18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers,
Mr. HAYLEN. - I have frequently asked the Minister for Repatriation as has also the honorable member for Balaclava whether anything could be done to establish liaison between the British Ministry of
Pensions and :the Australian Repatriation Department with a view to correcting anomalies and facilitating the payment of pensions to Imperial :ex-servicemen who are resident in Australia. On the last occasion on which the matter was mentioned the Minister stated that consideration would be given to the suggestion. Since then Mr. Blenkinsop, of the British Ministry of Pensions, has visited this country. I now ask the Minister whether, following the visit of that official, any liaison has been established.
Mr. BARNARD. - I have received -a communication from the Right Honorable H. A. Marquand, M.P., Minister of Pensions in His Majesty’s -Government, to the effect that Mr. F. H. Calder, M.O., has been appointed liaison officer between the British Ministry of Pensions, on the one hand, and the Australian Repatriation Department and the New Zealand Pensions Department, on the other. Mr. Calder, who served in World War I. and was twice wounded, was awarded the Military Cross and the Belgian Croix de Guerre. He will commence duty in his new post about the end of July next, and will be stationed at the head-quarters of the Repatriation Department in Melbourne. Mr. Calder will also visit’ the State capitals of Australia and the principal cities of New Zealand from time to time. The appointment is the outcome of the recent visit to Australia of Mr. Blenkinsop, mentioned by the honorable member, who was then Parliamentary Secretary to the British Ministry of Pensions. I believe that the appointment of an officer to act in a permanent liaison capacity between the pensions authorities in our respective countries should greatly benefit the British war pensioners residing in Australia who are estimated to number from 4,000 to 5,000.
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction make a statement concerning the International Trade Organization ? Is that body now functioning; if so, when will its next meeting be held? When is it expected that the
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade will begin to operate? Will the Minister say whether the function of that body has been affected or retarded in any way by the implementation of the Marshall aid programme in Europe?
– I shall make inquiries to ascertain whether there is any useful information that I can give the honorable member.. The International Trade Organization does not yet exist because the charter constituting that body has yet to be ratified by several governments that were represented at Havana. As the honorable member for Fawkner is doubtless aware, the Australian Parliament has ratified the agreement subject to it also being ratified by the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Neither of those governments has yet ratified it, but information that I have received from the United States of America indicates that a proposal for ratification will shortly be placed before the United States Congress. Until the agreement is ratified by the United Kingdom and the United States of America, I am afraid that there is not any useful information that I can. give the honorable member.
– “Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether a quantity of frozen crayfish tails, which had been processed at Geraldton, “Western Australia, was condemned by the Commonwealth health inspector, Mr. Dow? “Were the condemned crayfish subsequently despatched to the United States of America, on the advice of the fisheries inspector in Perth, on Pioneer Glen, which recently unloaded its cargo in New York? If the answers to those questions, are in the affirmative, will the Minister explain why the export permit was issued? Is it a fact that a shipper subsequently sent overseas a quantity of frozen crayfish tails that had not been inspected by the Department of Health ?
– In order to reply adequately to the questions that have been asked by the honorable gentleman, it is necessary for me to explain that in regard to some commodities, particularly meat intended for export, the Australian Government maintains its own expert inspectorial staff. In regard to other commodities, in order to minimize expense, use is made of the inspectorial services that are maintained by State governments. That practice has been followed in “Western Australia in connexion with the inspection of crayfish tails. The Government of “Western Australia has made available to the Commownealth for inspection purposes State health officers and fisheries officers. “With regard to the incidents to which the honorable gentleman has referred, Inspector Dow is, a State government officer in the sense that he is employed by the. State Government, but he has been seconded to the Commonwealth for inspectional duties. He condemned a consignment of crayfish that was destined for the United States of America. The owner of the crayfish appealed to Inspector Dow’s senior officer, an officer of the “Western Australia Fisheries Department. That officer, also acting on behalf of the Commonwealth, allowed the appeal and permitted the crayfish tails to be exported. The export of crayfish tails to the United States of America is a valuable source of dollar earnings. The Australian Government is, therefore, anxious that the tails should arrive in the United States of America in first-class condition. For some time we have been conscious of the fact that there is no public servant in Australia who is really well versed in this kind of inspectional work. The Government is now arranging for inspections to be undertaken under the supervision of the Commonwealth Chief Veterinary Officer and his staff, assisted by personnel who are experienced in the freezing and conditioning of products of this type. The necessary regulations are now in draft form. It is hoped that by adopting this procedure complaints of the kind that have been made by the honorable member for “Wannon will be eliminated. The majority of the complaints that have been received regarding these inspectional services are concerned with the severity and not the laxity of the inspections. The Government considers it desirable that only the best tails should go to the United Sta/ es of America.
– My question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, concerns the consistent claims that have been made for compensation to be paid to Australian ex-prisoners of war. On the 22nd September, 1948, the Prime Minister, in answer to a question that I had addressed to him, said -
None of the other countries with which we were allied have considered that such payment was warranted. Because of that fact, the Government cannot entertain the claim and its previous decision still stands.
Has the right honorable gentleman received letters from the Ex-Prisoners of War and Relatives Association in Melbourne and the Australian Legion of ex-Servicemen and Women in Sydney containing definite evidence that on the 3rd July, 1948, the Congress of the United States of America approved a bill-
– Order I The honorable gentleman is not entitled to convey information in a question. I must ask him to state his question.
– That bill was approved-
– Order 1 The honorable gentleman must not give information in a question. Having asked his question he must leave it at that.
– I must tell the Minister that the bill authorized the payment of compensation to American soldiers who were prisoners of war in enemy hands at the rate of one dollar a day for every day of their imprisonment.
– Order ! The honorable member is giving information, and he knows that that is not permissible in asking a question. I ask the honorable member to frame his question in a proper form.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that provision was made by the American nation for compensation to be paid at the rate of a dollar a day to former American prisoners of war? In the light of that fact, is the Prime Minister prepared to reopen the question of the payment of a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day to former Australian prisoners of war?
– The Government has already considered that matter. Very full representations have been made by a number of bodies including those- indicated by the honorable member. The Government has no intention of reopening consideration of the subject.
British Commonwealth RECIPROCITY - Residential Qualification fob Pensions.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services by saying that I understand that, some time ago, the Australian Government began discussions with the New Zealand Government and the governments of other dominions with a view to reaching an agreement whereby citizens of any British dominion, who changed their residence from one dominion to another would not suffer any loss of the social service benefits to which they were entitled in their own country. Has any finality been reached yet in this excellent plan ?
– Finality has been reached as far as our sister dominion of New Zealand is concerned. Negotiations for a reciprocal arrangement with New Zealand began in 1943. At that time we made a reciprocal agreement on age and invalid pensions. We desired a more complete scheme, and last April the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand signed an agreement covering such items as child endowment, widows’ pensions, age pensions, invalid pensions, unemployment benefits and sickness benefits. Complete agreement has therefore been reached in this matter between Australia and New Zealand. The Australian Government tried to go further than that, and sent a delegation to take part in an inter-dominion conference in London in 1947. Discussions took place between all the dominions whose nationals are entitled to social service benefits in their own countries, but whilst they were all in agreement that it would be beneficial to have some reciprocal arrangement in force they have not yet been able to overcome all the difficulties. Owing to the number of immigrants coming to Australia from Great Britain, it is now more than ever necessary to have some reciprocity in those conditions so that people who leave their own country will not lose their entitlement to benefits.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services relates to the longestablished twenty years residential qualification for the age pension. Will the Minister state whether any consideration has been given, especially in relation to migrants in this country, to the reduction of the residential qualification of twenty years before a person becomes eligible for the age pension so that males over 45 years of age shall be entitled to the pension when they reach the present age limit of 65 years, and females over the age of 40 years shall qualify when they reach the present age limit of 60 years ?
– Hear, hear! We have asked for that for years.
– In reply to the question asked by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and ignoring the interjection of the honorable member for Balaclava, this subject was covered by the negotiations for the reciprocal arrangement to which I referred in answer to the question asked by the honorable member for Wilmot. No finality has yet been reached. The implementation of such an arrangement would, of course, be a matter of Government policy. Negotiations are still proceeding between the United Kingdom and Australian Governments in connexion with the matter.
