18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr.Chifley) agreed to - That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. I have been advised by the purchaser that two cases of text books, lots 120 and 121, addressed to the Department of External Affairs, were sold at a customs sale held on the 23rd November last. I have been informed that the cases contained about 70 volumes, which were addressed by the Danish Institute to various cultural institutions in Australia. Was the Department of External Affairs advised by the Department of Trade and Customs of the arrival of the cases in Australia, and what directions were given by that department for their disposal? If the department gave no directions, will the Prime Minister have inquiries made to ascertain who was guilty, in the Department of External Affairs or the Department of Trade and
Customs, of dereliction of duty allowing the books to go ‘to auction? Does the Government intend to recover the volumes so that they may he made available to their rightful addressees?
– It has .been mentioned to rae that there had been a reference in the newspapers to this subject.
– The information came to me from the purchaser.
– I shall have the matter inquired into, and to-morrow or the next day I shall let the honorable member have the information he seeks.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the Australian Council of Trades Unions is about to institute an investigation into incentive payments ? Who is to determine whether , the institution of incentive payments will be of value to the community ? Has there been any discussion on the subject between the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the Government!
– My information on this matter, as I mentioned on an earlier occasion is to the effect that it was discussed at one time by the Australian Council of Trades Unions which, at that time, was opposed to the introduction of incentive payments, [t was also discussed at the conference called by the Government of employers and employees at which the Australian Council of Trades Unions represented the employees. Following that, I understand that the executive officers of- the Australian Council of Trades Unions rejected the proposal. The Minister for Labour and National Service has always advocated the adoption of the principle of incentive payments, provided that it is properly policed and is not abused by employers, as was done previously. Various suggestions have been made on how the principle might he applied. I am very suspicious of it. When there was a good deal of unemployment, the system was frequently used by employers for the purpose of dismissing workers who did not work as fast as other workers. As n result, great hardships were imposed upon men who were not inefficient, but who were not capable of working quite as fast as others. During the last two days discussions have taken place between Mr. McAlpine and Mr. Kennealy, representing the federal executive of the Australian Labour pa.rty, the Acting AttorneyGeneral and the Minister for Labour and National Service, representing the Australian Government, and Mr. Monk and Mr. Clarey, representing the Australian Council of Trades Unions. Those discussions were still in progress this morning. I have not yet received any information of what conclusions have been arrived at or of what recommendations are likely to be made Wit regard to incentive payments. I have indicated the Government’s view that, with proper safeguards, incentive payments could tend to increased production. I fully understand the objections of many trade unions to the adoption of the principle of incentive payments in the trades with which they are concerned. Unless the employers approach the matter in a proper spirit and apply adequate safeguards, it could be abused.
– Recently the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia submitted to the Australian Government copies of 36 resolutions that were adopted at the 32nd annual congress of thai organization. Some of the resolutions requested the Government to consider anomalies in regard to pensions, hospitalization and X-ray treatment for members and their families. Will the Prime Minister say whether the Government has yet reached a decision on these resolutions, one of which requests that the finding? of the special medical advisory committee that was recently established by the Repatriation Commission be made available to the league? Will the Government consider the appointment of an all-party committee to meet representatives of returned servicemen’s organizations on the 36 resolutions to which I have referred, or on any other suggestions that the representatives of those organizations might consider it advisable to discuss with the committee regarding pensions to disabled ex-servicemen and their families?
– I understand that the 32nd Annual Congress of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia passed a number of resolutions concerning matters that they desired should be the subject of review by the Australian Government. The Minister for Immigration addressed the congress on the question of immigration. The senior officers of the organization made a request to him that, at a time when it was suitable for them to come to Canberra, I should discuss with them matters affecting ex-servicemen. I intimated, through the Minister, that I should be prepared to do so. Apart from that, no offer has been made to give general consideration of these resolutions some of which raise questions that will require to be examined by various Ministers. I cannot make any promise other than that if the league desires to place these matters before me or the appropriate Ministers, the time that its representatives require to discuss them will be made available.
– I have received form the secretary of the Townsville Hospitals’ Beard a. letter relating to applications by inmates for sickness benefits. The letter states, in part -
Many patients on admission arc too ill to attend to the making of applications and in many instances patients have no relatives who could attend to the matter for them, with the result that they are often many weeks in hospital before any benefits accrue or payments made. It is thought that if an officer nf the local Department of Social Services were to visit the hospital regularly for the purpose of taking applications from inmates much delay would be obviated.
Will the Minister representing the Minis ter for Social Services ask his colleague to consider the advisability of making available officers of his department to visit hospitals throughout the Commonwealth for the purpose of taking applications from patients who are too ill to make them and who have no friends or relatives te perform that service for them ?
– I shall confer with the Minister for Social Services. either tonight or tomorrow without fail, about the matter which the honorable member has raised. However, I shall need to discuss the situation with the honorable gentleman, because under the present arrangement, most social services are paid to the people entitled to them after they have made their original application, and there is no necessity for them to make a series of applications. Sick people on entering hospital do not have to worry about the hospital benefits to which they are entitled because the payments continue automatically. A pensioner als( receives the payment to which he is entitled while he is in hospital. Probably the honorable member has in mind people who are temporarily absent from their employment because of illness, and arientitled to sickness benefits. I can understand that such persons may be in hospital for a period and are too ill to make the necessary applications. I shall discuss the situation with the Minister for Social Services in order to ascertain whether the position can be remedied.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that the increase of the home-consumption price for wheat to 6s. 8d. a bushel recently has increased the cost of producing eggs to such a degree that the terms of the egg contract with the United Kingdom will become uneconomic for producers, who will be forced out of production? What action does the Minister propose to take to ensure that egg production shall be maintained and our egg contract with the United Kingdom honoured? If the Minister is unable to restore the former home-consumption price of wheat, will he consider granting a subsidy to egg producers so that the production of eggs may be maintained in the interests of British consumers?
– A rather “ fowl “ situation has arisen. In accordance with the obligations of the Commonwealth and the respective States under the wheat stabilization plan, as from the 1st December last the price of wheat was increased by 5d. a bushel. Following that action, the Victorian Prices Commissioner saw fit to increase the price of bran and pollard
I by £-2 os. 6’d. a ton. The real responsibility for that increase, I take it, rests with the Victorian Minister in charge of prices control. However, I understand that a similar condition of affairs has arisen in South Australia and Western Australia, but that to date, the price of bran and pollard has not been increased in Queensland, Tasmania, and New South Wales. I am not able to remedy the position. It is the first break that has occurred among the six States which during the campaign in connexion with the rents and prices referendum, considered that, by reaching unanimity among themselves, they could fix uniform prices for commodities produced and consumed within their respective boundaries. To date, New South Wales has not increased the price of bran and pollard.
– But the price of wheat has been increased.
– I shall deal with that matter in a few moments. As I have stated, the price of bran and pollard has been increased by £2 5s. 6d. a ton in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, but, so far, the price of those commodities has not been increased in New South Wales. The result is that there is an inducement to the owners of flour mills in New South Wales to send their bran and pollard to the States in which the higher price is available. It is true that the price of wheat has gone up. Following the increase of 5d. a bushel in the price of wheat, the Victorian Prices Commissioner authorized an increase of one-halfpenny in the price of a 2-lb. loaf of bread. Although not specifically stated, it was generally assumed that in a large measure, that increase was due to the increase of 5d. a bushel in the price of wheat. The facts are-
– The Minister is now starting to argue the case for the increase.
-The honorable gentleman who asked the question really started to argue the case.
– The honorable member for Indi apparently does not like statements of fact. As applied to bread, the increase of 5d. a bushel in the price of wheat means an increase of .18d. or about one-fifth of a penny in a 2-lb loaf of bread.
– The Minister should now get back to the question about the “ fowl “ problem.
– The fact that the Victorian Prices Commissioner has authorized an increase of one-halfpenny in the price of a 2-lb. loaf of bread has no relation to the increase in the price of wheat. The whole of the increase of 5d. a bushel on wheat for milling has been added to the increased prices for bran and pollard. That leads to the situation that in Victoria - where, I know, there are other “ fowl “ problems - the poultry-farmer is being penalized twice. As a user of wheat he has to pay the increase of 5d. a bushel for wheat for feed as grain and, in addition he has to pay an extra £2 5e. 6d. a ton for bran and pollard. In a newspaper article Mr. Finnan is reported to have said-
– Order ! What Mr. Finnan is reported to have said hardly affects the position in Victoria.
– Mr. Finnan’s statement demonstrated the futility of separate State action on price control.
– It was the first crack in the unanimity of the States on this problem.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether the assertion by the New South Wales Minister for Labour and Industry, Mr. Finnan, is correct, that the Australian Wheat Board had influenced the Prices Commissioners in the States concerned to increase bran and pollard prices ? If so, was the Minister aware that such influence was being used?
– The answer to the latter portion of the honorable member’s question is that I was not aware that the Australian Wheat Board had advised the Victorian Prices Commissioner to increase the price of bran and pollard by £2 5s. 6d. a ton.
– The honorable member referred to the New South Wales Minister for Labour and Industry.
– I said that I was not aware that the Australian Wheat Board had advised the Victorian Prices Commissioner to increase the price of bran and pollard by £2 5s. 6d. a ton or that it had similarly advised the Prices Commissioner in any other States; but, after having read a reported statement by Mr. Finnan in Saturday’s Argus, I made some inquiries and found that some time ago the Australian “Wheat Board requested the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner to increase the price of bran and pollard. The Commonwealth Prices Commissioner told the board that he had no jurisdiction and recommended that it pass its request on to the respective State prices commissioners. The board passed the request on to the Victorian Prices Commissioner and he listened to the request, but the fact that the Victorian Prices Commissioner listened to the board does not absolve the Victorian Minister or the Victorian Prices Commissioner from responsibility for having increased the price of bran and pollard to the poultry industry and other stock-feeders in Australia.
– Before the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture again challenges my statements about agricultural matters, will he examine his own Government’s official figures? Is it not a fact that although the Minister said on Wednesday last that in 1938-39 the total area under crops of all kinds in Australia was about 21,000,000 acres, the Commonwealth Statistician’s figure for that year is 23,498,000, which is nearly 2,500,000 acres more than the figure quoted by the Minister and is 1,300,000 acres more than the area under crops in 1947-48? Will r.be Minister take the necessary steps to have the correction made in Hansard?
– The Leader of the Australian Country party challenges figures that I quoted in the House. I quoted those figures exactly from the report of the Commonwealth Statistician dated the 2Sth October, 1948.
– The Minister read the wrong line in the table.
– If the right honorable gentleman will see me after question- time, I shall produce the figures for his examination.
– Let the Minister see me and I shall produce my figures for his examination.
– My question arises from the report in a Melbourne newspaper at the week-end of an omnibus accident that occurred in William-street, Granville, Sydney, on Friday. It was reported that 40 persons were hurt and that between 50 and 60 people were sitting and standing in the omnibus when it left Granville station. My question relates in particular to the overcrowding that occurs on some omnibuses. What inspection is made of passenger loads? Is it a matter for the Road Safety Council ? If so, can steps be taken to ensure that only the number of passengers allowed in omnibuses shall be carried ?
– Order ! I am not sure that those facts affect the administration of any Commonwealth department, but the Prime Minister has risen to reply and if he has information that will satisfy the honorable member for Bourke, he is at liberty to supply it.
– The question of loads carried in omnibuses is entirely a matter for State administration. I understand that a question has been raised about the efficiency of the brakes on the vehicle concerned in the accident mentioned by the honorable member. The honorable member may have had in mind the Transport Advisory Council, which is an organization with which the Australian Government is associated. The Commonwealth Minister for Transport is the chairman of the council, which is an informal body and has no power to enforce it3 decisions. It makes recommendations to the States and it is assumed that the Ministers representing the States on it take its representations to their governments for adoption. I shall ascertain what that body might be able to do to prevent the possibility of similar accidents owing to overcrowding of omnibuses. That is a matter that can be discussed by the council.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services aware that .there has been considerable agitation recently among age pensioners because pension cheques have been sent to them in official envelopes? Is the honorable gentleman aware that the Department of Social Services has indicated that plain envelopes are not used by the pensions administration? Is he further aware that some years ago the Minister in charge of pensions in a previous government issued an instruction that pensioners should receive their pension cheques in plain envelopes if they so desired, but that that instruction has not been carried out? In view of the obvious embarrassment caused to pensioners by having their cheques sent in official envelopes, will the Minister request his colleague to issue fresh instructions to the department that in future pension cheques are to be sent in plain envelopes ?
– I have not heard any complaints of the kind referred to by the honorable member. I shall bring his questions to the notice of the Minister for Social Services. If it is possible to send pension cheques in plain envelopes, T am sure that the Minister will do so.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation state whether it is true that the United Kingdom Government is providing small motor cars for totally incapacitated ex-servicemen? If so, will he ascertain whether it is practicable to extend the same consideration to Australian ex-servicemen who unfortunately suffer from, total incapacity?
– This subject was raised in this House on an earlier occasion. Since then information has been supplied to me by the Australian High Commissioner in London of the type of motor car being provided for totally incapacitated British ex-servicemen. I understand that 2,000 of such motor care are being made available in Great Britain. Upon receipt of that information I discussed the subject with the Repatriation Commission and asked the commission to report whether ii was practicable to provide a similar convenience for totally incapacitated ex-servicemen in Australia. If, in its report, the commission regards the provision of such motor cars as practicable, I shall discuss the subject with my colleagues in the Government.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel indicate whether it is correct, as reported in to-day’s press, that Sydney waterside workers are threatening to work only one shift a day owing to the discontinuance of rail fare concessions? Is it true that if only one shift is worked in the port of Sydney, there will be great congestion in the port and on the wharfs and increased delay in the turn-round of ships? Can the Minister say what steps are being taken to overcome the difficulty?
– I have not heard of the threatened trouble to which the honorable member has referred. I shall inquire from the Minister for Shipping and Fuel whether there is anything that he can do about the matter. I am sure that he will take the action he can take.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is true that a shareholder in four Tasmanian broadcasting stations was recently refused permission to sell his shares ? Is it also true that the official Australian Labour party in New South Wales has purchased from Mr. Les Cole, better known as “ Levante the Magician “, 500 shares in broadcasting station 2HD Newcastle for £8,000, and an additional 500 shares from Mr. H. G. Whittle, a prominent .Sydney builder, for £8,000, making in all £16,000 for 1,000 shares, of the total of 7,607 shares issued by the station? Does the Government propose to approve of the transfer of the 2HD shares to the official Labour party? If so, how does the Government justify its refusal to grant permission to sell to the Tasmanian shareholder, who did not seek, to dispose of his shares at an excessive price ?
– The honorable member has been referring to two cases which are in no way similar. I understand that an ordinary business transaction has taken place in New South Wales regarding shares in radio station 2HD. In Tasmania, certain newspaper interests desired to make a new business arrangement regarding a broadcasting station, but I do not know whether I would be justified in discussing their private affairs. I shall certainly have inquiries made into the matter. The agent of the company concerned, if I am thinking of the same one as that referred to by the honorable member, interviewed me, but the proposition he submitted bo-re no resemblance to an ordinary transfer of shares. If I can give the honorable member any information without betraying the confidence reposed in the department by the company, I shall do so.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether, in view of the desire of a majority of Australian trade unionists to have effective control of their industrial organizations, the Government will amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act to provide that, in the election of officers of registered trade unions, members shall be entitled to vote by secret ballot?
– The honorable member knows that his question touches upon a matter of policy and that it is not customary to deal with such matters in answer to questions. The issue would have to be decided by more than myself. I can assure him that from time to time, the Government will amend the act to meet the requirements of a majority of the people.
– In view of the statement made recently about a reduction of the price of dried and canned fruit in the interests of American and Levantine producers, can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether Australia has received any benefit in return for the sacrifices which Australian producers are making?
– I have no doubt that the honorable member has been reading the report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board and that of the Dried Fruits Export Control Board, which were tabled in this House recently. The Australian -Canned Fruits Board stated in its report that the reduction of British preferential duty on Australian canned fruit could result in a reduced selling price. The report did not say that the reductions had had that effect, or would have that effect. On the other hand, the report of the Australian Dried Fruits Board stated, in effect, that the reduction of preferential duties would result in a loss to the growers of £2 12s. 6d. a ton. That statement is not borne out by facts. Up to date, no loss has been sustained, and there has been no reduction of -price. As a matter of fact, the most recent sales to the United Kingdom have been at a figure above last year’s contact price. Whilst, it is possible that in the future Australian producers may be adversely affected, no such ill effect has yet been felt. Having regard to the world’s food position, it is unlikely that prices will decline. 1 believe that the report which stated that the reduction of duties could result in a loss was more factual than the one which claimed that a loss would be sustained. The honorable member asked what compensating advantages had accrued to Australia. There have been substantial advantages, not necessarily to the producers of canned fruits and dried fruits, but to the people of Australia generally by virtue of Australia’s membership of the International Trade Organization. For instance, the American duty on Australian wool has been reduced by 25 per cent., and it is considered that the new trade agreement arrangement will work out satisfactorily over a wide range of Australian products
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for Information, a question about a film called A Site for a Village, issued by the Department of Information and shown in the Senate Club Room recently. One scene showed part of a football game in Melbourne which, to my eye, appeared to be a very feeble piece of fumbling. I was disappointed that another scene depicting some of the high marking, which is a characteristic feature of the Australian game of football, was not shown. Could the Prime Minister suggest to- the Minister for Information that, in any future films showing the Australian game, some scenes of high marking should be depicted!
– I have not seen the film mentioned by the honorable member, nor had I previously heard of it. I suggest that the honorable member has venrti red on dangerous ground when she describes Australian rules football as the Australian national game. I know many people who would be prepared to join issues with her on that point. I am sure that Victorians would bitterly resent the Department of Information exhibiting a film which does not do justice to the Australian rules game iri Melbourne. I shall certainly mention to the Minister that some honorable members, including the honorable member for Darwin, have seen the film, and are not satisfied that the best kind of play has been presented in it.
– On the 5th November last, the Prime Minister said that he would ask the Minister for External Territories to supply answers to a number of questions which I had asked regarding Communist activity in Papua and New Guinea. That was nearly five weeks ago. I now ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for External Territories, whether he can let me have the information before the end of the present sessional period? Can he also inform me how long the Minister for External Territories has been absent from this House, and when he is likely to return? As his absence has already been protracted, and is likely to be still further protracted, extending into the new year ar perhaps longer, will the Prime Minister inform me what arrangements are being made for administering the Department of External Territories; or, alternatively, of ensuring that the Minister will be in his proper place ?
– If there has been undue delay in supplying answers to questions asked by the honorable member, I express regret. It is not always easy to obtain replies to questions asked on notice either in this House or in the Senate. Sometimes, the answering of questions involves a tremendous amount of research by already overworked officers. I have thought on occasions that the placing of questions on the noticepaper throws on the staff of the various departments a strain which is not always justified. I shall see whether I can have a reply to the honorable gentleman’s earlier questions ready for him tomorrow. As for the second part of his question, I can assure him that the attendance record of the Minister for External Territories stands out above that of most honorable members. In fact, for many sessions, he attended on every sitting day. The only reason for his absence at the present time is that the law court, the requests of which must be treated with respect, has asked that he be in attendance during the hearing of the case that is now before it. Apart from the short periods during which the honorable gentleman may have been abroad, his record of attendance in this House during the eighteen years or so that he has been a member of the Parliament is probably unequalled by that of any other honorable member.
– My question to the Treasurer is prompted by numerous communications that I have received from organizations such as the Tasmanian Cricket Association, the Tasmanian Football League and the Tasmanian Soccer State Council relating to the burden that is imposed upon the sports with which they are associated by the incidence of entertainment tax. Will the right honorable gentleman consider abolishing, or at least substantially reducing, the entertainment tax that is applicable to such sporting bodies as those that I have mentioned ?
– This matter was raised in a petition that was placed before me by the Minister for Information and a number of honorable members on this side of the House. Similar representations have been made by honorable members opposite. It was suggested that athletic performances in which live performers are engaged should be treated in the same way as theatrical performances. The entertainment tax that is payable in respect of a live theatrical performance is 25 per cent, less than that which is payable in respect of a film show. The Commissioner of Taxation and myself spent a great deal of time in examining the proposition to see whether it would be possible to draw a line of demarcation between live athletic shows and other forms of entertainment. There are many difficulties in the way of so doing. For instance, does the fact that jockeys ride racehorses make a race meeting a live show? Another difficulty arises in regard to gymkhanas, where a number of athletic performers may be engaged but where the main portion of the show is given by animal performers. Between now and the middle of next year the Commissioner of Taxtion and myself will examine the effect of entertainment tax upon the whole field of sport and decide whether, when an athletic performance is given by human beings, it should attract entertainment tax at the same rate as a live theatrical show. It might be argued that the incidence of entertainment tax causes some people to refrain from attending sporting shows, but I cannot accept the argument that it is the sporting organizations which pay the tax. The tax is paid by the members of the public who attend the shows.
– My question to the Prime Minister relates to the sales tax that is imposed on articles that are used in the building industry. Sales tax, like entertainment tax, is paid by the people, lt is estimated that the revenue from sales tax this year will be £38,000,000. In five years, the amount of sales tax that has been collected has exceeded the estimated revenue by £21,000,000. Sales tax is still imposed upon 35 items of builders’ hardware, including many important articles such as electric fittings, hinges, nails and fly wire. The imposition of sales tax upon these articles affects building costs, and those costs should be reduced. Tn view of the fact that it is conservatively estimated that of £500,000 a year is paid out in this way, will the Prime
Minister, in order to reduce building costs, cause a review to be made by the Treasury and the officers responsible for the administration of sales tax, with a view to a general reduction of the tax, the rectification of anomalies, of which there are many, and the complete elimination of the tax from the building industry ?
– Every request that is ‘made for a reduction of sales tax is listed, and I examine the list of request* at least every six months. Doubtless, other Treasurers have followed the same practice. No matter by whom a request for a reduction of sales tax is made, it always receives full consideration. I have examined in detail the imposition of sales tax upon materials that are used in house building. Approximately 96$ per cent, of such materials are free from sale? tax. There are some articles that are used for buildings and for other purposes, and they are subject to sales tax. Recently a leading builder raised the question of the sales tax that is imposed upon steel girders. In some instances, such girders are subject to sales tax and in others they are not, and the builders claim that that is causing some difficulty. The honorable gentleman may rest assured that the matter that he has raised will be examined.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister in the absence of the Minister for Immigration. Has the right honorable gentleman seen a report in last Thursday’s Canberra Times that Mr. D. Borley, an Australian Workers Union organizer, intends to ask the Department of Immigration to transfer to other employment three Polish labourers who are now working at Mount Fairy, near Bungendore? Has such a request been received? Is it a fact that one of the Poles, who are working with Australians, refused to join the Australian Workers Union and that, as a result, the Australians left the job, but returned to it the next day ? If such a request is received, does the Prime Minister intend to accede to the demand of the Australian Workers Union for the transfer of these Polish migrants? Are they and others in similar circumstances to be compelled to join trade unions as the price of entering this country? Will the Prime Minister ascertain the facts and make a report to the House?
– I have neither seen the newspaper report to which the honorable gentleman has referred, nor heard anything of the incident to which it relates. I shall ask the Minister for Immigration to cause inquiries to he made, and to inform the honorable member of the result. I shall not deal with the hypothetical part of the question,but when the issue actually arises I shall deal with it.
Transfer of Funds
– Will the Treasurer inform me whether the Commonwealth Bank places a restriction upon the transfer by Australian citizens domiciled in London of funds from Australia in excess of £500 per annum? Is not the United Kingdom Government having difficulty at the present time in maintaining equilibrium in trade accounts between the United Kingdom and Australia? As Australia now enjoys substantial favorable balances in the United Kingdom, will the Treasurer state the purpose of i-ctaining the restriction upon Australian citizens domiciled abroad transferring to themselves funds of their own which they consider they will require?
– I recall another reference to the matter which the honorable member has raised, and believe that some misunderstanding has arisen about the position. Apart from over-all government policy in regard to exchange control, the transfer of money from Australia to other countries involves bank administration. In order to give the honorable member accurate information, I shall ask the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to supply a statement about exchange control generally, and I shall forward it to the honorable member.
– Has the Minister for Works and Housing seen the report in the Canberra Times of a statement attributed to the president of the Canberra Trades and Labour Council criticizing the inefficiency, loafing and the waste of public money in connexion with various projects which the honorable gentleman’s department is undertaking? Has the Trades and Labour Council demanded an inquiry into operations on those projects? If such a demand is made, will the Minister grant it?
– I have seen the report to which the honorable member has referred and I inform him that Mr. A. E. Gardiner, to whom the statement is attributed, is not the president of the Trades and Labour Council. If that body were to request an inquiry into the allegations, I should certainly require some evidence that an investigation was justified before I would be willing to consider it. On the basis of any evidence which was tendered to me, I should be prepared to give full consideration to the whole matter.
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, who is responsible for negotiating trade treaties on our behalf with other countries, inform me when Australia will be represented again at Geneva for further discussions before the Internationa] Trade Organization? For what reason will Australia be represented at that meeting, and who will be the members of the Australian delegation? Will the honorable gentleman ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to obtain from the Tariff Board a report upon any items in respect of which other nations represented at Geneva seek changes in our tariff?
