18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I refer the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to recent press reports of a “ vicious racket in fruit and vegetables “. It is asserted that while many growers of fruit and vegetables are hardly making a living on their orchards and farms owing to the low prices paid for their produce by middlemen, housewives are paying exorbitant prices for fruit and vegetables. The press says that the middlemen and retailers are thus making fortunes. What is the position ? What are the Minister’s views ? Are prices controlled? Has the Government any power to stop the racket and to protect both growers and consumers ?
– Since the end of the war, the Commonwealth has had no power whatever over marketing within a State. The problem of overcoming difficulties alleged to exist is one for determination by the growers themselves, possibly along the lines of co-operative marketing, and by the consumers who should seek ‘ protection from the States, which will soon have some power over price fixation, after the Commonwealth has relinquished the field as the result of the “ No “ vote at the referendum.
– I have been informed that certain co-operative fruitgrowing associations ,in central Queensland are experiencing considerable difficulty in obtaining supplies of white packing paper for the lining of cases and the wrapping ‘ of certain types of fruit and vegetables. Consequently, they find it difficult to comply with . the requirements of the Department of Commerce,, and Agriculture in packing fruit and vegetables for southern, markets, such as Brisbane, Sydney and AdelaideUntil recently they were able to obtain supplies of paper from newspaper companies, hut they cannot do so now because of the recent further restrictionsimposed upon the use of newsprint. J ash the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development whether the matter comes within the scope of that department and, if so, whether a special quota oan be made available to meet the needs of these Queensland producers f
– The responsibility for making supplies of white paper available for industries such as the honorable member mentioned does not come within the scope of the Department of Supply and Development. The Commonwealth has no control in this matter as far as I am aware; it is entirely a matter for private enterprise. However, I know that the Minister for Supply and Development will do everything possible to assist the growers to obtain the necessary supplies. I shall mention the matter to him and advise the honorable member of the result of my inquiry.
Forrest Hill Aerodrome - TransAustralia Airlines.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether one of the alternative ‘ aerodromes to the Canberra aerodrome is at Forrest Hill, just out qf Wagga, which has no hard-surfaced landing strip that is serviceable in all weather. If so, is it intended to provide all-weather landing facilities at Forrest Hill soon? Is the Minister prepared to assist the Albury people to establish an airfield near their city in the event of a further application . to him for such assistance?
– The Forrest Hill aerodrome at Wagga is used as an alternative- aerodrome to the aerodrome at Canberra” when, by reason of adverse weather conditions, that aerodrome cannot be used. The aerodrome at Forrest Hill is a Royal Australian Air Force aerodrome only, hut it has been made available for civil aviation purposes .bo as to meet the growth of air traffic at the civil aerodrome at Wagga, the area of which is insufficient for the size and type of aircraft now in use in inter-capital and interstate air services. As Forrest Hill is & ground engineering training school, it has no air force requirement for hardsurfaced or all-weather runways. It is intended to provide in next year’s civil aviation estimates approximately £60,000 for hard surfaced runways, taxiways and other facilities at the aerodrome.With respect to Albury, technical advice and assistance is given whenever possible in regard to applications from cities and shires. The honorable member has previously made representations to me on this matter, on behalf and at the request of the city authorities. Any further application by either the local authorities or the honorable member will certainly be given full consideration.
– Will the Treasurer state whether the Government has adopted a scheme under which it is intended to grant an annual subsidy of £300,000 to Trans-Australia Airlines? If so, what is the purpose of this subsidy? Is it thought that, by granting such a subsidy, the operations of TransAustralia Airlines, which last year showed a loss of between £500,000 and £700,000, will be shown in a more favorable light?
Mr.CHIFLEY. -I know nothing of such a scheme. I understand that arrangements have been made between the Postmaster-General’s Department and Trans-Australia Airlines for the carriage of mails.
– On a different basis from that previously operating.
Mr.CHIFLEY.- I believe that that is so. Payment will be made to TransAustralia Airlines for that service. It has been the practice of the department to make such payments to other airline organizations for similar services.
– On a poundage basis.
Mr.CHIFLEY. - There has been, as the honorable member for Balaclava suggests, a change in the method of payment for the carriage of airmails. A lump sum will be paid to Trans- Australia Airlines in future to cover all airmail offering. I shall furnish the right honorable member with a more detailed reply as soon as possible.
– I address a question to the Minister for Works and Housing, arising out of the experiences of ex-servicemen who apply for an advance to buy a home under the War Service Homes Act only to find that the War Service Homes Department will not accept the purchase price approved by the sub-Treasury and will not make an advance based on the sub-Treasury’s valuation. As a consequence, many ex-servicemen have to make up the amounts by which the subTreasury’s valuation differs from that of the department. I have in mind particularly an instance in Kingaroy, the sub-Treasury’s valuation being £1,289 and that of the War Service Homes Department £1,034, of which up to 90 per cent may be advanced to the applicant. The department refused to make an advance on the sub-Treasury’s valuation. Can the Minister say why there should be a conflict of valuations between government departments, and why the valuations of the sub-Treasury are not accepted by the War Service Homes authorities?
– The usual experience has been the reverse of that stated by the honorable member, because generally, whilst the basis adopted by the Treasury has been the 1939 values, that of the War Service Homes Department has been the replacement value of the building concerned, less depreciation. Generally I should say that in 98 out of 100 cases the latter department’s valuations have been slightly higher than those of the Treasury. It is possible that the case mentioned by the honorable member has some special significance. If he will let me have the particulars, I shall have it examined and try to rectify the position.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services inform me whether, under the free medicine scheme formulary, a doctor who includes aspirin in a prescription must limit the quantity to five grains, even though he may consider a greater quantity to be essential to the mixture, otherwise the patient cannot obtain the mixture free? Will the Minister also say whether a doctor who, in good faith, prescribes a larger dosage on the free medicine prescription form suffers any penalties 1
– As the question is too technical for me to answer I shall obtain a reply to it from the Minister for Health.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services in a position to inform the House of the cost, annually, to the New Zealand Government, of maintaining the free medicine scheme in that Dominion, and the average cost per head of the population?
– I am unable, offhand, to furnish the information sought, but I shall cause inquiries to be made, and will supply the honorable member with particulars as soon as possible.
– In view of the grave shortage of ammunition for the destruction of pests in rural areas, is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs in favour of extensive clay bird shooting? Will the honorable gentleman consider the urgency of lifting the’ import restrictions on American shotguns in order to help primary, producers: who cannot obtain firearms to- destroy vermin ?
– In, most instances primary producers are already supplied with firearms. However, a substantial quantity- of firearms, is available from manufacturers, who draw supplies from the Commonwealth munitions factories. In these, circumstances, and in view- of the dollar shortage,, I do not think it is reasonable to expect that there should be fr.ee importation- of firearms: from America. I understand from press reports that some ammunition is being imported into Australia- from, overseas, though from what source I do not know. As far as I ‘am concerned’, any person can shoot clay birds to his heart’s content.
– I have been asked by persons and organizations interested when the’ Attorney-General’s proposed amendment of the Married Women’s Property Act will come before the Parliament. Will the right honorable gentleman state whether he intendsto bring this matter before the Parliament during the next sittings?
– ‘Some time ago, when the honorable member referred tomarried women’s property, I informed: her that that matter was within thejurisdiction not of the Commonwealth, but of the States. I am not aware what representations have been made to the honorable mem’ber on the subject and I should be glad if she would furnish me with further information. The Commonwealth has a wide jurisdiction, but no general jurisdiction over the property of married women in relation to their spouses. I do not think we would get that power by any number of referendums.
australians in japan.
– Has theMinister for the Army decided to take any action in regard to the report by the three- chaplains-general, a general and’ a. journalist who visited Japan in thenot distant past to inquire into the conditions of the troops there?:
– I do not- know just, what the honorable member means when he asks whether the. Government intends, to take any action.
– Apparently the Minister has not read the report.
– I have read it probably more thoroughly than- the honorable member has. done.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– If the honorable gentleman refers to the incidence of venereal disease amongst troops in J apan, I point out that the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. Command has been continually dealing with this problem, as the- report- definitely indicates; I am amazed- at the- honorable member saying that I have not read the report. I should say that he- has- not read thereport if he does not realize that every thing- possible is being.. done to solve this problem^ as the thi,ee, chaplainsgeneraladmitted.
– That is not according to the report.
– It was also admitted by the other gentlemen who went to Japan to inquire into the subject. They agree that everything possible is being done to reduce the percentage of venereal disease amongst the troops. Furthermore, I have now issued an instruction that any servicemen in Japan who contract venereal disease shall be returned to Australia immediately after being treated.
– On Tuesday J asked a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services regarding the arrangements made between Australia and the United Kingdom in respect of pensions. Has the Minister jet obtained the information which I sought and, if so, can he supply it to the House to-day?
– Yes, I .can :answer the question to-day . There is no actual agreement in regard to reciprocity between Australia and the United Kingdom, but .the Australian Government Acts .as an agent for .the United Kingdom Government. If citizens of the United .Kingdom who come to Australia .to reside are eligible to continue drawing British pensions, the Department of Social (Services makes the payments to them and obtains refunds later from the United Kingdom Government.
Quotations from Documents.
– Yesterday, the hon.orable member for Reid asked a question concerning a letter previously quoted in tikis House by a Minister, and : sought information generally relating to the tabling of documents. Will you, Mr. Speaker., be good enough to inform the House whether you have investigated the matter, and, if -so, can you furnish any information for the guidance of honorable members?
– When this matter was raised yesterday, I realized its importance, and fully expected that the honorable member for
Reid would follow up the question. However, my very studious understudy has done so. I have investigated the matter fully and prepared a reply.
On Wednesday the honorable member for Reid directed a question to me regarding a letter addressed to the Prime Minister by Dr. J. R. Atcherley, which was quoted from by the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction. I assured the honorable member that I was not aware of the circumstances surrounding the matter and, on a perusal .of Hansard, I find that the incident occurred on the 6th May last, when the House was in committee. It is therefore clear that I had no knowledge of the incident, and, as the House was in committee at the time, unless by direction of the committee, I could have no knowledge of the matter. After examining the whole of the circumstances, I find that Standing Order 317 is the only guidance that the Chair has in these matters. That standing order provides -
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.
A perusal of the records showed that the tabling of the document was not asked for, and consequently the Minister was not obliged to table it, whether or not it was of a ‘confidential nature. The honorable member for Reid suggested that the solution of the problem would lie in Standing Order 43, which 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.
It would appear that this standing order requires the Clerk to retain custody of journals, records, and all documents whatsoever laid before the House. I interpret it to mean, so far as it is relevant to this question, that the only responsibility resting on the Clerk of the House is the preservation of documents laid on the table, and, as this document was not laid on the table, either voluntarily or by direction of the House, no responsibility for its custody remains with the Clerk of the House
While I was giving my ruling on Wednesday, the honorable member for Reid interjected -
When the Minister read the letter, he said he would place it on record.
I have perused the relevant copy of Hansard, and find that the Minister’s exact words were -
I now quote the letter in order to put it on record.
That does not indicate to me that the Minister intended to lay the letter on the table, but merely to quote it so that it would be recorded in Hansard. That is an entirely different procedure from tabling a document for the purpose of making it a public document.
The honorable member for Reid concluded his question by asking me, as the Speaker of the House, to issue directions, as follows : -
My reply to that suggestion is that the letter was never in the custody of the House or the Clerk.
My reply is that the powers of the Speaker are limited to the Standing Orders, and the Speaker has no power to order the tabling of any letters except with the express desire of the House on a substantive motion.
My answer is that it is, and has been, the established custom of Hansard to ask honorable members for all documents quoted from, so that the actual quotations will be recorded word-perfect. As this is the established custom, I see no reason for interfering with the excellent work performed by the Hansard staff.
– According to a statement in the press last Thursday, 21,000 cases of butter destined for Haifa had been unloaded at Brisbane because the Port of Haifa had been closed as the result of the unsettled conditions in
Palestine. Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House what proportion of this shipment was destined for British nationals in Palestine, and for whom the balance was intended? Will the honorable gentleman also state whether there will be further shipments of butter to Palestine? Does he not consider that all shipments of this nature should be stopped until the shortage of butter in Great Britain has been made good?
– Several problems are involved in this matter. Some of the butter which is exported from Australia is shipped in accordance with directions issued by the United Kingdom Government. If the United Kingdom desires the continuation of shipments at its own risks to its nationals in Palestine, I believe that the Australian Government will consent to them. A small proportion of the total butter production in Australia - about 1,000 tons - is the subject of private trade. It is for the private traders themselves to determine whether they will takethe risk of shipping butter to Palestine or any other country where the conditions are unsettled. I shall be glad to supply the honorable member with all the information at the disposal of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture regarding shipments of butter to Palestine.
– A week or two ago, I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the request of members of the Australian Dairy Produce Board - the representatives of the dairying industry in this country - that the industry should be represented in the negotiations with the United Kingdom for the sale of Australian butter over an extended period had been acceded to. The Minister replied that such representatives would not be permitted to take part in negotiations;but I understand, from a report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, that the Minister has since indicated that he may reconsider his decision. Is the Minister aware that representatives of the dairying industry in New Zealand will accompany the representatives of the Government of that country to London to negotiate butter contracts? Has the Minister read a statement by Mr. McCarthy, an officer of his department, made at a meeting of the Australian Dairy Produce Board recently, that at all times officials who went abroad to enter into negotiations on behalf of theGovernment were under definite instructions on matters of policy? Does this mean that the Government decides matters of vital importance to primary industries? Will the Minister even at this late stage give further consideration to appointing a producer’s representative to participate in the negotiations for long-term contracts for the sale of Australian butter?
– In reply to a previous question on this matter, I informed the honorable member that the contract between Australia and the United Kingdom would be signed with the mutual consent of both Governments and that the Australian Government was responsible to the Australian people, and therefore, to the Australian producers of dairy products, for its actions in relation to all such contracts. I also informed the dairy producers’ representatives who waited on me in Melbourne some months ago that the Government was not prepared to interpose their nominees between the two Governments concerned in the negotiations. Recently, representatives of the dairy producers approached me again andasked for further consideration of their request. I told them that my previous decision stood, but in addition, I informed the Australian dairy products export control authorities - they are representatives of the producers of course -that the Government would be very glad to hear from them any suggestions regarding the basis on which the contract with the United Kingdom should be renewed. I now ask the honorable member where he obtained the information that I told those who asked me to consider the matter, that I was prepared to do so.
– In accordance with Government policy, the Postmaster-General’s Department requires a primary producer applicant for a telephone line to sign an undertaking which requires him to erect or pay for a greater length of line than he applies for. There is also a condition which permits officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department to limit its expenditure on such a line to £100 per applicant. I emphasize that these conditions are imposed by a government department which operates a nationally-owned system. Will the Prime Minister invite the PostmasterGeneral to bring before Cabinet a liberalized policy with regard to this matter? The telephones, which are owned by the Commonwealth, are required for domestic and business use, rent is charged on then! and all calls are paid for.
– The extension of telephone lines of the kind mentioned by the honorable member has always been the subject of negotiation between the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the parties concerned. Requests are sometimes made for lines to be extended for a considerable distance. It would be uneconomic, and would throw a great strain on the finances of the department to agree to do that on any considerable scale. The department is empowered within certain limits, to contribute to the cost of such extensions. If the honorable gentleman has any specific case in mind. I shall ask the Postmaster-General to inquire into it. I shall also arrange for the general question to be considered.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the report in this morning’s newspapers that the council of the New South Wales Bar Associationhas passed a resolution protesting against the right honor able gentleman’s recent attack upon Mr. Simon Isaacs by his use of the term “ larrikin lawyer “ ? In view of the need to uphold the dignity of the Parliament, and to protect persons in the position of Mr. Simon Isaacs from unwarranted attacks will the Prime Minister, as suggested by the council of the New South Wale? Bar Association, offer an apology to this House and to Mr. Isaacs?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - I heard on the wireless this morning that the New South Wales Bar Association, or some similar organization, had protested against some remarks that I made in this House. I do not remember using the name of Mr. Isaacs.
– Everybody knew to whom the right honorable gentleman was referring.
– I certainly used the term “ larrikin lawyer “. I am- not so fortunate as to be a member of that trade union - the legal profession. I have said nothing in this House at any time for which I propose to apologize to anybody.
– In view of the fact that the final shipment of Allis Chalmer tractors under the lend-lease settlement has not yet arrived in this country, and that the diversion of some of the tractors to Australian ports other than those to which it is now intended that they should go is still possible, will the Prime Minister discuss with the Minister for Trade and Customs the question of increasing the Western Australian quota from approximately 4 per cent, of the total number to a more equitable percentage? My question is prompted by the fact that Western Australia received very small quantities of these tractors during the war period.
– Some American tractors, which comprise part of the final lendlease settlement that was made when I was in the United States of America, in 1946, will arrive in Australia during this year. Part of that consignment consists of some Allis Chalmer tractors. Some months ago the honorable gentleman made representations to me on this matter and urged that a larger allocation should be made to Western Australia. The original arrangement which was made a long time ago was that lend-lease tractors were to be distributed on a certain basis among the various States. The department responsible for the allocations desired to adhere to the original arrangement in respect of all materials covered by the lend-lease agreement. Even though the final settlement in respect of that agreement was concluded when I visited the United States of America, I understand that tractors of the particular type are still coming forward. In view of the knowledge I gained of the subject when the honorable member discussed it with me, I shall be glad to discuss with the Minister for Trade and Customs and the
Minister for Commerce and Agriculture the possibility of altering the original allocations.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to question No. 2 standing on the notice-paper. That question has been on the notice-paper since the 22nd October last. I shall not read the whole question, but I direct the right honorable gentleman’s attention to paragraph 3 which reads -
What steps are being taken to ensure that adequate supplies of these steel products will be made available to Queensland?
-The honorable gentleman is quoting from a question on the notice-paper; he is out of order.
– I rise to order. Procedure in this chamber is governed by the Standing Orders, but where they are silent it is governed by precedent. I know of several precedents, since I have been a member of the House, that when delay occurs in supplying an answer to a question upon notice the honorable member who asks the question may endeavour to ascertain the cause of the delay, and show its urgency in order to have the reply expedited. I took that course. I indicated the subject of my question which, undoubtedly, is urgent because it deals with materials which are in short supply in Queensland. I submit,- Mr. Speaker, that upon reflection you will agree that I was in order.
-It is a long standing practice of the House that honorable members may ask when they may expect a reply -to a question when the reply is delayed. However, it is also a longstanding practice of the House that honorable members shall not ask questions which appear on the notice-paper.
– Has the Prime Minister read a statement reported to have been made at a public meeting in Melbourne by Senator Hendrickson that it is the policy of the Government that industries which cannot carry on under a five-day working week should be subsidized from the earnings of industries which are able to do so? Is Senator Hendrickson a member of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party ? If so, was he stating Government policy in making this disclosure? When and by what means does the Government intend to apply this policy? Which are the industries unable to carry on, and which are the industries to be levied to support those which are unable to carry on?
– I have not read or heard of the statement which, I assume, the honorable member has quoted from a press report. I shall inquire into the matter. However, I believe the honorable member will realize that Senator Hendrickson, or any other member of the Parliamentary Labour party, including myself, cannot make statements of party policy unless authorized to do so.
– Some months ago I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service a question regarding the Commonwealth Employment Service. In reply, I was informed that the wages of officers engaged in this service amounted to £540,000 a year, and that the service occupied 146 offices, the rentals of which amounted to more than £49,000 a year. Taking these figures in conjunction with the number of jobs provided by the service - there were no statistics indicating how long they lasted - it appeared that the provision of each job cost the taxpayers of this country £3. I ask the Minister whether the number of persons now employed in Commonwealth government departments has reached an all-time record. Has the Commonwealth Employment Service found the utmost difficulty in recent months in securing workers for the building and metal trades, and the mining, timber-cutting and transport industries? Is it a fact that in Victoria alone there are 40,000 jobs available? In view of all these factors, will the Minister ensure that this redundant service shall be wound up ?
– The question asked by the honorable member has already .been asked and answered in this chamber two or three times. In fact, I thought that the suggestion that every job found by the Commonwealth Employment Service cost the taxpayers of this country £3 had been so effectively dealt with that no one would dare to make it again. To the request that I should have the Commonwealth Employment Service wound up, the answer is “ no “. When governments supported by the honorable member for Balaclava were in office in this country, there were 500,000 or 600,000 unemployed persons in the Commonwealth; to-day there are no unemployed, thanks to the Commonwealth Employment Service.
Debate resumed from the 9th June (vide page 1856), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the hill be now read a second time.
.- The measure before the House is the Supply Bill (No. 1) 1948-49, and, in addressing themselves to it, honorable members are allowed under the Standing Orders to discuss many diverse subjects. I propose to preface my general observations by referring to the tactics employed by members of the Opposition in recent months, both in this House and out of it. The speeches of members of the Opposition make it clear that they all have an election complex. Their tactics are in many respects utterly reprehensible. Slanderous statements have been made about Ministers and members of the Labour party. Untruths and half truths have been uttered, and have been taken up by the press and displayed in great headlines. Condemnations and criticism bordering upon defamation show the depths to which Opposition members are prepared to descend in their attempts to win the election next year. At least 90 per cent, of the criticism offered by the Opposition since I have been in the Parliament has been destructive. I always thought that the purpose of the Opposition in a Parliament was to assist the Government in’ every way possible, but the present Opposition has made no attempt to do so. When Opposition members attack th policy of the Government they try toblacken the characters of Ministers and! Government supporters. They try to’ create in the minds of the public the impression that we on this side of the House are rogues and scoundrels. Some time ago, I listened to a member of the Liberal party addressing a public meeting at Launceston on the banking case, and I took a note of what he said. Here it is -
Do not let your affairs get into the hands <<>f skunks and scoundrels.
Et was hard for me to sit there and take that kind of thing, but it is typical of many of the statements made by Opposition members in this House, and published in the press. That is close to defamation Of character and libel. One wonders how much farther they would have to descend for their statements and writings to be defamatory and libellous. We should always distinguish between personalities and policies. It is legitimate to criticize a man’s policy, but that does not necessarily involve criticism of him personally. If we can make that distinction as members of the Parliament a lot of the gutter-type talk that we hear would not be heard. When I criticize an opponent’s policy I do not intend to critisize him as an individual. Criticism of a man’s policy is one thing but vilification of him is an entirely different matter. I do not know just where Australia will get if slanderous speeches of the type I complain about continue to be delivered in the National Parliament by honorable gentlemen opposite in their efforts to regain control of the treasury-bench at the next general election. I was prepared to overlook a lot before the referendum campaign, but during that campaign the Labour party was subjected to one of the greatest onslaughts of propaganda that it has ever experienced. The attack was cleverly organized and it spread throughout Australia. Apparently it had the backing of thousands and thousands of pounds. I do not deny that the propaganda was clever, for it footed many of the people. I am not concerned with its cleverness, “however; what I criticize is the type of propaganda that was indulged in. Unfortunately the people do not know enough about the Constitution of the Commonwealth to distinguish lies from truth. It is very difficult for them to do so when such a volume of propaganda descends upon them in a short period.
