parliament do not operate unfairly against those whom they should be designed to help. We should not let red tape and officialdom deny justice to exservicemen. The report goes on -
It is not discharged simply by transmitting the official records to the Tribunal. Thu proper -conduct of an appeal obviously demands that the party carrying the onus of proof should be present at the actual hearing to put the case both in evidence and in argument. Where the commission is unrepresented the burden of stating and presenting the case is of necessity borne, by the appellant. This is contrary not only to the letter of the act (see section 72 (2) ) but to its whole spirit and intendment.
Moreover, when the commission is not represented, tile Tribunal is placed in the invidious position of having to develop the commission’s case for it - a task no impartial body can properly assume.
If there is a difference of opinion between two branches of the department, the applicant for a pension, who is the person most concerned, tends to fall between the two of them. This Government is throwing millions of pounds away in some directions, hut it is dealing out meagre justice to ex-servicemen. I trust that the Minister will read carefully the report from which I have quoted, so that he may become convinced that ex-servicemen are entitled to a better deal.
.- This bill provides for a certain appropriation of money to which the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has directed some criticism. I do not propose to reply at any length to what the right honorable gentleman has said because the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) himself proposes to have something to say about that matter in closing the debate. However, it is rather interesting and to some degree amusing-
– I regret that the Minister is amused.
– It is sometimes a good thing to be amused. Some regard for the lighter side of life often helps. As I have said, the Leader of the Australian Country party has offered certain criticism of this revenue which has balanced the budget for the current financial year and obviated the necessity to raise further loans amounting to £30,000,000. The right honorable gentleman appeared to consider that this imposed some form of injustice on certain sections of the community. The fact that the Treasurer, notwithstanding that his original forecast of revenue was somewhat under-estimated, has been able to obtain sufficient money to balance the budget without resorting to further loans seems to me to be an indication of a fairly stable economy. In the national sphere, as in the domestic sphere, a balanced budget not only keeps people out of the bankruptcy court, but also enables them to hand on to posterity a better economy than it would otherwise inherit ‘because of the reduced liability in respect of the repayment of loans and interest on them. To that degree, the Treasurer is to be congratulated upon the excellent results that he has been able to produce in our national finances.
The Leader of the Australian Country party drew attention to some of the obvious disadvantages of existing rates of tax. Of course the rates are high. All honorable member are aware of that because they pay income tax at the same rates as other citizens. We are not unmindful of the effects of taxes.
– Apparently the Government is.
– I am sure that even the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will agree that it is desirable to have the rates of tax as low as possible.
– I believe in no taxes at all.
– I am afraid that we shall never be able to reach that ideal state.
– In Switzerland some of the cantonal governments pay a dividend to the people.
– I always appreciate the assistance of the honorable member for Barker.
– Order ! The Chair does not.
– The Opposition cannot have it both ways. The Leader of the Australian Country party spoke at length about taxation. He told us what duties we paid on cigarettes and tobacco. Unfortunately, he did not mention cigars; I should have liked to hear something on that subject. The right honorable gentleman also spoke of the revenue to the Treasury from every bottle of beer. Everybody knows that indirect taxation is fairly heavy.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) criticized the Repatriation Department because the pensions that it pays are not as high as he thinks they should be. He claims that recipients of repatriation pensions do not get justice. The Leader of the Australian- Country party said that in 1939 revenue from taxes totalled £75,000,000. At the end of last month, the Repatriation Department alone was expending more than 17,000,000 annually on pensions. I offer no criticism of that. I mention it, merely as a basis of comparison. The cost of medical treatment given by the Repatriation Department in its own hospitals which now provide approximately 3,000 beds, is approximately £2,000,000 a year. Therefore, apart from gifts of tools of trade, business loans, and the many other expenses incurred by the department, we have, under two items only, an annual expenditure amounting to almost £20,000,000. In 1939, the total budget was only £75,000,000.
– The Minister is only £25,000,000 short, but that is nothing.
– I am quoting figures given by the Leader of the Australian Country party, who is considered by some to be an expert in finance.
– The Australian Country party has not yet had its merger.
– That is so. There is one horse in the shafts and at the other end another horse pulling in the opposite direction. With expenditure under two headings by the Repatriation Department alone amounting to £20,000,000 a year, the result of a continuance of the Government’s policy of dealing equitably with exservicemen’s claims for pensions and medical expenses is obvious. Nobody can deny that the Government is dealing justly with these people, although some honorable members opposite claim that repatriation payments should be on ani even higher basis than they are to-day.
The honorable member for Balaclava has offered some not unfriendly criticism of the Repatriation Department. He has quoted the commission’s report for 1944. The fact that that report is the latest available gives me no satisfaction. I have brought this matter to notice on. a number of occasions. The difficulty appears to be one of printing; the report has been with the printer for some time.. I am endeavouring to expedite its publication and I hope to be able to present thereport in respect of the current year reasonably early, because I realize the value of up-to-date reports on the activities of the department. The honorable member also referred to section 47 of the act dealing with the onus of proof, and in. that respect he quoted from the report of No. 1 entitlement tribunal. That report does not give a clear picture of the position. Invariably, the onus of proof has been placed upon the State boards, the commission and the respective tribunals. I have been anxious to see the onus of proof discharged by the commission, because I believe that adherence to that principle will minimize the number of appeals. It is true that delays occur when cases are in course of transmission to tribunals, but they are inevitable hecause reports must be prepared and medical doctors must be consulted in each case. Whilst it is impossible to eliminate delays, the department is doing its bes to minimize them. The honorable member was astray in the figures he cited with respect to appeals to the tribunals. I think he said that only 31 per cent, of appeals were upheld.
– That figure is stated in the report.
– I cannot help that ; one tribunal has upheld 82 per cent, and the other 75 per cent, of disputed decisions given by the commission. The honorable member complained that red tape hindered the handling of applications. All claims which involve the expenditure of public revenue must be examined thoroughly in order to ensure, first, that justice shall be done to the applicant, and, secondly, that no improper practices will arise. The honorable member also said that he thought I was sympathetic in my administration of the Repatriation Department. I assure him that I am. The department now is charged with the expenditure of a greater sum of public money than at any previous stage in its history and, inevitably, its expenditure will continue to rise apart altogether from any revision of pension rates which may be contemplated. Later, when honorable members will be given an opportunity to deal with details of administration of the department, I shall be pleased to consider their representations.
.- The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) made a very interesting examination of some aspects of the Government’s financial policy. At this juncture, I do not propose to make so detailed an examination; but it is clear, from the financial proposals of which this measure forms an important element, that the Government has accepted as a peace-time permanency the scale of finance which in the past we had thought to be peculiarly a feature of war and war causes. To-day, some years after the cessation of hostilities, the Government’s expenditure amounts to about one-third of the total national income of the Commonwealth. I believe that in maintaining public expenditure at its present level, the Government is refusing to respect the expressed will of the people of Australia. There can be no doubt that the people by their verdict at the recent referendum indicated as clearly as they could on the particular issue then presented to them that they desired a reduction of governmental activity, expenditure and controls ; and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) announced almost immediately that the Government would give effect to that verdict. The Government does not do so merely by transferring to the States a responsibility in respect of prices control. Admittedly, that was the narrow issue which was presented literally to the people, but their verdict must be interpreted - and I believe that it has been «o interpreted by the Government - as a judgment against a continuation in time of peace of governmental activity and expenditure on the scale which operated in a period of war, and was accepted during the war as a necessary consequence of our war programme. Because the Government’s financial proposals do not reflect acceptance of that verdict, it cannot escape the condemnation of the Opposition and of all those people who believe that at the recent referendum they clearly indicated that desire.
At this stage, I propose to bring to the Government’s attention one small matter which, I believe, indicates its lack of balance and sense of proportion in respect of these matters. One of my constituents has written to me following his receipt of a card from the deputy-director of the Commonwealth loans organization. We know that all government loans in recent times have been over-subscribed. We know, too, that the amount of loan money for which the Government has asked since the war ended, has been very much less than it required during the period of war, and, as recent budgetary figures have demonstrated, that there was in point of fact no necessity to bridge tiny gap in the current financial year by raising loans. The estimates of receipts have been shown to be much less than actual receipts; and, in fact, the latter have helped considerably to bridge any gap which the Government foresaw when the last budget was presented. In these circumstances one asks why, at a time when industry is woefully short of labour, it is necessary that we should be still maintaining a substantial organization for the purpose of raising loan money, and not merely the raising of loan money, but apparently to engage in the sale of Commonwealth bonds and savings certificates. I have in my hand a printed card issued under the signature of the deputy director of the Commonwealth Loan? Organization and this card is addressed to a resident of my electorate. It tells him that-
In the belief that you will be interested i” details of facilities available for purchase of Commonwealth bonds and savings certificates, we have arranged for our representative, Mr. Gray, to call on you within a few days. Wo hope that his services will be of value to you. He will present his authority to act for us.
The name “ Gray “ is typed in. So obviously he is not the only representative in the employ of the organization.
It would appear that a substantial selling organization is still being maintained. The reaction of my correspondent was, I think, typical of what would have been the reaction of many people in this country in the circumstances that we know to exist to-day. He wrote to the director of the Commonwealth Loans Organization in these terms - and because I consider that his letter has a wider interest than that of its recipient, I am giving a copy to the House -
I have received a letter from you informing me that your representative Mr. Gray will call on me to give details of “ the facilities available for purchase of Commonwealth, bonds and savings certificates “.
A state of national emergency no longer exists. The last Commonwealth loan was greatly over subscribed. There is a great shortage of labour for essential industries. Mr. Gray’s services could be made available towards meeting that shortage instead of being engaged by you in an unnecessary and expensive quest for further money. I propose to tell him so.
I propose also to send your notice with a copy of this letter to my federal member.
That is what was done. I raise the matter here because I think it proper that the Government should be asked and that we should be told just how large an organization is being maintained for these Commonwealth loan raisings, what is the cost to the community, and what real need can be demonstrated for maintaining a substantial organization at a time when ample money is available for government needs, and when, in point of fact, the budget requirements of the Government make these loan raisings unnecessary. Then there is not merely the aspect of the loan raisings themselves; there is the other aspect of the sale of savings certificates. During the war when the Government was trying to divert as much of the public spending capacity as possible away from civilian demand, there may have been a good ease for maintaining an extensive organization to sell these savings certificates, but can the same justification be shown to exist to-day? After all, there is, one would think, a need to restore civilian production and to maintain a healthy demand by the community for the goods that our factories are able or should be able to produce in very much greater quantity to-day. Consequently, it would appear that there has been again a wasteful, unnecessary carry-over of the war-time administration in this period of peace. One of the reasons why the Government has passing through its hands about one-third of the national income, is that it is maintaining unnecessarily these large establishments, many of which are engaged on tasks and objectives for which no proper need exists in time of peace.
Sitting suspended from 12.44 to 2.15 p.m.
– I shall deal now with a matter which affects the administration of the Department of External Affairs. I gather that some of the general charges which are to be provided under this legislation are to be applied to the conduct of certain activities in that department. I take this opportunity to bring this matter to the attention of the Government because it is one which I am certain will be received sympathetically, but which, owing to the operation of government policy at the present time, is giving rise to hardship affecting at least one Australian family and possibly many others. It deals with the predicament of an Australian woman who is married to a German subject. The Government’s policy, as I understand it, is that there is to be no admission of German nationals into Australia until the peace treaty with Germany has been concluded. It is quite apparent that, due to the present unsettled circumstances in Central Europe, and particularly in Germany, there is no early likelihood of a peace conference being held or of a peace treaty being concluded in relation to Germany. Although the Government may have considered this general policy a sound, practical one to adopt immediately after the war, I suggest that the time has arrived to review it. Certainly, there should be a more sympathetic scrutiny of individual cases in which Australian citizens are involved. I do not wish to give the full facts to the House as I have no desire to cause embarrassment to the parties concerned, but I shall gladly make them available to the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) or the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell).
The woman in question, a very brilliant Australian musician, was in Germany in 1937, just prior to the outbreak of the war, having won travelling scholarships to further her musical studies, and while there she married a German national. At no time was her husband engaged in political activities in the Nazi party, or any other political party, so far as I am aware, nor did he serve in the German forces, but throughout the war he carried on his occupation of a leading musician in one of the philharmonic orchestras in Germany. His wife has returned to Australia with their 9-year old son, and very naturally the family desires to be re-united here. However, despite repeated requests to the Department of Immigration to make that reunion possible, the official attitude has been maintained that until the peace treaty has been concluded no German national can come to Australia.
I regret that the Minister for Immigration is not present, because I should not desire to engage in any strong criticism of the administration of his department during his unavoidable absence. I understand that his absence from Canberra is duc to family illness and I express personal sympathy, in which, I am sure, all honorable members join. In the circmstances, I do not wish to make this an occasion for a detailed criticism of the administration of the Department of Immigration. But I believe that all honorable members will agree that the rigidity with which some aspects of the department’s policy have been administered has caused a great deal of unnecessary difficulty both for the Government and for the department. I am sure that the Minister would be carrying out the wishes of the Government and the people of Australia if he applied some sympathetic and humane discretion to cases such as that which I have mentioned. I am informed that in New Zealand each case is dealt with on its merits. The extraordinary circumstance in this case, according to my information, is that this native-born Australian woman has applied for permission for her husband to como to New Zealand, At the request of this Government, there has been a full investigation of the past history of this German national. There is no documentary evidence of any security reason for refusing to admit him to this country. There is confirmation that he has never been .a
Nazi and that he did not serve in the German forces. Indeed, he was exempt from military service because he was a musician. At no time has he subscribed to the ideology of national socialism. Surely the Government would not desire that an outstanding Australian citizen, which I believe this woman to be, should be denied the right- to have in Australia her husband and the father of her son, or that, in order that they might be reunited as a family, they should have to leave this part of the British Commonwealth and go to another - New Zealand. As these facts ha%re now been brought to the notice of the department and the Government, I hope that an investigation will be made to see whether some humanity an-i common sense cannot be applied in this case, and action taken to re-unite the family.
.- 4n reply - I took the opportunity of listening to the criticism of this bill by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). I have since found that I need not have bothered to do so, because his mentors and masters had already published the speech. It appeared in yesterday’s Melbourne Herald. I am sorry that the right honorable gentleman could not supply me with a copy in advance. I presume that its publication was a premature disclosure. There has been a lot of talk about concealment in connexion with this bill and the finances of the Commonwealth generally. I should have thought that this country had a great deal of reason to be proud of the fact that to-day it is one of the few countries that are able to show a balanced budget at the end of the year, despite the many commitments that its government has been called upon to meet. The Canadian Government, I understand, had a surplus of 660,000,000 dollars in the last financial year, yet, because of its economic circumstances, and those of the world, it did not feel disposed, although it is a conservative administration, to make any change in its existing tax rates. There is a very good reason for that. One could have expected the people of this country to look to those responsible for its management to meet all its commitments from revenue during a time of great prosperity, when more men and women are working than have ever been in employment previously in Australian history. I should have thought that there was nothing discreditable about that. It lias been generally accepted, I believe by those who regard themselves as financial experts that in times of a country’s greatest 1 prosperity, particularly when there is a very strong inflationary tendency, there should be drawn from the community at least sufficient, if not something more than sufficient, to meet the commitments of the government of the day. It is perfectly legitimate for honorable members opposite to criticize the manner in which the Government expends the moneys at its disposal. I do not suppose there was ever an Opposition which did not criticize the financial proposals of the government of the day. If there ever was such an Opposition I have not heard or read of it. It was suggested by the Leader of the Australian Country party that the contribution of £10,000,000 to the International Monetary Fund should have been met, not from revenue but from loans raised through the Commonwealth Bank. Is there any crime in the Government meeting that payment from revenue? The history of the Australian banks shows that the Australian Government made heavy calls upon them for loans in the form of treasury bills during the war, as indeed it also did during the years of the economic and financial depression. Only a few years have elapsed since the Austalian Government and the governments of the States, through the National Debt Sinking Fund Commission, commenced to repay some of the treasury bills that had been outstanding since the depression days of the early ‘thirties. Now, however, Although the country is in a prosperous condition, and revenues are buoyant, it is suggested by honorable members opposite that we should again borrow to finance a transaction which, without difficulty, can be financed from revenue. Surely it is not good business management for the country at the height of its prosperity not to endeavour to meet all its financial commitments from revenue.
– Irrespective of what they are?
– I shall not go into all the details. We shall probably hear this story again, if not at a later hour this day, certainly at a later month this year. Even the most bitter critic of the Government cannot condemn it for deciding to meet its commitment to the International Monetary Fund from revenue. The investment in the fund does not represent a liquid asset. The money is paid to the fund under certain conditions, the contributor being entitled to make withdrawals only under certain conditions. To that degree the money paid into the fund represents a frozen asset. The Leader of the Australian Country party also said that the £5,000,000 expended on works could have been borrowed in the form of treasury-bills from the Commonwealth Bank or from some other source. The right honorable gentleman’s contention astonishes me. I well remember that some years ago - I believe it wa? in 1942 - the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) who, I am glad to notice, is in his place in this House again, quite properly drew attention to the grave dangers of inflationary processes in this country. It has taken some years for what the honorable member said on that occasion to be brought home in a convincing way to the general public. At that time he spoke about the excessive use of bank money for financing public expenditures, particularly those incurred in relation to the war. At the same time, the Leader of the Australian Country party advocated increased taxation for the purpose of reducing the amount of bank credit drawn on by the Government. I do not dispute the fairness of the arguments then advanced, but I have a very good memory. I may not possess all the Christian virtues, but at least, 1 have one virtue - I never forget. I have read again some of the speeches that were made in this House when I first became Treasurer of the Commonwealth. What a great number of advisers I had in those days! I was told by honorable members opposite how taxes should be increased, not on the rich but on the poor and less favoured in the community - the very people for whom the hearts of members of the Opposition bleed so profusely to-day. Their hearts did not bleed for them at that time. On the contrary, they said that the taxes imposed on people in the lower income ranges should be very much heavier and that too many of those people had been getting off scot-free. The Leader of the Australian Country party spoke of certain promises which he said T. had made in Brisbane; but the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said that I have never made any promises. I wish that honorable members opposite would make up their minds on that point. The Leader of the Australian Country party said that I gave an undertaking that from time to time the Government would review the financial position of the country and reduce taxes as the circumstances warranted it. That has been done. Since the 1946 general election incometax and social services contributions have been reduced by £34,000,000, and sales tax by almost £20,000,000. War-time company tax amounting to £3.500,000 has been removed, customs and excise duties have been reduced by more than £4,000,000, and estate duty, gold tax, and gift duty have been reduced by £700,000. That is not a bad performance.
– Not enough !
– There may be some difference of opinion as to whether or not it is enough. Endeavours have been made to create the impression that the budget last year provided for the possibility that the Government would have to borrow more than £30,000,000 with which to bridge the gap between income and expenditure. The factors I mentioned - a greater number of people working, higher incomes, full employment and general prosperity in the community, have combined to enable the Government to bridge that gap from revenue instead of having to resort to loans. In addition, the Government has been able to provide from revenue the sum of £10,000,000 for investment in the International Monetary Fund. That, however, is only a semiliquid asset. At the end of this month, when the financial accounts of the year have been finalized, it may possibly be found that the Government has an additional £1,000,000 in surplus revenue, a prospect about which the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) spoke this morning. If so, a bill will be introduced to enable this Parliament to decide what shall be done with the money.
That is the very simple story about the finances of the community. Bather than being discreditable, it is one of which any Treasurer should be proud. It is much better to have such a modest surplus than to have a huge deficit.
For what purpose would honorable members opposite take advantage of this situation? The answer is: For the purpose of giving relief to rich income taxpayers, not to the poor workers for whom they say their hearts bleed. Consider the simple case of a man with a wife and two children. Until his income exceeds £318 a year, he pays neither income tax nor social services contribution. In fact, his income must rise well above £500 before he is required to pay any income tax at all. The Government has frequently declared its policy of giving to taxpayers with family responsibilities the greatest possible measure of relief from the burden of income tax and social services contributions.
– What about indirect taxes ?
– If the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) wants to get into this argument, I shall produce some figures about the taxation of low incomes before the war that will surprise him. In South Australia, taxes on low incomes were heavy compared with impositions in other States. In Queensland, as the leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) knows, tax rates were fairly severe on high incomes as well. The fact is that, in some States, a man with a wife and one child pays less to-day under the uniform tax system than he had to pay before World War II. in combined Commonwealth and State taxes. The Government ‘has made the figures available a number of times, but, of course, the facts do not matter to its opponents. We can issue statements’, but they are not published by the newspapers.
– They are like the Government’s indirect taxes - the people do not see them.
– I have already pointed out that, since 1946, a reduction of £24,000,000 has been effected in customs and excise duties and sales tax.
– But the Government collects more from those impositions in the aggregate.
– Because Australia has been in a state of great prosperity and more people have been employed, and because we have a buoyant economy! When the honorable member for Moreton was talking about taxes not long ago, with particular reference to sales tax, I asked him to name some basic foodstuffs that were subject to sales tax. He could not do so. Clothing also is free of sales tax.
– Biscuits, cakes and pastry provide £2,000,000 a year in sales tax revenue.
– When I asked the honorable member to name one basic foodstuff subject to sales tax he said, “ Refrigerators ! “ Iron rations ! That is what he must ‘have been thinking about. It is perfectly true that, when I challenged the Opposition to name basic foodstuffs upon which sales tax is levied, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) referred to some obscure commodities, such as beef extract, and handed a list across the table to me. There were only three or four incidental items, two of which I had never heard about before. The truth is that the main basic foodstuffs are not subject to sales tax.
– They never have been subject to sales tax. We did not impose sales- tax upon foodstuffs.
– I shall have a piece of the honorable member on that point later, but will not now discuss it at length. I merely emphasize the fact that sales tax is not levied on clothing or basic foodstuffs.” Therefore, the taxpayer whom I have cited, the man with a wife and two children, receives most sympathetic treatment. He does not pay a social services contribution until his income exceeds £318 a year and be gets back £19 a year in social services payments for one of his children. It is well for us to- he realistic about this matter. The newspapers publish all sort of misleading stories. The other day I saw an editorial article in a newspaper which was so extraordinary that I have arranged to draw the attention of the- managing director of that newspaper to it. I object to irresponsible people- writing articles about a non-existent surplus of £43,000,000 and claiming that the taxpayers are contributing to this huge amount. Of course there is no such surplus. I defy anybody to find anything in any of my financial statements in this House indicating such a figure.