– Australia will be represented at any meetings in future concerning the International Trade Organization or the contracting parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The two matters are entirely distinct. Not long ago, Australia was represented at a meeting of the contracting parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. On that occasion several matters were raised, including certain rectifications and amendments to the original agreement. Those proposals were listed when the International Trade Organization Bill was considered in this House last week. It was essential that Australia should be represented during the discussions of those matters in order to ensure that no rectifications or amendments to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade were to the disadvantage of this country. Whilst those negotiations were proceeding in relation to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Interim Commission of the International Trade Organization also took place. When the 58 countries that were represented at Havana last year agreed upon the terms of the charter, it was decided to establish an interim commission to prepare for the first annual conference of the organization. It was not possible for the International Trade Organization to come into existence until the various countries have ratified the charter. The Australian Parliament authorized ratification of the charter only this week.
– The Minister is describing events which have already happened.
– When the Interim Commission is summoned to consider matters relating to the charter, it is necessary for Australia to be represented at the discussions. Australia has been chosen by the other nations represented at Havana to be one of the members of the Executive Committee of the Interim Commission and, therefore, an obligation devolves upon us to attend the meetings of that body. Another meeting of the Executive Committee will be held in Geneva next year, and since we have been elected to the committee we shall be represented at that meeting and attend to our duties there. I am not aware of precisely when the International Trade Organization itself will come into being. That event will depend upon when other countries ratify the charter. When they do so, Australia will be represented on the International Trade Organization itself. Next year a further conference will be held in one of the cities of Europe to consider the General Agreement of Tariffs and Trade.
– Why does not the Minister answer my question?
– The honorable member for Balaclava has asked a question, and I am endeavouring to give him as much information as possible.
– Order! The honorable member for Balaclava has complained that the meetings to which the Minister has referred have already been held, and that he desires information about meetings in future. The Minister is peering into the future, I think.
– The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade provides that, from time to time, the contracting parties may meet and decide whether new applicants for participation in the General agreement on Tariffs and Trade shall be granted by the present contracting parties. Norway, Denmark, Italy and some other countries have applied for participation in the General Agreement. If their applications are to be considered, the contracting parties must meet in order to deal with the matter. That meeting will take place in a European city, possibly next April, and again, it is essential that Australia be represented there, because one of the terms of admission is that an applicant shall buy his way into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. In other words, the agreement provided that an applicant has to offer concessions to the existing contracting parties in order to offset the advantages that it will gain.
Bill presented by Mr. Lemmon, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of the bill is to ratify an agreement which has been reached by the Australian Government and the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia to complete the Hume Reservoir to its total designed capacity of 200,000,000 acre feet, and to undertake works to improve the Lake Victoria storage. Under the original agreement of the 9th September, 1914, and subsequent amendments of the 10th August, 1923, and the 23rd July, 1934, works which has cost £11,891,058 have been completed, comprising the construction of the Hume Dam, thirteen weirs and locks on the river Murray, two weirs on the Mumimbidgee, a diversion weir on the River Murray at Yarrawonga, and barrages at the Murray mouth. The Hume Dam was built to impound 1,250,000 acre feet, but of such dimensions and height as to permit of the future extension of the storage to 2,000,000 acre feet. The droughts which have occurred since the dam was built, and the enormous developments in irrigation, have demonstrated the need for still further storage on the Murray, not only at the Hume Dam, but also at other suitable areas along the Murray.
Early in 1944, negotiations were opened between the Commonwealth and the three State governments, with the object of increasing the capacity of the Hume Reservoir to 2,000,000 acre feet. At a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers representing the four contracting governments, held on the 19th January, 1944, it was decided unanimously to recommend to the four governments that the work should be undertaken as a joint venture, each contributing a quarter share of the cost involved, which is approximately £1,000,000. With the object of making better use of the storage of Lake Victoria, it was also decided that the inlet channel to Lake Victoria should be widened and improved, at a cost of approximately £150,000. One of the guiding principles adopted at that conference was that the additional water should be used to meet the present allocation obligations under the River Murray Agreement, and as a reserve for dry years, such reserve to be used at the discretion of the River Murray Commission. The discussions which have taken place in the ensuing years between the four governments have been strongly influenced by a growing consciousness of the need to protect a national asset of such paramount importance from destruction by the erosion of the catchment, and consequent siltation of the reservoir. The amending agreement provides for better protection of the catchment area. The need for further storage has received special consideration and the River Murray Agreement is to be amended to give the River Murray Commission authority to investigate and report upon proposals for storage and works and of measures to provide better conservation and regulation of the Murray waters. The contracting governments have also agreed that additional works may be carried out from time to time by one or more of those governments, such works to be controlled as required by the River Murray Commission. That commission will also be given power to stipulate conditions for any other works to be carried out on the river Murray by State governments, and, if they affect the storage, flow, discharge, or control of the waters of the river Murray, to be responsible for the manner in which the State governments operate or control such works. The governments have been impressed with the need for making the utmost use of the storage for the generation of electricity, so far as is consistent with the functioning of the scheme for irrigation purposes. The execution of the amending River Murray Agreement will open the way for the electricity undertakings in New South Wales and Victoria to bring to completion a scheme that will link up with the New South Wales and Victorian networks, and put to profitable use water power at present running to waste.
In the existing agreement a basis of distribution of the waters of the river Murray is set out as a direction to the River Murray Commission in carrying out its duty of regulating the flow, and declaring quantities of, and times for, deliveries of water. In the light of experience since the basis was formulated in 1914, it has been found that there i.= need for clarification, and the establishment of a more satisfactory basis of distribution, but without departing from the original intentions of the agreement. The proposals on which the amending agreement has been formed have been the subject of a conference of Ministers representing the four contracting governments, which was held on the 18th October, 1948. Happily, its recommendations brought to conclusion problems that had been under discussion for nearly five years. Briefly summarized, the amending agreement provides for - (a) The increase of the storage capacity of the Hume reservoir from 1,250,000 to 2,000,000 acre-feet; (h) the widening of the inlet channel to Lake Victoria; (c) a new clause, under which the contracting States of New South Wales and Victoria agree to take effective measures to protect the catchment of the upper Murray storage within their States, and which requires the River Murray Commission to inspect, and the States to report annually on the condition of the catchment, and to take any special action authorized or required by the commission, which must also include in its annual report a report on the condition of the catchment area ; (d) a new clause empowering the commission to initiate proposals for the better conservation and regulation of the river Murray waters and flows, and have investigations and surveys made respecting additional storage works which may be carried out by one or more of the contracting governments, subject to the control of the commission; (e) a new clause, empowering the commission to approve, with or without amendment, ‘ any proposed works affecting the use, control, flow, or storage of water in the river Murray, and to stipulate conditions of operation or control, insofar as the regulation of the flow of the river Murray may be affected; (/) increase of total cost of the scheme from £12,000,000 to an estimate of i’14,000,000 ; (g) a clearer definition of the method of distribution of the waters of the river Murray, particularly to ensure a more definite working basis for the commission, should restrictions become necessary in time of drought; and (h) other amendments of a minor character.
In submitting this bill, I think it appropriate to say that the successful conclusion of the negotiations has been brought about in a large measure by the advice and assistance of the river Murray commissioners. The commission has estab lished a splendid record of achievement over about 30 years, in bringing the river Murray scheme into actuality, and in operating it as one of the most vital national projects in Australia. The confidence in the River Murray Commission is well placed, and the governments have recognized this by their willingness to impose the further duties on the commission provided in the new agreement.
Debate (on motion by Mr. MCBRIDE adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 3rd December (vide page 3986), on motion by Mr. Bollard -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- On Friday last I received the call to speak on this measure just before the House adjourned, and during the minute or so that I spoke I said that if the Minister could show clearly that this measure would operate for the -benefit of cattleraisers, I would support it. I mentioned briefly the powers that would be conferred on the board, and the general control that would be exercised by it. Even from a cursory examination of this measure, it is evident that it would not operate in the best interests of the cattleraisers. The object of the bill is to bring about cheaper prices for leather for the people of Australia. It must be remembered, however, that Australia is a great primary-producing country, and that it is as a result of the growth of those industries that the stable economy existing in this country to-day has been made possible. I am not unmindful of the fact that, if the people of this country are to receive goods which have heretofore been produced only overseas, greater attention must be paid to the development of our secondary industries. But I cannot see why all the strain should be placed on the men who have developed the primary industries, and have really blazed the trail. I could speak of many industries of a like nature, but I desire to proceed with a consideration of the bill, which deals with hides and leather.
That leads me to the cattle industry. The Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board, which is to be established under the measure, will have wide powers. Et will be able to do anything at all, within reason, with hides. It will consist of eleven members, six of whom will be cattle raisers or persons actively engaged or concerned in the pursuit of cattle raising and five of whom will be people concerned in the hides and leather industry. But the bill provides that all the members of the board shall be subject to direction in accordance with the policy of the Government. Their tenure of office will be subject to the pleasure of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. The idea of producercontrol by a majority of cattle raisers on the board is fallacious, because they will have to act in accordance with the policy of the Government. If they do not do so they cannot hope to function. The title of the bill is “A Bill for an Act relating to the Hide and Leather Industries and for other purposes “. I understand that the bill is necessary to continue action taken during the war under regulations. Hides must be submitted for appraisement. The Australian users of the hides have the right to select their requirements for the Australian trade at the appraised prices. After they have selected their requirements, the balance of the hides will be auctioned and any one may bid. That means that overseas buyers come into the picture. Of course, overseas prices are very much higher than the prices fixed in Australia. The proceeds of both local and overseas sales are paid into a pool from which the producers of the hides will be paid. Recently the price paid to the sellers of hides has been 130 per cent, of the appraised price. The Australian price for hides averages about 7d. per lb. compared with the overseas price of 24d. per lb. This form of price control has caused the loss to hide producers of £7,500,000 a year. What we have to decide is whether we can afford this legislation. The cattle industry in Queensland, the Northern Territory, northern New South Wales and in the fine pastures in the Western District of Victoria and Gippsland and in many other places that honorable members are aware of has been of vital importance to this great outpost of the Empire. In the northern areas of Australia drought has on many occasions caused the death of many head of cattle. Sir Sidney Kidman drew attention to that many times. People who have written books on northern Australia have filled pages with descriptions of the ravages of drought. Thousands of cattle can be reduced to a store condition in a very short space of time. If men in the cattle industry were allowed the full fruits of their labours, they could provide against such setbacks to the Australian economy. If the Government wants to let Australian people have cheap footwear and leather generally - and I am in favour of that - it should give a satisfactory subsidy to the cattle industry instead of letting it fight along with little aid and not even permitting it to take advantage of world prices. In time of drought some aid is sometimes given to the cattle men, but it is not of great importance. Now, with the price of hides and leather so high in the markets of the world, the industry could recoup some of its losses. That also applies to by-products and tallow, which are not mentioned in the bill. If the industry were free to take the full benefit of present prices it could make provision against droughts in the near future. That would be good for the national economy and for our progress as a nation. I know that high prices cannot be paid internally, but there is a big difference between 7d. per lb. and 24d. per lb., and a part of that wide disparity should be bridged by the Government, if it is determined to allow the Australian public to have leather at 7d. per lb. The powers to be given to the Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board will amount to nothing, because the policy of the Government will be paramount. I do not propose to speak at length, because other Opposition speakers will deal with the bill from other points of view. We should not let ourselves be overpowered, however, by the thought that we can manufacture secondary products and sell them overseas with greater benefit to Australia than we can sell our primary products, on which we have always depended and which have never let us down. Undue burdens should not be imposed on .primary industries for the sake of experiments in manufacturing goods that may not bring lasting benefit to the country. If the Government is determined to proceed on the lines it is at present following, it should see that subsidies are provided to make up to the cattle-raisers, who are amongst our greatest benefactors, some of .the difference between the home price and the export price.
Mr. FULLER (Hume) (4.18] .-This hill appears to me to establish as a part of our economy in the post-war period a home-consumption price for hides and leather. Before the war, the establishment of a price in the home market commensurate with production costs was the ambition of .every producers’ organization. The acceptance of that principle is just as important now as it was previously, even though its application, owing to high export prices, is not so popular among short-sighted people as it used to be. I take the view that sound principles in marketing farm products are as important now as they were previously, and that any movement that ensures that payable prices are obtained by farmers and graziers is a step in the right direction. I take it for granted that the Australian and State Governments, having combined to establish a marketing organization, will continue to ensure that the producers, having done a fair thing by the consumers while prices are high overseas, shall, in turn, have a fair thing done by them. There is no good reason why the Australian price of hides, either now or later, should be based upon export prices. The Government’s goodwill towards the producers is manifested in the big increase in the representation of producers on the new board. Because the principal marketing function of the board will be to equalize returns, and because the hides and leather at the point of sale are to remain the property of the producer or manufacturer, I assume that the work of the board will be different from that of a producers’ pool. For that reason, I am sure that producers will be happy at their largely increased representation on the board compared with their representation on the war-time body. I trust that this legislation will prove to be another big step towards the stabi-
lization of incomes, and that it will become permanent. It is important to buyers of footwear that retail prices, which are already very high, should not be further increased. The solution of Australia’s economic problems does not lie in the continual increase of retail prices. Obviously we cannot all become wealthy by making everything expensive. On the contrary, we should all strive to impose a ceiling on prices, having in mind the time when output will be sufficient to meet our needs. The provision of sufficient goods at reasonable prices will give us stability in our economy and, in fact, enable us to develop an excellent home market. The decision of the State governments to ask the Australian Government to continue the control of hides and leather occasioned me, and, I am sure, many of my colleagues, some -surprise. Those of use who took part in the recent referendum campaign on rents and prices might be excused if we obtained the impression from the speeches made by members of the Opposition that they held the view that economic security could be achieved and that the well-being of the people would be best attained by leaving the States to manage their own affairs. We knew then, as we know now, that effective price control could be carried on only by the Commonwealth. We believed, however, that the cupidity of vested interests and the stupidity of some of the mouthpieces of those interests in the parliaments of the Commonwealth and some of the States would result in the States following a wrong course, even though it wrecked our economy. Honorable members on this side of the House can only conclude that the steadying influence of the Labour Governments of New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania caused the other States to retract their earlier “do-or-die” attitude and see greater wisdom in Commonwealth control than they could perceive three months ago. The conservative governments of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia have become more than a little frightened by the rapidity with which prices have jumped since the Commonwealth abandoned the field of prices control in favour of the States, in September last. Having influenced a “ No “ vote at the referendum, and having assured the people that the States could adequately protect them, they are more than a little scared about what is now happening. I do not wish to rub salt into their wounds, because I believe that they were hard-pressed and are humiliated, at having to ask for the assistance of the Commonwealth in this matter. I regret, however, that their short-sightedness is causing the people so much hardship through rising prices. It is a pity that we cannot isolate the ring-leaders of the opposition to Commonwealth control and put them on an island, to suffer alone. That, of course, cannot be done, so all must suffer for their stupidity. In the circumstances, I am quite happy to do what I can to help stem the time of rising prices, and I shall therefore vote for this measure.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) engaging in some wishful thinking, in an attempt to placate some of his electors. Nothing that he hopes will happen as a result of this bill will, in fact, happen. The honorable member said that the prices to be fixed -by the board will have some relation to the growers’ costs. There is nothing in the bill to indicate that that is intended. The sole purpose of the bill is to keep down the price of hides in Australia, in order to enable the users of leather commodities to obtain their needs at a cheaper rate. It was very interesting to listen to the honorable member’s attempt to show that this measure had become necessary as a result of the refusal of the people to agree to the Government’s proposals at the referendum on rents and prices. The simple fact is that the rejection by the people of the Government’s referendum proposals did not in any way justify the discontinuance by the Commonwealth of subsidies on certain commodities. Consequent upon the withdrawal of subsidies on most commodities that were formerly subsidized, the State governments are endeavouring to handle the economy of this country with the least possible harm to the people. I remind the honorable member for Hume that the greatest increase in the cost of commodities has been brought about, not by the rejection of the referendum proposals, but by the introduction of the 40-hour week and the reduced output from operatives in industry. The proposal for a 40- hour week was actively supported by the Government. Indeed, it adopted the unusual practice of being represented by counsel at the hearing of the 40-hour week case by the Arbitration Court. The honorable member for Hume will not succeed in misleading the electors on this matter. This bill is merely designed to carry on the system of control of hides and skins which was introduced during the war period. I had some association with the institution of that system when I was administering the Department of Commerce. Because of the grave need for equipment for both military and civil purposes during the war, it became necessary to ensure that our tanners should receive their full quotas of hides to enable them to produce the maximum output of leather. When introducing the system, we took as a basis the prices which were ruling during the period just before the issuance of the regulations. We ensured that the tanners should receive the hides they needed, and that the producers should receive the prices which they had been getting up till then. Shipping was scarce at the time, and there was no certainty that prevailing prices could be maintained in the absence of overseas competition. However, as the war went on, and the demand for hides and leather grew in other countries, prices overseas rose considerably. It was then that the Australian producers, who continued to receive the fixed price for hides used locally, began to subsidize the economy of Australia. In spite of the fact that overseas prices were rising, and that the cost of production was increasing, no increases were made in the table of limits under which hides were appraised on the Australian market. Thus, the Australian producers subsidized the economy of Australia to a greater and greater extent as the war progressed until, before the end of the war, their contribution amounted to between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000 a year.
Because of the callous fashion in which this Government withdrew subsidies, and threw price control to the winds, the State governments, in an endeavour to hold down costs and prices, have asked that the present method of marketing hides he continued. I do not oppose the bill, but I believe that consideration should be given at this stage to the extraordinary extent to which the cattle-men are subsidizing the economy of the country. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said that the system would be continued only until normal conditions returned. I do not understand what he means by normal conditions. If overseas prices were to recede to the pre-war level it would create an abnormal condition as things now are. If the producers are to be asked to subsidize costs in order to keep down prices to the consumers, they should at least be given some promise of security. Under this legislation, the producers will be called upon to deliver hides for appraisement. I do not know what will ‘be the basis of appraisement. I can only assume that it will be similar to that which has existed since the end of 1939, when the original scheme was introduced. If that be so, a real injustice will be done to the producers.
There is one other outstanding example of producers subsidizing the internal economy of the country. I refer to the wheat industry, but it is not being asked to supply wheat for home consumption at pre-war .prices, or at .anything approaching them. Indeed, the homeconsumption price for wheat is related to the cost of production, and only recently the price was increased. I should like to know from the Minister the basis upon which hides will be appraised for use in Australia. In the case of wheat, the home-consumption price of which is related to the cost of production, the growers are assured of a guaranteed minimum return over a period of five years. It is not long enough I admit, but it is something. The producers of hides, however, have been given no guarantee at all. “While world prices are high, the producers are to receive. a return much below world parity. If world prices drop below the present appraisement prices, the producers will have no guarantee that even the appraisement prices will be paid. It would appear that all the sacrifice is to be on one side. Whilst I sympathize with the purpose behind the measure, I believe that, in fairness to a very important section of primary producers, the Government should do much more for them.
I recognize that the table of limits was accepted by the Menzies Government, and by myself as Minister for Commerce, but when we first introduced the system we endeavoured to disturb as little as possible the existing marketing arrangements in the various States. We arranged to pay the average price which had prevailed over a period preceding the introduction of the system, but it was not a flat price all over Australia. The prices ruling in the various States at the time ‘were to continue to be paid. Even before the end of the war, that system had begun to operate unfairly, and it is now operating greatly to the disadvantage of the producers in some of the States. For instance, the price payable in the various States for a 30-lb. hide of first quality is as follows: -
It is seen, therefore, that there is a difference of nearly 2d. per lb. between prices in Western Australia and New South Wales. That does not mean that New South Wales hides are better than those produced in Western Australia, but only that competition is .keener in New South Wales because there are many tanners there, whereas in Western Australia there were few, if any, at the beginning of the war. However, under the direct policy of the Menzies Government, and under that of succeeding governments, I believe, tanneries have been established in the various States, and competition is more evenly distributed. Therefore, the board, when fixing the table of limits, should take cognizance of the altered conditions. It should also take into account the present cost of producing hides, rather than adhere to prewar prices, which have no relation to present costs of production. I do not believe that it is necessary to keep the prices of hides down to the present level in order to prevent the price of leather goods from increasing unduly. It has been said that, unless the price of hides is controlled, the price of a pair of boots will increase by anything from 12s. to £1 a pair. That is a very substantial increase, I admit, but it would not be all due to the increased price of hides. Indeed, the increase would be mainly taken up by the increased costs of processing and manufacturing the hides before the leather got into the hands of the manufacturers of boots and shoes. The intermediaries are not being asked to subsidize the industry; they are to get their full measure of profit. The producers, on the other hand, are being asked to contribute the whole of the amount needed to keep down the price of leather goods, and in return they are not even being given a guaranteed price over a period. If the Government wished to deal fairly by the cattle men it would insist on a table of limits based on a calculation which took the cost of production into account, and it would also guarantee a minimum price for the next ten years at least. If the Government were to yield those two points, the producers would welcome the bill. At the present time, they do not accept it. It may be imposed on them, but at the next election they will remember who imposed it on them.
, - in reply - I have listened withinterest to the speeches of honorable members’ on- this bill, but I donot think it is necessary to’ reply to them in detail. It’ is quite true that the Government has introduced this bill at the request of the six State governments, in accordance with a promise made after the defeat of the Government’s prices proposals at the referendum.
– The Minister means in accordance with the threat made during; the referendum campaign.
– I said “after the referendum “. The honorable member is confusing something that may have been said- before the referendum with something, that was said after it and is now being acted upon in tha interests, of the people. When the State governments became aware that the duty of control ling prices would devolve upon them, they asked that a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers be convened to consider the matter. The Australian Government intimated that it was prepared to give all the- assistance that, it could to the State governments to help them to keep the economy of this country on a stable basis.. The. State governments intimated that they desired assistance indealing with the problem of the price of hides and leather. Following a conference between, representatives of the State, governments and officers of the Commonwealth departments that were concerned in the matter, the State governments informed us that they were prepared to introduce legislation in the State parliaments- to provide for the fixation of the- prices of hides and leather in the States’, and, in effect, for the acquisition of hides and leather under State powers. The- fixation of the table of limits’ is a matter entirely for the State governments. That is- their function. If thereis any complaint about the prices in the table of limits- being too low and the return to the cattle raisers- being inadequate, the honorable gentleman should get busy among, the various composite governments of the States of thiscountry. This bill is being introduced in pursuance of the decisions, of State governments of all political complexions. Until an hour or so ago,, the Victorian Government was composed of members, of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party; the South Australian Government is a Liberal -Country party coalition, and the- Western Australian Government is a similar combination. The governments of those three .States are emphatic that they want us to put this legislation on thestatutebook to help- them to do something with which the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr.. Turnbull) disagrees* and which the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) condemns.. We aretaking this action to keep* the prices of hides and leather,, and therefore of boots and shoes’, in Australia, at a level that is commensurate with our economic; circumstances. It is useless, for the honorable gentlemen to say that the purpose of this, measure ia to- keep theprices of those commodities, at. a low level, to the advantage of the Australian consumer and to the disadvantage of the cattle-raisers, when Liberal-Country party governments in three Australian States have asked us to bring the bill down. There is nothing to be gained by pointing the bone at the Australian Government, because all we are doing is to accede to the request of people of the honorable gentleman’s own political complexion. We have agreed with the request, because we believe that there is no justification for increasing the price of these commodities to a level that would be in line with the economy of other countries in which costs are higher. The honorable gentlemen are arguing, in effect, that the abandonment of all price controls, by whatever government they are administered, and a completely free economy, with no export or import controls, so that eventually prices in Australia would rise to the same level as prices in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and other countries. If that were done, there would perhaps be no need for export or import controls, but prices would be substantially higher than they are now. Is that what the honorable gentlemen are advocating?
– I advocate increased production, but this measure will not achieve it.
– Everybody advocates increased production. All that the Government is doing is to accede to the wishes of the State governments, including the Victorian Government, to which Sir Albert Dunstan, Mr. John McDonald and Mr. Tom Hollway lately belonged. The State governments approached us, and asked us whether we would bring down this legislation if they passed complementary legislation through the State parliaments, and we said that we were willing to do so. It is ridiculous for the honorable member for Wimmera to say that the Australian Government is robbing the hideproducers and cattle-raisers of Australia. In my opinion, this is a good measure, which will operate to the benefit of the cattle industry and the people of Australia generally.
Is the honorable member for Wimmera prepared to abandon this scheme? There is only a handful of cattle-raisers in his electorate. The great majority of his constituents are dried-fruit growers, railway workers and wheat-farmers. Is the honorable gentleman prepared to vote against this measure and to advocate a course of action that would increase the price of footwear in his electorate by £1 or 30s. a pair? Such a price would be out of step with Australia’s internal economy. This bill will be of substantial benefit to the cattleraisers and to the people of Australia generally, because it will provide for a scientific and sensible method of balancing the returns from the exports of hides and leather and the returns from internal sales. We bring the measure down gladly, at the request of the State governments, to help the cattle-raisers and others.
