18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy SPEAKER (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Oan the Minister for the. Navy say whether it is possible for members of the Royal Australian Navy who have server! for a number of years without completing a term of ten years to obtain release on compassionate or other grounds, or are the manpower requirements of the Navy sur.h that applications for release on compassionate grounds are not entertained? If the Navy will not consider such applications, does not the Minister consider that knowledge of that fact is adversely affecting, recruiting?
– Applications for release on compassionate grounds aremade from time to time and each application is considered on its merits. Formerly it was possible for members of the Navyto”buy themselves out “, but because members who enlistedin theinterim Navy for short terms after thecassation of hostilities in 1945 are being released under the terms of their enlistment, the manning situation is not now such that members can be released onother grounds. I emphasize,, however, that applications for discharge on grounds which warrant the exercise of compassion are promptly investigated and favorably considered1.
– Many youths of 18 years are being attracted by glamorous advertisements to enlist in the Royal Australian Navy for a period of twelve years. Unfortunately, aftera month) or two some of them find that they are completelyunsuited for the life and dislike it intensely, but the Navy refuses to release them on compassionate or any other g rounds. Does not the Minister for the Navy agree that. It. would’ be fair to appoint youths to the Navy for a. probationary period, at the conclusion of which they should have the option of being discharged or enlisting for twelve years?.
– It is true, as the honorable member for Richmond has said, that lads enlist in the Navy for a period of twelve years. That has been thepeacetime practice for some years. During the war; of course, men were enlisted for the duration of the war; and a certain period’ thereafter.When the war ended in1945, enlistments in what was termed the interim Navy were for a period of two years..On the 1st, July,1947 enlistments in the interim Navy ceased, and the. system of enlisting men in the permanentNavyfor atwleveyear.period was again followed!. The present position with relation to; lads who find navalservice abhorrent to them within a short period after enlistment and; ask. to be permitted. to leave the service is not different from that which has existed ewer since the Royal
Australian. Navy was established in As I have already indicated) men who. have not enlisted from the interim Navy into the permanent Navy are now in the process of leaving the naval service. Consequently it has not been possible for the naval authorities- to accede to all of the requests for discharge received; Compassionate cases are. investigated and:if the grounds for discharge are strong-, enough the naval personnel concernedare permitted to leave the naval’ service. After all the men who enlisted in the interim Navy have either left the naval service or been absorbed into the permanent Navy, consideration may be given to. the suggestion made by the. honorable member for Richmond.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is true, as reported in the press, that a reduction of power consumption by 30 per cent will commence to operate in industry in New South Wales to-day, with its consequent adverse effect upon employment and. production ? Is that very substantial reduction of electric power due to a shortage of coal production? Are coal stocks for essential services at an uncommonly low level’, amounting in many instances to only a’few- days’ supply? Is the right honorable gentleman also aware that on top of those: difficulties an extensive: stoppage is proposed; in the coalmining: industry, . together with the. threat of a general coal strike? If the answer to any of those questions is “Yes”), has the. Government any, and, if so, what, plans to deal with these very grave! developments?
– Concerning the power cutsin Sydney, the position, asI understand it, is that complaints have been made from time to time of the quality of the coal supplied to Bunnerongpower house: It is true that there hasbeen a shortage of power and light because of insufficient deliveries of coal on some occasions in the past, but it is also true, quite apart from the quantity or quality of coal supplied to Bunnerong power house, that the generating capacity of that, undertaking is not, now sufficient to meet the demands made upon it.
Some years ago, in an endeavour to overcome that difficulty, theSydney County Council ordered boilers, from the United Kingdom and electrical switch gearfrom Switzerland. The Australian High Commissioner in London hasbeen endeavouring to expedite the delivery of those orders: It is: expected thatthe boilers and switch gear will be available next year. The demand for electric current for power and light in Sydney at present exceeds the pre-war demand by 80 per cent. Although there have been shortags of electricity supplies in Sydney during thelast eight or nine months owing to inadequate coal supplies, the main difficulties in? Sydney at present are not caused by insufficient coal supplies or inferior quality coal. It. is true that if coal of a better quality were supplied the output of the generatingplant could be increased, but, irrespective of what may be done in- regard to coal supplies, the capacity of the plant is not sufficient to meet the needs of the area that it serves:
– Is the right honorable gentleman conveying to the House that the supply of coalis not a factor in this problem, or that it is not the only factor?
– At the present time it is not a factor. What I am trying to make clear to the House is that although there may have been electricity shortages in Sydney owingto insufficient quantities of coalbeing delivered,or perhaps owing to the inferior quality of the coal that has been delivered, the capacity of the generating plant is not sufficiently great to enable the needs of the area to be met. Even if adequate supplies of good quality coal were made available, the capacity of the plant would still be too small. That is not denied by the Sydney. County Council or by any other authority. I am fully informed of. what has been happening in connexion with a possible cessation of coal production. Every possible endeavour to avoid a stoppage; has been made by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, the Joint Coal Board and the Coal Industry Tribunal I have taken some part in the consultations. A stoppage of coal production would be a calamitous occurrence at any time, but at the present time it would inflict such great hardships upon the community that the suggestion of such a. stoppage seems to me to be complete and absolute folly, and perhaps something worse than folly. Every endeavour to prevent a stoppage is being made by those who are charged with the responsibility of determining the condiitions that shall obtain in. the coal-mining industry. Many benefits have been conferred upon the industry.A considerable amount of money has been expended by the Joint Coal Board in its attempts completely to re-organize the industry, not only for the purpose of securing the production of sufficient coal to meet the needs of the community but also with the object of improving the conditions of the employees in the industry. I admit that at one time those conditions sadly needed to be improved, but. that fact affords no justification for a stoppage of coal production.. The present dispute was considered yesterday,, and has been considered previously at innumerable conferences. The latest information that. I have is that the central council of the miners’ federation has made a recommendation that a stoppage shall take place to-morrow. I do not know what recommendations will then be made to the members of the federation. All that I can say is that everything possible is being done to inform them of the true position and to prevent the occurrence of a calamitous and very foolish stoppage; which could only, in the final analysis, inflict great hardships upon many members of the community who, can ill afford to suffer such hardships.
Mr.RUSSELL. -I preface a question, to the Minister for Works and. Housing by saying, that during, the week-end I was informed in South Australia that that State had received15,400 tons less than its quota of iron and steel products and that the South Australian Housing Trust had 680,000 super feet of building, timber stacked at Beauty Point in Tasmania awaiting shipment, and also that South Australian timber merchants purchased 2,000,000 feet of building timber two and a half years ago, which had been stacked at Launceston and Devonport for that period with consequent charges mounting up while it awaited shipment. I was also informed that a further 3,000,000 super, feet of building timber from Tasmania was awaiting shipment to South Australia.
-Order! What is the honorable gentleman’s question ?
– Will the Minister use every endeavour to have those very necessary materials delivered to South Australia?
– The trouble appears to be mainly one of shipping transport. I shall discuss the matter with my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel.
– Will the Prime Minister appoint a select committee of the House to inquire into the reasons for the deterioration in post office finances, under Labour administration, which necessitates the increase in telephone, postal and telegram charges that Cabinet decided upon yesterday, at a time when revenue returns from other sources are at a record high level?
– The answer to the first portion of the right honorable gentleman’s question is “ No “. A purely mathematical examination of post office revenue in relation to the department’s activities will indicate what the position is, and I shall take an opportunity later, subject to the approval of the Parliament, to explain the reason for the increased costs. First of all, a great deal of material for the maintenance of post office activities has to be imported, and every one knows of the exorbitant prices that have to be paid for imported material at present.
– Post office revenue has been excessive for a number of years.
– Order ! If honorable members of the Opposition insist on gaining the call bv way of interjection they will not get it from the Chair in the ordinary way.
– In addition to that, there have been increases in the wages and salaries of postal employees. Many members on both sides of the House have complained that the wages and salaries paid to postal employees were very low. Postal employees work very hard, and the Postal Department has often been described, quite rightly, as a very efficient organization. Great increases have been made in the aggregate of wages and salaries. They may not seem great in individual instances, but, taken collectively, they amount to a considerable sum. Also, the 40-hour week applies to all postal employees, and that fact necessarily has involved the recruitment of additional labour for the department. All those matters have helped to increase the costs of the department. When wage pegging v/as in operation honorable members opposite were very prone to pander to certain public claims about the wage pegging system. Once wages were unpegged it was inevitable that postal employees must share with everybody else in receiving wage increases. In addition to that, special margins have to be paid to certain employees. There is not need for a select committee to make the inquiry suggested by the right honorable gentleman. The mathematics of the matter is completely simple. An honorable member mentioned, by interjection, that there had been a surplus–
– We are paying more and more for less and less.
– I do not consider that that is true. As I said, an honorable member interjected regarding a surplus of post office revenue. It is perfectly true that there was a surplus, but it is also true that all capital expenditure was not included in the figures of revenue and expenditure on which the surplus was based. The post office is now expending more than £12,000,000 a year in capital expenditure.
– Out of revenue.
– That is correct, but not out of post office revenue. That money comes from Consolidated Revenue.
– How much of it is from post office revenue?
– Order I The Prime Minister must be permitted to answer the original question without interruption.
– The amount allotted to the post office for capital expenditure is £45,000.000 for three years, £36,000,000 of which will be for spending and the remainder for forward ordering. That amount is separate from maintenance charges. It has nothing to do with maintenance. The increases are designed to cover the cost of maintenance, wages and salaries.
Article on Australia.
– Has the Minister for Information read an article on Australia which appeared in the United Nations magazine, United Nations World? Can the Minister explain how such an article came to ha published? Does he agree that in such a journal articles so misleading should not appear? Who is responsible for the publication of the magazine, and how are articles decided upon ? Should not some responsible authority be consulted when articles descriptive of the conditions of a country are required by United Nations publications? Will the Minister inform those responsible for publishing the article of the disservice that has been done to Australia by the article, and, if possible, prevent a similar happening in the future?
– I have seen the article referred to. As a matter of fact, my attention was directed to it by at least half a dozen different people. T think it, is one of the most misleading and mischievous articles that have ever been published, lt was written by an American newspaper man who based the whole of his story about Australia on a book written by a man named Penton, and to that was added a violent diatribe directed against this and every other Government that has been in office since the war. The article was a mass of gross inaccuracies. Even geographical names were misspelt, and I think the writer placed Sydney in Victoria. There were so many inaccuracies on matters of fact that I wonder that the United Nations organization ever permitted the article to be published. Our New York director of the News and Information Bureau attached to the Department of Information made a spirited protest to the editor of the publication concerned, but he, like all newspaper editors, claimed that his correspondent was correct in every respect, and he refused to publish a factual article giving a true, descriptive story of
Australia. I even offered to write an article myself on the subject, but I have not yet received a reply to my generous offer. I shall maintain a barrage against the organization in order to see if we can get the facts about Australia stated with clarity and with truth.
Health and Medical Services
– In February last, the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory issued the report of a select committee unanimously appointed by the council, which report very strongly criticized the medical and health service* of the Territory. Can the Minister for the Interior say whether a copy of the report will be made available to honorable members of this House? When I sought a copy through the library, the Department of the Interior was, to say the least, of it, not co-operative. Will the Minister lay a copy of the report on the table of the House, or otherwise make it available for honorable members so that they may know what the Legislative Council thinks of the medical services in the Northern Territory ?
– I shall consider the honorable member’s request and reply further to his representations at an early date.
– In Tasmania, the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land has reached the stage where some of the men are actually working on their properties, but delays have occurred in settling particulars about rents and conditions of leases. Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction investigate the position in Tasmania, and if possible expedite the drawing up of agreements, because the present delay and uncertainty is causing great anxiety to settlers ?
– I was not aware of any delays with respect to the fixing of rentals in Tasmania that were causing anxiety to soldier settlers. Certainly, that fact has not previously been brought to my attention. However, now that the honorable gentleman has mentioned it
I shall see whether anything can bedone by theCommonwealth authoritiesto expedite the fixation ofrentals. new yorkstockmarket.
-Can the Prime Minister give any detailed information to the House regarding the reported serious break yesterday on the New York stock market when the decline amounted to approximately 1,000,000,000 dollars? As the result of that development, has there been any decline in the prices of primary products as well as of industrials ? Has theright honorable gentleman any information regarding the repercussion of this decline upon the British market? To what degree will it affect Australian’s economy?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - The only information that I have received on the matter which theright honorable memberhas raised is the statement that therehad been a bad break yesterday on the New York stock market. The matters leading up to that development are well known to me, because the Government is constantly suppliedwith information fromour representatives in the United States of America, including the former Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. MacFarlane, and theCommonwealth Statistician, Dr. Wilson, who is Australia’s alternate director on the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. However, there is a divergence ofopinion among experts as to what the, future will hold with respect to the level of prices and the possibility of a recession. Inevitably, the breaking of prices upon the American stock market will ultimately affect the United Kingdom market. I shall not attempt to make a long statement on the matter which involves a lengthy discussion of economic problems generally. I think that I said yesterday that any serious recession inthe United States of America isbound to have repercussions throughout the world.
– Has the attention of the
Prime Minister been directed to the allegedstatementby the Minister for Immigration regarding three Italian stowaways that if he found that the ‘men were Italian nationals he would ask the Italian Minister in Australia to explain the incident? Will the righthonorable gentleman -ascertain whether the Minister made that statement? If so, is it in accordance with the Prime Minister’s assurance to the House that all governmental dealings with foreign governments and their embassies in Australia shall be -through either the Prime Minister’s Department or the . Department . of External Affairs? Has the Government’s policy been changed to the degree that it is now competent for all Ministers to deal directly with the representativesof foreign governments? If not, hasa special dispensation . been . given to the Minister for Immigration in that respect? If that be so, will steps be taken to coordinate the Minister’s -policy with that of the Minister for External Affairs? What action does the Government propose . to take . should the Italian Minister in . Australia be unable to explain the alleged incident? Will he be held responsible for the stowaways; and, if so, . will the Australian Government accept responsibility for stowawayson vessels leaving this country?
– I do -not propose to answer in detail the lengthy series of questions which the honorable gentleman has asked. Consultations between the AustralianGovernment and . the governmentsof other countries are,without exception, . conductedwith the full knowledge of the Minister for External Affairs, or the Minister who may be acting in that capacity, and myself. However, it frequently happens that a representative of another government may speak personally to me or the Minister for External Affairs about a particular matter and ask for details which may best be known to the Minister administering the department -directly ‘concerned -with the subject. For example, many of the matters raised -in such circumstances comewithin the administration of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. In. such instances, the representatives of other countries are -requested to discussaparticular -subject -with the Ministerwho may be handling it -directly. There has been no lack of co-ordination in the formulation . of the Government’s.policy, and therehave been no differences ‘of opinion about the’ immigration laws between eithertheMinister for Immigration and: myself or the Minister for External Affairs. The Government’s immigration policy is clear-cut and definite. If people wish to take the opposite view on that point, they are, of course, entitled to do so.
Mr.RYAN. - I address a question to. the Minister representing the Minister for Health relating to the operation of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act. As the Minister is no doubt aware, some chemists in. country townships have not applied for registration under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act because of an undertaking given to local doctors that they would not enter the scheme until the doctors, themselves were in agreement with it. What steps does the Government propose to take to ensure that free medicine shall be made available from chemists in these country townships if the effect of the legislation recently passed forces doctors to use the necessary forms and the chemists have not applied for registration under the scheme ?
– It is difficult to answera hypothetical question. First, the honorable member asked what will happen if the chemists wish to participate in the Pharmaceutical. Benefits Scheme, but will not do so until the doctors themselves are in agreement with it. The difficulty then would lie with the doctors. Then he asked what will happen if the doctors are compelled to use the necessary forms and chemists in their districts have not applied for registration under the scheme. All I can say is that we shall have to wait and see. I assure the honorable member that no difficulties have arisen in the administration of the free medicine scheme because of the attitudeof the chemists. All’ of the difficulties have been caused by the doctors.
-I direct a question to. the Prime Minister.. Under recent legislation the treatment and cure of tuberculosis have been made the subject of national plain. There is another. scourge, cancer, which, because of its character,can be dealt only ins terms of treatment on a national basis. Such treatment is beyond the capacity of the average practitioner or group of practistioners. Has any consideration beengiven to the formulation of a national plan for research into and treatment of cancer?
– The Government’s plans for the treatment and cure of tuberculosis have already been dealt with at some length. We have intimated to the States what we are prepared to do in an attempt to eradicate that disease, and the States have generally approved of our proposals. As far as I am aware, no special consideration has been given, in consultation with the States, to the treatment and cure of cancer. That subject will, however, be considered as a. part of the general health scheme. I shall consult the Minister for Health and ascertain whether the matter has been discussed with the States. If any discussions have taken place, I shall let the honorable member know how far they have progressed.
– Can the Minister for the Interior tell me when the new electoral office for Hume will be set up at Cootamundra? The present electoral office for. Hume is in the new electorate of Farrer, and many people are inquiring where they should lodge their claims for enrolment..
– Arrangements are in hand for the change-over throughout the Commonwealth from existingelectoral divisions to the new boundaries. This change will be made during theweek commencing the 20th June, and arrangements are being made for the offices ofall the new divisions to be established as working units by the 27th of this month. Claims for enrolment shouldbe forwarded to existing offices up to the 20th June-, but, after that date, they should be directed to the new centres. I can assure all. honorable members that the necessary facilities will be provided to deal with: enrolments on. the date mentioned. Thenew centres, will be duly- advertised..,
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture prepare a statement on the action that has been taken, and the results achieved, by officers of his department and by Australian trade commissioners to expand pre-war markets and open up new markets for Australian apples and pears?
– I could provide the honorable member with the statement that he seeks, but I point out that this season, Tasmania and Western Australia have been unable to supply the markets already available to them. No good purpose can be served by seeking new markets unless those already available can be supplied.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether it is a fact that Australia sought to participate in the provision of goods to beneficiaries in Europe under the Marshall aid programme in order to establish dollar credits under what was known as the off-shore purchases scheme? Did the Australian Government sent departmental officers to Washington to negotiate towards that end ? If so, what was the result of those negotiations?
– After the Marshall aid plan had been introduced and it became evident that the United States of America was not able to supply all of the goods allotted under that plan, it was agreed that it would be permissible for Mr. Hoffman, the administrator of the scheme, to make purchases in other countries and to use Marshall aid dollars to pay for them. When this plan to aid the recovery of Europe was announced the Australian Government caused inquiries to be made in the United States of America about how the scheme would operate and whether Australia would be likely to receive orders for goods for Marshall aid purposes which would be paid for by Marshall aid dollars. It became evident that there was no intention on the part of the Government of the United States of America to authorize extensive purchases in other than dollar countries. In fact the bulk of the off-shore purchases were made in Canada. The purchase of wheat from that country for Marshall aid purposes has now been discontinued. It was because the United States of America could not supply all of the wheat necessary to implement the Marshall aid programme that off-shore purchases of wheat were made from Canada and paid for with Marshall aid or American relief dollars. Apart from such purchases from Canada very few offshore purchases of wheat were made for this purpose. In some instances coal was supplied by Poland for use in Austria and paid for in Marshall aid dollars. It was not the intention of Congress that Marshal] aid dollars should be spent in off-shore purchases if there was any possibility of such goods being bought from dollar countries. That was particularly true of Canada. The Australian Government at no time made any formal approach to the Government of the United States of America in the matter of off-shore purchases, and no discussions on a high governmental level took place.
– In accordance with the promise that I made to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) yesterday, I lay on the table the following paper : -
Australian Youth - Correspondence between the Minister for Immigration and organizations alleged to represent the Youth of Australia regarding a request to the Minister for him to receive a deputation from such organizations.
The correspondence is associated with an incident last week when people claiming to represent the youth of Australia came to Canberra and asked to be received by me and other Ministers to discuss matters of immigration policy. The first letter was signed by a gentleman who claims to represent one of our major Christian churches. The second letter was from the pseudo-delegation claiming to represent the youth of Australia. There were 28 signatures on that letter. Ten were from the Eureka Youth League, one from the Melbourne University Labour League, one from the new Housewives Association of Victoria and two from the Youth Section of the Jewish Council. Another signatory was the vice-president of the Australian Railways Union in Victoria. Only two signatures of the 28 represent church groups, but from the tone of the letter and the furtive methods that were employed, I have not the slightest doubt that all those people are Communists, including the two alleged representatives of Christian thought.
– In view of the fact that the British Government has decided to demand the withdrawal from England of several minor officials of foreign embassies and legations because of suspected espionage, will the Prime Minister say whether the Australian Government has any control over the movements of officials of foreign embassies and legations in Australia?
– I have no official intimation from the British Government of any action of the kind spoken of, but I know that there have been some press reports about the matter. I should imagine that any government that believed that people were coming into the country entirely to engage in spying would make some protest and impose restrictions on their entry. 1 have no official information that the British Government proposes such action or that any such persons are associated with the Russian Embassy in London. Nor have I any evidence that any one associated with the Russian Embassy in Canberra has been associated with espionage in Australia. I do not intend to deal with hypothetical matters, hut if such circumstances arose, the honorable member may rest assured that immediate attention would be given to them.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is true, as reported in the press, that the Council of Defence will meet within the next fortnight to discuss certain Australian defence measures in the Far East? If so, will Australia’s attitude to the defence of Hong Kong be considered? Has the Minister seen the statement by General Sir Thomas Blarney that the two nominal divisions of the Citizen Forces, with very few troops, are the smallest force that we have had for 30 years? Will the fact that the United Kingdom is calling up 170,000 men annually and that New Zealand is considering a compulsory callup also be considered ?
– The honorable member for Balaclava has asked a series of questions about defence matters.
– And I should like a series of good answers.
– It is not possible for me to answer the questions in detail at present. The Council of Defence will meet next week. The matters to be discussed by the council are not matters that I should make public to the House. If any matter arises out of the meeting that I consider the House should know, I shall make a statement on it. In relation to the strength of the defence services, I understand that the Army, particularly, is much better prepared to take part in a crisis, should one emerge, than it was ever before. Certainly, it is much more prepared to meet a situation of that kind than it was when the honorable gentleman was a Minister. The same remarks apply to the Department of Air. I assure the honorable member that the Government is quite satisfied about the condition of our defence forces.
– I am not sure whether my question should be addressed to the Prime Minister or the Minister for the Navy, but, as the Minister for the Navy has already answered two questions to-day, he should have a week off. So I ask the Prime Minister what was the ultimate fate of the British gunboat Amethyst, which was fired on in the Yangtse river by Chinese Communist forces? I have not noticed anything about it in the press of late.
– I have no detail* about the final disposal of Amethyst. I did discuss the matter with the admiral in charge of that area on my way back to Australia from England. I understand that the gunboat was rather badly damaged and that there was difficulty in removing it from the position that it occupied. It is not our problem to inquire what the RoyalNavydoes about its ships, but I shall see if Ican obtain some information for the honorable gentleman.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley)proposed -
That Government businessshalltake precedence over general business to-morrow.
– The effect of the motion just proposed by the Prime Minister (Mr.Chifley) will be to present private members’ business, under the heading of “ General Business from comingon to-morrow and, therefore, probably to prevent it from coming on at allin the course of these sittings. The opportunity to debate private members’ business does not ‘occur more than once a month. If the opportunity of to-morrow is destroyed by the carriage of this motion, ‘thenit cannot occur again for another four weeks., and weknow perfectly well from our experience thatthat timewill beeither at the end of the sittings or so near to it that it will be put at once that Government business must be cleaned up and that a motion similar to theone now before theHouse mustthereforebe carried. Every government will take steps towards the end of a busy session to give priority to government business, and nobody will quarrel with that intheright circumstances. Buthere, for the first time in thesesittings,we have an opportunityto deal withprivate members’ business ‘and the opportunity isto be taken away from us. I confess to havingsome interestinthis matter myself. If honorable memberswill look atthe notice-paper under the headingof “GeneralBusiness “, theywill see that thesecond motionofwhich noticehas beengiven - the first being a motionto disagree with the ruling of Mr. Deputy Speaker - stands in my name andproposesthat Ihave leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act . 1904-1948. As honorable membersknow., private members’ bills are rare in this House. We have nothad a private member’s bill introduced herefor many years. This one ‘happens tobe upon a subject of very great, and, I think, urgent importance in this country. It proposes an amendment of the ‘CommonwealthConciliation andArbitration Act to provide machinery for the taking of a secret ballot, in other words, forgiving effect to ordinary democracy insidethegreatregistered trade unions.
That proposal cannot be regarded as unimportant.Honorable members may agreeor disagreewith it, though I shall be surprised of many reallydisagree with it, but it cannotbe dismissedas unimportant.Futhermore, itisnotput forward, if I may sayso,onbehalfof some primatememberof the Opposition. It isputforward by the Leaderofthe Oppositionspeaking, for this purpose, on behalfofevery memberoftheOpposition. Therefore, although it istechnically a private member’s business, it is in reality a public matterof verygreat importance. The matter has never been brought on in this House. It cannot be debated here until a motion isbrought forward for leave tointroduce it, at which stage we can have some debate.It cannot beadequately debated unless facilitiesare given for it to reach the ordinary second-reading stage in the House sothat it may foe fully thrashed out. But, before the faintestdebateof any kind canoccur the Prime Minister risesand says that he wouldverymuch prefer that this matter should noteven come before the Parliament at all! Therefore, generalbusiness is togo by the board to-morrow and that willmean thatit will go until thebudget session commences, when we shall betold the same thing.The motion beforethe House isnot designed to overcome some tremendous pressure of legislative business from which the Government is suffering. Nobody believes that it is. It is specifically designed to avoid the , embarrassment ofhaving this great and importantsubject discussed and put to a vote, which might discomfit honorable members sitting behind the Government.
Mr.HARRISON(Wentworth) [11.20]. -I support the protest that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has made against the motion. Ihave taken the trouble to examine private members business in an endeavourto discover thereasons thathave actuated the Prime Minister (Mr.Chifley) in making his decision. Under the general business that would be discussedon private members’ day is an objection by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) to “Mr. Deputy Speaker’s ruling. I ‘do not believe that the Prime Minister objectsto a debate on that notice of motion, because he has already permitted a debate on a motion of want of confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker. TheMinister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has secured the adjournment of the debate on thatmotion. The honorable memberfor Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn), whois a supporter ofthe Labour party, has submitted a motion dealingwith the “Initiative, Referendum andRecall, the introduction of which is apart of the policy of the Australian Labour party. Therefore, the Prime Minister would not be adverse to having that subject discussed. TheLeader of theOpposition has given notice of his intention to move -
That leavebe given to bring in a bill for an netto amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act . 1904-1948.
I amendeavouring to discover the Reason why the Prime Minister has moved that Government business shall take precedence over generalbusiness to-morrow. (Mr.Chifley. - The reason is to enable us to get on with the business.
– Thatexplanation is utter nonsense. The present parliamentary period has hardly begun. The Prime Minister has introduced a supply bill, and, normally, he would have taken steps to ensure that that measure was dealt with expeditiously. Instead of doing so, he has allowed the debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. . 2) 1948-49 to drag on for approximately ten days. The business on the notice-paper at the moment is not sufficient to justify the motion that the Prime Minister has submitted. The fight honorable gentleman is engaging in political tactics. He knows that the bill to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.which the Leader of the Opposition desires to introduce, will seriously embarrass the Government. He iswell aware that if that bill is debated, the Government willbe forced either to support it or to oppose it.For political reasons, the Government cannot afford to oppose it. Therefore, the Prime Minister has resorted to political tactics in order to prevent the Leader of the Opposition from proceeding with his bill. The forms of the House are devisedfor the purpose of enabling us to deal with legislation expeditiously. They have not beendevised, and, indeed,they should never be used to give the Leader of the Government the opportunity torestrict debate and deny to private members the right that they may exercise only once a month, to initiate legislation in the interests of the people. The bill that the Leader of the Opposition desires to introduce is of great public importance. . The Prime Minister is not “ game “ to allow the measure to be discussed in this House. I go further, and say he is afraid to allow it to be debated here. He knows that the repercussions would be sufficient to remove him from office.If my analysis of the position is not correct, let the Prime Minister give honorable members the opportunity to debate this bill because I am sure that the people are awaiting it. Every step that the Prime Minister takes to prevent the consideration of the bill must react to his disadvantage.
– I also take strong objection to the proposal to deprive members of the Parliament of the opportunity which they would normally have to discuss certain matters to-morrow. I remind honorable members that discussion of general business affords them their only opportunity to do so. The first item of general business on the notice-paper for to-morrow is a motion standing in my name. The subject of the proposed motion concerns you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because it takes exception to certain of your rulings which members of the Opposition consider were arbitrary and opposed to the traditions of the Chair. I am not, of course, permitted at this stage to discuss in any detail the nature of the objections to those rulings, but I take this opportunity to declare emphatically that the Government, by using its majority, has on previous occasions effectively gagged the Opposition in the House and that it is evident that it intends to do so again to-morrow. The Government is having recourse to this procedure not to gag my motion, particularly, although it is at the head of the list on the notice-paper, but because it intends at all costs to prevent the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) from introducing a measure that is designed to ensure secrecy in the conduct of trade union ballots. The tactics adopted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) are plain to every honorable member. In the guise of impartiality, and under the pretence of permitting debate to continue without restriction, the Prime Minister uses all the artifices that any dictator could devise to prevent the Opposition from speaking freely. Honorable members on this side of the House realize that because the Government and its supporters have a substantial majority in this House, the Opposition cannot hope to carry the motions that its members have placed on the notice-paper, and our action in pressing those motions to a debate may seem so much waste of time. The real point, of course, is that the public is entitled to know the Opposition’s side of the case and to have ventilated in the Parliament certain facts that the Government is extremely anxious to keep under a cloak. That is why the Prime Minister has moved that Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow. By that means the right honorable gentleman hopes to stifle debate in a democratic parliament. Although we have not the numbers to defeat the right honorable gentleman’s move when a vote is taken on his motion, we shall divide the House in order to register our emphatic protest against his arbitrary conduct. In particular, I associate myself and the Australian Country party with the objection that has been taken to the Government’s attempt to gag the motion that is to be submitted by the Leader of the Opposition in his capacity as the right honorable member for Kooyong. If the opportunists opposite have their way and a debate on that motion, which concerns trade union ballots and the secrecy thereof, is not to be permitted, we shall take this last opportunity that will be available to us of saying that the Government is not acting in accordance with the traditions of the Parliament or of democratic practice, and even if we have to go outside the House to make our views on the matter known we shall do so.