I remind honorable members, and the people of Australia generally, that the world to-day is in a very grave economic situation. I do not think the seriousness of the position is fully appreciated. There is much that 1 would like to say about the economies of other countries, the balances of payments between various countries, our great difficulties with regard to dollar payments, and the situation of the United Kingdom. If there ever was a time when a country needed to be fortified financially against the buffeting of economic winds, that time is now. One of my proudest achievements as Treasurer for the past six and a half years would be to have ensured that Australia shall be able to face the storm - though I hope it will not come - economically strong. The Leader of the Australian Country party spoke about the Government’s “ nest eggs “. I do not know what particular funds he had in mind, but I shall refer to one or two of them. It is true that the Government established a marino war risk insurance scheme at a time when no insurance company in the world, including Lloyds of London, would undertake to insure cargoes shipped from certain overseas ports to Australia. It is also true that the Government undertook all the risks associated with such a scheme. I think that the Leader of the Australian Country party had a similar scheme in mind when he was Treasurer, before I was appointed to that office. The establishment of the scheme was a proper function of government. The Government fixed the lowest rates ever charged for such a form of insurance,, but, nevertheless, it made a substantial profit. Later this- year, it proposes to ask the Parliament to decide how that fund shall be used. The Government took certain risks to protect commercial interests engaged in shipping- when, no other organization would do so, and it made a profit. It is also true that .the Government established a war damage insurance scheme. It had1 been pestered by hig business firms of all descriptions to do- so because no private company was prepared to take the risks involved. The Government fixed the very low insurance charge of about 4s. for £100. It took the risk on behalf of the community, and, fortunately, Australia emerged from the war almost unscathed, with the result that a profit will be shown when the scheme is wound up. The Parliament will also beasked to decide upon the disposition of that fund.
Honorable members must remember that about £80,000,000 of gratuity payments will fall due within the next three years. That money will be paid to exservicemen as a reward for their services to Australia. Are we not justified in keeping our finances sound enough to enable us to meet some of that commitment instead of having to borrow funds? The Leader of the Australian Country party talked about the loans that have been floated by this Government. Of course, one of the greatest sources of disappointment to members of the Opposition has been the history of the flotation of loans by this Government. When the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) was Assistant Treasurer, he had to beg the banks to find £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 for the Government.
– That is not so. That was done only on one occasion, for the specific purpose of stabilizing the economy. It was not a case of inability to get the money from the investors.
-“ Stabilizing the economy “ is a favoritephrase of mine, and the honorable member cannot borrow it from. me. The fact is that the practice of all governments prior to World War II. was to seek the assistance of the private banks, often at ruinous rates of interest. At one stage during World War II., a rate of 6 per cent. was charged on treasury-bills. Governments had to plead with the private banks for help. Let us consider what has happened in the last six and a half years.
– The money was taken from the savings banks. I can tell the story of the loans very readily.
– I listened carefully when the right honorable gentleman was giving his story, and now I am giving my story, which I can tell in letters of gold. In six and a half years no private bank in Australia has been approached for one penny.
– But the Treasurer went to the savings banks and took the money !
– I should like to correct the right honorable gentleman-
– Will the Prime Minister permit me to disclose the correspondence on the matter?
– That is not necessary. The Leader of the Australian Country party does me a grave injustice. No representative of this Government has taken anything from anybody. Over the years the Commonwealth Savings Bank has invested large sums of money in public securities, and I would remind the right honorable gentleman that in the first three years of this Government’s term of office, up to 1945, the Commonwealth Bank was governed by a board of directors, appointed by a conservative government. It was not for me to tell the members of that board what they should do, and they invested the bank’s money whenever, and in whatever manner it suited them to do so. This is the truth, and the position is precisely the same to-day. If the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank considers that the money of the bank should be invested in government securities, or otherwise, that is done, and he does not even obtain my views on the matter beforehand. I would point out, however, that there has been no Commonwealth Bank money invested in the last few loans.
– But was not money taken from the Commonwealth Savings Bank before?
– No. As honorable members know there are conservative governments in both Victoria and South Australia, and the State savings banks have always invested in government securities.
– I am talking about the Commonwealth Savings Bank.
– I am giving the story, and it is well that I should, since so many untruths and half-truths have been disseminated in this country by the press. Of course, I do not expect the newspapers to publish full details of anything unless a typewritten statement is given to them the day before; even then, the statement may not appear in full. Although Commonwealth Savings Bank money is invested at the discretion of the board of directors, I say emphatically that no member of this Government has approached the bank for anything. The board controls the finances of the bank, and it is solely responsible for deciding matters of policy. During the last war no appeal was made by this Government to private banks, despite the fact that Australia’s war effort - which was a very expensive one for a country of this size - had to be financed, and since the war the Government has undertaken an extensive re-establishment programme. It is true that there has been a big accumulation of money. The right honorable gentleman made reference to loans which were floated last year. I would remind honorable members that it is my responsibility as personal representative of the Government to put loan proposals before the Loan Council, because loans are floated by the council, not by the Government. That matter is decided byrne after consultation with the Premiers of the States, since I am Treasurer, and therefore Chairman of the Loan Council. The Leader of the Australian Country party knows that even a proposal for a loan for some local government body has to be submitted by me to the Premiers of the States for their approval. In those circumstances, therefore, I could not do anything about the particular loans mentioned by the right honorable gentleman. The terms of the loans, including rates of interest, were decided upon as a result of such consultations. As I said previously the Loan Council is a body which was set up by the conservative government, and therefore the question of the floating of loans is not dealt with by Cabinet or any particular party. It is apparent that the Premiers have not quite as much distrust of my financial knowledge, as has my friend, the Leader of the Australian Country party. In the majority of cases in which I have placed the facts before the Loan Council it has agreed on what were considered to be reasonable propositions. I cannot recall having had any disagreement with the council. The Loan Council, together with this Government, takes responsibility for payments to the National Debt Sinking
Fund Commission, of which I am chairman. My deputy is the Chief Justice of the High Court, and therefore, whatever feelings members of the Opposition may have as to my respectability, they can be assured that I keep the best of company, even if I do not always act as they think I should.
The last loan of £35,000,000 was decided upon in the manner I have outlined. It was competent for me to have closed the loan at an earlier date, but in the circumstances I decided to let the loan run until the published closing date. As honorable members know, the total amount subscribed- was £43,000,000 - which was more than the amount required to fill the loan. I think I can justly claim that that was quite a tribute by the investors of this country to the economy of Australia, and particularly to the Government that is handling the country’s affairs.
I should like to clarify the position with regard to the £100,000,000 subscribed to loans last year. That amount was not solely for the Commonwealth Government; £46,000,000 was borrowed for the purpose of the State governments. In other words, after deciding what it thought would be needed for the year, the Loan Council agreed to announce a certain sum to be borrowed, and then to meet again during the year to decide whether more money was required. It was not until later in the year that it became clear that the several authorities could not spend all the money that was available to them and consequently there was a surplus over and above their actual requirements. Apart from the £46,000,000 I have mentioned an additional £11,000,000 was obtained for housing loans in connexion with the Commonmon wealth and State housing agreement.
I have spoken on this matter not so much because of what has been said in this House, but because an impression has been created outside the House that the Australian Government has a huge surplus of £46,000,000. People who have made such a claim conveniently forget about the gap to be bridged. I have merely cited a few plain facts, which cannot be refuted, and we will have an opportunity later in the year to discuss these matters fully. I would emphasize, however, that this Government has always kept any promises that it has made. It is not given to making numerous promises but it does keep those that it makes.
There are certain factors in connexion with the finances for the next financial year which cannot be determined at this moment. Statements have been made that the budget for the financial year 1948-49 should be prepared before the end of this month. The position of Australian finances is slightly different from that of other countries. For example, the Commonwealth Grants Commission determines the grants that shall be made to the claimant States, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, and, in addition, that famous institution known as the Premiers Conference will meet at a later date, and, no doubt, the Premiers will submit claims for additional reimbursements because of certain matters associated with the finances of their respective States. I have also received many requests which, ifI had acceded to them, would not have left any surplus. One individual wished to introduce a deputation to me which proposed to request that the Commonwealth should make a grant of £100,000,000 towards education. Even some honorable members wrote to me about it, and I asked my intellectual friend, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to meet the deputation. Then again, I received a number of circular letters and personal representations urging me to agree that all collections from the petrol tax should be devoted to the construction itnd improvement of roads. If all those representations had been acceded to, the surplus would have been converted into a deficit, and the Leader of the Australian Country party, instead of telling the story that he told to-day, would have criticized me for allowing expenditure to exceed revenue. So the Government and I catch it both ways. If we make the country solvent and keep it on a stable basis ready to meet any eventuality arising from the general economic position of the world, we are criticized on the ground that we are keeping taxation at an unnecessarily high level.
The general economic position of the world causes me grave and growing anxiety. I shall not weary the House this afternoon with a speech on that subject, but I must say that the position of the United Kingdom arouses in me feelings of profound regret and sympathy for its plight. We are extending tothe United Kingdom material aid in the great part that it is playing in this battle. While trying to re-establish its own economy, it is assisting many other people. Quite a number of countries are on the verge of bankruptcy. That is the plain fact of the matter. However, at a later period, we shall deal with that aspect at some length. If the Leader of the Australian Country party continues to make speeches in the strain in which he spoke this morning, I shall have to increase the length of my budget speech beyond the usual ten pages, but I hope that he will not provoke me into doing so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reada second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 3rd June (vide page 1619), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now readasecondtime.
. -I listened with considerable interest to the observations which the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) made a few minutes ago on the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1947-48. I havea great deal of admiration for the right honorable gentleman. In debate, he has quite a disarming manner. Even when the most serious charges are levelled against the Government or himself, he examines them in a disarming manner, and, in a carefully modulated voice, disposes of them. But I cannot understand how, in the face of the decisive rejection of the Government’s referendum proposals recently, he could make the explanation that he gave to-day. The Government suffered the most adverse vote that any government has sustained in a referendum since federation, but the right honorable gentleman airily brushed it aside.
– The honorable member’s statements are not correct.
– Only once in the history of federation have the majority of the people in all the States opposed a referendum for an increase of Commonwealth powers, and the majority of votes against referendum proposals has never been so large as it was in the recent referendum. It was the most adverse vote which could be recorded against any government, ‘but the Prime Minister completely ignored it in his speech on the Appropriation Bill which. has just been passed.
– Why should he not ignore it?
– He said that the last Commonwealth loan of £35,000,000 bad been over-subscribed, and he accepted that as a tribute to the administration of the Government and to the economy of the country.
– Hear, hear !
– That is delightful. The most adverse vote against a government’s referendum proposals since federation is completely ignored by the Prime Minister. The rejection of the referendum proposals was a vote not so much against the exercise by the Commonwealth of the authority to fix prices and rents, as against the Government’s administration. The Prime Minister completely ignored it, and commented that the oversubscription of the last Commonwealth loan was a tribute to the administration of his Government. What can we do against a Prime Minister with such a disarming manner ?
There is a story relating to the finances of this country which should be told to the people. If ever there was a time in the history of the country when the Parliament should refuse to grant Supply to a government, this is the occasion. The Parliament should not grant Supply to this Government in the light of the facts which have been revealed since the introduction of the budget last year. ‘ The Commonwealth Treasury is overflowing with money which has been extracted from the taxpayers during the last three years by what can be described only as a “ gigantic fraud “. I do not apply the word “ fraud “ in a personal sense to the Prime Minister or his Ministers, but the financial policy which the Government has deliberately undertaken in accordance with the Communist-inspired plan of socialization has. defrauded this country of markets, prosperity and an expansion of production. Honorable members opposite cannot convince me that Australia, having emerged from a war, and now urgently requiring all kinds of goods for peace-time purposes, and failing to produce them, has a solid basis of prosperity.
– Our prosperity is greater than it has ever been.
– Of course it is not, and. we shall not rest on a solid basis until production has overtaken the demand for goods. If this Parliament were a deliberative assembly - of course it is not - in which Government supporters were permitted to vote according to their consciences, if any, it would instruct the Government to use some of its accumulated funds to carry on the services of the country for the next four months, and return to the people by way of tax relief the amount of money which it would save in this way. The Treasurer admits that of the windfall of £46,000,000, the sum of £42,000,000 was taken from the pockets of the people by direct and indirect taxes. It is interesting to find the figures so revealing after the Prime Minister’s statement a few minutes ago about the lightness of taxes on certain sections of the community. The Government has taken £42,000,000 out of that £46,000,000 from the pockets of the people by direct and indirect taxes, and the Prime Minister further admitted that £25,000,000 represented a yield from income tax, including the social services contribution. The Government either has been incredibly stupid in its assessment of the tax yield during the last three years or has deliberately deceived and misled the people for its own purposes. Whatever the explanation may be, it deserves, and is receiving, the severest condemnation of the people for its action. The figures are complete proof that the Opposition, during the last election campaign nearly two years ago, was right, and completely justified in saying that a reduction of taxes by between £25,000,000 and £30,000,000 could have been made without prejudicing the services of the Commonwealth. The figures are also complete proof that such a reduction was both feasible and essential. The Prime Minister, however, labelled the Opposition’s claim as a “political fraud”. Now theright honorable gentleman has to eat his words, because he finds that the position is as we stated it would be. In these circumstances it is amusing to hearreports that caucus, with its ear to the ground after the vote to the people on the last referendum, is pressing the Prime Minister to reduce taxation, not by £25,000,000, but apparently by a figure approximating to £50,000,000. The statements made by the right honorable gentleman at the time of the last election are now coming home to roost. Tax reductions are being forced upon him by caucus.
– The honorable member has a vivid imagination.
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) say that no tax reductions will be proposed in the next budget? The honorable gentleman is silent. If Iwere in his place, I should be silent, too, so I do not blame him for that.
– The honorable member is alleging that caucus discussed this matter, which is quite untrue.
– I have asked the Minister for an assurance and he should either give it or remain silent. He knows that what I am saying is correct. The tax concessions that are likely to be made as a result of the pressure exerted on the Treasurer by the rank and file of his party will not save the Government. It is on its political deathbed at the present time and cannot escape the wrath of the people by a deathbed repentance. The corpse will not be resurrected in that way. Whatever may be done by caucus will be done too late. The people have already made up their minds and have shown their opinion by their vote on the issues recently submitted to them, in which the Government was vitally interested.
Our quarrel with the Government is not merely that this money was collected unnecessarily but that the unwarranted seizure of such amounts retarded production in this country. What was lost can never be recovered. The tragic loss of overseas marketsnot only to our primary industries but also to our secondary industries could have been prevented. There has been a tragic loss of children to Australia. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) will he interested in this matter, because children are the best immigrants we could possibly have. The Government has failed to face up to the housing problem. If houses had been made available for young married couples to live in they would doubtless have reared families. We have lost forever the goods that could have been produced during the last three years and which would have strengthened the country to face the immense financial and other difficulties that lie ahead. What is the Government’s reply to all these charges? A few moments ago we heard the Prime Minister, with smug satisfaction, speak of high wages, full employment, the accelerated rate of issue of taxation assessments and the investments that have made money available for the development of industry. That is pure humbug. The right honorable gentleman ignores completely the devastating fact that in many industries, including the primary industries, output is much letsthan it was before the war. When one hears the Prime Minister talk of the economically sound position of Australia to-day one wonders whether he has any real appreciation of what an economically sound country really is. I propose to compare our production in 1947 with that in 1942, the year in which Japan entered the war. In 1942, three years after the beginning of the war, we produced 155,000,000 bushels of wheat, but in 1947 production fell to 117,000,000 bushels. In 1942 the Australian production of wool was 1,151,000,000 lb., and in 1947 it was 984,000,000 lb. The production of butter in 1942 was 171,000 tons and in 1947 it was 143,000 tons. As to beefand veal, 534,000 tons were produced in 1942 and 486,000 tons in 1947. The figures for mutton and lamb are 413,000 tons in 1942 and 308,000 tons in 1947. Turning to metals, the production of pig ironin 1942 was 1,500,000tons, and in 1947 itdropped to 1,000,000 tons. The production of copper in 1942 was 20,000 tons and in 1947 it was 17,000 tons. As to lead, 263,000 tons was produced in 1942 and 197,000 tons in 1947. In almost every field of endeavour, and particularly in the primary industries, production is lower to-day than it was in 1942. If the Prime Minister can obtain any satisfaction from those figures and still maintain that the country is in an economically sound position, I fail to follow his reasoning. He ignores the fact that tens of thousands of people have been withdrawn from productive work. These figures make that quite obvious. Our resources are still as great as ever, and there must be some reason for this decline in production. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Air. Holloway) said recently that there were nearly 100,000 jobs waiting to be filled in Australia, yet, as I have shown, after we have been at peace for some years and after hundreds of thousands of service personnel have been demobilized, production has decreased to an alarming degree.
– How cun the honorable member say that?
– [ have already cited the figures with respect to primary production. The Government ignores the fact that tens of thousands of persons have been withdrawn from productive work for employment in government departments. The following report appeared in the press of the 13th May last: -
The demand for labour in Australia had reached an all-time record, the Minister foi Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) announced to-day.
Mr. Holloway said there were 93,400 unfilled joh? at the end of March.
The Government Employment Services statistics shows there were vacant jobs for 58.1)00 men and 30,500 women.
Mr. Holloway said there were 5,<s1n men and 202 women receiving unemployment benefits on 31st March.
That statement sounds interesting, but let us examine it. In June-July, 1939, Commonwealth employees totalled 67,863, but in October, 1947, that number had increased to 160,300, an increase of 92,436 employees, or 136 per cent., in governmental employment. When the Minister says that unfilled jobs are available for 95,400 persons he forgets that the Government has subtracted from the productive capacity of the community no less than 95,400 persons for employment i” the Commonwealth Public Service.
– Does the honorable member know whether most of those were employed in productive work before the war? Probably a great number of them was unemployed before the war.
– The honorable member is not so naive as to believe thai statement; it is absurd. The greatest problem confronting the Government today is that of overcoming the housing shortage. Indeed, the need for housing has been so urgent that everybody believed that the Government’s first action in peace would be to divert all available man-power to the building trades. But what do we find ? From 1939 to 1947, the number of employees engaged in the building trades increased by only S.3 per cent, during a period, I repeat, when employees of the Commonwealth Public Service increased by 136 per cent. Yet, the Minister for Labour and National Service says there are over 90,000 jobs waiting to be filled! Of course, there are; and the Government can fill them by releasing from the Public Service the number of employees required for productive work. The Commonwealth Statistician reveals that whilst in December last the number of government employees in Australia increased by 3,000 to the record total of 574,000, the number of employees in the manufacturing and building industries, the two major industries in our economy, decreased by 4,800 during the same month. These facts explain to some degree the reason why the Government maintains its present high rates of taxation, because it is obvious that administration eats up the revenue from taxes. In 1947-4S the sum of £26,708.000 was voted in respect of government departments, excluding defence and governmental undertakings such as the post office. That sum was six times greater than tincost incurred in respect of the same departments in 1938-39. The Government must attend to these matters. The airy nothings uttered by the Prime Minister are not a sufficient answer to the facts .1 have cited, and the concrete charges made by honorable members on this side of the
Mouse. It is because the Government has ignored those facts that it has transferred so great a proportion of the community’s productive power to government departments. It has ignored the substantial fall in output per man-hour in most of our industries. A general review of official statistics in relation to our major indust ries shows that the output has decreased from 10 per cent. to 20 per cent. compared with the output in 1939, and that the loss per man-hour in most industries is alarming. No doubt, the introduction of t he 40-hour working week partly explains t hat reduction.
In this respect I shall examine, first, the coal-mining industry, which is the basis of our productive power. If more coal were now being produced with less man-power we could say that the industry was in a healthy condition. But we find t hat despite an increase of man-power production has decreased to a serious degree. In New South Wales, where 17,448 employees are engaged in coal mines, strikes in 1947 caused a loss of 1,671,000 tons of coal, or an average of nearly 100 tons of coal per man during that year; and that was the second highest loss recorded in the industry since 1942, in which year production reached its peak. Although there were 350 more employees in the industry in 1947 than in 1942, production declined. Whereas in 1942 production totalled 12,205,935 tons, which was an all-time record, in 1947 when there were 350 more employees engaged in coal mines, production decreased to 11,650,000 tons. In that basic industry, upon which our economy primarily depends for power, production decreased to an alarming degree. The figures in respect of the waterfront industry reveal a serious decline in the discharging and loading rates. Whereas in July-December, 1938, the discharging rate averaged 911 tons a day, the average was only 353 tons a day from July, 1946, to June, 1947. That is rather serious because it means a slow turn-round of ships at ports, and that is something to which the Opposition has been directing attention in this chamber for a long time. Let us have a look now at the loading figures. In the period July to December, 1938, the average daily loading rate was 450 tons compared with 284 tons in the period July, 1946, to June, 1947. On the basis of tonnage per man, we find that whereas in 1939 the average daily loading rate was . 9 tons, in 1945 it was . 5 tons and from January to June, 1947, it was . 6 tons. Honorable members will see that my claims with regard to secondary industries including transport services are in conformity with the figures that I have given in regard to primary industries. They show that throughout Australia there is a decline of production - and an increasing decline of production - which would be most alarming to any government other than that now occupying the treasury bench.
Government spokesmen say that the present high rates of taxation are part of a plan to prevent inflation and that it is necessary to withdraw surplus money from the community to prevent inflation. That of course, is utter rubbish. If these excessive and unnecessary taxes had not been levied - I am not arguing that there should be no taxes at all, but that present impositions are unnecessarily high - there would have been greater spending power in the community, and, at the same time, there would have been greater incentive for employers to establish or extend factories.
– How could they do that with labour and materials in short supply ?
– There will never be adequate labour as long as the Government pursues its policy of increasing its own payroll. I have already pointed out that the number of government employees has increased by 136 per cent. whilst the building trades have been expanded by only 8 per cent. in the same period. I am relating that argument to the taxation problem and to the general economic stability of this country of which the Prime Minister spoke to-day. I have pointed out that the curtailment of excessive taxes would have enabled employers to establish new factories or extend those already operating. It would also have given employees a greater incentive to work harder and longer. This would not. only have increased their incomes, but also would have provided more goods for people to buy. There would also have been greatly improved services and expanded production in a thousand and one different avenues. I also believe that if a. balanced plan of taxation had been implemented, and if this Government had faced up to its industrial problems, much of the industrial unrest that has blackened these three post-war years would have been avoided. As it is, the Communists - the Government will have to face up to this problem sooner or later - have thrived on the shortage of commodities and the consequent blackmarketing and other irritations which have provoked every section of the community and fostered the miserable objectives of the Communist nation wreckers. This Government has never realized the plain fact that high prices are not a cause of inflation. Inflation results in the main from a shortage of goods and the consequent excessive demand for whatever goods are available. If we are to attain the balanced economy of which the Prime Minister has been talking, we must have more and more work, which of course, will mean more and more production; yet, instead of more output from factories, more coal, more power, and improved services of all kinds, what are we given? At this stage of Australia’s history when these matters are of paramount importance and when we are still turning from war-time activities to those of peace, we are handed by this Government, a nationalized bank, a socialized medical system, something approaching an air transport monopoly, and so-called social security. We also have an inflated, nonproductive public service which inevitably necessitates the expending of more and more money.