– My question relates to the provisions of the Social Services Consolidation Act whereby the payment of pensions to women requires them to have attained the age of 60 years or to be not less than S5 per cent, incapacitated. Those who have married may be eligible for other pension payments, but those who have not married are not so quite well provided for. As as result of many requests for help from elderly unmarried women, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services whether the age at which an unmarried woman may claim a pension can be reduced from 60 to 55 years ? Will the Minister give some consideration to an amendment of the Social Services Consolidation Act along those lines?
– Women who are 85 per cent, incapacitated for work are entitled to draw the invalid pension regardless of their age. Widows do not have to wait until they are 60 years of age to draw the widows’ pension. Probably the honorable member refers to the age pension. Reduction of the age at which women may qualify for the age pension from 60 to 55 years is a matter of government policy. I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Social Services in order that he may bear her suggestion in mind.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development inform me whether the Government still exercises control over the allocation of iron and steel products to the States. I refer particularly to wire, wire netting, galvanized iron and piping, and nails. If such control exists, what form does it take and on what principles is it based ?
– The Commonwealth exercises some control over the allocation of steel products generally, although certain specified steel products are not subject to control. The method of control was evolved as far back as 1045. At that time, it was believed that the Commonwealth’s defence power no longer sufficed to enable it to exercise control over the distribution of steel products in the States, and the States were therefore asked to accept responsibility for distribution within their own borders. The State Governments agreed to this in general terms in so far as it applied to construction materials, but .proposed that the Commonwealth should continue to allocate to the States such materials as galvanized iron, which are manufactured in one State only, and that the distribution within State boundaries should be a matter for the State Governments. That proposal was adopted. Now it has become apparent that the Commonwealth can no longer use the defence powers to compel manufacturers to distribute materials in accordance with any plan put forward by the Commonwealth. Therefore, the Commonwealth has been allocating materials to the States, not in accordance with any arrangement imposed on the manufacturers under the defence power, but by way of representation to the manufacturers. The quotas to the various States were fixed according to the quantities used during a base year before the war. It was not considered that a distribution on a population basis would be the correct method because a State like New South Wales, in which there are many large pastoral properties to be fenced, needs more wire netting than is needed in a more closely settled State like Victoria. I think I have answered the honorable member’s question fully, but if he wants any further information I shall try to supply it.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government recently issued a licence to the Government of New South Wales to import railway steel from Japan ? If so, is the right honorable gentleman aware that the United Kingdom is experiencing great difficulty in balancing its budget and is seeking all the export trade that it can procure? Is he not aware that the steel industry in Great Britain is now producing at its peak ?
– Order ! There are too many “ awares “ in the honorable member’s question which should be put in a different form.
– Well, the” Prime Minister seems to have forgotten these things.
-Order! The honorable member must conform to the Standing Orders when asking a question.
– As Australia has been bound since 1928 to extend trade preference to Great Britain, why did the Prime Minister approve of the importation of steel from Japan, because Australian production is insufficient to meet our own requirements, instead of seeing that the Government of New South Wales, like that of Victoria, purchased its steel requirements from Great Britain?
– I can assure the honorable member that there is no aspect of the importation of steel or the possibilities of obtaining it on which I am not fully informed. With the Minister for Trade and Customs, who issues import licences, I, personally, approved the importation of steel rods from Japan for the purpose of making dog spikes for the New South Wales railways. Supplier of steel that can be made available b, Great Britain at present have been surveyed item by item. When I was recently “in the United Kingdom I arranged for an officer of my department to confer with representatives of the British Board of Trade in order to ascertain the maximum quantity of steel of all kinds being produced in that country that could be made available to Australia. I think that the maximum quantity that could be made available to us last year was, approximately, 3,000 tons. The British Board of Trade was exporting steel to Scandinavian and other countries under trade agreements which enabled Great Britain to obtain essential supplies of other materials. After a detailed survey of the kind I have indicated had been made by the British Board of Trade in conjunction with British steel manufacturers, we were informed that an increased quantity would be made available to us this year. We can take all the steel that the United Kingdom can supply to us, but on the figures submitted to us recently Great Britain can supply only 5,000 tons in addition to the 3,000 tons which we received from that country last year. The British authorities hope that they may be able to increase the supply still further, but they cannot give any guarantee that the increase will exceed 5,000 tons. I also arranged for a survey to be made of the availability of structural steel and steel rails in France. Indeed, a complete survey of the steel position has been made in all western European countries with the exception of Belgium. Belgium was omitted from the survey solely because it is a hard currency country, for the products of which payments have to be made in gold. Because there is a shortage of hard currency, it is not possible to obtain from Belgium what we would like to get from that country. We have a very favorable trade balance with Belgium, but. unfortunately, the United Kingdom is not in that position. The honorable member may rest assured that all the steel products that can be supplied by Britain will be obtained by us.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the report made by Mr. J. Edgar Hoover, of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, to the Congressional Appropriations Committee, disclosing that 8,881 employees had been dismissed from the United States civil service as a result of investigations into subversive activities, and that in the State Department alone the list covered 21 persons suspected of Soviet espionage, and 45 members of the Communist party ? Has his attention also been directed to the recent arrest by the Canadian Royal Mounted Police of a lieutennt of the Soviet Army’s Intelligence Department who had arrived in that country as a displaced person? How many Communists have been traced in the Commonwealth Public Service? Have any been dismissed ? If not, has any other action been taken?
– I read a short report in the form of a cable message about a statement by Mr. Hoover to Congress dealing with subversive activities of Communists in the United States of America. I have also received some information about what has been done in Canada. I do not know that anything of value is to be gained by reading extensive reports on the subject. I understand that it is claimed that there are 1,000,000 Communists in the United States of America engaged in various activities. It is not, of course, suggested that they are all engaged in political activities. I have said before that the Public Service Board screens all applicants for appointments with respect to their character.
– What about those already in the Public Service?
– Where evidence is available that any person in the Public Service is suspected of engaging in subversive activities, the necessary action will be taken to deal with them.
– What is the action that -is taken ?
– I do not propose to deal in detail with the operation of the security organization. That organization has now been placed under the direction of Mr. Justice Reed, of South Australia, who is a reputable and highly qualified gentleman. It is not the practice in this, or any other country, to discuss in the Parliament the methods employed by an organization of that kind. Therefore, I do not propose to deal with such details here. The work of the security organization is entrusted to highly qualified men who can be considered to be completely impartial. Should any matter arise which I believe should be reported to the Parliament, I shall take that course.
– On Wednesday of last week I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture what the position was with regard to the issue of licences for the importation of .22 calibre rifle ammunition for the destruction of rabbits and other pests, and whether an allocation of dollars was being made available for that purpose. Is the Minister yet in a position to reply to my question?
– I shall ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to expedite a reply to the honorable member’s question and to furnish it to him as soon as possible.
– I address a question to the Minister for Defence relating to the £33,000,000, which I understand ia to be expended over five years on scientific research, and is part of the £250,000,000 defence program.me. Is the Commonwealth satisfied with the numbers of trained scientific workers offering themselves for this work? If not, are steps being taken to increase the numbers of persons in training after the Commonwealth reconstruction traing scheme stops ? Is there any intention to give increased assistance to the universities, over and above the present £104,000 for research grants, to enable them to train more people in scientific technique?
– The Australian Government is not satisfied that there are sufficient trained staffs in the Commonwealth to undertake all the defence and general scientific research work that is required. The Government has granted considerable assistance to the Australian universities in the past to enable them to undertake certain research projects, and to train research workers. The matter is being further investigated, and the honorable member may rest assured that the Government is doing everything possible to ensure that its grants to universities are used for work related to Commonwealth requirements. The Government is doing its best to enable more research workers to be trained. The Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme, of course, is continuing. In fact, it will be some years before all the science trainees have finished their university courses. When, the scheme ends, consideration will be given to whether some other plan can be implemented for the training of research workers at the universities. I remind the honorable member that the Commonwealth is also helping civilian students. Under that scheme, large numbers of students are at present receiving living allowances and other assistance from the Australian Government. The scheme was inaugurated during the war under the defence powers of the Commonwealth and I understand that it will conclude about the end of 1051. The Commonwealth is examining the possibility of substituting for that plan another scheme under which scholarships would be awarded on a generous scale. However, it is still too early to discuss the details of that proposal.