.- The place in which we are meeting is officially the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, and it is of the essence of the parliamentary tradition and of the parliamentary institution that all representative viewpoints held by the community should be voiced here. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), in his capacity as a member of the Parliament, has exercised the right that is held by all honorable members by giving notice of his intention to bring before the House a bill which deals with a matter of urgent and public importance. That matter is, 3 believe, exercising the minds of many workers, wage-earners and trade unionists throughout Australia at present. If this were truly a national parliament, and if the parliamentary Labour party were in reality a parliamentary party and not merely a glorified rubber stamp, it would stand behind members of the Opposition in resisting the encroachment by the Executive, led by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), on the time and opportunities that are normally permitted to members of the Parliament to state their views. However, we have long despaired of expecting any >respect for the parliamentary tradition from members of the Labour caucus. One thing that has distinguished the period of office of the present Prime Minister from that of his Labour -predecessor is his contempt for the Parliament and the cynical attitude that he adopts towards the parliamentary institution. “Whatever might be said of the former Prime Minister, the late John Curtin, we must all admit that he did have a feeling of respect for the Parliament. He believed in its authority, and acknowledged “the right of honorable members to state their views and to air their grievances in accordance with the Standing Orders. Since his death that attitude has been conspicuously lacking in his successor. The present Prime
Minister believes that if he can put his story to caucus and persuade it to support his proposals and enter the House as a regimented group, then the rest of the Parliament does not matter. The present sessional period has just commenced, and there is no great urgency pressing the Government to get its business through the Parliament. The Supply legislation will be passed before the Senate meets next week, and we have many weeks left for the discussion of government business. Nevertheless, the only opportunity likely to be available to private members to discuss the matters that they desire to bring before the Parliament is to be taken from them. The Prime Minister is making a travesty of the parliamentary institution in attempting to prevent an honorable member from bringing forward a private bill, more so when the member concerned happens also to be the Leader of the Opposition. The right honorable member for Kooyong merely seeks to exercise his right as a member of the Parliament to place before the House and the country the views, not only of himself but also of members of the Opposition generally, on a matter that is of the greatest public importance and interest. The Prime Minister, in attempting to prevent him from doing so, is rendering to the Parliament a grave disservice, and if there were one ounce of spirit and one atom of respect for the parliamentary tradition in those who sit behind him they would vote against this motion when it is put to the test.
– I rise to support the protestations so rightly voiced by honorable members on this side of the House. The high-handed attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) can best be described as another milestone on the road to ruthless dictatorship in this country. If there is any justification whatever for the cancellation of private members’ day, the Prime Minister has not even deigned to explain it. Of course, the justification in his mind is the need that he feels to stifle debate on a matter of such grave public importance as the conduct of trade union ballots. To prevent discussion of that matter he is prepared to withhold from a member of the Parliament the right of every member to introduce a private bill. In this instance the member concerned happens to be the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). We find ourselves stifled because the Prime Minister has chosen to submit a motion that is in conformity with the rules of the House. Obviously, he expects the matter to end there. But the notice-paper shows that there is no justification whatever for government business to take precedence over general business. Since the House resumed its sittings we have been engaged continuously in debating certain measures that are intended to provide Supply for four months of the ensuing financial year. Whether or not honorable members are deprived of the opportunity to discuss general business to-morrow, the House will be compelled to continue the debate on Supply. Last month a bill was introduced to provide Supply for the first four months of 1949-50. Now the Government is asking the Parliament and the country to believe that that measure is of more importance than, and should take precedence over, the introduction of a measure by the Leader of the Opposition, the nature of which concerns every responsible person in the community, and, particularly, every responsible trade unionist in this country. The Government, of course, is not game to confront the issues. The disclosures that would undoubtedly be made, and the force and weight of the case that would be presented by the Opposition on any discussion of the bill proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, are of such a nature that the Government is simply not game to stand up to them. It is not game to hear the case presented by the Opposition, much less to divide the House on the matter. On behalf of the Australian Country party, I protest emphatically at the highhanded, unreasonable and unjustifiable attitude that has been adopted by the Prime Minister.
– I support the complaint of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). The Parliament is being reduced to a farce.
It exists: not to give its approval to what thecaucusof any party determines, but to represent the people and. determine questions of public importance.. It is true that the Government has control of the House, but is equally true that the allocation of time for debate ought to. be in the hands of the House only. The Prime Minister has moved, without having advanced any reason for his action, that to-morrow government business shall take precedence of private members’ business. It has been obvious for a long time that the right honorable gentleman regards the Parliament merely as a place in which he can indulge in. his own propaganda and to which, under the Constitution, he must of necessity come to secure legislative approval for his programme. The real issue in this debate is the purpose of the motion that is now before the House. As the Prime Minister has given no indication of its purpose, we must seek to find it. The motion cannotbe justified on the ground of urgency because not one of the bills on the noticepaper urgently requires to be debated tomorrow. Therefore, the only purpose of the. motion is to preclude the Leader of” the Opposition from introducing a bill to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration. Act so as to provide for the democratic government of trade unions. If the Prime Minister says that the Leader of the Opposition, will be given proper opportunity to introduce that bill and that the House will be allowed to discuss it, my opposition to this motion will not be so great as it now is. I still maintain, however, that, unless there be urgent reasons to the contrary, private members’ business should be debated on the days that are allotted for the conduct of such business. We are entitled to ask the Prime Minister to inform the House of the real purpose of this motion. What is the bill that the right honorable gentleman says ought, as a matter of urgency, to be debated to-morrow ? Will he give an undertaking to the House that, even though the present motion be carried, ample opportunity will be given to the Leader of the Opposition to introduce his bill for the amendment of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration. Act ? If the right honorablegentleman does not give that undertaking; it willbe obvious to the people that’ the motion is designed only to shut the mouth of the Opposition.
– A significant fact aboutthis debate is that not one honorable member opposite has risen to support the motion that has been moved by the Prime Minister:
– They do not want to wastetime.
– The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), who is under suspension, should remainsilent until such time as Mr. J ustice Ligertwood unlocks his lips. Either honorable gentlemen opposite are subjected to such iron discipline by the Government that not one of them dares to rise and express his views on the conduct of private members.’ business, which would mean that’ from their point of view there is no private members’ business except with the leave and consent of the Prime Minister, or they have so little faith in the justice of what the Prime Minister is attempting to do now that they cannot support him. In my view, there are many honorable members on the other side of the House who would willingly avail themselves of an opportunity to support the bill that the Leader of the Opposition wants to introduce. That opportunity should be given to them. Before the forthcoming general election, honorable members opposite should be placed in the position of having publicly to declarewhether they believe that fair, honest and democratic control should be reintroduced into certain trade unions or that the present state of affairs should be. allowed to continue. Actions such as that which have been taken by the Prime Minister ought not to be tolerated in any properly constituted British parliament.
Mr.CHIFLEY (Macquarie-Prime Minister and Treasurer) [11.42.]. - in reply - There has been a. show of heroics by members of the Opposition in connexion with this motion. It has been: suggested that the Government proposes: to. deny honorable members opposite an. opportunity to air their views on various; subjects. I remind the House that the debate on the supply and appropriation bills which has. been in progress now for some time, affords an opportunity to discuss almost any subject. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has said that the Government could expedite the passage of those bills if it wished to do so, but if the “ gag “ or the “ guillotine “ were imposed and the debate curtailed, honorable members opposite would make complaints similar to those that they have voiced in speaking to this motion. The Government does not desire to deny honorable members an opportunity to discuss fully a wide range of subjects in the debate on the supply and appropriation bills, and itis to be hoped it will not be necessary to curtail the debate. However, it is necessary that the Government should have supply. The bills must, therefore, be passed by this House in time to enable them to be dealt with by the Senate before the end of the month.
With regard to the point that has been raised by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), I should have thought that the question of secret ballots in trade unions could have been discussed on other motions that have been before the House. Apart from the bills to which I have referred, there are a number of other bills on the noticepaper which the Government regards as urgent and which it desires to be passed within a reasonable time. There are other bills to be brought down. From time to time I have heard a great deal from members of the Opposition about their desire for full discussions, but I have found that after a fairly lengthy session many of them are very anxious to get away, and in fact go away. I know that honorable members on this side of the House are anxious to be in their electorates. We have electorates to attend to and we do not want to be here all the time. I should not be surprised if, before the end of the session, an opportunity presented itself to discuss the matter to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred.
– Will the right honorable gentleman give a promise to that effect?
– I am not a man who makes promises. I do not think the Leader of the Opposition will deny that I have always tried to facilitate the provision of opportunities for himto express his opinions. Despite our wide divergencies of opinion on political, economic and other matters I do hot think the right honorable gentleman can say that we have been discourteousto one another in trying to arrange suitable opportunities for honorable members to express their views. If membersof the Opposition want this session to last through the winter, it will be quite all right with me. I have no objection. I shall keep going-
– It was supposed to be private member’s day to-morrow.
– We desire to have these appropriation and supply bills dealt with expeditiously, as there are a number of other measures which we regard as of considerable importance which we also desire the House to pass. Iam sure honorable members Opposite will wish to debate at length, some of the measures coming forward and I am fairly confident that when those measures are debated the right honorable gentleman will have an opportunity of expressing himself very fully, if he has not already been able to do so, in relation to his own particular bill.
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker-Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to - That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the removal from Australia of certain persons who entered Australia during the period of hostilities.
Motion (by Mr. Calwell) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Immigration Act 1901-1948, and for other purposes.
Debate resumed from the 31st May (vide page 343), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- In the first debate of this sessional period the Parliament examined a review by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) of Australia’s manufacturing economy. That debate provided an opportunity for honorable members to analyse the manner in which our industries were progressing. The present debate is concerned primarily with financial matters, and provides a convenient opportunity for us to analyse not merely the progress of our industries but also the financial implications of our economy as a whole. I am glad to have the opportunity to follow the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in this debate, because much of what I have to say will be directed against statements made by him in the course of this and the previous debates. The Minister has earned for himself the somewhat unenviable reputation of being a thoroughly dishonest debater, and that reputation has been added to by the propositions that he put to the House during the two debates that I have mentioned. I regret the necessity to have to refer, even in part, to the prior debate, but honorable members will recall that during that discussion many of us examined the phenomenal growth of government employment that has taken place in recent years. I had something to say about that matter in the previous debate, and, because of the gross misrepresentation by the Minister of what I then had to say, I desire to-day to set the record straight. The Minister accused me of having made a vicious attack - these were his words - on the Public Service of this country. He accused me of saying that one in every four of our population is employed in the Public Service, and thereby endeavouring to mislead the people that one in every four of the working population is employed in the service of the Australian Government. I did, in fact, say that one in every four persons now employed in Australia is working for a government or semigovernment authority, but at no time did I attempt to convey the impression that they were all working for the Australian Government. If the Minister had examined the Hansard record of my speech he would have seen that I went to the trouble of specifying the growth of government employment in terms of the increase that had taken place in the Commonwealth Public Service in the relevant period. I explained that the total had grown from 47,000 members of the Public Service in June, 1939. to 100,000 in June, 194.7, and that by February of this year the June, 1939, total had almost quadrupled and the June, 1947, figure had increased by more than 70 per cent. From the latest figures we get a total of 174,000 persons. The Minister completely ignored the fact that I had broken up the total number in order to show just how many persons were employed in the Commonwealth Public Service.
– It is a pity that there is not one Labour supporter in the chamber to listen to this criticism except the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan).
– The facts will bear repetition. if we take at random any group of 100 males in Australia, no fewer than 30 of them will be working for a government or semi-government authority.
– Of all the members of the Government and its supporters, only the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan) and the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) are in the chamber. Therefore, I draw your attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– I am glad that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) has now entered the chamber, because he will be interested in what I am about to say. For the years 1947 and 1948, the net population gain from immigration was about 60,000; but in that period more than 70,000 persons were taken into the service of the Commonwealth for work associated with additional government activities. Therefore, the Minister for Immigration will be kept very busy, at the present rate of recruitment for the Commonwealth Public Service, if he is to bring into Australia enough immigrants to keep pace with the drain on the working population caused by his colleagues in the Ministry in absorbing it into various government departments. [ have raked this point in order to show how inaccurate and unfair was the comment of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction.
My principal purpose in participating in this debate, however, is to examine the pattern of Labour propaganda as outlined for us by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and other members of the Government. It is clear that this pattern of propaganda will bofollowed by Labour spokesmen until the elections are held at the end of this year. What we are being told is that a depression is coming and that it is coming from free-enterprise America. The Australian people can be saved from the ill effects of the depression, so we are told, only by retaining in power a socialist government in Australia.
This socialist government will resist the effect on Australia of a depression in other parts of the world by an extension of its socialistic activity, and by giving full employment through an extensive programme of public works. That is the pattern. It was announced clearly last night by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, but he was not the first in the field. The Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron), speaking at Launceston on the 5th May of this year, told a somewhat awe-stricken audience that a depression was coming. He said that every war was followed by a depression, and that the only way in which the people of Australia could avoid a depression was to maintain the Labour Government in office with wide powers over industry and employment. 1 propose to examine that proposition at this early stage because we are going to hear a good deal about it in the months ahead. I take, first, the proposition advanced by the Postmaster-General that a depression always follows a war, and that one is now on the way. Was that our experience in Australia after World War I.? It is true that a world depression developed in 1929, and its effects were felt in the 1930’s, but my understanding of the economics of Australia is that we passed through a period of remarkable prosperity from 1920 onwards. In support of that assertion, let me quote the opinion of an eminent economist, Mr. Colin Clark, who has said -
From 1920 to 1928-27 caine a rate of economic progress which has never been equalled at any other time in Australian history, or scarcely in the world … It will pay to examine in more detail the astonishing spurt of Australian productivity between 1920-21 and 1920-27. In many other countries there have been short, or sometimes prolonged periods of very rapid economic growth, and from the available statistics of national incomes I have selected all the available figures. It will be seen that this period, when production per head in Australia was expanding at the rate of 91 per cent, per decade, nearly constitutes a record.
That remarkable economic growth, that productive spurt, occurred, not in a community with a greatly expanded bureaucracy, or in a community regimented by government processes, but in one where free enterprises had virtually unlimited scope. Just how much substance is there in the calamity-howling about a depression coming from the United States of America? It makes good propaganda to suggest that such a depression is coming, and it is useful for politicians, faced with rising prices in Australia, to be able to point to the fact that in the United States of America a steady, deflationary process has been going on, and that prices are returning to more normal levels. Most people would have received with joy the news that inflation was being checked, and that prices were getting back to something like normal, but the propagandists of the Chifley Government can see in such an occurrence only an indication of disaster. They try to gloss over the facts that prices in Australia have been rising because of abnormal government activity and expenditure - which is more than five times the pre-war rate - and that the Government has failed to obtain maximum production. The facts of the American situation are that, taking the figures for the period 1935-39 as the base index number of 100, the peak of living costs in the United States of America was reached in August, 1943, when the index number was 196.3, whilst the last index figure available, which was for April of this year, was 179, or a drop of approximately seventeen paints. How was this news received in official quarters in the United States of America and by responsible leaders <of industry in that country? I shall place on record several statements which I have taken from official American sources. First, I quote from a comment on a report of a meeting of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, published in the official Wireless Bulletin of the United States State Department of the 9th May last, under the headline “U.S. Economic Trends show strong Undertone”. That excerpt reads -
Relative stability in employment and an optimistic appraisal of price and production trends are reflected in current government reports on economic outlook. According to a report by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, the United States is “ going through a post-war adjustment rather than a post-war collapse “, and is “ still in a period of healthy disinflation “. Dr. Edwin G. Nourse, Council Chairman, who presented the report, took an optimistic view of the economic outlook. He said that while prices continued to recede, the trend was “ not on a demoralized basis “.
Next, I shall quote from the report on a statement by the Secretary of the United States Treasury, Mr. John Snyder, which I take from the official Wireless Bulletin of the United States State Department, dated the 16th May last. The statement reads -
The United States economy is exceptionally strong “ at present, despite some predictions of a business recession “, Treasury Secretary John Snyder says. In a talk Thursday to a gathering of bankers from all over the country, Snyder described four “powerful factors in our present situation making for stability and progress on a highincomenighemployment level “. He listed these as -
Absence of speculation - “ speculation has been virtually absent during our years of postwar prosperity. Each of the recessions in our business history has been featured by heavy liquidation of speculative accounts; and the absence of this feature is, to my mind, the most striking element of -contrast with previous periods “.
Gradual post-war readjustment of industry - “ business recessions in the past were largely unforeseen. They owed their severity to a simultaneous re-adjustment of many phases of the economy. But the situation is different now. Adjustments to a more normal competitive economy have been going on since the very close of the war”.
The third factor to which he refers reads -
High income levels and accumulated savings - “it is extremely reassuring to note that consumer buying is being supported, by continuing1 high income levels and by a backdog of savings which has reached an all-time high. Personal incomes in March of this year - the latest figures available were at an annual rate of $214,000:000,000, a little below the all-time peak of last December, but well above the level of a year ago. Liquid assets of individuals - which is just another name for stored-up purchasing power amount, to $200,000,000,000 at the present time “.
Those reports do not provide much evidence of a depression in the United States of America. One American commentator has said -
If we are in for a depression it will be the richest depression in the history of man.
The fourth factor which I quote from the report made by Mr. John Snyder reads -
Technical discoveries and inventions - we are only at the beginning of our peace-time development. We have made a start only toward developing new products based on war-time discoveries in new materials, new manufacturing techniques and -new types of equipment.
A similar ‘view of the American economy was taken as recently as the 16th May last by Professor Sumner H. Slichter, Harvard University economist, who is reported in the official Wireless Bulletin of the United States State Department as saying-
Debts are low in relation to incomes, he said, and thus the public is in a good position to make more purchases, especially since its rate of spending is low in relation to cash holdings and bank deposits.
I could quote many more passages from authoritative American sources to show that at present the American economy is fundamentally sound; that American production is running at record levels and that the savings and general productive effort of the American people are remarkably high. We must bear in mind that while the United States of America is making this outstanding industrial and economic progress, it is virtually shouldering the burden of world defence. At the same time, that country has embarked upon a very substantial defence programme and is also carrying the burden involved in getting Europe back on its feet as quickly as possible. I emphasize that 16 per cent, of the current American budget is specifically directed towards international commitments which the United States of America has accepted in order to strengthen the economy of the rest of the world.
– The United States of America has provided employment for 1.500,000 people in socialist England.
– That is so; and I shall deal with that point later. Whilst the United States of America has embarked on that programme, it is providing financial aid to the rest of the world and undertaking a substantial defence programme. At the same time, it has, maintained its economy in the healthy condition I have indicated. But every day in this Parliament we hear talk about dollar deficits and we are told that Australia, Great Britain and practically every other country is faced with a shortage of dollars. What does that mumbojum’bo mean in everyday language? It means that the American people are able to supply us with more of the goods that we require than we can supply the American people with the goods they require. That again reflects, the strength of the American economy. I believe that I have said sufficient at least to suggest that this calamity howling is thoroughly unjustified so far as it relates to the United .States of America. That does not mean that there are no serious portents to the economic future of Australia.
I come now to what is happening in Great Britain, because the story of that country is by no means as satisfactory as is the story of the United States of America. We have had rather an alarming indication in recent weeks that the battle for exports is not succeeding in the United Kingdom, that the gap between import and export incomes, instead of shrinking, is widening. That gap was doubled during the last month for which figures have been supplied. As the sellers’ market decreases and the buyers’ market increases, as the manufactured products of Germany and Japan come on to the market in increasing quantities and as other countries restore their economies and manufacture from their own resources an increasing proportion of their own needs, Great Britain’s task of maintaining exports at a level sufficient to enable it to purchase the raw materials and foodstuffs essential to its economy will become more difficult. Can we look to the methods of socialism for an answer to Great Britain’s present problem? Within the last few days I had the opportunity to examine what has been happening in some important industries and activities which have come within the socialist net in Great Britain. I refer, first, to the basic industry of coal, which is as essential to Great Britain’s economic prosperity as it is to our own economy. Under nationalization in Great Britain deep-mine production of coal in 1948 totalled 197,000,000 tons; but in 1938 production in that industry totalled 227,000,000 tons, or 30,000,000 tons more than was produced ten years later under nationalization. We also find that nationalized transport services in
Great Britain, in spite of the fact that railway fares have been increased by 55 per cent., are showing serious losses. Those services, taken as a whole, are expected to show a deficit of £25,000,000 in the current year. That is one pointer. The other is the fact mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that although there is substantially full employment in Great Britain, only a few hundred thousand being now unemployed in that country, members of the British Government, including Sir Stafford Cripps, Mr. Morrison and Mr. Bevan, have admitted that but for Marshall aid there would be an additional 1;500,000 people unemployed in Great Britain at present. That situation has arisen, despite all the promises and the specious proposals of the socialists that by government works and public spending, full employment can be guaranteed ! Just what does that position in Great Britain mean to Australia? I hope, if I have the time, to develop that point for a moment or two. It means that the Australian economy, instead of looking for its shocks to what is happening in the United States of America, may have to look to what is happening in Great Britain. If, as the result of Great Britain’s failure to maintain its export level, it cannot buy from Australia goods at the level which has obtained in the past, we may be presented with a problem of the greatest magnitude.
Last night the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction told us that, subject to two qualifications, he had no fears of a depression coming to Australia. The first qualification was that the Labour Government remained in office and put into effect its policy of full employment, and the second was that the banking legislation introduced by the Government remained intact and gave the Government complete control over the credit policy of this nation. Let us examine that statement for a moment. Does any honorable member seriously believe that assuming there was a decline in economic levels overseas, whether in the United States or Great Britain, Australia could meet the problems arising therefrom and offset their effects simply by a programme of public works or by the control of credit by the Australian Government? Is the answer to the problem as easy as that? Will honorable members opposite continue to fool the people with this propaganda and thereby create a hysterical situation in which the people may work themselves into another depression? Has any country been able to provide full employment at a period of low economic activity elsewhere simply by introducing a programme of public works or a programme of socialization? As honorable members well know, as far as a public works programme is concerned, not one country has been able to do so. Such a policy was tried in the United States of America. When Franklin Roosevelt assumed office as President of the United States in 1932 and faced a substantial level of unemployment he set in motion a vast government works programme. No one would suggest that that programme was not. cast on a very grand scale. But by 1938, after six years of this process, and whilst 3,000,000 Americans were working on government projects, there were still 8,000,000 unemployed in that country. Therefore, a programme of public works cannot be taken as the complete answer to this problem. We have been told that the Labour Government has in store a £200,000,000 public works programme with which to counter the effects of any decline of activity in Australia. Is it supposed that people will be able to move freely to such works, many of which will be undertaken in centres remote” from their normal place of residence? At best a public works programme could be merely supplementary to other measures for inducing a healthy state in the economy of the nation as a whole, such as the encouragement of private enterprise so as to ensure that private industry shall be carried on efficiently and with a proper degree of economic activity. That aspect of the problem is never stressed by Government spokesmen. Indeed, the role of private enterprise in these matters is completely ignored by the Government. No real attempt is being made to encourage private enterprise to remain on its feet. Instead, as the result of oppressive taxation and the strait-jacket of government control, the job of keeping private industries going is made much harder. T. am sure that in an assembly of this character, I do not need to elaborate the point that a programme of public works is not the complete answer. Does socialization offer a solution of the problem? “We are told that this Government does not intend to go ahead with the programme of socialization. Yet here is a quotation from the report of a speech made only last week-end by the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) in which he gave Labour’s interpretation of socialization -
The Labour party contemplated socialization inly when it was clearly undesirable or dangerous to allow an activity to remain in private hands. Wholesale socialization was not the policy of the Labour party, whose policy could briefly be stated as the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange. [f that is an accurate report of what the Minister said, all I can say is that his words contain their own contradiction, [f the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange does not mean wholesale socialization, I do not know what it means. The Minister’s statement is significant. Obviously the honorable gentleman, who is credited with being the godfather of the free pill scheme, has now been given the job of handing out soothing syrup to take away the bitter taste of Labour’s socialization plans. , Did the Government propose to establish a banking monopoly because the private banks had become clearly undesirable or dangerous in this country? Under the powers conferred upon it by the banking legislation of 1945 the Government had ample power to control the credit resources of this country, but that did not stop it from going ahead with its proposal to establish a government banking monopoly. Despite the soothing syrup ladled out by the Minister for Health as election day draws near, the Government has not refrained from exercising what are virtually dictatorial powers over broadcasting, shipping, and other activities which will give it almost unlimited authority to intrude into the manufacturing field. Again we have the hypocritical sham of the Prime Minister saying, in effect, “ I do not promise the people anything. I shall go to them on my record “. He told the people the same story during the last election, but although he went to the country ostensibly on his record, immediately after he was returned to office he put into effect the socialization plan which had been drawn up in 1943. Why did the right, honorable gentleman practise this sham? Why did not the Prime Minister act honestly with the people by calling his party, not the Australian Labour party, but the socialist party? There has never been a popular vote in Australia in favour of a programme of socialization. Being aware of that fact the Prime Minister has refused to disclose his hand openly and fly his true colours before the people as did the late Mr. Fisher, and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and other statesmen who laid the foundations of the Labour movement in this country. They had no connexion with this alien specious doctrinaire socialism which the Labour party as we know it to-day has pledged itself to put into effect. The Minister for Health has told us these things, but another Minister was a trifle more candid. Addressing the Melbourne University Labour Club in 1943, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction is reported to have said -
I nm a socialist and the whole of my experience as head of the Department of War Organization of Industry has been to get nearer to the socialization of industry.
That statement, which is clear and unequivocal, is far removed from “ Doctor “ McKenna’s soothing syrup. Another senior member of the Government, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), said with oratorical fervour in his own electorate of Ballarat on the occasion of the Labour Day Dinner in 1948 -
We will go on and on until eventually in Australia you will have a great co-operative Commonwealth. Its wealth will be owned by the people and will be operated in a socialistic manner for our people as a whole.
While the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is going “ on and on “ and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction is devoting the whole of his experience as head of his department to /getting nearer to the socialization of industry, we are not likely to be gulled readily by the statement of the Minister for Health that the Labour party intends to socialize only undertakings which it considers undesirable or dangerous to leave in private hands. Already in Great Britain, despite the disastrous experience of nationalized industry, legislation has been passed to nationalize the steel industry and the Government has indicated that industrial assurance, the cement industry, and the sugar refining industry, are all to be brought within the net in its immediate legislative programme. A similar forecast has been made in respect of this country. The Labour party’s platform is clear. Earlier in this speech, I asked whether socialism is the answer to the problem of full employment. Whilst I maintain that a programme of public works as such, is by no means a complete answer, I agree that socialism, fully implemented, can provide full employment. In Soviet Russia we have the supreme example of a fully socialized State. There is full employment, but it is regimented employment. No doubt, the unfortunate slaves who built the pyramids in Egypt derived some meagre comfort from the fact that they were fully employed, just as the 14,000,000 or 15,000,000 Russians in slave labour camps in the Soviet Union to-day, are fully employed; but is that the kind of full employment that this Government offers to the people of Australia? Full employment in the sense that it is promised to the people of this country by the Labour Government can be guaranteed only if labour is regimented. Workmen will have to accept the jobs to which they are directed. As long as the individual retains his freedom of choice of employment and employer, full employment in the sense that the term is used by honorable members opposite will be impossible. In the absence of regimentation full employment can only mean that the Government will make available a certain number of jobs which will be accepted by the people if they are prepared to fulfil the conditions attached to that employment.
I maintain that regimented full employment will never be acceptable to our people, and must be dismissed as being beyond the range of practical politics in this country. It is menacing to the future stability of this country that we have a Government which, so far as is discernible from public statements, can offer only a gigantic programme of public works as a remedy for any business decline that may occur. President Roosevelt found that that was not the complete answer to the problem. Only when industry was revitalized and galvanized into action as it was in this country and in the United States of America during and after the war was it possible to provide full employment.
What is the proper course for Australia to follow? Our prosperity depends upon our export trade. We are substantially a primary producing nation despite the growth of manufacturing. Our economic stability depends upon the volume of our exports of primary products, and the prices that we obtain for those products on overseas markets. Export trade is our life blood. It is essential to our prosperity, and I contend that the Government, instead of devoting so much of its time to socialism and a future programme of public works should seek to devise means of continuing Australia’s export trade and maintaining our manufacturing industries at full production. In this connexion, the Government is deserving of our severest censure. What is it doing to ensure that Australia’s trade with other British Commonwealth nations and with the United States of America shall be maintained at an adequate level? Last week, I asked the Prime Minister whether, when he was in London, he had discussed the economic future of the British Commonwealth, and whether any attention had been devoted to the development of trade within the Empire. The right honorable gentleman replied in the negative. That was bad enough, but he went on to say -
I consider, as I did last year when I made a special trip overseas to discuss Commonwealth economic relations as they affected Australia, that, owing to the diversity of interests of the Dominions, no object would be served by holding a Commonwealth economic conference.
In other words, the Prime Minister washed his hands of any intention or desire to increase trade within the British Commonwealth of Nations as a means of preserving our economic standards. Is that view supported by other members of the Labour party? Is that the future of the Australian people as a whole? Of course, there is a diversity of interests among the countries that comprise what the King described so happily last week as the British family of nations, hut those diversities have never prevented us in time of war from pooling our resources and giving to each other the greatest possible measure of co-operation and support. Why then should that diversity prevent us from pooling our resources in time of peace and giving to each other what we need to increase the stability and prosperity of the British Commonwealth of Nations as a whole? Does anybody suggest, for example, that it would not be advantageous for Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Rhodesia, the United Kingdom itself, and the other components of the British Commonwealth to get together with a view to relating production to the mutual needs of all? Yet we have been told in cold blood by the Prime Minister that such a discussion would be futile. A conference on those lines was held successfully in 1932 at Ottawa. Senior members of this Parliament will remember how the British family of nations gradually worked themselves out of the economic depression largely as the result of co-operation under the Ottawa Agreement. The Prime Minister is adopting a defeatist attitude when he says that another family conference on the lines of that held at Ottawa would be futile. At question time to-day, I asked the right honorable gentleman whether anything further had been done under the off-shore purchases scheme to supply from this country part of what is needed under the Marshall aid plan, as a means of conserving dollar credits and thereby expanding trade between this country and the United States of America. The right honorable gentleman replied that there had been no discussions on that matter at a government level. So far as I could interpret the Prime Minister’s remarks, there has been very little informal discussion even by departmental advisers; yet here is a valuable opportunity for Australia and the United States of America, by applying the principles that worked out so successfully under the lend-lease programme, to assist the nations of Europe, and, at the same time, to increase Australian credits in the United States of America for the supplying of our own needs. If this Government has not made an attempt on a high government level to develop trade between Australia and the United States of America by such means it has utterly betrayed the trust of the people of this country that it would keep our trade going and maintain high prosperity. Failure to act effectively i* typical of the present Government.. Although Ministers can producenumerous blue-prints, when it comesto hard matter-of-fact negotiation and bargaining, the common-sense application* of the theory of economics to the daytoday problems associated with trade between countries and to the supplying of goods and services to our own people, this Government breaks down utterly. We have a Government ruling this country at present, backed by a regimented caucus, and directed by the worst political leadership that the federation has ever known, which is probably the most incompetent and inefficient Administration we have ever had in our history. On the one hand the Prime Minister tells the people that they must produce more, whilst on the other hand the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) tells the workers that they would be foolish to produce more than they need for themselves and their families. Furthermore, whilst the Minister of Immigration (Mr. Calwell) is arranging to bring migrants to this country in ever-increasing numbers, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) is telling us that immigration should be restricted. So long as this condition exists the people of Australia can hope for little from this Government.