An examination of the budgets of the past three financial years reveals that oneach occasion the Treasurer has underestimated both revenue and expenditure. In 1945-46 he under-estimated revenue by nearly £17,000,000 and expenditure by approximately £25,000,000. In 1946-47 revenue was again underestimated, this time by more than £26,000,000, and expenditure was underestimated by approximately £4,000,000. Now we have the announcement that for the current financial year revenue was underestimated by £46,000,000 and expenditure by £16,000,000. What would be the effect, of such inaccuracies in any private company? If the balancing of the books of a private organization revealed a fractional departure from estimates of revenue and expenditure, the .shareholders would naturally demand n new board of directors, and the company it self would be in not only financial, but also legal difficulties. Yet this Government can go on year after year under-estimating its revenue and expenditure by tens of millions of pounds. It is high time that the shareholders of Australia Unlimited changed their board of directors, because by ordinary business standards this Government has forfeited its right to occupy the treasury bench. It is to be hoped that when the Treasurer presents his estimates of revenue and expenditure for the financial year. 194S-49, his forecasts will not be as far astray as they have been in the past.’ The fact that the appropriation of additional amounts from revenue to meet Defence and Post-war (1939-45) Charges, has resulted in a reduction of the amount required from loan funds for this purpose, does not make any less challenging the real point of the argument that Common- wealth expenditure is consistently in excess of the amount for which budget provision . is made. I trust that the Treasurer will be more honest in the presentation of his accounts when he tables the budget for the coming financial year. It is clear from the underestimations of revenue in recent years that the Treasurer has been consistently conservative in revealing the true financial position of the Commonwealth. One wonders what is the reason for this policy, and whether there is anything sinister behind it. I should like to know whether reserve funds are beingaccumulated to maintain the Government’s expensive socialist undertakings such as transport services which have a habit of ending the year with a deficit. We have some knowledge of the losses incurred at Coalcliff and by TransAustralia Airlines.
I wish now to say something about trust funds, which the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) mentioned earlier to-day. The Treasurer gave no indication of the present state of the various trust accounts. During the last budget debate,, there was some criticism of trust accounts, and the matter was. also mentioned by the Auditor-General in his last report. Therefore, one might have expected that the Treasurer, when asking for further Supply, would have taken the. opportunity to answer the charges which have been made. Apparently, however, the Government has taken no notice of the Auditor-General’s remarks on. this subject earlier in the year. The references of the Auditor-General to trust funds were mild compared with those of other years, but he did offer some criticism. He mentioned fourteen trust accounts in which credit balances totalled £34,000,000’. I was interested to hear the Treasurer say that those who criticized the reserves held in trust accounts spoke out of their ignorance of such matters. I wonder whether he meant that remark to apply to the Auditor-General. I should not think so. The Auditor-General did not say by how much, in his opinion, the credit in each of the trust accounts should be reduced, but Ave are entitled to hear from the Treasurer what investigations have been made into the subject, and with what remit. The Auditor-General pointed out That in the trust account of the Commonwealth salvage organization the balance at the end of last June was almost £.1,500,000, and he expressed the opinion that it was wrong to allow amounts in excess of probable requirements to remain in the fund year after year. I ask the Treasurer why this money is allowed to remain there? The Treasurer referred to the Marine War Risks Insurance Fund, and said that he would ask the Parliament, in due course, what should be done with this money. The Auditor-General had something to say about that account which, at the end of last June, was in credit to the extent of £4,700,000. The acceptance of war risks against the fund ended in September, 1946. We are now in 1948, but nothing has been done a,bout the fund. Mas this money been transferred? If not, the House is entitled to be told why. The Treasurer told us that the matter would be .referred to the Parliament, and we .were obviously meant to accept this as an earnest of his good intentions. How v.cr, he should not stop there. Let him ro .through .all the trust accounts, and put them in order, so that a true budget may be presented on the next occasion. In the Munitions Department, there is a reduced demand for machine tools and manufacturing equipment, yet in the trust account for this purpose there was a credit balance of £2,620,000 at the end of last June. On this point the AuditorGeneral remarked, very mildly, I thought in the circumstances, that the amount seemed in excess of normal requirements. Of course, it is in excess of normal requirements. Why is the money being retained in the trust account? On the next page of his report, the AuditorGeneral says that the. credit balance in the account established during the war to build up a reserve of materials was £3,497,000. Has that portion of the fund which’ is in excess of requirements been repaid to the appropriate divisions? I do not think it has. It is high time that the spotlight was turned on these matters so that we may in future be given a true statement of public accounts. During the debate on the 1947-48 budget, I was interested to hear the Leader of the Australian Country party say that reserves available to the Treasury amounted to £25S,000,000, including taxation arrears of £100,000,000. The Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) attempted - to use his own words - to “ debunk “ the charge of the Leader of the Australian Country party, but it was certainly not an effective “ debunking “, because there remained in the minds of honorable members on this side of the House, and of the public generally, a suspicion that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction was merely trying to cover up for the Treasurer. I should like the Treasurer to indicate what will be the effect of the continued shortage of dollars on revenue and employment in Australia. The Government proposes to restrict the importation of luxury vehicles from the United States of America, and when this policy is applied it must have the effect of reducing employment in those industries which trade in such vehicles. Other imports are also to be reduced, so that the effect upon employment will be cumulative. Does the Treasurer expect a decline of export prices, and if sp, to what extent has he made provision to meet the corresponding decline of revenue? Can he say how Commonwealth expenditure will fluctuate in the future? Will it be more or less than at present? lt would appear from an examination of past receipts and expenditure that no matter how much revenue is collected the Treasurer will find ways of spending it. The taxpayers want a’n assurance, not only that expenditure has reached its top limit, but also that there is some prospect that taxation, both direct and indirect, will be reduced.
That is all I want to say at this juncture. I propose to speak at greater length about the various departments as they come up for examination. I have placed before the House sufficient information to convince it that in the light of my statements and the position revealed not only during this debate, but also during the debate.on, the Appropriation Bill by the Leader of the Australian Country party, that this House, if it honoured its obligations to the people outside, would refuse Supply to the Government.
.- It is the responsibility of this Parliament to protect and maintain confidence in our judicial system. That confidence is in danger of being undermined by recent trends. It is imperative not only that the judiciary itself should be regarded as being above suspicion, but also that those in charge of the administration of justice in the Government should be completely detached and objective. It is not the function of the Attorney-General to defend his Government, at any cost. He has a much higher function. That is, to act as an impartial administrator, and see that the courts are given every opportunity to decide without obstruction the questions calling for their attention.
Recently the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) was called upon to reply to grave issues arising from the Goldberg-Keane case. He not only attacked the judgment of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, hut he also attacked the Chief Justice himself. If, as Attorney-General, he believed that the judgment of the Supreme Court was wrong, he had every right to appeal to the High Court, and, if necessary, to the Privy Council. If there was any dispute regarding the grave statement of facts contained in the Chief
Justice’s judgment, the Attorney-General should have appointed a properlyconstituted tribunal, with power to call the people involved and to report on the whole circumstances surrounding the case. That would have been the proper approach. Instead, the Attorney-General committed the grave error of attacking the court and defending the Government. That makes him a partisan. No AttorneyGeneral with a proper regard for his oath of- office should permit political ties to interfere with the discharge of his obligations as an administrator of justice. If there is an obstruction in the office of the Attorney-General, the stream of justice cannot flow uninterruptedly to all members of the community Once justice becomes suspect of having political ties, then the entire edifice of democracy must crash.
These principles have also been placed in jeopardy as the result of action taken by the Attorney-General in an action brought by Mr. Keith Bath against the Commonwealth for wrongful arrest and detention in an internment camp, because of alleged association with the Australia First Movement. I do not propose to discuss the merits of the claim. That is the proper function of the courts. But this Parliament should concern itself with the action of the Commonwealth in placing the case outside the jurisdiction of the courts, by raising the technical plea of the statute of limitations. I have always held that a government should not seek refuge behind the statute of limitations. Any claim against the Commonwealth or a State should be determined on its merits, and not-on a technicality. While Premier of New South Wales, I was called upon to make a decision on the same point, on several occasions. The then Crown Solicitor. Mr. Clark, pointed out that the State could answer certain claims by pleading that they were out of time. On each occasion, I replied that a citizen was entitled to a hearing of his claim against, the State. The statute of limitations was intended to prevent private individuals suffering hardship if claims were held over their heads for a number of years. Such hardships did not arise in the. case of governments. The Crown Solicitor agreed with my decision. He also assured me that my decision was in accordance with the practice of former governments. It was not in the interests of justice to debar citizens from a hearing of their claims because they happened to be out of time. While the law gave the same rights to the State as to a private citizen, it was not right that a government should shelter behind technicalities.
That brought to my attention a very celebrated case in British law. It was the case of a thirteen-year-old cadet of the Royal Naval College, named Archer-Shee. Ee was dismissed from the college in 1.908, on a charge of having stolen a 5s. postal note. His parents were satisfied that he was innocent. They persuaded Sir Edward Carson of that innocence, and he agreed to take the case. The Admiralty immediately started to resort to technicalities as the Attorney-General has done in the Bath case. Because he was a cadet at a naval college, they said he had no legal rights as an ordinary citizen. Because he was only a cadet, he could not lie given a court-martial. Carson decided to fight against this denial of justice. So lie went back to one of the fundamentals of British law. He filed a petition of right to the Crown itself. The Admiralty still resisted, but the court decided that the case should be heard, despite the technical pleas. It was found that there never had been any evidence against the cadet. Sir Rufus Isaacs, for the Admiralty, was also Solicitor-General. After hearing the evidence, he publicly announced that Archer-Shee was innocent. But, as I shall point out later, that was not the end of the matter. The Archer-Shee case is parallel, in many respects, to the Bath case. Bath was interned in March, 1942,’ after the then Minister for the Army had made wild charges in this House. At the time, Bath had a flourishing business at Manly. He was regarded as a most respectable citizen. His only known political activity was that he had agreed to preside at an anti-Communist rally at Manly, at which members of the Australia First Movement were billed to speak.
Bath’s case was taken up by prominent members of the Labour party in this House. He was imprisoned for six months and was finally released under humiliating circumstances, with the stigma still on him. His business was wrecked, his home was sold up, and he himself was shunned by his former friends. His internment was not the only blunder that was committed. A fellowinternee was Harley Matthews, a “digger” poet of World War 1., who had contributed some verse to the Australia First magazine, in the belief that it was a literary journal. In the World War I., Harley Matthews was selected by the sculptor, Epstein, as “ The Spirit of Anzac”. In World War II., “ The Spirit of Anzac “ was interned. When the security police went to Matthews’ vineyard at Liverpool, seeking evidence against him, the only incriminating documents they could find were a letter from his bank asking him why he was ‘behind in the payment of interest, and some letters he had written to his federal member, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), of whom he was then an ardent supporter. That was enough evidence for the security police.
Another internee had befriended a youth in the Victorian town of Werribee many years before. The internee was a member of the Douglas Credit Movement. He was ako a sponsor of art, and joined many organizations, including the Australia First Movement, which he thought was along the same lines as the Australian Natives Association in Victoria. The youth whom he had befriended became a Minister in the Curtin Government, so he wrote to that Minister seeking his help. The next thing he knew he was up before the camp commander for sending out letters to the Minister concerned.
The Government finally realized that these men had been victims of the period. The Attorney-General, in 1944, announced in this House that Mr. Justice Clyne had been appointed as a royal commissioner to investigate and report upon the matter, and added, “ I am determined that if any individual has suffered any wrong, not only will he he vindicated, but he will receive adequate compensation for the wrong he has suffered “. The royal commission decided that Bath, Matthews, and some of the other internees were entirely above suspicion, and should never have been interned, and recommended certain payments to them to be made by the Government. Bath believed that the amount suggested covered bare out-of-pocket ex:penses, and did not represent, either COm.pensation or adequate redress, for the loss of his business. The amount fixed was £500. A’t first, the Government tried to obtain a receipt from Bath and’ a statement that in return for the £500 he would not proceed with any further action. Bath refused, and was eventually paid his £500. He then issued his- writ for damages and compensation.
Despite the royal commissioner’s finding, the Commonwealth’s first pleas, were that the arrest and detention were lawful. Then, the Government had another look at the matter, and found that Bath: had’ not issued his writ within four years of his arrest. It was at that stage that it dragged in the statute of limitations of the year 1623, which placed Bath outside the jurisdiction of the court once the issue had been raised.
To return to the Archer-Shee case - the wrongful dismissal of a naval cadet on wrongful evidence of having stolen a 5s. postal note.. He had not .been imprisoned. There was no pecuniary loss. But the British system of justice had been upset. The liberty of the subject had been imperilled. The British Admiralty had attempted to deny the King’s justice to one of his subjects, even though he happened to be only a thirteen-year-old boy. The case became a battleground for British justice. It was taken up in the British House of Commons. The fact that the Admiralty, by raising- technical pleas, had attempted to deprive the lad of: his legal rights, stirred up all England. A motion was submitted in Parliament that the salary of the First Lord of the Admiralty should be reduced by £100. Speakers from all parties emphasized, the importance of the principle that no one should be denied access to justice.
The first Lord of the Admiralty eventually expressed his unqualified regrets find agreed to pay as compensation whatever sum a committee of three, including Carson, agreed was proper. The amount finally fixed was £’7,120. That was over 35 years, ago; but British justice had been vindicated. Technicalities had been moved from the path of justice: If that amount was justified in the case of Archer-Shee, what amount should be fixed to compensate men like’ Bath, Matthews and others wrongfully imprisoned, who,,, without a scintilla of evidence against them, had their- lives and’ careers blasted, and- were held up to the people of this country as traitors in a time of deadly national danger? All that is asked for is that the- courts of this country should be given the freest opportunity of dispensing justice without the intrusion of technicalities. The Government, through its Attorney-General, gave fi solemn pledge that justice would be given to- these men. Resort to the protection afforded by the statute of limitation is a repudiation of. that pledge. It is a shabby trick, unworthy of any government. If the court decided that these men had already been adequately compensated, there could not be the slightest objection to its finding; but they should not be wiped out before they get to a court. It is not for the Attorney-General to defend the blunders of a former colleague, or the blunders of officers of his own department’s security service. H ever the right honorable gentleman requires material for another book on the defence of human- liberties in Australia. I suggest that he will not need to go back to the Eureka Stockade, or to Governor Bligh. He will find it in the story of what happened to Bath, Matthews and their fellow internees. This Parliament should concern itself only with the principles at stake. Justice must not be allowed to be polluted with politics in Australia. I suggest to the AttorneyGeneral that he should divest himself of politics and think of this matter as ,a dynamic principle, of justice. Even at this late stage he will then realize that a grave miscarriage of justice may have occurred. The Bath case might indeed be one of the turning points, in the history of justice in Australia. It is for the Attorney-General to. decide how it will go down in the legal history of this Commonwealth, whether it will be regarded as one of. the most infamous, chapters or as the vindication of the rights of a citizen to- establish his just claims on their merits before a court of justice. 7 trust that the Attorney-General will reconsider his decision and allow Bath, to approach the courts of justice in this land’.
Dr.EVATT (Barton- Attorney-General and. Minister for External. Affairs) (4.13). - I rise at once because of the speech of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) dealing with the Bath case. I wish to remind the House of some of the facts in connexion with that case. Mr. Bath was one of a group of persons who were detained in 1942, I think in March or April of that year, by the Army authorities on the recommendation of Army Intelligence.
– On the information of Communists.
– The honorable member says so, hut very clearly it was the responsibility of the Army authorities. I am not aware as to how they were informed. However, I wish to deal with the point made by the honorable member for Reid. I believe I can demonstrate to honorable members who will listen attentively to the facts of the case that no injustice has been committed in the legal proceedings to which the honorable member has referred. That is, Bath’s action against the Australian Government or in the course taken by the Commonwealth authorities in pleading that the case was not brought within the time limit imposed by the statute of limitations. The original detention under the National Security Regulations, as I have pointed out, was made by the Army authorities on the recommendation of Army Intelligence, and not only Mr. Bath but also a number of others said to be associated with the Australia First Movement were detained. The Australia First case was subsequently dealt with by Mr. Justice Clyne, a federal judge, in a report which was before this House and ordered to be printed in 1946. Bath’s case is dealt with in that report together with the others. At the time of the original detention, the Security Service was administered, not by the Attorney-General’s Department, but by the Army authorities, as I have indicated.
– It was not even born at that time.
– Undoubtedly the administration in relation to the detention of subjects or aliens was entirely in the hands of the Army authorities. It passed to my department, a civil department, later in the year, I think in August.
One of the very first matters I had to consider - and I well remember the occasion - was the case of the Australia First internees. I made my first statement on the matter in this House on the 10th September, 1942. It is reported in volume 172 of Hansard, commencing at page 152. I indicated the action that I had taken upon my own responsibility as soon as the papers were brought to my attention, when the men were actually detained in an internment camp. I pointed out in an appendix that, in relation to some of the group, statements of an apparently subversive character had been made.I also pointed out that, in a number of cases, I had ordered the immediate release of the persons concerned. My recollection is that Mr. Bath was one of those persons. Honorable members raised the case in this House and it was treated at first as though everybody in the group had been involved in the matter to the same degree. However, upon a perusal of the files it appeared to me that there was no case warranting the detention of Matthews, to whom the honorable member forReid has referred and whose case I well remember. I recall that it was on a Saturday evening or a Sunday morning that I ordered the releases to be made within an hour, and that was done. The Australia First case was taken up in this House by honorable members from time to time and I made a. statement, which the honorable member for Reid partly quoted, indicating that compensation would be paid if injustice were shown to have been done and if such a course were recommended to the Government.. I also said that, in such an event, there would be a public vindication of the persons concerned. It must be understood that to use the names of men publicly, even in a general way, at a time when there was deepest anxiety amongst the people of Australia in connexion with the threat of Japanese invasion, was, in some respects, an injury to them. On my recommendation, the Government decided to appoint a royal commission. Mr. Justice Clyne was the royal commissioner. So that honorable members will understand how wide his terms of reference were, I quote them from the first page of his report -
I direct attention specially to question No. 5.
– But the main point was never put to the commission.
– Will the honorable member allow me to answer the honorable member for Reid. I want to prove to the House, beyond any question whatever, that, in the mind of any fair a nd reasonable man, the Government took every possible step so that every one of the men who had a case to submit could prove it before the royal commissioner and establish that he was free from any slur in connexion with internment and so that, in the face of such proof, the royal commissioner could decide what would be fair compensation. There were no restrictions upon the terms of reference. They were as broad as they could possibly be drafted. The case of Mr. Bath was one of those dealt with by Mr. Justice Clyne, who found that the original detention was justified but that the continuance of the detention had not been justified. In other words, the Army authorities had acted properly in the original detention, but there had been subsequently a serious deprivation of liberty.
On page 19 of his report, Mr. Justice Clyne stated that, in his opinion, certain persons ought not to have been detained and therefore should be granted compensation, and he set out a list of names including those of Mr. Bath and Mr. Matthews.
– Does the right honorable gentleman consider that the compensation recommended was adequate?
– I am coming to that point. I now refer to what Mr. Justice Clyne said about compensation, because as I shall indicate it is only on the question of compensation that there could be any possible complaint. His Honour stated -
As, in my opinion, the arrest of these persons was justified, but their subsequent detention was not, they are not entitled to compensation as a matter of law.
His Honour was distinguishing between the actual first arrest, which may have been justified, and the subsequent detention. Omitting the names of persons who have not been made the subject of this discussion, this is what. His Honour added -
The compensation which these persons should be granted isa question of some difficulty, though in the cases of . . . and . . . it is somewhat less difficultinasmuch asthese two person have stated in evidence that the only compensation they seek is that they should be re-imbursed the costs and expenses incurred by them in connexion with their appeals to the Advisory Committee and in connexion with this inquiry, and in the case of . . . , in addition, the medical expenses which he said were incurred by him as a consequence of his detention.
His Honour put aside those cases, and, coming to the particular cases before him, including those of Bath and Matthews, he said -
In dealing with the question of compensation, it may reasonably be said that it is impossible to grant adequate compensation to a person who has been deprived of his liberty and branded as disloyal. I think, however, that it must not be forgotten that the persons who were wrongly detained, were largely to blame for the misfortune which overtook them.
I am reading the report, and am not, for a moment, asking any honorable member to say whether the report is wrong or right. His Honour continued -
They were associated with certain persons who were using the Australia-First movement to cause dissension in the community and to foster opinions prejudicial to Australia’s part in the war.
In my opinion, they did not fully recognize their obligation to aid the community at a critical time in its history and failed to appreciate the danger which might have been caused to Australia’s war effort by agitation and the stirring up of strife.
Then His Honour said -
I think, hovever, that the persons wrongly detained are entitled to a public declaration that they were in fact wrongly detained and were not disloyal, and such a declaration should afford them some measure of redress.
His Honour found that they were entitled to a public declaration, and that declaration was, in fact, made publicly and solemnly in this House, in accordance with His Honour’s recommendation, by the then Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). The- report continues -
They are also entitled, I think, to receive some compensation for the pecuniary loss they have sustained.
Having regard to the considerations I have mentioned and making (lie best attempt I can to arrive at a reasonable result. I consider that the persons entitled to a grant thereof should receive the following compensation . . .
Following that, there is an amount of £500 shown against Mr. Bath’s name, and £700 against the name of Harley Matthews.
I say that the undertaking I gave to the House was carried out in letter and spirit. First of all, the men were released by me immediately upon my ascertainment of the facts by looking through the relevant files. Secondly, there was a public investigation pf the whole matter by a distinguished federal judge, and he found that they should not have been detained. I have already read his finding to this House. He recommended, first, that a public declaration to that effect be made by the responsible Minister, and. secondly, that they should be paid the compensation set out in the report. All of those things were done, and, in addition, costs involved in the case of Mr. Bath - I think I am right in saying this - were duly paid.
Let us compare that case with the Archer-Shee case. That was a case in which the merits could not be examined and the very long pursuit of justice was an attempt to get the original question and imputation investigated. Nothing like that took place in Mr. Bath’s case. He obtained his release from internment, for which I was responsible, within a few days of my assuming responsibility for security. Furthermore, a royal commission investigated the matter fully. He obtained a full vindication at the royal commission, and he finally obtained an assessment of compensation by Mr. Justice Clyne, who had to determine -
Whether in the case of any of the said persons, it is proper that they should receive any compensation from the Commonwealth and, if so, what amount.