In the post-war world to-day the press has perhaps a greater responsibility than ever before not to inflame public opinion unnecessarily, for any false move by a reporter anywhere in the world, with international relations so strained as they are, could easily lead to another outbreak of strife and conflict. It behoves all press reporters in this Parliament to report factually the statements of Ministers, party leaders and private members alike. I believe that they do that, but that their reports are editorially coloured by the choice of headlines and in other ways. The press if supporting the terrific attack on the Government in every possible way, and i.e leading the people to believe that we have done nothing right in the six and a half years in which we have been in office - that nothing that we have done is worthy of commendation. The freedom of thi’ press is sacred; it is a part of our democracy that we must never destroy; but freedom is not licence and with freedom there must be responsibility. I make an appeal for responsibility to be observed by the press. We have had to face such a barrage of. misrepresentation, especially in the last month or so, that I am justified in doing so.
Listening to the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), one would be led to believe that it is a crime for a government to balance its budget, or to have, as has been forecast by the Prime Minister and Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), a surplus pf from £2,000,000 to £6,000,000. But we are proud of that record. It is a particular source of pride that not one penny was borrowed outside Australia with which to fight the war. All commitments this financial year will be met from revenue without the need to borrow money to bridge the gap between revenue and expenditure, as we have hitherto had to do. Surely that is worthy of commendation. It is to the credit of the Treasurer that Australia’s finances are so sound. Yet the Leader of the Australian Country party and the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) spent a great deal of time vilifying the Government and raving about the terrible economic position of Australia. The facts belie their statements. If Australia’s enonomic position is so perilous. why is it that scores of millions of dollars and pounds are pouring into Australia from America and Great Britain for industrial development? If we are in a disastrous economic position, why is it that Mr. Robert Butler, former United States Ambassador to Australia, Mr. Hartnett, former managing director of General Motors-Holdens . Proprietary Limited, and other prominent Australian business men, who have returned from world tours and are not supporters of the Labour party, have paid tribute to our economy? They should know better than men who have not been away what our economic position is compared with that of other countries. Perhaps the Opposition parties could have done as good a job as the Labour party has done. I do not say that they could not. But surely great credit is due to a government that has fought a war and overcome great post-war difficulties and is yet able to present a balanced budget. If the budget were not balanced, the Opposition would criticize us. Now it criticizes the Government for having balanced the budget. In the eyes of honorable gentlemen opposite, we on this side, can do nothing right. The Acting Leader of the Opposition referred yesterday to the fact that government employment had increased by about 136 per cent, since 1.945, compared with an increase of only S.5 per cent, of employment in the building trades. He said that that was disastrous and asked, “ Why does not the Government do something about it?” But what could the Government do? The Commonwealth surrendered control over man-power in 1946 and has absolutely no power to direct labour, male or female, anywhere. Evidently, the honorable gentleman wants the re-introduction of conscription of man-power in order that men and women may be re-directed to industries in which they were employed during the war. The- Government cannot do that. Australian men and women have absolute freedom to choose their vocations. That is their right. I would not agree to conscription of man-power in time of peace. People should be able to choose to work in whatever industry suits them and to go where pay and conditions are best. That is why we see a flow of labour from industry to industry. It is indeed a pity that many essential trades have insufficient workers, but it is impossible for the Australian Government to overcome that difficuly by directing men and women to engage in those trades. In answer to the honorable gentleman’s remarks about the production of building materials, I point out thai the production of most building materials has reached the 1939 levels. But, owing to the great demand brought about by the increased purchasing power of the people, production is still well behind the demand. There is still a great shortage of materials. The honorable member also said that government employees had increased by 92.000, and that there were more than 90,000 jobs, requiring labour in Australis to-day. Why, he asked, did the Government draw these 92,000 workers away from productive employment. How does the honorable member know that thosepeople were in productive employment before the war? It is more likely thai many of them were among the 250,000 unemployed in 1940. It is nonsensical to say that they were drawn away from productive employment. ‘
The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said last night that this Government had done nothing for the dairying industry. It is true, as be asserted, that butter production ha.* declined. But he did not mention the reasons for that decline of which there have been four during the last five or six years that I shall mention. They are: (1) The low prices for butterfat in the early war years; (2) two disastrous droughts in Queensland and New South Wales since the end of the war. which cut butter production enormously: (3) war-time denudation of man-power from rural areas; and (4) war-time demand and stability of prices for quick return crops like flax, vegetables and potatoes, which caused many dairyfarmers to sell a proportion of their dairy herds and take up the kind of agricultural production which was known as “ cash-cropping “, because it gave a better and quicker return. But we are gradually approaching the 1940-41 figures. It is a wonder to me, after hearing the right honorable member for Cowper last night, that members of the Opposition have not listed all the corn complaints, lumbagoand ear troubles of the people, and heaped the blame f or them on the :Government. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) very splendidly answered the right honorable mem’ber. for Cowper. He cited the ‘ recent efforts of the Government to rescue the dairying industry from the ‘doldrum into which it had stank before the war, and from which it did n’ot recover during the war years. He referred to the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill which the Government throught down last year, and to the various ways in which the Government had inspired the dairy-farmers to go ahead with production and increase their herds. The price of butter-fat was increased to 2s. 5¼d. per lb., and that of commercial butter to 2s. per lb., the rates being retrospective to the 1st April, 1947. The dairy-farmers have now had those increased prices for a full year. They represent an increased return to the industry of £2,000,000 per annum and are to be paid for a five-year period, with the range of prices varying according to the cost of production, .as reviewed from time to time. * Not only has the Government increased prices to a cost of production level;’ but it has also decided to expend £250,000 over a five-year period from the 1st January last to encourage the dairy-farmers to raise the standards of efficiency in their industry. That has never previously been done on a government level. I regard it as a constructive move towards rescuing the industry from utter collapse. Dairy-farmers in Tasmania are now trying to ‘buy dairy cows with which to increase their herd’s. So great is the demand for them in Tasmania that farmers have to pay from £25 to £30 apiece for them.
– They must be making money. We on the north coast of New South Wales are paying only £12.
– Their quality must be inferior to that of the Tasmanian dairy cow. When prices were increased, the newspapers hailed the new rates as an indication that a new era for dairyfarmers had begun, and I believe that they were right.
The right honorable member for Cowper also made other statements last night that deserve severe criticism.
While ‘he Wa;s Minister for Oem.merce prior to the war, .employment in (fee dairying industry declined very steeply, because of insecurity of prices and lack of a bold government policy. I shall quote figures, illustrating that, decline, from Commonwealth Y,ear Book No. ‘36 for 1944-45, at page 857. In 3334-35, 166;958 males and females were employed in the ‘dairying industry in Australia. By l’93’9-40, the number had decreased to 14S,9’62, Which was a very considerable drop and was due, as I stated previously, to the industry having sunk into the doldrums for ‘the reasons that I mentioned.
The wheat-growing industry also suffered while the right honorable member for Cowper was Minister for Commerce. Between 1933 and 1941, according to Commonwealth Year Booh No. 36, there was a decrease of 6,625 in the number of wheat-growers in Australia.
The figures I have given show that there was a great reduction of employment in the two great industries of dairyfarming and wheat-growing through lack of a bold government policy designed to achieve stability. In proof of that statement, let me quote the number of wheatgrowers in Australia owning twenty acres or more. In 1933-34, there were 55,997 such wheat-growers, but by 1940-41 the number had declined to 49,172, a decrease of 6,625, as I mentioned previously. Those of us who remember those days consider that men who struggled on as wheat and dairy farmers did under the conditions then prevailing, should have received the Victoria Cross.
The right honorable member for Cowper said that there had been a decrease in the number of dairy cows during the last few years. In that, he was correct. But he also said that the number of dairy heifers ha.d decreased which indicated a very poor outlook for the industry. I shall quote once more from Commonwealth Year Booh No. 36, at page S58> where it is shown that in 1943 there were 837,465 heifer calves aged one year and over in. Australia. In 1945, there were 852,739, an increase of 15,27.4 in two year,s. That does not seem, to indicate- that, the industry is in a perilous condition as honorable members opposite would have us believe. The total cattle population of Australia has also increased during the last six years in spite of the gloomy story presented by the right honorable member for Cowper. Here are the figures. In 1939, there’ were 12,861,000 cattle; in 1945, which was a bad year because of droughts, the number was 14,133,000, or an increase of 2,72S,000.
– Is the honorable member referring to dairy cattle?
– I am giving the figures, in relation to cattle of all descriptions.
– The right honorable member for Cowper referred only to dairy cattle.
– The production of butter has decreased slightly during the last seven years, partly because of drought conditions and partly because of the great increase of the consumption of whole milk, principally in the cities of Melbourne and Sydney. Cheese production, however, increased during those years. Statistics show that factory production of cheese in 1938-39 amounted to 2S,974 tons. In 1944-45, the production had risen to 34,458 tons, or an increase of 5,484 tons. The production of condensed, concentrated and powdered milk increased from 72,280,000 lb. in 1938-39 to 169,272,000 lb. in 1943-44, an increase of 97,000,000 lb. Yet, in spite of these figures, it is said that the industry is in a desperate plight. Let us compare the pre-war prices of primary products with those prevailing now. I am aware that honorable members opposite will immediately say that the cost of production to-day is very much higher than it was in pre-war years. I am well aware that it has, but, notwithstanding that, the figures are very illuminating. In 1939, the price of wheat was 2s. 3d. a bushel. The first advance in respect of the 1947-48 harvest was 4s. 6d. a bushel, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has told me that there is a likelihood that the amount paid to growers will eventually total lis. 2d. a bushel. In 1939, cattle were selling at from £7 to £10 each; now the price is from £20 to £30 each. In 1939, butterfat was sold at 9d. per lb.; the present price is 2s. 5-Jd. per lb. In 1939, potatoes were sold at from £3 to £4 a ton ; to-day, the price is £13 10s. a ton. In 1939, the price of wool varied, the average being ls. Id. per lb. During this year, the price has varied from 45d. to 130d. per lb. The record price received this year was approximately 153d. per lb. This extraordinary increase in the price of wool may not be a healthy sign. Indeed, many wool-growers believe that it is not a healthy sign. A wool-grower told me this week that for his 40 bales of wool he will receive an average of £78 a bale. He has never received anything like that price before.
– The price of wool is based on world parity.
– Admittedly. In 1939, oats were selling at ls. 7d. a bushel. The first advance this year will be 3s. 6d. a bushel. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture has informed me that under the voluntary pool growers are guaranteed 3s. 6d. a bushel, and that as the result of large exports from the pool it is estimated that the return to pool participants will be double the guaranteed price. I have no figures relating to the pre-war price of barley.
– It was very low.
– That is so. The guaranteed price this year is 3s. 6d. a bushel for feed grade barley and 4s. a bushel for malting grades. Second advances of ls. a bushel for feed grades and 4s. a. bushel for malting grades have already been paid. In view of the substantial volume of exports, however, considerable additional advances may be expected. In 1939, the average price of sheep was 25s.; now it is from 50s. to 70s.
– It would save a lot of time if the honorable member tabled the Year-Booh.
– I am submitting facts and figures but honorable members opposite merely sneer at them. Let them explain, if they can, their failure to look after the interests of the primary producers when they were, in office.
Mr. Turnbull interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Wimmera will not be allowed to remain in the House if hecontinues to interject.
– So poverty-stricken were the wheat-growers and woolgrowers in 1935 that their total debts amounted to £288,000,000 and only 5 per cent of them paid State or Federal income tax. During the war years the farmers paid £70,000,000 off their mortgages.. Notwithstanding this obvious indication of prosperity honorable members opposite would have us believe that the primary producers are in a perilous condition. Their conceptions of a sound economic position are certainly very different from our own. I am concentrating on the observations made by the right honorable member for Cowper.
– The honorable member is rearing him to pieces.
– The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), being a lawyer, does not know anything about farming, and consequently it would be better for him to cease interjecting. The right honorable member for Cowper also referred to the serious drift of population from the country to the cities during the last ten years. We all agree that that is a serious matter, but we do not agree with him that the blame for this state of affairs can be placed on this Government. The exodus of country-dwellers to the cities started long before this Government took office, and it wasaccelerated during the war because factories producing war equipment were situated in the cities and principal provincial centres. The drift to the cities really began in the years of the economic and financial depression when, due to insecurity brought about by low prices and the resultant low wages paid to rural workers, farmers and rural workers flocked to the cities seeking employment. The sons of very many farmers joined the great trek to the cities and thus the country was denuded of many potential primary producers who have never gone back to the land. Twenty thousand primary producers walked off their farms between 1930 and 1935and many of them have not returned. That was when the exodus from the country to the cities began to accelerate. The movement has never been fully arrested, and some time must elapse even yet before stabilized prices and improved conditions in farming communities will put an end to it. The latest census figures show that, in Victoria, population has increased by only two since the previous census. That illustrates the tragedy of the subject raised by the right honorable member for Cowper.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! There has been a continual barrage of interjection which is not evident when members of the Opposition are speaking. It must stop.
– Another cause of the decline of rural population which the right honorable member did not mention was the establishment of secondary industries during World War II. and afterwards. The policy of encouraging the establishment of secondary industries is condemned by some people, but my own conviction is that we must achieve a balance between secondary and primary industries. For many years, our farmers have been dependent for much of their equipment on overseas firms. Australia would benefit if our people could buy locally-produced tractors and other machinery. Therefore, our secondary industries can be of great assistance to primary production. These two branches of the national economy should support each other. However, I am not in favour of boosting secondary industries to the detriment of rural industries. Such a policy would be tragic. Our urban populations depend upon the farming community for foodstuffs and other commodities, the production of which must be continued at full pressure. I have stated the causes of the drift to the cities and the reasons why it has not been checked yet. The right honorable member for Cowper offered no solution of the problem. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) declared last night that the Scullin Government had done nothing for the dairyfarmers and other primary producers in 1930-31. He knows perfectly well why it could not carry out its plans for the assistance of primary industries. When the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) was Prime Minister, he appealed to the Commonwealth Bank
Board for £18,000,000 so that it could stave off the disaster that was threatening wheat-growers and other farmers. The board refused point blank to make the money available, and the Government was shackled like a prisoner. That was the reason why the Scullin Government could not help the primary producers in 1930-31.
Another remarkable statement by the honorable member for New England was to the effect that the low wage-earners suffer most under the burden of taxation to-day. The plain facts about taxation of the low income groups disprove that declaration. I have here figures which were issued by the Taxation Branch on the 18th March this year. Admittedly, a taxpayer without dependants is required to pay fairly substantial rates of tax. But, after all, those of us who are married know how greatly a man’s expenditure increases when he acquires a wife. Nevertheless, a taxpayer without dependants does not commence to pay social services contributions until heearns £2 a week, and does not pay income tax until he earns £5 a week. A taxpayer with a dependent wife is exempt from social services levy until he earns £4 a week and from income tax until he earns £7 8s. a week. A taxpayer with a wife and child is exempt from social services levy until he earns £5 5s. a week and from income tax until he earns £9 15s. a week. A taxpayer with a wife and two children is exempt from social services levy until he earns £6 a week and from income tax until he earns £11 a week. A taxpayer with a wife and three children -is exempt from social services levy until he earns £6 18s. a week and from income tax until he earns £12 5s. a week. Those figures completely discount the statement made by the honorable member for New England. The family unit to-day* is relieved of the heavy burden of taxation, and rightly so. The honorable member also asserted that the low income earner pays enormous amounts by means of indirect taxation. That is not so. Indirect taxes are applied to luxury and semi-luxury goods that we all use from time to time, but the basic items of clothing and food which the low income earner must buy are not taxed in this way. On the general subject of taxation, we all agree that the time has arrived for another reduction, on a sliding scale, of the rates levied upon all income groups. However, we must keep in mind the fact that pensions must be increased in order to meet rising costs of living, particularly since the people have voted “ No “ in the prices referendum. On the one hand we have a demand for reduced taxation, and on the other hand we have a demand for increased expenditure. The problem will have to be worked out carefully and wisely so that the changes can be made without effecting a great distrbance of our economy. Another commitment which we must not. overlook is that in respect of war gratuity which,, two years hence, will require a disbursement of £80,000,000 by the government of the- day to our exservicemen. Any government that failed to plan for this expenditure would be letting down the fighting men to whom this payment, was promised.
The honorable member for New England also referred to the distribution of receipts from the petrol tax. His remarks would lead one to believe that this Government had done nothing about the matter.
– Neither it has.
– I shall point out to the honorable member what the Government has done, in case he does not understand the position. Last year this Parliament passed a measure authorizing the distribution of £1,000,000 from the petrol tax fund to municipalities throughout Australia. Such a sum had never before been allocated in that way. The measure also made available to the States a total of £4,300,000 for expenditure on highways. In Tasmania, for instance, the 49 municipalities received an average amount of £1,100 each from the distribution. That is what this Government has done. Yet honorable members opposite would lead the people to believe that the Government has done nothing at all and that all receipts from the petrol tax are going into the. Consolidated Revenue Fund
– The honorable member
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Wilmot to address the Chair and to take no notice of such interjections.
– The honorable member for Corangamite knows that a deputation waited on the Minister for Transport this year to request the Government to increase the allo-cation from petrol tax funds to municipalities during this financial year. We are all agreed upon the need for such an increase. I definitely favour a greater allocation, but I remind honorable members that the distribution effected last year was an experiment. Such action had never been taken before, and we wanted to see how it worked out. In fact, it has worked out very satisfactorily. The councillors of various municipalities agree on that point, but they want even more money. I, for one, support their demand because country roads have been seriously damaged by traffic which they were not expected to carry when they were constructed.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
. - I wish to use the occasion of the debate upon Supply to direct the attention of the House to certain disturbing trends in our industrial relations in Australia. By way of introduction, I remind honorable members that, in October, 1947, there was passed through this Parliament an amending conciliation and arbitration measure which limited the functions of the Arbitration Court and conferred extended functions upon the conciliation commissioners appointed under that amending legislation. In particular the court, as such, was limited in its adjudication to matters relating to the basic wage, hours of work, and annual leave, and at the same time a system was introduced, under which some fifteen or sixteen conciliation commissioners were appointed. They were to exercise, thereafter, all of the functions which had previously been exercised by the court itself. In a word, they were to exercise all arbitral functions, excluding those related to wages, hours and annual leave. From the determinations of those gentlemen there was to be - and under the act there is - no appeal.
Government members attempted to justify such a revolutionary step by the use of a series of flambuoyant phrases, such as “new streamlined arbitration”. It was said that there was to be emphasis on conciliation rather than on arbitration, and that following the introduction of the new system of having men on the spot who would be able to intervene immediately in industrial disputes - or threatened disputes - would result in a great diminution in industrial disturbances, and that peace would reign throughout the land.
If honorable members have the fortitude to read some of the second-reading speeches which were delivered on that bill by honorable members on the Government side of the House, they will see that I have not overstated the matter. Opposition members pointed out that conciliation commissioners who were about to take over the functions of the court should be men possessing a certain kind of training. In particular, we stressed that a lawyer would, perhaps, be the best fitted to exercise arbitral function, in the functions of a referee, not because of his knowledge of the law, but because of his forensic training, which enables him to appreciate both sides of a question; to be detached and disinterested in his approach to a particular problem.
We also stressed the need for the enforcement of the industrial law, and I remember well that Opposition members offered to the Government a particular amendment to the bill which it was thought would provide something which the bill was lacking. I had the honour of drafting the amendment, but it was, of course, rejected out of hand. We pointed out that the Government must be the boss, and that in a democratic community - indeed, in any community which is going to function properly - the government must rule. We said that it was not Mr. Healy or Mr. Thornton or Mr. Brown or the trade unions who should rule, but those occupying the treasury bench. All of those arguments were ignored, and we were told that there was to be a new era of peace, that all was to be well, and that, as a result of the new system, there would be a great increase in production.
Shortly after the 40-hour week came into operation, following the decision of the Full Bench of the Arbitration Court. The Government also claimed that that measure would ensure future industrial peace. Not only therefore was the country in general, and industrial communities in particular, to have the inestimable benefits of the new industrial arbitration act, but also, a few months later, the benefits of the 40- hour week. Government members contended that, in consequence, there would be more contentment throughout the land, and that increased production would be achieved.
In the course of time, under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1947, sixteen conciliation commissioners were appointed. The existing commissioners, excluding Mr. Rowlands, who died a few months ago, were Messrs. Blakeley, Findlay, Mooney, Morrison, Portus and Stewart. They were confirmed in office, and nine new commissioners were appointed. They were : Mr. F. D. Kelly, M.L.C., president of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party and formerly president of the Storemen and Packers Union ; Mr. G. H. Buckland, who had been federal industrial officer of the Australian Workers Union, New South Wales and formerly secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Workers Union, and secretary of the Metalliferous Miners Union; Mr. J. V. Dwyer, who had been federal secretary of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union since 1926, and prior to that, secretary of the Postal Sorters Union; Mr. J. R. Donovan, private secretary to the Minister for Transport, Mr. Ward, and executive officer of the Commonwealth Transport Advisory Council.
– A good man, too!
– Whatever Mr. Donovan’s qualifications were,’ he was in due course assigned as a conciliation commissioner to the dairying industry. The other newly appointed commissioners were: Mr. A. R. Wallis, general secretary of the Clothing Trade Employees’ Union in Victoria, who has since been assigned as conciliation commissioner in connexion with banking and the shipping industry; Brigadier A. S.
Blackburn, V.C., barrister, South Australia, who, in this catalogue of officials, stands out like a shining light, as I shall prove in a moment. Excluding the three gentlemen who were appointed, but resigned before taking over their jobs, the remaining appointees were: Mr. Hamilton Knight, formerly a Labour member in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, and at one time president of the western miners’ federation and general vice-president of the miners’ federation; Mr. L. Austin, president of the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council, member of the Australian Railways Union for 23 years and State president for four and a half years; and Mr. J. M. Galvin of Victoria, who has been general secretary of the Australian Locomotive Enginemen’s Union since 1929. .
Those men were duly- appointed and as I have informed the House, with the exception of Brigadier Blackburn, who, according to honorable members opposite, had the misfortune to be a barrister, every one of them was so closely and inextricably bound up with the trade union movement, that any hope any one in industry may have had that those gentlemen would be able, or likely, to approach with complete impartiality, the problems on which they would be called upon to adjudicate, was destroyed completely at the outset.