– Towards the end of his speech, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) dealt with the alleged incompetence of the present Administration. The reason why the honorable member and the other members of his party are now sitting in opposition is that their incompetence was such that they helped the Australian Labour party to place them where they now are. He also said that the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) had made certain statements about socialism. As a lawyer, the honorable member for Fawkner should know that the ability of any government to introduce socialism into this country is governed by the Constitution. The honorable gentleman suggested that the Australian Labour party should change its name to the Socialist party. I point out that, unlike the Opposition, which changes its name every two or three years, the Australian Labour party changes neither its name nor its policy. Concerning the possibility of a recession occurring, it appears that the honorable member is at least out of step with Professor Hytten, the economic adviser to the Bank of New South Wales, who is not likely to be considered a Labour supporter. The honorable member is also out of step with the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who has referred to the slump in share prices on the New York Stock Exchange. It is well known that the depression of 1929 was heralded by a crash on Wall-street. This Government has learned by hard experience. The remarks of Mr. Colin Clark, economist to the Queensland Government, with relation to the boom years 1920 to 1926, have often been mentioned in this House. Judging by the current comments of those who should know, the indi- , cations now are that the period of prosperity that we have enjoyed since the cessation of hostilities may be coming, to an end. The gentlemen to whom I have referred have already indicated their views. The honorable member has paid little attention to the fact that the Government has already planned a huge public works programme. The Snowy Mountains hydro-electricity scheme alone will cost over £200,000,000 by the time that the whole job is completed. In addition, the Australian Government, in conjunction with the State governments, has drawn up plans for other projects to meet any economic blizzard that might affect this country. There is nothing whatever for the people of Australia to worry about in the future so long as this Government remains in office. If the policy of the Australian Labour party, during the depression period of 1929-32 to expend £1,500,000 a month for a period of twelve months to put the unemployed to work had been put into effect, much of the misery and degradation that was suffered by countless thousands of our people at that time would have been avoided.
Reference has been made in questions directed to me, and also during the the course of this debate, to the fact that a self-confessed Communist named Sharpley has made certain statements relating to the administration of the Department of the Navy. Thar reference to communism brings to my mind the activities of the Leader of tb. Opposition (Mr. Menzies) during the recent recess of the Parliament. He delivered addresses all over the country implying that the Australian Labour party and the Communist party were in some way affiliated. We know full well that when a previous government led by the right honorable gentleman imposed r ban on the Communist party, that party merely changed its name and carried on. Now it is suggested by the Liberal party that we should reimpose that ban. After the ban was imposed on the Communist party it reached it greatest strength. Canada is the only country in the world where there is now a ban on the Communist party. The Liberal party and the Communist party, allied with the Australian Country party, are out to smash this Government. The Liberals, as well as vested and financial interests, are continually saying that this Government must be defeated. The real reason why the Opposition has turned to the question of re-imposing the ban on the Communist party is that the legislative record of this Government cannot be attacked, and in consequence it is necessary for the Opposition to raise a bogy to turn the attention of the electors away from the real issues to be decided at the next general election. The Leader of the Opposition is anxious that the ban should be imposed again and the Communists are offering no objection because it would not interfere with their organization in any way. In the 1930’s, in Germany, the Nazis and Fascists allied themselves with the Communists for the purpose of smashing the Social Democrats and the German trade-union movement, and there followed the rise of Hitlerism. It may be that the Opposition wishes to use the Communist party for its own nefarious purposes, as did Hitler.
Sitting suspended from 12. ko to 8.15 p.m.
– That the advocacy by the Opposition parties of the banning of the Communist party suits the book of the Communists was demonstrated by the fact that when the party was banned previously its numerical strength reached an all-time high level. The Labour party and particularly the Labour Government are the greatest bulwarks against communism in Australia because the policy of economic and social security for all applied by the Government is hindering the development of communism and will eventually reduce it to virtually nothing. The Communist party is on the way out, but unfortunately some persons and organizations in Australia, for reasons best known to themselves, are apparently supplying the party with funds, because it is amply supplied with the wherewithal to carry out its purpose of assisting the Liberal party to smash the Labour Government. The power of the Communists in Australia, is industrial and not political. Even if the party were banned, the Healys and the Thorntons would still occupy their positions in the trade unions with which they are connected. As in Germany in the 1930’s, when the Communists lined up with the Nazis to smash the Social Democratic party and the German trade union movement, so in Australia the Communists and the parties in opposition to Labour are allied in an endeavour to bring down the Government. A pertinent demonstration of the unholy alliance that exists between the Communists and the Opposition is provided by the publication in the press of the articles supposed to have been written by an alleged ex-Communist named Sharpley. He is a Judas who is apparently prepared to sell his principles and his former associates for “a handful of capitalist silver “. In the opinion of the Communists the end justifies the means. Some people are of the opinion that although Sharpley alleges that he is an ex-Communist, he is still a Communist. We know what the Communist party line is. It was amply demonstrated in Sharpley’s articles in which he referred to Communist enlistments in the Australian Imperial Force when there was an understanding between Hitler and Stalin.
It is strange to us that the Melbourne Herald, the Brisbane Courier-Mail and other newspapers in the Murdoch group should suggest that Sharpley’s revelations were startling. They may have been startling to the Murdoch newspaper moguls and to political “ babes in the wood “, but all the statements made under the name of Sharpley had been known to the Labour party for years, except his reference to the naval dockyard at Williamstown. Sharpley went to the Melbourne Herald office as a Communist or self-confessed ex-Communist first to support the attack of the Leader of the Opposition on the Government for its alleged failure to deal with the Communists, secondly, to further the campaign of the Opposition which was designed to turn the attention of the people from the legislative record of the Government; thirdly, to sell his principles for money; and fourthly to carry out an instruction from the Communist party. The Opposition knows the Government cannot be challenged on its legislative record and it is therefore endeavouring to exploit the fear of communism. I believe that the newspapers of Australia have done more to strengthen the Communist party than has any action of the Communists themselves. Sharpley is a Communist and is following the party line. Emulating the Communists in Germany who allied themselves with the Nazis, he teamed up with Sir Keith Murdoch and his satellites to support the Leader of the Opposition, who, during the recent parliamentary recess, was out inthe field endeavouring to instil a fear of communism in the minds of the people.
When I read the articles alleged to have been written by Sharpley I knew that when the session was resumed, I should be questioned by two honorable members opposite. The first would be my old friend the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who, I am sorry to see, is not present. He has always posed as an expert on defence. He certainly has had a distinguished record in two wars and he reached high rank in both, but his value as a possible Minister for Defence was so unappreciated that his leader commissioned him as Minister for Trade and Customs. He asked a question about Sharpley and wanted to know what security tests were carried out by the Department of the Navy to detect Communists in its employ. Many people would like to know how the security system works. I told the honorable member that I had no intention of giving him the information or of letting the Communists get it. Sharpley described in his article how he went to the naval dockyard at Williamstown and got a job even though he was a selfconfessed member of the Communist party inner group. The honorable member for Balaclava knows something about inner group because he resigned from the Menzies Government when he was not included in the inner group that was set up within that Government. Anyway, Sharpley said, in effect, “Well, here I am, a great man in the inner group of the Communist party and I get a job in the naval dockyard ! “ Of course he got a job. He was employed as a ships’ painter and docker. The Department of the Navy knew who he was and knew all about him. There are 850 men employed at the dockyard, and we could do with another 150. The 850 employees are doing the work at the dockyards when there is employment for 1,000. In the article in which he dealt with the naval dockyard, Sharpley said, by inference or straight out, that sabotage and go-slow methods were practised at the dockyard. I do not know why he left the dockyard, but I have a shrewd idea that it was because thepace setby the other workers was so hot that he could not keep up with them and would have found himself in difficulties with his fellow workers had he remained. It was either for that reason or for the reason that he went to the dockyard as a Communist to engage in sabotage and to introduce go-slow tactics, but found it impossible to achieve his ends. Whatever happened, he left the establishment after having been there for nine days. In this debate, references to Sharpley’s articles have been made by at least two honorable members opposite. One of them, as I have said, was the honorable member for Balaclava, who criticized the fact that, in replying to his earlier question, I had said that Sharpley had worked diligently. I gave the reasons why he did work diligently. The other was the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), who referred to the fact that Sharpley, in one of his articles, had made the following statement: -
A frank Navy statement of work done at Williamstown in the past . . . and its cost would shock the nation.
I shall reply to that statement. Sharpley asked for a comparison of coats at the works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Whyalla and costs at the Williamstown Dockyard. I propose to give to the House and the country a frank comparison of costs both past and present at both establishments. The facts may enlighten some of the more gullible readers of the Melbourne Herald who may have been deceived by the statements that Sharpley made about the Department of the Navy. The establishment that is now known as the Williamstown Dockyard was taken over by the Navy in 1942. Until then it had been owned and controlled by the Melbourne Harbour Trust. Since the Commonwealth has been in occupation, the dockyard has been vastly extended. In order to make an accurate comparison of the costs of construction at various shipyards, it is necessary to compare one class of vessel. Different types of construction work are required for destroyers, on the one hand, and for merchant ships on the other hand, and therefore a comparison of the building costs at naval construction yards with those at civil yards in Australia would not he of any value. Merchant ships are cheaper to build than are destroyers. For the purpose of my comparison 1 refer to minesweepers that were built in Australia during World
War II. No fewer than eight shipyards carried out such construction work for the Navy during the war. The following table sets out the number of minesweepers built at each of the yards and the average cost at each yard : -
1 direct attention to the fact that the figures for Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited and Mort’s Dock and Engineering Company Limited include approximately £20,000 each, representing the cost of machinery not included in the other figures. From that table it can be seen that the lowest construction costs were those of Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited, which built eight minesweepers at an average cost of £113,000. The Cockatoo Dockyard, incidentally, is owned by the Commonwealth but is being managed by the company under an agreement. I ask honorable members to note that the average cost of construction of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Whyalla, in respect of which Sharpley said that a comparison with costs at Williamstown would shock the nation, was over £S,000 above the average cost at Williamstown. A comparison of the respective costs, of construction at Williamstown and Whyalla is fair, because Whyalla was a new shipyard and Williamstown had been only a small yard prior to its extension by the Commonwealth after 1942. Those figures show clearly how little reliance can be placed on Sharpley’s statements about costs that would “ shock the nation “.
Even the honorable member for Warringah, who said that Sharpley apparently had some authority for his statement, must now be convinced that
Sharpley had no source of information other than his vivid imagination, or perhaps that of his collaborators on the Melbourne Herald who wrote the story for him. I do not know from where he obtained his false figures. I only know that his statements were a tissue of lies.
Another example of Sharpley’s misleading statements was his allegation concerning the election of the federal secretary of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association. According to the information that has been supplied to me, the members of the federal council of that organization visited the Melbourne Herald offices after the allegations had been published and asked to be put in touch with Sharpley. At first they were put off with excuses, but when they said that the facts that they had would be made available to other newspapers, they were put in touch with Sharpley. After interrogating him, they asked Mr. Evans to withdraw his resignation from the position of federal secretary of their organization and reinstated him in office. They took that action because this “ rat “, this self-confessed “ Com “, had made a vicious and entirely unfounded attack upon Mr. Evans and upon the integrity of the association. Sharpley’s statements were completely untruthful. But, of course, character assassination is part and parcel of Communist policy. Communists do not care what defamatory statements they make about a man’s character if they can achieve their objective of having him removed from his position.
I shall deal now with the present costs of ship construction at Williamstown and Cockatoo dockyards. As I have already demonstrated, the Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited was able to build minesweepers during World War II. more cheaply than could any other establishment. The comparative table that I shall present to the House relates to the construction costs of the destroyer Tobruk at Cockatoo Dockyard and the destroyer Anzac at Williamstown. It sets out a comparison of costs and weights of steel used in the vessels. The facts are as follows: -
This reveals that 67 more tons were worked into Anzac at Williamstown than into Tobruk at Cockatoo before launching. Yet these vessels are sister ships, identical in every respect, both being “ Battle “ class destroyers. I consider that the only valid comparison between costs at Cockatoo and Williamstown which can be obtained is the one which includes direct labour costs up to the time of launching for items undertaken on a similar scale in both yards, or, in other words, only those directly concerned with the processing and use of the steel in the construction of the hulls of the ships. It is for this reason that the various miscellaneous charges that I have referred to have been excluded. The activities concerned were not conducted on strictly comparable scales in both yards and where work, such as the preparation of templates used in mould loft work has been done for both yards by Cockatoo, the correct apportionment of costs cannot be ascertained with any degree of accuracy. Having this in mind, I hope to arrive at figures which will show for each yard the direct labour cost per ton of the steel processed and worked into the respective ships up to time of launching. To validate the comparison between the yards even further, allowance has been made for the difference in rates existing between Melbourne and Sydney. The basic wage rate in Melbourne is ls. below that in Sydney. The establishment rate in Melbourne is 4s. above that in Sydney. The ship repair rate in Melbourne is 3s. 6d. above that in Sydney. Therefore, the net total in respect of Melbourne is 6s. 6d. above that of Sydney. This difference would account for £8,125 of the total shown for Williamstown.
A further difficulty in arriving at an accurate cost per ton is imposed by the fact that certain quantities of the steel processed at the date of costing had not been worked into the ship. To overcome this. I have assumed that for any given piece of steel worked into the ship, 50 per cent, of the labour costs applicable to it have been incurred during processing - cutting, bending, pickling, boring, transporting to ship; and 50 per cent, during building into the ship - erecting, riveting and painting. The following observations are relevant in any interpretation of the facts presented by this statement: - The amount of £8,125 added to costs of construction at Williamstown by the net difference in rates between Melbourne and Sydney is outside the control of the management of the dockyard and its exclusion would appear to be legitimate when attempting to ascertain a true comparison between the relative efficiencies of the yards. When the two destroyers reach a stage where 800 tons has been built into them, a critical point is reached, as the heavy plating has been placed in position and the ships are ready for launching. After this, for a period, only light materials are added, but they require just as much expenditure of labour as the heavy materials do. This shows clearly in the costs at Williamstown, where a sudden drop in weights built in per month from about 60 tons to 12 tons appears in the records after the 800 tons mark has been reached, although the same labour force has been employed. Thi3 factor must also be taken into consideration when we are examining the figures of tons per man-month which I shall give the House in a few minutes. Incidentally, this is the fact to which Sharpley referred. Therefore, up to SOO tons, the heavy construction costs would be approximately equal.
The longer period between the laying of the keel and the launching at “Williamstown is due primarily to three considerations. The first is the less elaborate machinery, plant and other facilities at that dockyard. Commencing with World War I., Cockatoo Island has been engaged on naval work of all types. By 1933, when that dockyard was leased to Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited, a sound foundation had already been established for the development that was to follow. Since 1933, the capital equipment at Cockatoo has been continuously augmented, not only by the company, which, up to the beginning of the recent war, had undertaken all naval construction in Australia, but also by the Department of the Navy which, with a view to establishing in Australia an extensive and efficient naval shipbuilding potential, has provided at Commonwealth expense specialized equipment to meet expressly the increasingly complicated demands of modern naval shipbuilding. Similar steps have been taken at Williamstown during and since the recent war, but experience in naval shipbuilding there has been restricted to the period commencing 1940 when, as the Melbourne Harbour Trust Dockyard, construction of minesweepers and frigates was undertaken. It was not until 1942 that the dockyard became a naval establishment engaged wholly on naval work, and despite the considerable augmentation of equipment that has taken place there 3ince that date, the establishment has not nearly the productive potential or the fundamental experience which can be attributed to the shipbuilding yard at Cockatoo.
The second consideration is the much smaller labour force available to the Williamstown Dockyard. During the sixteen and a half months between the laying of the keel and the launching of H.M.A.S. Tobruk, an average number of 520 men was continuously employed on naval construction at Cockatoo Island. During the 23 months H.M.A.S. Anzac was on the slipway, an average number of 280 men was continuously employed on naval construction at Williamstown. A proportion of the 520 men employed at Cockatoo was engaged on the construction of main propelling machinery for the destroyers, but the number actually engaged on hull construction was slightly greater than at Williamstown. The weight of steel built in per man-month works out at .169 tons at Cockatoo and 141 tons at Williamstown. Where, then, is the sabotage hinted at in the Sharpley article and hoped for by the honorable member for Balaclava? What of the standard of journalistic ethics of the Melbourne Herald and its satellites? What attempts did they make to check the figures and statements that Sharpley placed before them about the position at Williamstown ?
The third consideration in the disparity between Cockatoo and Williamstown is delays in the receipt of materials and equipment. During the periods under consideration, delays in the receipt of materials and equipment were general throughout industry, and Cockatoo Island also suffered disabilities in this respect. The difficulties at Williamstown, however, were accentuated by the fact that certain equipment such as templates, patterns, jigs, gauges, plans, &c, had to be awaited from Cockatoo where any delays in preparation or use lead to progressively larger delays at Williamstown. In addition, for both geographic and economic reasons, Williamstown generally had less satisfactory deliveries of steel supplies than Cockatoo. Although it can be asserted theoretically that labour costs should not be affected by delays because no labour is being charged to the job at such times, this is not borne out in practice. Loss of continuity of work in a shipyard due to insufficient man-power and unsatisfactory deliveries of materials and equipment invariably leads, even with the most efficient organization, to a certain amount of “ recapitulation “ and “ reliningup “ of the disrupted operations, which increases the time spent on the job and inflates the labour costs accordingly. For the same reasons, the operations in the construction of the ship cannot always be carried out in the most efficient sequence, and the re-shuffling of the already scarce man-power again increases the time on, and the cost of, the job. In view of what I have stated, and accepting the fact that the adjustment of £8,125 is a legitimate adjustment for a comparison, and taking into consideration the greater launching weight - over 800 tons - of Anzac, I consider that the efficiency of the Williamstown Dockyard compares very favorably with that of Cockatoo.
I now propose to read the views of the men at Williamstown who have rendered faithful service to the Department of the Navy and the Government. These are the men who have been so viciously attacked and so grossly libelled by a “rat” or a self-confessed ex-Communist. Some people are of opinion that he may still be an executive member of the Communist party. An investigation shows (hat these men are giving of their best in the interest of a vital defence undertaking. All of them are good Australians, who have been viciously attacked by the Murdoch yellow press, and by still another “ rat “, who is added to the long line of “ rats “ with which the Melbourne Herald has been associated. As is revealed in the figures I have quoted, all the men at Williamstown give of their best. The letter which I shall now read was forwarded to me by the chairman of the combined union committee and is dated the 22nd April last. It is as follows: -
Permit me to express the views of my committee the said being Naval Dockyard Combined Union Committee, as is composed of representatives from eighteen unions whose long formation is widely known and is neither controlled or activised by Communist interests or members of same are of all political parties and associations.
Having covered the identity of the above committee let me now pass on to you the representative views of rank and file members employed at the Naval Dockyard and express disgust at the way in which the good working record of these men has been besmirched by a contributor in the “ Herald and Sun “ newspapers - namely Mr. Cecil Sharpley.
The members of the above committee have been associated with this yard as an industry from a period of 15 years down to two years, and with this in view it is not impossible to be expectant of your readers to analyse who would be the better judge of the foundation of the said allegations, they or the contributor who only worked in the said yard for a brief period of two weeks upon which we refute the slanderous attacks on the men of this yard to ill-founded allegations of organized loafing and go-slow tactics.
In comparison of the already quoted slanderous statements let me quote, in public addresses by the cx-Minister for the Navy, Mr. N. Makin, and the present Acting Prime Minister, the Et. Hon. Mr. Hollway, M.P., whose integrity I am sure is above question, that the Workers in this yard were capable and were producing ships and associated repairs that could bc compared with the efforts of anybody in Australia.
In drawing these remarks to a state of termination any attempt to apply convenient phraseology to the remarks embodied in this article in reference to the much used term “ fellow travellers “ or dupes, the time and space could be better exercised in expressing truthful statements, as it must be remembered that, both members of the Federal Government and trade union officials have all been at various times flayed with the birch of inuendoes and any remarks of such character would have little effect on good records and clean conduct of the men in this yard as compared with the spurious and inexperienced line of Mr. Sharpley’s ability as was exhibited, by the fact that he was never deputed by the organization of which he claims two years official association to handle any problem appertaining to the shipbuilding industry.
We the following members of the Combined Union Committee representing the workers employed at the Naval Dockyard, Williamstown, endorse the above remarks: -
Amalgamated Engineering Union.
Federated Ironworkers’ Association.
Ship Painters and Dockers’ Union.
Transport Workers’ Union.
Federated Society of Boilermakers.
Metal Workers’ Union.
Electrical Trades’ Union.
Storemen and Packers’ Union.
Federated Engine Drivers’ and Firemen’s Association.
Federated Shipwrights’ Association.
Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia.
Sheet Metal Working Agricultural Implement and stovemaking Union.
Plumbers’ and Gasfitters’ Society.
Building Workers’ Industrial Union.
Blacksmiths’ Society of Australia.
Timber Workers’ Union.
Builders’ Labourers’ (Federation) Union.
These are the views of the men employed at’ Williamstown, who are rendering great service to the Department of the Navy, the Government and the people of Australia. Those men have not available to them the pages of the Murdoch press as “ rats “ like Sharpley have. Of course, we know that Sharpley is at least consistent with those who are opposed to the workers of this country.
To sum up, the accusations made by Sharpley against the Department of the Navy and the men at Williamstown are not true, but are filthy lies, intended to discredit a grand service and a fine body of men. The purpose of those lies is to mislead the public and to help the Opposition and vested interests to bring about the defeat of a government whose position is unassailable. This is hut another instance of big business allying itself with the Communists to defeat Labour.
.- So far as I was able to understand the speech made by the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan), he endeavoured to make three points. First. he tried to prove that Mr. Sharpley was still a member of the Communist party. Of course, if Sharpley is still a member of that party I assume that he knows what he is talking about, and for that reason it is worth while to listen to him. The Minister’s second point was that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was not building anything like the number of ships constructed at government dockyards with anything like the same efficiency. All I have to say in reply to that comment is that it seems to be a gross slander on Mr. Essington Lewis, because Mr. Lewis, as the head of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited throughout, and prior to, the war did everything possible to assist the organization of heavy industry in this country, regardless of the political complexions of the governments of the period. The third point that the Minister endeavoured to make was that the workmen at Williamstown Dockyard were superior to those employed at Cockatoo Dock. I can speak with personal knowledge of the work done by the employees at Cockatoo Dockyard and I know that over the past thirty years they have done a fine job. However, the real point made by the Minister’s contention is that the workers in the government dockyards are such good men. Why should they then be denied the right of a secret ballot to determine whether or not they should strike and who their officers should be?
In the light of Mr. Sharpley’s remarks it is instructive to survey the general trend of industry to-day. Any one who travels throughout Australia is aware that production is steadily declining. There is a shortage of materials everywhere and many people are without homes. Transport is deficient, and electric power is so inadequate to the demand in New South Wales that consumption has had to be reduced by 30 per cent. Every home in New South Wales is experiencing the consequences of the inadequate supply of electrical power, and I suppose that repercussions will be experienced in other States before long. The present Administration is rapidly going the way of the Scullin Labour Government. Both governments came into office after tremendous boasting of their intentions. To-day nothing is left on the statute-book of the legislation introduced by the Scullin Government, and when we review the legislation introduced by the Chifley Government we find that it has entangled us in a mess and muddle. Take, for example, the banking monopoly legislation, the first portion of which was enacted three or four years ago. No change has yet been effected in the banking system. Similarly, the free medicine scheme, which was introduced six years ago by legislation that was passed in the middle of the night, is not yet operating. More recently the Parliament, at the behest of the Government, passed a shipping bill. That measure was introduced at a time when the world is short of ships, and its purpose is to render useless a number of vessels that are to-day serving us in our coastal trade. When we review the migration statistics we find that despite all the ballyhoo in which the Government has indulged, the excess of arrivals over departures during the last six months of 1947, which is the latest period for which published statistics are available, was only 81. Later I shall cite statistics which I obtained only this morning from the Commonwealth Statistician and which show an improvement. When we consider the number of tribunals that have been established by Labour during the last six or seven years to deal with the coal industry we find that they are so numerous that we have not sufficient fingers on our hands to count them. The net result of all the Government’s highpressure activity is that the production of coal has declined shockingly, and stop-work meetings were to be held to-day in all coal-mining areas throughout Australia. Some years ago legislation was introduced to establish a stevedoring industry commission. That commission was intended to introduce Elysium on the waterfront, although the right honorable member for North Svdney (Mr. Hughes), with all his experience of the waterfront and wharf labourers, had never been able to bring about such a state of affairs. The Government’s intention was to bring peace and harmony to the waterfront. The members of the commission included two Communists and eventually the chairman, Judge Kirby, said that the commission could not function properly if the Communists continued to be members of it. Subsequently, the Government dismissed ‘them. Now, because the Waterside Workers Federation has refused to nominate another two of its members to replace the dismissed Communists, the Government proposes to dissolve a body that was designed to bring peace on earth and goodwill towards all men. Almost every substantial piece of legislation that has been enacted by the Government is bogged down in the same way.
It is proposed to construct railways in north Australia for the transport of beef. Apparently those railways are to be located in the places in which the North Australian Commission recommended twenty years ago that they should be located. One of the first actions of the Scullin Government was to dissolve the North Australian Commission and repudiate the migration agreement with the United Kingdom that had been negotiated by the right honorable member for North Sydney, and maintained in existence by the Bruce-PageGovernment. Under that agreement, many migrants were brought to this country and the United Kingdom agreed to assist us financially. It has been said that communism thrives in disorder, anarchy and chaos. This Government has created disorder and chaos, and consequently the Communists in Australia are becoming stronger. 1 have been amused at the strenuous efforts that have been made by honorable members opposite to get rid of that old man of the sea, the Communist control of trade unions, who is hanging round their necks. Just before every general election the members of the Australian Labour party attempt to throw him overboard, but he hangs on to them. From the conclusion of one general election until about six months before the next one they pamper, fondle and caress him. They do everything that he asks, and, in consequence, he likes them so much that they cannot get away from him. Although members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party in this Parliament have informed the Government, from time to time, of the names of Communists who are occupying important government positions, including the two members of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, to whom I have referred, those Communists have not yet been removed from their position by thfGovernment. The Communist members of the Stevedoring Industry Commission were removed as a result of the actions of Judge Kirby. The Communists gain control of trade unions by ballot-rigging. The only way in which the moderate trade unionists can regain control of their organizations is by the introduction of secret ballots, but the Government will not allow that matter to be discussed. A private member’s bill designed to achieve that objective has been put well down the list on the notice-paper. The Minister for the Navy has harangued the House regarding the wonderful men who are employed at the Williamstown dockyard, but apparently the Government is not prepared to allow the weapon of the secret ballot to be put into their hands, and thus enable them to get rid of the Communists, as they would do if they could.
The Government is permitting the importation into this country of thousands of tons of iron and steel from the
United Kingdom and Belgium, although British and Belgian steel costs £55 a ton and Australian steel £22 a ton. Those imports are necessary because the Government has not taken adequate steps to secure an increase of the production of coal in Australia. Electricity is rationed. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has told the House that although a lack of coal was at one time the reason for the electricity shortage, the present position is due to a lack of generating plant. If good coal had been supplied to the power stations in the past, the generating plant would not now be in the bad condition in which it is. I pointed out recently that during the war and since1 the -war other countries had been able to obtain an abundance of electrical generating plant. Australia could secure it too, if the Government did its job.
At meetings of the United Nations the representatives of the Australian Government are great advocates of the four freedoms, yet the members of the Government spend most of their time in curtailing the freedom of individuals in this country. One of the provisions of the Stevedoring Industry Act enables the Government to direct labour. The Prime Minister has stated that, if necessary, the Government is prepared to shift whole towns. The Minister for Trade and Customs has complete control of the external trade of this country and of most of its internal trade. Before commodities can be imported, a permit must be obtained from the Minister. For months I have been trying to secure a permit for the importation of a quantity of cyanogas for the destruction of rodents and vermin. The value of the extra production that could be obtained if the gas were used is 50 times greater than the value of the dollars that are needed to purchase it. But the Minister will not issue the necessary permit. Many of the other commodities, the import of which is banned by the Government, are absolutely necessary if production is to be maintained or increased. If they were not essential, people would not be prepared to pay the high prices that are demanded for them. The main task of the Ministers in the Australian Government and in the State governments who are responsible for housing seems to be to ensure that fines are imposed upon people who build houses or have cement and other building materials in their possession. They are preventing work from being done. The Minister for Health introduced the measure to provide for the imposition of fines upon doctors who prescribed lifesaving drugs on their own prescription forms.
Members of the Government have made many inaccurate and false statements regarding the financial position of the country when the Labour Government took office. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has said that the Bruce-Page Government enormously increased the Australian public debt. The Bruce-Page Government was in office for seven years. During that, time the Commonwealth public debt increased by £7,000,000, because a large portion of the war debt was discharged, but a sum of £59,000,000 wasexpended on productive works, £25,000,000 of which was in respect of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The Bruce-Page Government did not increase the charges for telegrams and other services, as this Government is proposing to do. A uniform gauge railway was constructed from Brisbane to Sydney, railways were built in the Northern Territory, and the “Wyangala dam was constructed. Those works have been of great value to the development of this country.
I have been amused at the sudden desire of members of the Government to bring migrants to Australia. During the 1920’s and the 1930’s there was continual opposition by the Labour party and the great trade unions of this country to migration, including migration from Britain. The agreement that was made with the United Kingdom by the right honorable member for North Sydney after World War I. was discarded when the Labour party was successful at the 1929 general election. The money that would have been made available to us by the United Kingdom at a low rate of interest was, therefore, no longer available. The result was that Australians were employed to shift sand instead of to build railways in the Northern Territory and to do the other useful work that could have been done had the agreement not been repudiated.