– Last week, I asked the Minister for Works and Housing whether he could supply the House with some information about the backlag of housing applications. Can the honorable gentleman indicate the number of war service homes that have been applied for but have not been constructed? Also, what is the average waiting period for war service homes in New South Wales ?
– I shall supply the honorable member with detailed answers in writing to his questions on war service homes. The number of people, other than ex-servicemen, who are waiting to build homes will be difficult to ascertain, because Western Australia is now the only State in which the permit system still operates. In Queensland, New
South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia, people are able to erect homes of 12^ squares, and in Victoria, 14^ squares, without a permit. The waiting period for applicants for war service homes who have had the necessary finance made available to them, depends upon individual cases. The war service homes authorities provide the finance, but, in many instances, the ex-serviceman himself engages an architect, and usually, he finds his own contractor. The completion of the dwelling then becomes a matter between the ex-serviceman and the contractor. That obligation has always been placed upon ex-servicemen under the act. In addition, the war service homes authorities, themselves, build groups of homes for which applications have not been made. This group construction is being carried out in all States. Some groups are completed more rapidly than others. Upon completion, the homes are allocated to ex-servicemen on the basis that I outlined to honor able members last week.
Alleged BLACK List.
– My question arises out of the fact that a pharmaceutical chemist in my electorate recently had an urgent request from a medical practitioner for serum for diphtheria. When he telephoned the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories for supplies, he was told that he could not be supplied unless he paid cash, as his name appeared on theblacklist of the Department of Health. He informed the . office? to whom he spoke that he had always been supplied previously and had always paid his bills promptly and that he knew no reason why he should have been black-listed. He was then told that the reason for his having been blacklisted could be obtained only from the Director-General of Health at Canberra. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether the Department of Health keeps, a black-list of customer? to whom credit is not to be given? If so, why are persons put on the black-list and why are they refused urgently needed drugs? If there is a black-list, has it any relation to pharmaceutical chemists who may have expressed opposition to the Government’s pharmaceutical benefits plan?
– That is an extraordinary question. It is evidently the result of some detective work. I cannot conceive that any black-list exists.
– I hope the Minister is right.
– Medical practitioners generally - and there is no difference between men in private practice and men in the Public Service - have to care for the health of the people and provide the d rugs when necessary, whether they are paid for or not.
– I referred to chemists.
– I know that; but chemists do not administer serum. They merely dispense doctors’ prescriptions.
– Is the Minister guessing or does he know anything about it?
– I am guessing, in this instance, and so would the honorable member be.
– My constituent is not guessing !
– Order ! Unless the honorable member ceases interrupting, I shall ask the Minister not to answer the question.
– I shall ask the Director-General of Health to answer seriatim the points raised in the honorable gentleman’s question.
Debate resumed from the 26th May (vide page 266), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I have listened with very great interest to honorable ..members opposite who, in the main, have given a very glowing account of the economic state of the country. There has been much talk of full employment, buoyant revenues, savings at record high levels, and other aspects of our economy which are undoubtedly very admirable. For those circumstances, it must be said that the Government has had no false modesty about claiming a large measure of responsibility. Indeed, Government speakers have claimed responsibility for everything from the high world prices for wool, wheat and other primary products to the extraordinary good seasons that we have had during the last few years. That being so, there are other features of the national economy, of which I shall remind them, for which they must also accept responsibility. They are bad features, which are quite unchecked at present and show every sign of becoming worse. I refer to such circumstances as the rising cost of living, the diminishing value of the people’s saving, and the struggle that the masses of the people are having to pay their daily household expenses. There has been no mention whatever of those conditions by Government speakers, and I say, therefore, that the picture that they have painted of this country is totally unfair and completely misleading. I shall take one item to illustrate what I have to say and trace its history in recent years in order to disclose the cause of some of the nation’s troubles. I shall deal briefly with the subject of our national savings, of which we have heard a great deal in glowing terms from honorable members opposite.
In 1939, the national savings of Australia amounted to £246,000,000. In January of this year, they amounted to £690,000,000, a very considerable increase, as honorable members opposite have pointed out. Those figures mean that where there was £100 of national savings in 1939, there is about £250 today. But we should remember, when dealing with savings, that the mere fact of having money in the bank accomplishes no object at all for the person who is saving. People save for certain definite purposes that they have in view. For example, they save money to purchase a house, to educate their children in a better way, to provide clothing, or to buy a refrigerator, an electric sweeper, a motor car, or one of those many things that improve the standard of living. The only real standard of value of the people’s savings is the extent to which they will provide those things that the people want. When we say that our national savings have increased from £246,000,000 to £690,000,000, the figures do not mean that the average savings account has increased proportionately. Obviously the number of depositors has increased very much in recent years. More people are in employment, and the population has grown. In. fact, if we consult the statistics we find that the average savings account in 1939 was £60, whereas to-day it is £105. In other words, the average account has been increased by 70 per cent., not by 150 per cent., which is the proportion of the increase of total savings. Let us consider what this 70 per cent, increase is really worth to the investor. As an example, I refer to the increase of the cost of a house that has occurred over the last ten years. In 1939, as we can see by opening any one of the daily newspapers of that year, one could buy a timbered house in any of the great cities, complete with plumbing and other services and including land and fences, for between £500 and £650. I hope that no one will challenge that, because I have a long list of newspaper cuttings from issues of the Sydney Morning Herald ten years ago that will substantiate my statement. But only a few days ago, honorable members were informed that houses, similar in design but inferior in quality and exclusive of land and fences, were being erected not far from here at a cost of £1,750 each. In other words, the cost of home-building has increased by approximately 200 per cent., and the people’s savings have increased by only 70 per cent. Therefore, it is clear that the average holder of a savings bank account is further away from owning his home in thi9 Government’s “golden age” than he was ten years ago.
As with housing, the price of every item in daily use has substantially increased. In 1939, a man could buy a very good suit for £8, but to-day, a similar suit costs about £25. Some honorable members opposite appear to disagree with that statement. Will they deny that the cost of a suit has risen as I have indicated ? Yesterday, the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) referred to the greatly increased cost of shoes. Before the war, we could purchase shoes for 10s., 12s. 6d. and 15s. a pair. To-day, however, similar shoes cost between 25s. and 35s. a pair. In other words, the cost of footwear has increased by approximately 200 per cent, during the last ten years, but the people’s savings have increased by only 70 per cent. Let us now consider the cost of food, particularly vegetables. I claim to have some knowledge of this subject, because it was my duty to report the prices of vegetables for about two years for the Melbourne Herald. In those days, the housewife could buy peas and beans for 2d. or 3d. per lb. To-day, she pays two or three times as much for those vegetables.
– Did the cabbages enter into the honorable member’s soul?
– The high prices are not a laughing matter. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) knows something about this subject, because he has told us a pathetic story about his experiences when he has shopped with a little string bag. I expect to have his sympathy in this matter. The high cost of the necessaries of life is most serious for the people who are struggling to pay their household bills. What I have said so far in this speech leads to the point that, despite the vaunted increase of national savings, the standard of living i9 lower than it was in 1939. People who are struggling to make ends meet derive no comfort from being told that the national savings are at a record high level. If the fact that they are at a record high level is related to the policy of this Government, as honorable members opposite claim, then so is the fact that the value of the people’s money is dwindling the responsibility of the Government.
What are the causes o£ the decline in money values and the growing inflation that the Government is not checking? Indeed, there is every indication that the present period of inflation will continue until a disastrous sudden reduction of prices causes an economic collapse. The inflation that we are now experiencing has two principal causes. The first, and more important in my opinion, is the load of taxation in this top-heavy economy to which the Labour Government is committed. The high taxes that the public have to pay are sapping the productive capacity of the country to an enormous degree. One of the greatest factors in rising costs is the expense of this Government’s socialist schemes. In other words, extravagant governmental expenditure is the cause of high taxes, and, as I shall show, expenditure, so far from being reduced, is actually increasing. At present, the requirements of the Government absorb one-third of the total national income. That is one important reason why foodstuffs and goods are so dear. The other factor, and honorable members might as well face it, is that this Government has introduced a condition of affairs in which, unfortunately, two men do what i9 normally the work of one man. “While that situation continues, prices cannot be reduced.
