18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J.J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read )rayers.
– I desire to make a personal explanation concerning a report which appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the . 24th September, regarding Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited. Mr.J. T; Walton, chairman of directors of the company, is reported to have said -
Mr. Abbott states that Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited has purchased shares in Metropolitan Cement Limited. This is untrue. This company has an option for five years in which to acquire the shares if it decides to do so.
My statement was based on the prospectus of Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited, dated the 20th July, 1948, which was published by Messrs. Charles H. Smith and Company, brokers, of 28 Hunter-street, Sydney, in connexion with the issue of 800,000 ordinary £1 shares. In that prospectus, Mr. J. T. Walton is shown as chairman of directors of the company to bo formed and the following statement is attributed to him on page 13 of the document: -
The company has the option of purchasing the greater portion of the shares in Metropolitan Cement Limited, the owner of the mining leases in respect of the limestone areas hereinbefore referred to (and other assets) exercisable within five years for a consideration at the rate of £250,000 for all the shares payable either in cash or fully paid shares at par in the Company as the grantors of the option may elect. The Company has decided to exercise this option and will complete the purchase.
I emphasize that the foregoing statement is taken front the text of the prospectus, and it is unnecessary for me to remind honorable members that a prospectus is required by law-
– I rise to order. Once again the. honorable member for New England is off the track. He has sought permission to make a personal explanation on the ground that his remarks have been misreported in the press. However, he now comes forward with a long argument to justify things which he has said and done, in the course of which he is proceeding to canvass remarks made by othor people which have nothing to do with his allegation that he has been misreported in the press.. For that reason I ask your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as to whether the honorable member is in order.
– The honorable member is in order in making his statement because he is endeavouring to show that his interpretation of the actions of the company in question is the correct one despite the report which has appeared in the press. I am prepared to allow him to continue his personal explanation, but he must confine his remarks within that scope.
– As I have said, matter contained in a prospectus must he a faithful and accurate account of a company’s proposed operations and must be scrupulously exact, because members of the investing puiblic are invited to invest their savings on the truth of the statements contained in the prospectus. The last sentence of the extract from the prospectus which I have just read -
The Company has decided to exercise this option and will complete the purchase- can only mean that the company has either completed the purchase or is in the process of doing so. For that reason Mr. Walton’s statement to the Daily Telegraph that the company merely has an option to purchase if it decides to do so is wilfully ‘ misleading. I draw the attention of Mr. Walton to those beautiful lines from Scott’s Marmion -
O what a tangled web we weave.
When first we practise to deceive!
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the present position concerning arrangements being made with the Government of the United -States of America for the use of credits made available to Australia under the terms of the Fulbright Act of the United States Congress: Can the right honorable gentleman say when finality may be expected ? As the Prime Minister knows, the act authorizes foreign credits established by the sale of surplus war materials in overseas countries to be used for the exchange of teachers and students between the United States of America and the countries concerned, the amount involved being, I believe, approximately 5,000,000 dollars.
– It would take some time for me to traverse the ground covered by the honorable member’s question. In view of that I think it- would be preferable for me to prepare a written answer. I shall do so and let the honorable gentleman have it as soonas possible.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the purpose of the establishment of the proposed Commonwealth ‘broadcasting board is to transfer control - of broadcasting from the Postmaster-General to the Minister for Information? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the Minister for Information has already selected the three members to be appointed to the board? Is it proposed to establish a Commonwealth newspaper board with similar functions under the same Minister to control the newspapers of the Commonwealth ? ‘
– In the first place I had not heard anything of the- intentions of the Minister for Information regarding this matter. I assure the honorable member for Reid that if anybody gave’ him the information upon which ne has based his question, his informanthas been misinformed. A decision on the details of the legislation to be introduced into the House relating to the control of broadcasting has not yet been made by either the Australian Labour party or the Government. Accordingly, it is perhaps not proper that the matter should be discussed at this stage. It has been proposed that a national ‘broadcasting board shall exercise control over the whole of the ramifications of broadcasting in Aus- - tralia. Somewhat similar boards have been established in other countries. As I have already indicated in a press statement, great developments have taken place in broadcasting, and even more rapid developments are expected in the future in relation to frequency modulation, television and facsimile broadcasting.. The . Postmaster-General’s Department, which at present controls broadcasting, has. not the requisite technical staff and authority to cover the whole of the new field to be developed. Therefore, in conformity with the practice adopted in some other countries, it is proposed to establish a board to control national broadcasting in Australia. I am unable to furnish the honorable member with details of the proposed legislation -until it has been approved by the Government. The Minister for Information has not discussed with anybody the subject of possible appointments to the board in anticipation of the Parliament approving of the legislation. The honorable member need not for the moment be disturbed about the possibility of newspaper control. The Century is quite safe for the time being.
– Can the Prime Minister state how many Russian nationals there are in the Russian Embassy- in Canberra and in other Embassy establishments elsewhere throughout Australia ?’ Can he also say how many other Russian nationals are in- Australia? If the information is not at. present available, will he obtain it, and make a statement shortly?
-This matter of how many Russians are attached to the Russian Embassy was raised some time ago by the honorable member for Barker. The honorable gentleman wanted to know the number of children and members of the families of persons in any way associated with the Embassy. Later, I think, a revised figure was given, but I do not remember precisely what it was. Does the honorable member for Balaclava wish to know only how many adult . Russians there aro attached to the Embassy, or does he want to know how many children, babies, &c, there are?
– Adults only.
– I shall try to obtain the information as an act of courtesy. It is no business of mine to go around counting the number of persons associated with Embassies. I do not think that sort of thing is done in diplomatic circles. As for the number of Russian nationals in Australia other than those attached to the Embassy, I shall ask the Minister for Immigration if he can give an approximate figure. I do not think there are many.
– Diplomatic cadets in training at Canberra who return to Western Australia for the Christmas vacation lose a great deal of time if they travel by train, and their holidays at home are correspondingly shortened. I ask the Minister acting for the Minister fo,r External Affairs whether it would be possible to grant to these diplomatic cadets the right to travel home by air for their Christmas holiday? I understand that such a provision applies to military cadets in training at Duntroon.
– I shall have the matter examined in order to see whether it is possible to grant to the diplomatic cadets the same privilege as is accorded fo military cadets.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Developmenta question about the supply of large tyres for road graders. I have just received a telegram from a local authority in Queensland asking me to help it to obtain four 12.75 x 24 tyres for a steel-weld grader which is now off the road because of the lack of tyres. I inquired of distributors in New South Wales, and was informed that no tyres of that kind were available. A manufacturing firm in the south- advised me that plenty of rubber was to be had, but the factories would not make the large tyres, and nothing could be done about it. Will the Minister inquire into the position, and find out the reason for the hold-up? Is it permissible for factories deliberately to hold up work on the roads and the farms by refusing to make the tyres that are needed ?
– The honorable member is one of those who are to blame for the situation that exists. This Government has no control whatsoever over the production of tyres in Australia. When it asked the people for power to control production generally, the honorable member, like many of his colleagues, advised the people to vote against the granting of such power. I fully appreciate the difficulties of shire councils that cannot get tyres for road machinery, but if they are unable to obtain their legitimate requirements the honorable member ought to tell them that he himself is partly responsible for the position in which they find themselves.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been drawn to an article published in the Field and’ Farmers’ Section of this week’s issue of Smith’s Weekly, under the heading “Disgraceful Bag Wheat Bungle” in which it is stated that the condition of stacks of wheat at Duri in northern New South Wales are a disgrace to the Australian Wheat Board ?
– The honorable gentleman is out of order. He is expressing the opinions of newspapers, which is not permissible.
– I ask: Is it a fact that at Duri in northern New South Wales there are stacks of wheat which are in a disgraceful condition? Will the Minister have inquiries made concerning this matter? Is it also a fact that fourteen or sixteen men are engaged in doing nothing else except rebagging wheat that has , burst from bags which have been torn apart by rats and mice?
– I have not read the article referred to by the honorable member
– I was not allowed to refer to the article-
– Order ! The honorable member for New England must not interrupt the Minister’s reply.
– I have not read this week’s issue of Smith’s Weekly, and 1 have not seen or read the article but I shall make some inquiries into the matter raised by the honorable member. I am astounded that the honorable member for New England should reflect upon the competency of the Australian Wheat Board, which is a board which was selected by a ballot of the wheat-growers. Generally speaking, people such as the honorable member for New England consider that the board ensures the efficient stacking of wheat. I hope that he is not suggesting that I should intervene or interfere with the activities of the board.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the fifth columnist organization known as the New Guard is again in existence in Victoria and New South Wales? Will he ensure that the Commonwealth Investigation Service takes steps to see that the activities of that organization are kept under strict surveillance ?
– From time to time I have heard corridor whisperers say to the effect that certain people in the community favour the setting up of something in the form of a New Guard. In Victoria, particularly, one or two persons have suggested something of that character. There were several persons in Sydney also, who have been mentioned to me in this connexion. I regard one of them as a very irresponsible individual. I am, however, having some inquiries made, as I. would do regarding any elements in the community who were stated to he engaged in subversive activities.
– Can the Treasurer say whether the Government has given consideration to the allowing as concessional deductions for income tax purposes of all donations to the United Nations Appeal for Children Fund? If not, will the suggestion be considered in view of the stimulus that such a concession would give to this worthy cause, which has been sponsored by the United Nations?
– The Government has made a decision in regard to the matter raised by the honorable member for Wilmot, and I think that it is incorporated in a bill now before the House. Mr. Boyer, chairman of the appeal organization, .made representations to me in relation to the matter some months ago, at the time that the organization commenced its appeal. I submitted the matter to the Government, and it was agreed that when the next amending bill w.as being drafted, provision would be made to grant a rebate in respect of such donations. The appeal has a very worthy national objective.
– I ask the Minister for Transport whether any decision has yet been made with regard to the recommendation made at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers that all left-hand drive vehicles be banned ? Many farmers are concerned whether they will be permitted to continue to use jeeps.
– That matter is still awaiting consideration by the Australian Advisory Transport Council. The various States have been communicated with in order to ascertain when it will be convenient to call that body together. It is expected that the council will meet at an early date, and its decision will be made known as early as possible.
– Was the Minister for Defence correctly reported in yesterday’s press as having said that Australia’s voluntary system of recruiting was giving the services all the men required at present and that the Government would not change its policy of voluntary enlistment ? Oan the Minister inform me whether the volume of recruits now offering is increasing as the result of the publicity campaign or whether it is now decreasing because all men likely to offer their services have already done so? Can he tell r,he House what actual forces Australia could muster at the present time should an emergency arise?
– I have not made any public statement either to the press or to any one else since I spoke last week upon this subject. I understand from the Minister for the Army that the rate of recruiting for the military forces is quite satisfactory. I gave information to the committee last week when I spoke during the budget debate concerning the number of men who would be available in the event of war breaking out.
– Is the Minister for the Army aware that the Communist Rowe recently visited hostels in Canberra and as the result of his visit a motion was passed banning all employees and residents at the hostels from enlisting in the Australian Military Forces ? Is the Minister also aware that not one of those men, who number some thousands, has enlisted? In view of those facts will he visit the hostels, or arrange such a visit by his representatives, in order to point out to the men the necessity for the Government’s present recruiting scheme? Does he propose to take any steps to check this subversive action on the part of the Communist party?
– I know nothing about the matter which the honorable member has raised. I do not understand his statement that employees and residents at the hostels were prevented from enlisting in the military forces. Who could prevent them from doing so ? Each individual is free to make a decision on that matter for himself and neither Mr. Rowe nor anybody else would have any authority to carry a resolution that the men must not enlist. Until I have more information about what Mr. Rowe said, and about the result of his visit to the hostels, I shall not he able to take any action in the matter.
– I draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the Commonwealth Gazette of the 9th September, in which the creation of twenty new offices for the Prices Branch was notified only a few days before the handing over of prices control to the States. What was the reason for creating these new offices, does the right honorable gentleman intend to fill them, and, if so, for what purpose?
– Almost all employees of the Prices Branch were temporary officers, and representations were made to the Public Service Board by tho Prices Commission some time before the prices referendum was held with a view to having some of the officers appointed permanently. The objective of the Government has been to grant permanent appointments to all public servants for whom continuity of work can be provided up to the retiring age, even though they may not remain in the same section . of the government service throughout their working lives. The employment of officers in a temporary capacity when permanent work is available for them has always been a cause of complaint. The honorable member for Barker found, when he was PostmasterGeneral, that the privilege of making temporary appointments in his department had been much abused and he took action to have many appointments made permanent. I could deal with certain other aspects of this matter, but I shall not delay the House at this stage. The Public Service Board must be satisfied that the creation of permanent offices is necessary, and it is responsible for making such appointments. That is not a matter for me. I shall ask the chairman of the board to have a statement prepared dealing with permanent appointments in general and the offices mentioned in the honorable gentleman’s question in particular.
– Can theMinister for Commerce and Agriculture explain why there is a disparity between the prices paid by the United Kingdom
Government for meat products from Australia and New Zealand respectively?
– - Australia receives a higher price from the United Kingdom for beef than does New Zealand, but the price it receives for lamb is slightly lower than that paid to New Zealand. I cannot give any explanation of this except that the Australian Government obtained from the Government of the United Kingdom prices that it considered to be fair and reasonable, and profitable to the primary producers, having regard to all circumstances affecting both countries.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel seen the reports published in Tasmanian and mainland newspapers of a statement made by Mr. Payne, Associate Commissioner of Forests in Tasmania, when addressing the Aus- tralian Furniture Trades Convention in Hobart recently? Mr. Payne is reported to have stated that accumulated stocks of timber in Tasmania rose from 9,000,000 super, feet in August, 1947, to 46,000,000 super, feet in August, 194S. As this accumulation is almost entirely due to the shortage of shipping, will the Minister make a survey of the position through the Australian Shipping Board and endeavour to have more space made available on existing shipping services and will he arrange for an occasional extra ship to be made available in order to relieve the accumulation and assist mainland States which are in need of Tasmanian timber?
– I have not seen the press statement to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall direct the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Fuel to the report of the situation. I am sure that he will do everything possible to ensure that space will be available for the transport of that timber to the mainland, where it is urgently required. If additional space on the ships now engaged in that service cannot be made available, I am certain that he will take every attempt to arrange that another vessel shall be provided if possible.
– Will the Minister for the Navy inform me of the terms of settlement of the dockyard workers’ strike which delayed the launching of H.M.A.S. Anzac for some weeks ?
– H.M.A.S. Amur was launched at Williamstown, in Victoria. Prior to the launching, the mer employed in that yard decided to go on strike. They desired to secure an assurance that the Government would not oppose an application which the unions were making for three weeks’ holiday and three weeks’ sick leave a year. The current award provided that they should receive two weeks’ holiday and two weeks’ sick leave annually. The men were adamant that unless the Department of the Navy was prepared to agree not to oppose the application they would not launch the ship Ultimately, I had discussions with the Australian Council of Trades Unions which represented the various unions con cerned, and I agreed that if the ship were launched within a fortnight from that date, I would not oppose the application for the three weeks’ sick leave annually I emphasized, however, that the application for three weeks’ holiday a year wa* a matter for determination by the Arbitra tion Court.
– Recently, the Prim* Minister stated that £500,000 of credit had been provided for the purchase bv Czechoslovakia of wool on the Australian market. As Czechoslovakia is a satellite state of Russia and as relations between Russia and the democracies are now so strained that they may or may not lead to war, will the Prime Minister reconsider the allocation of £500,000 of credit to a country which is dominated by Russia, because our wool may be manufactured into uniforms for Russian soldiers, who may be employed against the democratic powers and Australian citizens ?
– The various aspect* which the honorable member for New England has raised have received most careful consideration. Some months ago. arrangements were made for the provision of credit in connexion with the sale of Australian wool to, Czechoslovakia. Those arrangements were completed, not by the Commonwealth Treasury, but by the Commonwealth Bank, as an ordinary banking credit transaction. Before granting the credit, the Commonwealth Bank sought my views on the matter. I was most anxious to encourage the sale of Australian wool, because we must develop our markets throughout the world. I had already ascertained that, other Allied countries, including the United States of America, were continuing their trade relations with Czechoslovakia, and, in the circumstances, I informed the Commonwealth Bank that 1 could not see any reason why this ordinary commercial transaction should not be permitted. The financial arrangements between the Commonwealth Bank and the Government of Czechoslovakia proved to be entirely iatisfactory. No difficulties occurred about finance. Later a request was made for a renewal of the credit for the 1948-49 season. That credit has been granted as an ordinary commercial transaction. I assure the honorable member for New England that I made most careful inquiries in order to ascertain what other countries were doing about their trade relations with Czechoslovakia, and other countries in central Europe. I have discovered, for instance, that with the approval of the administrator of Marshall aid, dollars are being provided even to Poland for the purchase of coal from that country for Australia. I have also found that trade relations between western and central European countries are being continued; and that the United States of America itself is generally continuing trade relations with some of them. I weighed all those matters most carefully. I am satisfied that the wool that was supplied to the Czechoslovakian Government, which had previously been a purchaser of Australian wool, is being used in the normal way for the manufacture of civilian goods.
– Has the right honorable gentleman any observers in Czechoslovakia ?
– I am reasonably well informed of events in Europe.
– And in Russia as well?
– . Perhaps the honorable member for New England would prefer to answer his own question. 1 assure the honorable gentleman that the matter was carefully considered. Having regard to advantages that would accrue from markets for Australian wool being created and developed abroad, it was. considered to be desirable to extend this credit. I accept full responsibility for the policy. The financial aspect concerns only the Commonwealth Bank and the Czechoslovakian Government.
Aircraft Crash on Lord Howe Island
– by leave-I regret to announce the loss of the lives of seven of the nine Royal Australian Air Force personnel who were members of the crew of Royal Australian Air Force Catalina A 24 - 381. which crashed into a peak on Lord Howe Island at approximately 7 o’clock last evening. Arrangements have been made for a Catalina to proceed to Lord Howe Island with a doctor and two nurses to bring the two survivors back to Sydney. The flying boat was participating in navigation exercises with H.M.A.S. Australia, but no details of the probable cause or causes of the accident are yet available. The Director of Flying Safety is leaving for Lord Howe Island to-day to make a full investigation into the circumstances of the crash, and as soon as his report is available 1 shall make a further statement to the House. The next of kin of the deceased personnel have been informed and as soon as their acknowledgments are received the names of those who were killed will be announced in the press. I deeply regret the seriousness of this accident, and express my sincerest sympathy and condolences with the next of kin.
– Will the Prime
Minister request the Minister for Trade and Customs to make a statement regarding the final trade arrangements that have been made between Australia and Japan ? A delegation visited Japan in July and
August of this year in order to negotiate an agreement with SCAP. The delegation was headed by Mr. Clark, an officer of the Department of Trade and Customs; and among its members were representatives of the Treasury, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the Commonwealth Bank. If trade is to be carried on between Australia and Japan it would be of advantage to Australian businessmen if they could be informed of the result of the negotiations between the delegation and SCAP. Only a brief statement has been published in the press.
– This matter has been dealt with mainly by the Treasury, because it involves a sterling-dollar arrangement. I informed the House some time ago of the agreement made between SCAP and the Australian Government for the exchange between Australia and Japan of a limited variety of articles to the value of approximately £2,000,000 per annum. The agreement subsequently involved the sterling area generally. Representatives of the Treasury, the Department of Trade and Customs, the Commonwealth Bank and other Commonwealth departments have recently been engaged in further negotiations with SCAP. It was only last night that I was informed of the possible volume of trade between the two countries under the new general arrangement. I am speaking from memory, but I think there is a prospect of an exchange of trade to the value of approximately £6,000,000 per annum. I approved of the arrangement last night. I am merely giving a broad outline of the position now.
– “What items are involved?
– In the one instance it was mostly wool that was involved and in the other it will involve textiles, rayon, cotton goods and raw silk. The range of goods to be purchased from Japan or sold to that country will not be wide. I shall let the honorable member have a more informative statement later. The amount involved between the two countries will be considerably increased under the arrangements approved last night by me as Treasurer.
Asian Airlines Proprietary Limited
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the House whether Asian Airlines Proprietary Limited or any other company has applied for a lease of the seaplane base at Lake Boga? If so, does the Government propose to set up customs, immigration and other facilities at that base?
– I am not aware of any application having been made for a lease of the flying boat base at Lake Boga by any company. Asian Airlines Proprietary Limited has not been given a licence to operate from Australia. Its operations are to be undertaken in the Singapore area, and not in this country. T do not think they have started yet.
– Will the Prime Minister tell the House now or at an early date what requests have been made to Australia by the Government of the United Kingdom on behalf of Malaya? Will he also say what help has been given by Australia, up to date, apart from the sending to Malaya of some United Kingdom property? Is it a fact that the Military Governor of Singapore has said that more than 100 Australians have offered their services? Will any passport or other obstacles be placed in the way of the departure of those men from Australia ? What other help does the Australian Government propose to give to Malaya?
– I have already made a statement on the supplies that have been sent to Malaya at the request of the Malayan authorities made through the Government of the United Kingdom. I have also given to the press, if not to this House, the text of a statement made by Mr. Malcolm MacDonald at Singapore indicating that all requests made by the Malayan authorities had been met.
– What requests were made ?
– I have indicated what supplies have been sent.
– The Sten guns were the property of the Government of the United Kingdom.
– We sent more than Sten guns. We. also sent Austen guns, “walkie-talkie” radios and other equipment. We have also informed the Malayan authorities that if other materials that they require are available here, ve shall send them. I shall provide the honorable member with a copy of the statement that I have already made on the matter, and a copy of Mr. Malcolm MacDonald’s statement to the press.
In Committee of Supply: Considera tion resumed from the 2Sth September (vide page 932), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and allowances, £12,000”, be agreed to.
Upon which Mr. Harrison had moved, by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by£1, as an instruction to the Government - to withdraw and redraft the budget . . . (vide page 430).
.-I have much pleasure in supporting the budget, which has been received by the people of Australia with such gratification. I desire to make a -brief comment on my recent visit to Japan as a member of the parliamentary delegation. The delegation’s first contact in Japan was with our great allies the American occupation force. The delegation on its arrival was presented with an itinerary which had been drawn up by our American hosts under the directions of the Supreme Commander, General MacArthur, and with the complete approval of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, General H. C. H. Eobertson. It would have been a display of ignorance and disrespect on the part of the delegation had it not abided by the request and desire of our hosts, particularly as they were familiar with the local conditions. The itinerary consisted of 124 engagements in three weeks. No member of the delegation spared himself during the visit, although the itinerary was particularly arduous. The delegation was conducted through factories and also visited many industrial centres, as well as universities, schools, hospitals, and other institutions. It also attended talks given by American experts on such subjects as education, health, agriculture, mining fishing, commerce, trade, labour, industry, and similar matters. Those talks were not only interesting but were of the utmost educational value, aud gave the delegation an indication of the remarkable achievements of the American occupation force. To General MacArthur. his officers, and men of all ranksI offer my appreciation for the kindness, courtesy and attention that they extended to the delegation during its visit. ‘ Their attention was unlimited and they were at all times unstinting in their effortsto ensure that nothing that could be done for the delegation was overlooked. The delegation had the privilege of listening to an address lasting two hours from General MacArthur. I consider that this great soldier, with his high Christian ideals and outstanding statesmanlike qualifications, is one of the greatest, men in the world to-day. I desire - also to express my thanks to the Minister for the Arm, (Mr. Chambers) who worked very hard to make the delegation’s visit possible. In that connexion he had much to contend with. The Australian force in Japan is a great credit not only to those who control it, but also to Australia and to the Minister himself. The delegation found that the Minister was very highly spoken of on all occasions and by all ranks.
We in Australia have not the slightest conception of the damage which was wrought in Japan by the American forces during the war. The reason for our ignorance in that respect was that the American press did not publish details of damage done by American troops. The press in Australia, quite naturally of course, publicised the actions of Australian and Empire troops in other theatres of war. That was to be expected. The delegation formed the opinion that the Americans themselves were very uncommunicative as to the activities of their own forces, and consequently not. much publicity about those actions found its way into the press of America. Press matter published in America regarding the actions of American troops in Japan was very limited so far as members of the delegation were able to discover. The damage done by the American air arm during the war would be absolutely inconceivable except to those who had seen the results of it. We were present at the celebrations held at Hiroshima on the 6th August to commemorate the third anniversary of the explosion of the first atomic bomb, and we heard the very fine address which General Robertson, General Officer Commanding the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, delivered. Although General Robertson’s address has been criticized by some people because of the way he took the Japanese people to task, ive must boar in mind that peace has not yet been formally concluded with Japan, and it is important that while we have the opportunity we should make it plain to the Japanese that we are on top. For that reason I agree wholeheartedly with the attitude adopted by General Robertson. While at Hiroshima we observed the devastation caused by the explosion of the first atomic bomb. We were informed by the Japanese politician who represents that area in the Japanese Diet, and who is well known for his socialistic ideas, which got him into a great deal of trouble during the war, that the loss of life caused by the explosion of that bomb exceeded 200,000. Terrific damage was also clone to other parts of Japan. From Tokyo, which is one of the largest cities in the world, to Yokohama, a distance of 22 miles. there is a continuous trail of destruction, and we were informed that in one air raid more than 300 American bombers rained incendiary bombs on that area. The succeeding conflagration was aggravated by a 40-mile an hour gale which was blowing at the time. Frightful destruction was also wrought at Kure, which was the centre of the Japanese steel’ industry, where factory workshops extended for a distance of more than 2i miles, at which, during the peak period of war production, approximately 120,000 men were employed. As the result of mass raids by American aircraft carried out on the 24th, 25th and 31st July, 1945, nothing 13 now left but a tangled mass of structural steel. One can easily imagine the loss of life which must have been caused by the explosion of furnaces, the collapse of huge structures, and the firewhich followed the raids, apart altogether from the loss of life directly attributable to the explosion of the bombs. More than 3,000 “ strikes “ were made on Kure by American aircraft. When one recalls the extraordinary nature of the security precaution.1adopted by Japan for many years before the “war, the exact knowledge possessed by the American services of Japan’s vulnerable points is a remarkable tribute to their intelligence organization. The only city of any size in Japan which was not bombed was Kyoto, which is the nation’s cultural centre, and contains 8 large number of churches, shrines and universities. However, we were informed that had the Japanese not surrendered when they did, Kyoto would have been the next centre for air attack. Having witnessed the effects which are still visible of America’s war effort, and having listened to eminent university professors and others discoursing on the developments of modern warfare, I say “ God help any country that attacks the United States of America “. Furthermore, I do not think that any country is better prepared for war than is the United States of America.
The greatest problem which confronts Japan is its extraordinary rate of reproduction. The present population of Japan 13 estimated at from 80,000,000 to 85,000,000, and the annual rate of increase at 1,000,000. During the month of May, 1948, more than 460,000 babies were born. The rate of reproduction in Japan and other Asiatic countries presents a problem of the first magnitude. However, Japanese commercial representatives whom we interviewed seemed to be more concerned with resuming trade in wool with Australia than with anything else. Mr. H. F. Alber, Chief of Price and Distribution Division of the American-Administration in Japan, spoke of the currency inflation which is occurring in Japan, which he attributed to the scarcity of consumer goods. He told us that Japan’s living standard had declined to between 60 and 70 per cent, of its pre1 war standard, and said that the Japanese people were obtaining only 80 per cent, of the calories which they consumed before the war. In addition, there was a housing shortage of more than 3,000,000 dwellings, and only 1.5 lb. of clothing per person was available compared with 9 lb. before the war. Mr. Alber also informed us of Japan’s food scarcity, and explained the method of controlling food distribution and rationing. He stated that Japan needed approximately 200,000 bales of wool annually, and said that it was estimated that within the next three years the demand would increase to 500,000 bales annually. Japanese wool buyers pointed out to us that Argentinian and South African wool exporters were now competing with Australia for the Japanese trade, and whilst I do not consider that we need be worried by the export of Argentinian wool, which is said to be of most inferior quality, I think that the development of South Africa’s wool trade may cause us serious concern. I believe that the policy which we have followed of permitting Australian stud sheep to be exported to South Africa and other countries is a’ mistaken one, and that that policy has led to very considerable developments of South Africa’s wool exports to the detriment of Australia’s, tn 1936, which is really the last normal trading period for which Japanese statistics are available, Japan imported 100 per cent, of its requirements of raw cotton, wool, crude rubber and nickel. Other requirements which it imported were 92 per cent, of lead, 90 per cent. of mineral oil, 88.2 per cent, of hemp, flax &c, 87.5 per cent, of iron ore, 87 per cent, of sugar, 71.2 per cent, of tin, 63 per cent, of zinc, 35.5 per cent, of pig iron and 21.9 per cent, of wheat. The degree of Japan’s dependence on other countries for raw materials indicates the wonderful market for our raw materials which Japan will offer when peace is concluded. When the peace treaty has been signed I trust that we shall make every effort, in co-operation with our American friends, to obtain our proper share of the Japanese market. In addition to the imports which I have mentioned, Japan also requires approximately 2,000,000 tons of foodstuffs to be imported annually. Of course, the reason is obvious when one observes the mountainous nature of the country and learns that only 17 per cent, of J apan is arable. In Lieutenant-General H. C. H. Robertson we have a great and valuable soldier who is doing a splendid job for his country. He has a remarkable knowledge of statistics relating to Australian import* and exports and industrial production I was privileged to meet him on many occasions and at all times I marvelled a; the fund of knowledge which he possesses I sincerely hope that when he reaches th* retiring age his outstanding services to Australia and to the British Common wealth of Nations will be recognized iri some suitable manner. In my opinion he possesses all the attributes which make a successful ambassador. With hie knowledge of Australian affairs, his grea-vitality, dash and verve, he has, in my opinion, all the qualifications to make him a most worthy representative of Australia abroad. Of his officers one can only speak in the highest terms of praise, and the men who served under- him ar> a credit to Australia. It was a pleasure to meet him and to profit by his wide experience and comprehensive knowledge The members of the delegation took ever;, opportunity to discuss with him m attery affecting our troops and the occupation policy. I urge the people of Australis to be tolerant towards the members of the occupation force in Japan who are doing a great job on our behalf. 1 appeal to the press of Australia not te publish any matter relating to the occupation force without first being assured of its truth. I say to the press, “ Do nol publish anything that is harmful or hurtful to our Australian troops in Japan, oi anything that would belittle them, without the most careful prior investigation “ The Australians in Japan feel their position very keenly, and they have every reason to do so. All of the members of the delegation told the troops that when they arrived back in Australia the.’* would do everything possible to eradicate the wrong impressions that had been gained in Australia as the result of the publication of disparaging and untrue newspaper reports. Some of those imports were written by or at the instigation of individuals who have never even left Australia. An Anglican padre told me that in the unit to which he was attached no fewer than eighteen men had letters from their fiancees in Australia notifying them of the breaking off of their engagements following the publication of those newspaper reports. We can also appreciate what must have been the effect of those untrue newspaper statements upon the mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of the men. Any Australian who sees at first hand how well our troops in Japan are conducting themselves must feel proud to be an Australian. I interviewed two provost officers who perhaps may be regarded as very good judges of the behaviour of the troops. Both of them spoke highly of the discipline and good behaviour of the men. One of them said that he had been in other theatres of war and he had not seen troops better behaved and more honorable in their conduct than the Australians in Japan. The delegation included the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) who was formerly a colonel in the British Army and has been decorated with the C.M.G. and the D.S.O. Only by close association with our fellows can we get a better understanding of their finer characteristics. I formed the very highest opinion of the honorable member for Flinders. Although [ have been a member of the Parliament for five and a half years my opportunities for coming into close personal contact with him in the past have been all too few. Speaking of his experiences in Japan in this chamber on the 3rd September ‘the honorable member said -
Over the years, I have Been parades of the Brigade of Guards in London - the trooping of the colours, and other performances. I have seen my old regiment, the Royal Horse Artillery, which we always considered to be the best regiment in the British service, perform some outstanding exercises, yet the display by , our men that I saw in Japan recently was at least as good as the best show put on by the Guards Brigade, or my own regiment, and that is saying something. This is due to the quality of the troops, and very largely to General Robertson, an able and efficient officer, who has learned, during the course of his own experiences, how to deal with and train troops. Great credit is due to him and to the fine body of officers he has under his command.