If the Labour party and the trade unions had supported our immigration policy during that period of ten years we could have obtained at least 1,000,000 more people from abroad than we actually got, because, at that time, there was a great exodus of people from Great Britain. More than
I, 000,000 British people went to Canada, and many went to South Africa and New Zealand. But as a result of passive resistance by the Labour party and the big metropolitan trade unions relatively few British people came to Australia. Despite that fact, however, during the decade from 1921 to 1930, 950,000 immigrants were brought to this country from Britain. Six hundred thousand of them returned, leaving a net gain of 350,000. In nine years of that decade we increased our total population by 1,000,000 by reason of accretions due to natural increase as well as by immigration. I havehad prepared for me a statistical statement showing details of migration to-day and during the comparable years of the early 1920’s. The statement shows that in 1946, which was the first year after the last war, permanent overseas migration of all nationalities from the United Kingdom to Australia was 8,879. Australian residents who left Australia permanently for the United Kingdom numbered 6,653, leaving a net gain of just over 2,000 for the year. But if we take the excess of departures over arrivals of both British and alien people, instead of British only, we find that we had in that year a loss of
II, 589 persons. In 1947 we brought in 23,314 British people and 8,451 aliens, making a total of 31,765. Nineteen thousand five hundred and seventy-nine people left Australia permanently, leaving a net gain for the year of about 12,186. In 1948 we brought in 65,731 and 17,271 left, leaving a net gain of 48,460. I shall now compare those figures with the position in the 1920’s. In the years 1921 to 1924, which are the years corresponding with the years for which I have just quoted figures, the net gain of population was 50,000 or 60,000, even though in those days we had a smaller population to build upon and among which to distribute any increase. If we had had at that time the co-opera- tion of the Labour party and the trade union movement, and had thus been able to obtain more people from abroad, as we could have done quite readily, we should have provided Australia with many more potential fathers and mothers, and the result would have been that now we would have another 1,000,000 Australian-born British people in our population.
The number of aliens now being brought into Australia, instead of being in the proportion of one to ten as it was in the 1920’s, is in the proportion of two to three. That is a very serious position, although it is better to have alien migrants come here in that proportion than to have no aliens come here at all. I have had communications with responsible people in London who have informed me that we are running a very great risk by not bringing out more British migrants as quickly as we can. They say that there are 400,000 or 500,000 people in Britain who have applied to come to Australia as immigrants. They say also that this great well of immigrants is also that from which all the Dominions are drawing. Over the last three years 54,844 Britons migrated to Australia, 58,505 to Canada, 13,183 to New Zealand and 54,364 to South Africa. It is quite possible that in another few years we shall reach the bottom of the well, and, in any event, the migrants then available will not be so good as those available now. It is important, therefore, that we should obtain now as many of those British migrants as we can get. The best immigrant of all, of course, is the Australianborn baby and we should endeavour to swell the population as much as we possibly can by natural increase. An examination of the available data shows that more than two-thirds of our population increase is due to natural increase, no matter how high the inflow of immigrants is. Naturally, as the immigration flow decreases in volume, the proportion of natural increase to total increase will rise. During the last three years the natural increase of the Australian population has been as follows: - 1946, 101,718; 1947, 108,916; 1948, 101,122.
Comparable figures for the early 1920’s show a natural increase of about 85,000. Naturally, in those former years there were fewer potential parents in Australia.
With the permission of the House I shall incorporate in Hansard the statistical statement from which I have quoted. It is as follows : -
I repeat that the best immigrant is the Australian-born child. Despite all that has been said by honorable members opposite about the dreadful neglect of the Australian’ people by the doctors, and the need to alter completely the system of medical treatment, the fact remains that the Australian infantile mortality rate under the age of one year is one of the lowest in the world, while in Russia, where all the doctors are government doctors, the rate is one of the highest in the world. The Australian rate is continually improving, and even under war conditions and post-war conditions, when housing problems have been serious, the deaths under one year of age have fallen from 38 per thousand in 1938 to 28 per thousand in 194S, and the birthrate has increased from 120 per thousand of population in 193S to 1S2 per thousand of population in 1947.
One of the main factors which has contributed to the decrease in infantile mortality, which means so much to the future of Australia, and which has also improved the health of the people very greatly, has been the fact that the people have been able to obtain more milk. For instance, in Sydney, which has a population of more than 1,500,000 people, consumption of milk has doubled in the last ten years, whereas the population increased by only one-fifth during the same period. But despite this milk consciousness among the people, and despite the desire of the people to get their full requirements of milk, rationing of milk for human consumption has been enforced practically every winter on the people of Sydney and, in my view, that constitutes a threat to national health. Rationing of milk is inexcusable in a country like Australia which is ideally situated for dairying. I venture to say that there is no country in the world with better natural facilities. “With more than 4,000,000 dairy cows and only 7,500,000 people we ought to be able to produce enough milk for human consumption, especially for children. I consider that one of the causes of the present difficulties over milk is the uncoordinated policy on milk prices which is steadily leading to a decline of total milk production. “What is worse, because it is much harder to remedy, is the steady decline in dairy herds, and its possible effects, on future production. Tn New South Wales, during the last ten years, the human population has increased by 278,000, whereas the number of dairy cattle has declined by 155,000, and the production of milk has declined by 75.000,000 gallons. The position regarding dairy stock with which to replace the present herds is even worse. In 1947, there were 500,000 fewer calves in Australia than at the beginning of the war, and during the last five years the number has declined by 100,000. To put it in another way, in 1943 there was one dairy heifer calf for every five cows in milk; now, there ia only one for every seven dairy cows in milk. The result is that the cows must be kept milking for a longer time at a most advanced age, with a consequent decline in yield. The decline of milk production has also affected the poultry and pig industries, and has resulted in a decline of 200,000 in the number of pigs, at a time when meat is so badly needed. During the last few weeks, it has become necessary to bring milk to Sydney from as far away as Lismore and Casino. Bringing milk from those places, of course, is no real solution of Sydney’s milk problem, because Lismore and Casino are only 100 miles from Brisbane, whereas they are 500 miles from Sydney. Thus, if Brisbane, Lismore and Casino grow rapidly in population, as they show every sign of doing, there will soon he no surplus milk for Sydney from the Richmond and Tweed districts. Therefore, our greatest need is to produce more milk in the areas near Sydney, and it so happens that those areas are very suitable for dairying. A long-range plan is necessary to increase milk production substantially. For instance, it would take ten years to increase our dairy herds by 1,000,000 cows, but increased production of milk from the existing herds can be obtained by increasing the quantity of feed available, and by improving the water supply. The highest priority should he given to dairy-farmers for the purchase of tractors and other agricultural machinery Tor the improvement of pastures. Cheap electric power should be made available for chaffcutting, and irrigation schemes should be put in hand so as to facilitate the growing of fodder. Country districts should be provided with good roads. With such facilities, farmers would be able to increase production without making a greater demand on the available labour force. At the present time, dairy-farmers are finding it very difficult to carry on, and many are leaving the industry.
As a further step towards encouraging greater production, the price of milk should be increased. We members of the Australian Country party believe that there should be a uniform price formilk, wherever it is produced, and for whatever purpose it is used. This is particularly necessary in order to encourage the raising of calves, which can be reared satisfactorily only on farms where milk is produced for butter making, because then the skim milk is available for feeding them. Prices, therefore, should be so adjusted as to ensure that the farmer who supplies milk to the small co-operative butter factory obtains practically the same return as does the farmer who supplies whole milk for human consumption. There is plenty of room for an improvement of price to the producers. For instance, our butter is being sold to Britain for 292s. per cwt. Denmark is receiving 400s. per cwt. from Britain, and the price of butter in the United States is 500s. per cwt. The price to the Australian producers should be increased, not by “ socking “ the consumer, but by the payment of” a subsidy which would enable consumers to obtain milk and butter at a reasonable price, and even allow milk to be distributed free to children and nursing mothers. It is a generous action on the part of Australia to supply butter to Great Britain at a cheap price, but the gesture should be at the expense of the community as a whole, and not entirely at the expense of dairymen.
It is absolutely necessary that the rate of house construction in Australia should be increased. Apparently, we have reached our maximum output of building materials. For instance, the production of bricks has declined from 720,000,000 annually to 600,000,000, and there is no sign of improvement. The production of iron and steel has also declined. Overseas, Australia has large trade credits, which are virtually frozen. If the Government cannot get men to produce more building materials, more tractors and more of everything that is so urgently required, surely it would be wise to buy those things overseas, and let our people have the benefit of them now, instead of waiting for years. I suggest that we make a particular endeavour to obtain from overseas machinery for the generating of electric power. The Government should try to obtain mostfavourednation treatment from those countries to which we are selling large quantities of food and wool, so that in return they will supply us with essential materials to enable us to break the production stalemate which is at present frustrating all our efforts at recovery. Under present condition, people can buy iron and steel goods only in dribs and drabs while, for some extraordinary reason associated with the dollar position Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is exporting large quantities of iron and steel. Then, we are compelled to import iron and steel at three and four times the price in Australia of the locally produced article.
.- I rise to reply to the public utterances of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), and to the advertisements published and paid for by the Liberal party. I am not concerned about the small fry. In fact, I am not really concerned about any member of the Opposition parties because I realize that to-day they are a spent force. I have in my hand a copy of a newspaper advertisement which shows a photograph of the Leader of the Opposition beneath which appears the right honorable gentleman’s signature. From the contents of that advertisement we learn that at last the Leader of the Opposition has an idea by which he hopes to fill the vacuum in anti-Labour policy. This giant, having travelled the world over, has at long last dragged himself away from the cities of Canberra and Melbourne and is now attempting to discover how Australians live and to decide what promises will induce the electors to help him bridge the gap which separates him and his piebald party from the treasury bench. As a first instalment he has advertised with all due solemnity “ a firm promise to young couples “ that when - “if” would be a more appropriate word - his party is returned to office it will speed up the housing programme. Intelligent voters will ask him why that programme needs to be speeded up. Any answer which the Leader of the Opposition may give to that question may temporarily blind the electors, but they can quickly recover from that inconvenience by thinking for themselves. In an article which was published recently in the Sydney press, Mr. R. G.
Casey, who is the bigwig of the Liberal party, had this to say -
Housing is a national problem and is squarely on the doorstep of the only Government in Australia with financial ability to cope with it, namely, the Commonwealth Government.
I remind the House that on the 1st March last the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) asked the Minister for Works and Housing whether the Mr. Casey who made that statement was the same Mr. Casey who was a distinguished member of the Lyons Government which in 1934 promised to make available the sum of £10,000,000 to the State governments to finance a programme of housing for the workers. The honorable member for Parkes also asked on that occasion whether it was a fact that the Lyons Government had failed to honour that pledge on the pretext that the Commonwealth did not have power under the Constitution to assist the States in that manner. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) replied that the writer of the article to which I have referred was the same Mr. Casey who was Treasurer in the Lyons Government which promised at a general election that it would make £10,000,000 available to finance the housing programmes of the State governments. It is also true that not one house was constructed under that proposal, although at that time thousands of workers were walking the streets unemployed and building materials were available in abundance. Every young couple should ask the anti-Labour candidates in their electorate why the anti-Labour parties helped to defeat proposals submitted to the people by referendum during the last decade which were designed to give to the Commonwealth power to solve the housing problem as well as other critical national problems. The defeat of those proposals has literally hamstrung the Australian democracy. Yet the Leader of the Opposition, this great Fascist leader - I am fully justified in referring to him in such terms because from every platform from which he speaks he describes members of the ministerial party as Communists - claims that his party, if returned to office, will exercise powers which the Commonwealth does not possess under the Constitution. A keen legal mind may be capable of demonstrating for the benefit of young couples, how the Commonwealth may exercise a power which it does not possess, but alert laymen will again refuse to be misled by propaganda of that kind. Does the right honorable gentleman intend to submit this matter to a referendum? Only by that means can the Commonwealth obtain power to carry out promises of that kind. If that is his intention, his conversion, although belated, will be welcomed by millions of his fellow citizens who realize clearly how the playing off of ohe State against another and the playing off of the States against the Common.wealth have frustrated governments in the Commonwealth sphere in their attempts to legislate for the welfare of the majority of the people of this country. However, the Leader of the Opposition, true to the tradition of all anti-Labour parties, maintains a discreet silence about the means which he intends to utilize to carry out his first solemn pledge to the people. Older voters will remember the promises by which the Bruce-Page coalition won the general election in 1925. In the forefront of the promises made at that time by the tory party, which smells no sweeter after having outlived several aliases in the meantime, was the definite undertaking that if returned to office it would establish a national health scheme and would introduce child endowment. To-day, the lineal descendants of the Nationalist party and the Country party, which assumed office at that time by misappropriating Labour’s policy, are still fighting tooth and nail against the establishment of a national health scheme. It was freely admitted that the Bruce-Page combination won the general election in 1925 by stealing Labour’s platform. To-day, in 1949, it may be necessary to ask whether history is due to repeat itself. The electors have short memories about many things, but there are some things which they can never forget. If the Leader of the Liberal party continues to promise results which, by his contribution to the defeat of the Government’s proposals at referendums held during the last ten years, he has made it impossible for any Commonwealth government to achieve, can he doubt that the history of the anti-Labour parties and the intelligence of the electors will provide a fitting answer to him on polling day? Most people have read about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and they will have little difficulty in applying the theme of Stevenson’s fantasy alike to the old to ry “horse of a different colour “ and to the prince of advocates who, for the sake of convenience, has commenced the process of being all things to all men by appealing to the young couples for whose misery, unhappiness and frustration he is more blameworthy than any other Australian citizen.
Emergency efforts on a national scale are as necessary in peace-time as they are in time of war. An Australian who is unobsessed by the shibboleths of nineteenth century economic and political theories does not need to travel abroad to realize that the political nostrums of the Liberal and Country parties are as out of date as are the crude cookery recipes of the stone age. The Australian Government, which is literally hobbled in its. approach to a number of national problems, including housing, must be freed from its shackles. Hollow promises and vitriolic criticism of the Government are poor and miserably inadequate reeds to lean upon, particularly when they are made by those who wielded the bludgeon which smashed the machinery that was intended to effect the transition from war to peace. “Wreckers of several brands have been at work in recent years. The Leader of the Opposition, in the role of Satan reproving sin, represents a truer picture of present-day realities than he does in the role he has attempted to assume of the fairy godmother, promising a bright future for young couples. What of the many tens of thousands of couples and their children who are living in a state of homelessness ? Are there sufficient problems without bothering about them ? The right honorable gentleman’s appeal to a sectional vote, which was lacking in experience of political strategy, reflected the hollow insincerity of his party’s first effort to elaborate a constructive policy. The stomachs of home-seekers have been toughened by their daily contacts with an army of black marketeers revelling in their world of free enterprise and grateful to the Liberal and Country parties which defeated the referendum proposals and thereby robbed the Australian Government of the power to clip their wings. I say to the great fascist leader who sits on the front Opposition bench that the people will not swallow such gross and rank bait, no matter how dignified and solemn may be the manner in which it is strewn before them. So much for his appeal to the people to build homes. Let honorable members compare the record of this Government with that of the Menzies Government at a time when bricks and mortar were available and no fewer than 750,000 Australians, constituting the very life-blood of the nation, were waiting for homes. Every Australian should be proud of this Government’s record in the home-building sphere for more homes are being built in Australia to-day than ever before in the history of this country.
I propose now to deal briefly with the volume of production in the great primary industries of Australia. Our primary industries are now enjoying one of the greatest periods of prosperity in our history. This year the value of our rural production is likely to reach £600,000,000 for the second successive year. Preliminary estimates compiled by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics indicate that the gross value of the production of rural industries for 1947-4” was approximately £603,000,000. This year’s production will be worth approximately the same amount. The production figures for the two years reveal a large increase over the figures for 1946-47 and the pre-war average. In 1946-47 the total value of rural production amounted to £370,000,000 and during the five yeaTs ended 1938-39 it averaged £211,000,000. Of the record rural production for 1947-48 the pastoral industries accounted for £230,000,000 compared with £147,000,000 in the previous year, and a pre-war average of £82,000,000. The value of the total production of the dairying and bee-keeping industries rose from an average of £84,000,000 during th«five pre-war years to £103,000,000 in 1947-48, which was £15,000,000 higher than in 1946-47. The increase in the value of agricultural products is even greater. The total value of all crops rose from an average pre-war figure of £81,000,W0 to £270,000,000 in 1947-48, or an increase of almost 100 per cent, above the 1946-47 value of £136,000,000. This year agricultural production is expected to he worth approximately £225,000,000, pastoral production £261,000,000 and dairy and farm-yard production £116,000,000, or a total for all rural industries of approximately £600,000,000. The Government has brought prosperity to the primary industries far beyond the farmers’ pre-war dreams. We have fixed the dairying industry-
– “ Fixed “ is the word !
– We have stabilized the dairying industry by providing payable prices for seven years, and a fifteen-years’ contract for meat is being arranged. In addition, the Empire wool agreement, to which the Australian Government is a party, is giving to the wool industry its greatest era of prosperity. The wheat stabilization legislation passed in 1948, providing for the organized marketing of wheat and a government guarantee, ensures that producers will receive payable prices based on production costs. There is now before the Parliament a bill to ratify the International Wheat Agreement, which is to operate for a period of four years, under which the maximum price of wheat has been fixed at one dollar 80 cents, or approximately lis. 3d. a bushel at Australian ports based on present freight rates. The agreement also provides for. a minimum price of one dollar 20 cents, or approximately 7s. 3d. a bushel.
Let us now consider the position of Australia’s manufacturing industries. The review of Australia’s manufacturing economy in the post-war period, which was prepared by the Division of Industrial Development, discloses that between September, 1945, and June, 1948, capital investments in manufacturing industries involved a total expenditure of £144,000,000. Among the overseas companies that became associated with new and expanding enterprises in Australia during that period were 129 from the
United Kingdom, 87 from the UnitedStates of America, 5 from Canada and 2’’ from Sweden. New manufacturing projects announced between September, 1945,. and June, 1948, totalled 1,672. By far the greatest expansion took place in the heavy industries, 522 new projects being commenced. The development of Australia’s manufacturing strength is shown by the increase of the number of factories in this country between 1938-39- and 1946-47. During the same period, the number of employed persons increased by 42 per cent. The value of factory production in 1946-47 was- £412,945,000, an all-time record, and double the figure for 1938-39. The review of our manufacturing industries gives much valuable information regarding the decentralization of industry,, economic trends, financial assistance to industry, research, and overseas markets. It shows that remarkable expansion has occurred and it demonstrates that manufacturers both here and abroad haveevery confidence in the stability of this country and in its future as a progressive industrial nation. Whilst most of the industrial expansion has come from within this country, the number of overseas companies that have become associated with new ventures here is highly significant, particularly as some of themare engaged in most important classesof manufacture, and are makers of products with a world-wide reputation. Another clear indication of the prosperity that is abroad in Australia to-day may be found in the statistics relating to savings bank deposits. In 1941, savings bank deposits in this country totalled £252,231.000. By the end of March, 1949, that figure had increased to £696,336,000. What a vast increase T What prosperity is in Australia to-day I I have before me other figures which are clearly indicative of the times. In 1938-39 wireless licences in this country totalled 1,129,786. By 1948 the numberhad increased to 1,913,172, an increase of 783,386. In 193S-39, there were 661,996 telephone subscribers. Ten years later, the number had increased to 1,005,596, an increase of 343,600. In New South Wales, 328,542 motor vehicles were registered at the 31st December, 1939. By March of this year the number was 432,512, an increase’ of 103,958. Wage and salary earners in 1939 totalled 529,900; to-day, there are 948,300. Never before has Australia been in such a happy economic position. We have full employment. Poverty and want are absent. Labour’s political opponents, of course, believe in having men waiting at the factory gates for jobs. Professor Hytten, formerly economic adviser to the Bank of New South Wales, has publicly advocated that policy. He estimated that an unemployment rate of from 6 per cent, to 10 per cent, was desirable. That would mean, at the higher figure, an army of 400,000 unemployed in the country.
I shall deal now with taxation. With the exception of members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, whose main concern is for the big financial and commercial interests, the majority of the people of Australia appreciate the tax reductions that have been granted by the Labour Government since the war ended. The Australian economy is sound due mainly to the manner in which the Government has administered the affairs of the nation, and because of our sound economic position, the Government has been able, since the war, to reduce taxes, by more than £130,000,000 a year. Opposition members, and representatives of vested interests allege that taxes are crippling industry, but that statement is neither borne out by the enormous capital expenditure in all classes of industry, nor by the often repeated statement that Australia is the best practicable field for the investment of capital. Labour’s policy is to reduce taxes most on the lower and middle-class incomes. Relief has also been granted to high income earners, but not to the same degree, and that, of course, is the Opposition’s complaint. Honorable members opposite would like uniform percentage reductions so that the rich man who is in a position to pay for defence, war pensions, repatriation benefits, social services and the like, would receive the greatest relief, whilst the man on a low income would still carry an unfair share of the burden. Why should not the rich man make a proper - I use that word advisedly - contribution to the expenses of the nation?
The people have not forgotten that in 1932-33 the United Australia party Government reduced pensions and put many millions of pounds into the pockets of wealthy people by means of tax remissions. The rich man who is called upon to relinquish portion of his income in taxes does not have to make physical sacrifices. He can still live in comfort and enjoy the luxuries of life. As a consequence, he should be prepared to contribute substantially to expenditure necessitated by the war, or designed to improve the conditions of people less fortunately circumstanced. When the newest tax reductions are given effect, a married man with a wife and two children, in receipt of £300 a year will pay neither income tax nor social services contribution. If he receives £400 a year, he will pay £5 a year, or less than 2s. a week. When we compare the rate that will be paid after the 1st July next with what was paid on similar incomes both Commonwealth and State in 193S-39, we find that a married man with a wife and two children on an income of up to £600 a year will pay less tax than he did in 1938-39. And when it is realized that, those on incomes of up to £600 a year represent 80 per cent. of. the number of taxpayers, it will be seen that considerable benefits will be conferred on them. A further perusal of the taxation in Australia, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand shows that the people of Australia are much better off than are those in the other two countries referred to. The Government has kept faith with the people. It has made continuous tax reductions, which have proved of great financial assistance to the people, because it has always believed that those best able to pay should be compelled to pay. Another point worth mentioning in connexion with taxation concerns the tax on overtime. The Opposition has endeavoured to create hostility to the Government because overtime is taxed. 3 do not remember any Liberal-Country party government abolishing the tax on overtime; on the contrary, I believe the Leader of the Oposition definitely refused to do so when asked some years ago. A married man with a dependent wife and two children earning up to £12 a week retains from 84 per cent, upwards of the amount he receives for working three, six or nine hours a week overtime at time and a half rates. A man without dependants retains from 80 per cent, upwards. So it will he seen that the old story that the Government takes most of the money earned in overtime by the worker is not true. Nobody likes paying taxes, but we cannot escape our commitments. In securing revenue to meet those commitments, the Government has relieved those less able to pay to a considerable extent.
The following table sets out the Government’s expenditure on subsidies from 1942-43 to 1948-49:-
Social services legislation is the means by which governments can ensure security to every individual and family throughout the community. Security is not abstract or haphazard. It is positive, planned and real - a bulwark against adversity. Governments are the architects of this bulwark; the people are its builders, providing their own future protection from their present strength. Security is the responsibility of the whole community. The protective bulwark is strongest when co-operative effort by all ensures the safety and well-being of each. What is social security as it relates to the men and women, and the children of Australia? It is, as I have said, family security. It is security to meet the financial demands of family responsibilities; security against the emergencies of daily life; security against illness, accident, disability and unemployment; security against the needs of age and widowhood. Security, however, is more than a matter of finance, more than a matter of cash payments in times of need. An important aspect is the physical security assured to people in services - the services of doctors and nurses, and hospitals; in the treatment and prevention of disease; in the care and accommodation of the aged and the infirm; and in the rehabilitation of the incapacitated. How has our Labour Government faced up to its responsibilities in the provision of social services enabling the people of this country to build securely against the social ills and hazards? Its record is incomparable. When it took office in 1941, Labour found an outstanding debt to the people left by previous administrations. Labour has liquidated that debt. Labour has, in addition, made outstanding advances in the field of social security. Nor does Labour rest on its laurels of achievement. Labour looks to the future. The worth of this Government will be assessed with appreciation and gratitude by the men and women of the future generations in the benefits of security achieved by provident planning. What is the pattern of security provided to-day through social services legislation under Labour? The Government has extended very widely the range of benefits provided and has gone a long way towards the party’s goal of social security and social justice for all. To-day the young man who marries need have no feeling of insecurity as he accepts the responsibilities of family life. He knows that his wife in childbirth, will be able to receive the best care and attention, absolutely free of cost in a public ward of a public hospital, or with the contribution of Ss. a day towards the cost in a private ward or in an approved private hospital. He knows that the Government provides a maternity allowance, free of any means test, ranging from £15 to £17 10s. He knows that, for each child after the first in his family, the Government, again without any means test, pays an endowment of 10s. a week to the age of sixteen years, a payment that can amount to almost £400 for each child after the first. Every family man knows now that, if any members of his family fall sick, they will receive free treatment, care and attention in public hospital wards, or a payment of 8s. a day each towards the cost of private treatment. He knows, too, that the Government has provided that medicines prescribed by a doctor may be supplied without charge. If his earning power is interrupted by an accident or ill health or by periods of unemployment he will receive substantial payments under the Government’s unemployment and sickness benefits scheme. The rate of payment under that scheme is 25s. a week for an adult, with an additional £1 a week for a dependent wife, and 5s. a week for the first dependent child, who, of course, is not provided for by child endowment. He knows that, if he should die, his widow may receive a pension with allowances for her children up to the number of three. Finally, he knows that in age he will not be destitute or a burden upon his children because the age pension. with permissible income, will provide for the needs of his wife and himself. Furthermore, should he become an invalid before reaching the pensionable age, he will receive a pension payment at the same rate as the age pension. Let us examine in detail the record of our great Labour administrations in the field of social services. When theCurtin Government came into office, nearly eight years, ago, the only social services benefits provided by the Commonwealth were the age and invalid pension, at a maximum rate of 21s. 6d. a week; maternity allowances, subject to means test, ranging from £4 10s. to £7 10s. a week; and child endowment, which had then been in force for only three months, at the rate of 5s. a week. During the past eight years, Labour administrations have increased the rate of age and invalid pensions from 21s, 6d. to42s. 6d. a week, and considerably eased the means test ; more than trebled the initial amount of maternity allowance from £4 10s. to £15 and abolished the means test for that benefit; and doubled the rate of child endowment from 5s. to 10s. a week. They have also introduced widows’ pensions, which now range from £1 17s. to £2 7s. 6d. a week, and unemployment and sickness benefits, hospital benefits, pharmaceutical benefits, special benefits for tuberculosis patients and their dependants, and allowances for wives and children of invalid pensioners ranging up to 30s. a week. Labour has also eased the means test for age and invalid pensions by allowing earnings up to 30s. a week and raising the property bar to £750. Labour’s work can be well illustrated in another way by comparing annual payments of social services.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I had a faint impression, as I listened to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), that he was not particularly fond of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). He criticized the right honorable gentleman for travelling around Australia and informing himself of the needs of the people. I think that anybody in a public position who travels about the country with an inquiring mind should be commended. The Leader of the Opposition certainly would not find out what was required by staying in Canberra, Melbourne or any other capitalcity. He must move about the country and inform himself of conditions, and that is precisely what he has done. He found, for instance, that the housing shortage was very serious, if not vital. It is of no use for the Government and its supporters to talk about what happened in 1925 during the regime of the BrucePage Government in the hope that young people will remember that the BrucePage Government did certain things or failed to do other things. I remind the Government that 24 years have elapsed since 1925. I am not old, but
I find great difficulty in carrying my memory back to the days when I was 11 years old and trying to recall what the Bruce-Page Government did or failed to do. It is no consolation for people who need houses to be reminded of what happened in 1901. What they are concerned with is the fact that they are without houses. That is their principal concern. What they want to know, and what honorable members on this side of the House want to know, is what the Government proposes to do in order to improve the housing situation. There is also a great deal of concern throughout the com-. munity concerning the high cost of living.
That aspect of our economy has been mentioned in previous speeches, and I do not intend to dwell upon it at great length. However, it is a complete mystery to me how any family receiving the basic wage, or anything near the basic wage, can live properly with prices at their present high levels. I consider that it is completely impossible for any family on such a low income to maintain an adequate standard of living. One needs only to talk to anybody earning the basic wage, or to attempt to live on that income oneself, in order to realize the impossibility of enjoying a decent standard of comfort under such conditions.
I do not need to quote a mass of statistics in order to demonstrate that price levels have risen. It is perfectly obvious that the prices of foods, furniture, homes, and everything else that really affects the basic living standard of a married couple have risen considerably since 1939. The housing shortage is becoming more and more chronic. Although the Government claims that it has a creditable record of home-building, it has not even satisfied the demand that comes from newly-married couples who want homes. The result is that every young couple unable to get a house immediately is faced with two alternatives. The first is to live with “ in-laws “, which is not a. happy compromise. The second is to take furnished rooms at a high rental and at the same time try to set aside money with which to purchase a home. The plain fact is that homes, instead of being more easily obtained by such young people are getting farther beyond their reach. Houses are becoming more costly. A house that would have cost £800 before the war now costs £1,S00, or even £2,000. The cost of building is now beyond the reach of the average young married couple who desire to set up house. The Government points with pride to the fact that savings bank deposits are now at the highest, figures on record. That may be perfectly true in terms of money, hut the present purchasing power of the £1 is equivalent to only 8s. in 1939. The Chinese may claim with perfect truth that they have plenty of dollars, but the purchasing power of their inflated currency is extremely small. The acid Jest which we should apply in this matter is, not the amount of money in the savings banks, but the purchasing power of the £1. What is the reason for the present high price levels ? The explanation is not easy, and we can over-simplify the problem. The withdrawal of Commonwealth subsidies has been a big factor in forcing up prices. It is futile for the Government to attemp to excuse itself by saying that it had to withdraw the subsidies because prices control was transferred from the Commonwealth to the States. At th, present time, the Treasurer is paying s subsidy of £2 a ton on superphosphate, although that fertilizer is no longer under Commonwealth control, and is also subsidizing the price of tea. In those circumstances, the Government’s claim that it cannot continue to pay the other subsidies is sheer nonsense.
The second reason for high prices is the lag in production. Members of the Opposition have repeatedly referred to thai factor. How can the lag be overcome’: The solution is not easy, but a determined attempt should be made to apply it. The most important remedy is a proper respect for the arbitration laws. Without that respect, industrial harmony cannot be maintained. Incentive payments and profit sharing must also be introduced in order to make the worker feel that he is » part of the organization that employs him. The introduction of production committees, which have functioned satisfactorily in other countries, is also to be recommended. We all agree that the workers are not always to blame for a decline of production. With the chaotic industrial conditions now prevailing, managements have the greatest difficulty at times in conducting their businessesefficiently. The worker cannot be blamed for that situation, but he can be held responsible for under production resulting from his own lack of effort. Incentive payments and similar schemes will give the worker real encouragement to increase production.