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that £500 was adequate ?
– I say that it was for the judge to determine. In several cases the men refused to take any compensation, hut I shall not mention their names, because it is quite unnecessary for me to do so. Two of the persons concerned indicated that they did not seek monetary compensation. These two persons desired only a public vindication, and in one case, in addition, medical expenses, or the expenses before the Advisory Committee which could have dealt with the appelas from the original order of detention. There could not have been a wider charter or authority than that which was given to His Honour to inquire into the matter. That was the decision of the Government, and whatever Mr. Justice Clyne recommended, the Government was prepared to carry out and did carry out.
– Having regard to the fact that Bath was horribly slandered, and wrongly imprisoned would the Minister say, that £500 could be regarded as adequate ?
– That comment brings up the echoes of the debates in this House. Honorable members are quite within their rights if animated by a sense of justice, in bringing these matters up again. I give a similar answer to-day to the one I gave originally. If it were merely a question of money, then one might think the sums recommended would be too small to compensate them for the suffering and indignity borne by them. Mr. Justice Clyne was not, however, assessing damages in the ordinary sense, as when a jury is asked to award damages in respect of a wrong done. He had to estimate the wrong that had been sufferedand he said that the. first thing t be clone was that a public ‘ declaration should be made that the men in question were not guilty of subversive conduct. That was done. In answer to the interjection of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), I.’ say that alters the situation at once. U hope no one will misunderstand what I have said, and I repeat, that Mr. Bath’s vindication stands, and has stood, in every respect. It was established by me originally in September, 1942, for I was responsible for his release immediately after I read the file. The indication was repented in the decision of Mr. Justice Clyne, who found in Mr. Bath’s favour.
– No words now ‘can compensate for the original slander.
– Unfortunately that is always “ the result of a miscarriage of justice under any law. However, I should like honorable members to have regard to the tremendous responsibilities which were involved in the interests of security in those days. Two principal duties faced those who were administering the regulations. The first was the supreme interest of protecting this country at a time when invasion was threatened. The second - and an equally important duty - was that taken to prevent injustice from being done to individuals. It is of no use for honorable members to ask now which was then the more important of the two. When I became the Minister responsible for security, I think there were nearly 8,000 persons under detention in this country. During the two or three years following, that number was reduced “without exposing the community to any danger from S,000 to about SOO which was the number that ‘existed at the time of the cessation of hostilities.
The honorable member for Reid is quite entitled to bring the Bath case up, as was the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) when he brought it up a month ago. He is quite entitled to criticize the amount of compensation awarded to Mr. Bath, since any n mount recommended by the judge would have been acceptable to the Government and would have been paid. I ‘cannot, however, agree that there should be any further litigation concerning the amount of compensation.
– If the AttorneyGeneral was satisfied with the find’ ing of Mr. Justice Clyne, why did the Commonwealth plead the statute of limitations? The higher court would have found against the Commonwealth.
– No, it would not. The honorable member is completely mistaken. Mr. Justice Clyne’s finding and his award of damages were not the issue in the court when the statute of limitations was pleaded.
– This was a matter of compensation.
– The royal commissioner recommended to the Government what should be done to compensate the individual. The question before the court was purely a legal one - was the detention legal, and, if it was not, what damages should be awarded.
– If the detention was not legal, the original statement of the then Minister for the Army, Mr. Forde, to this House was not legal.
– I am not speaking of the original statement made by the former Minister for the Army. These are, broadly, the facts. Mr. Bath’s innocence was asserted and a declaration of it was repeated. The inquiry lasted for twelve months, and the Commonwealth incurred an expenditure of thousands of pounds in having all the facts placed before the royal commission, and in paying the costs of many persons concerned, including Mr. Bath. .His Honour vindicated Mr. Bath and that fact is contained in the report. It is perfectly clear. In addition, the Minister for the Army, made a statement, as recommended by Mr. Justice Clyne, to vindicate Mr. Bath. This gentleman also obtained an award of compensation in accordance with the royal commissioner’s report, arid, finally, he obtained his costs. Is it right and proper that the matter should be litigated ‘again, and the Commonwealth be placed in the position of having to pay further compensations?
– The issue of damages was never really litigated at all. Mr. Bath -was entitled to have his damages for a wrong assessed by his fellow menas any other citizen .has.
Dr.EVATT.- The honorable member for Warringah is mistaken, because he speaks of a jury case. This was not a jury case. Afterthe matter has been dealt with in the broadest possible way, us indicated by the royal commissioner’s report, we cannot possibly, in my view, go into the matter again. Was the action necessary for Mr. Bath’s personal vindication? Did he obtain it? He did! It then became only a matter of pounds, shillingsandpence, and, in those circumstances, what course should the Commonwealth law authorities have taken? This case is entirely different from any of those to which the honorable member for Reid referred. In none of them had there been any public vindication.
– What right has the Commonwealth, by means ofa technicality, to deny one of its citizens access to the court?
– The Commonwealth does notdeny any of its citizens access to the courts. Is the Commonwealth not to obtain the same rights in the court as any of its citizens? The honorable member forReid considers that the Commonwealth is not entitled to the ordinary defences open to a citizen.
– No, the honorable member forReid said that the Commonwealth is legally entitled to that right, butshould not exercise it.
– Is that right? Does thehonorable member for Warringah make that statement asa general principle?
– In respect of the statute of limitations, yes.
– Does the honorable member say that, as a general rule, the Commonwealth which, under that JudiciaryAct, is put in the same position as a citizen, is not entitled to exercise its rights as a litigant?
– We are speaking of the statute of limitations.
– That is so.
– The average decent persondoes not plead the statute of limitations, anyway.
– Order! TheAttorney-General isnot hereto be cross-examined.
– With your consent, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have no objection to replyingto any question or interrogation designed to help in this matter. If honorable members will carefully examine the case, they will see that the Commonwealth had practically no alternative to this course. I entirely dispute the assertion that the Commonwealth must never set up a statute of limitations. If it were so, every single case could be litigated inthe courts after the Commonwealth had taken the special course of having a royal commission comprising a judge for the very purpose of awarding compensation.
– There is one important aspect. Mr. Bath asserts that he was led on by the course of proceedings, and by the Attorney-General’s statements, no doubt made in good faith, to delay his writ in this matter until such time as his time had run out under the statute of limitations. Does not that place the matter on a different footing?
– It does not, and I do not think that that point can be made. Any fair-minded man should regard the appointment of the royal commission, the assistance which the Government gave to it, and the carrying out in full of every recommendation of the royal commissioner, as the fulfilment in the letter and in the spirit of the undertaking that I had given. It wasso intended by me. Without quoting my exact words, I said thatI was determined that the field would be cleared, and that any person who could prove his innocence would be cleared publicly and receive fair compensation.
– The Attorney-General used the words “ adequatecompensation “.
– Certainly, and I invite honorable members to listen again to paragraph5 of the royal commissioner’s terms of reference, which requiredHis Honour to inquire into and report -
Whether in the case ofany of the said persons, it is proper that they should receive any compensation from the Common wealth, and if so, what amount;
Mr.Beale. - The Attorney-General admits that the compensation which Mr. Bath received wasnotadequate ?
– It was not for me to decide. The Government asked that Mr. Justice Clyne determine the matter of compensation, and the adequacy of the amount which His Honour recommended should not again be canvassed. Had the compensation been greater, it might have been thought that it was too much. The Government carried out the royal commissioner’s recommendation. Those are the facts. Honorable members may differ as to whether the amount was right or wrong. The amount was recommended to me, and I take full responsibility for it. T direct attention to sub-section 3 of section 13 of the National Security Act, which a government in which the honorable member for “Warringah was a Minister sponsored -
No action shall lie against the Commonwealth, any Commonwealth officer, any constable or any other person acting in pursuance of this section in respect of any arrest or detention in pursuance of this section, but if the Governor-General is satisfied that any arrest was made without any reasonable cause, he may award such compensation in respect thereof as he considers reasonable.
– The Commonwealth did not plead that in this case.
– I do not know whether the Commonwealth pleaded that particular section of the National Security Act. [ believe that it did. Is the honorable member .for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) aware of the facts of the Bath case?
– My recollection is that it was not pleaded.
– I shall not contradict the honorable member. I contend that I carried out my undertaking, and the Government’s undertaking. Mr. Bath was publicly vindicated and exonerated. Mr. Justice Clyne so found, and his report was published and discussed in this House. In addition, the then Minister for the Army, in whose department the matter originally arose, made the public statement which Mr. Justice Clyne had recommended, and the Commonwealth paid to Mr. Bath the sum of £500, and his costs. Two of the internees did not make any monetary claim. Those are the facts.
I now desire to make a short answer to the honorable member for Reid, who claimed that politics had been allowed to enter into the matter. That statement is absolutely untrue. There has not been one thought of politics with regard to the Australia First internees. The only objective which the Government, the department and I have in this matter is to do the right thing. Any fair-minded person will agree that, from the beginning, I have tried ‘ to do so. The administration of security in time of war was a tremendous responsibility. The Government carried out the letter and the spirit of the undertaking that I gave in this House. I resent and repudiate any suggestion that the Government was actuated by any motive other than a desire to put an end to litigation after the whole matter had been thrashed ou and a decision reached by a just and able commissioner, Mr. Justice Clyne. Thi? case might have gone on for years. The statute of limitations simply means that after the lapse of a certain period of time an action cannot be maintained, because the occasion giving rise to it has long since passed.
– There is no obligation to take advantage of that provision.
– No, but in proper cases the Commonwealth is bound to make such a plea. At the conclusion of the recent war, the Government did not intro.duce the ordinary act of indemnity iri relation to war activities of this kind, as was done after earlier wars. After the 1934-18 war an act of indemnity was passed so that no action of this kind could reach the courts or be looked at publicly. The same thing was done in Great Britain. This Government has not done that but has allowed cases to go to the courts. There must, however, be an end to these matters ; they cannot be litigated eternally. If the Commonwealth cannot plead the statute of limitations now, it would never be entitled to do so at any time. Therefore, these actions might come before the courts in ten or twenty years’ time. That was why, in the public interest, not in the interest of defeating an additional claim made by Mr. Bath, the Government came to the conclusion that it was right that, there should be an end to this litigation and that the case should rest upon the report of the royal commissioner. I do not resent the public discussion that has been initiated by the honorable member for Reid. The Government was not actuated by any political motive. There lias been no attempt to do anything other i ban justice and at the same time to protect the reasonable rights of the ‘Commonwealth as an ordinary litigant. If these cases can be brought up at any time, there will be no end to them.
The honorable member for Reid rose while I was speaking. I am prepared to answer any question he may desire to ask.
– I did not bring forward the question of politics in regard to Mr. Hath, but in regard to Mr. Goldberg.
– What was the political question there?
– The right honorable gentleman said that I referred to politics interfering with justice.
– The honorable member lias misunderstood what happened. I do nol purport to quote the exact words, but with regard to the prosecution of Mr. Goldberg it was stated in the Supreme Court that it was a curious thing that a particular person had been selected for prosecution. The remark did not deal with Mr. Goldberg’s innocence or guilt, /t was a comment by the Chief Justice upon the fact that only one person had been prosecuted. That was not the question before the court. The matter was discussed in the House upon an adjournment motion. I said then, and I submit it was a proper comment, that the remark of the judge was not justified because the court did not have before it the facts that were before the authorities when they decided to prosecute Mr. Goldberg. I pointed out to the House that the acting Solicitor-General and the head of the Department of Trade and Customs, having examined all the facts, said that there was evidence that could be presented against only one person; and upon that a prosecution was launched against that person. That was the recommendation, and it was acted upon. There was nothing political in it from beginning to end.
– The Attorney-General said he believed that, in the public interest, the Commonwealth was bound to plead the statute of limitations. I am informed that in New South Wales, the State legal authorities do not plead the statute of limitations without having given prior warning to the litigant. Does the right honorable gentleman not think that it would have been proper to warn Mr. Bath that the time during which he could bring an action was running put ?
– I do not think so. 1 cannot now deal with the precise moment at which the plea was raised, but it is correct to say that it was not raised at the commencement of the action. Mr. Bath brought his action irrespective of the statute of limitations. Subsequently the statute was pleaded, but only on condition that the Commonwealth paid all his costs. That condition was fulfilled.
– The House is being turned into a law school.
– With the Minister’s consent, we are having a very good discussion.
– Those are the facts of the Bath case. They are entirely different from the cases to which the honorable member for Reid has referred. I do not want to deal with all the difficulties in the original Australia First case. A serious situation had arisen at that time. With regard to the case of Mr. Bath, we have to stick to the point, and the point is that he has been publicly vindicated. The royal commissioner vindicated him and the Minister for the Army cleared him in a public statement. He was compensated in accordance with the award of the royal commissioner. I submit it is absurd and preposterous to suggest that there has been any attempt to deprive him of justice. I do not propose to criticize Mr. Bath, who no doubt feels, quite deeply, that he suffered an injustice. The question is, however, not whether he suffered an injustice, but whether, in the circumstances of the case, the course taken by the Government was fair and reasonable. I say it was, and that the whole of the actions of my department in connexion with the case were based solely upon the question of what was just to the citizen mainly concerned and at the same time just to the Commonwealth in the public interest. The further analysis that has been made by the honorable member for Reid to-day should serve only toconfirm that in the minds of those honorable members, who will look at the matter fairly and justly.
.- I desire to address my remarks to the subject of defence. Various Ministers have pointed with some pride to the fact that the defence vote now is greater than it was before the war, and have implied that it is adequate for our defence purposes. Whatever the amount was before the war, it was clearly inadequate, as the war proved. Although it is true to say that the vote for the services to-day is greater than it was before the war, it is also true to say that the same applies to the vote of every other department. In dealing with the subject of defence generally, I shall speak mainly of the Department of the Army. I have already spoken on this question in one of the rare debates on defence in this House and therefore what I have to say this afternoon need not be said at length because our needs in respect of defence have not changed greatly during the last six. or eight months. However, certain developments in the international sphere make it more necessary than ever for us to consider our defence requirements and what defence we have at present. I have never been given to talking lightly about “ the next war “. That phrase falls rather too freely from the lips of some honorable members opposite, but to me it sounds deplorable and terrible; nevertheless, we cannot overlook happenings in the international sphere because they have a bearing on our defence. The first disturbing factor which has become apparent during the last eight months has been the utter inability of the United Nations organization to prevent war, or to protect those who are oppressed, or bullied, by stronger powers. So, whatever else we may depend upon, never let us depend in any way upon the United Nations to rescue us from what may be coming to us. The second disturbing factor has. been the failure of Russia to provide any evidence that it desires to work for peace or in co-operation with other nations. Indeed, Russia has given no evidence that it regards the possibility of another war with the horror and distaste evinced by the civilized world. From
Russia’s present policy springs a direct threat to this country. Of course, nobody imagines that Russia will attack us; but it is commonly feared that one of these days there will be a war between Russia and the United States of America and possibly Great Britain. Out of that possibility danger to Australia necessarily arises, because such a war, by occupying Great Britain and the United States of America, would leave us at the mercy of overcrowded oriental countries to our north, whose war potential, is increasing daily, and against which, in the event of a conflict in the northern Pacific, we should not have the protection of our allies, Great Britain, and the United States of America. Therefore, we cannot altogether ignore the threat of war. On the contrary, we must bear it in mind when we consider our defence requirements and what the Government has done to provide adequate defence.
I commenced my remarks by referring to the expenditure on the various defence services. A total sum of £250,000,000 is to be expended over a period of five years, allocated as follows : £75,000,000 for the Navy, £62,500,000 for the Army and Air Force, £3,000,000 for Supply, £2,000,000 for research and £33,000,000 for the development of rocket projectiles. That programme sounds very imposing mathematically. Of course it involves far greater expenditure than any we envisaged as necessary before the recent war; but in order to view it in the right light and assess the sacrifices we are prepared to make in the defence of our country, it is necessary to compare our expenditure with that being incurred by other countries, particularly on a per capita basis, and in relation to the national income. To-day, the United Kingdom, hardpressed as it is and great as are its needs in matters closer to home than is the case with Australia, is expending about £18 10s. per capita. whilst the United States of America is expending £318s. Russia £21, and Australia £10 per capita. Our rate of expenditure on defence is only about half of that of Great Britain. Although we are far more vulnerable and our need and our ability topay are greater, that is the scale of our contribution to our own defence. That is my first point. We talk a great deal about this matter and are presented with all sorts of blue prints and reports containing high-sounding phrases about co-operation in imperial defence as a policy. Those phrases are completely meaningless because, in fact, Australia is now loafing on Great Britain with respect to imperial deFence. We are not pulling our weight in the imperial defence programme. What will this programme, involving an expenditure of £250,000,000 over a period of five years, really provide? First, it provides a great deal of most imposing looking documents. From time to time service Ministers present documents such as the one I now hold in my hand and make statements which I regret are invariably couched in most general and hazy terms. Those who have examined this document will agree that it is most remarkable, and a tribute ro all who have played any part in draw ing it up. It is like documents we used to see during the war detailing an ideal plan which nobody followed. It ion a very high plane, bet, like all documents of its kind, it does not provide u* with any form of defence at all. Many honorable members are familiar with such terms as “ operational order “ and “ order of battle “. Apparently, this document is intended to be something of that sort on a grand scale for the defence of the Commonwealth. But it does not tell us what we aim to do. It gives no appreciation of the forces we may have to meet, or the conditions under which w. may have to fight, or any detail of the method by which we are to raise the army which it plans to use. It is purely theoretical. It is ingenious, but, actually, it produces nothing. After, we look at it we ask ourselves, “Where are the troops? Where is our army? Where are our aircraft and ships ? “ They, not paper warfare of this sort are the things which provide defence. This document reminds me of certain head-quarter3 which existed during the war. They were full of generals and colonels, but there were no troops, and one wondered what the generals and colonels did. That is: exactly the sort of army we are building up- in this country to-day. It is. true that we have a. very small army of a sort. We have, for a- start,, a small permanent force of approximately one brigade. Of what use is that? It is somewhat less than the police force of any of the States. 1 1 is purely a police force, absolutely 11 Selesfor defence. It has no reinforcements, and in an emergency it could not continue to operate for more than a few days. 1’ has no defence value. It has merely political value; it enables service Ministers to say that for the first time that we have a permanent army. Just look at it ! It consists of 3,000 or 4,000 men. And where are they? In Japan! They ar<of no more use to us than a British arm’ stationed on the Khyber Pass would have been to us before the war. Some may say that this permanent army will be useful in time of war, because it will provide officers and non-commissioned officers to run the army which we shall have when the nation is mobilized. I hope that that idea is not in the Minister’s mind, because heaven forbid that the Army of this country should ever be placed entirely in the hands of the permanensoldier. The one thing that has characterized the forces that this country has raised in time of war has been the opportunity for the rank-and-file citizen soldier, through diligence and hard work, to attain the highest rank. It has meant that our armies have had the guidance not only of professional soldiers, but also of citizen soldiers experienced in the hurly-burly of civilian life who have risen to the top of Army administration. This has’ been most fortunate for us, and 1 hope that nothing will ever be done to alter this system. I fear that in raising a permanent army, increasing the number of officers trained at Duntroon, and so on, there will be a real danger that control of the Army will pass entirely out of the hands of citizen soldiers. We should remember, too, that in time of war, citizen soldiers fill the ranks of the Army, and for that reason, if for no other, citizen soldiers should have a voice in the control of the Army.
Some time ago, honorable members on this side of the chamber, including the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and myself, raised the question of the membership of the Military Board. Partly in response- to those representations, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) appointed- a citizen soldier to i he board and a most distinguished soldier, too. Although he is not a permanent Army officer, he is a permanent Commonwealth public servant.
I believe that it is- a great drawback io have our Military Board entirely in the hands of permanent army officers or Commonwealth public servants. As I have said, citizen soldiers fill the ranks- of the Army, and, therefore, they should have some representation on the board and some say in the manner in which the Army is governed. Speaking of citizen soldiers, and the need for their representation on the Military Board, one cannot but regard with misgivings the manner in which the advice of senior militia soldiers has been passed over in the last two years. The outstanding military personality in this country to-day is General . Sir Thomas Blarney, and, to my ‘mirid, it is a great tragedy that the Government should- endeavour to build up an Army without availing itself of the great ability and experience of that distinguished soldier. In addition to General Sir Thomas Blarney, there are many others, including Sir Leslie Morshead, General Herringg and General Steele, who could, very well have represented the citizen soldiers’ point of view on army matters.
From the Permanent Army - that really useless force - I turn now to the Militia. I have dealt with this matter before, and I shall not weary honorable members by covering old ground; but there are one or two developments to which I should like to refer briefly. The first is a matter with which I have dealt previously, but, so far, without any response from the Minister. I should like to know whether it is part of the present policy that we should have a militia armoured brigade. Recently I asked the Minister how long it would take to train an armoured brigade, and he said that during the war it was considered necessary to train a soldier for ten months before he could be regarded as an efficient unit of an armoured fighting formation.
– And trained day and night.
– Yes. Now it is proposed to train members of the proposed militia armoured unit in about 30 days a year, including about 14 clays in camp,, and at the outside about” twenty- parades. I do not believe that the Minister could beserious in advancing that view. How can a man, by attending fortnightly parades lasting for only two or three hours, learn what in time of war was taught with the utmost difficulty in from eight to ten months? For these reasonsI regard the armoured militia brigade proposal as farcical, and I venture the opinion that in eighteen months there will not be in this country an armoured militia formation capable of driving itsvehicles on a road for a mile without, getting into the most frightful mess. The men simply will not have the required training because, under this programme, it will be impossible to give it to them. However, I have never believed in themilitia, ‘and I do not propose to spend much time now talking of its inadequacy. At the best it is merely a. stop gap solution of the problem, and as usual the burden will fall on those members of the community who are willing to make some sacrifice to do what they believe to be right in the interests of our defence. 1 have one or two suggestions which may help to make this scheme more successful. The first relates to the scale of pay of all ranks in the militia. This, I should emphasize, is not the chief factor in a recruiting campaign. I do not believe as the Minister apparently does that the recruits can be attracted by posters proclaiming, “ Join the Army and learn a trade “. The men who will be recruited by such offers are not the ones who will make a good army. However, if we want men, and particularly officers and noncommissioned officers, who will be prepared to devote their time to the training of others, it is only right that we should offer them an adequate scale of pay. Expenses in connexion with messing, uniforms, transport, &c, are not inconsiderable and I ask the Minister to take that matter into consideration with a view to providing a reasonable scale of payments for all ranks who incur these expenses.