As I have said, Mr. Blackburn, V.C., is a distinguished exception among the persons in this catalogue. From the beginning, he has been prepared to speak his mind,- be critical of illegal and wanton stoppages, and refuse to adjudicate upon matters unless illegal strikers were prepared to return to work before approaching him. For that reason, he appears to have incurred the enmity of the Labour movement. I only know him as a gallant soldier, an educated man, and a patriotic Australian trying to do his duty. Those characteristics seem- to me to make the best possible qualifications that a man can possess, but because Mr. Blackburn has dared to criticize the workers on some occasions, he is now being bitterly assailed as their enemy.
Not one of the nine conciliation commissioners was assigned to an industry in respect of which he possessed special qualifications. I recognize that there is a point to be considered here. If every conciliation commissioner had been appointed to the particular industry in which he had previously been engaged, if might have been said by way of criticism that he was a particular friend of the employees in that industry. For that reason, conciliation commissioners possibly were assigned to completely different industries from those in which they had worked.
– Who assigned the conciliation commissioners to the various industries?
– I assume that the allocation of duties was made upon the recommendation of the Government, but I do not know.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– What I am endeavouring to explain is that I recognize the point that was possibly kept in mind by those who assigned the conciliation commissioners to different industries from those in which they had worked. I concede that a case could be advanced in support of such a procedure. I do not agree with it, because the industries lost the benefit of the experience of conciliation commissioners who had a knowledge of the conditions pertaining to them.
Those appointments having been imposed upon the industrial community of Australia, it is interesting to examine what has happened. I ask honorable members to be patient with me for a few moments while I refer to a catalogue of industrial stoppages, disputes, and threats of dispute during two odd weeks - the first week in November, 1947, and the last week of that month - and also during a few days last month. The only reason why I have selected these periods is that during last October, November and December, I was absent from the House through illness, and while I was recovering, I read the newspapers and listened to the news services of broadcasting stations. During that period, my eyes and ears were caught by the constant reiteration of references to industrial disputes. Therefore, I took pencil and paper and made a list, for the month of November, of industrial disputes, references to which appeared in the Sydney newspapers or were made in the morning and evening news broadcasts. I have kept that scribbled list, and from it 1 propose to read to the House the industrial disputes and threatened stoppages during the first week and the last week in November. What is recorded in this list is typical of the conditions that existed for a long period during which I was speculating upon this matter.
In the first week of November, which, if my recollection is correct, began on a Saturday, the Corio dispute was continuing. This dispute, which began in the previous March, was costing the country an enormous sum of money. The men had gone on strike against an existing award of the court. This was the kind of dispute which the conciliation commissioners, who were appointed to streamline the arbitration system, were supposed to settle promptly. They had not done so. On the Monday, 900 stovemakers employed by Metters Limited went on strike against an award of the court. Immediately, there was an apparent flight of “ streamlined “ conciliation commissioners to the spot, but. without any result. The men stayed on strike for nine weeks, and delayed the completion of some 2,000 homes a month by reason of the non-supply of kitchen equipment. The employees of Slazenders (Australia) Limited were still on strike, and the south coast miners were threatening to strike against an award of the court if their demands were not met.
– Were the miners threatening to strike?
– Yes, the south coast miners were threatening to strike over a dusting dispute.
– Was it not the deputies?
– I may stand corrected by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James).
– The honorable member should be sure of his information. ‘ The miners get too much of the blame for stoppages on the coal-fields.
– If the honorable member for Hunter assures me that it was the deputies and not the miners, I shall be very happy to accept his correction. However, a dispute was threatening in the mines on the south coast. On the 5th November, the miners’ federation issued an ultimatum that if the Queensland Government did not yield on certain matters, it would call out the miners. On the 6th November, the South Australian transport workers imposed a ban on deliveries to airfields operated by Australian National Airways, and I read in the press on the morning of the 7th November - this is for the edification of the honorable member for Hunter - that losses on the northern coal-fields on the previous day totalled 4,890 tons. I noticed also on the same day that employees at Gorman House, in the Australian Capital Territory, had declared a guest “ black “, and had refused to serve her with meals. At the end of that week, 600 condiment workers in Sydney were on strike. The vessel Reynella was declared “ black “, and although the reference board had stated that no danger money should be granted, government officials intervened, and, in the usual way of “ fixes “ in this country, they fixed the dispute on terms contrary to the recommendations of the reference board, and gave in to the men. The employees of Metters Limited were still on strike, and the Corio dispute was continuing. According to the newspapers, the Australian Shipping Board had lost £40,000 over the Corio dispute, and Huddart Parker Limited, lost approximately £50,000.
– Did all those disputes come within the jurisdiction of the conciliation, commissioners ?
– I am obliged to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) for his interjection. With the exception of the coal-miners, who are under the jurisdiction of the Joint Coal Board, all these disputes occurred within the Commonwealth industrial jurisdiction. During the first week of November, there was also a gas dispute in Sydney, but, of course, that came within the jurisdiction of the State tribunal, and I have eliminated it from my catalogue. Perhaps I should not have introduced stoppages in the coal-mining industry, because they do not come within the jurisdiction of the conciliation commissioners. However, I shall make further reference to the coal-mining industry later in my speech. The first week in November ended with a veritable rush of strikes and threats of strikes, as reported in the Sydney press or mentioned in news services from broadcasting stations. Throughout Australia, there must also have been many hundreds of stoppages and threats of stoppages which were never reported in the newspapers at all.
The events which I have recounted occurred at a time when the new Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act had been ; proclaimed, and we had been informer! that the arbitration system had been streamlined in order to prevent stoppages, ami that there would be peace in industry. So were the evening and the morning of the first week of November. When we examine the last week of that month, we find that the tally clerks had gone on strike, and that shipments of wool were held up. There was a dispute at Bunnerong, which, for the information of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) was partly a State and partly a Federal matter because this Government from time to time had intervened in disputes there, and Sydney was partly without power and light. Sydney waitresses had banned all- Saturday work, and the waterside workers had banned the loading of the Dutch ship Hindustan. In addition, strikes and disturbances were constantly occurring in other parts of Australia which were not reported in Sydney newspapers. There were countless strikes in local industries, chronic absenteeism, as any employer in any factory knows, and chronic difficulties among a certain class of workers with regard to holiday pay. There was chronic trouble in the heavy industries, chronic trouble on the waterfront, chronic trouble with the ironworkers and. chronic trouble on the coalfields. On the average, 3,000 to 4,000 tons of coal were lost each day during that month. In connexion with coal, it is worth while to refer to the sorry catalogue of stoppages on the northern coalfields in May, 1948. The employees of Muswellbrook open-cut colliery struck on the 17th May and were still idle on the 21st May. There was a partial strike at Burwood colliery on the 17th May.
– The incident at Muswellbrook was not a strike by the employees but a lock-out by the owners. “Why does the honorable member not tell the truth? Have we to sit here and listen to this?
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) is not bound to do so, and it would be a great relief to many honorable members if he did not. On the 17th May there were also strikes at Abermain No. 1, Abermain No. 3, Bloomfield Main, Bloomfield New Tunnel and Stockrington No. 1 collieries. On the 18th May, Abermain No. 2, Hebburn No. 1 and John Darling collieries were idle. On the 21st May there were strikes at Muswellbrook No. 1 and No. 2 collieries as well as at Neath North Tunnel colliery.
– Tell us something new. There are whiskers on this.
– There are whiskers on it. An attempt was made to shave the whiskers off by the new stream-lined method of ‘arbitration, hut they do not seem to have been shaved off. Mr. K. Butler, the Newcastle manager of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, said that if coal losses continued at that rate steel output would be reduced by 190,000 tons for the year. I concede that that list of strikes on the coal-fields is not directly relevant to the argument I am advancing with reference to conciliation commissioners, but it is relevant to the wider issue of what methods should be adopted to deal with industrial disputes in Australia, and the reason for the persistent and increasing catalogue of industrial disturbances since the new act began to operate. The situation in November, 1947, and May, 1948, is identical with that now existing throughout Australia. The role in which the conciliation commissioners have been cast is a wrong one. The conception of them as stream-lining officials who would prevent strikes was a false conception, and the whole system has broken down woefully. With certain distinguished exceptions the persons appointed have shown partiality and bias towards one side, and in most cases they have also shown weakness. In many instances, being unable to cope with the situation, they have thrown up their hands and made “ no order “ - which is the phrase used in this connexion - thus “ passing the buck “ back to the employers. There has been confusion of the most alarming kind; so much so that the chairman of the Industrial Court of Queensland, in a judgment of the court delivered in April, 1948, was driven to say this -
Commissioners have been appointed who, having no power to declare a ‘basic wage, have power to fix margins above the basic wage in any calling. This power has been exercised by the federal commissioners and has resulted in the fixation of increased rates for employees in receipt of more than the basic wage. The increases granted by the federal commissioners are based on the federal basic wage and have resulted in the creation of an anomalous position so far as many sections of industry in Queensland are concerned.
The president of the South Australian Industrial Court, referring to wage increases given hy Mr. Commissioner Kelly in the meat industry shop section award, said this -
I have not found any reference to the public interest in the transcript, and I am informed that it was not mentioned during the proceedings before the commissioner.
The president was referring to the fact that wage-pegging regulations have been relaxed and that it is possible to increase wages provided that the increases are not opposed to the public interest. That principle has been ignored by the conciliation commissioners. Increases have been granted indiscriminately without reference to the claims of men in comparable industries, thus creating discontent and dissatisfaction in other industries. In other words, there has been no attempt at co-ordination by these sixteen commissioners, who are acting individually. As a result, the Industrial Court of South Australia was driven to make the protest that I have just quoted.
When a conciliation commissioner does stand up - and that happens occasionally - either a stream of criticism is directed against him because he has dared to criticize those who are on strike or are threatening to strike, or, as has occurred in several cases, the Government steps in and “ fixes “ it, and almost invariably it does so by giving way. Consequently, the trade unions have come to realize - and this is the tragedy of Australian industrial relations at the present time - that the thing to do is to strike, not afterwards but first. If workers have a grievance, or an imagined grievance, they do not go to the court first but go on strike. Having disrupted the life of the community or threatened to do so, so long as they make their claim a big one - the bigger 1 the better - they are certain to achieve some result. That is a fatal approach to the problem of industrial relations. It is, therefor, not surprising that the chairman of the Metal Trades Employers Association, Mr. Ferrier, said this -
We have had most unsatisfactory treatment from the conciliation commissioners, with few exceptions, since the operation of this new act at the beginning of the year. It is tending to become what some of the extreme elements of industrial labour, particularly the Communists, require - the reduction of arbitration to direct bargaining.
For the information of honorable members, particularly the honorable member for Fremantle, who seems to be inflamed by my mention of Mr. Ferrier, I know Mr. Ferrier well. He has been my personal friend for many years, and I know of nobody more tolerant and fair-minded in his attitude towards the workers. He used those words as president of an important organization. If they had. come out of the blue one might regard them merely as the utterances of a biased employed ; but they are justified, chapter and verse, by the illustrations I have given. Heaven only knows what industrial unrest is costing Australia in terms of money; but that is not the whole picture. It is costing the nation something more than money. There is arising in an increasing degree in this country a contempt for the law, because a section of the community knows that it is not bound by the law; that it can strike and flout the law of the land, in this case the industrial law. “We are experiencing more and more government by pressure by those who do not consider they are bound by the law; who think they can strike and dictate to the Government. Then again, serious discontent is growing among other sections of the community which, normally, are not antagonistic to the workers. Indeed, they regard themselves as workers, but when one section of workers is allowed to exploit them by flouting the law in order to get its own way, they grow more and more bitter. I say to the country that that, is the way down the slope the Gadarene swine went in confusion to destruction, and such conditions will lead ultimately to the destruction of democracy in Australia. When large sections of the community are bitter against exploitation by other sections we are ripe for trouble, and we shall experience it unless a government arises with courage to take a stand on industrial disputes. What should we do about this problem? First, we should establish impartial tribunals consisting not of men plucked from one particular group in the community and appointed to serve that particular group to the exclusion of others, but-
– Apparently, the honor- able member is inflamed again by the thought of lawyers. It does not matter whether the requisite tribunals consist of lawyers or men drawn from any other profession or calling so long as they are prepared to be detached, disinterested and impartial. Trade union secretaries and others taken from the categories from which several of the existing commissioners have been taken have proved within the last nine months, as I have shown, that they are not disinterested or impartial. They have proved themselves to be unable to cope with strikes with the result that the unions despise them, because the unions know that if they do not get their own way they can flout the tribunals and some one else will be called in to determine disputes in their favour. We must have impartial tribunals. That is my first point. Secondly, we require firm and determined enforcement of the industrial law. It must be shown beyond doubt that in this community strikes can never pay. So long as trade unions, or any other groups, believe that if they go on strike, become sufficiently disruptive or make themselves a big enough nuisance to the rest of the community, they can get their way, strikes will pay. The Government must standup to the problem; it must recognize that it is its duty to rule and to prove that strikes can never pay. I do not suggest that the problem is not difficult. I do not suggest that it can be approached effectively except with patience, tolerance and broad understanding. In this respect I recall a statement which I have quoted on previous occasions from Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address -
With malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.
I believe that that represents the proper approach which a government should make in dealing with industrial problems. When all is said and done, there must be firmness. The Government must be prepared to rule, but this Government does not rule. Another thing which we must do was mentioned by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) to whose speech I listened with appreciation, particularly the last part of it. I agree with the sentiments he then expressed with respect to the need to eradicate Communist influence from the unionsHowever, I do not agree with the methods he suggested, because I do not believe that the trade union movement is capable of eradicating Communist influence from its ranks. For that reason the trade union movement requires the assistance of the Government of the day, which at present, for a brief period, happens to be a Labour Government. It is no longer possible for the trade union movement, without the assistance of those who ought to rule, to eradicate Communist influence from the unions.
That is not all. I cannot look with relish upon a community in which we are to remain static and have for the rest of our days a condition of affairs under which workers will be perpetually struggling for advantages against managements. Communities are not static, but dynamic; and there is no real cure for our industrial ills, no matter what else we may do, unless we look ahead and progress in the improvement of industrial relations. Therefore, we must get away from the old vicious circle of the wage slave fighting the boss. We must get out of the vicious circle in which governments intervene in industrial disputes when they have to, and employers come in and give concessions when they have to, but no real agreement is ever reached between employees and managements. We must ‘look to other methods, and one of the first, I suggest, is , the introduction of proper incentives in industry. I know that this is a sore point with members of the Labour party and some trade unionists, but whether we call it “the carrot at .the end of the donkey’s nose “ or “ the shining light on the hill “, the truth is that the hope held out to a man that by working hard he may improve himself and make his lot and that of his wife and children better, is not only pardonable, but also noble. It is, indeed, only one aspect of what honorable members opposite deride as the profit motive: but it is natural and proper. More and more we must encourage workers to improve their lot by providing greater incentives. It is true that the Labour party does not like that idea. Members of that party fear that it may result in over-production, and they are frightened that by really establishing good relations between management and labour the influence of union officials within their respective industry may diminish. Be that as it may.
Mr. Beazley interjecting,
– I remind the honorable member for Fremantle that more than once in the last quarter of an hour he. has laid himself open to a very obvious reply. T suggest that he should keep quiet.
– Order! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– .The incentive that I mean is more work for more pay, or more pay for more work whichever way one likes to put it. It does not matter whether it is encouragement by profit sharing or by increased pay for overtime. The fundamental necessity is the encouragement of the worker who is prepared to work harder than he is doing at present. ‘Unless men are encouraged to believe that they are engaged on ‘ an undertaking that can make life better for them instead of on a treadmill to which they are chained for the rest of their days, they will not work harder. The Labour movement is bitterly opposed to the principle of payment by results, but I believe sincerely that that is the only method by which we can increase production.
Finally, we must develop in this country a better system of consultation between management and labour. I know that this is another sore point in the
Labour movement, but it is odd that whilst labour in this country is hostile to consultation of this kind, in the United Kingdom the system has now been highly developed. It originated after World War I. when workshop committees were set up. To-day, in’ the United Kingdom there is widespread consultation between management and labour to iron out grievances, improve efficiency and explain policy. It is not unnatural that men engaged in industry should sometimes be bewildered, resentful and suspicious of actions taken by the management that they do not understand. They fear that anything that is done by their employers is done for the sole benefit of the management, but in Great Britain it is a widely accepted practice in many industries for standing committees, representing the workers, to be brought into consultation with the management to explain any changes that are being made. It is essential that we adopt this practice in Australia. Workers in this country must be made to feel that they are part of the. enterprise in which they are engaged, and that what is done for the benefit of their employers and the shareholders, is also done in their own interests. So far, progress in that direction has been deplorably slow in Australia. I know of two industries into which directors and managers coming out from England where this principle is widely accepted, have endeavoured to introduce the system of consultation committees, but have met with the bitterest opposition from the unions. Apparently, union officials believe that the system will undermine their authority, but, in fact, it has nothing to do with the authority of union officials, nor -is it aimed at white-anting or interfering with the present high standards of conditions of workers in industry. It is on a higher plane altogether; yet, again and again, the principle has been fought not by the men themselves because they have willingly joined in the setting up of committees-, but by trade union secretaries and other officials who, upon discovering these committees, have sought to have them abolished. They have not been able to point to anything that could be regarded as an assault on working conditions, but they have considered that the principle represents an assault on their own prerogatives.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- One might describe the speech of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) as just a lot of words, words, words, without a concrete idea. The honorable member’s criticism was all destructive, and I am becoming tired of all this talk by hypocritical members of the Opposition in this chamber and of statements in the press, about political appointments by the Labour Government. I propose to refer to two or three outrageous political appointments made by the Opposition parties when they held office. The honorable member for Parramatta spoke of the appointment of conciliation commissioners by this Government. I remind him of the political appointment of Sir John Latham to the position of Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia. That right honorable gentleman was leader of the Opposition in this Parliament and was one of the most conservative anti-Labour men who ever entered this chamber. He relinquished the leadership of the Opposition to the late Mr. Lyons. Subsequently he was sent to Japan on a goodwill mission. I do not know whether or not the war with Japan was a result. It was claimed that as the right honorable gentleman would visit Japan in his capacity as AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth, he would be able to bring back to the Parliament valuable information on Japanese affairs; but he never returned to the Parliament. Instead, he was hoisted to the bench of the High Court as Chief Justice. That was a political appointment to the highest judicial position in this land. The honorable member for Parramatta also spoke of arbitration. It is appropriate, therefore, that I should remind him of the appointment to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court of former Senator Drake-Brockman, who, at that time, was the whip for the then Nationalist party in the Senate. When the Coalition Government of the Australian Country party and the Nationalist party was formed, it became necessary for one of the Nationalist senators from Western Australia to retire to make way for an Australian Country party senator.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in reflecting on the judiciary? My impression is that this is specifically prohibited under the Standing Orders. I am not now concerned so much with protecting the gentleman whose name has been mentioned as with the enforcement of the Standing Orders.
– I did not understand the honorable member for Werriwa to be reflecting on the judiciary. He was replying to stateents made by the previous speaker in regard to political appointments.
– I am referring only to the appointment. I do not wish to say anything about Chief Judge Drake-Brockman personally.
– -The honorable member is not questioning his impartiality?
– No. If I wished to do that I should be prepared to take the appropriate course. I am merely pointing out that Chief Judge DrakeBrockman was, prior to his appointment to the Arbitration Court, a Nationalist party senator. When the Bruce-Page Coalition Government was formed, it became necessary to have an additional Country party senator from Western Australia. Senator Drake-Brockman had made speeches in the Senate against the Arbitration Court. He retired so that an Australian Country party candidate could stand for the vacancy in Western Australia and he was then appointed to the Arbitration Court. If honorable members opposite insist on this harping on political appointments, we shall go through the records and make a list of some of the appointments that scandalized the political life of this country during the years that the parties now in Opposition occupied the treasury bench. I refer particularly to the time when anti-Labour forces in this country sought to sabotage the Commonwealth Bank by destroying the legislation under which it was established. In those days, many conservative tories who knew as much about banking as a key on a cash register knows about cash were selected to control the I Commonwealth Bank so that they could sabotage it in the interests of the political parties of which they were members. They even took their patronage to the lowest employees in the Commonwealth Bank. The son of a worker could not get employment in the Commonwealth Bank before conditions were altered by a Labour government. Under the former system of appointments an applicant had to interview a high panjandrum known as a personnel officer, who inquired who his father was, where he came from, and what he was doing. Thus, no one but the sons and daughters of those who were in favour with the personnel officer were appointed. Before the Labour party made its influence felt in the political life of the country nepotism was rife in the Public Service, and the sons of working men could hope for jobs only in the lowest grades.
The honorable member for Parramatta spoke of the rule of law in industrial matters. He is a mere neophyte in these things, in spite of his legal training. He knows nothing of industrial matters. What good came to Australia from the brutality associated with the strikes of 1890 and 1891? None but the creation of the Labour party, which brought about the gradual amelioration of the hard lot of the workers. What good flowed from the brutality associated with the 1909 “legiron “ strike? Again, only the routing of the anti-Labour government, because its actions had revolted the people. What good flowed from the brutalities inspired by Mr. Weaver at the Rothbury coal mine? The only good was the defeat of Mr. Weaver, and what he stood for. The honorable member for Parramatta advocated payment by results. It is all very well to talk philosophically about payment by results, but the evils that grew out of the system have burned themselves deeply into the minds of the workers. The conditions described in “ The Song of the Shirt “ arose directly out of the system of payment by result. We know that at one time a member of this Parliament was content to pay women employed in the clothing trade only 14s. for a 56- hour working week. The workers will not tolerate payment by results except under conditions very different from those that have prevailed hitherto. The, industrial history of the United States of America is blackened by the record of the terrible things which happened in that country because of payment by results. Probably no honorable member opposite has ever read The Jungle, written by Upton Sinclair. It would be too vulgar for them, but in that book a vivid picture is drawn of industrial conditions in the United States of America when the system of payment by result was in full operation. It is no wonder that intelligent workers will have none of the.system.
However, I rose chiefly to refer to the attempt of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) to mislead the House by saying that the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was sold because of trading losses. That, of course, was the excuse, but it was not the reason. That shipping line was founded by a Labour government in order to save the primary producers from being bled white by high freight charges. That the private shipping lines were charging exorbitant freights is proved by the fact that Mr. Bonar Law stated in the House of Commons- during the 1914-18 war that the shipping companies were making too much profit. Their profits, he said, were colossal, and he added that he himself owned shares in a shipping company which returned him in one year an income of £60 on every £100 invested. That is recorded in the British Hansard, which may be obtained in the Library by any one who wishes to read it.