Those are the words of an honorable member who has a very fine military record and received his military training in what may be called the hard school in the Old Country. Let me quote the words of another authority. In a statement to the chaplains-general in Japan, the Reverend T. McCarthy, the Reverend A. H. Stewart and the Reverend A. Brooke, General MacArthur said -
In my long military career, which include* five occupations, I have never known better troops. The Australians were magnificent in the field; they are magnificent in garrison.
Yet it was as garrison troops that our troops were condemned ! General MacArthur continued -
You may consider me as a witness on oath. I would like the Australian people to know that these men are “ tops “.
During his address to the members of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation General MacArthur, referring to our troops, said -
He could not desire to be associated with a finer body of men, whose bearing and discipline was all that could be desired and who at all times had proved themselves to be courageous soldiers. He viewed with abhorrence the derogatory statements which had been made by some individuals in Austral and published in the Australian press.
I should also like to pay a tribute to the members of the Royal Australian Air Force attached to the occupation force in Japan. I understand that the Air Force component comprises three squadrons. We were privileged to witness a mock operational attack carried out by the Australians in association with members of the United States Army Air Corps. It was the most impressive display that I have ever witnessed. I did not think it possible that airmen would attempt such daring exploits in the air as we were privileged to witness. The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) should be proud of his men who are domiciled in Japan. As the result of my experiences in Japan I formulated the opinion that it is necessary for occupational forces to remain in Japan for at least 25 years. Naturally, the question may be asked, “Why for 25 years?” My answer is that the present middle-aged generation will have passed on at the end of 25 years, and the children of to-day will be the men and women of that time. They will have absorbed democratic ideas, and will have had the benefit of missionary influence, so that we may hope that Japan will then be a new nation. I sincerely hope that the Australian forces will be allowed to stay in Japan for some time yet. They are provided with every amenity, and with ample facilities r’or military training, which can be carried out just as effectively, and probably just as cheaply, in Japan as in Australia.
It is interesting to note the list of war materials which were found and destroyed in Japan during the last twelve months. They ranged from midget submarines and 16-inch guns to hypodermic needles, narcotics, and silver and foreign currency brought back to Japan by repatriates from countries in which they had been serving with the Japanese forces. The figures are impressive. Mere is a list of some of the warlike stores which were destroyed last year in the area controlled by the British Commonwealth Occupation Force: - 887 torpedoes and another 400 which had not been completed. 334 gun barrels ranging in calibre from 6in. to 10-in. 203 midget submarines and 75 uncompleted submarines. 113 machine guns. 258,178 shell cases ranging in calibre from 3-in. to 16-in. 282,617 empty bombs. 81 fortress guns ranging in calibre from 8in. to 16-in. 21 amphibious tanks and armoured tanks. 691 empty mines and 9,940 depth charges.
The destruction of the poison gas plant and the stocks of gases has been an exacting task. The plant itself was on the island of Okunoshima and existed only for the production of poison gases. Only a few minor installations and buildings remain of what was previously the largest poison gas plant in Japan. Since early last year, 26,872 tons of poison gases have been destroyed - 5,882 tons by dumping in the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean off Shikoku Island, and 50 tons by burning. The remaining 20,990 tons have been buried, in caves in the island. Over 600 Japanese were employed in the destruction of the gas and plant.
I cannot allow to pass unchallenged the statement of the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn), who said that she had been informed by a missionary that Japanese children were terrified of Australian and American soldiers. I have no doubt that the honorable member believed that what she said was true, but I give it an emphatic denial, and every one who has visited Japan recently would support me. Our party did not travel in the cities only. We saw much of the interior of Japan, and we saw many thousands of Japanese children. It is the nature of Australians to be kind to children, whether they be black, brown or brindle. Wherever we went, the children waved, and ran out cheerfully to greet us. Nowhere was there any indication that they had the slightest fear of the uniforms of Australian or American soldiers.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) suggested that Australia should play a more prominent part in Japan, a part worthy of comparison with that of the United States of America. Such a suggestion is ridiculous. How can Australia, with a population of 7,750,000 people, compete in that way with the United States of America, with its population of 144,000,000? How can we, with our limited resources, place ourselves alongside the United States of America, the wealthiest nation in the world, which is pouring a million dollar? a day into Japan, and is easily able to do it? Australia is doing all it can.
I desire to bring to the notice of honorable members some facts relating to the economic progress of Australia under the Curtin and Chifley Governments. On the 31st March, 1948. Commonwealth employment agencies had vacancies for 95,300 persons. Compare this with the position that obtained at. the 30th June, 1938, when there were 260,000 unemployed. In the year 1938- 39, there were 26,941 factories in Australia, but in 1946-47, there were 34,764, an increase of 7,823. For statistical purposes, a “ factory “ is any factory, workshop or building where four or more persons are employed. This increase in the number of factories is an indication of the confidence of employers, and those who have money to invest, in the economic stability of Australia. In 1938, the average monthly employment was 542,000. By April of 1943. which was the war-time peak, this figure “had risen to 752,000, and since July of 1947. it has not fallen below 800,000. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) expressed great concern because more young men were not enlisting in the Army. Seeing that every man. who is able to work is already in employment, I think the response to the appeal of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) for recruits has been wonderful. The only man who cannot s;et a job to-day is the one who is physically unfit to work.
Honorable members opposite referred to our exports, particularly of beef and mutton. They conveniently overlook the fact that droughts in recent years have made serious inroads into the number of livestock, and have also affected the production of butter and cheese. Unfortunately, the indications are that in parts of South Australia the present season will be a failure. If this should be 10, I shall be the first person, as the representative of the largest wheat growing area in Australia, not even excepting the Wimmera Division, to appeal for help for the farmers. We know that there is a shortage of farm labour, and of many of the materials which farmers need. I have been associated with farmers all my life. I have never lived in a city, and I am familiar with the trials and tribulations of the farmers, for whom I have a great respect. They also respect me, as they showed when they trebled my majority in the 1946 general election, and I am confident that they will increase it still further in The 1949 election. To-day, the farmers want barbed wire, wire netting, fencing material, and farm machinery. They are also short of labour. Many of the young men who left the farms to serve in the army during the war have since married. Some of them have entered other industries, thereby further reducing the number of men available for farm labour. Other slurs have been cast on the farmers, and suggestions have been made that they were not producing as much as possible because. of high taxation. I give that the lie direct. These men are just as loyal as are any other members of the community
– They are more so.
– Together with their womenfolk, they have worked as hard as has any other section of the com munity to speed up the production o,f food for shipment overseas. I shall cite figures published in the Monthly Summary of Australian Conditions, by the National Bank of Australia Limited, on the 11th June, 1948, to refute any suggestion to the contrary -
Primary Production. - Sowing of the wheat crop has commenced, and it is estimated that between 2i and 2i million acres will be under crop this year as compared with an area of 2,510.000 acres in 1947.
That is conclusive proof that the farmers are doing all possible to increase production.
With the concurrence of the committee I shall incorporate in Hansard details of insolvencies of primary producers and others in the years 1938 to 1946 inclusive, as published in the South Australian Year Book for 1947-
In Australia to-day there is a great deal of “ hooey “ concerning the two “ R.G’s one overseas and the other in Australia. I refer to Mr. R, G. Menzies and Mr. R. G. Casey. No doubt the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) sincerely trusts that one of those gentlemen will miss out as a result of such talk, otherwise he will be displaced in this chamber.
Much has been said concerning the stabilization of wheat prices. As honorable members know, stabilization will ensure stability, security and prosperity. On the other hand let us consider the probabilities under open market conditions. On this subject, the following
Article appeared in the South Australian
Wheatgrower, which was published on the 19tb December, 1946 : -
The Open Market offers :
Fluctuating Prices - which are the Direct Cause of Economic Depressions.
Note the Premier’s statement: “We have seen the disasters which inevitably follow periods of great economic booms”.
Bankruptcies: During the eleven years from 1930 to 1940, 3,270 South Australian primary producers, the bulk of whom were wheatgrowers, went bankrupt - an average of 298 a year.
Under the stabilized prices ruling during the war, the number had fallen to 53 in 1943. nineteen in 1944, and to seven only in 1045.
Indebtedness: In 1934-35, the estimated indebtedness of wheat-growers in Australia was £151,495,270. Of this, £130,132,042 was owed to secured creditors, the balance, £15,459,270 being owed to unsecured creditors, who included machinery firms, oil and fertilizer companies, storekeepers, and wheat merchants f £428,799).
Debt Adjustment: The number of farmers in the Commonwealth under the debt adjustment schemes, by the middle of 1943, totalled 10,188. Of these. 1,583 were in South Australia.
In 1935-36, the number of holdings utilized for wheat-growing in Australia was 51,529, so that approximately 20 per cent. if the wheat-growers of the Commonwealth were forced to seek the refuge of debt adjustment legislation. The debts settled amounted t.-i £20,620,000. What a magnificent recommendation for open marketing.
Australian Labour party.
– Tes, to save Australia. The article continued -
In South Australia’ the number of wheatgrowers is approximately 12,000; that is, approximately 13 per cent, were compelled to adjust their debts.
Assistance Board: Besides this, from 1934 to 1938, 7,439 wheat-growers in South Australia were forced to seek financial assistance and work under hoard control.
Belief Payments: To save wheat-growers from ruin, the Commonwealth, from 1931-32 to 1.939-40, disbursed among them in the form of bounties and relief payments a total of fi 8,733,551.
In addition, the Commonwealth made available £12,000,000 for the adjustment of farmers’ debts, giving a total disbursement of nearly £31,000,000.
Poverty: From 193.1 to 1938, the sum paid as unemployment relief in South Australia, totalled “£3,510,801. Of this, £2,272,701 was paid during 1931-34 - the period of disastrously low wheat prices.
If time permitted 1 should like to reti’: additional extracts from this interesting and illuminating publication. The people of Australia have never before been s< happy and prosperous as they are to-day This state of affairs has been achieved by the Chifley and Curtin GovernmentsToday we are right on the top of th. world, and Australia is recognized all over the world. We are putting around our selves a mantle of prosperity and respect The appointment of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt ‘i as President of the United Nation:General Assembly supports that view After all, when we get “ right down to tin tacks “ to whom is the credit due ‘’ I commend to honorable members thiwords of the Deputy Leader of the Oppo si ti on. “ Chiefly to Chifley “.
.- I sup-port the excellent budget which has been introduced by the Prime Minister and Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). Before statins my views in. regard to certain taxation reductions and other matters contained in the budget, I shall reply to criticismsthat have been levelled at this Govern ment by the members of the Opposition, particularly in regard to the spiralling of prices and the abolition of subsidies on certain goods. Honorable memberou the Government side of the chamber derive satisfaction from the fact that a few months ago they clearly and honestly pointed out to the people of Australis, that should the proposed rents and price*referendum be defeated, the people could expect to happen the things which ari just about to take place in this country L refer to rising costs, evictions, and other matters which honorable members know are starting to make their presence felt. Since the day after the announcement of the defeat of the referendum on the 29th May, Opposition members have been apologizing for the attitude they took up in misleading the people of this country. The Commonwealth ha_d sought to obtain and retain an effective measure of price control. It is interesting to hear members of the Australian Country party, members of the Liberal party and others in this chamber criticize the Government for acting in accordance with the wishes of the people. The truthful nords of advice of the Treasurer were ignored.
Lt is interesting to look back over the newspaper files prior to the referendum to recall what Mr. W. H. Spooner, the President of the New South Wales branch of the Liberal party, said when lie urged the people to reject this Government’s proposals for the continuance of prices control on an Australia-wide basis. He said -
Everything else, such as the threat to withdraw subsidies, the attempt to create a panic fear of runaway prices, and the distorted reference to price movements in America is not merely a side issue but an irrelevancy.
How far wide of the mark Mr. Spooner was in that statement ! During the referendum campaign the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who is now abroad giving the people of England the benefit of his knowledge, was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 2Sth May, as saying -
Yet the Government is deliberately painting
lurid picture of fantastic prices for food, of greedy landlords ejecting tenants, of all kinds of rank profiteering and extortion. All this, of course, is absurd.
People in my electorate and other suburban electorates, particularly in the metropolitan area of Sydney, who are now facing eviction from their homes can lay the blame for their present plight at the door of the Liberal party in this Parliament and in the State Parliaments. Those people are facing eviction by landlords who, in most instances - I admit that there are a few exceptions - are merely taking advantage nf the lifting of controls.
– Does not the State Government do anything to protect those tenants?
– That is an interesting observation. The Labour Government in New South Wales, following the lifting of Commonwealth prices control, endeavoured to prevent the rise of a black market in housing with its consequent wholesale evictions. That Government endeavoured to make it impossible for people to obtain possession of houses at black-market prices over the heads of tenants and to evict the tenants later. However, that legislation was thrown out by the Liberal party majority in the Upper House in New South Wales in keeping with the policy of the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) and her colleagues of furthering the interests of landlords and people whose only desire is to exploit a black market in housing. In other words, the Liberal majority in the Legislative Council of New South Wales did/ exactly what supporters of this Government said would happen if the people rejected continuance of prices control on an Australiawide basis. As supporters of the referendum proposals warned the people, the rejection of the referendum has resulted in placing prices and rent control in the hands of non-elective bodies in the upper houses in the State parliaments. Therefore, I repeat that honest and decent people who now face eviction from their homes must lay the blame for their plight at the door of the Liberal party in this Parliament and in the State parliaments. They should ask the Opposition parties what they intend to do to rectify the present state of affairs which they knew would result when they urged the people to reject the Government’s referendum proposals.
Much criticism has been levelled ar the Government because of its action in withdrawing certain price stabilization subsidies. An overwhelming majority of my constituents rejected this Government’s proposals for the maintenance of effective prices control. I remind them of the warning given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) during the referendum campaign that if the Government’s proposals were rejected it could not continue to provide subsidies to the State governments in respect of commodities over the prices of which it could not exercise some degree of control. There can be no doubt about the view expressed by the majority of my constituents on that issue. They voted for the abolition of prices control and subsidies by the Commonwealth because they “ fell “ for the propaganda of the Opposition parties, which did not have their interests at heart. The Government to-day is being criticized simply because it is carrying out the will of the people as expressed at the referendum. It is maintaining subsidies on a few items in respect of which it can ensure that the benefit will be passed on to consumers. En abolishing other subsidies is not the Government simply doing what the people asked it to do and what the Liberal party and what the Australian Country party advocated? Does not the abolition of controls mean that the Government is giving to the people the freedom of enterprise which those parties say are necessary for the prosperity of the community? Therefore, how can any one criticize the Government for taking action in compliance with the will of the people as expressed at the referendum ? In this matter my colleagues and T have a clear conscience. In view of the facts I have stated, no blame can be laid at the door of the Government for the spiralling of prices which is taking place to-day. This Government is not responsible in any way for the rising costs of living or for the evictions which are taking place. The removal of subsidies on important items of foodstuffs is absolutely the responsibility of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. Many people thought that with the abolition of subsidies and prices control the States would not be involved in substantial expenditure in taking over those controls from the Commonwealth. However, over £750,000 is being allotted in this budget to assist the States to maintain a shadow of prices control. Any sensible person who bears in mind the present shortages of goods, equipment, man-power and raw materials cannot believe that we can maintain an effective pricecontrolled economy in Australia following the abolition of prices control in respect of over 30,000 items and by transferring such control from one authority to six State instrumentalities. For the benefit of those people who are interested in this very important problem, I repeat that the Commonwealth Government has no further responsibility for prices control. Therefore, it cannot be blamed in any way whatever for the spiralling of prices now taking place. That responsibility must be laid at the door of those people who to-day are rushing about apologizing for the fact that they urged the people to reject the Government’s proposals at the recent referendum.
Much criticism has been levelled against the taxation proposals embodied in this budget. I intend to deal at length with the Government’s taxation policy. Critics of the Government have compared existing rates of taxes with those operating before the war. As honorable members on this side of the chamber have pointed out, hundreds of thousands of Australians who would willingly have paid income tax in 1938-39 did not do so because thev could not then obtain a job. Although this budget involves an expenditure of £500,000,000 it includes remissions of direct taxes amounting to £26,000,000. That is a remarkable achievement and will be of great benefit to the community generally, particularly to persons in the middle and the lower ranges of income. In addition, reductions of sales tax totalling £475,000 are to be made. Over-all, tax remissions range from 3 per cent, in respect of higher incomes to 33 per cent, on lower incomes. This provision is most reasonable when, at the same time, the Government is liberalizing social services at an additional cost of £18,000,000. The budget should appeal to all honestthinking Australians. It reflects the sincere desire of the Government to provide the greatest possible relief from taxes without jeopardizing the Australian economy which the Government has done so much to stabilize. How do the Government’s taxation proposals affect the average man ? A married man with two children with an income of £11 10s. a week, or £600 a year, will pay £38 lis. in income tax and social services contribution. He will receive a refund of £26 in. the form of child endowment. In other words, he will make a net contribution of only £12 lis. for the whole year towards the upkeep of the nation. Surely that is not too much to ask him to pay! Consider the situation of a married man with two children who has been earning £400 a year for the past four years. In 1944-45, he paid £46 in tax, leaving a net income of £354. Under this budget, his tax bill for the year will be £9. leaving him £391 for his own needs. The reduction of £87 over that period of four years represents 80 per cent. He now receives 14s. more in his weekly pay envelope than he received in 1944-45. Those figures provide a striking illustration of the Government’s concern for the welfare of the average working man with family responsibilities. The people who are agitating for further tax reductions illogically expect the Government to incur greater expenditure at the same time. Without adding to its commitments, the Government must meet an immense bill for war and post-war expenses. This commitment is inescapable. For example, it must provide for heavy re-establishment and repatriation costs, which will continue for many years. War debt charges alone amount to over £50,000,000 a year, and post-war defence is costing about £70,000,000 a year as against an annual bill of less than £10,000,000 before the war. The cost of social services already exceeds £70,000,000 a year, compared with about £17,000,000 a year before the war. Other costs of government also have increased considerably for various reasons.
Critics of the Government claim that it is hampering the nation’s return to prosperity. In reply to those allegations, I need only reiterate what the Prime Minister and others have already forcefully said, namely, that employment in Australia to-day is at a record high level. The latest available figures, which were issued in August, show that only slightly more than 1,000 people were then in receipt of unemployment benefits. Production is increasing in almost every field, and enterprise has never been more lively than it is under the rule of this “ socialist “ Government, as the newspapers have described it in recent weeks. I think the average Australian will say to-day, “If this is socialism, it will do me”. At least he has a good job, and money to spend on necessities and small luxuries which were lacking under the old order that prevailed between 1930 and 1939. Honorable members opposite and their supporters declare that taxation is drying up investable funds, but the facts prove that the contrary is the case. For instance, in 1938-39 the undistributed profits of a number of companies amounted to £35,000,000, whereas in 1946-47, under the administration of this Government and in spite of heavy taxes, the total reached £66,000,000. This demonstrates that, since 1938-39, profits available to companies to be placed in reserves have substantially increased. Another interesting and extremely convincing index of the prosperity which we enjoy is the amount of cash held by the public. Bank notes in the hands of the people in June, 1939, totalled £33,000,000. By June, 1948, that amount had increased to £173,000,000. Deposits with the Commonwealth Bank and all other trading banks in June, 1939, totalled £334,000,000. The total has more than doubled and is now £772,000,000. In June, 1939, savings bank deposits amounted to £246,000,000, and they have now increased to £681,000,000. The people have money with which they will be able to buy the goods that they want when production increases sufficiently to satisfy demand.
The Opposition claims that the Government’s taxation policy discourages enterprise. That criticism is not borne out by the statistics of the employing capacity of industry in Australia to-day. In July, 1939, 625,000 persons were engaged in manufacturing industries. In June, 1948, over 894,000 persons were engaged in the same field, an increase of well over 250,000 persons. To claim that enterprise is being discouraged is to say, in another way, that taxation if leaving too little profit to make investment worth while. However, in spite of taxes, profits earned by Australian companies have increased considerably under the administration of this Government. For instance, in 1938-39, the total of undistributed company profits payable to residents was £35,000,000, a figure which has been considerably exceeded since then and in 1946-47 totalled £66,000,000. Opponents of the Government claim also that the Government’s rates of taxation cause inflation, involving a reduction of the purchasing power of the people. However, in spite of allegations about the non-productive capacity of industry, production has, in fact, increased in every field. Shortages are the result of the excess of demand over supply. This is due to the unprecedented capacity of the people to purchase goods. Shortages will continue until our reservoirs of labour, both skilled and unskilled, are greatly increased and this can be achieved only by means of a progressive immigration policy such as the Government is pursuing. The expansion of production has been retarded by many factors other than strikes, which have had only a relatively minor effect. For example, war-time industries have had to be changed over to meet the requirements of peace, an enormous task. Equipment needed for the refitting of factories and extending manufacturing operations has been in short supply, and many key materials are still scarce. The supply of skilled labour has had to be spread thinly through industry because we have not enough tradesmen to meet the demand. Hours of work have been reduced, a very desirable improvement. These are only a few of the factors which contribute to shortages of various commodities, which cannot properly be laid at the door of workers in industry.
This Government has developed a state of economy in Australia which permits both employers and employees to obtain fair returns from their investments and labour, and it has thereby contributed to the security and comfort of the people. [ had a very interesting experience recently. A man came to interview me, and, after he had been talking for about ten minutes, we were both almost crying. His employees, he said, would not work, the 40-hour week was crippling his industry, taxes were too severe, and everything else imaginable was wrong, he said. Before I finally broke down, I thought I had better ask him what he wanted. He said, “I want to obtain a permit for a new Buick motor car, for which I am prepared to pay cash “. As the cost of the vehicle was approximately £1,150, he could not possibly have been in poor circumstances. Before World War LT., he would have found difficulty in raising the amount of money required to purchase a bicycle.
A summary of the tax reductions which the Chifley Government has granted during and since 1946 makes interesting reading. In January of that year, the reductions totalled £20,000,000. In July of the same year, a reduction of £17,500,000 was also granted.In July, 1947. there was a further reduction of £33,000,000 and the present budget proposes a reduction of £26,000,000. That series of reductions gives more spending power to the people whilst at the same time benefiting those persons in the lower and middle income groups. Members of the Opposition criticize what they describe as the “ high rate of tax “ which islevied on salary and wage-earners with family responsibilities. For their enlightenment, I propose to quote the actual, rates that are payable. Under this budget, single taxpayers on salaries and wages up to £350 a year will be exempted from the obligation to pay income tax. A taxpayer with a dependent wife will be allowed an exemption of £501; a taxpayer with a wife and one child will be allowed an exemption of £613 ; and a taxpayer with a wife and two children will be allowed an exemption of £669. Those figures support our contention that the object of the Labour Government is to assist the people in the lower and middle income groups who really need tax relief.
– Is it not a fact that people are unable to purchase many of the articles that they require? Yet the honorable member ‘is gratified because, under this budget, they will have increased purchasing power.
– Perhaps I should explain for the information of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) that the reason for the existing shortages of goods is that, because of the shortage of labour, and other factors, our productive capacity issimply not adequate to meet the demand. Neither the social services contribution nor income tax will be payable by a person, with a dependent wife, in receipt of an income of £200 or less per annum. A person with a dependent wife and one child, with an income of £283 or less per annum, will be exempted from both of those levies. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) laughs, but he should not forget that when anti-Labour governments were in office before the outbreak of World War II., an income of £283 a year was considered high, and comparatively few Australians received it.
– Before World War II., the purchasing power of the Australian £1 was considerably higher than it is to-day.
– Wheat sold for ls. 7d. h bushel.
– A taxpayer with a dependent wife and two, children will not pay income tax or the social services contribution, if his income is £317 or less per annum. A taxpayer with a dependent wife and three children will be allowed an exemption of £350. Those figures indicate the measure of the relief that the Labour Government has decided to grant to those sections of the community which are most deserving of it. Members of the Opposition often compare Australian rates of income tax and the social services contribution with those operating in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, and complain that an examination of the figures discloses that Australians are over-taxed. If or their enlightenment, I shall read the rates of tax applicable to various incomes earned in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom from personal exertion.
– All honorable members have read them.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) would not understand them unless the figures were read slowly and distinctly.
– The comparison should be placed on record, and, therefore, I ask for leave to have the figures incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted?
Leave not granted.
– I shall read a few of the comparisons from this most informative statement. That the figures completely refute the allegation that Australians are over taxed is revealed .by the fact that the Acting Leader of the Opposition and members of the Australian Country party have refused to permit them to be incorporated in Ilansard, where they would be available at. all times for the
Australian people to peruse. The table is as follows: -
Is it any wonder that the Acting Leader of the Opposition refused my request for leave to have the complete table incorporated in Hansard? The figures provide a striking illustration of the Government’s sympathetic approach to the problems of the persons in the lower and middle income groups who are the ones that really matter, in preference to the wealthy industrialists and others who support the anti-Labour parties. The budget proposals for reducing income tax will meet with the approval of the great majority of Australians, particularly those who derive their income from personal exertion and have family responsibilities.
The record of this Government in increasing and extending social services payments is second to none. Of the total receipts for taxation in 1938-39, less than £17,000,000 was refunded to the community in social services payments. Thi? year, however, the Labour Government has budgeted for the refund to the peopleof more than £80,000,000 from tax collections by way of social services payments. The Labour Government has greatly expanded social services. Unemployment and sickness benefits are available to the people who need them. During the last few years, child endowment and age and invalid pensions have been increased by 100 per cent. The means test has been relaxed, and thousands of people who formerly were ineligible for an age or invalid pension are now entitled to receive up to £7 5s. a week. Provision is made for sufferers from tuberculosis and their dependants. The people who have relatives in public mental institutions and have found the hospital expenses a severe burden on their finances, will in future be relieved of that responsibility. Tn every respect, the Government has improved social services, which to-day are more generous than they were under antiLabour governments. The Labour party bas been criticized for having failed to abolish the means test. The anti-Labour parties in this Parliament, who were in office almost continuously for 30 years, made no attempt to abolish it. Indeed, a most vicious and rigorous means test was applied to age and invalid pensioners in those times. But to-day, honorable members opposite are so hypocritical as to pretend that if returned to office, they will abolish the means test. Let us examine the problems which are involved in the matter. On the present scale of social services payments, it would cost approximately £54,000,000 completely to abolish the means test. To provide child endowment payments for the first child - which would not be possible under the present system for the fixing of the basic wage - would cost £24,000,000. Honorable members opposite should bear in mind that if Those things were done it would not be possible to reduce taxes. The Government believes that as well as the older people the young married men with children to educate should be considered when social services are being reviewed. The Labour party has ceased to be a party that provides only for the aged and infirm, and it may now be said that it provides for the people from the cradle to the grave. I hope that it will not be long before marriage loans are added to the already wide range of social services benefits.
I commend this excellent budget to the people of Australia. The tax reductions and the proposals with regard to social services should benefit the overwhelming majority of wage earners in this country.
It is as well to remember that the big business and financial interests are aligned against this Government, which is truly representative of the people ot Australia. Honorable members on thi.side of the chamber are not concerned with the vested interests of the banks or other institutions. We are here to serve the majority of our people, many of whom cannot help themselves because of their financial position. It is for that reason that the Government has come into conflict with the interests which, by reason of the financial resources at their disposal, controlled the destiny of Australia in the years before the last war. Honorable members on this side of the chamber are here to serve the people who have not much material wealth, te assist those in the middle and lower income groups and to treat justly those in the higher income group. They will not allow the interests of the wealthy who are able to look after themselves te be placed before the interests of the overwhelming majority of the people. I commend this budget to the House.