Honorable members have referred extensively to the activities of Communist’ throughout Australia, and the advantage? and disadvantages of declaring the Communist party an illegal organization have been thoroughly discussed. Some trade unions have asked the Government for assistance to enable them to control the Communist and pressure groups in their ranks. I believe that the unions themselves must take the. action that is required in order to root out the Communists from their ranks, but they should receive every possible assistance from the Government. The- majority of unionists are decent Australians, and, with help and encouragement, they will rid themselves of the Communists. They should not be merely told that communism is a political philosophy, and, as such, should not be banned. With proper assistance, the unions will root out the Communists, and decent Australians will replace them. However, the banning of communism would have the important effect of preventing Communists from spreading their insidious propaganda among the youth of Au.= tralia. A railway worker, at considerable personal sacrifice, sent his daughter to a good school. Later, he told me that he he had taken her away from it, because of the Communist propaganda that was circulating there. His daughter had been brought up in a God-fearing decent home, but she had been reading Communist literature and believing the contents.
– What school did she ;i attend? ?
– The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) would be astonished if I were to tell him. The instance which I have cited is not an isolated one. Communist propaganda is being disseminated in other schools. The Communists like to spread their propaganda among the youth of the country. For that reason, the banning of the Communist party would stop the spread of this poisonous propaganda.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has referred to the pool of migrants in Great Britain, upon which mem.bers of the British Commonwealth, in addition to Australia, are drawing. The right honorable gentleman urged that Australia should now do everything in its power to attract migrants from the United Kingdom, because they will not always be available to come here. Considerable attention is being paid at the moment to displaced persons from Europe who come to Australia. The full energies of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) - and his energies are very great - are concentrated on problems associated with bringing the migrants here. I have no quarrel with that, because Australia must increase its population in the shortest possible time. Many persons in the United Kingdom are waiting to come to Australia. Unless they can obtain a sponsor who will undertake to accommodate and arrange for their employment here, they are unable to travel under the assisted passages scheme. Many of those persons are eminently suitable; their only disability is that they have no relatives, friends or contacts in Australia who will house and employ them. I urge the Minister for Immigration to consider bringing those persons to Australia under the same conditions as displaced persons from Europe have come and endeavour to house them in military camps or other temporary accommodation. I realize that such an arrangement is not entirely satisfactory, but I feel that large numbers of people in the United Kingdom, who are now caught in a bottleneck, will welcome such opportunity to come here. By that means, Australia will be able to increase its population with additional people from the United Kingdom.
I regret that the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan) has not given to the House some information about the Royal Australian Navy, including the expansion of the fleet and even fleet manoeuvres. Australians are proud of their navy, and like to be told about its activities, the additional ships that it is receiving, and the kind of ships that are being added to the strength, and their performances. The construction of naval vessels in this country seems to take an incredibly long time. I refer particularly ‘ to the destroyer Anzac. When that warship has been completed, its cost will be equivalent to the cost of a battleship. This “ Battle “ class of destroyer, when finally commissioned, will be ten years out of date. Will the Minister give an assurance that it will have all the latest equipment? Will it have the latest radar, submarine and other modern equipment? Has the Minister given full consideration to the suggestion of interchanging our ships with those of the Royal Navy? It is obvious that our personnel would derive very great benefit from any such exchange. Of course, the scheme might be carried farther, and interchanges might be made with the American naval task forces operating in the Pacific. Large numbers of naval reservists are still waiting for the Government to make up its mind on the future of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve. If the training of the reserve is to continue it is essential that the reservists should be afforded opportunities to become familiar with the latest equipment and most modern methods of naval warfare. I know that the officer responsible for the training of the naval reservists has done his utmost to hold the band of reservists together. Although the Navy is our first line of defence, and should at all times be ready for immediate action, many naval vessels are lying idle. In the event of an emergency arising what possibility is there of the naval reservists being able to man the vessels and take them to sea to combat an enemy? I appeal to the Minister to make a definite statement of the Government’s, intentions: concerning the naval reserve. If the Government intends to disband it, then it is only fair to the men concerned to tell them so now.
In order to induce members of the* Royal Navy to come to Australia to assist our Navy the Government promised that homes would be made available for married members of the Royal. Navy who came to this country. The naval men concerned have formed an association, called the United Kingdom Ex-Services’ Joint Committee to protect their interests and to improve their1 conditions. After months of delay and frustration, during which time their association was unable to obtain amy satisfaction from the Government, its members: passed a resolution tha* a petition be prepared for submission to the King im his. capacity as Admiral’ of the Fleet. The material portions, of the petition are as follows: -
That these men were led to believe on enlistment that their wives and children would be able to join them in. Australia within, a short period;.
That the Commonwealth Government was at that time aware that, the: acute tack oi housing1 in Australia, made it highly, improb- able that these men would be able to secure adequate homes for their wives and families, but neglected to advise them of this fact:
That whereas accommodation is being provided, and is to be provided, by the Commonwealth Government for alien emigrants to the value of millions of pounds, no such provision has been made for the families of these ex-Royal Navy personnel;
That the Commonwealth Government has been approached over a period of four months through the office of the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom, but that no reply has been received to our representations;
It is therefore resolved that His Majesty be begged to take such measures as may be necessary to secure the provision of good homes wherein the said ex-Royal Navy personnel may be reunited with their wives and children and resume their interrupted family life. Or, if that be not possible, that His Majesty be graciously pleased to secure for such married ex-Royal Navy personnel now serving in the Royal Australian Navy who may so desire, the opportunity of obtaining their discbarges without cost or hindrance, together with free transport back to their families in the United Kingdom.
The fact that these men have lost faith in the promises of the Australian Government and have decided to approach the King is a poor advertisement for the treatment meted out to them by our Government. In fact, about fifty married personnel of the Royal Navy who were serving in Austra’ia have now returned to the United Kingdom in disgust. In view of the fact that several hundred more British naval men are scheduled to come to Australia for service with the Royal Australian Navy, I ask the Minister to ensure that the Government will honour its promises to these men by providing accommodation for them and other British married personnel already in Australia. Will the Minister undertake to make some definite attempt to house them? Accommodation could be provided for them by linking the construction of houses for naval personnel with the scheme that I outlined to the Minister for Immigration, and temporary accommodation could be provided for them in service huts. If that were done the men, concerned could at least bring, their families to Australia.
While I waa in the United Kingdom; recently I heard a persistent and disquieting rumour that, following a number of attempts at sabotage, H.M.A.S. Sydney left the United Kingdom in such haste that some very important equipment was left behind. The opinion was expressed in several quarters that it was a pity that the vessel had not been fitted completely with the latest equipment before it left. If that rumour is founded on fact, I trust that arrangements will be made for the equipment to be forwarded to Australia for installation on Sydney as soon as possible.
Prior to the commencement of the present parliamentary period, I attended the annual training exercises of the 6th Motor Regiment, 6th Armoured Brigade, in camp at Singleton, New South “Wales. It would have been difficult to find a more enthusiastic body of men, many of whom had suffered considerable inconvenience and pecuniary loss to attend the camp. Although the period of training, fourteen days, was hopelessly inadequate, the camp was a great success, and I pay tribute to the officers, noncommissioned officers and men who made such a valuable contribution to its success. However, the point I make now is that the period of training, namely, fourteen days, is hopelessly inadequate. A number of days are lost in travelling to and from camps, in preparing the camping sites if they are not in proper condition, as was the case at Singleton, and in drawing tents, blankets, extra clothing, utensils and special equipment. Of the nominal training period of fourteen days, approximately only nine days are spent in actual training. In appealing to the Government to increase the duration of the annual field training exercises, I am not raising the issue of the desirability or otherwise of introducing compulsory military training, because those who attend these exercises are actuated solely by the desire to make themselves efficient soldiers should they have to defend their country. In return for their services, they are at least entitled to receive the most efficient training possible.
I ask the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) to consider the suggestions that I am about to make. I suggest, first, that all military camps be maintained in good condition, that bedding, cooking utensils and other articlesbe placed beside each man’s bed, which should be already erected, and that all equipment be maintained in good working order. If that were done, training could start within an hour or two of the arrival of a regiment in camp and the maximum advantage could be taken of the training period. Secondly, I suggest that for the first few days in camp the food ration be doubled. It may be said that the Army ration scale is adequate to meet the requirements of any man, but the effect of fresh country air and outdoor exercise upon men who are normally engaged in sedentary occupations is to increase their appetites considerably. It is impossible to build up stocks of food during a short period in camp, because nobody goes on leave during that time, and for the first few days it is invariably difficult to obtain a decent meal.When I was at Singleton the mechanical equipment there was plentiful and played a large part in maintaining the enthusiasm of the men, but it, was out of date. “We would not be expected to use it in war. Although Matilda tanks became obsolete in 1942 they are still being used for training purposes. I understand that there are approximately 50 Sherman tanks in store in Australia. I suggest that, if possible, they be used for training purposes so that the Army can be trained in the use of the latest types of equipment. Modern equipment should not be kept in camps but sent to the home training centres and used in street manoeuvres, which are an important part of military training. In that way, recruiting and training could go hand in hand. If manoeuvres were held in home training centres and modern equipment used in them, men would see that such equipment was available, and there would be an added incentive to enlist. The Government must make a decision as to the amount of petrol that is to be allocated to the Army for training purposes. A reasonable allocation must be made to ensure that training in the use of Army vehicles can be properly carried out. The use of the petrol would, of course, need to be properly supervised.
The New Zealand wheat agreement is worthy of mention in view of the frank admission of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) that another £2,200,000 is needed to meet our commitments under it. That agreement has, not been mentioned in the House for a considerable time. It will be recalled that under pressure from the Opposition, the Government promised the Australian wheatgrowers that the difference between the contract price and the prevailing export price would be made up to them by the Australian taxpayers.
– That is incorrect. There was no pressure at all.
– Considerable pressure was brought to bear upon the Government. It is grossly unfair that the wheat-growers of this country should suffer as a result of that deal.
– They did not.
– The wheat-growers are also taxpayers. They are, therefore, bearing a share of the burden that has been imposed upon the Australian taxpayers by the terms of the agreement, which were not announced fully in Australia until after the 1946 general election. Since then I have met many New Zealanders. When I mention that I am an Australian, they go in fits of laughter and say, “ You made a wheat ‘ agreement with us. We never thought that you would be such suckers “. The taxpayers of Australia, including the wheat-growers, have been compelled to subsidize New Zealand wheat consumers. In 1946-47 they did so to the amount of £S76,962 and in 1947-48 to the’ amount of £2,692,337. In 1948-49 they will do so to the amount of £3,700,000, making a total of £7,269,299. In negotiating that agreement, the Government showed a complete disregard for the taxpayers. It tried to pit its brains against those of experts and came off second best to the tune of over £7,000,000.
The announcement that increased charges will be made by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has shaken many people. I have heard threats that telephones will be handed in or wives instructed not to telephone so much, although I do not believe that such an instruction would have much effect. This year the revenue of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department should reach the all-time record of approximately £33,000,000, but it is expected, according to a report in this morning’s Sydney Daily Telegraph, that there will be a deficit of approximately £6,000,000. The Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) should make a full and frank statement explaining the necessity for the proposed increased charges. The honorable member for Hume has said that, in 1948-49, 343,600 more telephones were in use than in 193S-39. In this period of shortages, telephone calls are made more frequently than previously. At one time it was sufficient to write to a supplier, who would despatch very quickly the goods, that were required. Now it may be necessary to make five trunk-line calls to obtain delivery of scarce articles. Consequently, with more telephones in use. the volume of telephone calls must have increased considerably. To many country people a telephone is a necessity. They have no near neighbours and they cannot use a public telephone box at the corner of the street. Telephones are a necessity for these people and yet they are to bc asked to bear a 100 per cent, increase of charges because they happen to live out in the country. It is just another example of this Government taking the view that it does not care about the primary producers because it relies for its votes on th<metropolitan electorates. If the PostmasterGeneral’s Department were ;i private enterprise it would have to justify those increases to the Prices Commissioner. No private enterprise has ever “ yanked “ up prices overnight to the tune of 100 per cent., without giving some explanation. But this Government docs not mind what it does. The increases upon which it has decided will hit country telephone subscribers the hardest. The Government should be severely censured for its high-handed action of making those increases overnight without explaining fully why it considered them necessary. The Government is now expending about one-third of the national income. Government expenditure is, in fact, reaching a very dangerous level. The Government now comes before the House and asks for further large amounts of money. Because it has the weight of numbers in the Parliament, it will obtain the money, and will expend it as it pleases without due regard to the welfare of the people.
Mr. burke (Perth) [4.47].- The Opposition has launched, as is its right, criticism of all the activities of the Government. From the debate so far, however, it appears that there is nothing new with which it can attack the Government. There is nothing substantial in the arguments of honorable gentlemen opposite, and the answer of the Government on this occasion, as on previous issues, is that it has carried out its stewardship in a difficult time as no government that preceded it has ever done. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) made a very nice, very pleasant, and very fair speech. But he endeavoured to climb upon a couple of popular band wagons. He pointed out that blame for the high cost of living to-day could fairly be laid upon this Government. All honorable members, and the country, deplore the high cost of living to-day. Not only does it occasion very great hardship to the people, but it also holds the threat of future hardship. The price level being abnormally high, it follows that there must be a drop back to a more normal level, and in consequence there will .be grave hardship in certain instances, and a measure of hardship to all. It is an undoubted historical fact that every boom and slump since the Industrial Revolution has occasioned hardship, and, in extreme instances, grave hardship. Insofar as it is possible for governmental action to affect prices, the high price level to-day cannot be charged against this Government. I dislike referring to past happenings, such as the prices referendum, but I am forced to do so. The Government, believing its actions to be correct, sought power from the people to continue prices control for a further period. The people decided against giving it that power. That ought to have been the end of the issue, but if honorable members opposite will insist that the Government is responsible for the increase of prices that has occurred since that time, we must allude to the referendum and tell the true story. Even before the referendum was taken it was certain that price levels would rise when wage-pegging and general economic regulations were removed. They had to be removed because that was the desire of the people. Whether or not the people benefited from the rather hurried removal of regulations that were designed to promote economic stability is a matter for argument, but the undoubted fact is that toe people demanded their removal, and the Government was anxious to remove them as soon as possible, as any government would have been. For the reasons that I have given, prices were certain to rise, but after the referendum they were certain to rise much more sharply than if the regulations has been retained.
– That was not so.
– That has been the case.
– Not on the basic wage index.
– The Government’s power, under the defence powers of the Commonwealth, seemed to be waning. In the words of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) during a previous debate, “ This mystical power is one that clearly defies the wit of man to define “. The Government sought to have the power to control prices conferred upon it, and upon the Parliament, permanently, to be exercised as and when required. The reason for that was because constitutional lawyers had said on previous occasions that transfer of powers for a limited period of years was not constitutionally possible. If the Government had sought the transfer of those powers for a limited period of years, the High Court of Australia would very probably have ruled that such a transfer was unconstitutional. The Leader of the Opposition appears to disagree with my statement, but I remind him that Mr. Wilbur Ham, K.C., and some other King’s counsel, advanced that opinion strongly during the 1944 referendum.
– I should like to see some evidence of that.
– It was one of the major arguments used against the proposal to transfer powers for a limited time. The referendum was defeated. I believe it would have been defeated even if the Leader of the Opposition had supported the Government in seeking the powers. I said so when the bill was before the House, and I repeat it now. The States have had far more difficulty in holding down prices than the Commonwealth would have had if the power had remained in its hands. I believe the subsidies question to be irrelevant to the issue, The payment of subsidies has been attacked from time to time. It has been stated in this Parliament, and in the country, time after time, that it was deceit and an attempt to camouflage inflation, to take money from one section of the people and pay it out to another section by means of subsidies. The high cost of living cannot be charged against this Government because I repeat, insofar as governmental action could have held down the cost of living the Government sought to take such action and was denied it by the people. The Opposition supported the people in that view.
– What about the 40- hour week?
– I believe that the effects of the 40-hour week are greatly exaggerated, and that it does not add to the cost of production so much as has been claimed. It has been proved that, under modern industrial conditions, a long working week does not necessarily make for greater production, particularly if taken over the entire working life of the employee. When the working week is long, the fatigue of the workers is greater, and the industrial accident rate is higher. Of course, it would be possible to reduce the working week to a point when production must decline and costs increase, but I do not believe that the reduction from 44 hours to 40 has had that effect. There are certain industries to which the general rule may not apply, and the building industry is, perhaps, one of them. However, even in the building industry, if men really work during the 40-hour week they need not produce less than in a week of 44 hours.
Reference has been made in this debate to the housing shortage, and it has been truly said that it is not much comfort to people who are without homes to learn that more houses were built last year than ever before. However, it is still a fact, and the Government cannot be charged with failing to do its utmost to ensure that houses are provided. The housing problem has been tackled in the only way possible; that is, by giving priority in certain instances, by making money available to the States, and by encouraging them to build houses faster than ever before. Many factors have contributed to the bousing shortage which, as a matter of fact, has existed for many years. Indeed, not only has there been a shortage, but the standard of housing has been too low. In this repect, the Government inherited an unfortunate legacy from its predecessors.
The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) has been very active. It is only necessary to visit the capital cities in order to learn that vast housing programmes ure under way. In Perth, for instance, it; might be said that whole new suburbs are under construction. Unfortunately, the completion rate is not as high as we should like, but the houses are being built. As I have said, there was a shortage of houses even before the war, and hardly any were built during the war. The Government is now trying to solve the problem by diverting labour and materials to the building industry, by advancing money to the States, by encouraging the Commonwealth-State rental scheme, and by the progressive policy of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) in bringing additional labour into the country for the building industry.
Previous speakers discussed the financial policy of the Government, and members of the Opposition have tried to prove that the Government’s policy falls short of what is necessary or desirable. The honorable member foi- Warringah (Mr. Spender) led the debate for the Opposition. He said, truly I believe, that in time of prosperity governments should budget for surpluses, and should immobilize the surplus revenue for use during a time when revenue was less buoyant. I believe the only way in which to immobilize surplus revenue is to exercise control over credit. That is the policy now being applied by the Commonwealth Bank, and I am glad to observe that the trading banks are concurring in it. Had they in the past been willing to accept the direction of the Commonwealth Bank, acting as a central bank, there would have been less pressure for a national banking system. Instead, they flouted and defied the will of the central bank, for which reason I believe that the nationalization of banking in Australia is inevitable. In Great Britain, on the other hand, the nationalization of banking will be longer delayed because there the trading banks almost invariably follow the policy laid down - dictated, if you will - by the central bank, which is the Bank of England. The honorable member for Warringah, while he was correct in the first part of his argument, contradicted himself later when he criticized the Treasurer for spending revenue on works which, he claimed, should be financed out of loans. I claim that the Treasurer is following the advice given by the honorable member himself, namely, that surplus revenue should be immobilized. Instead of borrowing money, the Treasurer is using revenue in order to provide capital assets of lasting value. The effect is exactly the same as if surplus revenue were immobilized in the way suggested by the honorable member, and the capital works were financed out of loans. By financing them out of revenue, the Treasurer is making the position better for succeeding governments. He is not adding to the loan liability of the nation, but is providing national assets out of revenue during a time of national prosperity. Perhaps the most important lesson which we learned from the depression was the need to budget for deficits during a depression and for surpluses in time of prosperity. The honorable member for Warringah showed that he understood this, but it is clear that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has not yet learned the lesson. Last night, he argued that the Government was putting too much revenue into the National Welfare Fund, and was draining away in taxation too much of the income of the people for the benefit of posterity. Obviously, he has not learned the lesson that ought to have been burned into the mind of every honorable member of this House wlm remembers the depression.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) spoke of the pattern of Labour propaganda. The Labour party, he said, claimed that a depression was coming, and that a Labour government ought to be in power when it came. If only to avoid another depression the people Qf this country should keep the Labour party in office. Having regard to Labour’s philosophy, it is vitally necessary that this country be administered by a Labour government at least for the next few years.
As the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) said recently, after a few more years of Labour administration, perhaps even a Liberal government could not do any serious harm during the period - no doubt it would be short - for which it might retain power.
– That would be risky.
– Probably ; but after Labour has laid the foundations and the Opposition parties have learned the lessons of good government, perhaps, it would not matter very much if they were returned to office for a limited period. The honorable member for Fawkner said that nt present the American economy is very sound. The simple fact is that the United States of America is the most highly industrialized, the most progressive and the richest country in the world. That will be admitted by all honorable members, oven though some of us may believe that the United States of America has certain shortcomings. For instance, as the result of the sudden removal of prices control and the granting of substantial tax reductions, prices rose to such levels that that country is now experiencing a recession. The American people are not talking about the possibility of unemployment and economic hardship. They are actually experiencing those difficulties because their Government allowed prices to rise to such heights that persons in the lower ranges of income cannot afford to buy even some of the necessaries of life. Although the recession is virtually a return to normal price levels, the suddenness of the change has inflicted hardship upon the majority of the American people, particularly those on fixed wages, or salaries, which cannot be immediately adjusted to meet sharp upward movements in prices. The honorable member for Fawkner also said that in the period following World War 1. Australia enjoyed unprecedented prosperity. To some degree that statement is true; but our prosperity at that time was largely false. Professor Shand, in his History of Australia, shows that, in 1921, which was part of the period that the honorable member described as one of the mort prosperous we have experienced in our history, registered unemployment in this country equalled 12 per cent, of our employable population. Government at that time adopted a false policy. I do not blame them particularly for that fact. They did not have the experience of later years to guide them. At that time we were receiving very high prices for our exports, and those prices promised to rise to even higher levels. Thus, governments of that day believed that they were justified in borrowing heavily in order to finance capital works ; and in any economy it is very difficult to decide whether certain undertakings are capital or revenue works. Those governments saw no harm in adopting a policy of borrowing heavily in order to finance works programmes in this country. The simple fact is that in a period of such high prosperity they should have financed the needs of the time to a greater degree from revenue. Had that policy been adopted we should have been better able to meet the sharp fall in prices for our exports in 1929. That fall was inevitable. Some honorable members opposite blame the Scullin Government for much of the difficulties we experienced at that time. However, Mr. Bruce made it clear that from 1929 onwards Australia was not able to raise further loans abroad. Prior to that year anti-Labour governments had borrowed approximately £30,000,000 a year in London. In fact, those governments met their interest bill in London by further borrowing. Such a policy, as we now know, was unsound politically and financially. Had the high prices received for our exports at that time continued to rise, that policy, perhaps, could have been justified. To-day, we take to heart the lessons that must be learned from events at that period. We realize that the high prices which we are now receiving for our exports will not continue indefinitely any more than they did from 1929 onwards. This Government has learnt the lessons of that tragic period. Led by the ablest Prime Minister and Treasurer in the history of this country it realizes that if it does not maintain taxation rates in keeping with the degree of our prosperity, it will be obliged to adopt a policy of large-scale borrowing which will eventually add to the cost of services and place upon coming generations a heavy burden of interest. Therefore, the Government has decided that as far as possible it will meet its capital expenditure from its present high revenue. The Treasurer is following a policy by which he will do more than any of his predecessors to hand over a sound economy to his’ successor. The economic policy being followed in the United States of America to-day can be described as the policy of the Truman Administration. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), during his recent tour in that country, said that if Truman were in Australia he would most, likely be a leading Labour man. Apparently, therefore, if any credit is to be given for the situation that exists in the United States of America it can bs said to be due to a good Labour administration under President Truman.
– President Truman would not agree with the honorable member.
– I am simply quoting a statement which was attributed to the Leader of the Opposition when he recently visited the United States of America.
– ‘The honorable member is not quoting my words. I assure him that I would not have made a remark so offensive to the President.
– I understood that the right honorable gentleman did make a statement to that effect. However, had the policy of the Republican party in the United States of America been put into effect the situation in that country would have been vastly different from what it is to-day. That party advocated a policy almost on all fours with that being advocated by the Liberal party and the Country party in this country, that is, a sharp reduction of taxes and a lessening of governmental controls; and those parties still claim that the Truman Administration is rapidly moving the United States of America towards socialism. Coming from the United States such arguments sound rather strange; hut the description is applied to any progressive government in the world to-day. Such tactics are futile, and the sooner the Opposition parties realize that fact the sooner they will get somewhere in their attempts to regain office.
I have dealt at some length with our financial position and the housing problem. I shall now discuss the vexed problem of dollar deficits. In essence, the dollar problem is simple. Whilst the rest of the world wants to buy from the United States of America that country does not want to buy the products of the factories and farms of other countries. That problem may continue for some rime. There was a dollar shortage for some years during the period between the two world wars, but that problem was overcome for European countries by the vast expenditure incurred by American tourists. The shortage of dollars is not a new problem. However, we cannot expect the American tourist traffic to rectify the present balance against other countries in their dealings with the United States of America. On a shortrange basis I do not believe that the United States of America should be urged to increase its imports substantially from those countries to which it is selling goods at present, although ultimately the problem will probably be solved by that means. However, viewing the problem on a shortrange basis, if the United States of America were to insist upon payment for goods at the present exchange rate of approximately three dollars to the £1 the rest of the world would be brought to the verge of starvation. The simple fact is that, to-day, the United States of America is faced with the problem that it has virtually to give away the surplus production of its mines, farms and factories whilst it does not require increased supplies of the products of Australia or of any other country. If the United States took all our surplus wool in order to meet our dollar needs Australian wool would be denied to other countries which are in dire need of it for a variety of purposes. If America took from other countries the volume of the products of their factories and farms sufficient to provide their dollar needs, those products would be denied to other countries, no matter how vitally they might need them. So, as a short-term policy, the United States has almost to give away a great volume of the products of its farms and factories. In the long view, if the United States wants to strike a balance of trade with Australia it will have to buy more wool and other Australian products so that it can sell its goods in this country. I believe that that view has been generally accepted in business circles in the United States. It has always been fairly well accepted in American governmental circles. But because of the great power exorcised in the American Congress by blocs of businessmen and others, governmental arrangements which are not in the best interests of the American nation have been made with other countries. As the result of those arrangements we have to deny ourselves many essential goods because we have not the dollars with which to pay for them.
– The Opposition has suggested the raising of a dollar loan as a means of overcoming the difficulty.
– I believe that that would be a wrong approach to the problem. I believe that such a proposal was made by an eminent Australian economist.
– Who was he ?
– I understand that Professor Copland advocated the raising of a dollar loan.
– Professor Copland is the Government’s own economic adviser.
– Irrespective of the source of that advice I contend that the solution of the problem is best expressed in the argument adduced by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) in relation to Australia’s internal economy when he said that we should reduce our spending in times of prosperity so that we may be able to increase it in times of adversity. That policy holds good in respect of foreign trade just as much as in respect of domestic matters.No advantage would be gained by raising a dollar loan to-day except for the purchase of capital equipment, and then only if the goods produced or manufactured as the result of the use of such capital equipment were marketed in dollar areas. It is of no use to increase our dollar indebtedness if the goods produced by the equipment purchased by the expenditure of dollars are sold in sterling areas. Far from easing the dollar problem borrowing for that purpose would merely accentuate it. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) advocated closer consultation and co-ordination between Empire countries with a view to stimulating interEmpire trade as a means of solving some of our problems. I do not believe that that possibility has been lost sight of.
– The Prime Minister lias said that that would be futile.
– We have always sought to supply what we can to other Empire countries and to buy what we can from them. The sentiment of the country would demand that that be done even if governments did not actively pursue that aim. I deny emphatically that great and lasting good flowed from the Ottawa Agreement. I have always maintained that in principle the Ottawa Agreement was a defeatist agreement. At a time when world trade had already shrunk to small proportions we decided to restrict our share in it still further in order to gain a temporary advantage for Empire countries.
The Government has a record of which it can justly be proud. The culmination of its work is to be found in the bill presented by the Minister for Works anr’ Housing last week relating to the Snowy Mountains scheme. That scheme is magnificent in concept. Such a project has been on every body’s lips from time to time for many years, but it was left to this Government, acting on the advice of an able and energetic Minister, to bring to fruition the plan on which the scheme will be finally developed. The scheme covers what is probably the only really valuable source of water supply for hydroelectric purposes that exists on the mainland of Australia. For too long the potential power of the waters of the Snowy River has been neglected. In later years Australians will be proud of this project which I regard as forming the coping stone of the very fine record of th Labour Government. I notice that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) is endeavouring to catch my eye.
– I was wondering what sort of ruling the honorable member would give in respect of the kind of remarks he is making if he were in the chair. I remind him that a bill relating to the Snowy Mountains scheme is on the notice-paper.
– I am aware of that. During this debate the Opposition attack on the Government has been purely negative. Indeed that has been characteristic of the attitude of honorable members opposite towards every piece of legislation, both major and minor, with which the Labour Government has been associated throughout the whole of the period in which I have been a member of this Parliament. The people will demand to know more about the policy of the parties in Opposition when honorable members opposite seek to be returned to office. There has been no unanimity of opinion among Opposition members on the legislation introduced by the Government. They will have to make up their minds where they stand on these matters. One vital question which the people will ask is where the Opposition stands on the subject of credit control. Honorable members opposite contend that, because of the existence of the Banking Act of 1945, there is no need for the nationalization of banking. I am not a lawyer and I know nothing about the law, but it is plain to me that the recent High Court decision in relation to the Banking Act of 1945 has virtually wiped that legislation off the statute-book. The attitude of the Opposition towards the maintenance of credit control will be a vital issue at the next election. The Government has established a very fine governmental instrumentality known as TransAustralia Airlines. The. Opposition must make up its mind whether, if it is returned to office, it will permit that excellent instrumentality to continue to function. Members of the Opposition parties must also make up their minds where they stand in respect of the balances established by the Government in London. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) has dealt adequately with the social service benefits provided by this Government. In its domestic policy the Government has done a magnificent joh In foreign affairs Australia’s nairn stands high among the nations of the world. When the election is held honorable members will find that their carping criticism of the Government, their attempts to play on the fears of the people and to deceive them about alleged shortages and dwindling production, have gone for nought. The people know from experience that the Labour Government, has performed tasks that have never been attempted by anti-Labour governments in any Australian parliament.