The Bruce-Page Government asked the Public Accounts Committee to prepare a report on the operations of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. It was well known that the Government was determined to sell the line, or, rather, to give it away, as I shall presently show. Sir Granville Ryrie was chairman of the committee, and he voted with the Labour members of the committee to defeat the Government’s scheme to get from the committee a report in favour of selling the line. The primary producers were being saved ‘between £3 and £5 per ton in overseas freight charges as a result of the operations of the line. Therefore, in the interests of the private shipping companies, the Commonwealth line had to go. A plot was hatched, and trouble was deliberately fomented among the seamen. The members of the Shipping Board fought and wrangled amongst themselves until conditions became chaotic. On the 10th August, 1926, an interim report of the Public Accounts Committee was issued, and from it I quote the following passage : -
In view, however, of emphatic evidence placed before the committee that, owing to the uncertainty which exists concerning the continuance of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, its business has been adversely affected, the committee has deemed it desirable to submit to Parliament, prior to the approaching recess, this interim report.
To arrive at a decision, apart from the question of Government policy, as to whether the Commonwealth Government Line should be continued, there must be considered what benefits have accrued to the country by the establishment of the line, and whether such benefits have outweighed any financial loss incurred us a result of its trading operations.
The report was signed by Sir Granville Ryrie, who was afterwards made Australian High Commissioner in London, and later on I shall tell honorable members why. The report continues! -
The evidence so far placed before the committee indicates that not only has the Commonwealth Line been directly responsible for actual reductions in freight, but that the presence of the line has exerted a material restraining influence against proposed increases. Whilst it is difficult, in fact almost impossible, owing to the many factors to be considered, to indicate in figures the actual gain to Australia by such action, it appears to the committee, from the evidence already heard, that the shippers and primary producers of Australia have derived much benefit from the establishment of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers. The committee, therefore, recommends that, in the interests of Australia, the Line be continued.
That was signed, as chairman, by Sir Granville Ryrie, who was a prominent member of the Nationalist party and had been a Cabinet Minister. As I have said, Sir Granville Ryrie refused to co-operate with the then Government in regard to the proposed sale of the line. He was called into the Prime Minister’s office and told that he was required to become High Commissioner in London. So he went o London. Sir Walter Kingsmill, a good government “ Yes man “, succeeded him as chairman, and, not long afterwards, in 1927, under his chairmanship, the Public Accounts Committee sat again to report on the Government’s shipping activities. I do not’ intend to read all the report, because it is too long, but [ propose to read a couple of extracts to prove my point. Under the chairmanship of Sir Walter Kingsmill, the committee recommended that the line be sold; but the report also made some strong suggestions that action should be taken by the Government, in disposing of the line, to safeguard the primary producers of Australia against the enormous freight charges levied by shipping companies. On page 20 of its report; the committee stated -
As legislative action will be necessary to l’ive effect to the recommendations of the committee - in whatever form the Government may decide to submit them to Parliament - the committee is of opinion that there is no justification meantime for the continuance of the present expensive and inharmonious board of directors, and it recommends that the appoint ments of the present members of the board be terminated simultaneously, and as early as possible . . . The committee regrets that dissension should have arisen between the members oE the board. Although each member of the board, in the opinion of the committee, appears to have given his best to his work, according to his own ideas as to what was the most advantageous for the line, their views on questions of policy are so entirely at variance that no good purpose can be served by expecting the present personnel to work together as a board of directors.
Doubtless, the members of the board of directors were chosen for the very purpose of bringing about disharmony. The report bears out everything I have said about the chaotic control of the shipping line by that board of directors.
Before his departure for London to become High Commissioner, Sir Granville Ryrie was given a farewell entertainment at which he told us that he nearly fell through the floor when the Prime Minister summoned him to his office and told him that he wanted him to go to London. He said emphatically that he did not want to go but that, as the Prime Minister had commanded him, he had to go. He would never have been
High Commissioner had he supported the sale of the line. What was the result of the sordid story? Commonwealth Government ships worth £8,000,000 were sold to Lord Kylsant, who was later gaoled as a criminal, for £800,000 of which £400,000 was paid before he went ‘to gaol, but not another penny was paid afterwards. A wonderful asset that had served the Australian primary producers better than any other government creation before or since was virtually given to a criminal. The arch-plotter in the sale was the then Treasurer, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who now tries to justify the sale on the ground that the ships had to be sold because they were running at a loss. I leave the story there. I have told it again to-day because of the reply given by the right honorable member for Cowper to an interjection last night.
I wish to deal with only one other matter before I sit down. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is one gentleman who boasts that he never adversely criticizes any one on personal grounds and that all his criticism is political. After the referendum, the press attributed to the right honorable gentleman the following statement : -
There are at least three lessons which Mr. Chifley, Dr. Evatt, and their colleagues should learn from Saturday’s crushing defeat of their attempted power grab. These are: - First, just as blackmail, intimidation, dishonesty, and falsehoods are repugnant to every decent Australian in ordinary everyday life, so they are equally repugnant when attempted by a government in the nation’s political life.
The right honorable gentleman is entitled to his opinions, but if every member of the Labour party from the Prime Minister down is guilty of those things, they are still too good to associate with him.
.- I take the opportunity presented by the debate on Supply to reply to references made by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) to Sir John Latham, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, and to Chief Judge DrakeBrockman, of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The honorable member for Werriwa is unworthy to tie their bootlaces. He is the high priest in this House of class hatred, and he spreads the poison of class hatred throughout the community. Men like him have done more damage to the industrial life of Australia than any one else in the community. We cannot afford to have people wasting their own time and the time of others in propagating class hatred. What we want is cooperation
– The honorable member for Werriwa told the truth.
– The honorable member for Brisbane is nearly as unworthy as is the honorable member for Werriwa if he supports him. No one could point a finger of scorn at either Sir John Latham or Chief Judge Drake-Brockman. They are two great jurists, while an honorable member of this House, Sir John Latham, was outstanding. There is no doubt about that.
– No one denies that, but his appointment to the High Court Bench was political.
– The honorable member tried to destroy the reputations of those two distinguished gentlemen. That is unworthy of him. However, I do riot intend to waste any more time with the honorable member. Every one who served with Sir John Latham in the Parliament regards him as an outstanding gentleman who would not do a dishonest thing or accept an appointment of which he was not worthy.
– His appointment was still political.
– He would not do an unworthy thing. He is the high-water mark of all that is honest, dignified and outstanding. My time is too valuable to be wasted with a poison-spreader, and I propose now to deal with matters related to the Supply Bill. For several years, the people of Australia have been convinced that they pay too much _ in taxes. During the last general election campaign, the Opposition pointed out clearly that the Government could immediately reduce taxes by from £30.000,000 to £35,000,000. The Government’s reply was to ridicule the suggestion. It claimed that we were offering bribes to ‘the community. The Government is facing a tremendous wave of public indignation. This has been caused by its collections of excessive taxation. The details of tax revenues which the Treasurer has published show that far more taxes were collected by the Government in the last three years than were needed for government purposes. During the referendum campaign, I received many messages from electors expressing strong opposition to the Government’s excessive taxation. It is no consolation to those people who have been suffering from heavy tax imposts to learn that the Treasury has a surplus so great that the Government is able to make a payment of £10,000,000 out of genera] revenue into the International Monetary Fund, whereas the original proposal was that this sum should be paid from loan moneys. This tremendous hoard of revenue is really the property of the taxpayers of Australia. The people should not be required to pay huge sums in excess of the Government’s normal and natural financial requirements. While the Government continues to impose crippling taxation there can be no incentive for increased production in either primary or secondary industries, and no encouragement to employees to work harder to produce the things that Australia requires so badly. Production is falling. The main contributing factor is that workers are unwilling to work overtime to increase output, because a very great proportion of their overtime earnings is extracted from them by means of excessive taxes. It has become the habit of some members on the Government side of the House to sneer when Opposition members point out how close the Government’s policy is to that of the Communist party. They sneer only because they know in their hearts that that is so, and that the people of Australia are fully aware of how strong Communist dictation of the Government really is. Nothing could be more “ up the alley “ of the Communist party than the Government’s policy of high taxation with its inevitable result of a lowering of production. Evidence produced by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) during his speech yesterday showed definitely that production in both the primary and the secondary industries has fallen. Because of that fall, the people of Australia are denied many things which they require. The more desperate their wants become, the greater will be the encouragement of communism. Discontent among the people is caused by shortages, particularly the housing shortage, and this will help the Communist plan for social disruption and revolution. Communist-engineered strikes and stoppages are a part of this plan, and so is high taxation, which deprives employer and employee alike of the desire to work harder and produce more. No wonder the Acting Leader of the Opposition said that Supply should be refused because the Government has adequate moneys in hand and does not need further Supply. I agree with the Acting Leader of the Opposition that the Government has either deliberately refused to, tell the people the facts or it ia so. incredibly stupid that it is unable to, ascertain the amount which it really holds, on their behalf. Because of falling production, we have lost substantial1 markets abroad. We have also lost population as a result of the Government’s miserable, short-sighted policy. The referendum result proved that even if the frightened followers of the Government force it- to make substantial tax reductions, that will not save it from the wrath of the people. I hope that the distressing figures, cited by the Acting Leader of the Opposition will be studied by the Government and by every citizen of Australia, because, they reveal falling production and continuing shortages in every activity of the community and are a grim warning to. the Government that every section qf the community has suffered from its desire’ to accumulate huge funds for the purpose of putting its socialistic programme into effect and also to buy support at the next election.. . Among the worst sufferers are those men who devoted the best years of their lives to the service of their country and are now, with their families, suffering acute hardships because of the housing shortage, and the lack of supplies of goods, furniture and other household equipment. All that is the result of the Government’s crippling taxation, because nothing hampers industry os reduces the standard of living of &. community so much as excessive taxation, and nobody suffers more than the workers. There is very strong evidence of that in Australia to,-day, and a widespread revulsion against the Government. The Government has put off for as long as. it could, a meeting of caucus that is to be held next week because caucus intended to demand reductions of taxes. These should have been made throughout recent years. The Prime Minister (Mr.. Chifley) accused the Opposition of toying with the people when it stated that the Government could grant tax relief of from £30,000,000 to £35,000,000 at the time of the last general election. He undertook to review the financial position month by month in order to determine what tax reductions the Government could make, yet only minor relief has been granted.
To-day,, the Commonwealth exchequer is bulging with money belonging to the people, whilst production has gone down and down and there are shortages everywhere, creating an atmosphere in which communism can thrive.
Moving among ex-servicemen, one finds heart-rending scenes, such as three or four families of ex-servicemen living in one house, and of young couples trying to rear their families in one room, which they occupy through the courtesy and the goodwill of relatives. Shortages were originally caused by the war, ‘but they could have been overtaken long ago had the Government been prepared to reduce taxes, thus giving to industry and the workers engaged in it the incentive to achieve increased production by harder work. While I am on the subject of exservicemen I shall deal with the disgraceful manner iri which the Government, and particularly the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), is permitting trade unions to interfere with and prevent the training: of ex-servicemen in the building industry. I asked the Minister this question two days ago -
Can the Minister far Post-war Reconstruction say whether all building classes under the Reconstruction Training Scheme in New South Wales have been closed and the instructors paid off although 400 recommended men are waiting for training? Has the closing of the classes followed an order from the trade unions? If so, what order was given, by which unions, and to whom? This matter is causing considerable concern in other States. In Queensland young ex-servicemen who were selected for training but have not begun their courses, are wondering if they are to be deprived of an opportunity to train as apparently has happened in New South Wales.
The Minister’s reply was -
The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “ no “, and since all the other parts depend upon the answer to the first part, I have no need to refer to them.
In the matter of the training of exservicemen the Deputy Commissioner for post-wai. Reconstruction in Queensland has been most helpful. He has endeavoured to secure, and in some instances has succeeded in securing opportunities for these young men to continue their training in the building trades. That is quite different from the position in New South Wales. In view of reports, I received recently on the subject, I took the trouble to ascertain the facts. They constitute a damning indictment of this Government. In New South Wales there are now no fewer than 4,622 ex-servicemen who have received letters from the department accepting them for training, but have not begun full-time training. Many of them are not likely to begin. At the end of April, these men included 638 would-be bricklayers, 2,05.8 would-be carpenters, and 1,093 would-be painters. Other trades, and the number of men desiring training were, plasterers 263, plumbers 177, and floor and wall tilers 56, making a total of 4,2S5. In addition, there were 377 men desiring instruction in trades outside the building trade. Undoubtedly, at present the building trade is one in which ex-servicemen could be properly rehabilitated… There will be a shortage of houses in Australia for decades to come, and there is a tremendous shortage of skilled workers. The building trade offers far greater opportunities than do. other trades for men seeking to lea ria a trade. In relation to the training of carpenters and bricklayers, tine Government is being dictated to by - a man named Bulmer. secretary of the Building Workers Industrial Union. I am informed that this man, for reasons which are sufficiently obvious to those of us who know the Communist programme of disruption,, is preventing the training of ex-servicemen. Similar tactics, I understand, are being followed by a man named Courtney, of the Plumbers Union. No rehabilitation classes have been arranged for carpenters or bricklayers in New .South Wales since the beginning of the year, yet there is a desperate shortage of skilled tradesmen. I have taken the trouble to ascertain what jobs are offering in the various trades through the Commonwealth Employment Service. At the end of April, applications for men which could not be met in the metropolitan area of Sydney covered : bricklayers, 256 ; carpenters, 650; painters, 192; plasterers, 71; plumbers, 110; tilers, 23; and others, 38; a total of 1,340. The total country positions offering in all trades was 394, yet nearly 5,000 ex-servicemen in New South Wales alone are waiting to be trained under the post-war reconstruction training scheme, This state of affairs is a condemnation of the Government and everybody associated with it. It is acknowledged by the Commonwealth Employment Service that only about onehalf of the total number of jobs offering at any time is filled through its agency. That means that, as about 1,700 jobs could not be filled by the service in New South Wales at the end of April, at least 3,400 jobs must have been vacant in the State at that time. Most of these jobs were in the building trade. It is a shocking state of affairs that exservicemen should be unable to secure vocational training for which they are eligible. I ask the Government to look into this matter and to ensure that the men who have been accepted for training shall commence their training. This denial of their rights constitutes a gross injustice to ex-servicemen who offered their lives in the defence of their country and now want to settle down in peacetime. The. union leaders say to the Government that it must not train exservicemen for jobs in the building and allied trades, and the Government knuckles down and obeys.. I do not know whether the union leader? concerned are Communists, but I strongly suspect that they are. Even if they are not, their policy is certainly being dictated by Communists. Before I leave this subject let me offer further proof of the accuracy of my statements by reading the following extract from the minutes of a recent meeting of the industrial committee of the printing trades union in Sydney: -
The Minister (Mr. Dedman) has directed that if a union will not agree after the Australian Council of Trade Unions has tried to alter its attitude, training cannot take place.
What a state of affairs ! There is an example of complete and absolute domination of the Government by the union bosses. The unions and not the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction or the Government decide whether or not an exserviceman shall be trained. The unions decide how many of the men who offered their lives for Australia should be given training by Australia so that they may work for Australia and for themselves and their families. The decision generally is that none of them should be trained. As an ex-serviceman I register my emphatic protest against this state of affairs. The Minister had the effrontery to brush aside my question on this subject by merely saying that as the latter parts depended on the answer to the first part and as the answer to the first part was “ no “ he had no need to refer to them. The facts which I have presented to the House are unchallengable. They emerge from the most careful examination of the situation. I ask the Government, in the interests of exservicemen, to grant these men their undeniable right to training in the occupation of their choice. I have not had an opportunity to investigate the position in States other than New South Wales, nor have others done so on my behalf ; but I am sure that the position must be equally bad there. I am satisfied that the evidence that I have given concerning the position in New South Wales cannot be challenged. No honorable member on the Government side can allow this state of affairs to continue. I appeal to them to use their influence, if any, on the members of the Government to ensure that these men shall be given the right to undergo the training courses for which they have been accepted. All of the men concerned have received letters notifying them that they are eligible to take the courses which they have selected but, because of the dictation of trade union bosses, they cannot be trained. I appeal to the Government to remedy this injustice at once.
.- This afternoon the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) discussed at considerable length the question of arbitration, and made personal attacks on appointees to the post of conciliation commissioner. It is normal for us to be lectured by the Opposition on the need for a proper respect for the occupants of judicial and quasi-judicial posts. The honorable member drew our attention to the fact that it was necessary for lawyers to participate in Commonwealth arbitration and conciliation proceedings. 1 come from a State where there is industrial peace and where one of the most striking features of the legislation governing arbitration is the exclusion of lawyers from the Arbitration Court. The honorable gentleman blamed the conciliation commissioners for the present state of industrial unrest. He pointed out, quite truly, that in many cases the unions flout decisions of conciliation commissioners. The logical inference to be drawn from that is that, if the unions flout an ordinary arbitration court judge, as they have done on many occasions, that disqualifies the judge from being an arbitrator. Because the unions ignored conciliation commissioners in certain instances, the honorable gentleman made that a ground of attack upon the competence of conciliation commissioners. Therefore, by his own line of reasoning, when unions ignore an Arbitration Court judge, that fact ought to be a ground of attack upon the competence of the judge. The honorable member’s strictures upon the conciliation commissioners were most unfair. His speech on industrial unrest showed how wise Western Australia is in excluding lawyers from the Arbitration Court if the mentality which he exhibited represents the approach which we may expect from other members of his profession. I say that, not with’ a desire to be cutting, but because I believe the honorable member’s speech seriously underestimated both the difficulty of maintaining industrial peace and the difficulties of the position of conciliation commissioners, and also revealed complete ignorance of the causes of industrial unrest to-day.
The honorable member assured us that it is necessary to respect arbitration. I certainly hope that future Liberal governments, operating in a situation in which arbitration tends to act as a drag on the downward movement of wages, will respect arbitration. The situation to-day, if we are to be realistic, is one in which arbitration necessarily slows down the process of adjusting wages to a rising cost of living. 1 do not defend the impatience of trade unions and their leaders to secure wage increases and I make no apology for them. However, it is a fact that, in a situation in which there is a iising cost of living, arbitration does not rapidly adjust wages to the cost of living. What about the circumstances when the cost of living is falling? In Western Australia, .when the depression struck that State very severely, the Arbitration Court president, Mr. Dwyer, fixed a certain basic wage which was entirely unsatisfactory to the employers. It did not take wages down in the wake of th cost of living quickly enough. Therefore, emergency legislation was introduced by the Liberal, or Nationalist, government of the day, under the leadership of Sir James Mitchell, in order to cut wages down to a level 20 per cent, below that fixed by the Arbitration Court. The court had fixed its basic wage according to the cost of living. The employers pleaded that they could not pay that rate. A government responsive to the will of the employers cut the wage to 80 per cent, of that determined by the court. That was an example of the setting aside of arbitration. The Bruce-Page Government, operating in the federal sphere, in the same way became impatient with arbitration and sought to destroy it entirely. In the light of those facts, such people as t,be honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) have no right to lecture trade unionists with long industrial experience about respect for arbitration. As I have shown, as soon as arbitration has retarded the downward movement of wages when it has been the desire of employers to cut wages, conservative governments have very promptly attacked arbitration. In so doing they have placed themselves in exactly the same moral position as trade union leaders who attacked arbitration for not adjusting their wages sufficiently rapidly to :> rising cost of living.
The honorable member for Parramatta is a lawyer, and the most contemptible part of his speech was that in which he suggested that this Parliament has power to legislate in the industrial field in order to grant incentives to workers. The usual incentives recommended in the Liberal party platform are “ payment by results “, which means piece-work, and “profit-sharing”. Those two items are in the party’s platform as being desirable industrial conditions. They represent a very fine piece of window dressing. The honorable member suggested at great length that the Commonwealth Government should give attention to incentives in the industrial field. That means, if it means anything, that the Government should legislate for such incentives. The honorable member knows very well that it has no industrial power in that matter. This vague talk about what the Commonwealth Government ought to do about incentives comes very ill from a member of a party which, under another name, attempted unsuccessfully to secure industrial power in 1926 by means of Mr. Bruce’s referendum of that year, and from a man who opposed the granting of industrial power to the Commonwealth during the referendum campaign of 1946. Lf the honorable gentleman had been concerned about seriously discussing these issues instead of deceiving the public, he would have said quite clearly that, where it has no power, the Government has no responsibility. It has no power to legislate for incentives of the kind that he mentioned, and consequently it has no responsibility in the matter.
I suggest that the honorable member write to the Liberal Premier of Victoria, the head of a government with a majority in both chambers of the legislature and possessed of complete industrial power, suggesting that he enact legislation requiring all employers to share profits and offer incentives in accordance with the Liberal party’s platform. Of course no Liberal government in Australia in the State field, where governments have power to pass such legislation, will do so .because, as an item of policy, it is merely window dressing. When a man with the prestige of a lawyer pretends that this Parliament has power over these matters, it is necessary to expose his hypocrisy.
– I did not pretend anything of the sort.
– The honorable gentleman made a general attack upon the Government and declared that it ought to adopt a policy of incentives. That implied that the Government had power to pursue such a policy, and that was completely untruthful.
The honorable member, like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), was studiously vague on another question. He declared that it was necessary for the Government to “ stand firm “ in an industrial dispute. The mastery of vague phrases has hitherto been solely in the hands of the Leader of the Opposition, but he is now faced with serious competition from the honorable member for Parramatta. What is a “ firm stand “ ? That is what we want to know. Does the honorable member mean that the police should be called out? Does he mean that union funds should be confiscated, which this Parliament has not the power to do anyhow ? Does he mean that strikes should merely be allowed to go on until they peter out because of the inability of the workers to stay out? Referring to the Queensland strike several months ago, I remind honorable members of the newspaper commendations which appeared relating to Mr. Hanlon, Premier of Queensland. We, as the Commonwealth Parliament, were presented by the press of this country with a new Messiah in the industrial field, in the person of Mr. Hanlon. We were informed that he was handling the strike in a masterly manner, although all that happened was that the strike lasted for eleven weeks, and at the end of that time the men had to go back to work because their funds were exhausted. If that was a miraculous method of handling a strike, I say that it dates back to the days before Disraeli, Gladstone and Peel. The strike petered out because of the inability of the workers to continue to purchase the necessaries of life, as their savings had disappeared.
The newspapers said that in Queensland Ministers had backbones, whereas in Canberra they only had wishbones. The Queensland strike was in no way different from strikes which occurred elsewhere in Australia, and in connexion with which the Australian Government intervened; if they continued until the workers’ funds were exhausted and then petered out, the press said that it was a sign of weakness on the part of the Government. Yet, when a similar position arose in Queensland, the newspaper articles said that Mr. Hanlon had found a miraculous solution for settling strikes. Why was he commended in this manner? It was not because he had found a miraculous solution, but because he had called out the police to supervise the activities of the pickets, who were virtually picketing nothing at all. In this matter complete hypocrisy has been displayed. If the police use their batons on such occasions, the press delcare that there is a strong government. It may have nothing to do with the basis of the dispute, because the strike in Queensland continued until the strikers’ reserves were exhausted. If that is the method of standing firm, as it was described in the press, I say that whilst it solved the industrial dispute then existing, it does not get over the consequential lag in production, nor does it prevent hold-ups. It merely relies on the principle of allowing a strike to continue until it can go no longer, for economic reasons. If 3,000 or 4,000 workers in an industry do not want to go to work, for any reason, nobody can force them to do so.