Another matter of considerable importance is the extraordinarily wide areas over which many militia units are spread. I realize that with the present scale of defence and the comparatively small number of units, it is almost inevitable that this should be the case, but take for example the militia unit based in Canberra. I am not quite sure of the facts, but to the best of my knowledge there is to be a company or perhaps two companies in Canberra, another at Goulburn, one at Wollongong, and possibly one at Bowral. Obviously, that is not the ideal tactical set-up, but apart from anything else, the spreading of components in this way entails serious administrative disadvantages. It means that the unit is difficult to train and supervise. I urge the Minister, therefore, to consider the advisability of concentrating battalions in smaller areas. It is not possible under the present system to build up a unit with local feeling and pride. It would be a great advantage, if so far as possible, units could be concentrated in smaller areas.
To attract the best types of troops to the new militia it is essential in these days that attractive facilities shall be offered. The first necessity is an adequate drill hall. I have seen some of the buildings in which it is proposed that the new units shall hold parades. They are inadequate and virtually unacceptable and are a disgrace to the Army. It will he very hard indeed to instill any sort of pride or incentive in men who have to attend parades in old broken-down tin shearing sheds. Amenities are also required. Every unit requires a certain a mount of furniture - simple things such as benches to sit on, tables, fireplaces, beating appliances and other comforts which the Army does not provide. Bands are also necessary. These things cost money,but they are essential. During the war funds were provided by voluntary subscription. The wives, families and friends of men in the services formed various regimental organizations tn provide facilities which although not of great importance, nevertheless had a great influence on the men. Of course, in peace-time, it cannot be expected that people will go to so much trouble. Therefore, much of the money must come from other sources, and I submit that it ought to come from the Army vote. There are ways of getting money from the Department of the Army, but they are always attended by delay and red tape. The commanders of unitsshould be given authority to expend considerable amounts of money. It is necessary to have football teams, to buy sporting equipment and to hold social functions. If an officer must, before spending £5 or £10, fill in forms in quintuplicate. the whole scheme will fail. I ask the Minister for the Army to do something to improve the present position. 1 also ask him to see that better transport facilities are provided for area officer? who have to travel over an extensive district. I know capable officers in Victoria who have had to refuse positions in the militia because they lacked means of transport, and could not afford to pay the cost of travelling. If we are to get the best staff we must be prepared to provide proper facilities.
I suggest improvements for the militia with a certain amount of reservation, because I believe that it can never provide better than a second-rate defence system. That is the opinion of every competent military authority in Australia. Not long ago, correspondence passed between the Minister for the Army and thirteen Australian generals, all of them men who knew what they were talking about. They entreated the Minister to consider the needs of the situation, and to meet them so that they might state their case. They offered to address the members of the parliamentary Labour party,but their request was refused. They received bare courtesy, and they certainly did not get near the Minister. Competent authorities all over the world support the principle of compulsory military training. That such training is necessary is the opinion of authorities in Great Britain. It was the opinion of a special committee which was appointed in the United States of America to consider the best method of defending that country. The committee reported - with great reluctance, it is said - that the only effective way to defend the United States of America was to accept the principle of universal military responsibility. Thus, the principle of compulsory training is accepted by the United States of America, by Great Britain, by Russia - by nearly every nation, in fact, except Australia. I know that the present Government does not believe in compulsory training. According to what the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said, he does not believe that there will ever again be need to have a large body of trained troops. If that really is his opinion, what is the need for an Army at all? Of course, the right honorable gentleman’s attitude is ridiculous. Any one who reads the authorities knows how absurd it is. The Minister for the Army should bear in mind the words of General Sir John Gellibrand, one of the greatest military minds which Australia has produced, who said -
Whatever the development of modern armaments may be the final decision in any campaign will always rest with the man who lias a rifle and the rounds and the ability to use them.
If we forget those words Australia is likely to suffer. What is meant by universal military training? No one who advocates it envisages the calling up of hundreds of thousands ‘of young men who would be dumped into camp, and marched up and down the country. That is not necessary. The first need is to register the man-power of the nation and classify it, so that should war come, or be threatened, we shall know where the best material is to be found with which to fill our armies. Then, .as training facilities become available, we can call up men, but .not in great numbers at any one time. ‘When man-power is scarce, it would not be prudent to call up a large number for training, but when employment is not so plentiful it may well be convenient to call up many men for fulltime military training. I shall not Bay for how long men should be called up for training, but I believe that the period should not be less than six months, and f. ma-ke’ that ‘Statement knowing the objections which will be raised on the score that training will interfere with university courses, apprenticeships, &c. It -is not necessary to make a hard and fast rule ‘that men should be ‘called up at a certain age. We could call up men at any convenient time between the ages of 18 and 23, as was done in Germany before the war.. In any case, the need for military training is, I submit, greater even than the need for university courses and apprenticeships. L cannot leave this subject without deploring the -smug and contented attitude of honorable members opposite, particularly the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman). Just listen to this statement which he made in Adelaide on the 30th March last -
From knowledge I have gained from my two recent trips abroad, there will be no war within the next few years. Nothing has occurred in Europe or elsewhere to cause the Federal Government to think its five years’ £200,000,000 defence plans should be altered in any way.
He has already been proved a false prophet, because a war is actually in progress in Palestine at the present time. The Minister for the Army would be well advised to seek the advice of those who know something of defence needs. He would be particularly well advised to heed the words of General Sir Thomas Blarney, who said -
While the British and American peoples ari’ awake to the fact that war is a national responsibility, A’ustralia hides its head under its wing, puts forward a hopelessly inadequate scheme, upon which the money ‘spent will bc largely wasted. No system of military defence can be considered adequate under modern conditions which does not lay the foundations for the preparation, not only of the armed forces, but of the whole nation. Unless thi? conception is accepted and applied, the money expended will be largely wasted, and the nation will be .no more prepared to meet the position than it was in 1933.
.- Although I recognize that the scope of debate on Supply is practically unlimited I s-hall deal with only three items about which I am greatly concerned. This morning I asked the Prime Minister >(.Mr. Chifley) a question about anomalies arising out of the operation in New South Wales of what is known as the mine workers’ pension scheme, which is really a superannuation scheme, because all miners pay into the fund. One glaring anomaly that has existed since the scheme came into operation on the 1st January, 1942, is the debarring of a widow, who receives compensation for the loss of her husband, from taking the pension allocated to her by the scheme until the £800 or £1,000 that she has received as compensation has been exhausted at the rate of 30s. a week. The Commonwealth and State acts, under which the Joint Coal Board was set up, stipulate that no act relating to coalmining , shall -be amended without the consent of the Prime Minister and thePremier of New South Wales. The State Government proposes, to lessen the severity of that anomaly by limiting tha period during which the widow is debarred from the pension. Many cases of hardship have been brought to my notice. Tn one instance, a mine-worker was “ dusted “, and almost eighteen months elapsed before the amount of his compensation was determined by the Compensation Commission. He lived to enjoy it for only a fortnight. His widow was not allowed to draw anything from the mine- workers’ pension fund until the £800 compensation had been exhausted at the rate of 30s. a week. At that time, however, I advised her, I think rightly, that the legislation then contemplated would contain a provision similar to that in our Age and Invalid Pensions Act, under which money received by inheritance, or otherwise, and invested in a house in which a pensioner lives, is not taken into account in assessing the rate of pension. There is no such provision in the Mine-workers’ Pension Act of New South Wales, and, after the widow had invested her money in a home, she -was informed that she. would not be entitled to draw the pension until 1951, when, at the rate of 30s. a week, the amount of her compensation would have been exhausted. No consideration was given to the fact that she had been left homeless through no fault of her husband. I lay no blame on him for his having left her homeless, because sickness prevents many workers from making provision for a home for themselves and their families. However, like her husband, she had to fall back on the invalid pension which she is drawing to-day. The State Government introduced a bill to amend the act so as to eliminate that harsh provision. Only since the Joint Coal Board was constituted has the State government’s proposed amendment been brought down. Now the “buck” is being passed to the Commonwealth, and the Prime Minister is blamed for allowing- the anomaly to exist. That is unfair. The anomaly should never have existed, and the same provision should, have been made, in the mineworkers’ pension scheme as has been made for age and invalid pensioners. The Australian Government, jointly with the-
State Government, is administering th,coal-mining industry in New South Wales, and the chairman of the. Mineworkers’ Pension Tribunal is also chairman of the Joint Coal Board. Let us. for purposes of comparison, consider what we do for widow pensioners. An A class widow is entitled to a pension of 37s. 6d. a week, besides an allowance for the first child anc) all subsequent children. In addition, she can have the home in which she lives, irrespective of its value, and £1,000 besides, without diminution of her pension. That is a reasonable provision, but, compared with it, how hard is the lot of the mine worker’s widow ! I have made representations on this matter as recently as to-day, when the Prime Minister courteously made available an officer of the Treasury to discuss with me the anomalies I had mentioned. In my question, I also referred to the action of the Mineworkers:’ Pension Tribunal in taking child endowment payments into account when assessing the pension of a retired mineworker. That, in my opinion, is a very harsh thing to do- because endowment is a payment made to a mother and not to a mineworker pensioner, but L do not blame this Government for it. The Mineworkers Pension Aci has been administered by the State Government for seven years, and the anomalies have been in existence all that time. Now, however, the system of joint control has been introduced, and the Australian Government has been charged with refusing to allow the anomalies to be removed, although the State- Government desires to remove them. Personally, I believe that they should be removed. The Treasury officer who interviewed me to-day said that the Treasury waa not prepared to pay child endowment for the first child and subsequent children at the rate of 7s: 6d. a week if they received 8s. 6d.. a week under the mineworkers’ pensions scheme, because that would amount to a total payment of. 16s. a week which, he claimed, would be unfair to other recipients of child endowment. There is. something in that. The officer informed me, however, that the State Government, had been told that the Treasury would allow it to pay 8s. 6d. a week for the first child, and that the Commonwealth would continue to pay, 7s. 6d. for each of the other children. That is something, but it does not go far enough. After all, the payment made under the mineworkers’ pension scheme is not really a pension. It is purely and simply a superannuation payment, and as. such is not included in the permissible income of £2 a week which married pensioners may enjoy without forfeiting a portion of the pension. The Government, of New South Wales is also urging on the Australian Government the need for an increase of the child endowment pay u i ents
I shall deal now with widows’ pensions. B-class widows, who are widows of over :”>0 years of age without children, are in receipt of £1 12s. 6d. a week, or 5s. a week less than the amount received by age, invalid and A-c.lass widow pensioners. According to my informant in the Treasury, the Government is now ready to permit B-class widows to receive 5s. a week from the State Workers Compensation scheme. That would bring their income up to t’l 17s. 6d. a week, but that, of course, will not meet the needs of B-class widows who probably have no other income. The State mineworkers’ pensions scheme should provide for the payment of t’l a week to such widows, and thus help to relieve the existing financial position. Nobody can deny that this scheme is anything but a superannuation scheme; therefore, why should it be in a different category in respect of widows from income in respect of invalid or age pensioners? A married age pensioner may earn £2 a week. I want to make it abundantly clear that only pensioners who are physically fit can earn money to augment their pensions. Many people speak of age pensioners who are able to earn £2 a week, and also receive child endowment, as being as well off as a worker earning the basic wage. I deny that that applies except to a very small percentage of age pensioners.
These matters will shortly become the subject of a debate in the House. The Government admittedly has gone a long way in the right direction by increasing age, invalid and A-class pensions from £1 to £1 17s. 6d. a week, and removing quite a lot of hardships by amending the rules such as those which govern the inheritance of property by pensioners. The Government has also gone a long way in regard to other social services. But we still must take into consideration the fact; that there are person in the age, invalid and widow pension groups who have nothing whatever to live on, apart from the pension of £1 17s. 6d. a week. That amount looks a lot compared with what it was before, but it is not so impressive when considered in relation to the increase of the cost of living by approximately 31 per cent. On one occasion, in the fixation of the basic wage, and in consequence of a fall in the cost of living, the invalid and age pension was reduced by 6d. Had that been allowed to continue, pensioners would have practically 6s. increase, due to subsequent increases of the cost of living as well as to the increases this Government has granted.
– Would not most of the honorable member’s objections be met by the abolition of the means test?
– Yes. I believe in the abolition of the means test, and so does the Government. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) must appreciate that it would be impossible to remove all anomalies in one fell swoop. The adjustment must be made gradually. The Government has now removed from the operation of the means test persons in receipt of small superannuation payments who previously were debarred from receiving a pension because they might have been in receipt of an income of £2 a week. To-day, a superannuated worker receive? the same amount as other pensioners. 1 hope that when the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) introduces his next budget, he will make provision for. a further increase of the permissible income. J also hope that an allowance apart from; a general increase in pensions willbe made in respect of those pensioners who have no other income.
– Would the honorable member approve of the abolition of the means test in respect of dependants of ex-servicemen ?
– The means test should ultimately be wiped out up to a certain income. A man with an income of £1,500 or £2,000 a year has ample for the maintenance of his family. I recall that when the parties now sitting in Opposition were in office, an invalid 60 years of age, living in the home of his parents, could not draw the invalid pension because his father was in receipt of the basic wage.
When governments supported by honorable members opposite were in office there appeared on the notice-paper in my name for no less than seven years a notice of motion designed to ensure that the permissible income of the family unit should not be less than £2 10s. a week. However, it was not until my proposal had received the support of the then honorable member for Wimmera, Mr. Wilson, and the former honorable member for Henty, Mr. Coles, that it was accepted by the government of the day. The basis therein laid down has continued to apply until now. Although there are undoubtedly anomalies that still need to be rectified, this Government may well claim to have done a good job with its social services and industrial legislation. I have received numerous letters from mine workers, and deputations of miners have waited on me, urging 1 hut. the bad ‘ conditions associated with their calling should be remedied. As the representative of an industrial strong-, hold, I am frequently taken to task for the alleged shortcomings of the Government in this respect. I invariably counsel patience, knowing that, when the supremely important task of guiding the country through the troublous times that have followed as the aftermath of the war has been completed, these things will be put right. Governments supported by honorable members opposite, however, had seven years of peace-time administration during which these conditions could have been improved, but they refused to do anything about them. The working conditions in the mine* is now largely a matter for the Joint Coal Board.
With regard to the international situation, I believe that to-day we are experiencing a war of nerves. In the press every day wo read scare headlines, such as “Red terror rules in Berlin”, “United States report on kidnapping of Russian officer “, “ German crisis ; alarming reactions to London plan “. According to the press, the Russians are bitterly opposed to any attempt on the part of the western powers to establish a provisional government in Germany to operate in the British, American and French zones, unless it be of a type acceptable to Russia. The people of Australia should be informed of the true position. Are the newspaper reports accurate? Is there something behind these reported moves on the part of Russia about which we are not told? This House recently debated a lengthy and informative statement on international affairs prepared by the Minister for External Affairs; but changes take place so swiftly in world affairs these days that that statement was already out of date before it was. presented to us. To some degree it could be likened to the electoral rolls, which, on the very day on which they are printed, are out of date, because between the date of their compilation and the date of issue many persons have died and manyothers have qualified to have their name included on the rolls. The statement prepared by the Minister for Externa! Affairs gave us no idea of recent happenings in Germany.. When I was in Germany it was apparent that there was some truth in the statement that Russia was dominating the western powers and endeavouring to take what it wanted, not only from the zone under its control, but also from the British zone. In my report to the Government I stated that valuable machinery for the extraction of oil from coal, which Australia had been seeking for many years, could be obtained in Germany. Colonel Zengenzog the head of the British-North German coal control, assured me that the Russians were anxious to obtain that machinery. He also said “ If Australia is interested in its procurement, why does the Government not ask for a complete plant as part of its war reparations ? “
– A request of that kind has been made to the Reparations Commission as the result of the honorable member member’s recommendation.
– Mr. Beasley, of Imperial ‘Chemical Industries Limited, an expert in the extraction of oil from coal, having been associated with the plant at Billingham-on-Tees, recommended that, instead of acquiring plant from Germany, which would necessitate dismantling and re-erection in Australia, the Australian Government should secure the services of some of the German experts who have been co-opted by the British Government and, with their guidance and assistance, construct the plant in Australia.
– The Government has already sought the assistance of such experts.
– I am gratified to learn that the Government has taken notice of the recommendations contained in my report. It is a tragedy that Russia and its former allies, which fought together so valiantly to defeat a common enemy, should not be able to agree in time of peace. The newspapers indicate the likelihood of another war, with Russia as our enemy. The Germans, with a sneer on their faces, . are pleased at the ever widening differences between Russia and its former allies, and are doing everything possible to increase them. There is likely to be a crisis in France. Everybody knows that the people of France have been split by the contention of two opposing political factions, whose influence is fairly evenly balanced. Friction is likely to arise in that country because, according to to-day’s newspapers, General De Gaulle’s party and the Communist party are both opposed to the granting of self-government rights to Germany. I have visited the major countries of Europe, and I have seen the conditions of poverty and despair which prevail there, particularly in Germany. I have been criticized because of my statements in this Parliament about starvation in Germany, but I can “ take it “. I went down mines in Germany and saw undernourished men forced, under military control, to hew coal although their diet consisted entirely of cereals. They had uo meat ration when I was there, and workers ‘cannot carry on under such conditions. .1 have no knowledge of the German language, but I was able to under stand the conditions of those German miners. I saw one man engage a mine manager in heated conversation. When I asked an interpreter what the man was complaining about, I was told that he was protesting because the men were noi getting sufficient food and their children were getting even less. Three weeks after I had visited Essen, there was an explosion in a coal mine in that district and only two men survived. In the same area I saw children scavenging in the ruins of old stores, where piles of rubble were constantly collapsing. Scarcely a building had been left intact at Essen. Most of the mines which had plants for the extraction of oil from coal had been bombed, although the others had been spared so that the occupation forces could secure coal from them. The children of the city foraged in the ruins of old buildings. I saw them licking at grains of blackened sugar which they had scraped from the wreckage with their little hands. They would dispose of one tit-bit and then join the queue to look for more. A man would be inhuman indeed if such scenes did not affect him. Orphaned kiddies lived like wild animals in warrens in the devastated city. If we want migrants, and if we want to prevent war in the future, let us bring some of these German children to Australia and show them the democratic way of life. In my opinion, they would become good citizens. The ‘honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) can vouch for the loyalty of many Australians of German descent who now live in South Australia. Many of them were born in Australia of Lutheran parents who left Germany for religious reasons. They have been as loyal to this country as have Australians of British stock. We should bring suffering children from Germany and educate them to become Australians. I do not advocate settling them in communities and allowing them to be taught the German language, a. mistake that was made here previously. We should welcome them to Australian shores and absorb them into our own community. One person has written to me condemning me for my advocacy of this policy. I hope that he is listening to me now.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was referring to a letter f had received condemning me for the suggestion that I had made -that young German orphan children should be brought to this country. I reiterate that I believe an endeavour should be made to bring as many of them as possible to Australia. As a believer in Christianity, I am convinced that it is wrong in principle that those -unfortunate children should be compelled to live under conditions now existing in ‘Germany. It is within my experience that they have to dig down under devastated buildings, foraging for stores, in their struggle to obtain sufficient food lo keep body and soul together. It is not necessary for me to inform the House who wrote the letter to me ; suffice to say that he lives at Hornsby, in the Robertson electorate. He objected to my concern about the poor little German children, and asked what I thought about the children of people of other nations who were killed by the Germans. I said, in my reply to him, that two wrongs do not make a right, and, therefore, the unfortunate innocent children in Germany to-day should not be penalized; rather should they be brought to Australia and afforded an opportunity to live according to the principles of democracy. There is, of course, another section of the German youth to be considered. When I was at Essen, in the Ruhr, on many occasions 1 saw youths between thirteen and fifteen years of age deliberately approach members of the occupation force in goose-step fashion, then turn their backs smartly and walk away, thus compelling the occupation troops to follow them over the rubble that had at one time been a city. I shall, at this stage, however, confine my remarks to the alleviation of the sufferings of the small children. Let us consider what will be the position before many years have elapsed if those innocent children are allowed to continue living under their present appalling starvation conditions. Are they going to be favorable towards the Allies? I say emphatically that they will be antagonistic towards the democracies. Furthermore, we must not be unmindful of the fact that if we allow the present state of affairs to persist there will doubtless come into being a nucleus of an army which will in due course seek its revenge. Honorable members are well aware that one of the prime causes of World War II. was this very spirit of revenge which was engendered by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. In pre-historic times, when tribal wars were fought and won, it wa» not a question of indemnities, but of taking the women of the defeated tribes and enslaving them. Surely civilization has advanced considerably since those times.
We read in the (press almost daily thai the Russians are vetoing all efforts being made by the Allies to bring about peace. I think that it is high time that the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) should inform the House whether the things we read are correct or not. If we do not counter what is being disseminated by the press, then, undoubtedly, we are heading for World War III.
Let us now consider what are the grounds on which some people justify communism and on which it bases its propaganda. The answer is, probably, that it took its rise out of the poverty and despair of the depression years of 1930- 31, when the standard of the living of the the workers was low, and unemployment figures appalling.
I subscribe to the words of the President of the United States of America, when he made a strong but indirect attack on the Mundt-Nixon bill, now before Congress, which is designed to outlaw communism. He said -
You cannot stop the spread of an idea by passing a law against it. The best weapons with which to fight communism are laws fulfilling the rights of little men to homes, health, schooling, security, good jobs, fair wages, and breaks on inflation. This is the lesson of democracy. These are the goals of abundance. A nation which reaches these goals will neve succumb to the evils of communism.
When defending his civil rights programme, which has met violent resistance from southern democrats, Mr. Truman said -
It is an open invitation to communism if we arbitrarily deny the rights of a vote and other basic rights to some of our people.
I opposed the ban placed on the Communist party by the Menzies Government and made representations to the Curtin Government that it should he lifted. In my electorate, which is a great industrial stronghold, when the Communist party opposed me for the first time, while the ban was on, they saved their deposit. On every other occasion, they lost it.