– I support thibudget and congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) upon continuing to honour the promises that were made to the people at the last general elections. The right honorable gentleman then indicated tha’ there would be progressive reductions of taxes, and this budget is a further instalment in the fulfilment of that under taking. It is obvious from the remark * that have been made by honorable members opposite that they are conscious of the fact that the budget is designed t<> honour that undertaking and that the Australian people recognize that it is the best which the Treasurer could possibly have introduced, having regard to our internal economy and the present condition of the world. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) complained that the tax reductions were not sufficiently large and went on to say that the budget is an election bribe. Apparently they do not consider that the bribe is large enough. The general approach of the Opposition ithat the tax reductions are not hig enough and that production must be. stimulated, but no criticism which could be accepted as constructive has been offered.
I propose now to reply to some of the stupid criticism of the Government’s defence plans by honorable members opposite.
– What about the cement plan?
– If the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) does not behave himself he will be outside, looking in.
– I propose to deal not with cement but with a subject about which honorable members opposite have waxed very eloquent. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) suggested that the fleet air arm should be augmented. I recognize that the honorable member’s remarks upon that subject constituted a constructive criticism of the Government’s plan, but later in his speech he suggested chat further reductions of taxes should be made. The Government is in the process of . purchasing two aircraft carriers, and the honorable member suggested that another should be purchased. An aircraft carrier now costs over £5,000,000 and no less than 1,000 men are needed to man it. The Opposition howls for greater production, but if 1,000 men were secured to man an additional aircraft carrier civil production would be adversely affected. The Government’s policy is a balanced one, and takes into consideration our defence commitments as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations and the undertakings that the Prime Minister gave to the Australian people.
The Government is conscious of what happened in 1939. It knows that if war breaks out the Navy must be ready to go into action immediately, and it has decided that, if it can be prevented, the members of the Royal Australian Navy will not again be required to put to sea in a scrap-iron flotilla. Honorable members opposite have suggested that the Government should step up its defence policy. There is now a five-year naval plan. Incidentally, in 1902 Admiral Creswell made a report to the Govern ment in which he suggested a defence plan extending over a period of years. His report was scrapped. In 1905 h» made another report, and that wa* scrapped. Nothing was done. Nevertheless what Admiral Creswell recommended in 1902 and 1905 with regard tothe minimum size of the fleet was recognized as being correct when the Japanesestruck in 1941. He recommended that the Navy should secure ships which could put to sea and collect information that would be of value to those who werecharged with the responsibility of the defence of Australia. It was found m 1942, despite the use of radar, wireless and aircraft, that it was still essential for naval units to put to sea to gather information about the movements of hostile craft in the waters surrounding this island continent. When considering the five-year plan for the Navy, the Government made a careful examination of our future naval defence commitments. 7. invite the attention of. honorable members to the main factors that the Government had in mind when making that examination. This is the answer to that portion of the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) relating to the necessity for a positive defence policy. First, we considered any commitments to the United Nations that might arise; secondly, the assistance that Australia could expect in due course from the Royal Navy and the United States of America Nav should this country be involved in an other war ; and, thirdly, means of quickly integrating the Royal Australian Nav» and the Royal New Zealand Navy tactically and efficiently, for the defence of strategic areas close to both dominions The Government has learned lessonsfrom the experience of the recent war in the Pacific, and, in the naval policy that it is now implementing, it has applied those lessons. The five-year defence programme approved hy the Government provides for a total expenditure of £75,000,000 on behalf of the Royal Australian Navy. This is four times as much as was expended in thifiveyear period immediately preceding the war. Of this .sum, approximately £57,000,000 will be expended in this country.
– How many men are in the Royal Australian Navy?
– At present, approximately 11,000. The honorable member has placed a question on the noticepaper on i this matter, and when he receives his reply he will see the actual numbers of uniformed as well as civilian personnel in the Navy. In the five-year period from 1934 to 1939, when the present Opposition parties held office in this Parliament-
– What did the Scullin Government do?
– Everybody knows that when the Scullin Government was in office Australia was experiencing the greatest economic depression in it3 history. I remind the Opposition, too, that in those days certain economic advisers came to this country from overseas, and made certain recommendations to the Scullin Administration. In the five-year period from 1934 to 1939, the total expenditure on the Royal Australian Navy was £18,166,000, compared with the £15,000,000 a year that this Government proposes to expend on the Navy under its five-year plan.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I direct your attention to the state of the committee.
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.
– In 1934-35 the Government which was constituted by the present Opposition parties, provided £2,565,000 for defence. The figures for succeeding years were 1935-36, £3,083.000; 1936-37, £3,239,000; 1937- 38, £3,602,000; 1938-39, £5,677,000. Those amounts total £18,166,000. The programme which involved those expenditures purported to be a development programme to enable the service departments to be ready in the event of war. At this stage I desire to reply to some of the statements made by the honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) during the course of this debate. He stated that in 1938 the then government provided approximately £60,000,000 for defence requirements. In 1938 a defence programme was approved to cover a period of three years, but I note that in a financial statement issued on the 2nd May, 1940, by the then Treasurer, the honorable member for Warringah, Mr. P. C. Spender, the following appears on page 10 under “ War Expenditure “ : -
I now turn to the examination of our war expenditure. Less than two years ago the Government announced a special three-year defence programme winch would COS £43,000,000. At that time the normal expendture on defence from all sources was less than £10,000,000 a year, and the special programme was then regarded as involving a heavy financial obligation.
The reply to the statement by the right honorable member for Cowper is contained in that statement which the honorable member for Warringah made in 1940 when he was Treasurer. The right honorable member foi Cowper also stated that in 1938 the Lyons Government purchased two cruisers, Sydney and Canberra. Canberra was commissioned in July, 1928, and Sydney in July, 1935, which indicates how much reliance may be placed on some of the right honorable gentleman’s statements. That is all I desire to say regarding the defence position in the years prior to the last war, -when the present Opposition parties constituted the Government. It too will indicate to the country, however, how little reliancecan be placed on any statement made by honorable members of the Opposition in the course of the present debate.
The modern fleet is built around aircraft carriers. With that fact in mind the Government has approved a programme which provides for the introduction of naval aviation into the Royal Australian Navy by the acquisition of two aircraft carriers complete with aircraft. Those carriers will be provided with personnel, repair facilities for the overhaul and repair of aircraft, and necessary storage requirements. Naval aviation is an essential requirement if Australia is to make an effective contribution to its own defence and to that of the British Commonwealth.
It is interesting to note that in 1937 the then anti-Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Lyons, in reviewing Australia’s defence policy, said, regarding the role of the Navy -
The security of Australia depends ultimately on the command of the sea communications. S” lung as adequate Empire naval forces are in being, the danger of -the invasion of Australia is remote. The provision of seapower for the defence of seaborne trade simultaneously furnishes a deterrent against seaborne raids. As adequate naval strength is of fundamental importance to Empire and Australian defence, the Royal Australian Navy should be maintained at a strength which is an effective and fair contribution to Empire Naval defence.
Those words sum up the policy of this Government and its appreciation of the role which the Navy would be expected to perform in the event of hostilities. It is interesting to note that the statement I have quoted was made at a time when the clouds of war were gathering. . For the two years following that statement, what did the government of the day do? [n that period, during which the Munich pact was signed, the Government did not do the things which it ought to have done. I turn now to some of the lessons which this Government has learned from the recent war. Once again the foundation of the war efforts of the Empire and its Allies proved to be the command of the sea, which involves the ability to carry our armies, air forces and supplies across the seas in transports and merchant ships, while at the same time denying such facilities to our enemies. No matter where a campaign was fought in the late war, the first requirement of victory was command of the sea. This simple truth was more apparent in the Pacific, perhaps, than in any other theatres, because of the vast expanse of ocean in which the American Navy operated with such success. It was also apparent, however, in North Africa and European campaigns. The temporary command of the sea obtained by Japan during the last war resulted in the one direct threat to Australia that it has experienced. Again, during the recent war, the numerically inferior German fleet in northern European waters contained the major part of the Royal Navy, whilst in the Mediterranean a small British fleet, inferior in every particular except for aircraft carriers, immobilized’ the Italian fleet. In other words, it is not essential to have a fleet equal in numbers to that of the enemy. “What is required is a properly balanced fleet, whether large or small, which is what the Government is working for. The modern fleet is built, as 1 have said, around, aircraft carriers. The carriers require capital ships and/or cruisers in close anti-aircraft support and also protection against enemy surface ships in weather which makes flying impracticable. They also require destroyer.as protection against’ submarines. A balanced naval force is an essential requirement of any offensive action at sea. Recent history gives examples of unbalanced naval forces having come to grief. The following three examples will suffice to illustrate my argument: (1) In 194’0 the aircraft carrier H.M.S. Glorious and two destroyers were sunk by gunfire by two German warships, because Glorious had not sufficient surface ships to support it. Glorious was. at the time, unable to operate its own aircraft as it was evacuating Royal Air Force aircraft from Narvik; (2) In 1941, H.M.S. Prince of Wales and H.M.S. Repulse were sunk by Japanese aircraft, because those warships were not accompanied by an aircraft carrier; (3) In 1941, Bismarck, which was then regarded as the most powerful battleship afloat, broke out into the Atlantic without seaborne air cover. It was caught and sunk by a balanced force of aircraft carriers and heavy ships.
Those are three examples of the experiences which have persuaded the Government, in the formulation of its naval defence programme, to plan a balanced fleet. The Government’s plan provides for two carriers, the first of which will arrive in Australia early next year. In short, the Government is applying the lessons learned in the most tragic circumstances during the recent war, and Australia will have a balanced fleet built around those aircraft carriers. The Pacific war, in the open sea and around the islands to the north, proved the value to both offence and defence of keeping the sea-lanes open. The Government’s1 plan, in effect, provides for a fresh start in the development of the Navy. The Royal Australian Navy is starting afresh so that never again will Australia’s youth be asked to fight with obsolete equipment. The last two wars have demonstrated most emphatically the old principle which has held good throughout history, that the Navy must, be ready to fight the instant war breaks out, otherwise irreparable damage may be done to the whole defence potential of the British Commonwealth and to Empire sea communications, upon which Britain depends for the bare necessities of life and upon which British overseas dominions depend for many of the essentials for basic industries. This is particularly true of Australia. During World War I. our Army and Air Force were able to be expanded to the maximum, as they were in the recent war, because of the shelter provided for them by the Royal Australian Navy. Since it is not possible in peace-time to keep the Army and the Air Force mobilized, the Government considers that that is all the more reason to provide adequate naval protection in the event of emergencies arising, particularly because of our geographical isolation in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. I mention those matters as an indication nf the Government’s realization of its obligation to provide adequate defence for the country.
The modern development of the Fleet Air Arm is as revolutionary as was the establishment of the Royal Australian Navy in 1911, and its introduction means that the Royal Australian Navy is being moulded into a fighting force of the most modern design, and that’ its efficiency is being increased enormously. As I have already said, World War II. provided ample proof of the tremendous tactical advantage obtained by the use of aircraft carriers, which have great mobility and provide a form of attack of greater range and hitting power than gunnery, the principal orthodox weapon hitherto employed by the Navy; The latest development of naval aviation is one of the most important steps ever taken by an Australian government, to strengthen our defences, and the fiveyear plan propounded by the Government for the defence of the country should convince any honorable member of the Government’s realization of the present situation.
I turn now to the important subject of the construction and maintenance of ships. It cannot be stressed too often that because of the limited industrial resources in Australia, including facilities for the construction and repair of vessels, it is essential that the principal units which we shall require in war should be built before war occurs. Because of the length of time involved in shipbuilding, it is impossible to replace larger vessels lost in war, and unless a continuing programme of naval shipbuilding is followed our industrial capacity to construct and repair ships on the scale required in war can be neither maintained in peace nor developed in war. For that reason the Government considers that the nucleus of a shipbuilding and repairing industry must now be established, and in order to achieve that purpose it is proposed to expend annually an average sum of £2,500,000 on the construction in Australia of naval units for a balanced naval force. That expenditure will provide for the completion of the present programme of destroyer construction, and that and other naval construction programmes will be reviewed from time to time in the light of the development of new weapons of warfare. The Government believes that an annual expenditure of £2,500,000 is the minimum sum necessary for pursuing a continuous building programme at Cockatoo Dockyard, Sydney, and the naval dockyards at Williamstown, Victoria. In the period of five years before the outbreak of war in 1939. the annual average expenditure on naval shipbuilding in Australia wa? £235,000, and I invite honorable members to compare that expenditure with the present rate of expenditure of £2,500,000 annually.
The Government shipbuilding programme may be divided into two parts - merchant shipbuilding and naval shipbuilding. Merchant ships, which are of great value in time of peace, are of untold value in war. Without them it is impossible to transport the volume of troops, equipment, weapons and supplies of all hinds necessary for military operations. The shipbuilding industry of Australia has come to stay, and the Government is determined that it will be properly developed. Considerable progress was made in the establishment of the industry during the recent war, and the continued development of the industry is vital to our defence. I have previously mentioned that at the naval yard at Cockatoo Island. Sydney, three modern destroyers, each, of ‘ more than 3,000 tons, are to be constructed, and three similar vessels are to. be built in the navy yard at Williamstown, Victoria, during the five-year defence plan. The construction of destroyers is regarded as a matter of importance because the protection of aircraft carriers, capital ships and cruisers depends largely, under conditions of modern warfare, on the efficacy of the screen provided by the destroyers. In formulating its programme the Government decided that the destroyers to be built should be of the latest long-range type, fitted with adequate armaments and scientific devices, and should be capable of carrying out their duties in the heaviest seas. For that reason it was decided to build battle-class destroyers of a type similar to those constructed by the Royal Navy in the last phase of the recent war. Those vessels, which are of more than 3,000 tons, approximate to the ideal for modern warfare, and I stress the fact that the vessels will be as modern as the hour in which they are constructed. Our ability to build ships is limited by our ability to obtain men and materials, but the construction programme aims at providing a balanced fleet, which will have the use of the most modern equipment in aircraft and weapons.
During the recent war aircraft emerged as a rival weapon to heavy naval guns, and no modern navy can afford to be without an adequate air arm, as was pointed out in the statement made by the First Lord of the Admiralty last year. rn introducing the naval estimates to the House of Commons in March, 1947, the First Lord said -
The aircraft carrier is now second to none among the fighting ships of the Royal Navy, md the importance of this class- of vessel is duly reflected in the programmes of construction, which arc now maturing and are yet to mature. One man in four in the Royal Navy is directly concerned or closely associated with naval aviation at the present day.
The introduction of new weapons does not affect the long-established defensive strategy of Australia and the other nations of the Empire, the chief feature of which is that sea transport, including merchant shipping, must be able to move freely. I emphasize that although present navies will- not be rendered obso- lete because of the introduction of guided projectiles and pilotless aircraft, the us< of those modern weapons will enable a fleet which is. equipped with them to deny to its enemies passage of the seas which it commands. Since the United Statesair arm dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, some critics of the Navy have asserted that the use of rockets equipped with atomic warheadsand pilotless planes carrying atomic bombs will displace the navies of the world from their position as the most powerful arm of defence or offence in warfare. Actually the. contrary will happen, because vessels equipped with rocket-firing guns to discharge missiles with atomic warheads, and aircraft carriers, which are virtually floating aerodromes to carry pilotless planes and their missiles of death closer to their objectives, will make the Navy of even greater importance than before. The weapons to which I have referred may be employed in any war which occurs in the future, and because the Government realizes the significance of the latest scientific developments it will equip our naval craft in such a way as to make the Royal Australian Navy as modern a? possible.
As scientific discoveries are made and new instruments developed the Royal Australian Navy, which functions in close co-operation with the British Admiralty, investigates , each development, and the personnel receive the most complete training in any new effective instruments. As an example, I point out. that experts have expressed the opinion that H.M.A.S. Watson, the naval radar school, compares, for its size, more than favorably with any similar institution in the world. Because of the application of science to naval equipment, the personnel of the Royal . Australian Navy are becoming not only highly proficient seamen but also highly skilled technicians.
– I rise to order. Although this is a budget debate and the Standing Orders provide that honorable member? may not read their speeches, the Minister is obviously reading his.
– I think that the Minister is simply referring to notes which he has prepared, and no point of order is involved. The Minister may proceed with, his speech.
– Bearing those considerations in mind, the Government has given careful thought to the requirements of our post-war navy. It has examined the implications of new weapons, and it agrees with the broad conclusions reached by the Royal Navy and the United States Navy that while new weapons should be incorporated by the normal process of evolution, first into aircraft carriers and perhaps later into an entirely new form of fighting ship, no rapid development is likely to occur which will render aircraft carriers, cruisers and destroyers obsolete in the near future. In order to prepare for, and take part in, this process of evolution and development, the Government is convinced that we must modernize our Navy. A modern, efficient navy, centred upon aircraft carriers, is an essential requirement of any effective contribution which Australia can make to the defence of itself and the British Commonwealth. The Government’s plan provides for two new modern light fleet carriers, six new modern destroyers and 21 other modern fighting units to be commissioned by 1952. Although the number of carriers and destroyers which we shall possess is known to the world, I do not propose to disclose any further particulars of the 21 modern fighting units which I have mentioned, beyond stating that some cruisers are included in that number, because, for security reasons, it would not be in the interests of Australia to do so. As I have already said, the Royal Australian Navy will be a balanced force.
The training of officers and men which is now proceeding covers a wide and varied field. In particular, a great service is being’ rendered to the community by the hydrographic surveys which the Navy is performing. On the 4th June, 1946, Cabinet approved of a long-range hydrographic survey programme of Australasian waters to be carried out by the Royal Australian Navy. In view of the many outstanding commitments for this service, it is necesary to maintain in commission survey ships and their tenders to enable this national work to progress.
I propose to refer now to the ships in reserve. When World War II. broke out in 1939 the Royal Australian Navy was without an adequate reserve of escort and auxiliary vessels, with the result that coastal merchant ships of all types, sizesand ages, and local harbour craft, were requisitioned for mine-sweeping, escort and patrol work, thus depriving Australia of a large proportion of its total carrying tonnage and throwing an unfair burden on the railways. War did not really come to Australian waters until Japan entered the war at the end of 1941, and thus we gained a breathing space for the building up of these auxiliary naval forces. Such a breathing space may not be granted in any future war in which long-range submarines may attack coastal shipping from the very beginning of hostilities. Requisitioned and reserve vessels were, in the main, fitted out in Sydney because adequate facilities did not exist in other ports. The excessive amount of work involved resulted in delays which would be unacceptable in any future emergency. In 1939, civilian ships were taken over by the Navy to perform work for which they were neither suited nor built. We had to improvise, and the failure of anti-Labour governments in earlier years to provide against such an emergency imposed a greater burden than should have been necessary even in this sphere. Now we have in reserve nearly 100 ships, and over 200 miscellaneous craft are either in reserve or in commission.
To-day the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) expressed great concern about the number of men to be recruited for the Royal Australian Navy. The five-year plan provides for 14,753 men of all ranks to be serving with the Navy by 1952. There are now approximately 11,000 men serving with the Royal Australian Navy, or just twice as many as when war broke out in 1939. Naval personnel consist of ratings who have enlisted to serve for a period of twelve years and men who have enlisted to serve as members of the interim navy for a period of two years. The latter were enlisted after the cessation of hostilities. Many of them have already enlisted in the permanent navy and some are now being discharged. As members of the interim navy are discharged enlistments are progressing; but in order to off -set the loss of members of the interim navy the Government has decided to enlist 1,000 ex-Royal Navy men of all ranks. The ex-royal naval ratings from the lower deck who have served with the Royal Navy for at least twelve years, are being treated as re-enlistees and are being enlisted for a period of six years, just as though they were Royal Australian Navy personnel re-enlisting for a further period of service. The plan, which envisages the bringing of these men and their families from Great Britain to Australia guarantees, from a migration stand-point, that Australia will obtain British migrants who are the best possible kind of migrants for this country. These ex-members of the Royal Navy will be a valuable asset to the Royal Australian Navy, and at the conclusion of the period of their service they will remain in Australia. Their enlistment in the Royal Australian Navy will also assist Australian industry by making it unnecessary for the Navy to draw on Australia’s man-power to the extent of l.,000 men, and this is important, as man-power is in short supply. The Royal Australian Navy will also gain the very valuable services of highly-trained personnel.
Another advance in naval defence proposed by the Government is the development of Manus Island as a forward base. Already an advance party of Royal Australian Navy personnel has. arrived at Manus Island and the constructional and repair works to be performed there are being put in hand by the various Commonwealth departments. Manus Island was referred to by the former Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Sir Louis Hamilton, Royal Navy, as the “ Scapa Flow of the Pacific “. As its features and potentialities are known to all honorable members, I do not intend to deal with them now, except to say that the Government’s proposals in respect of Manus Island constitute a further indication of its truly realistic approach to the problem of the naval defence of the Commonwealth. Except for the period during World War II. when a base for small ships was established at Dreger, in New Guinea. Australia will now have for the first time in its history a forward naval base located away from the mainland. The geographical position of Manus Island if sufficient indication of its strategic value to Australia from a naval stand-point.
Until now, the Government has concentrated on the building up of our permanent navy. .Since the end of World War II., approximately 37,000 men of all ranks have been discharged. Should the occasion’ arise in the near future te call on their services, most of those men who are now in the naval reserve would require very little training to make them as efficient as they were on discharge.
This is merely a sketchy account of what is involved in the five-year plan Planning over a period of five years enables the Government to look well ahead leaving the onus on the administration to push on with the job. The task is being performed with zest and enthusiasm by all naval personnel, from the Chief of the Naval Staff to the humblest apprentice or rating. If any lag develops it will not be through the fault of the Government or the officers of the department; ii will be due wholly and solely to physical inability to carry out the programme. For instance, there has been some delay in the commissioning of the aircraft carrier, H.M.A.S. Sydney, not through the fault of the Government, the department or the Admiralty, but through the necessity for new features of the very latest design to be embodied in that vessel.
During this debate, honorable member* opposite have asked the Government to provide greater incentive for an increase in the production of .consumer goods and for a speeding up of the defence effort. In order to speed up the production of goods for export, the British Government early in this year reduced the fleet of the Royal Navy to a mere handful of ships in commission, diverting a large volume of manpower to industry. If the production of non-military goods in Australia is to be increased, defence requirements must suffer, and vice versa. Speaking purely from the viewpoint of the naval programme, I contend that the Opposition has no foundation for its attack on the
Government for any alleged failure in the defence field. More is being done by the Government in naval defence now than was ever attempted by anti-Labour governments, particularly the one of which the remnants now sit in opposition. The record of this Government’s activity in developing the Royal Australian Navy is perhaps the best in the history of this country. Factors which support that contention are the five-year plan, the new pay code for all ranks, which is the best in the history of the Navy, the introduction of a system of superannuation, and the development of Manus Island. In abort, Labour gave Australia its navy, and Labour will develop it.
.- At the outset, I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) and the Government upon the excellent budget which has been presented to the Parliament. I do so for manifold reasons. Any one who has taken the trouble to study the budget knows that it constitutes the best financial record that has been presented to the Parliament in the history of the Commonwealth. No public man in any country has ever done as much for the working people as has the present Prime Minister and Treasurer. The benefits which the right honorable gentleman has conferred upon the Australian people have been made possible by the wise administration »f the Labour Government. Work is more equitably distributed over the community in Australia than in any other country. The national income is being more equitably divided amongst the mass of the community than ever before, and it is proposed to give back to the people some of the wealth which was taken from them by other governments. The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) claimed that taxes could be further reduced. They are well aware, however, that, in order to meet the commitments of the country in peace and war, it is necessary for the Government to take from the people in the form of taxes some of the wealth which they produce. During the war, we had to struggle for our existence, and many hundreds of millions of pounds had to be raised and expended every year for war purposes. The responsibility of ensuring the safety of the nation devolved upon the Labour party, because the present Opposition parties when they constituted the government, could not agree upon a policy. Even during the war the Labour Government protected the economic interests of the people. Now that the war is over, the Government is able to distribute among the workers more of the wealth which they produce. Honorable members opposite are clamouring for a still greater reduction of taxes. To listen to them, one would think that business people and big companies were becoming insolvent, and that there was no incentive to produce. They do not concern themselves with whether there is an incentive for the workers to produce.
According to figures published in the Commonwealth Bank’s Statistical Bulletin, average company profits rose from 6.8 per cent, in 1939 to 7.3 per cent, in 1947. The aggregate profits of 572 companies, after allowing for taxation, increased from £26,687,000 in 1946 to £33.346,000 in 1947. I have here a list which shows how the profits of several of the biggest firms in Australia have increased, and from it I quote the following: -
Honorable members opposite wish to exploit the mass of the community in order to enrich the shareholders of the big companies. It is reasonable that a Labour government should take something from the wealthy so that the spending power of the workers mav be increased. Of course, members of the Opposition are not concerned about the welfare of the workers, or of their wives and little children. They would, if they could, place the workers and their families in the position which they occupied during the depression. Australia is a land of plenty which can produce everything we need, and there is no reason why any one should want. In the past, however, governments representative of Opposition parties have denied the people the right to produce and possess the necessaries of life. When the Treasurer introduced the present budget, no one was more startled than members of the Opposition. Up till then, they believed that they had the “money in the bag”, and that the Government was certain to be defeated at the next election. I warn honorable members opposite not to entertain the idea that the Labour Government will he defeated. This Government has done so much for the people that, when it asks them for their support at the next election, that support will be forthcoming.
Much has been said during this debate about social services, and this brings me once more to the subject of taxation. Taxes cannot be further reduced if we are to maintain our present social service programme, and continue to do our duty by those who deserve our help. Therefore, the Government takes from the big men in order to assist the widows, the aged and the sick, and to endow families. I am not concerned with the few, but with the multitude - the people who grow everything and make everything that we need. When a man, through age or ill health, is no longer able to work, it is only right that the community should support him, and the community should also look after such persons as the infirm who have never been able to work. Surely no one will deny that there should be a child endowment scheme. In the past, anti-Labour governments have done very little for the needy members of the community. In order to safeguard the interests of the big men, and to keep taxation down, honorable members opposite would take from the widows and the orphans, from the children, from the widows and from the crippled soldiers, even the little that they have. The record of the anti-Labour governments after World War I. is a black one, indeed During the depression, the soldiers had their homes and farms taken ‘from them. They had been told that Australia would be made a land fit for heroes to live in. During the depression I lived in Punchbowl, where there was a hig wai service homes settlement, and I know thai not more than 2 per cent, of the original ex-servicemen continued in occupation of their war service homes. I was elected to this Parliament to do something on behalf of the people I represent, and also to support my colleagues in the Parliament in their efforts to do the best possible for the masses. We have endeavoured ‘to do that, and we do not want Australia to regress as have other countries in the world. As a result of the legislation introduced by this Government, parties now in opposition have no earth, chance of beating the Australian Labour party at the next general election. Opposition members have resorted to violent, vicious, attacks, in an effort to link us with the Communists, and the capitalistic press has continually attacked the Prime Minister, who is one of the greatest mel ever to enter the political sphere in this country. The Courier-Mail and the Daily Telegraph repeatedly refer to him as “ Chifley “. They do not even honour him with the prefix “ Mr. “. There i* more humanity in Ben Chifley than in all the Opposition members in this chamber. Whilst they now Glamour for further reduction of taxation, we remember that when they were in office and charged with the responsibility of keeping this country free, the interests which support them invited them to take whatever they wanted, so long as the Japanese hordes were prevented from invading Australia. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who is now in London, said that after th* war there would be a “new order” Does any honorable member know what that “new order” is? Now, however, there is no talk by the Opposition parties about a new order. They desire a reversion to the old order, which implied the right to exploit and rob the citizens of this country. When factories, fields and workshops were at stake it was a different story. While the war continued they would give anything. Now that the war is over and they can lie down at nights and go to sleep peacefully, they are not satisfied. and want to re-introduce the Ad order. They have implied thai; the ustralian Labour party is associated with the ‘Communist organization. I aave been actively connected with the Labour movement ‘since 1911. Many “rimes during that period doctrines such is red terrorism and bolshevism have been encountered. However, in my long association with the Labour movement, I can truthfully claim that, unlike some other honorable members in this Parliament, and many people in Australia, I have never descended to such depths as to join a party to which I did not really belong. “We ire concerned not with the Independent Workers of the “World, communism or fascism, but rather with what has been done over the years to give the greatest benefit to the largest number of people, ls we go on applying our policy the mass .of the people will continue to benefit. Unfortunately, there exists in Australia to-day a set-up whereby people in politics are connected -with a fascist organization, . which is the very thing which, under Hitler’s direction, nearly brought the people of this country to their knees. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition may laugh, but t am fully aware of his history. He was i member of the New Guard in Sydney, and was associated with de Groot when in attempt was made to destroy constitutional government in New South Wales. At that time, the intention was to foment terrorism and overthrow the Government. The honorable member for Reid was Premier of New South Wales at that period, t am not concerned about communism, because it will never develop in this country while the Labour party remains intact and continues in office. Honorable members know that communism is bred toy deplorable conditions such as exist in other countries of the world to-day. H she people are ever foolish enough to discard their responsibilities and change the constitutional position in relation to government of this country, it will be a sorry day for Australia. While the Australian Labour paTty remains in office there is no fear of that. We have endeavoured to distribute amongst the people of Australia the wealth that this country produces. The only way to stave off the dangers ‘which) threaten the nation is to make ‘thepeople happy and ‘contented. They should realize their ‘obligations in* regard to production and the Government should return to them the fruits of their labours. It is of no use for anybody to complain about .communism. We know of its history in other countries. All men were placed on this earth on an equal footing, but Opposition members are .on the side of the exploiters. Over the years we have had the church dignitaries opposing the appalling living conditions in various countries of the world, but the Opposition has never given due consideration to applications made by church dignitaries in this regard in the past. I have been connected with the Labour movement for many years and can recall a time when restrictions Were placed upon the Australian Labour party. In the early days, we had to go from house to house to hold our meetings because if we met in the same place twice we came into conflict with the law and were liable to imprisonment for six or twelve months without the option of a fine. When a little pamphlet was issued it had to be distributed more or less secretly, because if a person were found with it in his possession he was liable to imprisonment.