– The bill now before us seeks the approval of the Parliament for the appropriation of certain moneys for the purposes of the Government. Since the measure pro- poses no alteration of the taxes levied on the people, it can to that degree be regarded as non-contentious. Its consideration, however, gives to honorable members an opportunity to express their views on Government policy and on its administration of the affairs of the nation. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) expressed his views on many matters very clearly, but he concluded his speech by asking a series of questions regarding the attitude of the Opposition to such subjects as credit control. He omitted, however, to state his own views on them. Our policy will be stated clearly to the people. The honorable member for Perth referred early in his speech to the effect on prices of the withdrawal of price stabilization subsidies and took the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) to task for having criticized that action by the Government. I agree unquestionably with the honorable member for Calare that the withdrawal of subsidies has been a primary cause of the increased cost of living. No one can deny that the price of the articles which formerly were subsidized has increased or will increase. Last night, one Government supporter claimed that, as the result of the rent and prices referendum, the Commonwealth had not the constitutional power to continue to pay price stabilization subsidies. I remind the House, however, that the Government is still paying a subsidy of 2s. 5d. per lb. on tea. Although tea is still rationed, everybody knows that there are ample supplies to meet all demands. Why then does the Government insist on keeping Australian consumers short of this essential commodity? It does so simply because rationing means a miserable saving to the Treasury. Increased consumption of tea would mean an increase of the subsidy. Long ago, the tea controller told me there was plenty of tea in this country. Why is it being rationed?
– Does the honorable member believe that the subsidy should be removed?
– There is no reason why the Government should not pay, through the States, all the subsidies that it paid prior to the defeat of the referendum. I mention the subsidy on tea merely to disprove the assertion that the Commonwealth can no longer continue to pay price stabilization subsidies. I am not seeking the removal of the subsidy on tea, but I believe that tea rationing should be ended. In addition, of course, the Commonwealth is paying a subsidy to the taxpayers of New Zealand under the wheat agreement with that country. Already £7,000,000 has been paid in that way. If it is right that the Commonwealth should subsidize the purchase of Australian wheat by New Zealanders, surely it is also right that the Commonwealth should continue to pay price stabilization subsidies in this country to help to keep the cost of living down. The honorable member for Perth said that he did not believe that the 40-hour week had had any appreciable effect on the cost of living. In other words, he considered that mechanization could offset the shorter working week. That is true in part, but, undoubtedly, the application of a 40-hour week to our primary industries would mean reduced production and increased prices. The prices of primary products are not fixed to-day on the basis of a 40-hour working week. Why should the man on the land be penalized to provide cheaper food for other sections of the community? Why should the prices of primary products be fixed on the basis of a 56-hour week instead of a 40-hour week? The primary producer surely is entitled to the same consideration as is the city worker.
The honorable member for Perth also referred to housing. The impression that I gathered from the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) last night was that home construction had not yet reached the record figures of the 1920’s. Why then is the Government boasting about its housing achievements? After all, there are many thousands more men in the building industry to-day than there were in the 1920’s. Prior to World War II. there was no shortage of houses in the district in which I live. Any one who wanted, to buy a house could obtain all the materials that he required. The position is much different to-day in spite of the Government’s boasts. There is little material available for the construction of rural dwellings, and the erection of farm outhouses is impossible. Permits will not be granted for galvanized iron or other essential material for the construction of machinery or seed sheds, or any other farm buildings. The policy of the Queensland Labour Government up to the 30th June of this year - I do not know what it will bc after that date - is not to grant permits for the erection of business premises. Only houses may be built. Apparently, in the view of that administration, business undertakings are of no importance to the community. How can this attitude be reconciled with the Prime Minister’s appeal for greater production? The honorable member for Perth said that in this country a Labour government was required in the Commonwealth sphere to prevent a depression. I recall that after “World “War I. there was a period of prosperity similar to the present time. The honorable member for Perth readily admitted that, but he claimed that it was a false prosperity. Obviously good prices will always prevail when there is a shortage of supplies. After World War I. there was a shortage of commodities of all kinds and prices were high. A similar state of affairs exists to-day. Does the honorable member for Perth believe that the present economic buoyancy is not a false prosperity? Can he guarantee that high prices will continue? If he is honest he will admit that the prosperity that is abroad to-day is just as false as that which the people of this country enjoyed after World War I. Does he honestly believe that the Labour Government has been responsible for the high prices that we are receiving for our primary products on the world’s markets? These prices are in no way attributable to the present administration. If a Labour government is required to prevent a depression why was the Scullin Government unable to prevent the depression of the early 1930’s? That depression was due to conditions overseas over which governments in this country had no control, but Government supporters to-day seek to place the blame for it on anti-
Labour administrations. I disagree with the statement of the honorable member for Perth that because of the Ottawa Agreement Australia lost better markets for its primary products than it gained. That is far from correct. That Ottawa Agreement made doubly sure that Australia would retain the best markets it ever had. Unfortunately the British Commonwealth of Nations to-day has lost some of its solidarity, and Australia is now not so sure of some of these markets. It is a pity that we did not keep our Empire together, as a geographical and commercial entity. The Prime Minister talks about increased production, but does nothing to help to achieve it. He talks, about saving, but spends. Example is the best teacher, and the Government should set an example by saving instead of spending and wasting millions of pounds on socialism. He could well administer the law to assist the producers instead of running away from that responsibility. On his return from overseas, he extolled the 15-year contract that the Australian Government had made with the British Government for the sale to Great Britain of our surplus beef, but I am afraid that his rejoicing was a little early. I fear that the agreement may not warrant the plaudits of the beef cattle-raisers. The agreement is ambiguous and the beef producers are awaiting more facts about it. We do not yet know at what price the beef is to be sold or what the Government has done about ensuring a payable price. The president of the United Graziers Association of Queensland, Mr. Newcomen, addressing the last annual meeting of the council of the association, directed attention to the lack of assistance given to the grazing industry by the Australian Government. The press reported Mr. Newcomen as having said -
Since adequate man-power or material was not available to remedy the dilapidation of improvements caused through the war and subsequent shortages, graziers were still being taxed on fictitious incomes. While the shortages had occurred subsequent to war conditions, their continuance was not necessarily entirely consequential on those hostilities, but rather a consequence of that calamitous socia experiment, the 40-hour week. “ It would be an equally great folly not to admit that gross prices for wool have been satisfactory, as it would be to imagine that meat production would increase at the present level of export prices which have no relation to costs, world demand, or to prices of other commodities capable of production from the land.”
Many members, particularly in the north and central west, had been debarred by drought and consequent reduction of their flocks, from participating to their normal extent in the prices ruling for wool.
Mid-western Queensland was stricken with a three-year drought. So, in spite of high prices, the graziers had no income. A great many were forced by the drought to sell what stock they had left alive. Then they were taxed on the receipts from sale of the stock. The provisional tax that was added to their assessments meant that they had practically no capital left with which to restock when the drought broke. That shows how the Government has failed to assist graziers to increase production. I dealt with that matter when the budget was introduced last year. I was promised that it would be looked into again, but the Government has not honoured that promise; at least, it has made no reference to the matter since. Under present conditions, it is far better financially for the graziers to let some of their cattle and sheep die during a drought than to sell them and restock when the drought breaks, unless they are able to restock in the same financial year as that in which they sell. The Government gives them no consideration in administering the income tax law. It demands and gets its pound of flesh. It grabs every penny it can to provide a reserve against a rainy day. It glories in the reserves it has against that day and is blinded to the fact that, unless the graziers are able to produce, all the reserves will vanish like a mist. Unless we have the commodities needed to feed us, what will be the good of money? Money is of no use unless one can buy commodities with it. The Government fails to realize the need to assist those in trouble because of drought and the scarcity of materials. Nor has any sympathy been shown by the responsible authorities, whoever they are, Commonwealth or State, to those graziers whose fences were swept away by the devastating floods that followed the breaking of the Queensland drought. With the destruction of the fences, wild dogs were able to make their way unhindered through properties, killing the stock that was left. Graziers are unable to buy a coil of wire with which to replace or repair fences. The officer in Brisbane in charge of supplies says that it is hopeless to apply to him for wire, that he has had hundreds of applications and can only deal with them in turn. So the urgent cases have to wait. Neither the Australian Government nor the Queensland Government has reason to boast when it has failed lamentably to meet that emergency by providing wire with which fences may be erected or restored to keep stock in and the dogs out. Since the floods, the dogs roam in numbers never known before. The men who were badly hit by the drought cannot afford to do as I did and pay £5 a coil for aluminium wire with which to make temporary repairs. Even if they could, little aluminium wire is available.
When I asked a question about the need to allocate funds under the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Agreement Act for the reconstruction of roads that were built in Queensland during the war and are practically permanent roads, I received what seemed an encouraging reply. It is imperative to place a permanent surface on those roads. The Queensland Main Roads Commission, however, has allocated to the local authorities only money enough to cover bare maintenance. One important road which passes through a vast area of fertile land, is that from Charleville to Blackall, a distance of about 180 miles. That road is deteriorating so rapidly that it is no longer what we term “ a wet weather road “. When rain falls lorries break through the surface. Soon it will be back to its original bush-track condition. In order to preserve that road it should be permanently surfaced with bitumen or some other equally durable material. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) stated, in reply to my question, that an amount of £20,000 had been allocated for that road, but that works out at only £111 a mile, which certainly will not cover the cost of bituminizing it. It will pay only for maintenance work or only for a short distance of bituminizing. The Government collects plenty of money from the petrol tax, and it ought to allocate sufficient funds to provide for the preservation of that road and other roads in western Queensland where transport facilities are inadequate. If important roads of that character were permanently surfaced, maintenance costs would he small. The initial cost of laying permanent surfaces would be high, but the development would encourage production in remote districts. The Queensland Government ought to do something to assist road construction in the western areas of the State. It opposes the plan that the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) announced when he introduced legislation providing for the standardizing of railway gauges. That scheme includes the construction of a railway from Bourke through Charleville and Blackall to the Northern Territory.
– More socialization !
– A project like that would be reproductive. Unfortunately the Government’s general policy is not designed to increase production. It wastes money on socialistic enterprises of a non-productive character. What will we get out of the legislation that it has enacted? Nothing! Our money is disappearing into thin air. The Government of Queensland opposes this Government’s plan for the standardization of railway gauges. It objects to the proposal to build a railway to the Northern Territory through Cunnamulla, Charleville and Blackall, yet it also refuses to construct roads to link isolated areas with existing rail services, and stock owners in the far west have great difficulty in transporting their stock to market. Between the two Labour governments, the State and the Commonwealth, nothing is done. The people of western Queensland have been told, in effect, that the Australian Government is not interested in helping them to transport their stock to market. All that it is worried about is the implementation of its socialistic schemes and the expenditure of millions of pounds of our money to nationalize the banking and broadcasting systems and to establish governmentcontrolled shipbuilding yards and other enterprises that will tend to decrease rather than increase national production. In the midst of this orgy of spending, the Prime Minister is urging the people to ’ save for security “, in order that he may have more funds to disburse *ad lib on his wild-cat schemes.
In view of the importance of main roads, I have communicated frequently with the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) in an effort to arrange for the importation of road graders that are needed by local governing authorities. The first reply that the Minister made to my representations stated, in effect, that sufficient road-grader engines had been imported from dollar countries to provide for all of the crawler-type grader attachments that could be manufactured in Australia. I referred this statement to Steel weld Proprietary Limited, the company that manufactures those machines, and wa? informed that the Minister’s statement was incorrect. The company assured me that it could double its output of attachments if it could only obtain enough engines. When I informed the Minister for Trade and Customs of that fact, he repeated his first assurance, but Steelweld Proprietary Limited remains adamant that it can double its production of attachments. Local governing authorities throughout Australia are crying out for road graders. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) has said that the introduction of the 40-hour week need not affect production if industry is properly mechanized. But how can we get work done when we cannot get the labour or the machinery that we need ? The Government cannot see beyond its nose, and is not prepared to import machinery that is needed to develop our road systems so that we can increase production in rural areas. Our roads ave deteriorated because of the shortage of graders. Ninety per cent, of the road graders owned by local governing authorities were taken from them during the war, and almost every one- that has been handed back since the end of hostilities has been worn out. Only a few new machines have been made available as replacements. If a local governing body applies to purchase a new grader, it is informed that there is already a waiting list of 150 or 200 applicants and that, with luck, it may get a new grader about two years hence. The position has improved only slightly as the result of importations from sterling countries. Apparently the Government cannot appreciate the necessity for making available the small amount of dollar capital that would be needed to pay for the importation of road-making machinery from dollar areas. Its stubbornness discloses its unpractically and unfitness to govern. If it wants to expend public money in order to assist production, I suggest that it apply itself to such projects as the Snowy Mountains scheme. Provided that the background arrangements for such plans were satisfactory, I should applaud them wholeheartedly. Irrigation projects of that character would be of great value to the nation. The only objection that I might raise against the Snowy mountains scheme is that New South Wales and Victoria are again to be the favoured States of the Commonwealth. Almost all of the money devoted to developmental works is expended within their borders. The more remote States have become the “ Cinderellas “ of the Commonwealth.
Very little irrigation work of national importance has been undertaken in Australia. Town water supply systems have been developed by local governing authorities that have been prepared to invest a portion of their money in the construction of reservoirs and reticulation services from funds that have been obtained from ratepayers and of course by the States. Throughout my long acquaintance with politics in Queensland, Labour party candidates have promised the people at election after election that they will engage in permanent irrigation projects. But what has been done? The Labour party has been in power in that State since 1914, with the exception of a period of three years during the depression, but it has not undertaken any irrigation scheme of any consequence.
– Why is it always returned to power?
– It is returned on a minority vote. Under the proposed redistribution of electorates, Labour party candidates will be returned again if they command only 40 per cent, of the votes. That is what the Labour party calls democracy. That party in Queensland will not even give its members the right to make a democratic choice of candidates for the forthcoming Commonwealth elections. The .Queensland central executive of the party has undertaken the task of selecting candidates and has refused rank-and-file members the right to make their own choice. That is the Labour party’s idea of democracy! As long as a person stands well with the Queensland central executive, he will be elected. The sitting members are assured of election to the Parliament because they have secured the pre-selection, and, therefore, they are perfectly satisfied with the position and make no protest on behalf of those whom they represent. Last year, the Government of Queensland allocated an amount of £600,000 for irrigation works, and it is now attempting to construct two or three small weirs. The explanation of that activity is that an election is approaching, and the Queensland Labour party made a promise before the last election three years ago to undertake water conservation schemes. A few days ago, the Prime Minister, when replying to a ques-. tion by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), made a statement about the Burdekin River project. I associate that statement with the fact that an election is also approaching for the honorable member for Herbert. Then the Premier of Queensland tried to unearth a plan for the Burdekin River, but discovered that the State Government did not have one. He said that he would have something to say to the Prime Minister on the subject at a conference to take place next month. The Premier of Queensland has no considered policy and no definite plans for water conservation. His sudden interest in the matter is characteristic of the election propaganda which he and his predecessors have put over the people of Queensland before a number of elections. The Commonwealth Government should provide a substantial sum from its ample funds for irrigation schemes, and thereby encourage the people living in outback areas to remain on the land. Water conservation schemes are urgently required in order to arrest the drift of population from rural areas to the large cities. Census returns reveal that the rural population in certain districts of Queensland is less to-day than it has been for many years. I should like to be informed about the plans that the Prime Minister has in mind for increasing beef production in the Northern Territory or elsewhere in the Commonwealth. I understand that tho right honorable gentleman has promised the United Kingdom Government that he will do his best to increase beef production, and I shall wait with interest to learn how he proposes to honour that undertaking.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
– I shall deal now with the operations of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. “Whilst I appreciate the efforts of departmental officials to render the best possible service to the public, the fact remains that they are bound by the Government’s policy. The announcement by the Postmaster-General of the new policy of the Government concerning that department does not include provision for much work to be undertaken in rural areas, although it is proposed that substantial expenditure shall be incurred in city areas. Certainly some additional telephone installations are to be provided for country areas, but hundreds of country residents who have been patiently waiting for telephone services, some of them for periods of up to two years, will find themselves as far away from the telephone as ever. Prospective subscribers in country districts are already asked to bear a very substantial proportion of the cost of installing the service, and the conditions imposed upon them are such that only wealthy applicants can afford to have telephones installed. I understand that the regulation that applied before the war still prevails, namely, that only £100 is expended by the department on the installation of a telephone in the home of a country subscriber. I am informed that that amount of money will now permit the construction of only three-quarters of a mile of telephone line. Labour costs and other charges have increased considerably since before the war, and the length of line that will be erected by the department has been reduced accordingly.
Imagine the plight of applicants for telephones who reside 8, 10 or .12 miles away from country telephone exchanges. Because of the prevalent high costs of erecting telephone wire, it will be almost impossible for most of them to defray the cost of connecting their homes to the telephone system. I believe that a larger proportion of the cost of installing the service should be borne by the department, and that subscribers should be permitted to repay their proportion of the cost by instalments over lengthy periods. Such a provision would enable many settlers who are in poor circumstances to install telephones. Because of the niggardly attitude of the present Government in the matter of petrol supplies for country residents, many farmers find that it is not practicable for them to visit market towns when their produce is being sold or for other purposes connected with their undertakings. It is all the more necessary, therefore, that they should be able to communicate with the townspeople by telephone. Some farmers cannot even afford to use the petrol necessary to drive into the nearest town to obtain their petrol ration tickets. City bookmakers, who can transact most of their business by using the trams and public transport systems, draw huge petrol rations, and a handful of wealthy people in country districts appear to be able to travel by car to the cities quite frequently. However, the honest primary producers of thi? country are simply unable to travel outside their own districts by car. In many instances the Postmaster-General’s Department has failed to honour its undertakings to erect post offices in country areas, and in other instances it is hopelessly behind in the construction of new premises. A typical example is the town of Dalby, in Queensland, where a post office was to have been constructed two years ago.
I turn now to the iniquitous increase of charges that has just been announced by the department. Those increases will be a real knock-out blow to country residents. The services provided by the department are public services in the true sense of that term and should be provided for the community by the Government. However, the provision of service, apparently, does not count with the present Government. The estimated increase of revenue received by the Government this year is more than £35,000,000, but apparently it is not sufficient to defray the deficit of £3,500,000 in ‘the finances of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. Incidentally, the estimated revenue surplus of £35,000,000 will undoubtedly be increased by the 30th June next. Allowing for increased expenditure during that period, there will undoubtedly be a substantial margin of receipts over expenditure, even after considerable sums have been set aside for the repayment of loans. It is obvious that the actual surplus will be more than sufficient to enable the Government to defray the comparatively small estimated deficit of £3,500,000 in the accounts of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The Government owes a duty to the community to provide proper services without needlessly increasing costs. We are continually hearing honorable members opposite assert that if the Government could control this, that or the other industry that is at present operated by private enterprise it could provide a better and cheaper service. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department is an enterprise operated by the Government but it is still unable to pay its way.
In deciding to increase charges the Government is, to say the least, acting on a very wrong principle. Citizens are to be charged up to 50 per cent, more for telegrams, telephone charges are to be increased substantially, concessional rates for use of the telephone at night are to be abolished, and service charges for personal calls are to be doubled. In fact, all the department’s charges except the postal rate are to be increased. I remind the Government that when the postal rate was increased to 2-Jd. per oz. during the war, the Labour Government responsible for the increase explained that it was merely a war-time expedient and undertook that the charge would be decreased after the war. Although the Government has reduced direct taxation, it continues to increase indirect taxation, so that the people are paying more and more in taxes every year. Now the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has found a new source of indirect taxation in the Post Office. Apparently he is determined to levy additional taxes on the community, and since he realizes that it would not be politic to increase direct taxation, he proposes to achieve a similar result by increasing, and imposing new, indirect taxes. Year after year Labour has established. new records of tax collection, and apparently it intends to establish still more records. The present Government has a fetish for increasing public expenditure, and one of its most expensive experiments has been the establishment of new government departments and instrumentalities such as the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. In addition, it has expanded the activities of existing departments, a typical example of which was the establishment of a news-collecting agency for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It has also expended considerable sums on other socialistic enterprises, and now the postal, service has to pay the piper. Although the PostmasterGeneral’s Department proposes to improve its service to subscribers by providing additional long-distance trunk channels, the imposition of the exorbitantly high charges announced by the Government will stultify the value of this improved service. Subscribers will be deterred from availing themselves of the improved service because of the increased cost. The Government is not far-sighted enough to realize that the provision of additional services at the present rates would result in subscribers making more use of the telephone facilities, and so contributing the additional revenue needed to defray the cost of the new installations.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) had some very nasty things to say about the Queensland Government. He said that it had gerrymandered the Queensland electorates and that if only 40 per cent, of the people of Queensland voted for the Labour party the Queensland Labour Government would remain in office. Knowing that the honorable gentleman is very prone to make reckless charges of dishonesty, I have been waiting for him for quite a while. In the Gympie Times of the 5 th April of this year, the honorable gentleman is reported as having said -
Without a shadow of doubt, this country requires .the overthrow of irresponsible dishonest government if it is to be saved from the chaos into which it is being led.
He said that in the course of an address to a meeting following his recommendation for endorsement as an Australian Country party candidate. I do not know what he meant by “ overthrow “ or “ dishonest government “.
– It is dishonest when one elector has three times the voting power of another.
– The honorable member for Maranoa has completed his speech. Honorable members opposite have been heard in silence and I insist that the Minister for Information be heard in like manner. I do not desire to have to deal with any honorable member for a breach of the Standing Orders.
– The honorable member for Maranoa was referring to the Australian Government when he made those remarks.
– I was not.
– He used those words after he had been endorsed as acandidate for the Commonwealth Parliament. It is useless for the honorable gentleman to try to escape now. He has a few friends in Queensland who do not like the methods which he has adopted in regard to quite a number of matters. I have received a letter from a gentleman in Queensland, who asked me to treat his name as confidential. He told me that at the last general election the honorable member for Maranoa helped to organize a co-operative trading society and that he used the services of his parliamentary secretary while doing so. When the election was over and the honorable gentleman got all the votes that he wanted, he promptly re-acted favorably to the crack pf the whip of Dalgety and Company Limited and other organizations, and the shareholders of the co-operative society lost their money.
– That is a lie.
– The Austrlaian Country party is supported financially by big business.
-I ask th, honorable member for Maranoa to withdraw the expression “ lie “. It unparliamentary.
– I withdraw the unparliamentary expression. I ask that the Minister be instructed to withdraw his statement regarding the organizing of a co-operative society. It is offensive to me.
– Th, Minister is entitled to make his speech in his own way. I shall not allow him to be interrupted while doing so.
– The gentleman to whom I have referred also said that the honorable member for Maranoa used hi? position as chairman of the Peanut Board to urge a head grader to class his thirdgrade peanuts as first-grade nuts, and that when the grader refused to do so he wau sacked.
– I ask for a withdrawal of that statement. It is offensive to me.
– The statement was not unparliamentary. I shall deal with any honorable member who does not allow the Minister to make his speech without interruption.
– The Minister can be as offensive as he likes.
– My warning applies to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin).
– I take it that the honorable member for Maranoa may make a personal explanation later if he desires to do so. What I have said is what was stated to me in the letter to which I have referred. 1 have made those remarks in answer to the charge of dishonesty that was laid by the honorable gentleman. I lay charges only in a counter-attack. Those who charge us with being dishonest may have to answer counter-charges. We are as white as the driven snow. Nothing can be charged against us on the ground of dishonesty. People may disagree with our politics and think that our attitude is wrong, but nobody can lightly lay a charge of dishonesty against any member of this Government.
The speeches that have been made by honorable members opposite have contained the usual stuff that can he expected from an Opposition. The Government has been charged with failure to balance budgets, with misrepresentation of facts and with having neglected to provide the Parliament with all the information that should he provided regarding the finances of the country. But there is one subject upon which members of the Opposition have been silent, and that is communism. During the last parliamentary recess they went round the country like roaring lions seeking whom they might devour, but now they are like cooing doves. We do not hear a word about communism from them.
– The Minister would have heard it in a previous debate if he had been here.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) made his speech and said very little on the subject of communism. I propose to deal with communism, because the Government is not afraid to deal with it. According to the Melbourne Argus of the 18th January of this year, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said -
I say on behalf of ray colleagues in the Federal Opposition that we are against the Communists, root and branch, with no hesitation and no quarter.
The right honorable gentleman is reported to have said on the 1st April -
Since when has a socialist government had a brawl with the Communists and won it [ shall refer the House to some of the statements that have been made by antiLabour leaders and former anti-Labour Prime Ministers. Honorable gentleman opposite are always talking of doing something about the Communist party, but they have never yet done anything about it. The Leader of the Opposition asked when a socialist government had had a brawl with the Communists and won it. When did an anti-Labour government ever have a brawl with the Communist party?
– The Communist party was banned by an anti-Labour government.
– This Government has at least prosecuted people who have broken the law. It has placed upon those who defy the laws of this country the responsibility of answering for it before the courts of this country.
– Who let Thomas and Ratliff go?
– If the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) will retain his patience for a little longer I shall tell him of something he has probably forgotten. The Leader of the Opposition is not the first anti-Labour leader to threaten to root the Communists out. He is not the first of them who has said, “I shall drill them out of the country “. When Mr. S. M. Bruce was Prime Minister of Australia in 1925 he said that there were men in this country then who were a menace to the community, that they would destroy Australia and must be removed. According to the Melbourne Age of the 10th September, 1925, Mr. Bruce, referring to communism, used these words -
I appeal to my fellow-citizens to support and assist me in destroying this viper which has raised its head in our midst.
A little later, in his 1925 policy speech, referring to the Bruce-Page Government, in which were serving the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and a few other honorable members who are still with us but who will not be here much longer, Mr. Bruce said -
The Government is determined to defeat the nefarious designs of the extremists and, armed with a mandate of the people, will take all necessary steps to accomplish this end.
The Bruce-Page Government won the 1925 general election but it did not gaol, deport or launch a prosecution against one Communist. That, however, did not deter Mr. Bruce, in a speech delivered in 192S at Glenalvie, in the Gippsland electorate, from saying -
These men have been too successful in the past. It is for me to see that the activities of these few are definitely stopped.
He was referring, of course, to the Communists. The Bruce-Page Government, as I have said, was returned to office in 1925 after Mr. Bruce had appealed for power to crush the Communists, but it did not take any steps to do so. Despite that fact, Mr. Bruce said this in his 1928 policy speech -
To-day Australia is being challenged by extremity. I appeal to you to help me in this task.
On another occasion just prior to the 1928 election, he said -
In this election the people are to decide whether our present system is to be upheld or go down under the heel of bloodthirsty revolutionists.
The parties now composing the Opposition won that election, but again did nothing about the Communists. Now the present Leader of the Opposition has said -
I say, on behalf of my colleagues in the Federal Opposition, that we are against the Communists, root and branch, with no hesitation and no quarter.
Of course, honorable members opposite always keep talking that sort of stuff and never intend to do anything but talk. The Australian Country party is no less guilty than is the Liberal party.
– Who banned the Communists ?
– I shall come presently to the matter of the ineffective banning of the Communist party. The right honorable member for Cowper stated in 1926, when addressing a meeting at Gympie, in Queensland, that a board had been appointed to deal with strike leaders, and that those gentlemen would go out of the country before the election. He was referring to the election of 1928. Of course, the right honorable member associated trade unionism with communism. Although he did nothing about the Communists when the present Opposition parties were returned to power at that 1928 election, he had more to say about them twelve years later, only a few months after he had quarrelled with the present Leader of the Opposition following the death of Mr. Lyons, and when he was trying to find his way back into the Government. According to the Daily Telegraph of the 6th January, 1940, he said -
I’ll wipe out the Communist party pretty soon. I have all my plans prepared and the Country party is 100 per cent, behind me.
He was taken back into the Ministry later that year, but he did not ban the Communist party. When the Fadden Government fell, the right honorable gentleman was on his way to England on another trip, forgetting all about communism and all the things that he had ever said about Communists, and being concerned only with his trip.
These gentlemen opposite, I must repeat, talk about communism but have no intention whatsoever of doing anything about it. It is all very well for the Leader of the Opposition to say that he is against Communists “ root and branch”, but the truth is that he was Prime Minister in 1939 when the war started and some extraordinary things were said by the Communists at that time. But none of them was gaoled, prosecuted or interned. J have a few choice samples from the Guardian, the Communist newspaper of Melbourne at that period. On the 18 November, 1939, Mr. J. B. Miles, the secretary of the Communist party at that time, and when honorable gentlemen opposite had complete war-time powers to &&ri with Communists, was reported a? having said -
This war is a capitalistic war which will make the rich richer and the poor poorer. The restoration of pearc in eastern Europe as a result of the steps taken by the Soviet Union has brought about a great change in the situation. To-day there is no justification for continuing the war and the people of Australia must do everything in their power to restore peace.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order !
– What did the then Minister for the Army do about that? Precisely nothing ! What did the present Leader of the Opposition, who was then Prime Minister, do ? Precisely nothing ! What did the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) do? Precisely nothing! Those utterances were not just a temporary aberration on the part of the Communists.
Mr. Gullett interjecting ,
– Order ! The honorable member for Henty will be named if he interrupts again.
– That was the constant party line of the Communists, because a week later the Guardian published iu full a speech by Mr. Molotov in which the war was described as an imperialistic war for world domination. Again, no action was taken by the United Australia party-Country party Government. On the 11th November, four days later, the Guardian quoted the executive committee of the Communist International as having said this -
The ruling circles of England, France and Germany ore waging war for world supremacy. This war is a continuation of the many years of imperialistic strife in the camp of capitalism. Down with the imperialistic war! Down with the war instigators, profiteers and freebooters! . . .
There was still no action by the right honorable gentleman who now says that he intends to root Communists out if he gets back into office. On the 27th January, 1940, at a time when preparations were being made for the battle for Britain, the Guardian said in it3 front page leading article -
The lives of young Australians should not bc thrown away in the war by capitalists or in any war on the working class-
As if Hitler was leading the working classes! On the 2nd March, 1940, Alf Watt, Communist party campaign director, was reported as having said -
The Communist party is opposed to the war.
Ordinarily, that would be regarded as a treasonable remark.
– So was the Labour party opposed to the war.
– The Labour party did not oppose the war at that stage and was not engaged in any treasonable activity. At least the Labour party when it took office was prepared to defend the laws of this country, and it is the only party in Australia that has ever prosecuted a Communist. No anti-Labour Government, either State or Federal, in war or in peace, has ever defended the laws against anybody except when such action suited its purpose. On the 16th March, 1940, the Guardian, under the heading “ Communists Oppose War “, quotes Ralph Gibson as having said -
The war is not being fought in the interests of the people. . . . The Communist party aims to end the war. . . .