I shall now deal with the amount, of money, equal to one-third of the national income, which the Government has diverted from productive purposes. I refer to the matter because an examination of the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures discloses that 30 per cent, of our national income is absorbed in governmental expenditure. Since 1942-43, Commonwealth revenue and expenditure have increased by 72 per cent. We hear a good deal of talk at the present time about reduction of taxes. If any honorable member opposite honestly believes that there has been a reduction of taxation, let him answer a simple question. Is the total amount that the Government expends from year to year increasing or decreasing? We all know perfectly well that taxation is increasing and will continue to increase. Why? Is the Government spending more, or less, money? Does taxation have to be increased to meet increased governmental expenditure? Every one knows that government expenditure has increased and will continue to increase, and that taxation must inevitably increase still further. I admit that certain reductions of direct taxation have been made, although we notice that there has been no falling off of the aggregate receipts from direct taxation. However, the reduction of what we might term “ indirect taxation “ has been negligible. The truth is that to-day the cost of government is being defrayed in large part from the proceeds of indirect taxation, which must be borne by every man, woman and child in the community from the cradle to the grave. Let us consider for a moment the procedure, in the daily life of an average member of the community. In the morning he gets out of bed and has a shave. He has had to pay sales tax on the shaving soap and the razor blade which he uses. Then he dresses for his day’s work. He has had to pay sales tax on every item of apparel that he wears. He sits down to breakfast and eats, in all probability, a couple of eggs. He has had to pay more for those eggs as his contribution towards the additional charges involved in maintaining the Australian Egg Board, which exercises a monopoly over the distribution of eggs. Similarly, if he eats meat and certain other commodities he has had to pay something additional for the officious meddling of the various boards which control the marketing of foodstuffs. Perhaps he has a slice of toast. He has had to pay more for the bread from which the toast is made because of the action of the Labour Government which sold our wheat at cut prices to the socialist administrations of New Zealand and the United Kingdom. The unfortunate local consumers have to pay more for’ our flour in order to subsidize the wheat industry. If the man drives into town he pays tax on the petrol consumed by his vehicle. If he has a smoke on the way he had to pay through the nose for it because of the extremely, high duties imposed on tobacco. Then if he has children and they go to school the books in their school-bags have all had to be purchased at additional cost because of sales tax. In short, whatever an individual does he finds that it entails the payment of a toll to the Chifley Government. One-third of the earnings of the entire community finds its way to the Government, which squanders it in a manner with which we are all only too familiar.
It is all very well for honorable members opposite to speak of taxation in mere generalizations. I invite them tQ consider the effect of taxation on specific items such as those which I have mentioned. Let us consider also the effect of high taxation on the national housing problem. The cost of providing housing accommodation has increased enormously, and the enormous increase is due principally to two factors. The first is the tax levied on pay-rolls and on companies. Let no one imagine that those taxes are actually borne by the employers who cornpile the pay-rolls or by the companies which manufacture or sell goods. We all know very well that the price of goods and services is fixed by the vendors to provide for all incidental costs, including taxes. In the long run the purchaser or consumer actually bears the burden of the tax because he has to pay increased prices. Every piece of roofing material, every tap, every board and even every brick that goes into the erection of a dwellinghouse is loaded with tax. The second factor in the excessive cost of house construction is the operation of the 40-hour week, the fact that a bricklayer will lay only 300 bricks a day, the application of dargs to output, and various other go-slow devices. How can the operation of such a policy have any other effect than to increase the cost of home construction? Surely it is the responsibility of the present Government, which regards itself as a “ workers’ government “ and as representative of the majority of the people, to go to the trade unions and the workers of the country and tell them quite frankly that their policies have made it impossible for the average worker to earn sufficient money to purchase a home. So far from doing anything of the kind, honorable members opposite actively associate themselves with proposals to reduce working hours, and now one frequently hears from them proposals for reducing even the present abbreviated working week to 30 hours. We frequently see press photographs of honorable members opposite marching in processions on May Day and other occasions in support of trade union demands for a further reduction of working hours. I am not one who is hopelessly opposed to a 40-hour week. On the contrary, I contend that, if some of the assurances given to the Arbitration Court by the trade union representatives during the hearing of the last application for reduced working hours had been honoured, production need not have suffered as it has done. If the workers had been advised and encouraged by their trade union leaders and the Australian Labour party to work during those 40 hours, production need not have declined, and the introduction of the 40-hour week might have been a good thing. But no one can deny that the attitude adopted by the trade unions and their members since the 40-hour week was introduced has resulted in a sorry decline of production. I remind those who seek to defend the 40-hour week and those who advocate an even shorter working week, that many of the working people in the countries which lie to the north of Australia work only four hours a day. The point of my reminder is that those people receive only four hours’ pay. If they are sufficiently fortunate to work 40 hours a week they receive 40 hours’ pay. If we introduce a 30-hour working week in Australia it is abundantly clear that the living standard of the people of this country, particularly of the workers themselves, will be reduced to little better than that of coolies. I suggest to honorable members opposite who persist in advocating a further reduction of working hours that they take a day off and visit a country area, as I frequently do to remind myself of the efficacy of honest work and what Australia owes to earlier generations of workers. Let them visit any part of Australia where land has been cleared and they will form some idea of the hard work which had to be done to produce the wealth that established this nation. In any cleared area one can see evidence of the millions of trees and stumps which had to be felled and grubbed. Tens of thousands of post- holes had to be dug to erect the hundreds of miles of wire fences that we see. The posts themselves were hewn from felled timber, which had to be squared and holed. The immense areas of settled land throughout Australia could never have been cleared if there had been a 40-hour working week. Surely we must all realize that if we want to maintain the standards of living that have been established in this country we must strive to maintain a good standard of output. The continued functioning of the 40-hour working week demands an even more intensive effort to maintain proper production.
I turn now to the remarks made by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr.
Barnard), who stated that a record number of houses was being built throughout Australia. That may be so, but I remind the Minister that certain other housing records are also being established. In the first place, there is a record number of people waiting for houses, and, in the next place, people are waiting, and will continue to wait, a record time for the construction of those houses. It is small comfort indeed to those people to be told that a record number of houses is being built, because they know that they have no hope of getting a house within a reasonable time, f am directing my remarks particularly to the housing situation, because that is undoubtedly the most important matter in Australia to-day. Ever since Labour has been in office, its attitude towards the desperate housing shortage has been characterized by smug inertia. Large numbers of migrants are being brought to Australia, at considerable expense to the taxpayers. These migrants are good, bad and indifferent, but we are compelled, because of our internal economy, to bring them here. If more houses were built there might be more children born in Australia. It has been truly said that the best migrant that we can have is an Australian child. Further, the immigration scheme itself is threatened by the housing shortage. We have heard already whispers of attacks upon the scheme. Recently the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) said that it would be impossible for us to continue to bring to Australia people from other countries while many thousands of Australians are without houses. I do not agree with the Minister, but I never do. In my opinion, the honorable gentleman’s attack upon the immigration scheme was a despicable one. If there be a contemptible political action, it is that of a Minister who is only too pleased to retain his ministerial office until the last possible moment, but who, in order to gain a little cheap publicity, criticizes a policy that is being pursued by the government of which he is a member. If the Minister for External Territories disagrees with the Government’s migration policy, let him_ resign. If he did so, his action would certainly not be regretted by honorable members on this side of the House. It is a pity that more members of the Government are not drawn from the rising generation in this country. If they were, the Government might know a little more than it does know about the housing problem that confronts our young people. It is regrettable that more members of the Government are not closely in touch with Australian ex-servicemen. The Minister for Repatriation, who is supposed to have some knowledge of ex-servicemen’s problems, has spoken of the Government’s housing record. The other day a returned ex-serviceman, a splendid soldier whom I know very well, came to see me. Immediately following his discharge from the forces in 1945, he applied, as he was entitled to do, for a housing commission house or a war service home. He is in good employment. He has three children and another child is expected shortly. He is living with his wife and family in one room in a four-roomed house. Of the other three rooms, one is occupied by his brother-in-law, who is also a returned serviceman with a wife and three children, and another by the man’s father and mother. All these people share the kitchen and a lean-to bathroom. That is a terrible state of affairs. If any members of the Australian community deserve well of their country, it is our exservicemen. Thousands’ of them are living under appalling conditions, but honorable gentlemen opposite have the audacity to talk of the success of the Government’s housing scheme. The Government is apparently unaware that its first responsibility to the returned servicemen of this country is to provide houses for them. Let the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) disagree with that statement if he likes to do so. Our exservicemen cannot get houses because the go-slow policy in the building industry is tolerated by this Government.