– Was the honorable member connected with the Independent Workers of the World?
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) is facetious in his interjection, but I realize that he would not know. In 1915, Mr. T. J. Ryan was returned to the Queensland Parliament with a large majority. The Australian Labour party continued to score further victories, culminating with the capture of the federal sphere. That was the greates blow ever delivered to our political opponents. And, we shall retain control of the treasury benches. .Despite the rantings of honorable members opposite, the Government will be returned at the next general election. However, very few of those honorable gentlemen will then be members of the Parliament. Every student of conditions in other countries deplores the evils which have resulted from the exploitation of the masses by the privileged few. We boast of our civilization, but that term in the sense it is used by many honorable members opposite is in many instances a monstrous misnomer. Brutalization would be a more appropriate term to describe the conditions of anarchy which exist in practically every country with the exception of Great Britain and Australia. One is dismayed by conditions existing in India and China.
– Has the honorable gentleman ever been to Canada?
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) will be the first to deny that the interests responsible for the present misery in countries such as India and China are of his political kidney. Conditions in India, China, Greece, Italy and France are appalling. In those countries millions are starving whilst the death rate among those peoples is appalling. The Labour party approaches such problems as a humanitarian party. We say that every human being has the right to live under humane conditions and to be adequately clothed, housed and fed.
– Has every human being the right to a tie like that which the honorable member is wearing?
– Millions of people in other countries cannot afford to buy a tie. They have only family ties and millions of them must stand by helplessly while members of their families starve. As I have said, millions of people are dying from starvation in India, China, Malaya, France, Greece, Italy and other countries. Honorable members opposite are critical of conditions in those countries; but they do not evince any humane feelings in their approach to the problems responsible for those conditions. Those people are not living under civilized conditions. The Labour party is determined to see that similar conditions do not arise in Australia. Of course, honorable members opposite are on the side of the big man. They are concerned only with the profits of those interests whose mouthpiece they are in the Parliament. Their ‘objective here is to enact legislation which will give greater scope to those interests to exploit the community. In such matters, honorable members opposite are totallydevoid of human feeling. The. Labour party on the other hand is resolved te see that justice shall be done to the workers who are the real producers of the wealth of the nation. The average American will point to the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour and tell non-Americans that the United States of America is “ the land of the free “. But what freedom exists in the United States of America? The millionaire and the racketeer in that country enjoy complete freedom to exploit and rob the masses.
– They are defeating the Communists.
– American policy today is doing more than anything else to disturb world peace. America has applied the thumbscrew to every other country. So generous was the United States that immediately after it made ite dollar loan to Great Britain, prices in America rose in one leap by 20 per cent, with the result that the purchasing power of that loan to Great Britain wareduced to a corresponding degree. Honorable members opposite do not like to hear me attack the “ money bags “ If 1 were to attack the workers who are the real producers of the nation’s wealth I should be the best man in the world in their eyes; but when I attack vested interests honorable members opposite say that I am a Communist. They never miss an opportunity to raise the old bogy of communism. I could have joined the Communist party years ago, but my principles have always been opposed to communism. Mv duty as a member of the Parliament is to protect the interestsof the workers, particularly those in my electorate, and I shall continue to do so
The honorable member for Swan (Mr Hamilton), who, incidentally, will noi be a member of the Parliament after the next general election, is a member of the Australian Country party, which i.linked with the Liberal party. Although those parties operate under different names they are one and the same. The honorable member for Swan asked what the Labour Government had ever done for the farmers. I shall tell him what the Australian Country party did for the farmers in 1931. The fruit and vegetable growers in New South Wales sent a deputation to the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), who was then Premier of that State, to request him to introduce legislation to protect them against exploitation by the fruit merchants. So serious was the position they outlined to him that he decided to act upon their representations. The Minister for Agriculture in the Government if which the honorable member for Reid was Premier introduced a bill, which was passed by the New South Wales Parliament, designed to compel the agents to deposit a sum of £500 and to introduce a system of receipts in triplicate. One copy was to go to the farmer, one to the Government and one to the agent. When that legislation was passed, the farmers were satisfied that they would get at least a truthful statement of the prices that were obtained for the products they sent to the markets. This legislation continued in force until the Lang Government was defeated and Mr. Stevens became the Premier of New South Wales. Mr. Bruxner, the present Leader of the Australian Country party in that State, was appointed Minister of Agriculture. The first act that was repealed by the Stevens Government was the one to which I have referred, which was passed for the protection of the growers. That is what the Australian Country party did. I maintain that the interests of the primary producers and the farming community have always been best protected by the Labour party. The Australian Country party represents the. vested interests of this country, and its members are concerned only with how they can exploit the farmers.
I do not propose to detain the committee much longer. I shall give the Prime Minister an opportunity to reply to all the accusations that have been levelled against the Government. It is beyond question that the Australian internal economy is more secure than it has ever been. It is probably the best in the world. Having regard to our limited population,our production is equal to that of any other country. Above all, we have full employment. The Government has ensured that every man and woman in Australia who is fit and able to work and who wishes to do so may obtain employment. Honorable members opposite will say that the people do not work. It is disgusting that they should make the statements they do about the Australian Workers, but the workers will answer them at the general election of 1949. The Government has been criticized because of the housing shortage, but honorable members opposite know that when the war ended it was not humanly possible to build quickly all the houses that were required. The shortage of houses was the result of many years of bungling by the antiLabour parties, which did not want to provide houses for the Australian people. Before the depression began and while it was in progress four, five and six families were living in one house, huddled- together like sheep. The members of the present Opposition was content to allow that state of affairs to continue, and did nothing to remedy it. Since the end of the war the Government has endeavoured to overcome the shortage of houses, but it has been vilified and abused. It has been said that the housing problem is not being adequately dealt with, but the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) has repeatedly given the lie to that statement. With our limited population, we have done all that is humanly possible. The Government does not deny that there is a shortage of building materials, but that shortage is due to the fact that there are not enough workers in Australia to produce the quantities of materials that are required.
I propose to refer to the attitude of the Opposition to the Public Service. The members of the Public Service are workers and not exploiters. Charles have been made repeatedly by honorable members opposite that public servants are exploiters, that they are robbing the community, and that they have no right to be in their jobs. It is to be hoped that when the election comes round the Public Service will not vote for the opposition parties, because if honorable members opposite occupy the treasury bench, two-thi-ds of the present number of public servants will be sacked. If ever there was a body of people which has given loyal and devoted service to the governments of this country, it is the Public Service.
– Why do you attack them?
– I have never attacked them. They have been- attacked by the Opposition, and 1 am attempting to defend them, because they cannot do it themselves in the Parliament. Any one who abuses the men and women in the Public Service who have’ given life-long service to the government-
– No one has. abused them.
– Questions are continually asked in this chamber about the number of public servants in various government departments, and honorable members opposite say that many of them should be dismissed and placed on farms or in factories. “While this Government remains in power, the public servants will have- continuity of employment.
The1 honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) made some scathing references to the Broadcasting- Committee. He said that the members went to Cairns in the winter and somewhere else in’ the summer; The Broadcasting Committee’ is a statutory body, and its members are appointed by the Parliament. I am a member of it, and so is the honorable member for Deakin. It does not always please me to attend its meetings in Tasmania, Western Australia, and other places, because I am deprived of much of my home life by doing so. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) says “ Oh “, but perhaps he has not got a home- to go to.. I am not particularly desirous of attending the meetings of the committee,, but, as it is a statutory committee and as I have been, appointed to it, and I am a loyal servant of the Government, I. do my duty in that regard. The honorable member for Deakin has other’ interests which keep him away from, the committee’s meetings, and he attends only when it suits his convenience to do so. The honorable member asked what the; functions of the- committee: are, but he knows them, very well- Its terms of. reference provide, among other things’, that it shall take evidence from people with regard to broadcasting: As. a member of the committee, I feel myself bound to attend its meetings and to listen to that evidence.. The honorable member for Deakin has criticized the conduct of his fellow-members of the committee, but I point out that he was not forced to accept membership. Hp referred to= the members of the committee “running- around like .tourists I df not want to be a tourist. I like my home too much to want to; go touring. The honorable member for Deakin has interests which prevent him from attending all the meetings of. the committee, but other members who do so, are criticized by him because they fulfil their obligations.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on this budget. The right honorable gentleman has done more for his country than any other Australian, and T hope that he may be spared to- act as Prime Minister of Australia for many years. As time passes, the people of Australia will have ample proof of the excellence of the legislation which the Labour Government ha* introduced, and it will never be supplanted by an anti-Labour government
– wi reply - The criticisms of the budget, which members of the1 Opposition have voiced in this debate, have been answered’ so effectively by speakers on this side of the chamber that little remains for me to refute. However, there are a few simple matters which should’ be made clear and placed on record. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) spoke in loud tones, and used words which seemed to- me to have little meaning, but as some people may have been inclined to accept his submissions as being practicable^ I propose to deal with them, and, in doing so, to- tell. Australians about the real position of the country. After hearing, the remarks of the Acting, Leader of the Opposition’ (Mr.. Harrison) and the Leader of the Australian- Country party,, a listener might have, been excused for thinking that Australia, was in dire distress,, economically and otherwise. I shall examine the position.. For the first time in my life, the country has almost achieved full employment. Never’ in the history of this, country have great business concern* and companies had higher profits tha*’ they enjoy to-day. Never before in “the history of this country have the savings <>f the workers been as great as “hey are to-day. They have increased by £400,000,000 to over £600,000,000. Hardly .any other country has legislation which distributes such a wide range of social benefits to the least favoured section of the community. That distribution in Australia has been made possible -by Labour governments. The Leader of the Australian Country .party did not complain that the economy <of Australia, insofar ,as this ‘Government controls it, is bankrupt. His charge vas that the Commonwealth is too solvent. La other words, we are paying gur way by meeting from revenue working and .administrative expenses and social services payments. In addition, some .of the capital expenditure is also being met from revenue. Is that .an economic sin for any government to commit;? The shareholders of a company would highly commend the’ board of directors which succeeded not only in meeting ill expenses, but also in transferring an amount to reserve. The Leader of the Australian Country party has complained because this Government has acted in a similar manner.
I shall now clarify several other points. Froth and bubble, loud words and shouting do not mean a great deal when they are countered by the cold, hard facts. Australia incurred enormous expense in participating in World WaT II., but was fortunate to escape actual devastation. A few months after taking office, the Labour Government was ‘obliged to impose heavy taxes. What has happened since-? From time to time honorable members /opposite have stated that if they were in office they would further ‘reduce taxes, and have mentioned various -percentages, but the fact, -which -cannot be disputed, is that the great majority of taxpayers have had their income tax and social services contribution reduced by more than one-half since the end of the war. Some in the low income groups have had their taxes reduced by 100 per cent., and others in the higher income groups have had reductions ranging from 20 per cent, to 30 per ‘cent. Since 1943, sales tax remissions have amounted to £28,000,000. Honorable member;: opposite frequently refer to the -burden ‘of indirect taxes “which the community has to bear. I shall examine the articles to which indirect taxes apply. To-day, there is no sales tax on clothing. The Government has remitted it since the end of the war. In addition, basic foodstuffs are exempt from sales tax.
– Some of them are .not.
– Whenever I refer to the exemption of basic foodstuffs from sales tax, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) complains that refrigerators are still subject to sales tax. Evidently .he is thinking of “iron orations “.
– I have lived on iron rations, too.
– All basic foodstuffs are exempt from sales tax. So, also, are 95 -per cent, of the materials used in the erection of homes. Those are simple facts which cannot be denied .by half-truths, or half-truths backed up by political falsehoods. They may be verified by reference to statistics. What amazed me during this debate was that the Leader of the Australian Country party formulated a kind of budget, the adoption of which, he -claimed, would allow additional reductions of tax. Honorable members will recall the occasion when the Labour Government introduced the National Welfare Fund Bill. Even during the war, the Government believed that it should introduce a system to ensure to the people complete social security. I realize that members df the Labour party hold different views on this matter from those of members of the Opposition. When the late Mr. John Curtin was Prime Minister, I discussed with him the possible aftermath of the war and we both agreed that victory alone would ;not satisfy the people of the world. They would demand .something more than that. It would have been futile to talk of a new order, of the pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow^ and of the mil’lenium, if. after the war, the people were to find that their social conditions had not improved. ‘Social security was the incentive which was held out to them, and, indeed those who fought for their country had an assurance that in the post-war world, men and women would have social security. Because we believed that, we established the social welfare fund and commenced the system which has developed into the present social benefits schemes. I do not wish to give the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) too much credit, but I should point out that he was largely responsible for the introduction of widows’ pensions in New South “Wales. We extended that scheme, and made it applicable throughout Australia. We have gone step by step along the path leading to complete social security. The achievement of that ambition means more to members of the Labour party than personal success in politics. They desire to feel, that in having trodden that path, they have made a contribution to the general welfare of the whole community, and particularly to the poorer and less fortunate sections of it. I do not think any of us on this side of the House attempt to disguise the fact that most of us have come from poor families. In the areas where we were brought up we frequently saw women and children in desperate need. Often, when a baby was born it was necessary for somebody to take up a collection to pay the expenses. When a man fell sick at his work somebody had to organize a “ benefit “ to ensure that his wife and children did not starve. Indeed, when people died, the hat had to be passed around in order to pay the funeral costs. Because of such things, a belief in the need for social reform has become deeply embedded in our hearts, and, indeed, in the hearts of all others who have a real love for mankind. Our desire has always been to make at least some contribution in our time towards the prevention of such poverty. Therefore, during the war, we embarked on the task of establishing a social security scheme. Step by step, we have improved social benefits in Australia, and we propose to improve them still further in the not distant future.
I well remember the night when I, as Treasurer, introduced the first National Welfare Fund Bill in this Parliament. I particularly remember the sneers of some members of the Opposition, two of whom have since departed from this place, one voluntarily and one involun- tarily. I believe the Acting Leader of the Opposition made his contribution tv their outcry with several “ Hear, hears ! The bill was described as “ phoney ’ Honorable members opposite said that it was only something to “ tickle the ears of the groundlings “ and was not real, but we have lived to make it real. In the financial year before I became Commonwealth Treasurer, by the grace of my colleagues, some seven years ago, about £17,000,000 was expended on social service benefits. This year, social services will cost about £S8,000,000. I do not deny that this scheme involves a redistribution of the national wealth, and I make no apology for the fact. Our policy arise from humanitarian motives, which many other people must share, because other wise we should not have been returned to power at the last two elections. We aim to compel those who can well afford to do so to surrender some of their income to help those who do the hard and tedious work of the country especially when they fall upon evil times. The workers are the people who really make the wheels go round. It is not I, or the Acting Leader of the Opposition, or the Leader of the Australian Country party who provide the bread and butter in this country or the services by which the community lives. We are almost supernumeraries in the great drama of life. It is not from us that the country draws its wealth. We, after all, are only servants. Although we are more prominent, we are perhaps less important than the man who works the lift and the man who sweeps the street. The country can go on without us; it cannot go on without them. Therefore, I make no apologies for enforcing redistribution of the national income so that the less fortunate sections of the community shall be assured, from the cradle to the grave, of some measure of assistance in adversity. If we have succeeded in providing some assistance, then we have done a great deal for this country, though perhaps not all that we want to do, or, indeed, all that we propose to do.
As I have said, when I introduced the National Welfare Fund Bill, the Acting Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues described it as so much “ dope ‘” for the workers, and said the scheme would never be realized. Well, the bill became law, and it was more effective than I think even the leaders of the political Labour movement anticipated. The plan succeeded faster than [ and some of my colleagues bad ever hoped it would. By means of this legislation, we established a solvent fund for the provision of social services. We have never disguised the fact that social services must be financed from revenue. They cannot be paid for with borrowed money or bank credit. That would be a ruinous system of finance, and there would be a deadly day of reckoning for any government that adopted it. Having persisted with our so-called “ phoney “ scheme, we shall provide this year social benefits worth about £S8,000,000. Furthermore, in the National Welfare Fund we have accumulated, by means of our prudent legislation, an amount of £74,000,000. I listened to the speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party, and afterwards I read the report of it, because I thought that perhaps I had misunderstood him. The right honorable gentleman submitted a proposal purporting to indicate how advantage could le taken of sums of money in the possesdon of the Treasury to reduce taxation. [ need refer to only one item of that theoretical budget - “ Funds available for immediate and necessary direct tax reduction - National Welfare Fund, 74,000,000”. The Opposition, apparently, would raid the fund which provides pensions for the aged and the invalid and hospital benefits, maternity allowances and child endowment, chiefly for the les3 fortunate members of the community, in order to grant tax relief to wealthy taxpayers. That is the standard it would set. Its claims are entirely fallacious. With the support of some newspapers, it seeks to incense the workers by persuading them that they are being over-taxed. In fact, the tax reductions which the Opposition and its supporters advocate are designed to benefit, not the workers, but the wealthy taxpayers.
I have circulated tables showing the effect of the Government’s taxation measures and I ask honorable members to refer to them. I shall cite two cases.
Any Australian, without dependants, earning up to £2,000 a year pays less in combined income tax and social service contribution than any person in an equivalent situation in New Zealand or the United Kingdom. A man with a wife and two children in the same income bracket - a fair range to choose as an example - is also in a better position than a taxpayer in- the same circumstances in New Zealand or the United Kingdom. I am including national insurance and social service benefits in both countries. Yet the suggestion of the Opposition is that the National Welfare Fund should be raided to give further tax concessions to wealthy people. Such concessions could not go to the workers because, as the scales that have been issued to honorable members show, taxes paid by people in the lower income groups, particularly those . with family responsibilities, are very low indeed.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) made some fantastic calculations, and became quite excited when he discovered that a man with a wife and two children who earned £300 a year paid indirect taxes amounting to approximately £118 a year. As the Minister for Immigration pointed out, that would be possible only if each member of the family used a full quota of liquor, tobacco and cigarettes, and if the family owned a motor car and used 224 gallons of petrol a year. The honorable member for Indi did not indicate just how all this luxury could be enjoyed by a family presumably in poor circumstances and oppressed by heavy taxes, but as these people would have to work during the week, we can assume that they would be smoking, drinking, and driving continuously at the week-ends.
The Leader of the Australian Country party dealt with the repayment of treasury-bills to the Commonwealth Bank. Listening to the right honorable gentleman, one might have been led to the conclusion that that was a crime. The truth is that during the war the Government used bank credit and treasury-bills tq a substantial degree. I recall that some time ago the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) held forth in this chamber about the evils of inflation which would result from the use of bank’ credit. Now apparently the* complaint is that having borrowed money to finance the war we should not make an attempt, with reasonable prudence, to repay some of the money obtained from the Commonwealth Bank. In 1932, I remind, the committee, the- States received treasurybills to. the value of £32,000,000 to tide them over the depression. It was not until three years ago that the Commonwealth Bank asked the States to redeem some of those bills, and, indeed, they did so; Even Mr. Dunstan realized the justice of repaying some1 of. the money borrowed in 1932. If the Opposition believes that having resorted to bank, credit, in time of financial stringency,, a country should live recklessly when prosperity comes and make no effort to repay the money that it had borrowed, that is not my idea of sound financial practice. Pursuit of such. a. policy would put this country on the rocks as it was in 1929y when the; right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was Treasurer. The then government had a pathetic financial record for a conservative administration.
– The Treasurer will do very well indeed if he: is able to leave a financial monument such as that left by the right honorable member for Cowper:
– The financial monument to which the Leader of the- Australian Country party refers,, no doubt, is the description “ tragic Treasurer” which was applied to the right honorable- member for Cowper by a. member of his own party. The right honorable gentleman’s career as Treasurer concluded with this country on the. brink of the greatest economic collapse it has. ever known. Et was unable to borrow one penny from the United Kingdom, and indeed, had to beg money from the private banksto secure enough funds to carry on its administration. I shall deal with one or two other points- and once again I shall give facts,, not the fantasies of the imagination. As; the Minister for Immigration (Mx.. Calwell) said last week, this Government has not been, borrowing abroad except for re-conversion purposes.. Further, it has brought back from, overseas more than £74.000,000. not only on behalf of the
Commonwealth., but. also? om behalf of th* States..
– That is because reprice of primary products, is high.
– I have never denied that the price of our primary products overseas is high.. I said so in my budge speech. Time will not permit me now ticover all the ground that I should, like’ Ucover, and, unlike- some honorable gentle men opposite, I am endeavouring. t<avoid unnecessary repetition’. The interest rates have been reduced steadily ever since I became- Treasurer., To-day the interest rates- paid by local govern ment authorities are the lowest for twenty years.
– Our long-term debt, have not been reduced.
– I suggest that the honorable member for Warringal (Mr. Spender) should have- a loot at them. They come to my notice from time to time as- chairman oi the Loan Council. Interest on out long term loans is £3 6s. 6d. per cent. Is thai something to> be ashamed ofl The truth is that the Government has been able te give valuable assistance in an indirect way by bringing interest, rates down. Th, last, loan that was floated was received ar favorably in London as a loan of the United Kingdom itself. The Government takes pride in these things and no defence of them is required in- this Parliament- 1 should have- thought that; in view of th* Government’s record of tax reduction* since the war,, a budget providing further relief, amounting to £28.000,000- in a full year,, and, in addition,, increase( social services costing: approximately £20,000,00.0-, would not require am defence,, and I shall not attempt to defend it. I pose merely to state- facts which ma> not have been readily understood by honorable members: I wish to’ emphasize one point that Is’ sometimes overlooked in thi* chamber:. To-day,, the Government, for and on behalf of: the States; is finding: £7S,000,000 a year. That money is- paidto the States under the tax reimbursementprovisions of the financial agreement f0 which I give all due credit to the right honorable, member for Cowper. He rendered this country a great service in, negotiating that agreement. How- ever, the agreement imposes upon_ the Common wealth a financial responsibility that is seldom realized by the people. We have to provide 5s. per cent, for the sinking fund.
I have seen a great deal of matter published in the press from time to time about public servants, generally in advocacy of the contention “hat the services of many public servants ought to be dispensed -with so as to reduce the strength of the Public Service. That is the only inference “o be drawn from articles which state that there are far too many public servants. Figures are quoted, sometimes innocently and sometimes deliberately, in such articles to show that there are 5S4,000 public servants, but without any attempt being made to explain the figures. The readers are left to draw the inference that all nhose individuals are Commonwealth public servants. So that the facts may be placed on record in the columns of Ronsard I shall quote the figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician. They show that there are 584,000 public servants in Australia, of which number ipproximately 166,000 are employed by the Australian Government. State Governments and semi-governmental bodies employ 357,000. The number employed by local government bodies, which is included in the total of 584,000, is 60,000, a figure which will steadily increase because of the fact that loan moneys and an improved supply of materials are available for local government works programmes. For instance, State and semi-governmental bodies will employ another 13,000 or 14,000 persons in the current year compared with last year.’ Employees of local government bodies perform important public works which include the building of hospitals, schools and other works of a similar nature. Public servants are not only white-collar workers, but include workers who build houses, railways, bridges, and who are employed in post offices and other government institutions. There have been more half-truths spoken and published in this country about employment in the Public Service than about awr other single matter. To rebut those unwarranted criticisms, I am placing the figures on record inHansard. If the States and the local government bodies are to be able to carry out all the works they desire- to undertake, such as in the building of hospitals and schools, the number of persons they employ must continue to grow. That increase will occur whether those works are carried out by day labour or by the public works departments of the States or by the Australian Government, as in the case of the home-building programme in Canberra. The number of men employed on such works will grow because of the demands of the country. I may be exceeding my time in dealing with this particular matter, but I desired to emphazise the real points which should be made in answer to criticism of the growth of the Public Service. I know that when honorable members are in opposition they desire only to “ belt out all the things they know, and shout out loudly and use fantastic terms. The Leader of the Australian Country party even talked about a faked budget. How could a Treasurer fake anything when, he has the Auditor-General examining his accounts and has to lay all the facts on the table of the House? What is behind this charge of faking? Is it that the Government has reserves to be used for governmental purposes and that at the same time there is an amount of about £10,000,000 in the monetary fund, and that the Government is using revenue for capital expenditure? Are those actions crimes? I would have thought they constitute the type of action for which the community would commend the Government, because whilst the Government has been carrying out those policies it has effected a reduction in taxation of £28,000,000, and has increased social services expenditure by more than £20,000,000 with, more to come. If such actions do not win the approval of the people for the budget, I do not expect to win the approval of the Opposition for it.
-What about the attempt to lead the people to believe that the Government has expended £42,000,000 on defence when it has really expended only £16,000,000?
– The Government has been congratulated by leading defence authorities on its defence programme. It is the first government to give to the defence services a continuous programme for a number of years ahead so that they would know in advance what moneys they could expend.
– That is not correct.
– The practice of governments in the past has been to draw up a defence programme year by year in the budget.
– That is not correct.
– The Government’s action in giving the services a programme, for five years ahead constitutes the first occasion on which such a policy has been carried out in this or any other country.
– Do not be silly.
– I am stating only what has been said by men who occupy responsible positions in the service departments and who should know what they are speaking ‘ about. The Government has given the service departments a programme for five years during which period they have an assured amount of money. If any service department should require an increased allotment because of contingencies which might arise, the necessary increased amount will be made available. As the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) stated in the Parliament some days ago, the programme set out provides for as much defence work and development as the services are physically capable of handling “in the five-year period. I am giving honorable members the truth and not fantastic and false assumptions and half-truths backed by political lies as honorable members of the Opposition have done.
– The. Prime Minister has not answered aquestion I have asked several times regarding the granting of sustenance payments to prisoners of. war.
– What is the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) mumbling about?
– I am stating that former Australian prisoners of war have been refused sustenance payments for the period of their captivity and that the
Prime Minister stated on a previous occasion that that decision was reached as a result of a vote in this House. I have asked the Prime Minister on three occasions whether he gave the wrong information in stating that that decision was a result of a vote in this House.
– I told the honorablemember for Wimmera on a previous occasion, during a debate on a formal motion for the adjournment of the House, that it Was not proposed to grant such payments to former prisoners of war.
– The Prime Minister later stated that that was a decision following a vote in this House.
– What I said was that the adjournment of the House had been moved so that that particular question could be raised. If the motion had been carried the Government would have been defeated. That procedure surely constituted a vote on the question.
In addition to what the Government has done already, I hope that in the present session it will carry the scheme for social security still further, “ and I shall defy any political party in this country to go to the electors and suggest that any one ‘law that this Government has passed should he repealed.
Question put -
That the item ‘ proposed to be reduced (Mr Harrison’s amendment) be so reduced.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. D. O. Watkins.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
First item agreed to.
The general debate being concluded.
Remainder of proposed vote, £314,100.
.- I refer to the proposed appropriation of £2,700 for the Broadcasting Committee. The secretary of that committee, Mr. J. S. Groves, is to receive an annual increase of salary of £290, which would appear to be a recognition of his services that is long overdue. That recognition is overdue because Mr. Groves is the committee. He is a very capable secretary, and he produces very learned reports, which are most exhaustive and full of information. Those reports are tabled in the Parliament as the majority reports of the committee, but everybody knows that they are, in reality, the reports of Mr. Groves. That arrangement suits members of the committee admirably. Only a few days ago we were told by a member of the committee that it spends the winter in Queensland and the summer in Hobart. The committee recently travelled to Perth. If necessary, it would travel to Patagonia. Of course, the members of the committee have nothing about which to worry. They meet for a couple of hours, hear the evidence of a few witnesses, and then are free to drink in the atmosphere of their new surroundings. However, while that is going on Mr. Groves is hard at work churning out the majority report of the committee. It was Mr. Groves who prepared the reports when the present Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) was the chairman of the committee. The reports of that period are known as the “ Calwell “ reports. Now the reports of the committee are referred to as the “ Amour “ reports because Senator Amour is chairman of the committee. Mr. Groves is a very hard-working public servant indeed. There has not been the slightest change in the style of the committee’s reports. An Amour report reads just like a Calwell report. There was even an attempt made to take Mr. Groves away from the committee. Mr. Speaker thought that the Broadcasting Committee should be like any other parliamentary committee and utilize the services of a member of the parliamentary staff while the Parliament was in recess. That almost, created a crisis in the midst of war.
– Who has been pulling the honorable member’s leg?
– How could the committee function without Mr. Groves to write its reports? Of course, at that time the Minister for Information did not have his present machinery. That was why he was so agitated. The Prime Minister was called upon to intervene to save the committee. Otherwise, it might have been exposed to this Parliament and the. country for the sham that it was.
– What a filthy mind the honorable member has.
– The committee might have had to compile its own reports. That would have been fatal to the reputations of those great authorities on broadcasting in Australia.So the then Prime Minister, Mr.Curtin, had to turn away from the task of looking after the war in the Pacific to give Mr. Groves back to the committee. Mr. Groves has served the committee well. His reports run into hundreds of thousands of words. They cover every phase of broadcasting, and many other things besides.
In 1946, the committee employed itself by travelling all around Australia to inquire into the broadcasting of talks on venereal disease and what were called other sex matters “. According to its report, the committee was told -
If the talks were given in the morning, say, between 10 and 11 o’clock, the listeners for the most part would be . housewives, of whom 90 per cent, would not need instruction. The husbands and the elder children who might need the advice would not be home.
That statement appears on page 9 of the ninth report. After fully inquiring into all the facts of life, the committee - or Mr. Groves- decided that it was against such talks. That particular report was couched in only about 10,000 words. Had it gone to the booksellers it might have been a best seller. Like all the other reports, it was promptly forgotten after it hadbeen tabled. Still, the committee must have heard much interesting evidence. The money spent on the committee’s investigations might have been worthwhile on educational grounds.