The first Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board was established by the honorable member for Wakefield, under the authority of the National Security Regulations, when he was a member of the Senate and Assistant Minister for Commerce. That board consisted of a chairman and nine members, one of whom was a cattle-raiser, but it is now proposed that there shall be a chairman and eleven members, of whom six are to be cattle-raisers. This measure will result in a substantial improvement of the representation of the cattle-raisers on the board. The representatives of the cattleraisers will know what is going on, and if any injustices are being done to those whom they represent, or if the measure is not working satisfactorily, they will have an opportunity to rectify any faults. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who has apparently not read the bill or even given it a moment’s thought, criticized the lack of provision for the election of representatives of the cattle-raisers. No provision was made for such an election under the National Security Regulations. There is not sufficient time in which to hold an election, even if it were possible to do so. I ask the honorable member for Wimmera and the right honorable member for Cowper to enumerate the organizations which represent the cattle-raisers of this country. The Government has done the right and sensible thing by providing for a representative of the cattle-raisers to be nominated by each of the State governments, which are either Labour governments or composite governments. The cattle-raisers will now be more adequately represented on the board than they were previously.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I claim that I have been misrepresented by the Minister in his remarks concerning what I had led the House to believe in the course of my speech.
– The honorable member for Wimmera must not take undue advantage of the Standing Orders. He is not entitled to reply to arguments adduced by the Minister. He is entitled to make a personal explanation only in relation to the matter on which he claims that he has been misrepresented.
– I claim that I have been misrepresented. After the Minister had pointed out that there are few cattle-raisers and many fruit-growers in my electorate, he suggested that I had said during the debate that we should not allow the Australian people to buy their footwear at present prices. I did not say that at all. I drew attention to the cost of production of hides and leather and suggested that if the Government intended to proceed with this measure it should consider the payment of a subsidy to cattle-raisers. I said that I considered that the Australian consumers should be enabled to buy goods as cheaply as possible, but that the whole of the cost of this scheme should not be borne by the cattle-raisers, and that the Government should consider the payment of a subsidy to them.
– The honorable member is indulging in argument and not making a personal explanation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 - (1.) For the purposes of this Act there shall be an Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board. (2.) The Board shall consist of a Chairman and eleven other members. . . . (3.) Of the eleven members, other than the Chairman - (/) one shall be a representative of the organization of employees registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904- 1948 as the Australian Saddlery Leather Sail Canvas Tanning Leather Dressing and Allied Workers Employees Federation.
– I move-
That, in sub-clause (3.), paragraph (/), the words “ Australian Saddlery Leather Sail Canvas Tanning Leather Dressing and Allied Workers Employees Federation “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ Australian Leather and Allied Trades Employees Federation “.
The purpose of the amendment is to describe the employees’ organization correctly. It has been discovered that the description in the sub-clause is incorrect.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 17th November (vide page 3077), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This measure is described as -
A bill for an act to provide for the distribution of any ultimate profit accruing to the Commonwealth under the Wool Disposals Plan, and for other purposes.
It was made clear in the Minister’s second-reading speech that it is a machinery measure, designed to establish machinery by which, at some unknown date, the profits made under the Wool Disposals Plan may be distributed. The growers’ organizations, I understand, are in favour of the bill, and consequently I do not propose to offer any opposition to it. The bill implements a promise made to the wool-growers in 1939 by Senator McLeay, on behalf of the government of that day. The arrangement made between the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government for the purchase of the war-time wool clips provided that one-half of the profit made from the sale of Australian wool to countries other than the United Kingdom should be handed to the Australian Government, and Senator McLeay promised that that money would ultimately be distributed to the Australian wool-growers. Mr. Curtin, who subsequently became Prime Minister, repeated that promise in reply to a question in this House in September, 1942. The arrangement between the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government provided for the purchase of the whole of the Australian wool clips during the period of the war and one full year thereafter. However, that war-time arrangement was terminated on the 31st July, 1945, when the wool disposals plan came into operation. The reason for the change was the necessity to adopt methods for the marketing of accumulated stocks of wool held by the United Kingdom Government concurrently with incoming clips, in the same way as Bawra regulated the disposal of accumulated wool after World War I. The new arrangement provided that the Australian Government should purchase from the United Kingdom Government a half share in those wools. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has pointed out that the disposals plan provides, inter alia - (a) that the stock of Australian-grown wool in the ownership of the United Kingdom Government at the 31st July, 1945, should be transferred to the joint ownership of the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government; (6) that the ultimate balance of profit or loss arising from the transactions of the two governments in Australian wool would be shared equally between them; (c) that a joint disposals organization be established for the purpose of buying, holding and selling wool on behalf of the United Kingdom Government and the Dominion governments concerned, which organization is United Kingdom-
Dominion Wool Disposals Limited, a private registered company in the United Kingdom ; (d) that a subsidiary be established in each of the Dominions for the purpose of conducting the operations of the joint disposals organization, in accordance with its policy and decisions, the Australian subsidiary of which is the Australian Wool Realization Commission.
When the wool disposals plan came into operation at the 31st July, 1945, the accumulation of Australian, New Zealand and South African wools totalled 10,407,000 bales of which the Australian clip represented approximately 6,796,000 bales. The book cost of the stocks ofAustralian wool slightly exceeded £100,000,000 sterling, and the accrued credit in the Divisible Profits Accounts was approximately £20,000,000 sterling. The balance was thus somewhat more than £80,000,000 sterling, involving a payment of about £40,000,000 sterling by the Australian Government to the Government of the United Kingdom as the purchase price of a half share in the stocks to be jointly owned. Australia was granted four years in which to pay that amount of £40,000,000. It was considered that the disposal of the wools would occupy ten years. Actually, the stocks are being sold at a much faster rate than originally was believed to be possible. The Minister has explained that the capital commitments of the Australian Government have been met entirely from the proceeds of sales of wools which accumulated during World War II. The accumulated cash resources of the Joint Organization in respect of the United Kingdom-Australia partnership are approaching £30,000,000 Australian currency. Of that amount, Australia’s share will be £15,000,000. About : 2,271,000 bales of wool are on hand, and are costed in the books at some amount above £30,000,000 Australian currency. If we estimate the book value of such wools at £15 a bale, the total is approximately £34,000,000. Actually, the wool is probably worth at least £20 a bale, so that the total value in round figures is £45,000,000. Australia’s half share of that amount, together with the’ £15,000,000, which it already has in the accumulated profits account, represents a sum of approximately £37,000,000. If the wool now in store can be sold, and the amount of £15,000,000 is also distributed, Australian wool-growers will receive approximately £37,000,000. However, the Minister pointed out, not once but several times in his second-reading speech, that the profits cannot be distributed until the whole of the purchases that the Joint Organization may make in the future have been liquidated and the whole of the wools that accumulated during World War II. have been sold. When those conditions have been met the money may be distributed in accordance with the terms prescribed in the bill. The “ wool disposals profit “ has been defined as follows : -
The credit balance, if any, found to have accrued to the Commonwealth upon the taking of an account of -
the Commonwealth’s share in the ultimate balance of profit (or loss) arising from the transactions of the Joint Organization; and
the moneys received by the Commonwealth from the Government of the United Kingdom in pursuance of the arrangement between the Commonwealth and that Government for the sharing of profits arising from the disposal of sheepskins acquired under the National Security (Sheepskins) Regulations.
Clause 6 of the bill provides the method of making progress payments to woolgrowers. The final distribution may be made when the wool disposals profit has been ascertained and the expenses and charges of the Australian Wool Realization Commission in administering the act, including estimated expenses and charges of the final distribution, have been certified by the commission to the Minister. All those requirements have to be met before the final distribution may be made. Therefore, honorable members will realize that the money may be distributed very soon or, possibly, not for years.
Since the Joint Organization began to operate, it has purchased in Australia in the seasons 1946-47 and 1947-48 a total of 87,868 bales and has sold 5,928 bales leaving on the books 81,940 bales. The stocks were reduced from 6,796,000 bales to 2,710,000 bales from the 31st July, 1945, to the 1st July, 1948. Therefore, the Joint Organization has been selling the accumulated mass of wool at the rate of 1,500,000 bales a year. If that rate can be continued in future the stocks will be disposed of in the wool season of 1949-50, provided the price of wool does not fall and the Joint Organization has not accumulated wools of current clips in the reserve stock. The remaining 2,710,000 bales in store at the present time may be described as the hard core of the wools which have yet to be sold. The bulk of them are carbonizing wools, and, although they are good wools, they cannot be rapidly disposed of because of a bottle-neck in carbonizing plants throughout the world. The Minister will agree with that statement. Consequently, we cannot expect that all those wools will be sold in future as rapidly as they have been marketed in the past. If wool prices hold and disposals continue at the rate which I have indicated, the stocks should be disposed of in approximately three years’ time. If prices fall and the Joint Organization makes heavy purchases, the whole of the accumulated profits now in hand may disappear. It may be claimed that, under such an arrangement, an injustice will be done to growers who forwarded their wool during the years when the United Kingdom Government was purchasing it, and that they should be paid the profits which were derived from the sale of those wools. However, it would appear that between 98 per cent, and 99 per cent, of the growers who would benefit under such a disbursement will benefit under the present proposal, even if those accumulated profits disappear from the fund, because prices for their wools would have increased during the operation of the fund.
The growers have considered this bill and are, I believe in favour of it. Consequently, the Australian Country party and I do not object to the measure, but I consider that it is only fair to point out to the growers exactly what this bill entails. It does not authorize the immediate distribution of one penny to them and even in the future they may not derive any returns from it. It is only a machinery measure which provides that, when the whole of the accumulated wools, and wools which may be purchased in future by the Joint Organization have been sold, and the scheme has been wound up, the accumulated profits, if any, may be distributed to the growers who produced the wool during the currency of the arrangement with the British Government. The bill provides that records shall be kept of those growers, and that the accumulated profits may be distributed by the wool-selling brokers of Australia.- Other provisions relate to wool submitted by dealers, and to arrangements with the Commonwealth Bank for advances. In essence, the bill is a machinery measure to provide for the distribution of accumulated profits, if any, when the whole scheme is wound up. The scheme may be terminated within the next three or four years, or be continued indefinitely, and there may not be any profits for distribution.
.- All wool-growers now acknowledge that the Empire wool agreement, which the Australian Labour Government promoted towards the conclusion of World War II., has conferred greater benefits upon the Australian wool industry than has any action by any previous government in the history of this country. The United Kingdom, South Africa and Canada are parties to the agreement, but it is generally accepted that the representatives of the Australian Government were the driving force in the conferences which evolved a workable scheme for the marketing of wool. The scheme has not only resulted in record prices for wool clips, but has also provided a big nest-egg for wool-growers in respect of wool which they sold to the United Kingdom during the operation of the war-time agreement. During the 1947-48 season, our woolgrowers have received the colossal sum of £155,000,000 for their clips. That amount makes the pre-war wool cheque of between £50,000,000 and £60,000,000 appear comparatively small. The return of £155,000,000 is in itself an excellent result, and is far beyond the growers’ wildest dreams. Wool growing and processing constitute our greatest primary and secondary industries and upon that work a large measure of the credit of the nation depends. I am gratified to see wool-growers coming into their own again. I hope that the splendid prices which are being received for Australian wool will place the growers beyond the clutches of private banks and mortgagors in future, because many of them have been in the toils of wealthy financial interests in the past. The money which will be distributed under this legislation will not be payable to wool-growers for some time, but it is expected that when the disbursement is possible, wool-growers will receive many millions of pounds which they never expected to obtain. That result should be regarded as a monument to the wisdom and foresight of the Australian Labour party. It cannot be attributed to the Liberal and Australian Country parties, whose members’ opinions never extend beyond what happens in> the Sydney Domain or on the banks of the Tarra in Melbourne although thethreadbare propaganda of those partiesmight claim the credit. The amount to be distributed may equal the value of a small woolclip, free of encumbrances and production costs. The receipt of that money will remind the wool-growers of yet another lie that was propagated by the Opposition, which is, that if the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) ever got his hands on the money, they could kiss it goodbye. The wool-growers of this country will remember that approximately 6,500,000 bales of Australian wool was held by Britain at the end of the war. In connexion with the resale of that wool, the Australian Government accepted a contingent liability of £40,000,000. Apart from their obligations as taxpayers, the wool-growers did not incur any liability in connexion with that wool. From the outset, they were assured that any loss that might ultimately be incurred would be borne by the Treasury, and that any profit in proportion to the war-time sales would be remitted to the producers. Honorable members should compare that result with the early war-time promises that were given by the anti-Labour government, that the wool-growers of this country would share with the British Government the result of any resale of wool purchased during the war. That might ultimately become necessary. As I have already mentioned, the scheme involved the Australian Government in accepting a contingent liability of approximately £40,000,000, with no assurance that loss would not ultimately result. This Government readily accepted that risk, in the interests of the wool-growing industry of this country, and in order to protect the wool-growers’ market. No other measure containing anything so advantageous as does this bill has ever before been placed on the statute-book of this country. Since, at the time that that action was proposed to be taken by this Government, I heartily approved of, and applauded it, there is now no necessity for me to speak with my tongue in my cheek. Some honorable members opposite are not in that happy position. I point out that the average price realized from the sale of the wool in 1947-48 was approximately 40d. per lb., as compared with 10½d. per lb. in 1939-40, when an anti-Labour government was in office. As honorable members are aware, the proceeds from the sale of Australian wool flow through every avenue of trade in the community. Australia’s wool cheque is reflected in the prosperity of country towns, by the full and profitable employment of country workers and by the growth of business houses. Prosperity is now apparent throughout the land. That is in striking contrast with the languishing conditions that prevailed in country districts in pre-war days as a result of the indifference of anti-Labour governments to the welfare of primary producers. Although the surplus war-time stocks of wool will take several years to clear, the present wool marketing agreement will continue to operate until those stocks have been sold. I believe that in two or three years’ time it will become necessary for Parliament to enact legislation to provide a permanent structure for the marketing of wool produced in this country. The growers are looking forward to a continuance of the present scheme, which is proving very satisfactory to them. I am confident that when the time arrives for providing a permanent marketing structure for the wool industry, the Labour Government will handle the matter with the same sincerity of purpose as it has evinced up to the present time. When the time arrives, I am sure that my colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr.
Pollard), who has administered government policy so successfully with relation to butter, wheat and other primary industries, will direct his purposeful activities towards the framing of the requisite legislation. When a ballot was conducted recently amongst the farmers in connexion with a wheat stabilization plan, approximately 30,000 wheat-farmers voted in favour of the plan, which had been formulated by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in association with the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully). Only 16,000 growers were scared by propaganda which emanated from honorable members opposite into voting against the acceptance of the plan. There will soon come into operation a scheme which will assure to the wheat-growers a payable return, irrespective of the state of the overseas markets. A similar scheme already exists in the dairying industry. What a contrast is the helpful action of this Government in such matters with the pious promises that were made to the growers by honorable members opposite when they were in office. I shall support this measure unequivocally, in the knowledge that my support will be appreciated by the wool-growers of this country. I hope that it will be possible to make payments within a year or two, after which I expect to be asked in this House to support a measure designed to provide for the permanent stability of the wool industry. I wholeheartedly support the measure before the House.
– I must confess that my interest was not roused to any degree by the speech by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller). If he is sincere, it would appear from his remarks that he believes that the Labour Government has been solely responsible for the high prices that are being obtained for Australian wool. I do not for a moment think that any other sane member of this Parliament - and I say “ sane member “ with reservation - would claim that the Labour Government has been solely responsible for the high prices ruling for wool in the world to-day.
– We do not claim that.
– Not only did the honorable member infer that, but he suggested that his remarks might apply equally to wheat, butter, and other primary products. Of course, I realize that the honorable member is now writhing in his seat because of what he has said. If I understood him correctly, he said that the prosperous and progressive conditions obtaining in the country towns to-day contrast to a marked degree with the conditions that existed in pre-war days. In effect, he implied that when the Labour Government assumed office shortly after the commencement of the war, the trials and tribulations of the primary producers were immediately overcome by the Government, as Hercules overcame his aggressors. However, I remind honorable members that, as a result of the recent war - one of the most terrible wars in history - the primary production of many of the countries of the world was interrupted completely. Australia, however, was able to continue in comparative safety to produce the goods that the world required. I also remind honorable members that the foundation for most of the schemes for which the present Government claims credit was laid by the Liber al- Australian Country party Government that was in office prior to the present Labour Government. It would seem that the honorable member for Hume does not clearly understand that that is so. The present high prices ‘being obtained for the primary products of this country are due, principally, to acute world shortages. For the reason that this measure will ensure that the Australian wool-growers shall receive any profits made as a result of the Joint Organization sales, I support this bill. It is a measure that many people in this country did not expect would be brought down. In the past, the proceeds from the sale of Australian wool have been applied by this Government for various purposes, and the woolgrower has not always received in full the results of his labours. Because under this measure the wool-growers will have a chance to secure any profit that flows from the sale of their wool, I welcome its introduction. Many wool-growers in this country were becoming apprehensive about’ what would become of any profits derived from sales of wool. The honorable member for Hume has proved by his reference to marketing organization in the future that he is completely out of touch with conditions existing in the Australian wool industry. I point out that by far the greater proportion of wool-growers in Australia desire, when war and immediate post-war conditions cease to exist, to continue to produce and market wool in the way that their forefathers did, without interference by the Government. The honorable member likewise proved that he is out of touch with conditions in the metropolitan areas when he said that the opinions of Liberal and Australian Country party members were confined to events in the Sydney Domain and on the banks of the Yarra in Melbourne. If Australian Country party members attempted to stand for metropolitan constituencies they would assuredly forfeit their deposits, because, basically, their fight is for the men on the land and country dwellers generally.
-The honorable member is getting >a little wide of the mark.
– Apparently the reserves of cash as a result of joint sales amount to approximately £30,000,000 Australian, and the remaining stocks, as costed in the books, are worth a similar amount. Presumably, when this measure comes into operation, there will be a lot of money available from the profits for distribution to the wool-growers. I am concerned that if all of this money is dispersed at once, the incidence of taxation will be heavy.
-The honorable member should confine his remarks to the provisions of the bill.
– I hope that the distribution of the profits will be spread over a period of years.
– I should prefer to receive my amount in one lump sum.
– The Minister, who wants his in one lump, is a small grower, and I have something to say about that. My idea is that growers entitled to small amounts should be able to collect them in one lump if they so desire, but I am anxious that growers entitled to large amounts shall be able to have the payment of their money spread over a number of years in order that it may not all disappear in the payment of income tax. I also see no reason why the Minister should not give consideration to the making of some payments to the woolgrowers before the scheme is wound up, so long as sufficient funds are kept in hand to ensure satisfactory completion of the scheme.
– If the honorable member reads the bill he will see that provision has been made to enable that to he done.
– I hope that the Minister will consider the points that I have raised. I am heartily in support of the bill.
.- I think all wool-growers are happy that at last the Government has decided to carry out the promise of the late Mr. Curtin that all profits derived from the sale of the stock pile of wool left after the war ended would be paid to them. We make no complaint about that, but there are certain aspects that many people are not quite satisfied with. The people engaged in the wool-growing industry are constantly changing. People leave the industry for various reasons and their places are taken by others. People engaged in the industry are a little afraid that in the event of a serious recession in the price of wool the Australian Wool Realization Commission will attempt to hold the prices. We realize that it would be good for Australia if the price of wool could be maintained, but we are a little afraid that the commission may expend a large part of the amount of approximately £60,000,000, which was practically Australia’s annual wool cheque before the exorbitant prices that rule to-day came into being, on trying to hold the market for the present-day wool-growers. Since the first wool went into the pool there has been a change of 30 per cent, in the personnel of the wool-growers. Many now in the industry worked in other occupations. Wheatgrowers and dairy-farmers, who found themselves unable to carry on their industries, owing to a shortage of labour, have turned to wool-growing. Many have done so quite recently. The original wool-growers are worried. They would like the Government to try to distribute at least a part of the fund among them now. I think they are generally satisfied that the Government has to retain a fairly large sum, possibly £10,000,000, but they believe that the balance should be distributed. It would not be a colossal job to distribute the money. It is a job that the wool firms would be happy to do. If the wool-growers’ money is to be held indefinitely many of them will not benefit from it, for they are getting on in life. Many others need the money to rehabilitate their properties, which are in a serious state of disrepair owing to the shortage of labour and materials. I urge the Government to give serious consideration to that situation. It is a just request that the wool-growers should be given a part of the money, which is really theirs, in the very near future. They should have a definite say about how far the commission should be allowed to go in bolstering the market, because when wool prices recede, as they inevitably will, to something approaching a reasonable level, at which the people of the world can buy wool, the asset of the wool-growers in the stock pile could disappear in a few months. The Government should give serious consideration to the paying of a part of the money at least to the people who are entitled to it.
.- I compliment the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) upon having, brought down this measure. Many people have asked me why there are two funds. I think that was explained clearly and fairly by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) when he said that there might be some funds left as between the United Kingdom and the wool-growers. It would be hard for the Minister to make a payment before the scheme Ls wound up. I agree with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) that the wool-growers would welcome a payment as soon as possible, but under the agreement with the United Kingdom it would be hard for the Government to anticipate what profit will accrue. We know that the extraordinarily high prevailing prices cannot hold. No reasonable man would expect the wool market to hold at what it is to-day when prices are at an all-time record high level. The assurance that the funds will be distributed is welcome. Therefore, I support the bill. The wool-growers will now know where they stand. They know that they will be entitled to share the profits when the scheme is wound up. According to present sales that will occur two or three years hence. I hope that the Minister will announce a progress payment if the wool market holds. I hope also that the wool will be sold even faster than is expected.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate ; “report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 20th October (vide page 1871), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill proposes to continue for another twelve months certain regulations that were passed during the period of the war. The remarks that I desire to make about it can be reduced to small compass. First, it is well to observe that three and a half years after the conclusion of hostilities, we still need, so the Government says, to continue those regulations for the purpose of bringing about a normal condition of peace. It is perhaps not irrelevant to remark that in 1941, two years after the war had broken out, the Government party, which was then in opposition, thought that we should be on a full war-time footing, whilst now, three and a half years after the cessation of hostilities, we are not yet on a peace-time footing. When members’ of the Opposition debated a similar bill last year, they said that they did not oppose the granting of powers for another year. That year expires this month. They also said that when that period had elapsed, they would be -still prepared to give further time in which the Government could use powers necessary to wind up the war and restore a condition of peace or normality in our economic conditions. So I do not propose to go through the detail of the regulations that the bill will continue for another year. It is, however, worth remarking that on this occasion a .substantial part of the regulations is not to be continued. Those regulations include the prices regulations. They are to be continued only in their application to the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, and other areas where the States have no control. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said in his second-reading speech that most of this modification, omitting the regulations controlling prices, which affects every one in Australia, became necessary after the voting at the referendum on rents and prices. He said that the Government felt that the Australian people had been persuaded that the Australian Government was no longer the appropriate authority to safeguard their economic welfare in the control of rents and prices. That is a misstatement of the position, because it is well known to the people of Australia that when the referendum was being discussed, it was made plain by all members of the Opposition that they did not resist retention by the Government of control of rents and prices for, if necessary, a year, or even longer. What we resisted was the proposed transfer to the Commonwealth of permanent control of the prices structure. So, the Minister wa9 guilty of a misstatement that compels me to observe that the Government is applying a policy of withdrawing subsidies and supporting the 40-hour week knowing that prices must rise in consequence. The Government knows that its policy of throwing into the hands of the State governments the control of prices without subsidies must force prices up. It applied that policy deliberately in order to have an alibi at the next general election. It is appropriate that I should make it quite clear that the Opposition at no time resisted the control of prices by the Commonwealth until normal conditions returned. What we resisted strenuously was the proposed permanent control of rents and prices by the Commonwealth. 1 accordingly take the opportunity, on behalf of the Opposition, to make it quite clear to the people of this country that, in his second-reading speech, the Minister misrepresented the position. The Government very conveniently grouped into different types the regulations which are to be continued but in respect of practically all of them there are two reasons why it says it is necessary for them to be continued. The first is the overriding scarcity of dollars, and the second is the inability of production to measure up to demands. These two factors are advanced as justification for the continuation of war-time controls for another year, which, when that period elapses, will mean that they will have been in operation for a total of four and a half years from the cessation of hostilities. To both of these matters the approach made by the Government is purely negative. Let us consider how the. dollar shortage is affecting this country.
– Can the honorable member indicate where the dollar shortage is referred to in this measure?
– It was referred to in the Minister’s second-reading speech.
– I am at a disadvantage in that I did not hear the Minister’s speech. More care should be taken by Ministers in the preparation of their second-reading speeches to ensure that they do not discuss matters not referred to in the legislation to which they relate. There is no reference to the dollar situation in this bill; but if the Minister referred to it in his second-reading speech, I do not propose to prevent the honorable member for Warringah from doing so.
– In his secondreading speech, the Minister said -
But for the continuing unsettled state of the post-war world, the continuing need for assisting the British economy in particular, and the chronic shortage of dollars from which all British Commonwealth and sterling bloc members are suffering, the Government might have been able now to drop most, if not all, of the economic transitional powers.
At a later stage, dealing with the subject of petrol rationing, he said -
Petrol rationing is required, not so much because supplies are physically unavailable, but principally as a means towards dollar conservation.