– Like the doctors!
– Yes, if they will not Work of their own volition, no one can compel them to work. There is a great deal of humbug in the matter. In times of depression that state of affairs does not arise, because competition it too great, but, as is well known, the industrial upheavals that have taken place in recent times have been as a result of full employment. In Victoria, the large and wellknown company, H. V. McKay, Massey
Harris- Proprietary Limited’, Sunshine Harvester Works was stupid enough to lock its employees out. Now that company is advertising for men, and offering wages greatly in excess of award rates, in a desperate endeavour to attract -wor keira to its industry. When the employees were locked out they found other employment. There was no solidarity amongst the employers om that occasions. In certain circumstances an employer in need of labour will not collaborate with another employer. He will not exclude from his employment men who are on strike, or have been locked out from another industry. There can be no industrial discipline in those circumstances.
I am not arguing that unemployment is desirable in a community because it promotes industrial discipline. But it is inescapable that it does so. Where unemployment does not exist, there is no industrial discipline, and any legislative action of a government cannot ensure that there will be industrial discipline. So we shall continue to hear that it is necessary for the Australian Government to have “ a positive policy “, a term which is left undefined, as well as such other undefined terms as “ an adequate basis “, “ resistance of the unions “ and the rest of the jargon that is resorted to by those who support the Liberal party policy when discussing industrial disputes in Australia to-day. The conciliation commissioners, who were attacked, have been as successful or as unsuccessful, as the Arbitration Court judges were, in their efforts to bring about -industrial peace in Australia. There will not be industrial peace while the costs of living continue to rise sharply and arbitration acts as a slow method of adjusting wages to rising prices.
It is a curious and very interesting thing that the main opposition thesis and that of the employers themselves over many years has been that every increase of wages tends to hasten inflation, because it increases the cost of production which, in turn, increases the’ prices charged for the goods produced. Prom 1942 onwards, wages were pegged, and yet prices continued to rise, as all honorable members know. Obviously, apart from wages, there are other causes of inflation. The principle is that if wages get ahead of prices there must be- an inflationary effect. Therefore, wages lag well behind prices. Under present conditions that leads to- industrial unrest. The passing of prices control from the hands of the Australian Government will undoubtedly lead to further price rises and further industrial upheavals, as unions endeavour to drive their wages after those rising costs. There is no respect for arbitration in this country on the part of many unions, and it is difficult for those of us who believe in arbitration, to speak on the Esplanade or anywhere else in Perth, to an audience which does not forget that when arbitration threatened to be useful to the worker, as it did during the depression, and Arbitration Court judges would not cut wages fast enough, the conservative governments of that day attempted either to destroy arbitration, as in the case of the Bruce-Page Government, or knocked it right aside, as in the case of the Mitchell Government in Western Australia, where it cut wages to below the levels fixed by the Arbitration Courts. Because of that, for Liberal party members to preach respect for arbitration is, necessarily, to preach sermons which fall on deaf ears.
.- The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), as is usual, treated us to one of the homilies to which he used to treat his students, when he was a teacher at a small bush school, and I feel sure that honorable members on both sides of the House have been benefited by the strictures and lecture he has given us. I feel certain, also, that Mr. Hanlon, the Labour Premier of Queensland, will be duly deflated by the criticism of the honorable member, who, unlike most of the people of Australia gave him no credit at all for having stood to his guns in Queensland. He told us, in fact, that Mr. Hanlon does not deserve any credit because the striking workers, after being away from work for eleven weeks, returned to their jobs only because of lack of funds.
– That is quite true.
– As the honorable member for “Wannon says, it is true, but when analysing the matter, it is profitable to look at the example set by the Premier of ‘ Victoria. When a similar situation developed in Victoria about a month earlier, the Premier, Mr. Hollway, immediately summoned the State Parliament, which passed the Essential Services Act, making strike leaders liable to salutary penalties, including a fine of £1,000. As the result of that legislation, the strike collapsed within two or three days. It did not last foi- nearly eleven weeks, as did the Queensland strike. I hope that when the next election is held in Queensland and members of the Opposition are conducting their campaigns, the honorable member for Fremantle will be in attendance. We shall tell the people the facts. Electors of Griffith, who registered a decisive “no” vote in the recent referendum, have already shown that they had an abundance of facts.
I do not intend to make arbitration the principal subject of my speech this afternoon, but I confess to having had feelings of curiosity about the kind of gentlemen who were appointed conciliation commissioners under .the so-called “ streamlined “ system for settling industrial disputes. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), when describing this new system in the House last year, stated that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was overloaded with work. He informed us that the court was too much immersed in detail, and that the Government proposed to appoint conciliation commissioners at a substantial salary and give them security of tenure until they had attained the age “of 65 years. The right honorable gentleman explained that the conciliation commissioners would be given the rank of commissars - he did not use the word, but he meant the same thing - over every important industry, because no appeal would be allowed against their decisions. Finally, the Attorney-General stated that the introduction of the new system would lead to peace in industry. What is the first reaction of the unions? They are ordering their members to go on strike, or are threatening to do so, because they are not permitted to appeal against the decisions of” the conciliation commissioners. Members of the Opposition in this chamber warned the Government of this danger when the Commonwealth Conciliation andi Arbitration Bill was under consideration last year; but when we submitted an. amendment to allow the right of appeal against the determinations of conciliation commissioners, the honorable member for Fremantle and his colleagues voted against it.
While recognizing that the conciliation commissioners may be eminently respectable men, I placed a question on the notice-paper for the purpose of obtaining some information about their backgrounds, and their qualifications for holding their high offices and for determining the wages and conditions of employment of workers in every industry. With one exception, all the conciliation commissioners are former trade union secretaries or officials of the Australian Labour party”. This revelation substantiated the criticism which members of the Opposition expressed when the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was under consideration. We declared that appointments of this kind would create a doubt about the impartiality of their determinations. I shall not refer to any of the judgments which the conciliation commissioners have given, other than to remark that their determinations are not uniform. Consequently, the conciliation commissioner who grants the highest wages in a particular” industry sets the pace. Let me illustrate this statement with an example. If the leather workers are granted an increase of wages of 15s. a week, employees in the metal trades may consider that they, too, are entitled to an increase, and, immediately, workers in every section of the community begin to demand higher wages in accordance with the determinations given by the most generous conciliation commissioner. Against bis determinations, no appeal is allowed. I invite the honorable member for Fremantle to consider that situation.
The honorable gentleman stated also that this Government has no means of establishing the incentive system in industry. He ridiculed the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), and stated chat the honorable member, as a legal practitioner, knew perfectly well that the incentive system could not be introduced. There is one gentleman in Australia who is in a better position than anybody else to introduce an incentive system. I refer to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), and the method which he should adopt to achieve this object, is a substantial reduction of taxes.
– The honorable member is pulling his own leg.
– I am not deceiving myself. Apparently honorable members opposite claim that permitting a worker to retain a greater proportion of the reward of his labour is not an incentive to him to increase his output. Surely that proposition cannot be seriously advanced! I shall cite a specific instance to reveal the weakness of the claim. Meat is in short supply in this country. Rationing has been introduced for the purpose of limiting our domestic consumption in order that we may increase the export of meat to Great Britain. A few weeks ago, when I was travelling through a. country district, I saw 700 or 800 fat bullocks being driven along the road to a paddock. Meeting the owner, I said, “By jove, they are in the pink of condition, and are just ready to go to the meat works. You should get a good price for them “. He replied, “ I am not sending them to the meat works. I am taking them to grass “. When I asked what was his reason for doing so, he explained, “ This is April. If I sell these bullocks now, eight out of every ten of them will go to Mr. Chifley. I am keeping them until after the 1st July. The proceeds from the sale of these bullocks at the present time, in addition to the amount which I have received for earlier sales, would substantially increase the rate of tax that T should have to pay”.
– He must have sold a good many bullocks before the honorable member met him.
– He had not sold a large number. I told this story to a high government official who had complained about his inability to obtain sufficient supplies of meat for Great Britain. He remarked that the attitude which the owner of the bullocks had adopted was general throughout Australia. He pointed out that had the owner taken the bullocks to the meat works, the employees would have been obliged to work overtime in order to treat the cattle, and that they refuse to work overtime because the extra pay increases their rate of tax. This feeling exists in all sections of the community, from the coal-miner and the wharf labourer to doctors, dentists and other professional men. Nearly every individual is doing less work because the Treasurer, and members of the Labour party who support him, have destroyed the incentive for mon to increase their earnings by working harder. A substantial reduction of taxes is the only remedy. The abundant, revenues of the Commonwealth will permit this reduction to be made, and the effect will be seen in an expansion of industry and production.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The necessity for reducing taxes has been stressed by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) but, unfortunately, without avail. Having regard to the bulging purse of the Treasurer and the fact that he will not be able to do anything with the surplus revenue except to spend it more wastefully than has been done, if that is possible, it is to be hoped that in the near future, we shall have some relief from the present heavy burden of taxation.
I now propose to discuss New Guinea and Papua. New Guinea has been in the headlines for a long time. Early in December last, in a motion for the adjournment of the House, I discussed the maladministration of these territories and asked the Prime Minister to appoint a royal commission or a parliamentary select committee to visit them so that the members might inform themselves at first hand of the conditions there. It may be of value at this stage to relate the history of New Guinea and Papua. What is now known as Papua has been Australian territory for a long time. It was taken by Britain in 1884 and came under the control of Australia in 1906. Then there is what was at one time German New
Guinea, which includes the Bismarck Archipelago and the town of Rabaul. It was a tragedy that Australian blood should have been shed in the acquisition of that territory, because in 1878 the then Premier of Queensland, Sir Thomas Mcilraith, sent an expedition to take possession of it but his action was not approved by the British Government. Australia was then considered as a colonial territory that had no right to embark upon such an enterprise. This act of the British Government provided Bismarck, the iron chancellor of Germany, with an opportunity to intervene. A German expedition was despatched, and in 1.884 the German flag was planted in the archipelago and for many years thereafter it remained German territory. The first Australian troops to go into action at the outbreak of war in 1914 were those who were sent to Rabaul. A number of Australian lives were lost but at the end of the war the territory came under the Australian flag. At this juncture it is interesting to recall the fight that was waged at the Versailles Peace Conference by the then Prime Minister of Australia, the right honorable William Morris Hughes. There is a tendency to-day to say that the only Minister who has achieved anything for Australia in the field of foreign affairs is the present Minister for External Affairs. (Dr. Evatt). That is due to the wide publicity that, has been given to his exploits. I remind honorable members that had it not been for the efforts of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) at the Peace Conference at Versailles, we probably would not have had New Guinea or a White Australia policy. The representatives of France, the United States of America,. Japan, Italy, and the United Kingdom had agreed that New Guinea should not be ceded to Australia but should be placed under the jurisdiction of the League of Nations. The right honorable gentleman opposed that suggestion and, after threatening to withdraw from the conference, succeeded in obtaining the mandate for Australia. At that time there was a fight for racial equality, and it must be remembered that in the 1914-18 war Japan was our ally. That question was considered by the Peace Conference and a resolution was carried by sixteen votes to five declaring that the doors of every nation should be open to the people of all other nations that were members of the league, irrespective of colour. The right honorable member for North Sydney raised an agitation in the United States of America, especially in those States with a racial problem. As a result, such a flood of cablegrams and telegrams descended upon the President of the United States of America, President Wilson, that he was happy to reverse. the decision. As a result of the efforts of that grand old man, the right honorable member for North Sydney, the White Australia policy was vindicated. That story should be told when so much is heard of the achievements of others.
The New Guinea mandate is one of the most valuable that any country could wish to have. The evidence shows that Australia can be proud of the way in which it has discharged its responsibilities during the years it has been the mandatory power. From the time the mandate was granted, Australian officials . have been administering the territory and maintaining the highest principles of British justice. Every year until 1940 a report of our administrative activities was sent to the League of Nations, showing what we had clone for the natives, our activities in trade and commerce and in the general discharge of our responsibilities. Until 1940, and I take that year because it was the last occasion on which a report was rendered to the League of Nations, the reports were such as to justify every Australian in feeling proud of his fellow countrymen as administrators of native affairs. I point out, first, as this report shows, that there are in New Guinea from 650,000 to 700,000 natives and in Papua about 300,000, a total of approximately 1,000,000 natives. They are the responsibility of Australia. In the course of the years those natives have enjoyed a degree of happiness and prosperity in native values which few native populations under the control of any other power have enjoyed. But an attempt “is now being made by the Government, particularly ,by the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward), to belittle those who achieved so much in the past on behalf of these native peoples. I have heard bandied around this chamber such terms as, “ exploiters “ profiteers “ and “ these unfortunate people “. Now, their great protector has arisen ! Records submitted to the League of Nations do not justify that attitude; they show increasing native prosperity. The best evidence Australia could have of the manner in which the white settlers in New Guinea have looked after the natives and have mixed with them, the finest vindication of the fairness of our administration of New Guinea, is the way in which the natives stood to Australia when the Japanese invaders landed on their shores. That fact alone answers most of the criticism that could be levelled against past administrations. I have spoken very frequently about New Guinea in this House. I have not had an opportunity to visit these territories. I and other honorable members have repeatedly been denied an opportunity to go there, even though we have asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) for facilities to make the visit. Nevertheless, many people in New Guinea regard various honorable members on this side of the House as their parliamentary voice. They have no vote and no parliamentary representative; they have not even a legislative council in the territories. Thus, they are a defenceless white minority insofar as the administration is concerned, and their only means of ventilating their case before the Australian people is by writing letters to various members of Parliament asking that their views be placed before the Parliament. I hold in my hand a communication which was forwarded to me on behalf of a representative group in New Guinea. I shall give the text of it to honorable members. It is a copy of a letter which was sent recently to the Administrator of Papua and New Guinea, and it is couched in fair and reasonable terms. It reads -
We contend that the resident citizens who have the welfare of the country at heart, and who fought for its freedom in no uncertain manner, are entitled to sympathetic consideration when it. comes to a question of developing our natural assets.
When the war broke out there were in New Guinea a number of Australian citizens, some of whom had had no military training, who formed themselves into that body of deathless fame, the New
Guinea Volunteer Rifles. They stood their ground when there was no hope of aid from Australia. They took the first blow struck by the Japanese invaders. They had to retreat from Salamaua and Lae, and for weeks had to scramble through the jungle without food and practically without ammunition. Eventually, a great many of them found their way after weeks of privation to Port Moresby. However, many of their number were captured at Rabaul. All of the white men in that party were kept prisoner for some time. Subsequently an attempt was made to transport them to Japan on Montevideo Maru, but on the voyage the vessel was sunk, and all on board lost their lives. That is a story which I propose .to tell in detail on another occasion. At the moment ‘! have particularly in mind the shameful treatment that was meted 0U by the present Minister and the Government to the dependants of those men. When I have an opportunity later to place the facts before the House. I shall tell the people how the Government recouped itself of certain payments it made to the wives of those men who lost their lives on Montevideo Maru. The Government deducted certain payments from superannuation benefits accruing in respect of those men. No more shameful episode of the war could be related. But I shall not be diverted from my present purpose. These citizens of New Guinea, in their letter, continue -
We have here an abundance of hydraulic power, ample agricultural, grazing and timber lands, all lying idle. We propose to develop and make use of these assets if the Government will extend to us the privilege of doing so.
That is all they ask. The letter proceeds -
The following can be successfully grown or produced in this country: - Coffee, cotton, kapoc, tobacco, passion fruit, casava, ground nuts and essential vegetable oils, ginger, vanilla, cocoa, sugar, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, soya beans, citrus, vegetables including potatoes for territorial use and other tropical products. In addition, pigs, poultry, sheep and cattle do well in selected areas.
We could enumerate many other items worthy of consideration, but at this stage it is not necessary. The vital question is the implementation of a developmental policy which would benefit the country, the native and resident citizens.
We should remember that these natives, during the last few years, made close contacts with American and Australian troops, with the result that, to-day, their ideas of civilization and of native needs have altered to some degree. They now desire purchasing power. They wish to acquire for themselves goods of which they did not even dream before the war; hut they cannot acquire those goods unless they are given the right to work. That right is denied to them by the Minister except under such conditions as make it virtually impossible for them to apply for work. Under the indenture system in operation for many years before the outbreak of the recent war, natives were obliged to sign up for three years. The report submitted by the Australian Administrator to the League of Nations for the year 1939-40 states that that system worked satisfactorily. The report states that during that year, of the natives who had completed a three-year contract of service 1,065 signed on again for one year, 3,812 signed on again for two years and 1,100 signed on again for three years. A total of 6,777 natives, upon the expiration of contracts of service, signed on again for further periods of service. The natives of New Guinea are not animals. They are capable of reasoning and have the ambitions and same love of family as the white -man; they have as high a sense of probity and justice as any white man. They do not lend themselves to exploitation. I refer honorable members to the Official Handbook of Papua compiled by Mr. Lewis Lett, who is one of the most eminent authorities on these territories where he has lived for many years. He says -
Papuans are happy under discipline; but it must be a wise and humane discipline if it is to leave them healthy and contented. Anything remotely resembling tyranny must he avoided. The Papuan has a strong sense of justice; and while he will accept without protest a reproof that he has deserved, he will resent, often sullenly and bitterly, a reprimand that he has not earned, or one administered for a fault committed in good faith.
The Papuan native has a high degree of intelligence. He may not have a good education or a wide knowledge of civilized amenities, but he has a strong, natural sense of justice and knows when he is being exploited. In some measure he is the defender of his own rights. It isnecessary of course that there should be protective legislation, just as there is in this country relating to wages, hours of employment, &c, but what the Papuan demands and what the white residents of Papua demand, is that the natives shall have the same liberty in respect of entering employment as that enjoyed by the Australian citizen. But under theedict of the Minister, the Papuan is not permitted at present to sign on with an employer for more than twelve months. He may be recruited - to use a generally accepted term which does not mean the forcing of labour but the enlistment of labour - from a village several hundredmiles from the coast. He is brought to a plantation, trained, and then, aftertwelve months, when his training is almost complete, his employer is compelled, according to the Minister’s order, to return him to his native village.
– Why not?
– The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asks “Why not?” I remind him that the administration itself does not sign on natives for such a limited period. It recognizes that a longer period’ is required. Why not let the native himself have the option of remaining with an employer if he wishes to do so? He does not have that choice at present.
The letter from certain New Guinea residents to which I have already referred states that they are anxious to form a New Guinea co-operative, they believe that they should be given an opportunity to organize shipping, stores, plantations and the like, but so far they have received little encouragement in thisdirection. The letter states -
The citizens of New Guinea propose to form, what is to be known as “The New Guinea, Co-operative “ and it can be seen at a glancewhat a powerful orgnization it could becomewith your sympthetic co-operation. It could: own its own ships, handle import and exporttrade, finance agricultural and other enterprises and develop the ready to hand asset,. the timber industry. There would appear tobe no sound reason why timber should not rank in importance with copra and gold production. It is an urgently needed commodity and we have plenty of it. The Forestry Department experts will I think agree, that if reafforestation follows the axe, there will be moretimber in forty years time than there is now. The undulating kunai country adjoining the ;pine forests are no use for agriculture and could be planted with pine at any time. We have at Wau, pine trees planted fifteen years ago which are reproducing.
These are the matters that have been placed before me, but I, and other members of this Parliament, have been denied ;an opportunity to visit New Guinea to obtain first-band information of conditions there. I have sought this opportunity for a long time because I am interested in the possibilities of that vast and rich territory which has a native population of 1,000,000. Papua and New Guinea each has an area of approximately 90,000 square miles - the size of “Victoria. They consist of fertile forests, rich coastal lands, and ranges of high mountains, and they have extensive climatic variations most of which are quite suitable for white people. These territories should be developed not only in the interests of the natives but also in the interests of Australian security. “We have everything to gain from a strong New Guinea which is supplying some of the world’s needs for the benefits of its residents, natives and white settlers alike. There should be the closest co-operation between the natives and the white settlers, many of whom have spent the best years of their lives developing these territories mid are trusted by the natives because of the fair treatment accorded to them over the years. I say. therefore, that the time has arrived when the Prime Minister should no longer fob off this Souse and this country when submissions are made to him .on the subject. It is not sufficient for him to say that he has examined the situation, has confidence in the Minister for External Territories, and believes that the administration of New Guinea is sound. Members of this House are entitled to an opportunity to see conditions in that territory for themselves. An all-party committee should he constituted to visit New Guinea. It should be given every facility to investigate not matters that are now the subject of an inquiry, because I have not touched upon them at all, but all those other factors that are so important not only to the people of Australia, but also to the future of this vast territory for which we have assumed responsibility.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) expressed regret that he did not have an opportunity to deal fully with all the matters that he had in mind regarding the territories of Papua and New Guinea. I do not know what better opportunity he could want than that presented to him now. As usual, the honorable member introduced a lot of irrelevant matter into what he regard? as criticism of the administration of the territories, without giving any facts to the House. He spoke in generalities about the alleged ill-treatment of the relations of former members of the New Guinea, administration who lost their lives following the outbreak of war with Japan. It would have been fairer comment if the honorable gentleman had given some figures to the House relating to the payments that have been made to these people. He claimed that certain deductions had been made from superannuation payments. That is not true. The fact is that since the 17th January, 1946, pensions have been paid to the dependants of former members of the New Guinea administration and others who lost their lives as the result of enemy action. Originally, the pension was £2 10s. a week, and it is now £2 15s. a week, which, I think, will compare favorably with similar payments on the Australian mainland. For a considerable time the administration had no information as to when and where these people lost their lives. Eventually that information came to hand, and it was possible to establish the approximate date of the loss of Montevideo Maru. It was decided that superannuation pensions should be paid to dependants of the deceased members of the administration as from that date. Whilst the men were missing, their dependants were paid allowances by the Government, and in some cases those allowances were greater than the pensions to which they were entitled under the superannuation scheme. What the Government did to adjust the matter was this : Where the payment dependants had formerly received was greater than they would have been entitled to under the superannuation scheme, they were not paid any accumulated superannuation, but where the superannuation payments were ,the greater., they received the benefit The administration did not ask for the refund of any moneys at .all. Therefore, it is .untrue to suggest .that deductions were made from superannuation .pensions.
– I shall answer that later..