The committee has inquired into Bing Crosby. It has given its views on the bobby-sex “ problem. It has discussed the question of sex and jazz. Its eleventh report contains the very important disclosure that one sort of music imported from abroad was -
Born, reared, and revelled in, in the company of moll-houses, barrel houses, gin and “drugs.
That was contained in one of the Amour reports. The Chairman of the committee left soon afterwards to go abroad.
In 1943, the Calwell Committee recommended that legislation be introduced to deal with an organization known as APR A - Australasian Performing Right Association Limited. In fact, the present Minister for Information had very strong views about how to deal with the Australasian Performing Right Association Limited.
Mr.Calwell.-And also how to deal with the honorable member for Reid.
– But since then the honorable gentleman has become a very close friend of Mr. Harry Alderman K.C. It was Mr. Alderman who sold the two radio stations on behalf of “the Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘organization.
– And an honest deal, too !
– Mr. Alderman has since become the chief lobbyist on behalf of the Australasian Performing Right Association Limited. Apparently, the Minister has forgotten what Mr. Groves wrote for him. In this chamber he now rusheto the defence of the Australasian Per forming Right Association Limited at every opportunity. He has forgotten that in his 1943 report he referred to the Aus tralasian Performing Right Association Limited as a super-monopoly. Now he is the friend of the super-monopoly, as well as the friend of Mr. Alderman.
Mr. Groves is an idealist. That is good; but there is a catch. Mr. Groves is not the Government. The majority of the members of the committee allow him to put on paper very high-principled ideals. They read very well. The senti ments he expresses are almost noble. But what happens to them? The second Calwell Committeerecommended that a licence should be granted for the establishment of an additional commercial station in Newcastle. It reported that the first applicants for the licence were the Newcastle Trades Hall Council in 1934, the Church of England, Newcastle, in 1937, the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in 1941, and the Newcastle branch of the Australian Labour party in 1942. But when the 2HD licence was issued it went to none of those bodies. It went to the Trades Hall Council in Sydney, the Labour party in Sydney, and a number of private investors, with the Labour party getting its shares for nothing. The Minister’s friend, Mr. Alderman, K.C. fixed that. . So it is not what Mr. ‘Groves says in his report that matters, but what the Government does about those reports.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - The item before the committee is that which provides for the appropriation of money to meet the expenses of the Parliament. The honorable member if entitled to discuss that item, and to speak to the motion he has submitted, but what he is now attempting to say is outside the scope of the Estimates.
– I was discussing Mr. Groves’s increase of salary, as provided in the Estimates.
The .DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Yes, but the honorable member is not entitled to discuss the issue of broadcasting licences.
– I want to show what the Broadcasting Committee is, and what are its duties and functions.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- The honorable member may do that, but he may not discuss the allocation of broadcasting licences. The Broadcasting Committee has nothing whatever to do with he allocation of licences.
– Thank you, Mr, “Deputy Chairman. If I transgress your. ruling, (please stop me. I ‘shall not transgress intentionally. In what has happened over frequency modulation we hare the latest example of how lightly the Government regards the committee. The Australian Broadcasting Act provides in section 103 that no frequency modulation licences may be issued except on the recommendation of the Broadcasting Committee. That section was inserted in the <act on the recommendation of the committee itself, of which the Minister for Information was then a member.
In November, 1944, the Postmaster”General referred the subject of frequency modulation broadcasting to the Broadcasting Committee for investigation and report. ‘The committee took its job very seriously. It travelled all over Australia, ft heard evidence from broadcasting interests, from radio manufacturers, from the newspapers proprietors, from the gramophone ‘companies and from representatives of the Postmaster-General’s Department, as well as from the general public and many ‘outside “bodies. Mir. Groves worked very hard indeed. The committee sat often. It travelled far, and did not complete its report until June, 1946. The Director-General of Postal Services, Mr. Panning, recommended in evidence that both national and commercial stations should be treated alike. He advised that the Post Office should radiate the national programmes, and commercial stations their ordinary programmes, on both amplitude modulation and frequency modulation. That would have given the new system a fair chance to prove itself The committee finally recommended that national service test* of frequency modulation should be made in each capita! by the Post Office, and that the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations should be allowed to make similar tests in each capital city. No recommendations were made then, or have been made since, by th, Broadcasting Committee for the issue of permanent frequency modulation licences in .accordance -with the provisions of the Australian Broadcasting Act.
But, by that time, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was no longer chairman of the committee. He was no longer concerned about getting kudos from the Groves reports. He butted into the discussion. He pushed the Postmaster-General aside. He ignored the Broadcasting Committee, and decided to show the Government that he was the “ big noise “. Instead of allowing the Postmaster-General to administer his own department, the Minister for Information persuaded Cabinet to ap point a sub-committee of five Ministers The Postmaster-General was openly treated as a cypher. The advice of omcials of the Postmaster-General’s Department was brushed aside. The provisions of the Australian Broadcasting Act were violated. The committee appointed h) this Parliament was treated with contempt. The Minister bullied the subcommittees into giving a monopoly to the Australian Broadcasting Commission The provisions of the existing law were flatly ignored. lt did not matter to the Minister if working people were to be duped by false claims about the new service. He did :not care if a major defence industry war to be ruined because of confusion in the radio manufacturing industry. He would permit no parliamentary committee te stand in the way of his final, consuming ambition to be Minister for national propaganda, in absolute control of all broadcasting, all newspapers and all film? in the country - all glorifying one person, the honorable member for Melbourne. That is an ego mania The Broadcasting Commission is t< be made a laughing stock! through the antics of the Minister. I feel that the undoubted talents ‘and the hard work of Mr. Groves are being wasted and that the sooner the committee is put out of existence the better for the reputation of its members. As it is, Mr. Groves works very hard preparing the majority report, whilst dissenting members on the committee work equally hard in preparing their views. All the time both parties know that in the end the report will just go into the waste-paper basket of the Minister for Information. That is the farce of the committee that I have been discussing.
– The committee has been treated to a farrago of nonsense by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). This is the first of 30 speeches written for him by Mr. Paddison, who is the manager of one of his radio stations, and which he proposes to inflict on this committee during the discussion of the Estimates. I do not know how many he will deliver, but if he is going to weary the committee with rubbish such as he has just talked, I do not know that many honorable members will be anxious to come to the Parliament to hear him. The Broadcasting Committee was established in the days of the Menzies Government. I was a member of the first committee, and, subsequently, of several other committees. The first committee, the Chair.man of which was Senator Gibson, was known as the Gibson Committee. Its other members were Sir Charles Marr, Dr. Price, the present Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan), Senator Amour and myself. The recommendations of that committee were monumental, because every one of them was given legislative effect. The committee wrote its own report, and went to Ballarat so that it could concentrate on the job. Legislation arising out of the report was introduced subsequently by the Curtin Government - there had been a change of government in the meantime - and was passed unanimously. I am reminded by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) that Mr. Groves was the secretary at that time. He was selected by Senator Gibson, who, when he was Postmaster-General, knew Mr. Groves and of his work. The Broadcasting Committee was established as the result of the recommendations of the Gibson Committee. The committee consists of representatives of both Houses of this Parliament, representing both sides of politics. It has s very wide charter and the PostmasterGeneral can refer to it any matter that he so desires. Either House of the Parliament, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and the Federation of Commercial Stations can also refer matters to it through the PostmasterGeneral. Many reports have been presented by this committee. They represent the thought of all members of the committee and the recommendations are generally unanimous. Mr. Groves merely puts into words, when he is requested to do so, the decisions of its members, but very often, as happened when Senator Gibson was chairman, members of the committee wrote their own reports. When a minority of members dissent from the views of the majority it is competent for them to submit to the committee and to have included in the report to the Parliament their dissent from the recommendations of the majority. Several honorable gentlemen in quite recent times, including the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) and others, have presented their views in minority reports. The Broadcasting Committee has functioned very well and I am sure that it will continue to function well, no matter who should happen to be the secretary of it. The backhanded compliments paid to Mr. Groves by the honorable member for Reid deceived nobody. Mr. Groves is a very faithful public servant. In that respect he is not different from the majority of public servants of the Commonwealth, who serve all governments in turn as the people change their opinions in regard to political matters. What is worrying the honorable member for Reid is perfectly obvious; he is not to get his hands on any frequency modulation licences and, consequently he will be unable to exploit the listening public. The standing committee which he said made certain recommendations, is still in existence and still can continue to make the same or any other recommendation. But in the final analysis, the responsibility for deciding policy is that of the Government, which has decided that frequency modulation is to be reserved to governmental instrumentalities. “When the honorable member for Reid attacks the decisions of the Government, he does it not as a member of this Parliament, but as the owner of two radio stations. That is the catch. He will not get, either through the Broadcasting Committee’s recommendation or otherwise, any opportunity to lay his unholy hands on frequency modulation in the way he has laid them on amplitudinal modulation. From time to time the committee examines the affairs and the ownership of stations, but an examination has never been made of the affairs of the honorable member for Reid to determine how he got the two licences that he has. Notwithstanding that, the honorable memberthrows a good deal of mud at honorable men front his place in this chamber. He spoke disparingly about Mr. Alderman, K.C., and about the recommendation >f the committee of which I was m chairman, that inquired into the justification for granting a second licence for Newcastle. That committee recommended a second national Nation for Newcastle, and the government nf the day gave effect to that recommendation. He dishonestly ties up that recommendation of the Broadcasting Committee with the sale of the commercial station 2HD, which the Australian Labour party bought for £17,500. Because the legal representative of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who sold the licence happens to be associated in a legal way with Australasian Performing Right Association Limited, the honorable gentleman assumes that this Government refuses to carry out the recommendation of the broadcasting committee in regard to amendment of the copyright law. He implies that that is because of the alleged sinister influence of Mr. Alderman. The fact of the matter is that there is no need to give effect to the recommendation of that committee in regard to copyright law, because all of the commercial stations and all of the national stations have mad. agreements with Australasian Performing Right Association Limited for the right to use the music which certain authors in Australia and elsewhere have produced and the legal owners or guardians of which happens to be associated with Australasian Performing Right Association Limited. There is nothing sinister about that association, nor about the Government’s actions in regard to recommendations of the committee. I know, of course, that the man who has written the 30 speeches which the honorable gentleman deludes himself he is going to deliver to the committee, is also the manager of one of hit radio stations. That individual came here with the representative of the graziers’ radio station at Orange, and other people, to try to whip through the Parliament an amendment of the copyright law to give themselves certain advantages. Although the,> were not able to do that, the honorable gentleman, when the committee is considering only the second item of the Estimates, raises all these false issues, which have nothing to do with the work of the committee but are delivered in the Parliament only in the hope of fooling, or misleading, certain people. The Broadcasting Committee has had a long and honorable career. I have never heard it attacked before in the manne] in which it has been attacked by the honorable member for Reid. He has demanded its abolition because it stands in the way of the realization of some of his dreams. he takes the rather splenetic speech of the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) and he uses il as a pretex of getting rid of the committee. The Broadcasting Committee will function as long as this Parliament wants it to do so, and there is no reason to believe tba it has been less successful than any other committee set up by the Parliament. The very members of the Opposition parties who are crying out for the abolition of the Broadcasting Committee because in their view it derogates the Parliament are, at the same time, urging the reestablishment of the Public Accounts Committee, which would encroach upon the functions of the Parliament to an even greater degree. I hope that honorible members will not waste any more time on this subject. Let us proceed to cbe consideration of matters on which honorable members may have constructive views to offer instead of having to listen to the mud-raking speeches of the Honorable member for Reid.
. -I do nOt know whether there is any truth in the allegations made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), but I have never heard the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) to less advantage than he vas in attempting to answer the honorable member’s charges. As the Minister is never short of an argument, or explanation, it seems that the contribution made by the honorable member for Reid has been valuable. However, I am not interested in his charges, which may subsequently be fought out between the Minister and himself. What I am concerned about is something which happened on the motion for the adjournment of the House last evening, when the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), who is a member of the Broadcasting Committee, made certain statements with relation to the usefulness of the committee. It may be interesting to glance, at the history of the Broadcasting Committee. It is true that it was established by the Menzies Government and hat Senator Gibson was the first chairman of it. It is equally true that the ‘events to which the Minister has referred actually occurred. One recommendation made by the original Broadcasting Committee was that that committee should be made permanent. That was done; but that was when the committee had some value, when references made to it by the Parliament were really worth while and Then the committee, as the Menzies Government visualized, was of constructive value in relation to affairs concerning broadcasting. However, what has happened in the interim? The Broadcasting Committee is a statutory body and as such it should have some authority, but it has- been used more or less as a stooge” committee. That is rather a sweeping statement. Perhaps I have not chosen my words as carefully as I might. have done but I use them at the moment for want of better words.
Frequency modulation broadcasting iof the utmost importance to this country and that subject should have been referred to a committee of this kind. Although frequency modulation is of vital importance to the nation and is a revolutionary development. Has the Broadcasting Committee, which perambulates the country been asked to inquire into that subject? Of course not. Thai committee may have made some reference to frequency modulation that was not in accordant with the Government’s desires and policy. Perhaps, that is why that subject has not been referred to it. Tester day, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) announced that the Government intends to set up a National Broadcasting Boar( to supervise broadcasting. That subject was not referred to the Broadcasting Committee. However, as the honorable member for Deakin pointed out last night the committee unanimously exp’ressed thi view that a supervisory body of the kind outlined by the Prime Minister mus ultimately lead to the nationalization oi the air. The majority of the member.of the Broadcasting Committee are mem bers of the Labour party, and that view was supported by the Treasury official who was made available to advise thi committee. Of course, the Government having received a report of that character thought that it would be dangerous ti ask the Broadcasting Committee to report upon frequency modulation because al though the committee had not been give: terms of reference with regard to thi establishment of a new supervisory bod;* it had offended against the Government’s policy of socialization. The Government however, has taken no notice of the view expressed by the committee. It has, ii. effect, said to the Broadcasting Committee, “ You were given no terms of reference with regard to this matter. Ai. expression of such an opinion has m effect. It is merely your opinion. It is considered to be dangerous to allow you to make inquiries into matters of high governmental policy. You are a committee appointed to go round the country, to Kalgoorlie^ for instance^ to find our whether Mrs. Jones can. hear broadcasts at parliamentary proceedings while she is peeling potatoes and shelling peas”.
– That actually happened; the committee took evidence of that kind. The Minister can inform his mind on that fact should he wish to do so.. That is typical of the duties that are assigned to the Broadcasting Committee, which I repeat, is a statutory committee, whereas matters of great moment are studiously withheld from the committee because it may make recommendations which,. although in accordance- with, the weight of evidence, may not be in accordance with government policy. I am. not concerned with the loose- charges, that, ace being made with respect to the transfer of certain radio, stations. I know that the secretary of the Broadcasting Committee is doing: a good job. He is- an a-ble public servant, and I should not think of criticizing him. However, I emphasize that a statutory committee of the Parliament has some standing and prestige and should be so regarded by the community. The Parliament, is doing a, disservice to itself by maintaining a statutory committee to whose status it does not dc justice. That is my only complaint. The time has long since gone when, committees could be- appointed just as a sop -,o honorable members who- did not have, the good fortune to, be included in the ministerial ranks. The Broadcasting Committee is a committee of standing and prestige, and if it has any weight at. all in the eyes of the. Parliament, surely it should be asked to investigate worthr while subjects. To-day,, however, it is fobbed off and asked to inquire into matters of no moment at all, such as>. -eception in certain districts and. whetherhousewives can hear, broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings satisfactorily while, they are preparing family meals. That, is not the: proper function of a statutory committee., The technical officers of tha Postmaster-General’s Department are : a.pable of supplying all information ont inch problems’. If radio reception in any district is not- what, it should be, those officers can correct, the defeats.. Therefore^ it is all nonsense to allow the. committee to continue its. monthly peregr lunations around the- continent,, wasting money and time which might well be devoted to the formulation of policies of some- value- to the country. Apart f ron. all the absurd and. foolish charges thai might be made about irrelevant matters. I say that the Government should recog nize the. authority of a committee appointed by the Parliament, instead of using, it as a sort of. “stooge” and fobbing it off, as. has been done with other committees,, by giving it an occasional reference merely to keep it occupied. Either this committee should be wiped out or it should be made a useful adjunct of government and given assignments that will enable it to guide the Government on matters of great importance associated with the rapid develop ment of broadcasting.
– I should like- to give the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) a. little advice-. Before he rises- to discuss- such matters as- this he- at least ought, to acquaint himself with the- reports that the Broadcasting Committee has- supplied to the Parliameni from, time to- time. The honorable member has merely uttered words> words, andnothing but words. The present Broadcasting Committee- has submitted a num ber of. valuable reports, not on whethej Mrs.. Jones is able to listen to the radicwhile she is peeling potatoes, but oni’ matters, of. very great moment,, and a minority report by the honorable membei for Warringah (Mr. Spender) on the subject, of the control of commercial broadcasting- stations - no doubt this ifnews to the honorable gentlemanaccords precisely with the opinions oil the- Government and with the announce1 ment made by the Prime Minister (Mr Chifley) yesterday about the plan, that is to be adopted..
– A minority report by tthe- honorable member for Deakin (Mr.. Hutchinson) does not accord with the Government’s opinions. That may be news, to the Minister-
– Somebody has. told the Acting Leader of. the Opposition something, about the two reports, butI have read both of them and I would sooner adopt the recommendation of the honorable member for Warringah than that of the honorable member for Deakin. The honorable member’ for Warringah at least demonstrated that he had some grasp >f the subject and had not sold out entirely to big business interests which want to allow the commercial broadcasting system to remain in its present chaotic state. The Broadcasting Committee has submitted to this Parliament a series of recommendations on a variety of subjects, ft has always had to have terms of reference from some authority, such as the Postmaster-General, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, or the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, before it could make any investigations. What the Acting Leader of the Opposition has had to say about committees that wander from place to place wasting money is just one of those airy generalities that carry no conviction and establish no position. He has said that honorable members travel around the Commonwealth, apparently neglecting their parliamentary duties, and produce nothing of value as the result of their peregrinations. Many members of the Opposition ought to have been attending to their duties here this week, but they have been wasting their time at a Liberal party meeting in Adelaide. A, great deal of public money has thus been wasted. From my knowledge, all members of the Broadcasting Committee over the years since its establishment have devoted a great deal of time and serious thought to the subjects referred to them in an endeavour to provide the Parliament with recommendations worthy of careful consideration, lt is the prerogative of the government of the day to decide whether such recommendations should be adopted. As I have said, the minority report on the control of commercial broadcasting stations submitted by the honorable member for Warringah accords with the views of the Government.
– Did the committee inquire into frequency modulation broadcasting ?
– Yes, and it recommended that equal opportunities be given to commercial stations and national stations to test this new method of broad casting. That may be news to the honorable gentleman !
– The committee had noassignment to inquire into that subject.
– It inquired intomany new developments in broadcasting. Facsimile broadcasting, television, and; frequency modulation are but three of them.
– Members of the committee have assured me that it has had: no terms of reference on that subject.
– That may be so. 1 remember when two members of theOpposition - the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and the formerhonorable member for Wilmot, Mr. Guy - approved of the sale of station 2HD on terms that are now common knowledge, but failed to notify either the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition of the decision. The transaction wasthe subject of a special adjournment motion and, to their consternation, the Leader of the Opposition and hisdeputy heard for the first time that their party had already been committed in a. report on that subject which had been presented to the Parliament. If the honorable member thinks that he can wipe out the Broadcasting Committee, he ingoing the wrong way about it. If there is some substance in his claim that the committee no longer fulfils a useful purpose, obviously there is nothing to be gained by retaining it. However, all the evidence available proves that the committee does fulfil a useful function, and provides honorable members with a great deal of information that can be used in. debating any legislation in relation to broadcasting that the Government may introduce. The Government is charged with the responsibility of protecting the national interest and, in its wisdom, it believes that the public domain should noi be invaded by people who might obtain frequency modulation broadcasting licences for commercial stations in the way in which various similar companies have already invaded the public domain and made huge profits out of broadcasting while giving very little real service to the community. The degrading programmes that one hears on certain commercial stations, and the dissatisfaction of many people with national stations, provide ample justification for the action of the Government in bringing *bout a co-ordination of programmes and other matters affecting the entire broadcasting system of this country.
– The condemnation of the activities of the present Broadcasting Committee springs from the mouths of its own members. I shall make my attitude towards the committee quite clear. It is known to most honorable members that at no time have I regarded the committee as a useful institution. I held that view when legislation to establish the committee was before this Parliament.
– The honorable member voted for the bill.
– The Minister had better have another look at the records. He probably needs another pair of spectacles.
– At any rate, the honorable member did not vote against it.
– I am not sure whether there was a division on the bill. I shall have to investigate the files. One of the most painstaking and conscientious members of the Australian Country party in this Parliament is the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), who served as a member of the Broadcasting Committee for three years until 1946. In that year, the Australian Country party took the stand that I have always taken, namely, that no useful purpose can be served by the committee. Therefore, since the last election no member of the Australian Country party has been a member of the committee. I refer also to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), whose name was dragged into this discussion by the Minister.
– Not “ dragged “ in.
– Then “ thrown “ in. He was a member of the committee for three years, and, when his re-appointment was proposed after the 1946 elections, he refused to remain on the committee any longer because he believed that it served no useful purpose. No matter what airy persiflage the Minister may introduce into this discussion, the fact is thai no worth-while work has ever been referred to the committee. If 1 were Postmaster-General I would noi refer any matter to the committee for investigation and report. The Government should make up its own mind on policy matters. The only time thai it refers any matters to the committee is when it wants a recommendation to do something about which it is noi “ game “ to make its own decision. The Broadcasting Committee, which has travelled to many parts of the Commonwealth, is better known as “ Wirth’s circus “, and its peregrinations have been described as a “ Guinea pig’s holiday”. I challenge the Minister to produce any report that the committee has made on any important matters. The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) has mentioned two of them. For example, frequency modulation is a thorny subject in the radio world to-day. At the outset, I make it plain that I do not know anything about wireless, and had I been in the position of Marconi, I would not have invented it. The world would have been a better place without it. Unfortunately, wireless wa* invented, and we have to deal with the world as it is. We were nol consulted in the making of it, although some honorable members opposite think they should have been, and they want to re-make it. Frequency modulation is a burning subject in the wireless world, but the Government has decided on its policy in relation to frequency modulation without consulting the Broadcasting Committee.
– Is that so?
– If it is not so, where is the committee’s report?
– There is a report.
– A report on frequency modulation by the Broadcasting Committee?
– The Clerk of the House will supply a copy of it to the honorable member.
– I should like to have it.
– Ask the Clerk for it.
– I shall do so, and if I consider that the occasion warrants it, I shall raise this matter again when the chamber is considering the Estimates for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. The policy which last night came out of the blue, the desert or the vacuum, as the case may be, was not referred to the Broadcasting Committee. A more revolutionary proposal was never made by any government. . It is only when the “ boys “ must be kept amused, occupied or in motion that the Government refers any matter to the Broadcasting Committee. If I had my way, the committee would cease to function now. It is a waste of the taxpayers’ money, a waste of paper, and a waste of time. Its recommendations do not amount to . a . row of pins. I have never believed in permanent committees, as a general principle.
– The honorable memher is an -old tory.
– I may be a conservative. 1 have never denied it. There is a big job to be done in Australian politics by conservatism. T am aot in the least ashamed of conservatism or of the record of the Conservative party in Great Britain and Canada. The Minister for Information has attempted to put a case in favour of the Broadcasting Committee. In my opinion, no convincing case can be made for it. The . committee has been condemned by some of its members, past and present, and the Government keeps it in existence for purely party political purposes. I am not interested, except as a spectator, in the frequent -contests between the Minister and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). I am always one who desires peace and quietness and it grates on my susceptibilities at times to hear the . arguments between them.
Mr.White. - The Minister for defamation.
– No, he should not be given that description. His powers of invectiveare fast disappearing. However, the arguments between the Minister and the honorable ‘member are becoming a little irksome. Let it be remembered by the Australian community that, at the height of his career, the honorable member for Reid was a Labour leader. The Labour party gave to him the powers of a dictator. I never heard the Minister for Information publicly condemn the honorable member for Reid in those days.
– I did so.
– Order ! The ‘committee is considering the remainder of the proposed vote for the Parliament, not the honorable member for Reid.
– It may he a very good thing-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the proposed vote for the Parliament.
– I am doing so. The Government should givethe Broadcasting Committee useful employment by asking it to submit a report on the whys -and wherefors of the disputation between the Minister and his one-time leader, the . honorable member for Reid.
– To me, he was always a Labour” rat “.
TheTEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order !
– I object to . anybody being called a rat. The term is offensive to me, as a member of this chamber, and I ask the Chair to request the Minister to withdraw it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.As objection has been taken to the Minister’s expression, I ask him -to withdraw it.
– If the remark offends the susceptibilities of the conservative gentleman from Barker, I shall withdraw it.
– As 1 said a few minutes ago, I have susceptibilities which can be offended. I am a man who believes in peace and quietness.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN Order! I again remind the honorable member for Barker that the committee is considering the remainder of the proposed vote for the Parliament.
– I am discussing the Broadcasting Committee which, I contend, should be abolished immediately. Let the Minister justify its existence if he can. He will’ not comvince the- Opposition, and intelligent public opinion.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr: Archie Cameron) arrived a little too late’ to hear what had actually transpired at the beginning of this discussion. I had no particular- desire to intrude in this debate, and I am- participating now only because the honorable, member for Reid (Mr. Lang) vilified without, justification the Minister for Information- (Mr. Calwell). He said, among other things, that the Minister had usurped one of the-‘ functions of the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron). His actual assertion was that the Minister had “brushed thePostmasterGeneral aside “’ and taken out of his hands the whole matter of broadcasting and related subjects. Having been, ai member of the Broadcasting Committee when the Minister- was the Chairman, I can reasonably claim to have some knowledge of the efficient work that he performed.
Me. Archie Cameron. - It enabled him’ to’ attain ministerial, office1.
– I also have a knowledge of his work as a Minister, and of the valuable advice that he has been able to tender to cabinet on matters relating to broadcasting. He has not brushed the Postmaster-General aside when that Minister has sought to convey to Cabinet the considered views of his expert departmental’ officers; The statement by the honorable member for Reid in that respect could not be further from the truth, but it is characteristic of the charges that he makes. We have become accustomed to them during the two years in which he has been a: member of the House of Representatives. He makes a practice of indulging in muckraking expeditions, and’ gives play to his imagination while revealing little items that he has-, been able- to glean from material supplied to him by bis advisers. He has1 availed himself of parliamentary privilege to vent his spleen against the Minister, and, I desire to say, in support of my colleague; that the statements by the honorable- member about broadcasting and’ related subjects are contrary to the truth.’ The- Minister is probably correct in drawing- the inference that the “ fly in- the ointment “ is that the honorablemember’ for Reid- has a substantial interest in a couple- of broad’casting stations and is afraid that he will not be in “‘at the kill ‘* ox be able to- exploit frequency modulation as’ he has exploited amplitudinal modulation in connexion with other stations under his control. The honorable member for’ Baker said that he- would not have anything to do with his committee. We know that as a matter of policy and principle he is opposed ti.parliamentary committees-. That is hh honest view. He believes that governments should accept responsibility for formulating policies and has said so quite frankly. There may be something in that contention, and I shall not quarre with him about it; but I remind him. however, that the Broadcasting- Committee’ has been established by the Parlia-ment. I question the accuracy of thi honorable member’s statement that he voted against the appointment of thi committee. If my memory serves mi correctly, the proposal was carried on the voices’, and no vote was taken; but1 the fact remains that there- is a Broadcasting Committee. It is a statutory body’ appointed by the Parliament to dc certain work and no good purpose can be served by asserting that it has not performed a useful function. Originally, the committee was appointed1 to examine broadcasting- in this country: It was not then a standing committee of the Parliament, and was known’ as the Gibson Committee; It made a number of unanimous recommendations to the Parliament; which were subsequently translated into legislation of which most honorable members of this chamber approved. That measure included pro vision for the appointment of a standing committee and the Broadcasting- Commit tee has functioned ever since. Its firstchairman was the present Minister foi Information (Mr. Calwell). I was associated with the Minister on that committee for some years, and I know that it performed a. useful service. I am sure that no member of the Parliament seeks appointment to a parliamentary committee merely to permit him to perambulate the country. Most honorable members do sufficient travelling in the performance of their ordinary parliamentary duties, and have no desire to engage in further wanderings without having something useful to do. Any honorable member who suggests that members of a parliamentary committee are travelling around the countryside wasting time and money is writing down not only his fellow members, but also himself. There is no truth in the suggestion that parliamentary committees meet inly for an hour or two each day and “hen leave the secretary to prepare the report ready to be signed on the dotted line. The honorable member for Barker knows quite well that that is not so. I agree with the honorable member for Reid that the present secretary of the Broadcasting Committee, Mr. Groves, is an excellent officer. He has considerable ability, and he applies himself painstakingly to his job. It is true that after the committee has taken evidence, and deliberated upon it, Mr. Groves translates the opinions that have been expressed into appropriate language. This draft is then examined by the committee, and i final report prepared for presentation to the Parliament. That is the usual system. I have served on other committees and I know that a good secretary an be a tower of strength and can do much of the hard work; but responsibility for the tenor of the report lies with the committee itself. The honorable member for Barker said that the Broadcasting Committee performs no useful service; but let us have a look at the fifteenth report of that committee. I remind honorable members that the committee investigates matters referred .to it by the Postmaster-General, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, or the commercial broadcasting stations. The committee’s fifteenth report deals with the financing of the national broadcasting system. Do honorable members opposite who have criticized the committee - the Acting Leader of the Opposition is one of them - believe that the financing of the national broadcasting system is unimportant? The honorable gentleman has been honoured by election r.o the leadership of the Opposition in r 11 P absence overseas of the Leader of the
Opposition (Mr. Menzies). He holds a responsible position, and he should not make irresponsible statements about his colleagues in the Parliament, including members of the parties which he leads at present. The honorable gentleman, knows quite well that what he has said is simply a play on words, and an appeal to the baser instincts of the community. He has written down his fellow members by alleging that they are running around the countryside doing nothing useful.