Let me deal first with the dollar shortage. I shall state my proposition succinctly and quickly. In the first place, the Government has made no real attempt to obtain dollars by adopting a positive policy. We contribute in terms of sterling to the economy of the United Kingdom, and to the nations of western Europe Under the Marshall Aid plan, the United Kingdom is contributing sterling to many western European countries which are as short of sterling as they are of dollars. Although we are assisting the United Kingdom and the United States of America as well in that policy and are so lessening the demand on dollar areas, no additional dollars are being made available to us. The shortage of dollars is affecting not only our petrol supplies which is not the most important matter but also our ability to obtain capital equipment and other vital materials in short supply that are urgently needed to increase production in Australia. We are all aware that because our people, in the country areas in particular, are unable to obtain equipment from dollar areas, production is bogging down. Because we cannot get petrol from dollar areas we are unable to develop the country as opportunity would otherwise permit. We are seriously lacking many materials essential for the proper and efficient functioning of our economy. We are limited in every way by the dollar shortage. What is to be the result of the continuance of such a policy ? Thecontinued limitation of our imports will have certain inevitable results. If we limit the import of essential materials, the shortage of which has a most serious effect on our production, we not only hamper export industries which depend on those imports and other industries necessary for the development of this country, but we are also forced to develop mushroom industries, which must mean excess costs to the community and a subtraction from the man-power pool to operate them. The Government has adopted a policy of restriction and more restriction. Recently particulars were given by .the Government to the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) of the dollar deficit for last year. On the basis of those figures it seems likely that the Government will impose still further restrictions in respect of goods from dollar areas with very serious results to the economy of this country. I turn now to the problem of production. One is bound up with the other. The Minister said that certain economic controls must be continued because, he maintains, our production is not yet equal to demands. One reason why production is not equal to demand is because we are prevented from obtaining from dollar areas materials and equipment essential to our economy. There is no reason why the Government should not reconsider the advisability of obtaining a government to government dollar loan. Taking the long-range view it is time the Government ceased talking about putting this country into pawn, and adopted a more realistic policy. Every country in western Europe seems to be receiving dollar assistance. The United Kingdom itself is developing its industrial potential by means of dollar aid. It is important that we should develop production in this country so that in turn we may develop our ability not only to assist Great Britain to the limit of our capacity but also to sell goods for hard currency. If the Government pursues its present policy there will be more and more restrictions and fewer and fewer dollars available to us. Recently, Mr. Brigden, who was economic adviser to the Government attached to the Australian Embassy in the United States of America, well knowing economic conditions in this country, advised the Government to secure a loan of dollars from the Canadian Government. As Professor Copland has pointed out in his recent book, that might be preferable to a dollar loan from the United States of America, and its possibilities should be fully explored. Unless we obtain a dollar loan either from Canada or the United States of America or find other means of lessening the impact of the dollar shortage upon our economy, we shall go further and further down the drain and restrict development in this country which otherwise would have wonderful and unprecedented avenues open to it.
I pass from that aspect of the problem because I wish to make my points as quickly as I am able. “Why does not the Government adopt a positive policy of securing dollars through the assistance which we give to the Marshal Aid plan? There is no incentive for us to increase our sterling balances if we do not obtain some corresponding relief. We are supposed to live within our current income. Countries like Argentina are able to obtain dollars for their goods. Many of the western European countries have bilateral arrangements with Great Britain under which they are entitled to obtain dollars for their balances over and above a certain datum line. No matter how much we contribute to the relief of sterling shortage in those western European countries, no attempt is made by the Government to obtain for us a quid pro quo. Petrol is still in short supply. It is conceded by the Government that most, if not all, of our petrol comes from sterling areas; but it is said that to the extent to which we draw upon supplies from sterling countries we increase the drain made by the sterling bloc on dollar areas. If that is the Government’s approach to the problem, there is no escape from it. There is no reason why we should not seek to arrive at some suitable arrangement with the United States of America which, after all, is committed to the Marshal Aid plan. One of the conditions of the loan from the United States of America to the United Kingdom was that the United Kingdom should make a total amount of approximate] v £130,000,000 sterling available to European countries which were short of sterling. For our aid to western European countries there should be some quid pro quo. It need not necessarily be the mathematical equivalent of our sterling aid to the European countries, but we should get some dollars for that aid which in itself contributes to the success of the Marshall Aid plan. Additional dollars would provide us with the wherewithal to increase production and give us incentive to develop our exports and in that way, among other things’,-, to: give further aid to Britain and the Western powers; Is there any reason why we should not’ seek to avail ourselves of the provisions’, of the, American Economic Co-operation Act of 1948 under which certain so-called offshore purchasers- and endeavour in that way to sell more of our goods for hard currency? If this problem were approached by the Government in a positive way we could obtain more dollars: As the. result, of the policy pursued by the Government, this country is being denied absolutely essential’ imports. Does the Government propose to continue this restrictive .policy of simply cutting down still- further our imports, no matter howit. may affect, the economy of this country, or will it adopt a more, positive approach to. the. matter ? These controls fall largely into two. classes, those necessary because of the Government’s policy in, relation to. the- conservation of dollars, and those necessary because of theshortage of production. I instance petrol as. a< control of the- first kind. Does the Government propose always to deal with symptoms and to ignore causes? The cause of a- great deal of our difficulties is insufficient production, which- inturn is brought a-bout ,by- the scarcity of dollars. It is time that the Government adopted, some constructive approach towards this problem. A government to government loan could,. I do not, doubt, be arranged between the United States, of America and Australia or between Canada and Australia. If such a loan- were arranged,, we Gould increase our production in, such- a way as would enable US, to pay off the- loan1 in a. relatively short -period and our economy would benefit grea.tly: If that is not practicable) we should, increase our exports to sterling areas and make available a proportion of our sterling balances to those countries in Europe which need- . sterling,, and endeavour to make an. arrangement with- the United States; of America, and. Great Britain by which we could obtain more dollars: Because of the policy it has adopted, the Government must take responsibility for the need to continue- these controls: The Opposition, has never been taken into the confidence of the. Government ‘about the- need for these controls-; aor has it beenfully informed’ about the dollar position. While the, Opposition supports the billin principle,. it< -believes- that the Government has- not made any real’ attempt, to attack the basic causes of our problems’:
Sitting suspended1 from 5.59 to 8- p.m.
– As the honorable member for Warringah” (Mr. Spender)- said, the purpose of this Mil is to continue for another twelve months a’ great number of the provisions of the’ 1947 act of the same name which itself prolonged the provisions’ of the 1946 act: The original act was” introduced’ in accordance- with a promise’ made on the 2nd; April, 1946^ by the Prime Minister (Mr: Chifley), who announced that Cabinet had decided* that the1 “National- Security Act would expire on the 3 1st December’ of that year”. Although the ac’t- did expire’ on the date mentioned, a good number of it’s wan-time provisions^ continued in force; and have continued” in force under successive Defence (Transitional Provisions) Acts. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr; Dedman)’, in his secondreading speech-, said- that- most of the” war-time control provisions had either been abandoned by- the’ Commonwealth or transferred to the States. Those which have- been abandoned could hardly have been sustained under the diminishing defence’ power permitted by the Constitution ; and those which have been transferred to the States were transferred in accordance with the will of the peopleemphatically expressed- in a referendum. The people- obviously preferred Statecontrol to the form of Commonwealth control- which they had” experienced tinder this Government.
Twenty years ago, an English legal authority, Mr* Justice Hewart, gave the following apt description of the bureaucratic system : -
To those who are convinced that the best Government is that which governs least, it is alarming to contemplate the increasing scopeof _ legislative interference in those matters which, in the past-, have been considered the private affairs of the citizen. Legislativeinterference is sometimes supported by attractive pretexts, preceded by certain harmlessintrusions an’d, if they are tolerated and ignored, the attack will become’ more aggressive,, the advance more permanent and more rapid, and individual liberty and corporate activities will find themselves hampered’ by unnecessary restraint.
The insatiable appetite to Control other men’s affairs- is often evinced by those whose capacity to manage their own -affairs is in inverse proportion to their desires.
The activities of the bureaucrats in Australia constituted the chief reason for the defeat of the Government’s proposals for the continued control of rents and prices. It is true that the defence power under the Constitution does not cease immediately upon the termination of hostilities. Mr. Justice Latham, now Chief Justice, put the matter clearly in 1946, when he said -
The defence power includes not only the power to prepare for war and to prosecute war, but also power to wind up after war, and to restore conditions df peace.
No one would cavil at the legitimate employment of the defence power for a reasonable time after the cessation of hostilities in order that the national economy might be restored. The Government, however, is using these successive Defence (Transitional Provisions) Acts, and giving them a temporary operation of twelve months only, because it fears that their protracted operation, if disclosed, would be judged to be ultra vires the defence power. If the power were sought for a period of, say, seven years, instead of for one year at a time, the High Court might take a different view df the legislation, the very form of which has been devised to stretch the defence power to its utmost legal limit, and therefore, to provide the opportunity to govern directly by regulation rather than by legislation.
The bill itself is printed on four pages, but the preamble which seeks to justify the measure takes up nearly threequarters of a page. From the preamble we gather that a state of war still exists, although for three years there has been no actual fighting. The preamble also informs us that the gradual and orderly return to a condition of peace has not yet been completed. That admission is evidence of the ineffectiveness of the Government’s post-war reconstruction schemes. At the present rate, it might not even be necessary to declare war should another world war break out. Successive yearly measures of the kind we are now considering will probably maintain an artificial stateof war until the- outbreak of the next conflict. National Security Regulations, which grant almost .unlimited power tothe Executive, are necessary in war-time. However, government by such regulations id undemocratic in that it takes from the Parliament its power as the supreme legislative authority. As the Chief Justice of England, Lord Hewart, said in his book, The New Despotism -
Of all methods of administration, that is the worst whereby real power is in the hands of one set of persons, while public responsibility belongs to another set of persons. It is a method as all experienced know, well calculated to encourage the performance of acts which either set of persons, if they had both the responsibility and the power would beastute to avoid.
In another part of the book, Lord Hewart made this observation, which is clearly applicable to post-war Australia -
Usually the power is given nominally to the Minister or other head of a Government Department, sometimes to the Department itself, and it is commonly provided that his or its decision shall be final and conclusive.
When it is provided that the matter is tobe decided by the Minister, the provision really means that it is to be decided by some official, of more or less standing in the Department, who has no responsibility except to his official superiors. The Minister himself in too many cases, it is to he feared, does not hear of the matter or the decision, unless he finds it necessary to make inquiries in consequence of some question in Parliament. The official who comes to the decision is anonymous, and, so far as interested parties and the public are concerned, is unascertainable. He is not bound by any particular course of procedure, unless a course of procedure is prescribed by the Department, nor is he bound by any rules of evidence, and indeed he is not obliged to receive any evidence at all before coming to a> conclusion. If he does admit evidence, he may wholly disregard it without diminishing thevalidity of his decision.
There is not, except in comparatively few cases, any oral hearing, so that there is no opportunity to test by cross-examination such evidence as may be received, nor for the parties to controvert or comment on the case put forward by their opponents. It is, apparently, quite unusual for interested parties even to he permitted to have an interview with any one in the Department. When there is any oral hearing,, the public and thi; press are invariably excluded. Finally, it is not usual for the official to give any reasonsfor his decision.
The executive and administrative phases of government had free play during the war to the detriment of parliamentary government. Many Ministers and their departmental administrators are loth to hand back to the Parliament the war-time powers which they exercise. The need to re-enact this legislation indicates either that the Government has failed to effect the post-war rehabilitation of the country, or that the Executive is unwilling to recognize the peace-time authority of the Parliament. The defence power in the Constitution is a temporary power, to be exercised - only during a national emergency, after which it should be tapered off. Any attempt to prolong the power artificially in time of peace in order to bolster up the authority of the Executive is opposed to the spirit of the Constitution. No member of the Parliament should stand idly by and allow the Executive to govern by regulation rather than by legislation. It may be argued that the National Security Regulations, and other regulations that .are to be prolonged by this measure, will be technically acts of Parliament in that they are mentioned in the schedules to the bill. That, however, is merely an administrative device for keeping in force regulations which were drafted in time of war, and became law without adequate consideration by those who were elected by the people, and are responsible to them.
An important act which dovetails with this defence legislation is the Reestablishment and Employment Act 1945. The greatest affront ever offered to any parliamentary institution in the British Empire is contained in section 137 (2) of that act, which states that regulations may be made providing for the repeal or amendment of, or addition to, any of the provisions of the act. Regulations have, in fact, been made which have altered the act as passed by this Parliament, and those regulations have not even been debated in the House.
-The honorable member may not continue much further along that line. I have allowed a fairly broad debate because of the nature of the Minister’s second-reading speech, but I cannot permit a discussion of the Reestablishment and Employment Act.
– I am attempting to point out that the legislation designed to provide for the rehabilitation of the members of our armed forces has been varied by regulation.
– That may be very interesting, but it has no relation to this bill.
– This bill provides for the re-enactment of certain regulations which are to have the force of law, although they have not been considered and passed by the Parliament.
– Strictly, this bill deals only with the re-enactment of certain regulations. As I have said, it was only because of the nature of the Minister’s second-reading speech that I have allowed so much latitude to honorable members during the debate.
– Then I shall not continue that argument any farther. Had a proper policy for rehabilitation been applied by the Government it would not have been necessary to ask the Parliament, year after year to renew the legislation which provides for the continuation of certain national security regulations. T hope that the Parliament will be afforded an opportunity to consider the regulations which will be introduced under this legislation. Those which are of national importance should be introduced in the form of legislation.
– The Government has from time to time closely studied the regulations which are kept in force by Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act. Whenever it has been found to be possible, having regard to the needs of our economy, to discontinue any of the regulations that has been done. I agree that substantive legislation is preferable to an extension of the regulations under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act, particularly when a continuing factor in the economy of the nation is involved. I think that every member on this side of the House will agree with that proposition. I introduced a bill recently to make the National Security (War Damage to Property) Regulations the subject of substantive legislation. Many of the National Security Regulations are concerned with matters of a temporary and transient nature, and it would be impracticable to introduce dozens of bills to cover them. It is true that the war ended some time ago and that many of these regulations are still in existence, but, as the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) said in his second-reading speech, certain circumstances which have arisen since the end of the war render it necessary for us to exercise certain controls and forms of rationing that normally would not be needed. I wish to refer to one of those controls, although I do not intend to detain the House for very long, as there is a certain amount of business that must be transacted before the Parliament rises. Whatever the powers of the Parliament may be, it cannot make Christmas a movable feast, and it is, therefore, desirable that the business should be transacted expeditiously.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) made reference to a matter that I should not have thought would have been raised in this discussion. It was, however, mentioned in the speech of the Minister for Defence, and Mr. Speaker has been good enough to allow passing references to be made to it. I shall not detain the House for very long in referring to it, and I shall not abuse Mr. Speaker’s generosity. The Minister has said that some of these regulations are necessary because of the shortages that have been created by a lack of dollars. That is perfectly true. This Government set out, in conjunction with the Governments of the other Dominions and of the United Kingdom, to endeavour to restore the balance of payments between the British Dominions which are parties to the British dollar pool and the United States of America. The peace of the world depends to a great degree upon the economic and military strength of the United Kingdom. The Government made up its mind that, in the interests of this country and of the United Kingdom, the people of the United Kingdom should not be asked to deprive themselves of many things that they need, including foodstuffs, or to spend their gold and dollar reserves. Much water has flowed under the bridges since I last spoke upon this matter. Distributions have been made under the Marshall Aid plan. I am pleased to say that it seems that this year Australia will sell more goods in hard currency areas than was anticipated, but there is no doubt that there will be a dominion dollar deficit. The only way in which that deficit could be avoided, would be by drawing upon the gold and dollar reserves of the United Kingdom. Many idle words have been spoken and much blather has been indulged in with regard to helping the Empire and the United Kingdom. This Government made up its mind to help the United Kingdom and Europe in a practical way. It has contributed over £25,000,000 in Unrra and post-Unrra relief in an endeavour to re-establish the people of the European countries, and it has made gifts to the United Kingdom of £35,000,000. That is practical evidence of our sympathy for other people. It is not merely idle words, patriotic speeches and waving of the flag. It is doing things for people. We have let other people do the talking, but we have been responsible for the actions. We gave £25,000,000 to the United Kingdom last year and £10,000,000 this year. The reason why we gave only £10,000,000 this year is because we have to keep certain other factors in mind. I could deal with them to-night, but there will be an opportunity during the course of the parliamentary sittings early in the new year to deal with them in greater detail.-
Europe is desperately short of dollars. The shortage has been met to some degree, and in fact to a large degree, by Marshall Aid. Most of the western European countries are also desperately short of sterling. I do not say that that applies to all of those countries, but it certainly applies to France and Italy. Even after Marshall Aid credits have been distributed to those countries, it will not be possible for them to buy in the sterling areas the commodities that they will wish to buy. They are buying wool, sheepskins and the like now under credits that have been provided by Lassard Brothers and other organizations. No Marshall Aid payments will be made to the Dominions to make up for their dollar deficit, which it was estimated would be approximately 170,000,000 dollars. Those dollars can come from only one place, and that is from Britain’s gold and dollar reserves or from the dollars that have been made available to it under the Marshall Aid plan. In an endeavour to help western Europe, the United Kingdom has agreed to provide over £70,000,000 sterling in the form of gifts to western European countries and to release credits to the value of approximately £55,000,000 that are held in England. All that is being done by a country which is carrying a terrific burden. We should be recreant to our trust as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations if we did not play our part by ensuring that no more dollars are spent by this country than is absolutely necessary. That is what we have done. We intend to pursue that policy because it is only by that means that, at the end of the operation of the Marshall Aid plan, the United Kingdom and ourselves will be enabled to achieve a reasonable equilibrium between expenditure in and income from hard currency areas.
It has been suggested by the honorable member for Warringah that we should borrow from America. The Government will not do that except as a last resort. We have not had the happiest experiences in regard to the loans that were floated in America, particularly by the State governments.
– Labour governments.
– I do not deny that. There are some honorable members of this House who had something to do with those loans. There may have been circumstances prevailing at the time which led the gentlemen who were responsible for the flotation of the loans in America to believe that they were acting in the best interests of Australia. They may have thought it was necessary to float loans in America then, as the honorable member for Warringah thinks it is necessary to do so now. The Government does not believe that it is necessary to do so. We believe that in the matter of hard currency the people of this country should cut their coat according to their cloth. We have encountered great difficulties with American loans. The rates of interest were generally high and there was a great deal of fiddling about when we wished to convert one loan. The terms <of the loans were not satisfactory from my point of view, but I suppose no loan terms are ever satisfactory to a borrower, particularly if he be a Treasurer. We ‘believe that this country can and should live within its means in regard to sterling and dollar income and expenditure. Lt may be said that we are selling to the United Kingdom commodities such as lead and zinc which could be sold elsewhere for dollars, but it would not he very patriotic for us, as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, to sell those commodities for dollars and force the United Kingdom to expend dollars to buy them from hard currency areas. I repeat that the Government has no intention of negotiating a dollar loan from America.
We have certain drawing rights on the International Monetary Fund. I supported the establishment of that fund and Australia’s participation in it because it would be a reserve upon which we could draw when we were in grave straits. The United Kingdom borrowed 320,000,000 dollars from the fund at a time when the Anglo-American loan had been expended and it was absolutely essential that it should have dollars. The fund was of great assistance to the United Kingdom. I do not want to eat up the reserves of this country. I do not know how long the dollar shortage will continue, but it may go on for a long time after I have stepped off the political stage. My colleagues and I do not live for the hour. We are concerned with the future as well as the present prosperity of Australia. The members of the Parliament have a responsibility to the Australian people. We may differ upon what is best for the welfare of Australia, but, whatever our domestic political differences may have been, when we leave political life we shall do so feeling that we did the best that we could for our country. I want to ensure, to the best of my ability, that Australia’s future financial welfare is secured.
The Lyons Government had treasury-hills for £5,000,000 in England in 1932, and its representatives were humiliated by the British banks. I do not desire a repetition of that experience. The loans which we obtained from the United States of America were not granted by the American Government.
Let me say at once 1;hat in all any dealings with American representatives, including President Truman, Mr. .Dean Acheson and Mr. Byrnes, about lend-lease. they have always treated Australia very well. I pay tribute to America for the assistance that it has granted to Australia. However, I do not propose to advocate borrowing money from private financial interests and money-lenders in America.
The honorable member for Warringah has referred to purchases -of petrol from the sterling area. I must have tried to explain the position about ‘50 times to the House. It is most complicated. Some petrol from the sterling area goes to the dollar area, whilst some petrol from the dollar area goes to the sterling area, but the fact remains that the British Commonwealth dollar pool is required to provide about £140,000,000 per annum for the purchase of petrol from the dollar area. Therefore, every gallon of petrol which we use, irrespective of where it comes from, means a drain on 1;he dollar pool. As I have stated, the position is most complicated, because such factors as haulage, tankers, freight and insurance are involved. I have dealt with these various matters to-night, because the Australian people may easily be led to believe that the Government has taken a narrow view of many requirements which are in short supply. Australia is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and this Government has endeavoured to play its part in conserving dollars, and in regard to the diversion of goods purchased in dollar area into the sterling area or soft currency areas such as France and Italy. The Government does not gain popularity when it denies to the people goods and facilities which they want. Some people require additional petrol, and others desire to spend long holidays in the United States of America. Apparently they are doing sufficiently well in business to have ample sterling with which to purchase dollars. Others desire to import plant and machinery from the United ‘States of America, or to engage in large ventures which entail dollar expenditure. The Government would be most popular if it were to grant such wishes, but it will not seek popularity at the expense of the welfare of this country.
.- This bill proposes to continue for another twelve months, under the defence power in the Constitution, a series of regulations relating to wage-pegging, in part, the pegging of values in conjunction with land tax assessment, the rationing of ^certain foods, particularly tea and butter, the .rationing of petrol, American motor cars, minerals, including tinplate, and fibre and jute. The bill will also continue regulations relating to capital issues, certain regulations “relating to the armed services and defence, which the Government considers it convenient to deal with in this manner, various marketing regulations, especially in reference to apples and pears, hops, barley and wheat acquisition, a group of regulations affecting working conditions in industry and, in particular, female rates of wages, regulations relating to industrial peace, regulations touching the maritime industry, a group of miscellaneous regulations, particularly in relation to shipping coordination, and medical benefits for seamen, and certain regulations relating to our external territories.
If the bill proves anything, it proves, of course, that the Government thinks that the Commonwealth has ample authority under its defence power in the Constitution to continue war-time regulations. I merely say, in passing, that such proof gives the lie direct to about 90 per cent, of the Government’s propaganda in the recent referendum on the control of rents and prices. The Government represented to the people that the Commonwealth’s power was then about to expire. I refer to this matter because the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), when moving the second reading of this bill, made some untrue remarks about the control of rents and prices. For instance, he said -
Most of this modification of the economic controls which affected everybody in Australia so closely was effected after the voting in the prices and rents referendum revealed that the Australian people had at that time been persuaded that the Commonwealth was no longer the appropriate authority to continue by those particular means to safeguard their economic interests and welfare. Whether that vote was well advised or will be regretted is not here in question.
In those words, the Minister introduced the highly controversial matter of what were issues and what were not issues in the referendum campaign. During that campaign honorable members on this side of the chamber told the people that we were prepared to support such powers, not merely for another twelve months, but, if necessary, for a longer period. We informed the people that, in our view, the Commonwealth’s defence power was not running out, and that there was ample power in the Constitution for the continuance of those and similar controls for an indefinite period.
– That is not so.
– I shall read our official manifesto to the people in that referendum campaign, for the information of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), and the Minister who made a highly provocative and untrue statement in his second-reading speech. Our manifesto stated as follows : -
A “ No “ vote will not mean that these controls will end next day; it will simply mean that they will be regarded as temporary controls and will be exercisable by the Government only so long as they are dealing with the effects of war and of the war effort.
It was also pointed out that when the Commonwealth ceased to exercise prices control, that power would revert to the States, to which it normally belonged, and that the ultimate protection of the consumer was adequate production and competition. Although we gave an undertaking to the people to support the continuance of the transitional powers for the time being, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) decided to ask the people to grant to the Commonwealth permanent powers to control rents and prices. The right honorable gentleman did not ask the people to empower the Commonwealth to continue the temporary control of rents and prices for so long as the exigencies of war and the transitional period to peace made and the exercise of such powers by the Commonwealth necessary. He asked for them permanently. The people rejected the referendum, I think, quite rightly. They had a very sound instinct that it would be wrong to endorse the claim of the Government for permanent power to control rents and prices.
– The people have a better idea of the position now.
– I do not believe that they have, although the Prime Minister and other Ministers made the grossest and most scandalous attempt deliberately to mislead the people by withdrawing suddenly subsidies and abruptly throwing the responsibility for prices control into the lap of the States. The Government abruptly divested the Commonwealth of power in that field, against the undertaking which honorable members on this side of the chamber had given, and quite clearly against the wish of the people. The referendum was held on the 29th May last and the Government’s proposal was defeated. A couple of days later, the Prime Minister made either a petulant or a cunning statement. Honorable members can have it either way, but I believe that it was a cunning statement, because I regarded it as a deliberate attempt by the Prime Minister to create confusion and cause prices to rise, so that the Government could then say to the people, “We told you so “. Whether it was a petulant or a cunning statement, the Prime Minister announced a couple of days after the defeat of the referendum that the Government would immediately vacate prices control. On the 25th June, all the State Premiers met in conference. It is significant that three of them were Labour Premiers. They reached certain unanimous conclusions, as follows : -
Those proposals were torpedoed by the action of the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Commonwealth, in abandoning prices control almost over-night. Indeed, the Commonwealth repealed its regulations relating to prices control in August, and its regulations relating to the control of rents in September. It also withdrew precipitately subsidies amounting to many millions of pounds, which had been paid in order to stabilize the prices of certain commodities. The Prime Minister and other Ministers calculated deliberately that such action would create confusion, because prices would rise and thus cause the people to regret that they had voted against the Government’s referendum proposals.
– The honorable member is a nasty man.