The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) was the first man to oppose the veto in the United Nations. Apparently, however, Russia is going to continue to exercise the right of veto again to defeat our desire to bring about real peace. Communism is a theory and an ideal supported by some people, but I will not succumb to its principles. For my part, I wish to retain the rights and privileges which were fought for and won by our forbears, and to worship God in any way that my conscience dictates.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- To hear the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) speaking, one could he pardoned for thinking that he was in opposition to the Government which has now been in office for some six and a half years, and which, a couple of years ago, loudly proclaimed that it was about to usher in the “ golden age “. However, during that period we have seen communism drive its tentacles deeper and deeper into the ranks of Labour in Australia, until it practically controls the policy of the Australian Labour party at the present time. We have only to consider what is happening in the community. During the last four or five years, wharf labourers have refused to allow mercy ships ro leave Australian ports for the Netherlands East Indies. In the Macleay River district, people have been without the necessaries of life for four weeks because ten wharf labourers decline to unload a ship. These events are occurring at a time when Australia is desperately short of shipping. But the Government does not take any action to end the impasse. The explanation of its inertia is that it is controlled entirely by Communists. The honorable member for Hunter stated that the causes of Communism are poverty and similar social ills. If Communism is increasing in Australia, the policy of this Government must be held responsible. The honorable member also betrayed his lack of knowledge of recent history. He said that Communism began to spread in Australia in the 1930’s during the financial and economic depression. I recall that in 3920 or 1921, “Jock” Garden returned from Moscow, and newspapers throughout Australia published photographs of him sitting with men ofvarious races and colours in the principal Soviet Council. That occurred about ten years before the beginning of the financial and economic depression. So, old “ Jock “ Garden, the friend of the Minister for Transport (Mr.
-Order! The right honorable gentleman has been a member of this chamber long enough to know better than that.
– That is the impression he gave.
– Order! If the right honorable gentleman persists with that conduct, I shall order him to resume his seat.
– My object in participating in this debate to-night was not to deal with that subject, because I did not think that any honorable member opposite would be so stupid as to raise an issue of this sort. Members of the Australian Labour party shiver every time the Communists shake their fists at them. Nevertheless, I intend to try to startle the. Government out of its complacency, and to awaken it to the chaotic conditions in this country. I should have thought that the shock of the rejection of its referendum proposals would have startled the Government out of its coma, which has been induced by its self -admiration during the last six years. The Government believes that every action it has taken is right, and it has not made any attempt to arrest the drift that is occurring in this country. It has not perceived the “fundamentals of our way of life which are at stake. Members of the Labour party, chasing vote-catching shadows, are endeavouring to secure support at the next general election instead of trying to save Australia by getting to the root of 01” troubles
Women and children need free milk long before they need free medicine. If the money which the Government is expending on its free medicine scheme had been devoted to providing free milk for women and children, the health of our kiddies would have been improved, and the adult population would have been stronger to work and play with a will, and to do their utmost to give us that increased production without which this country cannot prosper or assist other countries to the degree of which it is capable. Instead of pursuing this policy, the Government is inducing the people to stand in neurotic groups around chemists’ shops or wait in queues in the out-patients wards of hospitals for doles. The people of Australia do not want to be placed in that position. They wish to lead normal, healthy lives. The honorable member for Hunter stated that German children should be brought to Australia to increase our population. I trust that they will come here, and share in our abundance. The honorable member spoke of them as coming to a democratic country. I hope that they will come to a democratic country, and not to a land where the Government forces doctors to prescribe medicine which the people do not want, simply at its ukase and not in accordance with the requirements of individual cases. All the subjects which the Government is talking about to-day will not mutter one iota if we fail to populate Australia adequately, and strengthen its defences against attack. We must also settle people in the right places.
The Commonwealth Statistician has issued some interesting census figures. They show that during the last fourteen years, the increase of population has been relatively smaller than it was between 1921 and 1923. For example, the rate of increase between 1921 and 1933 was 20 per cent., but during the last fourteen years, the rate was only about 14 per cent. In terms of numbers, the population increased by 950,000 during the last fourteen years and by 1,194,000 in the preceding twelve years. The Commonwealth Statistician also shows that the growth of population since 1933 has been due almost entirely to the excess of births over deaths. Comparatively few immigrants have come to Australia, and despite the “ hif alutin “ claims of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) that scores of thousands of people from overseas are settling here, the cold hard facts disclose that, in the last twelve months, the arrivals exceeded departures by only 20,000.
What policy should be followed? We must ensure that all the children born in Australia grow into strong and healthy adults. We must step-up the natural increase by making it possible for women to nurse and look after more children than they do at the present time. We must also make certain that we arrest the drift of population from the rural areas to the large cities. The Commonwealth Statistician has revealed that in 1921, 43 per cent. of the people lived in the capital cities. By 1933, the number had grown to 46 per cent., and by 1947 to 50.72 per cent. That is to say, there has been a steady increase of the proportion of people living in the capital cities. Because of the continual diminution of the rural population from 37 per cent. to 31 per cent. since 1933, people who live in our great capital cities are often unable to obtain their requirements of milk. Month after month, supplies have to be rationed because they are not sufficient to meet all the demands. Nearly every big city in Australia, and many of the larger towns, are suffering from shortages of this kind, not because the soil is not fertile or our resources are lacking, but because of the stupid policy which this Government has pursued. It has definitely impeded the development of Australia and driven thousands of people from primary production.
I notice that my remarks cause the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) to laugh. He should know even better than I do how many dairyfarmers have left their holdings in northern Queensland during the last few years. About a week ago, Mr. Francis, who is the general secretary of the Queensland dairy-farmers organization, quoted certain figures which he had extracted from the Queensland Labour Government’s own records. These statistics should deter the honorable member for Herbert from talking “ tripe “ about increases- of dairy production. The Queensland Government Statistician pointed out that the number of dairy cows in that State had declined by 1:50,000 during the last five years, and that the number of dairy cows last year was 50,000 fewer than in the previous year. A similar position is revealed in New South Wales and Victoria. .Since 1940, butter production in Victoria has been reduced from 73,000 tons to 50,000 tons - a decline of 40 per cent. The number of cows milked in 1940 was 744,685. This number decreased in 1946 to 629,049, a decline of 115,636. Throughout Victoria, the number of dairymen milking more than five cows and under nineteen decreased from 37,123 in 1940, to 28,610 in 1946, a reduction of 8,515. In 1945, the decrease compared with the number in 1944 was 1,734, and, in the following year, there was a further decrease of 1,827. This drift is still continuing. In New South Wales, where the population has increased by approximately 278,000 during the last ten years, the number of dairy cows has decreased by 150,000. There are more people but fewer cows to provide them with milk. A similar position exists in other States. In Victoria, the increase of population during the last ten years exceeds. 200^000, but the number of milking cows has declined by 115,000 and the number of calves, which will ultimately replace the dairy cows, is steadily diminishing. Ten years ago the ratio was one to three, four years ago it was one to five, and to-day it is one to seven. We shall soon be in the position of having almost all old dairy cows, none of which will be able to give milk in the winter. In that event, consumers will be rationed continually instead of intermittently as at present. This is a very serious matter. Concurrently with this decline in milk production, the Australian people are becoming more milk conscious. I need quote only one example to show what is happening throughout Australia. The population of Sydney has increased from 1,250,000 to 1,500,000, or by 20 per cent., but the consumption of milk in that city has doubled. This continued decline in dairy production in Australia is occurring at. a time when the people, not merely of Australia but also of Great Britain, need more milk. Although Great Britain, which is about one-thirtieth the size of Australia,, has severe winters, and the conditions for dairy production there are much less favorable than in Australia, during the last ten years it has increased its annual milk production from 700,000,000 gallons to 1,150,000,000 gallons. That is an increase of about 50 per cent. In Australia, however, the annual production has. decreased from 1,250,000,000 gallons in 1939-40 to about 950,000,000 gallons at the present time, a decline of 25 per cent. Milk is just as important to human life as water. If the children are not reared properly we shall have no grown up population, and if they are to be reared properly they must have milk. We have been talking of millions of pounds in taxes and loans, but money has no real value unless we have food to eat, clothes to wear and goods to buy. We cannot eat or wear pound notes or bonds. We must have sufficient milk to drink, bread to eat and wool to put on our backs, and we must also have enough of those commodities to be able to export them as well. History shows that there is only one way in which farm production can be increased. It cannot be done by socialization or by the imposition of penalties. In the days of the old Roman Empire the Romans imposed penalties and had to chain farmers to their farms to prevent them leaving, but notwithstanding that procedure, production steadily increased. The only way in which to achieve greater production is to give the farmers an incentive to produce. We must do that in Australia at. the earliest possible moment if we are to arrest the decline in production and achieve the development that took place after the 1914-18 war, when in ten years we doubled the number of people engaged in the dairying industry, the number of dairy cows and the number of farms in production. The country districts then were fairly closely settled, but many farm houses more than 15- to 20 miles from a town are to-day unoccupied. The interjections I hear from the honorable gentlemen opposite are coming from city farmers. People will not stay in the country for the pittance that they- receive. The time has come - and this is something honorable members . opposite should applaud’ - to give the country man, because of his lack of amenities compared with the -city man, a better relative wage. That can only be done by ensuring that the farmer’s reward for his production is sufficient to enable him to pay it. It is obvious that, with the extension of Commonwealth forestry schemes and agricultural experiments it is not possible to get men to work on dairy farms, wheat farms or other farms at lower wages than they can get from ‘ nearby government institutions. They will not do it, and should not be asked to do it. The farmers must be able to pay attractive wages, even if it is necessary to pay subsidies to consumers to ensure that the cost of the products is such that the people can afford to huy them. It could be arranged that milk for children and nursing women will be provided free o’f charge, that milk for men will he dearer than at present, and so on. All those things could he done, but i’t would be useless to do anything of the kind without first making sure that the farmer was paid a price for his product sufficient to ena’b’le him to make ‘a ‘good living and to pay his workers ‘ better wages than those that ‘aTe paid to people who live near to cinemas and other amenities that are not available to coun’try people. : Great Britain has practically trebled its exports since the end of the war. That country, which is able fto sell its goods in competition with the rest of the world, is paying a sum of 2s. 6d. to 3s. a gallon for milk, and it believes that it is worth while to do so because ;of the benefit that accrues to the health -of its people. I cannot believe that we in Australia, with our vast resources and with no devastation of our towns and factories :such as has occurred in Great Britain. cannot do the same. We shall have to ‘do it, because if we do not the ‘decline in production which has persisted for the last -seven ‘or eight years will become worse, and we shall not be able to export dairy products at all or even have enough for home consumption. About a month ago, the Chairman of the Dairy Produce Equalization Committee pointed out to me that if there were no rationing of butter in Australia to-day we should mot be able to export 10,000 tons of butter a year, yet, in the first year of the war, without rationing, we were able to send 120,000 tons of butter to Britain. That shows how production has declined. We are now saving 40,000 or 50,000 tons of butter a year, largely because we are not giving ou-r people the amount of butter they wish to have, and which doctors have shown to be essential for their health.
We must give the people on the land a reasonable price for their products. In addition, they must be provided with the intangibles, by which I mean the same sort of amenities as those which are enjoyed by the people in the cities. If we do not do that, there will be an acceleration of the -drift to the cities that was revealed by the last census figures. The population of the cities is increasing at a greater rate than the population of the country districts. By reason of the better conditions that they can offer, the cities are drawing the natural increase of the country districts into their huge maws. We must have better roads in the country areas than we have at the present time. The Prime Minister said that some people had asked for the whole of the proceeds of the petrol tax to be expended upon the roads. When I was Treasurer of Australia that was done, and i’t was the best investment ever made by this country. I venture to say that for every 2£d. or 3d. tax on a gallon of petrol that he paid at that time, the motorist saved the equivalent of 6d. a gallon by reason -of the increase of the life of his tyres from 5,000 to 20,’000 miles, the increase of the life of his car, the certainty of being able to go. about his job, and the like. Australia cannot afford not to have good roads. The sooner that is realized the tetter it will be, and the quicker will be the increase of rural production. When I was in South Africa recently, I saw something of the work being done by governments there in dealing with this problem. When authorities realized that they could not afford to provide allbitumen roads throughout certain areas they laid down bitumen strips from fifteen to eighteen inches wide as wheel tracks on existing roads. Under that policy, which was inaugurated nearly 25 years ago, hundreds df miles of .good roads have been provided where only scores of miles of bitumen roads could have been provided for the same expenditure. I travelled over roads of that type at a speed of 40 miles an hour and I did not feel the slightest jolting. Projects of that kind provide some measure of comfort to those who live in rural areas. On the other hand, however, we are inclined to keep our various developmental projects in cold storage and to deal with each project separately. That is entirely wrong. When roads are being constructed, crossings at rivers and creeks should be constructed in the form of weirs. That, policy is being implemented in Queensland, where it has proved most successful, because by that means irrigation is promoted. It has been followed to some degree in New South Wales also. Indeed, a weir has been constructed to provide crossings on the Molonglo River in Canberra practically at the door of Parliament House. The benefit of such a scheme is reflected in the fertility of land in the vicinity of those crossings owing to the possibility of irrigation. The additional expenditure involved in improvements of that kind has been recovered dozens of times over through the increase of fertility of adjacent land. Road construction and water conservation should be part and parcel of our developmental policy in order that the utmost help may be provided to residents in rural localities. The water thus made available helps to increase production and ensures that settlers in such localities, regardless of seasonal conditions, will maintain production and thus be assured of as regular an income as is the salaried man who works in a factory, or as a public servant. That is one means by which e can give security to primary producers.
We must also extend the supply of electricity throughout the rural areas. I have been advocating this policy for many years. In the New England district, where schemes of this, kind have been implemented, electricity is sold to country users at the same rate at which it is made available to residents of towns, and under that system it has been possible to effect general reductions of rates. For instance, in the Clarence River district,’ the electricity rate has been reduced ten times within the last fifteen years, in an area 300 miles by 60 miles. That system is being implemented in other parts of New South Wales and in many districts in Queensland, and it has helped considerably to lighten th, burdens of life in lonely rural areas. By that means settlers are enabled to make the utmost use of the water at their disposal, and the provision of automatic telephone services. 24 hours a day, is facilitated.
We can develop this great continent only by planning on a national and regional basis. We must abandon our present idea that developmental projects must be carried out in watertight compartments. They must be undertaken on a regional and a national basis. That policy is being applied most successfully in South Africa where in the provision of water supplies for large towns a complete watershed is tapped and the water is reticulated to all farms and villages en route to the towns. By the provision of water, decent roads and other amenities people are encouraged to remain on the land. When they are catered for in that way they are enabled to increase production without increasing costs; consequently, they increase their income and can sell at a. lower price. We must deal with problems of this kind from a national point of view. During the war we borrowed and expended millions of pounds for unproductive purposes, that is, in the destruction of the arms and armies of the enemy. That, of course, was necessary; but surely, having been able to afford so great an expenditure for so many years, we can now afford to undertake big developmental projects in this country. On previous occasions in this chamber I have advocated the development of water conservation and power schemes on the Snowy, Clarence and Burdekin rivers, which possess potentialities as great as any other developmental schemes being undertaken in any other country. For instance, in Rhodesia, which has a white population of only 100,000, a project is being undertaken on the Zambesi River at a cost of £30,000,000 to provide water power throughout that State. That, project, when it is completed,- will help tremendously to develop industries in Rhodesia. A similar project is being undertaken on the Nile at a cost of £50,000,000 to serve an area in which there are only 10,000 whites in a population of millions of coloured people.
The Parliament would be better employed discussing projects of the type I have mentioned than in talking about less important matters.
– A government of which the right honorable gentleman was a member sold the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers.
– If this Government is foolish enough to start another shipping line, it will have to sell it too; the losses will be so great.
The provision of water conservation and power house schemes will attract new industries. For instance, in timber areas we shall be enabled to manufacture cellulose lignin and thus provide, on the spot, highly rated industrial careers for our rural population enabling children to remain, for the whole of their lives, in the districts in which they are born, because under such conditions they will enjoy amenities equal to those now available only to residents of the cities. These things are fundamental. “We must encourage the spread of our population throughout the Commonwealth. By implementing a policy of the kind. I have indicated we could completely revolutionize our economy in the next fifteen or twenty years. Towns will spring up in country areas which are now only sparsely populated, and greater and more economical use will be made of our railway systems enabling them to pay their way, whilst electricity will become available at very cheap rates. Thus, the purchasing power of every resident in country areas will be substantially increased. Such a policy will obviate inflation and spell prosperity and happiness for the nation as a whole.
.- Later this year when the budget is presented honorable members will be given an opportunity to discuss many matters of which a detailed examination at this juncture would be less appropriate. For that reason I shall confine my attention to a few subjects. I have been astounded at some of the statements made in this debate by honorable members opposite. They have been telling the Government what it should do to develop Australia, but governments which they supported had many opportunities to do the jobs they now advocate but failed completely to do so. The plain fact is that when honorable members opposite were in office they could do nothing but say that no money was obtainable for developmental works. At that time, however, we had ample manpower resources. When the Labour Government took office in 1941, about two years after the outbreak of the recent war, there were still 250,000 people unemployed in this country. Yet, the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) contended that this Government is responsible for the existing housing shortage and claimed that but for that shortage the natural increase of our population would have been considerably greater. I fail to see how any blame can be placed upon the the present Government in that respect, because when honorable members opposite were in office, thousands of workers were obliged to walk the streets looking for jobs. The Acting Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) claim that the Government is overtaxing the worker. The Opposition would have the people of this country believe that whilst accumulating vast surpluses of revenue, this Government has given the taxpayers little or nothing in return. The fact is that the Government has been able to give greater taxation relief to people in the lower and middle income groups, than was ever thought possible by those who sit on the Opposition side of the chamber to-day. I have before me a booklet entitled, Commonwealth and State Income Taxes, Financial Year 1938-39, issued by direction of the then Treasurer, Mr. R. G. Casey, who, no doubt, will endeavour to return to this chamber when the new smaller electorates are contested at the next general election. From the figures in the booklet one can make a ready comparison of income tax paid in those days and now. In 1938-39, a taxpayer with a wife and one child, earning £250 a year paid £5 10s. in income tax; today, he pays nothing, and of course lias available to him a huge range of social service benefits. A taxpayer with a wife and one child, and earning £300 a year paid £8 12s. in combined State and Commonwealth taxes in 1938-39. To-day, he pays £2 5s. The further we go into these figures the more striking the comparison becomes. It is useless -for the Opposition to endeavour in this House to mislead the Australian people by claiming to be interested in the working man who, after all is the producer of our wealth. It is interesting to note some of the items of expenditure that have been incurred by this Government. For instance under the Reconstruction Training Scheme, the wages of apprentices have been supplemented to the sum of £2,500j000 in approximately four years. In addition, of course, gifts of tools of trade have been made to exser.vicemen and others- who wished to become tradesmen. This has cost the country £1,500,000. These items give an indication of the- expenditure that has been incurred by the Government in fulfilling its promises to servicemen.
Complaints have been made by honorable members opposite about the lack of labour in industry generally, and particularly in the building industry. If there is one undertaking that does more than any other to. move the wheels of industry in any country, it is the building industry. Here are official figures: More than 2,000 men have applied for training as bricklayers under the Government’s reconstruction training scheme. A further 3,700 have applied for training as, carpenters, and 2,500 for training as painters and decorators. Altogether, 17,1.6.7 men have been trained or partly trained,, and have been absorbed into, the building trades. This has involved a substantial expenditure. The Gorvernment has kept its word to Australian servicemen. In addition, direct and indirect taxes have been re,duced wherever possible,, and. o.ur social services bill has been increased from £17000000 to ‘ £80,000,000 annually. Yet. we are, told that we. are, not. handling the finances of this country as, well as they/ were handled bv. the administration which failed to gp.v.ern this; country, in 19.41!
There is another’ subject on which I would like to say a word or two. I refer to the -burning question of coal, which affects South Australia very much at present. In August of last year, South Australia suffered a severe coal shortage. I communicated with the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) and invited him to visit South Australia to see the position for himself, and to confer with South Australian authorities. The Minister acceded to my request, and, after a conference with South Australian members of the Commonwealth Parliament, we had a conference with the Premier of that State, Mr. Playford. I am stating- the facts of this matter to-night- because, from time totime, the Opposition has presented a distorted version of what occurred, and I believe that the people of South Australia should know exactly what happened. Whether by design’ or inadvertence, every time the people of South Australia are called upon to vote on any proposal, there is a blackout,, and a cessation of transport services and gas supplies in that State.. This may not occur by. design,, hut. it does happen. Prior tothe conferences to which I have referred, South Australia, was entitled to receive 17,000 tons of coal a week.. We succeeded in having that figure raised to 19,500’ tons,, provided 240,000 tons was produced each week. The Premier of South Australia agreed to. that, proposal, and said that it. was possible to. produce 8,000 tons, of coal each week at. Leigh Creek., Heis still’ telling us that 8,000 tons a week will be produced at. that field”. T say, therefore, that if blame can beattached to anybody it must be shared by one and all, because, even in South Australia, it. is not generally known that Leigh Creek, coal is hauled by Commonwealth railways at- concessional rates. T speak on this subject to-night because., when difficulties arise in South Australia, no matter what is, said or done by South Australian Labour members of theCommonwealth Parliament, little- or no mention- o.f it is made in the pres* of that. State.. I have given facts, and they cannot, be: denied. Goal isi the lifeblood of this country at present, and the Government has, offered ali possible cor operation to. the: Premier of South Australia,, although at no.- time, has- the-
State Premier made the full facts known to us. However, when he sought money to develop the uranium deposits in South Australia, he was given every possible assistance by all South Australian members of the Commonwealth Parliament, Labour, and Liberal alike. In fact, the Premier went as far as to have records made and played in the theatres in order to inform the public what we thought of M.t. Paynter. I want to make the position clear, and if the newspapers do not print the facts, at any rate what I am now saying is being broadcast. Members of the Opposition have consistently maligned the coal-miners. It is my duty to tell the people that those who work in the coal mines are performing an important function, and much depends on them. From time to time we read that, because of industrial stoppages so many thousands of tons of coal are lost. In South Australia, only 19,500 tons of coal a week are needed in order to keep industry moving, and to supply domestic needs. When there is a scarcity of coal, the housewives suffer because of the consequent shortage of gas and electric power, and workers in industry are stood down. They are the fellow unionists of the coal-miners, and I appeal to the’ miners to do as they have done in the past, and produce the coal that is needed. The winter is now upon us, and it is important that coal supplies should be maintained. I recognize that the miners have ‘a difficult job to do. Those who criticize them so severely would never attempt to do the work themselves. However, the miners have chosen their own occupation, and I hope that they will do their best to produce the coal that is needed.
Members of the Opposition have charged the Government with failing to take any action against Communists in Australia. I believe that there is only one way in which to deal with communism, and that is through the industrial movement. As I have said before, all the talk on the subject in this Parliament will not affect the position in the least. As a matter of fact, the Opposition has done more to further the interests of communism in Australia than the present Government ever thought of doing. I heard the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) refer to a’ “ Comrade “ Dickson. On the very day that war was declared, the right honorablemember for North .Sydney (MrHughes), who was then AttorneyGeneral, permitted this man to speak over the national radio network to ex-, plain the ideals of communism. Such an opportunity has never been given to a representative of the Labour party toexplain his ideals.