– Hear, hear!
– I am surprised to know that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) supports hhActing Leader on this matter. In m opinion, the discrediting of the institution of the Parliament should be avoided at all costs. We have fought two war*for the preservation of our democratic system of government.
– That does not include travelling circuses.
– If that is the honorable member’s opinion, he should not accept membership of a committee. Only some one who has not been a member of any committee would express such a careless opinion. He cannot know anything of the work of parliamentary committees. If he has served on committee and has run around the countryside in an irresponsible manner, he must have regarded his duties very lightly indeed. The Broadcasting Committee’s report on the financing of the nations’ broadcasting system is excellent. It commences with a historical survey of the national system which was established in 1932 with the appointment of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The report then makes certain recommendations on the financing of this organization. We can dismiss entirely the extravagant language used by the Acting Leader of the Opposition in decrying thf work that broadcasting has performed
If honorable members take themselves so cheaply and consider their position on the committee so lowly that they have to write themselves, and their importance as members of the Parliament, down to a very low level that is their own fault. If honorable members accept positions on these committees they ought to do the work allotted to them honestly and well. [ have the greatest admiration for any honorable member who adopts the attitude chat it is not a function of the Opposition to co-operate in such committees by which, after all, Government policy is to some legree decided. But I have no admiration for honorable members who write themselves, the committee and its functions down as the Acting Leader of the
Opposition has done.
.- I rise to reply to the entirely irresponsible -.statements of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). That honorable gentleman saw fit to state, ad nauseam, that I was one of the members of the Broadcasting Committee which approved -of the transfer of station 2HD Newcastle to its present ownership. I desire to state without reservation or hesitation that I was never on a broadcasting committee to which that matter was referred. I have confirmed my recollection by examining all the reports that I signed as vice chairman of the committee during the whole of the life of the previous Parliament. The honorable gentleman ought to appear in this chamber and apologize for making such rash statements. I regard the Broadcasting Committee as now conducted as an utterly useless body. I remind honorable members that the Broadcasting Committee was established by the Menzies Government on the recommendation if the Gibson committee, which was the first committee appointed to examine the whole system of broadcasting. Subsequently the Australian Broadcasting Act was amended, as a result of other recommendations of the Gibson committee. After the 1946 general election, prior to which [ had completed my term as vice chairman of the Broadcasting Committee, I was invited to again become a. member of it. I refused to do so because I was convinced, after my experience of the manner in which it was conducted, that the committee was absolutely useless. If honorable members will peruse the fourth report of the Broadcasting Committee relating to the broadcasting of news they will find that when the committee took evidence on the desirability of the
Australian Broadcasting Commission instituting its own news service the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Mr. Boyer, and every other member of the commission opposed the proposal. In Australia at that time was the chief of the British Broadcasting Commission news service, Sir. Walter Layton, who considered the proposal submitted by the Government, and stated that it would be fantastic for the Australian Broadcasting Commission to establish a complete, world-wide system of newsgathering, duplicating news services already in existence. The whole of the evidence taken by the committee bore 0U what Sir Walter said, yet the Government members on the committee had prepared a contrary report before his evidence had been completed. They submitted that report for the approval of members of th>Opposition who were on the committee, but those members refused to endorse it Mr. McDonald, Mr. Bowden, Mr. Gu, and I submitted a minority report which pointed out that all of the witnesses, with the exception of a minor officer in the Australian Broadcasting Commission organization, named Dixon, opposed the Government’s proposal. Dixon alone gave evidence in support of it Everything we stated in that report ha> been borne out. The Government hatdeparted from its policy respecting newland has fallen back on the services of Reuters and other news agencies, and ha? thus added to the cost of the Australian Broadcasting Commission news service Adoption of proposals that were recom mended to the committee by the Australian Broadcasting Commission would have meant a saving of £21,500. That saving has gone with the wind and tern of thousands of pounds have been wasted in following the majority recommendations of the committee which it made without any regard to the burden of the evidence submitted to it. The Government does not give the committee a chance to function. An instance of that is the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) recently on frequency modulation broadcasting. He said that that system of broadcasting would be the close preserve of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and that it alone would receive a licence for frequency modulation ‘broadcasting. Under ‘section 103 of the Australian Broadcasting Act the question of recommending licences for frequency modulation ‘broadcasting came solely vithin the province of the Broadcasting Committee. I shall -quote from that section of the act for the information of bonorahle members -
Notwithstanding anything -contained rn flie tireless Telegraphy Act 1005-1930, the Miniser Administering that . act -shall not…..
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting, grant licences in ‘respect of facsimile, -television or frequency modulation . services.
The question of issuing . a licence for f re(iiency modulation broadcasting has not been referred to the Broadcasting Committee at any stage. The (Government has made its decision on frequency modulation without complying with section 103 >f the ‘act. It has said in no nmeertain terms ibhat it is going to -give the only licence for frequency modulation to ‘the Australian ‘Broadcasting Commission. Wihy /should the . committee he in ‘existence when the Goivernnient ignoases not only it, but also the act ‘which stipulates that the Government must refer to the committee For determination questions concerning ; he . issue of licences for frequency . modulation. I say without hesitation that the Governament itself . has killed the Broadjasting Committee, iwhich is not now worth a tinker’s curse. It is an impost -m the body . politic. It is . useless and if hope it will he abolished . unless it can be made to function as it was originally intended it should and indeed, for . some lime, . did so function-
As a member of the Broadcasting Committee, I desire to make -some observations on the committee’s functions. I do not . share the view of some honorable members that the committee should be abolished, because I believe it can perform a useful function if the Government will permit it to operate as the Australian Broadcasting Act intended. I rest my criticism upon that proposition. During the period I have heen associated with the committee, it has dealt with sthree particular . matters, >ne of which was an important one which should have ‘been, and was, Teferred to it, namely. (She question of financing a national broadcasting system. In thecourse of the committee’s investigation and the preparation of its report, I came to “some -conclusions which I find have been supported %y -what has -occurred since. ‘One conclusion -was that important issues ‘Upon which the Government hae made pronouncements of ^policy, and upon “which I should have considered the committee would be called upon to -express an opinion after hearing . evidence, have not been referred to the committee at all Instances of that nature are the decision> made hy the Government recently regarding frequency modulation services and the proposed . establishment -of a commissior, which is to have control over the whole field of broadcasting. I have also come to the conclusion that the committee itused very largely as a vehicle of government ^propaganda. I think that that is a very regrettahle position, “because the Australian Broadcasting Act intended that the committee should he an objective body dealing solely with the hearing of evidencej and with placing recommendations he’Tore the “Parliament. I am compelled to say thai there is a great deal of time wasted ‘by the committee in jpermitting the -unnecessary repetition ; o¥ evidence, hut that defect -could be overcome. One of the characteristic ways in which time is wasted if the system adopted of bringing peop’h before the ^committee to read prepared -statements, which often occupies considei able time, after which a few questioniare -asked hy memhers of the committee. That procedure jcouM lbe ‘short-circuited by ‘arranging for ‘members of the committee to be supplied with copies of witnesses’ statements before the commit’te* meets, so that the time spent in reading! the statements would be saved and ques-
TP’Wper! to those that are realh necessary. Then the -committee frequently travels from State to State in wder -to hear ‘a rehash <of evidence which it has already heard. In order to -avoid that, evidence could “be placed ‘before members of the committee through some central organization. I criticize the wai in which the committee functions for the reasons which I have stated, and I suggest that its efficiency could be improved ; by adopting methods -such tas those which I have outlined.
I propose now to make some observations inregard to the way in which im portant issues referred to the committee for consideration are treated. I again refer to the announcement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) yesterday of the Government’s intention to establish a commission to control broadcasting, [n the course of this debate the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has said, or implied that the Government had merely adopted the suggestions contained in a dissenting report in regard to financing the national broadcasting system which I submitted is a member of the Broadcasting Committee. It is important to remind honorible members of what actually happened. The Government undoubtedly intends to nationalize the broadcasting system of this country, and I do not need to labour nhat point because it is part of the policy and platform of the Australian Labour party. Yet, when a matter related only to finance was referred to the committee for investigation and report the majority of members of the committee, who are supporters of the Government, deliberately introduced into the committee’s report the highly contentious question vhether or not the national broadcasting system should be nationalized. The terms of reference of the committee are contained in the report of the aommittee, and were confined solely to considerations of finance. If one examines the recommendations made by the committee, it will be seen that they all relate to that important matter with the exception of one which is headed, Co-ordination of Programmes “. It crept into the recommendations although it did not come within any of the terms if reference. The reason why that recommendation was allowed to creep in is that it accords with the policy of the Australian Labour party, whose members on the committee were simply using the committee’s recommendations as a vehicle of propaganda. I refer honorable members to page 31 of the majority report of the committee, in which the Government supporters on the committee state that, it is necessary to co-ordinate all the broadcasting systems of this -country, and particularly the commercial systems. Without discussing the matter in any detail at present, I agretthat it is desirable for the commerciaf broadcasting systems to effect better coordination of their systems. However the portion of the report which I am’ about to read was not based on any evi dence taken or on any inquiries made -by members of the committee, but watsimply an expression of their own political point of view. Paragraph 54, which appears on page 32 of the report,to which I refer, is as follows: -
Needless to say, there are differences or opinion amongst us on the question of a move in that direction, as it would probably lead to if not involve, nationalization, . . .
Realizing that a question of very high polic; is involved, we suggest that the matter be debated on the floor of the House, so that all points of view may be fully considered with the object of endeavouring to find a solution which will be desirable and equitable in the interests of all concerned.
I repeat that that comment had nothing whatever to do with the subject referred to the committee, which was related solely to finance. The extract which I have read relates, of course, to the matter of nationalization of broadcasting services. When the report was placed before me,I took the view that that particular recommendation was irrelevant to the terms of reference. However, I knew very well that, if I contented myself with subscribing to the recommendation that the matter be debated on the floor of the House, I would later be confronted with the accusation that I had acquiesced in the point of view expressed in the proceeding portion of that paragraph. I also realized that, if the matter were debated in the Parliament, the Government would make a party issue of the committee’s recommendation, so as to use its majority to enact legislation to nationalize our broadcasting systems. I, therefore, prepared a minority report in regard to paragraphs 50 to 54 of the committee’s report, and since, in view of the statement of the Minister for Information, I now desire to have my views incorporated in Hansard, I shall read the relevant portion of my report, which is as follows: -
Whilst . I am of opinion that co-ordination of the commercial stations’ programmes is desirable to achieve the objectives set out in paragraph 49, I am of the opinion that it it not necessary, ‘certainly at this ‘stage, to ‘create any more governmental authorities in . the
Held of broadcasting than presently exist. Consequently, I believe an opportunity should be (iven to the commercial stations, having regard to the objectives which the committee has in mind, to establish and police their own system if co-ordination. If such a voluntary scheme proved unsuccessful, then, and then only, would it he necessary, in my opinion, to consider the necessity for any other scheme of coordination. The efficacy of any such voluntary coordination could be reviewed periodically, say, from year to year.
Even assuming that some method of coordination other than a voluntary organized one within the broadcasting industry were considered necessary, I dissent from the view expressed by the Secretary to the Treasury that it would be difficult to co-ordinate the national and commercial stations and that perhaps the inly solution of the problem is nationalization, t think that the system in operation in the United States of America under the auspices of the F.C.C. directly contradicts that view. It is true that in the United States there is no national broadcasting system. But it is not co-ordination of the A.B.C. with the commercial stations on which the emphasis should he laid: it is rather upon the co-ordination within the ranks of the commercial broadcasting stations of their programmes to achieve the objectives set forth. This, it seems to me, may be achieved along lines similar to the scheme in operation in the United States. It is loose thinking to believe, as set out in paragraph 54, that any such move to coordinate would probably lead to, if not involve, nationalization. I desire to make it quite plain that I am opposed to nationalization in any event, and am convinced that the objectives which the Committee has in mind may he achieved along the lines I have indicated, with proper safeguards to the commercial stations, without any suggestion of nationalization.
Any plan of co-ordination, other than a voluntary one within the industry, should not, in any event, be under the auspices of the A.B.C, but separate from it.
In further reference to paragraph 54 and the statement therein that nationalization was advocated in principle by Professor Copland, [ have read his observations in his paper “ The Change-over to Peace “, upon which this statement is based, and I do not think, upon a roper construction of them, that Professor Copland was committing himself in any way to the principle of nationalization of broadcasting.
With regard to the suggestion in paragraph 54 that the matter should be debated on the floor of the House, it is my opinion that the time is not opportune for that to be done, as data has not been sufficiently collected to permit of effective debate, and such a proposal, if proceeded with, would result in nothing more or less than mere ideological discussion in the abstract without any relation to the question whether the public interest is. or is not, likely to be served.
I have read that excerpt from my reservations, in detail because it is important that I should make clear the fact that 1 did not commit myself to any subsequent proposal that might lead to nationalization of broadcasting. I also made it clear that there is no present need for a federal authority to control broadcasting. From what I have said, it should be cleaT first, that there was no mandate for the committee- to inquire into this matter; secondly, that there should never have been any major decision of the kind announced by the Prime Minister last night without the matter first being referred to the Broadcasting Committee; and thirdly, that if the Broadcasting Committee is by-passed, a? has been done on more than one occasion, there is need to reframe completely either the constitution or the functions of the committee. lt will be seen from the nature of the report from which I have quoted that there was imported into it one of the most controversial issues of to-day in relation to broadcasting. Thihonorable member for Moreton (Mr Francis) has drawn attention to the section of the act which seems to make ii mandatory that there shall not be am grant by the Postmaster-General of any licence for frequency modulation unless and until the matter has first been considered by the Broadcasting Committee, not necessarily in detail, but so as to establish the principles governing whether or not licences should be granted, and, if so, in what form. Upon that matter the committee has been completely disregarded. The Government is now seeking to justify what it proposes to do by enlisting the help of a minority report which I was compelled to make on another matter irrelevant to an issue placed before the committee. The committee cannot function satisfactorily if only minor matters are referred to it. No one can suggest that the decision announced by the Prime Minister last night was not a matter of major importance that should have been referred to the Broadcasting Committee. I do not believe that it would be wise to abolish, the Broadcasting Committee, nor do I think it would be wise to have a committee constituted solely of honorable members and senators representative of one political party. I believe that the committee at present is not functioning in such a way as to avoid unnecessary waste of public moneys and accordingly the Parliament should re-examine its constitution and the matters that may be referred to it. I mention these things because I believe that they bear directly upon the vote which honorable members are now being asked to pass.
.- This debate has portrayed exactly what happens in the Broadcasting Committee. Lt is obvious that one opinion is expressed by the members of the Government party and a contrary opinion is expressed by members of the opposing parties, and that the majority opinion rules, whether or not the evidence be favorable to that opinion. 1. speak on this subject because my name has been mentioned during this debate. Lt has been suggested that on conscientious grounds I resigned from the Broadcasting Committee. I do not want to adopt “ a holier than thou “ attitude ; I merely wish to state exactly what happened. Not only did I resign from the committee, but I also went further and advised other members of the Australian Country party to have nothing to do with it. It is possible that, as members of the committee, both the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and I had unhappy experiences. We may have served during a period in which nothing if great importance was referred to the committee for investigation and report. I say quite candidly that during the whole of the three years in which I was a member of the committee it did not perform line single useful task, notwithstanding Mie fact that it took evidence in every State. As I regarded expenditure on the committee as an absolute waste of public money, I decided that I could not conscientiously continue to be a member of it. I admit that the first Broadcasting Committee, under the chairmanship of Senator Gibson, did very useful work. Indeed, the Gibson report is used as a model for the guidance of other parliamentary committees. What is contained in the Gibson report would be almost sufficient to determine any issue that might be placed before the Broadcasting Committee to-day and thus save the expense of having honorable members perambulating Australia gathering evidence which nobody wants and which this Government ignores when it is presented. Without disclosing Cabinet secrets, I shall give to honorable members an illustration of what happened when I was a member of the Broadcasting Committee. The first task allotted to us was to investigate a proposal relating to a news service, which had already been rejected by the Government. The committee sat in divers places and took evidence from all sorts of people; but its report was valueless, as the Government had already made its decision and would not alter its opinion. That was the Ers intimation we had of the value of statutory committees and the experience had an adverse effect on our opinion of parliamentary committees generally. On one particular subject the committee of which I was a member took evidence in every State, although almost within 100 yards of the precincts of this building it could have obtained all the information it wanted. The evidence tendered in every State was on exactly similar lines. The committee compiled a voluminous report, presented it to the Parliament, and heard nothing more about it. We were not told whether or not the Government intended to go on with the proposition that had been referred to us for investigation. The reason advanced for the committee’s visits to all States was that if it restricted its evidence to one State the people of another State would complain that they had been overlooked. I must resort to harsh language in order to describe my opinion of the committee. I looked upon it as the biggest racket with which I had ever been associated and accordingly I decided thai I would no longer serve on it and 1 advised other members of my party to do likewise. When I was asked why 1 resigned, I’ did not tell any tales about the committee; I merely said that I would have nothing to do with it. Other members of the committee were sufficiently conscientious to take a similar stand. The final “ sickener “ came to the honorable member for Moreton and me during the dying hours of the seventeenth parliament, when at 4 o’clock in the morning of the day upon which the session ended, at a time when nobody was in h fit condition to consider a recommendation from the committee or to debate it, the Government, by sheer weight of its numbers, bludgeoned through a recommendation, made by a majority of the members of the committee which wascompletely outside its terms of reference. The majority report ignored completely not only the evidence tendered to the committee, but also the views of the Australian Broadcasting Commission which had been established to manage the national broadcasting system. The Government foisted a proposal based on the majority recommendation on a sleepy parliament which was at the point of finishing its career.
– What was the recommendation?’
– The majority report of the committee recommended that the commission should establish an independent news service. The committee,, however, was not appointed to investigate such a matter; it was merely asked to examine the agreement that had been made between the newspapers and the
– That is so. But. because certain persons, who were favorably disposed to the Labour party - and to whom the Labour party was, in turn, well disposed - recommended otherwise, the committee prepared a majority report with which I had nothing to do, and which was not founded upon the evidence. During the debate on the bill, the chairman of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association, Mr.. Henderson, was vilified, although he had appeared at the invitation of the committee to give evidence, not on behalf of his own newspaper, but on that of the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association. Because he was too smart for some members of the committee,, he was vilified, and his evidence ignored. However, the evidence of Mr. Dixon, news editor for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, was accepted as- against the evidence of the commission itself. The Broadcasting Committee adopted the recommendations of Mr.
Dixon, notwithstanding the fact- that the commission had already entered into a tentative agreement with the Australian Newspaper Proprietors Association foi the supply of a news service. Thus, the recommendation of a servant of the commission was preferred by the supine Broadcasting Committee to the recommendation of the commission itself. In the circumstances, can any one wonder why I refused to have my name associated with a report that was nothing more than a political farce, and the Aus tralian Country party will have nothing to do with the committee. I do not say that there should not be a broadcasting committee, but it should function only when it has something to do. It should not concoct excuses for peregrinating all over Australia, including North Queensland and the Coral Islands. Such a committee is a farce, and should be done away with.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
.- This item of the Estimates, which deals with the expenditure under the heading of Parliament and includes in its subheading item No. 7, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting, offers a very welcome opportunity to members on this side of the chamber to make some comments upon a committee which has become no more nor less than a howling public scandal. Subsection 1 of section 85 of the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942 provides that the Broadcasting Committee shall report to the Parliament upon matters referred to it by either House affecting broadcasting and upon any matter referred to it by the Minister. “The Minister” means, under the act, the Postmaster-General’. Sub-section 2 of the same section provides that the Minister shall refer to the Broadcasting Committee any such matter which the Australian Broadcasting Commission requests him to refer to the committee. The effect of that section is that the committee inquires into, matters which are referred to it by this Hou3e or by the Minister oi by the commission. In practice, matters are referred to it which are determined by the Minister, because in my experience in this Parliament, the House has never referred any matters to it. Neither has die commission, so far as we know,, ever referred any matters to the committee, because it is well known that the Australian Broadcasting- Commission hates; this committee as the devil hates holy water. When the Minister desires the committee to investigate matters, it does so investigate them. The committee, in fact, has become an instrument of propaganda in the hands of the Postmaster-General of the day. That was clearly indicated by he very interesting and informative speech of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), who furnished several illustrations of how, in practice, the arrangement works out. The Minister who control’s the Postmaster-General’s Department, when he wishes to use this committee as a piece of mechanism for political propaganda which is favorable to the Australian Labour party, refers matters to it. No doubt honorable members will recall that during World War II. an objection was made by a Labour Minister of the Crown to a broadcast which the Australian Broadcasting Commission proposed to make on Trafalgar Day, the 20th October in each year. It was proposed that on that day there should be a. broadcast about Lord Nelson-
The ‘ DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The honorable gentle- .nBa must confine his remarks to matters relating to the Broadcasting Committee.
– I am illustrating precisely what I mean. The proposed broadcast was objected to because it was asked,. “Are there not any Australian, admirals that we can talk about ? “. The “ Hear, hears ! “ which are coming from honorable members on the Government side of the chamber illustrate their mentality. They are concerned, not with the quality, appropriateness, or literary value of matters broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but only with matters of a tendentious political value.
I well remember the occasion, not longago. when, the Broadcasting Committee1 inquired into what matters of a purely Australian, nature should be’ broadcast’over the national! stations. Outside the? door of my room, which abuts upon the Cabinet room on the eighth floor of the Commonwealth Bank Chambers, Sydney, where the sitting took place, was a long string of witnesses. They were hanging around in the corridors waiting to be heard by this body which was supposed to be sitting, in a judicial capacity, taking evidence, and weighing the pros and. cons of the evidence adduced. When talking to some of them I gained the impression that their matter had been carefully prepared to present one point of view, and only one. From that experience of what went on in those few days, and from my conversations with my colleagues on this committee, I can speak with some authority as to what I might call the tendentious nature of these .matters. As there is always a Labour majority in the committee, obviously it is always a party view that is presented. If the committee is to be any good at all, a national view must prevail. It is a sad and sorry thing for Australia that because a party happens to have a majority there is always presented the purely party point of view.
– The honorable member will learn.
– I had the great misr fortune to sit upon another committee on which the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) .also> sat, so I know something of what I am talking about.
The chairman of the Broadcasting Committee, Senator Amour, is a gentleman sitting- in what is called “ another place “, the Senate. It has been said tome by honorable members on this side of the chamber, perhaps reluctantly, that his- chairmanship has shown a corressponding bias1, always in the one way, and according to the one point of view. Heis not concerned, with eliciting the f acts, or with objectivity, but only with a point of view which suits his Minister and is in accord with his party outlook. A committee which functions in that way has no value from a national point of- view. This- committee is’ detested by the Australian- Broadcasting- Commission. There is nothing secret about that. T# hates- these inquiries, and detests and resents very bitterly the way in which its members are treated at some of the meetings of the committee.
The honorable member for Gippsland ( Mr. Bowden) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) may recall the famous Dixon case, when the committee, with Senator Amour as chairman, insisted upon dragging in a matter and bringing in a finding completely beyond the terms of its reference, merely because it happened to suit the Government, and was something that the majority wanted. Furthermore, the finding was utterly in the teeth of all the evidence before the committee, except for the uncorroborated evidence of a subordinate employee, M’r. Dixon. I have had other illustrations told to me of the committee being used by the Labour majority for the purpose of permitting attacks by junior employees of the Australian Broadcasting Commission upon their seniors in the organization. The previous members of the Broadcasting Committee, on this side of the chamber, have been outraged by what had happened. In 1946, when the new Parliament assembled, it was said by those honorable members that they would no longer sit upon such a committee, because it was utterly useless. This view was shared by members of the Australian Country party. There was a discussion in the Liberal party room about this matter and it was finally decided that, although we could not control the findings of the committee some of our number should join the committee, so that we could at least learn what wickedness was going on to the detriment of Australia. It is only for that reason that Liberal party members continue to sit on the committee. But the committee has not only indulged in propaganda ; it has also had its little jaunts up and down Australia. We find it sitting in Hobart in the summer months. Oh, for the nice days in Hobart in January, down the Huon and on the Derwent 1 After the committee completed its daily half-hour’s work, its members could obtain the use of government cars and have a little afternoon’s outing at the taxpayers’ expense. On one occasion Mr. Speaker, with his ministerial car, somehow seemed to find himself attached to the committee in Hobart. The members of the committee also find themselves visiting Dunk Island and the Barrier Reef in the winter months. When the days in the southern States are rather inclement, the committee finds it necessary to investigate reception conditions in Queensland. So it trots off in the winter to the northern State. I do not know how many witnesses were examined or how much evidence was heard by the committee when it visited Dunk Island, but I do know that it enjoys all these jaunts at the expense of the taxpayers; and it makes its findings, such as they are.
I submit that the only basis on which a committee of this kind can be justified is, first, that it shall be impartial; secondly, that the evidence upon which it is asked to make its findings shall have a proper evidentiary value, that is, witnesses should be able to speak with authority from scientific or special knowledge; and, thirdly, that the Government shall aci upon the committee’s findings whether it approves, or disapproves, of them. So far as my knowledge of the committee goes it does not measure up to any of those qualifications. It is not impartial: the evidentiary value of statements submitted by witnesses is not satisfactory; and the Government acts only upon those findings of the committee which suit it. Therefore, the committee should be reestablished on a proper and honest basis, or it should be abolished out of hand.
.- The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) in characteristic fashion appeared to speak with absolute knowledge of the subject under discussion, but he completely misrepresented the facts and thus rendered his contribution to the debate not only suspect but also completely valueless. He said that the Broadcasting Committee is a “ howling scandal “. His colleagues say, “Hear, hear!”. The honorable member did not offer the slightest evidence to justify that statement. Nothing could be further from the truth. The committee has been set up by the Parliament which has directed that its membership be on a State representative basis. The Parlia-ment requires that each State shall be represented by at least one member on the committee. The committee’s function is well-known to honorable members. It is to investigate matters that are referred to it by the Postmaster-General, and on such matters to obtain the views of the people of this country. It would be easy for the committee merely to sit in judgment on any issue referred to it, or to bring in a finding which may, or may not, be in conformity with the views of the majority of the people. Surely, it is infinitely preferable that on such matters the committee should resolve conflicting views by hearing’ evidence from individuals and representatives of organisations in the community which specialize in the particular subjects which the committee investigates. It is also desirable that regard be paid to the varying interests of the States before the committee brings in findings which frequently are embodied in legislation and thus imposed upon the community. What does the committee seek to do? I had the honour to be appointed to the committee following the last general election. My appointment was due to the fact that no other Western Australian member of the Parliament could be appointed to represent that State on the committee. However, I was reluctant to accept the appointment, not because of any views I entertained about the committee or its work, but because I knew that I would find it most inconvenient, for family reasons, to travel with the committee, which is obliged to sit in various States in order to obtain at first hand the views of individuals and organizations directly concerned with the. matters referred to it. The committee is charged with the responsibility of ascertaining the views of individuals and organizations in all parts of the Commonwealth upon such matters. Yet the honorable member for Parramatta says that it is a “ howling scandal “. In making that statement, he is not only completely inaccurate but also utterly irresponsible. His second complaint is that the reports of the committee are invariably partisan. Since I have been a member of the committee three different matters have been referred to it, one of them consisting of three distinct subheadings. First, it was asked to inquire into how . the operations of the Aus? tralian Broadcasting Commission should be financed. Surely that is a matter of major importance to this country. A number of methods were submitted to the committee for consideration. Some witneses advocated an increase of the listener’s licence-fee, and some advocated that the commission should he allowed to inaugurate sponsored programmes, whilst others advocated that the Government should allo-cate from Consolidated Revenue an increased grant to enable the commission to finance its activities. Another method suggested to the committee was that the revenue from listeners’ licence-fees which are now divided between the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, which is responsible for the technical services of the commission, and the commission itself, should be re-allocated giving a lesser proportion to the Postmaster-General’s Department and a greater proportion to the commission. It was the duty of the Broadcasting Committee to examine those proposals thoroughly, and in respect of them it received evidence by letter and from witnesses. Finally, it decided that the listener’s licence-fee should not be increased and that instead of allowing the commission to inaugurate sponsored programme.the Government should allocate a larger grant to the commission from Consolidated Revenue. The committee had to decide whether a higher tax should be imposed on the owners of radio sets or whether, having regard to one of thirecognized principles of taxation^ Consolidated Revenue should bear a greater proportion of the cost involved in supplying the national broadcasting service. The committee deliberated on those matters, and so far as I remember only one member of it dissented from the decision to recommend that the listener’s licence-fee should not be increased. That honorable member was the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson). I am certain that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) concurred in that decision.
– That is so.’
– The honorable member for Warringah did not come to that decision merely because he felt that it was the .right decision ; he .reached that conclusion on the weight of evidence submitted to .the committee .on the mattes. The members OI the .committee evaluated the evidence submitted to them. That refutes the -statement ,-made irresponsibly, without knowledge and without .proper consideration, by the honorable member for Parramatta. For ; the same reasons, the committee .rejected the proposal to introduce sponsored programmes from national .stations. Correspondence anc evidence .which ‘the committee studied indicated .that 99 per >cen>t. .of the (citizens interested in the subject objected to the idea. They would have favoured ian increase of the licence-fee .only itf the sole alternative .had been .the introduction .of sponsored programmes. Witnesses sand correspondents declared almost invariably that the -introduction of such broadcasts would be repugnant to them and in conflict with their views of the purposes -of the Australian. Broadcasting Commission. That is a matter .upon which the majority of the members of the committee, both Labour ;and Opposition, definitely agreed. One member dissented, as he was entitled to do, but the other members based their conclusions upon the evidence submitted to them, .although perhaps their views were somewhat .coloured by their political beliefs.