– What would honorable members opposite do about it?
– The Government is quick to accept responsibility for everything in this country that is favorable to it. Why does it not accept responsibility for the unfavorable aspects of the situation? Honorable members on this side of the House have told the Government what they would do. It is well known that building is being delayed by Communistinspired strikes. The honorable member for Wilmot shakes his head. It is well known that in Victoria the building trade unions are in the hands of the Communists, who attempt to keep Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme trainees out of the building trades and prevent migrants from entering the industry. Members of the Opposition have indicated repeatedly what they would do to deal with the situation, but the Government has taken no notice of what they have said. Because of the go-slow policy in the building industry, Australian ex-servicemen will not get houses for years, and even if they could secure them, they would never be able to own them because building costs have increased so greatly owing to our extravagant national economy. There is no sign of the housing- position improving. Why does the Government not tackle the problem as it should be tackled ? A national director of housing should be appointed. That director should be a top-line executive with the experience of a man such as Mr. Essington Lewis, a great servant of this country, who is accustomed, to handling masses of men and various industrial undertakings for the good of the country. Let the Government bring to Australia people who will work here as builders and ensure that when they arrive the building trade anions will accept them as members, which they will not do in many instances at the present time. House construction <s being delayed by the shortage of coal for hauling timber, for feeding furnaces in the iron and steel foundries and for other purposes. Let the Government bring to Australia migrants who are prepared to work in the coal mines and thus help to increase coal production. Let the Government ensure that the terms under which such migrants are brought here are such that they will be acceptable to Australian miners. The Government should attract migrants of that type and discontinue bringing to Australia persons who, because they have plenty of money, are able, upon arrival, to obtain a house by paying a price that no Australian can afford to pay, thus forcing the price of houses to a level that is beyond the reach of the average Australian. That is all that I have to say upon this subject. I hope that honorable members opposite do not now feel quite as satisfied as they have felt with the state of our economy.
– I appreciate the concern of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) for the people of this country who have not yet managed to obtain a house, but I challenge the honorable gentleman to substantiate his charge that the whole blame for the present housing shortage lies upon the shoulders of the Government. If the Opposition parties had formed the Government of Australia during the last two years they would not have secured the construction of more houses for the people than have in fact been constructed. The work would not have proceeded faster than it has done. Although I sympathize with many of the sentiments that have been expressed by the honorable member for Henty, I do not want the Australian people to believe that the only members of this Parliament who are concerned about the welfare of returned servicemen and the homeless people of Australia are honorable members opposite. That is far from the truth. Honorable members on the Government side of the House come from the rank and file of the Australian people. Many of us have families and many of us are returned servicemen. Nevertheless, it is said repeatedly in this chamber by honorable members opposite that the only people who are concerned about the welfare of returned servicemen and the homeless people of Australia are themselves. Such statements are unfair and unjust. I deny that the Government is not concerned about the welfare of these unfortunate people.
The honorable member for Henty has said that the Government has exhibited a smug inertia and that there is a record number of people waiting for houses to-day. Let us look at this charge of smug inertia. A few days ago the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) quoted figures to show that the average number of homes built in Australia in the ten years up till 1940 was 27,000. Yet last year alone we built 49,000 homes in Australia. When
I say “we” I refer to the Government, private enterprise and individual homebuilders. That is the answer to the charge of smug inertia. Any one who travels around the country to-<lay will see houses being built in towns’ where formerly a new home had not been built for as long as 50 years. I say that without fear of contradiction in regard to Tasmania, where my electorate covers an area of about 13,500 square miles, which is about half the area of that island. In my electorate homes are being built in small towns where, I say, there has not been a new home built for many years. In some towns two or three homes are in course of construction at the same time. Let honorable members multiply that by all the little towns in all the country districts of Australia, and they will realize that we have a new order of new homes. Before the war the unfortunate people in country districts were all doing their best to congregate in the cities, at a much faster’ rate than is the case to-day, because of the shockingly low prices that they were receiving for primary products. Because of their absolute poverty most of the people of Australia could not afford homes for themselves. It is all very well for the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) to tell us those heartbreaking and sad stories that he has given the House to-day. I could talk for an hour about the heartbreaking stories of 1939 and 1940, when people did not have the money to buy homes or, indeed, any hope of ever buying homes. In those days we had in this country bag towns, kerosene tin towns, communities of huts and sheds built almost entirely of kerosene tins flattened out, bags sewn together, and even bark. There were such towns on the Murray River at Swan Hill and Shepparton, in Victoria, and in other parts of Australia. Those bag towns were populated by hundreds of people. Why were there not great, streaming head-lines about those conditions? No one seemed to be concerned about them. But the story is different to-day, in that a man now can order a home in the knowledge that he will be able to pay for it. He can approach a builder with some degree of confidence in his ability to pay for the home that he wants to have built. Before the war people had no hope of doing that, and because of the general poverty housing materials were piling up in’ the timber yards of Australia, and saw-mills and brickyards were closed down in hundreds. Brickyards were closed down by Liberal governments, particularly in New South Wales. New brickyards are now opening up all over the country. Timber production has never been higher in our history. In Tasmania, where we have stands of hardwood, Huon pine and blackwood, we have achieved marvellous timber production. There are saw-mills scattered throughout the timber areas where before the war there was nothing but the timber itself. We are doing our best to encourage the operators of those saw-mills to get machinery and saws. It is difficulty to obtain this equipment because so much of it is required all at once. To speak of the “ smug inertia “ of the Government is to give a complete misrepresentation of its interest in the problem of housing.
There is another aspect of the matter. When the war broke out there was a housing lag of 250,000 houses in Australia, according to a survey then made During the war we had to stop homebuilding. While home-building was discontinued the demand for homes was still growing. Then we come to this remarkable factor. During the six years of the war there were 492,000 marriages in Australia. Most of those were of Australian returned men who married Australian girls. Most of these men, thank God, came back from their service overseas and there was created almost overnight, through their discharge from the forces, a demand for more than 400.000 homes in addition to the lag of 250,000 left over from before the war. Consideration of these figures will give honorable members, if they look at the matter fairly and rationally, some conception of the immensity of the task that confronted this Government and would have confronted any government that happened to be in office at the end of the war.