– I suppose that is why we banned the Communists, and why the Labour Government removed the ban 1.
– I know that the Liberal party, at its annual conference, passed a resolution that it was not in favour of the banning of the Communist party.
– We rescinded that later.
– No doubt. It would not surprise me if the Liberal party were to change its name again before the next general election. As I have said, the Communists can be defeated only within the industrial movement, and it can be done only when the workers take more interest in their affairs. If the workers do not act of their own accord, it may be necessary to stipulate that the executives of all trade unions shall be elected by compulsory ballot supervised by the Arbitration Court.
– The honorable member is coming round to our point of view.
– I do not want any cheers from members of the Opposition. I have fought the Communists all my life in the industrial world, which is more than honorable members opposite can claim to have done.
The White Australia policy was formulated by the Labour party in the early days of federation, and I make no apology for giving it my full support. We know what was happening in the way of immigration before that policy was applied.
– Every political party in the history of federation has supported the White Australia policy.
– I have not said otherwise, but I maintain that the policy was evolved by the Labour party.
– The honorable member is wrong. The policy was first enunciated by Sir Henry Parkes.
– The Government has honoured its pledge by reducing taxation from time to time. When we remember how many servicemen and munitions workers had to be placed in civil employment after the war ended we must be prepared to admit that the Government has done everything possible to protect the economy of the country during the transition period. The Government, and particularly the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), are to be complimented upon their administration.
.- I desire to avail myself of the opportunity that the Supply Bill gives me of directing the attention of the House to the financial problem as between the Australian States and the Australian Commonwealth. During and since the war there has been, principally because of the centralization of power in Canberra, a steady destruction of the federal system, and it is my desire to examine that situation. The Government is asking that Supply for three months be given to the sole taxing authority of the country. So it is opportune that we should consider the effects of uniform taxation upon the federal system. It is well that we should all remember, and that the representatives of the so-called smaller States particularly, should keep it in mind that this country cannot be developed without more decentralization of power, especially as that development relates to the States with vast areas and small populations. We have proceeded steadily along the lines of centralization, hut the result of the recent referendum should at least direct our attention to the need to restore federalism in its true sense in this country, because it is obvious that it is the people’s wish that we should do so.
When the Australian Constitution was agreed to, it was determined that the National Parliament should have authority over subject-matters that were considered to be national in character and that the residual powers, vast and important, should be left in the hands of the States. That principle was practised without change until World War II. broke out, but then the States’ powers were emasculated by the National Security Act and regulations made under it, by the inevitable centralization of power in the central Government, by the Banking Act of 1945, to say nothing whatever about the banking legislation now before the High Court, and by the uniform tax legislation as passed by this Parliament and as construed by the High Court of Australia. No State can truly govern unless it has control over its own finances. It is because the problem of the States vis-a-vis the Commonwealth is so farreaching and important that I take the liberty of directing the attention of the House to it. Consider the simple illustrations of Western Australia, with a vast area and a small population and Tasmania with a small area and a very small population. It must be obvious that those areas cannot be developed as they ought to be unless they have restored to them a great measure of the sovereignty that they have lost.
– The honorable gentleman ought to visit Tasmania.
– I have been through Tasmania and most parts of the States. I was particularly struck by the plight of Queensland when I travelled extensively through it during the referendum campaign. It is a rich and prosperous State and it has tremendous opportunities before it. But, under the present financial system, those opportunities must always be determined and limited by hand-outs from Canberra. It is to that problem that I desire to address my remarks. I said that before the war the federal system did in truth exist in Australia, but steadily, by one invasion after another by the central Government, the powers of the States have been taken from them, until to-day no State can determine how to perform its functions except within the limits of the money made available to it by the Commonwealth. The States may not raise money by loans except with the consent of the Australian Loan Council, of which the Commonwealth again has control. So, the States are dependent on the goodwill of the Commonwealth for money from both taxes and loans with which to develop their resources, and their development is contingent upon what is left after the central Government has taken what it wants.
It was originally intended by the Constitution that in the Australian Parliament the Senate would represent the States. I remind the House of that, because it is well that we should keep it in mind. However, by virtue of the electoral machine and the party representation that now exists and has for years existed, the Senate has been deprived of its original function as the protector of the interests of the States. Quick and Garran makes this pungent statement about the Senate -
The Senate is one of the most conspicuous, and unquestionably the most important of all the federal features of the Constitution, using the word federal in the sense of linking together and uniting a number of co-equal political communities, under a common system of government. The Senate is not merely a- branch of a bicameral parliament, it is not merely a second chamber of revision and review representing the sober second thought of the nation, such as the House of Lords is supposed to be; it is that, but something more than that. It is the chamber in which the States, considered as separate entities, and corporate parts of the Commonwealth, are represented. They are so represented for the purpose of enabling them to maintain and protect their constitutional rights against attempted invasions, and to give them every facility for the advocacy of their peculiar and special interests, as well as for the ventilation and consideration of their grievances.
That is a very important statement as to the true function of the Senate, but we all know that for years the Senate has been nothing but a pale reflection of this chamber. So one of the great protections of the States has, as a matter of practice, not as a matter of constitutional law, disappeared. Since the outbreak of the recent war, with its aggregation of powers in the hands of the Commonwealth, some of which are only now being reluctantly handed back to the States, but over which in practice because they have no real taxing powers, the States have lost their sovereign powers of government. I desire to make certain suggestions for the solution of the problem. I realize that it is not capable of simple determination. The uniform tax has been held by the High Court to be valid as an exercise of, not merely the defence power of the Commonwealth, but also the taxation power of the Commonwealth, although when the original uniform tax legislation was introduced it was intended that it should operate for only the period of the war. So, the Commonwealth has the constitutional right to exclude the States from the tax field.
– Is that constitutionally correct 1
– Yes; that is what the High Court says.
– That the States cannot tax simultaneously with the Commonwealth ?
– That, again, is a matter of law, but, by virtue of the fact that the Commonwealth has the first claim, it can levy taxes to such a level as to prevent the States from coming into the field. I also remind the honorable member of section 109 of the Constitution, which provides that -
When a law of a State is inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth the latter shall prevail, and the former shall, to the extent of the inconsistency be invalid.
The effect of the High Court’s decision^ that the States are in existing circumstances completely excluded from the field of direct taxation. So, apart from small sources of revenue, the States must come to the Commonwealth for hand-outs, and the Commonwealth is able to, and, indeed, does frequently, impose conditions on its financial grants to the States. That destroys the real spirit of the federation. Either the uniform tax must be replaced by the dual tax system that existed before the war or it will be continued, and, if it is to be continued, the one great question is how we shall restore to the States, consistently with uniformity of taxation, some real measure of taxation authority and control over revenues. I submit for consideration, not as absolute views, but as views worthy of investigation, three propositions. I believe that, instead of hand-outs by the Commonwealth, with the Commonwealth determining, by some rough formula, how much it should give to each State, it would be wise to consider allowing to the States a proportion of the total revenue on a per capita basis. It will be remembered that under section 87 of the Constitution, when the
Commonwealth Parliament was established, what was known as the Braddon clause provided that the Commonwealth should for ten years after its creation and thereafter until the Parliament should otherwise determine, collect all taxes in respect, of customs and excise, and allot to the States on a per capita basis threequarters of the amount so derived. That was altered very shortly after the expiration of the ten years’ period, so that, in effect, the Commonwealth has since controlled exclusively the field of customs and excise revenue. “When the Constitution of the United States of America was first framed, the American federal government had power to tax, but the Constitution, until altered in 1909, provided that the direct taxes should be allocated among the States in accordance with their populations. To-day we are presented with a problem and it seems to me that something similar must be resorted to, because we must either get back to the dual system of taxation which we had formerly, or have one central collection and assessment and then return revenue to each State on a per capita or some comparable basis. It seems to me we have to give consideration to the return of a certain proportion of all direct taxes collected.
– I do not think the States would accept that.
– Maybe they would not, but they would be much better off, if the suggestions I am making were adopted, than they would be by merely having allotted to them a certain sum, which may be fixed on an arbitrary basis. The present system seems to me to be a rough and ready way of determining how the States should develop.
– More rough than ready.
– Yes. I believe that to be the first thing which should be considered. As a result of its consideration, some other formula may be worked out. It ought to be recognized that each State has the right to receive, for its own purposes, some direct proportion of the total revenues of the Commonwealth, if collected solely by the Commonwealth.
The second suggestion that I make is one which also ought to be considered. It is that the Commonwealth should now vacate completely certain fields of taxation. By a combination of certain of my suggestions, it might be possible to work out a considered and mature plan under which the States as & part of the federal system will have the wherewithal to develop and govern their areas. The fields of taxation which suggest themsleves as those which the Commonwealth could vacate are those which embrace estate, land and entertainment taxes, and all indirect taxes other than customs and excise. I see no reason why, for example, if the Commonwealth has to continue to take the lion’s share of all direct taxes, such as those imposed on individuals and companies, it ought not to vacate completely in favour of the States some of the other fields of taxation, so as to give to the States some measure of sovereignty to tax in their own right. In addition the Commonwealth Grants Commission’s functions could .be extended and grantsinaid made to different States according to their special need and special responsibilities. By a combination of these three suggestions it may be possible to work out a mature plan under which federalism may breathe. No one can deny today that federalism is being gradually destroyed. During the war, the States acted merely as agents of the Commonwealth, and the leaders in the States fell into such a frame of mind that they surrendered far too readily to the Canberra Government all their real functions of government. There is, by way of example, one power above all in respect of which the States are to-day very greatly restricted ; that is, their power in relation to education. Education is much more advanced in some of the States than in others. There is no possibility whatever of their measuring up to the grave responsibility of educating the young people of this country unless they are ensured of a substantial measure of finance so that they may plan wisely for the years that lie ahead.
– Education has made a greater advance in Canberra than in any State.
– I am not much concerned about that. I am not one who wants to see education determined from Canberra, and I hope it never will be. I sincerely trust that we shall develop more and more the system of area schools which is a characteristic of Tasmania. I believe that that system of education, more than any other, is training citizens to discharge their real function in the community. At the referendum on rents and prices, the people made it quite clear that they wanted the State system restored. Another matter which falls within the scope of State governments is the obligation to deal with the problem of unemployment, a power which lies solely within the constitutional authority of the States. It must be patent to every one that unless the States are able to determine what their revenues are likely to be for some period ahead they can never plan the discharge of their responsibilities, and more and more will federalism be in danger of destruction, no matter what the Constitution may provide.
As a final word, it seems to me that the less populous States of Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland, with vast areas which could and should be developed, can be developed efficiently only through decentralization and local government expressed through the States and their agencies. Contrary to views which I held when first I entered public life, I believe that this country ultimately will he developed on the best lines, not by destroying federalism but by maintaining our States system and even by increasing the number of :States in the federation. I believe that if this were done our development would have been much more rapid than so far has been achieved, which gives added point to the problem that I have adumbrated. I do not want to do anything more to-night than advance general ideas for consideration; but it must be obvious that we cannot permit the continuance, side by side with the federal system, of a system under which the Commonwealth is the only taxing authority, handing out to the States not what the States may need but what the Commonwealth believes is sufficient for them. So it is with a desire to have this matter considered in order that some real plan of division of taxes between the Commonwealth and the States may be evolved and that real federalism may survive and flourish in this country, that
I have taken the time of the chamber in advancing these ideas.
– I should not have entered into this debate on the motion for the second reading of a bill to provide Supply for three months after the close of the present financial year, but for the observations made by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). Before I proceed to deal with some of the remarks of the right honorable gentleman, however, I intend to refer very briefly to some of the statements made by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) in a speech which I might describe as that of an ardent State-righter. The honorable gentleman said that this country- cannot be developed! without decentralization of power. It is. remarkable how eminent lawyers submit one view to-day and the opposite viewtomorrow. I suppose it is partly due to, their training.
Mr. Spender interjecting.
– I remained perfectly silent while the honorable member delivered his speech. I wholeheartedly agreed with his statement that the education system in Tasmania is the most advanced system in operation in Australia, as it admirably suits a country with a scattered population. There were, however, many other matters mentioned by the honorable member with which I entirely disagreed. It is remarkable how quickly eminent lawyers can change their views. My mind goes back to 1938, when, as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, the honorable member made observations relating to the rights of the States, and indicated, as did his leader, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) what he would do with the States if he had the opportunity to put his policy into effect. This is what the honorable member then said -
Om- Constitution is inadequate. I hope the time will come when the States will completely disappear. There is no rational reason why the States should be maintained.
In those days the honorable member was well advanced in his political career. He had a fairly comprehensive knowledge of the administration of the Treasury, and very definite ideas as to how the finances of this country could best be handled in the interests of its development. Yet he said, “ There is no rational reason why the States should be maintained “. Now, however, posing as a great State-righter, he says, “ There are not sufficient States ; there should be more States “.
– Hear, hear !
– That undoubtedly is also the view of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has also made some pertinent observations in relation to the States. As recently as 1941, the right honorable gentleman said -
In the last two years you have seen the introduction of profits control and prices regulations. You have seen new departments of government lay their hands on private enterprise, and policies pursued which are designed to affect the cost of living and interest rates. I hope that none of you will imagine that these just and equitable things that have been done during the war will cease when peace has been won. They will not. This country has been learning new things during the war - new things about human relations, the responsibilities of government, the responsibilities of those who are the masters of men and who have capital to invest. These things will not, I hope, come to an end when the war is ended. What we have been doing, however imperfectly, is laying the foundation of this new order here and now while the wa.r is going on.
Obviously the Leader of the Opposition is not a State-righter, and the honorable member for Warringah is completely out of step with the right honorable gentleman. He displays an extraordinary inconsistency. When Treasurer of the Commonwealth in 1938, he wanted to abolish the States completely.
– I was not Treasurer in 1938.
– The honorable gentleman was then Acting Treasurer. No doubt, if it suited his political purposes, be would be prepared to-morrow to advocate the complete abolition of the States. He urges the creation of new States to-night merely because that is a popular catch-cry in these days.
– The honorable member has seen what a. mess the Labour Government has made of its administration.
– I could also quote the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), and I shall do so unless he keeps quiet.
– The honorable member cannot quote me on that subject.
– According to the Daily Telegraph, which, I assume, the Acting Leader of the Opposition regards as a reputable journal, the honorable gentleman stated that “ price control . . . would eventually rob the States -of their independence “. How solicitous he has suddenly become for the States ! In 1939 he and the honorable member for Warringah advocated their complete abolition.
– I did nothing of the kind. The honorable gentleman cannot quote any words of mine on the subject.
– I should not have brought the Acting Leader of the Opposition into this if he had not challenged me. In its issue of the 19th October, 1939, the following paragraph appeared in the Melbourne Herald: - “ War-time is no time to be meddling with the Constitution “, said the Federal Country party Leader (Mr. Cameron) commenting on reports that three federal Ministers - the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Spender), the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Harrison) and Sir Frederick Stewart - advocated the abolition of State parliaments.
Now perhaps the honorable gentleman will keep quiet ! He is implicated equally with the other honorable members whose statements I have quoted. All of them have advocated the abolition of the States at one time or another. To-day, however, their cry is, “ Hands off the States. Hand back the taxing power to the ‘States.” They are prepared to sink the principles for which they have fought for many years merely for the sake of a little brief popularity. This subject is not worth discussing further. The honorable gentlemen have exposed their complete insincerity by their willingness to turn around overnight, after advocating one policy, in order to express a contrary policy. They cannot have things both ways. Even the Acting Leader of the Opposition cannot get away with it, although he is capable of turning some amazing somersaults.
I am sorry that the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) is not in the chamber because T intend to refer to the speech which he made to-day - a speech which I have heard him make in this House on many occasions.
– We are all familiar with the Minister’s speeches.
– I should be very glad if the honorable member would keep quiet. I heard in complete silence what he had to say, and I should be very much obliged if he would pay me the same courtesy.
– Thank you very much. I agree with what the right honorable member for Cowper said about the development of hydro-electric power services by means of the Snowy River scheme and other schemes which also contemplate extensive water conservation for irrigation purposes. Ever since I have been able to take an interest in public affairs, I have watched the development of hydro-electric power services in Tasmania and I know their value. I repeat that I entirely agree with the right honorable gentleman’s comments on this subject. I give him credit for complete sincerity in advocating the development of hydroelectric power resources in the northern rivers districts of New South Wales, because he has been doing so for many years. However, I cross swords with him over his glib criticism of the Government’s efforts on behalf of primary producers. He declared that we ought to settle people on the land and provide them with better amenities, including telephone services. The right honorable gentleman, when he had almost unlimited opportunities to do these things, did absolutely nothing for the primary producers. In the days when he was a prominent member of the Bruce-Page Government, hundreds of thousands of Australians were out of employment, yet he did nothing to give effect to the policies which he now advocates. He knows very well that scores of farm-houses were empty. The people who produced butter fat could get only unprofitable prices and were practically being starved to death. Many of them vacated their properties. Indeed, the only way in which they could carry on at all was by exploiting child labour. Nobody knows these facts better than the right honorable gentleman does.
But what did he do about the situation when he had the power to act? Nothing at all ! Luring the late years of the depression, when I was elected to this Parliament, he was a powerful figure in the Government. Did he talk then about supplying telephones and other amenities in rural areas and paying good prices for butter fat, milk and other products so that the farmers and their families could be reasonably well fed, clothed and housed ? No ! . Yet the right honorable gentleman, using all the cant and humbug at his command, talked in this chamber to-night about what ought to be done for the people who live and work on the land !
Let us consider the record of antiLabour governments of which he was a member. I have here statistics dealing with primary industries since 1911. For example, I refer to prices of butter fat from 1927, when Mr. T. Paterson was Minister for Markets, until 1938. In 1927, the average price was 16.2d. per lb. In 1928 and J.929, when Mr. Parker Moloney became Minister, it was 16d. and 17d. per lb., respectively. In, 1930 and 1931, the price was 15.8d. and 12.6d., respectively. In 1932, when Mr. Hawker was Minister for Commerce, itwas 11.2d. per lb., and in 1933, when Mr. Stewart was in office, it was 9.4d. per lb. In 1934, it was 8.4d. In 1935, the right honorable member for Cowper bc came Minister for Commerce and Agri-culture. The average price that year was 9.4d. In 1936, 1937 and 1938, with the right honorable gentleman still in office, it was 11.4d., 12.2d. and 13d., respectively. The best price that he could offer the producers was 13d. per lb. It is hypocritical of him to rise in this House and. talk about what ought to be done for the farmers when he knows well that never in the history of Australia has so much been done for the farming community as this Government has done in recent years. History records the facts.
Only to-day, I received a letter from a constituent, whom I do not regard as a Labour supporter in normal times, telling me how sorry he was that the referendum proposal had. been defeated. He said -
T have been farming all my life, and never in my experience has there been such stability of prices and such security for the future as we have enjoyed under the prices administration of this Government.
– The referendum is over.
– Never mind about the referendum. Its result has been accepted by the Government.
– It could not be otherwise.
– Of course not. Nobody denies that. Every State of the Commonwealth said “No”. The only decent thing for the Government to do now is-
– To resign.
Hr. BARNARD. - To hand these powers back to the States. There is one reason why the Government will not “resign, if the honorable member for ^Barker wants to know. It is that the Government is determined to see the people through the remaining period of this crisis, because the honorable member’s friends ran out in the days when Australia faced its greatest danger.
– They were voted out.
– Yes, because their erstwhile friends would no longer support them. That is when the Labour party came into power. The Labour Government, which was a minority government, went to the people and had its policy endorsed by them. Its policy has had the support of the people ever since. Now, the Government proposes to accept the decision of the people and to hand back to the States powers which really belong to them, but which have been exercised for a number of years by this Government, often in order to do unpopular things, merely because such centralization of control has been in the best interests of the nation. The people say they do not want Commonwealth control any longer, and the Government accepts their decision. That is all there is to the story; control will be handed hack to them.
– It was a noconfidence vote.
– The honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that there was no question of a no-confidence vote in the Government at all. Many Labour supporters voted against the Government in the recent prices and rents referendum.
– And they will do it again !
– Government members have listened to such statements by members of the Opposition for long enough.
– I suggest that if the Minister ignores the interruptions he will get along much better.
– The right honorable member for Cowper laid great emphasis on the dairying industry as an example, but the available figures reveal conclusively what was done for the dairying industry when he and his friends were in control of the treasury bench. The dairy farmers then received a mere pittance for their butter fat and had no assurance or guarantee that that pittance would not be less in the following week or the following year. With the object of stabilizing the price, and to ensure that the farmers received a reasonably fair deal and satisfactory return for their product, the present Government estabished the advisory committee on production cost in the dairying industry. It was established in response to representations from industry organizations which sought the co-operation of the Government in a survey of farm costs of production of butter, cheese and processed milk product. On receipt of that committee’s report the Government immediately gave effect to its recommendations. It will be said that .the Government did not fully implement the recommendations, but at least the price of a pound of butter went within a penny or twopence of the recommendation. I do not want to misrepresent the position. After establishing the advisory committee to which I have referred, the Government said that it would honour that committee’s recommendations, and that was done. Yet the right honorable gentleman continues to _ say that- children are starving, dairy farmers are not getting a decent price for their products, and that people are leaving their farms be-, cause of this or that factor. He knows that to-day _ the producers of butter fat are getting the prices which were recommended by a committee composed of their own people, whose recommendations’ to the Government were followed. If we examine the matter closely, we find that the increase paid as a result of that recommendation represents an increase of 4£d. per lb. on the present recognized cost of production of ls. 7£d. per lb. to the dairy farmer, and, in accordance with the Government’s understanding with the industry, would be retrospective to the 1st April, 1947. Despite this, the right honorable gentleman has said that the Government is not treating these people fairly. He knows perfectly well that we are, and yet he has said it so often in this House that he probably believes it himself. He told us that he believes it.
Ifr. Langtry- He now thinks that it is right.
– The right honorable gentleman knows, as do other honorable members, that what he has said is not the truth. It was said with the object of deceiving the people of this country and leading them to believe that this Government is not favorably disposed to the primary producers. He must know what has been done in recent years by this Government.
Let us consider this & little further, in order that the people may appreciate the falsehoods that have been stated by the right honorable gentleman. The Government said that the basic return to the farmer of 2s. per lb. for commercial butter would be subject to variation up or down in accordance with the demonstrated movements in cost factors. Surely the right honorable gentleman knows that the basic wage rises or falls according to fluctuations in the prices of the commodities in the index.