– The Prime Minister and other Ministers were nasty men, because they tried to do a grave injury to Australian workers by forcing up prices in the way that 1 have described. Notwithstanding the blow that the Prime Minister struck at their unanimity, the Premiers took up the slack. In August, the States assumed responsibility for prices control, and, in September, they became responsible for the control of rents. They unanimously agreed to abandon many of the controls which they considered were unnecessary.
– They abandoned approximately 3,000 controls at that time.
– That is so, and they have abandoned many other controls since that time. Their action proved conclusively that we on this side of the House were right when we stated year after year that many of the controls were unnecessary. Certain controls which the States promptly abandoned were not essential, and others could not be effectively administered. If regulations cannot he enforced, they should be repealed, otherwise the effect is to create black markets and law-breakers. The States recognized the truth of that statement, and abandoned the control of items when such control could not be effectively administered. The result was that black markets and law-breaking in respect of the goods concerned disappeared. That prices would rise was probably inevitable. In a few moments, I shall point out that the rise in commodity prices is not in any way related to the transfer of controls from the Commonwealth to the States. The increases have been a part of a steady inflationary tendency since 1939. That tendency is not injurious, because it has been accompanied by corresponding increases of wages and salaries. In some instances, the abandonment of controls was immediately beneficial. All honorable members know that the item frequently bandied about this House was the control of sales of second-hand cars. Of course that is only one of a thousand items. Nearly every second-hand car, which changed hands whilst control operated, was bought at a black-market price.
– The honorable honorable member should confine his remarks to the bill. There is no reference to motor cars in the measure.
– My object in making passing reference to motor cars was to show how prices control operated. The prices being obtained for second-hand motor vehicles to-day are less than those that were actually paid under the control system. Whilst there was a rise in some prices, that had nothing whatever to do with the lifting of controls or the transfer of prices control to the States. I repeat that there has been an inflationary tendency in Australia since 1939. To indicate the trend of events, I shall cite the latest index figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician. They are -
In August, 1947, the basic wage rose by 4s. a week. From an analysis of the figures that I have mentioned two points emerge. The first is that these figures indicate that, corresponding with the steady inflationary rise of prices between 1939 and 1948, was an equally steady rise in wage rates throughout Australia. Indeed, the wage rate index was a little ahead of the “ C “ index in. each year. The second point is that this rise in prices occurred when the Commonwealth administered prices control. Prices have risen still further since September, 1948. The Government, claims that this is because the people rejected the rents and prices referendum. As there was a steady tendency in that direction under Commonwealth control, however, the lie is given completely to this false and humbugging suggestion. There is in this country a vicious triangle of increasing wages, stagnant production, and rising prices. So long as production is stagnant and competition restricted, it is impossible to induce the workers to step up production. It is not possible for the Government to continue to deceive the people and conceal from them the fact that the present state of affairs is due to the “jim-crack” economics adopted by the Government. There have, of course, been other influencing factors, such as the introduction, of the 40-hour week, which has resulted in a decrease of production and a rise of approximately 10 per cent, in prices.
– The honorable member is going a little beyond the scope of the bill.
– AH of the factors that I have have mentioned have aggravated the position. What I have pointed out to the House is not due to the people’s wrongfulness or wickedness in voting against the referendum. There must be borne in mind, also, the effect of the sudden withdrawal of subsidies amounting to approximately £35,000,000 a year, the high rate of Government spending, and the large numbers of men retained in government departments and not, thereby, available for industry. All of .these factors have resulted in the tendency for prices to rise. Of course the lifting of some of the controls was welcomed, and it is to be hoped that still more will be lifted before long. That was a step in Australia’s progress along the road to permanent economic stability. If the Government is prepared to co-operate in that direction, Ave can, to use a colloquialism, get down to business, and make this country truly rich and great, because the opportunities to do so lie ahead of us in abundant measure. In his second-reading speech on this measure, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), as reported in Hansard, at page 1868, said -
The wage-pegging provisions have already been considerably relaxed. The. Industrial authorities are now free to deal with wageapplications as they deem fit in accordance with the limitations of their respective jurisdictions. The main remaining effect of the provisions is to make it unlawful for employers to pay, or workers to receive rates of pay in excess of the rates determined by theindustrial authorities. . . .
That was an utterly artificial statement of what is happening in industry. We still have partial wage-pegging which, in my view, is quite unreal and unworkable. In fact, there is no effective control of wages. There is high bidding by employers who are seeking employees. They outbid one another in order to obtain skilled tradesmen. I agree, and every one agrees, in principle with the workers getting the highest rates of wages possible on the open market, but when high wages are accompanied by low production and artificial restrictions, a different complexion is placed on the matter. In many instances wages sheets are faked and men perform only a minimum amount of work throughout the week. Many workers earn additional money at week-ends by performing other types of work. They consider that this has become necessary because of the high cost of living, and high taxes. It could also be said that in some instances the workers have not become sufficiently fatigued by their work during the week. To my personal knowledge, many such people earn large sums of money at the weekends, and I doubt whether, in the majority of instances, the Taxation Branch gets any benefit as a result of such additional earnings because the amounts are not included in taxation returns. I suggest that the wage-pegging regulations should be completely repealed, because, in practice, they are totally ignored. Insofar as they remain, they are artificial and are making law-breakers out of men who are normally law-abiding citizens.
I shall now deal with the matter of land sales control. Although that aspect of prices control “was transferred to the States in September, the Government could not resist the opportunity to apply in the last hours of its administration the same muddled set of rules that had applied for so long, to the effective exasperation of the professional and business community of Australia. One instance comes to my mind. A block of land was offered for sale in August at £65. The offer was accepted, subject to the consent of the delegate to the Treasurer. The delegate, however, rejected the application at that figure, but indicated that he would consent to a sale being effected at £35. Land sales control passed to the States shortly afterwards. At the time another buyer was willing to pay about £100 for the block of land. Had the contract for a sale at £65 been entered into several days later, the land would have changed hands at that figure. However, in the circumstances, the land was subsequently sold for about £100. That clearly proves that the bureaucrat does not seem to have any sense about practical matters of that kind.
The underlying fact is, of course, that where matters which ought to be the subject of free play of the market are dealt with by this system of regimentation, common sense flies out of the window and doctrinaire principles rule the day. That has happened in other instances also. An anomaly that was mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is in relation to the price of lead in Australia. Whilst tie local price is only about £22 a ton, world parity is £140 a ton. As a result Australian consumers cannot obtain the lead they need, because the bulk of our production is exported. That i3 one reason why there is a lag in homebuilding in this country. The Government under the customs regulations controls the issue of export licences for commodities, including lead. Whilst smelters are permitted to export large quantities of lead, the Government has not seen fit to make sure that the requirements of the home market have first been provided for adequately. When the prices control field was abandoned to the States, it was thought that the local price of lead would ; be increased, and that an incentive would thus be provided to the smelters to supply adequately the home market. For reasons of their own, however, the States have not increased the local price. The home market is still .starved for supplies of lead, because the price ruling in Australia is only about £22 a ton. I do not mention that in a provocative way, because I have reason to believe that some members of the Government appreciate the position and are not unwilling that some adjustment should be made. But it would have been better to retain the whole control in the Commonwealths hands instead of having it half in the hands of the States and half in the hands of the Commonwealth, as at present. The sooner that we get away from the artificial interference that these regulations necessarily inevitably impose and the sooner controls of this sort are lifted the better it will be for tie economic health of the community, because the attitude of control, control and control is sterile and negative. The approach that we need is a positive one that underlines the necessity for production, which, as all honorable members know, is the only answer to the problem of rising costs. There also must be a positive approach to the matter of incentive to work. Although the Opposition supports the bill, we warn the Government that it is using artificial methods to cure an ill that can be cured only by competition, the incentive to produce and production.
.- This bill seeks to prolong for another year Commonwealth control of certain matters, particularly certain prices. I do not intend to analyse the pros and cons of prices control as it is known that the Government sought to obtain permanent power over prices by an alteration of the Constitution and the people were awake to the dangers and defeated the referendum. We have never objected to the temporary extension for a certain period, of the powers that the Government rightly took in the war because, until supply overtakes demand, there should “be some kind of control. But controls need to ‘be handled carefully as the Government has the political philosophy and that everything should be socialized to create an earthly Utopia. The honorable gentlemen who grace the treasury bench would like dictatorial powers. They were “drest in a little brief authority”, during the war. They would like to be dressed in permanent authority. The Government does not care how high the rates of taxation must be to meet the losses on its socialistic enterprises. “ Socialize everything !” is its attitude. It does not want private firms to make profits and pay dividends. They would not be allowed to make profits and pay dividends if the bureaucratic dreams of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and his backroom boys materialized. Australia would be a better developed and happier land if there was less socialization. I do not intend to go over familiar facts of prices control. We heard them well thrashed out during the referendum campaign. I propose, however, to refer specifically to two items. One presents a difficulty. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) made a passing reference to lead. I propose to refer to another metal, zinc, which presents a problem to which the Government has given some attention. I have asked questions about it. In Australia zinc sells at £22 a ton because its price is controlled. We heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) say that we are selling zinc to Great Britain. So we are, at a very good profit. We are selling zinc to Great Britain for £92 15s. sterling a ton and the world price is £93 a ton. Although the Government may think that it is doing good, it is stifling production. The splendid shibboleth of full employment, no matter what employment-
– Order ! There is no reference to that matter in the bill.
– The Government is retarding employment by controlling the price of zinc.
– Order ! The price of zinc has no relation to the bill. If the honorable member can name one reference to the price of zinc in the bill he may proceed, but not otherwise.
– The Prime Minister referred to zinc and the price at which we are selling it.
– The fact that the Prime Minister mentioned zinc in passing does not entitle the honorable member to talk about the ramifications of the zinc industry and the price of zinc.
– Well, I shall leave the price of zinc alone and refer to the effect of the Government’s actions upon the zinc industry. There is an electrolytic zinc works in Tasmania.
-Order ! The honorable member may not travel all over the world in search of a subject to talk on.
– Well, if I cannot continue I shall sit down.
– Order ! I have ruled only that the honorable member must confine himself to the subject before the Chair. Zinc has no relation to it. The honorable member has plenty of scope to debate the bill without dealing with that matter. If the honorable member means to be insolent to the Chair, I shall deal with him. The honorable member may proceed to debate the bill.
– I do not intend to speak any more.
.- I am prompted to take part in the debate because of the extraordinary speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). He revealed himself in his home-spun best. He turned on a characterization that I am certain endeared him once more to all honorable gentlemen who sit behind him, but I am certain that you, Mr. Speaker, were fully aware that his speech had no relation to the bill before the House.
– Order !
– I do not say that as a reflection on you, Mr. Speaker, for you explained clearly that as the matter on which the Prime Minister spoke had been introduced in the second-reading speech of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), you had allowed a debate to take place upon it. But anybody who heard the speech of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and then saw how neatly, shrewdly and, indeed, cunningly, the Prime Minister was able to twist that speech into an Aunt Sally that he had a delightful time in knocking down, will realize what I hare in mind. The honorable member for Warringah in his comments made a critical analysis of the dollar problem to which the Prime Minister referred. He made a number of constructive suggestions. One was that a loan should be sought from the United States of America. He pointed out that the United ‘States of America was giving aid to a number of countries in an attempt to reconstruct their economy and that in Australia we were finding difficulties because of the shortage of dollar goods, particularly capital equipment. There is nothing unsound in business practice in raising a loan to buy capital equipment. That capital equipment could be used not merely to repay the loan that enabled its purchase but also to increase production in Australia that would enable us to give more aid to Great Britain and the countries of Europe which the United States of America itself is trying to aid. The Prime Minister talked as though Australia was placing itself in the position of a penurious borrower if it tried to raise funds in the United States of America. He painted a picture that if the people took him at his word would indicate to them that we advocate a reduction of the aid that we should be giving to Great Britain in its economic crisis. Nothing could be further from the truth. If, in the next few years we obtain power, we shall do something really effective to aid Great Britain. Whatever this Government has done is pitiable and miserable in contrast with what we shall do when we have the chance. Those of us who have been in the Parliament for a few years contrast with a sardonic feeling the approach now being made by way of lipservice on the part of members of the Government with the attitude and speeches made by them in past years. If their present attitude represents a change of heart, we welcome it, but no one with any sense and with any knowledge of political events in the last ten years or more would imagine that a government constructed of honorable gentlemen who have such a past as honorable gentlemen opposite have would do more for Great Britain than would a government composed of honorable gentlemen from this side. But that is not the issue. We all want to do all we can for Great Britain. I do not think any honorable gentleman opposite would say that Australia is doing all it could for Britain. Does any one imagine that we have developed in this country a production effort comparable with that which we developed during the war in the production of munitions? Until we do develop that kind of drive, we cannot honestly claim that we are doing all we can to assist Great Britain in the great economic struggle in which it is engaged.
Let me examine the dollar problem, because the Prime Minister dealt with it throughout his speech. We criticize the Government because its attitude is purely negative. It is simple enough to restrict the entry of dollar goods, but no one should imagine that in doing that the Government has solved the dollar problem. The problem must be approached positively. We are, as the honorable member for ‘ Warringah has said, short of dollar goods. If we cannot sell to the United States of America all the goods that we need to sell to it to finance our dollar purchases, what can we do to remedy the situation? Gold is a commodity that would strengthen the dollar credits of Australia. Does the Government claim that it “has done everything that it could do on an emergency footing to increase the production of gold? There are other items. Woollen suitings are an item that comes readily to mind. Does any one imagine that we are doing all we can to encourage the production of goods that could build up dollar credits ? There are scores of items in which production could be increased. Canada finds that its tourist trade is one of its greatest earners of dollars. Tens of thousands of citizens of the United States of America flock into Canada every year. What have we done in this country to encourage American tourists to come here? What effort have we made to encourage Americans to come to see scenic attractions of North Queensland, of Tasmania and of other places in Australia? Instead of encouraging the tourist traffic, we have so discouraged the movement of our own citizens to America that the American shipping lines have been forced to discontinue the shipping: service to Australia. That is a shortsighted policy. For every 100 dollars that an. Australian would spend in America an American would spend 500- dollars in Australia. Those are ways in which our dollar problem can be partially though not fully solved, because the full solution would be the sum of the many proposals of that kind. Reference was made to the possibility of Australia sharing in the Marshal Aid programme. That is a most obvious and practical way in which our dollar problems could be faced. We know that whatever may be required from us by the United States of America, there is no limit to the goods that we- could market in. Europe. The Prime Minister referred, to wool. I refer also to- our meat, sugar, dairy products and so forth which would find a. ready market in Europe. I know that we. are supplying those commodities in the best quantity we can to the United Kingdom. But if one compares production, to-day with production before the war,, one. immediately sees that very much more could be done by Australia. There are many items that we could usefully market in Europe. Our dollar problem is not an. economic problem in the true sense of the word;, it is a currency problem. We do not suffer from a disequilibrium: between the goods we manufacture and the goods we desire for our own home needs. We can produce in abundance, and we are producing’ sufficient to enable us to bring into this country all the goods; that we need if we could obtain the dollars with which to pay for them. -Ours is a currency problem which has been brought about by the shortage, of dollars. I should have thought that the Government would have used its most effective persuasive powers - and. the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has ample persuasive capacity, as not only those of us who sit in the Opposition but also the caucus have discovered - to make arrangements with the United States of America under which, in return for supplying goods to Europe as part of the Marshal Aid plan, we could establish ‘dollar credits in1 America to finance the purchase of goods and equipment necessary for our development. The Gov.ern ment; has, no doubt, made some- proposalsalong those; lines. Indeed, it. would, bevery remiss if it had not attempted todo so ;, but I have not yet heard from any Minister: an authoritative statement, indicating, whether or not those efforts havebeen, successful. I am. aware that the Government sent to Washington some senior treasury officers- and the Commonwealth .Statistician, Dr., Roland Wilson,, for the purpose, no- doubt, of negotiating an arrangement along, those lines; but,, with all respect to those officials, I maintain that that, is not the- way in which, this problem should have been handled. In view of the importance to Australia of the dollar shortage, contact with theAmerican Government should have been, made at the highest political level. ThePrime Minister himself would, have been our best advocate for this purpose. If the right honorable gentleman could not be spared, the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), or another senior Minister, should have been sent toAmerica to endeavour to negotiate such an arrangement. We were told by the Prime Minister that Great Britain will be establishing some millions of poundsworth of sterling credits in Europe. He indicated how much we have given in Unrra aid and in other ways to European countries and tothe United Kingdom itself. Surely it is only reasonable to expect that if we assist the United States of” America in its European recovery plan we should be allowed to develop credits in. the United States of America which would enable us to improve the standard of living in this country. We do not improve world trade or world living standardsgenerally by worsening the living conditions, of the people in any country. Weimprove living standards generally by giving the most vigorous momentum toworld trade. The Prime Minister hasgiven us only that half of the story which suited him best for political purposes; He has painted a thoroughly unbalanced picture. To return to the bill before the House-
– Hear, hear!
– This would have been a shorter and a much happier debate had honorable members oppositedealt with the bill. I differ from the Prime Minister in that I. propose to- say something about the billbefore the House. This bill is one of a succession o£ bills, the introduction of. which seems to be an annual event in this. Parliament. It is a bill, for an act to amend tha Defence. (Transitional Provisions:)’ Act. 1946. It raises, the interesting, question of the meaning of the word “transition”. How long does a. transition take?. Most of us imagine a period of. transition to be: a short period, linking two other periods of. determinate length, but in this, instance the. transitional period shows fair promise, of outlasting the period of the war.. World. War II. was. waged from 1939 to 1945. We. are. now in. the third year of the opera: ti’on. of the transitional legislation de- signed to deal, with the change-over from war to peace. From the Government, side,, as from this side of. the House, we have frequently heard criticism of the “goslow “ policy when it has been adopted by some sections of industry. This Government has set one of the worst examples of the “go-slow” policy in its approach to the abandonment of war-time emergency controls. This bill seeks the authority of the Parliament to continue a number of these controls. Of the original controls, a few have been dropped out, but many important controls have been retained and, as far as we can see, they will be retained almost indefinitely. The Prime Minister completely ignored the very trenchant’ criticism of this legislation by the leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). Quite clearly, the: Government’s political philosophy is guiding it in relation to this legislation. The Government proposes to retain many controls,, the retention, of which cannot be justified in the economic circumstances of to-day. For example, what justification can there be for the continuance of capital issues control at’ a time when the investing- community and the people generally are in a. good position to determine for themselves how their money should be invested and what action they should take in relation to their own commercial activities-?’
– Big business asked for that control to be retained.
– I am concerned not with big business, but with, the rights of the people. It is one- of the- tragic ironies’ of this Government’s administration that, whilst ifr purports to be in office to- protect the rights of: the- people and tha small man,, it. consistently champions the cause of big business undertakings, which, have been getting an ever-increasing share- of the wealth of this country. By his interjection, the Minister for Repatriation. (Mr. Barnard), merely confirms our impression that the Government is sensitive to- criticism on that score.. It is unfortunate that the principal, act which this bill seeks to amend is not before us. If. honorable members examine- the principal act they will see how large a slice of the emergency legislation has- been, retained by the Government. For how long does the Government intend to retain, it ?. For how long does it propose to exercise the emergency powers conferred upon it under the defence power in. tha Constitution? These are questions which the Prime Minister could have usefully answered instead of attempting to draw a. herring across the trail. It ia clear that the Government has no real heart for giving back to the people the maximum freedom which they are entitled to enjoy in a period of peace. It is hoped that before the next, general election the Government will be able to indicate that for all practical purposes- the war has ended. I observe that it has- recently proclaimed that we. are at peace with. Austria. If so,, hostilities- must surely have ended by now. It is. hoped that before the next election we will be able to offer to the people a genuine peace-time programme. Much- has been said during this debate about the problem of rising prices. Other honorable members on this side of the House have already shown clearly that a steady increase of price levels was already in full momentum before prices control power was handed back to the States. The Government ha3 accentuated that’ momentum by discontinuing the payment of subsidies in respect of certain, commodities. It was well- aware that with the adoption of the 40-hour week a substantial rise in price, levels was inevitable. To those who were deluded into chinking that prices control of itself could hold down prices, I point out that, high as the- price level of this country may be at present, it is very much lower than the price level in the United Kingdom where the strictest economic controls are still maintained. Some of us had a recent opportunity to experience what has happened to price levels in the United Kingdom. I am certain that Mr. Speaker would be able to confirm my statement that, in terms of food, clothing, travel and entertainment, the£1 sterling in the United Kingdom at present purchases very little more than one-half of what the Australian £1 will now purchase in Australia. Despite the fact that the socialist government of the United Kingdom has persisted in maintaining war-time emergency controls, it has not been able to prevent the very serious price rises to which I have referred. The common-sense solution to the problem of rising prices is to increase the productive capacity of the country to such a degree that the demand represented by the purchasing power of the people can be satisfactorily met. It is to be hoped that within the next twelve months the Government will adopt measures and pursue policies which at long last will bring about a substantial increase of production.
– in reply - The most important points raised by Opposition members during the debate on this bill have already been answered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). There are, however, one or two observations which I desire to make. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), as far as I understood his speech, could not find very much to criticize in the bill itself. He admitted the necessity for the continuance of the controls which are provided for in this bill. His attitude was somewhat different from that of other honorable members opposite, including the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). There appears to be as little unity among members of the Opposition as there was among members of the recently disbanded composite government in Victoria. Some of them express one view in relation to this measure; others express an entirely different view. The honorable member for Warringah criticized the failure of the Government to take certain steps which he thought should have been taken to correct the situation which has given rise to the necessity for the continuance of some of these controls. The two matters in respect of which he alleged the Government should have taken some action were dollar shortages and the stimulation of production to meet demands. I was very interested to note the number of times the honorable member used the word “ positive “. He continually referred to what he termed the “ positive steps “ that the Government might have taken. The word “ positive “ is often used by some people. Those who use it most frequently believe in Communist ideologies. The matters raised by the honorable member for Warringah were to a great degree replied to by the Prime Minister. The Government has given much consideration to this matter. The Prime Minister has stated the attitude of the Labour party towards foreign loans. After the experience of Australia when the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), the “ tragic Treasurer “, entered on a spending spree in the years between 1924 and 1928, thereby landing the country in a very dangerous position when it was no longer possible to borrow overseas, he would be a bold man who would advocate the resumption of such a policy. So far as I am concerned, honorable members opposite may say as much as they like in support of raising a dollar loan, because the more they advocate it the more they will tend to convince the people of Australia that the right thing to do is to go on voting for the Labour party.
The Government is doing everything possible to meet the dollar shortage, and a sub-committee of Cabinet has been considering the matter for quite a long time past. In its last report, it made the following recommendations: -
The Government is investigating all those possible lines of action. The honorable member for Warringah said that, because of our inability to obtain capital goods from the United States of America due to the dollar shortage, Australia’s economy was going down the drain. The plain fact is that the prosperity of Australia is the envy of the whole world. Overseas business interests are attempting, on a scale never before equalled, to make capital investments in Australia. Many Australian business men, upon their return from abroad, have complimented the Government on how it has managed the country’s economy, although they are not ordinarily supporters of the Labour party. The people will not accept the statement that Australia’s economy has suffered at the hands of this Government. The honorable member for Warringah suggested that, in order to relieve Australia’s dollar shortage, we should press the United Kingdom for more dollars. He claimed that certain South American countries had been able to induce the United Kingdom to permit them to spend their sterling balances, and he said that we should follow the bad example of those Latin-American countries. Honorable members opposite are continually prating about the need to do something to assist the United Kingdom; yet the honorable member for Warringah suggests that, in order to relieve our own shortage of dollars, we should do as the Latin-American countries have done, and add to the difficulties of the United Kingdom.
The honorable member for Warringah also suggested the making of an arrangement with the United States of America to enable off-shore purchases from Australia to be included in the European recovery programme. Apparently, he does not know that legislation passed in the United States of America prohibits off-shore purchases from Aus tralia, but there are other ways by which we have been able to obtain a sympathetic hearing from the United States of America in this matter. I quote the following report from the Melbourne Argus of the 11th September last : -
Because of her “ generosity in helping Europe “, the Marshall aid administrator says he is trying to find some dollars for Australia. Mr. Paul Hoffman, head of the Economic Co-operation Administration, said in a special interview with the United Press: “ I am anxious to find some way of providing ECA dollars for Australia on account of her gift to Europe. As Australia is not an ECA country it will have to be done in another way, probably through Britain, but details have not yet been worked out. “ I recognize that Australia is the first country to follow the United States in trying to help Western Europe, and she deserves full credit. It is a magnificent example, and it would be most welcome for other primary producing countries to follow Australia’s lead.
That is high praise from the official who is administering the European recovery programme, and it indicates that, although off-shore purchases from Australia are not permitted under the recovery programme, there are other ways in which Australia can obtain assistance.