I think that I have quoted enough to show that all through the first six months of the war the anti-Labour Government then in office did nothing to uphold the law. One can judge a political party only by its record. The. Labour party is prepared to be judged on its record and the Opposition parties cannot object to being judged on theirs. If during the war, when they had the opportunity, they did nothing to protect this country against communism, which they now denounce, what right or title have they to ask to be allowed again to form a Government in this country at any time in the future? Their promises are not honest promises, and are not made with any intention of fulfilment. That has not prevented the Leader of the Opposition, now that the early period of the war has receded into history, from going before the people of Australia, as he did last month, and saying that during the battle for Britain Australian Communists were on the side of Germany, that there was a bunch of Communist traitors here then and some of them had been “ installed in the cooler “. Not one Communist was “ installed in the cooler “ by the Menzies Government, and not one was prosecuted.
– We put quite a few in the “cooler”.
– You did not put one in. The right honorable gentleman has been a long time out of office and probably has forgotten much about those matters and those times. The only Communist who was interned during the war - and I was chairman of a committee that investigated such matters - was a German Communist named Stone, who was interned not because he was a Communist but because he was a German.
– I signed the document that led to the internment of Ratliff and Thomas.
– The honorable member can bring forward any evidence he likes to submit, but I defy him or any other Opposition member to prove that he took one action, for subversive activity, against any Communist either by fining, gaoling, or deporting him. It is not right for honorable members opposite to tell the people of Australia that during the war-
– Order ! I shall name the Leader of the Opposition if he does not cease interrupting.
– I am going to have my say. Honorable members opposite talk a lot about freedom of speech, but when they are hurt they do not like it. I have a lot more to tell them before I resume my seat. During the course of his peregrinations the right honorable gentleman said some other things.
– The Minister must not tempt me or he will get me into trouble.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman will get into trouble if he does not desist.
– Well, I do not want to be tempted by the Minister.
– Order ! I name the Leader of the Opposition.
– I think that the Leader of the Opposition will, upon reflection, express his regret to the Chair, and conform to the Standing Orders.
– The Minister is entitled to be heard in silence. I warned honorable members repeatedly that they must refrain from interruption. There seemed to be a determined effort to interrupt the Minister. I shall not permit such conduct. I warned the Leader of the Opposition that if he persisted in interjecting, I should name him. He interrupted again, and I called him to order, but he refused to take any notice. While I am in the chair, I shall insist on being obeyed.
– Then, I move-
That the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) be suspended from the service of the House.
Question put. The House divided. (Me. Deputy Speaker - Mr. j. j. Clark.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The right honorable member for Kooyong thereupon withdrew from the chamber.
Motion (by Mr. Turnbull) put -
That the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. j. j. Clark.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
The Liberal party docs not believe in declaring the Communist party illegal and suppressing it, except in war.
The Communist thrives underground and should not be forced down to become a. martyr.
Subversive Communist activities should be Attacked in the same way as other subversive activities - the penalty of the law should be incurred.
A report published in the Sydney Baily Telegraph of the 19th June of the same year stated -
At the Liberal Party State Convention in Few South Wales the convention rejected a proposal to declare the Communist party, illegal. At this Convention it was stated, “ If we cut off the top the roots will flourish and grow stronger “.
Now, the members of the Liberal party have changed their minds because they think that it is a good election stunt tr do so. I remind them that the Aus tralian people are not easily fooled. What the members of the Liberal party said in July, 1946, in regard to the Communist party represents the right attitude that should be adopted towards that party. You cannot kill an idea by acts of suppression. An idea that is considered a bad one must be combated by presenting a better one. A war of ideas is being waged. No idea has ever been overthrown in history by the use of force. Minority groups thrive on martyrdom, persecution, or acts of suppression. I am not suggesting that the Communists are martyrs or that if they were attacked they would be persecuted, because the whole ideology of communism is based on the persecution of minorities and intolerance of other people’s views. We must have a balanced view upon this matter. I have taken this opportunity to speak on communism because no honorable member opposite has been prepared to raise the matter, although they speak about it a lot outside when they are addressing bankers, big business men and others whom they desire to frighten into handing over large contributions to their party funds.
I now wish to say something about the attitude of the Australian Country party on this matter. In the Melbourne Sun of the 25th January last I read a report of speeches that had been made at an Australian Country party convention. I read that the Leader of the Australian Country party, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), said that if the non-Labour parties were to win at the next general election they must have a positive policy. They have not given much evidence that they have a positive policy. The right honorable member for Cowper placed his ideas before his colleagues at that convention when he said -
A Labour victory would mean complete socialization, based on a three-year plan embracing all the means of production, distribution and exchange.
That statement is palpably dishonest. No government can do anything in the lifetime of a parliament towards socializing any matter that does not come under one of the heads of powers enumerated in section 51 of the Constitution. Furthermore, in respect of such legislation there would always be the right of appeal to the High Court, which, under the Constitution, is a super-legislature, and, in addition, there would always be the right of appeal to the Privy Council. So, when the right honorable member for Cowper made that statement he said what he knew was not true.
Even some of our supporters swallow the Labour bait and forget that time and again in the l!)30’s the two non-Labour parties, as separate entities, defeated Labour at the polls . . .
I do not object to that statement. But I do object to this -
Pulled Australia out of the Scullin depression and supplied the most stable composite governments in its political history.
It is a most outrageous mis-statement of fact to refer to the depression as the “.Scullin “ depression. If any man is responsible for the evils which befell the Australian people during the depression it is the right honorable member for Cowper. He was Treasurer in the BrucePage Government. He is the man who was described by a colleague in his own Cabinet as the tragic Treasurer. He is the man who, as the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) told us to-day, borrowed money in order to pay interest on other borrowed money. He is the man who did something in international finance which, if it had been done in private finance, would have resulted in his being put in gaol. He is the man who left Australia with an exhausted loan market and an empty treasury. He is the man who had the mortification of being the only Australian Treasurer who found one of his loans left in the hands of the underwriters in London - Lord Nivison’s firm - SO per cent, undersubscribed. Compare his record with that of this Government. Think of the Scullin Government in power in the House of Representatives, but with a hostile Senate and a hostile Commonwealth Bank Board determined to starve the people in order to destroy the Labour Government. The Scullin Government deserves well of contemporary history. It deserves well of posterity. It at least did something to try to pull Australia out of the mess into which the Bruce-Page Government had landed the country. For anybody to speak of the depression as the “ Scullin “ depression, to speak in unworthy terms of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who, because of ill-health, is no longer able to be present, to hold him up to obloquy or derision, even though it were only before a collection of Country party nit-wits, is contemptible and reprehensible. The right honorable member for Yarra has every reason to be proud of his record. At least he did not send this country bankrupt, and if the two Country party senators in the Senate of his day had voted for the issue of fiduciary notes as proposed by the Scullin Government the wheat-farmers would not have been compelled to sell their wheat for from ls. 6d. to ls. lOd. a bushel, and the woolgrowers would not have been forced to sell their wool at 8d., 9d. or lOd. per lb., or, as the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) has said, to dispose of their lambs at ridiculous prices. The right honorable member for Cowper concluded his speech with an appeal to the Government to do something about soil erosion and the rabbit and dingo menaces. He complained that the Government was not tackling these problems, but he knew very well that it had not the power to do so. These are matters for the States to deal with. The Australian Country party speaks with two voices. When in office it believes in a lot of socialism; when out of office it vilifies a party that wants to extend social security benefits to the people and give to farmers the boon of organized marketing, rural advances and all the other benefits which can come only through the agency of government. The Victorian Liberal-Country party Government did a lot of things which the members of the Australian Country party in this Parliament would regard as socialistic. Honorable members opposite never have the slightest objection to the Commonwealth Bank financing wheat pools. They have not the slightest objection to the Australian Government keeping down interest rates. Yet they go around falsely accusing this Government of wanting to do something detrimental to the best interests of the people, using the term “ socialism “ as if it were something to which they were strongly opposed. Let us examine the record of some Liberal and Country party governments in the State sphere. There is what is called a LiberalCountry party Government in office in Victoria, but the members of the Australian Country party in this House are not very happy about the title of that anti-Country party Government. There are Liberal governments in South Australia and Western Australia. Let us consider how those governments function.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Me. Deputy Sfeaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The bill’s object will be to encourage farmers to own refrigerators, radios and other household amenities. Cabinet has ratified the details of the bill. Advances will be made to those connected with all country industries. In New South Wales, similar finance is provided by the Rural Bank.
That is a tribute, not to the LiberalSoeralist Government of Western Australia, but to the socialization of the brick: works, which to-day makes it possible for’ people to obtain a plentiful supply of cheap bricks. Let us hear no more from’ honorable members opposite about the evils of socialization.
Turning now from the domestic field to the field of international affairs, let us see where the Liberal party stands’. Recently, Mr. J. A. McCallum was chosen by a very select committee of the Liberal party of New South Wales as a member of the party’s Senate team for the next general election. The committee numbered twenty, and included the honorable member for WentWorth (Mr. Harrison). I do not know whether any charges have been made about sliding panels, or crooked ballots, but 37 candidates paraded.
We should be polite to our potential enemies.
Wonderful advice! We should be polite to our potential enemies! If we are polite to our potential enemies we shall never be able to do anything to ensure that this country shall be strong enough, in population and otherwise, to resist aggression. Mr. McCallum continued, according to a report published in the Sydney Morning Herald two days ago -
The Liberal Party’s foreign policy would be verY simple.
Of course it would. It would have to be simple to appeal to the simple minds of members of the Liberal party. He then said -
We will follow the advice of a great American President - Theodore Roosevelt- “ Speak softly, but carry a big stick “.
Thus, this friend of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) has defined the foreign policy of the Liberal party : “ Speak softly but carry a big stick”. The Labour party lost nothing when it lost the services of Mr. McCallum.
I have something to say about certain members of the Liberal party who have given advice from time to time. I commend to members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties the views expressed in 1943 by Mr. Warwick Fairfax, who, if anybody should not yet have learned it, is a rather important person in the Sydney Morning Herald “ outfit “. He said -
Socialism, like inflation, is not a thing which you either have or do not have, like scarlet fever. It is a matter of degree. The State or some Government instrumentality in this country owns or controls railways, trams, buses, cables, wireless and telephones, electrical supply, water supply, and education.
All these are services which in other countries, and at times not so long ago, were conducted by competitive private enterprise.
This chap is a tycoon. He is also an authority on the Russian ballet -
Others- said Mr. Fairfax - such as gas, though conducted by private enterprise, have their price and profit margins rigidly regulated.
It is silly to draw a line here in a dogmatic fashion, saying: “Thus far and no farther”, and it is equally silly to brand as a “ Socialist “ any one who is open to reason about going further.
Those were the views of Warwick Fairfax. He was very wise in 1940 and 1943. I hope he still has the same views and that his study of dancing has not upset his balance upon other things. I hope that a lot of other things that have happened between the Government and the newspapers will not prevent him from paying at least soma tribute to the work of governments that operate instrumentalities in the interests of the people. Had I the time, I could say a lot about the internecine strife between the Liberal party and the Country party in Victoria. On one occasion recently Mr. McDonald, the Leader of the Country party in that State, said of the Liberal-Country party -
The new party is being born in an atmosphere of suspicion, and all country people will resist to the last ditch this audacious attempt to deprive them of their political rights and power.
The Age of the 23rd February contained the following report: -
Mr. Magnus Cormack told the Liberal party special conference in Melbourne yesterday that for the past 25 years there had been no stability in government in Victoria.
That was a reflection on the Liberal party and a lot of other people. The best quotation that I can give, however, of Mr. McDonald’s views on the set-up in Victoria is contained in the Melbourne Herald of the 5th February. It reported that he had said -
The people of Victoria will now know that the Country party was not responsible for the recent crisis. It was the trusting victim of a treacherous partner which has for a long time been out to destroy the Country party.
These people claim to be united in opposition to the Federal Government and want the people of Australia to get rid of it in order that they may transfer their warring factions to the treasurybench. Australia cannot afford another
Liberal-Australian Country party government. It cannot afford to be ruined twice. If it has another depression forced upon it by the bankers and their political stooges, it will not be able to mass itself again, no matter how great its recuperative powers may be, if endangered from the north. I conclude with a quotation from a paidfor advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 11th Maylast. This is a gem. It is worthy of all the brilliance, erudition and acumen of the honorable member for Wentworth. The quotation is as follows: -
The Liberal Party of Australia cordially invites you to come a’waltzing matilda to-night.
My reaction, when I read that, was that the Liberal party wants Australia to go “A’Waltzing Matilda”, which, in the terminology of the average Australian, means, “Pack your swag and get on the road “. With the Liberal party, it means the road to another depression, back to the dole and back to the bad old days. The people of Australia are not going “ A’Waltzing Matilda “ with the Liberal party or with its Bulgarian partners, the members of the Australian Country party.
– I have been awaiting for some time the outburst that we have had to-night from the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). The pressure that has been brought to bear on the Government by the Liberal party, the Australian Country party and the general public on the Communist issue is getting too close to home for the comfort of Ministers, particularly the Minister for Information, and their supporters. You may have noticed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that, in his attack upon honorable members on this side of the House, the Minister for Information had adopted the Communist technique of character assassination. He immediately attacked the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) and, with a smear campaign, sought to wipe him out of any future debate. His policy is to try to intimidate the Opposition. In effect, he said, “ I have a department, members of the staff of which I can turn loose to investigate matters that may or may not be truthful about you; so you need to be careful where you tread “. Se was not only interested in smearing the honorable member for Maranoa. He smeared other people. Eventually, he cast a doubt on Mr. Warwick Fairfax, until one honorable member on this side reminded him that even in this House there was such a thing as fair play. He took a brush and smeared honorable members and others who had from time to time opposed him. The House and the people of Australia have heard th9 personal explanation made by the honorable member for Maranoa. It spoke volumes. I shall say no more about it. The Minister ought to be eternally ashamed of having tackled a man of the character of the honorable member for Maranoa as he did.
What the honorable gentleman said about communism and the Liberal party requires some close analysis. If I point out where the Minister has again indulged in characteristic mis-statements and untruthful statements the whole case that he has made out will disintegrate completely. Let us examine his declarations. He said, in the first place, that we had refrained from making any attack upon communism. Honorable members and the people of Australia know how ridiculous that statement was, because the first debate of the current sittings of this House was based upon communism. Later, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) gave notice of his intention to introduce a private member’s bill directed against Communist influence in the trade unions. Honorable members and the people know that the Government went to some lengths to-day to “ gag “ the right honorable gentleman by refusing to allow private members’ business to take precedence to-morrow.
– Order! The honorable gentleman may not reflect upon a decision of the House.
– I am only referring to the decision of the House.
– The honorable member knows that he is not permitted to discuss a decision of the House except to move for its rescission.
– I am not discussing the decision; I arn merely stating what took place. The Minister for Information, having gone to some lengths to set the “ gestapo “ within his department to work compiling a series of quotations, and thus having used the taxpayers’ money to pursue his own nefarious ends, made a further statement. It was based upon those extracts from speeches that had been made by honorable members on this sideof the House. I have no staff paid by the Government to go rambling through the archives, but I have collated a number of statements that I want to place before the House and the country. They draw attention to the fact that this Government has always pandered to communism and has found jobs for Communist sympathizers within the organization that was known until recently as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and on the Stevedoring Industry Commission and other industrial commissions. Some of those bodies teem with Communists. I shall quote some of the statements that have been made about communism by members of the present Government.
I shall deal with the Minister for Information first, because he has made one or two very loose statements that certainly should be corrected. After the Easter conference of the Australian Labour party had been held in Melbourne last year, the honorable gentleman was reported to have said -
Capitalism is your enemy, not communism.
– Which Minister said that?
– The Minister for Information, that Simon Pure, who is as unsullied as a lily! He is the man who takes us to task with regard to communism. He said, in effect, “ Capitalism is your enemy, not communism. Therefore, brothers, let us not do anything about communism. Step very lightly. Let us concentrate on capitalism because, if we destroy capitalism, we shall destroy communism “. I come now to a statement that was made by no less a personage than the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). I am dealing with the declarations, not of the ordinary rank and file members of the Labour party, who are legion, but those of its leaders who hold high office. On the 4th March, 1948, the Prime Minister said, as reported in Hansard -
If I were to permit myself to be drawn into a philosophical discussion, I could say that every aim of the Communist movement throughout the world ia based on the teachings of Christ.
I ask honorable members to note that declaration by a Minister who has appointed Communists to positions of high trust in this country. Communism has been abhorrent to all Christian teachers ever since it was brought into being by Karl Marx. It has done everything that could possibly be done to destroy Christianity, yet its aims are related by a Minister to the teachings of Christ. Next I come to statements that have been made by the Minister who is under suspension, about whom a royal commission held an inquiry. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) said, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 6th November, 1944 -
Australia should begin to think along Soviet lines in post-war planning. “ Think along Soviet lines “ ! Of course, socialism and communism are bloodbrothers and this Socialist Government is thinking along Communist lines. The Minister made no bones about that. The reason why he and his colleagues seek to hold up to ridicule our demands for the banning of the Communist party are quite patent. The Minister for Information made some observations concerning statements that had been made during the war period by honorable members on this side of the House. I shall quote some of the statements that were made at that lime by honorable gentlemen who hold high rank in this Government. Honorable members will recall the period when Russia stood apart from the conflict of World War II. and the Communists were sabotaging Australia’s war effort. Before that conflict became a Communist “holy war “, strong action had to be taken against the Communists by the Menzies Government. I shall deal with that subject at a later stage. On the 1st December, 1939, Senator Collings, who later became a senior Minister in the Curtin Government, made the following pronouncement in the Senate : -
I would not negotiate with that scoundrel Churchill. I regard Mr. Churchill as a mad dog let loose for the purpose of spreading hatred where previously none existed.
On the 26th March, 1946, speaking of the Atlantic Charter, which is now the “ bible “ of the Labour party and in which all the freedoms of humanity are set out, Senator Collings said -
Two old fools met somewhere in the Atlantic and drew up what we know as the Atlantic Charter, which states that all people should have the right of self-determination. 1 remind honorable members and the people that those statements were made before World War II. became a “holy war “ for the Communists, that is, before Russia joined the allies. They obviously pin-point the attitude of this Government towards communism. I have quoted declarations that have been made by responsible Ministers. Let us have no more dragging of the depths by departmental officers. Let the Government get down to some definite action against Communism. Let it cleanse the Public Service of Communists. Let it dismiss those who have been appointed to high places. Australia’s name has been dragged in. the mud throughout the world. The Government of the United States of America has refused to give us any information about atomic energy because of the dangers of a possible leakage of secrets through Communists who have been appointed to positions of trust by this Government. Let us get back to decency and honesty in the administration of the affairs of Australia. The Minister for Information stated that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, jointly and severally, had not taken any action to prosecute or ban the Communists. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) interjected for the purpose of correcting him, the Minister insisted that he was right. We know what happened to the Leader of the Opposition. To disabuse the Ministor’s mind, I shall quote extracts from An Outline History of the Australian Communist Party, by L. L. Sharkey, who is No. 1 Communist in Australia. At page 41, the following passage appears : -
Two Communists, Ratliff and Thomas, who had served a sentence for Party activities, were seized and placed in a concentration camp, without charge or trial, among Italian fascists and Nazis. The C.C. at once raised the alarm throughout the labor movement and a strong campaign against these fascist tactics was waged. The two comrades concerned commenced a hunger strike, which drew considerable public attention to the case. A one-day stoppage of work in protest was called which, despite reformist opposition, met with considerable success, being one of the biggest political strikes the Australian proletariat ha? yet waged. The Menzies Government, however, clung to its victims, and it was only after the changed character of the war and the arrival in office of the Curtin Government that the release of these comrades was secured. The struggle for the release of Ratliff and . Thomas constituted a political exposure of Menzies and hastened his downfall.
The Minister has conveniently disappeared from the chamber. He does not like me to point out to the House that he has wilfully made a wrong statement. The extract from Mr. Sharkey’s book continues -
While the Ratliff-Thomas case was the outstanding example of the fascist-like persecution of revolutionaries, there were numerous arrests, about fifty in all. In W.A., the persecutions were relatively the worse. The “ liberalism “ and lack of proper ideological and organizational preparation for illegality on the part of the leadership of the Party in that State was one of the prime causes for the heavier losses, as well as the attitude of certain of the reformist leaders, who acted as police informers, pointing out the Communist activists. The W.A. membership, however, stood up to these blows, consolidated the Party organizations, and emerged to rapidly build the Party. Their performance in winning the Party’s Socialist competition, subsequently, is deserving of the highest praise.
Is there any need for me to say that either the Minister is completely ignorant of those happenings, or he has wilfully lied to the House about the banning of the Communists. The Menzies Government did, in fact, ban the Communist party, but the Curtin Labour Government lifted that ban and released Ratliff and Thomas. Mr. Sharkey refers to that incident on page 50 of the hook, as follows : -
Despite the fact that the Party consolidated and showed healthy growth in the illegal period and the Party Press appeared regularly. the ban hampered the work of the Party. Contrary to the opinion of romanticists and leftists, the Communist Party lias no desire for illegal conditions of work. An open legal Party has greater opportunity for growth and mass contact than an illegal one. The Communist Party only works illegally when there is no alternative course open to it, when the bourgeoisie contravenes democracy and outlaws the workers’ Party. The Russian and German and other parties were compelled to work underground because of the brutal suppression by the Tsar and the fascists. The Menzies Government was increasing its pressure, announcing its intention of widespread arrests of Communists leaders at the moment of the Nazi attack upon the Soviet Union.
The chanced character of the war and the accession of the Curtin Government to office created far more favorable conditions for the struggle for the legality of the Party.
I shall not read any other quotations from that book. It is sufficient for me to gay that An Outline History of the Australian Communist Parly contains irrefutable evidence that the Menzies Government banned that organization and put Ratliff and Thomas behind the bars, and that the Curtin Government, to the unbounded joy of the Communist party, removed that ban and released those two men. Because the pressure on the Government is increasing, the Minister endeavours to create a diversion by ridiculing the efforts that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party have made to deal with the Communists. I have only to cite that instance as an example of the lack of veracity of the Minister to satisfy the House that he has indulged in a political stunt, and even in racketeering. His statements are without foundation.
The Minister for Information has also claimed that the Australian Labour party and he are as pure as lilies. Well, there are various grades of purity in the lily family, and I shall not pursue that subject even as far as my knowledge of botany will allow me to proceed. However, there have been some illegal growths from time to time. As the Minister has made a claim to purity, it is only fitting that I should remind him of a certain incident. By his own words, he stands condemned. The House will remember that he dwelt on the need for the observance of constitutional law. When the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) interjected with righteous indignation, the Minister said, in effect, “ If they ifr. Harrison. i break the Constitution, let the law deal with them “. lt is interesting to recall that in 1943, at a conference of the Australian Labour party in Canberra, a resolution was moved that the Government should use every endeavour “ within the limits of the Constitution “ to hasten the implementation of its socialist policy. The Minister moved that the words “within the limits of the Constitution” be left out.
– Socialism at any price.
– The Minister would hasten the implementation of socialism by means outside the limits of the Constitution. What is the use of his prating that the law will deal with persons who break the Constitution. Such talk is utter nonsense. At a political meeting at Ashfield in New South Wales when the banking legislation was being discussed, a person said to the Minister, “ You are doing all right, Mr. Minister, on £1,500 a year and with the use of an official motor car “. The Minister’s reply was characteristic of the man. He said, “ Yes, I am doing all right, but what I want is a little power”. Those few words tell the whole story. The Minister who made those charges is using the departments that he administers in order to gain greater power for himself. He seeks to have compiled a private dossier on each member of the Parliament so as to deter them from openly discussing in this forum those matters which they believe it their duty to discuss in the interests of themselves and of the country.
I have with me a number of statements, including one from the socialist Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). He is reported in volume 181 of Hansard as having made the observation that the Communist party was purely a political organization that was carrying on its activities in Australia in a perfectly legal way. However, when the Sharpley revelations were published and the leading Communist in South Australia stated publicly that there were Communists among the Labour members of the National Parliament who would stand up when the day came to support communism, pressure was applied to the Government to take some action. The Government then decided to put up their trouble-shooter in the House in an effort to create a diversion and to discredit members of the Opposition by smearing them, lightly or heavily as he thought fit, with his tarred brush. However, I have don© with the Minister for Information, and I do not want to be caught up in further diversions such as those which he sought to create concerning communism. I had prepared a simple, factual contribution to the debate on the appropriation and supply measures and I had proposed to deliver my speech without referring to other matters. However, the outburst of the Minister for information compelled me to deal with the ‘matters that I have mentioned.
I have closely analysed these bills and as the result of my analysis and of careful consideration of statements made by members of the Government in the debate that has ensued, I have formed some definite conclusions concerning the honesty or otherwise of the Government’s financial dealings. My reference to the Government’s honesty in these matters is deliberate, and when honorable members hear what I have to say and appreciate the significance of my remarks I think that they and the country generally will form an impression similar to my own. In the first place the Government has announced that as from the 1st July next it would reduce taxes by £36.500,000 annually. That announcement was received with great acclamation and loud cheers. However, the remark of the Treasurer that accompanied his announcement, that he believed that he would collect £35,000,000 more revenue than he had estimated in the budget of last September, was probably passed over by many who did not appreciate its significance. The net effect of his decision, of course, is that taxes will be reduced, not by £35,000.000, but by only £1,500,000. The Treasurer will forgo £36,500,000, but he will collect an additional £35,000,000. The Government has indulged in financial double-dealing of this kind ever since it attained office. It gives with one hand and takes away with the other. Now, the announcement has been made that the taxpayers will be slugged another £6,000,000 for increased postal and telephone charges. The taxpayers will benefit by reduced taxes in the amount of £1,500,000, but they will be called upon to pay another £6,000,000 in indirect taxes. Ultimately the taxpayers will be £4,500,000 worse off.
Is there any need for the proposed increase of postal charges? Would any member of the community assert that he is receiving better postal facilities than he did before the war? Would any one suggest that the telephone system if functioning as effectively as it did before the war? Would any one contend that the service and courtesy of the department at the present time compare with that provided before the war? It is worth while, therefore, for us to view the matter in closer detail in order to understand why the Government finds it necessary to slug the taxpayers to the tune of an additional £6,000,000. The PostmasterGeneral is reported to have informed Cabinet that the direct effect of the recent increase in wage rates of his employee!1 and the introduction of the 40-hour week account for the estimated additional expenditure of £5,000,000. If that statement is correct, then the public is to be taxed by higher telephone and postal charges to pay for the increase of wage? and the shorter working week so consistently advocated by the Government. It is strange that the Government, which criticizes private enterprise for passing on the additional cost of higher wages and the shorter working week in the form of higher prices, should find it necessary to do likewise in respect of one of its own commercial undertakings.
– It is the same Government that said that it would reduce prices if it had the constitutional power to do so!
– That is so. Furthermore, the Government has complete control over the Postal Department’s charges. I intend to say something about prices control later, if I have time. As I have said, the Government’s attitude in this matter of postal charges is all the more significant because of its criticism of private concerns which have had to increase the prices of their goods to offset the additional cost of increased wages and the shorter working week. The Government intends to load to the limit the charges imposed upon those who avail themselves of the services provided by its chief commercial undertaking.For many years the Postal Department has been regarded as one Commonwealth department which always paid its way. Although the report of the department’s finances for the year 1947-48 has not yet been presented to the Parliament, I understand that it discloses a surplus of more than £1,000,000. If my information is correct, the Treasurer owes a duty to the Parliament to inform us of details of the department’s finances. During the financial year 1946-47, which is the last year for which official statistics are available, the department had a surplus of £5,103,886. The department always makes an annual profit of approximately £5,000,000, yet the community is to be slugged to provide an additional revenue of £6,000,000 for services that do not compare with those rendered before the war. I shall not say any more on the matter at present because a great deal more will doubtless be said when the department’s estimates are being discussed.
I pass now to another matter that is of great importance, and I am sorry that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) is not present because he should hear the statements that I shall relate so that he may refute them, if that is possible. In October last ex-servicemen and their organizations were shocked to learn that the Minister forRepatriation for political reasons had dismissed the No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal. Honorable members will remember the disclosures that were made in the House when the Minister was charged with having dismissed that tribunal because it had dared to criticize the administration of his department. That was a personal criticism of the Minister. In the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House on the 28th October of last year I read an extract from a letter that had been written to me by Mr. Hickey, one of the members of the dismissed tribunal, relative to this matter. It was as follows : -
Barnard also stated that he hoped that our tribunal, the No. 1 tribunal, would not put anything in its report which would embarrass him, Barnard, politically. The member of the No. 1 tribunal replied that the tribunal was not concerned with politics, but would report what it felt ought to be reported. This was political pressure and intimidation.
Six months after the Minister had smugly told the Parliament that he had dismissed the No. 1 tribunal, not because of political reasons, but because there was insufficient work for it to do, an advertisement appeared in the Commonwealth Gazette of the 21st April inviting returned soldiers’ organizations to submit a list of names of members of another tribunal. I have no doubt that the honorable gentleman has said that Colonel Dibden, Mr. Hickey and the other member of the No. 1 tribunal will not be acceptable as members because they dared to criticize him. In his opinion, theyhad no right to stand up for returned soldiers against him as Minister for Repatriation. Honorable members will recall that the Minister was criticized by the tribunal because he did not follow a ruling given by the Attorney-General regarding the onus of proof.
– I rise to order. Order of the day No. 16 reads as follows : -
Repatriation Commission - Report for year 1947-48 - Motion for Printing Paper - Resumption of debate (Mr. Harrison) upon the motion of Mr. Barnard, That the paper be printed.
I submit that while that item remains upon the notice-paper it is out of order for the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) to discuss the matter that he has been discussing.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Sheehy). - Is the report of the No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal included in the report of theRepatriation Commission for the year 1947-48 ?
– It is.
– When the annual report of the Repatriation Commission was presented to the Parliament and this item put on the notice-paper, the advertisement to which I have referred had not appeared. Therefore, I submit that it can now be discussed. The dismissal of the No. 1 tribunal has nothing to do with the presentation of the annual report of the Repatriation Commission.
– I rule that the honorable member for
Wentwortb, may continue with his remarks but he must not deal with the report of the tribunal.
– I do not intend to do so. The Minister may dissemble as much as he likes, but he cannot get away from the untrue statement that he made to this House when he said that the No. 1 tribunal was not dismissed for political reasons but because there was insufficient work for it to do. Within six months of having made that statement, he has executed a neat somersault. If anything was needed to confirm the conviction that the No. 1 tribunal was dismissed for political reasons-
– The chairman resigned. He was not dismissed.
– I do not intend to deal with that matter now. The facts are recorded in Hansard. The notification in the Commonwealth Gazette indicating that the Minister has been forced to eat his words and to set up another tribunal so soon after maintaining that there was not sufficient work for two tribunals marks another shabby chapter in the Government’s lack of consideration for ex-service men and women and its failure to understand their position by placing the major portfolio of Repatriation in the hands of a junior Minister.