– The honorable member said that .deductions had .been made, and
I! am now stating the true position. The honorable member for Richmond claimed that he was unable to visit the territories of Papua and New -Guinea. I .remind him that the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) went there recently. To listen to the honorable member, one would imagine there was some prohibition against members of the Opposition visiting the territories. I assure them, that .they are welcome to go, that they will he provided with permits, and that every facility will be placed at their disposal to enable them to examine all phases of the administration. What the honorable member wants, of course, is a trip at the Government’s expense. The Government does not believe that it is necessary to arrange for a delegation of members of Parliament to visit the territories, because the Opposition has not produced evidence to show that there is anything wrong with the administration.
Members of the Opposition are trying to promote unrest in New Guinea, but they are not succeeding. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), in an attempt to support charges he had made, read a “ phoney “ message in the House. It was so “ phoney “ that he was afraid to hand it over to Hansard for checking. It is evident from the message which has been received from the Combined Public Service Associations of Papua and New Guinea that they did, not communicate with the honora’ble member for Balaclava. It may be that he was supplied by some one in the department with a copy of the document he read. I am not sure where he got it from, but I am sure that it was not sent to him by the Combined Public Service Associations, and the members of those associations resent what he did. They know that -the matters to which they directed attention have been receiving consideration from the Government for some time. Only recently, certain increases of pay were granted, and maderetrospective to the 1st March last. It is evident, therefore, that there is no lack of consideration by the administration of the real needs of officers. If honorable members -want <to hear of an instance of the treatment of officers by the present administration, let me cite -what has been dome in connexion with Tents. Houses that have cost approximately £%<Q0Q , each hare been Jet to public service officers at an average rental of £36 a year, which is less than interest on the capital cost. Electricity -charges, which the honorable member mentioned, are at present under review, and the administration is making an allowance to officers in respect of electrical refrigerators that are provided in the homes. Therefore, it is a pure fabrication to say that there is general unrest in the Public Service. Certain claims have .been made by the Public Service Associations in a request to the Government to review .conditions of employment and rates of pay. Such claims are continuously under review, and adjustments are made when the authorities believe that the claims are justified.
I come now to the treatment of the natives. The honorable member for Richmond made a great play upon what he called interference with the liberties of the natives. He said that the .administration, by limiting the period of indenture to twelve months, was compelling natives to return to their villages at the end of that time. That is not true. We say that the period of indenture must not be longer than twelve months. A native begins his indenture as an untrained man, so that, at the end of twelve months, he must be worth more to his employer than he was at the beginning. Therefore, if the employer wants to retain his services he ought to offer better conditions or higher pay. A great number of the European settlers in0 the territories are quite satisfied with present conditions, but there are a few disgruntled individuals, for whom the honorable member for Richmond speaks, who wish to be able to go on exploiting the natives as they did in the past. The honorable member sought to give credit to his own party for what was done in Papua and New Guinea in former years, but he had not one word of praise for the missionaries who pioneered settlement in the territories, and did more than any one else to bring to the natives the benefits of education and medical services. In order to show its willingness to co-oporate with the missionaries, the administration has arranged for the holding of an annual conference between officers and . representatives of the missions. A meeting of missionaries unanimously carried a resolution expressing appreciation, not only of my own work for the territories, but also of the policy of the Government. I invite honorable ‘members opposite to quote if they can any statement of a missionary expressing dissatisfaction with the administration. “We know, of course, that the honorable member for Richmond does not believe in the regulation of conditions of employment. Such a thing as a basic wage for workers tatives of the missions. A meeting plied to me. by a local Labour council that functions in the area in which the honorable member has banana plantations, that he does not pay his plantation workers the ruling basic wage in New South “Wales. I made inquiries of the State Industrial Department, and learned that. there is no award to cover persons employed on banana plantations, and the honorable member for Richmond takes advantage of that fact, and is paying some of his employees less than the basic wage ruling in the State.
The honorable member also said that the administration was discouraging cooperatives in the territories. Far from that being the case, the administration is preparing an ordinance dealing with native co-operatives, of which there are already several in existence and they are receiving from the administration every encouragement and assistance. The honorable member referred to timber resources. Like him I do not want to make any reference to a pending matter, but when the opportunity presents itself I shall have plenty to say about it. I can at least say that some time ago Mr. Mc Ad am, secretary of the Forestry Department was instructed to make a survey of timber resources and in June, 1946,
I approved of a policy which provides that all timber lands made available by the Forestry Department are to be publicly advertised and tenders for them invited. The only matter remaining in abeyance is whether’ it is practicable to provide a concession to- territorians or ex-territorians, by allowing them special conditions in the terms of tendering or by setting aside an area exclusively for tendering for them. That matter has been and still is receiving the attention of the Government. A point of interest is that, since the restoration of the civil administration, despite all the loose talk bandied about this country regarding timber permits and timber licences, not one new timber permit or licence has been issued. There were two cases of transfer from one area to another of pre-war permits or licences when the permits or licences were held in respect of isolated areas. As timber was required by the administration, transfers were arranged. But not one new permit or licence has been issued since the new administration took over. So, not only have we provided for the preservation of the Government’s assets, but also we are applying a policy of reafforestation.
– Is this not sub judice, Mr. Speaker ?
– Order ! The honorable member for Richmond dealt with the neglect of timber resources and the Minister is replying to him.
– As we are conserving timber resources and providing for reafforestation, it can be said that the criticism of the honorable member for Richmond is based merely on some information that he says he has received from some obscure or certainly unidentifiable member of the civil administration or resident of the territories. If the honorable member wants to go to the territories and if he believes that something can be gained by his going there, he will be granted a permit if heapplies for one. Every facility will be made available to enable him to examineevery phase of the administration that he wants to examine. No difficulties will be placed in his way. There is no “ iron curtain” so far as the administration of the territories is concerned. I take this- opportunity of announcing that a hill is almost ready for presentation to the Parliament to establish the permanent administration of the territories. Many times the honorable member and other honorable members have raised the point that the European settlers have no voice in affairs in Papua and New Guinea. But it has been explained that because of the evacuation of residents of the territories during the war, it would have been impossible to have established any form of legislative council during the period of transition from the war-time administration to the re-establishment of the civil administration. But we said that, as soon as conditions returned to something approaching normal, the Government would re-establish in some form a legislative body to give the residents of the territories the opportunity of expressing their views, and, without endeavouring to indicate all the matters contained in the bill, J merely say that that matter is covered by it. I hope to introduce the bill at an early date. If the honorable member for Richmond considers that he lacks the opportunity of discussing these matters in this debate, he will have ample opportunity then. I suggest that he collect whatever data he has in order that he may take advantage of that occasion. I also suggest that then he should base his statements on facts, not on some imaginary message that he may have received, but which I suspect he wrote himself.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. The Standing Orders provide that honorable members may not be reflected upon. The Minister said that I had read a letter which was either imaginary or one that he suspected I had written myself.
– Order ! Does the honorable member take exception to what the Minister said ?
– I take great exception to it.
– Order ! The Minister must withdraw the implication.
– I said that it was my opinion.
– That does not -matter.
– In deference to your wish, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the statement.
.- The subject for debate to-night is the request by the Government for the approval of the Parliament of the appropriation of £74,728,000 for the purposes and services set out in the schedule of the bill. The bill gives honorable members the opportunity of criticizing the expenditure and activities of the various departments. I did not intend to mention the Department of External Territories. I thought that the Minister had sufficient trouble in other places.
– Order ! The honorable member must not make even oblique references to a certain matter. There is a total prohibition on the discussion of it.
– The Minister referred to a telegram that I received from the Council of the Combined Public Service Associations of Papua and New Guinea. May I not speak on that subject?
– That is not what the honorable member was referring to.
– It is the only reason why I now refer to the administration of the two territories. I have referred to it many times. The Minister misrepresented me. On Wednesday, last week, 1 asked the Prime Minister whether he had received a telegram from the Council of the Combined Public Service Associations of Papua and New Guinea and, if so, whether he intended to ta.ke any action about the matter. I had received a copy of the telegram, and I read the beginning and the end of it. The Prime Minister did not deny that he had received that message. I asked that a royal commission or a select committee be appointed to inquire into the affairs of the territories, including the matter mentioned in the telegram. On Tuesday, this week, another honorable member asked the’ Minister for External Territories a question about the matter, and, in his reply, the Minister, in his usual way, took the opportunity, as he has done to-night, of abusing and misrepresenting me. He described my message as “ phoney “ and said that I had refused to supply it to Hansard. Neither statement is true. The message was printed in ‘Hansard. As a Minister, he receives the daily Hansard. “ flats “ and must have known that those parts of the message that I quoted were- published. Yet he indulged in untruths and misrepresentation. Since the Minister has raised the matter again, I am prepared to give to you, Mr. Speaker, my copy of the message, but I would not give it to him. The territories are valuable and Australia should be proud to administer them. Many good Australians have fought in unfortunate circumstances to earn a living there. They resent present conditions. The message I quoted is only one of many messages that I have received expressing resentment against the dictatorship of the Minister and a few of his departmental officials. If people there were assured that their anonimity would be preserved, a great many more of them would express their resentment of the lack of self-government. The Legislative Council that the Lyons Government set up was abolished and all protests against its not having been reestablished have been met with abuse and the pretence that they are untrue and that the Minister alone has all the information available. Here is one message that I received not last week, but recently. It is not signed by the official who sent it because if it were there would be an immediate heresy hunt or witch hunt and the officer would be victimized. The message reads -
Public Service Associations of New Guinea and Papua protest against imposition rent charges without authority Public Service Ordinance and Regulations. Savours star chamber methods and considered illegal. Members advised refuse pay rent until regulations promulgated. Please raise in House and give widest publicity
Has the Minister anything to say about that? Does he contend that it is “ bogus “ and “ phoney “ ?
– Who signed it?
– The association signed it. No individual would put his name on. it because of his knowledge of the manner in which he would be treated by the Minister. The honorable gentleman did not deny that when I raised the matter in the House. He attempted to find an answer, because I had raised the matter earlier. Here is another message from the Combined Public Service Associations -
Patronage favouritism displayed by Administrator prevents contented service. Minister asked May, 1945, grant arbitration without results. High cost of living coupled lowsalaries means bankruptcy many public servants. Meagre superannuation pensions prevents officer retiring. Minister ignored representations from association May, 1945, new superannuation scheme. Promised Public Service Ordinance regulations not promulgated. Administrator refused receive deputation wives public servants but keeps open door native deputations.
Does the Minister deny that? Has he ever heard of it? He just grins and guffaws. This is the man whom people are expected to believe when he speaks under privilege in the Parliament. He has attacked the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) for having dared to bring forward New Guinea matters, and he has the audacity to profess and to try to lead the public to believe that these messages are bogus, because I. will not tell him from whom they have come, except that they have come from public servants in his own department. I have answered him, and shall now leave him and his veracity to the judgment of other people in other places.
It is a pity that the Government in its various departments, seems to be shackled to a socialist system which leads it into all kinds of international complications. Wherever there is an international conference the Minister for External Affairs will rush to it. Wherever there is an international agreement he is anxious to get his name upon it. That is destructive of our development, detrimental to our prestige as British people, and dangerous to our very existence. I believe that the reason for the Government’s socialist outlook is that some of its member? benevolently believe that socialism is really possible as a national ideology. 1 contend that it is not. Wherever it has been tried, it has failed. Unfortunately, it is a. close relative of a barbarian ideology called communism. Unfortunately also we have in our midst representatives of Russia, a nation which has tried this experiment, and many of those persons are prominent in the trade unions. Some are even to be seen in the galleries in this Parliament, and because we know that they bully the Government into submitting to many of their demands, we can understand why the Government’s policy closely approximates to that of the Communist party. In 1921, the Labour party threw overboard the policy it was then espousing and adopted the Communist slogan of the socialization of all the means of production, industry, distribution and exchange. There are members of this House who were representatives at the conference that was held in that year. The present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), an ex-Prime Minister in the person of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), and the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) were representatives, and all of them adopted this policy. The moving spirit at the conference was the then secretary-general of the Communist party in Australia, Mr. “ Jock “ Garden, who had come fresh from Russia, in which the civil war had just ended, bringing with him this great Communist message of salvation to the Australian Labour party. These members of the so-called Labour party have adopted the avowed Communist aim of socialization as their policy and, consequently, all their policy in every direction is dominated by socialism. The greatest example of their folly is the crude way in which the trade policy of Australia has been handled. These individuals have insufficient appreciation of the great mutual benefits of Empire trade and reciprocity, the foundations of which have been shaken by recent agreements signed by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) at Geneva and Havana. He acquiesced in the breakingup of a commercial policy of harmony and economic goodwill that had endured for generations, and in its place we are now embarking upon a kind of international policy of laisser-faire. I question whether a dozen members of the Parliament understand what is being done. But when the high prices which prevail to-day begin to recede, as they must - they cannot remain at their present levels for all time - and there is competition, difficulties will arise, and Australia will find that it “has few friends in the commercial world and will be seeking markets for its exports. In 1932, Australia signed a reciprocal trade agreement with Britain and some of the dominions. Under it, all parts of the Empire grew in economic strength. That was of considerable help to both Britain and Australia in the war years. Now, all that has gone into the discard, because, under Article 17 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade negotiated at Geneva, preferences between the dominions and Great Britain are to be whittled down and the Empire preferential system will ultimately cease to operate. “We shall be broken into economic fragments, instead of beingunited and an example to the world, a? we have been. It was the reciprocal trade agreements between Empire countries which first brought us out of the depression. After a year or two years we shall see the benefits which we formerly enjoyed going largely to the United States of America, which has the greatest economic potential. Britain will find itself in greater difficulties, and Australia may suffer a considerable recession through unemployment and hardship. I do not want to be gloomy. I am merely showing what dangers may be encountered when we have ministers and governments whose loyalties are out of perspective and who consider that socialism can replace the growth of that reciprocity, goodwill and complete kinship which exists in the British Commonwealth of Nations. This Government suffers not only from incompetence in its Ministers, but also lack of the right spirit to govern. That we are a part of a great empire means nothing to it. People now speak of two powerful nations, Russia and the United States. There is a third great world power, if it is united, and that third power is the British Commonwealth of Nations. If, however, like the sands of the sea, it remain in many separate units instead of being compacted into solid rock, its importance will be limited. The British Commonwealth has less man-power than the two other great powers, but it has larger natural resources. The British people, which term includes ourselves as well as those from the British Isles, have given to civilization more in culture, justice, good government and tolerance than those of any other great nation. America has derived those qualities through its British heritage. Yet, to-day, we have in power in this great country a Government which would adopt alien ideologies, and lower our living standards and our standards of freedom, instead of trying to raise them to what we know as the British level. Another example of the Government’s unrealistic attitude towards Australia’s ties with Britain is its unsatisfactory and disappointing immigration policy. In justice to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), I admit that he is trying hard to achieve success. His failure to do so is the result of his not concentrating in the fight direction, that is, on bringing British migrants to Australia. He has expressed disappointment at the lack of the necessary shipping. It is possible to bring many people to Australia by air. The Minister promised to explore that possibility. A year or more has since elapsed, and although foreign immigrants are coming by air, few British migrants are doing so. An air scheme could be subsidized by the Government. I believe that at one time the Government considered such a scheme. There are new aircraft in Great Britain to-day available to carry large numbers of people to Australia. If the Australian and British Governments each agreed to ;pay part of the fare British people could come here by air. The immediate question that arises in the minds of some honorable members is: What of the housing problem? Of course we need to attend to the housing of our own people, but we do not want to wait until every requisite house is built before we bring to this country the great numbers of people necessary to help us to fulfil our destiny. In order to protect this country we shall need a greatly increased population if war should come. We are a white outpost close to millions of Asiatics, and we need a vastly greater white population in order to assure our future security. The Government has failed to arrange, proper conferences with the United Kingdom Government on immigration, and, in consequence, there has been no adequate joint planning between the two Governments regarding the transport of immigrants to Australia, the taking up of land by the newcomers and the building of the necessary housing to accommodate them. Artisans should be brought out in great numbers and allocated to all States. In the early days of our history artisans came here with the pioneers and were enlisted in military garrisons for building purposes. There are available in Australia to-day many camps that were used by the services during the war that could, and should, be utilized in connexion with our immigration scheme. Some time ago I suggested, that one of these camps should be retained by the Government, but it refused to accept my suggestion, and the camp has since been sold to private enterprise. The Government should have held these camps for use as staging camps for British migrants. 200,000 of whom are waiting to come to Australia. The migrants and their wives and children could be housed in these camps, the menfolk being transported to work in adjacent centres. Many of the camps are contiguous to towns where the men could be readily absorbed. This proposal has been adopted in a small way in connexion with Baltic immigrants. If it can be done for the Baits, why cannot it also be done for our British kinsfolk?
The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) yesterday very pointedly and eloquently showed how inadequate is our Army for Australia’s defence. I offer the same criticism in respect of the Royal Australian Air Force. The. Government’s target for the Air Force is 13,000 personnel. How ridiculous! During the war the strength of the Royal Australian Air Force was 1S7,000. When the war ended, it was necessary to demobilize the greater part of the Royal Australian Air Force and return to peace-time establishments, but how ridiculous it is that the Air Force to-day should be so small. If the Royal Australian Air Force component now in Japan were brought back to Australia we would have a total force of only sixteen squadrons even with full enlistment. That is ludicrous, as any authority on the subject will agree. In an article dealing with the inadequacy of the post-war Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Bostock, who held the principal command in the Royal Australian Air Force in the South-West Pacific, said -
A permanent Royal Australian Air Force nf such limited fighting strength can be justified only if it becomes the spearhead of a Citizen Air Force which should be well trained mid equipped and ready to take the air at short notice. In 1040, it was estimated that 73 squadrons were necessary to safeguard Australia. This figure was actually approved oy the Federal Government. Only when American aid to the tune of about 70 squadrons reached us were we able to turn the tide in Kew Guinea. Yet that lesson seems to have been ignored and we are to depend in future on an air force of little more than half the strength which the initial Japanese onslaught in 1941 destroyed. It is a grim outlook.
Although the target for the Air Force is 13,000, the Government has succeeded in enlisting only approximately 9,000. men, of whom the majority are in what was known as the Interim Air Force, which largely serves in Japan. Here is the most ridiculous aspect of the situation. The Citizen Air Force is to consist of only 400 men- - not sufficient even to mau one squadron if this includes ground staffs. The Government has recently indulged in an expensive and spectacular recruiting campaign for the Royal Australian Air Force, which I approve, but how many recruits did it enlist? It certainly will not get the desired number even though the proposed establishment is ridiculously inadequate. I would not venture to say what would be an appropriate number, but I am sure that many airmen would agree that Australia could not think of endeavouring to carry out its responsibilities, even in a very moderate way, without a strength of at least 30 squadrons. To suggest that, of the thousands of excellent men who distinguished themselves during .the war, there are vacancies in the Citizen Air Force for only +.00, including ground personnel, is ridiculous. The proposal shows that the Government has little interest in the Air Force. The honorable member for Henty said yesterday, that in the matter of its own defence Australia was loafing on Great Britain. That applies equally to the Air Force and the Army. Government spokesmen have cited with some pride figures relating to the proposed expenditure on the armed forces. Unfortunately, too much of the money will be spent on red tape, administration and the pay of clerks and other non-combatants, and too little of it on the training of the fighting men who, after all, are the ones who matter most in time of war. It was to the strong right arm of our young men who on two occasions preserved our liberty, and to the cooperation of our British kinsfolk and the allies with whom we fought that we owe our very existence. This Government apparently thinks that Canberra is really the centre df the universe and that speeches are a substitute for man-power and training. During the war, the Royal Australian Air Force was the equal for its size of any air force in the world in efficiency and in every aspect of flying, yet it is treated in this contemptuous way by this socialist Government. Why is it that the Government is so anxious to throw away war-time equipment ? Just off the Geelong road, a mile of aircraft may be seen in a row rapidly deteriorating, and the same sort of thing may be seen on many other airfields. I realize that it is not possible to use all of this equipment but at least more consideration should be given to the retention of it in case of emergency.
Last week I placed a question on the notice-paper relative to the sale of military rifles., I had heard that large numbers of rifles were being sold indiscriminately. I asked the Minister for tinArmy (Mr. Chambers) -
How many rifles have been disposed of either by the Army or the Commonwealth Disposals Commission since the war?
The Minister replied -
Apart from rifles issued to members of authorized rifle clubs, approximately 3,000 rifles have been disposed of to ex-members of the Volunteer Defence Corps-
And listen to this -
All other rifles surplus to Army requirements have been disposed of to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission which has sold 42,830 rifles.
Where have they gone? There are not 42,000 kangaroo shooters in Australia. If there were, there would probably be a rifle for each kangaroo. I also asked whether any rifles had been exported. The Minister stated that no rifles are sold for export. Does the honorable gentleman seriously say that there is not an illicit export of rifles to-day?
– The New Guard probably has them all.
– Most likely the red comrades of the honorable member would know. I also asked to whom sales were made generally. The Minister’s reply, which is a classic example of how questions are evaded, was that -sales were generally made to Commonwealth departments and licensed gunsmiths. What Commonwealth department needs +2,000 rifles? My next question was -
What form of undertaking was given by the buyers ?
The Minister replied -
In New South Wales and Western Australia, legislation exists which controls the sale of all rifles. Premiers in other States have undertaken to have suitable legislation enacted, and sales in these States have been suspended pending such legislation.
The Army and the Commonwealth Disposals Commission have already sold more than 42,000 rifles ; apparently they contemplate selling more. No person should be permitted to purchase a service rifle unless he holds a licence. I remind honorable members that these are .303 service rifles.
– If the Army is selling them to other Commonwealth departments we might see some reduction of staffs.
– I would not go so far us to say that. My final question was -
What was the largest quantity sold to any une person or organization?
The reply was -
Twenty thousand rifles sold to the Department of Munitions for conversion to .22 sporting rifles. Other sales have been made to gunsmiths in small - parcels to meet current requirements.
These sales need closer scrutiny. Any one who has read the training manual of the Communist party, printed at Marx House. Sydney, is well aware that it advises the members of the party and the colleagues of our friends sitting opposite to take the opportunity to be armed when they can, and to be ready for armed : evolution. The nonsensical ideology of the Communist party seeks a continuous revolution and there cannot be h continuous revolution unless class consciousness is fostered constantly among the people. The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward), who is now in charge of the House, has developed class consciousness to the “ nth “ degree. Having gained power by shooting up their fellows, they hope thereby to achieve a kind of Utopia. Russia has been experimenting with this system for the past 30 years, but the strange paradox is that although both socialism and communism are intended to create a paradise on earth, they cause nothing but misery, degradation and prison camp conditions. Therefore it is about time the Government took stock of itself and changed its methods, and it is about time the people saw their duty and removed the Government from authority.