The honorable member for Henty also said that it was a pity that some honorable members on the Government side did not belong to the rising generation. He said that we were not in touch with the rising generation, and that if “we were we would appreciate the difficulties faced by the younger members of the community. What does he think that we on this side of the House are? Methuselahs? There are as many young men on this side of the HOuse as on the other, and probably more on this side who have young children. Since the honorable member has levelled this unjust charge at us I shall speak of my own experience. I had to leave the Methodist ministry when I was endorsed as candidate for the seat that I now represent in this Parliament. I had to leave a home, with everything provided, and move with my wife and two children into two rooms, where we stayed for a period of three months. Then we had to move into one room for a period of seven months in 1946. Yet the honorable member had the audacity to suggest that none of us on this side of the House has had experience of housing difficulties. My family later had to move out of that room and live for three months in another house before we had a chance to buy a home for ourselves. The charges that the honorable member has levelled are political propaganda. They are without any sense of proportion or fairness. He implied that we on this side of the House are not in touch with the rising generation. Of course we are! Many of us have played football and cricket, and we now attend sporting matches. We are interested in the rising generation and desire to help young people. We have them come to our offices seeking assistance, and they write to us. I can say quite frankly that all my colleagues on this side of the House are doing their utmost to help the rising generation with home problems. I shall give honorable members an illustration of that. Honorable members have probably heard of the Peter Lalor Home Building Society, whose 1,300 members are ex-servicemen. The society is building a new suburb called Thomastown on the outskirts of Melbourne. I have been assisting this society since it was first established, although I do not represent a Victorian electorate. But I happen to be interested in home-building and in the welfare of returned soldiers. The society asked me whether I could help it to obtain cement, from the factory at Railton, Tasmania, that produces, thousands of tons of cement annually which goes to the southern States, and also to the guided weapons range. The society tried to obtain a bigger allocation of cement, but Mr. Warner, the Liberal Minister for Housing in Victoria, who is himself interested financially in home-building, refused the application, although the members of the society are all ex-servicemen. They claim that their efforts to provide themselves with homes are being sabotaged by the Victorian Liberal Government. I took the matter up with the cement company in Tasmania; but was told that it was not allowed to supply cement directly to groups in Victoria. Everything had to go through the State Housing Department there. Therefore, I could not help any further, and that is where the matter stands to-day. Yet, the honorable member for Henty complained of what he called this Government’s “ smug inertia “ in the matter of housing. That was an unfair charge, utterly without basis, and it reflected little credit on the man who made it.
The honorable member for Henty said that high taxation was crippling industry and retarding production. We have been listening to that story for the last four years, despite the fact that direct taxation has been reduced by £160,000,000, and indirect taxation by £30,000,000.
– Then why are we paying more per head now than ever before?
– I challenge the honorable member to name any country where taxes are not high to-day. All governments have to find money for reconstruction, and money cannot be got out of thin air. Do honorable members opposite suggest that the Government should use bank credit to finance its operations? The honorable member for Henty asks the Government to increase pension payments by £15,000,000 a year, but almost in the same breath he says that taxation should be reduced. He cannot have it both ways, and he ought to make up his mind what he does want. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), despite his remarkable knowledge of finance, is not Mandrake. Recently, a member of the Liberal party in Tasmania, speaking to me of the achievements of the Prime
Minister, used words to this effect : “ I have got to admit that when the history of Australia is written, the name of Mr. Chifley will go down as probably our greatest and best Treasurer, because, from a business point of view - and that is how I as a business man look at it - he has got the money in, and kept the country on a sound footing “.
– He sounds like a good Liberal !
– He was fair, and was prepared to give credit where credit was due. Taxation is to be reduced by a further £35,000,000 from the 1st July next. When that reduction becomes effective, a man with a wife and two children receiving an income of £6 a week will pay no taxation at all - neither income tax nor social service contribution.
– What about indirect taxation? He is paying more in indirect taxation now than he would have paid in all forms of taxation before the war.
– That may be, but even indirect taxation has been reduced by £30,000,000. If taxes must be paid, it is only right that those who receive the greatest incomes should contribute the most. Yesterday, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) said that the Government had asked the people for permission to write into the Constitution authority for the Commonwealth to control prices, rents and charges. That was all right, but he then went on to say that, if the people had given their consent, the power would be permanently in the Constitution and would be more or less permanently exercised. That is where he misrepresented the position, as did Opposition speakers during the referendum campaign itself. They told the people that power over prices, rents and charges would be exercised permanently by the Commonwealth, but that is not so. It was to be a reserve power, just as is the defence power in the Constitution. We are not at war all the time, but the Constitution provides that when wo are at war the Commonwealth may take what action is necessary to control the country’s economy. When the war is over the Commonwealth relinquishes that power.
– Does the honorable member deny that power over prices, if written into the Constitution, would be a permanent power?
– It would be a power permanently provided under the Constitution, but the honorable member for Wimmera sought to convey a wrong impression when he suggested that the power would be constantly exercised. It would have been a reserved power to be used only in time of crisis. That is what the Government told the people.
– But the honorable member believes in socialism?
– Of course up to a point.
– Well, there must be price control under socialism.
– Don’t Be ridiculous. Our brand of socialism is different from the honorable member’s idea of socialism. The honorable member for Wimmera tried to make out that a power could be written into the Constitution for a limited period only.
– He did not say that. I listened to him carefully.
– So did I, and I am’ sure that what I have said will be borne out by the official report of his speech. 1 have discussed this matter with men who claim to be lawyers.
– Are they good Liberals!
– Some are Liberals and some are Labour supporters, and they all agreed that it would not be possible, under the Constitution, to give the Commonwealth control over prices for a limited period, say, five years. The honorable member for Wimmera also said that to-day no new small businesses are being opened and that no additional people are going on the land. The picture he painted was so tragic and drastic that one might have been led to believe that the population of Australia had dwindled to a mere 500,000 and that the remainder of our people had gone somewhere else or simply disappeared from the face of the earth. He gave the impression that every one in this country was broken and hungry and was tramping the roads glad to be clad even in goat-skins. I inform him that in New South Wales alone over 1,600 new businesses have been opened since the cessation of hostilities. A similar change has occurred in the other States, but I know at first hand the conditions existing in Tasmania. In that State new businesses have been opened in many towns in shops which, in 1940, were absolutely abandoned, the structures having been allowed to fall into disrepair, the counters and shelves being covered with dust. Since the war ended those premises have been renovated and new businesses have been set up in them. Yet, the honorable member for Wimmera has the audacity to say that no one is opening up new businesses or going on the land. That statement is completely untrue. It is refuted by the fact that’ in most country towns throughout the Commonwealth and in the larger cities one would require a microscope to find one empty shop where, in 1940, rows of empty shops were to be seen. In Tasmania, applications are constantly being made to set up new businesses and establish dairy-farms. The number of such applications, apart from the settlement of ex-service personnel on the land, is constantly increasing. In this country to-day the movement is back to the land. That movement may not be as rapid as we should like, but in 1940 the movement was in the opposite direction. During the depression years 20,000 primary producers walked off their farms, and, when the recent war broke out, those farms were still deserted because settlers had been broken by the financial institutions. Now, the movement is back to the land, and the Government has the responsibility of accelerating that trend, because it is in the interests of our economy to arrest the drift of population to the cities. Without man-power control it is difficult for any government to arrest that drift. However, the Opposition parties would reimpose man-power control for totally different reasons.
– We have never said that we would reimpose man-power control.
– The Opposition parties constantly criticize the Government because sufficient workers are not available to meet the needs of certain industries. They ask how any government can carry out a programme of industrial development unless it directs man-power, and they really believe in their hearts that only by the exercise of such control can sufficient labour be made available to industries which to-day are seriously short of man-power. However, control over man-power has lapsed ; it has been discarded. Yet, the Opposition parties contend that the Government must make sufficient labour available to industries which are in need of man-power. The fact, of course, is that under present conditions every worker can choose his own employment. Accordingly, many men prefer to be employed in industries where the conditions of labour are better and healther than are those in our heavier industries. That is not the fault of the Government. If the Opposition parties were in office they would attempt to reimpose man-power control in order to transfer workers from non-essential to essential industries. However, in the absence of such control, the Government cannot prevent workers from choosing their employment.
– Why is production leaping ahead in the United States of America where there is no man-power control ?
– Production in that country is not leaping ahead. During the war, normal civilian production was continued in the United ‘States of America with the result that vast stocks of civilian goods, were amassed. Those goods were put on the world markets after the cessation of hostilities. That is one reason why the United States of America to-day is able to export so much. In addition, its industrial techique, particularly in mass production, has outstripped that of any other country. Nevertheless, the United States of America could slip into a depression much more quickly than could any other country because much of its economy is not soundly based. To-day, there are nearly 4,000,000 workers unemployed in the United States of America and the Government of that country is gravely concerned about inflation. Therefore, I do not admit that the American economy is healthy. Nearly all of the savings of the great .mass of the American people have been eaten up in the purchase of goods at prices which have risen rapidly since prices control was lifted in that country three years ago. I should much prefer to live in Australia than in the United States of America in spite of all the talk we hear about the great wealth of that great country and the soundness of its economy.