The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) said that this bill proved that the defence power in the Constitution afforded ample authority to deal with the matters covered by the bill. That was a very loose expression of opinion to come from a lawyer who ought to know something of constitutional law. The fact is that the inclusion of something in a measure passed by this Parliament is no proof of its constitutional validity. Any one of the provisions of the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act may be challenged in the High Court, which could decide that the provision is unconstitutional. That has a bearing on the action of the Commonwealth in relinquishing prices control as soon as the people expressed the opinion by way of referendum that the States were the proper authorities to exercise permanent control over prices. Surely it was wise, once it became evident that the Commonwealth was not to exercise permanent control, that this Government should divest itself of the power before its authority was challenged, and to say to the States, in whom this power normally resides, that they should take over the responsibility as soon as was practicable. The exercise of prices control by State governments is not challengeable at all. The honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) raised the matter of control of prices of lead and zinc, and were somewhat critical of the Government’s action in vacating the field in respect of those metals. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) knows a great deal about the matter, and some considerable time ago he made it clear to the various State governments that they would have to introduce some form of prices control in respect of the metals mentioned. However, notwithstanding that the State governments had ample warning of the necessity for taking action not one of them took the necessary action. If there is any confusion or chaos in industry at present as the result of the Commonwealth terminating its control of the price of zinc or lead used for domestic purposes it is not the Commonwealth but the State governments which are to blame.
– I think that the Minister has misunderstood my point. I said that it was wrong
– Order! The honorable member for Parramatta had plenty of opportunity to make his points when he was speaking.
– It is not a matter of the Commonwealth retaining power over exports, because it has power over exports and -will continue to exercise that power.
– It is empowered to do so by the Customs Act.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, had he had an opportunity to speak, would have been able to tell the House that he offered to the State governments assistance in the form of advice and the services of -expert officers to enable the States properly to introduce and police control of prices of all products for domestic use so as to ensure that sufficient zinc and lead would be available for home consumption.
The honorable member for Fawkner suggested that we should borrow dollars from the United States of America to purchase capital equipment, and said that that was a perfectly sound business practice. In addition to the points made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and myself on previous occasions in answer to that contention, I point out that the United States of America has not an unlimited supply of capital equipment, and even if we did obtain a loan of dollars it is by no means certain that capital equipment would be available for purchase. Although the production capacity of the United States of America is extremely great, it cannot at present supply all the capital equipment needed for its own purposes, for the European recovery programme and for the reconstruction of Asia, and, in addition, supply new capital equipment for Australia. If we obtained a loan from the United States of America and were successful in obtaining some capital equipment from that country, it could only be obtained at the expense of the European recovery programme. That programme is one of the most important projects in the world to-day, because unless the economy of Europe can be restored in the time allotted under the plan, the United Kingdom itself will be placed in an extremely difficult position. Honorable members realize that the welfare of the people of Australia is intimately “bound up in the future of the United Kingdom.
The honorable member for Fawkner complained that there had been no drive to increase production in Australia. In reply, I point out that the Prime Minister and other Ministers have emphasized on every possible occasion the need .to increase production, and the Government has done everything it can to encourage greater production. With others, I believe that that section of the community which the Opposition represents in this chamber -could set & better example than it hae done. It is all very well for the leaders of big business to speak of the necessity for the workers to increase production, but it is up to them to .set a better example than some of them have done. Many of them are appealing for increased production merely in the hope of obtaining a higher return for themselves. The honorable member suggested various ways in which we might obtain more dollars. He complained that the Government had not given sufficient encouragement to the production of gold in this country. The fact is that the Government of the United States of America has made it clear that it is opposed to purchasing any increased production of gold that results from a subsidy paid by the Government of the country concerned. There is little, therefore, that the Government can do to encourage the production of gold that it is not at present doing. He also suggested that Australia should produce more woollens and suitings. The fact is that the Australian textile mills are working to their absolute capacity with the limited manpower available to them. It is true of course, that there is an acute shortage of female labour in many textile mills, but that is due to the prosperity of the industry. Surely the honorable member does not suggest that we should revert to the system under which labour was directed by national security regulations into the industries where it was most required ? One method which the Government could adopt to ensure that greater quantities of woollen materials were sent overseas would be to reinstitute a system of rationing, such as that which was imposed during the war. Because of the operation of rationing during the war the Government was able to direct a small quantity of woollen textiles to New Zealand and to other countries in order to retain our markets in those countries. However, I remind the House that at that time members of the parties at present in Opposition were the most consistent critics of rationing in the community. The honorable member is now recommending the re-introduction of a system which he and other members of the Opposition continually criticized when it was in operation.
The honorable gentleman also complained of the length of the transitional period, and said that three and a half years after the cessation of hostilities the Government should not be relying on defence powers to control our economy. However, honorable members are aware that the High Court has emphasized that the transitional period during which the Australian Government may exercise control varies from industry to industry and will depend on the particular matter under consideration. The period during which control may be exercised over certain goods may be short, whereas for others, such as petrol, it may be much longer. The honorable member suggested that one control which should be removed is the power to control capital issues, and he complained that .the measure does not provide for the termination of that control. Earlier the honorable member stated that many of our difficulties are due to the inflationary tendency which has manifested itself in our economy. The control of capital issues is one of the principal means by which inflation can be prevented from proceeding any further than it has proceeded. The honorable member is quite unreasonable in his criticism, because in one breath he complains of the present inflationary trend, while in the next breath he criticizes the continuance of a control which is exercising some influence on restraining inflation. He cannot have it both ways.
– Big business approves of the control of capital issues.
– The Minister for Labour and ‘ National Service (Mr. Holloway) suggested that “ big business “ section of the community approves of the control of capital issues, but I think that the continuance of that control has been advocated, not so much by big business interests, as by the stock exchanges throughout Australia. They advocate its continuance because they realize that if it were abolished a great measure of inflation would occur owing to the increase of prices and the tendency to promote new enterprises, to meet the exhorbitant demand for goods in a period of shortages. One result of the abolition of the control of capital issues would be a growth of mushroom companies, with company promoters travelling around the countryside endeavouring to extract money from all sections of the community to start enterprises which would have very doubtful prospects of success. The Government makes no apology for continuing the regulations relating to capital issues.
– I desire te make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member for Parramatta claim that he has been misrepresented?
– I claim that I have been misrepresented by the Minister. The honorable gentleman stated that I said that the fact that the Government was bringing down this bill proved that the High Court of Australia had ample power over price control regulations. I said nothing of the kind. I said that the fact that the Government was now bringing down this measure to continue these powers was proof of the insincerity of the claims that it made during the referendum campaign.
– Order ! The honorable member is engaging in debate rather than making a personal explanation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Discontinuance of certain regulations).
– I have no objection to the retention of the subsidies on tea and butter. Indeed, I applaud the Government fer its action in continuing them. However, by retaining the subsidies on those two items it has destroyed its case for the abolition of ether subsidies on the ground that they are liable to challenge.
– I point out to the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) that, under this clause, a discussion on the broad principle cf subsidies cannot be permitted. She must confine her remarks to the regulations that are being retained and discontinued.
– May I refer to the question of dairy products? The National Security (Dairy Products Acquisition) Regulations are mentioned in the Second Schedule to the bill. I presume that I shall be entitled to discuss that matter under clause 5.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The clause deals with some controls that are to be discontinued and, by inference, with others that are to be retained. Only the subsidies that are related to the con trols that are being continued or discontinued can be debated under this clause.
– What I wish te do is to contrast the position-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Chair realizes that; but, unfortunately, the bill does not permit the honorable member to do so.
– The Second Schedule, which is related to clause 5, refers to dairy products, which, I take it, include whole milk. Why is it considered to be desirable to discontinue the subsidy on whole-milk and to retain it on other items?
– The bill dees not deal with subsidies at all.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The Chair is in control of the proceedings of the committee. I have indicated to the honorable member that the committee is now considering the discontinuance of certain regulations and controls and the continuance of others, and not the act of the Government some time ago in discontinuing other subsidies or controls.
– Are subsidies dependent for their legality upon the issue of regulations? If so, are the regulations connected with this bill?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Chair has sought to point out that only those controls that are to be retained or discontinued may be discussed. Broadly, the question is whether some that are to be retained ought to be discontinued, and whether some that are to be discontinued ought to be retained. The question of subsidies can be discussed only in relation to the controls that are to be retained or discontinued.
– My contention is that the subsidy on whole milk should be retained, but, according to this measure, it is to be discontinued.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.It was discontinued some time ago. That matter is not affected by this bill.
– In the Second Schedule, which is related to clause 5, reference is made to the National Security (Dairy Products Acquisition Regulations.
– The committee is now dealing with clause 4.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Regulations and orders not in force under Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act).
– May I now refer to the desirability of retaining the subsidy on whole milk?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.No. Only subsidies at present in operation in relation to controls to be retained or remitted by this bill can be discussed.
– Will you name one of them, Mr. Temporary Chairman?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.That is not the business of the Chair.
– I name tea and butter, which are still the subject of subsidies by this Government. According to press reports, the reason why those two items were specially selected for the payment of subsidies is that they are staples in the diet of working men.
– I rise to order. No regulation which is dealt with by this measure deals with the subsidization of either tea or butter. I suggest, therefore, that the honorable member for Darwin is out of order in referring to the subsidies on those items. They are not dealt with in any of the regulations mentioned in this bill.
– Am I to accept the ruling of the Minister?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Chair rules that the controls that are to be retained or discontinued and the subsidies that are incidental to them may be discussed, but the discussion may relate only to whether the subsidies should be retained, discontinued, or increased. A subsidy that was previously discontinued may not be discussed, even by way of comparison.
– I approve of the retention of the subsidies on tea and butter. We were told that the reason for the retention of the subsidies was that those items were staples in the diet of the Australian working man.
– All that the honorable member is entitled to do is to discuss whether those subsidies should be retained or discontinued. The Chair does not wish to request the honorable member to resume her seat but it cannot permit her to contrast those subsidies with other’s which have been discontinued.
– I see, sir, that you know what I desired to say.
– 1 have an idea of the argument that the honorable member intended to adduce.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
First, Second and Third Schedules agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– by leave - I move -
That the following Order of the Day. Government business, be discharged: - Acts Interpretation Bill 1948 - Second Reading.
The bill to which the motion refers was introduced at the opening of the present session as the privilege bill, and it is not desired that it should be passed at present. A bill to amend the Acts Interpretation Act was introduced in the Senate to-day, and it is desired that that measure should be passed during the present sitting. To avoid confusion between that bill, and the privilege bill, it is sought to discharge the privilege bill from the notice paper.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Holloway) read a first time.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Holloway) read a first time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Passports Bill 1948.
International Organizations (Privileges and Immunities) Bill 1948.
War Damage to Property Bill 1948.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Australian Capital Territory Representation Bill (No. 2) 1948. United Kingdom Grant Bill 1948. States Grants Bill 1948. Audit Bill 1948.
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1948.
Immigration (Guardianship of Children)
Egg Export Control Bill 1948.. Australian Broadcasting Bill 1948’.
Debate resumed from the 1st December (vide page 3743),. on motion by Mr. Holloway -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I shall not detain the House long on this measure the object of which is to amend the Trade Marks Act. 1905-1934. I note that a substantial part of this amending bill deals with sections 32 and 58 of the principal act. Honorable members will be aware of course that a trade mark, is a mark used in connexion with goods to indicate -
That they are the goods of the proprietor of the trade mark by virtue of manufacture, selection, certification, dealing with, or offering for sale.
In the original act there is a code of provisions which is very largely copied from the United Kingdom legislation. There is also a considerable degree of uni formity in trade mark legislation throughout the British dominions. The principal act provides for a Trade Marks Office and a Registrar of Trade Marks. It defines what trade marks shall be registerable, and mentions by way of illustration,, certain matters which are registerable as trade marks, such as names, signatures,, coined or invented words and other distinguishing marks and symbols. It then excludes certain other words or mattersfrom registration. Then there is the important section 32 which provides that only proprietors of trade marks may apply for registration, and specifies themethod of application. Subsequent sections provide the machinery for appeals against registration which normally endures for fourteen years. Up to a. periodof seven years there is a limited right of protection only. Section 50 grants exclusive use of a trade mark to the proprietor who has obtained registration.. Subsequent provisions exclude unregistered trade marks from the benefits of t heact, and deal with a lot of machinery matters such as registration- renewals. Then there is section 58 which provides for assignment only in connexion of the goodwill of the business in connexionwith which a trade mark is used. Then follow certain provisions relating to Commonwealth trade marks, the usual penal, provisions, and miscellaneous machinery matters.. The Opposition will mot opposethis bill, which makes two important changes.. The- first is in relation to section 32 which provides that any person claiming to be a proprietor of a trade- mark may make application to the registrar for registration of that trade mark. The effect of that section and others is that only theowner or proprietor of a trade mark may register that mark. It is proposed by this amending bill to provide that, in certain circumstances, users, as distinct from proprietors, may obtain registration. A similar provision was inserted in theBritish Acf in 1937 and also appears in the legislation of other’ dominions, and I believe in certain American legislation. Although the law at present is that only a proprietor may register’ a trade mark, the system has- grown up of licensing users. Strictly, this is illegal and it is proposed to abolish that system by making limited provision whereby persons other than proprietors may be registered. Before a registration of a user of a trade mark will be permitted, the Registrar must satisfy himself that there is a proper relationship between proprietor and user. The purpose of that was explained by the Minister in his second-reading speech. In the absence of such a relationship trafficking in trade marks might result. The bill proposes that, subject to certain details with which I need not deal, a person other than the proprietor may, in the discretion of the Registrar, be registered as a user of a trade mark. That alteration is in accordance with commercial practice and modern convenience, and honorable members on this side of the chamber do not oppose it. The bill also seeks to amend section 58 of the principal act, which reads as follows: -
A trade mark when registered may be assigned and transmitted only in connexion with the goodwill of the business concerned in the particular goods or class of goods in respect of which it has been registered and shall be determinable with that goodwill.
The difficulty about that provision, which is very rigid, is that in modern days when a company which is the proprietor of a trade mark has subsidiary companies that are separate legal entities in other parts of the world or even in the same country, section 5S, in its present form, is an obstacle to transferring the ownership of a trade mark from one person or company to another person or company. The argument in support of section 58 in the original act was that the public might be deceived about the factory from which the goods came. However, proposed new section 58 provides that an assignment from a person to another person, quite divorced from the goodwill of the business in respect of which the trade mark is used, is valid, unless the following conditions are shown : - first, that the trade mark is not in bona fide use in this country, secondly, that misleading statements have been made by the assignee in connexion with the trade mark and thirdly, that the use by the assignor of the trade mark in relation to other goods in such a way as to mislead members of the public. Proposed new section 58 is similar to provisions which have been tried and found adequate in other parts of the world, and, therefore, that may well be adopted in Australia.
In committee, I shall ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) who is in charge of the bill, to consider two small amendments. I do not propose to discuss them now in detail, but I shall ask the Minister, at the appropriate time, to accept them. The need for the alterations has been brought to my notice-
– Order! The honorable member may refer to the amendments more appropriately in committee.
– I propose to move the two new amendments in committee, but I submit with respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I am entitled to refer to them now.
– Order ! The honorable member will be in order in foreshadowing certain amendments but he will not be in order in his secondreading speech in referring to them in detail.
– All I desire to indicate at the moment is that section 38 of the original act should be amended. It relates to persons who desire to oppose the granting of a trade mark. The section reads as follows: -
Any person may, within three months after the advertisement of the application or such further time not exceeding three months as the Registrar on application made within the first period of three months allows, lodge at the Trade Marks Office a notice of opposition, in duplicate to the registration of the trade mark, setting out the grounds on which he relies to support his notice.
In commercial practice it has been found that the period of three months is not sufficient.
– Order ! The honorable member will probably have to make the same speech in committee if he proposes to move the two amendments which he has foreshadowed. When speaking on the motion for the second reading of the bill, he is entitled to deal only with the general provisions of the measure.
– If you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, prefer me to deal with the matter in that way, I shall do so. The amendments that I shall move are not contentious, and, if adopted, will he a convenience to the commercial community. We on this side of the chamber do not oppose the bill.
– in reply - The honorable member for Parramattta (Mr. Beale) has stated correctly that the bill is a simple measure which makes two fundamental amendments to the Trade Marks Act. The alterations, which will simplify procedure, are long overdue. Under the amending legislation, a person may assign a trade mark without assigning the goodwill, and that alteration will make for flexibility when parent or major companies or partners desire to assign the use of trade marks in their own country or some other country without deceiving the public or resorting to underhand methods. The amendments are welcomed by the commercial community generally.
I ask the honorable member for Parramatta not to press the two amendments which he has foreshadowed, hut I shall request the Acting Attorney-General Senator McKenna, to examine them. They cannot he incorporated in this bill.
– I have not yet had an opportunity to explain them.
– The honorable member has circulated copies of his amendments, which relate to sections 38 and 41 of the act. The hill does not amend either of those two sections. The Senate has already passed this measure, but I shall ask the Acting AttorneyGeneral to give careful consideration to the honorable gentleman’s submissions, and, if possible, incorporate them in subsequent amending legislation. I am not able to accept the amendments without consulting the Acting Attorney-General, but an examination may show that they are just as necessary as the amendments which the bill makes to the original act.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 11 agreed to.
New clause 6a.
.- I move -
That, after clause6, the following new clause be inserted: - “ 6a. Section thirty-eight of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting the words ‘not exceeding three months ‘, and
by omitting the words ‘within the first period of three months ‘ and inserting in their stead the words from time to time’.”.
I appreciate the difficulty of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway). I did not know that the Acting Attorney-General, Senator McKenna, was responsible for the bill, and that the Senate has already passed it.
– Had it not been for that difficulty, I should have asked the Acting Attorney-General to examine the honorable member’s amendments before the Senate considered the bill.
– I do not desire to be unreasonable or to inconvenience the Government but the amendment which I have moved, and the amendment which I shall move later are important and the sooner they are adopted, the better it will be. The Trade Marks Act was last amended in 1934, and heaven only knows when it will he amended again. I am endeavouring to remove difficulties which may otherwise inconvenience the commercial and professional community for years until another amending bill is introduced. Therefore, I regret that I find it difficult to accede to the Minister’s request not to press my amendments at this juncture but to wait until another amending bill is introduced. If the Minister can suggest an alternative course whereby I could bring this matter to the notice of the Acting AttorneyGeneral, I shall defer my amendments, but I am not prepared merely to abandon the matter and wait, perhaps, ten years until another amending bill is introduced.
– The Government does not do things like that.
– It is fourteen years since the principal act was last amended. I shall explain the amendment. Its abject is to eliminate the period of three months as the maximum period for which the registrar may grant an extension of time for the hearing of an application in opposition to the granting of a trade mark. Applications involving overseas trade marks are becoming more frequent, and it has been found as a matter of experience that the period of three months is not sufficiently long for that purpose.
– I assure the honorable gentleman that the business community has been in touch with the Acting Attorney-General in respect of this measure, but no alteration in respect of the matter raised by him has been sought.
– My attention has been drawn to this matter by a solicitor in Sydney who has a very wide trade marks practice. I do not know of any other practitioner who has a wider experience in such matters. Although I do not hold myself out as a trade marks expert, I also have experienced difficulties of the kind which will arise if the maximum period of three months is insisted upon. The registrar may very well desire to adjourn the matter from time to time in order to give to the applicant an opportunity to prepare his case particularly when the applicant has to obtain highly technical evidence from overseas. In such circumstances the period of three months is not sufficiently long.
My second amendment is consequential upon the first. I reiterate that the two amendments simply seek to give to those who wish to oppose the granting of a trade mark a better opportunity, to prepare their case. Neither amendment will operate unfairly against anybody because the registrar will still decide the matter. If he wishes to fix a period of three months he may do so, but under my amendment he will be enabled in particular circumstances to extend the period for special reasons of the kind I have indicated. I do not know what the Minister will do. The bill was introduced in the Senate and as that chamber is still in session I ask the Minister to accept my amendments which are purely procedural. They do not involve any controversial or contentious matter. I give my word that they do not contain any trap. They will operate to the greater convenience of the commercial community, and by accepting them the Minister will give assistance in that direction.
New clause negatived.
New clause 6b.
Motion (by Mr. Beale) proposed -
That, after clause 6, the following new clause be inserted: - “6b. Section forty-one of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words ‘ not exceeding three months ‘, a nd
by omitting from that sub-section the words ‘ within such first mentioned three months’.”.
– I do not doubt the sincerity of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) in proposing the amendment. I am not worried about the possibility of traps. The reason why I am not so very much concerned at the moment is that the amendment is not urgent. The honorable member is simply seeking to extend the period of three months to be allowed to applicants to oppose the granting of a trade mark. That period has operated for a long time. However, I shall do as I have promised. I now inform the honorable member that when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was AttorneyGeneral a complete overhaul of the Trade Marks Act was commenced, and it is the intention of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) who has been at work on the matter to make a complete job of the legislation. That is one reason why amendments of this legislation have not been brought down for some years. This measure has been introduced only because its provisions are considered to be urgent. The complete amending bill is still on the stocks.
– When will it be introduced ?
– That is a matter for the Attorney-General to decide.
.- The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) has said that the provision of the maximum period of three months which the registrar may grant for the hearing of an application in opposition to the granting of a trade mark has been in operation for a long time.
– And no objection has been raised to that provision.
– I am now raising an objection to it, and I believe my objection to be reasonable. The bill elsewhere provides for a maximum period of six months in respect of somewhat similar matters. Therefore, I cannot understand why the Minister will not accept my amendment which merely gives the registrar a wider discretion in dealing with applications in opposition to the granting of trade marks.
New clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate, without amendment.
Debate resumed from 3rd December (vide page 3972), on motion by Mr. Holloway) -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of this bill, as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) informed us when introducing it, is to authorize the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to fix a basic rate of pay for adult females. Most people had assumed that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, as recently amended, already contained this power, but the court determined in a recent judgment that whilst it had power under the legislation to alter the female rates of pay, it did not have the power, as the legislation then stood, to determine a basic wage rate for adult females. The Minister advises that the legislation which is now being debated is designed to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, to cover that aspect. I have examined the hill and am satisfied that it does not seek to do more than that. To that extent, the amendment of the principal act should he acceptable to the Parliament as a whole. I share the view expressed by the Minister in his speech, that it is very important that there should be uniformity of treatment of such an important matter in the industrial life of this country. As the Minister has explained, in the absence of the amendment now proposed, the determination of a basic female rate would be left to the determination of the conciliation commissioners. There are fifteen of such commissioners, who deal with many different industries. Undoubtedly, if this matter were left to their individual determination, there would be wide variations in the rates that they would prescribe. Honorable members on both sides of the House have had sufficient experience of these matters to know that there is no more fruitful source of industrial disharmony than differing rates of pay for corresponding work. It becomes necessary, in order to avoid that situation arising, to have a determination by the Federal Arbitration Court, sitting as a body. This debate gives me an opportunity to correct an impression which apparently exists in the minds of some of the leading trade unionists, particularly one of the spokesmen for the unions who appeared before the Arbitration Court recently. He stated as my approach to this problem, that there should be equal pay for the sexes. That is a point of view which, for a long time, has not been merely part of Labour’s policy, but a principle which has brought support from all sections of the community.
– In English-speaking countries.
– Yes. I was about to say that that is a principle which I personally could support. I understand that Mr. T. Wright, when speaking for the Sheet Metal Workers Union recently before the Arbitration Court, in an application for the fixation of a female rate of pay, quoted from Hansard, volume 171, at page 1469, seeking to show that I had said that I was of the opinion that a woman who did the same work as a man, was entitled te the same standard of living as her male counterpart. Although I have not the full quotation before me at the moment, I am repeating what Mr. Wright put to the court at that time. Standing baldly as that does, it could create the impression that I would support an arbitration -court award which gave equal rates of pay to both adult females and adult males in this country. I certainly do not subscribe to that pre position, and I question whether the Minister for Labour and National Service subscribes to it. As far as 1 know, that is net the official policy of the Australian Labour party. It is one thing to support the principle of equality of pay as so many of us de. But to adopt it, in the full sense of the phrase, in the Australian economy at the present time would involve us in a very serious social disturbance, and a great dislocation cf the economic balance as between men with family responsibilities and female workers. I am sure that all honorable members will realize that. Our courts, particularly the Federal court, and, generally speaking, the State courts, have based the fixation of the adult basic rate, upon the needs of a man, his wife and two children, and in some instances three children. In order to clear my own position in this matter, and at the same time to state what I believe te be tho sound approach to this problem, I bring to the notice of the House a quotation from Judge Foster that was made in 1945 in the International Labour Review for that year, at page 642. It reads -
It can hardly be appropriate that a wage based on the assumption that a male worker is supporting, or may have to support, a wife and three children, and fixed to enable him to do so, should be adopted as the “ rate for the job “ payable also to women, -who obviously are not, in our social system, required to maintain husband and children. Whether the national economy could now support the existing basic wage as the wage for the job is extremely doubtful, but in any case, it would be only with considerable disturbance to the world economic structure.
Other judges of the Federal and State courts have expressed similar views. One judge, the late Mr. Justice O’Mara, whose judgements and comments from the bench would, I am sure, command the respect of all honorable members, in hia judgment in the Metal Trades award, as reported in 1947 Commonwealth Arbitration Reports, at pages 783 and 784, made the f following comments : -
The argument in favour of equality of wages irrespective of sex is a strong one if the wages are fixed on a true economic basis and the responsibility for a minimum family wage is transferred from employers to society generally. By adopting a system of universal child endowment we may have progressed far towards a fixation of wages on the basis that the wages should bear a proper relation to the. value produced by the employee. Such a fixation would probably result in a higher wage for women and a lower wage for men but it is a fixation which is unsound for so long as the responsibility for the minimum family wage has to be borne by the employers,
A further comment appeared at page 7§f) of those reports. It reads -
I do not propose to discuss the claim for equal pay at any length as on the facts of thi* case it would not be justified by the application of any of the principles which have hitherto been adopted by any wage-fixing authority in Australia. It is urged that I should fix male rates for females on the ground that the productivity or work output of the females on the class of work on which they are employed is as satisfactory as that of the males. I do not propose to express any opinion as to whether this assertion of equal productivity is justified, as I do not regard comparative productivity of itself as being a proper basis for the fixation of wages.