One example of incompetent Government administration is the Commonwealth Employment Service. In October last year, I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) a series of questions about the wages and salaries of the men who are employed by the Government to find employment for others. Honorable members may not be aware of the fact, but there are officers in every State whose job is to find jobs for other people. Although the head of this service in Victoria declared that there were 40,000 vacancies in various trades to-day and that his officers could not find men to fill them, the Commonwealth Employment Service still exists and occupies office space in every State. It has 58 offices in New South Wales, 43 in Victoria, 14 in Queensland, 12 in South Australia, 14 in Western Australia and 5 in Tasmania. In spite of the size of the organization in Queensland, the Labour Government in that State will not have anything to do with it. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth continues to pay for accommodation in offices and shops which many ex-servicemen anxious to establish themselves in business would gladly rent at high rates. These rents alone cost the Commonwealth £49,000 a year. The wages bill amounts to £590,000 a year. I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service how many jobs these officers had found for people and was told that the year before last they found very few jobs, but that last year they found positions for 212,252 persons. I then asked how long these jobs lasted, and was told that the department did not keep those statistics. For all we know. that total may have been swollen by men returning time after time to seek fresh jobs.
– The Commonwealth Employment Service supplied seasonal labour for rural industries.
– However long the jobs lasted, they cost about £3 each to find. The Minister also informed me, in a supplementary answer to my questions, that these people who cannot find jobs for other people are required to perform all kinds of other duties, such as advising employers. But how many employers would waste time by asking these men to advise them about conducting their own businesses? How idiotic to persist with a service so largely redundant. The Minister said that there was much unemployment when previous governments were in power. Now we know what has happened to the former unemployed ! They must be in these offices, many of them with nothing to do.
My criticism is not unsupported. I refer honorable members to the report on the Public Service Board about the Commonwealth Employment Service. Every Minister should note this comment, because the Public Service Board is charged with the responsibility of ensuring efficiency and economy in Commonwealth departments. The latest report of the board contains a special chapter relating to efficiency and economy. It notes that Section 17 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act provides, inter alia -
In addition to such duties as are elsewhere in this Act imposed on it, the Board shall have the following duties: -
to devise means for effecting economies and promoting efficiency in the management and working of Departments by -
improved organization and procedure ;
the simplification of the work of each Department and the abolition of unnecessary work ;
the co-ordination of the work of the various Departments;
the limitations of the staffs of the various Departments to actual requirements and the utilization of those staffs to the best advantage;
to maintain a comprehensive and con tinuous system of measuring and checking the economical and efficient working of each Department, and to institute standard practice and uniform instructions for carrying out recurring work; and
Referring particularly to the Commonwealth Employment Service, the report states -
The Commonwealth Employment Service was established in May, 1940, and after a period to enable the Department to establish an organization, the Board undertook a comprehensive review of the staffing position. This was done in collaboration with the Department, and as a resultof the combined activities of the Department and the Board, an original establishment suggested by the Department, involving an overall staff of 1,975, was reduced to an approved establishment of 1,603. The payroll saving involved is approximately £130,000.
If the board can effect such an economy as the result of only one review, surely it can continue with the good work. Yet the Estimates disclose that expenditure on the service is increasing. The Budget. Papers for 1947-48 show that, although expenditure on salaries for the Commonwealth Employment Service in 1946-47 was slightly over £1,031,000, a total of £1,178,000 was appropriated for that purpose in 1947-48. Total expenditure on. the activities of the service in 1946-47 was £1,134,000, and the estimate for this year provides for an increase to £1,325,000. Why does the Minister need an additional £200,000 for this work this year when his own officials admit that they cannot find people to fill the vacant jobs in industry and when the Public Service Board declares that it has just combed out a great number of unnecessary positions ? Indications are that many more employees could be removed from that branch of Commonwealth activities.
– No wonder the Government boasts that we have full employment.
– This is how we get it! If the organization of a business undertaking is top-heavy, production suffers. Australia’ is suffering to-day because there are not enough people in productive employment. Manufacturers are seeking men everywhere. Nevertheless, the Government is employing more people in the Public Service than have been so employed at any other time in Australia’s history, and it shows no inclination to reduce the numbers. I admit that our Public Service is efficient. Its permanent. officers are as competent as those in any other country. However, new departments were established during the war and the numbers of Commonwealth employees were swollen to great dimensions. Ministers clothed in a little brief authority - we heard one a little while ago, the dictator of New Guinea - believe that these employees belong to them and that the lives and destinies of such people are in their charge. So they create work for people - sometimes for their own friends - and the departments flourish. The time will come when this useless overhead burden will become so startingly obvious that there must be retrenchments. Now is the time to effect reductions. Many Commonwealth officers would prefer to take employment with private enterprise, where they can secure the benefits of better pay and good conditions than to continue as employees of departments .which are redundant or semi-redundant.
The Government has forgotten the lessons of the past, and the fact that the key to the future is the history of the past. “We need a greater degree of cooperation within the British Empire and with the other great English-speaking nation, the United States of America, than now exists. By developing trade and friendly relations with other British countries and the United States of America we can regain the lustre of former years. [ believe that this country, which has been blessed with immunity from invasion, has great potentialities. But they cannot be developed if the Government continues to adhere to a socialist creed, if we have incompetent Ministers, and if our departments are overloaded with staffs. At a later stage my colleagues and T will specify many improvements and changes that should be made. In the meantime, I hope that this general discussion will lead to some improvement of the form of government of this country. Finally-
– Hear, hear!
– The Minister is anxious for me to sit down. He fears that I may return to the subject of New Guinea and tell him some more truths about his own mismanagement of that territory. However, I shall leave him to wrestle with his own conscience, and will conclude by exhorting him and all members of theGovernment to renounce class consciousness and their stupid socialist creed sothat this country to which they belong may flourish.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Has the Minister been misrepresented?
– Yes. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) claimed, that I had misrepresented him in stating that a message which he had read rutins House was a “ phoney “ one. When. I referred to it as “ phoney “ I merelyreferred to the claim by the honorablemember for Balaclava that he had received a telegram from the Council of” the Combined Public Service Associations of Papua and New Guinea.
– He did not say that !
– He did, because I wrote it down a week ago when the question was first raised, and I suggest that any honorable member who may doubt my word, should have a look at the unchecked version of Hansard - the originalto see whether the honorable member for Balaclava did not say : “ I have received a telegram from the Council of the Combined Public Service Associations of Papua and New Guinea “. I subsequently received a message from the Combined Public Service Associations, which was sent by their secretary, indicating that the message was sent only to the Prime Minister, myself, and the Department of External Territories, and I repeat that the honorable member claimed that he had received a telegram from the Combined Public Service Associations. The message is, therefore, obviously a “ phoney “ one. The honorable member did not say, originally, that it was a copy. He said he had received a telegram from the Combined Public Service Associations.
– Can the Minister suggest where the copy came from?
– I cannot.
– Copies can get out of government departments.
– If it is a correct copy - I have not checked it - it only indicates that the honorable member has some source, within one of the departments, from which he can obtain copies, but he subsequently said in this House, in order to try to escape from the predicament in which he was in - “ It may be there are two organizations “ - indicating that the Prime Minister may have been communicated with by one organization, and that he may have received a message from the other. I would remind honorable members that the honorable member for Balaclava did not claim that it was a message from any particular organization. His words were that he had received a telegram from the Combined Public Service Associations of Papua and New Guinea. It was quite misleading for the honorable member for Balaclava to have made that statement.
– I also wish to make a personal explanation though this can be endless if we go on quibbling whether my message was a copy or not. I said I understood the Prime Minister had received a telegram. That is the original. It was a copy that went to Hansard. The other messages that I quoted to-night were genuine, not copies.
Honorable members interjecting,
– There is no occasion for such noisy interjections.
– I have had two messages from the association; I said the other one was a copy. On the bottom of this one there appears a notation that one was addressed to the Tight honorable R. G. Menzies, K.C., another to the right honorable the Prime Minister, and another to me. Nobody denies that it is the telegram that the Prime Minister received. That is all I have to say.
.- I wish to say a few words in reply to the.vigorous speech just delivered by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who, in the course of his address, saw fit to attack the system under which we live. He called it socialism, as usual elaborating at some length all of the dangers to be associated with that system, or, as he termed it, socialism or communism, under which we are ruled here. I do not know what description might be given to the system under which we live to-day, but it is a desirable change from that of the days of not so long ago, when some 480,000 people were unemployed in this country, and 783,000 lined up for the dole. At that period our standard of living fell to the lowest of its kind in the world. In that period unemployment reached an unprecedented level. To-day there are 100,000 jobs available for people who are not here to take them, and there is a tremendous demand for labour. Primary producers, are making returns from their products at levels never equalled before, and the balance sheets of all companies show good profits as well as large turnovers. Generally speaking, our standard of living i9 on a scale which is the envy of most nations of the world. I say quite honestly that while the system under which we live to-day - which is administered by this Government - brings such results, it is one which the great majority of the people of this nation will wish to be continued.
The honorable member for Balaclava also saw fit to criticize the migration policy of this Government. In fairness to the Minister for Immigration (Mt. Calwell), I say that we have for the first time a Minister who is far more active in carrying out Australia’s immigration policy than has been any Minister in any government of this country in bygone days. The honorable member criticized the Government’s lack of encouragement to British people to settle in this country. It should be interesting to him to know that in the first fifteen months after the war, approximately 41,000 people came to this country from the British Isles, and no less than 25,000 of them signified their intention to take up permanent residence in Australia. In addition, several thousand British servicemen were demobilized in this country, and, in every way possible, they were encouraged by this Government to remain here. From time to time, in this Par,liament, the Minister for Immigration has referred to the encouragement and assistance that is being given to the people of Great Britain to become citizens of thi* country. It is wrong and misleading for the honorable member for Balaclava to insinuate that we as a government are not encouraging and assisting the British people to take up residence in Australia. The honorable member should also know that ships are not available for the transportation of all the people who wish to come to Australia and that we desire to bring here from Great Britain, but as time goes on a great many more British people will take up residence here, due to the assistance that is being offered to them, and the vigorous policy that has been pursued by the Minister for Immigration. Lt needs no words of mine to commend the policy, because many people who are viciously opposed to this Govenrment, and the Minister personally, have paid tribute to the energy, enthusiasm and efficiency that he has displayed in performing his important public duties. Earlier to-day, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) attacked the Government on the appointment of conciliation commissioners. The policy of appointing :on cilia tion commissioners was aimed primarily at bringing some measure >f industrial peace to the community, by the prompt settlement of disputes, by ;t direct approach to problems, and by a general speeding up of the system of arbitration on a Commonwealth-wide basis. We did not contend that overnight all strikes and industrial unrest would finish ; neither did we say at the outset that we expected that every decision made by the commisioners would meet with the approval of all parties. We believe - and have no reason to doubt, from the results ro date - that we have been more successful than previous administrations in preventing industrial disturbances, and relieving some degree of tension in industrial circles, because of the approaches made from time to time by the conciliation commissioners.
One of the charges made by the honorable member for Parramatta was that chose men, with one exception, were all members of the trade union movement. He suggested that their background, experience, education, and various other aspects of their life, did not fit them adequately for those positions. It is worthwhile placing on record that members of this Parliament and of other parliaments throughout the world have risen from humble positions to become statesmen, and the fact that unlike the honorable member for Parramatta, conciliation commissioners are not legal practitioners, and have not had a university education, does not disqualify them, in the eyes of any fair-minded Australian, from holding these offices and effectively performing their duties.
– I did not object to them on that ground.
– The honorable member insinuated that they are trade unionists - in. other words, pieces of dirt, with whom others should not associate.
– The honorable member is talking rot.
– I recognize the excellent qualities of the honorable member for Parramatta, and his achievements in the legal profession. He has a notable record in that sphere, and, no doubt, his knowledge of the law is profound. But any honorable member who has observed his attitude towards industrial arbitration and listened to his criticisms of the conciliation commissioners must have been impressed by the fact that he has no background of industrial relations. Had he been appointed a conciliation commissioner, it is doubtful whether he could have settled a strike in a frock shop. He is a striking example of the reason that prompted the Government to appoint as conciliation commissioners practical men in preference to lawyers who have no background or appreciation of the problems associated with industry.
The honorable member complained that the conciliation commissioners were not dealing with industries about which they had an intimate knowledge. By way of example, he pointed out that a conciliation commissioner who had a. thorough knowledge of the leather industry might now be making determinations for workers employed in the shipping industry. He qualified his criticism slightly by stating that he was aware that there were reasons why conciliation commissioners were not asked to make awards in respect of industries about which they had an intimate knowledge. But he did not say that, without any instructions from the Government, the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, Judge Drake-Brockman, had distributed the work among them. The Chief Judge, in bis wisdom, considered that that was the best procedure to adopt. For a number of reasons, it is working most satisfactorily. The most reasonable approach which the Government could make in these matters, was to appoint men who possessed a thorough knowledge of industry, who had worked in industry and whose background and experience would ultimately win the confidence of those engaged in industry, and, in that way, assist in achieving industrial peace.
The honorable member for Parramatta also read a long list of strikes and stoppages that had occurred. I noted that he stopped shortly before the 1st June, when the doctors went on strike against the Government’s free medicine scheme. I shall deal with that subject later. The honorable member said that all those strikes were pending, and were likely to happen, and that the Government had not taken any action to prevent them. With some reservations, I accept his statement that some of those disputes came within Commonwealth jurisdiction, but, for all I know, one-half of them might have been outside the control of the conciliation commissioners.
I believe that the honorable member was giving to the House information which had been supplied to him by employers, whose condition of mind was like that of the small boy who became annoyed in a cricket match, and took his ball home. The conciliation commissioners had probably given decisions against them, and they complained about it. It was a matter of one party being disgruntled because everything had not gone its way. I. do not accept the statement of the honorable member, although he is a lawyer, and possesses an extensive knowledge of the courts. It is a sorry commentary on the ethics of his profession when he casts aspersions on a semijudicial body - the conciliation commissioners - by questioning their impartiality, because certain people who support him did not obtain a favorable decision from them on a few matters. We have nothing to regret, so far, in the appointment of the conciliation commissioners. As yet it is too early to expect them to show all the results that we desire, but after a little more time, we shall be in a better position to say whether the Government’s experiment has been successful.
Honorable members opposite complain that considerable industrial unrest has occurred during the last few months. In common with other honorable members, I do not condone unnecessary industrial disturbances, but it is interesting to note that in 1920, when a Liberal Government was in office, 5,600,000 man days were lost through stoppages. So serious was the position that even a few lawyers placed in charge of the conciliation machinery might have been able to reduce that number. We are told that some of the conciliation commissioners must be , biased, because they were members of the trade union movement. 1 have before me a list of appointments .to high positions made by anti-Labour governments in the past. The details are most interesting. This afternoon, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) read some of them, and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) referred to others, but I shall enlighten the honorable member for Parramatta again in regard to them. No doubt, his memory will be jogged a little by these names. I shall read them to show the manner in which anti-Labour governments looked after their own interests by appointing to important offices men directly associated with their own political affairs. They created jobs in order to preserve the interests of nationalism, or liberalism as it is now known.
An anti-Labour government appointed Judge Drake-Brockman, formerly a Nationalist senator, to the office of Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and later he became Chief Judge.
– We have already heard all about that.
– Still, these facts are worth repeating. ‘ Sir John Latham, formerly Attorney-General in a Nationalist government, became Chief Justice of the High Court. Mr. Aubrey Abbott, formerly the Australian Country party member for Gwydir, and, I understand, a brother of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), but we shall not hold that against him, was appointed Administrator of the Northern Territory. Sir Walter McNicoll, a member of the Australian Country party, became Administrator of New Guinea. Mr. R. G. Casey, who will be the next Leader of the Liberal party, was appointed Austraiian Minister in Washington. Sir William Glasgow,- a former member of the Liberal party, was appointed Australian High Commissioner in Canada. An anti-Labour Prime Minister, Mr. S. M. Bruce, now Lord Bruce, became Australian Minister Resident in London. Honorable members will notice that none of those gentlemen held tickets in the Labour movement. Sir George Pearce, who held ministerial rank in antiLabour governments for many years, was appointed to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Mr. James Fenton, formerly a Minister in the first Lyons Government, became a director of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. Mr. A. C. Fisken, a former Liberal member for Ballarat, was appointed chairman of the Australian Meat Board. When we examine this list of names, we realize that the Labour Government is only a novice in this field. Sir Granville Ryrie, when the Liberal member for Warringah, resigned the seat in order to make way for the late Sir Archdale Parkhill, and was made High Commissioner in London.
I have read this list of names in order to show that the political parties which now form the Opposition are not entirely free from the favoritism that they allege against the Labour Government. Honorable members on this side of the chamber do not question the integrity or impartiality of anti-Labour appointments, but members of the Opposition ahve criticized the conciliation commissioners appointed by this Government on that ground. At least, we accept the fact that the anti-Labour governments would appoint men of integrity who were prepared’ to perform their duties faithfully and well. For our part, we have confidence in the conciliation commissioners, and feel sure that they will assist in achieving peace in industry and in bringing contentment to the workers.
The honorable member for Fremantle dealt extensively with the statements of the honorable member for- Parramatta, and devoted particular attention to his remarks about the incentive to increase production. The prospects of promotion, better working conditions, and better wages for the workers, as well as more profits for industry were all used as incentives, but, in 1939, when there was every possible incentive to work, and taxation was at a minimum, 250,000 Australians could not obtain employment, and) the standard of living of the people was very low. It was found that the incentives of which the honorable member for Parramatta has spoken did not achieve the result that was desired. The honorable member said also that profit-sharing and similar schemes should be instituted. In the past, Australian employers had ample opportunity to introduce them and to give their employees a greater share of the products of their labours. The honorable member’s approach to .the problem may be termed sheer hypocrisy. He has used meaningless phrases in an endeavour to. mislead the people of Australia,
It is interesting to note that, when industrial workers withdraw their labour,, in an attempt to secure an increase of their wages, or for some other reason, the honorable member for Parramatta refers to that as a strike; but if an employer does not see fit to produce goods because taxation is too high, or for some other reason, the honorable member says that that action is justifiable. A person who, because he objects to the Government’s taxation policy, will not produce or sell goods that are necessary for the community is in exactly the same category as a man who strikes to obtain higher wages or better conditions, but, in the opinion of honorable members opposite, there is a difference between the two cases, because the former is a representative of the wealthy interests, whilst the latter has only his labour to sell.
The Government’s proposal to intro7 duce a free medicine scheme was endorsed by the people at a referendum at the time of the last general election. One reason why the Government desired to assume control of social services was because the free medicine scheme had been rejected by the High Court, and when a referendum was submitted to the people the Government’s social services policy, which incorporated a scheme for the supply of free medicine, was endorsed by the people. Notwithstanding that, a powerful monopoly, represented by the British Medical Association, is opposing the expressed wish of the people and flouting a law introduced by their duly elected Government to give effect to it. The key men of the medical profession to-day, who ride round in Buick motor cars costing £1,100, are the “ flashest “ strikers ever to be seen in Australia. The members of the British Medical Association are denying the people the free medicine which should be available to them, and in respect of which they pay taxes, simply because they object to any inter.ference with a system which enabled them to make large incomes because of the charges they could make for various services. Those who say that the Government has not done enough for the poor, aged, infirm and sick should look at the other side of the picture and realize thai members of the medical profession are denying to many thousands of people medicine which they are entitled to get free of charge under the government scheme, and which they cannot get otherwise owing to their lack of means. There is no difference between the action of the British Medical Association and that of men in industry who, regardless of the needs of the community, indulge in strike? for which there is no justification, except that the doctors are members of a highly skilled and honoured profession, while the others have only their labour to sell. The people will realize eventually that their rights are being denied to them by a small coterie, and ultimately the force of public opinion will compel the medical practitioners to co-operate in the working of a scheme that was overwhelmingly endorsed by the people at a referendum. Although the honorable member for Parramatta criticized the actions of industrial workers, he did not see fit to mention the conduct of the member? of the British Medical Association. Members of the Labour party do not condone unnecessary strikes but they do not deny that every citizen has a right to strike. I say there should be no need to do so when a government such as this is in power, but they do not make flesh of one class of people and fish of another. It is well for the public to realize that strike action is taken by sections of the community other than the labouring classes. The members of the British Medical Association who are to-day supporting a boycott of the Government’s free medicine scheme are indulging in an. unnecessary strike which should btpublicly condemned by any one who haithe interests of the people at heart.
The honorable member for Parramatta said that a firm stand should be taken in regard to industrial affairs. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said, it is all very well to talk of taking a firm stand, but the question is what is to be done. Honorable mem bers opposite did not supply the answer to that problem when they criticized thiGovernment’s shortcomings in the indus- trial sphere. Is the Government t<> follow the policy that was adopted by tin right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) when he decided to take a firm stand in industrial matter* and endeavoured, as the report of a royal commission revealed, to buy over one of the leaders of the trade union movement in an attempt to get him to bring about peace in industry? That was the firm stand taken by one of the most notable members of the Opposition parties. The Government believes that that is a wrong approach to the problem and that the only way in which to achieve harmony in industry is to ensure that the workers enjoy reasonable working conditions, a fair return for their labour, good amenities and a high standard of living. Id industrial affairs and its regard for the requirements of the ordinary men and women of this country the Government has a record of which it may well be proud. Honorable members opposite who tell the people that they are not well off to-day are doing a disservice to Australia. We can build up Australia and make it a nation of which we may be proud only by cultivating a greater public spirit and pride in our achievements, together with a desire to do everything possible to further the interests of Australia.