The Opposition parties never cease to talk about socialism. They dream about it ; they have it for breakfast, dinner and tea. When they are not speaking about socialism and nationalization they talk about communism, and they have harped on those subjects so much that the average citizen might well be suspected of looking for a Communist under the bed, or in the wardrobe, before he retires. In this respect the Opposition parties are merely indulging in political propaganda. Their catchcries remind one of Hitler’s technique when he was in power in Germany. They do not define the terms they use when they talk in that strain, but simply attempt to mislead the people. They say, in effect, that this Government is trying to control everything, that it is implementing a socialistic plan. But what activities in this country does the Australian Government completely control? It controls the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, aerodromes, a limited mileage of railways, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, research farms, highways giving access to aerodromes, the Navy, Army, Ait Force, defence establishments and munitions factories. I ask honorable members opposite to name any other activity which is completely controlled and directed by the Australian Government.
– Yes, what about shipping?
– The Australian Government does not completely control shipping. I emphasize that the powers of the Commonwealth are limited under the Constitution. But the Opposition parties, very cleverly, fail to refer to the Commonwealth’s powers under the Constitution when they claim that the Government is implementing a socialistic plan. I liken the Constitution to a railway track which keeps the engine - the Commonwealth Government - on the line. Immediately any government in office in the ‘Commonwealth sphere attempts to exercise power which it does not possess under the Constitution, its action is challenged, and should such action be not in accordance with the Constitution of the Commonwealth the Government is immediately put back on the line. Any Commonwealth Government which desires to exercise powers not conferred upon it under the Constitution can obtain them only by reference of such powers to it by the States or by endorsement of its proposals by the people at a referendum. I shall show how wild and misleading is the Opposition’s statement that the Government is attempting to control everything as part of the implementation of a socialistic plan. We have no power to legislate for the nationalization or socialization of activities other than those specifically stated in the Constitution. Banking and insurance are included in the matters in respect of which the Commonwealth may legislate.
– But not to nationalize them.
– The Constitution gives to the Commonwealth power to legislate in respect of banking, other than State banking. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) may place his own interpretation on those words. If it so desires, the Australian Government can establish its own hospitals, but it cannot nationalize hospitals ; it can appoint its own doctors but it cannot nationalize medicine; it can establish its own airlines - indeed, it has already done so - but it cannot nationalize air services ; it can establish its own shipping line, but it has no authority to nationalize shipping. It can establish its own coal mines - again, it has done so - but it cannot nationalize the coal industry. It can establish its own iron and steel works, but it cannot nationalize the iron and steel industry. It can establish its own research farms - both the Commonwealth and States have already done so - but it cannot nationalize farming or primary production. It can establish, if it so desires, its own hairdressing and beauty salons, and its own blacksmiths’ shops, but it cannot nationalize such undertakings. That is the true situation, yet honorable members opposite go screaming around the country that we are nationalizing everything. The gentleman whom I defeated at the last election is even now telling the people of Tasmania, as a Senate candidate, that we shall take over their motor cars, their businesses and farms, and everything else they possess. That is completely untrue. The people have the limiting provisions of the Constitution to protect them. Other favorite statements of Opposition members are “ Leave it to private enterprise “, and “ We must have free enterprise “. We agree with them provided that private enterprise does not merge into monopoly and monopoly does not merge into combines. We believe in communal control of certain things, that monopolies are bad and that combines are worse.
– Tell us about the banking monopoly and how that would work.
– We have already had experience of banking monopoly under the control of private enterprise’. When Mr. R. G. Casey, the president of the Liberal party, visited Tasmania a few months ago, he is reported in the press - and I am sure the press would not misreport a Liberal speaker - to have said -
Free enterprise had to be regelated in tha interests of the people. It will be impossible, In these complicated days, to get back to completely free enterprise.
What an amazing statement to be made by a Liberal spokesman when day after day we have to listen to Opposition members lauding private enterprise and condemning this Government for operating a railway or carrying on the activities of the Post Office! When honorable members on this side of the House say that private enterprise should be regulated - and I mean regulated and not abolished - in the interests of the people, we are immediately dubbed as “ Commos “, socialists and disrupters of the country. Yet, without comment by honorable members opposite, Mr. Casey is permitted- to say to the people of Tasmania that free enterprise must be regulated in the interests of the people and that it will be impossible to get back to completely free enterprise.
Notwithstanding those sentiments, Mr. Casey, apparently, still remains a good Liberal. If stabilized prices represent socialism the farmers want more of it. If good roads mean socialism the people want more of it. If good medical and air services mean socialism, the people want more of it. If, by establishing our own shipping line, we can improve the shipping services on the coastline of Australia, so much the better. Yet these are the improvements that honorable members opposite call socialism. The municipal councils of Australia have their electricity plants and their tramways, their control of roads, parks and gardens and water supplies, which are in common daily use in cities and towns, and no criticism is made of the exercise of their powers in those fields, but honorable members opposite criticize us if we endeavour to control any of these activities on a Commonwealth basis. They call such control socialism. Yet that is what the people want. What private enterprise could undertake such a huge project as a Snowy River waters scheme? Only governments are able to provide for future generations the power, water and other facilities that will be required to meet the growing needs of the country. All of this talk about socialism is loaded; it is pure political propaganda. Many members of the parties to which honorable members opposite belong have been responsible for the establishment of socialistic enterprise in this country. I instance the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford. Yet honorable members opposite dare to vilify us from the public platform for what we are doing, terming us socialists or Communists. Their vilification will not delude the people.
– Is the honorable member a socialist?
– I believe in an order of society in which the many are not exploited for the benefit of the few. The honorable member may call that ideal what he likes. I believe in a system of society in which everybody has a reasonable chance to live a full Christian life without restrictions other than those necessary in an ordered society. For years I have worked with other churchmen for a Christian social order. The methods by which the Labour movement hopes to bring about a Christian social order may not coincide with those of honorable members opposite. The churches and the Christian people of this country are fighting for a Christian social order. If we introduce legislation that will help to make that Christian social order a reality, we shall only do our duty as believers in such an order of society. Honorable members opposite may call such an order of society by any term they choose. I prefer to call what I am fighting for in the Labour movement a Christian social order.
Finally, I propose to deal with the increase that has taken place in the volume of production of Australian products. Butter production has greatly increased within the last few months. The total production of butter for the five months ended the 30th November last amounted to 67,331 tons, compared with 64,130 tons for the corresponding period of 1947, and 56,298 tons in 1946. Whole milk production was 19,800,000 gallons more than for the corresponding period of 1947. The production of cheese has also increased. The output of tractors, agricultural implements and barbed wire has also greatly increased since 1938-39. There has also been a great increase in home-building activities. In 1932 3,000 homes were built in Australia. In 1939 the number increased to 23,000, and in 1948 to 48,000. Road construction and maintenance in this country is a vital matter. At present, approximately £2,000,000 a year allocated from the petrol tax is distributed to local governing authorities for expenditure on outback roads. The system was introduced by the Labour Government. I consider, however, that the allocation will have to bc increased, owing to the increasing number of heavy vehicles that are using country roads for the haulage of gravel, wood, produce, timber, and heavy mechanical equipment for large works projects such as the Tasmanian hydro-electric schemes. Primary production and decentralization of industry are entirely dependent upon good roads which are necessary also for the development and defence of our inland areas. The Government will have to give greater consideration to the road problem and a similar obligation rests upon the State governments. I should like to see the road problem declared a national emergency. I have several suggestions to make about methods of overcoming our road maintenance and construction difficulties. First, road construction and repairs should have high priority for money, man-power and materials. An .increased allocation from the petrol tax should be made available to local governing authorities. This grant should be in keeping with the urgency of the problem, and steps should be taken to ensure that the local governing authorities expend the money to the best advantage. Encouragement should be given to the importation of essential road-making machinery, and more steel should be allocated to Australian manufacturers of this equipment. An important contribution to the solution of the problem could be made by the formation of road construction and repair gangs of immigrant workers to operate in defined areas. These gangs should be financed by the Commonwealth Government, equipped with modern machinery purchased by the States out of their petrol tax allocations, and lent to local governing authorities. This system would be of great benefit to local councils which at present find the maintenance of roads beyond their capabilities. With these mobile gangs, financed by the Commonwealth out of the petrol tax, road maintenance and repair work could be carried out more efficiently and more expeditiously. [Extension of time granted.] There should also be a definite plan for more co-operation between neighbouring councils, and between the public works departments of the various States and local governing authorities, with a view to cutting costs and speeding repairs. At present, each council has its own few pieces of machinery and limited man-power resources. It would be much better if say three councils combined their equipment and labour into one unit. I believe also that there is room for more co-operation between the public works authorities and the local governing bodies in the use. of heavy machinery which the councils themselves cannot afford. Every assistance should be given to the new bitumen factory in Victoria.