The views I have quoted are typical of the views of the judges. They have tried to take into account the social responsibilities of the employees. I suppose that if we lived in a perfectly ordered society, and could approach this problem afresh, we would set out to fix a basic wage for a worker who had no responsibilities, and then add to it by either family endowment or other appropriate means, so that the income earned by a worker, whether male or female, would correspond with his or her social responsibilities. But unfortunately, our present system is too solidly established to enable what, I am sure, many honorable members on the Government side would regard as a more satisfactory approach at the present time. As long as the court adopts the needs basis as the basis of fixation of the male adult wage, quite obviously there will be some differentiation between wages for males and females. I have made these remarks because what has been said from the Bench represents my own view and does not constitute, in my opinion, any clash with the support for the principle of equal pay for equal work. If we could start afresh we could no doubt make that approach. It would not mean necessarily that the same income would be received by the male and the female worker, because there would have to be aid by governments to bring up the income of an employee with family responsibilities to a level that would enable sibilities to a level that would enable him or her to meet such responsibilities. The bill seeks to give the court the power to determine a basic rate for females and I hope that the Minister will take the opportunity at the committee stage or in reply to the second-reading debate to deal with one important point that I desire to raise - that is, the existing situation as a result of the National Security regulations made some years ago which arbitrarily fixed the female rate in certain industries. I believe I am correct in saying that those rates were fixed at about 90 per. cent, of the adult male rate for workers in those industries and that the rates were so fixed by the Government during the war period in order to ensure a full supply of female labour in industries in which production was regarded as essential to the war effort. The Minister has rightly stressed the need for uniformity, but it is unlikely that uniformity can be obtained if, on the one hand, we have a female basic wage fixed by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and on the other hand the Government maintaining rates that have been arbitrarily fixed I should like the Minister to tell the House whether the Government proposes to withdraw the regulations and to allow those industries to have the appropriate rate determined by the court. T believe that it is desirable, now that the war has been over for three years, that any differentiation between one industry and another that may have been required during the war period should disappear and that a rate should be struck which should have general application.
– in reply - I thought that I had dealt with the bill very broadly in my opening speech, but I shall reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). He has referred to the 90 per cent, rate paid to women during the war. That rate was paid to women whom we asked to take the places in industry of men who went away to the war. Those women were asked to do work that women had not done before. They worked in engineering shops, and operated lathes and did other work that men had done previously. Because we wanted them to continue in that work as long as they could stand up to it we suggested that a special judge should examine the whole situation and fix the wage for women doing a man’s job. The judge examined the work and fixed the wage for women in some places at 90 per cent, of the male rate and in other places at 100 per cent. The judge believed that in granting the women 90 per cent, of the adult male wage, after taking into consideration the productivity over a period of time, he was giving them the equivalent of 100 per cent, because of the disabilities of the females as compared with the males. In other places, where the work was of a different nature, the women were doing work that they had always done and in many instances 100 per cent, was granted. The majority of the women who were encouraged to enter industries during the war period received a minimum of 75 per cent, of the male wage. There are different classifications of female workers and the Government desires the establishment of a foundation wage for females to give the court something to build upon when dealing with the higher classifications of female workers. Seventy-five per cent, of the male rate has become, very largely, the minimum, or foundation rate, although it is neither legally nor uniformly so. I hope that the female rate will never become less than 75 per cent, of the male rate, though it is not in my province to say whether or not it shall be so. I admit my share of neglect over the years in not having some foundation rate fixed for women workers. I hope that, when the court deals with a foundation wage for females, it will not go back to those dark old days when women received 50 per cent, or 54 per cent, of the male wage. If we do go back to those days women will not enter industry. I consider that the hill is quite simple. It will give the court power that it did not have before, but that the Government thought it had, to fix minimum rates for females. The court holds that it has the power to alter the female wage but not to fix a basic wage for female adults.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 2nd Decem ber, (vide page 3908), on motion by Mr. Holloway -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, which proposes to make payments to mental institutions in the terms of the schedule, which sets out the heads of an agreement to be made with the States, is welcomed by the Opposition. We have advocated such a scheme for a long time. I have made many speeches on the subject. Friends and relatives of inmates of mental institutions who have heretofore been required to meet the cost of maintenance of those inmates will be relieved of the burden. The Opposition has no objections to the general principles of the bill, but a close study of it indicates certain aspects to which the Government should pay attention. If a success is to be made of the scheme, the suggestions that we propose to make should be embodied in the bill. It is gratifying to learn that the proposed agreement provides that the States shall ensure that no means test shall be imposed on and that no fees shall be charged to or in respect of a qualified person, who is defined as meaning - a patient in a mental institution who was ordinarily resident in Australia at the time of admission to the mental institution, but does not include a patient whose fees are borne by the Commonwealth or by another State.
It is also provided that the States shall ensure that, except with the concurrence of the Commonwealth, no charges shall be made to or in respect of qualified persons for services or comforts for which it was not customary to make a charge as at the 1st November this year. I desire to register the strongest possible protest against the introduction of this measure in defiance of the long-standing practice of including in the schedule a copy of the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the States. In this instance, he has completely ignored the accepted practice and in the schedule has only indicated some principles and definitions that should be included in the proposed agreement. That is a slovenly method of legislating. It is wholly unsatisfactory and it further exemplifies the Government’s growing indifference to the Parliament. It gives the least possible consideration to the House. It will not be long, at this rate, before the Government completely ignores the Parliament. The Minister in charge of the bill (Mr. Holloway) indicated that the total cost of mental institution benefits in a full year had been estimated at £500,000. That will be a charge on the National Welfare Fund. This relief to the States, with the additional saving of the cost of collection of funds from relatives and friends of inmates of mental institutions, plus the fact that there will he no more bad debts, as the Commonwealth will be making all the payments, should be substantial. There are many ways in which this annual saving of a not inconsiderable sum could be put to good use. First it should enable the authorities of the mental institutions to provide improved amenities for the staffs, who do a truly magnificent job. They have difficult jobs and, in most instances, their rate of remuneration is not all that could be desired. Their work is most nerveracking and requires infinite care and patience, yet they receive little recognition. I urge that the Government shall do everything possible to improve their conditions and to provide them and their patients with improved amenities. The bill also provides for the execution of agreements between the Commonwealth and the States to authorize the payments that I referred to earlier. It is not an overstatement for me to say that most relatives and friends of mentally affected people have considerable financial difficulty in maintaining them. Often it is only when they are financially embarrassed and physically exhausted that they have no alternative but to approve of the sufferers being sent to mental institutions. That is generally the rule.I direct the attention of honorable members to the anomaly in the rates of payment, which vary from 9d. to1s. 3d. a day for each patient. Under the hospital benefits legislation, patients occupying beds in public hospitals and approved private hospitals receive 8s. a day. Surely therefore the rates of payment could be stepped up in this measure. Why should the rate of payment be so low? Why should it not be an amount approaching 8s. a day? The House will agree that the difference is remarkable. The Minister in charge of the bill has not explained it. On the face of it, the payments are most niggardly and are inadequate compared with the contribution made to patients in public and approved private hospitals.
– The honorable member does not understand the bill.
– The Minister has not properly explained it. I hope that he will do so in his speech in reply.
According to many reports, particularly in the press this year, the condition of some mental institutions is not all that could be desired. There has been a lot of controversy in New South Wales newspapers about the unsatisfactory conditions of mental institutions in that State.
– The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the bill, which deals with mental institution benefits, not the condition of mental institutions.
– The bill ought to make provision for the improvement of the conditions in mental institutions. The Australian Government ought to insist on that improvement in the agreement that it proposes to make with the States. That is the only point that I want to establish. The Government has adopted a policy in relation to hospitals generally ; it should also adopt a policy in relation to our mental institutions which will ensure that the amenities provided in them shall he improved.
– Order! The honorable member’s remarks are beyond the scope of the hill.
– Upon the passage of this measure the States will be saved the expenditure of large sums of money. The Government should insist that as the result of the moneys to be provided under this measure better provision shall be made for the staffs as well as for the patients of mental institutions.
– Order ! For the third time I rule that the provision of amenities for the staffs of mental institutions is outside the scope of the bill.
– In all grants made by the Commonwealth to the States conditions are expressly laid down and must be observed by the States. May I help you, Mr. Speaker, by saying that under the Commonwealth aid roads and works legislation grants made to the States-
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to return to the bill. If he has read the heads of agreement which are set out in the schedule to the bill he will see that they do not relate to conditions at mental hospitals.
– The Government proposes to make a grant of £500,000 to the States-
– For a specific purpose. The honorable member must deal with that purpose.
– The Government should lay down the conditions under which that money shall be expended by the States. Under the Constitution the Government has an obligation to the Parliament
– If the honorable member were entitled to discuss what he is now seeking to discuss, he might very well deal with the question of hours of labour to be observed and wages to be paid at mental institutions.
– Not at all.
– Order ! I have ruled that the honorable member is out of order.
– I respect your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I must exercise my privilege as a member of this Parliament and point out that as in the case of grants made to the States for road purposes the conditions under which the grant proposed by this bill may be expended should be laid down by the Commonwealth. The agreement set out in the schedule to this bill is incomplete and as such should not have been submitted to us for ratification. When an agreement of such importance as this is submitted to us for consideration we should be able to discuss not only what it contains but also what it omits.
– Order! Under tip Standing Orders and practices pf this House, the honorable member has full scope to discuss the bill; but he may not go outside the terms of the bill.
– The bill is inadequate and the agreement set out in the schedule is also inadequate. The Government proposes to make available to the States immediately an amount of £500,000 and to supplement that by additional sums as time goes by. Surely we have a right to suggest what conditions should be laid down in an agreement of this kind. The schedule to the bill contains only the heads of agreement and gives no details of the agreement itself. No mention is made of the amenities to be provided-
– Order ! The honorable member is well aware that he is out of order. I shall ask him to resume his seat if he does not confine his remarks to the bill.
– I ask for a declaration from the Minister why a daily rate of only from 9d- to ls. 3d. is to be paid to mental institutions in respect of mental patients, when 8s. is paid to other hospitals. The information contained in the Minister’s second-reading speech was hopelessly inadequate- Why was not the full text pf the agreement embodied in the bill? To what purposes will the money to be provided under this measure be devoted? Never before have I seen a bill so slovenly drafted and presented to the House. I ask the Minister to give us full information in relation to the proposal.
.- This bill is in conformity with the general policy of the Government to give relief to deserving sections of the community. From time to time the Government has bestowed additional social service benefits on the people. Since 1946 it has provided hospital benefits for the unfortunate sick. The money to be paid to the States under this bill will be provided from the National Welfare Fund which has been criticized in the past by honorable members opposite. I congratulate the Government upon this proposal to aid the mentally afflicted and their relatives. I am keenly interested in this matter because a large mental institution is located in my electorateFrom time to time I have made representations to the Government in relation to the .disabilities which this bill seeks to cure. Relatives of the inmates of mental institutions have in the past experienced the greatest difficulty in meeting the financial commitments involved. I join with the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) in seeking additional information relative to the fixation of the daily rate to be paid in respect of mental patients. I am glad to observe from the Minister’s second-reading speech that private mental hospitals, which will not be provided for in this bill, will be brought under the private hospitals benefit scheme. I congratulate the Government upon bringing forward this measure of relief for the institutions responsible for the care and welfare of mental patients.
. -I support the bill and I express my appreciation of the Government’s action in bringing it before us. On more than one occasion I have made appeals in this House on behalf of mental patients and their relatives. 1 join with the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) in seeking from the Minister further information relative to the fixation of the daily rate and why it is to be so low by comparison with payments made to other hospitals The secretary of an organization, known as the Friends of the Mentally 111 telephoned me yesterday drawing attention to the disparity between the daily rate to be paid to mental institutions and that paid to general hospitals. and asking for further information on the matter. I undertook to obtain that information when the hill was before the House. I now ask the Minister to make a full statement on the matter. Paragraph 5 of the schedule indicates that relatives are to be fully relieved of the necessity for maintaining mental patients ; but it appears to be doubtful whether the daily payment of from 9d. to 1s. 3d. will be sufficient to enable mental patients to be adequately cared for. I would be glad to be informed on that point.
– in reply - I am glad that the House has accepted this bill in the proper spirit. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has made some mistakes about this legislation which. I shall have to correct lest the States may misunderstand what the Government has in mind. The honorable member was under the impression that he had put his case fairly,but unfortunately he fell into many errors. It is true that several honorable members opposite have consistently asked that something be done to assist the mentally ill and their relatives. The honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) who have mental institutions in their electorates, have consistently advocated that something should be done to assist mental patients and their relatives along the lines of the benefits contained in the Hospital Benefits Act. The honorable member for Moreton complained that the bill was drafted in a very slovenly fashion and did not give enough information. He should realize that this is largely an enabling measure in which the Government asks for the permission of the Parliament to make agreements with the States. It will enable the Government to execute a separate agreement with each State. Up to the present, South. Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania have decided to make agreements with the Commonwealth. The proposal is still under consideration in Western Australia and Queensland, but I am sure that they will join in the scheme. There are 25,000 patients in mental institutions in Australia, a surprising total. I empha size that the bill does not propose that the Commonwealth should make a grant to the States. It merely provides for financial assistance to relatives of patients by the Commonwealth through the States.
– The Commonwealth will pay the money to the State governments.
– In all probability the State governments will not make any money out of the scheme. They merely want to join with the Commonwealth in relieving relatives of the cost of paying for the upkeep of patients in mental institutions.
– Only 20 per cent, of patients’ fees are paid at present.
– That is the reason why the figures that I mentioned in my introductory speech are so low. The Government has not fixed the figures. It asked officers of the States, who know all about the institutions, to inform it of the actual amount of money collected by State governments from the relatives of patients in mental institutions and it proposes to pay the appropriate amounts regularly to the State governments. That is similar to the arrangement that now operates in respect of hospital benefits for patients in private and public hospitals. The figures are low because the State governments at present collect very little from the relatives of mental patients. In some instances, they may receive 15s., £1 or £1 10s. a week, but nothing at all is paid on behalf of many patients. That is why the average daily rate is expected to range from only 9d. to 1s. 3d. The Government is willing to pay more than that, and it would do so if the relatives paid more. The plan does not extend to private reception homes to which wealthy people send relatives who are mentally ill so that they may receive better and more costly treatment than is available in the other institutions. That is because patients in such homes are covered by the hospital benefits scheme, under which the Commonwealth pays 8s. a day for each bed in use. Of course, amounts collected from relatives of patients in private reception home? would be much greater than those collected on behalf of patients in the public institutions. I emphasize that the Government will not make grants to the States. It will merely pay to them the amounts that they now collect from relativesof mental patients so that the patients may he treated without cost to their relatives. The reason why an agreement has not been submitted to honorable members is that an agreement has net yet been completed. That explanation should satisfy the honorable member for Moreton. As I have said, four of the States have already agreed to the plan and, even if the remaining two States should not do so, the Government will proceed in co-operation with the other States.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 8th September (vide page 276), on motion by Mr. Ward -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, which will amend the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act 1947, sets out to provide an additional sum of £1,000,000 for roads in sparsely populated rural areas and places not easy of access. At first glance, that appears to he a somewhat generous contribution, but an examination of collections from petrol tax in 1947-48, which shows that receipts reached the colossal amount of £17,000,000, £2,000,000 above the estimate, discloses the fact that the Government will be over £1,000,000 in pocket after it has disbursed the amount for which the bill provides. Very great disappointment has been expressed by local governing authorities throughout the Commonwealth at the decision of the Government to retain such a large proportion of the amount collected from the petrol tax during the last financial year. The tax was instituted in order to provide funds for road-making purposes only.
Honorable members will recall that several States sought to introduce a tax on petrol for the express purpose of financing road construction and maintenance. Some doubt was cast upon the legality of such a tax, and therefore the Commonwealth undertook to collect the tax and distribute it to the various States on an area and population basis. That was done for several years. Later, during the depression, the tax was increased and a proportion of it went to the Treasury. Then, during World War II., the tax was again substantially increased until the Government was collecting from every petrol user an amount of11½d. for each gallon of petrol consumed. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) told us in the second-reading speech that, during the three years before the Labour party came into office, only £3,800,000 had been expended on roads. He neglected to say that, during 1945-46 when the Labour Government collected £15,000,000 from petrol tax, only £3,000,000 of that amount was used for the purpose for which it was collected.
Whilst representatives of country districts would find it very difficult to oppose a bill of this character, they can at least seize the opportunity to express their disapproval of and their profound disappointment at the paucity of the sum which the Government proposes to make available. Roads board organizations in most States have carried out excellent work on main and arterial roads. However, in Victoria, for instance, although there is such a board, it is responsible for only one-sixth of the road mileage in the State. Local governing bodies are left to construct and maintain all other roads. On behalf of those bodies, I make a claim for greater assistance than this Government has considered it wise to give in the past. Local governing organizations have had increasing difficulty in maintaining roads already constructed because of greatly increased costs. I attended a recent conference of Victorian municipalities at which a Country Roads Board engineer explained that, during the last five years, costs of construction of roads and bridges had increased by between 60 and 80 per cent. Not only should the States receive a bigger share of revenue from the petrol tax, but local bodies also should receive a substantial amount direct from the Commonwealth. At this time, when the Commonwealth’s coffers are bursting with revenue because of the very high prices for primary products, the Government could well afford to allocate to the States and local bodies all the money collected from the petrol tax, so that they might overtake the lag in road maintenance. This lag occurred because, during the war, many of the men engaged in road maintenance went into the Civil Construction Corps or into the Army. Much of the machinery belonging to local bodies wa3 taken over by the Defence authorities, with the result that roads fell into a state of disrepair, and now more money is needed to restore them than the local bodies can afford. During the war, local bodies rendered very valuable service to the Government in many directions, and they are entitled now to some return. In answer to a question, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said recently that some people were asking for a reduction of the petrol tax, whilst others were asking that a larger proportion of the return from the tax should be devoted to roadmaking and repairing, and he added that people could not have it both ways. I say that they are not getting it either way. There should either be a substantial reduction of the petrol tax, or a substantial increase of the amount made available by the Commonwealth to the States, and to local authorities which helped the Government so much during the war. It was the local authorities which, on behalf of the Commonwealth, collected about £14,000,000 in premiums for war damage insurance. The local governing authorities were also made responsible for the distribution of motor tyres, and the fixing of petrol rations in country districts at a time when primary producers were crying out for more petrol. Now, the Commonwealth has an opportunity to help the local bodies, and to reward them in some measure for the splendid work they did during the war. Only a few days ago I was asked by a local governing authority to approach the Prime Minister with a request that a Commonwealth, loan should be floated for road purposes. I replied that, if it were found to be impossible to obtain a larger share of the return from the petrol tax, I should support the proposal for a loan, but I believe that there is no need to raise a loan for road purposes. The Government can well afford to allocate a larger proportion of revenue from the petrol tax to State and local governing authorities for the construction and maintenance of roads. I express the grave dissatisfaction of municipalities and State governments at the refusal of this Government to increase substantially the grant which is to be made under this legislation.
.- The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) has put up a very good case for the municipalities and local bodies. He failed to mention, . however, that last year only £1,000,000 was allocated to the States for constructing and maintaining roads and bridges in outback areas, whereas this year it is proposed to increase the grant to £2,000,000. I agree with the honorable member that the returns from the petrol tax have increased, and that municipalities have every right, therefore, to more assistance from the Commonwealth. I remind the honorable member, however, that this year Commonwealth expenditure under the heading of grants for the construction and maintenance of roads will be £3,300,000 more than was expended in any year while the Opposition parties were in power. That grant will go some distance in the right direction. Of course, the Federal Aid Roads scheme is not new. It was introduced in 1926, when a tax of 3d. a gallon was imposed on petrol. In 1931 the tax was increased to 7d. a gallon in order to assist the country during the emergency of the depression years. After the depression the tax was not removed but continued until the outbreak of the recent war, when it was increased by 4£d. to ll£d. a gallon. The proceeds of the tax were given to the States tomaintain their roads. Last year the Government reduced the tax from 11½d. to 10-d. a gallon. The amount to be spent on roads this year will be £7,000,000. The sum of £4,500,000 will be paid to cover the cost of maintaining State highways, £2,000,000 for the maintenance of roads in remote areas, and an additional grant of £500,000 will be. made for the con:struction and maintenance of roads leading to Commonwealth property. The proposed increase relates specifically to roads maintained by the States.
The honorable member’ for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) and I were also members of the deputation mentioned by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald), which he led. The. Minister concerned listened sympathetically to the case we put forward on behalf of the municipal associations and promised to bring the matter before Cabinet. Our representations resulted in the expenditure of an additional £1,000,000,, and I am confident that the municipalities will be very grateful to receive that amount. Although some criticism of the allocation of .the money by the Victorian Government might be made the Governments of New South Wales and Tasmania permitted their municipalities to expend the money. Tasmania received £50,000 for the maintenance of the developmental roads in remote parts of the island, and the State government distributed the money on a basis of need and area. The municipality which covered the largest area received the greatest amount, and the distribution resulted in each of the municipalities receiving a little more than £1,000. The municipal bodies expressed their gratitude at the receipt of that additional revenue. For one thing, it enabled them to undertake works which they could not otherwise have undertaken, and to purchase machinery in anticipation of receiving a further grant during the current financial year. T do not know whether they anticipated that the Government would again distribute £1,000,000 to the municipal bodies throughout the Commonwealth, but the Government of Tasmania has intimated that it proposes to expend Tasmania’s portion through the State Works Department, so that the municipal bodies will not distribute the additional £50,000. Whilst I am not unduly critical of the decisions of State governments, I do not approve of the decision of the Tasmanian Government in this instance, because I believe that the municipal bodies are the instrumentalities which are best fitted to determine the expenditure of the money. There was no criticism of the way in which’ they expended the money last year, audi surely they can be trusted to expend, it. wisely during the current financial year.. For one thing, I know that many municipal bodies expended portion of the money on the purchase, of road-making machinery and equipment., If the distribution of Tasmania’s share of the money is to be. left to the Government of that State it is quite possible that a large municipality will receive £7,000 of the. £5O,Q00> whilst a small municipality may not receive one penny. I mention that because I anticipate that the honorable member for Darwin will point out that we have received representations from the municipalities of Tasmania. When we received those representations we took the matter up in the right quarter, and the point of view of the municipalities was heard by the Government’s representative with considerable sympathy. After all, it would be bad psychology to take away from the municipalities the decision in the expenditure of the money because no one has a better knowledge of local requirements than they have.
The honorable member for Corangamite, who has a great interest in municipalities, rather unfairly criticized the Government because it advanced a scheme, which, in his opinion, is not sufficiently bountiful.
– The fact remains that if an extra £1,000,000 is available this year-
– Next year we may get £2,000,000 additional. Last year I suggested that the grant of £1,000,000 should be doubled, and we hope that next year we may receive £3,000,000. I commend the bill.
– The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) made one or two remarks with which I do not agree. For instance, he said that the amount allocated by the Government this year was greatly in excess of the allocation made by any previous government for a similar purpose. Of course, that is a ridiculous argument, and such irrelevant contentions always irritate me. A classic example of that kind of argument is the allegation that, because we spent far more during World War II. than we did during World War
I., that our war effort must have been so much greater. Of course, we expended more simply because the circumstances warranted the expenditure of more money. That has happened time and again in the discussions on these matters. I was disappointed that a Tasmanian should have made a statement of that kind and marred an argument that was otherwise quite acceptable to me. I warmly support the plea that was made by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) for greater assistance te the municipalities. As an argument in favour of the Government giving aid direct to the municipalities, I refer to a matter that was mentioned by the honorable member for Wilmot, that is, the present position in Tasmania. The honorable gentleman has said that he does not often criticize a State government. I very seldom criticize any body, governmental or otherwise, but on this occasion it appears that I am involved in a little contest with the Premier of Tasmania. It was announced in the press that the honorable member for Wilmot and I had waited upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) as a deputation, on behalf of the Municipal Association of Tasmania, at the specific request of that body. The Premier of Tasmania, having read that we had seen the Prime Minister to point out that, in our view, the allocation by the State Government of thamount provided was contrary to the best interests of the Tasmanian municipalities, and, therefore, of the users of outback roads, made the following statement in reply: -
As the £50,000 is to be used for the maintenance and improvement of country roads, there is no necessity for Federal members, who do not know the requirements of the State, to butt into the question.
I suggest that the Premier of Tasmania was guilty of a breach of good manners in suggesting that federal members have no knowledge of the needs of their constituents and that the honorable member for Wilmot and myself were, in acting on behalf of the Municipal Association of Tasmania, butting in on some one else’s business. It is very much the responsibility of federal members to see that the rights of the municipal bodies, as well as those cf other bodies and individuals, are protected. The honorable mem-
Dome Enid Lyons. ber for Corangamite told the House of the good work that the municipal council? have done, not only in their original spheres but also in the sphere of direct work for the Australian Government. That is an argument in favour of thi? Government ensuring that municipal councils get more benefit direct from the Commonwealth Treasury than they do ai present.
There is another point that I should like to stress. It refers to the disbursement of money for needs other than those of outback roads. When this bill wa> before the House previously, the question of assistance to municipalities which were endeavouring to build aerodromes or to improve boat harbours for the use of fishermen was raised. It was suggested by the Minister that the bill covered such needs.