However, he continues to assert that the Government is not giving these people a fair return on their investments. In addition, there was to be a review of cost factors between the 1st April and the 15th June in each year during the fiveyear period, following which any necessary adjustments of the basic price determined would be made as from the 1st July of the year under review. So that not only is the dairying industry paid according to its cost of production, as recommended by the advisory committee, but in addition to the cost goes up or down in accordance with the prescribed formula, and the agreement is adjusted yearly. However, the right honorable gentleman time after time rises and makes charges against the Government, asserting that the primary producers are not getting a fair deal.
That agreement covers quite a number of matters with which I do not propose to deal at this stage, but reference was also made to the continuance of the existing subsidy, amounting in all to approximately £4,250,000 annually, and to the add’ed financial responsibility of the Government by reason of the increased return tq the dairy-farmers being made restrospective to 1st July, 1947. The agreement was made retrospective in order that the adjustment would be in conformity with the Government’s undertaking. It was estimated that from the 1st April until such time as it was possible to adjust retail prices to the consuming public, the Government would make additional subsidy payments totalling approximately £2,250,000. Therefore, honorable members will see that this agreement relating to the dairying industry has been fully observed.
The Government has also devoted attention to increasing the number of dairy cattle and improving the quality of herds. Accordingly, it approved an annual grant of an amount not exceeding £250,000 for five years, commencing on the 1st January, 1948; for the purpose of promoting improved farm practices in the dairying industry. The object of the Government is to stimulate over-all dairy production by the implementation of measures designed to assist dairy-farmers generally in securing a greater output per cow and per farm. The plans will be drawn up by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) in consultation with the representatives of the dairying industry and State Ministers for Agriculture for the purpose of ensuring the adoption of the most effective methods to implement the Government’s desires.
That, briefly, deals with the points which the right honorable member for Cowper made this evening. The information which I have given to the House, shows with crystal clearness what was done for the industry by members of the Australian Country party and the Liberal party when they formed the government of this country. For a number of years, the right honorable member for Cowper was Minister for Commerce and had ample opportunity to assist the dairy industry. The Government of which he was a member would have looked to him, as the No. 1 man in the Department of Commerce, to take the initiative in providing better facilities and conditions on dairy farms. But what did he do? Nothing at all unless it was to starve dairy-farmers off their holdings. The Labour Government has not only taken the initiative in this matter but also has responded to the appeal of the industry itself to improve the lot of the dairy-farmer. As the result of the actions of this Government, the conditions of which I have spoken now prevail, and, in addition, there is the subsidy of £250,000 for the improvement of dairy herds. The Government has dealt with the industry in a realistic and practical manner, and has adopted the advice of departmental experts and dairy-farmers’ organizations so that for at least the next five years the lot of the producers of whole milk, butter fat and cheese will be improved.
I give the lie direct to some of the statements which the right honorable member for Cowper made this evening. On a number of occasions he has told to the House, and to the country over the radio, this fantastic story about the dairying industry and the failure of the present Government to assist it. It is a remarkable thing that when members of the Australian Country party, who claim to be the farmers’ friends have been associated with the Liberal party to form the government of this country, they have not done anything to improve the conditions of the man on the land. Yet they claim to be the spokesmen of the primary producers. When they sit in opposition, they ignore and give no credit whatever to the Labour Government, which, they say, is not the friend of the agricultural community. They also try to distort the facts, and by telling these stories over and over again, they think that the people will believe them. To-night, I have given the facts, and they cannot be denied. The dairy-farmers who are enjoying these improved conditions to-day, will recognize the truth of my claim.
I did not hear clearly the remarks of the right honorable member for Cowper about our exports of dairy produce, but I believe that he understated the figures considerably.
– I direct attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– When I was interrupted by junior counsel, of the firm of “ Fog, Fog and Pettifog “, I was about to point out that only two members of the Opposition were in the chamber. The Australian Dairy Review has published figures showing the value of the butter and cheese exported from Australia to the United Kingdom and other countries for the period from the 1st July, 1947, to the 15th May, 1948. They are-
Large quantities of milk and milk products are now being exported. Those exports, unfortunately, have had the effect of reducing the exports of butter and cheese. I am confident that the figures cited by the right honorable gentleman were much lower than those recorded in the Australian Dairy Review.
I do not propose to say anything more about the Supply that is requested for His Majesty’s services for the next few months. I think I have been able to show the shallowness of the speech made by the honorable member for Warringah, in which he advocated the creation of more States, thus departing from the view that he” held until a few years ago, and to expose the continual misrepresentations made in this chamber by the right honorable member for Cowper.
– The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) complained of the action of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) in putting forward the case for the States. The Minister went back ten years and read an extract from a speech made at that time by the honorable member, when he was apparently in favour of the abolition of the States. The Minister, who is sunk in the slumber of a set opinion and refers to a period ten years ago as overnight - like Rip “Van Winkle, he sleeps on - does not understand that the honorable member for Warringah has been forced to the conclusion that the salvation of Australia lies in the creation of new States and the preservation of the existing federal system. The honorable member has seen this Government in power for the past seven years. He has seen the results of centralization and the efforts made from time to time by means of numerous referendums to acquire more power for the central parliament and to restrict the liberties of our people. He has a perfect right to change his opinion. He has done so and has come to the proper conclusion that federalism and an increase of the number of States in the Commonwealth is the only way in which we can solve our difficulties.
I do not propose to follow the Minister through all of his comments on the speech of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). He selected figures showing the price of butter during the period from 1928 to 1938, and complained that during that time, when the right honorable gentleman was Minister for Commerce, the price of butter fell; but he did not point out that the greatest fall occurred in the years 1930 and 1931, when the Scullin Government was in office. If it was simple to solve that problem then, why did the Scullin Government not take some action to do so? This Government cannot take credit for increased prices of primary products. Owing to the war there was a world shortage of butter, wheat, wool and other primary products, and as a result the overseas prices of those commodities rose. The Government cannot take any credit to itself for that rise. The record of the right honorable member for Cowper is known to the people of Australia. They know what he has done for the Australian dairying industry throughout the long period during which he has been a member of this House. The Minister said that the right honorable gentleman had the opportunity to do many things. If he had that opportunity, so did the Scullin Government, but it did not take advantage of it or attempt to do anything.
Figures were .produced recently which showed that for this financial year revenue will be approximately £46,000,001 more than was estimated. We are asked to believe that Australia is in a wonderful economic condition, that everything in the garden is lovely, and that there is nothing to worry about. I want to show that the country is, in fact, in a dangerous condition so far as its future development is concerned, and that that has been brought about largely by the actions of the Government. The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) referred to the enormous burden of taxation in Australia. That burden of indirect taxation falls most heavily upon the people in the lower income groups, who are struggling to bring up their families. I refer particularly to indirect taxation levied by customs and excise duties and sales tax. The PrimeMinister (Mr. Chifley) has said that revenue from those sources this year will probably amount to £148,000,000, or £17,000,000 more than was estimated last September. These taxes force up the price of goods and hit people in the lower income groups harder than any one else, because, generally speaking, they have large families and find it more difficult than people in other sections of the community to balance their family budget. The Government should have done something to reduce that indirect taxation and assist these people. Australia to-day is not short of money, but it is extremely short of goods. The policy of the Government is to look to secondary industries to develop the country, and to provide full employment for those people who are already available for employment, as well as for those coming into industry, plus eventually, 70,000 migrants a year. Some factories are being erected, but building operations have had to be curtailed iti order that the houses required by the people may be built. Approximately £122,000,000 of savings a year is available in Australia at the present time, and a large portion of it is being invested in industrial undertakings. The proper industrial development of this country cannot be achieved unless production is planned so as to ensure the production of goods that are essential to the development of secondary industries which will provide the amount of employment foreshadowed by the Government. The demand for electric energy, lighting and gas in, Sydney is twice as great as it was before the war, and a similar position exists in other States. Existing plant cannot cope with the demand, and consequently, factory development will be retarded. Prior to the war an industrialized country, like Great Britain consumed an average of 4 tons of coal per capita per annum in factories and homes, but iii Australia the consumption to-day is. approximately 2 tons per capita, per annum. Obviously, if Aus traia, is, to be developed industrially our production of. coal must .bo increased very considerably. But what is- the position? Generally,, there is a. decline of production in our basic industries.. Due to intermittent strikes in the coal-mining and transport industries, the production of urgently needed steel is not forthcoming. The production of coal is inadequate. Delays in the turn-round of ships have caused a shortage of- goods in, States which depend upon, transport, services from the centres of manufacture. Our, interstate shipping service is curtailed owing, to shortage of ships.. I have seen pi.ctur.es taken, at such, great works as. Lysaghts and Rylands, in. Newcastle, showing enormous stacks of materials awaiting, shipment to. other States. Those stocks were npt cleared, for weeks because of the slow turn-round of ships. The reticulation of electricity i,S urgently needed in. country centres, but. this work, i,s. held, up because of the shortage of copper wire, insulators, and transformers. When we protest against those shortages the Ministers, responsible cannot, offer any alleviation of the position for m.any months to come.
Our- housing- programme is considerably behind the optimistic forecasts made by the Government. If Australia, is to, develop industrially to the degree the Government hopes, if full employment is. to be; maintained and we are to absorb in industry the 70,000 migrants expected to come to this country annually, the Government must -first provide adequate housing. When hostilities ceased, the shortage of houses in Australia was officially estimated to be 250,000 units. About 46i,O.0O. houses have been constructed in the last two, years, whilst the target for 1948 is 48,000 units. In addition, provision must be made for the accommodation of migrants and the construction of buildings for new factories, the building of which is now being damped down because of the shortage of houses. Prior to the war about 40,000 new dwellings were constructed annually. If only 48,000’ houses are to be constructed in 1948 - and it is doubtful whether we shall be able to reach that target - and if that rate is to continue it will. be> an utter impossibility bo make up the deficiency of 250,000 houses which, existed at the cessation of hostilities. Therefore) despite the glowing financial picture painted by spokesmen for the Government, who say that money is abundant throughout the Commonwealth, it is. clear that there is a grave flaw in our economic structure- when we bear in mind the deficiencies, of production in our basic industries* such as. coal and steel.
The present distribution of revenue La Australia is also aggravating our dollar difficulties.. The right honorable member for Cowper referred to, the refusal of the Government to; allocate the money collected from petrol ta-x: for- the maintenance of roads throughout Aus, tralia. Anybody who travels through country, areas cannot fail to note the deterioration of roads which, has taken place throughout rural Australia. That deterioration is simply shocking; and it has taken place not only on. roads of minor importance, but, also in many instances on main State highways. The damage caused to vehicles travelling over corrugations,, bumps and pot holes is- substantial. R’oad traffic has; increased considerably since before the- war, particularly in timbergetting aseas: Some timber jinkers are carrying loads, up to 12 tons, and they travel over roads at speeds of from 20 to 30’ miles, an hour. At the same time, road’ transport is. being used to an increasing degree for. tie transport of stock to, market. All the developments have accentuated the deterioration of our roads. The petrol tas is now 10½d. a gallon. It is a. direct tax upon, road users. The tax is estimated, to produce £15,750,000 in 1947-48,, but of that amount only £6,,100,000 has been allocated for road purposes whilst £9,650,000 is to. be paid into the overflowing coffers of the Government to be used for general purposes. Of the sum of £6,100,000 the States are to receive £4,500,000 for State highways, whilst local government authorities controlling sparsely-populated areas are to receive only £1,000,000, the sum of £500,000 is to be expended upon roads controlled by the Commonwealth and, £100,000 is to be made available to road safety organizations. I emphasize that only £1,000,000 is to be made available to local government authorities controlling sparselypopulated’ areas. The Director of Highways and Local Government in. South Australia stated in March last that since 1939 labour costs have risen by over 100 per cent., costs of plant by over 140 per cent, and costs of some materials by over 200 per cent. Those increases are very substantial’, and: corresponding increases have occurred in other States. The local government bodies are responsible for the greater portion of the mileage of Australian roads. For instance, in New South Wales, out of approximately 126,000 miles of roads, 100,000’ miles are directly under the control of councils. Yet, in the current financial year- those bodies are to receive only £1,000)000- of the- revenue derived’ from the petrol- tax. In the main, the- people who use the roads do- not provide the revenue for their upkeep. Operators of large- lorries and travellers generally do not necessarily contribute to the rates levied on land in the shires through which they pass. The people who pay for the upkeep of roads in any locality are the local land holders. That is why a much greater share of the revenue derived from the petrol tax should be made- available to- local government bodies- for the upkeep of the roads they control. The Commonwealth Government is. directly interested in this prob lem because of our present stringent dollar position. The cost of maintenance of commercial trucks, or cars, which usebad roads is greatly increased and thelife of the vehicles is reduced considerably. This adds to the burden on an already strained, labour pool and increases the rate of wear on tyres and the demand for spare parts, thus obliging us to increase our imports from dollar countries. On the other hand, when roads are kept in good, repair, the life of vehicles is lengthened and the demand for spare parts decreased; and the strain on, our dollar position, is relieved to a corresponding degree. The Australian Council of Local Government Associations has asked the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward.) that the whole of the petrol tax should he expended on roads, and has suggested that the allocation of additional funds should be made by a, small committee upon which local government bodies should he directly represented, to. be set up in each State. That body also requests that these committees should accept a statement from the councils as to where the money was expended, and certificates from the engineers that the work was properly carried out. These are practical suggestions from the representatives of the local governing bodies for improving our road system, and preventing it from becoming worse than it is at present. An improvement of our roads would halt the present rapid deterioration of the motor vehicles using them. The Government has £46,000- 000’ more than it expected. Surely it could disgorge the £15,750;000 derived from- the petrol tax to put the road systems of’ Australia into a reasonable state of repair and maintain them.
I have spoken previously of the dire effects of the- coal shortage upon the entire economic structure- of this nation, and particularly upon our industrial1 development. In New South Wales alone, between the 12th January and the- 4th June, coal losses amounted to 830,000 tons. These losses are having a desperate effect upon the Australian economy. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) earlier to-night spoke of the effects of the coal’ shortage in South Australia. Apparently, although the coal requirement, of that State- is only approximately 19,500 tons a week, this demand has not been fulfilled for many weeks past, with the result that South Australian industries including transport services have to cease periodically. Similar shortages are experienced in New South Wales and in other States of the Commonwealth. A statement was made recently by Mr. Keith Butler, manager of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which has suffered greatly from fractious strikes in its mines. Mr. Butler said that stoppages at the company’s pits, if continued at the present rate would curtail production of steel by 190,000 tons annually. People living in country districts cannot get galvanized iron, fencing posts, water piping and other essential materials because the output of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and of Australian Iron and Steel Limited, has had to be curtailed owing to the shortage of coal ; yet this Government does not do anything to remedy the position. Greater production of coal is essential to the maintenance of full employment and the expansion of secondary industries to enable them to absorb the migrants now coming to this country. Only within the last week ray attention was drawn to the fact that because of the coal shortage, only two trains a week are lifting the output of one lead and zinc mine in New South Wales. Consequently, supplies of those products are banking up at the mine. To-day lead is as valuable as dollars, so that the failure to win more coal i3 directly accentuating our dollar shortage.
The difficulties now encountered in both interstate and overseas trade are being greatly added to by the delay in the turn-round of ships on the Australian coast. In a report made by the interstate shipping companies in 1947, it was shown that whereas before the war one-third of a vessel’s time on the Australian coast was spent in port, with the protracted round-voyage times now operating, twothirds of each vessel’s time is spent in port. Yet we are desperately short of shipping, and the shortage is not likely to be overtaken for many months to come. The result of these delays is that people throughout the Commonwealth are being deprived of goods which pile up in the warehouses and on wharfs at New1 castle and other ports. An interesting report was published recently by the Australian Overseas Transport Association. It is dated February, 1948, and it gives some illuminating figures regarding the deterioration of working conditions at Australian ports. Referring to the increased freight rates, the report says that perhaps the most important contributing factor is the greatly increased time that vessels are compelled to spend in port loading and discharging cargo. Ii is further pointed out that although these increased freight rates can be met to-day, when high ;prices are being obtained for our exports, those high price.may not last indefinitely. I shall quote a few figures from the report to indicate the deterioration that has taken place. Taking first the years 1937-38 and 1938-39, we find that, for 80 vessels, th>days spent in port numbered 701, the average number of tons of cargo discharged each day being 804. For 63 vessels in 1945-46 and 1946-47, the days in port numbered 1,406 and the average discharge of cargo was 355 tons a day. Dealing with loading, the report states that for 105 vessels in 1937-38 and 1938-39, the days in port numbered 1,969, and that the average number of tons of cargo loaded each day was 434. In 1945-48 and 1946-47, taking S6 vessels, 1,686 day? were spent in port, and the average number of tons of cargo loaded each day was 321. The report also states that a vessel which in 1938 was turned round in 42 days, in 1947, whilst engaged in the loading and discharging of similar cargo at a similar range of ports, spent 90 days on the coast. An examination of the report shows deterioration throughout the Commonwealth. Take, for instance sugar. Before the war, the loading rate of sugar per gang-hour at Cairns was 25.8 tons, and at Townsville 25 tom, compared with 16 to 17 tons on lighters at Cairns and 14 tons on lighters at Townsville in 1946-47. The drop in the loading rate at Newcastle in respect of iron and steel is indicated by the fact that in 1939 the loading figure was 1.341 tons a man-hour, whereas by November, 1946. it had fallen to .747 tons a man-hour.
These figures illustrate the great fallingoff that has taken place in operations at Australian ports since this Government came into office. “We were told when the Stevedoring Industry Commission was constituted, that proper amenities would be given to wharf labourers and that the rate of handling cargoes would improveActually the position has grown worse, and it now constitutes a serious threat to the Australian economy. Not only are the difficulties of interstate transport being accentuated, but also our overseas shipping services, limited as they are, are being hampered by the slow turn round of ships trading to the Australian coast.
– What is the honorable member’s remedy for all this?
– I am not a member of the Government of this country. Honorable members opposite should devote themselves to a solution of the problem instead of making unctious statements in this chamber and endeavouring to assure us that everything in the garden is lovely. The fact is that, in the economy of this country, there are great flaws which the Government is not attempting to eliminate.
I wish also to draw attention to the disastrous situation which has arisen in Malaya since our goodwill mission arrived there. I refer particularly to the apparent lack of co-ordination between the Department of External Affairs and the Department of Immigration regarding the implementation of the White Australia policy. Every member of this House, and all political parties in this Parliament, are agreed in supporting the White Australia policy. I have supported it all my life. I believe that it is necessary in order to maintain our economic standards and living conditions. . do not believe that it is aimed at the people of any country because their skin is of a different colour from our own. The Asiatic people understand that, and T do not believe that they bear us any ill will because of the White Australia policy. I am confirmed in that opinion by the following passage in an editorial published in the Straits Times on the 4th June, as quoted by the Daily Telegraph : -
It is not the barrier maintained by Australia against Asian settlement that causes the trouble . . . but when Mr. Calwell suddenly decides that a few respectable Asian or Eurasian individuals who have been living in Australia for years must be uprooted, forced to give up their jobs, break up their homes and families, and go back to Asia, that is when the White Australia policy offends racial pride in Malaya, for in acting thus Mr. Calwell seems unreasonable, harsh, and provocative.
The attitude of the Department of Immigration to these few Asiatics is very dangerous and is doing Australia an enormous amount of harm. It was stupid to tear from their homes and deport these few Malayan seamen, who had married Australian women, when the number involved was so small that it could not have the slightest effect upon our economic conditions now or in the future. There was never any question of opening our doors to Asiatic migration. The action of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) aroused a storm of protest in Malaya, and the ill feeling has spread to other Eastern countries. The criticism has come not from irresponsible people, but from leading Malayan citizens and leading newspapers in the Straits Settlement. The Government sent Mr. Macmahon Ball on a goodwill mission, and he was called upon to face a situation about which he knew nothing. Apparently, he was given no prior instructions. I should like to know who asked that the Malayan seamen be deported. Did the request come from outside sources, or did it originate in the Department of Immigration itself? Was there any consultation between the Department of External Affairs and ‘the Minister for Immigration as to the possible repercussions of the deportation of the Malays? This is a matter which should have been decided by Cabinet. The Malays came here during the war, married Australian women, and were becoming good citizens of Australia. I should like to know whether there is a proper understanding between the Minister for External Affairs and the Minister for Immigration on matters of this kind. Has the Minister for External Affairs ever warned the Minister for Immigration regarding the probable effects of the policy which he is applying? I hope that Cabinet will decide that our White Australia policy shall be applied in such a way as to cause less irritation to the people of other countries. The Minister for Immigration should be instructed to use his discretion so as to avoid arousing the lasting hatred of Eastern peoples.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Duthie) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.36 p.m.
The folloiuing answers to questions were circulated: -
Housing : Compulsory Acquisition of Land.
e asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s. - On the 6th May, the honorable menrber for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) asked the following question: -
Did the Minister for the Army see a recent report in the press that ex-servicemen of World WarII. had received a gratuity of £20 and are paid a pension of sixpence a day? If so, will the Minister consider similar payments to decorated ex-servicemen of World War I.?
I have investigated this matter and now advise the honorable member as follows : -
s. - On the 3rd June, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) asked the following question : -
I would like to ask the Minister whether efficiency grants to rifle clubs were made during the last two years. Certain Queensland clubs have not received grants for the years 1946-47 and 1947-48. Will the Minister see that if such grants are made available, the payments’ be made retrospective?
I have investigated this matter and now advise the honorable member as follows : -
Efficiency grants for registered rifle clubs for the year 1946-47 have been paid. With regard to the year 1947-48, approval has been given for the payment of efficiency grants to all registered clubs, and it is expected that these will be finalized and’ payments made prior to 30th June.
Australian Regular Army: Enlistment of British Personnel.
s. - On the 30th April, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) asked the following question s -
I ask the Minister for the Army whether any consideration has been given to accepting officers and other ranks of the British Army as members of the Australian Permanent Forces, should theydesire to transfer to this country? If so, what procedure will be necessary for these men to make application for enlistment in the Australian Permanent Forces?
I have investigated this matter and now advise the honorable member as follows : -
Applications have been called recently from serving and ex-serving officers of the Australian Military Forces who wish to be considered for appointments to commissions in the Australian Regular Army. These applications are now being examined, together with those submitted by former officers of the British and Indian Armies now resident in Australia. Until the acceptance of the applications received from residents in Australia has been determined, it is not proposed to invite applications from officers of the British Army who are not resident in Australia. Regard ins other ranks, a number of applications have been received from members of British units stationed in Japan. Where suitable, such applicants have been enlisted in the Australian Regular Army and are now serving in Australian units. Until the numbers of officers and other ranks of the Australian Military Forces who intend to join the Australian Regular Army arc known, it is not intended to proceed with any scheme for general recruiting outside the Commonwealth.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 June 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19480609_reps_18_197/>.