Whence did the Minister obtain his advice about the work of the entitlement tribunals? He did not get it from the members of the tribunals, who are best qualified to discuss the matter with him. Mr. Hickey, formerly of the No. 1 tribunal, has stated definitely that the Minister did not even meet the No. 1 tribunal as a tribunal, although it had requested him to do so on many occasions. There are at least 2,000 entitlement appeals a year, and it is impossible for one tribunal to hear more than 1,000 cases in a year. In some years the No. 1 tribunal heard more than 1,000 cases, but the strain on advocates and members of the tribunal was too great for that to be done for any length of time. The Minister could not have obtained his advice from ex-servicemen’s organizations, because those bodies consider that there should be three tribunals and not one. The honorable gentleman’s decision to abolish the No. 1 tribunal is viewed by them with disgust. If the Minister accepted advice from the Repatriation Commission, he was allowing one of the parties to appeals before the tribunals to exercise a back-door influence upon the administration of justice to ex-servicemen, because the commission as a body could have very good reasons for wanting to get rid of an inconveniently critical tribunal, as the Minister has done. If the Minister made up his own mind on this matter, he has revealed his ignorance of the work done by the department that he, in name only, administers. His lack of understanding of the position is illustrated by a statement that he made to returned servicemen’s organizations in support of his contention that one tribunal could handle all the appeals that were coming forward. That statement waa contained in a letter, dated the 25th May, 1948, from the federal executive of the Returned Servicemen’s League, in which was circulated the reply by the Minister to representations for the retention of two entitlement appeal tribunals. The Minister said -
I have been watching for some considerable time the appeals coming forward, the speed with which they are dealt with, and the length of time occupied by the tribunals in dealing with the appeals. After a careful examination of all the facts in the light of past experience, I have come to the conclusion that one tribunal could expeditiously handle the appeals now coming forward. I think it needs to be borne in mind that in the period during which two tribunals have been functioning the onus of proof was with tho appellant. Now, with the onus of proof on the Commission pursuant to section 47 of the Repatriation Act, and as the result of tha more general acceptance of this section by the Repatriation Commission, I am satisfied that in the future there will not be so many entitlement appeals coming forward for attention.
Two tribunals have functioned at various times since 1929. Two tribunals were last formed in June, 1944, and operated for four years up to June of last year. The onus of proof in tribunal proceedings was placed on the Repatriation Commission by an amendment of the legislation in 1940. Another amendment in 1943 placed the onus of proof on the Commission at all stages of pensions claims. The Minister’s ignorance of the subject is shown by the fact that during the time when two tribunals were in existence the onus of proof was with the commission and not, as was stated by the Minister, with the appellant. The honorable gentleman’s statement was, therefore, the reverse of the true position. He has had the temerity to attempt to cover up his action in dismissing a tribunal for political reasons by issuing a fabricated statement. Prom all this, certain points emerge. The Minister, as previously stated, dismissed the No. 1 tribunal because it criticized his administration, and sought to reform an unsatisfactory position. The Minister, dither through ignorance, or to bolster his case for dismissing the tribunal, misstated the position, as was pointed out in the circular issued by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. Then, because the Minister realized his error, or because of Government anxiety to win the ex-servicemen’s vote at the flection, he proceeded to set up another tribunal. Having got rid of the No. 1 tribunal because it dared to criticize his administration, and obtain justice for ex-servicemen, does the Minister propose now to set up another tribunal upon which he will be able to apply pressure to ensure that its reports are more favorable to his administration? Evidently, he will not brook criticism. There are to be no more Hickeys. Honorable members will recall how he forced No. 2 tribunal to take back its report, and alter the wording. The members of that tribunal knew what had happened to No. 1 tribunal, and did as they were directed. Entitlement appeal tribunals will never function effectively until they are given the same measure of independence as is enjoyed by bodies performing similar functions, such as, for instance, the Commonwealth conciliation commissioners. They must not be subjected to the threat of abolition when their members have the courage to treat with justice claimants for pensions.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) put -
That the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker - Mr. T. N. Sheehy.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– During the debate on these Appropriation and Supply bills, honorable members have an opportunity to review expenditure and the Government’s taxation proposals. Previous Opposition speakers have so raked the Government on these points that it is not necessary for me to say much except to emphasize the fact that the Government’s boasted taxation remissions have proved to be only a blind, because the figures indicate that the Treasurer will probably finish the financial year with a surplus greater than the amount of the remissions. In spite of that, we were to-day informed that an additional £6,000,000 is to be collected from the unfortunate taxpayers through the Postmaster-General’s Department. Already, practically all consumer goods, and all forms of commercial activity, are taxed, and now it is proposed to increase telephone and telegraph charges. It would appear that the Postal Department has broken down. In the United States of America and Europe, where telephone services are operated by private. companies, war-time lags have been overcome, and services are better now than ever, but in country towns in Australia subscribers have to wait for hours for a trunk call to a place 20 miles away. It is about time that something was shaken up by the PostmasterGeneral, or that the Postmaster-General himself was shaken up so that required materials, which are said to be unavailable shall be made available. It is of no use for the Government to say that there are man-power difficulties, when it proposes to spend £200,000,000 on the unification of railway gauges. That plan would require the labour of thousands of men on what is really only a bogus scheme. The Government also proposes to develop the Northern Territory to produce cattle for Britain, an amount of £50,000,000 is to be spent on roads, travelling stock routes, water provision and ports. These projects are no more than electioneering devices and proposals by the Government to tickle the minds of people overseas, and to give Britain some hope. They are also designed to give this country’s electors the idea that concrete action is intended to be taken. On top of these two great schemes we have the even greater Snowy Mountains scheme. Where as we to find the manpower for those schemes when the Postal Department and other Government departments are saying that because of the shortage of man-power they cannot provide the facilities for which the people are paying. In some instances, people have paid for certain amenities for as long as twelve months, but have not yet received them. Many people in this country have paid for telephones that have so far proved to be mere chimeras. Unfortunate subscribers have bad their names for more than a year in the telephone book, after having paid their dues for the instal lation of a telephone but have not yet had one connected, allegedly because of the shortage of man-power. That position exists in the cities as well as in the country. Yet the Government dishes out all this tripe about what it intends to do with the money that it has collected and is collecting. We know that the Government has succeeded in securing, by means of both direct and indirect taxation, all the money that it can possibly gather. It has created a world record for taxgathering in proportion to population, and now increased indirect taxation is to be piled on to the already over-burdened taxpayers by means of increases in telegraph and telephone charges. There is to be a 20 per cent, increase in certain telephone charges and a 50 per cent, increase in others, and the sliding scale of increases will particularly affect country people.
Now let us look at other developments about which the Government has boasted so much. News on these matters has been cabled to Britain and other parts of the world with the intention of showing what great enterprises Australia’s socialist Government intends to carry out to develop this young country. Those developmental schemes call for a great building programme, but the Australian Government, and the governments of the States, have been unable to explain away the dreadful lag in the home-building programme of this country. Home-building is supposed to be held up because of the shortage of building materials, such as timber, and of manpower. The Prime Minister answered a question last week that I had asked him in March regarding the export of building materials. His reply indicated that Australia exported more than 24 million super, feet of building timbers during 1948. The Government will say that some of that timber was exported to New Zealand. Does New Zealand export timber while its own industries are short of it? It does not, nor does any other country but Australia. It is claimed also that the South Pacific islands have received some of the exported timber. By now we should have been receiving supplies of timber from the islands of the South Pacific. We could have done that with the money that has been expended on .inquiries regarding who should control the distribution of timber. Furnishing timbers are not being exported to the South Sea islands but have been exported elsewhere to the extent of 300,000 super, feet. Let me give the House some idea, in round figures, of what was exported last year, according to the Prime Minister’s answer to my question. The right honorable gentleman gave the following list of items: - Ironbark logs, 132,000 super, feet; hardwood logs, 5,000,000 super, feet; douglas fir beams and baulks, 288,000 super, feet; jarrah beams and baulks, more than 5,000,000 super, feet; karri beams and baulks, 4,750,000 super, feet ; tallowwood, more than one-third of a million super, feet; hardwood beams and baulks, 7,500,000 super, feet. Those quantities were exported although we are crying out about a shortage of timber. More than 500,000 super, feet of hardwood boards and planks were also exported, as well as other requirements for home-building. Yet while exporting all that material we are importing the same kind of material from Britain at an increased cost, and in some instances the Government collects duty on such imports. A total of 112^837 cwt. of Portland cement was exported from this country during 1948. We also exported 1,500 cwt. of bricks, and about 21,000 square feet of plate glass, as well as about 33,000 square feet of boards of compressed material suitable for housing. The Government admits that such materials are essential, and it pretends that it is doing all that is possible to provide them. It is giving permits for the importation of those materials, and for iron and steel galvanized plate and sheet iron, of which we exported last year a total of 92,000 cwt. We also exported 120,631 cwt. of structural iron and steel. We are scouring the outside world for such materials and at the same time holding up our building programme by exporting them. The people of every State are being denied the construction of very necessary hospitals because there is no steel for frames for buildings. Because of the shortage of steel many large government and municipal buildings are being constructed of brick with the result that supplies of bricks are being denied to builders for the construction of homes for our people. In Townsville, and in large towns in my electorate water reticulation schemes are being held up because supplies of pipes cannot be obtained. Yet, the Government has approved of the export of 350,000 cwt. of such pipes, whilst 2,000,000 cwt. of iron and steel, nails and staples were exported last year. At the same time, carpenters in country towns are still unable to obtain sufficient nails to meet their requirements. In addition, 283,000 cwt. of nails in special classifications were exported last year. In view of those facts, how can the Government claim that it is helping to meet the requirements of the building trades? It will not be able to undertake the Snowy Mountains scheme if sufficient supplies of steel are not available; but the Prime Minister announced that, if necessary, supplies will be imported for that work. He also said that those engaged in private enterprise have not attempted to import steel because it costs more than locally produced steel. If the Government showed as much concern as private enterprise hai shown about keeping down costs we should not be in the position in which we find ourselves to-day. Private enterprise has avoided unwise expenditure in order to save the money of investors. The taxpayers are shareholders in this nation and the Government should take a leaf out of the book of private enterprise in that respect. Wherever possible it should avoid extravagance of the kind that I have indicated. The great schemes which the Government has announced will involve the use of vast quantities of iron and steel but the production of such supplies has been deliberately held up as the result of continued strikes on the waterfront and in the coal-mining industry. I shall not rehash the whole of that story, but the Communists to-day are able to sit back and take pleasure in the fact that they are harassing the Government and people of this country by holding up supplies of essential commodities.
I have always been considered to be somewhat of an extremist in my support of the policy of protection of all industries which can be economically established and extended in this country. I have not changed my views in that respect; but that protection should, temporarily at least, be withdrawn from industries in which strikes are continually occurring because workers in those industries are victimizing the community. Tariff protection was provided in order to help industries to surmount the difficulties inevitable in the early stage of their existence and to enable them to compete with cheaper imported products. In that way the people are paying the cost of creating jobs in such industries. If those who hold those jobs are not prepared to maintain full production, protection should be withdrawn from their industries until present abuses are discontinued. The Government claims that all of our industrial difficulties are due primarily to the lack of man-power. However, under its migration policy no migrant has been available for allotment to any industry without the approval of the trade unions concerned. That policy is responsible to a large degree for under-production in many industries. The Government merely uses the shortage of man-power as an excuse to clonk its policy of subservience to certain trade unions. Labour which is urgently needed in essential industries is being made available for such work as the refacing of the Commonwealth Bank building in Melbourne. Although sufficient labour cannot be obtained for home construction, the installation of telephones and the expansion of postal services, manpower can be found for the work of extending Parliament House and for the construction of large buildings in Canberra to accommodate the additional members of Parliament and their staffs after the next general election, when the numerical strength of the Parliament will be practically doubled. If Australia is to progress we must expand our industries; but, at present, we are having the greatest difficulty in maintaining existing levels of production. That position is due largely to under-production in the coal mines and in secondary industries which have enjoyed in full measure the benefits of our protection policy. The iron and steel industry is the only secondary industry which before the outbreak of the recent war was actually marketing its products in open competi tion with those of other countries. However, because of the shortage of coal, that industry is now working at only 50 per cent, of its capacity. The Government should not continue to waste man-power in non-essential works. It should not deny to industry the materials which will be essential to the great schemes which have been announced from time to time. It should ensure that sufficient man-power shall be made available for the development of the cattle industry in the Northern Territory upon which, we are told, a sum of £50,000,000 is to be expended. I doubt whether Government supervision of such a great work would be wise. Strikes and industrial disturbances are constantly being organized by the Communist party, which is bent on the destruction of organized government in this country. Because of the shortage of electrical power, brought about by the disruptive tactics of the Communists, thousands of men are being thrown out of employement, and the wheels of industry are being stopped. We all realize that those who are responsible for this turmoil have had a victory. I had hoped that the Government would apply itself to considering means to circumvent the efforts of Communists. The Minister for Immigration has dealt, not with those matters, but with the record of anti-Labour governments. As he appears to have forgotten I remind him of the fact that anti-Labour governments did not permit the Communists and other disruptive elementin the community to usurp the reins of government. When governments formed by the political parties on this side of the House were in office, they at least undertook the responsibilities of government. In contrast, this country is now being governed by agents of a foreign power. Our contention that we should ban the Communist party is not wicked. In the early days of World War II., the Menzies Government banned the Communist party, but the Curtin Government removed that curb on Communist activities. During the war, German clubs were closed because they constituted meeting places for our enemies. But what were the German clubs by comparison with the organizations established by the Communist party in every State in the Commonwealth? The declared object of the Communist party is, at the behest of Moscow, to wage war on the community. The Communists of Russia, through their agents in this country, are virtually at war with Australia and many other countries to-day. Soviet Russia is taking full advantage of the presence of its dupes in almost every country. Communists in China have shed their blood to give to Soviet Russia what may well amount to virtual sovereignty over new territory and the control of more than 400,000,000 souls. The victories of the Communist armies in China will help Russia in its ambition to conquer the world. Communists and their friends claim that the Communist party in Russia is a political organization. The weakness of that contention is revealed by the fact that there are no political parties in Russia; there is only one government party. Consequently, we have no reason to regard the Communist party as a political party in this country. The Communists are at war with Australia, and, by sabotage and other means, they aim to wreck our industrial system, and the present system of parliamentary government which we so cherish.
The present Government has claimed great credit for the increase of productivity, particularly in the primary industries. No better illustration of the falsity of that claim can be provided than by the sugar industry. No other industry has received so little from the Government as has the sugar industry, and perhaps no other primary industry has contributed a greater return from the land than it has done. As the result of scientific research and the application of efficient methods of production, the sugar industry has created great wealth for this nation. Yet the sugar-growers have received no increase of price for their commodity since pre-depression days, and are the only primary producers in such a position. To-day, the Prime Minister sought to excuse a proposal for increasing postal, telegraphic and telephonic charges, which will place a further impost of £6,000,000 on the people of this country. The right honorable gentleman said that increased charges were absolutely necessary to meet the higher cost of material and labour involved in the administration of the department. The employees of the Postal Department have a right to enjoy good conditions of labour and salaries adequate to meet increased costs. I do not quarrel with that. But what is to be done for the sugar-growers? The sugar-growers have asked the Prime Minister to agree to raise the price of sugar so that they may meet rising costs and obtain an adequate return from their labour. They, too, have to meet increased charges and costs in all directions. They have to pay higher prices for machinery. The cost of repairs to plant and equipment has increased enormously and the cost of operation of the tramways running from the cane-fields to the mills has increased enormously. In addition, the sugargrowers have been involved in inconvenience and loss by industrial upheavals and strikes among waterside workers, resulting in their products being held on the wharfs awaiting shipment for months on end. I appeal to the Prime Minister to review the position of the sugar industry, to which this country owes so much. The industry hae been able to continue in production up to the present solely because of the scientific methods adopted by the growers and the development and use of new varieties of cane which the industry is responsible for having propagated.
I desire to refer again briefly to the effect of the regrettable shortage of iron and steel in this country. Many public buildings, including urgently needed hospitals, cannot be commenced because of the shortage of structural steel. The Government claims that the shortage has been brought about by the lack of man-power and the diminution of coal supplies. In many instances, because of the shortage of structural steel, bricks are being used in place of cement. Until the steel position has eased, no savings can be made in the use of bricks which are so urgently needed for the construction of houses. Primary producers are in dire straits because of the shortage of galvanized iron for roofing and of steel fencing posts and wire and wire netting. Farmers who place orders for these commodities have to wait at least two years before their orders are fulfilled. The shortage of iron and steel is very severely felt by all rural industries. Agricultural machinery is lying idle because of the dearth of replacement parts. The railways departments of the States are in difficulties because of the shortage of steel for axles and for the repair and overhaul of rolling-stock. This state of affairs has been brought about almost entirely by the disruptive tactics of the Communists, who glory in their victory. Yet, members of the Government stand idly by and say that if the Opposition parties are returned to power after the next election they will do nothing to ban the Communist party. We are determined to take such action in order that the industrial development of this country may proceed as it should do. Too many people are prone to chide our commercial undertakings as “ big business” if big businesses were enemies of this country. Amongst the foremost of big businesses in Australia is the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, but significantly, the Labour Government has permitted the capital of that organization to be increased by many millions of pounds. Why? It is being done to enable that private industry to be even more prepared than it is now to provide all the iron and steel that will be required for the three huge public works undertakings that are to be made the subject of election promises to the people. One of those is the great Snowy Mountains scheme which will take years to complete and will require huge quantities of iron and steel. This project will be carried out, even if it becomes necessary to import iron and steel from Great Britain. The plan has the approval of the Government of the United Kingdom. Australia wants industries to be transferred from the United Kingdom to this country, but the British Government will agree only if there is available in Australia sufficient power to operate those industries without depending entirely upon the production of coal. It is necessary therefore for the Australian Government to ensure the availability of 4,000,000 kilowatts of hydro-electric power from the Snowy River. That is the reason for the expansion of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to-day.
The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has shown clearly that there is no longer any need for petrol rationing in this country, but the Government insists upon maintaining the present restrictions. Government supporters have been silent on the logical arguments advanced by the right honorable member, and no assurance has been forthcoming that this restriction and others which are hampering industry in this country will be lifted in the near future. I sincerely hope that the Government will awaken to its responsibilities, and will show a determination to stand by the decisions of the various tribunals that have been appointed to improve the production of coal, iron, and other basic commodities. Every effort should be made to ensure development and post-war reconstruction of this country. A Minister has been appointed for that specific task, but so far, he has only been able to offer excuses for his inactivity.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Edmonds) adjourned.
Pharmaceutical Chemists: Alleged Black-list.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I refer to an incident to which I have already directed the attention of the House on two occasions. I dealt with this matter last Friday and again yesterday. It concerns a constituent of mine, a chemist who found when he ordered diphtheria serum for urgent use, on a doctor’s prescription, that he had been black-listed by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. As I informed the House yesterday, the chemist is Mr. A. Wherrett, of 1043 Victoria-road, West Ryde. He is a man of good standing in his profession, and is held in high regard in the district that he serves. He has authorized me to give his name and all the relevant facts of his case, and I do so now. On the 3rd May, he received an urgent request from a doctor for diphtheria serum for a patient - I think it was a child. He thereupon rang the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories at Erskine House, 39 York-street, Sydney, to order the serum. Upon giving his name, he was told that he could not get delivery of the serum unless he paid cash for it as his name was blacklisted and had been so since January, 1947. As both before and since January, 1947, Mr. Wherrett has dealt with the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories on a normal business basis, he naturally asked the person who spoke to him on the telephone why he had been black-listed. He was informed that no reason was known in that office, and that he could only ascertain the reason from the Director-General of Health in Canberra. Next day, the 4th May, Mr. Wherrett went to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories at Erskine House in person and there repeated his request for the serum. He was again told that he could not have it except for cash because his name was on a black-list. I inform the House, as I have already informed the Minister representing the Minister for Health, that the person to whom Mr. Wherrett spoke, was Mr. Ryan, the chief clerk at that office. Mr. Wherrett asked Mr. Ryan to put the refusal and the reasons for it in writing, but Mr. Ryan said he would not do so. I invite the House to draw its own conclusions from that refusal. Subsequently Mr. Wherrett obtained a supply of serum from Fauldings Proprietary Limited and honorable members may be interested to know that possibly the life of a patient was thereby saved. We can well imagine what might have happened if the Government’s pharmaceutical . benefits scheme had been in full operation, and there had been no private supplier to whom Mr. Wherrett could turn. I have checked these facts with Mr. Wherrett, and he has told me that he has been dealing with the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories for some time, and is not, as has been implied, a defaulting debtor. He pays his accounts in a normal way, and is prepared to produce his records to prove that that is so. In any case, that is quite beside the point because in the Sydney Daily Mirror of Saturday, the 28th May, the Commonwealth Director-General of Health, Dr. Metcalfe, is reported as having said in reply to my question that some persons, including one or two chemists in New
South Wales, had been told that they could not obtain supplies of serum . on credit from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories because they had run up large accounts and had consistently refused to pay them. That, I contend, ha* nothing whatever to do with Mr. Wherrett. Further, in a written reply that I received from, the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) through his representative in this chamber yesterday evening, he said -
A list is kept of debtors who have consistently ignored repeated requests by the department and demand letters by the Crown Solicitor for payment for biological product* supplied to them.
The debtors listed are required to pay cash when ordering for supplies. Should they clear their accounts their names are removed from the list and usual credit is allowed.
Then he went on to say - and I ask the House to note these words -
Urgently needed drugs are never refused. In circumstances of emergency, the “ cash with order “ requirement is not insisted upon.
That is the end of the Minister’s explanation. The statement that urgently needed drugs are never refused proves, of course, that, even if Mr. Wherrett had been in default, that would not have been an excuse for denying him supplies, because this was a manifestly urgent case. The patient was suffering from the deadly disease of diphtheria, and the serum was required to save his life. One of two things has happened. Either there has been disgraceful discrimination against Mr. Wherrett for some reason that he was never told about and he, therefore, cannot defend himself, or there has been an equally disgraceful blunder. Let us examine the first proposition that discrimination has taken place against Mr. Wherrett. In this Parliament and everywhere else in democratic countries, if a charge is made against a man or something is held against him the principle has been that he should be given the opportunity of defending himself. That principle no longer applies in this Parliament or in the Government or its administration. It was in a fight against exactly these star-chamber methods that our forefathers bled 100 years ago. I hear the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) guffaw. He would not understand, but the people of
Australia understand that it is absolutely fundamental that if any one, especially a politician or a bureaucrat, makes a charge against a man, that man should be informed of what he has to answer, [f there has been detestable and secret discrimination against Mr. Wherrett, it has been on grounds that he has never been called upon to explain; but, if there has been a blunder, why have those concerned not had the courage to admit it, instead of resorting to evasion? If there is one thing that I detest, and, I am sure that most reasonable people in the House detest, it is the growing tendency of certain members and public servants, either at the behest of Ministers or, perhaps, on their own volition, to try to avoid admitting that a wrong has been done to a citizen and to “ cover up “ by seeking to discredit the citizen who dares to fight for his rights. Is it too much to hope that, even now, the Government will admit that a gross injustice has been done to Mr. Wherrett? The case stands or falls not only on the proposition that Mr. Wherrett is an honorable citizen carrying on his profession honorably and without having defaulted; but also on the wider proposition, which is acknowledged by the Minister, that any urgently needed serum should never have been refused. I have told the Minister previously, and I repeat it to-night, the name of the serum laboratory, the name of the clerk to whom Mr. Wherrett spoke, and the date on which he applied for the serum. Plainly, it should not take five minutes to discover what conversation took place with Mr. Ryan. I am prepared to accept without question Mr. Wherrett’s word. I have never met him and I do not know his politics, but I have investigated the matter closely by telephone and, when he says that he is an ordinary chemist carrying on business honestly and honorably and does not owe any money to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories - and, on the words of the Minister for Health, it does not matter even if he does, because any urgentlyneeded drugs are made available without question - I say it is intolerable that a supply of serum should have been refused to him. This is a matter of justice which should go beyond party considerations. Most honorable members realize that it is detestable that an official should first of all have made this egregious blunder and then should have sought to cover up. Why cannot we have people who will say, when the circumstances require it, “Yes; a wrong has been done and I am sorry “. Credit would have been done the Minister and the department and it may even yet be gathered to them if they had come out and said or will come out and say, “ A mistake has been made”, but this attempt to cover up and smear a decent citizen cannot be tolerated. There is a warning in this to the people of Australia. When we have the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and the nationalized medical service in operation, under which there will be no private supply of drugs and no private medical services but only the Government service, what do the people think will happen to citizens in cases like this? We are able to bring them to light to-day, but then there will be no redress. These “gestapo” and star-chamber methods will become commonplace. I make no apology for having taken up the time of the House to protest against an action that I hope will never be repeated in Australia.
– As usual, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) has taken the opportunity of making out a case that he wants to make out before he has received a reply to his question.
– The Minister has had time to reply.
– The honorable gentleman has done so, knowing very well that 99 times out of a hundred, when he gets his reply, his case falls to the ground. He is the only person who has brought the chemist’s name into publicity. The man’s name was never mentioned by me or by any other Minister or by any member of the guild of pharmaceutical chemists. Ninety-five per cent, of the members of the guild are registered under and have agreed to co-operate with the Government in the administration of, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act, so there is not likely to be any enmity between the pharmaceutical chemists generally and the Minister for Health and the Government. I hope I shall he fair, but, to get down to facts, the honorable gentleman asked a question the day before yesterday. He did not mention the name of the chemist. He said that he had his name, but did not want to mention it, and no one asked him to do so.
– I asked the question last Friday.
– The honorable gentleman made a general statement that there was a black-list and that chemists were denied urgently needed drugs. The honorable member referred to drugs needed for a person suffering from diphtheria. He asked whether it was true that there was a black-list. I said that I would get the facts and supply him with a detailed reply. In that reply, I admitted that there was a black-list and said that the reason was that some chemists would not pay their debts to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories is a business venture.
– Like the Post Office.
– Like any other business venture, it has to make ends meet. Otherwise the Opposition would quickly criticize it. I do not think that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) would criticize the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. I believe that he and everybody else in Australia holds that organization in the highest esteem.
– But Mr. Wherrett does pay his debts.
– I shall come to that. In the first series of questions, the honorable member asked whether there was a black-list containing the names of a number of chemists and, if so, why there was such a list. I promised to obtain answers and did so. I am not sure whether the honorable member had received my reply when he asked the second series of questions.
– I did not have it, but it does not matter.
– When he asked his second series of questions, the honorable member mentioned the name of a chemist. He was the first one to give that gentleman’s name publicity. I promised then that I would obtain a reply dealing solely with the gentleman whom he had named. That answer has now been prepared and the honorable member will probably receive it to-morrow morning.
– Will the Minister give it to me now?
– I cannot give it to the honorable member now. I have asked the department to prepare a reply stating why the chemist named by the honorable member was not supplied with serum. That is the information that the honorable member wants, and that is the information that he will get. Very likely there will be a solid reason why the serum was not supplied. I do not know.
– And very likely there will not be a good reason.
– There may not be. but the honorable member made sure of getting in his propaganda to-night before he had received the answer.
Mr. Beale interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for Parramatta must cease interrupting.
– The honorable member does not want to be satisfied with the answer, Mr. Deputy Speaker. He wants to make a case. He spoiled his case to-night by the way in which he handled it. He may have a good case. I do not know. Everybody could see that he was taking advantage of the opportunity to use propaganda against something that he hates - the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. He introduced propaganda instead of keeping to the real subject matter of the question. I am sorry that the gentleman whom he named has been given so much publicity. He may be everything that the honorable member has said of him. He may have paid his debts.
– He has.
– The honorable member does not know, and I do not know.
– I do.
– We shall find out. If there is no legitimate reason why he. should not get serums-
– If there has been a blunder, will the Minister admit it?
– I think so. The Director-General of Health and I would admit an honest blunder, but I doubt whether the honorable member for Parramatta would do so.
Mr. McDonald (Corangamite) [11.3]. - The explanation given by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) has done scant justice to the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), who asked his first questions on Friday last, the 27th May. Surely to goodness it would have been possible, in a case of this nature, to have obtained a reply within 24 hours! The name of the gentleman concerned has been mentioned at his own request. He has stated that he owes no money to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. If the names of chemists are put on a black-list only if they have not paid their debts, well and good. But, if there is some other reason, it should be supplied to the honorable member for Parramatta. The reply that he has already received from the Minister states that some chemists who have not paid their debts are not granted further supplies of drugs unless they pay cash. He has informed the chemist whom he has named of that reply, and the chemist says that he does not owe anything but has always paid for the serums supplied to him. There is a good telephone service between Canberra and Sydney, and it should have been possible for the Minister to obtain all of the particulars sought by the honorable member for Parramatta within 24 hours.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.4 p.m.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.Chifley. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for
Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The honorable member’s question will entail considerable inquiry throughout the various State branches of my department. The information will be collated as quickly as possible and details submitted to him.
China: Coinage Procedure.
y. - On the 20th May the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) asked me whether it was correct, as reported in a message from Shanghai, that £4,000,000 of Australian silver 5s. pieces and 250,000 oz. of gold bullion were recently sent to China. I said I had no knowledge of any such transaction, but would have inquiries made. These inquiries have proved fruitless. I have no idea how the report originated, but can assure the honorable member that the silver coins and gold bullion referred to in the press message mentioned were not supplied by the Australian Government. “ Napredak “ Newspaper.
– On the 20th May the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked me several questions relating to the newspaper Napredak, which is published in Sydney in the Yugoslav and English languages. The questions were -
Further to my interim reply on that date, I now wish to advise the honorable member that the answers to his questions are as follows: -
t asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
Will he take steps to arrange forsuitable instruction to be given to all migrants arriving in this country as to their obligations in protecting the animal and bird life of Australia and warn them against destroying it?
Mr. CALWELL - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Steps have already been taken to imprest upon newcomers to this country the fact that certain Australian birds, animals and native fauna are protected. The effect of relevant ordinances and by-laws will be brought to the notice of all migrants by means of posters, literature and announcements in the press. The great majority of non-British migrants arriving in the Commonwealth are displaced persons from Europe, all of whom undergo a course of instruction at immigration reception and training centres and receive advice on their obligations and duties as new citizens before being placed in employment. Their instructors have been asked to pay special attention to the matter raised by the honorable member. Once they arc aware of the provisions of the law, I am confident that migrants generally will co-operate in their observance.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 June 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490601_reps_18_202/>.