– That is right. The 3d. a gallon from the petrol tax covers that.
– I get in touch immediately with a municipality in my electorate which is very interested in an aerodrome that was constructed by the efforts of private persons within the municipality. I suggested that it should apply immediately to the State Government for aid in the continuance of the development of the aerodrome. It did so, but the reply that was received from the State government was to the effect that there was no power under the act te grant such assistance. I am glad to have the Minister’s assurance on this point, and I shall once again raise the matter with the municipality in question, and, if need be, with the Premier of Tasmania himself.
In my view, we must look to local governing bodies more and more instead of less and less, as is the tendency to-day. The more we can distribute the power which is inherent in all governments of the Commonwealth the better, it seems to me, will this nation develop and our people be governed. I suggest that every step towards strengthening the hands of the municipalities and helping them to do the work that they were established to do is something of inestimable benefit. I commend the Government for having gone as far as it has gone in increasing the amount that is to be paid to the municipalities, but I agree with the honorable member for Corangamite that until the whole of the petrol tax is put back into the roads we cannot hope for that degree of development in country areas which alone will make for the real development of Australia in the future. J. urge the Government very strongly to continue and expand the work which is being done on behalf of the municipalities. I urge it to reconsider the question of paying direct to the municipalities any amount which it is intended shall be spent within the municipalities. I urge, finally, that all money that is raised by means of the petrol tax shall be put back into the roads, to be used for the benefit of the whole of our people.
.- From the stand-point of country development, this is the most important of the bills that the House has considered during the last few weeks. It is, therefore, unfortunate that it should be debated almost at midnight. It is pathetic that honorable members opposite seem to find it obligatory to congratulate the Government upon the miserable pittance that it proposes to give to the States.
– It is only £1,000,000!
– Compared with the total revenue from the petrol tax, it is a miserable pittance. No honorable member opposite offered to speak’ when the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) resumed her seat, so it is probable that they share my views on this subject. We should divorce from our minds any idea that the Government is acting generously or benevolently to the States by giving them this money, as was suggested by the Minister in his secondreading speech, when he said -
Construction and maintenance of roads in Australia is primarily the responsibility of State governments and local authorities, but the Commonwealth has long recognized the national importance of an adequate roads system from the stand-.point of both defence ;md development and, year by year, the amount of funds it has provided for roads purposes has steadily grown.
Who pays the petrol tax and who collects it? It is suggested that the Government is being benevolent and generous by giving the States some of the money, and I repeat that it is a miserably small proportion of the money, which it collects from the States in the form of a petrol tax. I believe that the allocation this year is the same as that which was made last year, with the exception that another £1,000,000 is to be provided for use in sparsely settled areas. The £1,000,000 will not help in the maintenance or construction of main or developmental roads. It is for use in sparsely populated areas. If, in the meantime, the main roads and the roads that have already been constructed are to deteriorate because of inadequate funds, this proposal will mean nothing at all, but it is the argument which the Government has used to justify its actions this year. Every municipality in Victoria, I believe, has written to the Minister protesting that its funds are completely inadequate. The municipalities are in the best position to gauge the adequacy of the funds that are allocated to them. According to the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) the petrol tax this year will yield approximately £17,000,000. Last year it yielded £15,750,000. Consider those figures. Out of £15,750,000, only approximately £6,000,000 was given to the States for road construction purposes ! Here again we find a broken promise. When the Minister was challenged on the matter last year, he said that the allocations for road construction would be progressively increased as the capacity of the States and of the municipalities to expend money increased. He said that not till after the war, during which all available machinery had been distributed throughout the Commonwealth for defence purposes, and in the absence of sufficient manpower, would it be possible to expend a great amount of money. He added that grants would be increased progressively.
In fact, the Minister actually promised that he would increase last year’s allocation if it were shown that it was not adequate. That promise was never fulfilled, and the total grant remained at approximately £6,000,000.
– He did increase it.
– Order ! The honorable member for Griffith must not interject.
Mr. Conelan The Minister did increase the grant. The honorable member for Gippsland is telling an untruth.
-r-The Minister did not increase the allocation by one penny.
– That is not true.
Mr- SPEAKER. - Order ! If the honorable member for Griffith does not cease interjecting he will find that something else is true’.
– What is that?
– I shall name the honorable member.
– I have stated that out of a total of ?15,750,000 collected last year, only ?6,000,000 was allocated to the States. Of that sum, ?4,500,000 was paid to the shires, ?1,000,000 was devoted to road maintenance in sparsely settled areas, and ?500,000 was for strategic roads. I remind the House that strategic roads are a Commonwealth concern and, I believe, should be financed out of defence expenditure.
– What did the Government of which the honorable member for Gippsland was a supporter allocate for road work out of petrol tax before the war?
– A previous speaker has pointed out that the allocation for road work before the war was the same as it is to-day, namely 3d. a gallon. I remind the Blouse, however, that more petrol is being used to-day, and that therefore the yield from the petrol tax is considerably higher. The Minister has endeavoured to dazzle -municipal authorities with a special grant of ?1,000,000. Incidentally, I give him credit for having given a .courteous reply to every letter sent to him by the municipal authorities.. For all practical purposes this ?i,0.0.0,000 will not mean a thing to the local governing authorities in view of the;r heavy road commitments. The Government is hoping that the municipal authorities will believe that they are getting something worthwhile, whereas the grant will be of no real value at all.
Originally, the petrol tax was 3d. a gallon, and all the proceeds were devoted to the construction and maintenance of roads. Then, in the depression period, an additional 4d. a gallon was imposed for revenue purposes. Nobody disputed the justice pf that imposition because it was. realized that a person who could drive a car and use petrol at that period could afford to contribute something towards the maintenance of others who were in rather desperate circumstances. But it is a long time since the depression ended. We are living in a boom period, and there is no justification for continuing to impose that levy of 4d. a gallon for revenue purposes. During the war, another 8?d. a gallon was added for war purposes. But the war ended three years ago, and there is to-day no justification for continuing the war-time surtax unless its proceeds are to be distributed to the municipalities and shires for road work. I have received considerable correspondence on this subject which I shall ‘not read at this stage*. Some of it is from municipal authorities and emphasizes the total inadequacy of the grant that is made to them. Some Labour members and Ministers apparently resent the fact that the municipalities should dare to write to them. They believe that local authorities should write to the State and that the States in turn should make representations to the Australian Government. There may be something in that contention, but apparently my correspondents, haying appealed unsuccessfully to the country roads boards of the various States for the money of which they are desperately in need, are now writing to headquarters where ?10,000,000 obtained from the petrol tax? is being paid into consolidated revenue. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said recently that it was a mistake to believe that all pf the proceeds of the petrol tax should be expended on roads. He said that many people including large numbers of city dwellers paid the petrol tax. That was included in costs, and was passed on to the general public, therefore, ,the .general public was entitled to so much from consolidated revenue. I emphasize, however, that although approximately ?10,000,000 was paid into consolidated revenue last year, only ?7,300,000 was allocated for road work in all States of the Commonwealth. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) might be interested to know that vehicles of the Department that he administers, and of its subsidiaries, including various roads boards, are smashing roads to pieces by hauling heavy loads of timber over them. One letter I have received states that between 150 and 200 trucks pass over a stretch of 18 miles of bitumen every day, hauling loads of up to 15 tons. No road could possibly stand up to that treatment, and the stretch referred to is going to pieces because money cannot be obtained to carry out adequate repairs. On the funds available, it is possible only to make a patchwork job. Therefore, although the Commonwealth itself is responsible for much of the heavy traffic on the roads to-day it is making a miserable handout of £7,300,000 for road work throughout the continent and is pocketing £10,000,000 contributed through the petrol tax.Irepeat thatthe extra grant of £1,000,000 spread over the whole of Australia will be insignificant. It will be sufficient to provide only one load of gravel for every square mile of Commonwealth.
– That is a very poor argument.
– At least it is an argument, and a much sounder one than that advanced by the Prime Ministerthat 3,000,000 square miles of territory should have only £7,300,000 for road work, while £10,000,000 goes into”kitty”. That is avery poor argument in itself and cannot possibly bejustified. Every municipality and shire throughout Australiais screaming for funds to maintain theroadswhich it has already constructed.
Wednesday, 8December 1948.
– This is the first government that has ever done anything for municipalities and shires.
– So far as my memorygoes, several governments in ‘the past allocated the whole of the receipts from the petrol tax for expenditure on roads. Some honorablemembers opposite have commentedon that fact.
– Previous governments made the money available to the States, butmanyshiresdid not receive a share.
-Theyreceived the entire allocation of 3d.agallon.
– In 1938-39 the allocation amounted to £3,800,000. During this financial year the Government is making available an amount equivalent to the 3d. a gallon provided by the Menzies Government in 1938.
– The honorable member does not knowhis subject.
– He is using a silly argument.
– IfI am as silly as is thehonorable member for Griffith(Mr. Conelan) I should walk out of the chamber. He reminds me of a tin can. The less there is in it, the more noise it makes. Thehonorable member is a perfect example of the truth of the adage that an empty vessel makes the most sound. I shouldlike to hear honorable members opposite attempt to justify this bill.
– I shall read the original act.
-The honorable member may do so if he chooses. I desire to referto the grant of £500,000 for strategic roads. They are a defence requirement.
Mr.Lemmon. - The honorable member should also refer to roads approaching Commonwealth properties.
– I have in mind strategic roads. Such roads should be maintained out ofthe defence vote and not from the proceeds of the petrol tax. I do not knowwhether the allocation of £500,000was expended last year. I have frequently made requests for the extension of an important Commonwealth road in my own electorate. In referring to that matterI do not desire to work the parish pump but I regret that my representations have not been successful.Considerable hardship is inflicted on peoplewho reside on “Wilson’s Promontory and are employed in thelighthouse in that district. When one of the inhabitants is taken ill difficulty isexperienced in transferring him to hospital. A tragedy nearly occurred there afew weeks ago because of the absence of reasonable roads of access. I emphasize the necessity for extending the Commonwealth road leading to the lighthouse. I do not desire to make a specificreference to the road that I have in mind because it was a secret road during the war and its existence may still be a defence secret. I urge the Minister to note the fact and. to make provision from the new allocation for the extension of that strategic road. In reply to my frequent representations about this matter, he has invariably given courteous answers. He informed me that the work could not be undertaken last year, but I am hopeful that it will be carried out this year. The amount which has been allocated for expenditure on roads is not a credit to the Government although it has received congratulations on all sides for its generosity.
– Honorable members on this side of the House have not congratulated the Government on its allocation for expenditure on roads.
– The fact that the allocation is not greater represents a breach of faith on the part of the Minister, because he has definitely promised the municipalities and shires that, as their capacity for expending money on roads increases, he will increase their grants. This year, he has not provided any additional money for the general maintenance and construction of roads but he has granted an additional £1,000,000 for expenditure on roads in sparsely settled areas. Whilst we are grateful for that consideration, the amount is, in the final analysis, small. The Government should heed the requests of all municipalities throughout Australia, and provide them with the financial assistance that they require for safeguarding their investments in roads, and for restoring the condition of roads within their boundaries. I am not commending the Government upon the allocation that it proposes, because I do not consider that it has done half enough for the local governing bodies.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ryan) adjourned
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Wool Board - Twelfth Annual Report, for year 1947-48.
Broadcasting - Composite Profit and Loss Account of the National Broadcasting Service for year 1946-47.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Interior- J. W. Connolly.
Postmaster-General - W. P. Ham, R.
Langevad, D. B. Molloy.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - Orders -
Control of new commercial motor vehicles.
Control of new motor cars.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes -
Ascot Vale, Victoria.
Kapunda, South Australia.
Murrami, New South Wales.
House adjourned at 12.5 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information: -
n asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he furnish a complete list of the items on which the Commonwealth Government has eliminated price stabilization subsidies since the taking of the referendum on the question of rents and prices (including charges) ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Since the holding of the referendum on prices, subsidy on the following items has been discontinued: - Raw wool, raw cotton, whole milk, yarns and textiles, household drapery and linen, potatoes, coal, crockery, vegetable fibres (for the manufacture of brooms and brushes), goatskins and pickled pelts, sulphate of potash, interstate shipping freights. In addition, subsidy was discontinued on certain items of a minor nature, payments in respect of which have been small in value and have nol been recorded separately.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as it is collated.
y. - On the 21st October the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) asked questions concerning an advertisement in the Straits Times, of Singapore, . inviting tenders for supplies of bauxite. I now advise the honorable member as follows : -
The position regarding bauxite supplies to the 30th June,1948, is fully covered in the third annual report of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, which was recently tabled in the House of Representatives and which has no doubt been perused by the honorable member. Since that report was prepared the commission’s geologist has visited Malaya and it was found that the areas which the commission had in view were not as promising as had been expected. As a result, applications have been made to secure prospecting rights over other areas in that country and, in addition, advertisements have been inserted in Malayan newspapers inviting tenders for the supply of bauxite. Further action will depend upon the replies received to these advertisements.
Deceased Australian Prisoners of War: Overpayments to Relatives.
y. - On the 10th November, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked a question regarding the recovery of overpayments to dependants of deceased prisoners of war. I now advise the honorable member as follows : -
Overpayments and subsequent recovery action referred to occurred in cases where members of the forces died while prisoners of war but death was not established until some time afterwards.
While a member was posted as a prisoner of war his allotments were continued, but as. he was in fact dead, as was later established, the amount paid between the date one month after death and the date of actual notification of the death constituted an overpayment except where the allotment was payable to or for the benefit of a dependant, i.e., a person in respect of whom dependants’ allowance was payable. In these latter cases the amount of allotment paid up to the date of notification of the death to the Repatriation Commission was chargeable to Public Funds and no claim was raised against either the member’s military estate or the dependent allottee.
Overpayments in other cases were dealt with as follows: -
If the person to whom or for whose benefit the allotment was made was eitherwholly or partly dependent on the member or if hardship would be caused by recovery of the overpayment,, recovery was not made either from the member’s military estate or from the allottee:
If the person to whom or for whose benefit the allotment was made was not in any degree dependent on the member and the proscribed authority was satisfied that hardship would not be caused by recovery of the overpayment, recovery was made - (i) in the first instance from moneys due to the member at the date of death, e.g., pay and deferred pay; (ii) if these moneys were not sufficient, the balance from the allottee.
Allottees from whom recovery was sought excluded hardship cases, but included (in addition to agents, friends, &c, of the member) parents, brothers, sisters or other relatives in respect of whom no dependant’s allowance was payable during the member’s service and who were not in any degree dependent on the member.
Some eighteen months ago, following representations from the Minister for the Army, a directive was issued to all three services that the relatives of deceased members were not tobe called upon to repay any amount received as allotment moneys in excess of that covered by the member’s military estate.
It is considered that these provisions leave no room for complaints of unreasonable or harsh treatment.
These rules were developed over a period and in the light of experience of cases as they arose and it is possible that of the large numbers affected, some few cases may not have been granted the benefit of tie above provisions.
If details of any such cases are supplied they will be fully investigated with a view to affording the benefits laid down.
Western Germany : Trade With Australia.
y. - On the 5 th November, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) asked a question on trade with western Germany. I promised to have the matter examined and provide a further statement on the position, and I now advise the honorable member as follows : -
On present policy, import licences are being issued for the importation of essential good’s from western Germany which are not available in adequate quantities from local, sterling or easy currency sources of supply. Licences are refused only when the goods do not satisfy these requirements. This policy applies to good’s originating in the Anglo-American zone of Germany or the French zone, the Foreign Trade Organization of which was recently merged with the Joint Export-Import Agency in the Anglo-American zone. It is not applicable to the Saar, which is administered as- an integral part of the French franc area. It has been necessary to treat western. Germany as a hard currency area because of the- terms of the Anglo-American Agreement which governs the payments arrangements between western Germany and the sterling area. The agreement provides that all commercial transactions between the sterling area and western Germany must pass through a special account in the name of the Joint Foreign Exchange Agency at the Bank of England. The account ie balanced quarterly and, if the Joint Foreign Exchange Agency’s account shows a credit balance in excess of £1,500,000 sterling, the United Kingdom is required to convert the excess into dollars. Similarly, if there is a debit balance in the account in excess of £1,500,000 sterling, the Joint Foreign Exchange Agency is required to sell dollars equivalent to the excess to the United Kingdom. Owing to recent movements in the balance of payments between the sterling area and western Germany, the sterling area has been obliged, in accordance with the convertibility provisions of the agreement, to make substantial dollar payments to western Germany. Any change in existing policy on the issue of import licences for goods originating in western Germany will depend upon the future trend of the balance of payments between western Germany and the sterling aTea and on any modifications that may be made in the AngloAmerican Agreement covering payments arrangements. The honorable member has since written to me raising a particular case in which difficulty is being experienced. I am having, this matter examined and will reply to him by letter in due course.
y. - On the 16th November, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked questions concerning the shortage of supplies of insulin. Further to my reply to the honorable member the Minister for Health has informed me as follows: -
Ordinary insulin is made at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories from the pancreas glands of cattle and pigs, sent by refrigerated transport from meatworks in Australia and New Zealand. A special type of insulin, namely protamine zinc insulin, which is more lasting in its effects after injection, is also made at the laboratories. There was an acute shortage of pancreas glands last year owing to the Queensland meat strike and the shortage of refrigerated transport which prevented delivery of glands from the various States to the Commonwealth Serum laboratories. This shortage of raw material resulted in the normal reserves becoming exhausted and rationing; had to be implemented. The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories imported large quantities of insulin from England and distributed it to meet requirements. During the last six months, reserves of pancreas glands have been built up and larger supplies of ordinary insulin released. Protamine zinc insulin has been in short supply for the reason that it was necessary to produce supplies of ordinary insulin at the highest level upon the assumption that protamine zinc insulin preparation is not considered to be so essential as ordinary insulin. In spite of shortage of man-power, the present position is that the production of insulin has materially increased over the last few months due to the installation of additional plant and ample supplies of raw material. I am informed that under normal conditions, there will be sufficient production to meet Australia’s needs.
y. - I refer to the question which the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) addressed to me on the 17th November concerning the maximum allowance of £100 .provided for taxation purposes in respect of contributions to superannuation funds. I now advise the honorable member as follows : -
As I intimated to the honorable member in the House, representations for an increase in the existing allowance in this respect have been made to me from a number of quarters. These representations were given careful consideration during the recent comprehensive review of the taxation provisions, but it was found to be impracticable to grant any extension of the concession at present. However, the honorable member’s views in the matter have been noted and will be kept in mind when the taxation concessions are again reviewed by the Government. Meanwhile, I would invite his attention to the provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act under which superannuation contributors whose contributions exceed £100 per annum will gain a taxation benefit when they retire and their pensions become payable. In this regard, the act provides that there shall be excluded from a pensioner’s assessable income so much of his pension as represents contributions in respect of which a deduction or rebate was not allowed or allowable in the years in which the contributions were made. The practical application of this provision may be illustrated by the example of a contributor whose total contributions over the period of his employment exceed the maximum amounts allowable in each year by an aggregate amount of, say, £900. Upon the contributor’s retirement at the age of (55, the amount of £900 would be divided by the number of years in his expectation of life (approximately twelve years), and the quotient of £75 deducted from the amount of his pension, for taxation purposes, in each of the twelve years. Thus, if the pension in this case were £600 per annum, the proportion which would be subject to tax would be £525 only. Whilst it is impracticable, at this juncture, to grant any increase in the present allowance in respect of superannuation contributions as they are made, it will be appreciated, I feel sure, that any disadvantage which is suffered by contributors in this regard is offset upon retirement by the provision which I have mentioned, and I trust that this will afford some measure of relief in the cases concerned.
Brisbane General Post Office.
y. - On the 19th November, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) asked questions among which he implied that there might be some delay before the construction of the Brisbane Post Office is commenced. I now advise the honorable member as follows : -
The question of rebuilding the Brisbane General Post Office has been under consideration for some years. The honorable member may be aware, that prior to the war, a certain amount of money was placed on the estimates for the commencement of a new building. Unfortunately, the war intervened and the money previously allocated had to be diverted to war purposes. Because of the extraordinary expansion in post office services and new developments which have taken place in recent years, new plans have had to be prepared. Considerable research has been necessary and the present tentative plans envisage the rebuilding being undertaken in three stages, the first being on the site now occupied by the parcel post activities. It is intended as soonas practicable to remove these activities to another building which is being purchased for the purpose, and it is hoped as soon as the transfer has been made to proceed with the demolition of the present very inadequate structure to prepare the site for the first stage of the new building. The Post Office has a huge programme of works on its rehabilitation programme, the most pressing being associated with telephone exchanges, but, because of shortages of both labour and building material, difficulty is being experienced in providing these buildings as quickly as desired. The Department of Works and Housing, which designs and supervises the erection of all government buildings is experiencing the greatest difficulty in providing for government needs generally and the Postmaster-General’s Department is one of many which are urgently pressing for new buildings. Despite the urgent need for buildings for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, there is a limit to which the Department of Works and Housing can so in satisfying this need, as the whole question is governed by material supplies, labour and the shortage of homes. It is not anticipated that these difficulties will be overcome for some years, but notwithstanding this, it is expected a commencement will be possible on the first section of the Brisbane General Post Office in the near future.
y. - On the 26th November, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) asked questions concerning Australia’s attitude in the United Nations over the Greek question. I now inform the honorable member as follows: -
In reply to the first part of the question, the Australian representative endorsed the four factual conclusions of the supplementary report of the United Nations Special Committee on the Balkans and abstained from political conclusions on the ground that judgments of this nature were the function of the General Assembly of the United Nations and not of its subsidiary organs.
In reply to the second part of the question, Mr. Terence Glasheen was a New South Wales Rhodes scholar, and, after a brilliant academic career, took his arts degree in jurisprudence at Oxford, and later obtained his Oxford Master of Arts in jurisprudence in 1945. Mr. Glasheen served for a time with a legal firm and was later attached to the Australian Government Trade Commissioner’s Office in New York. The Public Service Board approved his temporary employment as a third secretary in the Department of External Affairs in July, 1941. In October of that year he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force, attaining the rank of flight lieutenant. He was discharged in 1945 and resumed duty with the Department of External Affairs in London. The Public Service Board approved his permanent appointment as third secretary in May. 1946.
Mr. Glasheen acted as second secretary in the Australian External Affairs Office, London, from the 13th August, 1946, until his departure for Australia on the 6th October, 1947, and his promotion as second secretary was confirmed in September, 1947. In January this year he was appointed to the Australian delegation to the United Nations Special Commission on the Balkans and took up duty at Salonika, Greece, on the 27th January with the acting rank of first secretary, and local rank of counsellor.
With regard to the third part of the question, Colonel Hodgson on the 30th October, speaking on the joint four-power resolution on Greece, stated : “ The final factual conclusions, unanimously approved, accurately reflect, we feel, the conditions along the northern frontier of Greece and cannot be challenged”. Australia did not oppose the resolution submitted by the United Kingdom, the United States. France and China. However, a supplementary Australian resolution calling for immediate discussions between the representatives of Albania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Greece was submitted to the Political Committee of the General Assembly and on the 12th November was unanimously adopted by that committee.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the Honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The total number of officers involved is 7,027. 3. It is hoped that the transfer will commence in three years’ time.
y. - On the 24th November the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs.
Blackburn) asked a question concerning furlough in the Commonwealth Public Service. I have consulted the Chairman of the Public Service Board and desire to inform the honorable member that as a rule there is no delay in the granting of furlough. The release of an officer requires some arrangement for his relief but this would be expedited by departments in urgent cases such as domestic emergency or illness. Under the Public Service. Act, furlough is granted by the Public Service Board, but to obviate delay the board has delegated to the Commonwealth Public Service Inspector in each State the power to deal with applications in his area, on receipt of recommendation from the department concerned. The authority for departments to make payment for furlough, whether fortnightly, by lump sum payment in advance, or by payment in lieu on retirement, is included in the board’s certificate granting furlough. In urgent cases there would be no unnecessary delay at any stage.
Customs Seizure of Luggage.
d. - On the 26th November the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked the following question: -
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs ascertain from him -
the name and address of the purchaser of lot 955 at a customs auctionsale in Sydney yesterday;
the list of articles comprising lot 055 including a full description of the type of metal of which each article in the lot was composed;
whether there was any breach of banking regulations if such articles, or any of them, were made of gold or had a predominant gold content ;
whether the seventeen metal key chains listed were of gold and whether the links of each were in the form of letters comprising the following names : - W. Urquart, E. J. Ward, Ossie Porter, Pat King, Virgilo Frittolis, Stan Hunt, Edward McMahon, Len Currey, Harry Goodman, Jo Goldstein, Frank Carberry, Percy Page, Andy Buck, Robert Mitchell, Ken Horman, Stan Neilson and John Heighway?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
The records of the auctioneer show that lot 955 was purchased by International Merchandising (Aust.) Proprietary Limited, of 3 Springstreet, Sydney.
No. (<i) The 17 key chains were made from base metal and the links were in the form of letters which formed the following names: - W. Urquart, E. J. Ward, Ossie Porter, P. M. King, Virgile Frittolis, Stan Hunt, Edward McMahon, Len Conrey, Harry Goodman, Joe Goldstein, Frank Carberry, Percy Page, Andy Buck, Robert Mitchell, Ken Holman, Stan Neilson and John Heighway.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 December 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19481207_reps_18_200/>.