The honorable member for Parramatta went on. to ;say that the Broadcasting Committee had engaged in jaunts around the countryside. 1 understand that the honorable member himself has had jaunts around. the countryside at ‘the expense of the taxpayers. He went to Perth with another committee, ostensibly to ascertain whether there was any need for a new repatriation building in that .city to replace the present overcrowded offices in which the work of the Repatriation Commission is carried out in Western Australia. The honorable gentleman did not need to go ito Perth .to .secure evidence on that subject. Anybody who has ever visited or worked in .that building .could have enlightened him.
– Order! The ‘honorable member must confine his remarks to the item before the Chair.
– My remarks -touch upon the subject <of parliamentary jaunts, to .which the .honorable ‘member ‘for Parramatta (referred. One of his major criticisms was that the Broadcasting Committee, in. carrying out its duties, ‘had travelled around Australia. If a ‘sin has been committed by the Broadcasting Committee in , that respect, then the honorable member is convicted, on his own evidence, of having engaged in .an unnecessary jaunt to Western Australia that >cannot produce amy result within & predictable .space of time. I, for one, will resist any proposal for ;an early commencement of work ‘On a new repatriation building at Perth, because, obviously, such an undertaking would interfere with thu housing programme in Western Australia. I .have been on -only one “ jaunt around the country with .the Broadcasting Committee, and that was when it ‘visited Queensland. This is not because I have had no ‘desire to (travel with the committee. I would have .’gladly accompanied it on every .’so-called jaunt because I.:consider .that, having accepted membership. I ira,ve .a duty to do so. The primary purpose :of the committee is ‘to ascertain ‘the wishes >of the people -of Australia in the places where , thev live, not Ito meet only in Sydney, even though, in the ‘opinion of the honorable ‘member for Parramatta, that city is the -centre -of file .continent where :al’l information about Australia and its people cwa be .obtained The Junction of the committee to obtain evidence from Australians wherever T,ne, may be living is laid upon it by the Australian Broadcasting Act. I should have been glad to visit Tasmania and .South Australia with the committee, not on a jaunt, but :as a duty. Two .members of the Opposition came to Western .Australia with the committee, and they will bear out .my statement that the people of Western Australia expressed very .great pleasure at the visit. .Individual citizens and representatives -of .musical societies, cultural organizations, composers and writers, told the committee, in effect, “ Your visits ‘are far too infrequent. The people .of Western Australia have too long been ignored. You spend most of your time in .the ‘crowded cities of the eastern States, and you should come ‘to Western Australia more ‘often ito obtain our views
– What about the Barrier Beef?
– I ignore the parrot cries of the honorable member for Parramatta who, having made irresponsible statements which he cannot justify, seeks by means of inane interjections to divert attention from them. The people of Western Australia said, not only to the committee but also through the newspapers, that the committee should have remained longer than it did in Western Australia. They considered that it could not obtain a proper impression of the opinions of Western Australians unless it extended its stay and visited country centres. The committee made a hurried trip to Northam, where it was received kindly, but the mayor and the councillors of that town said to us, “ You cannot learn the views of the people of Northam if you stay for only an hour or two and rush away again”. We were told that people in Albany and other parts of the great southern area of Western Australia, who are keenly interested in broadcasting, would like to give evidence to the committee. They are anxious to have Australian art and culture developed. They are not less interested in such things than the citizens of the crowded eastern States. The arguments of the honorable member are not only completely unsubstantiated but also, like most of his political views, they are in complete conflict with the views of a vast majority of the people of Australia. His assertion that the views expressed by members of the committee are always partisan can be disposed of very easily. For instance, the committee’s recommendations regarding the establishment of a composers’ fund were unanimous. On a number of other matters, of course, there has been a divergence of opinion and minority reports have been submitted. Members are entitled to dissent from the majority view and make their own recommendations. In doing so, they add to the value of the committee’s reports by indicating opinions that differ from the majority recommendations.
Finally, the honorable member for Parramatta made a vicious, unsubstantiated, and, in my opinion, shocking attack upon the chairman of the committee, Senator Amour. He said that the chairman was unfair and did nothing but express a doctrinaire view. Once again the honorable member, consistent with his attitude on everything about which I have heard him speak, is entirely ignorant of his subject. The chairman of the committee certainly expresses his views, and usually they are the views of the Labour party, which is natural because he is a Labour man and stands for certain principles which the Labour movement holds dear. Nevertheless, his conduct in dealing with witnesses and members of the committee has always been above reproach. His treatment of witnesses is the moat impartial that 1 have known. He receives them courteously and allows them to express opinions which frequently are not strictly within the scope of the committee’s terms of reference. Time after time I have heard him say to witnesses, “ The committee is not empowered to make recommendations about the subjects which you have mentioned but, as you feel strongly about them, we shall submit your views to the proper authorities, who can give consideration to them “. Is that evidence of unfairness and a partial outlook? In attacking the chairman of the committee, the honorable member ha? followed his usual pattern and has spoken without knowledge of his subject. The chairman carries out his duties fairly and honestly and to the best of his ability, and the attack upon him was utterly unjustified. The honorable member also said that the Australian Broadcasting Commission hated the Broadcasting Committee. I do not know whether that statement is true. Personally, I have never heard that that is the view of the Commission. I have read in the press a statement that the Broadcasting Committee is a “ stand-over “ body which harasses the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but I have not heard members of that instrumentality express that view. I have been a friend of one of the members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission for years, and she has never used that expression in my presence. 1 have only a passing acquaintance with the other members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In the circumstances, that statement by the honorable member was most ungenerous. Even if the Australian Broadcasting Commission does resent the Broadcasting Committee, we must not overlook the fact that the committee is constituted by an act of Parliament, and has as much right to exist as has the Australian Broadcasting Commission. One of the functions of the committee, no doubt, is to make a check on the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in certain circumstances. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is a public instrumentality, and its revenue and expenditure in the last financial year exceeded £1,000,000. It is not only reasonable but probably necessary that a parliamentary committee should examine from time to timethe operations of that instrumentality and assess the financial assistance which should be granted to it. As the Australian Broadcasting Commission usually has a deficit, the examination is vitally necessary.
– The Broadcasting Committee was originally appointed by the Menzies Government.
– The fact that the committee was appointed by the, Menzies Government and was continued by the Labour Government suggests that all political parties in this Parliament considered that its existence was justified. The Labour party certainly believed that the committee should be retained, and its existence is now authorized by the Australian Broadcasting Act.
Prom time to time honorable members opposite have advocated the reconstitution of the Public Accounts Committee. According to reports, the. conference of the Liberal party recently recommended the appointment of an authority to supervise financial operations in Australia. But because the Broadcasting Committee has carried out the functions which the act imposes upon it, and keeps a check on the Australian Broadcasting Commission, it is called a “ stand over “ body, and, in the words of the honorable member for Parramatta, is a “ howling scandal “. Other honorable members opposite have described its reports as “ purely partisan “, and have, stated that its jaunts around the country are unjustified. They have also criticized the chairman as being grossly unfair and unjust. All those criticisms are untrue and unjustified in the light of the facts.
.- I move -
That Division No. 7 - Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting £2,700 - be left out, as an instruction to the Government - that the committee should only function on special matters referred to it under section 85 of the Australian Broadcasting Act and by means of special provision for that purpose.
I am impelled to take this action by the extraordinary speech which the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) has jus delivered. He devoted nearly five minutes to castigating the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) for having travelled to Perth with the Public Works Committee, and then spent another five minutes in praising the activities of the Broadcasting Committee, which recently wandered, round Western Australia. The honorable member stated that the committee had not remained in Western Australia long enough. I am unable to reconcile those two views. The honorable member cannot have it both ways. In my opinion, the Broadcasting Committee could do good work in a special way, but it cannot function as the Parliament intended it to do if it continues to be used as a propaganda machine for the Government, and is allowed to deal with matters which annot within its terms of reference. Much of its work is rendered abortive, because the Government repeatedly ignores itf recommendations.
The operations of the Broadcasting Committee have interposed between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Government an obstacle which must create inefficiency and many difficulties. The introduction of frequency modulation in Australia should have been referred to the committee for investigation and report, but the Government, when making its decision, disregarded the committee. The reconstitution of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which was announced a few days ago, is another matter of major importance which the Government should have referred to the committee. What is the use of retaining the committee when its work is futile and inept, and causes friction between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Government? The effect of my amendment will he to restrain the committee from wandering round Australia at will. Provision is not made in the Estimates for the reconstitution of the Public Accounts Committee, which was also a statutory body. It could be reappointed at any time by executive act. At present, we must seek opportunities to effect real economies without causing actual hardship. The placing of the restriction which I have suggested on the peregrinations of the Broadcasting Committee, will save the taxpayers £2,700 per annum. If the Government considers rhat provision should be made for the proper supervision of accounts, it should reconstitute the Public Accounts Committee. After World War I., that committee rendered extraordinarily useful service to the Commonwealth in revealing how hundreds of thousands of pounds could be saved by the removal of excrescences which had been valuable ancillary activities of the Government in wartime, but which had lost their value in peace-time. Without an investigating body such as the Public Accounts Committee, it is most difficult to discover when such authorities become redundant. Any value that the Broadcasting Committee may have had at the time of its inception no longer exists. The decline of it3 usefulness is revealed by the fact that the Government by-passed it recently, and did not seek its views on two major broadcasting matters, frequency modulation and the organization of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Government itself has really destroyed the value >f the Broadcasting Committee, yet the Parliament is being asked to provide money for the preservation, of what is virtually a corpse. The committee is no longer a live functioning body, and we should decently inter it, and arrange for its work to be done in a more simple and direct way. Having regard to what has been said, an analysis should he made of the expenses that have been incurred by this body. The analysis should show the total sum that is involved and where, how and why the individual expenses were incurred. It has been sug gested that the committee is functioning very satisfactorily. What is the position? When the Parliament assembled after the general election in 1946, the members of the Australian Country party who had served on the Broadcasting Committee for the previous three years were so dissatisfied with its work that they refused to be associated with it any longer. The Liberal party decided, for the reasons that were explained by the honorable member for Parramatta, that its representatives should continue to serve on the committee, but the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), who has, I venture to say, served on almost every kind of committee that the Parliament has established and done very good work on all of them, refused to have anything further to do with it. He said that its proceedings involved a waste of public money and of the time of private individuals who were dragged in to give evidence. Section S5 (2) of the Australian Broadcasting Act states -
The Minister shall refer to the Committee any such matter which the Commission or the body known, at the commencement of this Act, as the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations requests him to refer to the Committee.
Special provision could be made to enable the committee to function to that degree, but I venture to say that the matters that would be referred to it in that way would not be such as to require it to travel all over Australia at great expense to the public. The sight of a huge caravanserai wandering around the country in search of information that could be acquired within 100 yards of Parliament House in Canberra causes much dissatisfaction among the general public.
I propose now to refer to the question of radio communication with our sister Dominions. The Broadcasting Committee has not been instructed by the Government to investigate whether radio communication between Australia and the other Dominions can be improved. There is room for more reciprocity than exists at present. When I was in Africa, I spoke to the people who were in control of broadcasting there and found that they were anxious that there should be reciprocal arrangements with regard to programmes and information so that the people of these two great southern Dominions could know more about each other. More information should be available in the library of the National Parliament about our sister Dominions, and especially those which are close to us. Even though there is a daily air-mail service between Australia and New Zealand one cannot find in the Parliamentary library a New Zealand newspaper which is less than five or six days old. When I raised this matter on a previous occasion, I was told that it would cost too much to bring New Zealand newspapers here by air mail so that we could read them when they were fresh and learn what was happening in New Zealand. I ask again whether it is possible to bring newspapers here by air mail from all the important cities of New Zealand so that we may read them while their news is fresh and of real interest to us. Only one African paper is filed in the library, and that is the Cape Times, which usually takes three or four weeks to get here. I suggest that newspapers should be brought here, even by ordinary mail, from Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Rhodesia and the British East African territories, so that we may keep in touch with current events in those parts of the world. The suggestion that was made by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) recently that migrants from Europe and Britain should be brought to Kenya or Mombasa by air and then transported by boat to Australia shows how important our relations with the people in that part of the world may be. We should ensure that our newspapers are sent to other British territories and that theirs are sent to us so that the peoples of the countries concerned may acquire a greater knowledge of one another. That would lead to mutual understanding, and we should be able to make common cause, not merely in solving our peace problems, but also in dealing with our defence problems.
– The amendment that has been moved by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) prompts me to apeak on this item. It is amazing to bear a member of the Australian Country party suggesting that the States should be deprived of the opportunity that they now have to place evidence with regard to broadcasting before the Broadcasting Committee and to have it considered in due course by the Parliament. The committee visited South Australia recently. We were informed of the date on which it would arrive and were told that any one who desired to place his views before it was welcome to do so. Members of the committee afterwards expressed to me their pleasure at the evidence that had been tendered to them. To talk of obtaining evidence within a hundred yards of Parliament House in Canberra is merely to provide an additional argument to be used by those who say that the people are ruled from Canberra. One of the comments I have made about the concentration of government services in Canberra is thai those who reside here permanently will tend eventually not to appreciate th’views of the people living in the States, and that it is necessary continually to bring in to Canberra new blood or information from the States and centres of industry so that the various government departments in this city may understand the position of the people in those States and centres. 1 was amazed when I heard the right honorable member for Cowper, who often refers to the needs of the outback people and the necessity for making provision for them to express their views and to have them conveyed to the Parliament, move an amendment suggesting that a committee that could go to those places and take evidence there should be abolished. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) is shaking his head. My understanding of the amendment is that it proposes that this item of £2,700 should be left out.
– It is as an instruction.
– As an instruction to abolish this committee.
– That is the intention of the amendment. If we eliminate from the Estimates the £2,700 that is required to finance the committee, it will cease to exist. Listening to this debate the people of this country might get the idea, particularly from what has been said by the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), that members of the committee receive substantial payment for their work. The truth is that chey receive only expenses, and those only when they are travelling away from the centre in which they reside. That hardly supports the accusation that members seek appointment to the Broadcasting Committee for what they can get out of it.
As we are now dealing with the vote for the Parliament, I assume that I am entitled to refer also to the Public Works Committee. I agree with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) that if the Opposition believes that parliamentary committees can obtain all the information that they require within 100 yards of this building, then there is no justification for the continuance of the Public Works Committee. But I remind honorable members that there are various committees in the State parliaments also. My experience has been that there is a general consensus of opinion that parliamentary committees render a valuable service to the community. Honorable members opposite claim that the Broadcasting Committee has not done anything of importance. I remind them that it is competent for the Parliament to refer matters to that committee for investigation. When I was a member of the South Australian Parliament, if members of the Opposition parties believed that there was some matter of importance that should be investigated, they would take the first opportunity, usually on private members’ day, to move that an investigation be made by a parliamentary committee. Opposition members in this Parliament have a similar opportunity, but I do not know of any occasion on which they have moved for the reference of any particular matter to the Broadcasting Committee. I believe that it would be a great mistake to abolish any committee which gives to the people in the States an opportunity to express their views on matters of importance to them. The constitution of the Broadcasting Committee provides that it shall include at least one member from each State. That means that all the States have an equal say in the delibera tions and recommendations of the committee. Another criticism that has been levelled against the Broadcasting Committee to-day is that it is controlled by a government majority and that it is being used to pave the way for the implementation of the Government’s policy. Opposition speakers make that charge with one breath, and then with the next they complain that the Government has done something or other without reference to the committee.
I believe that this debate has been used by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) and by Opposition members to ventilate personal spite and to endeavour to convince the people that the Government is using this committee for its own ends. The committee was constituted under legislation introduced by the Menzies Government. If the committee has not functioned satisfactorily since then, the fault lies, not with this Government, but with honorable members, who, knowing of matters which should have been investigated, have refrained from requesting the Government to refer them to the committee. I say again that in the interests of the smaller States and of people who live in distant portions of the Commonwealth it is desirable that this committee should remain in existence. I agree that, when committees visit various parts of the Commonwealth, some members of them do not always spend their time attending to the work to be done; but that is not the fault of the legislation under which those committees are constituted. It is the fault, very often, of the committee itself and, occasionally, of some members of it. However, if 1 were a member of a committee which visited Cairns, and I ignored a chance to see the Barrier Reef, I have no doubt that the members who to-day are complaining about the activities of the Broadcasting Committee, would be the first to say that I was a fool not to have taken the opportunity to improve my knowledge of the beauties of the Commonwealth. So, I do not believe that that type of argument will get us very far. I urge honorable members not to take any action which may cause the States to feel that they are having taken away from them, opportunities that they now possess to place their views before .his Parliament. Rather we should be extending those opportunities. I oppose the amendment, but I believe the debate has done quite a lot of good. Unfortunately, too much personal feeling has been shown by some honorable members opposite. 1 hope that the discussion will cause the Government members of the Broadcasting Committee, and members of the Parliament generally, to appreciate more readily their responsibility to use the committee in the best interest of the community.
.- I support the amendment, which is designed to draw attention to the uselessness of the Broadcasting Committee. I expected Government supporters to advance some concrete arguments against the amendment, but we have heard nothing of a solid nature to support the expenditure which is necessary to maintain the committee. The main point made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) seemed to be that the committee was valuable in itself and was justified in wandering around the various capital cities listening to evidence given by witnesses. He said that people enjoyed very much giving evidence before the committee. On those views I have only this comment to make: If it is advisable to have a committee travelling around the country finding out what people think about broadcasting, it would also be a good idea to have other committees travelling throughout the Commonwealth asking people what they thought about all sorts of things, including, for instance, taxation. The opinions of ex-servicemen could also be sought on repatriation pensions. But the Government does not propose to follow that course. It knows very well that the Broadcasting Committee is not of any concrete benefit to the community. It is footling, to say that people enjoy giving evidence before the committee. Of course they do. People are prepared to take up the time of any committee in that way. There will never be any shortage of people eager to give evidence. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) said that he had gone on. a jaunt to Queensland and that he regretted that he had been unable to go also on a jaunt to Tasmania and on a jaunt to Adelaide. The operative word in the honorable member’s speech was “ jaunt “. I know that the honorable member for Perth if a most sincere and conscientious individual, but why on earth should the country be put to the expense of financing jaunts for him and others? The chairman of the committee (Senator Amour) had a jaunt to wider fields, as is very well known to all honorable members. I say that there must be something more solid to support the continuance of public expenditure on this committee than the perhaps reasonable desire of honorable members to go on jaunts about the country. I did not rise primarily to speak on whether the committee should continue its existence, but to discuss a report that it has made concerning frequency modulation, television and facsimile broadcasting. What honorable members have heard in the Parliament on those subjects simply amounts to this : that the Government has now embarked on a proposal to develop a government monopoly of broadcasting and of television. At present in Australia any one. subject to his obtaining a licence, may broadcast almost anything he likes. Any one who can obtain the necessary newsprint may publish a newspaper expressing any views he likes, whether they be from a Labour, Liberal, Communist or any other standpoint.
– Views which could be true or otherwise.
– I know “that some honorable members on the Government side do not believe in a free press. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) is one of them. Another is the honorable member for Parkes (“Mr. Haylen), who often rises to say something ad.verse to the press, whilst the. Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) never ceases to criticize the press and those who work for it. The Prime Minister’s opinions on the press are well known. Honorable, members know that the Government does not favour a free press. Now the Government sees an opportunity to get a medium of public expression’ entirely into its own bands by means of its proposals regarding broadcasting. The time has come, in effect, when the Government proposes to silence freedom of expression in the important medium of broadcasting. As everybody knows, broadcasting lias reached a very important stage in its development. There is no doubt, as one may see by considering developments overseas, that frequency modulation and television will be the broadcasting media of the future. They will become commonplace and in due course people will have television and frequency modulation receiving sets installed in their homes. But the Government has not the backbone tq say that it will close down every broadcasting station in Australia. It simply states that everything new in technical development and every new medium is to be a government monopoly. How can its policy regarding frequency modulation be defended? Let honorable members cast their minds back to the days when wireless broadcasting was first established in Australia. What would have been the position then if the government of the day had decided that, as there had been no wireless broadcasting before, the government would make it a government monopoly? Thank heavens there was not a Labour government in office at that time. Indeed, one might say thank heavens there was not a Labour government in office when rapid and effective printing presses- came into common use. Restricting the operation of frequency modulation and television services to a government monopoly would in a sense be just as serious as if, a century ago, a government had said that it would monopolize every new printing press and that only government news and propaganda would be published. Honorable members need have no doubt about the type of propaganda that will be distributed through any media over which the Government has control. Almost every day we may hear over the national stations news that is tinged with Labour political propaganda. One needs to look no further than a broadcast made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission at the time of the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia. In Britain, America, France, and every country of the world, with the exception of the Russian satellite countries, that occurrence was held for what it really was, a coup in which Communists seized control of Czechoslovakia and murdered those who disagreed with them. They threw the Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia, Mr. Jan Masaryck, out of a window. But at that time the Australian Broadcasting Commission said, in effect : “ Of course Britain says so-and-so and France thinks so-and-so, but in the opinion of the Australian Broadcasting Commission commentator, who is on the spot, this upset in Czechoslovakia represents a change in personalities only”. That was what the Australian Broadcasting Commission told us about the Czechoslovakian affair and honorable members need not believe that it would be any less partisan and ruthless should it obtain entire control of new media of expression in this country.
– I hope the committee will reject the amendment moved by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) who has just spoken raised a number of issues which are possibly not really with the compass of the debate. He spoke about television and stated that the Government desired to make it a government monopoly. The Government has very good reasons for its action and has also very good precedents for it. When radio broadcasting was established in this country, the then Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, Sir Harry Brown, recommended that it should be a government monopoly. Instead, the government of the day allowed commercial radio stations to be established. In recommending a government monopoly of radio broadcasting, Sir Harry Brown was following the practice that had been established in Great Britain, where a conservative government had established a government monopoly by its appointment of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Surely nobody would label either the Baldwin Government or the late Earl Baldwin himself as radical or revolutionary, socialist or Communist or any of those other types of people so hated by honorable members of the Opposition. The Government therefore has an excellent, precedent to guide- it if it should decide to nationalize broadcasting. It has decided to make television a government monopoly. There are excellent reasons, some of which have not yet been disclosed, why it should take that action. Some of those reasons have been disclosed. The Government thinks that the public domain should not be invaded by people who wish to make profit from enterprises which, in some cases, come into their hands as a result of fortuitous circumstances only. The air is the public domain, and I know that if the capitalist class could do so, it would sell air to the people at so much a cubic foot and would even measure out sunlight by so much a yard, but it is not physically possible for that to be done, and 40 the air remains free for ordinary people to breathe, and the sun may shine on the land and on every human being without private enterprise being able to do anything- about monopolizing them. It is not so very long since broadcasting was first used as a medium for disseminating information, and in the course of our lifetime we have witnessed the development of radio broadcasting from the simple crystal sets of former days to the modern eight-valve, dual-wave sets at present in use. However, still further technical developments are preceeding the application of which will prove of tremendous importance to any one who can monopolize their use. Members of the Government and the proprietors of the commercial stations know that recently an emissary from the Liberal party was sent to England in order to obtain funds for the Liberal party for the next general election campaign. A deal was negotiated whereby a big overseas concern which was anxious to establish television in Australia was to obtain a monopoly from the Australian Government after the next general elections if the Liberal party were elected to office^ Members of the Liberal party do not intend that the present proprietors of the commercial broadcasting stations *hall get a monopoly of television in this country, but hope to- compel the commercial stations to obtain, patents from the great overseas organization w» which I have referred.
Opposition- members interjecting:,.
– Honorable member* opposite are simply not going to be permitted to get away with that. If necessary, the present Government will enact legislation in order to prevent that deal from being brought off.
– Where did the Minister get his information about the alleged deal?
– I am not going to reveal all the information in my posse? sion.
– The matter which th« Minister is now discussing is not relevant to the item under consideration.
– With respect, I submit that I am entitled to reply to the attack which has been made on the Government in regard to television, which has been mentioned frequently in the de bate, particularly by the honorable men ber for Henty, to whom I am replying.
– I made only passing reference to television.
– The passing reference which I have made to- the subject if one that the Chair, in its wisdom, should permit. In reply to the inquiry which the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) made as to the source from which I obtained my information. I reply that the time is not yet ripe to say all that members of the Government have to say in regard to this matter. We are taking time by the forelock, and it know the deals that are being negotiated in regard to a number of matters.
The report submitted by the Broad casting Committee was made before all the information which we now posses’ was available, and the Government haitaken the responsibility of determining s policy in regard to television and other matters concerned with radio broadcasting. It wants the Broadcasting Committee to continue to function as long as it can perform a useful service, and members of the Government are satisfied that that committee is still performing a useful service and that it will con tinue to do- so for some time to come.
When. I referred! this afternoon to the activities of the Broadcasting. Committee in 1944,, I said inadvertently that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and’ the former honorable mem: ber for Wilmot had recommended the sale of station 2HD to the Australian
Labour party. I! now find that I. did those gentlemen an injustice,, because, the committee, to which I referred merely took evidence and heard the views of. Mr.. Alderman, who was the legal representative of Jehovah’s Witnesses, to the effect that the station was being sold, without making any recommendation, on the matter. My recollection of what happened in 1944’ was nol? as- accurate as- I thought in regard’ to certain matters, which occurred! about- the time the motion, for- the adjournment of the House was moved to discuss the sale of station 2H-D. I thought that the honorable member for Moreton had- made a: recommendation, and had’ failed to notify his leader. I think that I am accurate in saying that’ evidence- was taken by the committee, of which he was a member, and that he might have- notified his leader of the action taken. That, however, is his’ own affair, and I simply desire to correct the record-.
– I gratefully accept the Minister’s apology.
– I offer no apology; L simply make a. correction. I think that the committee has spent quite enough dme. on this matter. If. all the items in the Estimates axe to be debated at such length we shall be- here until Christmas. Since I know that members of the Opposition are anxious to bolt fir.om Canberra before the end of October, [ do not intend to- prolong, unnecessarily discussion of any item in. the Estimates F oppose, the amendment.
’.- Before- the sitting; was suspended1 for dinner; the Minister- for Information (Mr. Calwell) challenged me to obtain from the Clerk the report of the Broadcasting Committee which dealt’ with frequency modulation. I have: obtained, that report, and although [ do not propose- to read any. more of it than, is necessary, I shall, read certain portions., which relate to the matters previously mentioned-.- The report stated- thai? hot November, 1944-, the Ministry supplied’ terms: of reference to the Parliamentary Broadcasting Committee as> follows* -
In view of the developments winch are likely to take place- in. the- post-war period- in new forms of broadcasting,, particularly with respect, to. television and frequency modulation, it is desirable that investigations should be. made for the purpose! of determining, in waa manner, and to what ex.tent4. these- new- features should be incorporated in the domestic broadcasting- system; in: the- Commonwealth- of Australia^
Three things- emerge clearly from, a perusal of that document,, which are summarized in the sentence : “ In what manner and. to what extent these new features should’ be incorporated- into the domestic broadcasting, system of the Commonwealth of Australia-? That means- an unqualified inquiry into the system. The document also contains the conclusions reached by the committee. They do not appear as “ recommendations “J although my understanding of the procedure in publishing, such document? is that after the. committee has taken evidence and arrived at certain, conclusions, it usually makes, specific recommendations. However, that may be, the conclusions reached by the committee are as follows.: -
The equipment referred to is obviously not merely the equipment, of the Australian Broadcasting. Commission, but- of the entire broadcasting systems of Australia. The committee then sets out further conclusions at which it arrived, which are as follows: -
The preceding paragraph again makes it clear that the committee did not suggest that frequency modulation should become a monopoly of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The final conclusion reached by the committee is as follows : -
This is not another instance of the committee inquiring into and making a recommendation upon some matter which had not been included in its terms of reference, because the actual terms of reference directed the committee to investigate the matter of frequency modulation from the viewpoint not only of its effect upon the national broadcasting system but also upon the commercial broadcasting system. The committee recommended that certain things of an experimental nature only should be done, but the Government has gone far beyond them, and, apparently using the committee as a pair of stilts to help it on the highway to nationalization, proposes to make this new development the monopoly of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. In respect of television the recommendations were very much the same. Whilst I am dealing with television, let me tell the Minister that, according to the latest figures I have been able to obtain, approximately 100,000 people are waiting for the installation of telephones, yet, as far as I know, the Government has not given to any committee a direction to inquire as to how the lag in the installation of telephones may be overtaken.
– Order! The proposed vote before the committee is that for the
Parliament and not the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– Telephones should be of much higher priority than television or facsimile broadcasting. There are probably not 100 people in the whole of Australia who care a rap about television or facsimile broadcasting. The people generally are very much more concerned about obtaining the things that they need urgently than about television, facsimile broadcasting, or any other type of broadcasting.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– I know that because I am in close contact with the people whom I represent. Let us consider some other misapprehensions of the Minister for Information. Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner the Minister told me that I did not know what I had said at the time the proposal for the establishment of the standing committee on broadcasting was under consideration. I admit frankly thatI did not remember the exact wordsI then used, but I know that when Iam opposed to anything I do not change’ my views overnight. I have since lookedup the record in order to ascertain just what I said on that occasion. Once again the Minister and I were at loggerheads, which is not unusual. I was one of the three* honorable members who opposed the establishment of the standing committee. My statement in opposition was followed by a statement by the then honorable member for Robertson, Mr. Spooner, who was strongly in favour of it. That is not surprising. Then followed the then honorable member for Eden-Monaro, Mr. Perkins, who also opposed the proposal. He, in turn, was followed by the then honorable member for Wakefield, Mr. Duncan Hughes, who was also opposed to it. My statement was very brief, but it is not capable of being misunderstood by the Minister. I said -
I do not think that the proposed standing committee will work out exactly as the joint committee thinks it will. I express again my belief that ministerial authority is the best way of dealing with these things.