Not much, has been said about this matter but it is vital. I do not know how far the project has advanced, but I understand that the factory is being built, or is to be built, near Melbourne. Hitherto, we have had to import bitumen. Its production in this country will save dollars and provide the sealing material which is so essential for roads carrying heavy traffic. Sealing is the ultimate solution to our road problem. In the long run, sealed roads are cheaper than unsealed ones. Later perhaps it may be necessary to concrete some of our main thoroughfares. I make those suggestions in a sincere effort to assist in the solution of a problem with which all of us, Government and Opposition members alike, are concerned. This is not a matter for party politics. It is a national problem, and should be tackled as such. As I have said, the road problem should be declared a national emergency and tackled immediately by the use of funds allocated from the petrol tax. That would be of tremendous assistance in outback areas particularly.
– How much of the petrol tax does the honorable member believe should be allocated for road work?
– The petrol tax is yielding approximately £17,000,000 a year. Last year, £7,500,000 was allocated for road work. The rest was paid into Consolidated Revenue. I believe that the allocation for road work should be increased by £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 at least for a start.
– Why not allocate all the money received from- the tax?
– That would not be fair. We must be reasonable.
– The tax was introduced by an anti-Labour government during the depression years as a revenue tax.
– That is so. It is not fair to say that all the money should be allocated to the States.
I shall not delay the House much longer. I appreciate the extension of time that I have been granted to complete my remarks on this subject. I emphasize that we shall never solve any of our problems, by petty bickering, and indulging in personalities. Unfair and unjust criticism of the Government by the Oppo sition can serve no usef ul purpose. Wild irrational statements only mislead and confuse the people. We must make a united attack upon our problems. Only by co-operation can we overcome our housing difficulties, the steel shortage, and the under-production of galvanized iron and other essential commodities. The Opposition’s accusations of insincerity on the part of the Government are completely unjust. I like to give credit where credit is due, and when Opposition members make suggestions to the Government, I do not doubt their sincerity. Working together, we can get out of our difficulties. They are great, but, fortunately, not so great as those of many other countries. Disgruntled Australians should go to some other country. They would very soon be back again. Australia is still the best country in the world, and we are proud of it. We members of Parliament should get together, forsaking bitterness and political prejudice. If we were to do that we could solve most of our difficulties within a reasonable time.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Abbott) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of the Interim - tJ. W. Stevenson.
Income Tax Assessment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1949, No. 25.
Overseas Telecommunications Act - Regulations^ - Statutory Rules 1949, No. 24.
House adjourned at 12.29 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
Mb. Dedman. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East: Accommodation at Lapstone Hotel.
– On the 25th May, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) referred to questions he had asked recently in connexion with expenditure on the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East conference held at the Lapstone Hotel and the amount which had been recovered in respect of certain structures erected by the Commonwealth. Negotiations have not yet been brought to finality, but I wish to inform the honorable member that it is anticipated that a substantial amount will be recovered in respect of temporary premises erected by the Commonwealth. The honorable member can be assured that the Commonwealth’s interest in these structures is being adequately safeguarded. Details of expenditure incurred in connexion with the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East conference are furnished to-day in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) on the 2nd March.
y. - On the 2nd March, the honorable member for Reid (Mi. Lang) asked me a question on the subject of expenditure in connexion with the recent Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East conference held at the Lapstone Hotel, New South “Wales. Further to my interim reply to the honorable member on that date, it is desired to advise that the total amount of expenditure brought to account up to April, 1949, in connexion with this conference was £22,046 7s. 8d. The items under which this expenditure was incurred are set out hereunder : -
In addition to the amounts shown above there are certain accounts yet to be rendered by Commonwealth departments, which will total aproximately £300. As against this, it is anticipated that a substantial amount will be recovered in respect of temporary premises erected by the Commonwealth. The amount of petrol and oil used in providing transport for delegates and officials attending this conference was approximately 8,300 gallons and 1,000 pints respectively. A total of 132,366 miles was travelled.
y. - On the 15th March, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) asked me a question, upon notice, as follows : -
In my interim reply to the honorable member on the 15th March, I indicated that the information sought was being obtained. I am now in a position to furnish the following information regarding building materials exported from Australia during the calendar year 1948 :-
Generally speaking, most of the exports were to New Zealand. Australian external territories and the islands of the South-west Pacific area. Exports to New Zealand are in accordance with the policy of the Australian Government to assist that dominion to the maximum extent practicable. Exports to the Australian external territories and to islands in the Southwest Pacific Area are approved in normal trade quantities because these islands have always been dependent upon Australia for supplies.
With regard to exports to destinations other than New Zealand, the Australian external territories and islands in the South-West Pacific Area, the reasons why such exports were permitted are as follows: -
Structural Iron and Steel. - Exports to Hong Kong of steel plates were approved subject to the proviso that payment was to be made in United States’ of America dollars. Shipments to Malaya and Singapore were also made and included partly prefabricated equipment for tin mining and dredges but such exports are not subject to control.
Cast Iron Pipes and Tubes. - Exports of these materials were made to Indonesia but covered material purchased by the Dutch Government in 1942 with the approval of the Commonwealth Government, which had been held in store in Australia awaiting shipment.
Pipes” and Tubes other than Cast Iron. - Exports under this heading include the shipment of hollows to the United Kingdom which could not be finished in Australia and which were regarded as surplus to local requirements. -Shipments of seamless steel tubing which was surplus lo Australian requirements were also made to Borneo and Singapore. The piping waa required for the rehabilitation of the oil wells in Borneo. Oil from that locality is exported to Australia and other sterling areas which obviates the expenditure of dollars. A shipment to Timor was approved as a special case in the interest of reciprocal trade. Exports to Indonesia were approved as the material had been purchased by the Dutch Government in 1942, and had been held in (tore in Australia awaiting shipment.
Iron and Steel Nails and Staples. - Exports to Indonesia of these materials were made under the same conditions as those referred to under the preceding two paragraphs.
Screws. - Exports to Indonesia were permitted under the same conditions as those referred to previously. Exports to South Africa were also approved from disposals stocks and the. screws- were mostly in sizes surplus to Australian requirements.
Locks and Lock Sets. - Exports of locks and lock sets were permitted because production is more than sufficient to meet Australian requirements.
Hinges of all Kinds. - Exports were permitted because production is more than sufficent to meet Australian requirements.
Brasswork, Bronzework and Gunmetalwork for General Engineering, numbing and other Trades. - Stock Sizes Only - ‘1 Lege items are not subject to export control.
Timber (Various Categories). - The export of timber is permitted only when the State concerned has advised that the timber is surplus to essential requirements in that State and the transport position renders difficult its supply to other ports of the Commonwealth. S> ubject to the foregoing, export of timber to a limited extent is considered desirable in the interests nf national economy, for establishing overseas credits, and is considered necessary to maintain established markets, particularly in those countries of the British Commonwealth which in the past have relied on Australia for essential hardwood supplies like sleepers, poles, piles, &u. The export of timber has also been considered justified in certain instances in the interests of reciprocal trade in timber, as in the ease of New Zealand which is supplying considerable quantities of softwoods to Australia. In this connexion Australia is lacking in adequate supplies of softwoods and imports have been reduced from the former main sources of supply owing to restriction of dollar expenditure.
Fire Bricks. - This item is not subject to export control.
Tiles.- Tiles, not earthenware roofing tiles, were exported to Hong Kong. These are not subject to export control. No permits were (ranted during 1948 for the export of earthenware roofing tiles.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 May 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490527_reps_18_202/>.