– I consider that taxation is the most important subject that can be discussed in a debate of this kind and I propose, therefore, to spend a few minutes in dealing with it. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) said thai the man in the best position to provide an incentive to everybody to get on with the task of production was the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and that if the right honorable gentleman were . immediately to reduce taxation he would thereby create the best possible incentive to production. To my amazement, that statement by the honorable member for Richmond was greeted with laughter by many honorable members opposite. Their mirth implied that the honorable member in making it was pulling his own leg and trying to pull the legs of others. In those circumstances, I /.an only conclude that one reason why the Government has not effected a long overdue reduction of taxes is because it is entirely out of touch with the needs of the nation. Yet, this matter is practically r.he sole topic of conversation everywhere throughout the country. Every one is demanding that the Government reduce taxes, but honorable members opposite appear to treat that view with levity. The need to reduce taxes is a matter of common sense, apart altogether from its practicability. My leader, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), clearly showed bat the law of diminishing returns -applies in respect of taxes. When taxation rates reach a certain level any further increase will simply reduce the source of income available for taxation; and, as the right honorable gentleman also pointed out, the reverse of that law applies in this matter. We say that the Government should apply that principle as a matter of common sense, because one result of reducing taxes will be to increase the total taxable income of the community and, consequently, increased revenue will be derived from taxes in spite of the reduction of rates. One would think that honorable members opposite would apply that principle as a matter of common sense. However, they are out of touch with public opinion, and, apparently, the Prime Minister and his advisers are content to ignore the practical aspects of that proposition. Those of us who move round the country and have an opportunity to hear the opinion of all and sundry, and to assess the result of the continuance of present high taxes, are aware that production in all spheres is stagnating. That is axiomatic. The honorable member for Richmond cited a concrete case to prove that high taxes have brought about such a position that many primary producers consider that it does not pay to increase production. He told us of a farmer who, in the hope of receiving a better deal with respect to taxes, decided to hold back prime bullocks from the market until the end of the present financial year. The result is that much produce which should be available to the nation and Great Britain is not coming forward. I, myself, can give another illustration to prove that the continuance of present high taxes is retarding production. Recently, a- friend of mine who is a grazier in central Queensland was faced with the problem of meeting a prolonged drought. He had built up a valuable property practically from nothing as the result of his integrity and ability; He found that his position was becoming so bad that he had to face up to the possibility of selling the whole of his stock in order to give his land a spell. To his practical mind, that was the only solution of his problem. However, having had a bitter experience in similar circumstances on a previous occasion he realized that he had to consider the problem from the point of view of taxation. Not being a taxation expert, he placed his problem before such an expert, setting outhis assets and earnings over a period of years. He asked the expert to work out” his financial position if he sold all of hisstock in order to give his land a spell. After studying the details the expert said to him, “ I am sorry to have to tell you this, but if you consider only your own pocket, you will let the whole lot die “. That case illustrates the position to which high taxes have reduced many primary producers. Hundreds of similar instances could be cited. I have no doubt that honorable members opposite, if they were prepared to be frank, know of such cases. About twelve months ago another instance of the kind was brought to my notice. A stock holder had been forced by drought to agist his stock because he had no more feed left on his property, and, eventually, he was obliged to sell all his breeders. The proceeds of those sales were treated as taxable income in respect of that particular year. When the drought broke he found that he did not possess sufficient capital to re-stock his property. He applied to the Commissioner of Taxation for relief on the ground that he had been forced to pay tax on his assets, but his application was refused. That is typical of the position which has developed in primary production. The Government’s policy of retaining present high taxes is destroying the assets of those industries, and also the incentive of primary producers to carry on.
We must also consider other aspects of this matter. ‘ We hear a. great deal -of talk about the need to arrest the drift -of population to the cities. How can -that drift be arrested when no incentive is given to primary producers to remain on the land? Many who were born on farms and looked forward to :following a farming career have left .their homes in the country in order to make a living in the cities.
JT. should like to deal briefly with what I consider to be an unfair provision in respect of the entertainments tax. In country areas many local bodies formed for charitable purposes,- and bodies such as school committees which hold functions as a means of raising funds for the benefit of school children are obliged to pay entertainments tax on profits derived from such functions. They are severely hit by the provision that profits from such functions shall be subject to entertainments tax when the expenses incurred exceed 50 per cent, of the total takings. That provision operates harshly against small committees in country areas where the expenses of running community functions are proportionately very high. In many instances, the committees do not receive more than 10 per cent, of the total takings. As that provision was designed to prevent abuses of the concessions made to charitable bodies’, I urge the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley)1 to amend it in order to ensure that bodies which have genuinely charitable objects shall not be treated unjustly.
I urge him to effect such an amendment when he brings down his budget.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is also of particular interest to the States.
II has already been mentioned in the course of this debate, and I propose to add a few words to what has already been said. I refer to the allocation made to the States by the Commonwealth Government from receipts from the petrol tax. This matter was the subject of considerable debate in this House late last year, and arguments were submitted from this side of the chamber advocating the doubling, at least temporarily, of the present allocation. The’ petrol tax is 10£d. a gallon, but the States receive only 3d. a gallon. They also receive certain other grants to be expended on. the construction and maintenance of strategic roads and roads in sparselysettled areas. However, as a result of the entirely inequitable distribution of the. yield from the petrol tax, only approximately £6,000,000 out of a total of £15,000,000 was distributed to the States last year. When speaking on this matter previously, ] pointed out that a special condition prevailed throughout the country as regards the development and maintenance of roads, because during the war, local authorities such as shire councils, which were responsible for the building and maintenance of roads, had been unable to carry out this work owing to the shortage of machinery and labour. This lag in the maintenance1 of existing roads was estimated by competent authorities to involve the expenditure of approximately £15,000,000 throughout the Commonwealth. In order to assess the effectiveness of the Commonwealth’s grant to the States this year, one has only to realize that, merely to make up the leeway lost during the war, it will be necessary to- expend £15,000,000, whereas the grant to- the States this year has been only £6,000,000 out of the £15,000,000 received from the petrol tax. I have said before, and I say again, that the sound policy would have been for this Government to make special provision for a period of, say, three years, for extra grants to the States so that the authorities charged with the development and maintenance of roads would be able to put existing roads in a reasonable condition following their war-time deterioration.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) took exception to members on this side of the chamber stating in this debate that the Government was not doing anything of real consequence about the improvement of roads. When I interjected that the Government was not doing anything worthwhile, the. honorable member took me to task. I repeat my assertion now. [ consider that the Australian Govern-“ ment’s contribution this year to the States in respect of road development and maintenance has been parsimonious– and that the position- should be reviewed! In his attempt to prove that this- Government had done far more than previous administrations in this direction, the honorable member referred to the fact that this year there was included in the grant to the States a sum of £1,000,000 to be expended on roads in sparsely-settled areas, and a further £500,000 to be expended on what are. termed in the act “strategic roads”, commonly known as defence roads. It is true that these, grants have been made; but when it is realized that the defence roads mentioned cover a total distance according to what the Minister himself said when this matter was under discussion previously, of from 35,00.0 to 50,000 miles throughout the Commonwealth, and that only £500,000 has been granted for expenditure on them, it will be realized that the grant represents only £10 a mile. Some of these roads were built hurriedly during the war and maintenance on them during ths next few years will be heavy. En my own electorate there is a considerable mileage of defence roads. They are exceedingly valuable from the national point of view. One of them will be of great service in the establishment of the British Food Mission’s projects in Queensland. Certainly they will be of great value in the defence of this country because they are situated in centre of Queensland and are strategically placed. Unfortunately, my ex.perience in travelling over them in the last few months has revealed that there is a tragic lack of maintenance. The plain fact is that local authorities cannot maintain the roads. They are “ flat out “, to use a common expression, maintaining and repairing their own roads and unless something drastic is done by this Government those roads will deteriorate to such a degree that many millions of pounds will be required to put them in order. I should like to know therefore, just what plans the Government has made for the expenditure of this £550,000 on defence roads. Is anything being done about the matter at all? That is a question that can be answered in this chamber. Responsibility foi* the other allocations rests of. course with the. States, but I contend that I am- entitled to ask in. this- Parliament what is being done about the £5,00,000’ provided for. the maintenance of strategic roads. In the district from which I come, there is no evidence- of any money having, been expended on the maintenance of these roads- and unless something, is. done quickly, they will be beyond repair. Does, any plan exist.? Is the Australian Government to retain responsibility for1 this expenditure, or is it to place, the money in the hands of a State instrumentality? If. the, latter course is to, be adopted, what supervision will there be? I ask that. that information, be given to the House. Concluding my remarks on this, subject,. I again urge reconsideration of the Government’s policy as regards- the grants to the States from the petrol, tax. It is still not too late to correct the error made when, at the end of last year, it was decided again to allocate to. the States, only 3d. out of the 10;d. received from every gallon of petrol soldi At least 6d. a gallon is required to enable the necessary work to be. carried out.
I come-now. to the problem of telephone services. This- is a matter to which much attention has been- given in this House. The shortage; which was acute at the end of the war, is steadily becoming more and more acute. I realize, and the majority of the people in the community realize, that at the end of the war it was not possible to provide immediately all the telephones required. There was a shortage of materials and labour. Therefore, most people were prepared to wait for a reasonable period. But although it is now three years since the war ended, the position, instead of improving, is becoming worse and the patience of the people is fast running out. People are beginning to ask just what is being- done by the Government to alleviate the “position. Is anything worthwhile being- done, or is the Government merely sitting back and accepting the situation? In my own electorate, thousands of people have been waiting for twelve months and many for two years, for telephones. Some of them have already paid rentals and have been informed that the installation will- be carried out as soon as possible. That is the last that they have heard about the matter. They are tired of being fobbed off with excuses and I believe that they are justified in becoming fed up. They are no longer willing to accept an alleged shortage of equipment as an excuse for further delay. This applies not only to the installation of telephones but also to many other postal services which have been planned. For instance, the proposal to establish a new post office at North Rockhampton - a rapidly growing centre - has been under discussion for two years and the project has been approved for at least twelve months, but there appears to be nothing concrete proceeding for the provision of that facility which would very greatly receive the postal congestion in that centre. I am informed also that the extension of the automatic exchange in that area has been approved for a long time, but nothing is being done. Again and again supplies of cable have been promised, but the promises have not been fulfilled. I am not throwing brickbats at local officials. There is something wrong at the top as the result of which the position, admittedly difficult at a start, has been aggravated. For instance, it would be of interest to hear a statement regarding the result of the recent visit overseas of the Director-General of Postal Services. Was he able to do anything to relieve the shortage of materials that is holding up telephone installations? If something has been achieved in this direction we can wait a little longer with patience. If nothing has been achieved, then it is high time the Government got out, and let some one do the job who can.
I have on previous occasions protested against the heavy financial burden placed upon persons in country areas who desire to obtain a telephone connexion. The Postal Department does not admit that telephone facilities should be provided in country districts as cheaply as possible. The city dweller can set a telephone for practically no cost except the rental. T do not say that country dwellers should he placed on quite the same footing, bur the department could well afford to t>> more generous, considering how’ buoyant is its revenue. Let me cite the case of ten graziers in central Queensland who. in the wet esason, are entirely cut off from the outside world. They are on the fat side of the Mackenzie River, over which there is no bridge at that point, and there are miles of black-soil flats between them and the nearest settlement. Foi them, telephone communication is absolutely necessary; yet they were forced te pay £3,500 last year to provide themselves with a service. The department would do no more than build one mile of telephone line. That is an extreme case, 1 admit, but it is indicative of the hardship which many primary producers have to endure. Those ten graziers own stock valued at nearly £250,000. Their properties carry between 25,000 and 30,000 head of cattle. It is not to be assumed that, because they possess such assets, they are necessarily in a position to pay out very large amounts for 8 telephone service. A great deal of thier income is taken by the Treasury in thi form of taxes.
I am convinced that much could be done by the Postal Department to hasten the installation of new telephone services. It often happens that, after all negotiations have been completed for the provision of a new service, twelve months or more elapses before the work is actually begun. That is not the fault of the local representatives of the department. The blame must lie with some one nearer the top, and the matter should be investiagted by the Postmaster-General himself.
The many disabilities suffered by rural dwellers - bad roads, lack of telephone connexions, high taxation, &c. - have an important bearing upon the problem of decentralization. We frequently hear people complain of the drift of popula-tion to the cities, but unless improved amenities are provided it will be impossible to induce the young people to sta’ in the country. When travelling through -country areas I have been often struck, particularly in mixed farming districts, by the number of elderly people one sees on the farms. When one ask.where the young people are, one is told that they have gone to the city. There i- nothing in the country to hold them, am: we cannot hope to keep them there unless life in the country is made more pleasant than it is now.
– [ had not intended to take part in this debate, but I could not allow the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) about taxation to go unchallenged. He had the audacity to tell the Parliament and the people that economic stagnation threatens the country. I should be astonished if any intelligent person in Australia, and particularly any resident of a rural area, believed that to be true. “Within the last few weeks I have toured considerable portions of the country areas of South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria, and never before have I seen such prosperity. Everywhere there is wealth abounding. If one asks the local bank managers how it is with the primary producers, they smile and say, “ It is good-oh with them, but not so good for us “. They say that the producers, almost without exception, have paid off the debts on their farms, and liquidated their bank overdrafts with the result that the banks are experiencing difficulty in finding an outlet for the money deposited with them. Let us examine it from another angle, that of my own office in the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and see whether the problems that confront me there daily and the correspondence that [ peruse indicate that stagnation stalks the land. The plain fact is that a large part of my time is devoted to signing letters to primary producers anxious to buy additional plant and equipment to produce more from the land and consequently earn more money, which will be subject, of course, to the taxes that are justly imposed on them in accordance with their ability to pay, in order to obtain revenue to finance the services given to the people, including the primary producers themselves. Every day, letters reach me from honorable members of all parties in the House saying that primary producer so and so would like to buy a John Deere tractor, an International Harvester tractor or some other kind of tractor. Does the honorable member for Capricornia suggest that that indicates stagnation? On the contrary, it indicates the desire of the primary producers to increase the areas that they have under cultivation.
– They cannot get tractors.
– Of course, they cannot. Is the honorable member for Wimmera’ (Mr. Turnbull) so stupid as to hold this Government responsible for the fact that they cannot get tractors? That is a result of the war. If the parties with which honorable gentlemen opposite are associated had taken the opportunity when they were in power before the war to absorb into Australian secondary industry the surplus of intelligent labour thai was on the labour market, and had thereby enabled Australia to undertake the full-time manufacture of tractors, we should not have been so dependent on the imported International Harvester tractors, John Deere tractors, Fordson tractors or any other tractors from abroad, because we should have had them rolling off the assembly line in our own factories during and since the war, thereby providing, if not an adequate supply of tractors, at least a great many more than we are able to get from abroad. Does the demand for tractors indicate a fear of the Treasurer or the desire of the farmers to cease producing wealth ?
– I remind the Minister of the long-standing Tractor Bounty Act.
– Yes, but it was not worth much, and the honorable member knows it. These are facts that cannot be controverted. In the last few months, in the press and in correspondence with me, primary producers have complained that they cannot obtain superphosphate fast enough to enable them to sow an adequate acreage of wheat. Why do they want to increase their wheat acreages and yields? Does that indicate stagnation and a fear of taxes? Does it indicate a lack of incentive? Let us look at other thing? for which there is a demand. If we go to any stockyard in Australia - Newmarket, Flemington, Bendigo, or anywhere else - we shall find assembled there as often as sales are held almost 100 per cent, of the farmers in the district willing and anxious to pay almost any price for the stock offering.
The prices are very high, we admit, and we hope that there will not be a recession that will land them in difficulties. But are the purchasers worried that their wool cheques, beef cheques, poultry cheques or cheques for whatever they produce will be bigger, with the result that they will have to pay higher taxes ? No ! They are prepared to earn more and accept all the risks of existing taxation in the hope that our efficient Treasurer will balance the budget and provide them with some measure of tax relief next year.
– Present stock prices should worry any one but a confirmed optimist.
– I agree ‘with the honora’ble member that stock prices are too high, hut that does not alter the fact that the purchasers are willing to take all the risks. I point out moreover, that they do not need to ask the auctioneers for credit or to mortgage their farms in order to raise the money to buy the stock, because they have the ready cash. Does that indicate stagnation? In the era when honorable gentlemen opposite sat behind governments opposed to this party, the primary producers of Australia were in the main driving around the country in jinkers. As the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) has indicated, most of the few farmers that owned motor cars had them jacked up on blocks because they could not afford to drive them. Those who were purchasing their motor cars on the hire-purchase system were pleading with the finance companies for time to pay. But to-day, there is hardly a farmer who has not a fairly good motor car which he uses much more frequently than farmers were ever able to run their cars before. That is their right. It is nonsense for the honorable member for Capricornia to talk about stagnation stalking the land. Intelligent people outside listening to the broadcast of the honorable gentleman’s speech must have wondered whether there was anything wrong with him. But he does not believe his own contention. He and his colleagues, his minions of the press, the banking organizations and all the organizations financed by the associations in which he is interested have engaged for some time in propaganda similar to that of Hitler and Goebbels. They believe that if it is repeated often enough, it will be believed. That is the theory on which they work when proclaiming that high taxation is depriving the people of the incentive to produce and that stagnation stalks the land. Why are they using this kind of propaganda?
– The Minister himself, of course, would not indulge in propaganda !
– I hope that whenever I have sat in the House I have dealt with facts with some degree of honesty. Any one who says that stagnation stalks the land is not true to himself or to the people, because it is not true. The fact is that honorable gentlemen opposite are associated with people who desire to instill into the minds of the less-thoughtful members of the community the belief that, notwithstanding the obligations cast upon the country as the result of war, they are being excessively taxed. They desire the people to believe that, and hope that they can delude them sufficiently between now and the general election to induce them to displace the Labour Government. They want a government of their political complexion that will reduce taxation in the higher ranges of income and substantially increase taxation on the lower ranges. During the recent referendum campaign, I cited two striking illustrations of the policy of this Government on income tax. I take this opportunity to repeat them. A man with a wife and two children who earns £350 a year pays only £5 5s. in income tax and receives in return on account of one child £19 10s. a year child endowment. Apart from indirect taxes, he contributes nothing whatever towards the cost of all other social services available to him. Should his wife be fortunate enough to bear a third child he receives £17 10s. maternity allowance and another £19 10s. child endowment a year and for a fourth child he receives similar amounts. Without being subject to a means test, a worker who is sick may obtain free hospital accommodation and treatment.
If he becomes unemployed he may receive unemployment benefits. Sickness payments, and an age pension are also available to both himself and his wife. The age pension provides him and his wife with an income of £3 15s. a week. When a married age or invalid pensioner dies or is killed his widow .receives a widow’s pension. In addition, a married age pensioner has the right to earn £2 a week without incurring any deduction from his pension, and is also permitted to own his own home while receiving the pension. A worker earning £350 per annum has all those benefits available to him to-day in a much greater range of social services than has ever operated in the history of Australia for the payment of approximately £5 5s. per annum. A married man with a wife and two children who earns £500 per annum pays approximately £30 a year in social services contributions, and receives back £19 10s. in child endowment. For the remaining £11 10s. he receives all the other social services which are available to him. His contribution to all the expenses of government, such as defence, pensions for ex-servicemen, and the operations of the Postmaster-General’s Department, including the provision of telephone facilities at a cheap rate for the graziers in the Capricornia electorate amounts to only a decimal point. I make no secret of the fact that it is the Government’s policy that people earning large incomes of from £5,000 to £10,000 per annum shall pay amounts proportionate to their incomes for the upkeep of social services. Like the honorable member for Capricornia, I am a primary producer and receive the advantage of the five years averaging system, which this year relieved me of tax which I would have paid had I been an ordinary citizen engaged in some other avocation. Last year I paid £166 as social services contribution, apart from my income tax. “What was the position when the parties now in opposition formed the government and its much-starred potential new leader, the Eight Honorable E. G. Casey, was Treasurer? What did he do ? He proposed a national insurance scheme under which I personally would not have paid anything because I am a self-employed individual. Under the present Government’s scheme I paid £166 last year, and quite rightly. Because producers with high incomes pay heavily in social services contributions the worker on £350 a year who has a wife and two dependent children has to pay only £5 5s. a year. It is time the workers of Australia were told that the purpose of the propaganda against the Government’s taxation policy is to bring into this Parliament the Eight Honorable R. G. Casey, who resigned from the Menzies Government because it had not proclaimed its National Health and Pensions Insurance Act.
– The honorable gentleman is completely wrong.
– Big business in Australia to-day wants Mr. Casey back! in this Parliament, with his henchmen behind him, to impose on the workers of Australia a national insurance scheme based on a flat rate contribution under, which no investor would pay any contribution whatever his income might be. An investor in stocks, bonds, real estate or anything else, who had no employees, would not pay one penny piece and could sit in his office and draw his income without contributing . to revenue for social services. Legislation providing for that national insurance scheme stands on the statute-book to-day but has never been proclaimed. I hazard that, in the event of ah anti-Labour government coming back into this Parliament, it will shift the burden from the backs of those who earn high incomes on to the backs of those who earn low incomes, and it is time the people of Australia woke up to these facts. Everybody admits it would be nice to have taxes reduced. In my earlier political days in the Victorian Parliament it was the proud boast of the then Scotch Treasurer of Victoria. Sir William McPherson, that for many years he had balanced his budget. It would seem to be correct that an anti-Labour treasurer should balance his budget, but an evil thing that a Labour treasurer should do so. That is not logical. Opposition members say that the Government is extravagant and that the Public Service has grown too much. Does not the same apply to private industry? There is hardly a business in the country which has not expanded or is not willing to expand if it could obtain labour to permit it to do so. If the position were otherwise it would be a rather stagnant state of affairs. As primary and secondary industries expand the obligations of governments become greater and the costs of the servicing departments of the Government naturally increase to a commensurate degree. Anybody would think that taxation was drained out of the people and promptly poured down a hole to disappear forever. The fact is that the taxation collected by the Government is redistributed, in the main, among the people of Australia who pay it. The receipts from social services payments, estimated to amount to about £54,000,000 this year, will be distributed among age and invalid pensioners and other recipients of social benefits. Do the people who receive that money pour it down a pipe? No. That money is a stimulus to primary production, because the recipients use it to purchase butter, meat, eggs and other primary products. Thus the wealth of the country is distributed on a more just scale than otherwise it would be. What becomes of the money which is derived from taxation and paid to members of the staffs of the various departments of State? Those public servants have family obligations. They purchase commodities, and much of the money drifts back to the source from which it came. I do not think that that movement of money constitutes the waste and extravagance which the Opposition claims it to be. Honorable members know that primary producers are labouring under great difficulties. Those difficulties are not caused by taxation, but are largely the inheritance of an evil, wicked and unplanned past.
The honorable member for Capricornia has referred to the difficulties of obtaining labour and has said that as he moves around he sees more and more old men in the country. That is because during the war young men left the country districts to go into the forces, leaving men who were old or ageing to carry on the work of the farms By the time the war was over many of these ageing men had become eligible for age pensions. The best way to obtain workers for primary industry is to improve their living conditions on farms. When this Government took office, governments in all parts of Australia had been opposing, over a long period of years, any improvement of the living standards of farm employees. At a time when primary industry should have been recruiting labour no inducement was offered to men to go to the country and work on farms. They had better opportunities available to them in the cities, and naturally took them. It will take a long while to induce the young men of Australia to go into primary industry. As I have said, that is an inheritance of the dark and evil past of anti-Labour governments in relation to primary production. In those days the farmer was quite unable to offer sufficient inducement to workers to seek employment in . the country. That was due to the unwillingness of governments supported by honorable members opposite to ensure that the farm employee received at least a payable return for his labour and was placed in a position in the Australian economy at least equal to that of the employee in every other section of the community. It is of no use for honorable members opposite to endeavour to blame the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and the present Government for the difficulties of the farming community. That tale will not be accepted by the people of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Adermann) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Prices) Regulations - Declaration - No. 168.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Prices) Regulations -Orders- Nos. 3305, 3306, 3312-3322. Regulations - Statutory Rules 1048. No. 61.
Peace Officers Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948, No. 60.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1948, No.62.
Stevedoring Industry Act - Orders - 1948, Nos. 15, 16.
House adjourned at 10.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 June 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19480610_reps_18_197/>.