That is not a recent opinion; it is one I have held ever since I entered politics.
– The honorable member was a Minister then.
– I was not a Minister then, and in fact had not been a Minister for some time. I assure the honorable member, however, that when I am a Minister no opinion other than my own matters a rap. When honorable members have absorbed that. I shall go on. I continued -
Our experience in this Parliament,, especially in the last twelve months,of the manner in which parliamentary committees function, has not been altogether happy. I. have no doubt that the standing committee will be set up, but, when its history comes to be written three or four years hence, its achievements will be simply described by one big question mark.
Could anything have been more simply stated than that? I continued -
We shall have, not only a PostmasterGreneral, but also the commission, the standing committee, and an advisory committee in each State. I fear that the boat will be overloaded.
The honorable member for Melbourne, now the Minister for Information, by interjection - a frequent habit of his - said -
They have a somewhat similar arrangement in the United States of America.
The United States of America was very popular in 1942. I replied -
If we had copied less of our Constitution from the United States of America than we did, we should probably have avoided some of the troubles which are worrying us to-day. [ do not turn to the United States of America for an example whenever I want one.
Again the honorable gentleman interjected, saying -
The committee system works admirably there.
I replied -
So does the Tammany Hall system. I protest against the establishment of a parliamentary standing committee. I have very grave doubts whether the scheme will bear the fruit that it sponsors expect.
If that was the statement of one who failed to oppose the establishment of the standing committee, I do not know what the Minister wants in the way of opposition.
– Did the honorable member force his proposal to a vote ?
– No division was taken.
– But the honorable member said that he voted against the proposal.
– Only one division was taken and that related to the question whether preference should be afforded to ex-servicemen, and, naturally, the old “ swaddies “ lost. I was not in the chamber, Mr. Temporary Chairman, when this debate began. I ask your guidance-
– As to what the honorable member is talking about?
– The Minister should not try to be funny. He succeeds only when he is unconscious of being funny. I should like to know what vote the committee is discussing, whether it be the vote for the Parliament as a whole or for the Broadcasting Committee.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The committee is considering the remainder of the proposed vote foT the Parliament.
– What part of the proposed vote has already been passed,?
– The first item only.
– Then I propose to say a word or two about the Public Works Committee. Between the southern portion of the city of Canberra and the aerodrome a bridge was constructed not long ago, but no sooner had it been completed than there was a flood in the Molonglo River and tons of cement and good steel were washed away. Here is something that happened right under the nose, as it were, of the Public Works Committee; but as far as I know, no investigations have been made of the occurrence and no trial of somebody who ought almost to have been shot has taken place. Parliamentary committees are financed by money extracted from the taxpayers and certain responsibilities devolve upon them. If I were a member of a committee charged with responsibilities similar to that of the Public Works Committee, and I saw what I have seen in this city with regard to that bridge, I would raise the matter in this chamber in some way or another. Reference has been made to jaunts. I believe there have been too many. No honorable member has attempted to defend the Dunk Island jaunt. I do not know whether there are many receiving sets there, but no doubt the committee could inform us, seeing that it is so careful of the interests of the listeners.
Estimates provide an amount of £2,700 to meet the expenses of the Broadcasting Committee. Listening to the criticism of honorable members opposite one would think that the amount was £2,700,000. I n view of the value of the work done by the committee since its inception, we can bc sure that the £2,700 which is to be appropriated will be well spent. The records of the Parliament contain many valuable reports submitted by the committee from time to time. The first broadcasting committee was appointed by the Menzies Government in July, 1941, and it became a statutory, committee by virtue of the Australian Broadcasting Act, which was passed in 1942, and assented on the 12th June of that year. Section 85 of the act sets out the duties of the committee as follows : -
The Committee shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, consider and report to the Parliament upon every matter affecting broadcasting in Australia or the Territories of the Commonwealth which either House of the Parliament, by resolution, refers to the Committee and upon every other such matter referred to the Committee by .the Minister.
The Minister shall refer to the Committee any such matter which the Commission or the body known, at -the commencement of this Act, as the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations requests him, to refer to the Committee.
Those are very important duties, and they justify the committee in travelling to various parts of Australia in order to take evidence so that members may inform their minds on the matters which they are called upon to consider. Honorable members opposite have suggested that the committee travels too much, but the original committee also travelled, and took evidence in most of the States. Among its members were Sir Charles Marr, then the honorable member for Parkes, Senator Amour, Dr. Price, who was then honorable member for Boothby, and the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). I do not agree that public .money has been wasted by the committee. In the past, the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) has praised the work of the Broadcasting Committee - which accounts, perhaps, for his present silence. I quote the following from his speech on the Australian Broadcasting Bill, as recorded in Hansard for the 2nd July, 1942, at page 1866:-
The polite custom seems to be to commend the Joint Committee on Broadcasting on thi: report which it has prepared. I desire to be no less courteous than my colleagues, and I think that the committee has done good work, because it has achieved something which successive Postmasters-General failed to achieve- - it has brought into harmony thf varying opinions of members of various par ties. I know that Ministers have in the past drafted bills and submitted them to the Par liament, but the feeling of the Parliament war such that no hill was previously regarded a*wholly satisfactory. I do not say that ! approve everything that the . hill contain but it is a notable step forward, and I would not rob the members of the committee of tl>credit due to them.
That was truly a statesmanlike utterance. The work of the original commit’ tee was” also praised bv Professor Bland, of the Sydney University, a man in high favour with members of the Opposition, though not so much a favorite with members of the Labour party. It is true that the Australian Broadcasting Com mission has, from time to time, found fault with the Broadcasting Committee. Perhaps that is because the commission realizes that the committee is a check on its activities, and has brought to thi attention of the Postmaster-General and of the Parliament certain shortcomings of the commission. Honorable member? opposite are not justified in criticizing the chairman of the Committee simply because he does not find favour with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. “When members of the Opposition cast reflection upon the committee, they also cast reflection upon the integrity of those members of the Parliament who serve on the committee. 3 cannot agree that the Broadcasting Committee could conduct its inquiries effectively in Canberra without travelling to other parts of Australia. It would be impracticable to collect evidence by correspondence, and if witnesses were brought to Canberra the cost would far exceed the amount of £2,700 which the;
Parliament is being asked to appropriate this financial year. The committee cannot travel when both Houses of Parliament are sitting, and the fact that it visits Queensland at one time of the year and Tasmania at another has no particular significance. I commend the committee upon its work, and I oppose the amendment.
– I have noticed some strange reactions among honorable members opposite during the course of this debate. For instance, immediately the word “ jaunt “ was used, the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) sat bolt upright. He had a look at the Estimates, saw that £2,700 was a mere bagatelle compared with what was spent on his jauntings around the world, and then thought he should proceed to protect his fellow “ jaunters “. I wonder where the honorable member was when I spoke on this subject earlier in the evening? Possibly he was mapping out some plans for the future. I can assure the honorable member that his contribution has left my withers completely unwrung.
I spoke in favour of the first Gibson Committee on broadcasting, this afternoon, and I commended it for the work that it had done. If the present committee had continued along similar lines there would not have been any criticism levelled at it by Opposition members. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) found himself in a most unfortunate position in this debate. As Minister representing the Postmaster-General and the Australian Broadcasting Commission in this chamber, he was in an invidious position for, in truth, as Minister for Information, he is opposed to the Broadcasting Commission, because he runs a service entirely opposed to the commission and is strenuously resisting all attempts of the commission to take over short-wave stations. In those circumstances he finds it very difficult to defend the Broadcasting Committee.
My main argument with the Minister arises from his gross misrepresentation of something which happened, and of which he has no knowledge. When challenged ito give his facts before this chamber he said,, with that knowing leer of his, “Ah, we are not in a position to say all we know at the moment”. He said that a member of the Liberal party went overseas to negotiate some franchise with regard to modern development? in broadcasting. He knows that is utterly false. He said it was to get some money for the coffers of the Liberal party. I say to the people of Australia that it is by the actions and words of the Minister, that they can judge the truth of his statement. Earlier in the debate this evening he said that the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) had been a member of the committee which had knowledge of the sale of the famous or infamous broadcasting station 2HD-
– That is right.
– A moment ago honorable members heard the Minister make an abject apology to the honorable member for Moreton, who went around to the table, showed the Minister the report, and discussed it with him thus displaying a far more generous attitude than the Minister deserved after having blackened the honorable member’s name, politically, over the air this afternoon. As a result the Minister had to retract, but he then made another false statement in regard to an ex-member of this chamber, who is not here to defend himself. The Minister said that the man he wai referring to was a member of the Liberal party. I resent the Minister’s gross insinuations. Obviously that statement had as much truth in it as was contained in the statement regarding the honorable member for Moreton, foi which the Minister apologized. The public can judge for themselves how much the Minister’s words can be relied on when he loses control of himself. His main concern is immigration, and in that connexion he is doing a remarkably good job, but he should mot confuse that with the Australian Broadcasting Commission and become entirely irresponsible in the state ments that he makes in this chamber.
When speaking about the Broadcasting Committee, the Minister said that it was a great pity that the air had not been nationalized when broadcasting first became an established fact. He delivered a great dissertation on the glorious sunshine. He said that the lovely air we breathe is free to everybody, and that if the capitalist had his way he would measure out the air and the sunshine to the consumer. He spoke, of course, in the approved Yarra Bank fashion, just as he does when on the soap box. Surely the people can determine the worth of these stations and the value of broadcasting as a means of entertainment. Let us consider the result .of a Gallup-poll on broadcast programmes. Two out of three of all city listeners, and most country listeners tune in to the commercial stations rather than the national broadcasting stations. The people themselves determine the entertainment that pleases them. Why, then, mould frequency modulation, the full possibilities of which cannot be forseen at the moment, be nationalized? Why should the Government deny to two out of every three persons their rightful choice? The Government proposes to ram down the throats of the listeners the national programmes whether the people like it or not. Surely the Government should take stock of public opinion with regard to these matters.
The Minister said that the Broadcasting Committee is unbiased. I have some knowledge of the committee having been used when the Government “ fixer “, Mr. Alderman, went to Newcastle in connexion with the sale of station 2H’D. He approached the Anglican synod, and said, “ If you are prepared to give certain considerations to the Australian Labour party then you will get the licence”. When that was queried, he said, “ Then it will go before the Parliamentary Committee on Broadcasting, on which there is a majority of Labour members “. How can the Minister suggest that a committee of this nature is unbiased in its approach when it can be used to influence the transfer of a station in Labour’s favour? It is very important to review such matters when a Minister of the Crown, quite unnecessarily, tries to blacken the names of persons outside the Parliament who cannot defend themselves, after he has failed in his attempt to blacken the names of honorable members in this chamber who have been far too generous to him.
In trying to establish a case for this committee it has been contended that all matters of major importance associated with broadcasting should be referred to it. In answer to earlier remark? that I had made, it was pointed out that this committee was entrusted with the best method of financing an investigation of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. This committee is not concerned with anything other than the wasteful expenditure which is incurred., and the waste of the time of honorable members. It seems to me that with a proposed Government expenditure of about £500,000,000 a year it is high time that the Public Accounts Committee wa> reconstituted, or some other means devised to check wasteful expenditure. Such a committee could keep a check on expenditure, and might be able to give this Parliament and the Broadcasting Committee some information which would prevent extravagance instead of waiting for the Auditor-General’.”1 report to reveal it.
The Broadcasting Committee is not at the moment functioning as it should, but it can be made an efficient committee, unless the Government wants it to be -a “stooge” to carry out its wishes. The Government should accept the amendment of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that this division should be withdrawn so as to allow the Government to appoint a committee for specialized jobs, to carry out investigations and report to it on matters that may be referred to it under the act. If the Government does that, it will enable the committee to function properly. I put it to the Minister that the Government either desires the committee to function in the best interests and traditions of parliamentary committees or it wants the committee to be a “stooge” committee. At. present the Broadcasting Committee is a “ stooge “ committee. Therefore, the Government should accept the amendment moved by the right honorable member for Cowper.
.- First, I wish to make certain observations with respect to the Broadcasting Committee and, secondly, to discuss the proposed vote in respect of the Parliamentary Library. I listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks of honorable members opposite concerning the Broadcasting Committee for which the proposed vote is £2,700. As a “Western Australian I note particularly their view that the committee is wasting its own time as well as public money by travelling around Australia. They said that the committee was “jaunting” around the country. All I can say about the visits which the committee has made to Western Australia is that whenever it visits that State nearly all the churches, women’s organizations, trade unions, individuals such as musicians, and a stream of people in that State are always most anxious to give evidence before it. From time to time I receive inquiries as to when the committee is likely to visit Western Australia from people who are critical of commercial broadcasting - they misapprehend the function of the committee - as well as from people who are critical of the national broadcasting system and wish to present their views to the committee. What means are we to provide to the Australian community to express its opinions on broadcasting generally and programmes on the national stations if we are not to rely for that purpose upon a committee of this kind which travels throughout the Commonwealth in order to come into contact with the public? Would it be satisfactory for organizations simply to submit their views and representations in writing to the Postmaster- General when they know that he would probably reply that his control over the Australian Broadcasting Commission is not direct as that body is a statutory corporation having a wide measure of autonomy? I believe that direct criticism by the public before the committee is a sensible arrangement. If it be a fact that the members of the committee are not carrying out their duties adequately, the Parliament should appoint a new committee. But honorable members opposite seem to attack only the principle of the committee. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asserted dramatically that when he was a Minister he governed and would not tolerate any committees. That is exactly the kind of system that the public does not want. People do not want to be sending letters to a Minister in order to convey their individual criticism of broadcasting programmes. They like to appear personally before the committee to present their views systematically and to stand up to cross-examination on the matters they raise ; and the number of organizations which have been willing to follow that practice shows that the proposed expenditure of £2,700 a year in respect of the Broadcasting Committee is not excessive.
I wish to draw attention to certain matters in relation to the Parliamentary Library which the proposed vote for this year is £25,500, compared with an expenditure of £20,816 last year. An increase of £4,684 is contemplated. At present, expenditure on the Parliamentary Library is completely niggardly. Although a library exists mainly to make books available to the public, the proposed expenditure on books is only £7,700, the remaining £18,000 being in respect of salaries of librarians, research staffs, and other officers. The Parliamentary Library is really being starved of funds. Unfortunately that has been its experience since its inception. Bearing in mind the price of books, particularly technical books, in the United States of America to-day, the proposed expenditure of £7,700 under that heading is inadequate. The books which are purchased by the Parliamentary Library are mainly books of reference for the use of the Parliament. These are exchanged with the National Library, whilst books usually housed in the National Library are used also in the Parliamentary Library. It is impossible to separate the two institutions when discussingthe proposed vote. The point I make is that when one peruses major works of reference which are obtained by the library from time to time and consultsfootnotes and references to other publications one finds almost invariably that the latter books and publications are not available in the library. A tremendousamount of research in all classes of subjects, including the humanities and sociological subjects, is now being carried’ on in the United States of America, but our library is not obtaining adequate quantities of such material. It is not obtaining a sufficient range of United1 States material. I presume that the same- observation applies in respect of British material^. However, my attention has been directed’ to the> shortage of American material of that kind.
– The dollar situation may he the- reason for that shortage..
Me. BEAZLE.Y.- I am aware- of that; >ut I am also- aware: that universities in the United States of America, are generous. It is part of American policy to sell the American way of life in. that way,, and [ suggest that the library committee mould inquire whether corporations in the United States of America would be prepared to be generous to the. Parliamen.tary Library in this matter. After all, we must recognize that the Parliamentary Library and the National Library will be interlocked with the National University when the last-mentioned institution is established in Canberra.. That university will commence to accumulate its own library,, and. rather, -late, it will commence, to publish a great range. of periodicals and publican ions., Consequently, the more adequate we make, our collections of such publications now the better we shall be able to (quip, the National University library. An. expenditure of £,7,.70Q is not adequate for the work of the Parliamentary Library, which, is- also a store for films and photostatic records:. Much material of historical value is stored under the, control if. the Parliamentary- Library; I refer particularly to two recent acquisitions, namely,, the original of Captain Cook’s Journal and. the original plate of de Vlamingh, the! Dutch explorer, who did much exploration- of the. west, coast, of Australia.. At a ceremony held, in the Parliamentary Library,, a photostat copy )£ Cook’s- Journal was presented, to; the Government of New Zealand.. I approve that: presentation, in. view of that country’s interest in. Cook:a explorations. However.. many libraries and: historical associations: in the. various States would welcome photostatic- copies of Cook’s Journal. I appeal: to. the- Library Committee, to provide’ public libraries throughout the Commonwealth with copies of Vlamingh’s plate and photostatic records of- Cook’s. Journal.. These and, many other works- ofl historical, sig nificance: are stored in this.- building,, as though most, of the- words of scholars ii< Australia, is; certainly not. done- here. It rs: desirable; that such things’ should, bt stored, at a. central point, but they should be accessible- to> students. The ability o-l the- Parliamentary Library to product photostatic copies of important workshould, be- exploited to the* full, so- thai copies can. be. made- available, to national and: private- libraries in. all parts of Australia where scholars and others who wish- to engage in research may hav* access’ to them.
Mr., CALWELL (‘Melbourne - Minister for Information and Minister for Immigration’) fl’0-1]. - The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr; Harrison) cut n very sorry figure a few miniates agc When- he is> excited he always become> insulting; irresponsible; and irrational I made a statement about an emissary of the Liberal party who had1 gone- tiEngland! and was- negotiating- a- deal for financial assistance for- his party im return for- a franchise- on. television.. Tb> honorable gentleman became terribly excited! and. terribly, red. He’ talked about: a “stooge committee’* - a coarse-, vulgar,, and! unparliamentary term. No committee appointed by this Parliament is as “ stooge- committee “’ for anybody Committees appointed when the- Acting Leader- of the Opposition was a Minister weire- neither more: nor less- “ stooge committees “ then any committee appointed by any other- Parliament since then. Th> honorable gentleman ought to- try to con form- to the ordinary decencies: of debate and. not indulge, in the. kind of language to> which he- resorted. He- spoke of Mr-. H.. G., Alderman,, E.G. - under Gover- of parliamentary privilege, of course - a* “ a government fixer “.. This- Government has- no. “ fixers “. Governments- with which the honorable gentleman was associated probably had “ fixers “, and therefore,, no- doubt, he thinks that every, government has- them… Mr.. Alderman is a very honorable gentleman. He is just as eminent a member, of. the legal profession, and! just as. respectable- a citizen as any other lawyer- 1, know. If he.- acted in. a; legal capacity, for the Jehovah’s Witnesses- and negotiated good, deals for them in selling their, property- the Labour party did. not buy its- radio station in’ Newcastle far a penny less nhan £17,500, and’ I think the Methodist’ Church in South Australia paid at. least £5,000. for its station - he did nothing dishonorable. He- merely protected the Interests of his clients: The charge made against him was utterly false; I. suggest to the Acting Leader of the Opposition that,, when he again addresses the committee, he should refrain from mudflinging because the use of such language about a citizen, of the standing of Mr. Alderman could do that gentleman harm.
– Did not the Minister -ay that some Liberal” made a corrupt bargain with somebody ?.
– I did not say a “ corrupt “ bargain.
– How could, it be otherwise?
– Is not the Liberal party financed by big business ? Does it not always seek big donations, and does it not give certain things in return for contributions ? Why, the wealthy taxpayers of Australia nFl v into the funds of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, and, if those parties win at the elections, they get back all. their contributions in tax remissions ! Is not that corrupt ? If it is not corrupt, f suppose all the other things that happen are not corrupt either. I know from what I have read in a certain publication, which is in the possession of all honorable members and which was written by an ex-officer of the Liberal party, that a particular gentleman - I do not admit that he is the same gentleman as the one I have mentioned - went abroad to seek £100,000 for the Liberal party’s funds at the next election. I did not say that; it was stated in a publication written by an ex-officer of the Liberal party.
– By whom?
– There is a paper called Inside Canberra, or something of the sort, written by a Mr. White, who was a publicity officer for the Liberal party in Victoria on the occasion of the last election. He talked about an amount of £100,000; I did not talk about it. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) should not get too excited about these things either. The Liberal party- certainly does not get pennies from the poor, or donations from trade unions : it. gets pounds from the profiteers and rich gifts from those-
– Order!’ The Minister should return to the subject before the Chair.
– I agree with you. Mr. Temporary Chairman, that we hav* had enough discussion, of this subject I have- nothing to defend in respect of anything that I have said, and the correction that I have made regarding a. matter- involving the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) was not an abject apology: I never have need to make any apologies, abject or otherwise, but I am always decent enough to try bo correct wrong impressions that I might happen to create. I finish where I started by giving a little fatherly advice to the Acting Leader of the Opposition not to spoil his copybook while he has a splendid chance of displaying some qualities of leadership. One never- knows when he may be called upon to fill an even higher role than that of acting leader of his party, but he will have to improve upon the performance which he has jug given to us if he is to take advantage of any such opportunity.
– J am in accord with the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) about the Parliamentary Library. It is a good library and its staff gives good service, but it is inadequate for the needs of the Parliament and of Canberra. I agree with what the honorable member for Fremantle has said about supplementing the stocks of State libraries by gifts of photostatic copies of documents and loans of books. I consider that there should be a larger allocation of funds for our own library.
Referring to the matter which has occupied the attention of the committee for so long and upon which I have not previously spoken, I have noted that two Ministers have said that the item provides only £2,700 for the Broadcasting Committee. If honorable members will look at the details, they will see that r.here is no reference in the item to the travel facilities that are laid on for the committee and paid for by the taxpayers. [ submit that the amount of £2,700 merely relates to the fees of the gentlemen who jaunt with the committee and that the cost of the frequent trips to and from the ends of the Commonwealth is not included. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) should have said something about that expenditure. The Broadcasting Committee is an excrescence. I opposed its establishment when it was first proposed on the ground that, if an inquiry into some aspect of broadcasting mould become necessary, a committee could be appointed, with technical advisers, to make a report- to the Parliament within a definite time. However, the committee was established in 1941 and parliamentarians appointed to it have been circulating around the Commonwealth ever since. I am not surprised that honorable members whom we respect and admire, like the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), the honorable member for. Moreton (Mr. Francis) and the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), have expressed their disgust and said that they will not continue to waste the taxpayers’ money in this way. Is it not known to the Government that this committee goes to Queensland in the winter time, visits Dunk Island, perhaps to talk to the natives, if there are any, about frequency modulation or television-
– There are no natives there.
– No, the island is mostly occupied by wealthy tourists and, of course, members of Parliament go there free at the expense of the taxpayers, ostensibly to talk about frequency modulation, television and the like. The work of the committee is a farce and a deception, and the Government should have the decency to abolish it. It is not only the members of the committee itself who travel extensively. Sometimes they are accompanied by Mr. Speaker. For some reason, which I cannot discover, he travelled with them to Tasmania. Any information that the committee secures in its peregrinations can be obtained by correspondence or telephone or in a similar business-like way in one-hundredth part of the time and at one-thousandth part of the cost.
The Broadcasting Committee has certain obligations. Section 103 of the Australian Broadcasting Act provides that licences for facsimile, television or frequency modulation services shall not begranted except on its recommendation. Although the committee has than special responsibility, its reports merely state that tests should be made with tele vision and frequency modulation. Nevertheless, the Government has had the temerity, through the Minister for Information, to forecast a monopoly in frequency modulation and television. Although the Minister, in his last speech this evening, piped down considerably on this subject, honorable members who heard his earlier speeches know that he was most aggressive in them and had declared that frequency modulation would be a government monopoly. The Minister did not use those precise words, but he - said that the air was the domain of the Government. Members of the Opposition are perfectly well aware that the Labour party holds that opinion. With the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines, the Government endeavoured to secure a monopoly of air transport within Australia. It desired to monopolize the air, but it has succeeded only in securing a monopoly of hot air. In that field, it has encountered few contenders. Trans-Australia Airlines, which is now known as “ tax all Australia “, is an example of the obsession of the Labour party to socialize industry. It has also made a grab at the banking institutions. Indeed, this Government would tax the air we breathe if it could find a way of doing so. When the Minister speaks of nationalizing television services, he is probably not aware that television was in operation in Great Britain in 1938. Its development was hampered by the outbreak of World War II., but the services were successful over limited distances up to 50 miles. In Holland, the Philips company inaugurated television on a basis which deserved encouragement. The idea that the Government should make a monopoly of television was conceived by a would-be dictator, who is “dress’d with a little brief authority”. Every week, we hear in the news services extensive references to the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron). According to the broadcasts, the honorable senator is doing wonders, and , is a wizard at organization. I merely comment that the department which he administers is not able to meet the demand for telephones. The Government,’ when vested with limited power, desires to. encroach to a greater degree on the rights of the people. Ministers believe that any policy which they advocate must be for the general good. That idea produces extraordinary results. We have only to recall that the Minister for (information, during World War II., forbade the sale of newspapers in the streets of Sydney. As Minister for Immigration, he determines who may enter and leave Australia. He is always whittling down the liberties of the people.
When I was in Holland in 1938, the Philips company was taking television with a mobile truck to the villages, and the inhabitants were able to tune into television programmes on their small receiving sets. If an enterprising company desired to inaugurate a similar service in Australia, it would not be permitted to do so without the permission of this petty dictator, the Postmaster-General. In his calmer moments, when he is not intoxicated with his own exuberance, the Minister for Information should ponder over my remarks, and realize that, whilst Government assistance for research in television and frequency modulation will be welcome, it should not attempt to monopolize those services-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - I am wondering whether the honorable member for Balaclava is in order-
– I am in order. I am replying to the remarks of the Minister in regard to frequency modulation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.Order! I ask the honorable member to resume his seat. I was about to ask him whether he could relate his remarks to the subject before the Chair, which is the remainder of the vote for the Parliament.
– Yes, I can.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN .- Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. If he does not remain seated and refrain from interjecting while the Chair is speaking, action will be taken against him. The item before the Chair is the remainder of the vote for the Parliament. Under that heading honorable members have been discussing, in particular, the Broadcasting Committee. The honorable member must relate his remarks to the remainder of the vote for the Parliament.
– That admonition almost reduces me to silence. The Minister for Information made an extensive reference to television, and other honorable members followed his example, and I was referring to the same subject when the Chair interposed. The Minister declared that the air is the domain of the Government, and that private enterprise should not he permitted to make profits from broadcasting, television and frequency modulation. The Australian Labour party holds the licence for station 2HD, Newcastle, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) holds preference shares in it. The station will become known by the words “ Too highly dubious “. How can members of the Labour party talk with sin’cerity about private enterprise not being permitted to make profits from broadcasting, television and frequency modulation when the Prime Minister and others in the Parliamentary Labour party hold preference shares in station 2HD, on which they draw a dividend of 16 per cent.? Are they in a position to talk of taking the profit motive out of broadcasting? The views which they have expressed on this subject are utter hypocrisy. I wholeheartedly support the criticisms that have been levelled at that “ travelling circus “, the Broadcasting Committee, which has been perambulating the Commonwealth at great cost in return for few results. I support the amendment, and strongly oppose the idea of a government monopoly in frequency modulation and television.
Question pui; -
That the division proposed to be left out (Sir Earle Page’s amendment) be so left out.
The committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman - Mr. T . P. Burke.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Remainder of proposed vote agreed to.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1948 - No. 64 -Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
Nos. 65 and 66 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 67 - Electrical Trades Union of Australia and Amalgamated Engineering Union.
House adjourned at 10.24 p.m.
The following answersto questions were circulated: -
Postal Department: Telephone Services; Postal Workers Union.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General,upon notice -
– On the 8th September the honorable member for Eeid (Mr. Lang) asked, me the following question regarding Reginald’ Edward Wellard: -
Will the Prime Minister institute inquiries into the record of Reginald Edward Wellard, Vew South Wales secretary of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union to ascertain whether -
Wellard is a key member of the Communist party?
) Whether his recent activities included organizing work for the Victorian Branch of the Communist Irort workers Union, then as organizer of the Victorian branch of the Federated Clerks Union, and whether he assisted in taking illegal possession of premises at 64 Elizabeth-street, Melbourne, for the Communists; whether he was then transferred by the Communists to he an organizer for the Clerks Union in Sydney - another Communist organization, in the key shipping clerks’section?
Whether Wellard obtained temporary employment as a postman in a Sydney suburban post office in December-, 1947?
Whether Wellard was elected, six weeks later in January, 1948, on a show of hands at an emergency meeting packed by the Communist party for that purpose, to the position of general secretary of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union when Mr. N. W. Burke became federal secretary ?
Whether Wellard is now secretary of the Commonwealth Public Service Wages and Salaries Campaign, which includes the Telegraphists and fourth Division- Postmasters?. (f). Whether Wellard organized a special camp school for younger members ot the Postal Union at the Communist Eureka Youth League Camp at Springwood, 24th. to- 28th April to bring them into contact with Com munist agents and influence?
Whether Wellard proposed a regula tions strike in the Post Office for the purpose of testing Communist party organization in its aim- to disrupt the communication service! of this country in the event of war?
If the Prime Minister finds these to he facts, will he take action to see that Wellard is . denied access to all vital communications facilities, and will he also publish Wellard’s record so that loyal members of the Postal Service will take . the earliest opportunity to oust him from office?
I then promised that 1 would ask the Acting Attorney-General to look into the matter, and I have now been furnished by the Acting- Attorney-General with the. following information concerning Wellard’s recent activities: -
In -his capacity as State secretary of theunion concerned, Wellard, who is no longer an employee of the Commonwealth,, would not have access to any vital communications facilities in the Postmaster-General’s Depart ment, or elsewhere.
Kerosene and Dieselene.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 September 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19480929_reps_18_198/>.